Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Body faming

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, 'body shaming' is a practice whereby those in the media make comments or judgements about someone's weight or physical features. Now, as someone whose body has had a sound pummelling for three and a half years now, I thought I would give it a little boost. I'm going to call this 'body faming'.

So here are my top ten reasons for putting my beleaguered body into my own personal hall of fame:

1. It was injected with poison for six months and had to go on overdrive, ejecting all sorts of nasties out of my system (albeit in a rather undignified fashion).

2. It was subjected to high energy waves of radiation for three weeks...twice!

3. It helped to fight infection even when my resistance was super low.

4. It made a concerted effort to re-populate my bald head with hair...twice! And it kept me guessing with different textures and colours.

5. It communicated with me using its sophisticated alarm system whenever it felt like there was something I needed to know.

6. It carried on repairing itself even when my brain was operated on and my head sewn back've guessed it...twice!

7. It tolerated all sorts of efforts to undermine its functionality and kept on going.

8. It remained stoic as it was pumped full of steroids, and then quietly built its own strength to counteract this change.

9. It survived multiple scans, X-rays, invasive treatments, injections and surgeries and didn't give up.

10. It wears its scars with pride, as do I.

Today, I am celebrating my body and all its imperfections. It's brave and strong, resilient and determined. It deserves to be celebrated and not in any way shamed. It's a gift from God and its incredible, mind-blowing intricacy has served me well. Your lumps and bumps are irrelevant (but get anything new checked out anyway), it's the steel inside that counts.


Thursday, 20 July 2017

Mission Remission Revisited

Over the last three years of writing this blog, Debbie and I have reviewed the analytics (you can take the girl out of advertising, but you can't take advertising out of the girl) and observed some interesting trends. Our posts tend to vary from 400 reads to over 1,000 and my 'letter from me to me' reached 10,500 people via Facebook shares. Usually our posts peak during the first two days, then generate 50 or so views over the next week and then fade away. However, there is one post that remains completely constant at 40+ views. It's Deb's post and is entitled 'Mission: Remission'.

There's something about this post that attracts views (many from around the world), with the implication that remission is a serious goal for many of those who are suffering from cancer. When I was diagnosed as 'terminal' on the 21st October 2015, I could not even imagine something so incredible as 'remission'. It was a glorious, glittering and seemingly completely unattainable vision. Hope had long been replaced by acceptance, and a real sense of peace (largely due to my faith).

Cancer can deliver one blow after the other and your tolerance of bad news tends to increase over time until it becomes an expectation rather than a shock. As documented in this blog, I have been plagued by, well, troubled by, all sorts of ailments - chest pains, colon issues (clearly a euphemism!), brain disturbances, headaches, dizzy spells, nausea, pins and needles and fatigue - to name but a few. But on Monday this week, I met with my incredible oncologist and was told that I was 'doing extremely well' and that I was officially 'in remission'!! (This is news of such magnitude that I deemed it worthy of two exclamation marks)!! He also noted that my case was highly unusual (in my view, a God-sent miracle) and the symptoms were attributable to the after-effects of treatment such as radio-therapy, and some minor infections. I called my contact at our local hospice to share my news and she told me that in their team meetings they call me 'the miracle lady'!

I asked my oncologist about my chances of a recurrence, and enquired about the magic 'five-year' milestone that I was aiming to fly past. However, this is actually only arbitrary and is guided by how cancer statistics are measured and reported. Every case is different, but with Triple Negative cancer which is very aggressive, a lot of recurrences happen in the first few years after diagnosis, and whilst the outlook is good, eight years might be a point at which I can relax a little as the threat is lessened.

He also summed up by saying that I should relax and enjoy life. So under strict Doctor's orders, that is exactly what I will do.


Couldn't have put it better myself

Saturday, 1 July 2017

The return of the waffle

As I sit in the sunshine with my feet dangling in the pool, I could not be more relaxed. Rewind to just a week ago and the picture was completely different. (Only) two years ago, I was preparing for a pitch I was going to be delivering the following morning, and presented it to some students who were with us on work experience. As documented in an earlier blog, my words became jumbled and I started to experience what can only be described as extremely odd visual disturbances.

I had the sensation of honey pouring from my eyes and a golden waffle floating just within my line of sight. Having been a long-term migraine sufferer, this wasn't cause for concern and I completed my day and drove home. It was only at Dean's insistence that we went to the out-of-hours GP where I was referred as a matter of urgency to A&E, and after the discovery of a sizeable malignant tumour, the rest as they say, is (uncomfortable) history.

So, fast forward to last week and after a sustained period of feeling off and headachy, I tried to rest. Then, BAM! There it was, that ominous golden waffle. A harbinger of impending waffly doom. As I always endeavour to practice what I preach, I knew that I shouldn't ignore it. Cue another trip to the Emergency GP (who was, as previously) extremely thorough and we hot-footed it to A&E on her instruction.

Arriving at midnight we were advised that there was an eight hour wait. I half slept, sitting bolt upright on seats not intended for that purpose, and Dean activated the 'prayer chain' at my church, who sprang into action. I stayed calm, although deeply worried about telling my Dad. Having lost my sister and in the last twelve months, my Mum, this was terrifying for him.

A CT scan, an MRI (I was scheduled for one in six weeks anyway) and a quick chat between the A&E doctor and my (brilliant) neuro-surgeon and the results were out. NO CHANGE! The cloud was lifted and I felt a flood of emotion; relief, renewed hope and an overwhelming sense of gratitude to God.

I am conscious that for many cancer sufferers, I am in a completely enviable position, and I feel for all of them as I write. However, it is imperative to be conscious of bodily changes. You might feel like the girl who cried wolf, but the wolverine threat is ever-present for the cancer sufferer (or survivor in remission). Don't ignore its call.


Disclaimer: Not the actual waffle