Saturday 26 December 2015

Chemotherapy - 5 down...1 to go

On Wednesday I had my fifth chemotherapy treatment. My second cycle of Docetaxel.

I was meant to have it on Tuesday but I forget to take my steroid tablets on the Monday so they had to push it back by a day. Docetaxel tends to lull you in to a false sense of security for the first three days where you don't feel too bad and then it hits you like a bus on the third day. So me 'accidentally' forgetting my tablets meant that I wasn't in quite as much pain on Christmas Day as I would have been if I had my chemotherapy on Tuesday as planned. Dad thinks I've done it on purpose. I'm not telling you either way! But let's just say I enjoyed my Christmas dinner *winky smiley face*. 

I thought I'd rock the Red wig for this cycle as its Christmas. (Ignore my big steroid moon face). My drugs were all mixed and ready for me when I got there but me and mum where still there for about three hours as Docetaxel takes a bit longer to administer compared to EC chemo and you have to do a before and after 'flush'. I also had my second Herceptin injection just before my chemo. I can now have Herceptin and Docetaxel on the same day as they know I'm not allergic to either of them.

The Herceptin injection didn't feel too bad this time. It just stings a bit and takes a few minutes to administer. 

The Docetaxel went ahead as normal and I had no issues. The lady next to me threw up halfway through. Poor lady. 

The chemo ward seemed very somber this time. But I guess chemo wards arn't going to be too lively even if it is Christmas. 

A lady came in to speak to one of the chemo nurses whilst I was having my treatment. I think she may have been a doctor. 

'God it's a bit dead in here isnt it?! She said. 

'Don't say DEAD in here!' Shouted one of the patients. 

This made me and mum laugh. Some people just don't think. I guess it did liven up the ward though. 

I had pharyngitis on my last cycle of chemo and I had to have a course of antibiotics so I'm really hoping I don't get any infections with this cycle. 

I'm on day three now so here comes the pain. 

Wish me luck and have a few champers for me!

Merry Christmas and here's to health and happiness in 2016 x


Sunday 6 December 2015

Chemotherapy - 4 down...2 to go

4 down! Wow it feels good to write that. I'm over the halfway point now and I can just about see the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

On Monday I had my first Herceptin injection. I was really anxious about it but it wasn't too bad. I had it on the chemo ward but in a private room. A private room sounds glam doesn't it?! But I think they only put me in there because the injection goes in to my thigh so I had to take my tights off. I don't want to frighten the gents on the ward.

The injection felt a little bit like a local anesthetic. It stung a little and the stinging sensation came and went every few seconds until it was done. Then I had to wait on the ward for 6 hours in case I had an allergic reaction. 

While I was waiting they decided to give me another blood test before my chemo on Tuesday. My right arm is not in the best shape at the moment so getting blood from me is a struggle. They managed to get blood from the side of my thumb in the end. Nice.

As I was starting a new dose of chemo on Tuesday one of the nurses thought it was a good idea to weigh me to check they have the correct dose. 
'Have I put weight on?' I asked the nurse. 
'Oh. I thought my clothes felt a bit tighter'.
'Don't worry most ladies put on about a stone during chemo'.
Great. Chemotherapy really is the gift that keeps on giving.

On Tuesday I had my fourth cycle of chemo. My first dose of Docetaxel. Docetaxel is administered via a drip so it's a bit less intimate than when I had EC chemo through jumbo syringes. 

As docetaxel is a much stronger chemo they have upped my steroid dose to eight a day before chemo and then down to two a day after chemo. I'm also having to have GCSF injections. 

GCSF injections make my bone marrow produce more white blood cells as the Docetaxel makes my white blood cells dangerously low. I have these daily from day three to day ten. I can have them at home so I was going to get a district nurse to do them for me. But for convenience Doctor Micheles going to give them a go! 

Unfortunately a side effect of the GCSF injections is bone pain. This is also a side effect of Docetaxel. So that means double the bone pain. 

Bone pain hurts a lot.

Wednesday 18 November 2015


Today I had my first MUGA scan. 

Isn't MUGA a strange word? It stands for Multi Gated Acquisition Scan. It's a proven nuclear medicine test designed to evaluate the function of the right and left ventricles of the heart. (That's what it says on Wikipedia anyway)

I need to have a MUGA scan before I start my course of Herceptin on 1st December. I'll then have MUGA scans every three months going forward until my course of Herceptin is finished. This is because Herceptin can put a strain on your heart and they need to make sure it's still functioning correctly. 

The MUGA scan process involves having your heart tested via a machine to check what your normal heart rate is. Mine was all over the place. The nurse advised she thinks she's recorded my normal heart rate - even though I'm obviously anxious. 

I then had to lie down and rest for 30 minutes. After that I was given a radioactive injection in to my arm. As my veins are hardening this proved quite difficult. The nurse was really nice and perserved and eventually we got the  injection in. I say 'we' but I actually didn't help at all. Except for closing my eyes, making the odd funny face and whimpering. 

I had a radioactive injection before my surgery so I wasn't disappointed when I didn't gain any super powers. Well maybe I was just a little bit. 

I was then allowed a cheese sandwich and a glass of milk. The nurse tells me they always suggest you bring a cheese sandwich but in fact it can just be any food that's fatty. I'm getting a plate of chips from the cafe next time then.

After waiting an hour I went in to the scanning room. The nurse placed wires on my chest and stomach. I laid down and had to put my hands above my head. I was then moved inside the machine. The machine started to slowly revolve and I had to keep very still. 40 minutes later the scan was complete. FYI 40 minutes is a long time to have your hands above your head.

Then I was free to go. Unscathed. (Apart from having arms like jelly)


Tuesday 10 November 2015

Chemotherapy - Halfway There! 3 down...3 to go!

So on Monday I had my third chemo and last EC chemo! I'm officially halfway through!! 

Now I know I'm finished with EC I thought it may be a good idea to post what I've learnt so far on the rollercoaster ride that is chemotherapy;

- Your hair is guaranteed to fall out with EC chemo. 
This is something the nurse told me on my first chemo. I made my peace with that early on and shaved it off 12 days after my first cycle of chemo. I raised over £3000 for Macmillan and I donated my hair to the Little Princess Trust. I loved reading through everyone's messages of support on my Brave the Shave page and it turned the situation in to a positive.

- The nausea is tough.
I felt sick for a good week on EC. As it turns out I'm not very good at feeling sick. Give me the pain of surgery any day over this nausea. It was for me by far the worst side effect of EC. I asked for Emend (an aprepitant) on my second cycle of EC, which lessened the feeling of nausea but not the duration.  

- The Epirubicin (the 'E' part of EC) makes your pee turn Red. Very Red. 
DO NOT PANIC this is not internal bleeding! It happens straight away. Thankfully my chemo nurse warned me about this pre-pee. 

- The Cyclophosphamide (the 'C' part of EC) leaves you with a horrible taste in your mouth as soon as they start administrating the drug.
This makes me feel sick just thinking about it. I had a humbug when they started administering it, which helped.

- The Cyclophosphamide also affects your sinuses.
I felt like I'd been snorting soap or washing powder every day for a week and half. This isn't the worst SE by any stretch of the imagination but I really didn't like it and I'm so glad I won't have this sensation on my next cycle.

- There's a good possibility you might get fat.
A popular miss conception of chemotherapy is that you are going to be sick a lot and subsequently lose weight. I'm sure this happens for some people but not for me nor the majority of 'chemo girls' I've spoken to. Anti-sickness drugs are a lot more powerful these days. I was only actually physically sick once on EC chemo. The steroids also don't help matters and make you fiercely hungry. Anyone who knows me knows I like my food. But this was a completely different scale. Having 'thirds' at tea time was a regular occurance. Jacket potato and melted cheese was my food of choice. Melted cheese on chips, melted cheese on crisps, melted cheese on anything in fact...Nom nom nom!

- Taste changes
I love food and hated this SE. Nothing tastes the same and because of the nausea you end up going off some of your favourite foods. Michele had a pasty on the day of my second chemo cycle. Now I can't even look at any kind of pasty or pie without wanting to be sick. I can't even watch the Hollands Pie advert. I'm Northern. This is ridiculous. I had pasta with tomoto sauce one day when I was feeling sick. Tomoto sauce now makes me feel sick. My boyfriends Italian. I've know idea how I'm going to explain this to his parents. I'm off curry at the moment too. I live in Bradford. It's just not going to work is it? I don't like tea, coffee or water either. EC chemo is hell for a foodie!

- Constipation
Yeah sorry about this one. This was awful on my first cycle so I think I owe this to the Ordansetron anti-sickness tablet that I had before getting Emend on my second cycle. The chemo unit will give you drugs for this if you ask. Constipation wasn't as bad for me on my second and third cycle so I struggled on. Struggle being the operative word. Sorry again.

- Headaches
Again I think I owe this one to that pesky Ordansetron drug on my first cycle. My head was pulsing and I can quite easily say it was the worst headache I have ever had. It wasn't as bad on the next cycle but I still needed paracetamol towards the end of my first week after each EC chemo. 

- Deteriorated Vision
My eyes didn't really handle EC very well. During the first week of each cycle my vision was a little blurred. I thought I might be going blind at one point but my vision improved towards the second week of each cycle. I had swollen and puffy eyelids on my second and third cycle. My eyes where watery, stung, blood shot and glazed over. No ones really sure about this SE. It may just have been general tiredness or the start of my eyelashes falling out. Who knows?

- Depression 
On the third and fourth day after each chemo cycle I got very depressed. I'm not sure why this was. It may be to do with the steroids or a side effect of the other drugs but it happened on the third and fourth day after each chemo cycle just like clockwork. Normally when you have the flu or a stomach bug you start feeling a little better around this time. Even if it's just a little bit. On chemo you wake up and feel exactly the same every day. I guess this can get to you by the time you are three days in.

- Anger
'Roid-rage' is real! I don't think I'm a particularly angry person but steroids mess you up!! I thankfully have understanding family and friends who are supportive and don't mind the odd expletive. Sorry Michele. Sorry Mum and Dad. Darren I know you can handle it!

- Get your teeth checked before you start chemo.
I didn't do this and I really regret it. I told my consultant I was up to date with my dental checks (I wasn't) because I don't like the dentist. Who does? Plus it's flipping expensive. Anyway I have a tooth that has hurt after every single chemo cycle. Chemo makes EVERYTHING more painful.

- Get your flu jab. 
I wasn't told about this before chemo but   I wish I had been given it. Check with your chemo nurse before having it done but I believe it's fine as it's not a live vaccine. Get your friends and family to have this done too if they can. Chemo is not a friend to colds and flu!

- Your mouth gets sore
My mouth was sore after every chemo. It felt thick and numb and was horrible. I brushed my teeth after every meal, which helped a little. I was also given mouth wash from my chemo unit. 

 - Extreme fatigue 
I have never felt tiredness like I have in the past few weeks whilst being on EC chemo. Zero energy. Literally there's nothing. Do what your body tells you to do and rest. I found over doing it was not helpful. So don't feel guilty and if you need to stay in bed for a week then stay in bed for a week. 

- Chemo brain
This is a real thing. Honestly I'm not just an idiot. I'm pretty sure I've seen it on the Macmillan website. I can't remember anything and I'm just generally less intelligent. The other day I forgot how to spell the word 'saw'. Then whilst watching countdown I couldn't times 75 by 10. This isn't going to go down well at work so I'm hoping this improves.

- Sensitivity to light and sound
Put me in a dark and sound proof room for a week after each chemo cycle and I'd be happy. 

- Arm pain and vein hardening
It turns out pumping poison through your body every three weeks is pretty hard on your veins. As I've had a lumpectomy and three lymph nodes removed I can't have any injections done on my left arm due to the risk of Lymphedemia. All blood tests, chemotherapy and blood pressure checks have to be done on my right arm. The veins on my right arm are now hardening and it hurts to reach up for things or strain my arm at all. The nurses have mentioned having a PICC line put in a few times but as I don't really fancy having tubes sticking out of my heart for the next few weeks I've tried to squash that suggestion. So come on right side of my body. It was the stupid left side of my body that went and got cancer. Right side please don't fail me now. 

Some of these things I knew a little about before starting chemo and others where an unpleasant surprise. I've tried to be as honest as possible so hopefully this list is helpful to someone about to start treatment and you don't all just think I'm a cancer-ridden winge bag. Remember everyone reacts differently to chemo and this is just my own experience of it so far.

I'm glad EC chemo is over with. I'm glad I only went in to hospital once due to a high tempteture. It was unfortunate it was Micheles birthday. It was also Bonfire night. We also had to wait five hours to be told my tempreture is back to normal, my White blood cells are fine and I don't have an infection so I could go back home. I guess it's better to be safe than sorry though.

I have an appointment with my consultant in the next couple of weeks to discuss my next dose of chemo now I'm officially at the half way point.

I start Herceptin on 30th November. Herceptin is an injection that I'll have every three weeks. I need this as my cancer is HER2 positive, which means the cancer cells have certain proteins that make the cancer highly active and aggressive. This isn't good but apparently Herceptin is very good at demolishing those nasty proteins! I'm having 18 sessions so this will last for a year. I've heard the side effects of Herceptin suck a bit too. Flu like symptoms amongst other things not dissimilar to chemo. Herceptin also puts a strain on your heart so I'm having a MUGA scan before I start and every few weeks to make sure my heart is behaving itself.

I can't start my next half of chemo on the same day as Herceptin as both drugs can cause severe allergic reactions and they need to be able determine which drug I'm reacting too if I'm allergic. So I start my 4th chemo cycle on 1st December. 

I'll now be having Docetaxel for my final three sessions of chemo. Docetaxel has quite the repretation in 'cancer land'. It's known as 'the Tax man' or being hit by the 'Tax Truck'. When your doctor says 'By day three you might feel like you have been hit by a bus' you know it's not going to be a barrel of laughs.

Its supposed to be more pain and less sickness, which may actually be better for me. You never know. They will also be stepping up my drug intake to go along with my harsher chemo. I'll be starting steroids the day before chemo and taking eight a day rather than my usual three. Goodbye sleep! 

From day three I'll need daily injections. These injections stimulate my bone marrow to produce White blood cells. A nurse comes to my house to do this for me, which I thought was quite nice. Although I think 'Dr' Michele was disappointed he wouldn't be getting another go considering his previous success administering my IVF injections

Anyway, I'm going to try and not worry too much about the Herceptin and Docetaxel for the moment and concentrate on recovering from my third EC chemo cycle. 

Just a quick reminder: 
Im halfway through chemo!!! 

Now let's celebrate with whatever doesn't taste disgusting! 


Friday 6 November 2015

Thursday 29 October 2015

Breast Cancer Awareness

Falling leaves, pumpkins, late nights, roaring fires and hot chocolate. October is a month filled with some of my favourite things. 

We are surrounded by beautiful Autumnal colours throughout October. However recently October is getting better known for another colour. Pink. 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. A month where companies trivialise a serious illness by selling fluffy pink crap to the masses. Now I know I'm being harsh here. 

My stance is that as long as the fluffy pink crap is raising money to fund research then that's a good thing. So as long as you know 10% of that Diet Coke pack with the pink ribbon you just bought is going to charity rather than 100% than that's fine. 

Before I was diagnosed I was happy to raise money for breast cancer charities. I bought all the pink stuff going and even raised a few hundred pounds for Tickled Pink by completing the Yorkshire Three Peak Challenge. So although I may of helped by raising money if I'm honest these things didn't make me any more 'aware' of breast cancer. I didn't buy a Pink fluffy pen and then go home and check my breasts.

This year obviously I've never been more aware of breast cancer. On 1st October 2015 I was two days in to my first cycle of chemotherapy. October was the first time I felt sick not from the cancer itself but from the cancer treatment. The cancer treatment I need so that I can hopefully live for a long time.

This October I also joined the Younger Breast Cancer Network. This is a fantastic group of ladies in the UK. All of them are under 45 and have breast cancer. These ladies have been invaluable in getting me through my treatment so far and I've made some great friends. We are all supporting each to deal with breast cancer. Dealing with sickness, pain and unfortunately death. Some of us have lived with cancer for years and will go one to live a long and happy life. Others have been diagnosed with primary breast cancer and died within the year. 

So let's stop getting our bra straps out ala M&S's recent campaign fronted my a beautiful Victoria's Secret model (who I'm guessing hasn't had to have either of her boobs hacked off) Stop strapping Diet Coke cans to our chests, posting no make up selfies and raise some actual awareness. 

I found out I had breast cancer as I was symptomatic. I found a lump in my breast. In England the mammogram age is currently 50 years and older. Therefore if you are under 50 the only way to determine if you have breast cancer is by CHECKING YOURSELF to see if you have any of the symptoms and getting yourself to your GP. 

I found my lump in my left breast on the first day of our holiday to Rhodes. In honesty I wasn't exactly doing a self examination at the time. I happened to be resting my head on my left arm and felt a lump just below my nipple.

I could not feel the lump at all while standing or sat up. I could only feel it ever so slightly when I was lying down. It was the most prominent with my left arm above my head.

So please check yourself both stood, sat and lying down. Both with your arms up above your head and to your side (one arm at a time and use the opposite hand to check) 

Look at your boobs in the mirror to check for any noticeable changes. Any changes  you can see such as size or shape, lumps, thickening, swelling, rashes, puckering or dimpling of the skin.

Look for any changes in your nipples including discharge or bleeding.

Feel for any lumps or thickening in your breasts. Watch out for any pain in your breasts. A common myth regarding breast cancer is that it's not painful. I had a dull ache in my left breast a week before I found the lump.

Use the diagram below on a regular basis to check yourself.

Pass this on to all your friends and family and make sure they are checking themselves too. 

My breast cancer is grade 3 (the highest grade)it's Her2 positive which means it's a highly aggressive and highly active cancer. I don't want to scare people but I can't stress the importance of early detection enough. 

So check your breasts at least once a month. Make sure your friends and family are checking their breasts too! 


Tuesday 20 October 2015

Chemotherapy - 2 down...4 to go

I've just had my second cycle of EC chemo. The photo above is of me sat in my chemo chair waiting for my anti-sickness tablets and steroids to start working there magic before they start pumping me with chemo. I'm also giving 'Fantasy' the wig another outing. Seriously who comes up with these wig names? 

As you can see I'm looking a lot less nervous this time around. I know what's coming. Last time I was very emotional and didn't want to go in to the chemo day unit. I waited tearfully in the corridor until they put me in a private room. This time the private room was full so I had no choice other than to join the other patients in the day unit. 

The chemo day unit is nice but quite outdated. I believe it's being re-done next year. Funded by Macmillan Cancer Support (I knew that 3 grand would come in handy) For now though it's a bit less high standard medical room and a bit more cattle being herded in to a slaughter house. 

There where five men in the day unit whilst I was there and one woman. All of them where old. Older than me by a good three decades. The nurses are lovely and everyone is generally positive but this room is not a happy room. We are all gathered here being essentially poisoned so we can live. Or at least live for as long as we can. Michele got chatting to one of the gentlemans wives in the waiting room and asked when her husbands treatment would finish. 'It won't' she explained. 

I feel lucky that my medical team believe that after 6 cycles of chemotherapy and all my other treatments I will go on to live as long as possible. For others in this room this is it. They are here being pumped with poison to live as long as possible but their prognosis is of course terminal. 

How can anyone be anything other than sad in a room like this? 

(Oh this blog post had taken a turn for the worse hasn't it?! Let's end on a positive note so we aren't all crying in to our cereal bowls tomorrow) 

The hospital staff our lovely. There's a tea lady who volunteers (she used to have breast cancer. A similar treatment plan to me) She brings round chocolates, biscuits, sandwiches and juice. 

Positive number two - I've got new anti-sickness medication for this cycle. On my first cycle I was really sick for about 10 days. The girls I've met via The Young Breast Cancer Network advised me to ask for 'Emend' for this cycle. It's a powerful anti-sickness tablet that is extremely expensive. Liz (my chemo nurse) tells me it's about £170 for just three tablets. They don't give out Emend as standard on the first cycle as essentially they want to see if the cheaper medication does the job. 

On my last cycle I had to call the hospital for more sickness meds as my nausea just wasn't going away. They prescribed Ordansatron, which just didn't agree with me. My head was pounding constantly and it just seemed to make me feel more nauseous. I explained this to Liz and I pretty much pleaded for Emend. Liz went to speak to the doctor, who thankfully let me have it. She had already given me my anti-sickness meds and steroids so I then had to wait another 40 minutes for my Emend tablet to kick in before my chemo was administered.

I have my EC chemo administered via 3 'jumbo' syringes that the nurse gives manually whilst having saline through a drip. The photo above is of my hand after chemo just with the saline drip still in place. 

So I now have my new medication. Emend, another anti-sickness drug and a reduced dose of steroids. 

Here goes round two.

Currently I'm still feeling very nauseous and I'm exhausted but I haven't been physically sick. On the whole I'm feeling better than I did last time.

Amen to Emend!


Tuesday 13 October 2015

Brave the Shave

On Saturday I 'braved the shave' for Macmillan Cancer Support and raised £3132. 

Here's my link -

Thank you to everyone who donated! 

When I first created the page I set a target of £500. I contemplated a £250 target but I thought I'll give £500 a go. Well we absolutely smashed it didn't we?! 

Thank you to everyone who donated! It really means a lot.



So I'm officially a baldie! I was really nervous before the shave took place and I really didn't want to cry. I even made dad run to the shop to pick me up a bottle of wine before we started cutting. Why is everything in life so much easier when there's Pinot Gricio?!

Dad hacked of my plait to send to the Little Princess Trust. 'Hack' being the operative word as the hairdressing scissors bought with the shaver where complete rubbish. Then Michele shaved the rest of my hair off. 

Michele and Darren did the filming (I'll add the video later) and I'm pleased to say I didn't cry once. It actually felt quite empowering. 

Let's face it this is a once in a life time opportunity. I'm never going to have the desire to shave all my hair off again. This is my Britney 2007 moment and theres no point being sad about it. 

Edit: Here's the video


Wednesday 7 October 2015

Chemotherapy - 1 down...5 to go

I'm now 9 days since my first EC chemo and finally I'm feeling a little better.

Before I had my first chemo session I felt a scared. Well more than scared actually I was flipping terrified. I searched desperately online to try and find out exactly what chemo felt like so I was prepared. How sick will I be? How many times will I be sick? Will I be sick that night? Will I be sick the next day? When will the bloody sickness stop?

Anyway because everyone reacts differently to chemotherapy it was pretty difficult to paint myself a picture pre-chemo. So let me try and explain what chemo 'round one' was like for me as it definitely wasn't what I expected.

Spoiler alert: It's not going to be a nice explanation. But guess what cancer isn't nice. I've had to learn the hard way that breast cancer isn't all pretty pink ribbons and happy fun runs so you need to learn that too!

As soon as I had the chemo my throat felt thick and I had a headache. I also felt like I needed to sneeze but couldn't. My pee was bright red. Literally bright red. Like I'd thrown a bottle of Ribena down the toilet. Good job Liz (my chemo nurse) had told me or I would have thought I had internal bleeding.

Then I waited to start feeling sick. How weird is that? Waiting to feel sick. There's just no way you can prepare. I had a light tea of plain chicken and mash and went to bed.

I woke up in the morning and felt awful. Like the worst hangover in the world. I quickly had an anti-sickness tablet. I was given 3 days worth of anti-sickness tablets and steroids. Unfortunately I wasn't quick enough with the anti-sickness tablet and I vomited. It was a horrible chemo kind of sick and I had a little cry about it. However once I was sick I did feel a little better. I went back to bed and popped another anti-sickness tablet. I figured I'd just puked the last one up so I might as well have another one. 

My throat still felt thick. This lasted for about a week. It was numb like when you have just finished a cough sweet and food didn't taste the same. 

During the next seven days I felt so tired. On day three I laid on the couch and I stayed there all day. Every time I had to go upstairs to use the toilet I felt like I was climbing Mount Everest. (And I've done the Yorkshire Three Peaks so I know what that's like). My little legs felt like they where going to snap on every single step. 

I felt nausea for a good seven days. We had to call the hospital to get a stronger anti-sickness tablet on day 3 because the sickness just wasn't getting any better. The problem with the new anti-sickness tablet was it gave me a really bad headache. My head felt like it was pulsing. Like I could feel my own heartbeat in my head. If I kept my head really still I swear I could see my glasses moving with the beat of my pulsing brain.

That's another thing about messes with your mind! I couldn't concentrate on anything. I had days where Michele found me laid on the couch just staring at the back of it unable to even concentrate on the tv. There was an incident with the light switch. I thought it was ringing. I made Michele listen to it. Yes that's right I made my boyfriend LISTEN TO A LIGHT SWITCH! I'm going nuts. I said things I didn't realise I had said. I forgot other things I'd just said. When i could get to sleep my sleep was heavy. My dreams where vivid and I found it difficult to wake my puffy eyed steroid pumped moon face. 

So you get the picture? That's round one done. At times I felt so sick I thought about not carrying on. I told Michele I didn't want to have any more chemo. But now I'm feeling better I'm ready for the next one. BRING. IT. ON.

No one said chemotherapy was going to be easy. I'm not doing this for fun. 

I'm doing this because I want to live. 


Saturday 26 September 2015

D-Day Looms

I'm starting chemotherapy on Monday 28th September. That's in two days time.

I'm ridiculously nervous as you can imagine. It's weird I know I'm not going to be up for doing much for the next six months so I've been trying to fit in loads of fun stuff this week. Topshop treats, posh lunches, meals and drinks out. Lots of drinks out actually. To be fair this weeks been ace. (check the photo above) But now there's only two days to go and I'm running out of time and feeling pretty rubbish about it all.

Last night we went out for drinks with some of my work mates, which was lovely. However, when I'm in a large group it does make me notice how I deal with cancer. Usually with lots of jokes. Everyone knows I've got cancer and frankly I'm not ashamed about it. Hey you can either laugh or cry about it. I do realise that that can sometimes make people uncomfortable though. People relate cancer with death. No one wants to talk about death. Especially not on a Friday night.

Last night I had a cotton bud and a plaster on my arm were I had a blood test that morning. (The nurse had drawn a vampire smiley face on the plaster. Cute. So I'd kept it on for the night out) 'What have you done to your arm?' Asks rather rude random guy in the bar. 'Have you got aids? Or Gonorrhoea?' he chuckles.

'No I have cancer'. I said in the abrupt matter of fact kind of way I've become accustomed to saying it in.

I saw the colour drain from his face. As he stuttered and stammered trying to find the right thing to say I was howling with laughter inside. I like to think I'm a nice person generally. I don't like to think that I make my friends feel uncomfortable when I joke about cancer. But twats in bars? Yeah I can say what I want. If that means taking them down a peg or two. Bonus.

Actually theres been a couple of occasions after I was diagnosed that I've used my cancer as an excuse. Morally it's definitely questionable. A couple of weeks after I was diagnosed me and Michele went to our friends house. They were watching music videos on TV. I'm a massive Robbie Williams fan. (Sorry guilty pleasure). I asked them to put a bit of Robbie on. They said no. I said 'But I've got cancer so I should get my own way'. They looked fairly horrified to be fair but they put Robbie Williams greatest hits on TV and it was on all night. 

The other day I even used my cancer to get out of paying a fine on my Debenhams card. It was a £12 late payment fee. 'But I've got breast cancer. I had to have surgery. That's why I couldn't pay my bill on time' I whined in an email. Sure enough the fine was wiped from my account. 

I realise this is all pretty bad and honestly I really am a good person. But when life deals you a bad hand is it really so bad to try and use it to your advantage? There's a Silver lining in everything right? Cancer doesn't automatically turn you in to a Saint either. There's no handbook on how you're meant to deal with cancer day to day and what's morally acceptable. 

Below is an image of me at Pinturas Leeds two days before chemo. See despite what I said above I look like a decent human being don't I?! The tapas and drinks were all lovely and we had a great time. 

Actually do you reckon I could use my cancer to get free tapas and drinks?

Don't encourage me. 


Tuesday 15 September 2015

The IVF process AKA 'collecting the eggies'

I'm pretty sure every girl has a life plan. A life plan you don't mention to the man in your life at least until you're a good year in to your relationship - in case you sound like a pysco and he runs a mile! A girls life plan usually consists off a selection of things they want to achieve in life such as a career, buying a house, getting married etc and when they want to achieve all this by. Maybe lads have a life plan too? I'm pretty sure they just wing it though.

My life plan was nothing out of the ordinary. Get a degree, get a good job, fall in love, buy a house, get married and have babies. Simple. If I could become a millionaire in the process that would be great too.

I wanted two children. A boy and a girl. I'd have the first once I was married at about 29/30 years old. I'd have the second a couple of years after. I'd give birth naturally if possible. I'd breast feed. The plan was going great to be honest. I'd got a good job and fallen in love. We had just been for a viewing at a house we hoped to buy. 

Then everything changed.

Because I went and got fucking cancer.

The thing about cancer is it doesn't care about your plans. 

Before my diagnosis I had no idea chemotherapy could make you permanently infertile. I thought losing my hair was the major thing I had to worry about. Kath (BC nurse) burst that bubble pretty quickly. On the day I was diagnosed she went through the many common side effects of chemotherapy. She explained that chemotherapy kills fast growing sells such as cancer cells along with (good) fast growing cells. This is why you lose your hair. She went on to explain that chemotherapy may temporarily or permanently stop my ovaries producing eggs. We would therefore have to make arrangements for our future if this was to happen. 

Kath asked if we had any children either together or separately and how long we had been in a relationship. Dr S said he would arrange for the Reproductive clinic to contact us. 

'TOGETHER FOR THREE YEARS' Kath shouted after Dr S as he left the room to make the call. Apparently the IVF process is very strict in terms of funding. If you already have children or have not been in a relationship for very long you might not be able to freeze embryos on the NHS. To complete IVF without NHS funding costs thousands of pounds. 

We headed over to the Reproductive Clinic about a week after my diagnosis. We met with Dr R and he was very informative and took us through the whole process of freezing our embryos. There was so much information to take in. After we had seen Dr R I'd had a Prostap injection to bring on a temporary menopause. Yeah that's right I've got the menopause to deal with now too! (Hot flushes and all) I need this to protect me as my cancer is oestrogen positive meaning oestrogen makes it grow. I also started taking Letrozole tablets at this point too. These are a type of hormone therapy. 

After my Prostap injection I had a scan. As I laid on the bed I naively thought this would be a scan like pregnant woman have. I've seen it on films. The nurse will gently move the probe across my stomach and me and Michele will look lovingly at each other as we look at my little eggs on the ultrasound screen. Ermmm well it didn't quite go like that. The nurse took the probe that was attached to the ultrasound machine. Slicked on a condom added a bit of gel and shoved that straight up my vagina. No messing about. Not even dinner and drinks first. 

I had a bout 5 scans on separate occasions before I was ready for my eggs to be collected. I was also having injections daily for nearly two weeks at 10pm every night. These were administered at home by Dr Michele. (Best doctor I know) I couldn't face injecting myself in the stomach every day. I hate injections! I know what you are thinking. I should have got used to them by now. Well I haven't.

I was very nervous on the day of the egg collection. I kind of resented Michele for just being able to have a wank in a cup when I had to have a giant needle shoved up my vagina. I was second in the que for surgery. I heard the lady in front tell the anethesist she wasn't nervous and she just wanted to get it done. Bitch. 'I want the most drugs' I chirped at the anethesist when it was my turn to see her. 'The most you can give me'. 'We can't put you under Kirsty. Just heavily sedate you' the anethesist explained. 'That's fine but as much sedation as you can'.

The surgery went fine. I remember having to put my legs in stirrups and having an oxygen mask put on. Then there was a bit of 'cafuffilling' down below. The anethesist told me I could close my eyes if I wanted. Then she said I'm all done. As quick as that. I was actually in there for about 20 minutes. I think they give you some sort of drugs so that you don't remember what happened. I was wheeled back to the recovery room to sleep off the sedation.

I went home and slept for the rest of the afternoon. The next day I felt fine but the day after that and for the next couple of days I did have an awful stomach ache. I also looked about six months pregnant. We even rang the out of hours nurse at one point because we thought I might have ovarian hyperstimulation. It turns out it was nothing to worry about. It was just because, due to my situation, I wasn't having the embryos transferred back in. So they had pumped me with drugs and then just stopped so my body was just having a bit of a hard time dealing with it.

They ended up collecting 14 eggs. 6 of which fertilised successfully. I know IVF isn't always successful but at least we have been given this chance. 

You never know we might end up with six kids! (Help)

Saturday 5 September 2015

Wig Shopping

After I got my surgery results one of the breast cancer nurses told me she would get in touch with the wig shop so they could send me an appointment to have a wig fitted at the hospital. 

Ah the inevitable wig shop. When I was first diagnosed with cancer there were two things that I remember the breast cancer nurse telling me that caused me to cry. (Well cry a bit more than I already was. I had just been told I'd got cancer) One was 'possible permanent infertility' and the other was 'temporary hair loss'. I'm really embarrassed that I'm putting both those things in the same bracket. Obviously I'm more upset about the infertility but I can't help but be sad about loosing my hair. Kath (BC nurse) tells me that everyone gets upset when she mentions hair loss but I can't help but feel ridiculously vain that losing my hair makes me feel so emotional.

The wig shop that my breast clinic uses is Hair Plus in Leeds City Centre so me and mum and dad thought it would be a good idea to go and have a look around the shop before I have my wig fitting at the hospital. Hair Plus is located in the County arcade in Victoria Quarter. I had no idea where this was. I was a tad concerned when the nurse told me it was near the market. Oh god Its going to be some sort of fancy dress shop isn't it?! I'm going to end up with an illuminous Green wig or something! If I'm lucky maybe they'll be a witches Halloween outfit available and I could just use the Black wig from that. Hey the broom would even come in handy for brushing up my own hair when it falls out!! 

Anyway it turns out the shop was actually very nice and over in the posh part of town right opposite Mulberry. I'd been too preoccupied navigating me and the family over to the shop that I hadn't even thought about what to say when I entered the shop. Thankfully Mum saved the day (as always) and gently explained that I had cancer and just wanted to have a look at the wigs before my fitting at St Luke's hospital. 

The wig fitter was a lovely lady and let me try on a lot of wigs! I definitely felt like the wigs felt like wigs (does that even make sense) but the wig fitter said that was normal and it was just because I knew it was a wig. 

I would definitely recommend that patients try on the wigs before their actual fitting. I now have a bit more of an idea of what I want and don't want. I also know what the wigs actually feel like on (FYI hot and itchy) so I know what to expect. 

The picture at the top of the post is of me with a wig. Can you tell?? This was the selfie I did of myself. The 'wig shop lady' took aload more photos of me with various wigs on but as anyone who knows me will tell you I'm not great at having my photo taken (not unless I've had copious amounts of vino anyway). As soon as someone takes my picture I feel the need to smile (Michele says this is my insessive need to please people). But my smiles always awkward and then I always blink so I always have my eyes closed in the photo or just one eye closed, which makes me look like a heroin addict! 

I'm sure I'll be writing a lot more about wigs in the coming months and posting more photos. Although they are likely to be selfies. 


The Results are in!

It's been a tense two weeks and finally a couple of days ago we got the surgery results!

The tumour has been completely removed and my lymph nodes are clear so the cancer hasn't spread. We are all very relieved! 

We were given the news by Dr Boobs. (Sorry can't remember her real name) Dr Boobs thought it was appropriate to wear a low cut top revealing her orange bra to a Breast Clinic. A Breast Clinic you know where woman are told they are going to have their boobs cut off or in my case a chunk cut out of one. I'm no prude but I just found her completely inappropriate. She could be telling someone they are going to die for all she knows. 'Hey we have to chop both your tits off so you don't drop dead but to make you feel better check out my voluptuous rack!' Cheers Dr Boobs. Nice one. 

It wasn't just her inappropriate display of cleverage that pissed me off about Dr Boobs. On entering the room she walked straight over to my mum and asked if she was Kirsty. Ermmmm no that would be me. You see that paper in your hand with my date of birth on maybe have quick gander at that before you enter the room. Maybe next time I'll just wear an 'I have cancer' sticker on my forward. It would probably be about as appropriate as her fucking dress. 

She finally told me the results. Michele clapped when she said the cancer hadn't   spread. She continued to tell me what treatment I would be having with lots of pauses for emotion. Why does she want me to cry anyway? I will not cry in front of this idiot. 'You are going to have to have chemo.....' (Long pause for effect). 'Yeah I know' has she even read my notes at all! 

I was glad to be out of there this time and relieved to have some good news for a change but I'm crossing my fingers that Dr S is back next week. 

Or that Dr Boobs puts a jumper on. 


Thursday 3 September 2015

The Surgery

In the couple of weeks after my cancer diagnosis all I wanted was this lump out! 

That was until the day of my lumpectomy where all i wanted was to stay in bed and pretend I didn't have cancer at all! Obviously the radioactive injection I had to have the previous day wasn't having the desired effect in that I was hoping it was going to turn me into Superwoman, with an unbelievable pain threshold as one of my special powers! 

The day of the surgery I had to be at Bradford Royal Infirmmary for 7:30am. I had to fast before surgery so no breakfast for me. I was starving! I got to Ward 12 Mum, Dad and Michele all in tow and I was extremely nervous. It all seems so real once you're in the hospital and have been allocated your own bed. 

I got into my gown and my (not very sexy) White stockings. I was then joined by a nurse who started the long process of 'form filling'. They have so many forms to fill in it's ridiculous and I'm sure the nurses time would be better spent actually helping people!

Next came Dr Nervous. He was a junior doctor and he nervously asked me a million questions and hurriedly scribbled down my answers. Allergic to any medicines? No. Any heart problems? No. Any cancers or anything? Erm....Yes. I have breast cancer. That's why I'm here I answered far too abruptly. Sorry Dr Nervous. He coughed and quickly wrote it down.

In comes Dr S. I need to mark you up states Dr S ushering me to take my top off. Since I found my lump I've got so used to taking my top off and getting 'the girls out' that I reckon I could get them out in the middle of Asda and barely bat an eyelid! Dr Nervous concentrates very hard on his form filling. Poor boy I don't think his used to women getting their boobs out in front of him! Dr S draws on my left breast. ' X marks the spot' I joke. I see the corner of Dr S's mouth turn up but he doesn't quite smile. Dr S doesn't like to laugh.

I'm 'third in line' for surgery so I wait patiently until about 10:30am. Then the nurse calls me to go through. 'Do you need the loo?' I'd been for about eighteen 'wees' already so one more wont hurt. Then I was off, pillow in hand, on my way to theatre. Mum, Dad and Michele following behind me. Once we were outside the theatre I held back tears as I said my goodbyes to them. 

The theatre room was like Holby City. About 5 anethatists in blue gowns surrounded my bed, where I delicately laid my pillow down. 

This is it.

My kind nurse from Ward 12 undressed my top half and helped me on to the bed. One of the anethatists introduced herself to me and then snapped at the nurse for undressing me before I had got on the bed. God there's office politics in every office even if the office is a theatre.

By the time I was on the bed my leg was shaking. Familiar anethatist, who I had met earlier on in the morning, squeezed my foot and told me I'd be ok. It all happened very quickly from then onwards. A nurse started putting sticky stuff on my back, another was checking my blood pressure and pulse. A canula was put in to my hand and I started getting injections through it. I felt a liquid come up the back of my throat and I heaved and coughed. 'Sorry that was just me' said an anethatist. God knows what that was. I was starting to feel a bit whoozy. 'Now Kirsty you will feel an ache going all the way up your arm now'. This hurts. 'Arrrggghh'. 

I can hear familiar hospital beeps. I'm awake! Yes I've made it, I'm not dead!! I can see an anethatist with dark black hair and tanned skin. I started asking if she was Chilean as she looked like my friend. As the porter wheeled me back to Ward 12 I started blabbering on about how clean the hospital was and that it should be on Tripadvisor! (how embarrassing) I was so drugged up! 

The nurse wheeled me past the waiting room on to the ward explaining to my family that she needed ten minutes and then they could see me. I gave them a quick wave (Michele tells me I was still cross eyed at this point) and they waved back obediently. 

After a few minutes Mum, Dad and Michele joined me and I was still blabbering on about something or other. I felt very 'peaky' but I wasn't sick. 'I think you're just glad to be alive' Michele says laughing. Yeah I'm definitely glad it's over with! 

Later the nurse tells me I had a bit of a bleed during surgery and I had two bandages on one of my wounds. A waterproof bandage and a pressure bandage on top of that. She said she would like me to stay in hospital overnight so they could keep an eye on me. Visiting hours were over so I was left alone for a bit whilst I had my tea. Eurgh hospital food is disgusting! Soup that was meant to be minted pea but tasted like spicy vegetable. Followed by soggy pasta and over processed rice pudding. At least during tea time I got to know some of the other girls that were in there. A lovely blonde lady who seemed to want to talk to everyone. She had earlier helped tie the back of my gown so I could walk to the toilet without my rather fabulous paper knickers being on show! Also the lady next to her who had just had a mastectomy, who kindly offered me her orange juice. 

After tea I struggled to move my tray back and couldn't put the bed back down as I had no idea were the control was - So no sleep for me. I was hoping I would catch one of the nurses attention when they walked past but unfortunately they didn't walk past very often. To be honest they probably had more important things to do than adjusting my bed. 

My favourite time of the day in hospital was when it was 'drug time'. The nurse would walk through the ward with her drug cart like a mafia drug dealer and we were her smack heads desperate for their next fix. She told me I could have some more codeine and ibuprofen and then gave me an injection in my stomach. 

Mum, Dad and Michele came back to see me at the next visiting slot, which was 7pm. They were quickly followed by Dr S. I didn't expect to see him so late in the evening but he explained he had only just finished for the day. 'Why are you staying overnight' he asked abruptly. 'Erm....because the nurse told me to' I stuttered. 'You need to sleep and you won't sleep here. I'm happy to discharge you'. I had gotten used to the idea of staying overnight but I was more than happy to get back to my own bed and so I quickly got dressed. (Well as quickly as I could after surgery. Both mum and Michele helping me).

I started making my way out of the hospital. Ward 12 seemed such along way from the exit. I was really warm and by the time I was on the ground floor I was desperate for a drink of water. Michele rushed ahead to get some from the vending machine at reception while I sat with mum on some seats in the corridor. Unfortunately, the vending machine was broken so Michele went back upstairs to get a bottle of water. I started to feel a bit sick so I thought I best start making my way to the car. Dad had gone ahead to bring it nearer to the exit. I got outside and down the steps feeling sicker and sicker. Then a wave of nausea stopped me in my tracks. (Oh no I'm going to faint) I looked around for a seat as black spots started to blur my vision. The only seat I could see was in the smoking area a few feet away. Mum had started shouting for help by this point as I was wobbling all over the place. A man rushed over to help and hoisted me up by my left arm that I had just had surgery on. I screamed out in pain. Mum screamed at him to let go. Bless him he was only trying to help. Eventually he let go and I threw myself onto the seat in the smoking area. Next thing I know there was the porter there with a wheelchair and a nurse from Ward 12 waiting to take me back to the ward. It was like i had failed the first hurdle. 

I went back into the hospital until my blood pressure went back up. I was allowed to leave at about 9pm. I did a couple of test runs to the toilet to make sure I was up for the walk. In the end it was decided I would leave in a wheelchair. 

I'm now two weeks since surgery and pretty much back to normal apart from a little nerve tenderness. It was definitely difficult for the first few days. The first day or two I couldn't even get out of bed without help. I struggled not being able to have a proper bath for the first five days. The problem with a wound on your armpit is that your bandage can quite easily stink! The most shocking thing was the blue nipple I have due to the dye they put in during surgery. Apparently this can take 18 months to fade! Brilliant. So add having a smurfs nipple to the list of cancer problems. Oh and don't forget the blue pee! Which I noticed when I first went to the toilet....oh and yes the poo is blue as well. Like shitting slug pellets kind of blue!...No one said cancer was pretty!

At least the pain (and smell) ((and blue  smurf like bodily fluids)) was a distraction from the long wait for the results from surgery. If the tumour is not out with a good margin for error I would need to go back for further surgery. This happens to one in five woman who have this kind of surgery. There's also the lymph node biopsy results to worry about. I had a sentinel node biopsy during the surgery to remove my tumour. If breast cancer spreads to another body part it is likely to spread to the lymph nodes first. So if my lymph nodes show signs of cancer....well that wouldn't be good news.

So fingers crossed...

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