Archives for posts with tag: coppafeel
Chemo 27 Nov

Last time in the chemo chair, November 2012

I forgot the one-year anniversary of my last chemo. Yep, it passed by completely unnoticed on November 27 and it took a whole week before I realised. That I could forget my own “Chemo-versary” is some serious progress.

The funny thing is I’ve been forgetting a lot of things recently and it could be down to chemo killing my brain cells. Over the last year or so, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about “Chemo brain,” a post-treatment loss of memory, concentration and general brain-scattiness.

I’ve always put my own memory loss down to age and other factors, but lately I’ve been forgetting more than usual. So whether it’s technology overload, the onset of my 30s or a side effect of the treatment, I don’t know. But it would be pretty ironic if chemo brain made me forget my own chemo, wouldn’t it?

Iphone December 2013 1699

Third hair-cut since chemo

The good news is, while I may be a few brain cells shorter than when I began, I’ve grown a lot of hair in the mean time.

A few weeks ago I had my third hair-cut since chemo (the second one went unmentioned on this blog because it was awful and made me hate my hair for an entire two months). As you can see from this pic, the lovely Irish hairdresser did a great job.

Nov 2013

Still thinning on top

Despite its growth at the front though, it’s still looking pretty thin and baldy on the top. My eyebrows are also still pretty much non-existent underneath the make-up and I don’t know if they’ll ever grow back. Having spent a fortune on eyebrow-growth products with no results whatsoever, I’ve now decided just to let nature take its course.

Iphone December 2013 1975

Boob championing with Newton Faulker and my fellow Boobette, Rachel

If I was in any way feeling sorry for myself about my winter flu and thinning eyebrows, last week saw me put firmly back in my place at a thank you party organised by my favourite charity, CoppaFeel! Every time I see or hear from the amazing founders, Kris and Maren, I am reminded of how incredibly lucky I am to have come out of cancer virtually unscathed, with my life and health in tact.

The rather glamorous party was a celebration of the first four amazing years of the charity set up after Kris’s diagnosis in 2009 that has since helped so many young people and spread a very important message about knowing our own bodies.

Iphone December 2013 1977

Coppin’ a feel with the Boobettes and the CoppaFeel! girls

There were speeches from Kris and Maren as well as the lovely Dermot O’Leary and a most inspiring young lady called Sarah Outen, who won an MBE after sailing the Indian Ocean all by herself. There was also a performance from Newton Faulkner, another proud boob champion who was thoroughly delightful in the flesh, and I got chance to catch up with loads of inspiring ladies my own age who have all had breast cancer too.

Though I’ve been feeling thoroughly under the weather and exhausted of late, I have to say this event cheered me right up and put everything very much into perspective.

Iphone December 2013 2006

Christmas jumper selfie

In memory of my “chemo-versary,” I’ll be posting a blog for Vita magazine in the next few days with a few tips for people going through chemotherapy, so stay tuned for that. Otherwise, I suspect this will be my last blog of 2013 so I’ll leave you with a pic of me and my festive attire and wish you all a very merry Christmas.

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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What I looked like when I started running again back in Feb

Six months ago, I foolishly signed up for the Royal Parks Half Marathon, thinking I’d be right as rain by October and not quite realising just how long it takes to regain full fitness after one surgery, six months of chemo and 33 rounds of radiotherapy. Add to that the effects of a scorching British summer, a month travelling around hot, sweaty Asia and a week of extreme jetlag and flu, and you can probably imagine I’m not doing very well with my training.

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20130706-165455.jpgThis week I gave my first breast cancer awareness talk to a class of young women at Notre Dame school in south London. It was my first experience as one of the ‘Boobettes,’ a group of young women who’ve all had breast cancer or some kind of scare and who are now helping Coppafeel! spread the message to boys and girls around the UK to check their boobs.

I did the presentation with Jo, a fellow breast cancer survivor who had the disease at the remarkably young age of 21 and who is doing fabulously now, 15 years later. I talked about my personal experience while Jo talked more about the charity. The teenage girls were very receptive and asked everything from “Do you sometimes have to have your boob chopped off?” to “Are you going to be able to have children?” Ah, life’s big questions! Let’s just say I got a proper grilling, but I didn’t mind.

image (2)Here I am, coppin’ a feel, and above with Jo, Coppafeel!’s Maren and a giant boob.

The next day, I got some results back from a blood test I’d had earlier in the week at my local doctors. It was my first blood test since December, and I was quite alarmed to discover that my blood counts have not returned to normal since finishing chemotherapy. My white blood cells, neutrophils and lymphocytes are still lower than they should be, meaning my immune system hasn’t returned to normal and I’m not quite the strong ox I thought I was. There’s nothing I can do to raise the blood counts, but my GP is writing to my oncologist to see if anything needs to be done. Given that I haven’t had so much as a cold since before Christmas, I thought my immune system must be pretty strong, but maybe I’ve just been lucky.

image (3)Meanwhile, my hair has been growing pretty nicely and is starting to look a bit like my Dad’s. If I don’t comb it down when I get out the shower, it sticks up hedgehog-style, so here’s a pic of me post-shower and au naturel, with Pricey Senior. Also note my make-up-less eyebrows, which are still a shadow of their former selves but slowly, slowly getting there. (The eyelashes, on the other hand, are pretty much back to their pre-chemo state).

This morning I did my final bit of training for the 10k Race for Life I’m doing in London next Sunday (14th July). I practically killed myself running up and down the hills of Yorkshire in 25C heat today and I haven’t managed to run 10k in less than an hour yet, but I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. If you’d like to sponsor me and Team Stylist 10 to raise money for the all-important life-saving charity that is Cancer Research UK, please click here.

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Finally, I thought you might like to see this picture of me after my first post-treatment 3k run (in the snow) in February, vs. my third 10k run (in the boiling sunshine) today. Evidentally I’m not looking quite so much like a cancer patient these days. Cancer, we’re coming to get you!

IMG_5525No news is good news, right?

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post, and that should be interpreted as a good thing. It means there has been no cancer news and no cancer treatment, apart from me trying to remember to take my daily doses of Tamoxifen, Vitamin D, fish oil, Co-enzyme Q-10, turmeric, ginger and 27,000 servings of vegetables…

Yep, I’ve been getting on with a thing called Life for the past few hospital-free weeks, and I have to say, I’ve been enjoying it. Yes, I am still tired from the chemo and radiotherapy and I do still look a bit like a peeled potato when I take off my eyebrow make-up, but otherwise I am infinitely hairier and simply happy to be alive, as you can see in the above photo of me and my team.

Those of you who don’t see me every day at work have been asking how my hair is doing, so here’s an up-to-date photo:

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And how do I feel about it?

1. I AM JUST SO HAPPY WITH MY HAIR.
2. I am so grateful to have hair.
3. I am thankful every day in the shower when it doesn’t fall out in my hands.
4. I know it still looks kinda bald from the back, but I couldn’t care less – I love it.
5. I can’t really describe to you how amazing it feels to have just this little bit of regrowth… But I have got a lot of my confidence back in these past few weeks and I feel fantastic.
6. I can’t stop touching it.
7. I could do with a hairbrush – one of those really soft baby hairbrushes.
8. Does anyone know where I can get one?

So that’s it on the hair front, really. I did also spend £50 on some sort of eyelash-strengthening product from Boots but I’m not convinced it’s doing anything at all. Strangely, my lower eyelashes are growing back thick and fast but my upper ones (i.e. the ones I could really do with having) aren’t growing back at all yet. And my eyebrows are growing back in totally the wrong place as well, but beggars can’t be choosers.

IMG_3217In other news, my friend Chris decided to take on the amazing Eddie-Izzard-esque challenge of running three marathons in three days in freezing cold conditions this very weekend, to raise money for the brilliant charity Coppafeel! on my behalf. This incredibly crazy challenge on the UK’s Jurassic Coast just happened to coincide with one of the coldest, wettest, rainiest, windiest, snowiest, blizzardy-est weekends of recent years, and led Chris to endure knee-height floods, mud, killer hills and all manner of chafing. Nevertheless, he has trooped right through it and here he is looking very dapper in his orange top and sexy pink Coppafeel! accessories!

At the time of writing, Chris has raised an incredible £1,388 for Coppafeel!, which raises awareness about breast cancer in younger women. However, it’s not too late to sponsor him! Please just click on this link if you’d like to donate to this extremely worthy charity.

882322_10152660363165627_1369138213_oWhile I can’t quite claim to have run 78 miles this weekend, I have reached a few little milestones of my own lately too. Last week, for instance, I went indoor climbing with my team and reached the top of a few easy routes. Each 5-minute climb was so exhausting and exhilarating that I came down trembling and panting for breath, but it felt like such an achievement to reach the top and just to be able to do the same physical activity my colleagues were doing. I’m definitely not back to the same fitness levels I had before chemo, but considering there were times during chemo when I could barely even stand up, I’d say this was a pretty awesome achievement. There I am, above, looking like a little spider at the top of the wall.

It’s not all fun and games, however. Next week hails my return to the hospital, for my 9-month check-up with the surgeon who saved my life. From reading a lot of other cancer blogs in the past few months, I know my fellow surviving sisters tend to get extremely panicked about these check-ups, thinking a new lump is going to be discovered and they’ll be summoned back to hospital for endless months of stomach-wrenching chemo. Thankfully, I am not a worrier and my positive thinking tells me everything is going to be just fine. (Though keep your fingers crossed for me, just in case!)

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