Just checking in…

Crikey! It’s been a while hasn’t it? If I’m honest, I sort of lost the will to blog for a while because it felt like I was repeating myself after each chemo session and I didn’t want to bore you. I’m now recovering from chemo round five and have decided to pop back and fill you in – My special treat to you… Aren’t I kind?!

I’m not going to lie; things are pretty tough at the moment. At chemo round four, I managed to get a cold and was in bed for ten whole days. I shall never complain about the common cold again once all of this is over, that’s for sure (I will). I’ve now had my fifth round and am being treated with a drug called Docetaxel. It has different side-effects to previous medication I was on, and boy are they painful. My bones are aching terribly, I’m getting numbness in my fingers and toes, and I have constant stomach pains. As well as all that, my poor old taste buds (used to delightful gourmet treats cooked up by Alex) appear to have done a runner. I’m finding it pretty hard to eat anything at the moment, what with my furry mouth, but am persisting because I know that it’s the nutrients that will help me recover quickly. I told you I was here to give you a treat didn’t I? It’s all so glam in my hood.

As a special surprise to me the other day, the hospital sent me home with a box of eight syringes full of G-CSF, which I’ve been told to inject myself with. Should have been easy enough… unless, of course you have a problem with needles! Anyway, we got there in the end and after a few days of Alex and I struggling to do it (think along the lines of the Chuckle Brothers), he has taken full control. Today was the day that I had meant to do it myself, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I do feel a bit useless, but I’m not going to stress myself out, because quite frankly I’ve got enough on my plate.

Some lovely home accessories provided by the hospital for my used needles… eek!

G-CSF Bins

Hmm, what else can I tell you about. Oh yes, I’m off to Paris next week. Hurrah! A very stern oncologist asked me what I was going to do if I get ill when I’m there. I responded with “um, go to the nearest hospital?” (obvs). There’s no way I’m missing this trip after having cancelled our holiday to LA a few months ago. I’ve got my special chemo alert card; I’ve got my EU health card thingymabob, and I’ve noted all the nearest hospitals… It’ll all be fine. We really need this holiday, and Betsy the Chihuahua certainly doesn’t want to miss her annual trip to the pet-sitter. She’s been cooped up far too much lately, as she never leaves my side when I’m ill in bed.

Aside from all the chemo action, I have managed to drag my sorry butt out to do some lovely things over the past month. I’ve also seen so many of my amazing friends – most of whom live in countries as far away as Australia and Berlin – who luckily for me, had UK trips planned in my hour of need. Everyone has been amazing, and I’ve constantly been receiving get-well gifts that have made me a very happy girl indeed!

The thing I miss the most at the moment is having the freedom to do what I want, when I want, and as it’s Summer, that mostly means travelling. Seeing those good friends in London really gave me a boost, and I hope that it won’t be long before it’s me that can get on a plane to visit them, wherever they may be. I’m also really missing my eyebrows, as it’s a struggle to draw them on when you are in a rush. I am however, getting them cosmetically tattooed on during our trip away, so fingers crossed that will be one less thing to worry about. I shall report back soon.

As you can see – some days the eyebrows just don’t match!

Chemo 5

FUCancer. I’m not letting you win, even if you are giving me a battering right now.

Five rounds done. Just three more to go.

Until next time x

Oh, and I’m still waiting for my MRI results, which will tell us more about how things are progressing… I’ll keep you posted.

Just checking in

I Get Knocked Down (But I Get Up Again) – Chemo 3

I went into chemo round three with much smugness on Friday 29th May. Having been prescribed the ‘wonder drug’ for sickness (Emend) that I’d been told would make the world of difference, I thought this one would be a breeze. How wrong I was! On the previous two occasions, chemo knocked me sideways, from about two hours after the treatment, until three days later. This time round, I was feeling ropey before I even got up from my chair. Say what?! Gah, this was not the plan, Stan… This was not the plan.

Nausea had hit me before I got out of the ward, so the nurse sent me on my way with some of those lovely-looking cardboard sick bowls… Who says you don’t get anything free gifts from the NHS, eh? They’re still sitting on my bathroom floor right now. Fancy!

The tablets did in fact work because I didn’t actually vomit, but that evening, I had such severe stomach cramps Alex had to call the chemo ward. We were talking a nine out of ten on the pain scale people. I wasn’t just whingeing for the sake of it. I was in real agony. When I heard the word A&E being bounced around, during Alex’s phone call, I was in a mad panic about how I was actually going to be able to drag my sorry butt out of the bed and into the car. Thankfully, the trip was avoided because I didn’t have that all important fever that I’m meant to be watching out for, and at some point I must have just passed out for the night. Phew.

Anyway, eight days of recovery time for this one, so it goes down as the worst yet, but I’m over it now and am really looking forward to my two weeks of better health. It’s quite an odd thing to get excited about really, but those two weeks out of every three are such a highlight that I find myself enjoying a lot more than I ever usually would. I’m particularly happy that my birthday falls tomorrow when I hope to be feeling in tip-top condition.

The really good news is that my boob lump has shrunk, so the treatment is working. It’s a regular occurrence for tumours to shrink to nothing early in the treatment process, but alas, you must still plough on with the chemo and see through all of the sessions before your operation. I’m not sure if I have previously mentioned that I’m having a lumpectomy, rather than a mastectomy – I’m happy not to be losing my boob right away, but if the margins aren’t good after the lumpectomy, I may need the full chop. Then, the question is, do I go for one or two? Jeez, what a thing to have to think about!

I’m actually quite surprised by how many people opt to have mastectomies instead of a lumpectomy for ‘peace of mind’, but each to their own, I guess. From the research I have done, lumpectomies and mastectomies have similar results with regards to the cancer returning, but a lot of women believe that the latter is a safer option. Obviously each case is different. Anyway, I’m going to take my chances and keep what’s rightly mine for as long as I can. Even if my left boob is a traitor, I’m not one to hold a grudge!

I hope to do something or have something other to talk about other than my illness before I blog next time. I do hate to bore you with all the same details, but until next time let me leave you with the gifts that chemo has given me for my 30 (something) birthday…

Things that chemo did to me this/last month.
Stomach cramps.
Tired, oh, so tired.
Horrible taste in my mouth – mainly in the evenings.
Tiny bumps on my tongue, that went away quickly.
Twitchy boob – Which is a good sign, but weird.
I have a hardened vein in my arm – from my first chemo session before the PICC line. It hurts. Ouch.
My eyelashes are slowly falling out, which is a nightmare with hay fever, let me tell you.
Watery eyes – separate from the hay fever watery eyes. Thanks for that.
I have no nose hairs left. How can I tell? Drip. Drip.
My eyebrows are thinning dramatically. – Nooooo! This is the one I have been dreading… How will people know when I am cross?! I have a plan though and will let you know about it soon.
Some of my hair tufts are slowly growing – I’ll need to shave it again, but I quite like knowing it’s there.
I’m cold ALL of the time – the hottest day of the year and I had a jumper on. I’m sitting with a hot water bottle right this second when it’s 20 degrees. Brrr.
It has given me the munchies – I’m grazing all day long, but luckily I’m not gaining any weight… Yet.
I’m craving chips and crisps ALL of the time – I’m not meant to eat potatoes, so this has been a tricky one.

And that’s all really…  I’ve heard worse ;)

In other news…

You need to get your chops around these Vietnamese spring rolls with crispy tofu with a side of
Stir-fried Chinese Cabbage

Vietnamese spring rolls with crispy tofu

We popped into Ms Cupcake in Brixton to grab some vegan/gluten free treats last weekend. A little market research as I bought the cookbook the other week. Our cupcakes were tad bit on the dry side, but they still tasted pretty good for vegan alternatives. They really need to make more of the store though. Definitely due a spruce up!

Ms Cupcake

Just reminded me of the old days…

 

Until next time x

Feeling Down and More Test Results

There was bound to be a time where this breast cancer lark would have me feeling down, and I have to confess, Sunday was not a good day for me. I had round two of my chemo on Friday and my hospital care hadn’t quite been up to the standards I’d got used to… Nothing too serious, but when you’re someone who likes order, a little disorder can be very unsettling.

I was somehow fooled into forgetting the unpleasantness of my first chemo and round two came right at me with a great big punch in the face. Charming. The problem I’m having is that I’m being really sick, before I’m allowed to take my first anti-sickness tablets. I then feel a little better, take the anti-sickness tablets and they make me feel sick again. Something that needs looking into obviously, but when you don’t get to see your usual oncologist before the next round of chemo and see someone who doesn’t know your case for precisely three minutes, how are you meant to sort all that?!

I took one look at my still not completely bald self in the mirror on Sunday afternoon, and just became a total misery guts for a few hours. Cutting and shaving my hair made me feel in total control, but as I sit and wait it for it all to drop out, it is no longer down to me, but those nasty toxins. My morning ritual for the past few days has been shaking out my sleep cap, which catches the evenings ‘droppings’. How times have changed!

Ah, well, it’s Monday now and things are looking a little better. I’m still feeling nauseous, but I have just been made aware of an expensive drug that I need to push for, to stop me being sick. Apparently, no one should be vomming as much as me, so we’ll get that nipped in the bud, that’s for sure. I’ll probably get Alex to ask for the drug though, as he has a better way with the doctors and nurses than me – I’m more pally with the surgeon, which I think will pay off greatly in the end!

Don’t worry, It’s not all doom and gloom here in Camp Zoe. Last Wednesday, I went to get my results for the second lump and was told it was benign. Hurrah! I was then asked if I’d started my Herceptin treatment (by the temp oncologist who didn’t even know which round of chemo I was on). After explaining I didn’t know what she was talking about, she said “Ah yes, your results show you are ‘HER2 positive” – Great. Next time, I’ll have the results first, thanks.

Anyway, apparently HER2 positive is what all the breast cancer ladies hope for. This means that my cancer cells are more likely to grow and divide…  Stick with me here, it gets better. Between 15 and 25 out of every 100 women with breast cancer have HER2 positive cancers. It doesn’t sound like good news, but Trastuzumab (Herceptin) is a wonder drug that will reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. See the slight bonus there? As usual, the good comes with the bad and I will most likely have to have a stingy injection in my thigh, every three weeks for a year… A whole year! *sobs*

It’s good new Zoe. It’s good news. Hmm.

I have survived round two of Chemo – Just six more to go!
Until next time x

 

This little chihuahua has been very supportive. Barking to get out of her crate, and then running to me whenever I’ve got my head stuck down the lav… True love. 

Feeling down and more test results

Left Boob and Right Arm Challenge

This morning I was challenged with the feat of keeping my left boob and my right arm dry in the bath. The left boob and right arm challenge – A tricky task, let me tell you. I was told by the boob team that I wasn’t to shower, but shortly after was told by the PICC line team that I couldn’t bath… Hmm, what’s a girl to do? These are just the everyday comedy tasks that I have found myself facing since I was diagnosed with cancer… “Don’t get this wet or it will get infected” – “Don’t go out between these dates because you are more likely to pick up infection”… Yeah, yeah. Whatever!

Yesterday, I spent a good chunk of my day at the hospital, having another biopsy, followed by a second attempt at my PICC line insertion. First up, at 9am (progress on last weeks 7.45am appointment), the dreaded biopsy on the new lump that they have discovered. I was hoping that I wouldn’t get Dr. Arrogant, but in he strolled, in all his “this won’t hurt as much as the biopsy” glory… He shot me with the biopsy gun twice and then did me the courtesy of asking if I could cope with a third shot, which was thoughtful. I was in and out in no time at all. Turns out, that he’s pretty good at that part of the job. It was much less painful than the very first procedure and I’ve had no pain whatsoever since… Just another whopping bruise to add to my collection. Marvellous. I’ll allow Dr Arrogant to shoot me in the boob anytime he likes, if it’s going to be that easy!

Next up, my PICC line insertion. We found ourselves waiting around for an hour and a half for this, due to a lack of communication amongst the hospital team. It didn’t bother me one bit though, as I was chilled as a mofo, after popping a Lorazepam earlier in the morning. Waiting around has never been so easy! Having a PICC line inserted is a very slow process, mainly due to the extensive setting up process, making sure everything is sterile around the patient. However, with a different nurse this time round, they managed to find a vein relatively quickly, and it all went quite smoothly. Hurrah! They then sent me off for a quick X-ray to check the tube was not heading towards my throat or anything nasty like that… Eek!

PICC-Line

As easy as it was to get it in this time, the PICC line was pretty sore afterwards, and it still is now. I’ve been told that it will take a good few weeks before it starts to feel less painful… No one had thought to warn me about this before I had it done. Cheers guys! Anyway, it’s there now, and it really will help having it – The fewer needles, the better if you ask me. It should speed my chemo sessions up a little bit and generally make life a whole lot easier at the hospital.

My new best friend…

Picc Line Arm

This Summer’s new look…

Left Boob and Right Arm Challenge

I get the results of my biopsy next Wednesday and have been told there is a 98% chance that it will be benign. Here’s hoping. Before then, I’ve booked to get my hair cut quite a bit shorter, in preparation for its departure from my lumpy scalp… Yup, I ended up getting a rash both on my face and in my head, after the chemo, so was given hydrocortisone and antihistamines to clear it up. They seem to have been effective after just one day, so things are looking up. I just don’t want to be a spotty, bald-headed sight for sore eyes, so it’s a race against time to get rid of it all completely. Other than that I’ve been feeling pretty good. Just killing time until my next chemo session next Friday.

I’m waiting for a proper cover to arrive so I can shower and bath with a little more ease, but this morning I had to get busy with a roll of cling film and a tea towel. Did the job.

PICC line Bath

Oh, and If you were wondering, I sent Alex off to do a few chores this time round. No one needs to hit the ground twice in such a short space of time ;)

Until next time x

The Evening Before my First Chemo Session

I was just sitting here, wondering if I should be doing something fun on the evening before my first chemo session tomorrow. After what seems like forever, the day is almost here. I’ve decided against heading out for some sort of vegan feast though, as I’ve got an rather annoying sharp pain in my boob, after it was abused at the hospital yesterday – I guess that sometimes, you just need to rest up and get your work done in preparation for the sick days that are about to come. No vegan fun times for me!

I’ve been to the hospital a few times in the past week. The first visit was to have a PICC line inserted. My veins are playing silly buggers and proving difficult to find, so having a tube attached to my body for the duration of the chemo (that’s eight sessions, once every three weeks), will apparently make things a whole lot easier… Well, that’s if they can get the damned thing in! Turns out there are no visible veins anywhere useful, so I ended up going through a rather traumatic time, only to come away with nothing inserted and just one massive bruise to add to my collection. Grrr. I now have to go back in a few weeks, doing without a PICC line for the first session, but it seems as though I’m getting used to all of this pain, so I’m not too worried.

Without going into too much detail – just imagine the tube being inserted into the top of my arm, and then poof, the vein just disappeared before it makes it to the goal. Who knew that was even possible? Is that possible? Well, that’s the story they told me, and it ruddy hurt. I had my support team with me (Alex), but he unfortunately didn’t bring his A-game and passed out at the sight of it all. Amazing skills! I’m a little upset that I didn’t get to see the grand fall, but the news did perk me up a little. Look, I’ll take anything for a good laugh these days!

My most recent visit to the hospital was yesterday for an MRI scan. Obviously someone needs to have a word with the person that makes the appointments because I was booked in for 7.45am! I mean, do they not know that I like to sleep? And yes, I am still sleeping pretty well, even though I have been diagnosed with cancer. We were there before the staff obviously (because they too were hoping for more sleep), but it wasn’t long before I was face down, with my boobs dangling (well, I say ‘dangling’, but that’s probably an exaggeration) through two holes in an MRI table (TMI?). All pretty easy and twenty minutes of no pain. Hurrah. #glamorous.

Next up, I had to have a coil marker inserted. “This won’t hurt anything like the biopsy”, said the doctor… He lied. It effing killed. He also said that he had found another lump… He was lying about that too. Phew! I guess some people cope with pain better than others, but I don’t want to be going back for one of those anytime soon. No, siree. The coil marker has been placed in my breast to mark where the tumour currently is. If all goes well, the chemo will shrink it right down to nothing and then, ta da! the surgeon can see where the tumour was and just remove the tissue around the area where it used to sit. It had better bloomin’ disappear after all of that – I’m currently sleeping in a bra for added support to help the pain. Sad times. A good tip though – it helps a lot.

As for tonight… Well, I might have a gin and sit on my balcony, contemplating life before I officially become a ‘chemo patient’. Or I might just carry on as usual because tomorrow is just another day that I’ll work my way through, no matter what is thrown at me… That will probably still involve a gin though.

See you on the other side.

x

See… No one was there at 7.45am!

The Evening Before my First Chemo Session

 

And an obligatory cat shot, even though he has nothing to do with this post…

Not So Fat Cat