Sunday 28 February 2016

The Ultimate Pre-Chemotherapy Shopping List

I'm someone who likes to be prepared. So before I started chemotherapy I searched high and low for a list of things that I needed to have in the house, whether it be biscuits or fluffy socks, for when I started chemo. 

I couldn't find one.

So here's my ultimate pre-chemo shopping list. Get yourselves to Asda.

had 6 rounds of chemotherapy. 3 EC followed by 3 Docetaxel. Both chemotherapy treatments are very different so I'll mark on the list whether the item is for EC chemo (EC), Docetaxel (T) or needed for both (B).

Obviously everyone reacts differently to chemo but, hopefully, you will find the below list useful if you are about to undergo chemotherapy treatment. 

- Rich tea biscuits (great for when you're feeling sick but need some sugar) (EC) 

- Plain crackers (as with rich tea biscuits these are great to line your stomach with when you're feeling sick) (EC)

- Ginger biscuits (Ginger can help to relieve nausea. I'm actually not that keen on ginger and funnily enough this didn't change when I started chemo but I hear ginger really helps some people so it's worth having a pack in the house) (EC)

- Ginger flavoured foods such as Ginger tea, ginger beer and boiled sweets (as mentioned above ginger helps to relieve nausea so they are worth a try even if, like me, you aren't a big fan of ginger) (EC)

- Boiled sweets (to mask the horrible taste you get in your mouth with EC. My sweet of choice was Humbugs) (EC)

- Potatoes (All I ate was jacket potatoes whilst on EC) (EC)

- Cheese (oh how I love cheese. As well as potatoes this was my food of choice when I was feeling nauseous. I always felt better once I'd eaten) (EC)

- Comfortable clothes (such as leggings, baggy tshirts and hoodies etc for chemo days and just lounging round the house)(B)

- Comfortable shoes (as above) (B)

- Pineapple chunks (pineapple is one of the only foods you can actually taste) (B)

- Pineapple juice (as above for when everything tastes disgusting) (B)

- Flavoured ice lollys (preferably pineapple flavoured) (B)

-  Anti bac Hand Sanitizer (we used this by the bucket load! Stock up!! I'm sure this is one of the reasons I didn't suffer with infections whilst on chemo) (B)

- Anti bac Handwash (as above) (B)

- Magazines/books (the chemo ward can be pretty boring. My mum bought me a subscription to Grazia magazine whilst on chemo. The genius! I did find it very difficult to concentrate at times but it's still worth stocking up) (B)

- IPod or other device (music is a great alternative for when you're are struggling to read  magazines or books due to not being able to concentrate) (B)

- Fluffy/thick socks (my feet where freezing after tax) (T)

- Slippers (as above but also if you ever find yourself spending time in hospital with infections) (B)

- Comfortable dressing gown and pj's (as above for those impromptu hospital visits) (B)

- Hot water bottle (great for relieving Tax aches and pains and for cold feet!) (T)

- Bath salts (I used Radox and Epsom Salts to relieve the Tax aches and pains (T)

- Muscle therapy bubble bath (as above. I used Radox but I'm sure other brands are as good)

- Soft tissues (to mop yourself up when you lose your eyelashes and nose hair - I won't elaborate further!) (B)

- Soft toothbrush (I was quite lucky on the mouth front and I'm sure that was because I brushed my teeth ((and tongue regularly)) (B)

- Thermometer (to carry with you although the hospital may provide you with one) (B)

- Sleep hats (to keep your bald head warm. I got mine from eBay) (B)

- Sea bands (good for nausea. I got mine from Amazon) (EC)

- Wine (or your alcohol of choice for your 'good week') ((the third week after chemo/week before your next chemo)) (B)

- Drink plenty of water on chemo day, the day before and the day after

- Eat a fairly plain evening meal the night before chemo and the day of chemo. I ate plain chicken, mash and vegetables. (No one wants to puke up a curry)

- Try and get your wig (if you are going to get one) before your second cycle of chemo as you are likely to have lost your hair before then if you are having EC chemo. I went for my wig fitting a few days after my first chemo cycle, and although I wanted to throw up for most of the appointment, I was glad I got it sorted.

- Go to the dentist before you start as you can't go whilst you're having chemotherapy

- Ask your Oncologist if you can have a flu jab before you start chemotherapy 

- Consider having semi-permanent make up applied before starting chemotherapy. (I wish I'd done this) As you can't have this done whilst having chemotherapy 

- Listen to your body and rest when you need to (this was the best advice I ever got) 

If you are reading this list because you are preparing to start chemotherapy then you are probably scared shitless (I know I was). But trust me when I say that chemotherapy is very manageable. No it's not going to be nice in fact at times you are going to feel pretty rubbish but it is manageable and it will be over before you know it. 

You have probably already had literally (it certainly feels like literally at times) everyone on earth say 'Be positive' to you, which is of course great advice but there are going to be bad days. Days where the last thing you feel like doing is being positive...

...and that's ok too. 


Wednesday 3 February 2016

Hair Today...Gone Tomorrow

I've realised I haven't really posted much about hair loss since mine decided to piss off and leave me. So, just to give you all an update, for the past couple of months I have officially looked like a cancer patient. 

This is me now. 

'Hellooooo...from the other side! No this is not the time to quote Adele lyrics. (I swear all these drugs are making me nuts).


Gone is the Jesse J, Sinead O'Connor, Demi Moore and Britney 2007 look. I don't feel like a strong, empowered, independent woman anymore who has stood up to cancer and shaved off all her hair to take back some control.

I feel and look like I have cancer. 

Losing your hair is pretty much like getting your bus pass when you're a pensioner in 'cancer world'. You are officially a member of the club. The cancer club.

I shaved my hair off on 10th October. 12 days after my first chemo. My hair decided to start falling out 17 days after my first chemo. 4 days before my second chemo cycle. So I guess I did the shave just in time.

I'm really glad I decided to shave my hair off before it decided to bugger off on its own accord. It was upsetting to see it come out in the bath and I could pull chunks out with my hand. But it was short hair I found in the bath and on my pillow and in my hands and I think it would have been so much more heartbreaking if this had been my long hair. 

The below picture shows the hair that had fallen out in the bath on 15th October. 17 days after my first round of chemotherapy. (Sorry if this is gross) 

The below picture shows the hair left in the bath a day later on 16th October. 18 days after my first round of chemotherapy. 

There's quite a bit of difference between the two pictures above even though the second picture is just a day later. However, I don't think my hair fell out as fast as I thought it would. I thought there would be big clumps falling out at a time. Of course it could just look less because the hair is very short as I shaved it off.

The picture below is the one that I sent my mum on Whatsapp prior to her visit so she knew what to expect when she came to see me. This was taken on the 18th October. 

A few days later most of my hair had gone. The below picture was taken on the 5th November and as you can see there are just a few scraggly hairs left. (I look like an old man!)

So I've been bald for a couple of months now. Although obviously I'd love to have my own hair back I've kind of got used to  being a baldie. When my hair grows back it's going to feel weird. 

I haven't ventured outside baring my my bald head since I lost my hair. Mostly because I think people will stare. Not necessarily in a mean way but in a 'I know you are really ill' kind of way. So I mostly stick to my wigs outdoors or I sometimes wear a turban if my wigs are causing me too much grief (they can sometimes be hot and itchy - especially now I'm menopausal). 

A few people have asked me why I didn't cold cap. Cold capping works by reducing the amount of chemotherapy drugs that reach the hair follicles therefore hopefully reducing hair loss caused by the drugs. The cold cap was offered to me at my hospital but I decided not to go ahead with it. (Excuse the pun) There's a few reasons why I chose not to cold cap. Firstly my BCN told me it rarely works. Even if it does work you are often left with bald patches and very thin hair. My hair was thin anyway and not in the best condition so I just didn't see the point of giving the cold cap a go. The procedure involves freezing your head, which is obviously quite a painful process. Patients are often given painkillers to cope with the pain. The procedure also prolongs your total chemotherapy time. I thought chemotherapy was bad enough without being there for longer, in more pain and having to take more drugs. Finally, I don't like the idea that cold capping stops the chemotherapy drugs reaching the hair follicles. To be honest this was the main reason I didn't even consider giving cold capping a go. I had chemotherapy as a preventative measure. They think they got all the cancer during my surgery and the chemotherapy treatment is just to make sure there are no stray cells knocking about my body and the cancer doesn't come back. The thought that the cold cap prevents the chemotherapy drugs reaching my hair just doesn't sit right with me. I know...I know...Doctors wouldn't lets us do it if they thought it was dangerous but the process just bothers me. I didn't go through chemotherapy for the fun of it. I want the chemotherapy drugs to reach every single inch of my body and I wouldn't have it any other way. Take my hair if you want. I don't care.

The hair on my body stopped growing as soon as the hair on my head fell out. Although my eyebrows and eyelashes decided to stick around for a bit, which was nice of them. They decided to wait until my fifth chemo and then they decided to vacate my body as well. Let me tell you life is tough without eyelashes and nose hair. My eyes water all the time as does my nose. The loss of my eyebrows is just an added annoyance. It's amazing how much eyebrows shape your face. Without eyebrows my face just looks like a blob. I'm really hoping they start growing soon. The below picture shows my eyes with and without make up. Thank god for make up!

Speaking of make up I recently attended a workshop called Look Good Feel Better at the Sir Robert Ogden Macmillan Centre, which is part of St James's hospital in Leeds. Look Good Feel Better was a great workshop teaching patients how to apply make up. It wasn't exactly a make up lesson at Mac but i still picked up a couple of tips and it was nice to meet a few other people who have cancer. Unfortunately I was still the youngest there by a long way. There was one other lady attending who I got chatting to who was quite young (a lot younger than the rest of the ladies) but she was still ten years older than me. (Lovely to meet her though). There where about 15 ladies attending the workshop and I found I was comfortable enough to whip off my wig after a few minutes, which was nice and stopped me getting moisturiser in my hair. The best thing about the workshop was the free goody bag. If you read my blog regularly you will know I LOVE a freebie! The bag contained loads of free skin care and make up by top brands such as Clarins, Clinique and No 7. The below picture shows all the lovely items I received in my goody bag. 

I would definitely recommend attending a Look Good Feel Better session. It's worth it even for the goody bag alone. Go to to find your nearest workshop and feel free to messege me if you want any more information regarding my experiance. 

I should also mention that I also attended the 'Headstrong' workshop at the Sir Robert Ogden Macmillan Centre. Unfortunately I didn't feel this workshop was very good. It was very unorganised and started late, which was a bit annoying considering me and my mum had travelled from Silsden and had already been waiting a while. One of the ladies attending who I had been chatting to got quite upset during the workshop. (It is traumatic losing your hair after all) and after a few minutes one of the organisers snapped 'Are you ok now then?' In front of everyone. I found this quite insensitive. We got an information leaflet regarding hair loss, which didn't contain any information that I didn't already know. They said they recommend that everyone try's the cold cap. (You've read my feelings on that above). They said don't shave your hair off before chemo. (Hmm as you can see from my head scarf I've already done that. Oh and I raised three grand for Macmillan in the process but cheers love). They also said don't use anything to promote hair growth. Why can't we use products to promote hair growth if they are inexpensive and make us feel better? It sometimes good for patients to try and gain back some sort of control. FYI I'm currently using the New shampoo bar and Roots conditioner from Lush. A lot of ladies in my support group have used this and seen good results. They had a lady from Calendar news speaking as she had recently had breast cancer. The organisers where cooing over her but I just couldn't relate to her at all. She showed us lots of pictures of her in her wigs and yes she looked great. But I'm sure she was able to spend a lot of money on her wigs and most of us aren't as lucky. There was another lady who had just had breast cancer who spoke at the end of the session. I found i could relate to her much more and I learnt a lot more listening to her than some Z list celebrity. I hate to write negatively regarding workshops like this but I can't say it was good if it wasn't. Me and mum left before the end of the session. I know some people in other areas have enjoyed the Headstrong workshop so please don't rule it out in other areas based on my opinion. 

Sorry this must be like reading a shit review on some sort of NHS Tripadvisor. Let's move on...

So I really hope my hair starts to grow soon and grow quickly. Please can everyone cross their fingers? 

In addition my nails don't look great either. They have ridges and a few look like they have started to come away from the nail bed as you can see from the picture below. (Sorry it's a gross picture).

I've been using Onicolife drops for a while now to try and save them. I asked one of my doctors if there is anything I can do to protect them but she just said they would eventually grow out. I have heard dark nail varnish is good to use so I'm going to give that a go along with lots of nail strengthener.

So if you could all cross your fingers for my nails too? 


Monday 1 February 2016

Last Chemo!

On Wednesday 13th January 2016 I had my last round of chemotherapy. (I feel like I need to write the date in full as its such a milestone.) That's 3 rounds of EC and 3 rounds of Docetaxel over and done with. I feel like I should be over the moon with joy and celebrating like I've just won an Oscar but I just feel knackered.

On the day of my last chemotherapy I pretty much skipped to the ward. This is a delightful change to how I usually feel. I knew I still had three weeks of side effects to deal with but at least it would be for the last time. 

I really wanted to get the nurses a little something to thank them for looking after me over the last few months. I bought them two tins of Quality Street for Christmas so I didn't really want to get them chocolate again. So with a little help from the lovely ladies at my support group (YBCN) I settled on a hamper. I put in a few useful things that I thought would come in handy as well as some treats. 

They seemed really made up with it so I was pleased. 

I had my Herceptin injection first. It seemed to sting more this time but once I told the nurse she slowed it right down, which made it a lot more comfortable. 

The Docetaxel was administered as normal. 

When I was done I hugged all the chemo nurses goodbye and said I hoped to see them again...but not in the chemo ward maybe just around Bradford. I then left with more drugs than Pete Doherty consumes in a year... 

When I was halfway through chemo i created a list of what i learnt so far on EC chemo. You can find the list HERE. So now I've finished chemo I thought I'd create a list of what I've learnt from Docetaxel;

- You're ill for longer on Docetaxel (Tax) On EC I felt ill for about a week. On Tax I felt ill for about two weeks. Although the first three days after chemo you don't feel too bad. Then boy does the Tax truck hit you!

- YOU DON'T FEEL SICK!! This was the best thing about coming off EC chemo. EC made me feel nauseous. Tax didn't. Hallelujah.

- Bone/muscle pain. This was horrible. My whole body ached from top to bottom. Think flu aches but a lot worse. My top tip would be to take painkillers  before the pain sets in. This made my fifth and sixth chemo a lot more manageable than my fourth. I also spread out my painkillers throughout the day. 

- Extreme fatigue. This was worse on Tax than on EC (and I thought the tiredness on EC was bad) This, along with the bone pain, means you feel like a 90 year old. 

- Your hair starts to grow back. With EC chemo your hair is guaranteed to fall out. However, that's not the case on Tax. The hair on my head has started to grow back over the last few weeks and, although there's not enough for me to go wig-less yet, I'm glad it's started to make an appearance. I've missed you hair!

- Loss of eyebrows and eyelashes. What Tax brought back with head hair it takes away with eyelashes/eyebrows. My eyebrows and eyelashes went quite sparse with EC but there was still quite a few hairs clinging on. Enter my fifth chemo and they are no more. Here was me thinking I'd got away with it. 

- Nail changes. I've now got two ridges on each nail. One for my fifth and sixth chemo. One finger nail on my right hand has turned white half way down meaning it has started to come away from the nail bed. A few of my other nails look like they are following suit. My thumb nail is turning black too. I quite liked my nails. It's a shame it looks like they have decided to fall off. 

- Constipation (sorry). Tax provided some fabulous bathroom experiences. Constipation, diarrhoea, bleeding. Lots of bleeding actually. I won't elaborate too much but it's a good job we have two toilets in our new house. 

- Taste changes. This happened on EC but was a lot worse on Tax. My tongue was white and fluffy. Everything tasted of cardboard. Plus, to coincide with the body aches I also had pain in all of my teeth. As well as my gums. I brushed my teeth after every meal which helped.

- Chemo brain. Yeah that's still happening. Don't ask me to remember anything. 

- Watery eyes and nose. I'm not sure if this is a side effect of Tax or Herceptin. Either way when you see me I promise you that you haven't made me cry. Apparently this is just what my eyes do now. 

- I'm still fat. I thought my appetite may decrease due to my loss of taste. But no this girl can eat. They increased my steroid intake for Tax too, which didn't help. The steroids made my body inflate like the Michelin man as well as giving me more of the joyful emotions everyone came to love whilst I was on EC ('Roid-rage', depression etc...)

- Hot flushes. Enter the menopause. I didn't think I'd have to deal with this at 27 but here we are. 

Overall I actually found Tax a lot more manageable than EC even though it's supposed to be the stronger chemotherapy drug. But I think that's just personal preference as I find pain a lot easier to deal with than sickness. 

Going forward I'm still having my Herceptin injections and I'll be having my second Radiotherapy consultation on Friday. 

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