Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The finish line is just the beginning of a whole new race......

We had expected harsher side-effects from this round of Docetaxel as the cumulative effects of 5 rounds did their bidding so we did everything we could to make the process easier. Mum kindly gave-up her self-contained sanctuary at the end of the house as my chemo-cave and it worked a treat. The side-effects kicked-in within 24 hours but being able to lie in bed listening to her and Erica chase each other around the garden for the subsequent 5 days was medicine in itself.

I remember watching an interview with Kylie Minogue shortly after I was diagnosed and she spoke about the importance of being selfish in order to allow yourself to recover; I think that point has only just resonated with me. People have constantly been nagging me to the point of distraction to "take it easy dear", "you're doing too much", "you need to let your body recover". I hate that advice but I now realise that it really means "you need to be selfish". Allowing myself to truly become a patient and to relinquish control of my treatment was the hardest and most important lesson that I've learnt so far. Those of you who know me well will likely be sniggering at this point, I don't like not being in control, I think I lost control about 3 posts ago following the baldie comment and it was probably one of the most clarifying moments so far.

Don't get me wrong, now that I'm dropping the bravado I have spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about my prognosis - I can't control whether or not I'm going to survive this and I hate it but I refuse to let cancer define me.

I'm now weirdly intrigued by this disease, not to the point where I am researching emerging therapies and hippie herbal treatments but I am intrigued by the concept of cancer. It's been fuelled by a brilliant book that I've only recently discovered called "The Emperor of All Maladies" which is a Pulitzer prize-winning biography of cancer. I like the fact that it doesn't seek to make cancer sufferers out to be heroes like most of the infuriating books that people encourage me to read - it helps me to demystify and almost respect the complexity of the cells that have somehow made their way into my body.

Ramble over..... one more round of chemo and it's onto radiotherapy, 4 weeks later we do a scan - that scares the shit out of me!


Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The one where I start to rediscover my mojo...

As I successfully tick-off chemo round five and breathe-in the gorgeous Dartmoor air before retreating to my cave to endure the inevitable onset of side-effect roulette, I'd like to share with you some truths that I have reconciled in my mind following the self-absorbed week of darkness from which I am now emerging:
  1. I have been incredibly fortunate throughout my life, I've lived in some of the most fascinating corners of the world, developed life-long friendships along the way and can boast a very large and loving family. My parents have sacrificed so much to give my sister and I the best possible start in life and for that I am eternally grateful. They have taught us that when opportunity doesn't knock then it's up to you to build a door.
  2. Although it breaks my heart that we will never be able to have another child of our own, we are blessed with a kind, gentle and beautiful little girl (like her Daddy) who is hellbent on challenging the world around her (no idea where she gets that from...!) I'm going to make the most of every precious moment I have with her and will always remind her how much she is loved.
  3. My husband is awesome and gorgeous and will be one of the most successful bike shop owners in the country.
  4. I'm going to face my prognosis head-on. I have stage IIIc cancer, my chances of being alive within the next 5 years are anywhere between 41% and 67%. I'm lucky that my cancer is hormone receptive so hormone therapy should help to keep me at the upper-end of these odds but I'm now going to place a much heavier emphasis on the power of positive thinking.
  5. Once radiotherapy is over, we have some lovely trips and celebrations to look forward with some of our amazing friends.
  6. I don't care what the narrow-minded oi-baldie-shouting imbeciles think, I am going to embrace the baldness. My hair will grow back, they will spend their lives wishing they'd tried harder at school!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

The one where a stranger ruins everything.....

“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”  - Bertrand Russell

I still find it inconceivable that a complete stranger would be cruel enough to shout "Oi, baldie" as I passed him and his sniggering friends, what I also find incredible is the spiral of darkness that one single event managed to push me into. As I sat down wiping away tears of embarrassment and rage, I then made the ill-advised decision to watch "the c word".

As predicted, I spent the next couple of days pondering my prognosis and carrying around the sinking feeling that I may not get out of this alive. I wonder if that group of bastards have any comprehension of the impact that they can have on someone in one single moment of ignorance. In her blog, Lisa Lynch describes the impact that breast cancer has on your confidence; it's so much more than just losing your hair it's about losing your femininity; how can I expect my gorgeous husband to find me attractive when he spends chemo weeks shopping for nappy rash ointment and jumbo packs of toilet roll?! This crappy situation has robbed me of my boob, my figure, my hair, my eyelashes and my confidence. I think I have spent the last couple of months in a state of denial which manifested itself in the positivity that I continue to be "congratulated" on.

Whilst I won't allow myself to blame my boo on a single incident, I do need to find a way out of it. There is so much more to be thankful for, my hair will grow back, Mr Sanker will sculpt me a fantastic new rack and my bike will allow me to rediscover my size 10 curvaceousness;  the constant things in my life are the most precious and the things that getting me through - the fact that I am still breathing, my gorgeous sprog and my incredible family and friends.

Please bear with me, normal service will resume shortly!


Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Thank FEC that's over!

As I passed the mid-way point of the chemotherapy regime, we waved goodbye to FEC and hello to Docetaxel. People who work in oncology are rather reluctant to advise you on how specific chemotherapy drugs are going to make you feel, I have been told more times that I can count that everyone reacts differently to the drugs and the listed side effects are a "catch-all" so not to worry about having them all but when my chemotherapy nurse turned up to the session with a large oxygen canister I sensed that we were in for fun and games! She advised that I spend the session with my hands and feet in bags of frozen peas in order to minimise the ability for the drugs to reach my cuticles, apparently when that happens your nails start to fall off.......lovely!

Thankfully session 4 passed without incident, as did the next couple of days but as the 72 hour mark drew closer I started to understand what was different about these drugs. For some reason, docetaxel makes every inch of your body ache in random bursts, it was at this point that Mum drew on her nursing insight and instructed me to obtain the best codeine prescription I could get my hands on, thankfully my Doctor obliged and I managed to medicate myself through most of the toughest days. Luckily enough, the nausea and sickness didn't seem to play a part and that allowed me to sleep in-between visits from Erica through most of the weekend.

Although we were grateful that the "dark days" that plagued round 3 had not made much of a return, my Oncologist did warn that the cumulative effects of docetaxel are likely to be more severe followed by a confirmation that the hot flashes I've been experiencing are, in fact, the onset of menopause and that "I just need to find a way to deal with it"........ you can image the response that I bravely resisted throwing back at him! 

With that in mind, we've decided that it would make more sense if I did rounds 5 and 6 in Devon where I can allow Mum to take full control of my recovery and every other responsibility she has taken on in each round previous, I can't put into words how lucky I am to have her to care for Erica and nurse me through this without a mention of how it must be affecting her, I have no idea how I am going to repay her and Nathan for everything that they have done other than putting up the fight of my life!

I promise not to leave it so long before the next update and will be sure to put some thought into my "final chemo session" submission, there is a light at the end of the tunnel...!