Emotional stripes

The weekend has finally landed, that means I’m on my last week of normal before I get my bullshitted results. Yep it’s that time again. Last time I got them good results, was on New Year’s Eve. I wrote my first ever post and the whole thing went crazy. I must admit I did think then the cancer had spread and so when they told me it hadn’t I was so relieved. The trouble is since that day I have always known it would come back, now that it has – it’s been quite nice to have a week or so without that intense worry, that I’ve been experiencing EVERYday since December about it coming back – because it’s back. That probably doesn’t make sense and my style of writing probably doesn’t help, because I know this is no joke. Seriously I do. But to have that wait time inbetween knowing its back but not quite knowing how much it’s back has actually been a bit of a slight relief for me.

The only way to explain it is if I could partition my feelings off into 5 long stripes  (since all this bullshit) then I would have 1 stripe to represent a big emotion or feeling. The first stripe would be image. I know that sounds weird before death but death seemed a far away worry at the time compared to my image – which would change far sooner than most of the emotional stripes. Let’s call this stripe the pink one. Loosing my hair was such a big deal, but thankfully I found a wig that covered that fear for a good few months, a good 5 to be precise, Mrs wig has seen better days now and my hair is growing back quite nicely- it’s kind of in the middle stage of screaming out ‘I’ve got cancer’ or ‘I’ve shaved my hair for charity look’ or I’m just that kind of girl that likes a skin head look, either way I’m at that stage now where I couldn’t give two shits what I look like in regards to my hair. Eyelashes though, that’s a different kettle of fish, that needs a stripe in itself, I mean walking around looking like a fish is seriously not a good look, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I had long curly natural locks, a nice set of eyebrows, a body that doesn’t scream steroid induced obesity and a neck the size of my thigh. Once them beauties come back i will be laughing.

The next stripe has got to be that ultimate fear of the cancer returning. If a breast cancer patient was told their cancer had returned, the best outcome would be a local recurrence in the bad boob/scar (I was told mine would be reduced to 1/10 with radiotherapy) or a new primary Breast cancer in the other boob. Quite rare I’ve been told, they are the best ones to have as they are curable. The ones you don’t want is when the existing breast cancer cells spread to your organs or bones, that’s the worry most breast cancer patients face, I would say probably daily – especially at the beginning, this type of cancer ‘coming back’ is not curable, it’s treatable but ultimately you will die from this disease.

Imagine for a second how that would feel day in day out worrying about it coming back? I’ve had every scenario you could possibly imagine go through my head ten times a day since December, I’ve written a journal with my true fears about the cancer coming back. The worry eats you up inside and that gremlin in your brain just sits in the corner watching you. I’ve been told by lots of other breast cancer survivors that the worry feeling does fade in time. But I haven’t had no time, no time at all. My cancer come back before I had even finished active treatment, that intense worry, that black emotional stripe has now turned grey, because it is back. It’s almost like I don’t need to worry about that particular stripe anymore. Of course it brings in a new stripe. Death. But it’s in appropriate of me to talk about this on an open blog, most of my family and friends read this and that would be too insensitive of me to discuss. (Just to clarify in not dying!!)

So wittingly it down the other 3 stripes are family, work and health. I don’t want to whittle on about these three as most people have these as priority wether they have cancer or not, but hopefully you can see my view on the black stripe now being diluted and turning grey.

So if you see me out and about, without Mrs wiggy on and the no eyelashes *huh hum* come and say hello. I’ve seen a few people now that have avoided me, I know it’s them not knowing what to say, but seriously I am cool, I won’t be an emotional wreck. I’m just me.

An unwelcome visitor

my last blog post was about my last stage of active treatment, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders and that ‘light’ everyone talks about at the end of the tunnel has been switched on. My worries have finally left me and we can move forward with our lives.

Except we can’t.

My shitty cancer has come back. I don’t even want to say ‘My’ as I don’t really want to own it. It can’t be mine anymore can it?

I finished chemo 7 weeks ago and radiotherapy around 10 days ago, this can’t be happening right?!

My story unfolds when a couple of weekends back I had some chest pain, all chest pains go to A&E, they’ve got to, to rule out any heart problems. All my heart tests came back normal but a blood test to see if you could potentially have a blood clot in the lung came back raised. An overnight stay in hospital and a CT scan of my chest revealed there was no clot. However they found an enlarged node in my lung and under my left armpit. The opposite side to my original breast cancer. We were obviously very concerned and the doctors in the medical unit didn’t want it to be left and not looked at, so I was referred back to my breast surgeon.

I had an ultrasound and mammogram of my good boob and that came back normal, however the radiologist felt 2 of my lymph nodes under my arm were large enough to take a biopsy, I got the results today.

They found grade 3 breast cancer in these nodes, we are still waiting for the hormone status to come back and to see if it’s the same cancer as I had before – or if it’s a brand new breast cancer in my good boob.

I’ve got to have an MRI of my left breast and a CT staging scan again. So my treatment plan is not quite clear cut as I would have liked.

I am totally gutted, my poor kids and family have to go through this all again. I’m scared this cancer is going to take my life and scared of what the future holds.

The scary thing is, this wouldn’t have been picked up if I didn’t have that original chest pain. For now we are going to try and carrying on as normal, I even arranged to go back to work yesterday – my start date was October 3rd!

Just gutted – totally gutted

Last stage of active treatment – Radiotherapy

Exactly 3 weeks after chemo ended I started radiotherapy (rads). It’s not like you just turn up and have it done, there’s a lot of prep before hand.

First you meet your consultant, they explain how rads work, what to expect and explain the important things like how long your treatment will last, how many sessions prescribed for you and paperwork like singing the consent form and checking the area being zapped. The consent form can sound scary, but in my opinion if you’ve had chemo before you will probably find the side effects discussion a breeze!

So after this appointment you get booked in for a CT scan so they can plan your radiotherapy, they are extremely precise to the millimetre of what parts of your body need treating. Someone from their physics department plans out your radiotherapy and passes it over to the radiographers who are treating you – In my case my Cousins wife Katie planned mine, she has years of experience as a radiographer and now she works in physics planning everyone’s treatment. Thank you Katie 😍

So once all that’s done, you get your appointment sheet with the times of your sessions. My local hospital is very good at trying to plan your sessions the same time everyday and working with you to achieve the best time to suit, so early am, late pm etc. I had rads everyday for 3 weeks except weekends usually around 9ish each day. Perfect for me 🙂

The first session I found particularly hard, I was laid on the couch for over an hour whilst they took images of my chest to ensure they were treating the right bit, my good arm ached so bad and the pins and needles were unbearable. But apart from that initial day I found the positioning quite comfortable. I’m the type of person at home and around family and friends to walk through the front door and just take my wig off like you would your shoes or coat, the same for rads – I left my wig with my shoes, I can’t stand lying down with the wig on it feels very weird.

Once on the couch the radiographers, usually 3 of them read out lots of numbers and words I’ve never heard of before, like gantry and imph ( I think that’s how you spell it) there’s these bright green lasers that go across the room to line you up (I forgot to mention they give you pin prick tattoos on your planning scan) if you imagine the matrix film with the green lasers but on a smaller scale that’s what it’s kind of like! They then all agree your in the correct position and off they go. The first time they rush out of the room to deliver the radiotherapy an alarm goes off, I think it’s to ensure everyone’s out the room in time, it’s very scary the first time as they are all rushing off and your laying on the couch very still, thinking your all legging it and im still here!! By day 3 you get used to it and it’s quite laughable looking back!

So apart from being slightly sore and these weird brown spots appearing on my skin, rads was very bearable, it went super quick and I had hardly any symptoms at all. Even fatigue wasn’t an issue.

Like anything health related, new procedures, a change in treatment etc can all be so scary, every experience is so different, but I would say whole heartedly, if you’ve had breast cancer chemo (usually FEC-T or similar) then rads is super duper easy! The only thing I’m so gutted the department didn’t have was a big bell to ring like they do in America! I wanted to ring that bell so bad, to mark the end of my cancer treatment!!

Ding ding!!