Monday, 30 December 2013

Out with the old and in with the new?

2013 was definitely a strange year. Albeit it is now Christmas time and disasters always happen before and during it. Someone dies, someone has an accident and in amongst all that, there is always a baby born. Or you hear of someone pregnant and life doesn't seem so bad.

This Christmas my Dad died. So it was closer to home. As I sit here and type, I can say I have good days and bad days. Sometimes I walk around smiling as I take another trip down memory lane. Other times the pain seems unbearable but  I have to remind myself that he is no longer struggling and in pain -and I do not wish him back.  Still, I am angry that I have nothing and no one to blame for him being taken away from us. He was 80 years old, we expected him to live for ever. I stupidly thought he would get better and be there with all the family at Christmas.

The weeks leading up to his death were excruciating to watch. The day he died was so unexpected we thought he had a little longer. Yet sitting at the hospital afterwards and in amongst our grief our family still managed to crack jokes about his funny ways.  Everyone said what a lovely man he was. Even the nurses cried and said what a lovely gentleman he was.

On Saturday we finally finished clearing the rest of his house out and the keys went back today. Its funny how you find out so much about your father when you clear out his stuff. Bibles and birth/death certificates, cards and notes, photos and discharge papers. He kept everything that reminded him of his family. He knew that his time was coming to an end. He had written Christmas cards to us, and left little messages all over the house.
He had lived there since 1945 with his parents, my sister and I grew up there and my sister's girls grew up there. 4 generations spanned. So it was with a sad heart I said goodbye with its memories and its secrets. However as I closed the door for the last time, I felt that he was no longer there, that he had moved on.
We took home lots of his belongings, but tons went to lots of different charity shops, some we sold, but a lot we binned. It was very painful -  not a lot for 80 years of life. Even though we have tons of pictures that he took of us playing in the garden as children, our children playing in the garden and loads of fantastic memories. We cannot ask for anything more.
 He travelled the world in his time and even though we have the photos, he took all those wonderful memories with him.

" I can't wait to see the back of this year",  I hear people say, well I don't think that, I remember everyone saying the same thing last year. I didn't think it then either. Every year has its ups and downs and we have to roll with them. Yes I had cancer treatment, yes my Dad died, but do you know what I have a whole bunch of great memories from this year as well, same as last year. Saying goodbye to 2013 is not going to make our life's infinity better, there will always be good times and bad times. Its called life. We just have to get through the bad stuff and appreciate the good.
For instance in amongst my grief, my hair has grown back and I have had it coloured blonde. I have lost 19 pounds ( although I might have put a few of those back on in the last week or so) we had a brilliant Christmas day with all the family. Even though Dad wasn't there we weren't sad we just made the most of all being together. There is so much to be thankful for this year, a warm summer, a new royal baby, our friends getting married and now they are expecting a baby.  My children achieving wonderful things, my husband's business growing from strength to strength. Wonderful holidays. Great times with friends and family on and on are my memories of this year. The good far outweighed the bad.

New years resolutions - or as I like to put it -  goals. Well basically get a decent job, stay positive and stay healthy. Oh and not forgetting,  a new pair of breasts. I had my mammogram the day after my Dad's cremation and I was told I would get my results last week at the latest. Well I haven't rang for them as I feel sure they are clear. I asked my Dad to say a little pray and as he was a deeply religious man I know he will pray and look after me, so I am not worried. I have an appointment with my plastic surgeon this Friday so I'm hoping I'll get a date to have my new boobs fitted and this bloody air bag thingy taken out of my chest. I am sure once it is removed I will weigh less! It is like having a brick stuck on your chest. I've had it there for over a year now. If you remember it was over inflated back in the summer to stretch the skin so that I get a natural droop. It is still blooming massive, my real boob looks like a little sausage roll in comparison - poor thing.

Still by the time my friends wedding in Cyprus comes in August I will have a great pair of knockers my hair will be longer and I will be super slim and slinky again.

 So whatever the year is 2013, 2014 its about how you live it and its not to be wished away. 31st December and 1st January are just days. We are all on a journey and how we travel it makes the different. Not the date.

Happy New Year lovely people and remember everything happens for a reason and makes us who we are, and I kind of like who I am ............. 

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

I have been asked over and over again to write another blog. The reason I haven't written for a while is that life is slowly getting back to normal and I didn't want to bore readers with the humdrum of my life. But hey ho it seems I still have a lot to say.
At the moment my life is pretty quiet. I have decided to close down my business and go back into the world of general employment. Now, this may be a big decision and it may be the wrong one, but at the moment it is the ONLY decision I can make on my future. Nothing has come to me, no great ideas, no real need to get out into the world and set it on fire, no wonderful creative dream – career wise that I would like to fulfil. Quite frankly, I am worried as my whole life up to now has been – a real urge to do something, to research it train for it and then I have moved into that path. I have followed my career dreams and done everything I've ever wanted to do – or have I?  When people ask me what do you really want to do, what is your dream? I no longer have an answer.This is my dilemma.
Meanwhile, I am taking my time and redecorating the house, not that it needs it, I have ripped down wallpaper that has not long been hung, I’ve painted walls that I are barely dry – oh and I have sold all our furniture.
I have been waxing, scrapping, painting and pasting whilst walking round in a pair of paint dribbled tracksuit bottoms ( yes me!) and no wig, it’s terribly liberating. I have even begun to open the door to people without a wig on and I watch their face’s as they wonder.
Today for example we lent a tea urn to someone who is doing a Macmillan morning this Saturday. I wasn't expecting anyone but when I opened the door to the lady's’ husband he just looked at me. I could see his think bubble, I could see him going home and telling his wife that I probably had cancer, and do you know – it didn't bother me. However going out of the house is a different matter.

 Anyway, I've decided that my wardrobe will be next, so the charity shop will have a good day, as shoes, boots and dresses are on the way out. Also I have gone back to slimming world and in one week I lost 5 pounds - so hopefully what I do keep clothes-wise will fit me again. However, another dilemma -I cannot even decide how much weight I want to lose. For someone that has spent their whole life being too thin, the last few years have been a real struggle, what with the over/under active thyroid, giving up smoking, age and now cancer tablets for the next 5 years, it’s been really hard to keep my weight stable – but I am determined to get back down to a weight that I am happy with. What that is, I have no idea.

Back to my  hair, it's now a mixture of brown, blonde and grey and it’s curly! I haven't known what my colour is for over thirty years and now it’s grown back grey and curly! Also, I've been told by my oncologist that I’m unable to dye it no matter what, not even with any special chemical free colours. So I've decided that I'll have it done for my birthday in November. I'll  have it coloured and cut into a style that hopefully I can grow in time for next August and September, as this is when I'm going to be Matron of Honour for two of my wonderful friends. As I write this I have a little teary moment just thinking about it. Something else that I thought I would never do was to see these friends married and settled.
 If you remember I wanted to go to Ibiza for our dear friends' wedding. When I last blogged I was in the middle of radiotherapy when they jetted out. So I was unable to go. However our friends that are getting married in August are getting married in Cyprus and we have already booked to go! So for both weddings I want to be slim and blonde and back to the old me – not to overshadow the beautiful brides but to just look good in their wedding photos.

I question myself every day as to what my future holds and there I draw a blank – at the moment I am living in the here and now, and it worries me. It worries me that I am in no rush to go back to work or to forecast where I will be by the time I am 50. No I am happy, I am happy just being me. Cooking for my family, god forbid - housework, and just generally pottering around. Not rushing things, not setting deadlines – all the things I lived by have now become insignificant.
Is this the new me I ask myself ?  Is it wrong to just take the time to smell the roses and listen to music?

My husband is happy for me to do this, but I fear that may not last. Should I give myself a kick up the backside and get back out there?  – and yet I don't want to, I am happy. Just popping up to Tesco or driving over to Bedford it feels like I'm doing everything for the first time. Being able to be free to come and go when I want and where I want is fantastic. I have spent so much time being chauffeured around, being looked after, cooked for and generally being bloody useless, that the freedom of just jumping in the car or walking round the corner is something I am loving, and having time - all this lovely time to waste and not regret a single thing. Not regretting that I could have been doing something more constructive than watching the birds in the garden or playing with the cat. Or taking my time, reading a book, cooking a new recipe. 

When radiotherapy finished in July I thought I would go back to the old Wendie straight away, but unfortunately, cancer treatment does not allow for that. Even now my bones ache, and I still get tired easily. Getting up from the sofa or getting out of bed is painful – I do loosen up after a bit, but I still can’t walk miles and miles like I used to. Also I have been diagnosed with osteoporosis so no doubt this has a knock on effect.  

When we were on holiday we had to climb up a big hill to get to the hotel. It was a chore, along with the hot flushes, and tiredness. But my god did we need it – the holiday that is. Unfortunately, the hotel which was meant to be 4 stars, would maybe have achieved 2 - and us being fully inclusive - the food was inedible. 
So we decided as a family to sit down and make a pact that we were going to make the best of it and we did. Thank god we have teenagers and not little ones. 
 On the second day a rep came round to talk about trips. I was so hot with sweat dripping off me that I decided there and then that wig wearing was not an option, so in front of the rep and with some encouragement from my daughter I took off the wig and hat and carried on listening to him. He didn't even notice. However, I had to go to the ladies with my daughter, where I cried and cried no matter that he hadn't noticed - I felt exposed and raw.  I knew I couldn't wear the wig, as I would have collapsed with the heat and the hot flushes. Every holiday I have ever been on I always pinned up my blonde hair in a ponytail and styled it in the evenings. So after crying most of the day on and off, we looked round and found me a trilby hat which I wore most of the time. I kept the wig for in the evenings, so I managed to style that differently instead. I still had terrible hot flushes but I managed to survive them.  
Anyway in the end we went on tons of trips, swam, ate out and had a really great laugh. Only one person at the hotel asked me why I had different hair in the evening and I told him that I'd had cancer, it’s funny how that word transfer’s all over the world.

I have applied for a few jobs but admittedly a bit half hearted and the couple that I really wanted I didn't get. Through all my experience and qualifications I have decided that I do not want to work in an office, I will only work for a certain salary and I will not be bossed about. The downside of this is, I have been self employed for 3 years, and there are a lot younger, more qualified people out there that will be happy to accept less money than I want. Have I made myself unemployable? Another worry. If I stay self employed I will need to retrain – but in what area? Again no light bulb moments.
 I am sure when the time is right something will come up. Again fear of turning up for an interview wearing a wig, having to explain about the cancer, will it hinder? Then if I do get the job, will the staff take me seriously walking around having hot flushes and adjusting my wig? Also at some point in the new year I will have to have some time off for a reconstruction, will this also be taken into consideration?

I still hate looking in the mirror, I think my mojo is coming back and I am gradually getting back to the old me personality wise,  but looks wise I am a bigger, balder version of what I used to be. Yes I can slap on the wig and makeup and still look okay, but inside I wonder if Wendie will come back completely – whoever she is?
I have moments of sheer happiness that I am alive, and that my family have albeit at a price come through all this. Then there are the days that I think I am sick of hearing about cancer. All the stories of people that have been touched by it, all the stories of hope and optimistic cancer survivors that we see every day,  it’s like when you want to buy a certain make of car, everywhere you go you see that bloody car and cancer is the same – albeit this is a poor example, it follows you. Everyone knows someone that has been touched by it. It is like a stain that will not come out.

There are undeniably brave and beautiful people out there who are battling through – some are nowhere as lucky as I have been, some will lose their lives or the lives of someone they love, but I am numb to it.  I do not want to hear any more stories of people losing their lives; I do not want to watch it on television, and most of all I do not want to be labelled as a cancer survivor. I see my friends and family beginning to treat me normally now, and not look at me in that knowing way. 
Things are certainly going back to normal at home too, the kids want to know what's for dinner and have I washed that top or trousers that I promised to have clean for them? They want lifts to friends and demand my attention to tell me about their day. My husband comes home to the smell of a dinner and asks if I've been shopping, is his uniform clean? All the ordinary things that I used to moan about are now a welcome return to normality.  I know that cancer will never be far away from any of us, but I want to be able to get on with my life – no matter what it may bring and no matter that I haven't got a clue what it is I want from it any more. So for now I will just take my time and look forward to the next lot of twists and turns, the little bumps in the road and the smooth journeys that it will inevitably bring me.  

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The end of one the start of another

As I write this I am gradually returning to being Wendie. Very slowly my hair is growing on my head, I have a couple of eyelashes, a few eyebrows and hairy knees!
My weight is slowly going down and next week I am - hopefully - having my PICC line removed. In the meantime I've had a long chat with my oncologist who has told me about the next stage in my treatment - radiotherapy. Last week I went along to Addenbrooks to be "tattooed" and scanned, and as promised within 5 day of this, a letter arrived telling me my treatment would start at the end of this month.  Its going to be every day for 3 weeks.
 However as I type I am still experiencing the aftermath of chemotherapy, still my taste buds have not returned and my mouth is extremely dry. Still I am bloated, and still I tire very easy. In fact the week I had my last session - I should have been over the moon, but unfortunately it was two days before our friend's Karen's hen night. I sat on the sofa and try to muster up the energy to go and two things came to mind. One I would just be having hot flushes all night - in between worrying if I was going to be sick and two I would probably ruin it for everyone else because they would feel they had to babysit me - you know - lets look out for the fat bird in the wig because she has cancer! No I decided that I didn't want to spoil anyone's night out especially the Hen's. Besides the thought of dancing, eating and drinking in a hot place just filled me with dread. Anyone that knows me, will know that normally I would have jumped at the chance and would have been up on the table with the girls dancing the night away! Again another night of fun robbed because of chemo!

So even though it was expected  the letter arriving to tell me about the next stage shocked me - so far my treatment has been consistent, well planned and completely on the ball. Why would the next stage be any different? No I think it was the fact that I haven't had chance to catch my breath. So as soon as I opened the letter, I though " here we go again", unfortunately there is no pause button when it comes to fighting cancer.

In addition on the 23rd of this month I start hormone therapy - again another letter was given to me regarding the side effects - and guess what, weight gain is in there again along with lethargy. So a week before I go for my radiotherapy I start these tablets which I continue to take for 5 years. In this time they should mop up any cancer cells that may possibly be left after treatment. So even though there is a price- they are important in curing me.

As I already mentioned there's been no let up for me and last week I felt a wee bit sorry for myself - that was until we booked a mini cruise. Yes I felt a little break was needed to pick me up before I start the next battle. Hubby and I discussed the fact that we would - at the end of all this - like to renew our vows. Andrew stated that he'd like to do this on a cruise ship. In fact he often mentions how he'd love to go on cruise regardless. I've always said its something on the bucket list that we can do when the kids are older. However in the grand scheme of things I am very much in the here and now.
 No we can't afford to go on a full blown cruise, and no our son is not old enough to be left for more than a night with his sister - to be fair, she may kill him knowing her like I do.  If he annoys her she is quite happy to pick up a large object - like a chair and threaten him with it! So one night is as much as she can take of him and to be fair,  I don't want anything broken!

The idea came to mind after I looked around for a mini break - something different to do for me and hubby before the next stage in cancer busting. I came across the Marco Polo. Mini party cruise overnight to Scotland full board ( steerage obviously ) for the May Bank Holiday the week before Radiotherapy starts.
 A little adventure, which would in my mind kill a few birds with one stone. One it would be something for me and hubby to look forward to. Two it would give us both an idea of what to expect. Three - and most importantly, should I fail to mention, I have absolutely no spacial awareness on a boat  - as in I am unable to stand up. Unfortunately, the minute I get on a boat I cannot walk properly. Let me explain I've been on a ferry and some large boats on holiday trips and every time I feel the need to hold on to everything in my way that's nailed down or not as the case may be ( I have grabbed strange men before - obviously to aid my walking) No I don't need a drink, because I sway with every step I take. Also I think its important to mention that when my son was younger we watched Titanic far to many times. This ship we are going on has around 11 floors and we are deep inside the bowels of it  - cabin wise so anything could happen.
To say this will be an adventure is an understatement. It could also mean that in 5 years when we come to renew our vows I may have to be held upright in a hoist or be as far away from a cruise ship as possible.  It just depends how I get on with this overnighter.

 Since I have mentioned this to family and friends. My son has talked about the Poseidon Adventure and would I like to watch it - again? Hubby however just keeps putting the Love Boat on the i pod and dancing and singing in the kitchen he's that excited - bless him.
However, last night after having friends round the conversation ranged from underwater portholes- to the theme tune of Titanic being hummed in my ear. So I am planning on taking the following, earplugs, sea bands and I may just pack some tenor ladies in case I feel the need to wee a lot with all that water around me.

As I type another letter has just turned up from the hospital - I need to have a bone scan DEXA on Monday the 3rd June. This is to measure my bone density now.  After all my treatment it will be measured again to make sure I don't get the onset of osteopenia which if left unchecked can lead to osteoporosis.  See - well planned, consistent and completely on the ball, that's the NHS. As for my body, well only time will tell I don't have a crystal ball. However what I do have is faith that all this treatment will allow me to have a good dance the next time we have a " do" on dry land!

Monday, 29 April 2013

In which I become a blown up cartoon version of myself......

I have spent the last month organising a wedding fayre, and to be honest it has been extremely difficult. However I have patted myself on the back for a job well done. In between  I've built up a Wedding Networking group and ran our friend's company while they have been away. Yes I have been exhausted, yes I had to push myself, as in the middle of all this I have had another bout of chemo - which wasn't any where near as as bad as the last lot - see last post -where my whole perceptive on life changed.
 However I did it and now as my last chemo looms - hurrah I move into the next stage of my treatment -radiotherapy - I am feeling a little more satisfied that hopefully it will be my last ever chemo and in a couple of weeks I can have the PICC line removed. ( the line that is permanently in my arm that goes from my arm round to just above my heart inside my body. This is what the chemo goes into ) Then I'm looking forward to my hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows growing back so I won't look so much like a alien.

I recently described myself to one of my friends as a " Blown up cartoon version of myself" simply because everything about me is false - hair, eyebrows, eyelashes. Obviously one of my boobs is now made up of a temporary implant with skin grafted from my back, so this is false - however it will be corrected after radiotherapy finishes.
 I am so blown up with all the steroids that I simply do not recognise myself any more. I can now fill out a pair of jeans in the bum area - which my husband loves. My legs are unrecognisable  as normally they are skinny, but now they look a normal size and trousers cling to them which is unbelievable. My arms are huge and my face has ballooned up. Apart from the fact that nothing fits me, I have now borrowed my friend's size 12 jeans and have given her some of my size 10's. (The cow has lost weight )So everything that was Wendie has now been erased.

A couple of weeks ago we went to a friends for dinner, or a " Food orgy." A few things happened, first of all I had to wear an elasticated jumpsuit, which to be fair looked very elegant and once I had dressed it up it did look good, however teamed with a long wavy wig, false eyelashes etc. the person looking out of the mirror was not me. Elegant yes - funny, chatty, kooky, slim Wendie - no, it was bloody fat version of Jessica Rabbit!
  My friends were amazing, the food was fabulous  however I couldn't taste it. I managed a glass or two of wine, and joined in the conversation, in-between hot flushes where sweat was dripping of me, everyone noticed my struggle and suggested that I take off my wig as I was amongst friends. I was nearly in tears as I felt quite poorly, but I refused to give in - I've had to cancel so many things due to bloody cancer-  I was staying put if it killed me. Anyway, eventually I took the wig off and sat there dressed up, full make up and a bald head. Do you know what? No one was bothered, they were more interested in trying on the wig. Andrew said he was proud of me and the others said I looked good bald, even though I was pleased that the wig had come off and felt better I still felt strange that I was the only female with the bald head.
 Then just as I was beginning to feel okay about the lack of hair on my head, I was sick - all over our friend's kitchen - Errr taxi for The Webb's........

I know that as time goes on my fight with Cancer will end. My hair will grow back and the steroids and chemo will wear off. I look at other cancer survivors and they're all really positive people - after all what is the alternative?
 I will - hopefully - get the all clear when I am 50 - five long years, however I don't think you every stop worrying that it will come back,worst case scenario is that it could spread or it won't have all been zapped, what a way to live thinking about that every day. However,  I have plans - so many things that I want to do, I don't have time for cancer- it just seems that some days it gets the better of me and I have to make time for it, much to my annoyance, but even now I am fighting.

 In the last couple of weeks I have had someone I know who has been diagnosed with it, and someone else die from it. Now I could get all philosophical here, but to be fair - I am angry, not for me you understand,
 No, for me I have never really been angry I have been accepting I have just done as I am told and got on with it.No I'm angry that this terrible disease can grab anyone, at any time. The friend that had been diagnosed came round for a cup of tea. I poured her a large glass of wine - what should I say to her? She asked me if she was going to die. I said no the aim is to cure. She cried because she felt that she would not see her children grow up. I told her that I couldn't pretend as there was no good news, however she needed to stay strong and bloody minded and she would see her children grow up.She would have good days and bad but if she stayed strong she would get through it and before she looked round her life would be back to normal. She may not have to have chemo, or radiotherapy she may just have the lumps taken away and that would be it. However she cried and cried........... why her? She just wanted to be normal, this is what made me angry this woman minding her own business and getting on with her life who has already been through stress in her life, all of a sudden she has her world turned upside down because of bloody cancer. It broke my heart, that night I thought about her, did I help her? Did I say the right things? How can you give good news when there isn't any, but like I told her there is always hope, and strength. Maybe I wasn't the best person to ask! I cried on my husband why her? Life was so cruel.

1 in 3 women are diagnosed with cancer, what is the world coming to? The flip side is of course cancer can be cured, in this day and age we don't just get handed a death sentence.  Yes its bloody horrible and its a long fight, but we can be cured, and this is what keeps me going, this is what I hang on to - every single day.  I just hope my friend I don't know if I am strong enough for both of us.

Friday, 29 March 2013

It's life Jim - but not as we know it!

So much has happened in the last couple of weeks that I didn't know how to write about it - so I didn't. I find that as long as I can coast along in life I am okay, but if anything comes along that slightly rocks my boat, I am no longer able to deal with it rationally. I can cry at the slightest thing, my resistance is at an all time low. I always thought I was stronger than I am - I have come to the realisation that I am not invincible neither am I superhuman.
 Let me explain, last week I went to see my oncologist Dr Sarah who told me what to expect with my next course of chemo - I was half way through - hurrah, it would be super sailing all the way - or so I thought. Any preconceptions I had about myself and my ability to fight this dreadful disease flew out of the window last weekend. Dr Sarah called me in as normal the day before my 4th chemo session. I told her how well I had reacted to the last dose and she told me about Taxotere. The next 3 doses that I was due to have.... after we discussed all the new symptoms that I may or may not have, rather blase I said " So it will just be like having the flu then" this was not a question rather a statement.  I then left the chemo suite went home and convinced hubby and myself that it was going to be anywhere near as bad as FEC the last treatment of chemo that I had just had. Brilliant,  I thought now just get through the next couple of months get the radiotherapy out the way and get my boobs re done and that'll be me sorted.

 Oh how we deceive ourselves when we are eternal optimists. Not once did I think this next course of treatment would hinder my life. Yes of course I have had to adjust my life around cancer, and it has been a bit stop start, feel sorry for myself, but stiff upper lip Wendie. Put on your make up and wig and don't play the victim. Other patients have told me how gruelling they found their treatment, and I..........yes I,  in my infinite wisdom on what we call life, have been smug - yes bloody smug, when this wonderful people have told me their stories of horrific times they've had through their chemo, I've always thought " well that won't be me, I just get my head down and work my way through it" I cannot believe how narrow minded, and near sighted I have been.

Now I could beat myself up here but to be frank - I don't have the energy to waste on such trivial matters. Basically I have got too big for my boots and Taxotere came along and made me realise that I am no different to the next person. I am no braver, no stronger and certainly no more a fighter than anyone else that has ever battled with cancer.

The day after Chemo hubby and I went to Spec savers and picked up our new glasses and to be fair I felt no worst than any other time I still managed to look in the odd shoe shop.
However, Saturday onwards was a different matter. I never left the house for a nearly a week, I struggled between sofa, toilet and bed. Nothing could prepare me for the great takeover that I experienced.  Every part of my body felt like it was screaming out in pain, by Wednesday I felt that my spine was being drilled into. My fingertips were so sore that I could not hold a cup or glass so typing was out of the question. Besides I was rarely conscious for most of the week. Chemo took hold in such a way that my brain couldn't tell my body whether it was full up with food, or empty. I didn't know the different between wanting to go to the toilet or not. In fact on two occasions I am ashamed to say I wet myself. I didn't know if I was hungry, so I kept eating. I couldn't taste anything and I craved my brain to recognise food. I put salt on dinners and sugar on cereals. When I wasn't lying on the sofa I didn't know if I was asleep or not. My brain took on this tunnel like fog that I didn't recognise. Standing proved painful, sitting down was agony. I couldn't support my head and I was so weak that walking proved impossible. My breast that had been operated on had the most unbearable stabbing pains. My back where the scars are felt like someone had stabbed me with red hot pokers, and my arm where the nerves had been stripped out along with lymph nodes had pulling sensations that felt like my arm was going to explode. My legs and feet felt like someone had trampled all over them and my whole body felt like someone had taken away my frame as I could not sit or stand upright. My stomach was so swollen that I couldn't get any clothes on apart from yoga trousers. To top it all when I looked in the mirror I had become what I feared most - a cancer victim. No hair, no eyebrows, barely any eyelashes and a grey like pallor.  A look of total defeat was written all over my face. This was one battle I could not win. It had taken me over. All I could think of was - no more, I cannot take any more. I am done. Complete. Defeated.
As I lay there in pain I had a chat with God - I questioned him over and over, if you exist then why? Why? I  lay in the bath in a haze of half living, dribbling and exhausted. I thought of my wonderful husband who had that half out of his mind with worry look,  I realised how soul destroying this was for him. My children who had sat and spoke to me when I was in the land of consciousness with smudges under there eyes and fretful looks on their faces, when I struggled to tell them everything was going to be fine. Just give me another day or so and I'll be fine. In my head I am ashamed to say I realise now how - people make their peace with God. How they pick a day and say, this is a good day to die. I planned my funeral in my sleep and when I was awake I told my husband that this was the end of the road for me. I could not put my body through any more. "You realise that I don't want any more chemo" I told him. He nodded his head and turned away, after what seemed like a lifetime he faced me again, took a step closer and said " Yes you bloody well will, you are not giving up do you hear me - don't be so bloody selfish, you have me and the kids and family and friends that rely on you, we've got plans. So no, you will finish this treatment do you hear me? You are not bloody giving up, because I won't let you" I glanced at him and managed a weak laugh. Slowly I put my arms around his neck  " No darling" I whispered. " I won't give up, because it is not all about me, but if there were no one else for me to fight for, I would not fight. I would not put myself through any more" again he nodded.

We both realised then that everything we had hoped and dreamt for would never be the same again. Our lives had changed. I had changed, cancer has crept up through the back door and stole something from me and mine when I wasn't looking.  When it first came along  I took it on the chin we all did, because I insisted that I would be fine and everyone believed me, and trusted in me, put their faith in me - but now it has stolen something precious from me. It has taken my foundations and my very soul and shook them. Everything I thought I was and everything I believed in is now in question. My strength, my beliefs, me and who I stand for have been tossed around. I don't know who I am any more, but more importantly I don't know what I stand for, my instincts are gone, my zest for life- bland. Like the snow on the ground this springtime, everything is covered and nothing is appearing in shades of colour.

Yesterday the sun shone and I painted my nails pink.

Monday, 11 March 2013

New wig - Hollywood wives are calling!

Last week I expected to feel really rubbish, but apart from the Monday where I spent all day sleeping and reading on the sofa in my knitted slouch hat and dressing gown ( Oh yes I did and I didn't beat myself up) I worked the rest of the week without being propped up.
Hubby told me how proud he was of me for taking the day off and doing nothing. Obviously I didn't tell him about the cleaning of the bathroom and the couple of loads that went into the washing machine, but honestly he was so relieved when he came home from a long day at work to find me cuddled up on the sofa.
Normally he's telling me to sit down and rest. My chemo nurses say the same. So on Monday I did what I was told and I loved it, also after sleeping in-between chapters I managed to finish my book!

Tuesday onwards I was still waiting for the chemo to kick in, apart from my mouth feeling very strange, really sensitive, dry and metal tasting and having a problem with my back and neck - another story. I felt okay. At least a 6 out of ten maybe a 7 and it lasted all week much to my delight.

Also on Tuesday another new wig turned up - drum roll please - it was a long wavy blonde/brown one, I was so excited - however I wondered if I would look like mutton dressed as lamb? Or some old bird out of a Jackie Collins novel? Or heaven forbid - my mother? Would transvestite's look at me and want me to join their new dance troupe or would the kids and hubby roll their eyes and laugh at me? A million thoughts ran through my head. So with great trepidation I put it on - and pulled it off - no not off my head but really pulled it off - it looked great. Hubby told me I looked lovely. The kids told me they liked it - heaven forbid!
So I got dressed and went to work wearing it. No one saw the hot flushes and the frantic tucking behind the ears whilst swearing as I tried to get used to it. In fact I sauntered round Tescos afterwards and was suprised that no one laughed at me.
Now I've put on weight recently - I blame the steroids and not the fact that I cannot stop bloody eating and do you know what a long wavy wig along with a large handbag definitely makes you look thinner. Don't ask me how, it just does.

On Thursday I sashayed into Chemo wearing it. Caroline one of the other ladies who also has chemo the same days as I couldn't figure out what was different about me. The nurses thought it was fabulous. Apparently they love Andrew and myself coming into the ward, they guess what colour outfit I going to be wearing, how high my shoes are going to be and what wig I'm going to be modelling that week. The words I hear often are " We love it when our Wendie comes in she always looks so glamorous"  this  makes me feel fantastic. Admittedly we did get put in the naughty corner last week for giggling Andrew and I.
We laugh all through my treatment, we giggle with the nurses and we smile at all the patients. Don't get me wrong I hate chemo, but I look forward to seeing the lovely nurses, tea ladies and everyone else that makes the chemo unit so bloody wonderful. These beautiful people are allowing me to stay alive. So I'm doing it in style.

On Friday we took the kids bowling. I had so much energy that I was dancing and moon walking in the lane - much to my son's disgust. The more he ask me to stop the more I wiggled and jiggled. Don't get me wrong I am not an exhibitionist, I just felt so happy to be alive and out and about with my family having a good time. We laughed and jumped up and down every time one of us scored cheered each other on when we were rubbish and generally had a great time. Its one of those days I will cherish - it doesn't happen very often now being the fact that they are both teenagers. I did at one point run into the ladies and have a bit of a grizzle with happiness, sad I know but wow, what a great day.

Saturday afternoon I met up with some friends had a fantastic lunch and a gossip, I was suppose to go out again in the evening but I was done for. So hubby and I had a great dinner at home and put our feet up. Then just to finish off a great week Sunday for Mothers day was the perfect ending. No wonder I'm putting on weight!

I have to say that lucky stars are well and truly thanked. My life is fab!

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Goals, dreams and the what the future holds

When I look back, my life has changed in spades over the last couple of years since Andrew asked me to marry him. There has been some really fantastic times and - to be fair - really bad times money wise, health wise etc.  Sometimes I feel that I want to stop the world and get off, life goes by quickly - which is a great when times are bad, but sometimes I just want to be........
 I just want to sit in the sun and smile and say life is fantastic. Don't get me wrong, I thank my lucky stars every day that I have the most fantastic family and friends. My husband is wonderful and my children are too. We've got a roof over our heads and we are fed and warm. All the things that we take for granted - and we all do it.
It'll be nice to win the lottery, I dream of what I would do if I won it. just like everyone else. Andrew and I argue over what we would spend the money on, we imagine what it would be like to be worry and debt free, however in the grand scheme of things the chances of that happening are slim. I mean would that make us any happier? Yes for a while. Then we would probably have something else to worry about.

 Someone once told me that I should stop wanting things and just be grateful for what I have. I took this on board and then I thought to be fair if we didn't want things - or want to achieve things, that's when our life stands still. Hopes, dreams, and goals are what keep us going. If we don't have a dream, how we gonna make a dream come true........... says the song - and its true. How many of us write down what we want to do in the future? How many of us write down our goals? Our dreams? Our ambitions? Well I do, I re-evaluate my life every 3 to 4 months, I have long term goals and short term goals. My short term goals have always been achievable, the goal posts may have changed but I always get there in the end. I plan how I'm going to get there. I work hard at making it happen. It never goes the way I plan it but it always works out well in the end.
 Take for instance, wanting a new car. I was suppose to achieve that by September last year, but stuff got in the way, we had to pay out for other bits and pieces and the money we saved towards the car went on birthday and Christmas presents. So money wise we had a good Christmas because of the money we saved, whereas the Christmas beforehand we were so skint that we had sleepless nights thinking how we were going to make it happen - in the end we did, but we were miserable.
 I know someone will tell me its not about the presents and the giving and receiving but I love to give presents, the look on peoples faces is priceless to me.  However this year we had the money, but I had cancer and had a breast removed just before it. Somehow Christmas was achieved in between morphine and pain, down to my good organisation skills and my good management of money . The car came in January. So the goal posts were moved quite considerably but I got there in the end.

So no its not about the money, of course we need it, just as we need our hopes and dreams. The goal posts may get moved and you may have to swap one dream for another dream, but normally that dream when it comes true is nearly always better than the orginal dream. The satisfaction of achieving things in life has always kept me going.

So how am I tackling the cancer thing......well most of the time I feel pants, I could play the victim and give in, or I could just get on with my life, and on the days when I feel really grim, I just wear extra make up, and an extra big smile. Don't get me wrong I'm not saying that's what everyone should do - its just the only way I know how. Then friends say to me - "you don't have to put a brave face on with me - I know you remember". Then I have a little pity party. Maybe a little cry, a feel sorry for myself moment. Then reality strikes and I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I will survive ( another song there) I will be cured and my life will go back to normal. There is a big light at the end of my tunnel and it glows extremely bright. So what if I've lost my boob, I've got a new one, at some they will both match with a new nipple and everything. When I'm 80 they'll still be pert and not hanging down by my knees. See free boob job on the NHS!
So what if I've lost my hair, every day I get to look like someone different. I am now matching my wigs in with my outfits. Today I am rock chick! Tomorrow I might have a 50's vibe, who knows.
I don't have to shave, I have learnt that every day I can change my eyebrows to match my hair, make up and I look good. I don't look like the victim. People don't stare at me and say " Bless her shes got cancer" So I'm not going to play the victim.

Cancer has not got in the way of my hopes, dreams and ambitions. It's moved the goal posts and time limits, but I am still achieving great things. I am still moving on with my life and if cancer stops me from doing what I want to do - well I just work my way round it.

Tomorrow is a Chemo day - yes I hate it, yes it makes me feel ill, but every session I have brings me closer to my next goal. Tomorrow I'll be half way through. I go onto another type of chemo next time which will bring another set of symptom's. My doctor today told me that the reason I am having such a high dose is because she knows its the best course of action for me. She knows its tough, she pulled no punches and told me that I will feel even worst this time. .... but I know that, I've just got to grit my teeth and get on with it.

So here's to a great future whatever it may bring.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Wig on Wig off?

I've not written a new blog for a while. No excuse really I just didn't feel up to it. The day after writing the last blog. I asked Andrew to shave all my hair off. It was a very private moment between a husband and his wife. No one was present and we didn't make a big song and dance about it. I told him the time had come. It took about 5 Min's, as there wasn't much left. Afterwards I looked in the mirror, burst into tears and he held me for a while and let me cry.
Later on I showed each child in turn. Kate was fine, but Conor was very upset at first. They've gotten used to it a bit more now - thank god.

Now that I have figured out how to wear a wig so it doesn't fall off, ( I cringe as I remember the second day I wore one and went to get the dustbin in, it was really windy and as it wasn't properly secured the wind took it, thank god no one saw)  I am finding it hard wearing one all day, apart from being constantly worried that it looks like a wig and that people are staring,  they don't go well with hot flushes, I want to fling it off as soon as one starts which usually happen at the most impromtu moments. I also find them itchy and I have formed a bad habit of scratching underneath them.  I could be walking round the shops or in a restaurant and if anyone looks over at the wrong time - well lets just say, I need to remind myself to stop fiddling.
For instance on Thursday I went to the chemo suite to have my line flush, and a blood clotting agent put in.  I still feel uneasy about going out on my own, so as my daughter was on a day off from college she came with me. In the car on the way home she told me off, " Mum stop pulling at your your wig and scratching people can see you" sure enough a man and his wife in the car next to me were staring in wonderment. I smiled and stopped.

When I'm at home, I either wear a chemo hat, I have one in red and one in green, believe me they are not flattering, or a hat of some sort. Scarves I can't seem to get on with, but it's not unusual for me to be wearing a wig one minute, a scarf the next, then a hat the next, then back on with the wig.
As I now have three wigs I can pick and choose, so now I have adjusted them so they actually fit on my head properly and had them all cut so they sit better. I feel happier that they're not as Andrew puts it ...... so syrupified. Although I am convinced that people are still looking at me I have been brave and gone out on my own a few times. So I'll get there.

I've also spent a small fortune in hair accessories. Its just not me to plonk one on my head and that's it. No I've managed a low ponytail, backcombing, clippings, slides etc. Anything to make it look like its me in the mirror. I am getting used to drawing in eyebrows, mascaraing diminished eyelashes - and actually I don't look too bad!

After chemo this time I have to say I felt terrible. For the first couple of days I felt okay, then as the days went on it got worse. Having to inject my stomach and take all the tablets was a real chore.  I just didn't realise how sick and low I would feel. On pancake day in between tossing pancakes I felt so ill that I had to keep putting my head on the kitchen counter then step out into the cold just to keep me upright. On Wednesday I worked all day at the computer and just had to work my way through the sickness. Valentine's day I was running up and down the stairs to the toilet in between courses. Knocking back indigestion tablets in between mouthfuls of food. Friday my friends birthday I couldn't face food but knew I had to eat something otherwise the sick feeling would set in again. I took ages to select my food, then when it came I picked at it before announcing I had to go home.
Sitting in my pyjamas with a hat and my hood up on my dressing gown had become my favourite outfit.

Then yesterday morning I got up to spend a much needed weekend away with my husband and amazingly I didn't feel too bad. Not 100% but hey we can't have everything can we? I had booked a pre birthday/post valentine weekend away for him and me. Do you know what we had a brilliant time. We had a good drink, a fantastic meal and a wonderful 4 poster bed.
I managed to look okay in my wig and hoped no one noticed that that's exactly what it was. In the evening when we went out for dinner, I had bought a new dress that hid my PICC line. Wore a long wig and my husband stepped out of the shower and said " wow" I thought ' Wendie you've still got it'.

Later that night - and not wanting to go into too much detail, I had a case of - wig on, wig off?
 I mean what has everyone else done in this situation? You know - your about to have an intimate time and do you keep the wig on and hope in all the tousling its doesn't fall off, or fall over your eyes? Or do you take your wig off and hope your partner still fancies you?  Do you wear a hat that's a bit sparkly - to show you made the effort. One that matches your underwear? I mean what? We discussed it for ages, hubby told me it didn't matter to him either way he loved me. I tighten the wig and prayed it would hold on. Then I thought about it some more, I mean what if I had a hot flush in the middle of it, the wig would have to come off then? In between the fact that we have to be careful of everything on my right side especially my new boob and my PICC line on my left arm. Here we were with another spanner in the works.

So in between the latest dilimmas I'm feel much better and things are on the up. Yes I know my next chemo will be soon and I will feel terrible again, but you know at the moment I'm feeling good and I'll take that and make the most of it.


Monday, 4 February 2013

Hair hair everywhere

Last Wednesday I sat in the Primrose unit having my line flushed through and was amazed that I was the only one who still had a full head of hair. I actually wrote about it on Face book as I was in utter amazement that I hadn't lost any of it. Also - although at first I felt confused, I haven't had to shave my legs in nearly two weeks. Don't get me wrong this is great and I'm getting used to the fact that I've hardly any hair left on my arms or anywhere else for that matter. However, to my horror my eyelashes are already falling out but I have managed to find a great mascara which takes care of what I have got left and even though I've spent a small fortune finding the correct eyebrow kit, including, powders, pencils and stencils, my eyebrows are looking amazing. ( thanks to the girl on the Benefit counter)  

 My sleep patterns are all over the place I get up on numerous occasions throughout the night to check in the bathroom mirror to see if my hair is falling out. It got so frequent that when I was in the Primrose unit that day I spoke to the nurse about it in a slightly obsessive way, she told me I needed to sleep and that maybe I would  find some peace if I just shaved it all off. I realised she had a point - I really did, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.

I couldn't and still can't walk pass a mirror without looking in it, I was running my hands through my hair to see if any of it came out. I even got to the stage where I had to ask my husband to wash it as I couldn't bear to wash it myself.   I was convinced that it was all over the bedroom carpet I was obsessing about it constantly and often broke down in tears.

 In the meantime I spoke to a good friend of mine who told me that when she had her brain tumour - when we were teenagers, she'd convinced herself that her hair wasn't going to fall out. She continued to tell me that she was in denial and of course eventually it did fall out. It was over 20 years ago and I remember her NHS wig - how times have changed.  I myself told the nurse that maybe mine wouldn't fall out. She nodded her head and told me that in a few cases it didn't. Although she didn't look convinced.

Then on Wednesday afternoon it happened, that very same day.  The first lot of hair decided to come out. Not what I imagined. It came out in my hands as I touched it. Thursday I got up and I was too scared to brush it. Taking the plunge I did so and handfuls came out on the brush. In between tears I  tried numerous hair pieces. I wasn't ready to wear a wig. Buns, ponytails, fringes. Luckily I have a few. On the Friday for my sister's birthday dinner, even though I wore a bun I was mortified that hair was falling out into people's food. 
Saturday during the day I took the kids shopping. I didn't wear anything, but just put it up in a normal ponytail and clipped the fringe back. it still looked okay but I knew my days of wearing it down were over. Then that night before we went to dinner at friends, I washed it, and so much came out that the thickness of my ponytail decreased and it looked like a rats tail. I asked my husband to call our friends and tell them we were going to be late. In the meantime I'd filled the wastepaper bin with my hair and in between tears I managed to get a hair piece to stay in and hair sprayed every hair I could down. One of the guy's picked us up and as I came down the stairs he pointed to my head and said      " Its not what's here" then pointed to my heart " It's whats in here Wendie" I held back the tears and went to dinner with our lovely understanding friends.

Yesterday I wore a wig for the first time, but it took ages for me to get out of the door, as I wasn't  happy that it looked okay.Yet funny enough no one noticed not even my daughter. However that's because I can still pin my fringe over the front of it. So it doesn't seem that final. I do need to get myself into a routine of speeding up my hair and makeup - because it takes ages to apply everything. I don't want people to look at me and know I've got cancer. I want to look normal. So far I think I'm managing it.

Today I am rearranging bits, I've changed my fringe over as I had a thinning spot in the front on one side. As I put my hair up I have thinning bits at the back in my hairline, but I figure no one can see me at home.  I've just clipped a small bun in and rearranged and sprayed down the back. Clip in pieces are becoming increasing hard to wear as there is nothing much to clip them too now.

Yes I know that I should shave it off - but I am not ready, all the time I can cover it up I will. Using my own fringe makes me feel like I am just experimenting with different hair styles, however I am sure that will too be gone in the next day or so.

I cry most days and then tell myself off. I lay awake at night wondering what I can get away with the next day. I get up in the morning and give it a good brush, almost punishingly. Trying to see how much will come out. I have kept the wastepaper bin with all my hair in it in the bedroom. I cannot bear to throw it out. I hoovered the carpet again today, as it really does get covered. I know that I am fighting a hopeless cause, but I figure that all the time I have some hair - albeit around 50 to 60% has gone and its like a ball of fluff on my head - I can experiment. To look in the mirror and see someone who is completely bald feels me with dread. The thought of walking into a shop and someone knowing I am wearing a wig and getting a sympathetic look feels me with dread. Someone sniggering that my hair isn't real - yes I know I need to get a grip.

On Saturday night I did manged to have a laugh about it with my friends, albeit they would never have brought the subject up first. Andrew was proud of me joking about my hair loss, as I seem to have had a sense of humour transplant lately and have become withdrawn, however looking in the mirror everyday or seeing your hair all over your pillow isn't much to laugh about. At some point I will have to wear the wigs full time. Before my next Chemo session on Thursday I am picking up another wig at the hospital. I hope it looks good. Then I will have 3, I hope the only reason I cannot get out of the door on time in the future will not be because I am in tears because bits are falling off me, but because I just can't figure out what wig matches my outfit that day!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

A smack of realism - and a dose of tears.

The last week or so has been up and down in so many ways. The weekend was full of friends and laughter but I was so tired I could hardly keep my eyes open. However I muddled through and cooked dinner for 7 of us on Sunday. On Sunday night I ached so much and my PICC line was giving me problems, I kept taking my temperature - as instructed, and hoped it wouldn't go over 37.5. (Apparently that's when I have to go straight to AAU)  In the end after Hubby nagging I phoned the Primrose unit and was told to go in. If you remember the snow outside was thick and continuous. I weighed up the odds, and against better judgement decided that I would go to bed, take some pain killers and take my temperature every 4 hours. Next morning the hospital rang and told me I had to go in. I made light of it to Hubby who whizzed me in straight to the Primrose unit. My lovely Chemo nurse Helen, took one look at my arm cleaned me up, flushed it through and took some blood - just in case. She then told us we would have to wait an hour for the results - and if positive which she very much doubted I would have to have a scan for Deep Vein Thrombosis this was at 10.30. After a hour the result wasn't in so we waited another 20 minutes before deciding that we would go home as we were sure the result would be fine. Thirty minutes later we were on our way back to the hospital where Andrew dropped me off as the result was positive. I was asked to make my way to the day ward as a scan had been arranged to check where the clot was in my line.  At 5.40 after being told that a scan could not been arranged for that day I was given some Tinzaparin ( blood clotting injections that had to be self administered into my stomach) and discharged.  Andrew picked me back up and on the way home I began to cry and this continued for a couple of hours. I cried on the kids, I cried on the cat, I cried whilst cooking dinner and I cried through eating it. In fact I cried so much I had forgotten what I started crying about in the first place. I couldn't pull myself together, I felt rubbish and if anyone else pulled me about, stabbed me with a needle, or put me through any more pain. I was going to tell them - rather unpleasantly - to leave me alone.  I ached all over, my throat was sore and I was angry, and I couldn't pull myself together. Then on Tuesday I couldn't even be bothered to get out of the bed or answer the phone. Friends text me to see if I was okay, I couldn't be bothered to get off the sofa and reply. In the end after a morning of feeling sorry for myself I managed to get myself in the bath - obviously with my arm wrapped in cling film. Get dressed and do a few things around the house. Kicking myself up the backside was such a major issue, as I just had no energy, ached all over and couldn't even be bothered to eat. Then that afternoon a call came through to say that my CT scan for my chest and abdominal, and my bone and vital organ scan results had come back. They were all normal,  the cancer hadn't spread, in fact as I write this - Drum roll please -  I am cancer free. This time I didn't cry alone hubby cried with me, with relief, with happiness and with the belief that we had a future together and that future was beautiful and bright.

Yet that night when hubby lined all my tablets up and told me I had to inject myself again with the Tinzaparin, I began to cry again. I had bruises on my stomach from the one I had administered the night before and it really hurt. I'd turned into a small child and begged Andrew to do it quick and not hurt me. My God what had become of me!
That night in bed I had to change my pyjamas twice as I woke up soaking wet from sweat. However, the next morning, I got up and felt more normal. I took myself back to the hospital and had a ultrasound scan for the DVT. Now not wanting to sound like a miserable old cow, even the prod of the scanner hurt as the radiologist scanned the PICC line, my armpit, and above my heart. He then proceeded to do my right ride, as you know this is the side that I had the mastectomy on. So prodding and poking under my arm made me cry - again. The nurse that was cleaning the gel off my body, helped me off the bed and gave me a cuddle.   She sent me to the day ward again, where I spoke to a very nice Doctor, who cheered me up immensely - I was okay, there was no DVT the results were good.  I just needed to get my dressing changed again and more importantly I didn't need to administer any more of the Tinzaparin.
Back at the Primrose ward one of the nurses changed my dressing and another nurse came up and asked me how I was getting on, I told her about the tears and  how pants I felt in general, how I had tried to stay strong and couldn't. They both laughed and told me it was perfectly normal and not to be so hard on myself  as I had been through a long process.
The nurse that was changing my dressing, knelt down and congratulated me on coping so well!!! I then learnt that she had been diagnosed as terminal with some little known condition. I asked her to tell me all about it. She confessed that she  had not spoken to anyone regardless of the fact that she was diagnosed two weeks previous. She was 36 years old, had two children aged 6 and 8 and was a single parent. We talked for a while and I was quite frank. I told her about Andrew's Dad and how he had come through 2 lots of different cancer in one year, I then told her about Andrew's uncle who was given 12 months to live 6 months ago, yet in the middle of his chemo his doctor was telling him that he could now book his holiday for next year. Most of all I told her about hope. How so much was being done these days to prolong peoples lives. How she needed to talk to people become armed with all the facts and results then decide what she wanted to do. Lastly I told her how she needed to give herself a pat on the back for coping so well.
 Later that morning I left the Primrose unit with fresh lipstick applied and a different mind set - with not a tear in sight and I haven't cried since. That afternoon I kept an appointment at a venue ( that I nearly cancelled) to be told I had won a contract to head up all their Wedding Fayres . Even though I still didn't feel 100% the next day I went back to work.

Since Wednesday, I have felt good, as a bonus I haven't had to shave my legs or my armpits, as no more hair is growing and even though my eyebrows and eyelashes are beginning to thin already, I remain positive. Next week when it is my sister's 50th birthday party I will probably have to wear one of my wigs - but that' s next week. This week I survived. There is nothing like a great big dose of realism smacking you in the face to make you put your lipstick on, put your shoulders back and get right back on with living.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Feeling Hot Hot Hot!!

Hot flushes - bloody hot flushes, all very well and good when you are out in the cold and the snow, but normally they only happen when your in the warm or tucked up in bed. However,  today I felt one coming on and as luck would have it we went out for a walk all dressed up for battle with the snow, I grabbed hubby's hand and tugged him out the door with a " Quick quick I'm having a hot flush" which was great as it lasted me in the cold for ages, but believe me that doesn't normally happen.  Since November I have been having them and unfortunately whilst having treatment I am unable to take anything for them. I try to ensure I have a cold drink close by, but this just means constant trips to the loo. Oh well....

Anyway, after a nearly uneventful PICC line being popped in at Addenbrooks on Wednesday. Well I say uneventful, I was quite nervous about having this done but like every procedure I've had this is the conversation me and hubby have in the car on route. Him to me " Nervous?" Me " No I have just blocked it out, what do you fancy for tea tonight?" Then we discuss what we fancy to eat and generally have a laugh.   When we got there after a short wait we were booked in and I was given a wrist  tag - a day procedure? I immediately had my stubborn  head on and whispered to hubby that there was no way was I hanging about here all day.  I was shown through to a ward called Recovery and disappointment slumped like a rock in my stomach. I whispered to Andrew " I was expecting to be in and out, why are all these people asleep in beds?"
All pretty soon the lovely Administer Radiographer came along and explained everything to us - again I signed my life away and after donning another gorgeous gown. Which looked rather fetching with my new high heeled boots. We got down to business, off we went to theatre where as always, I did as I was told. I laid down stretched out my arm and cleared my mind. It was all very clinical and apart from the local aesthetic going in a vein where I said " Erm sorry but I'm in a lot of pain, I'm having bad hot cramp like pins and needles going up and down my arm" " Is it going numb?" she enquired " Err no its bloody killing me" I calmly said. So she looked on the ultra scan and immediately took it out- relief - telling me that she had hit a nerve bed. I laughed.  She then tried again elsewhere, again jab with the local, but this time I felt fine. I didn't look as she threaded the line into the needle. Incidentally she measured me up beforehand across the arm and round to just above my heart - where the line would sit,  so she knew how long it was and where she should push it to. There was a little bit of tugging and then she was away. I suppose the whole procedure took around half and hour, in the meantime we chatted like I do to everyone who gives me a procedure -  about our families.Then there was lots of mopping of  blood and it was all finished. She asked me if I wanted to lie down in Recovery, I looked at her and she said " I guess not" Then she sent me down for X Ray to see if the line had been threaded into place correctly. After a bit of a wait, in a crowded waiting area where I looked fantastic in my gown and coat and high heels. I had the X Ray and went back upstairs. After around 10 minutes I was told everything was fine. Given a discharge letter, and one for Bedford Primrose unit. Then I was out of there and off to lunch with the in laws- lovely.

So now I have a perfect working PICC line which apart from the fact that I have to have it flushed through every week at the hospital.  I can't take a shower and have to wash my hair over the bath before I gingerly sit in it, with my arm wrapped in cling film. However, it's great because any other injections, blood tests or fluids that I need to have they just have to unscrew the top and away they go. I'll have this in until May, and obviously it comes with a strict set of instructions regarding infection etc. but apart from a few twinges and a tiny bit of discomfort its all good so far.

The 1st Chemo yesterday was a strange experience to begin with. When we got there we waited nearly two hours before my cocktail of drugs turned up, but I was fed and watered and generally looked after. I did comment to hubby that it looked like God's waiting room.However, my nurse Helen was lovely and we had a great laugh, she spent a great deal of time with me explaining everything in detail. Hubby and I listened in awe and confusion. So much information to take in. As she told me everything she kept popping in drug after drug after drug. Half was through I was busting for a wee, so after a movement of furniture and me dragging the machine I was hooked up to I managed to get there in time - " Oh by the way" she cried out to me, " Your wee will be red. It was, thank god she had told me beforehand!
Suddenly the room started filling up and I recognised the lady next to me, she came from the same town as I, she was there along with her sister.  Double mastectomy and her first lot of chemo as well. She had been up to the wig fitting room and ordered three different wigs, " so her husband could have a different woman every night" we laughed, and things settled down. I felt very comfy - especially when a lovely heat cushion and a blanket was wrapped round me.
 My Breast nurse Rachel popped in and then went in search of my scan results. I told her that as I had received a letter I would be going to the "Keeping Abreast" meetings that were starting next Tuesday night. She sent Alison another Breast nurse who was organising these meetings,  around to have a chat to me. Was I prepared to be a flasher? Damn right I was. If  flashing my breast and talking to other woman who've been or, are about to go through a mastectomy  and have decided to go for a reconstruction. I would happily  flash all day every day if it gave some one back their confidence like it has me. While we were chatting  I also told her what I did as a stylist, and how I could provide free master classes in dressing to boost all these incredibly brave women. She was over the moon to have me on board, and we talked about fashion shows etc. So exciting stuff.
Rachel came back and told me my bone scan results were not in but the CT scan seemed to be clear. I was to call on Tuesday where I could find out for sure.
Helen came back over with two large bags of drugs and a yellow needle bucket. She explained to me about the eight boxes of drugs I had to take every day and gave me a sheet of paper with the instructions on them. Along with some injections for my palettes that have to go into my stomach - which I decided to do myself and not bother the district nurse.
So there I was armed with all this medication and knowledge. Thank god hubby was there. On the way out I was asked to speak to another lady about reconstruction. She showed me her fantastic wig that she was wearing, and she told me that she had not had a reconstruction and she had had both breasts taken away 6 years ago. I asked the nurse to draw the curtains and I flashed her my boob. I talked about the "Keeping Abreast" meeting and asked her to come. I told her quite a few of us would be flashing our breasts and she could see what all the reconstructions look like. She was very interested. So I hope she will come as I think it will give her some much needed confidence.
On the way out I cuddled and kissed everyone and told them I will see them all again for my line flush each week and my chemo in three weeks. I almost felt sorry to leave this lovely warm place, where the nurses were constantly laughing and joking and it was all hustle and bustle with all the comings and goings. For the first time I didn't feel that I was alone in my battle.

As I sit here typing now I am waiting for bad stuff to happen to my body - which no doubt it will, I have been out and stocked up on good food, fruit and vegetables, bought a new toothbrush and moisturised myself to within a inch of my life. I've got a fantastic new wig turned up, I got some nice false eye lashes that are very similar to my own, and templates for new eyebrows. So I am going to make sure I really look after myself as much as I can. At the moment I am having a sick feeling - not all the time. More hot flushes then usual and a headache. So when I do get worst I think I am more than prepared.

I think I am becoming Stronger........and I am becoming proud of myself. Even so roll on May.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Cars, scans and making plans

This week has been a bit of a mix. First of all - we got a new car, yes it's exciting but I ending up crying as my lovely bright red coupe was part exchanged for the new one. It felt like I was saying goodbye to the old me. Unfortunately I now need a car for comfort and not for speed. The coupe was low down, very sporty and very fast. So unfortunately it had to go. Which brings me on to my hair, I know that in the next fortnight or so it will be gone. Yes I will have a lovely wig, and people won't know. It still doesn't take away the fact that I will be bald. I've tried to keep my spirits up, I've taken photos of myself in different colour wigs and shown the kids, I've tried on different scarves and hats. I just think that when I get through the initial shock of my hair falling out, I'll be fine. In the meantime - I'm sorry but I'm going to have a little rant here. I don't need people telling me to shave it off so I can get used to it. I've had quite a few people suggest this to me - none of them I may add have ever been bald before or had cancer, so they couldn't possibly know how I feel. Quite frankly if I suggested to them to shave their hair off, they would be mortified at the thought. So please, please lovely well meaning people, leave me to know what to do when the time comes. I have spoken in great length about having no hair and going bald to my husband. I asked him if when the time comes could he shave it off. Up until yesterday he told me he couldn't do it. Then when we were up at the hospital we saw a lovely lady around my age who came up and spoke to us as we came out of the Macmillian Primrose unit. She asked if I was going to start chemo soon, we had a long chat, her wig was superb and she looked fantastic.  She told us that she was at the end of her treatment and that she worked all through it - which I was pleased to hear. Incidentally her treatment was the same as mine. She told us, amongst other things that her hair started falling out around 10 days after treatment - but it was not instant as Dr Smith my oncologist had suggested it would be - Yes I know everyone is different. Anyway, she got fed up with it coming out in clumps so she shaved it off. This lady lifted mine and Andrew's spirit's considerably so much so that last night Andrew told me that he couldn't bear to see me like that and he would shave it off for me. We had a cry as even though he cannot understand how much my hair means to me, he hates to see me so upset over it. I'm sure when the time comes, I will grieve for a while and then make the most of all the new wigs I plan on buying.

Now that I'm up and driving again I did suggest to hubby that I could take myself to all my hospital appointments. However, yesterday and Wednesday he drove me to the scans that I had. Wednesday's scan was the polo mint scanner or a CT scan, I've had one of these before so I knew what to expect. Dye is injected into my arm and I am sent in and out of the polo mint with my arms in the air. In this case it was one arm, as I am still not able to lift my right arm up that far for that length of time. The dye goes in to your arm when the scan starts and you feel really hot in certain areas, basically it feels   like you've wet yourself - not attractive but quite painless and it is over before you know it. The scan that I had yesterday was the one I felt a bit wary of as its called a Nuclear Medicine Whole Body and Bone Scan. Basically it scans from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Again I was given an injection this time it was a radioactivity injection, which was administered a few hours before the scan took place. The injection itself wasn't enough to launch me at a small country, but enough to go around the whole of my body and highlight anything that looks mysterious. This scanner came with its own armrests, and leg rests. Millions of pounds worth, It has two large square like scanners either side of the main scanner both of these fit above and below your body and slowly glide up and down. I had to laugh when I was told that an elastic band had to be placed around my feet to keep them together, however after 20 minutes trying to keep absolutely still, the elastic band did its job. The radiographer stayed with me most of the time rubbing my arm and chatting about everything and anything including our kids. I asked him if he would as I felt quite claustrophobic. As the time ticked by and the scanner did its job he explained everything that was going to happen step by step, thank God he did because at one point I thought I was going to be decapitated. This scan like the one on Wednesday was soon over and I was told Dr Smith would let me know my results of both scans shortly.  I won't pretend that I have not thought about these results a million and one times, I try not to,  but I will admit that since I have been diagnosed this is just something else to worry about and which I've had nightmares and sleepless nights over,  thinking " What if  its spread".....I know that what will be will be, and no amount of worrying will change the end result. However, all I can do is hope and pray that it is contained.

After visiting Rachel my breast care nurse and having a cuddle, we spent a couple of hours walking round shops trying to kill a few hours, before heading back and seeing Mr Javaid my plastic surgeon. This man has done such a fantastic job on my breast, that I nearly cried when we first into his office, he told me how lovely I looked and then he asked me ( and Andrew) if we were happy with my new breast. I told him how over the moon I was. this was after he has shown Andrew how he should give me a breast massage! Surreal! He also suggested that I should have a slight lift on my other breast so that they matched, along with a new nipple. This man is a miracle worker. I suggested he must love his job - he and Andrew smiled in that - silly school boy way. As I further explained - I didn't mean playing with breasts all day, but making women happy by giving them back their breasts? How wonderfully fulfilling it must be. As we left his office smiling and happy, Helen the nurse told me that the work he had done on my breast was the best she had ever seen.

So here we are - next week I should get my results then on Wednesday I am at Addenbrooks having my PICC line put in - which incidentally Andrew and I watched a video of on You Tube. Looks harmless enough............Then the next day on the Thursday it is my first chemo session...... So all in all another hectic week. Still it keeps me busy and out of trouble.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Who do you think you are?

It seems to me that every day, a letter lands on the mat from the hospital. Appointments for this appointments for that, don't get me wrong the hospitals are very efficient and I know that I am in the safest possible hands. Trouble is when I do see friends and family I feel like I did when I had my children......... What I mean is, I've got nothing else to talk about. Its all about cancer and appointments, and pain and hospitals - I am sooo boring. When I had my kids it was all nappies, and birth details, albeit this was swapped with other new mums - and there is always that competition unwittingly going on of who wins the " most traumatic birth award" all the mums out there will know what I mean. We've all been there - there is always someone who had the worst time giving birth then anyone else on earth - and years later they are still going on about it.
Take for instance my mum - now bear in mind I am 46, not only has she endured the worst birth in the world having my sister, but apparently I nearly finished her off. Don't even mention the word hysterectomy in front of her because 20 odd years ago when she had " the big one" and the doctors messed it up and she nearly died blah blah. I sometime wonder if she every rings me up to ask how I am or to compare notes. Don't get me wrong I am happy for people to tell me their stories - after all some people survive terrible illnesses and I for one take my hat off to them. I'm amazed at people's courage and their complete and utter single mindedness of getting their life back together after months or even years of agony. Look at the summer when we had the Para-Olympics we, along with friends and family sat around in complete and utter amazement -  at the courage and determination of the competitor's,  how they won medal after medal.  No doubt some of them were told they would never walk, see, etc. or even lead a normal life.  I am proud to know people that have told me their stories of illnesses and how their life changed and all the wonderful things they do for good causes. Me well, I ran a marathon nearly 30 years ago - and swore I would never do another. I'm not keen on sport of any kind if I'm honest, although I have done quite a bit of it in my time. The thought of climbing a mountain - drives me to the wine bottle, and those who have parachuted - I am petrified of edges.
However, I want to give something back. Don't get me wrong I don't want to be seen as someone who is going to swing her wig in the air after completing a triathlon, or pose naked for a calender, nipple less on one side. No what I would like to do is what I am good at. Let me explain:

Now for those of you that don't know what I do for a living in 2011 I took my redundancy and set up my company after writing down all the skills I had. Some of them I realised would never make me any money like funny noises I can make with my ear, or making the best - barr none - roast potatoes, rest of my cooking is pretty average to be fair. Or the great way I can dance and throw shapes around the floor in bloody great big high heels - no the skills I had were planning, weddings and events, and weeding wardrobes, along with personal shopping. So I became a Wedding, event and image consultant and Woocandoo was born. I have over the last couple of years, planned great weddings, strange events, and I have come across the most fantastic outfits in women's wardrobes, that they couldn't see. I have saved money - one couple £5000 - on their big day, one lady made £400 from ebaying and dress agencies. All  due to my determination, passion and bloody hard work. I am very proud to say that I am brilliant at my job and I love it. However, at the moment I have become " the lady with breast cancer" no one wants to hire me, as it may be too much for me, or it might be in the middle of treatment, etc etc. Before I went and had my mastectomy, I attended a few appointments with a view to creating a few events, one wedding and a couple of wardrobe weeds. Now I know its probably my own fault as I have written this blog and I have been very honest about the fact that I have breast cancer - but -  I'm not dead, I still answer and look at my work emails, and I'm not going to be ill from chemo for ever. So if you are reading this and you have an outstanding job you think I may be interested in, or you have not replied to my emails or called me back after I have sent you a proposal, then as you can probably imagine I am a tad angry. The cancer does not control me. I am still the same person, I may have lost a breast,  I may be bald next month and I may spend a couple of days feeling a bit pants after chemo, but I am still me. If I can't do the job, I will tell you. If it is inconvenient for me. We can always reschedule as I am not planning on dying anytime soon.

Anyway, I have decided that I am going to write to cancer charities and offer my services for free, as in masterclasses for woman who have been in the same situation as me, I have dealt with ladies that have had mastectomies in the past. So I am damn sure that I can do it now. That utter devastation when you don't feel feminine any more and you haven't a clue what to wear, how to feel sexy in front of your husband ( in your clothes ) and how to look good where people will admire you and your figure, and won't even talk to you about breast cancer. That is what I want to do. So for all you wonderful people out there that have raised money doing some energetic sport, or bared all for charity - I salute you. I may not make any money for cancer research, but I can certainly concentrate on helping woman pick up the pieces when they are at an all time low.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Scarves and Wigs and Sausage rolls

After all the fun and jollity's over the Christmas and New Year - in between traipsing up and down to the hospital. I now know the following. My Heart is fine, but my liver is not. So today I have decided to start a detox. That was until the hubby came home with chocolate biscuit cake! To be fair I've only had a mouthful and I have eaten loads of fruit and drank green tea. I figure that my body needs a bit of a rest from gin, wine and everything else I have drank and eaten over the Christmas period.
When I went along to see the oncologist the end of last month I was measured and weighed. Apparently I have lost 1/2 an inch in height and I've put on 2 pounds, since the last time I was weighted. Now I am clueless about the loss of 1/2 an inch, but I certainly know where the 2 pounds came from - and we still have tons of Christmas food left. My only hope is that my son - who eats us out of house and home most of the time and has size 11 boots to fill at the age of 15 - will hoover up everything else that's left including the 10 ton of sausage rolls. When I was in hospital I lost weight, and got a tad thin. Now in less then a month, that's not something I need to worry about.

On New Years Eve I had my heart checked and thankfully its fine. It had to be checked to see if it can handle all the treatment that's going to be thrown at it.  So a Sister Anne called me up today and gave me my next couple of appointments.  Next week I have my bone scan to see if the cancer has spread, then the following week I'm  having my PICC line inserted ( to you and me that's a  long, thin, flexible tube known as a catheter. It is inserted into one of the large veins of the arm near the bend of the elbow. It is then threaded into the vein until the tip sits in a large vein just above the heart.) This will sit in my arm covered in a bandage for the whole of my treatment - so until May time when the Chemo finishes.  However it'll have to be checked on a weekly basis as it is prone to all sorts of problems. Anyway the following day my chemo starts ( 17th January )  I'm going to be receiving - 3 sessions of FEC and 3 Sessions of Docetaxel. Okay,  for those of you that are lost FEC is made up of a combination of 3 difference drugs that along with an anti sickness drug and a saline solution is put into the PICC line at the same sitting - this will last around a hour of so. This is the one that makes me lose my hair. Then after that 3 sessions of Docetaxel a single drug that I have to have steroids with ( the day beforehand) this is the one that'll make me put on weight. So basically come May, I'm going to look bloody gorgeous. 

I did get up this morning and think - I might go back to work next week, but as I've now got my next lot of treatment lined up, I don't think that' s going to happen in the foreseeable future. However, yesterday I drove the car albeit only about a mile or so. It was very strange as I don't have any muscle in my back to support my turning of the wheel etc, so I looked a bit like a learner and reversing was a bit of a nightmare let alone putting my seat belt on, but I did it and I was quite safe. Having said that I don't think I'll be driving too far in the near future but I do feel safe enough to drive up to the supermarket and the local shops. Lets just hope there's a big parking space when I get there -  husband would say nothing new there then, but I wouldn't feel very confident getting into a smaller one at the minute. 

Anyway, I am really pleased with my breast and how it is settling down, its still a bit swollen and sore, but at least I can get myself in and out of the shower without problems now. Although having a bath is a bit of a pain, I have to turn myself into a synchronised swimmer in order to not place too much support on my right hand and arm, but even that's getting better each day. My back is still very sore but at least I can now touch it. Still can't feel any thing in certain parts of the breast and armpit but I am getting a tingling sensation when I do touch it. I am sure that at some point I will discuss with my plastic surgeon about having a new nipple tattooed on, but I am not worried about one at the moment. 

In general today is a good day. I had a little bit of a cry earlier after the Sister phoned me up, but I'm getting used to the hospital calling me, or letters from them landing on the mat. I've got 9 days before I have my next hospital appointment although my wig fitting should be in the next week or so. I've also sorted out a few hats and scarves to wear.
In the meantime, I've worked out if everything goes to plan and I remain strong throughout the sessions. I can still go to our friend's Andrew and Karen's wedding in June in Ibiza. Its a tight time line but I remain positive. Also I've worked out that family and friends birthday's and other events I've got coming up in the next couple of months fall in between chemo so hopefully I should be well enough for these. All I need is my pink wig and some elasticated trousers and I'll be all set!