Liebster award

I am delighted to have been nominated for a Liebster Award by the lovely Donna Marie. Donna is passionate about films and if you are a movie fan you will absolutely love her blog! Check it out here http://iheartfilmblog.com/.

Liebster (which means ‘favourite’ in German) is an award that is passed from blogger to blogger in order to help readers find new blogs to follow.

Thank you kindly for the nomination Donna, and here goes!

The rules:

  1. Acknowledge the blog that nominated you and display the award.
  2. Answer 11 questions that the blogger gives you.
  3. Give 11 random facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 5-11 blogs you think are deserving of the award that have less than 200 followers.
  5. Let the blogs know you have nominated them.
  6. Give them 11 questions to answer.

RULE 2: My 11 questions and answers are:

  1. What’s your favourite film and why?
    Bridesmaids for its hilarious comedy and feel good laugh out loud moments.
  2. Tropical or Ski vacation?
    Tropical
  3. What inspired you to start your blog?
    Having been diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, I initially started my blog to keep my family and close friends up to date with what was going on. However more latterly it has developed into a way to share my experience and connect with and help others who are walking a similar path.
  4. What’s your favourite post?
    Never Hide by Nalie
  5. Pumpkin or Sweet Potato Pie?
    Neither!
  6. Favourite animated film
    Up
  7. Where have you always wanted to visit but haven’t?
    The Maldives
  8. Your best day?
    Marrying my gorgeous hubby in front of our family and friends in the beautiful location of Ravello, Italy 🙂
  9. Dog or Cat?
    Cat
  10. Five blogs you follow?
    1) Young Women’s Breast Cancer Blog UK (http://youngwomensbreastcancerblog.blogspot.co.uk/)
    2) After breast cancer diagnosis (http://www.abcdiagnosis.co.uk/index.php/blog/my-blog)
    3) Alice… what’s the matter (http://alicewhatsthematter.com/)
    4) When it rains look for rainbows – The new normal – Living not suffering after cancer (https://whenitrainslookforrainbowsblog.wordpress.com/)
    5) Writing the wave – My journey with breast cancer (http://writingbreastcancer.com/)
  11. Favourite cartoon?
    Snoopy and Charlie Brown

RULE 3: 11 random facts about me

  1. I adore VW campervans (split screens are my favourite).
  2. I once appeared on TV in a makeover programme.
  3. I have an aversion to the words rubber necking, pamphlet and punter.
  4. I have a rather nervous disposition – the smallest things make me jump.
  5. I absolutely love Marmite (and cheese!).
  6. My parents said if they’d had me first they wouldn’t have had any more children!
  7. I’ve got a gap in my front teeth.
  8. I dislike peas, cream and custard.
  9. I’m related to Mary Quant.
  10. I’ve travelled around the world.
  11. I have been on stage with Derren Brown. 

RULE 4: My nominees are:

  1. Detrice Matthews – A young Mum’s journey through breast cancer and beyond (https://detricematthews.wordpress.com/)
  2. Cystaract – Leading #TeamPositive from diagnosis to all clear (https://cystaract.wordpress.com/)
  3. The small c – One woman’s perspective on one life event
    (http://thesmallc.com/)
  4. Living my Pink Life (http://www.livingmypinklife.com/blog/)

RULE 5:  My 11 questions are:

  1. What is your favourite quote?
  2. What inspired you to start your blog?
  3. What’s your favourite post?
  4. Where have you always wanted to visit but haven’t?
  5. Five blogs you follow?
  6. What’s the one thing about you few people know?
  7. What has been the best day of your life?
  8. If you could have dinner with five famous people, who would they be?
  9. If you could be or do anything what would it be?
  10. What type of music do you listen to?
  11. What would you like to know more about?

Starting Herceptin, Zolodex and radiotherapy treatment

I can’t quite believe we’re nearly half way through December already. Here we are with just under two weeks to go until Christmas and I’ve now started the next stage of my treatment. Last Tuesday morning I had the first of my Herceptin (Trastuzumab) injections which will continue for the next year. 

As it was being administered into my thigh, I squeezed hold of Pats’ hand and whilst it did sting a little, luckily it wasn’t too painful. It was quite unlike any injection I’ve had before as it took the nurse a good few minutes to inject it. I wasn’t looking, but Pats told me the nurse was gently and slowly injecting the fluid into my leg. We then had to wait for two hours afterwards to ensure that I didn’t suffer any adverse side effects (which I didn’t).

After applying a local anaesthetic cream onto my tummy, just to the left of my belly button, I was given the second treat of the day. This was an early Christmas present from my oncologist – the Zolodex injection. I’d recently heard from other ladies that this can be a really painful injection (hence the numbing cream) so I was really quite nervous about it. The nurse suggested that I didn’t look at the needle, just as well as Pats said it was rather large! It actually implants a small pellet into the skin area. My eyes diverted to every possible location in the room other than the needle going in. To my surprise it wasn’t as painful as I anticipated!

I’d  discussed hormone treatment with my oncologist the day before and he was still undecided whether to prescribe me Tamoxifen or to use an alternative aromatise inhibitor in conjunction with Zolodex. ‘Let’s switch your ovaries off for Christmas and start the hormone treatment in the New Year,’ he said. And a merry Christmas to you too!

Goserelin, or Zolodex as it is also known, is a hormonal therapy used to treat breast cancer. It works by interfering with the way hormones are made or how they work in the body. The breast cancer I had was strongly oestrogen receptor-positive (ER positive) and therefore relies on this hormone to grow. Zolodex is used to treat women who have ER positive breast cancer who have not yet gone through the menopause. It can be used after surgery to reduce the chance of the cancer coming back (typically over a two-year period). Before menopause, almost all oestrogen is made by the ovaries – Zolodex stops the ovaries from making oestrogen.

I am slightly concerned about what effect this is going to have on me. Because the Zolodex will prevent my body from producing oestrogen it will technically put me into a medically induced menopause. Woo hoo, another lovely side effect to add to the list and cope with. Having said that I am glad that my body won’t be producing the hormone which will reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. But what will this do to me? Will I grow a beard?! Will I become moody? I do hope for my hubby’s sake that neither of these are the case.

After a quick lunch break we returned for the third and triple whammy appointment of the day, my first radiotherapy treatment. There was a delay with the machine so we had a bit of a wait. After an initial meeting to discuss the treatment, side effects and do’s and don’ts, I was given a rather lovely gown to change into that I will keep for the duration of my treatment. We then sat in a smaller sub waiting room until I was called in.

clinacI walked into the room and was greeted by two nurses and could see a very large ‘Clinac’ machine. As I laid out on the bed, the nurses drew on me, lined me up with the machinery and were calling out various numbers around me. There was music playing along in the background. Although whilst this initial part was happening, a particularly dramatic and apocalyptic piece was playing which made it all feel rather intense. Luckily the nurse asked to skip on the song as it was supposed to be festive Christmas music!

I lay there looking up at the ceiling above me which was emblazoned with an image of bright blue sky and the branches of a tree sprinkled with white spring blossom, whilst Christmas songs were playing over the speaker – a very strange and surreal experience indeed.

The team explained what would happen and that they would leave the room whilst the treatment was in progress, but that I would be monitored on a camera at all times. If I needed to alert them at all I just needed to raise my arm. I laid there very still, thinking back to what the nurse had said earlier about trying to relax and to breathe as normally as possible. Quite difficult when you’re laying in a position trying not to make any movements at all!

As I write this now I have completed five radiotherapy treatments so far. I’m pleased to say that it’s not painful at all, but I am very aware of a feeling or sensation of something ‘happening’ in that area. I can’t really explain it, more like a tightness, or almost going back to a period post surgery where I was very aware of that area/my scar. I have definitely started to feel more tired, but they did say this was to be expected, especially following chemotherapy treatment.

I received some recommendations of products to use on the skin from other ladies who have had radiotherapy, so I have an arsenal of creams and gels at my disposal.

Have you had any of these treatments described in this post? Have you suffered any side effects? If so, do you have any tips you can share to help  deal with these?

Supporting younger women with breast cancer

I recently attended a ‘Younger Women Together‘ event in Bristol run by Breast Cancer Care, a charity that provides a range of services to support those affected by breast cancer, their friends and family. The event is aimed at women aged 20-45 who have been diagnosed with primary breast cancer in the last 3 years. I’d heard about the event earlier on this year at the beginning of my diagnosis and had pencilled it in my diary for November thinking I’d like to go. After a call with the charity’s support line one day, the lady I spoke to emphasised how good the event is for younger women and urged me to go so I registered to attend.

At that time, my treatment plan consisted of radiotherapy after surgery and I thought that by November I’d be back in the swing of work and getting back on with life. Little did I know I’d just be completing my final chemotherapy session shortly before the event.

As the timing was so close to my final treatment I questioned whether attending was the right thing to do. It was a fair distance away, I knew I’d feel tired and would also be around lots of people. I’ve barely been further than about a 15 miles these last few months and I was quite nervous about driving there. This event is run all over the country in locations such as Edinburgh, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham, but I couldn’t be sure when the next one would be that was relatively close to me. I really wanted to go and knew I’d learn a lot and was hoping to connect with other women my age who had similar experiences.

Because I live more than 2 hours away from the venue, Breast Cancer Care kindly covered the cost of my hotel stay for the night before the event and the following night. It took me nearly 2.5 hours to get there in the end after taking a couple of wrong turnings!

Breast Cancer Care helpfully posted an item on their forum which enabled the ladies who were attending to connect with each other before the event. They also organised a dinner for those of us who had travelled the night before.

I was apprehensive to say the least to be going for dinner with a group of strangers. As soon as we all joined each other on the table we began chatting away with ease about where we were in our stages of treatment and how we were all getting on. There were 9 of us on that first evening, and whilst I wished we hadn’t been meeting under such circumstances, they were all really lovely. I felt relief and comfort being amongst other women who knew exactly what I had been experiencing and feeling. We were all really tired that evening and retired early to our rooms to get some much needed rest.

I was glad to have met the group of ladies I did the night before as we’d formed an initial bond that stayed for the duration of the weekend. The following day all the remaining women arrived at the hotel – there must have been well over 50 in total. I was surprised there were so many, and began chatting to some new arrivals over the morning refreshment break. It was hard listening to others’ stories and experiences, but with our shared connection in common it was easy to open up and talk.

The event was run across 2 days and the programme consisted of various information sessions including: a medical update – management of breast cancer in younger women, healthy eating, diet myths and wellbeing sessions (laugher yoga and mindfulness). There were separate break out groups to choose from on both days covering breast surgery and reconstruction, coping with menopausal symptoms, relationships and communication, fertility after treatment, lymphoedema and intimacy and sexuality.

There were plenty of breaks throughout giving us all the opportunity to chat over a cup of tea. The event closed with a talk from a lady called Kelly who spoke of her own personal experience of breast cancer and the path that it has taken her on. It was very painful to listen to her tell her story and of how it made her feel about herself. She appeared on Gok Wan’s ‘How to Look Good Naked’ programme when she felt at her lowest and I was astounded by her courage and bravery to do such a thing – she looked absolutely stunning. She has since become a post surgery lingerie model and is a public speaker for Breast Cancer Care. Her spirit and attitude was truly inspirational and there wasn’t a single dry eye in the room after she’d finished her session. I felt uplifted and motivated by her talk and encouraged to know that there can be so much to life following a breast cancer diagnosis.

One of the ladies I met recommended joining the Younger Breast Cancer Network UK Facebook group. If you are a younger woman facing breast cancer I would definitely recommend joining – it’s a secret group so posts and comments won’t show up on your feed – you just need to send a message asking to be added to the group. There are also sub groups you can request to join such as fertility, pregnancy, research, end of life, moving on as well as 10 regional groups.

By the end of the two days I was maxed out on hearing about breast cancer. Whilst all the sessions were really useful and informative they were quite hard going and emotional at times. All the Breast Cancer Care staff were absolutely brilliant, they really couldn’t do enough for us and I would like to thank them and the charity for putting on such a great event and enabling me to attend. I would also like to thank the ladies I connected with that weekend – Kerry, Nicky, Sara, Cate, Criona, Amanda, Jo, Yvonne and Kerry – I look forward to staying in touch.

 

Final chemo, CT and heart scan

I had so many mixed feelings from my appointments at the hospital last week. I was feeling so, so relieved that the final chemotherapy infusion was going in. I sure was glad to be climbing that last hurdle of a very long and tiring race. When I started my chemo back at the beginning of August, this time in November seemed like such a long time away and actually the latter part of my treatment did seem to go by much more quickly.

chemo
At last, the final chemo!

I also had my first radiotherapy appointment where I had a CT scan and was measured for my forthcoming treatments. Pats and I both went into the scanning room and the radiologist explained to us everything that was going to happen. There was a male student in the room as well and she asked if I would mind him being part of the planning session or to just observe. To be honest I didn’t feel particularly comfortable with him being there, but I didn’t want to hamper his learning opportunity either so very shyly agreed for him to be present. Pats then left the room and I went into the cubicle to get undressed.

I knew the scan wasn’t going to be painful but I began to get upset standing there with my blue bit of paper covering my modesty (not a large piece I might add!).  I climbed onto the bed and they placed both my arms in stirrups either side of me. This in itself was a strange experience and I felt like I was about to be tortured. As hard as I tried, I just couldn’t stop the tears from rolling and both the nurses could see I was upset so went and got Pats who was waiting for me outside. He came and held my hand whilst they took their measurements of me. I felt rather silly crying, but I can’t imagine I’m the only one who has. It just brings such an enormity to the whole thing and magnifies and intensifies everything that’s going on.

After the radiographers and Pats left the room, I lay there on my own splayed out on the bed as it began to move in and out of the big ‘polo mint’ machine. It’s over pretty quickly and I was desperately trying to take my mind off the whole experience by thinking of all the good times I’ve had in my life.

CTplanner

After a few minutes I was rejoined by both nurses and Pats and then had small permanent tattoo ink markers placed on three places – one in the middle of my chest and another one on each side. It was done with a small needle and wasn’t too painful at all and they are actually smaller than I thought they would be.

We left the radio department and went straight to the chemo day unit for my very last treatment. I was given the choice of being in the open area or in a separate room. I figured it would be nice to have a separate room, a) to compose myself after the previous appointment and b) well, just because we could!

The final part of the day was to have my Picc line removed. As I hadn’t had any infections or stints in hospital with the chemo, my oncologist said I would be okay to have it out after the last treatment. Wow – getting my arm back at last! They’d said that I wouldn’t feel it coming out but naturally I was apprehensive about them tugging a plastic tube out of my vein! I felt a slight tugging sensation and was amazed to see the line coming out, but had to look away as it was actually quite gross to see. Then it stopped and wouldn’t come out any further. The muscle in my arm had gone into spasm so was effectively clenching onto the line so it wouldn’t come out. The nurse put a heat pad on for 15 minutes and luckily this relaxed the muscle and the rest of it came out. Yey, a little bit of me back. I had to to wear a plaster on it for the following two days but have now had the pleasure of standing under a shower instead of having daily baths waving my hand in the air trying not get it wet! Oh it’s the little things in life : )

Our third and final trip to the hospital that week was to have my echocardiogram (heart scan). Because I am HER2+ I need to have Herceptin® (trastuzumab), an adjuvent targeted therapy which will reduce the risk of the cancer coming back and will comprise of three-weekly injections for a period of a year.

Because there is a low risk that Herceptin can cause heart damage they take a scan to check how well the heart is functioning. An echocardiogram uses sound waves to take detailed pictures of the heart as it pumps blood. I didn’t feel anything and no radiation is involved for this test. I layed on my side whilst the nurse moved a device over my chest, ribs and neck. She said that everything looked normal which was good to hear! They will continue to take regular scans of my heart throughout the treatment to detect any sign of heart damage.

My first Herceptin injection and radiotherapy appointment is on 8th December. I need to have 19 radio sessions all together, 15 to the whole breast area and four booster ones to the tumour/scar site. I do get Christmas Day off and a couple of days afterwards so a breather from going back and forwards to the hospital. It’s not quite the Christmas I had imagined, but hey ho I will make the best of it!

I’ve heard mixed stories from ladies who have had radiotherapy, some have not felt many side effects, some have been severely fatigued and also suffered bad burning.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about being nuked, but I sincerely hope it will be as kind to me as possible.

Inspiring and motivational poetry

IMG_2074

Don’t Quit

When things go wrong as they sometimes will;
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill;
When the funds are low, and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but have to sigh;
When care is pressing you down a bit-
Rest if you must, but do not quit.

Success is failure turned inside out;
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt;
And you can never tell how close you are
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit-
It’s when things go wrong that you must not quit.

~ Author Unknown ~

IMG_2077

If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a man, my son!

~ Rudyard Kipling ~

IMG_2076

Barter

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children’s faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit’s still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

~ Sara Teasdale ~

moon art

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

~ William Ernest Henley ~

tree of life

The Sisterhood

 Many women have found a lump,
a little dimple, a teeny bump.

 But to hear the doctor say the worst,
is enough to make your bubble burst.

 No one knows the thoughts the fears,
but one who’s shared those very same tears.

 It’s a special group who knows this scare,
A Sisterhood who is always there.

 To help you through the beginning stage
of anger, fear and endless rage.

 They’ll talk you through the loss of hair,
or burning skin, for they’ve been there.

 Through relentless tests that never end,
they’re there with hugs and cheers to send.

 They’ll gather together for there’s lots to do,
with faith and hope, and prayers for you.

 It’s a genuine bond for they truly care,
this Sisterhood that’s always there.

~ Linda Nielsen ~

How I felt losing my hair

For most people (except for my gorgeous hubby!) hair is such a fundamental part of our personality, it affects how we feel about ourselves, how we’re able to go about our daily lives and how we present ourselves to the world. Having a full head of healthy, beautiful hair can be an expression of individuality, a symbol of fertility and makes us feel more attractive and confident. Of course, we take all of this for granted, until there comes a time when it is taken away.

Losing your hair is difficult for anyone of any age or gender, but as a woman I have found it extremely hard – it’s part of who I am, how I present myself to the world and to me, it’s what makes me feel feminine.

Hair loss is much more than just a visual and cosmetic problem as I was soon to find out – it affects people emotionally too. Compared to those unaffected, people who struggle with hair loss have a more negative body image and are less able to cope with daily functioning. Hair loss can also be associated with low self-esteem, depression, introversion, and feelings of unattractiveness.

IMG_1098I had tried as hard as I could to mentally prepare myself for losing my hair, but in reality nothing can really prepare you for how it feels when it starts to come out. Two weeks after I’d had my first chemo treatment my scalp started to feel a little tingly and a bit itchy. In the days that followed, I noticed quite a few strands coming out and then almost a week after when I washed my hair, absolutely loads started to come out.

I burst into tears and couldn’t stop crying. I wanted to be as strong and as positive as I could be trying to deal with this whole experience, but I think when I started to lose my hair all the feelings and emotions I’d had inside about having cancer all came bubbling up to the surface and out like molten lava from a volcano. I became even more aware of my situation and started to deal with the emotions perhaps I had been previously more numb to. I felt like I was grieving for my hair, and grieving for the person I used to be. The reality of the start of this process was much harder than I ever imagined.

As silly as it sounds, having lived with having cancer and all it has encompassed and its low points for over 5 months of this year , I think it really hit me that I was officially a cancer patient – soon to be balding – no disguising the fact now. I felt down at the bottom low.

Right now as I write this it is a gloriously sunny day and I feel down right miserable. I love being outside in the sun and I can’t even do that due to photosensitivity from the chemo. My hair is falling out and very soon I know I’m going to look like the a typical ‘cancer victim’. I’m supposed to be going out today to a friend’s house for a birthday gathering and all I want to do is stay at home and not go anywhere or see anyone. I know this is not healthy for me as I need to have the courage to go out into the world and face people, and I’ll have to do it without any hair very soon, but it’s the way I feel today. Why did cancer pick me? What did I really do to deserve this sh1t?! Well I know that’s a damn stupid question because nobody in this world deserves to have cancer, it’s just sh1t bad luck. If by me having it I can reduce the statistical chance of my husband, one of my family or my friends having it then I’ll take it for the team. It still sucks.

I’m completely infatuated with other people’s hair. I look at my friends who have lovely long flowing locks, and look people in the street and on TV who all have amazing hair and I’m insanely jealous. I will never complain about having a bad hair day ever again. In fact, I won’t be complaining about a lot of minor and unimportant things in life again.

As the days turned into weeks, more and more hair continued to come out. There would be hair on my pillow, it would collect around my shoulders and even just by touching it, it would come away in my hands. The whole experience takes you right down to zero and it really rocked me to the core psychologically. I didn’t want to see people and I didn’t want people to see me either.

I stopped washing my hair so frequently – each hair wash was a form of torture – a bit more of me washing down the plughole. It magnified and intensified everything and brought all sorts of emotions to the fore. I’d psych myself up each time I washed my hair, telling myself that I could do this, that it was okay and that I would be alright. I’d take a long deep breath before looking in the mirror and would be scared of who was going to be looking back at me.

It may have been easier if I’d just shaved my head, I know other ladies have found this to be helpful – to ‘take back control’. I’d have to plan it strategically as I certainly didn’t feel like drinking alcohol for about 2 weeks after my chemo treatment, and I definitely wasn’t going to be shaving my head without the aid of a glass of wine for dutch courage! But I just didn’t have the balls to do it. I also thought I’d try getting my hair cut in a ‘pixie’ style, I felt all brave and empowered one day when I booked the appointment, but then I chickened out at the last minute, I just wasn’t ready yet.

Everyone says to you ‘it’s only temporary, it’ll grow back’, but that doesn’t really help when it’s actually happening, when it’s your world and it’s all too consuming. I can’t really imagine that far ahead into the future at the moment, when I’ll have hair that resembles something normal, or near to how it was – I’m just taking each day as it comes.

Thanks to my dear friend Lou and the kindness and generosity of my amazing friends, family and work colleagues I have been able to get two wigs. One is synthetic and a darker shorter style and the other a longer, blonder, real human hair wig.

The first time I wore the synthetic one out of the house I needed my husband to come with me. It felt so odd to be outside the house wearing it, it was unreal. But the comfort and support of walking next to Pats made it a lot easier to bear. The first time I wore the human hair wig out I was by myself. Check me out! It was an unbelievably scary experience – I felt so vulnerable and exposed.

For that first trip out in my human hair wig I actually wore it to the opticians. Brilliant, pick a place where you need to get up really close in front of someone why don’t you Allie?! As I walked up the crowded street to the opticians, I literally felt like I had one of those big lottery hands pointing down at me or a big neon light above my head with “She’s wearing a wig!” emblazoned on it. Although of course I have no doubt whatsoever that nobody batted an eye lid that day.

I got into the shop and sat waiting for my appointment, tapping away on my phone trying not to make eye contact with anybody. I was called into the eye testing room by a young chap, and the  whole time I was thinking, he knows I’m wearing a wig, what on earth must he be thinking. I felt so silly – it’s like being a pubescent teenager again with all the worries and hang ups you have about your body.

Through the powers of twitter I recently came across a young lady called Nalie Augustin. If you are someone who is facing the prospect of losing your hair or who already has, or who is just having a tough time in your cancer treatment I’d thoroughly recommend listening to her TEDTalk. I found her so inspiring and it’s hard not to be uplifted by her spirit, courage and outlook. She also created a hair dairy showing her hair growth every week for 22 weeks following her last chemo treatment – it’s amazing to see.

The more light hearted side of the hair situation is that I now get to choose which persona I want to be each day when I put my wig on! I really feel the need to name my wigs, but am yet to do so – I would love to know your thoughts?!

IMG_1320  IMG_0430

What the FEC?!

On the day of my first chemotherapy treatment I awoke early with a feeling of dread, fear and huge anxiety. I’d laid awake for ages with a million thoughts whizzing around my head replaying over and over again. Finally Pats woke up too and I couldn’t hide my fearfulness – he comforted me as I lay in his arms sobbing away at the thought of what was in store for me.

Having spent a lot of time at home over the last few months, I hadn’t been out shopping very much and have taken to ordering things online and having them delivered to home. Consequently, I’ve now become quite friendly and am on first name terms with my local courier – the lovely Jan. I hadn’t mentioned anything to her at all about my illness – she must have just thought I had a penchant for online shopping! Well that day she’d stopped by to deliver a parcel “Have you been away on holiday? I’m always happy to go away for a week, but any more than that and I want to come home”, she said. “Yes, we’ve been away. I really didn’t want to come home though – I’m starting my first chemotherapy treatment today”, I said and then immediately burst into tears. I felt so sorry for her, going about her daily business and there was me in a complete soggy mess on the doorstep!

Pats had been nipped out to get some bits from the shops and when he came home, he presented me with a gorgeous bunch of flowers and a nice new vase to put them in. Thanks to Pats, my family, friends and work colleagues, ever since my diagnosis in April I have had the pleasure of having a continual supply of beautiful fresh flowers in our house – it’s been so lovely and they certainly do lift my spirits.

I’d already got my bag organised to take to the hospital the day before. I had drinks, snacks, a magazine, two books (I’m not sure how long I thought we were going to be there!), my iPod and my Macmillan chemotherapy organiser.

imageWe arrived at the day unit at the hospital and I was given a name band to put on my wrist (you’re effectively an out-patient for the time you’re there). The nurse called my name and as we walked over to the unit I told the nurse that it was my first time and that I was very nervous.  They could see that I was upset so tried to allocate me one of the separate treatment rooms rather than being sat in the larger open plan area, but there were none available. The nurses were absolutely amazing, they explained everything that was going to happen and were very reassuring.

The other patients and their companions were all really lovely too. There was an older lady to my left who was there with her husband. She had clearly been through a lot of treatment in her life, but both she and her husband had a very upbeat and positive attitude and her husband was cracking jokes – they really were a very cute and endearing couple.

My nurse explained that she would run some anti-sickness drugs through IV into my PICC line to begin with. Then she laid out the bags of chemotherapy drugs out on her pedestal trolley whilst carefully checking my details against each one. FEC is the name of the chemo infusion given for breast cancer. Fluorouracil (also called 5FU), Epirubicin (also known as the red devil) and Cyclophosphamide. Some of the patients had their chemo drugs in bags that were hooked up on the machine that you’re attached to. Mine came in big syringes that were then plugged into the machine – except the Epirubicin which has to be injected very slowly and manually into the PICC line by the nurse. It felt very surreal seeing the drugs being pumped into the tubes into my body. Well here goes then, there’s no turning back now.

The nurse flushed through my line after the Epirubicin and then continued with the remainder of the syringes until they were all empty and inside me, being pumped around my body. A lady I connected with on one of the cancer support forums said I should try and visualize my body as a garden and the chemo going in is going to kill all the nasty weeds that are pushing the flowers away. They warned me that the Epirubicin would make my pee red – I’d already experienced the blue pee so was getting used to having multi-coloured bodily fluids by now! It took just under three hours and then we were all done. The first one was in and doing it’s thang. We got home and I laid on the sofa as I felt rather exhausted by the whole day’s events.

I had a bagful of anti-sickness and steroid tablets to take at specific times – I made myself a check list of each one and when to take so I could tick off and know what I’d taken and when. I woke up in the early hours of the morning in a night sweat and started to panic that there was something wrong. I took my temperature and all was fine so managed to get back to sleep. I felt quite nauseous for the rest of that week and I couldn’t eat a normal sized meal as it made me feel queasy. I felt tired too and would take a little nap in the afternoon.

They said at the hospital that a pattern would develop with each treatment but I’ve found each one to be slightly different so far. The first one I felt very queasy and couldn’t eat full meals, the second one I was physically sick and lots of my hair started to come out (separate blog coming on that topic alone!). The third one I felt much more tired than the previous two, and the fourth one floored me and really wiped me out.

The day before each of my chemo treatments, I have to go to the hospital to give blood and check that my immune system is strong enough to withstand the next dose of chemotherapy and also see the Oncologist. Most people’s immune systems are around the 5-8 level. In order for chemotherapy to go ahead, the results have to measure 1.0 or higher. The last two occasions mine have been 0.9 so I have had to have my bloods taken again. The hospital are supposed to call and let you know that your bloods are low so that you can go back in for a re-test.

The first time this happened I didn’t know until we’d got to the hospital ready for my chemo appointment at 3pm. This was the day my Mum and Dad had taken me to the hospital for treatment and they already had plans that evening to go out. We had to wait over 2 hours for the blood results to come back and luckily they’d gone up to 1.1 so treatment could proceed. This completely brings it home that chemo is a serious medicine and I’m actually not as well as I think I am sometimes. My dear Dad completely believes he’s jinxed by good old sod’s law, and on this day he was probably right to think so. My treatment then began at 5.30pm and so I wasn’t finished until 7.15pm. A quick pit stop pick up by Pats and we were home by 7.30pm.

Whilst I’ve coped better so far than I initially thought I would on chemo, it’s certainly no walk in the park. I’ve experienced a range of side effects throughout my treatments:

  • Queasiness/nausea
  • Tiredness/lethargy
  • Sickness
  • Teary, sad days
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Mood swings
  • Watery/gunky eyes
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhoea
  • Memory loss/chemo brain
  • Tired/achy legs
  • Heart burn

When I catch myself in the mirror I wonder who this person is who stares back at me now. Just over two months ago I had long blonde hair, my skin was slightly tanned from our holiday and I looked reasonably fit and healthy – I felt healthy – and definitely much more confident. Now my nails are going yellow and flaking off and when I look in the mirror I see an ugly, ill, fat, balding, tired old lady staring back at me.

WTFblog3bAs well as the physical side effects, I’ve found it has affected me psychologically and emotionally as well. I have up and down days – they’re mainly up thankfully – but the down days are debilitating. Days where I’ve wanted to hide away from the world – to not see anyone and not let anyone see me. Days where I’ve sobbed and it’s all been too much. I’ve had duvet/sofa days when I feel like I can’t do anything and need to rest.

There is a sense of being on autopilot a lot of the time as I go through treatment as there is a structure with all the appointments. I try not to expect too much of myself and am just taking one day at a time. I don’t know if it’s “chemo brain” but I don’t seem to be able to concentrate for long periods of time and I write myself a little to do list, even if it’s something really simple – a) so I don’t forget and b) so I feel like I’ve achieved something.

I have days when I wonder how this story is going to really pan out and I worry. A lot. I worry about whether it will come back. Will it metastasize? Will stopping Tamoxifen to try for a child make the cancer come back? If I did manage to get pregnant (and that’s a big if) will all the hormones running around my body make it come back? Would I ultimately leave my child motherless and my husband a widowed single parent? It’s the more prominent thought that gets played around in my head at the moment, rather than we’re going to skip off happily into the sunset with our beautiful baby. Then I try and stop that chain of thought. Replace the worries with positive thoughts. One lovely lady I met recently, told me that in a years’ time I’d look back on all of this as a very bad dream/nightmare and that actually positive things will come about from the experience.

I spend an inordinate amount of time reading – mostly blogs, twitter and articles on the web about breast cancer. I’ve found a great deal of comfort from the all the contacts I’ve made with the lovely ladies who read my blog and from connections I’ve made on twitter. Even though we don’t see each other face-to-face, it feels like a good support network. These are women who are going through the same thing, experiencing the same treatment, who are wearing the same t-shirt and know exactly what it feels like to be sat where I am now.

Having cancer and going through treatment is very hard psychologically. There is the fear that comes from being brought closer to your own mortality and the very real and terrifying prospect that the cancer might return. I try to have a positive mind set in respect of whether it’s going to come back or not. I am educating myself to look out for the signs of a recurrence. That’s not thinking negatively, but knowledge is power. I’ve found that unless someone has been diagnosed with cancer themselves, it’s hard for others to really understand the real torment of this fear. But I must have faith in the treatment that I’m having and try my hardest to not let it take over my brain. Sometimes you just have to dig a little deeper, fight a little harder and trust in the journey.

What I do know is that I have the most tremendous love, kindness and unwavering support from my totally amazing hubby, my wonderfully loving and caring family and friends and employers who continue to be generous and completely supportive – all things I am truly grateful for.

Time seems to be ticking by at quite a rate now – I’m actually surprised (and relieved) at how quickly it’s going. I’m now well over half way through my treatment and can start to see the end point of this obstacle course in sight.

One thing is for sure…… cancer? You can c*ck off!

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Image fabulously created by Julia B at Breast Cancer Chat WW @bccww Tuesday night’s 9-10pm GMT(BST), #support #networking. Everyone welcome: Use #BCCWW to join the conversation.

Hello Pixie PICC line

No sooner had I waved goodbye to the joyous time we’d had at the BBQ the day before, the next morning arrived and it was time to have my PICC line fitted. A peripherally inserted central catheter is a long, thin, hollow tube that goes into a vein above the bend of the elbow and stays in place until treatment is complete. Chemotherapy infusions, antibiotics and intravenous fluids are given through it and blood samples for tests are also taken from it.

My Oncologist recommended I have a PICC line as the FEC chemotherapy drugs I would be having can damage veins and become very painful. I don’t have a problem with needles or injections, but I figured I’d rather put up with having the line in all the time than having to deal with any more distress or discomfort than was necessary.

My Mum and Dad kindly took me to the hospital that day for the appointment. I was slightly tired, and in all honesty, a little hungover from overindulging the day before. It was like the last supper for me. After everyone had finally left ours, Pats and I stayed up drinking a mojito or two and spent our last “chemo-free” evening together laughing, being silly and dancing around the kitchen. On reflection, come the following morning when I felt slightly fuzzy, I didn’t think it was one of my better ideas to have that last mojito, but what we heck, we enjoyed it right up to the end!

I didn’t want to go into the hospital room by myself to have it done so I asked the nurse if my Mum could come in with me. Yes, I’m approaching 40 years old but still need my dear Mum!  This was the first time she’d been with me at any of my hospital appointments, so whilst I was really glad she was there, I worried about how she’d feel being exposed to everything that I’d already had a period of  time to adjust to.

There were three nurses in the room and they explained the procedure and what was going to happen and also went through the potential risks. I signed the consent form and got on to the hospital bed and laid there like a rigid stiff board! I was given a local anaesthetic to numb the area on my arm before they started.

I didn’t realise at the beginning of the appointment that the lady who was going to put my line in was actually being supervised by the other nurse. I started to feel really nervous – I know they need to learn by practicing on people but it made me feel so anxious as she was explaining what to do! There was an amazing nurse there called Sarah, she had blonde hair which was plaited in two pig tails and she sat chatting away to me to distract me from what was going on.

When I have donated blood or had injections, I’m not really keen on seeing the needle go in or look at what’s going on, so I turned my head to the opposite side and focused on Sarah. She said I looked terrified (no sh1t!) and tried to relax me. As I looked at my Mum’s worried face I then started to feel really bad for asking her to come in with me. From where she was stood, she had a bird’s eye view of what they were doing. This couldn’t have been very nice for her and not exactly what you want to see happening to your daughter.

They moved an ultrasound over my arm (it had to be done on my right arm due to having had surgery on the left) so they could find the best vein to use. I could see on the machine to my left an image of what the vein looked like (an oblong shape on the screen!). Apparently it wasn’t that long ago, before they had the technology at the hospital, that they used to perform this without the ultrasound which absolutely amazed me. It meant that a doctor had to carry out the procedure whereas now the specialist trained nurses were able to do it.

PICC-line

They basically put a needle into the vein and the PICC line is then threaded through the needle, into a large vein that leads to the heart. I didn’t feel any pain at all, I could just feel a little tugging and prodding sensation. I think the thought of what was happening was worse than it actually was!

My Mum put her hand on me to comfort me, whilst I gripped onto Sarah’s hand tightly as they gently threaded the line along the vein in my arm until it was in place. When it was all done, I looked down to see this wire protruding from my arm. It felt really weird and very alien-like. Well this is going to me for the next few months then! I’m not allowed to get the line wet or submerse my arm in water and the nurses explained that I’d be able to get a plastic arm protector to use in the shower. Lovely!

The PICC line is covered by a dressing which needs to be changed every week. When the line isn’t being used, there is a slight risk of it becoming blocked. To prevent this from happening, I would need the line flushed with a small amount of fluid using a syringe. I’d have to go to the hospital each week to have this done or they can teach your partner/carer to do the flushing/re-dressing over two training sessions. Although Pats had already said he’d wanted to do this for me, whilst I didn’t relish having to go back to the hospital every week, I felt it would be one thing less he’d have to worry about so I said I’d prefer to go to the hospital.

We located my Dad, who had been patiently sitting in the waiting room and went up for a chest x-ray. They confirmed that the line was successfully in the correct position and we were free to go. There we were in the middle of summer and I now had a constant bandage around my arm, completing the cancer look nicely.

Pixie4

After getting the funny shaped plastic covering from the chemist to use in the shower, I decidedly instantly that I wasn’t going to use it. It’s actually meant for people with a plaster cast and I didn’t trust it fully to not get my arm wet in the shower. So baths in the morning is now how my routine goes, waving “Pixie” and my right hand in the air so as not to get it wet. Oh how I long to be able to completely submerge myself in a deep vat of water or stand in a shower and feel the water sprinkling all over me.

The big countdown…waiting for chemo to start

Having successfully gained the all clear from the re-excision surgery, Pats and I were determined to get away on holiday before my chemotherapy was due to start. Our gorgeous friend, Kate, managed to find us a holiday and we jetted off for a week in the sunshine. It was so lovely to escape from everything – no hospitals, no appointments and I actually felt ‘normal’ again for a week. I really didn’t want to come home from that holiday as I knew what was in store for me when I got back.

When we got home a letter had already arrived in the post with the scheduled dates to have my PICC line fitted and when the first chemotherapy treatment would start. Crash bang wallop – right back down to reality with a big bump. I felt very tearful after reading that letter – you know it’s all going to happen but at some points things just seem more real than others.

The time in between getting back from holiday and waiting for the first chemo session was so weird. As well as feeling really anxious and apprehensive about what was in store for me, I felt like I needed to have a final get together with my friends and family. It was almost like I needed to have a chance to say goodbye to the old me as I really didn’t know who I was going to become in the coming months.

Luckily my best friend, Tara, was home from Scotland for a couple of weeks and we were able to spend some quality time together. It was such great timing and the best medicine. She has been one of many who have been there for me throughout all of this. She has been so supportive, always sending me thoughtful cards with encouraging words and texting me before and after I had appointments to make sure I am okay. We don’t get to see each other often at all, so it was even more amazing to be able to spend time in person with her at such a stressful time. I’d begun the hunt for a wig and she came along to countless wig fittings with me, supporting me, making me laugh and generally making me feel better about myself.

We had a bit of a girly get together at my lovely friend Katherine’s house one evening and it was so nice to see all the girls and catch up with them.

I also had my hair cut short into a bob to help prepare me for the impending hair loss. My super sweet friend, Lou, had organised with our hairdresser, the lovely Natalie, to go to her salon (which she had closed especially for the evening) and said I could have anything done to my hair I wanted at no charge. She is so, so kind. Before going to the hairdressers we had a little ‘dutch courage’ in the pub (which was massively needed and a great help!). It was there that Lou told me how she had been fundraising for me at work and with my friends and family to get some money together so I could buy whichever wig I wanted and not have to worry about how much it would cost. I was absolutely moved to tears, not only by her kindness to do such a thing for me, but also for the generosity of my friends, family and colleagues. I was feeling the love big time!

Along with my other beautiful friend Claire, who had presented me with a gorgeous bouquet of sunflowers that evening, we ventured off to Natalie’s salon for the ‘big chop’. As we sipped on some bubbly, I sat in the chair in front of the mirror looking at myself. For all the years I’ve been going to Natalie to have my hair done, whenever she asks ‘what are we doing today then Allie?’, unsurprisingly to her I always reply ‘oooh, just a smidgen off the ends please Natalie and the usual colour’.  Well  holy cow, today was completely different not only for me but for her too!

As suggested by Tara, Natalie cut a lock of my hair off so I could keep it to use when looking to match it to a wig. I wanted to donate my hair to charity so she put my hair in a ponytail and plaited it and after tying it with a hair band – she cut it off! Oh my god…..wowsers!

Except for one occasion when I was about 12 and had my hair cut really short, I’ve always, always had long, shoulder length hair, and have never really like tying it up or away from my face. Now I had a bob… and a neck which you could see!

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It actually felt quite liberating in a way. Natalie blow dried it and made it look amazing. She was so kind to donate her time and she wouldn’t accept any money from me. As we left the salon I couldn’t help swishing my hair about, I felt like a lady in one of those hair adverts and Lou, Claire and I walked along singing “It’s like you just stepped out of a salon.. Salon Selectives” (only the slightly older readers will remember Salon Selectives hair products!).

We went to a birthday BBQ on the Saturday and had a lovely time catching up with friends and on the Sunday we hosted a BBQ at our house with my parents, my sis, Tara and two of her gorgeous children. It had been quite a whirlwind and hectic week but it was just the best getting to catch up with all my nearest and dearest.

By the time I’d come down from the high of seeing everyone, once again back to earth again with a bump knowing that on Tuesday I would be having my first chemo treatment. I felt very mixed feelings waiting to start chemo, I wanted to get it over and done with so it’s done its thing, but equally I didn’t want it start as I just didn’t know what will be in store. I was absolutely petrified of how I was going to feel, what was going to happen to me, how I was going to look and what sort of person I was going to turn into.

Demystifying chemotherapy

Pats and I attended a session called ‘Demystifying Chemo’, which was run by two senior chemotherapy nurses, and was held in the Macmillan centre at the hospital. As we’d been away on holiday it felt like ages since we had been to the hospital – such a nice feeling!

The workshop was scheduled to be a 3-hour session. Each person had a partner with them and we were asked to complete an initial questionnaire around what our preconceptions of chemotherapy and some of the side effects were. The nurses then went through the questionnaire and talked around each subject. I think everyone had different ideas and thoughts around differing areas and it was a really useful session. 

They also told us about the phone app called Cancer Emergency Response Tool (CERT) which is downloadable for free from the App Store. It allows patients to rapidly manage symptoms that need urgent hospital assessment and we were asked to input the hospital’s 24-hour emergency number which would be dialled from the app should it be needed.

We were all provided with a free A5 Macmillan chemotherapy organiser folder which held various sections relating to our treatment and pages to store important information and contact numbers. If we were planning to travel a distance they said it would be advisable to take the folder with us so that in the case of an emergency, any other hospital or medical establishment could see exactly what treatment we were having.

They recommended that we keep a record of how we were feeling throughout each of our treatments, recording our mood, levels of fatigue, what food we ate and medication etc. There was also a notes sections to record any questions, concerns or effects we wanted to talk to the chemotherapy nurse or our oncologist about. She also recommended that each time we come in for treatment to ask for a copy of the letter they send on to our GP to keep in the diary. When coming in to have our chemo, we should also ask the nurse to write down what treatment we’ve had and what our blood results are in the book.

The nurses said there would be days when we don’t feel amazing – the ‘sofa days’ they called them, but they recommended writing down one thing in our diaries at the end of each day that made us smile.

The nurses went through absolutely everything with us, explaining what chemotherapy does, how it affects the immune system and why they measure red and white blood cells and platelets (red cells carry oxygen, white cells are for the immune system and platelets are to do with clotting). The first day of our treatment is classed as day 1 and the cycle runs through to day 21. From day 1 to 7 our immune system will be at its lowest, slowly increasing from day 7 to day 14 and by day 21 it should be nearly back to normal.

They recommended that we invest in a digital thermometer. A normal body temperature is 37C and anything that is between 36-37C is normal and okay. If it’s around 35C or 38C that’s when we’d need to take action. I asked if we should take our temperature every day which they said no to – only if we were feeling unwell or had symptoms. I could see myself getting a little neurotic about doing that so was pleased they’d said not to!

They then went through a whole variety of potential signs and symptoms of an infection and how vigilant we must be in terms of spotting one – the side effects of chemo can be very similar to symptoms of an infection. No word of a lie, it really does put the fright into you when they say how quickly an infection can develop. You must not sit up throughout the night and wait until the morning if you have a temperature and you must call them straight away if you have symptoms. But they did re-iterate that it’s common sense, e.g. flu doesn’t come on instantly, it develops gradually with a few different symptoms. Following this part of the workshop, we could easily see that infection is likely to be a combination of symptoms rather than just one.

With regards to infections, they advised us to not come into contact with or to allow people to visit our homes who had been unwell, were feeling unwell, have a temperate or a bug or who have been in contact with ill people. I’ve since heard a tip of having an antibacterial hand wash at your front door and asking guests to use it upon entering your house!

We were also told not to have any live vaccinations or to have any for 6 months following treatment. We were also advised to get a flu vaccination.

The nurses talked about food and nutrition and said we should basically follow the diet of a pregnant lady. No pate, no unpasteurised soft cheeses, no raw or uncooked meats and no shellfish or undercooked eggs. We should wash all fruit and vegetables thoroughly (even bagged salad) and ensure that everything is well cooked. Don’t risk eating things that are past their sell by date.

My darling hubby was the first to ask if we were allowed to drink alcohol whilst having treatment (which all raised a laugh!). The nurse said she had meant to bring this up herself but had forgotten and said that yes we could have a drink, not to go mad obviously, but if we wanted to have a drink we could towards the end of the cycle and not to have any at all the night before our treatment either. She said takeaways were also allowed!

Chemotherapy works by attacking fast dividing cells – cells that are in the process of splitting into two new cells. Cancerous cells keep on dividing until there is a mass of cells. This mass of cells becomes a lump – a tumour. Because cancer cells divide much more often than most normal cells, they are more likely to be killed by chemotherapy.

The way chemotherapy drugs act by killing dividing cells also explains why chemotherapy causes side effects. It affects healthy body tissues where the cells are constantly growing and dividing. The skin, bone marrow, hair follicles and lining of the digestive system (gut) are examples of cells that are constantly growing and dividing. Your hair is always growing, your bone marrow is constantly producing blood cells and the cells of your skin and the lining of your mouth and digestive system are constantly renewing themselves. We learnt that the lining of our mouths is renewed every 3 days! You obviously don’t notice this as new cells regrow and we swallow the dead ones.

The nurses suggested we buy a soft toothbrush and use a salt water mix to rinse the mouth out after eating. They specifically said not to use Corsidol mouth wash either.

They then talked about hair loss and skin changes. The hospital give you £120 towards a wig through their own supplier. You can’t have your hair treated with colour or a perm due to the chemicals. If hair loss was a side effect of the chemo we were having we can use henna or organic hair colour when it starts to grow back.

This useful infographic shows the detailed effects of chemotherapy on the body in an interactive format.

Finally at the end of the session we were shown around the day unit where we would be having our treatment. Hand sanitisers are everywhere in the hospital, but more prevalent here due to patients’ immune systems being compromised. Even the door handle into the ward has a sanitiser that dispenses gel upon gripping it. 

It was here that I ended up getting really upset. I saw a lady with a head scarf on who was wheeling the trolley she was connected up to that was full of her chemo drugs off to the loo with her – another kick of reality. That is actually going to be me in a few weeks’ time I thought. Another lady got upset too and whilst we shed a little tear, clinging to our husbands, the nurse who was with us was so lovely and supportive. Even another patient who was having treatment at that time came up to me and reassuringly put her hand on my arm. She said that seeing it here like this is the worst part, that when you’re actually having it it’s all okay.

We were there for over 4 hours in the end and although there was so much to take in, we were so pleased we’d had the opportunity to attend. I think the nurse said they were the first hospital to run these sessions, and statistics show that those who have attended are far less likely to call the emergency number as they are better educated as to the effects and symptoms of their treatment. I don’t know if these sessions are being run nationally but if you are about to undergo treatment I would thoroughly recommend attending one.

My Mum and Dad had very kindly sorted an issue I’d had with my car after it had been fixed in the garage, and after we had collected it from them, Pats and I drove back home separately. Pats’ parents were due round for dinner that evening and I have to admit I did shed a few tears in the car on the way home – they needed to come out after taking all that in!