Monday, 26 December 2016

Merry Christmas - you're discharged

Just before Christmas I was officially discharged from oncology – this was a really nice early Christmas present! It is is a major step after 18 months of cancer treatment. I know I still have a long way to go but It's such a relief.

I had to wait 1 hour and 40 minutes to see Dr Bradley - he's a very busy man. But he gave me lots of time during my appointment to discuss my worries and all my current side effects that I'm struggling with and he let me do this in great detail, which I'm very thankful for as that is not always the case with oncology.

My main issues at the moment is my continuing struggle with chronic fatigue, which Dr Bradley said was perfectly normal. I'm also having a few cognitive issues at the moment, which again Dr Bradley said was perfectly normal and we will monitor. I'd also been having some pain in my kidneys so he examined me but wasn't overly worried so he said we would keep an eye on things. I'm seeing a specialist regarding my tooth pain, which he was happy with and, again, we’ll keep an eye on it.

We discussed in great detail the prospect of the cancer returning, which is obviously my biggest concern. He's told me that I don't need to ring oncology every time I have a cold but if it's something that is persistent and doesn't go after a couple of weeks I should call him and they’ll bring me in. He also said if I have any pain that feels new for me. For example if I get a random pain in my thigh for no reason that I've not had before I should call and they’ll bring me in for an appointment. This all seems a bit scary but I was actually quite relieved. Being discharged from oncology made me feel like my comfort blanket was being removed and I was just being left to get on with it. It feels good to know that I can ring my oncologist or breast cancer nurse at any time with any worries and they can bring me back in to oncology if necessary. 

So the Christmas celebrations commenced in style!

Last year I had my fourth chemotherapy treatment on the 23rd December, which meant I felt pretty rubbish by Christmas Day. I couldn't really go out much because of my immune system and the risk of infection. So this year Michele took me to Manchester Christmas markets. We went on a Thursday so it wasn't quite as busy and I loved it.

Last year all the lovely Christmas food tasted of cardboard and I couldn't even eat most of it even if I wanted to as I was on a strict chemotherapy diet (it's a bit like a pregnancy diet but stricter) Cured meats, soft cheese, prawns and pate were all off limits. I remember trying a sip of wine on Christmas Day and it felt like it was burning my throat as  my mouth was so sore. This year I well and truly made up for it on both the food and the drink front.

Mum bought this guy…

It is as big as it looks and it was delicious. 

Mum and dad made a perfect Christmas dinner. 

Mum got a Christmas temp job at M&S solely for the fact she wanted a discount on the food. I've officially sampled all the M&S party food and desserts they make. They are all amazing. I ate ALL of the pate! Apologies if you tried to get brie from the supermarkets over the Christmas period. They were probably sold out because I ATE IT ALL!! Muhahaha!!

I probably put on about a million stone in weight but it was worth every mouthful. 

Best Christmas EVER!

So now it's new year and I'm very hopeful that this year is going to be a lot less ‘hospitally’ (-yeah I'm deciding ‘hospitally’ is a word) and lots more fun. 

I don't normally go with all this ‘new year new me’ rubbish but someone posted their ‘10 good things that happened to you in 2016’ on Facebook the other day and I thought that was a really good idea. I'm normally just winging and moaning on the blog so let's spread some positive vibes. Here's my ’10 good things that happened to me in 2016’: 

1. I finished chemotherapy in January. Then I completed radiotherapy. Then I finished my Herceptin injections in November. I can't say they were fun times but it's definitely a good thing they are now over with
2. Discharged from oncology. As I've said above it's a big relief!
3. I visited London
4. I did the London eye champagne experience and was lucky enough to go in a private pod with just Michele. Once in a lifetime experience.
5. I ate at Restaurant Gordon Ramsey's. Three Michelin stars baby!
6. I ate  at two other Michelin star restaurants. The box tree and Tyddlan Llan.  Both were amazing!
7. My hair started growing back. Happy days!
8. My eyelashes, eyebrows and nose hair started growing back. Nose hair is highly underrated. I'm glad it's back
9. My nails started growing back. My first gel polish was way too exciting.
10. I did the ‘Ultimate Beatles experience’ in Liverpool
11. I went on two family holidays. I went to Minorca and Fuerteventura with mum, dad, Darren and Michele all in tow. Good family times!
12. I visited Kefalonia. Love me a bit of Greece!
13. I sailed through the Melissani Cave. Absolute bucket list moment
14. I took the ‘ultimate selfie’ at Myrtos beach
15. I saw sea turtles in the wild in Argostolion.
16. I had an ‘all  natural’ mud mask at Lixouri beach
17. Had an ‘all natural’ fish pedicure in Fuerteventura
18. I went to Friends Fest. I'm a massive friends fan so this was amazing!
19. I celebrated Michele's 30th birthday with a big party. The fireworks might have nearly killed people but overall I think everyone had a good night
20. I became a media volunteer for Breast Cancer Care and featured in The Yorkshire Reporter and The Standard Issue Magazine
21. I booked Iceland as a gift for Michele's birthday. We go at the end of January and I'm so excited! 

Well I said I was only going to write 10 good things that happened to me in 2016 and evidently I've got completely carried away. (There's more too but I thought I best stop) I guess it shows that despite the cancer I've still had a pretty good year.

Here's to 2017! Plenty more adventures to come - I'll keep you updated ;-) 

Happy New Year everyone! x


Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Last Herceptin Injection

On 25th November I had my last Herceptin injection. This means I'm officially at the end of active treatment. Wahooooo!! I have been on herceptin for 12 months and had the injection every three weeks so this really has been a long time coming. A year ago I thought this day would never come! 

I've mentioned herceptin a few times on my blog but I'll give you a quick description of what it's all about for those of you who can't remember. 

Herceptin is a brand name for the medicine known as Traustazumb. I have herceptin injections because my breast cancer is HER2 positive. HER2 stands for Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2. HER2 makes cancer cells grow and divide very fast. This is why oncologists refer to my HER2+ breast cancer as a very fast growing and aggressive type of breast cancer. About 15-20% of breast cancer patients have HER2+ breast cancer. 

Herceptin is a wonderful drug that came about in 1998 and was first used for patients with terminal breast cancer. It started to be used for all HER2+ breast cancers by 2005. It works by attaching to the HER2 cells and immobilising them meaning they stop dividing and multiplying. 

If I had this type of breast cancer ten years ago I'm afraid my prognosis would not be very good. HER2+ breast cancers have a very high reoccurrence  and mortality rate. Herceptin is a long but very important aspect to my treatment and I am very grateful to be able to have it.

I  started my herceptin injections half way through chemo whilst I was having docetaxel chemotherapy. I did this because research indicates that this is the most effective way to have it by starting it alongside docetaxel. For my first injection I had to wait in the chemotherapy ward for six hours to check I didn't have an allergic reaction to it. Once I had finished my chemotherapy I was lucky enough to have Healthcare at Home administer it at my house every three weeks. Since Herceptin is a specialised chemotherapy drug only specially trained doctors are able to administer it meaning a lot of people have to continue going to the chemotherapy ward every three weeks for a year to have their Herceptin injection. I'm very grateful I was able to have injection 4-18 at my own home via the lovely nurses at Healthcare at home. 

The injection is a subcutaneous injection that goes in to my thigh. They alternate thighs each time. HAH nurses administer the injection and stay with me for two hours. As the nurses are nice we normally just have a nice chin wag and a brew whilst watching This Morning and Loose Women. As you can imagine this is much better than going back to the chemotherapy ward to have my injection every three weeks. 

The injection takes about 5 minutes to administer. One of my nurses once timed it on my iPhone and it actually took 4 minutes and 56 seconds from insertion until it was finished. It stings a lot when it first goes in and feels very similar to a bee sting for about a minute and then the stinging eases off and it just feels like a normal injection for the remainder of the time. 

Im glad my coffee table doesn't have to turn in to a make shift hospital every three weeks from now on. 

There are many side effects to Herceptin - but not everyone gets them all. Mine were quite similar to my chemotherapy side effects although not as extreme. Mine were mostly flu-like symptoms. Such as achy joints and tiredness. The problem is these are also similar side effect for Zoladex and after effects of chemotherapy so it's hard to determine whether it's the Herceptin or not.

The most serious side effect of Herceptin is heart failure. This is why for the last year every three months I've had to have a MUGA scan, which is a kind of heart scan. The MUGA scan makes sure my heart is still strong and working well enough for me to continue with my herceptin treatment. 

I've blogged about MUGA scans before so I won't bore you with any more science chat. I will say I'm glad I don't have to have them anymore. My last heart scan showed my heart was very strong so thankfully it doesn't look like the Herceptin has caused to much damage. 

God I feel like this was a really boring blog post with waaay to much medical chat! Didn't I also start it with ‘I'll just give you a quick description’?? Sorry guys! Ah well the main thing is my Herceptin treatment is now complete and it's another big chunk of my treatment that's thankfully over and done with. 

Merry Christmas everyone!...I'm off to eat ALL the pate and cheese!! xx

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