Pic Lines and Buzz Cuts

Today, I am 6 days on from my second round of chemotherapy. After having a few days on the sofa feeling sorry for myself I thought I would write my blog. The sun is shining at last, although I can’t seem to tolerate the sun at the moment. I havent been out but have been lying on my sofa looking out at my garden and pots of flowers. I love this room; it is light and airy, and I enjoy lying here feeling the breeze through the door. The cats wander in and out frequently to meow at me or look at their food bowl.

I have lovely family photos on one wall and one of my mum’s fabulous paintings on another (clever mum). My sofa points towards the door so I can prop up on cushions and look straight ahead into my garden. The washing is drying on the line and my chilli plants are sunbathing. The ones that haven’t been eaten by slugs anyway! That is another story!

After seeing the oncologist last week, they decided to reduce my chemotherapy due to previous dehydration due to tummy issues. I was slightly reluctant in case it was less effective. However, they reassured me it was better than having a break in treatment due to side-effects.

I went a few days before my treatment, to have my PICC line inserted. This is a cannula that is fed into a vein in the arm and into a large vein in the chest, above the heart. I was not keen on having this, initially, but the medication is so toxic it can ruin perfectly good veins. My veins are lovely! So, I wanted to keep them. My hand is still sore and swollen from the first session, so I thought it the best option. It was supposed to me a half hour procedure, but in line with how my body reacts to medical things, mine wouldn’t go in! It got stuck somewhere near my shoulder.

After lots of pulling it out and pushing it back in it was eventually in but needed an Xray to check. I have now got used to the little friend in my arm and it doesn’t bother me unless I lean on it. It is much easier for treatment and bloods, and it should stay in until my final dose (that day cannot come soon enough).

A few days before treatment I also buzz cut my hair, as it had started falling out in clumps. When I say ‘I’, Jane popped round and did the deed in my back garden. It felt odd. To start with I was ok, it’s just hair. Then I wasn’t ok….. I looked like a patient.

Treatment day came and went. All went ok except I developed a rash which needed checking. I think my body was reacting to the steroids a little bit. I had some different sickness medications to take home this time. Tummy issues have returned but hopefully I can manage it without the dehydration this time. I stopped worrying about my lack of hair once I had feeling rough to worry about! Before my treatment started, I received a box of treats from a company called Little Lifts. It is for people going through cancer treatment. The bits in the box are wonderful and it contains things you wouldn’t know you would need. Lip balm, hand cream, mints, gentle toothpaste, hot pack and loads of other treats. I’ve dipped into this box many times and will do many times to come. Link to Little Lifts is here.

Helen picked me up after treatment with a wonderful bunch of sunflowers and cake. Friends and family messaged me often to check my well being and my wonderful neighbour Yasmin came round with homemade soup and healing thoughts.

Once again though I am turning a corner and starting to feel a little but more myself. Yesterday, my guitar came out for the first time in a while and played some of Boulevard of Broken Dreams. I’ve also restarted reading my book ‘Wintering’, Katherine May. Although we are in the middle of July, Wintering is around hibernating and hunkering down. That is exactly what I feel like doing at the moment. Resetting and healing myself. Sometimes we just need to listen to what our bodies need.

How can it be cancer??

Morning, I am sitting here in my lounge at 5am, looking out of my double doors into my little garden, sipping weak tea (coffee tastes foul at the moment) and writing my thoughts down from the last couple of months. The giant daisies are blooming well, I have a few pots of wild flowers popping up and my hydrangia is starting to show its pink bloom. I am no gardener but I love flowers (and pretty weeds) so I don’t do much to my garden except plant a few things and sit in it! I love my lavender as the bees visit it often and it reminds me of lovely times in France.

It has been a rocky couple of months and it was only at 4.30am this morning that I woke up and thought, I want to write about it now. So lets begin. This is a long one so get comfy (and a weak tea!).

At just after 50 years old I had my first mammogram (don’t worry I’m not going to go back too far!) 🙂 It was all fine. So we thought. Fast forward two years and I felt a sizeable lump in my boob. I was recovering from my foot operation so it was more like ‘Oh what now’ rather than, ‘Oh, a lump, lets get that checked out’. I’d already had fun and games going back and forth to the GP with HRT/coil issues. It just felt like another thing to see the GP about. So I left it, for a while, until it wasnt for going away.

So, onto a two week wait I went, that is the cancer pathway for anyone with anything that could be suspiscious gets referred to, and it does seem to work well. I presumed it would be like the last lump I had and just be a harmless lump. How can it be cancer?? However, at the scan I felt that this wasnt going to be the case. The radiologist left a titanium marker in the lump, measured it with scans and took three biposies (ouch). and had another mammogram (extra ouch after the three biopsies!).

Results day came and I was so anxious I was almost sick in the waiting room. Not knowing, I think, is the worst thing. Knowing it was something, but not know what! We went in and a nurse was there with the consultant. Oh no, a nurse there….

They were lovely and explained that I had Grade 2 invasive ductal cancer….but that it is treatable with an intent to cure. Bursting into tears of relief, I had hung onto the words ‘intent to cure’. I had spent a couple of weeks imagining all sorts of scenarios. Minds are horrible places sometimes. I was stressed and highly anxious. The team at the oncology unit, breast cancer unit and Macmillan are fabulous and are being very supportive. The link for Macmillan is here if you want it.

Next came the MRI scan to accurately measure the size of the little bugger and formulate a treatment plan around that. If you havent had an MRI on your boobs, you get told to lie on your front on a table with two massive holes in it. I tried to break the ice by saying ‘Youre not expecting me to fill those are you?’ Then realised I had my gown on back to front and forgot my name. Its weird being a patient. I dont think I make a very good one. I knew it would be surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, a year of injections and 5-10 years of tablets, we just didnt know which order. Thats a lot to take in for someone who barely takes a paracetamol!

Unfortunatly the MRI scan showed it to be double in size than what they had measured on the first scan…chemotherapy here we come. The other things will come later. It needed to be shrunk down a bit first.

A couple of days before my first session we decided to have a night away in Almouth. I wanted to be by the sea, it is a calming place. I was so anxious, waiting is horrible. It was a good distraction. We had a lovely walk on the beach in the evening and had pizza and red wine sitting on the sand (it even stopped raining eventually). Fresh sea air, two chilly sea swims, chatting, laughing, a bit of crying, wine and pizza. It was just what we needed. Amazingly, the following day, we saw two huge pods of dolphins close by the shore as we were sitting looking out to sea. It was absolutely magical.

I had my first chemotherapy session 8 days ago. I am just turning the corner of feeling well enough to write this, and to do anything really. It was been a rough week! The session itself was ok, except feeling really anxious about the treatment. These are unpleasant poisons. I was so worried about what they were going to do to my insides. But one thing they are doing, hopefully, is battering this cancer. And that is the only important thing in all this.

I’ve spent all my life nourishing my body and looking after it. Ive been vegetarien all my adult life, always been very fit and active. How did this happen? I do feel really sorry that my body is now having to cope with all these chemicals flowing through, and believe me, it is not happy with me at all. I wont go into details but I have had massive tummy issues, irregular heart rate which I needed to go in for an ECG for and huge headaches. I’ve been dehydrated (probably causing the heart rate issue) and everything tastes foul, including cheese! (like I’ve been chewing paracetamols). Its been white toast and water mainly over this week. Oh and imodium and sick pills and paracetamol. Yum. I am really bad at feeling poorly. Because I’m just not used to it. I have no patience for it as I have things to do. But, I am learning to lie on the sofa when I need to. I havent had much choice this week!

But, Im through the other side (hopefully) of this first round. I have booked a couple of PT sessions in for the end of the week, I’ll be able to go and instruct even if I wont be swinging 10 kg kettlebells around just yet. I hugely miss normality, and being in the park and seeing my people. It is such a massive part of my life.

I am lucky, even through all this shit, because this is being treated and hopefully cured. Many people don’t get so lucky. I have lost three friends in the last few years to breast cancer. I have got plans and things to do. I’ve got my gorgeous grown up boys and my eldest has just got engaged (on my birthday) so I have got so much to look forward to. My partner, family and friends are amazing and I feel so loved. Times like these (Foo Fighters) really make you take stock of your life and who and what is important.

Also, please don’t just rely on mammograms. This wasn’t picked up. Check yourselves and get to know what is normally there and not there.

Onward and upwards, one day at a time., one step at a time. We have bloody got this xx

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