Breast cancer, Breast Cancer Awareness, Cancer, Chemotherapy, Cooking, Dublin, Food, Hair loss, Hair regrowth, Health, Humor, Humour, Ireland, Radiotherapy, St Vincent's, UK, Women's Health

Radiotherapy: Week Six (in Which I Ditch the Wigs)

IMG_4596What an extraordinary week. In a good way.

After a very tough month (surely there should be some kind of referendum to abolish January?), things are finally starting to get better and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The main triumph of the week was giving up my wigs and unleashing my bald, slightly fluffy head to the entire world. Although the final result has been liberating, it certainly wasn’t an easy move. In fact, from Monday to Wednesday I ditched the wigs but instead wore a bright red woolly hat that I’ve had since I was about 16.

IMG_4482After three days of having an itchy and sweaty head, I finally felt semi-ready to ditch the Paddington Bear/ Little Red Riding Hood look and whap out my naked head to the entire office. And, believe me, ‘naked’ is the operative word.

You see, bearing your bald head all-of-a-sudden to an office of 400 people is very much like walking around the office in a bikini. Or your underwear. It feels disconcerting, uncomfortable and very, very scary. And ‘self-conscious’ is certainly an understatement.

But, fortunately, by Thursday, two males in the office (one gay, one straight and married) told me respectively that I look ‘sexy’ and ‘much better’ with my bald head than with my wigs or hats. And, I know it might not seem like it, but that meant an awful lot.

IMG_4548It also helped that some kind soul had posted a very uplifting message on the mirror of the ladies’ toilets on my floor, so I get told I look FABULOUS every time I go to the loo. I think I might make one of these posters for my bathroom mirror at home as well…

Saturday night, I was ready for a bit of a night out, despite feeling exhausted, and I would have probably gone back to wearing a wig for extra confidence, had I not been told about a live music night called “Shave or Dye” to raise money for the Irish Cancer Society. It’s part of the “Punks Vs Monks” fundraising event in Ireland and basically does what it says on the tin – you go along for the night out and either shave off or dye your hair to raise money for charity. Naturally I decided to attend the event with my naked scalp in tow, assuming I would fit right in.

IMG_4601Unfortunately, there weren’t actually any takers for the head shave, and I was still the only woman in the pub with a bald head. It was still completely worth it, though, because everyone assumed I had shaved my head for charity and I became the heroine of the evening. One woman said “Wow, your hair looks amazing!” as she passed me on the way to the loo, and another high-fived me and shouted “Did you get the full head?!”

IMG_4605On the eyebrow front, I burst out in tears of joy earlier in the week when I noticed there were some 30 or so tiny little eyebrows starting to sprout on both sides. In the picture to the left, you can see my original eyebrows circa May 2012, and my current eyebrows, circa three days ago (sans make-up). As you can see, I still have a few stragglers, but nothing like the caterpillars I had before. But what you can’t see is the tiny little shoots that are starting to grow, and bringing me infinite joy.

IMG_4534Also bringing me infinite joy this week was the massive package full of goodies I received all the way from Little Rock, Arkansas.

Through the online cancer support groups I’ve joined recently, I have met a number of women in their late 20s and early 30s who are also going through the horrible experience that is breast cancer. One of these girls is Heather, who is even younger than me, at 29, and was diagnosed around the same time as me. Not one to sit on her arse and moan, Heather set up “Fighting Fancy,” which sends out boxes full of amazing, useful goodies (mascara, hair-strengthening shampoo, etc) for women all around the world going through chemo. (Or those who have just finished it, like me). I was the lucky first ever Dublin recipient of a Fighting Fancy box and it very much brought a smile to my face, so thank you, Heather.

IMG_4550Finally, this week hailed my ‘Not Birthday’. On February 2nd, for some curious reason, I received not one, not two, but three birthday cards. And it was definitely not my birthday.

The date was 8/2, and my birthday is 2/8 (Aug 2nd) but by total coincidence two friends sent me cards that day that had the words “Happy Birthday” crossed out inside, and both of them wrote “I didn’t realise this was a birthday card when I bought it, soz”. And a restaurant sent me a discount voucher because it was my birthday.

IMG_4604So, with 28 rounds of radiotherapy down and only 5 remaining, I’d just like to wish myself a very Happy ‘Not Birthday’! I think this calls for some cake…

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Breast cancer, Breast Cancer Awareness, Breast Cancer Screening, Cancer, Chemotherapy, Hair loss, Hair regrowth, Health, Mammogram, Radiotherapy, St Vincent's, UK§, Women's Health

Radiotherapy: Week Five

So, tomorrow marks exactly one year to the day I found a lump in my left breast: Saturday, 4th February, 2012. For those of you who’ve only recently started reading this blog, I’ll go back to the beginning.

I was living in Buenos Aires this time last year when I went to northeast Brazil on a surfing holiday. It was just after I checked into the beautiful beachside guesthouse that I lay down on the bed and, somehow (I’m still not sure how), I discovered the lump.

Now, I’m aware that for anyone who has never found a lump, it may be difficult to imagine what one looks like, so I thought for the first time I would show you a couple of photos I took just before my surgery last June. (Please excuse the blurry, red face – I had probably been crying as I bid goodbye to my boob in its original state.)

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If you look closely, you should be able to make out the bump in the skin on the right of the photo. It is bruised because I’d had the core biopsy a week or so earlier (where the giant needle is inserted into the tumour to take a sample). But, as you can see, it wasn’t like a massive bump sticking out of the breast, nor was it a different colour from the rest of my body, nor did it have any other outwardly visible characteristics.

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I thought it might be helpful for people to see that my cancer didn’t come with a glaring neon pink sign that said “Hey, here I am – a big fat tumour just waiting to kill you!” No, it was much more subtle. Cancer is sneaky and sly. It often hides itself away while it quietly spreads around your body and waits for you to notice the more glaringly obvious symptoms.

That said, breast cancer comes in many shapes and forms. The symptoms can be anything including a lump, a dry patch, discharge from the breast, discolouration, swelling, or any change in size or shape. And it’s important to feel around the whole area – armpits included – because the cancer might not be in the main protruding part of the boob.

So that’s what happened exactly a year ago tomorrow. I had cancer and I didn’t even know it. I went to the hospital straight away for tests and was told by the Argentine doctors that it was a benign tumour (I.e. not cancerous). After the misdiagnosis, I continued living my life as normal until June 22nd, when I finally got the correct diagnosis in Ireland. I’m forever thankful to my then-boyfriend and my mum, for being the two people who insisted I get a second opinion. Without that, who knows what would have happened?

Fast forward to 2013 and radiotherapy continues to go well: 23 down, 10 to go. I think half the people at work don’t even realise I’m going out for radiotherapy sessions every day, so at least I appear normal.

That said, as you can see below, the hair growth is still painfully slow. (FYI, today’s eyebrows are brought to you with a normal eyeliner pencil, because I came back to Huddersfield for the weekend and forgot my eyebrow make-up. Someone get me a stylist, please!)

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I’m currently trying to pluck up the courage to stop wearing my wig to work. There may be an opportunity to ‘break people in’ at a fancy dress party on Friday. The theme is 90s. I was thinking of copying a fellow breast cancer blogger, Dee, and going as a 90s-look Sinead O’Connor. But I don’t think it really fits in with what the rest of the partygoers are planning to wear. Also, it’s slightly absurd to think of going to a fancy dress party as Sinead O’Connor, just to feel brave enough to show my bald head, when everyone knows I’m bald underneath the wigs anyway! So maybe another week and I’ll do it. Or maybe a bit of alcohol is needed for Dutch courage? Maybe a few shots of tequila before work? (Actually that might not be the worst idea I’ve ever had – the drunkenness might deflect away from the baldness…)

Apart from that, there’s no real radiotherapy news. I am still quite sleepy but otherwise managing to do everything as normal, and getting 9 hours of sleep every night. (Previously unheard of in my life – another silver lining to having cancer.)

Being back at my parents’ house after a month is a bit weird. The drive home from Manchester airport on Friday night was the same drive we did home from the hospital after every chemotherapy session, and going over the Yorkshire moors I felt a slight pang of chemo-familiarity-associated sickness. Then the same again when I put a glass of water on my bedside table and got a flashback of putting a banana next to my bedside table so that I could wake up at 6am and eat it with my chemo steroids. Yuck. It’s only been two months, but these chemo flashbacks are likely to stay with me for a long time. Fortunately, it hasn’t completely coloured my time back at home.

Well, that’s it for today. This time last year I had cancer. Now I don’t. Thank goodness I found that lump.

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Breast cancer, Cancer, Chemotherapy, Dublin, Hair loss, Hair regrowth, Health, Humor, Humour, Ireland, Radiotherapy, St Vincent's, Uncategorized, Women's Health

Radiotherapy: Week Four

18 down, 15 to go…

Technically, that means I’m more than half-way through my radiotherapy sessions, but I still have 1-2 months of lethargy and sore skin ahead of me. Still, at least there are only 15 more hospital visits to go, and I’ll be particularly glad to say good riddance to the late-night trips to St. Vincent’s! (A lot of my radiotherapy sessions are after 8pm because the machines are in maintenance during the day).

After three weeks of feeling spritely, it’s safe to say the tiredness has officially kicked in. It hit me like a brick wall mid-last week and I’ve been feeling sleepy ever since. It’s not quite into the realms of chemotherapy exhaustion, but my eyelids feel heavy and I can see myself becoming partial to afternoon naps. In a month’s time I may be like a walking zombie. On the plus side, though, my skin is still only very slightly red and I’m not feeling any soreness from the radiotherapy.

The highlight of my week was when a lady asked me how I did my eyeliner. As all of my girlfriends will testify, I have never been able to do make-up, particularly not eyeliner, so the lady’s question came as something of a small triumph to me. Fair enough, she was a lady in the hospital, whose husband was having radiotherapy, and not some fashionista on the streets of Dublin, but nevertheless I gave myself a small pat on the back. If having cancer has taught me nothing else, at least it’s shown me how to do eyeliner.

Other highlights of the week involved the radiotherapy computer breaking down and causing a waiting-room backlog, sparking a rare conversation among patients; witnessing 13 seconds of snow in Dublin from the office window, while all my friends and family in the UK had several inches of the stuff; being caught in a horizontal hailstorm that materialised just moments after perfect blue sky and sunshine earlier today; and being told by the heavy-accent Irish guy who came out to fix my TV that I have a ‘tick accent’. Other than that, it’s been pretty uneventful.

On the hair-front, IMG_4351I was afforded the opportunity for a rare back-of-head shot this weekend, on account of having a visitor from London, so I seized the chance. IMG_4424As you can see, I do have a bit of hair, but it’s slow progress. The good news is it’s growing back brunette, rather than grey or ginger. (I’ve mentioned previously that people’s hair can grow back a completely different colour after chemo, and very often grows back curly before it goes straight).

As you can see in the second photo, I still have plenty around the sides, including the partial resurgence of the famous Pricey sideburns, but still no sign of anything on top. (Please excuse the eyebrow situation – a result of the aforementioned horizontal hailstorm).

The green shoots, it seems, are appearing in all the wrong places, as I realised this morning I suddenly have rather hairy legs. Seriously?! Firstly, it took me just three weeks to lose every strand of hair on my head, yet pretty much every strand of hair on my arms remains strong and sturdy, 6 months after starting chemo. And then, just when I want my head hair to grow back in a hurry, I go and get hairy legs! Where is the justice? I’m going to have to start shaving again!

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Breast cancer, Cancer, Chemotherapy, Depression, Fertility, Hair loss, Hair regrowth, Health, UK§, Wigs, Women's Health

A Beginners’ Guide to Breast Cancer Diagnosis for Young Women

‘Oh, but you’re so young!’It’s a phrase I’ve heard repeatedly throughout my breast cancer journey. Nobody expects a woman in her 20s to have breast cancer – after all, eight out of 10 cases are in women over 50, and only a tiny fraction are women under 35, or men. But every year, about 200 women under 30 are diagnosed with the disease.

Having breast cancer is an isolating experience, regardless of age, nationality or background. It’s no less easy for a 70-year-old than for a 25-year-old. Nevertheless, over the past seven months since my diagnosis at age 29, I have found that a lot of the support and guidance available is (understandably) catered towards older women, and doctors don’t necessarily take into account the needs of the pre-menopausal.

With that in mind, I’ve put together a few bits of advice from personal experience. Most of it is relevant to women of all ages, but I hope some of it will be particularly helpful to those few fellow women in their 20s and 30s who receive a diagnosis this year.

(Please click on the link below to see my latest blog for Breast Cancer Care UK):

http://breastcancercare.org.uk/news/blog/beginners-guide-breast-cancer-diagnosis-younger-women

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Breast cancer, Cancer, Hair loss, Hair regrowth, Health, Ireland, Radiotherapy, St Vincent's, Women's Health

Radiotherapy: Week One

New Year, new cancer treatment…

Rounds of radiotherapy done: 3

Rounds of radiotherapy to go: 30

Feeling: Pretty good!

I arrived at the Herbert Wing of St. Vincent’s hospital, Dublin, on Jan. 2 for my first radiotherapy session and was shown almost straight away into one of the radiation rooms (unmissable due to the above sign). Inside the big, spacious room full of machinery, two lovely Irish ladies explained a little about what they were going to do, while I stripped off my top half and changed into the attractive and somewhat Christmassy white robe with red and white patterns (you can’t quite see the Christmassy-ness in the below photo). I then lay on top of the platform/bed you can see in the photo and put my arms into the red arm-rests above my head while the two of them fiddled around with machinery and called out various different numbers. (A lot like being at the dentist’s).

I’m lying on my back and can see three green laser beams – one directly above my head and one to the left and right of the room. These green laser beams line up exactly with the mini tattoo specks in the middle of my body and on my left and right sides, and this in turn lines up the equipment. Once it was all lined up, the girls quickly exited the room and proceeded to control the radiation machinery remotely (so as not to zap themselves in the process).

In the below photo, you can see the large machine above my head. The round plate thing detaches from this and rotates into different positions while giving me the radiation from a sideways position so as not to give too much zapping to my lungs and heart. It spent maybe five minutes on my left side and five minutes on the right side, while I just lay there, still as a sleeping lion, listening to One Direction on the CD player, having a whale of a time. (I had read in one of the radiotherapy booklets that you can take your own CDs for them to play while you wait, but frankly with the likes of 1D on the menu, I don’t think I’ll be needing to.)

After about 10 minutes, it was all done and I got dressed again and headed home. Meanwhile Mum, who came with me for the first few days and has now gone back to England, made friends in the waiting room and managed to get the entire verbal Tourist Guide to Dublin from the very friendly pal of a fellow patient.

On Jan. 3, I went back for round two. This time I was in a different room and Duffy was playing on the CD player. Two different lovely Irish ladies (I think they said there are five in total, so I knew I’d have met them all by day three) fiddled around with the machinery this time and called out the numbers, then they fled for about 10 minutes while the machines buzzed around me and I got radiated.

Jan. 4, much of the same. I was in room two again and Duffy was still on the CD player (I fear they peaked with One Direction on Wednesday and nothing else they play will ever live up to it). This time, the girls were back in the room within about five minutes and I said “That was quick!” It turns out the part where I’m receiving the radiation only takes about two minutes. Radiation is measured in units called “grays” and I have two grays each time. Two grays, it seems, takes about two minutes to deliver, and this time they didn’t need to take any photos with the machine, so I was in and out faster than Duffy could warble something about Warwick Avenue.

And that was that. I get the weekend off then it’s more of the same for the next six weeks, every single week day. The main side effects of radiation are extreme tiredness – which I’m told will get worse and worse, peaking about two weeks after the last session (i.e. beginning of March), and red, sore, burnt skin in the area receiving the radiation. This takes a couple of weeks to kick in, so in about two weeks I’ll have a really red, burnt, painful breast to look forward to! I can’t use deodorant (so apologies to my workmates if I stink) or underwired bras or perfume around the area, and I have to lather it in pure aloe vera gel or E45 cream twice a day. I already feel like I have a little ‘prickly heat’ in the area, but it may just be the association effect of the aloe vera gel, which I only ever use when I’m sunburnt.

Apart from that, it feels great to be back in Dublin and back in my apartment, living a more ‘normal’ life. Yesterday I went for my first run since the end of June – I ran about a mile and didn’t die, so that’s progress! A week or so ago, I could barely walk up a flight of stairs without nearly keeling over, so my fitness is coming back fast.

Despite the fact that chemo finished nearly six weeks ago, I am still bald as a baby and looking a bit like a baby chick again with short hair at the back and sides but nothing on top – not a good look! I’m hoping it will start growing back as proper ‘stubble’ soon and I’ll be able to go out sporting the Sinead look, but for now I think it’s wigs all the way… Roll on the next six months so I can have my pixie back!

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Breast cancer, Cancer, Chemotherapy, Hair loss, Health, Humor, Humour, Wigs, Women's Health

15 Minutes of Fame in the Huddersfield Examiner

Today I had my 15 minutes of fame in the Huddersfield Examiner, the follow-up to my 2004 hotpant-clad debut, back before the online archives even began.

I’m pleased with Hilarie Stelfox’s article, which focuses on how I’ve used this blog and my Huffington Post blog to help me through the horrible cancer journey. The only minor issue, as one of you pointed out, is the rather unfortunate advert for some funeral services in the online version of the article (which they’ve said they’ll remove) but we’ll let it pass, in the name of good humour!

Click here if you want to read the article.

Since I know only about 2% of the people who actually read this blog are in the Huddersfield area, here’s a couple of pictures of the hard-copy version, which my Dad just went out and bought:

(I’m not overly happy with the bald pic, which I think makes me look a bit chubby-faced. But then I realised when I got weighed at the hospital yesterday and today that I have actually put on 5kg (ie almost 10% of my original weight!) since before chemo, so maybe I am just a little chubby-faced compared to what I was before!)

And the unfortunate funeral ad:

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Breast cancer, Cancer, Chemotherapy, Hair loss, Hair regrowth, Health, Taxotere, Women's Health

Is the Chemo Working?

Many of you have asked me whether my chemotherapy is working, which is a very good question.

Sometimes chemo is given to people before they have surgery, to reduce the size of the tumour and operate once it has shrunk. The doctors do scans routinely to see whether or not the tumour is shrinking, so it’s possible to see whether the chemo is doing its job.

In my case, my tumour was relatively small and my surgeon hero successfully removed the whole nasty thing in June. He also took some of the surrounding tissue and tested it for cancer cells, and this came back beautifully clear (which is why I declared myself footloose and cancer-free in early July). It was the best possible outcome and I got it.

My chemotherapy and radiotherapy, therefore, are entirely preventative. I am technically as cancer-free as the rest of you, but because I am young, I need to be blasted to bits with the strongest drugs and radiation just to make sure that if there is even one minuscule, evil little ‘C’ cell still hanging out somewhere inside me, it gets absolutely obliterated and never, ever, EVER has the chance to grow and multiply and make friends with other little nasty ‘C’s to form a tumour again.

Because my chemo and radiotherapy are only preventative, there is no need to do any tests or scans to see if it’s ‘working,’ according to my oncologist. Giving me scans to check for anything at the moment would expose me unnecessarily to further radiation, so there will be no scans for the foreseeable (although I may have to have one before radiotherapy, to decide where the radiation will be given).

So, the answer to the title question is “we hope so!”  It’s basically a case of trusting the statistics and assuming that subjecting my body to all this short-term poison is doing me some long-term good… Here’s hoping!

In other news, I still have a very croaky, husky voice and a horrible cough and cold (along with half the nation) and am on the antibiotics and going for another blood test tomorrow (when will the needles stop?!) But the good news is my hair still seems to be growing nicely in random patches and there has even been a vague glimpse of some sideburns. I never thought I’d be so happy to see those big, dark sideburns again!

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Breast cancer, Cancer, Chemotherapy, Hair loss, Health, Humor, Humour, Taxotere, Wigs, Women's Health

Faking It (and Failing)

Dear inventor of make-up and wigs,

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I don’t know what I’d do without you. (See photo)

From Laura Hetty Price, aged 30 years, 4 months and 4 days 

(3 months and 6 days of which bald as a baby)

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Right, that’s it – I give up on fake eyelashes. They are officially the devil’s work.

So yesterday, I had my interview with the Huddersfield Examiner. The photographer and journalist were coming to my house, so I wanted to look nice for my first local newspaper appearance since my 2004 hotpant-clad debut. As you can see by the above photo, my “Before” look is pretty dire now that I’m at the very end of my chemo treatment. Despite the fact that I still have at least 50 eyelashes and 50 eyebrows (I haven’t actually counted – that’s a guesstimate), you would hardly know it to look at me. Add to that the fact that I seem to be going through a rosy-cheeked hot flush in the above photo, and you’ll probably agree you wouldn’t want to appear in a newspaper in front of all your old school friends looking like that either. So, naturally, I wanted to put on some false eyelashes to try and recapture a little of my former dazzle.

Now, two years ago, when I was young and carefree and dabbled for the first time in fakies, I was an absolute natural. Under the careful supervision of my housemate Beth, I applied the glue (gentlemen, be not afraid) to the edges of the falsies, waited 30 seconds or so while waving the lashes about a bit to gain flexibility, then simply looked down and pressed the lashes onto the top of my own ones and held for a while until the glue took hold. Simples, as those meer cats on the telly would say.

Flash forward to 2012, my lashes a shadow of their lengthy, luscious former selves, and things were not so simple. After thirty minutes of grappling with Boots No 7’s finest lashes, Cheryl Cole’s signature collection, some professional Shu Uemera lash glue and a load of sticky, black mess, I still could not attach a single one of the fakies firmly to my own limp, ailing eye hairs and I collapsed into a frustrated tizzy. (It is not often that I get into a tizzy, dear reader, but you can be assured that my lack of experience and expertise in the area of make-up and hair is one of the few things almost guaranteed to cause me bother whenever I step out of my comfort zone.)

The glue used in the fake eyelash industry, I am convinced, is made of exactly the same stuff as the adhesive in the bandages used to protect my breast and armpit scars after my surgery. Those of you who have been reading this blog since the beginning will have no problem casting your minds back to July, when I complained about the difficulty I was having removing said adhesive from my breast and armpit, resulting in unfortunate stickage of a) my clothes to my skin and b) my arm to the side of my body. I am now, it seems, having similar problems with the eyelash glue, whereby after several applications of three different types of glue to my eyelids yesterday, my eyes and lashes are now sticking together. This does not bode well for the preservation of the remaining 50 or so eyelashes I do still possess…

Anyway, needless to say, my relationship with the fake eyelash industry is well and truly over and I will just have to hope that the aforementioned stragglers do pull through to 2013 and beyond. For those interested, I have also looked into permanent eyelash extensions, but it seems that as these are attached lash-for-lash to the eyelashes you already have, it isn’t really the ideal option for me. I don’t want to lengthen the ones I’ve got, but thicken them and add new ones. There may be a gap in the beauty market for that particular product.

(Wow, I honestly I had no idea I was even capable of writing so much on the subject of fake eyelashes…)

So, after that digression, I put normal make-up on (see the “After” pic at the top) and did the interview with the lovely lady from the Examiner. The chap came round and took a few photos of me, and I did a few with wig off and a few with wig on (Samantha). I didn’t like any of them, and have decided I’m going to stop this posing-wigless nonsense from now on because I am never pleased with any photos that don’t come from my own iPhone, so that’s that. I’m not sure exactly when the interview will appear in the paper but I will of course keep you posted. I now have a national newspaper on my trail too so I’m one step closer in my quest for world domination.

On the health side of things, my temperature has remained higher than normal for almost four days and I’ve been coughing too, so I went to see my doctor yesterday. He did a bit of a health assessment and confirmed my chest is clear, which is excellent news. I don’t have any visible infections but am still concerned because I’m going to London tomorrow to see the nutritionist and the last thing I want is a temperature spike when I’m 200+ miles away from my usual hospital. So I went for a blood test this morning (amazingly, the needle went in and drew blood first time – happy days) and will hopefully find out by tomorrow just how dangerously low my white blood cells are this time…

I just did my 49th daily injection of Filgrastim and will possibly do a little dance at the nutritionist’s office tomorrow afternoon when I celebrate my 50th (AND LAST EVER, hopefully).

I’ll leave you with a couple of pics of the first winter snow in my beautiful native Shepley yesterday. 

Unfortunately, the paltry amount of snow we received has melted and it’s now lashing with rain and bitter winds outside. Delightful.

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Breast cancer, Cancer, Chemotherapy, Hair loss, Taxotere, Women's Health

Time Goes By… So Slowly

Time goes slowly when you’re not having fun, I can confirm.

And at certain points during chemotherapy, it is as if time has stopped entirely, and life is going on around you while yours is completely stopped, and all you can do is lie in bed and stare into space. I’ve had days like this in every round of chemo, and it kicked in again last weekend. It’s just like when you spend a Saturday night in by yourself looking at everyone else having fun on your Facebook feed (which I do all the time), only times the feeling by a few thousand! Quite depressing.

It took about four days before the effects of the final Taxotere really kicked in, and over the weekend I started to feel all the usual tiredness, lethargy, aching, prickling pains, sore mouth, coated tongue, horrible taste in my mouth and a general feeling of being just not right – you can’t really put your finger on it, but it really makes you quite miserable. I have been having the worst hot flushes all week, but am reasonably convinced that they’re due to the steroids and chemo drugs and not the actual menopause. It’s a bit tricky to get cool during a hot flush when you have two heavy cats sitting on top of a duvet on your lap though!

I have also been able to feel my veins pulsing and twitching for the past week – fortunately it seems to have stopped today, but it’s rather weird, as if I can feel the drugs going up and down my veins. The nurses have showed me how to massage my damaged veins and I’m trying to do some stretching exercises as I realise my muscles and joints are totally tight at the minute and not used to so much inactivity. You don’t realise how much your body will change during chemo treatment, but I feel like it has aged my body by about 30 years. Assuming radiotherapy doesn’t hit me too badly, I hope I can start jogging gently in January and get back to a good level of fitness within a few months.

I have had an elevated temperature for the past 32 hours or so – not quite high enough to go to hospital, but much higher than normal, which is worrying. I am checking my temperature every hour and dreading the moment I see 37.7 and know I have to go back to the hospital to be put back on the drip… After six rounds of chemo, my immune system is at its lowest ever, and the feeling of wanting to get past this stage and out of the danger zone couldn’t be stronger.

I haven’t taken pictures of anything other than cats for the past week at home, but my Mum pointed out that there was a patch of hair growing on the back of my head, so I asked her to take a picture. The photo on the left is from the day of my last chemo and the very ugly back-of-my-head photo on the right is from yesterday. I was quite surprised how much hair there was, and it seems a lot of it is recent growth, which makes me think my hair has already started growing back. It will probably still fall out a bit in the next couple of weeks though and start growing again, and apparently I’m likely to get ‘baby hair’ before I get real hair (I think the stuff I have at the moment is baby hair – it’s extremely soft!)

The nurse said it should start growing back one month after the last chemo, so that’s Christmas Day – something to look forward to!

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