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. 

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