Oncology, Private Healthcare & Free Tits

Monday 18th January

Today is January 18th and I’ve met my oncologist, and like the other consultant, she is just lovely. Very considered. I’m having to learn lots of new words, but frankly, some of the information is just too much to remember. I got packed off with books and books from the original ‘you’ve got cancer’ meeting a couple of weeks ago, which I’ve no intention of reading – how very dull. The plan: we start the chemo on Thursday 5th February. That’s all I need to know.

Private healthcare – what an absolute godsend. Not only do I get seen quicker and the process expedited but I also have the HUGE bonus of chemo at home. Okay, it wasn’t exactly what I had on my Christmas list BUT it’s made my day. I’ll be allocated a nurse and a plan. Phoning up to speak to the insurance company was actually far less horrific than I expected it to be.

I genuinely thought you had a policy, you get the dreaded lurgy, and you get paid out.

I’m still struggling to say the words, it’s becoming more real every time, but the lady I spoke to was fabulous very considerate and kind. Which is more than can be said for the delight I spoke to about my Critical Illness cover. I’d taken the policy out about 10 years ago when I used to smoke. I stopped 6 years ago but this didn’t stop her from very coldly asking me how many fags I used to smoke. I explained that I honestly couldn’t recall; when you stop you tend not to focus on the quantity of nicotine you inhaled daily. It upset me, actually. It was like she was trying to imply I’d created this cancer myself.

Furthermore, the policy I’d taken out was a smokers’ policy so I honestly couldn’t see the relevance of this. I explained this to her in my usual gentle manner, whilst she held onto her throat. We seemed to understand each other from that point on. She explained that the claim would have to go to the underwriters for a decision. Now, this did surprise me. I genuinely thought you had a policy, you get the dreaded lurgy, and you get paid out. Anyway, least of my worries right now, I’ll let fate determine the right outcome for me.

I might have mentioned that being in control is important to me so I decided the clever thing to do to help me through this journey was to keep a kind of diary of how I felt each day after each ‘spa treatment’ as I’ve renamed them – kinda of makes them more palatable, I think. I figured I needed something that I could refer to that I could see if there was a pattern. So I brought a whiteboard home from work, one of the girls from work had very kindly put some black tape on it so I could mark off the days of the week. What I did was date it and fill in relevant events from the first week of February through to the end of March. Then each day I could add a smiley face or a sad face and score my days. Whilst this sound REALLY childish, I cannot tell you what a great idea it was. It helped me to see patterns of good days and bad which then enabled me to plan more effectively.

 

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My mood board

I’m delighted to say that my operation date was brought forward to accommodate the dinner I was looking forward to on the 22nd.

 

Wednesday 20th January

What a result! FREE TITS!!!

So January 20th started with a lovely trip to the city hospital to have some dye injected into my nipple. Yes, you read that right. I can’t even begin to describe what happened simply because I didn’t want to watch. The horror of seeing the needle stabbed into a very delicate part of my anatomy was not something I needed to experience. Today’s operation is to remove a lymph node so they can send it off to ensure the cancers not escaped, the dye is to highlight the lymph node for surgery. I arrive at the private hospital having had nothing to eat all day except water. The anaesthetist, the consultant, the food nurse, the ward nurse and the ‘I’m here to help you nurse’ all paid me a visit. The anaesthetist wasn’t thrilled that I’d been drinking water – in truth, I hadn’t read the letter properly – typical me, I’m afraid. It was a bit touch and go as to whether they would operate but I managed to convince them I’d be just fine. Which of course I was.

Back from surgery within a blink of an eye – actually closer to 2 hours, but it didn’t feel like that for me. The surgeon came in and explained again what they had done and why and that we should get the results within the next week or so and for me not to worry. He’s a real sweetie. He also told me that after the chemo I’d have an operation to remove whatever’s left of the cancer and he would rebuild my boob.

“Sorry? Are you telling me I’ll get new tits?’ I demanded.

“Erm… yes Vicki, I am,” he replied, somewhat bashfully.

“Oh my God, can I pick the size?”

“Erm… yes, you can.”

“And will you make them point in the right direction?” I’m nearly squealing by this point.

“Yes, I can.”

“You, Mr. G have just made my made my day. A boob job. Oh my God, how lucky am I?”

I genuinely couldn’t be happier. Big boobs like mine aren’t exactly the prettiest things you’ve ever seen, a bit like oversized saddle bags that quite frankly have never pointed in the right direction. In fact, I had investigated and paid a deposit to have an uplift about 6 years ago but bottled it, not because of the pain but I really didn’t fancy having more scars to add to my body. What a result! FREE TITS!!!

I wasn’t allowed to leave until I’d eaten, drunk and had a wee. If they’d have let me I’d have been gone within half an hour; I’d completed all the tasks. My recovery from anaesthetic is remarkable, always has been (my life on the orthopaedic ward back in 1990 after my motorbike accident enabled me to perfect this), but they needed me to stay a further hour just to be sure. I wasn’t sore at all and felt right as rain.

First Day of Chemo

Thursday 4th February

Thursday 4th February and it’s National Cancer Day. What a not so fabulous co-incidence and yet arguably a perfect date for a charity head shave and the arrival of Bob. This is the name I’ve given to my wig. I HATE the word wig it conjures up thoughts of being bald to me so I figured Bob is just a cute way to refer to it. However, the joys of a head shave couldn’t start before I’d had yet another visit to the hospital. Today was to check if I had a heart, something to do with the second bout of chemo drugs and they need to make sure that everything functions properly. The scan was pretty insignificant but what as lovely was that my private nurse, Janice, who had been assigned to me for the chemo process tracked me down at the hospital and delivered to me the batch load of drugs that I needed to start before the chemo. Steroids are taken for the first couple of days and I was given a collection of meds that are supposed to help with side effects of the chemo. She advised me to speak to the doctors about getting some sleeping tablets. It’s getting more real by the minute.

I laughed through the whole thing. So that was that – hair gone. I’ve got a buzz cut.

After that, I took the train to Cambridge to go back to Scruffs to see Garry who I’ve now renamed ‘Two R’s’. He has to be the most incredible man. I’m not the best with people being too nice to me. It upsets me. I’m built for fun, laughter and piss-taking that’s how I cope and he got the balance just right with me. He mirrors his clients beautifully. You know what? It wasn’t so bad – I laughed through the whole thing. So that was that – hair gone. I’ve got a buzz cut. Painless, unemotional and it actually looks ok.

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Bob arrived and I can honestly tell you I love it. It feels unusual but then again I’ve never had to wear a wig except for fancy dress parties and it will take some getting used to but as I left the saloon to meet the couple who run ‘Something to Look Forward to,’ I had Bob on and it just felt really ‘normal’. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I certainly didn’t get any weird looks at all. Funny, what we envisage will happen and the reality is so different. We had dinner, with lots of wine back on the train and was tucked up into bed for 1.30. I’m buzzing, the steroids have kicked in and have given me so much more energy so took a sleeping tablet when I got home and woke at 7.30 am.

Spa Treatment Friday 5th February

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Nothing new today. I just have a Cancer Nurse in my house administering me chemo. Who would have thought? My Facebook time hopped today to a few years ago when I’d taken the boys to Orlando for 10 days. How times can change.

I felt fine and full of energy, not how I expected to feel.

Nurse Janice arrives. She preps and then she starts with saline to flush the vein. Then I’m given an anti-sickness drug before finally the chemo. I was fine for about 15 minutes then I struggled to breathe. It felt like someone was standing on my chest and my face was on fire. It happened so quickly, I just didn’t have time to say anything. Fortunately, she noticed and stopped the drip. She told me it’s quite normal to have a reaction. I guess our bodies weren’t really built for all these chemicals. Puriton and an anti-cortoson were administered and we’re good to go again – she did check with Karen, my oncologist, though to just be sure. Karen wanted to talk to me and said that they had found something on my hip in the scans so I need to go back and get rescanned just to make sure that it’s nothing of concern; better safe than sorry.

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And that was that. Finished by 12.30 pm. I cooked lunch and did a load of jobs. I felt fine and full of energy, not how I expected to feel. Sally came over to meet Bob, the boys came home for school, I caught up on all my lovely messages, text and work emails and awaited the arrival of my friend for a lovely catch up, followed by a couple of glasses of wine in bed for about 10.30.

So the first spa treatment day was done and dusted. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I expected. You have such ideas in your head about chemotherapy and how your hair (or what’s left of it) will just immediately fall out and you’ll be instantly ill.

Saturday 6th February

Saturday; Oddly I’ve woken up after a good night sleep feeling fine. It’s weird because you really don’t know what to expect but so far so good. I’ve been warned that after the steroids stop I will feel a bit down so we shall see what Sunday and Monday brings. My plan is to have no plans, this way I won’t be disappointed, but I’ve got Catherine over shortly after I get stabbed with an immune system booster then we’re off for a dog walk. I’ve completed my whiteboard with a smile 😊

Sunday 7th February

On Sunday, I woke up feeling fine. Sent my family an update email. Only my sister-in-law replied – she had cancer last year and had a double mastectomy so I guess she has an understanding of where I’m at. It’s weird, it’s like waiting to be ill. Walked the dog for 4 miles. Cleared the kitchen for the decorator’s arrival tomorrow. Clips came with two bags: one full of yummy goodies like prosecco, crisps and chocolates and one packed with healthy options including green tea, ginger, and the most amazing toothpaste ever. It’s called Biotene and trust me is just great. Another friend Jo came with a chicken and leek pie and Cornish pasties and Alison made the boys a Sunday lunch which they collected. I had a bath and then felt VERY, VERY ill. I sat in bed about 7ish and snoozed on and off until 11.30 pm only to be wide awake again for an hour or so. I felt a bit nauseous, my bones ached as they’d said, predominantly my breast bone and my thighs. I felt like I had a huge weight in my stomach. Not sure a Cornish pasty and a piece of toast could really make me feel like that. It’s a weird type of ill, is all I can say.

Drugs Play Havoc with Your Taste Buds

Monday 8th February

This is a weird ill. It’s like nothing you can even describe.

On Monday I woke up after a good sleep at about 5.30 am, proudly achieved without the aid of the sleeping tablets, but I’d slept from 8 pm so it was a long one for me. I feel okay. Not great, but okay. I’ve got a sore throat and a bit of a cough so I’ll keep an eye on that. The decorator is in today so I intended to get up and take the dog out. That didn’t happen. Today’s been tough. I’ve had bouts of feeling okay and then utterly shite. They warned me that the lack of steroids would plummet me through the floor. They were right!!! Christ, today’s been a roller coaster. I feel rough, way worse than a hangover.

All my friends have checked in today which is just yummy. This is a weird ill. It’s like nothing you can even describe. I feel hungry but full, my throats sore, odd bits of my body ache, my mouth is sore and my eyes have leaked a couple of times. The boys and I ate the chicken and leek pie tonight, let me tell you just how great it was even with a slight tinge of metal – that’s me, not the pie. The drugs play havoc with your taste buds. I’ve eaten a lot today for me, but I think my body probably needs the energy. I’m close to rattling with the painkillers, Senna tables, anti-sickness and thyroxin.

Tuesday 9th February

And so to Tuesday. God, I hate to say this just in case it doesn’t last, but I feel so much better than yesterday. I’ve still got a sore throat and coughing a bit but I feel a lot more ‘with the programme’. I’m wondering if I can make it to a meeting in Boston I’d booked. Got up showered dressed, got Bob on, make-up done (I look shit, by the way) and arrived in Boston early.

I struggled to get the car in the garage – took me 8 attempts, I feel quite disorientated.

When I was introduced to the client, I laughingly told them all that they were ‘the enemy’ and that I couldn’t shake their hand for fear of infection, before sitting there with my water and antibacterial hand gel. It was a good meeting, although I noticed that my brain wasn’t functioning very well and I seem to lose my train of thought and forget the words I want to use. It’s rather embarrassing, to say the least. I’m renowned for being a million miles an hour and this is somewhat debilitating for someone like me. Came home utterly and absolutely exhausted. I struggled to get the car in the garage – took me 8 attempts, I feel quite disorientated. Saw my parents in the afternoon. They’d just returned from six weeks away and went through the expected conversation. It’s all a bit awkward, to be honest. We have an odd relationship – maybe this journey will help us with sorting it out. Who knows! All I know right now is I feel rough as hell and I just want to get into bed.

Woke up about six times in the night with a really poorly tummy. I’d had to take some of the medication yesterday they’d given me to help me go… yeah, sorry! Who wants to chat bowel movements? It wasn’t the best night I’ve ever had, I must say.

Wednesday 10th February

Thank God for Murder She Wrote, is all I can say.

Wednesday began. Such a beautiful day, the sun streaming through the windows. It was just beautiful. Shame I didn’t look or feel the same. Okay, so I accept I completely overdid it yesterday. My bad, I’ll learn. And as punishment, I’ve spent the whole day sat in my pit, festering and feeling poorly. I feel sick, upset tummy, earache, sore throat. In fact, my whole bloody body aches. Ankles, breast bone, it’s mighty weird.

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Kobe looking after me

Oh my God, I could just moan all day; such a shame there’s no one here to listen to me whine. Thank God for Murder She Wrote, is all I can say. I can do my classic watching skills and just half watch it. This afternoon I just feel progressively worse. Conor came home and we took a gentle walk with the dog into the town which was good and great to get out. Stayed in the rest of the day and by the time 8 pm arrived I can honestly tell you I felt like my body was dying. The only parts of my body that didn’t hurt, ache or was in pain were my toes and fingers. Everything else including body parts I’ve never even felt before hurt. I’m not much of a crier as I’ve mentioned, and I think I’ve got quite a high pain threshold, but let me tell you, today I’ve sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. Unbelievable. Whilst I’ll never give in, I have to say that I can completely understand why people would rather just die than go through this. It’s indescribably awful.

Thursday 11th February

On Thursday I woke up feeling sort of okay, but then got progressively worse, slept on and off till about 9 pm. Honestly, I just wish I could articulate and explain exactly how this makes you feel. I guess the only thing I can say is that it’s like your body is dying from the inside out. Arguably that’s what cancer does, I know, but the chemical infusion I’ve had just feels so toxic and heavy and, well, just wrong.

Friday 12th February

I’m happy. I’m feeling brighter – the storm seems to have passed.

OMG what a great day Friday was! I feel soooooooo much better. Took Bob out for a visit to see a client in Chesterfield with Sarah, who by the way is doing an amazing job. This experience so far has started to teach me many things about myself that I need to change. Control has always been important to me (has that come across yet?) but having been able to do literally nothing this last week and just leaving Sarah to it, she’s just excelled. She’s got some new business in, been to see some clients, looked after the team, made some great decisions and I simply couldn’t be happier. I’m excited at the same time. It’s been like party central here this evening, friends with food – a girl can’t complain about that. I’m happy. I’m feeling brighter – the storm seems to have passed.

April 25

 

Hair Loss and a 26-Mile Walk

I’ve had a fantastic week. I feel great being back at work but I’m not doing full days – I’m surprised about how tired I’ve been. Walked for three hours on Saturday and went to an 18th birthday – it was a great night. I decided to wear Bob AND I fitted into a dress I’ve not worn in years, which I’m really chuffed about.

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I expected to gain weight during the chemo – naturally, I’d asked the oncologist, and I wasn’t thrilled with her response as she explained that most people do put weight on during treatment. Great. Bald AND fat – I can’t wait! Weirdly, I’ve eaten more but lost weight. It’s simply down to the fact that I’m not drinking wine, which at a guess I probably managed to consume about six bottles a week. Wine makes me order pizzas at 11 o’clock at night and makes me eat crisps and dip by the bucket load. It also makes me swear a lot so I’m thinking wine’s pretty much the enemy to be fair.

Sunday 21st February

Today was Sunday 21st February and I feel a bit gutted today, to be honest. My inch long hair has started to fall out. I know I shouldn’t be surprised. I KNEW it would go but I had kind of hoped I’d keep it till next week when I do the Belvoir Challenge – the 26-mile walk. I’m going look a right twat in my hat and I feel embarrassed and bald and all the things I thought I’d feel and more. This is humiliating.

Sunday 28th February

Sorry, I fear I have neglected you. It’s already 28th February, but I’ve had such a great couple of days just doing my thing, seeing friends, and it feels great. NORMALITY. It’s been fabulous, so much so I’ve just not had anything significant to tell you. It’s like there’s nothing wrong with me. My friends would argue differently hahaha. Anyway, I’m proud to share that on Saturday I completed the Belvoir Challenge and the casual 26-mile walk. I walked it with two chaps from the same building as me. OMG, it was great. Don’t get me wrong, it’s tough going and the terrain is something we hadn’t really prepared for – up hills and very muddy – just like your classic cross country at school.

she’d said, “You know you don’t have to do it.” But in my head I did.

By the first checkpoint, I could honestly have given up. I felt a bit rough but I reckon the bottle of wine I drank on Friday night wouldn’t necessarily have helped me. I know, I know wine is the enemy lol. So once I’d walked that out my system I have to tell you it was great. It was fab. We made sure we all crossed the line together. One of the hardest things about endurance walking is walking at a faster or slower pace than your companions. I seem to walk quite quickly – in fact they called me a robot. I was so lucky I only got a teeny tiny blister but nothing much else to whinge about. I ache a bit today but nothing much. I’m now looking forward to a 46-mile walk in June.

The oncologist wasn’t thrilled about me doing the walk initially when we discussed it. It had been at the very first appointment and she’d said, “You know you don’t have to do it.” But in my head I did. I had committed to doing it and do it I shall. She wasn’t too chuffed about the fact I’d moved the chemo date to suit the walk. I know, I know, not quite the attitude BUT I need something to look forward to and to feel I have achieved something. I’m pleased I did it and we had a really good laugh in the process.

Monday 29th February

Monday 29th February sees my second dose of chemo. It really should have been Friday but as I mentioned I’d asked them to put it back to today so that I was able to do the walk without any hiccups, which is great, although I’ve now realised my next few will clash with some social things I have planned so I’ll see if we can change it back. I’m not trying to be difficult, but I honestly don’t want this cancer drama to take over my whole world and I seriously think it should fit in around me. I can’t stay at home moaning about how ill I feel. I want to out enjoying life and doing all the things I love.

So I had a batch load of Puriton this time which has made me very tired, got some anti-sickness patches too so fingers crossed I won’t feel so bad this time. The nurses are just great, they can’t do enough to make sure it’s as OK as it can be. So let’s see what this week brings.

After hibernating through the last batch of chemo because I didn’t know how I would feel, the days were so very long so I’ve decided to ask for visitors this time. I figure the more time I can be entertained, the quicker the days will go and quicker I get back to being me.

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Tuesday 1st March

It’s Tuesday. I feel OK, a bit rough but nothing too much to moan about. Had a couple of visitors today which was lovely but exhausting. My hair although very short is very thin now… it’s weird, you expect it all to go in one fell swoop but it’s just not the case. All my hair just seems to be thinning.

Janice the nurse came today which was great. She just came to check up on me, and to stab me with an immune drug to boost my system. She told me that she’s told the oncologist that I’m always so positive and smiley and upbeat, like a light bulb, she said. How cute. Little does she know I’d passed out for 90 minutes when she’d gone. I’ve got some big beast nausea tablets, some small ones and patch and yet I still feel sick. My boob has changed shape it’s quite weird… it looks like it has tucks on it now. Weird.

I’ve had a tot up of the donations and I’m astonished at just how much we’ve raised – I’m seriously touched so I thought a BIG thank you was in order.

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(HTs – hormone twins – the affectionate name I gave to my kids)

I’m Grateful for My Eyelashes

Friday 18th March

I’m thankful every day I wake up with my eyelashes. I know that’s vain and arguably the least of my worries but it’s great that I can still put mascara on and I don’t look so hideous. I’ve now got spots on my head which is really attractive, as you can imagine, and I’m thrilled about. Although I’m Mrs Baldy, I have some very short spiky strands of hair which oddly ‘hurt’. It’s quite bizarre, and if I lay on my pillow in the wrong position it’s really sore. How odd is that? Normal apparently but really weird!!

I’m a million miles an hour usually and feel like a snail with a hangover.

It’s Friday and having felt back to me yesterday, I now find myself at the doctors as my backside is bleeding again. Yes, I know it’s gross and really you didn’t need to know, but this is all part and parcel of the joys of chemo, cancer and generally having a broken body! I’m also back at the hospital later on for an MRI scan. They still haven’t quite determined what the “hot spot” is on my pelvis. Naturally, I’m praying that it’s nothing.

As I’ve mentioned I’d decided that for the second spa treatment I was going to see more people. I purposely avoided everyone the first time but it was so mind-numbingly boring that I think I need to get people round. Even if they just talk about themselves for a couple of hours the time will pass quicker AND I’ll have something to talk about… if I can remember any of it. It really is simply THE most boring experience I’ve ever endured. And the lack of energy has been weird for me. I’m a million miles an hour usually and feel like a snail with a hangover. My sense of humour and personality seem to vacate and I just flatline/exist for the time it takes the chemical warfare to get through my system. I can barely even muster up the energy to think about what I want to eat. But I know I must eat because it gives me energy. Which reminds me, I’ve done nothing but crave sugar which is bizarre because I don’t usually have a sweet tooth. I’m more of a savoury girl. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many chocolate bars, biscuits and cakes in my house EVER. Maybe it’s my body saying it needs more energy… well, that’s my excuse.

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Tuesday 22nd March

OK so we’re on day 5 post chemo, it’s March 22nd. I’m WAY too scared to tempt fate BUT I feel fine; bit sick, bit tired, the joys of a metallic mouth but I’m nowhere near as bad as I was the first or second time. I’m wondering if they’ve given me a bloody placebo… I doubt it, I’m not sure that would be something they’d do, but I do I feel fab. I’ve been up, showered, Bob on every day, I even walked the dog for half an hour today. But it’s with trepidation that I view this; I just don’t want to be disappointed or dead on my feet tomorrow.

This is definitely a life-changing experience and without doubt one that I very much needed.

I’ve had visitors galore, though. I know it sounds bad but I’ve booked them in for 2-hour slots. They arrive, I manage to make them tea or coffee, we chat, they leave and I don’t remember a thing they’ve said. I’m beginning to find this rather amusing – I’ve even told them all “I’ve no chance of remembering but please carry on regardless.” I find that I repeat myself constantly and am still forgetting words. Oh, the joy of chemo brain.

What is strange is that I don’t have any negative feelings at all at the moment. I feel like I’m clearing out some much overdue mental debris… but without actually doing anything. This is definitely a life-changing experience and without doubt one that I very much needed.

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This week has been something else. I’ve felt great. I spent Thursday at the seaside with a mate and it was fab. I’m convinced this cancer thing for me is about sorting things out, giving myself some headspace to work out what’s important and what’s not. I feel so calm. I feel so at peace with myself and I’m still grateful every day for my eyelashes. It’s such a weird thing to be grateful for but every morning I look in the mirror and say thank you.

Monday 28th March

Ten days post chemo and its March 28th, a perfect day to complete a 35-mile walk – arguably crazy but I’ve had the best chemo session ever. I’ve not felt particularly ill… nausea isn’t too bad. I’ve experienced the usual clogging up of my internals and I do feel more tired than I normally would do but honestly, it was a breeze in comparison to last time. It was a great day.

I literally had candlesticks at one point when I bent down to stretch my back out. 10/10 on the embarrassment scale.

Even though it chucked it down and we took a few wrong turns, we completed it within nine hours. It was a HUGE challenge with or without having chemo in your system but I did it. I did, however, seem to mislay my personality at about hour six and was virtually mute by the end.

My feet hurt, my brain had flatlined and all I could think about was BED. On the way round though, I can’t tell you how much I’d sniffed and how much my nose kept leaking… never experienced anything like that before. After I’d dribbled my way through 3 packets of tissues, I ended up having to ‘cuff’ it. Not a ladylike thing to do nor something I’ve ever done before but needs must at the end of the day. I literally had candlesticks at one point when I bent down to stretch my back out. 10/10 on the embarrassment scale. This has never happened to me before I just couldn’t quite work it out.

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The funniest moment though was in work on Wednesday. We’d started having a conversation about cancer and chemo, etc., and one of my team asked me whether I’d lost my ear hair because her grandad had. I did explain that females generally speaking don’t suffer from ear hairs. She then started talking about his nose and how that had gone too. I couldn’t stop laughing – not at her grandad but that’s clearly what had happened to me, wasn’t it? My nose hairs have vacated, hence the dribbly nose. The things they don’t tell you!!

Wednesday 30th March

It’s Wednesday 30 March. It’s the treatment halfway point and I’ve been for an ultrasound today after three sessions of chemo. I don’t really know what I expected. In fact, I just rocked up without really thinking about the appointment at all. I seriously cannot tell you just how I struggled to keep the tears back when they told me its shrunk by half. I’m literally delighted. I didn’t think it would be such great news. Halfway, half the size… thoroughly delighted. I feel like celebrating with a cup of tea.

How life has changed.

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Bob, Me and the HGV

Being bald isn’t actually that bad. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to it. I find myself taking Bob off when I leave work and drive home. I’ve had some funny looks but to be honest I really couldn’t give a shit… so what??? And it’s soooooo comfy. I do seem to spend a lot of time touching my head which is a bit weird I guess. Now we’re all different, but I can’t bring myself to buy one of those “look at me, I’ve got cancer” headscarf things. I just think it’s a bit tragic. If I’m truthful I don’t think I look that bad and apparently I have a “nice” shaped head. As IF people say that to me!

I’d completely forgotten I’d left Bob on the passenger seat so when I opened the window to ask what was wrong the look on his face was absolutely priceless…

Now, I haven’t mentioned this before but my really good friend Karen had a stroke a couple of weeks ago so we’ve now changed who visits who. She’s clearly the most poorly. What I didn’t appreciate is that a stroke isn’t a one-off incident… it’s a forever illness. She has some issues down her left side with her leg and face (she’s always had problems with her face though, lol). What has been amusing is our conversations. We are very similar; we’re both usually a million miles an hour and cram in as much as we can to our day, and night for that matter. What this also means is that her brain, like mine, is usually so active and we both talk way too quickly. But due to her stroke and my chemo brain we’ve had some hilarious nonsensical conversations whereby we either forget the word, forget what we were saying, lose our train of thought or say the wrong thing. I told her it was Monday when I meant Thursday so nothing too important, but potentially changes the outcome of the conversation. All good sport and we’ve laughed so much about it.

So I’d decided to take a drive over to see Karen again. I was busy chatting on the phone to my friend Heather whilst I was navigating my way through the back roads to get across to the A43 and then the A14. While I was gassing, I arrived at a junction and was waiting for traffic. Directly opposite the junction was a bald Spanish lorry driver who was out of his cab and dodging the traffic to cross the road to me. I asked Heather to wait a moment and I wound down the window as he asked in broken English whether he could get his HGV down the road I’d just travelled (no chance, by the way, much too narrow). I’d completely forgotten I’d left Bob on the passenger seat so when I opened the window to ask what was wrong the look on his face was absolutely priceless…he was faced with a bird who was as bald as he was. His English, which by the way was actually very good, was somewhat stunted as his brain processed that I was without hair… really amusing!

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Friday 8th April

Gosh, time is flying. It’s now the 8th April and it’s chemo day 4 again, which means in my head I’m over halfway. In fact, I’d go for 60 per cent and only two left after this one. However, I’m really dreading this if I’m honest. I’ve felt SO well this last time, almost back to normal. I’ve had to look after myself and be careful about having early nights, eating sensibly and not doing too much, but I’ve just felt great. I’m changing from Docetaxel to a drug called FEC; means nothing to you or me but apparently what happens is the cancer realises you’re trying to murder it so the same chemo stops being effective. I’ve been assured this one is easier but I guess everyone is different and we all react in different ways. I’m staying positive, naturally, but there’s always a ‘but’. I’ve planned to have this next week off as I usually do so it almost doesn’t matter what happens… but I’d so like to stay feeling well AND keep my eyelashes.

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Wednesday 13th April

Five days later and we’ve got to 13th April. It’s not been too bad. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I feel OK. The nausea has relented a bit but I feel so thick, a bit like when you’ve got a mega hangover and your brain can’t process information properly. I find it embarrassing. I can’t hold an intelligent conversation and my ability to recall what I was saying or even finish a sentence properly has been compromised. Still, it’s not forever. Another weird thing: My teeth hurt. And the tips of my fingers. Really is the most obscure feeling ever.

I’m not sure that’s what you do to someone on their birthday never mind someone who’s ill…

I got a text today from the ‘friend’ who posted the Facebook comment that had upset me back in February regarding the head shave. I was due to see her on Friday but she was texting to let me know she wasn’t coming because she was going to work – arguably not important, but Friday is my birthday and whilst I might not be ready to party, frankly I’m not sure that’s what you do to someone on their birthday never mind someone who’s ill… It’s the strangest thing but I get the feeling that there’s a cabinet reshuffle on the horizon – I’ve got a couple of ‘friends’ who seem to have got lost along the way. This journey really is a ‘buckle up and let’s see what happens next’ ride and not for the faint-hearted! Not only is it having a dramatic effect on my mind and my body but some of the people whom I thought were friends have been a bit of a disappointment.

Why am I So Pissed Off on My Birthday?

Thursday 14th April

What can I say about today? Nothing other than I feel THE most emotional I’ve ever felt in MY ENTIRE LIFE. What’s this all about? I’m crying for literally no reason. I’ve had some visitors over but I bet I’ve been a complete prick today. People are so lovely though – so understanding. I’m really struggling with this crying shit coupled with the chemo brain I don’t even know my own mind anymore. It’s really scary. As I said it’s a bit like a bad hangover but 50 times worse. At least with a hangover, you get to have some fun first. It makes me feel so thick. I forget things and it makes my brain work slower, not a big deal you might be thinking but for someone like me who rarely makes mistakes, this is horrific.

On the bright side however, I’ve got a friend who’s told me she’s thrilled for the first time in our friendship she can keep up.

I know that I’ve said this before but I really don’t want you to underestimate just how debilitating it is. I forget what I’m saying, I can’t remember basic words and I struggle to follow what’s being said to me. It’s not that I get bored but I just fail to comprehend the simple stuff. It’s like my brain is thinking “Unless it’s happening in the next 5 minutes, I probably don’t need to know” and deletes any brain cells that might have been used for storage. It’s been extremely humbling. I’ve made mistakes regarding work, I’ve had to admit that I can’t remember what I’ve been told, I struggle to make the right decisions and it’s like I can’t get my brain to do what it normally does without much effort. On the bright side, however, I’ve got a friend who’s told me she’s thrilled for the first time in our friendship she can keep up. My usual communication style is a little bit of a scatter gun approach and often leave friends with a number of half-completed stories. It’s funny but I guess a bit irritating.

Friday 15th April

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! It’s 15th April – HURRAH, another year on the planet. I LOVE my birthday always have… so why do I feel so bloody pissed off? I woke up crying and basically spent the rest of the day doing pretty much the same thing. The friend who cancelled me has left a gap in my day which just adds to how pissed off I’m feeling. I got ready to drive over to Northampton to see Karen for lunch but as I couldn’t stop crying I aborted the journey after about 15 minutes.

I’m not overly vain but honestly, can these chemicals take anything else that distinguishes me as a woman?

Thankfully she’s really understanding and gets it, but what an utterly shit birthday. To add insult to injury the boys gave me my card but said that my present hadn’t arrived. Now whilst this might not be a big deal, trust me today it was like the end of the world. Very dramatic and unreasonable behaviour from me but to be honest that’s exactly how I feel – unreasonable and grumpy.

Oh, and as an extra special gift for me, my nails have started to lift. My beautiful natural nails that I look after, nurture, love and which are a bit of trademark are about to fall off. REALLY??? Anything else? I’m not overly vain but honestly, can these chemicals take anything else that distinguishes me as a woman? I don’t feel so bad with the nausea and fatigue this time just finding the emotional side hard to deal with. Early night for me with the attitude that tomorrow will be brighter…fingers crossed.

Thursday 5th May

May 5th and it’s my next spa day. A little out of sync but I had a day out booked for yesterday that, come hell or high water, I was NOT going to miss, nor was I going to turn up feeling special. I wanted my personality in attendance not one of my thick days. I’d won the chance to spend a day with the Red Arrows. It was a superb day and well worth putting off the treatment for. However, now I’m feeling special. FEC can feck off. I had it administered not 3 hours ago and already I can’t stop bloody crying. FFS…how bloody annoying. It’s alright, it’s not for any reason whatsoever. I’m not built for this crying shit. It’s just utterly pointless AND FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER. I got annoyed with the boys when they got home from school, who were only trying to help me. Honestly, this is a bigger bloody challenge than feeling ill.

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Monday 9th May

It’s funny how you can change. It’s 9th May and I’m sat in bed like I do most chemo week mornings and am watching telly, chatting to the kids, drinking tea and generally doing nothing that works to a timeline, and do you know what? It’s just great and never in my life did I think I’d be saying things like this. I’ve never just done nothing, didn’t really know why you’d want to, but it’s great and I seem to have so much headspace. My thinking, although slower, seems clearer in a really odd way. I also seem to have so much time as well, which is just great. But I have to say this drug really does make me moody. My poor kids have no idea what they’re going to get when they come home, I’m either euphoric or roaring I’m irrational, hormonal and special… #chemojoys

Tuesday 17th May

Tuesday 17 May and I had my usual appointment with Karen the oncologist today. They’ve found a lump under my scar where the lymph sentinel node was taken from. She said it was probably nothing to worry about but was sending me for a scan anyway and that if the radiographer was concerned he would take a biopsy. So I trotted along the following day about 5 pm (private health cover is the best) and had the scan…and a biopsy. I had a meltdown. I was told I’d get the results in about two weeks. I couldn’t pull myself together. How can I get cancer when I’m being treated for it? If it was scar tissue, why did they do a biopsy? I know they can tell the difference. The chap on Xmas Eve was VERY clear. The super lovely lady who is usually in the room for the procedure was trying to chat to me about stuff, but I just couldn’t hear her or reply.

This has seriously tipped me over the edge – I’ve literally got to my MAXIMUM coping capacity.

As I left, I drove the wrong way home and found a layby. I sobbed for about forty minutes, inconsolable, confused and fucking gutted. I just want my hair to grow back and get back to normal. I’ve been so good, I’ve recognised that getting better relies upon my learning my lessons, staying calm, not working like a demon or conducting my life at breakneck speed. I’ve done EVERYTHING. I’ve approached it with my usual positivity. The unfairness of this is just beyond my comprehension. I phoned my friend – I didn’t speak, I wailed and delivered my third ranty, illogical, irrational meltdown since this delightful journey began…and cannot tell you how much it helped.

I had got lost in the emotional spiral which is very unlike me, I’m usually extremely practical and logical. Some 30 minutes later I was back on the right track. I almost felt like I was being punished for coping with this so well and being so positive. This has seriously tipped me over the edge – I’ve literally got to my MAXIMUM coping capacity.

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I do deal with things myself a lot and always find the bright side, the silver lining, I guess I’m just lucky that way. This IS hard, make no mistake but what I choose to share with the outside world whilst I’m going through this is my business and my choice. No one wants to hear you moaning or your sorry stories about your day, it’s not interesting and more importantly, it wouldn’t bloody help, so if you’re in the same situation think twice about it and keep your friends as friends and not carers. You’ll get through this and you don’t want people changing their roles after the event.

So the outcome. I found out two days later – thank god – that it was just scar tissue and nothing really for me to have got in such state about. I feel bad about overreacting. Really bad. It’s just stupid and can’t have been pleasant for my friend being on the receiving end of that little treat!!

Very much the same as last time only the nausea and the tiredness are getting easier to bear. Again the irrational hormonal emotional stuff is a bloody nightmare but I’m becoming more accepting of it, less cross with myself about how much I cry. So what? I seem to be the only one who gets bent out of shape about it – no one else seems to mind. Each morning I’ve woken up and before I open my eyes I’m marvelling at how well I feel in comparison to how I felt previously. Yup, I feel good enough to get a shower and gently get on with my day. My eyelashes are becoming a little sparse and I’m just praying that they stay put till everything starts to grow back, I really do not want to have to wear falsies.

 

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The Final Spa Treatment

Friday May 27th

Friday May 27th and I’m so done, in every single way. I had my last spa session yesterday, just nine days or so to get through. I’m currently sat in bed after a long sleep and I feel OK this morning. I’ve got a collection of visitors to keep me entertained again today. I’m delighted to say that this session was just one cannula and they took their time to shove the chemicals in. So now I’ve just got to batten down the hatches have lots of sleep and take care of myself.

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One thing you don’t think about is your veins. I know that’s weird, isn’t it? But you don’t and I cannot tell you how sore they become. Certain parts of your arms become so sensitive to touch because I’m guessing they’ve been so badly damaged throughout the excessive chemical warfare they’ve had to cope with. I’ve been to a therapist and had a couple of oncology qualified massages – which by the way have been fabulous. They exist so don’t miss out on some real spa treatments. Go and find someone who’s qualified to deliver, it really does help. The only issue is when they massage your arms – I kept forgetting to tell her just how much it hurt and it’s a weird pain – a bit like toothache – hard to describe but excruciating just the same.

Thursday 2nd June

I’m free – June 2nd Karen and I jet off to Spain – I know really I shouldn’t be going anywhere I’m not even a full week after the last chemo but as I said I’m at maximum coping capacity with all of this and I just need to believe and feel like it’s over. So a holiday seems like a great way to do that. Sadly however my emotions aren’t exactly playing ball and I’ve done nothing but cry since I got to the airport. Now please don’t misunderstand me, my kids have been absolutely amazing as have my friends, but this has been a battle. MY BATTLE. And whilst I might not want to moan about it continuously it has taken its toll on me.

I hadn’t actually mentioned this little jaunt to Spain to the clinical staff or the consultant. I just didn’t want to be told I couldn’t go.

I just need some time out to get over what’s happened. On the huge positive I’m a whole stone lighter and feel psychically great. I don’t think I’ve been on holiday feeling slim in years so that’s a huge positive…just better make sure I don’t eat too much whilst I’m away. I’ve packed my trainers and hope to walk 7-8 miles a day. I need the training for the 46-mile trek I’m doing at the end of the month. So I need to do it for that, but it also gives me headspace.

3 June

It’s been a great remedy to clear away all the horror of this. I hadn’t actually mentioned this little jaunt to Spain to the clinical staff or the consultant. I just didn’t want to be told I couldn’t go. I’ve not even bothered finding out if I can get insurance. I mean, what’s the point? I’m sure I’ll be fine and to be honest for four days what could go wrong? Famous last words I hear you say, but thankfully everything was fine.

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The time away was just what I needed, although I spent the first two days crying. Poor Karen, I’m not sure she knew what to do with me. I’d like to blame the FEC but in truth, I think I needed to just get it all out of my system. I’ve realised that my coping strategy is about ploughing through with utter positivity and then when it’s over I have an enormous meltdown. Thinking back, this is how I’ve dealt with virtually every horror story I’ve had to go through. Who cares? It works for me. Healthy or not, it’s the way I’m built and I’m not going to give myself grief for it either. So I’ve cried for two days – so what? Although I should have bought some shares in Kleenex first, I think…

Monday 13th June

So here we are, June 13th and that’s it, chemo done. In my view, the biggest horror is over. Now for the good bits: my brand new boobs and the radiotherapy.

I saw the surgeon last week and we’ve sorted out my new boobs. I can’t tell you how pleased I am about that. Mine currently weigh-in at a large 36F and whilst I do have some beautiful underwear, I’ve had to spend a fortune from specialist shops, so I’ve requested a pair of double Ds. I noticed that you can virtually get anything in a D cup and I’m a bird that likes choices. I was unaware that they do your poorly boob first then after the radiotherapy they wait six months. Apparently, the radiotherapy not only burns your beautiful new boob but it can take six months for it to get back to normal. But you know what? I don’t really care. I’m better off than many women who lose their boobs, so for me I’ve just got to have some patience…another skill I’m embracing.

Sunday 31st July

It’s the 31st July and I’m mindful that I’ve neglected my blog updates for some time. For that, I apologise but I’ve been busy getting on with my life; holidays, trips away going to see my friends, and completing the 46-mile walk. The best bit is that we came 14th place out of 280. Not bad for a cancer-ridden chemotherapied bird!!!

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