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Saturday, 1 October 2016

Breast Cancer Awareness Month - What Cancer did to me.

So its that time again when everything turns pink and folk on social media come up with fucking terrible ways to 'show their support' for those who are living with or have had Breast Cancer. 

I think the worst one I have heard of this time was the no bra picture to be posted on social media... I have to say...... what the fuck!?!?!?  You want to show your support to women who may have had mastectomies by posting a picture of your perfect tits in a tight top not wearing a bra?  Well if anyone thinks that is a good idea I say Fuck You!  Get a fucking clue....whoever came up with that idea needs a talking to.

For those of you who know me well it's no secret I am not a big fan of the 'pink' cancer awareness, I understand the sentiment and our desire to label everything with a colour and slogan and that's fine. But as a woman who had breast cancer can I please ask you to think before you buy any of the multitude of pink items for sale - how much of that money is really going to a charity? If you want support a breast cancer charity why not just donate the money? Instead of buying things why not volunteer some time? If you know someone with cancer why not make them a meal, do some laundry or just spend some time with them? Going through my cancer treatment was one of the loneliest times of my life. And if you only do one thing please make sure you check yourselves! that goes for the boys too!

So in the spirit of Breast Cancer Awareness month, here is what Breast Cancer did to me;

I thought I was going to die.  I had to face the very stark reality that Cancer kills and at 33 years old all I could think was...I'm not ready.

I had to undergo numerous scans and painful biopsies.

I had to tell my Mom and Dad and family and friends I had Cancer.

I had surgery to remove a tumour from my breast and a full lymph node clearance as it had spread leaving me with an ugly scar across the middle of my breast and under my arm and causing a notable difference in the size/shape of both breasts and nerve damage to my arm - I have never regained full feeling in the top part of my left arm.  And as a special treat I was unsure until the day of my surgery whether I was going to have to have a mastectomy or not.  I did not, I was lucky.

I developed lymphoedema in my left arm and now have to be careful not to cause any damage or get any infection in that arm / hand.

I had seven months of chemotherapy - nausea, unable to sleep, fatigue, constant fear of infection as my immune system was destroyed every 3 weeks, changes in my taste, bone aches, not wanting to eat or drink, depression and a whole host of other side effects.

Due to the chemo I lost my hair.  I cut off my long hair before chemo started and donated it to charity.

Wigs suck.

My veins are shit so right from the off I had a Hickman line.  That is a tube that goes directly into your veins that sticks out of your chest for the duration of Chemo.  Fun.

Whilst having a session of one of the harsher chemotherapy's - it was compared to having double strength bleach introduced into your system I went into anaphalactic shock - my body had built up antibodies since my first throat closed, I couldn't was actually terrifying.

Since diagnosis and to this day I have been poked and prodded by numerous medical professionals.

I have yearly check ups and mammograms which I will have each year until I die.

I had radiotherapy every weekday for 3 weeks.  After a few days I felt like I was going to die the fatigue was so bad.

I developed septicemia in my breast, if the lymphoedema nurse had not caught it I could have ended up is hospital within days - I had no idea I was so unwell as I was so used to feeling like shit.

I had never felt so alone in my whole life.

I found out who my friends really are and that sometimes strangers are kinder than those you hold dear.

After treatment ended everyone thought I was OK.

Every time I go to the doctors now I hear the phrase 'well we should do some tests just to be sure, because of your history'.

Constant steroid use gives you hamster cheeks.

I have had numerous scares and am still terrified to this day that the Cancer will return.

I have recently had more surgery to put right the difference in size / shape of my breasts - they look OK, just more scars.

I constantly feel tired.

I wish people understood that Cancer does not end once treatment does.

I have been taking Tamoxifen for nearly 5 years and dealing with the lovely menopausal symptoms that it gives you - weight gain, hot flushes, joint aches and so on and so forth.  I have been told to take it for 10 years.

My memory sucks sometimes...thanks chemo brain.

My skin where I had radiotherapy is tight and discoloured and this will never change.

No-one can really understand any of this unless they have been through it.

It bothers me I have scars...I don't feel feminine or pretty most of the time.

I found that I could help others through writing my Blog and taking the piss out of myself.

I joined a project and filmed myself discussing my diagnosis and treatment etc - again I hope this has helped others.

I have low tolerance for people moaning about trivial shit.

I have more tolerance for those that struggle.

After 5 years I have started moaning about trivial shit and I hate myself for it.

Cancer has taken the joy out of a lot of things.

I cannot have children...actually I don't know if I can physically but I have been told it would be done against medical advice.

Thanks to body issues and the lovely Tamoxifen I don't feel remotely attractive.

I thought I would start living my life how I wanted and not for anyone else...I was wrong.

I went through all of this 2 years after my husband died from Lung Cancer.

I have lost friends to Breast Cancer, young women with children and I would swap places with them in a second because it is just so fucking unfair.

I fall in love every day.

I miss my husband.

I sometimes want to scream and scream until the world shatters.

For so long I wanted all I want is extraordinary.

Human kindness and cruelty enchant and repulse me greatly.

I am a mess.

I try to help anyone who needs me.

I need help.

I am grateful I am still here.

Sometimes I wish I was not here.

I will never stop fighting.

So please share this, make people 'aware' of what Breast Cancer is.....

Monday, 16 May 2016

No Babies

I have had a few hospital visits and some new things to deal with since my last post.

I went to see my Oncologist, I was concerned that the treatment I have received was putting me through the menopause early.  I had some bloods done and thankfully I am still showing as pre-menopausal.
The Oncologist decided she wanted to speak to me about this as I had mentioned that my other half and I had not ruled out having a family of our own through natural means if it was possible.

So off I went and spoke to the Oncologist and one of her team, unfortunately the consensus was that they would not recommend me getting pregnant.... it was very difficult to hear as up until this point I had not had a definitive answer.

So the reasons they are saying this is because although I am still officially pre-menopausal before I could even try to get pregnant I would have to stop taking tamoxifen which is what stops my oestrogen binding to cells which is what made my cancer worse if you like - oestrogen would be the petrol to the fire in my case.  I would have to be off this for at least 6 to 12 months before trying to conceive as tamoxifen can cause birth defects.  I was also told that in terms of actually conceiving I could have trouble as we cannot say that everything still works after the Chemo and that although not officially going through menopause things are shall we say...slowing down.... so the chances could be slim anyway.

I was then given lots of statistics about survival rates with and without the tamoxifen for 10 years for me surviving for 10 years without tamoxifen is about 80%, with the tamoxifen it goes up to about 93% which is obviously food for thought.  My Oncologist wants me on tamoxifen for 10 years - I have only been on it for 4.  They did however say that if I wanted to try they would support me 100%

But now I have had the official medical opinion its a difficult thing to try and get me head around.  If I now go against the advice and my cancer returns - I don't know how to justify that...I know that this is not all fact but it is based on statistics and studies and I could go ahead with no problems, but my gut says don't and I'm not sure that will change.

I think I have to look at it from the point of view - how much do I want a child?  Would we consider adoption?  I have never said I wanted children of my own - it is not a deal breaker for me, we have talked about this and my other half would not be comfortable with putting me at risk for something that may not happen.

When all is said and done it is a difficult thing to accept and I admit that when my little Niece is running around all beautiful, happy and smiling there are times when my heart feels like it will burst and I could weep as my body has let me down again.

I never took if for granted even before the Cancer that I would be able to have children, I am still unsure how I feel about what has happened...not just the children part, but all of it.  I guess after everything I feel like I should be devastated that I won't have a child of my own...I'm not, I am a little sad, I feel upset for my Mom and Dad as I won't be able to carry on the family line if you will, I feel cheated that I won't experience what it feels like to carry a child, to feel it grow. 

This is just another crappy thing that has happened to no means the worst thing.....I am still is never perfect and you play the hand you are dealt.  I admit that I have times when I do wonder if the universe will ever even the score...will it throw some amazing things at me to even the balance?  But these thoughts are fleeting, no-one can live feeling like the universe owes them, I just have to take it on the chin and keep moving forward.

So my storm continues but I am just trying to embrace it...the good and the bad....and I just hope that somehow, somewhere I am making a difference, that my story, my life, helps someone for the better.

Monday, 15 June 2015

What If?

I am privileged to be part of this amazing project, all I can hope is that it helps people <3

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Feeling low...and unattractive...and useless......

Have been feeling very low and weepy lately, I was chatting with someone about blokes and it suddenly dawned on me that no-one fancies me any more - or at least that's how it feels.

Physically I am feeling so rubbish - I'm sick of taking tablets, sick of everything hurting, sick of scars, sick of having things wrong that have been exacerbated by the effects of Cancer.

Don't misunderstand - I am in a relationship now but I did used to have attention from other blokes - I wasn't bothered about that - sometimes it was just a nice ego boost to know that someone thinks you are a bit of alright!

These days I kind of feel like a ghost, people look through me, its like I have no substance nothing to make them want to smile or flirt or say something that makes me feel good about myself - its quite upsetting to realise this is happening, I don't actually remember the last time I felt attractive.

For example now if a bloke ever happens to glance at my chest (which I don't remember happening for a while) I worry its because they can see scars or maybe notice a difference because of the surgery.  To be perfectly frank its fucking depressing as hell.

No matter what, even when I make an effort I just seem to be invisible - I know it probably seems really superficial to be saying all this but having lost all of my confidence it is just another issue to deal with -a very real and upsetting one.

I wish I knew that there was one person out there that does not view me as a dried up old hag, because that it seriously how I feel right now, I know women are not supposed to care how men view them and blah blah blah but I love how it feels when a man pays me a compliment or makes me feel just a bit special - so fucking sue me!

Having issues with how you look is nothing new for women to deal with, its all around us every bloody day.  For me having what little confidence I did have taken away is getting to be a real issue.  My other half's best friend told me that as long as I am confident being myself and happy then what does it matter, but I'm not feeling either...just low and wanting to cry a lot and then for good measure feeling guilty about feeling like this because I know some people have it so much worse.

I can't win in my own head at the moment..I am not fishing for complements I just need to get these feelings off my chest, I keep so much of the crazy in, sometimes I just have to let a little out to stop myself going mad.

Sometimes I wish I was a man.......

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

F***ing Cancer!

Today is World Cancer Day, to do my bit I posted a picture of me giving Cancer the finger.  Childish it might be but sometimes it all makes me so mad!

I do have times where I get so angry with the whole thing, and if I could take Cancer and turn it into a person I would love to lock it in a room with me, and a very sharp pencil.

It just causes such heartache, such suffering and such problems - these things never go away, even now every ache and pain can turn into a huge drama.  I am nearly 3 years away from the end of treatment and have just now developed some weird condition on my affected side which they think is caused by my lymphatic system not working properly.  The Doctors were quite interested...I however am not quite so excited by another new problem.

I see people newly diagnosed and with recurrences and it knocks me sick, people with children, good people that in no way deserve it and I wish WISH I could take it all away from them. 

I don't do enough...I never feel like I am doing enough to help or raise awareness, I am involved in a project with the a Post Grad student from the University of Westminster which involved me appearing on film to talk about all of my experiences - I hope that when this film is released in whatever way that it does some good.

Cancer has affected my life for will never stop affecting my life for one reason or another - there are millions of us and it just shouldn't be.  How do we stop it?  Will it end in my lifetime?  I hope so, and as it is in life we must always have hope......

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Cancer vs Cancer

So, I don't know if you will have seen the Pancreatic Cancer Charity's new advertising campaign but I feel compelled to write something about it.

Seeing the tag line "I wish I had Breast Cancer" on a poster of a woman's face from this particular charity with no explanation left a bad taste in my mouth, I was immediately annoyed by it as I am sure many other people were.  After reading a bit more about this campaign - not just mentioning Breast Cancer but Testicular Cancer too I still am not quite sure what to make of it all.

OK - so looking at it in very general terms - yes, Breast and Testicular Cancer's have a far higher survival rates - but having lived through the disease I am not much for blanket generalisations.  I am very sure that some forms of Breast Cancer and Testicular Cancers have very low survival rates and just because some have high survival rates now - why would having Breast Cancer for example be any better that having Pancreatic Cancer?  You can't compare the two - all Cancers are different and affect people in different ways - I remember the Younger Women's Forum I attended - no one there had the same story to tell because the variations of the disease are massive.

 I just cannot get behind what seems like an argument between two petulant teenager's - "My Cancer's worse" - "No, My Cancers worse!"  I would wish no form of Cancer on anyone and can't help but feel that this kind of advertising is very irresponsible.  I did think for a while did they think - oh well, even negative advertising is good if it gets attention!

It's true all types of Cancer need more money, more research - basically need a cure - some more than others, but is pitting one Cancer against another a valid advertising strategy?

The pessimist in me wonders if in a way Breast Cancer Charities have bought this on themselves by always showing the "Pink and Fluffy" advertising, it has always worried me that people see Breast Cancer as non-threatening, a walk in the park - which it is in no way, shape or form, trust me.  This advertising campaign has taken advantage of that incorrect assumption and only reinforced it, which in my opinion is not a good thing.

Even now sitting here thinking about it I do not think they made the right choice with this "I Wish" campaign.  I hate Cancer, I wish it did not exist full stop, but I never once when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer sat around thinking "I wish I had Skin Cancer", and I can guarantee you that my Husband when he was diagnosed with Terminal Lung Cancer never sat round wishing he had some other form of this disease.  If you have Cancer, the only thing you should want is no Cancer.

I feel belittled by this campaign, why would you assume I had an easier time than you?  It is arrogant and unhelpful and reinforces a falsehood that my Cancer was or is less devastating than yours - whoever you may be.....I do not want to argue the point at all as the only thing I would say is "I wish Cancer did not Exist".

Friday, 31 January 2014

Mountains out of molehills?!?!?

So, its been a while, what can I say life has just taken over and I have been plodding on!  I have been in my job for 6 months now and don't seem to have any free time at all!  Health wise things have been up and down - unfortunately once you have had Cancer it's very easy to make mountains out of molehills but then I guess you kind of have to.  I have had some symptoms recently which because I am taking Tamoxifen the breast care nurses summoned me in to see the Oncologist, which I must admit worried me greatly as I have not seen my Oncologist since I finished chemo.

So after a bit of a chat I was referred to Gynaecology for an external & internal scan, on my next visit as they could see nothing on the scans they decided to do a biopsy of the lining of my uterus - this however not surprisingly came back as inconclusive as it bloody hurt and I could quite happily have kicked someone in the face to stop them continuing with the procedure!  So the next appointment was a full on let's have a good poke around with a camera, dignity well and truly out of the window type thing and we will get another biopsy while we are at it.....

Basically within the space of about 4 weeks 11 Doctors, Nurses and Medical Students have been at the business end of these procedures and far too close to my business end for my liking.

I found myself lying there wondering throughout the course of my life how many health care professionals have seen me "ladygarden out".....and as my last shred of dignity ebbs away I would have to say more than enough....

There are some comments in these situations that no other person (apart from the Doctor inserting items into places that I'd rather not discuss) can say, for example while having the no holds barred full on mooch about through some involuntary tensing I pushed out the speculum 3 times, which then had to be held in place...the comment "blimey you have got good muscles" was not what I was expecting to hear.....

So here I am now awaiting more results and again hoping for the best, although I am a big believer in better safe than sorry its a sad fact that the smallest symptom could potentially be something much bigger and the "molehill" becomes a "mountain" whether you like it or not. 

The scans and procedures could be all for nothing or they could save my the end a small price to pay.