Archives for category: Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Shellie Kendrick, one of the creators of the Real Cancer Awareness video

Shellie Kendrick, one of the creators of the Real Cancer Awareness video

It’s that time of year again: October, aka Pinktober. The month that is now almost as well known for cancer awareness and the colour pink as it is for falling leaves, pumpkins and trick-or-treat.

There is nothing wrong with pink, and I am 100% supportive of breast cancer awareness, but there is a growing sense in the cancer world that so-called Pinkification and Pinkwashing are trivialising the disease and giving a disproportionate amount of attention to breast cancer awareness while other cancers are virtually ignored.

My latest Huffington Post blog introduces a new video aimed at real cancer awareness by cancer survivors Ashley Blair Doyle, Shellie Kendrick and Rachel Michelson. Please read it, watch it, share it and spread the word.

IMG_2644Why do I always pick the hottest, sunniest days for these things?

Anyway, I did it: The Royal Parks Half Marathon in 2 hours 13 mins 1 second. That’s only 12 minutes behind my pre-cancer, pre-chemo, pre-radiotherapy record, so it’s fair to say I’m pretty chuffed.

What an amazing day.

A huge, huge thank you to my running buddy, Karen, to all who came along to watch and cheer (particularly Mum, Sarah and Dan, and Sophie), to the men dressed as giant squirrels who served as my pacemakers throughout, and to all you very generous people who have sponsored us. We’ve raised almost £2,000 for Coppafeel!

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In Buenos Aires, at a conveniently named ‘Bar,’ back before any of this ever happened

A year and a half ago, I had my very first mammogram, having just discovered the lump in my left breast while living in Buenos Aires.

Thanks to my health insurance, I had the tests and results all in the same day. Everything was fine. I didn’t have cancer, said the Argentine doctor.

I was given some printed reports and a short letter, which I read and kept, always planning to follow up with the Argentine clinic when I was eventually diagnosed with breast cancer, four months later.

But cancer is time-consuming, and it took me a year after my diagnosis to retrieve the letter and really look into its meaning. It turned out I’d been given the impression I’d got the all-clear, when in fact the medical code in the blurb actually only meant ‘Probably benign.’

Here’s what happened next…

To read the rest of this post in Breast Cancer Care UK’s Vita Magazine, click here.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that cancer is colourful. So far I’ve had green pee, red pee, blue boobs, multi-coloured fingernails… And now I have a green tongue! It has been a lovely shade of lime green for three days and goes just perfectly with my eyes and my t-shirt. The latest must-have fashion accessory, everyone should have a green tongue. (On a serious note, it’s a another side effect of the chemo so I shall be visiting my doctor tomorrow).

Aside from colourful, cancer is also painful. Well, I should really say chemo is painful, because I don’t actually have cancer any more. The pain kicked in about 48 hours after the last chemo session and has lasted the several days since then. So, while it hasn’t given me the terrible nausea I had with FEC, the Taxotere drug has given me the worst all-over body pain I’ve ever experienced. It is an intense, all-over body ache, not like the pleasant and satisfying soreness you get after a heavy gym session, but more like the bone-chilling ache you’d get if you ran two back-to-back marathons at the age of 99. I can feel my bones hurting from inside, and everything is stiff as if I’ve been bedridden for years. My knees felt like they’d buckle when I stood up to brush my teeth and I have to hold onto the banister to come up the stairs. It’s weird to feel like I’m crippled when I’m 30 and perfectly fit and healthy. (Well, apart from the cancer, that is).

Still, at least I feel like the chemo drugs are doing their job. Hopefully the pain is a sign they’re working. It’s been horrible being cooped up in bed for the past five days and it’s like going back to square one with the chemo because whereas I used to know how long the excessive tiredness would last, I don’t know quite how long the pain will last, and the oncologist said it might take me longer to recover this time. Fortunately I have been able to sleep pretty soundly and have had plenty of good books to read. And painkillers. Lots of painkillers.

Speaking of things being colourful, it was only when I stood up long enough to look out the window today that I noticed autumn was here, and it’s absolutely beautiful. There’s nothing quite like the beauty of red, green and yellow leaves. I even managed my first five-minute walk this afternoon to try and stop my joints completely clamming up and failing to function forevermore, and the crisp, cold, sunny autumn air did me good. Hopefully just a few more days of pain and I’ll be back on track.

I just injected myself! With a needle! In my belly! And I barely even felt it! Exclamation mark exclamation mark exclamation mark!

I know it’s only a little thing but it does feel like a big achievement. Conquering a fear is always a good thing. And it’s good to be the one in control of the situation, as it were. To be honest, self-injection seems like a doddle compared with the ice torture technique I endured at the hospital on Tuesday. Just a little two-second pin-prick compared with 1 1/2 hours of hand-and-foot-twitching pain. And I even managed not to poke the cat’s eye out with the needle.

I think I deserve a glass of champagne after that. Or a cup of tea… Fortunately, my Graze box just arrived and came with a slice of fresh pumpkin and ginger cake and a tea bag, so high tea I shall indeed have! I love the way they’ve even sent me a personalised “Laura hearts tea” card. Damn right.

Just before the ice torture also known as my last chemotherapy session, the oncologist went through a few of the side effects I might experience from the new Taxotere drug I was about to start taking. These included a very sore mouth, possible oral thrush and diarrhoea. Oh, and I might also suffer from anaphylactic shock during the drug infusion.

After that minor warning, my Mum was already on high alert when the side of my face started to go blotchy just before the chemo went in. The nurses were immediately called to my side, and fortunately they explained it was probably just the ‘flush effect’ of the steroids I’d just taken with my soup-and-cheese-sandwich lunch. Panic averted, we were good to proceed.

The oncologist also drew me a very simple graph depicting my energy levels, immune system and general wellbeing over the course of the six chemo cycles. I have never been very good with graphs and numbers, but it didn’t take much to see the picture translated as “You will gradually feel worse and worse and worse as the chemo goes on.”

Well, so far – touch wood – I’ve been feeling better than I did after the last chemotherapy sessions. To be honest, after undergoing the horrendous ice-torture experience, I’d have to hope the aftermath would be more enjoyable. Apparently the effects of Taxotere can take longer to get over, but I think they also might be taking longer to kick in.

Fortunately, the cats have been looking after me, as usual. I went straight home after the hospital on Tuesday and used a little gentle bribery to make them sit with me. I know they do not look that happy in the first photo, but it’s only because they didn’t like my Mum shoving a camera in their faces. As you can tell by the second picture, they were clearly in their elements, basking in the warmth of my leg heat.

Well, off to enjoy my tea now…

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