Thursday, 29 September 2016


Since I had my incredible news a couple of months ago (although I still had secondary cancer, I was no longer classed as 'terminal') I was added back into the mammogram cycle by my local hospital. For those who haven't experienced the joys of a mammogram, here's what happens.

1. You have to not wear deodorant
2. You have to undress to the waist, so wear a separate top and bottoms for ease (a onesie would be a bit of a problem)
3. A lovely nurse puts your breast into a machine that closes downwards onto it (see below)
4. It hurts...a lot, but only for about fifteen seconds
5. Then your next breast goes through the same procedure
6. Then you go through the same procedure for a sideways view of the breast
7. You're done in ten minutes...max
8. You try to peek at the screen but the nurse is wise to that game and you are advised that you will be told your results by post in six weeks
9. That's it really
10. The most challenging part is finding somewhere to park in the hospital car park

Mammogram machines: not to be mistaken for juicers

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Moving Forward

The last few weeks have seen me attending appointments at the hospital with my oncologist and also with the surgeon/consultant who carried out my operation, (mastectomy and strattice reconstruction January 2014). Both of these appointments are my follow up reviews since completing the grueling treatment that is chemotherapy.

My first review was with my oncologist. If you haven't yet had a follow up review, there really is no need to feel anxious. If you are treated as well as I was then you can be assured that you'll have a thorough examination. I had a breast, neck and armpit examination carried out in the presence of a breast care nurse, asked many questions about my general health and then told that he doesn't want to see me for 12 months.

Yesterday, I had a follow up review with the consultant who carried out my operation. Following on from the original operation, last September I had my other breast uplifted and a nipple reconstruction on the 'new' implanted breast. In May of this year, I finally had the last part of my treatment to what has been a lengthy and drawn out process. I had the nipple/areola tattooing and this was carried out by one of the breast care nurses who are trained in tattooing procedures. The time that has passed since my operation on January 28th 2014 until the final part of the journey on May 19th 2016 was almost two years and four months.

Again, I had a second thorough examination carried out by the consultant. In fact it was exactly the same as carried out by the oncologist. He told me that my 'new' breast was looking excellent but then he would do, he was admiring his own handy work!

He also doesn't want to see me for 12 months. This is encouraging news for me. Understandably, it doesn't mean that I can now live carefree, the worry of cancer returning is still there but just like I would advise anybody else, I will remain vigilant and if I ever have any concerns or worries, then I will go and get myself checked out immediately.

The only thing left for me now is I have to make an appointment at the Imaging Department. This is to have photographs taken of my breasts. I also had pictures taken after my original operation and also after my uplift last year. These photographs are then used to show as an example of 'before' and 'after' to women who are recently diagnosed and about to embark on their breast cancer journey but also expecting to have the same procedures that I did.

Like many women post breast cancer, I am now two years down the line with the hormone drug Tamoxifen. I was dreading taking this drug because I have read that for some women, the side effects are horrendous. The first few months, I had noticeably aching knees to the point that I went to see my doctor who advised me to take Ibuprofen. This aching lasted several months but then subsided to the point that I've not had it since. After reading through threads on the breast cancer forum, the aching joints are a common side effect. Another common side effect is general tiredness and the inability to have a decent nights sleep. I can't decide if the general tiredness is due to the lack of sleep or from the actual medication.

The real bane of my life is the tedious and debilitating hot sweats that I endure several times a day that seem even worse at night. These could also be the reason for my constant lack of sleep and unfortunately, I am unable to take any herbal remedy such as Evening Primrose oil or Sage as they mimic oestrogen and the nature of the breast cancer I had, meant that it thrived on oestrogen.
It can be rather embarrassing (for me) when I'm talking to somebody and I start to get that first flush of what feels like somebody is pouring a kettle of hot water over my head. It certainly isn't a nice feeling to be sweating profusely to the point that sweat pours off my forehead. Luckily for me, most of my friends and family are more than aware of these 'moments' and pass me a tissue!
The 'new me' is now the 'cardigan on, cardigan off' type of person. Every single day!
During and after chemo, I had the 'chemo brain', which most patients endure/suffer. I have since researched Tamoxifen and am more than aware that the side effects are very similar so it is now affectionately called  'Tamoxifog'!

I have always been under the impression that my brain hasn't yet recovered from the chemo as this can actually take years to be completely out of your system and to my joy, I've discovered that Tamoxifen also causes brain fog!

Always one to make the most out of a bad situation, this does sometimes work to my advantage (for instance, when I know I've forgotten to do something).

It is also extremely frustrating. I really struggle to remember if or when I have told somebody something. For instance, I can start telling somebody something and after 5 minutes, I get told that I've already told them. Twice! Or I will start saying something and then can't remember if I've told them so then I say 'have I told you this already?' To any friends or family reading this, does this sound familiar? It is real. Bear with me.

Side effects aside, I am more than aware of the benefits of taking Tamoxifen and for this reason, I'll persevere with them because I'm not too fond of the alternative.

So for now, I have no hospital appointments to attend for the next 12 months and I shall be making the most of weekends, spending precious time with family and friends and deciding on where to travel next.


Monday, 5 September 2016

Every cloud

There's no doubt that Cancer has been one of my greatest foes of my life. It is an insidious, pervasive and vicious enemy. And, it is impossible, to misquote Shakespeare, "to take arms against it" as no form of attack will weaken its hold. The death of the talented Rowena Kincaid this week, and the movement of a dear friend to her local hospice only serves to remind us of its power.

However, for the last twenty plus years, I have had another opponent. 

Unlike Cancer which simmers beneath the surface waiting to erode you from the inside with stealth, migraines floor you with a sucker punch and an unrelenting attack. For a while I felt like I was being pounded from all sides and prayed for a miracle.

So whilst I was on high alert for the next Cancer attack, I didn't notice that my migraines had subsided. Not just subsided, but (for now) seem to be completely non-existent. So not only is my Cancer in abeyance, but for the last few weeks my migraines have been too.

I feel like all my prayers have been answered and feel an overwhelming sense of joy and relief, tempered with sadness for those who have been taken from us and those who are soon to leave us.

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for me, and along with the love and support from my friends and family the cloud has been turned inside out. Now, all I can see is the silver.