This Will Not Define Me

I’m the practical sort, so I need time to process this cancer bombshell. My boys had been waiting for a text from me so too had a couple of friends. I sent them all a version of the truth. I’m not built to lie but I also have to consider my communication so I don’t upset anyone, and I’m not sure a text is really the best way to deliver the news so I sent this:

Mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy done get the results in 2 weeks.

It’s true I do get the results of what version of the big C I have and how they will treat it. But you really can’t upset people before Christmas, there’s no point everyone being brassed off. I need time to reassemble my brain.

So, Cath and I have a cup of coffee in the separate waiting room, I guess prepared for people like me who’ve just been given the sort of news you never want to hear. We were encouraged to stop for coffee because you’re not supposed to drive after a biopsy but trust me Catherine is NOT driving my fabulous new SLK. At the beginning of the year, I’d decided that if the business had done well I’d give myself a bonus and treat myself to one. We’ve had the best year ever and I’d managed to save a lot of money in the business. I’m a bit tight and hate spending what I’ve saved, but in truth, I’d found the lump and not knowing what it was it inspired me to just part with my cash. I’m pleased I did and whilst it won’t fix me it does make me smile. I love cars. I love the acceleration and this beast does not disappoint. Cath’s not the worst driver in the world – but even so, she is NOT driving my new car, cancer or no cancer!

Dinner with Sarah. Poor girl. I’ve no idea what we spoke about.

I manage to pull myself together, nip to the loo and wander round to the car park. It’s a piss take – I have to pay £2.60 for the parking to be told I’ve got cancer, oh the fucking joy… I do think they should make some allowances for stuff like this. Anyway we come home, Cath goes and I have to find the courage to get ready, stay smiling and go out with my friend for dinner. My kids are away with their donor – yes, I know that’s not very nice but to be fair that’s about all we got from their father – so I’ve yet another Christmas on my own. So after music full blast, showered and my happy mask applied, I collect Sarah

Dinner with Sarah. Poor girl. I’ve no idea what we spoke about. I know my communication was disjointed, to say the least, and my train of thought not exactly as rail track straight as it should. Thankfully she was drinking as I drove so I don’t think she noticed. But all I wanted to do was scream in her face, “I HAVE CANCER!” It went round and round and round in my head. I don’t know how I stopped myself YELLING it out loud, except for the impact those three little words would have on her, her Christmas, her family. It just wouldn’t be fair it’s not her fault and I don’t think I’d want to be hairdryered like that.

I’ve had friends that have completely abused their body’s and yet are fighting fit; whilst I wouldn’t ever wish this upon anyone, you do have to wonder who decides.

Now let’s chat about being fair. The big C is not fair. Now don’t get me wrong I don’t want a pity party, a badge, nor do I need a flag to wave. I’m no ‘poor me’. If I was, you’d think getting sexually abused at ten by an overzealous step-grandparent and nearly losing my arm at 21 in a motorbike accident would be enough for me to get a ‘poor me’ badge, but you really couldn’t write this shit. Why me? I know that’s an awful thing to say but why? Jesus, haven’t I had enough to contend with. Ever wondered what you did in a previous life?

And I know this is even worse, but I’ve had friends that have completely abused their bodies and yet are fighting fit. Whilst I wouldn’t ever wish this upon anyone, you do have to wonder who decides. I had this one friend who had a body to die for, proper slim, long luscious brown hair, she drank black coffee, did cocaine, smoked her perfectly pert tits off each and every day to the tune of 20-30 fags, drank like an alky, ate no more than 500 calories a day and she’s fine…HOW??? Again, trust me, I wouldn’t wish this upon anyone, it’s a shit thing for anyone to go through BUT I want to know who picks the recipients because we need a chat!

Sorry, I’m ranting again – right, back to Christmas Eve. After I dropped Sarah off I popped into my friends Nicky and Nigel’s for drinks and did my best to be my idea of normal. Tell you what, it was good to get a couple of glasses of prosecco down my neck and play catch up with my friends. I’ve always been lucky with my friends and have a vast varied collection of people whom I love spending time with. I was vague about the outcome of my appointment. I had told them that I was off to the hospital because I honestly thought I’d have nothing to complain about – got that wrong, didn’t I?

IMG_4322

Time to Share the Big C News

I appreciate that this brain dump isn’t exactly cohesive, but I can’t tell you how much better I felt for doing this – we all have to do what’s right for us and I’m a list girl. If I brain dump and write a list I feel back in control and I think that’s the crux of it for me. Control. Everything in my world is under my control: I’m in charge; work, kid’s social life, friends (I mean that in the right way… generally, I’m the strong one). This is probably why I’m struggling with this. I’m not in control at all, the lump, the procedures, the process, the outcome, the long term prognosis, my thoughts… this is the hardest thing for me. I’ve always been brilliant at controlling my thinking and my emotions; something I perfected at an early age, as you can imagine, but this has sent me into a spiral of unanswered questions. You may have noticed that I’m not the most emotional of people so my list is about practical and logical stuff predominately.

I also hate negativity and sympathy, for me they are pointless, hold no positive outcome and just make people like me feel worse. I do NOT want people to feel sorry for me or to behave differently towards me. Christ, I have a lump, yeah ok it’s big and it’s cancer BUT that doesn’t change who I am.

Making the decision to only tell my favourite people has also helped me enormously. I feel like I’ve some control and what it also enables me to do is to ensure I don’t have a pity party. The sad, knowing looks like you’re already dead. For fuck’s sake, I could NOT cope with that. The head tilted to one side, pity in their eyes and a, “How are you feeling? Have you started the treatment? Oh, your hair…” I don’t want pity or sympathy, it won’t make me better AND, more importantly, I don’t want to have copious negative conversations about the same topic; that would drive me crazy.

HELLO! I’m still me. I still exist in my normal form which is gobby, loud, silly, funny, direct Vicki. Mum, boss, frikking amazing friend and the most honest person any of you will ever meet. Don’t misunderstand me, I know people mean well but I think I’d end up knocking someone out.

What this will also ensure is that my other friends and mates and staff will treat me exactly the same. Possibly not the right way for everyone but, hell, it’s made me feel great AND in control of how they behave towards of me. My favourites get me and will completely understand what I need from them which is positivity, happy, normalcy unless I want to talk about it.

Saturday 26th December

Boxing Day night, my friend Sally invited everyone over to her house for the evening. The street I live on is fab. I’ve been here with the boys since 2002. December 17th to be precise and when I moved in the heating didn’t work nor did the sky TV. I knocked on my unsuspecting neighbours’ doors to ask for help and found within number 38 two amazing people who have become great friends of mine; Sally and Derek. Sally fixed the heating and Derek didn’t manage to fix the Sky but we bonded over a crate of freezing cold Strongbow and our fate was sealed. Over the years we’ve had many a fun tale to share.

It was lovely to spend Boxing Day evening with friends, but I struggled a bit to keep it together. When Sally asked me again what the outcome was, I fluffed her off. I just wanted to buy some time. No one wants those conversations over Christmas or at a party, but I knew this wasn’t going to be the end of the conversation; she’s not stupid! So she came over the following day and I told her where we were at and what the real outcome was. She was, as I expected, great. Sally is very different to me and is very emotionally driven BUT she knows me so well and delivered exactly what I needed: positivity, practical thinking. Not all the sad shit.

Monday 29th December

By Dec 28th I’ve arranged to see Clips – real name Clare – to share the happy news. She’s 10 years younger than me and an amazing friend and great support. We met through work about 18 years ago. God, that makes me feel really old. We worked together on and off for years and during that time became great friends. She’s hilarious and absolutely brilliant to work with. In fact, when I started my business she was our Girl Friday (and Wednesday, she only did 2 days initially). Whilst I’m strong, I seriously do not think I’d have got this far with the business without her. Amazing woman and very fucking funny. She gets me, gets my sick humour. Oh, and the nickname? I’m not particularly good at remembering peoples’ names and when you manage a team of 20 it’s kind of important that you can address each and every one of them, so re-naming them is my trademark.

Clips and I met at our usual upmarket haunt, Macdonald’s. Coffee high, here we come! I approached the conversation with a strategy.

Tactic one: get them to talk

“So, how was Christmas, Clips?”
“No, come on. I want to know about the hospital,” she said.
Shit.

Tactic two: distract them

“Oh, I meant to show you this. It’s our new brochure.” Clips has always been interested in what we did at work – she left us a couple of years ago to pursue a career in a school helping severely challenged children.
“It’s great Vee I love it. I still have the first one we did.” She puts it in her bag.
“So, how WAS Christmas?” I say.
“NO. What happened at the hospital?”
Double shit. I take a breath.
“I’ve got Cancer… Well, no, I haven’t but my boob has.”

I have no idea why I just blurted that out. No idea at all. I’d planned what I would say and I can assure you it wasn’t that. FFS. Now her eyes have filled up. “Right, Clips you can’t be upset.”

Apparently, I can’t control how my news will make people feel. I made her laugh, it’s my coping mechanism, it’s really sick, black humour but that’s me. It’s the only way I know how to deal with difficult situations. I explained to her what had happened on Christmas Eve but that I didn’t want her to be upset. Stupid really, isn’t it? Of course she’s going to be upset, she loves me. Another lesson in control – apparently I can’t control how she will feel or react… hmmm. So I’d said that if she was going to be upset then it could be no more than a 3/10. I mean, I did want to know she cares. Her text to me made me fill up.

Ok, so I managed to get to the end of the path before I cried….👍 Told Karl after a few deep breaths and I may have reached a level 4 as there was snot 😤
Makeup reapplied and I’m back 😁
I know you know but if there is ANYTHING you need from me I’m here 😘
xxxx

My World is Changing

My whole world is changing. I’ve gone from making people happy to making them sad. I’ve gone from being the one who checks in on them to being the one who gets checked in on. My friends are crying because of me. I just want to run away. I still can’t really believe it. Not me. I’ve so much to pack into my life. So much to see and do and I won’t know till the 7th if I’ll be here to do it!! So. We make choices and I’m NOT sitting at home pissing my pants about this. I’m going to live, love and enjoy every moment of every single day. I’m being faced with something like this and at the moment it’s all very much unknown what version I’ve got and what treatment I’ll need and, yes, indeed whether I’ll survive it. Dramatic? Maybe, but it goes through your head. It also makes you feel reckless and review the day to day things you do and the importance you put on stuff that frankly is irrelevant. It’s all well and good you reading this thinking, ‘Bloody hell and she reckons she’s not dramatic? They’ve told her it’s not in her lymph nodes, what the hell is she whining about?’ And yes, you’re absolutely right, BUT my usually very positive brain is wondering a collection of the following at any one time:

• How long it takes to spread to the lymph nodes?
• Is the two-week wait long enough for this to happen?
• Is this secondary cancer/ have I got it elsewhere?
• Will they give me a lumpectomy?
• Will I need radiotherapy?
• Will I have chemo?
• Will I keep my hair?

Tell me you wouldn’t do the same? Oh, and the best bit – social media only seems to be posting statuses of someone dying of cancer; sorry, “losing their battle.” Just what you want to see.

Tuesday 29th December

So I wake up on Dec 29 early after a poor night’s sleep and drive 80 miles to have breakfast with Catherine, then I drive to the coast and spent 3 hours on my own walking the beach. It was fantastic. The day was cool yet sunny and I can’t tell you how much I enjoy it. It was just what I needed to recharge my batteries and to not think. And I LOVED driving my car – it was just what the doctor probably wouldn’t have ordered because I drove way too fast, roof down, wrapped up in my big skiing jacket and the heater on full blast, music blaring. Great for the soul and a superb distraction from my thoughts.

God, how I HATE being needy.

Although my business closes at Christmas, the following day I go into work to pay the wages. I’d woken in the night with this enormous feeling of just being so alone, so on my own with this BIG horror story, I just wanted someone to make it all go away and tell me that everything will be ok. Sadly this carried through into the day. I was probably hormonal to be fair. Gosh, us girls have a lot to deal with, let me tell you. However, the hardest thing for people like me that aren’t very emotional and therefore don’t cry and behave like a normal girl is that when these black days arrive, it’s like the end of the world. I basically have a huge meltdown. Well, actually I have two. I’ve gone from Mrs. Strong-Independent-In Control-Witty-Happy Bird to Mrs. Fucking Needy-Crying-Irrational-Moany-Bitch.  This is not something that’s synonymous to me and a very ugly trait in my view. This is very scary for those people around me because I’m just not like that. I’m factual, practical and logical… this little predicament is NOT playing to my strengths.

The support I’ve had from my friends has been amazing and they’ve delivered exactly what I’ve needed at the time I’ve needed it. New Year’s Eve was a challenge. I go on a HUGE walk and reflected on my fate. Gosh, this is hard. It’s the not knowing that’s the hardest thing to cope with.

A New Year’s Eve party at the neighbours’ is fab, although by 10.30 pm I’ve lost my happy mask and just left and came home and got into bed, with Sally in hot pursuit just to make sure that I was okay. I’m really not! I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much in my entire life and I’ve got to the point that I didn’t even really know what I’m crying about: cancer, being a bitch or just having an overdose of hormones. Life, hey?

So I have 3 meltdowns in 2 days – an absolute record for me. GREAT and Happy New Year!

Oddly, though, after my hormone days, I feel absolutely fine. I feel back in control of me and I just want to find out exactly what I’ve got and how we are going to fix it.

Hideous Decisions

Monday 4th January

Oh my God – back to work today. It’s been superb, I can’t tell you what a fab day I’ve had. Everything was normal, no one knows, I trained the team and they had a superb afternoon… just fab. I spoke to my business coach and explained why I had to change our appointment from Thursday morning. He doesn’t count by the way, regarding who I’m going to tell, but I needed to tell him because what we do together is effected by my health and the decisions I make about the business are arguably crucial right now.

We did the pleasantries.

“Stuart, sorry to be a pain but can we change the appointment on Thursday I’m sorry to be difficult but I’ve got a hospital appointment that I must attend.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that, Vicki. Nothing serious, I hope?”

“Erm… well, I’ve got a bit of breast cancer, so yes I think you could say it’s serious but I won’t know till Thursday what I need to deal with. But I’m sure it’ll be fine – well, it has to be I’ve way too much to fit in.”

SILENCE then, “Oh no that’s awful, you sound like you’ve got a cough too.”

“Yes, well, let’s hope it’s not bloody lung cancer too, hey?!”

“Did you have a good Christmas?” he asked.

“Well, not really, no. I found out on Christmas Eve so possibly not the best present I’ve ever had.”

I had a thought today that it’s only three more sleeps until my boob knows its fate. Odd really that it’s something you count down to. It’s usually for something exciting like a holiday or a special event, a birthday perhaps or a wedding. My thoughts are odd. I feel very much in control though and like there’s nothing wrong with me. When I found myself in the waiting room at the court today for one of my staff (yes, I saved her from a fate worse than death…prison) watching, not from choice, the BBC news, I saw something called Victoria something or other. She’s having chemo and is taking a day to day video of her hair loss journey. If I’m dead honest, I’m not really sure how I feel about it. I get it. I get the idea but shit it’s SO depressing!!! Why would anyone want to watch something so desperately sad and morose? Jesus, I’ll be avoiding that like the plague.

It’s true that sometimes you don’t realise what you’ve got till it’s gone.

Tuesday 5th January

The 5th of January has just been a fucking battle from beginning to end. I have had to contend with a whole host of garbage at work from staff claiming: “Oh, I didn’t think.” “Oh, I hadn’t thought that might happen.” Hideous decisions made without any common sense whatsoever. Really, very frustrating. Our old manager had left in November to pursue a different career – I think we need her back. Since she’s gone it’s been a complete disaster and more than I can contend with. It’s true that sometimes you don’t realise what you’ve got till it’s gone. I need to arrange to see her I think.

I’m almost lost for words. There’s nothing right now that will help me to get over just how fucking cross I am.

Today also included a stupid cyclist who seemed to think undertaking and overtaking in the dark with poor lights and lots of traffic was fine. I wonder if I’ll see him without limbs next week at the hospital? Then to cap it all, I came home to a letter from the hospital telling me my appointment has been put back to Friday. Yup, logically I know it’s only a day but the focus on this one date THE 7th January has been immense. I’d cancelled all my appointments from Thursday to the fucking Friday. I’m almost lost for words. There’s nothing right now that will help me to get over just how fucking cross I am. They have NO IDEA how this makes people feel. If it’s spread I swear I’m going to lose it with someone there.

The good news today? Oh, there isn’t any – so in addition to being awake most of the night on Wednesday deciding I’m terminally ill and have weeks to live, I manage to get through a manic busy day at work, missing a number of calls from a ‘no caller ID’, I never answer these I don’t have a landline at home because I want the option to screen my calls. Anyway, I get into work on Thursday – with a feeling it must be the hospital – no message left, I might add, but no one would ring 8 times if it wasn’t urgent. So I called the specialists PA who said it was probably just to check that I’d got the letter about the change to Friday – thank God.

Two more missed calls Thursday morning. I finally get to answer the phone and I‘m informed by someone ‘from appointments’ that they were putting my appointment back to next Wednesday. I nearly self-combusted.

“NO, YOU’RE NOT!” I said. “I’m not having this, it’s been put back once already and I’ve had to change three clients’ appointments – which means I lose business, now I’ve had to change them AGAIN because it moved to Friday now you’re telling me I’ll have to change all the Wednesday appointments too – I can’t run my life like this. NO, I’m coming in tomorrow.” I was livid.

I fully appreciate I’d been very direct and rather cross, but FFS can you get where I’m coming from. She was quite curt and somewhat rude, to be honest.

“Woman to woman, I can understand why you’re upset.” This did not make my blood boil AT ALL. “You can come in but we don’t have your results back yet, so there wouldn’t be much point.” Why she didn’t she just say this at the beginning of the conversation? This teeny tiny bit of very important information makes all the difference. Unbelievable. So I have to wait another week until the 13th? Brilliant!!!

The Email Announcement

I receive an unexpected call from the consultant’s secretary asking me to go and see him for an appointment the following afternoon at the private hospital. He’s a really lovely chap. He came out to greet me and asked me how I was as we walked to the room.

“I’m good, thanks. How are you?”

He was a little taken aback. I think both about my response and also my question to him. I guess not many people ask the doctor how he is. He asked me if I knew why he’d asked me to come in for an appointment. I shook my head. He proceeded to tell me that he asked me to come back so that he could explain again what would happen but that also in all the years of him doing this and delivering bad news to people he hadn’t ever experienced a reaction like mine yesterday. How lovely. I guess he thought that I was in shock and maybe hadn’t really heard or understood just how BIG this is – how lovely of him, but this is indicative of the type of caring man he is. I explained that I’d known since Christmas Eve and had done all my crying and wailing waiting for the results, so the fact that I wasn’t terminal was really the only thing that mattered – I could cope with everything else. I know it won’t be nice, BUT I’m a battler and I will win. He smiled, and in truth, I’m not sure he knew quite what to make of me.

I’m still trying to ascertain the best way to deliver my happy news en masse.

Recognising that I would be needing a wig sent me out shopping – I know I’m a girl but I really dislike shopping at the best of times. I’d like you to say out loud, “I need to buy a wig because I’m going to be bald.” Bloody awful, isn’t it? That’s my current reality and forgive the pun but something it’s going to take me time to get my head around. The wig shop I went to was closed. How? On a bloody Saturday? Anyway, I got the number off the internet of a place in Cambridge called Scruffs and made an appointment to go and get fitted. NOT what I thought my January would be looking like. I’m still trying to ascertain the best way to deliver my happy news en masse. I’ve got loads of people to tell, family, friends, and clients. Now I’ve test driven a couple of approaches on a couple friends over the weekend. Their reactions ranged from sharing with me every case study feedback of everyone she’s ever heard of ever that’s had ever had breast cancer – with varying degrees of outcome (not overly helpful or inspiring if I’m truthful) – to considerate thoughtful comments from people who had seriously thought through what to say. So what’s the best, most consistent message that’s concise and gets me the outcome that I need, which is normality. I need normality. As I mentioned before, I do not want a pity party. So, the plan. AN EMAIL.

Yes, I know you just cringed. It’s the most impersonal, thoughtless and horrific way to deliver the news BUT I need you to consider this. I’ve learnt that people only hear a little bit of what you say when they go into shock and then some of them make the rest of it up to suit themselves. This is not what I need and frankly, I’m literally not built to keep repeating myself. It’s boring… oh, and it just makes it that tad more real.

It’s also dawning on me that I need to sort out the work situation and get my old manager back. We’ve kept in touch and her Facebook posts about work aren’t exactly inspiring so fingers crossed she comes back. It’s not going to be too much of a problem to meet up with her, but I’m going to have to admit to her that I NEED her. Now that’s going to be a tough one, but I’ll worry about that later.

Now back to the hair situation – someone suggested to me that I did a ‘brave the shave’ and raise some money for charity – what a fabulous idea. I’m big into charity and over the last 6 years have raised over £38,000 through charity balls that we’ve held through work, so it’s a superb suggestion AND it means I’m taking control and not waiting for the imminent hair falling out trauma.

So by January 18th I bite the bullet and write and send my email to my friends and family and then have an anxiety attack – I’m literally papping my pants, unsure what to expect as I press send.

Hi

Firstly I’m really sorry to send this news to you via email but as you read this you’ll understand why.

I found out on Christmas Eve that I had a form of breast cancer……excellent Christmas present……I got the detail last week of what it is and what needs to happen. The only thing I’m really bothered about is that I won’t die…..well not from this anyway………so for me, anything else I can cope with. So the plan: I need chemo, then an op and then radio. I had every intention of not telling anyone but as I’m about to lose my hair I think there’s a slim chance people might notice lol.

We all deal with things differently and all need different things in situations like this. What I need above everything is normality. I have no desire to go over the detail of it, the repetition bores me, the conversation is negative. I won’t die from it……nothing else matters in my head. I’ve got great support from my closest friends whom I intend to rant at if the mood takes me lol. The boys are fine, understandably upset but we’re close so have each other. I’ve sorted some support for them and told their schools…..pisser timing wise with A levels and GSCEs but they’ll get special dispensation……not like our day hey?

What I need from you. Nothing other than how you usually are with me. If I see you daily, weekly, monthly or annually great let’s keep it that way. I don’t want or need sympathy or a poor me badge it won’t fix me and the negativity of it won’t inspire me at all, I have everything I need with my support team….lucky buggers hey??. I know you’ll want to help and I appreciate that enormously but you’ll help me by being the same with me….nothing has changed I just have a new challenge to deal with that’s all……oh and I’ll be fucking bald……I need positivity and happy conversation please ….lots of laughter. I’m sure I’ll have shit days but doesn’t everyone? this just gives me a great excuse that’s all. 

I can’t cope with being fussed over or being told what to do. I don’t need to hear about case studies of who survived and who didn’t. This will sort, it’ll be fine just bloody inconvenient and did I mention I’ll be bald? FFS!!! Because of this, I’ve decided to shave my hair off and to do it for charity, before I lose it and would be grateful if you would sponsor me…this way I don’t need to advertise to the world my situation….. I’ll email the detail when I’ve had time to set it up….. It will be to coincide with the start of the chemo. I will NOT be advertising this on Facebook and would be extremely grateful if you could all avoid putting anything on there relating to my condition please and respect my request to not advertise this to the world. I want to contain this as much as possible for a gobby cow I hate everyone knowing my business.

So it’s not the best news I guess BUT for me, I’m genuinely thrilled……two weeks wondering if you might have a terminal illness means this news is brilliant. I’m fixable……nothing else matters.

Hope all’s well with you all and I’ll see you when I do. Again – forgive me for emailing ….but my time’s a bit sparse at the moment with the hospital demanding my attendance lol 😃

You can imagine the variety of the replies I got, but I have to say on the whole I got exactly what I’d hoped for. Strong, positive supportive responses.

So having decided to shave my head for charity – not only for great causes but it saved me the horror of it falling out in the shower. I am not emotionally equipped to deal with that. So I set up a ‘giving’ page and tried to be rather clever about how I worded the ‘sponsor me’ bit on the page. Someone had very kindly shared it on Facebook (they meant well, I know they did), but there was a comment on there about me having the big C, so my fabulous idea about keeping it to myself wasn’t really working. So Facebook erupted, I decided I would just have to brave the whole thing and so I posted this:

Screenshot (102)

 

I’m getting braver and figured I’d better just suck it up and get on with it. I can’t begin to find the words to describe how it’s made me feel. I’ve had the loveliest comments, messages, texts and emails, and my money begging page has been shared by loads of people. I’m truly humbled, overwhelmed and dumbstruck by how benevolent people are. WOW.

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.

IMG_3653
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

 

Cancer Means People Make Room for You at the Bar

Well, they said I’d suffer with insomnia. They didn’t lie. I think I’ve managed about two hours sleep tonight. I purposely didn’t take a sleeping tablet because I don’t want to rely upon them… epic mistake!! And I’m supposed to be testing out my new walking shoes tomorrow with the 26-mile crew. Still, I guess that being awake rather than being ill is a bloody bonus. Oddly, I feel great.

I’m simply overwhelmed with people’s kindness.

My cough doesn’t seem to be shifting but it doesn’t seem to be getting worse either. I’m keeping an eye on it. I’ve no desire to be in the hospital. The nursing staff have explained that because my immune system is getting blitzed that the chances of me catching something is really high and the last thing I want to do is be ill. The cacophony of drugs seems to be working but the nausea remains.

I’m simply overwhelmed with people’s kindness. I’ve had texts, emails, phone calls and cards. I can’t tell you how touched I am by how lovely and supportive people have been. It’s also really hard to keep up with everything and feeling this rough, I don’t feel that inspired to communicate, but I think if they’re kind enough to contact me I really should get back to them. I’m also bright enough to recognise that people naturally get bored after the excitement of a poorly friend wears off. A bit like when you have a new baby. The communication will diminish and I’ll be left with the die-hards, the ones that truly love me. I don’t have a problem with this – it’s natural – but it’s something to watch out for. I’ve been here before with the excitement of the near-death experience from my motorbike accident. People genuinely mean well but lack in consistency sometimes when the drama wears off and the monotony arrives.

Sunday 14th February

Sunday! What a great day. I woke up about 7 am and I’ve not had to take an anti-sickness tablet all day. I’ve felt amazing, although I do appear to have a bit of a rash on my right hand and my neck. They did say my skin might be sensitive. I’m seeing the nurse tomorrow so we shall see.

They make room for you at the bar, give you the reserved table and are very smiley and lovely.

My mouth feels better today. My friend Karen drove over from Rugby with the most amazing chocolate cake. We walked for 8 miles, ate lunch at the local pub, and I chilled out the rest of the day. I feel well!!! Oh, and my hair’s not gone yet. Oh, the irony if I don’t lose it. Know what though? No regrets from me. My final tot up of charity donations was just under £8600. Not bad for someone with shit hair. As my eldest said: “Who would have thought your hair would have been worth that much money?” He’s right.

24 July

It’s odd. When you’ve had your head shaved that people behave very differently towards you. In a good way, I might add. Both last night and today at the pub people seem to clock the hair and make a mental calculation that no one would do that from choice, so either I’ve had cancer or getting over it… and they make room for you at the bar, give you the reserved table and are very smiley and lovely. A little ‘pity’, but I guess that’s normal on the basis that it’s not the best thing to have. I’m not used to people being soft with me. It’s quite nice, actually. I think I quite like it. It makes me softer too. This process is making me less aggressive, I think, which is not a bad thing.

So I’d like to list for you the positives I’ve got from this so far:

• Enabled me to release the reigns at work and to trust the team and Sarah to get on with it. This means I’ll have more chance of being able to sell it within the next couple of years.
• I get new tits (beyond excited), new underwear, my bikinis will fit better – size Fs like mine are a challenge to cram into the triangle bikinis I like to wear
• I’m getting softer, less irritated by things
• I don’t feel as ‘angry’ about life and I’m swearing less (have you noticed?)
• My hair will grow back thicker – which is awesome my hair has never been my finest asset

Monday 15th February

OMFG it’s Monday! Back to work for me; how fabulous. I feel GREAT. Normality – wooooo-hooooo. Had a fab day, although I only stayed for the morning. Back to earth with a bump, though. I had to hold a disciplinary meeting. I’m disappointed about this. I know everyone has their issues but I really could have done without this sort of thing on my first day back. I had the nurse in the afternoon and also had a new TV arriving (the first one I bought recently was damaged so had to go back). I’m learning that some things are more important than work and whilst I’ve got a superb and supportive team behind me, I don’t need to be breathing down their necks and I can leave them to get on with it. So I did. And I had a stream of visitors before I went for my hip scan to see what my ‘hot spots’ are all about, then it was dinner with some great friends. Feel sooooooo happy.

Tuesday 16th February

Tuesday was another busy day of hospital visits and work. Sat at the hospital, there are two ladies yakking on and on and on about world politics. Donald Trump. It’s funny really, who gives a shit? How can their opinion impact the world? What will they do about it? How will they make themselves heard?

Why in God’s name do some people DECIDE for you that it’s the bloody end?

Oddly, this brings me nicely onto the decision I made yesterday about how I’m going to change the way people react to those three little words. “I have cancer” has inspired me to think about how I can change people’s reaction to cancer. It’s so easy to see how cancer sufferers end up feeling depressed, sad, down and convinced they’ll die. Lost in a spiral of negative thinking. I cannot tell you how many people have made comments to me like, “If anyone can beat it, you can, Vicki,” “Stay strong,” “Are you sure you’ll be ok?” and “I THINK you’ll be fine!” These, by the way, are NOT positive comments, they’re not helpful and are fucking aggravating. At no point when I got my diagnosis did they say “It’s touch and go” or ” You have a 50/50 chance of survival,” so tell me why in God’s name do some people DECIDE for you that it’s the bloody end? Now if I’d have said “I have mutating cells and need treatment,” no one would decide my days were numbered. So I’ve decided I’m going to change the world and I’m thinking of contacting GMTV at some point, that’s after I’ve turned this into a mini- book/blog.

The Most Boring Person in the World

Wednesday 2nd March

I feel OK today, not great but OK. I can live with OK. My hair is way less and I think if I’d have left it long and unshaved it would look utterly dreadful and patchy. I’m pleased I’ve shaved it but it is very sparse, to say the least, but this gradual process has made it way more palatable for me. More visitors – I’ve no idea what we talked about and if my life depended upon it I’d seriously struggle to repeat anything. I don’t think I make much sense either but everyone’s being so very kind and gentle with me. I really am blessed.

Thursday 3rd March

Well, I didn’t wake up till 10.20 am; virtually unheard of for me. I’m exhausted BUT I don’t feel ill. My mouth’s going through the usual unpleasantness but nothing to complain about. I’m tired but I can live with that. I’m thinking fish and chips for dinner today…

Saturday 5th March

Saturday. I was supposed to be meeting a couple of friends but simply didn’t have the energy. It’s weird. By the afternoon it was like the fog had lifted and I was pretty much back to normal, just lacking in energy. It’s really wiped me out. I can’t believe how much I’ve slept. I feel like THE most boring person in the world. I’ve nothing to say, I’ve not been anywhere, done anything… this bothers me. I’ve never been dull and whilst I accept it’s part of the lesson it’s very boring.

I’ve been more tired this time around simply because of the walk; it must have taken it out me. One of the REALLY hard things to cope with is my inability to think clearly, retain information and process questions. Sarah’s been emailing me asking me questions about decisions that need making for work – I honestly can’t think clearly enough to be able to offer her any help. In fact, I’ve said to her that I’m utterly thick at the moment and I’ll just live with whatever she decides. I simply do not have the capacity to be able to process anything other than what I’m going to eat or watch on the telly. I HATE IT. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so dense in my entire life. I struggle to remember what I’m saying, lose my train of thought and struggle with questions like, “What day is it today?”

Chemo brain is like having fog as a replacement for your mind. It’s so hard to function, to think, to do anything. It’s just awful and scary, I’m worried I’ll never be back to my idea of normal.

Monday 7th March

On Monday I went into work for the morning which was great but I was home by lunchtime knackered. Tuesday I didn’t even manage to get to work. I don’t think I’m eating enough, but I just don’t fancy anything. It’s hard to want to eat when there’s nothing I fancy, but I must.

I’m learning so much from this process and to be honest whilst I’m not thrilled I’ve got cancer I feel like I’m growing so much as a person.

This lethargy is just horrific. I’ve also suffered from some, erm… anal bleeding – sorry, yes I know, who wants to chat about bleeding piles, but it’s part of the journey so if it happens to you don’t panic. It’s just because of the constipation you suffer and then the obvious pressure when ejecting what you’ve saved. Not pretty so be warned. I’ve used the Senna tablets they gave me but they cause me such bad stomach cramps and clearly don’t work as they should. Instead, they have prescribed me with something that I thought they called “Move it all.” Turns out it’s actually called Movicol but hey, it does the same job so fingers crossed it will work better.

Thursday 10th March

Had a fab week at work, I felt great. I did a full day’s training on Thursday which I just loved – I felt back to being me again, personality back, multitasking brain functioning and I know I did a good job. I found the last chemo a bit scary – my personality literally flatlined. I’m usually so bright and happy and upbeat with plenty to say – this one, probably because of the mammoth walk, literally removed my personality and made me exceptionally dull.

Screenshot (46)I’m learning so much from this process and to be honest whilst I’m not thrilled I’ve got cancer I feel like I’m growing so much as a person. I’m not resisting everything that’s changing which trust me, for a control freak is quite hard but I’m just going with it and feel great. This is all part of my journey, part of my learning to get me to where I need to be. Being the sort of person I am, I perhaps wouldn’t have listened or made changes if I’d had a bout of the flu – I’d have just been frustrated and wouldn’t have heard or seen nor accepted the lesson.

It might not be obvious but I’m a VERY impatient person and tend to want and have usually got everything I want on my terms at my timescales. I fill my life with people, going out socialising (drinking copious amounts of wine) and generally overfilling my days, but now I find myself changing and find that:

• I’ve really enjoyed spending time at home and not being out every night or all weekend
• I’m learning about me and what’s important to me
• Looking after myself and pushing myself less gives me better thinking time and time to come up with better ideas (when my brain is functioning, of course)
• Listening to people I respect and admire and doing what they suggest/listen to advice has made me realise I’m not on own in the world
• I’ve learnt that having consistent behaviour/support is really good and enables me to feel safe and that I can rely upon people
• What will be will be
• Everything happens at the right time for the right reasons
• I’m not really able to offer anyone anything at the moment
• I’m really grateful for the support I’ve received from Cath, Clips and Karen… and in fact all my friends; from those that cook tea for the boys to those that sit and listen to me speak garbage for a couple of hours during chemo week
• I’m very grateful to be alive
• The spa treatments are lethal and boring so spending time with people helps me
• My friends are absolutely amazing. I’m completely blessed and extremely lucky and grateful
• Workwise I need to be doing more thinking and less doing – I need to change my strategy and not ‘do’ but work out how to structure my team to get the best outcome.

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!

Screenshot (52)

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.

image1

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.

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.

Screenshot (53)

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.

Screenshot (58)

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!!!

Screenshot (59)