That’s All Folks… Chemo Done.

Well, that’s it done. My final chemo session was on September 11th and I’m simply over the moon! That’s all folks; that’s all. There’s still more to come, to get rid of this naughty tumour, but having the chemotherapy out of the way is such a massive weight off my shoulders. I can now move forward without dreading every third week of treatment. Also, the weekly visits to the hospital to have my PICC Line cleaned are no longer needed because they removed it on the same day… My body can start its recovery process and I can once again take a soak in the tub. Hurrah!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that the treatment has really been taking its toll. Aside from all the usual side effects, my legs have been feeling really weak, and the slightest gradient in a road has me huffing and puffing and struggling to walk. I’ve lost feeling in the ends of some of my fingers, and most of my nails are tender to touch and continuously hurt. I’m finding it totally impossible to open lots of things, and boy is that tough, as my appetite has gone through the roof and much food needs to be opened!

Life is not at all unbearable, but it has all sort of crept up on me and I dare say it will take a while for me to get back to normal. I’ve heard that fingernails can drop off up to eight weeks after the final treatment (chemo just keeps giving), but in my case it seems to have worked a treat so far, so I’m not going to grumble. *grumbles *

Chemo Nails

I’m also currently suffering badly with dry eye – another side effect of the treatment, which isn’t helped by the fact that my eyelashes haven’t grown back yet. My eyes are continuously streaming and as a result, the skin under them is not in great condition. I’ve taken to walking around with a pocket full of cotton buds to dab the tears away with, but my lids still get wet and crusty, which makes it hard to blink comfortably. It’s another one of those strong looks that I’m channelling as well as I can.

My hair started to grow back a month or so ago, and I decided to shave it off again the other day. On the advice of a few other cancer patients and my hairdresser, Alex took a razer to it and got rid. The sides were growing back much faster than the top fluff, and shaving it all off after the last chemo is said to help the re-growth. I wasn’t too upset when I lost my hair at the start, but now my body feels like it’s falling apart, I actually can’t wait for it to grow back. I’m now at a point where I really feel like a cancer patient, and there doesn’t seem to be much I can do do glam it up. Luckily every day I get a step closer to the end goal.

Next up, I’ve got my Lumpectomy (October 9th), but before that I’ve got about a zillion other appointments at the hospital. They apparently haven’t seen enough of my lovely face – MRI’s, ultrasounds and God knows what else… I literally can’t keep track and am hoping I don’t miss any of them with this chemo brain of mine!

The good news is that I’m off on my Willow Special Day on Monday. We’re heading to St Mawes to stay in a lovely hotel by the sea. I’m hoping I’ve got my taste back by then because I could really do with a gin or three.

Until next time x

Alex was quite ill in bed on the day of my last chemo, but he arranged this little surprise for me the day after. It’s only a bloomin’ flamingo balloon!

That's all Folks

As you can see, Betsy is still living the dream whilst I spend quite a lot of my time in bed!

Chihuahua Love

 

 

 

 

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

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

Since Chemo Last Week

I feel human again. Hurrah! Since chemo last week, I’ve been sick, angry, grumpy and tired… Oh, so tired… Hmm, nothing new there then! Today is the first day I have felt like I could quite possibly not have cancer (although, unfortunately, I still do) and I’m feeling much more like myself again. I wanted to blog sooner, but I wasn’t the real me and it took a while to claw my way back to where I wanted to be. I didn’t like the other me and I’m not really looking forward to seeing that person for seven more rounds, if I’m honest. I’ll be doing my darnedest not to go down for so long next time though, that’s for sure.

So, how was chemo? Well, to start with, I was given the chair I’d already picked out as the one I didn’t want, from a previous visit to the chemo room – Smack bang in the middle of the action, amongst the hub of the nurses, on full display, right next to a lady who was on her seventh round of treatment…. Bring on the tears.

I haven’t really felt the need to cry throughout all of this and have only done so either when things hurt, or for ten-second intervals when I first told a few people the news. I’m not dealing with the pain so well, but I am coping with the fact that I’ve got cancer, so that’s something, I guess. The trouble is, when I sat down and saw the lady next to me with no hair, no eyebrows and with her sore fingers resting in a bag of frozen veg (tactics for keeping your nails in good condition, apparently), I just broke a little. I had actually been in the perfect frame of mind to take on anything a few hours earlier, but some clever person at the hospital decided to call me with the news of another lump and a second biopsy appointment…. I mean who does that, right before your first chemo session? No need folks. No need. Those mother fuggers hurt, God dammit! AND another lump? Give me a break!

Anyway, I got over the tears quite quickly and appreciated my centre stage chair in the end. Turns out someone on their seventh round can cheer you up no end, showing you that life still goes on, no matter how vain you want to be. Perspective Zoe. Perspective. The procedure was pretty painless, and after all my worries about them finding a vein, a nice juicy fat one was found in no time and all the rotten chemicals were pumped through, over a space of a few hours. I didn’t feel anything other than a cold sensation pumping through the vein and a slight pinching/throbbing pain around the cannula throughout the whole time. Easily dealt with and back home we went.

I’d decided that we should eat a meal full of goodness before my sickness came on and in case I was unable to eat for a while afterwards. Alex cooked up a Vegan Cheesy Broccoli Soup as soon as we got home… I can barely bring myself to even type those words, because of the awful memories. Let’s just say that soup is NEVER a good idea when you are going to spend the evening with your head down the toilet. It was an extremely nice soup, but I definitely won’t be going there again. Something I have learned very quickly is that you have to pick your chemo foods wisely, because you could find yourself missing out on something you like, for life. Note: I haven’t had a gin since.

My oncologist likened the after effects of chemo to a very bad hangover, and I have to say he was right. A very bad three-day hangover with added little extras, just for the fun of it. It took about three hours for everything to hit me and then I was pretty much laid up in bed for two days. It wasn’t nice, but we all knew it wasn’t going to be, didn’t we? On occasion, I’ve had a slight metallic taste in my mouth, and my appetite has been all over the place. I’ve lost a few kilos, but that’s easily rectified (or not – yay to weight loss! ). My boob lump has been a little painful and has been twitching like a nutter  – I’m hoping that it’s twitching itself down a size and that all of this will be worth it in the end.

Every morning since, I’ve been waking up and touching my eyebrows and lashes to see if they are still there. I’ve washed my hair a few times, but had a few epic fails because I was trying not to rough it up too much and seemed to end up leaving half of the shampoo in. It’s a good look. You should try it.

Today I feel like my hair is not going to fall out (it is), that I can go on holiday whenever I please (I can’t), and I feel in control of this whole situation (I’m not). We’ll see how things are tomorrow, but for today I’m happy. I just hope there is more of that to come over the coming months.

 

Something I managed to eat after a few days… (adapted slightly for Vegan version)
Millet Cakes w/ Carrot & spinach + a sunflower seed hummus

Vegan Cooking

The dreaded soup…

Since Chemo Last Week

 

Lights, camera…

Since chemo last week 2

 

A little chart to show you some of the side effects I may go through on this journey… Who doesn’t love a good chart.

Common side effects of chemo