The one where I thought I might die…

Holy crapola. What a rollercoaster ride that was! One minute I was sore but fine and the next, I was being sent off for a bone scan, to check that my cancer hadn’t spread. I was dealing with things very well for the four weeks (four weeks?!) that I had to wait for the scan, carried on living life and actually rarely thought about the potentially horrendous outcome. Then, as time went on, and for the week between my scan and the results, things were a little more up and down.

Now and then, Alex and I would Google my symptoms, with me giving the search about one minute of my time before moving on, and Alex probably learning a whole heap of medical terms that no one ever needs to know! You really can’t tell if you’ve got bone cancer without the scan, especially if, like me, you are still recovering from the previous year’s treatment. It was just a surprise to me that pains seemed to be getting worse because I’d had about six months of pretty much nothing more than a boob ache and appalling hair problems – the hair problems that are only going to get worse as I grow it out *sobs*.

Anyway, the scan went well, and I didn’t need any extra time other than the initial twenty minutes in the alien-like pod thingy that they put me in (exactly why I need Alex to research and explain things), which I took as a good sign, until I went away and thought that I might not have actually needed extra time if I was showing visible signs of cancer. It’s at this point that I started planning my pre-treatment holiday. It’s always about travel for me. Alex loves it. I sorely missed going away whilst on treatment last year and my Vitamin D levels were not happy chappies, that’s for sure. I wasn’t going to go without catching some rays first… oh, and before seeing some flamingos in Aruba.

When it came to the results day, I was in average spirits for no reason other than the fact that I had to get up early for my appointment. I’m partial to a lie in… what of it?! Alex was playing along, but I could tell he was worried. What will be, will be, is generally something I live by these days, and I said that out loud a few times… probably just to convince myself (because how the heck is that going to make anyone else feel better)!

We were kept waiting for the usual two hours (joy) and about an hour in, I mentioned to Alex that if they weighed me, then I was a goner, and it was a certainty that I had bone cancer. You see, in the whole time I was treated last year, it was a thing that they took your weight to check you were getting the right amount of meds. Then, about twenty minutes later, they called me in for….  the dreaded weigh in. It was at this point that I thought I was going to die of cancer.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, I did not for one second imagine I was going to die from it. What I looked at as was something I was going to get treatment for and then move on from. I believe that my positive attitude helped me immensely and I thankfully got through it with minimal fuss. When they weighed me, it was a whole different story, and it’s at this point I was not happy with the ‘what will be, will be’ part of my mantra anymore. Yeah, I’m a fickle so and so.

After my weigh in, I still had to wait about half an hour more before I saw the oncologist and these are the things that were going through my mind…

  1. Can I get to the toilet in time before my name is called? I really need the toilet.
  2. How many days should I book that holiday for? I need to see real life flamingos before I die. I’m shaking.
  3. My leg is shaking. Shit, if I need to book a last minute holiday, then there is so much to do. I don’t have any holiday clothes.
  4. Dammit, I gained weight.
  5. Maybe I should take the afternoon off work. Actually, I think I’d feel better if I was working.
  6. I wish my dog was here.
  7. I really need the toilet. Why would they leave you waiting so long after weighing you?
  8. Bloody hell,  I’m going to die of bone cancer.
  9. Soddit. I’m going to the toilet. They can wait.

When they finally called me in to see the oncologist, who happened to be the very first doctor (and everyone’s fave) that I had seen when was diagnosed last year. He instantly told me that my scans were clear. I was just pre-menopausal from my medication and chemotherapy and I am only going to more aches and pains from now on. Boo. Hiss.

10. Shit, there goes my holiday… Alex will never let me see those flamingos now.
11. Dammit. I really need to lose some weight.

The one where I thought I might die...

Photo Credit: Bert Van Wijk/getty Images

Until next time  – Go check your moobs and boobs x

For more info on secondary bone cancer read HERE

Breast Cancer Care – Pink Ribbonwalk

If you follow me on one of the many social media platforms, you’ll know by now that last I have had my final Herceptin injection and that all of my hospital visits have now come to an end. If you haven’t heard the news, then clearly you need to up your social media game. Anyway, hurrah for final injections!

You don’t know how relieved I am that I can finally move on and never have to hang out in hospital waiting rooms again. If I’m honest, I feel like  a bit of an anomaly – It seems that a lot of the blogs and comments that I read  from other younger Cancer patients, seem to portray a struggle to move on after treatment, but (oddly?) I feel completely healthy – It’s almost as though it never happened.  I’m sure there must be other people like me. Please tell me there are. I really wouldn’t want anyone to find it a struggle to move on.

The way I see it is that if we worry about cancer coming back, then it has won. If I think about it daily, then it has won again. It’s just not going to happen. I’m going to live my life, and if it does come back, then I’ll win it all over again. There is plenty for me to be getting on with and cancer isn’t one of them.

Speaking of getting on with things… I recently did the unthinkable and walked ten miles for Breast Cancer Care. I know ten miles may not seem like a long way to a lot of people, but this is coming from a bit of a lazy slug, who struggles to keep active because I’m drawn to sitting in front of my laptop and working. Things are slowly changing, and on a whim a while back I signed both myself and Alex up to do the Pink Ribbonwalk. He loved it… in the end!

Anyway, thanks to family and friends, I managed to raise £384.77 and even though we were a little sore from trying to complete it as quickly as possible, we came away happy that we’d done it. I’m sure it took us a little longer than necessary because of all the pictures we were taking in the first part of the walk, but what kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t do that, eh? ;)

Pink Ribbon Walk

London Tower Bridge London

Alex & Zoe

City Hall

The show must go on

Until next time x

 

My Fertility v Chemotherapy

On the day that I was diagnosed with breast cancer, the one and really only decision that I had to make was whether or not I wanted to take fertility preservation steps, ahead of my chemotherapy treatment. Yup, that’s right, aside from taking my hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, fingernails and quite a few of my brain cells, chemo also had the ability to take away my chances of having naughty little (short) children.

As a thirty-eight-year-old woman, I was already pushing my luck a bit when it came to starting a family. Alex and I hadn’t quite decided what we were going to do and I was still far too in love with my sleep to go there. Being a nanny for around fourteen years might have did also play a part in the speed at which my decision was made!

When my oncologist told me I had an aggressive and fast growing tumour, he then just casually dropped in that I’d need to go away and think about whether or not I’d like to freeze my eggs ahead of treatment. To us, it seemed as though he was leaning towards starting the chemo treatment as quickly as possible, but oddly, they sent me away to take two weeks to think about it. Two weeks!

Now let me tell you, when you’ve been told you’ve got a fast growing tumour and you know nothing much about cancer cells, two weeks seems a hell of a long time. With that and the time it would take to go through the process of freezing my eggs, we decided I was better off getting stuck into the treatment as soon as possible, without going through the preservation steps. It actually took us about fifteen minutes of working through the pros and cons and boom, our lives were changed forever.

For those of you who don’t know, chemotherapy can affect your eggs, hormone levels and the functioning of the ovaries. There is also a risk of it bringing on early menopause in women who are close to the natural menopause age. On top of all of that, the Tamoxifen tablets (that I’ll soon be starting and taking for the next ten years), reduce oestrogen levels, so I’d have to take a break from them in order to attempt to get pregnant. The pregnancy might not even happen anyway, and it is not advised that I take that break for at least two years… when I’m nearly forty, people! Let’s be realistic here. Fertility treatment doesn’t always work the first time, I may not have many good eggs left already, and the NHS doesn’t tend to pay for women over that age to go through the treatment… so can you see where I’m going with this?

I recently went along to a talk hosted by a fertility specialist at a Younger Women Together Breast Cancer Care event. He explained about fertility in layman’s terms and I got more of a jist about how my chances might look, moving forward.  It’s definitely not impossible for me to get pregnant, but realistically, my chances aren’t that high. There is in fact, a blood test that I can do, which will show me how my eggs are looking after all of my treatment. Whether I go there is another matter though. Aside from everything else, the fact that getting pregnant could even bring back the cancer, is scary enough.

Every now and then, I wonder if it was the right decision to rush straight into chemo, but the fact that the choice has already been made, and there is nothing I can do about it, is reason enough for me to believe that it’s the path we were meant to take. Other doors will open somewhere along the line, and what good would it be if we had eggs sitting there in a chilly freezer if the cancer had spread to other parts of my body?

… Yes, that’s what we thought.

I’ll just keep thinking about the extra holidays that I’ll be able to take for years to come. Always a bright side to everything, eh? ;)

In other news… I started my four and a half weeks of daily radiotherapy today. I’m so happy to be doing that at St Thomas’ – It’s a bit of a trek for a ten minute appointment, but I’m just looking at it as a good exercise mission…

My Fertility v Chemotherapy

Until next time x

My Lumpectomy Operation

Crikey, it’s been a while since I gave you an update, hasn’t it?! Sorry about that. No excuses… Er, maybe one actually – it’s definitely much easier to spread the news on social media than it is to write a long blog post, when you’ve got a sore boob.

Since last we met, I’ve had my lumpectomy and I’m recovering well. It does hurt, but that’s to be expected for a while, and it’s not unbearable, just frustratingly inconvenient. The good news is that I was told on the day of the operation that the cancer has definitely not spread to any other parts of my body. They only had to remove two lymph nodes, and now the tumour has been removed I’m effectively cancer free. Hurrah! Bottoms up… Drinks all round. Your round I believe.

When I look back on the day of the operation, I can only shake my head and once again curse the hospital that I’ve been attending. I was asked to arrive at the day surgery at 7 am, ready for my operation process to start at 7.30am. Alex dropped me off (I wouldn’t let him hang around), and I headed to the doors only to find they weren’t open. Fifteen minutes later and I was at the front of a queue waiting to get in. Finally, at 7.25am the doors opened and it turned out the receptionist was running late. The last thing I expected to be doing before my breast surgery was forming a queue in the freezing cold for 25 minutes. You can only laugh! Har. Har.

I’m not sure if any of you have had day surgery, but it’s most definitely no movie premiere. No red carpet, that’s for sure. The room I was in had ten beds on one side and ten on the other, with lots of staff buzzing around asking me the same questions over and over again. How lucky was I to get the nurse with verbal diarrhea? She just went on and on about her schooling, Lidl and God knows what else… I do love a bit of Lidl banter before a boob op at 8am in the morning! ;)

DaySurgeryWard

Yes, they are paper knickers on the top of that pile there, and I did have to wear them. In fact, I forgot to take them off and wore them home. Glam.

After my lumpectomy, I came round to a nurse offering me tea… It seems we Brits will drink tea on any occasion. I didn’t. I was lying (no doubt catching flies), trying to come round in some sort of graceful manner with all the other patients watching me from the other side. I was then hurried along, told to get dressed, given paperwork and eventually kicked out by 12.30pm, so the staff could prep for the next round of patients. Ah, at least it’s free healthcare. Mustn’t grumble. I’m just very thankful I had an amazing surgical team, which after all, is the most important part of the process.

Unfortunately, I had to return to the day surgery at 6 pm that evening and it seems we kept the whole surgical team waiting before they could finish work for the weekend. I had slept for most of the afternoon, only to wake up with blue dye all over my t-shirt and lovely white bedding. It had to be checked out as that was not obviously meant to happen, but it seems I was simply one of the very rare cases where the dye used to locate the tumour had leaked back out of my wound instead of passing through me. In fact, my surgeon said he’d never seen it happen before. Typical.

After the op…

My Lumpectomy Operation

After the discharge nurses got hold of me… Easy on the padding!

Breast Cancer Lumpectomy

Anyway, I’ve come out much better off and am now on the road to recovery with just four and a half weeks of radiotherapy to go when my wound has healed. As for the scars, I’ll probably barely notice them over time –  The surgeon went in through the nipple (eek!) and seems to have done a pretty good job of sewing it back on. Thank God for that!

I hope no one is offended by my pictures. I want to share as much as I can about my cancer journey as possible to help raise awareness, and hopefully help those going through the same thing. Close your eyes now if you don’t want to see my boob five days  after the lumpectomy. I was searching for info before I had my tumour removed, but couldn’t find a lot of what I wanted to know. So here it is for those that are curious. Nipples… We’ve all got them until something like cancer takes some away. 

 

 

 

 

Lumpectomy

Until next time x

 

 

Win a SleekSleeves Care Package

It has been quite a difficult task having cancer and trying to look good in the process. First of all, there’s the hair loss, which I managed to combat by buying quite a lot of vintage scarves. However, I then found that it became difficult to match the scarves with my clothes because my summer style options tend to be quite colourful, and the colour-clash was not a good look! I’ve found myself resorting to mostly black clothing now, just so I can continue with my vintage scarf obsession, and so that I don’t have to think about alternative headwear. I’m lazy like that.

When I had my PICC line inserted, the next problem I encountered was the ugly cream bandage that the hospital supplied. As the weather got warmer, and my hot flushes started to become more regular, it was harder to keep my arms covered. At some stage, the quality of the bandage went from good to pretty poor (NHS cost-cutting, no doubt). They became more see-through, meaning there was no getting away from the fact that there was a line there, as it was so visible. I searched and searched the UK sites for an alternative cover and simply couldn’t find anything that would be good enough. Then I came across Sleek Sleeves

Sleek Sleeves are a US based company, selling a line of medical fashion products – their ‘mission to help individuals facing medical challenges to look good / feel better began in 2012, when SleekSleeves was founded’. Aside from PICC line covers, they also sell everything from tie-to-fit head scarves, shin and calf sleeves, knee sleeves and many other useful covers.

I personally just wanted a few black sleeves and was really happy to discover their site after asking around and not finding any in the UK. I bought two PICC line covers and the delivery was pretty fast, despite coming from the US. Throughout the time I was wearing my covers, people barely noticed I even had a line in and I felt a whole lot better about myself. It was such a great improvement on the standard hospital bandage and I even washed them without any issues at all. Problem. Solved.

Picc Line Covers
Win a SleekSleeves Care Package

After following Sleek Sleeves on Twitter they have kindly offered two of my lovely readers, who know someone with breast cancer or who are suffering with breast cancer themselves, the chance to win a SleekSleeves care package. If you fancy winning an arm band (pattern of your choice) and a Lauren’s Hope medical ID bracelet (A Thriver or a Hope Cuff), then simply enter below.

Good luck!

THIS COMP HAS NOW ENDED AND THE WINNERS ARE…
 &  – Thanks everyone for entering!