Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Frankly my dear, it's going with the wind

I know the weather forecasters  said Storm Frank was a windy affair but it appears they've failed to mention how a short, sharp gust could send my tresses floating off like dandelion seeds. As a child I used dandelions to tell the time - what time is it now? Bald o 'clock.
As you can see from the below i'm toying with a new idea known as the knee toupee. 

The sense of relief from my hair coming out is enormous.  For the past couple of days it's felt like i've been wearing a hairband that's too tight - I guess that's because my strands have been hanging on by a thread. Plus, mentally it's a relief  as the thought is always, always worse than the deed.

In other news I had an oncology check up today. I went in and explained my chemo side effects thinking I might get an 'oh dear' and a discussion on how we would need to try something new. Instead, the fantastic oncologist listened to all I had to say and responded with an answer pretty much summed up as 'it's chemotherapy. What did you expect? ' Not uncaring and massively reassuring to know in a very abnormal way it's all part of a normAl process. It's a waiting game now to see if the chemo shrinks the tumour.  It hasn't as yet and it's not too early to expect it to happen. In short, it might.  It might not.

Later on Child 1 and 2 sat in the bath and laughed as I brushed my hair out into the sink.  We used it to make silly shapes, pretended it was an animal, made it into funny styles and moustaches.  It might seem self indulgent or a bit much for little children to be so aware of what's happening but the aim is to get them laughing. They're not afraid. They know it doesn't hurt and they see a mummy who believes beauty is stored much deeper down than on a face. Having said that I think I melted yesterday when watching The Queen with Child 1 and on seeing Princess Diana she said :"Wow.  You look like her mummy. You could be a princess. "

Knee toupees will soon be available to buy so get time orders in quick  before they're all gone! 

Sunday, 27 December 2015

The Life I Live

I keep dipping my toe into the online dating pool. I'd started swapping a few 'hello's' with a couple of 'nice' chaps before I found the lump of doom but I never let it amount to anything in the real world because setting up a date as a single parent takes more logistics than Battleships and also because there's something a bit animal shelter about the whole experience. You list all your strengths and weaknesses, try to sell bits others may deem as baggage and try to filter and crop photos to pretend middle age is happening to those other poor bastards.

The thing is, just because I have cancer I haven't stopped hoping I might  meet my someone indoors. I  still want to date and I still have days where I feel normal. I ventured back on the sites a couple of days ago but partly I'm lazy and can't be bothered to type out pleasantries to strangers and then there's the whole to tell or not to tell conundrum about The Cancer.

I thought dating with kids was hard- whatever anyone tells you about things being different now and it not being an issue is plain wrong- I have lost count of all the 'shame you have kids' messages I have. I also lose count of the same number of 'actually it's a blessing as it deters w@nkers like you' sent in response. You get the picture. It's tough.

But this: 'Hey, yeah I'm good thanks, yep my photos are fairly recent. I see your profile says you like boobs. Want mine posted? They're getting lopped soon' probably would put off even the bravest of men.

I did go through a while of getting back in touch with a few of the chaps I dated after divorce but the offer of a night out with someone who needs to avoid public places, can't drink, has frequent comedy nose bleeds and may start shedding hair not out of nerves but by the clump is not as tantalising as it may sound. No, really....

I guess you could say there's plenty of time for all that when I am better. You may be right. But for me it's that whole thing of loving the beauty of those days or sometimes moments when it's not happening at all. When I don't run my hand through my hair and it feels different. It's still in situ but it's stopped moving with the rest of me. It's Autumn as far as my scalp is concerned and it won't be long before I am bald. It's all those moments when some stranger online tells me I'm pretty not realising at the other end of his message is a pale woman with a tissue damming her nose and an ice lolly to soothing her mouth ulcers.

It's the same as all the holiday tabs I have open at the moment. I can't book anything as most of next year will be chemo, surgery, radiotherapy, reconstruction but part of my head is already at the holiday park I picked in Denmark and the girls and I are swimming. All of us. Even me who never learnt.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

A Strange Gift

Do you have regrets- I'm talking proper cheek stinging memory shamers that make you feel flushed if they surface? I don't any more but I did. I used to feel so much guilt for things I did out of anger, out of impulse, for love, in spite of love, because I was drunk, for no reason whatsoever.

Since The Cancer became a noun in my day-to-day I have been given the super power of appreciating life as it is. Not if I was  prettier, more successful, more organised, more, more, more.

One word reigns supreme. Enough.

Not only for the first in my life do I feel absolutely enough as I am, all those things I thought I regretted are now the very same things I'm glad I did. I've been ridiculously drunk, scandalously hungover, kissed all the wrong boys and had a bloody good time doing it.

I'm glad for the time I thought I'd been shot in the leg when in fact I'd been egged by a passing car, also for the time I was an in an armchair race down a hill which led to me being catapulted and concussed while dressed as a superhero. That time I told a woman in the supermarket I dreamt I broke in her house only to realise she was not who I thought she was but in fact a stranger and the time I pretended I was seriously injured to avoid the shame of slipping over on a carrier bag in front of the office hotty. I don't regret any of these.

I'm glad I don't know how to be a grown up, that i'd still rather believe in hunting for fairies in the woods than keep a house just so.  I relish the fact my housework style is best described  as 'appears to have been signs of a struggle '.  I will never live in the house you can turn up to at any time and it's ready for visitors but I do live in a place that is ready for your visit. I concentrate on people,  on moments,  on laughter,  on life.

 For the first six months of Child 1's life I watched her endlessly, relentlessy absorbing the magic of how two cells grew a whole person. My then in-laws spoke in hushed tones about the possibility of me having PND, of how I had a home to run,  a husband to care for, a house to keep just so. Yet here was this miracle,  the best thing to ever happen me,  shining out with all her blinking and snuffling and needing a cuddle. That longed for little girl is the essence of fairytales, she is picnics in a summer's breeze and all bits that haven't yet been found in the universe. Her eyes speak to my soul. Her magic never wears off and the miracle of her made it essential that Child 2 came to be. And then it started again.  The talks of being a neglectful wife, of lacking routine. Yet once more I was transfixed  by the wonder of how two more cells told a new story - the story of the little girl who dares, of raw determination and a curious mind.  She is my dragon slayer, my swashbuckler, my alien searching Astronaut.

I did make a terrible wife.  I didn't even attempt to make it as a housewife and I certainly made divorce an inevitability. I don't regret a moment of it all because the  two greatest loves of my life are the result.

So, this Christmas The Cancer has given me many good things.  It's given me clarity on what's important  (this will never be ironing), the support of an amazing patchwork of friends,  it has silenced feuds which I was too proud and cowardly to resolve and a surprisingly unexpected gift - to want to be myself.  Until now I've  spent much too much time thinking about how I can be something/somewhere/someone else but from now on being in my own skin is exactly the place I want to be for as long as i'm lucky to be in it.

 So, ghost of boobs passed,  thanks for the lesson, i'll be sure to remember the richness of life from now on.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

life after chemo 1

Somehow I am feeling better.  Tired like i've just had a baby but the undeserved hangover has passed. Yesterday I even managed to eat and thrash mu mums partner at Trivial Pursuit. Three times. All is right with the world once more.  I just wanted to post a quick one to say thank you,  all of you, for your love,  thoughts and care. Sometimes I can't tell you straight away how much it means but I have a heart bursting with gratitude and a head buzzing with ideas of how I will do good deeds for the rest of my days to give back all I have been given.  Love you.  Each and every one of you.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

FEC it

Yesterday was Chemo Eve and the year anniversary of living in our house.  Strangely enough it was a great day- Child 2 took part in the preschool nativity and was  beautiful angel Gabriel,  even while suffering from stage fright. 
In the afternoon, two wonderfully kind men from our church came and cut back the unruly hedge in our front garden so we can now see out of the window and passers-by van navigate the path more easily.
Not long after, Super Dad arrived and took the girls off for their second  Christmas so my mum and I tool the opportunity to go out for a meal to toast in the start of getting better. 
Pam made a return to oversee my sleep overnight and this morning I felt surprisingly calm on arrival at the hospital. 
It took about an hour and a half for the FEC to be administered by  the very kind, funny and totally brilliant  nurse and then I was on my way,  feeling normal and a bit miffed it had not been as dramatic as i suspected.
I carried on as normal for a couple of hours when I got home and even made a visit to the miracle centre where I had an amazing back massage (still making this work for me, right?!) Joking aside,  I don't know how I would manage without all the wonderful people there.  
I started to feel a little cocky  early afternoon,  thinking I had managed to avoid the side effects.  Sadly not.  I'm in bed, in the dark, feeling like I have a hangover. My bead even spins when I shut my eyes :( 

Monday, 14 December 2015

Darth Vader's Birthday

On a scale of one to ten,  our christmas weekend rated awesome. Celebrations kicked off on Friday night with Child 1's beautiful carol service. It never ceases to amaze me how such a small school manages to put on beautiful events and then I remember the community we have and am so proud to be part of. Super Dad also came to watch, albeit from several rows in front to ensure the demon ex-wife was kept at bay but the girls were happy as always to see him. 
The following day we began junk modelling a dolls house before going to see the panto and a second glance of Tracey Beaker. Child 1 even made it on to the stage during the performance to meet Buttons. 
Our wonderful best friends then hosted a christmas party-during which I singlehandedly inhaled most of the buffet (soz). I'm guessing this is where the possible weight gain listed as a side effect of the ovary hibernating injection comes from?!
We got home on our very own Christmas Eve and it was all going so well. Until I realised I didn't have the usual bits  needed for a santa plate. After a thorough ransacking of the fridge and cupboards I settled on a jaffa cake, cauliflower leaves, cheerios for elf doughnuts and a glass of water.  Another Soz for old St Nick. 
The following morning the girls were mesmerised by the presents under the tree.  The highlight for me was Child 2 opening a Darth Vader lamp 'cool ' and a pretty bottle of Frozen perfume 'this is weird'. Shortly after both girls then abandoned all new gifts and returned to the junk modelling project they had begun the day before. 
We had music,  a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, plenty of jokes, board games and no one asked to watch the TV once.  
After dinner Child 2 came in clutching her Darth Vader lamp. "Mummy,  why is Darth Vader a bad guy?"
Me: *with no working knowledge of Star Wars "because he was nasty to some good people."
Child 2: "Was he always bad?"
Me: "No. He became bad because his feelings were hurt. Sometimes people are mean because they want other people to feel sad too."
Child 2: "Why does he look like that?"
Me: "he got burnt in a fire. You mustn't play with fire."
Child 2: "That's horrible. .....Mummy,  whose birthday is it today?"
Me: * knowing they both go to Christian schools I can't say Jesus as it's the wrong date....thinking. ..
thinking. ..."well, erm, it's Darth Vader's birthday!"
Epic win. This was the best news for a four year old. She promptly swung Darth Vader about and then carried him up the stairs, all the while telling him if he's mean to her she'll say don't feel sad Darth Vader. She's not scared of bad guys,  speaks many foreign languages (even if she has made them up herself) and knows how to reason with bullies.  I see a career ahead in the UN.
We topped the day with our church's carol service and both little ladies promptly falling asleep.  It was absolutely the most perfect Christmas we could have hoped for. Simple,  loving and full of fun. Out of darkness comes light,  eh Darth? 
Such a postive transition into the week ahead- the start of chemo and all it brings in its road of recovery. 

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Come on chemo, let's be 'avin' ya

It's seemed like an age waiting for the phone to ring with confirmation of my chemo appointments.  The hospital was bang on the tenth day of the ten they said it could take to confirm and it's felt a bit teenagerish waiting for a boy to ring my mum and dads house phone.  By the tenth day i've taken to carrying my phone everywhere and not vacuuming just in case I missed the call. Ok, that's a lie.  I hate housework and it's just an excuse but you wouldn't have known if I hadn't 'fessed up. *fessed.  Yes, I did read Sugar Magazine.

So, I have a pre-chemo appointment on Monday to go through everything that will become life from Wednesday.  It doesnt escape me that i will start chemo the day after celebrating a year of living in Tunbridge Wells.  What ever force brought us here,  be it a God or fate, the girls and I have accidentally found our corner of the world. Last year I was in good health but in a bad way privately.  This year i'm in bad health but feel like I have won the lottery with the life we have.  

All being well, i'll be off to the family in Dorset for Christmas.  The girls are off to their dad's this year so the three of us are having a visit from Santa on Sunday.  One thing I have got back since sprouting funbag fungus is my joy for Christmas and pretty much every day and any small joy it brings.  Today joy has been plentiful- watching Child 2 come alive in a goth shop 'look, skeletons!  They look evil!' said gleefully,  both of us taking a lunchtime nap,  a brilliant family event at Messy Church,  all our friends and strangely enough knowing I get a chemo down before the year is out.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Every little thing is going to be alright

Before The Cancer (still said in mockney, in case you were wondering), I worried A LOT. I worried about EVERYTHING. I even worried about the amount I worried.
Don't get me wrong,  I had (and still have) a lot to worry about.  As a mother I worried about how little money we had and was either worrying about my girls in childcare when I found work, or worried about not providing enough when I took time out of work because they were miserable without me. I worried about the example I was setting for them and worried in advance about what they would say later on in life about how they were raised.
As a daughter and a sister I worried about being the family flunk.  I was the only one to go to a grammar school and university but had progressed the least in life. I was hard up,  praying for pin money jobs and nor grown up enough to keep a house consistently tidy or a fridge well stocked.  The girls were always fed and cared for but it's become part of their world to know mummy and tidy don't go together.  It made me worry they may not feel so secure.
As a friend I worried about my spontaneity/impulsiveness. I've always been the funny one but I worried that when friends needed someone in an hour of need they were likely to turn to another grown up, not the one who is always late with a story to tell.
As a woman I worried about growing old. I worried I was untoned and unlovable.  I worried my best years were behind me and I had frittered them away. I thought of all the times I had lost myself in  a party in my twenties and got drunk drunk and all the stupid things I had done to my hair and makeup and outlandish clothes I had worn when perhaps I should have been putting that energy into seeing the world or been better at settling down when the time came. Instead of being wild and mildly tamed.
The list goes on.
Days in to my diagnosis, as I attempted and failed to get my head round the enormity of having an on the turn breasticle, I thought saying 'I've got cancer' would be a silencing statement. I naively thought it would be simple enough to call the bank and the credit card company and all the other businesses who are owed money and say 'I've got cancer ' and they would say 'oh, erm, oh (being British about it) and they would tell me not to worry until I was feeling better.  Unfortunately not. I also thought it would be the same in terms of benefits.  If you read the papers there's loads of people doing things they shouldn't,  right?  Not in my case. I have to provide forms, evidence and so on to the right agencies in a timely manner and all at the same time ( this can take at least a full working day on the phone) because if I'm seen to alert one first and they inform the others,  part of our income will be suspended until we provide evidence and this can take weeks to remedy.
Learning that life goes on has been a humbling experience.  In these past few weeks I have learned worry is not harmful to your health and neither caused The Cancer nor will bring about my demise. We all worry, as we should. I've learned to take life more slowly and instead of worrying about what the girls will think of me in tr future,  I worry about what they will think of me today.  We play more,  I worry less about cleaning.
I'm enjoying the time I have with my family and friends. It's funny how having more people to visit it motivation enough to keep things in a bit better order.
Even though the red topped letters are still coming in I'm not worried.  I finally get it that compared to things, my girls would rather have me with them. I realise now I have made a success of my life- nor through being wealthy or having a good job. It's impossible to be surrounded by such a fantastic community, wonderful and supportive friends and a caring family and think of yourself as a failure.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Let the memories live again

"Will we actually SEE Tracey Beaker like I'm seeing you now?," says Child 1 before I've even managed to open my eyes. She's already fully clothed in an attempt to speed us up. She's been working on a few drawings this week to give to Daddy when he comes this afternoon to take them to the cinema and out for dinner but she decides to give her favourite to her off the telly. I see over breakfast she puts her address on the bottom with a note 'maybe you could write to me,' and not for the first time I feel a lump in my throat. Child 2 has gone into melt down over socks - she hates to wear them- and has stuffed them down the back of the sofa while her sister is asking me to help with our postcode. Then there's a full scale hunt for five teddies which absolutely have to come with us. Finally we're out and speed walking into town.
As soon as we arrive at the Assembly Hall we're met by The Pickering Centre angels, I was in bits. "She cries A LOT, sometimes on the phone," states child 1 to anyone who will share her mild embarrassment.
Then the magic begins.  Santa came out to see the children (big and small) and gives them each a gift. He was soon followed by the most convincing looking anamatroic polar bear you will ever see.
One of the volunteers then whispered to me, "look, Tracey Beaker is coming down the stairs". I tried to call Child 1 to get her attention but it came out like I'd been sucking helium.  More face flooding.  Thank god Child 1 can handle herself because I tried to help her ask for an autograph but couldn't get the words out.


After Child 1's year was made, we got on The Santa Train and went about town, singing as we went. The girls dad met us in town and took the girls off for their afternoon of fun. It was only when I got home, I realised with all the wind in my hair and the face leak, I looked like I was about to go on stage to perform Cats   Still, I don't think it does any harm to reinforce the crazy ex-wife stereotype now and again. 
I made good use of my free hours by getting the front room Christmassy.  Actually,  I had a really long nap and then woke up and berated myself for leaving it to the last minute but the result was the same. I've been a bit practical and gone for an alternative tree this year as the girls going to their other family so it makes sense not yo go overboard. 

Friday, 4 December 2015

Cheating on Pam

There's been times since The Cancer 'made itself known ' (anyone else now thinking of Paddy Mcguiness? ) that I've  been a bit of a mood hoover. No one likes an emotional dementor, least of all me. I do that very British thing when I cry of saying sorry, waving my hands in front of my face like I'm on fire and doing half gurning sobs as I try to laugh at myself, throwing in a few more 'sorry's' for posterity.
Well, tonight my friends I'm doing something I haven't since before I was diagnosed - I'm treating myself to a glass of red wine. Up until now I've abstained for my health but with all the 'one more' crisps, 'oh go on then' biscuits and 'many more cups than I should' teas I think one or two glasses of wine isn't going to hurt.
Plus Pam's gone and I'm not sure if she's coming back. I know I'm getting close to the point of wanting to be with her all the time and she's just too laid back to get so attached.  I think we need a break.
With that in mind I had coffee with an amazing friend this afternoon who is so good at helping me come to terms with my mouldy boob, understand it's not some punishment from the Almighty and all the time making me laugh.
The post came and with it were half a dozen dictated letters regarding all the appointments I've been having. Lots of medical talk but nothing I didn't already know. I decided when I started writing not to go into the details too much because I'm not medically trained and may explain things poorly and also if another sufferer of the old BC stumbles across this blog, I don't want to overwhelm them with the sciencey bit, mostly because there are many different  types , stages,  grades , treatments and prognoses.  If that description fits you- only take the word of your team, not the Internet. Even the 'proper sites' offer only generic advice. Make this about you specifically and hurry up and get well.

The girls and I are up earlyish in the morning to  catch the Santa Train and meet the stars of the panto,  all thanks to the miraculous Pickering Drop -in Centre. Photos to follow!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Is liking Columbo a sign of the menopause?

There's nothing quite like a day with a four-year-old to cheer you up. Child 2 and I spent the morning having coffee with a friend,  searching for treasure in charity shops and lunch followed by a snuggle on the sofa and watching Pinocchio before collecting Child 1 from school.
Amongst all that there was even time to go and get my first injection of the drug which is giving my ovaries the winter off and inducing the menopause, hopefully temporarily. It's at this point in my life i would like a voice over from David Attenborough  , "....and now,  the ovaries bed down against the cruel winter winds, slumbering soundly until the first bulbs  flourish in Spring'.
 I've been told to expect all the symptoms (need to read up on those as I only know about hot flushes). A friend of mine asked today if they gave me any tips on how to deal with side effects . I said no but judging by everyone else who's going through it,  a subscription to Woman's Own, elasticated slacks and shopping at Edinburgh Woollen Mill were probably a good place to start.
I've not really thought about it too much  but that's mostly because Child 2 was sniffing my feet at the end of the nurse's bed, wafting her nose and telling me my feet are stinky!
I also need to clarify something from a previous post. I didn't mean to upset anyone when I mentioned I don't like people referring to it as 'our cancer'. I thought I was letting people off pretty lightly - there are whole YouTube videos on what not to say to cancer patients and really none of those bother me as I would rather people communicated than didn't out of fear of upsetting me.
I'm not sure if it's because I'm a stickler for accuracy after training as a journalist, or if it's because calling it ours brings to mind my left boob being a fake messiah in some kind of death cult suicide pact. That said if you do hear whispered tones from my cleavage best let me know.  The years haven't been kind, it's been a long time since any man has paid them a visit and one may be stuck there, calling for help.
So *looks down at feet while awkwardly scuffing toe of shoe back and forth on floor* sorry if it seemed snappy.  There's no wrong thing to say and considering I once told a completely paralysed man just to raise his hand if he needed anything,'I can't really judge.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

It's raining indoors

I don't feel brave or funny or positive today.  I feel like I'm on a log flume as it cranks up towards tipping point - the tension before you plunge.  Plunging in this case into panic and tears.
Today it hurts to laugh with my children,  my mind pulling between thoughts of how special they are, what an absolute gift and please don't let me die when they're so little and will they remember me?
I'm being melodramatic.  The professionals are using words like 'hopeful' and 'cured' and 'contained' but the literature on my type states it has a higher rate of recurrence than any other in the first three to five years.
I wonder to myself if/when I recover if there will ever be a day I don't worry if I'm ill again and I pray for all the things I took for granted before diagnosis.
'I think it's time I call my friend, Pam.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The rise of Chemozilla

If you've ever been pregnant and know that feeling of being totally at the mercy of the latest irrational, hormonal thought then you,  my friend, have an insight into life with The Cancer.
In my case, The Cancer hasn't taken control of the levers in my brain  but I have to admit feeling a bit teenagerish at points since I was diagnosed.  One minute all is well and I can talk about everything and anything,  the next minute someone has dared refer to my chesty lump with a word or phrase I suddenly don't like and I'm flaring my nostrils with rage, much the same as I did when my ex-husband made my morning sick self a different kind of food than the one I had asked for. For the love of God, WHY?!
I didn't improve for a while after my girls were born either- I once told a stranger to get her hand out of my little ones pram (she was cooing over her) because I wasn't sure if her hand was clean.  *Feels normal self cringing at the memory of it.
In essence,  there's only really one thing that bothers me. Here's a bit of cancer etiquette for you which most likely hasn't been covered by Debretts.  Me personally,  I  don't like 'We' and 'our' as in 'we will fight this', 'we won't let this win' and 'this is happening to all of us'. Put simply 'it' isn't . I know this shows up I'm absolutely awful at sharing and I  totally appreciate the sentiment in which these phrases are offered but 'we' haven't got equal stakes in this venture. Yes I appreciate there's no I in team  but there is in bitch.  *puts on bitch hat and sits facing the corner with nostrils flaring like a grand national racer.
In other news, had an amazing visit from a friend (and former work colleague) today. It's been almost four years since  I left and I was absolutely stunned that the rest of the gang have also promised to visit and sent cards and goodies. It was also great to talk about writing -she's amazingly talented and generous in sharing tips so it got my brain ticking over something other than The Cancer.
Lastly, spoke to my Macmillan nurse and it seems despite the gene test being clear there may still  e enough of a risk factor for me to need, as I have termed it, the double off. There's about two months to go before a decision has to be made.

Monday, 30 November 2015

A day trip to the Cancer Unit

I spend so much time within a square mile radius of my home,  it was easy to forget why my friend and I were driving out of Tunbridge Wells and just enjoy looking out the car window.  I miss the freedom of driving and because the girls and I haven't lived in Kent long, so much of it remains unexplored.
We got to the hospital in Maidstone early and while we sat having a coffee,  I received a call from Guys Hospital with the results of my gene test. No gene mutation. This means I won't need all the preventative surgery first discussed (double mastectomy,  hysterectomy, overy removal) and will hopefully only need the lump removed providing it shrinks enough with chemo.  I'll have annual screenings until I reach fifty. It didn't escape me that we're talking about me making it to fifty -my girls will be in their twenties. Never has a mum relished the idea so much of getting old!
Shortly after I went in to meet my Oncologist who was astounded I had my gene results so quickly.
I have a type of breast cancer  ( there are many different types and each behaves differently and needs different treatment ) which is called triple negative. Hormone treatments aren't an option and chemo,  surgery and radiotherapy are the only ways of dealing with it.  You would expect some one of my age with this type of cancer to have a gene mutation  and the fact I haven't means it's freak bad luck I got ill.
So, chemo begins before Christmas but  no dates as yet. By the way, Richard Fairbrass of Right Said Fred has to be on the calendar....
My toxtail of choice - a winning combination called FEC-T.  Or Feck It as I will refer to it forever more.
I get three rounds of FEC , saucy, and then a further three rounds of T, sophisticated.
Apparently the T is the hard slog but we're talking about living to at least fifty. I'll take it thanks.
Plus, to stave off early menopause I get monthly injections throughout chemo which put my ovaries into hibernation, much like the Blue Peter tortoise.
Then, and here's for me the exciting bit, they should effectively start working again once I'm recovered.  If I had my way I would have my house so full of children, you'd find them all over the place.  A chaotic,  jammy, real love home and while divorce could have made me bitter and cynical, instead I hope that one day there might be a love story for me and at least one more snuggly little baby. It might not happen but what absolute bliss to be able to dream of what could be.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

What shall we do tonight, Pam?

Tomorrow heralds my first oncology appointment and the unveiling of my course of chemotherapy and dates for each cycle. I've begun referring to it as my 'chemo calendar' and I'm still holding out that I'll be handed an actual calendar to put my dates on complete with 12 baldies as motivation.  January- obvs Phil Mitchell because everyone's grumpy after Christmas,  February would have to be Kojak,  March- perhaps Duncan Goodhew,  April -Sinead O'connor as all those tears are good symbolism for April Showers, that referee from the World Cup who looks like an alien would also make the cut.  October - naturally uncle fester....If you have any suggestions for the remaining months I'd love to hear them!
Not going to lie,  the apprehension is making me think about throwing my friend Pam into the mix this evening.  It's the reality of chemo calling and being a bit of a wuss when it comes to feeling peaky at the best of times. In my defence you wouldn't willingly schedule flu into your plans, would you? ! Still, the girls room has been organised and spruced today in anticipation of other grown ups needing to know how and where to find things when I may be testing up. Feeling a tad smug at having a clean and organised house. Is this what being a grown up feels like?!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Happy Saturday

I don't think I've ever enjoyed doing housework quite as much as this morning.  The girls and I were spurred on to make the inside of our house as fabulous as the garden now is and so we cleaned.  One tidied,  one ferried things upstairs while  I scrubbed,  washed, vacuumed, folded and organised us back into civilisation.  My girls are awesome and love a job. Today I relished taking a bit longer to show them how I do things and allowed them an extra cloth or sponge to help out and I didn't moan once. Just one of the many normal, small parts of everyday life which are a gift.
Our efforts were rewarded with a visit from one of my sisters and her family and hours filled with laughter and little cousins adoring each others company.
Don't get me wrong,  while I've accepted The Cancer I'm absolutely bricking the thought of chemo.  I don't feel ill  now but I know that's going to change soon.  Lots of questions in my mind - will I be ridiculously ill, how weak will I get, will I get fat ? (vain in the scheme of things I know) and ultimately  what's it going to be like, and at the same time wanting to never find out.  
I've been collecting screenshots of memes and other funnies people have sent me recently to stop me from being a right grumpy bastard.  With that in mind I'll leave you with this....

Friday, 27 November 2015

It's about to get messy

I wasn't expecting to be get an oncology appointment so quickly but the hospital called today and booked  me in for Monday to discuss chemotherapy 'should I wish to proceed.' I didn't realise there was an option to refuse a medically induced hangover from hell but faced with the choice I say bring it on because I have a life to be getting on with.
Fun fact- did you know there's about fifty different types of chemotherapy?  Me neither.  So next week I'll also learn what flavour toxtail I'll be on. It's likely I'll be getting my first round in before Christmas and by my calculations will be able to give up chemo for lent.  I also got to book in some complimentary therapies at the miracle centre today,  so I'll be sampling Indian head massage and reflexology over the coming weeks.  Meanwhile I am just so, so tired!  Apparently this is all part of The Cancer and is going to last for a long time,  getting worse through treatment,  hanging around for a while after. I was inwardly relieved when my littlest fell asleep on the sofa early because I didn't have enough energy for our usual bedtime routine.  Thankfully a friend had made us dinner so I just had to reheat and serve. We also had a huge treat in that my best friend's husband came round and cleared our junk heap in the garden -meaning we now have a garden to enjoy!!

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Bloody ridiculously lucky

Spoiler alert: if you read the title of this blog and thought The Cancer was about to be unveiled as a dream sequence,  sadly not.

On the plus side I don't know what I have done to deserve such an amazing,  fantastic,  kind,  warm bunch of people in my life but they're here and I feel so loved and so special.

Thank you for the phone calls, flowers,  food, impromptu visits, emails,  social media messages, linking me with friends or relatives in similar circumstances,  books, gifts....The list goes on.

My hugely talented friend, Sarah also made a video story for the girls and me about us all being princesses and mummy needing her positive pants! It's been such a hit in our house we've temporarily replaced bedtime stories!

Then there's been the surprise messages from old classmates, past boyfriends, old colleagues, friends of friends- these have lifted my spirits so much because I never expect people to remember me, let alone feel driven to get in touch.  Thank you.

My bestest friend in the whole world whose family has adopted me and the girls and are just some of the most awesome people I have ever met,  the ridiculously fantastic community we have landed in who have not only accepted us but made us feel like we have lived here a thousand years. You can never underestimate how comforting it is to know people to say hello to in the street.
Not forgetting my family,  who put up with all the ranting,  drive all this way, clean up, cook, restore order, endure more ranting yet still come back.

Finally,  my beautiful,  intelligent,  witty,  inquisitive,  hilarious, kind and thoughtful girls.  I've never had a talent or been good at any job I've done but in my children I'm bursting with pride.

My third lesson- to count my blessings and remind myself how beautiful life is.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The start of things to come

Today was treatment plan day.

  The atmosphere at home the night before a hospital appointment is like a family holiday,  the house crowded, everyone's routines abandoned,  laughter and making meals out of 'picky bits'. My guess it's because we're all relieved we're one step closer to treatment and last night was no different.

After packing the girls off to pre - school and school, it was time to head off to the fantastic, looks more like an airport, Tunbridge Wells Hospital.

Here's what I know:

I still have breast cancer. (Was counting on a whoops moment )

I know the type of cancer I have can only be treated with surgery,  chemotherapy and possibly radiotherapy.

At the moment,  it looks like it's only the lump and not present anywhere else, including my neighbouring lymph nodes.  All my soft tissue and  bones are clear!!

My treatment will start with chemotherapy and not surgery.  I'll be meeting my oncologist within the fortnight to set out my chemo schedule and it looks like I'll be having six rounds.

On Monday I will get the results of my gene testing and that will determine the extent of surgery I have. So all in all it's about as positive as you could hope for.

The most vitally important piece of information I got while I was there was from one of the Breast Care Nurses. She said: "Just because we gave it a name doesn't mean it's grown legs," which was in response to me asking if it could spread in the next couple of weeks while my chemo plan is put in place. No one knows for certain but they would estimate my tumour has been in existence, from that very first rogue  cell, for about a year. When you look at it in those terms it doesn't cast such a big shadow.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

I dreamed a dream and it has a happy ending

Not a long post today because tomorrow is treatment plan day and I will no doubt have a story to tell.

Back in the summer before The Cancer, which by the way I say in a mockney accent,  I called my sister and was in full swing moan.  Life as a single parent is tough even with the girls having arguably the best dad in the world. We don't see eye to eye a lot but man, I wouldn't have picked anyone else to have my children with.  But if you're reading this Nick,  you smell :)

Anyway,  single parent tough stuff -no help around the house,  no shared worries,  a blink away from bankruptcy,  empty cupboards and the breakdown of the worst relationship I have ever been in (the one I got in after divorce) led to my poor sister getting an earful. "Jesus Marianne,  it's  not quite Les Mis yet though is it?" She remarked,  pressing the point that it could be worse and a whole lot easier if I quit the whining.

Yet you  can't escape the irony of these months later,  deciding on having my hair cut in preparation of the chemo and sporting a resemblance to Fantine.

See for yourselves....

Monday, 23 November 2015

Miracles and my friend Pam

I feel a bit of a fraud. Not only because accepting one compliment is impossible for me, nigh on the raft that have come my way since I first posted  (thank you) but because there are times when I haven't been so brave or positive or gutsy since I went from finding a lump to waiting for a biopsy result to calling it cancer.
The time between diagnosis and waiting for my first appointment - gene testing - was the worst.  A newbie in the cancer circuit I assumed I would be whisked off straight away for surgery and treatment as though every second counted but for me it didn't work that way.  Tests need to be carried out to determine if the cancer is present anywhere else and NICE guidelines state hospitals have three months from diagnosis to begin treatment without there being an effect on the overall prognosis.  It wasn't until I called my breast care nurse, whimpering, she explained how quickly it is being handled. She suggested I go along to a local cancer drop -in centre but the last thing I wanted was to visit something akin to an old people's home full of sick bald people hunched in high backed chairs.  I limped on for a couple of days between spells of laughter and normality and plunging into full on panic attacks and sobs. It was at these moments I would call my GP. Cue my friend,  Pam. Or Diazepam, which is there for those times my head becomes overwhelmed or when I am too scared to sleep.  When my first prescription of Pam ran out I had to go into the Doctors Surgery to collect the next. My doctor has been amazing with last minute  phone appointments but on this occasion there was no space for me to talk to someone.  He had also suggested the same drop-in centre.  Armed with my prescription, I walked off down the road,resigning myself for what I was about to see.  A bunch of cloudy eyed souls....
I am not being overly dramatic when I tell you I rang the doorbell sobbing and feebly asked  "Can I come in" when a concerned looking woman opened the door.
Let me tell you,  here was lesson two. Don't count cancer sufferers out of the running yet. Grey walled? Try bright pink. Not a sinister looking baldy anywhere. And the best bit?  Well, there's actually a few best bits -
1) you can't tell the difference between the dropper -inners and volunteers as  no one looks ill
2) Complimentary therapies ranging from yoga, reiki,  massage, nutrition advice, counselling and more (all free!)
3) Tea,  coffee,  all important biscuits
4) No medical talk, you can just be normal
5) laughter and support
And for me the absolute clincher,  it's run by an absolute salt of the earth, guardian angel who had survived cancer. Twice
Thanks to a career in journalism /misery mongering,  I didn't in my wildest dreams expect to meet a survivor.  If you read the papers, everyone dies of cancer, right?  Right ? Wrong!
"I think I'm dying and I can't because I have the two best little girls and I can't do it to them, " I blurted out.
After being filled to the brim with cups of tea (it's the irish in me) the absolute gems who volunteer gave me hours of their time,  telling me stories and empowering me with hope.  I left the centre that day looking forward to making use of all the treatments,  with a strategy of how to involve the girls  (nurses outfits! ) and with a refuge from 'The Cancer'.
So now, quite often if friends and family call me to find out why I'm not home,  I'll tell them I'm hanging out with my cancer mates!
Pickering Centre? More like Miracle Centre, staffed by angels.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

What would Tay Tay do?

It just so happened that at the time of my diagnosis,  my eldest daughter who is only seven, was reading a book in which the central character dies from cancer.  It's an actual children's book too. I couldn't believe the timing of it
When I was diagnosed I was offered a children's book aimed at explaining breast cancer to little people. The problem is it talks about Daddy doing everything around the house while Mummy is poorly.  It's a nice idea  but not what would be happening in our home so I knew I would have to approach the subject in a way which was appropriate and didn't leave my girls with more questions than reassurance.
They  both knew I have had a poorly arm for a while and knew I was going to the hospital for it to be looked at  The conversation went a little like this.

Child 1- What did the doctors say about your arm?
Me- well, mummy has a lump in my booby which is making me a bit poorly so I need to have some medicine which may make my hair fall off for a bit.
Child 1- I don't want my friends to not like how you look
Me- ok, well I can wear something on my head.  What do you think I should have?
Child 1- A Taylor Swift wig.
Me- ok, sorted.
Child 2- mummy, can we keep the little baby lump in a cage?
Me- no, it's disgusting
Child 2- it's not disgusting,  I will look after it
Me- I might also need my boobies  cut off
(Cue guffawing laughter for a LONG time because this is hilarious when you are 7 and 4).
Child 1- Mummy? Can you get Taylor Swift boobies too?

So she is going to be absolutely miffed when she realises despite her best efforts to gradually morph me, piece by piece into Swifty,  I'm still going to be the same old,  slow coach tea drinking, scatty brained Mummy. But seeing as she recently said I remind her of Joy from Inside Out because o'm happy even on rainy days, I think she might just forgive me. I told her the word for what's up with me because I didn't want her hearing from older kids at school that mummy has cancer and piecing it together with Gangster Gran's fate ( the book she was reading ) and be sent into meltdown.  As a very good friend of mine says,  it's only a word, not a sentence.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Not just a star sign

Wow Cancer, you threw a right curve ball there, didn't you?  There I was, putting my tiredness down to stress, the usual fatigue of life as a single parent and the worries that come with it and then there you were.  Or still are, if I am to be exact.  All 2cm of you occupying a lumpy zone in my previously unlumpy left breast. It's down to Facebook I caught up with you .  Nope, you didn't come up as a suggested friend,  rather Breast Cancer Awareness Month was popping up in my news feed and at 32 I thought I had better carry out my first check.  The lump was so prominent and hard I thought it was bone and checked the right side.  Nothing similar.  After keeping an eye/ hand on it for a couple of days I mentioned it to a friend who straight away groped me and sent me on my way to my GP who referred me to my local Breast Clinic.
The Registrar felt the lump and marked it up with a X so it could be found easily for the ultrasound. My request for a smiley face was turned down. An ultrasound led to a mammogram, which led to a biopsy, which led to waiting to speak to the registrar. Even though 1 in 100 of those referred will have cancer, I thought something wasn't going in my favour while I waited to meet the registrar who was hanging around the nurses station at the other end of the corridor. He was clearly waiting for someone and in the fullness of time the person he was waiting for made herself known.  A breast care nurse. A Macmillan breast care nurse.
"We've taken a biopsy from your growth and we are waiting to find out if it is cancerous or not but we recommend you bring someone with you for your results. Your appointment letter is already in the post and we want to see you next week. "
Typically, fiercely independent me arrived the following week the same way as I had for my previous appointment.  Alone.  No one needed to tell me I had Cancer for the simple fact the very same breast care nurse arrived in the waiting room to call me through. It's not like you see diagnosis on the telly. At least that's not how it was for me.   Yes, I was told I had breast cancer but that was quickly followed up with information of how we were going to make it so I no longer have breast cancer. Lots of talk of almost 90% survival rates, surgery,  chemotherapy,  radiotherapy,  gene testing,  possible preventative surgery in the future and the likelihood of hair loss,  menopause and infertility.  Dating just got tougher!
My response to this news?
"Think of the fortune I'll save on my hair!"
"Thank god I already have my children"
"Double Mastectomy?  I get a boob job!"
For nearly a week I cracked more cringey jokes than you get from a holiday camp entertainer.  The situation was so mental, so absurd and yet so typical of my luck I had to laugh.  So I did for all those days until I found the Internet and began to absorb all the pseudo - science available.  I put the fear of God in myself,  convinced myself I was a goner and resigned myself to the worst.  Until I spoke to my care team and learned my first lesson - only listen to what your nurse/ doctor tells you.  Be guided only by them and not the unsubstantiated myths online or the tales of a well meaning friend's aunties, sisters neighbours cousin.  Your care team are not in the business of killing people.  They want you to get better.  You want you to get better. Trust them and only them on what they are doing because they have done this before.