Happy!

Three positive things to mention:

1. Being asked to share my experiences of breast cancer in an online article, thanks to someone reading this here blog (wish I could’ve found a better photo though!)

2. Trips away. Have spent the past couple of days celebrating our 3rd Wedding Anniversary in Chester, where we got married. Despite the bone-aching side-effects of Tamoxifen, I still enjoyed/endured lengthy walks around the zoo, the city centre and the river. I ache like an achey thing in achey land during the festival of ache, but it was just so lovely to be away with hubby, with lots of time to do everything and nothing.

3. The letter received today from the Breast Clinic Department that says:

“The results of your recent breast mammography are now available and I am pleased to inform you that there are no radiological features to cause any concern.”

I think that’s more commonly known as ‘being given the all clear’.

I didn’t actually think it would affect me very much, but on reading those words I got hit by a huge wave of relief, and after hugging hubby I had a little, grateful cry.

It’s gone. I knew it had after chemo and surgery, and I knew the radiotherapy would zap anything that was left over. I know the Tamoxifen should keep any nasty little ER receptive cells blocked. But I just needed that confirmation that no, it hadn’t snuck back up on me while I was trying to get myself better. It’s gone. And with luck (and medication!) I’m hoping it will never come back.

I can now officially say it – I’m cancer-free.

I kicked its arse, good and proper.

So..what now? Well, I’ll still update this blog from time to time with updates on side-effects, recovery or anything I feel might be useful or interesting*. But for now, I’m off, happy to be ‘all clear’, happy to be planning some good things for my ‘not-bucket list’, just…

Over and out.

*You can’t get rid of me that easily! Bwahahahaha!

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The Merry Month of May

Blimey Charlie, it’s been a busy month, and it’s only halfway through! I thought it was about time I updated this here blog, so I’ll start with today and work backwards.

Turns out today is the anniversary of my first chemotherapy session. Slightly unbelievable (Jeff)! To celebrate, I found myself back at St. Luke’s for a mammogram (oh I know how to party!)  I had thought only the Boob of Doom would be checked, but it turns out they did the other one (still unnamed – Boob of Delight? Boob of Joy? Boob of Normality?) as well. As ever it was an uncomfortable (and occasionally painful) process, but needs must and all that. I should get the results within four weeks (but have been warned they’ve got a bit of a backlog) and then, all being well, I will have to have one annually for 10 years.

Earlier in the week I had my first job interview in over a year.  It was quite nerve wracking and I knew as soon as I left that I hadn’t got it – which was confirmed by email today.  At least it was good practice, and I’m just hoping it won’t take me too long to get back into work again. Apart from anything else, I’ve developed an unhealthy addiction to Homes Under The Hammer and Candy Crush Saga!

Last weekend saw m’lovely chum Rachel doing her Race For Life. I never in a million years thought I’d see my name on the back of someone’s RFL t-shirt, but there I was for all to see:

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 17.32.24

Must admit to a little bit of eye leakage when I saw that – I was very touched*. Thank you, Rachel. She’s already raised a fantastic £210 but I’m pretty sure it’s not too late for people to donate if they would like to to bump the total up a bit more. Just click here!

Last week I had an unexpected phone call from Nursie Mandy. She was quite apologetic about not having been in touch sooner and just wanted to check everything was ok. It was a very useful call, as it turned out, as she gave me an insight into what happens from now on. As mentioned earlier, I’ll have an annual mammogram for 10 years, then will be eligible for a (voluntary) mammogram every three years, until I’m 73. I will also have an appointment with one of the surgical team again at one year post-treatment and then again at two years. There may be a review of the Tamoxifen at the two year appointment, depending on whether they think I’m properly post-menopausal at that stage (judging from the hot flushes, mood swings and night sweats I’m already getting, I’d say that’s going to be pretty likely!)

We discussed more general things like continuing side effects, health & fitness, returning to work, etc. It seems the joint pain I’m experiencing is quite common – causes can be both chemotherapy and menopause (joy!) They’re not too bad at the mo, it’s usually just when I’ve been sitting for a long time that I get up and can’t seem to get my feet or hips to work, and spend about a minute hobbling around like an old lady (shut up!)  She recommended a supplement called Glucosamine and using painkillers if the pains get too severe. Other points for discussion were managing fatigue (which she’s sent me a rather good booklet about) and returning to work. She reiterated the usual advice on trying part-time at first, but to be honest there’s not much out there at the moment, so I suspect I’ll either end up going back to temping or a full time role (if I can get one!) She also told me that she and the other MacMillan Nurses are there on the end of the phone if I have any issues or questions, no matter how long it’s been since my treatment – which is really good to know.

Finally on my little backward trek through the merry month of May, my sister and eldest niece came up from Suffolk for a flying visit and to go to Peter Kay’s Dance For Life at the Leeds Arena. Fancy dress was optional, and although loads of people did dress up in (mostly 1980’s) costumes, we couldn’t really be arsed.

Dance For Life

Classy Birds!

No, really, that’s us in our normal Saturday night garb. (I have kept the wig, and might try it out again some time, just to see if blondes really do have more fun!)

I had been a bit concerned about my achey-breaky hips lasting out for four hours, but as it turned out it was my feet that suffered the most! With about an hour and a half to go, they felt like they’d completely broken, so I mostly tried not to move them and just stood still and wiggle danced as much as possible! It was a fabulous night of 70’s, 80’s and 90’s pop tunes, singing, dancing and comedy and a great way to celebrate my ongoing recovery and raise money for Cancer Research. I haven’t had so much fun in ages and highly recommend it to everyone if he does them again next year.

So that’s everything brought up to date. I still don’t feel like I’m properly ‘back to normal’ yet, but I know that’s going to take time. I am definitely improving, though. I suspect once I get the mammogram results I’ll feel more psychologically able to move onwards (and upwards). We shall see…

 

*As opposed to my usual state of ‘slightly touched’.

 

 

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Surgical Follow Up

Back to hospital today for a follow-up appointment with the ever-cheery surgeon Dr T. I had managed to leave my written a list of questions at home. Doh! As it turned out, I managed to remember all but one of them – the one about whether I can drink alcohol whilst on Tamoxifen. I suppose that shows how little I miss alcohol, then!

I mentioned the lumpy armpit and the pain that I’ve been experiencing running between that and the BoD, plus the lumps and bumps in the BoD itself. Although I’ve assumed that these were just scar tissue etc. it was still reassuring to be told by Dr T after she’d examined me that they were, indeed, all just post-surgery and radiotherapy lumps and will settle down. It seems I’m stuck with the uncomfortable armpit for a while – she recommended I just continue to massage it and moisturise around the scar and it should settle in time. No mention of seroma or draining. Bah. She didn’t say whether I needed to do any specific exercises to help it reduce, but as I’m still very nervous of the prospect of lymphedema I’ve decided to go back to the stretching exercises that I was doing post-surgery. They’re beneficial for my already poorly shoulder anyway, so if they help with the armpit issues that’s a Brucie Bonus.

I’ll be taking Tamoxifen for at least two years, with a review then to see if I should stay on it or move on to Letrozole. I’m ok with that – the side effects from the Tamoxifen are bearable so far (just menopausal stuff, really).  The supplements I’d been reading about are fine to take with Tamoxifen, so I’ll definitely be getting some of them to see if they make a difference to my energy levels.

The upshot of the appointment was that everything is exactly as it should be at this stage in my recovery and she seemed happy with my progress. All the various issues I brought up – aches and pains, weight gain, side-effects etc. are, it seems, part and parcel of recovery post-chemo, surgery and radiotherapy. I just need to be patient and give everything time to settle back down again. I’m really not good at patience!

There was probably more that we discussed, but as usual I couldn’t take everything in. She did promise to write it all in a letter though, which will be handy! She needs to see me again in six months time, and I’m apparently due to have my first post-treatment mammogram sometime in the next month or two, so she’s going to push someone to get that sorted for me. She mentioned they usually schedule the mammograms for one year after the last one, which she thought was last April, but I’m pretty sure it was later than that (mid-chemo) so we’ll see.

All in all, it was very positive – which is obviously why I burst into tears once I got back to the car (what *is* it with me and crying in car parks??) I think it was probably just relief more than anything else, but I brushed it off quite quickly and took myself off to do some (not entirely successful) retail therapy. Quite depressed to discover I no longer fit into a size 14…but I’m determined to get to work on losing that stone and a half I’ve gained over the past year. Diet and exercise will be my keywords for the next few months, rather than chocolate and cakes*. In the meantime, I’ve got to get to work on getting back to work!

 

*Who am I kidding?
Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 17.50.51

Posted in Breast Cancer | 5 Comments

Cancerversary!

A Year Ago

One year ago today, I was told I had breast cancer.  It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year.  Time flies like an arrow*, they say.  They’re not wrong!

In reflective mode, I recently re-read this whole blog – and I must admit, it felt like some sort of weird ‘out of body’ experience.  I found it hard at times to recognise the author as me, if I’m honest.  But I must admit I quite liked her. She was frank, strong, determined, made me laugh and I liked her ‘inimitable sense of just bloody getting on with it’ (thanks for that one, Rach!) It also brought home to me the enormity of everything I’ve experienced over the past twelve months.

So, one year on, treatment pretty much done and dusted, the physical and emotional recovery continues.  I’m happy to have got through the really nasty stuff in one piece. I’m also hugely grateful for the support and love so many people have shown me over the past year – particularly my amazing hubby. It’s a cliché, I know, but he’s really been my absolute rock throughout.

What will the next twelve months bring? I’ve no idea, but I’m determined to carpe the hell out of every diem, and cram in as much fun stuff as possible.  And chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

On – and indeed – ward!

cancer 1 year

 

*Fruit flies like a banana! (I’m here all week. Try the fish).

 

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Moving On Up!

It’s been a mostly positive week, I’m happy to report. On Wednesday I had my successful ticket bid, (still excited, btw!)  then it was back to Cancer Support Yorkshire that afternoon, as I’d signed up for a course entitled ‘Living Well With and Beyond Cancer’.

The course is a four week one, covering a variety of subjects. This week was all about ‘the psychological aspects of living with and beyond cancer’. As well as being a good opportunity to talk and share experiences with other people who have been through cancer treatment, it was also an opportunity to find out more about the support available through the centre.

There were five of us attending in total, all women. We’d all had different types of cancer and different types of treatment. One lady had finished her treatment five years ago, and the others had all finished treatment over a year or more ago, so there was some surprise expressed when I mentioned I’d had surgery in October and only finished radiotherapy just before Christmas. Much of the initial conversation revolved around how long it can actually take to recover physically and mentally, and I was very much given the impression that I’ve been expecting far too much from myself far too soon! I’m now under no misapprehension about how long it might take for me to truly recover! We were also shown some examples of relaxation techniques that might be useful. I came away feeling very relaxed and looking forward to working on the physical side of recovery next week.

I was back again on Thursday for counselling. The counsellor seemed very impressed with how much more positive I seemed to be this week. I told her that the ‘yay’ moment I’d had with the athletics combined with the positivity I’d felt after the group session the day before and the lovely weather had helped my mood enormously. But I think the main thing that helped was just having that opportunity last week to just splurge everything out to her that I’d (unknowingly) been repressing over the past few months. It really helped me to get things a little more sorted in my own brain, and get back into a positive frame of mind again. We agreed that I will ‘park’ the counselling sessions for now, but I know I can go back if I feel things getting on top me again, which is great.

The final ‘yay’ moment this week was my lovely chum Rachel announcing that she’ll be doing the Race For Life this year, inspired by me, of all people, and my ‘inimitable sense of just bloody getting on with it’! Blimey Charlie, how flattered am I by that description! She’s a fab girl and if you have any pounds, shilling or pence to spare it would be lovely if you could sponsor her. Just click on the link below. Thanks!
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rachgeorge

 

 

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Excitement!

Today  I managed to buy tickets for the World Athletics Championships in London this summer.   This may not seem terribly exciting to the non-sporting readers out there, but for me it’s up there with every childhood Christmas ever!

I’ve been an athletics fan since I was knee high to a grasshopper, and have faithfully followed every Lympics, Commonwealth Games, and (later) European and World Championships from childhood. It’s the one sport I’ve never contemplated giving up watching, was actually not horrendously bad at at school and the one I get most excited by (just ask anyone who’s been deafened by my over-enthusiastic screeching at the telly during a race!) But, for (mostly) financial and geographical reasons, I’ve never managed to get out there and watch any proper live  athletics. There’s always been some excuse – too expensive, too far away, nobody to go with, etc.

So why am I sharing this information in a cancer blog, you might be asking. Well, if I hadn’t had cancer I probably wouldn’t have done it.  After all the crappy stuff I’ve been through in the past year, I’ve decided that I’m bloody well going to make sure I try to do all those things I’ve ever wanted to do* and not make excuses or put things off. Not in a ‘bucket list’ sense – I don’t intend to pop my clogs imminently – but more in a ‘good grief woman you’re nearly fifty, so do it while you can’ sense. So when I got an email saying tickets were going up for resale today, I didn’t make my usual excuses about it not being worth trying because they’d be too expensive, and London’s too far to go, etc. I just went for it. And I’m so glad I did. The whole online booking process was a little bit fraught, so by the time I hit ‘send’ and then saw the confirmation email, I was so worked up with anticipation and excitement I actually had a bit of a cry. I would blame it on the Tamoxifen hormones, but to be fair it really was pure excitement.

So that’s a little tick on the Not-Bucket List and definitely something to look forward to this summer. Hurrah!

qngubabawrufy

*Within reason, obviously.  For one thing, I don’t have a bottomless pit of money and for another thing, George Clooney’s not available anymore.

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Counselling, Then…

Today was my first counselling session at the Cancer Support Centre. I turned up feeling like a bit of a fraud, as I couldn’t really figure out what, if anything, I might talk about. I honestly thought I’d probably have one session, realise that actually I don’t really need it, and not go back again. Oh, Wrongy McWrongface! Fifty minutes of the verbal equivalent of projectile vomiting later, it turned out I had plenty to talk about! Too much, possibly!

I know not everybody is as open as me about their emotions/psychological feelings, so it doesn’t work for all, but I’m a huge advocate of counselling and therapy. The point of these sessions is not for the Counsellor to give me advice, but for me to have a ‘safe space’ where I can verbalise whatever might be on my mind, and hopefully work through for myself any issues I and the Counsellor identify. Well, I certainly verbalised today. Big time! Still…

verbal-diarreah

At the end of the session the Counsellor mentioned a number of subjects that came up which she thinks I’ll benefit from talking through in future sessions, so I’ll be going back again next week for another go. Not going into detail here (what happens at Counselling stays at Counselling, or something) but work, money, relationships, family, Catholic guilt*, pets and tea all got mentioned at some point in my verbal onslaught.I’m home now, feeling a bit emotionally exhausted but with plenty to ponder, so I’m going to have a nice cuppa tea and a biscuit and ponder for a while, before tackling a bit of housework.

Or, I might just do this:

puppygif.gif

 

 

*A major achievement of mine, given that I’m not Catholic and nor is anyone in my family!

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