I had everything to live for at the start of 2008. A successful mobile dog grooming business, two gorgeous sons, a niceish home and I had just finished therapy following some difficult periods in my life: family break up, death of my big brother at 25, breakup of a 7 year relationship, infertility, having my sons diagnosed with autism........ Life was starting to pick up.
One day, I was about to start grooming a little Bichon Frise called Ruby. I was chatting to her owner and she told me something which caused me to put my left hand to my chest to say "how awful", as I did that I felt a lump.
I went hot, cold, numb all in the space of a few seconds and during that time a whole stream of thoughts plundered through my head. Do I continue with the dog? Do I go home? The Doctors surgery is closed theres nothing I can do until the morning? Is it really there? How do I tell my husband? In the end I decided to carry on as normal.
Within two weeks I received my hospital appointment. Initial consultation was with a registrar and after that I had a mammogram and ultrasound scan. I returned to the tiny consultation room which was filled with the registrar, the consultant, the nurse and a MacMillan nurse so I knew it wasn't good. This was confirmed following 2 attempts to get a sample from the lump failed by the registrar and the consultant swept her away and I nearly hit the roof!
My diagnosis was confirmed 5 days later. Stage 3 HER2 positive, hormone sensitive breast cancer. The lump was the size of a 10 pence piece and the cancer was the aggressive type. My consultant told me that because I was young (nice compliment to receive) he was going to hit me with everything they had.
On Friday 13th February 2009 I had a lumpectomy. I wasn't sure at that point whether I would require further surgery because of the size of the lump but luckily, having G cups is an advantage and the lump was removed with good clearance and the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes so only 3 were removed.
Following that I received 12 rounds of chemotherapy from March to October and 15 rounds of radiotherapy. Following that 18 rounds of Herceptin over a year.
|2nd October 2010 - My scar is it is today 20 months after surgery|
|Slightly better picture of my 20 month old scar. It healed badly because of a massive haematoma|
|Friends and family kept me going through treatment|
|December 2009, my hair had been growing for 4 months and I had just had my first hair cut to take the dead ends off|
|When it started to grow back I was like a Kiwi|
|Not a good look! No hair, no eyebrows, no eye lashes and a swollen face due to the drugs and steroids|
|20 Months on and I still can't wear my wedding ring|
|Once it starts to grow it comes through quite quickly|
|Not such a good picture but trying to show the damage the canulas do|
The one thing that nobody prepared me for was how invalided I would be following my treatment. I expected to be back to normal once my chemo was over but I wasn't and this was a bit of a shock. I have been left with side effects which I am learning to deal with.
- Aching hands due to neuropathy caused by chemo and damaged veins due to over 40 canulisations
- Aching back due to hormonal changes and the drug herceptin
- Swollen fingers and feet due to the drugs I am receiving
- Poor digestive system for which I am medicated
- Fatigue which I battle through
- Chemo brain: Inability to multi task, concentrate, I lose words etc. Memory is not good
However: I have lost my "cancer" weight - its been a long hard battle to do so, taking me a year because I am still fighting the effects of Herceptin and Tamoxifen which make it hard to lose weight. My hair is growing back, thick and the same colour as before and yesterday ............ I ran 3 miles - my furthest since I had cancer.
In December 2010 I am running my first 10K - something I was due to do just before I was diagnosed. For me, this will be an emotional event because although my running time is still compromised, I will do that race, I will cross the line and I will stick the V's up to cancer. I am raising money for the Love Hope Strength Cancer Foundation because the co-founders of the charity have done so much for me to get me through my battle. Its my way of saying thanks!
If you are just facing the start of the fight, here are some tips;
- Stay positive and keep smiling - cancer feeds on negative emotion
- When you go for treatment, dress up and put your favourite clothes on, it helps you get through the ordeal
- Don't be afraid to question your treatment, ask for ways that the treatment can be made easier for you. For example: if oral anti-sickness tablets pre treatment aren't working, ask for them IV, ask for emula cream prior to canulisation or ask them to use freeze spray
- When you finish treatment, don't expect too much of yourself. I felt totally wiped out for at least 6 months after chemo ended and even now, 12 months on I have dips
- Allow yourself a down day but dont dwell on it. Accept your down day, go with the flow but make sure you are up the next day - remember, cancers best friend is grief, stress etc
- Try not to feel guilty when other fighters fall. I have experienced survivors guilt and its natural but try to turn it around to carrying on your fight in their honour
- You have been given a second chance at life - GO AHEAD AND GRAB IT, LOVE AND LIVE EACH DAY FOR WHATEVER IT IS, YESTERDAY IS HISTORY, TOMORROW IS A MYSTERY - TODAY IS THE DAY!