I haven’t written anything on this blog since February, which is due to a combination of having just completed a Masters degree in nine months and starting a new job immediately after, and – more importantly – having no cancer news to report. Continue reading
This time last year, I had just finished the last of six rounds of chemotherapy and was preparing for my first post-chemo Christmas. It’s hard to believe a whole year has gone by, particularly as I still remember the day I was ‘sentenced‘ to eight months of treatment as if it were yesterday.
Since then, I’ve met a lot of people going through chemo and I’ve been surprised at the varying advice given to them by different hospitals, for example the woman whose nails went black and started falling off after chemo because she had never been given a simple tip to help protect them.
With this in mind, I’ve written a list of ten top tips to get through chemo for this month’s post for Breast Cancer Care UK’s Vita magazine. Click the link to read the list.
Merry Christmas all!
“Baby hairbrushes are like buses. You can’t find one for months and then five come along at once!” — Laura Price, breast cancer survivor and baby-chick hairstyle advocate.
Baby hairbrushes really are like buses. Those of you who read my last blog post will know I’ve been looking out for one to tame my nascent but increasingly unruly tresses. I bought one years ago at The Body Shop for my baby niece, but alas, they discontinued the product and I couldn’t find one at my local Boots either. So I issued a call on my blog for advice on where to find one. What ensued was an unprecedented flood of recommendations: online links to baby hairbrushes and combs and advice from mums and breast cancer gals alike from around the globe.
Without further ado, I clicked on one of the links and ordered a teeny-tiny soft hairbrush last Sunday night. So I was surprised when I arrived at work Monday morning only to see my very thoughtful colleague Joana bounding over to my desk to present me with a lovely baby hairbrush-and-comb set she had found in a much better stocked Boots. And then I got home to England on Thursday and of course, Mummy Price had bought me a baby brush too. So now I have three! It’s a good job I have an army of pregnant girlfriends to avail of these surplus hairbrushes once their sprogs are born and my locks are flowing once more…
So, Thursday hailed my return to a very snowy England for the nine-month check-up with my surgeon at the Christie Clinic in Manchester. It’s hard to believe it’s actually been nine months since that fateful day when I went under the knife, but somehow it has.
The appointment didn’t exactly go to plan, with the hospital emailing me at 11am on the day to tell me that actually the surgeon wasn’t going to be in and would I mind changing it to next week? Naturally, I kicked up a fuss as I’d had the appointment in my diary for six months and had booked flights months ago. Thankfully, they managed to squeeze me in under another surgeon, so off I went to Dublin airport for the 35-minute flight.
Arriving in Manchester was a bit like landing in an alpine ski resort, with more snow over the hills than I have seen in the UK in my entire life. (Turns out it’s the most snow since 1979, before I was born.) The drive home across the Yorkshire moors involved bright blue sky and roads flanked by three-metre-high snow drifts. I’m quite grateful I had my chemotherapy during the summer, because I wouldn’t have fancied making the 1.5-hour trek through the snow every time I needed an impromptu mid-night blood test!
To the left are pictures of the snow that greeted my parents’ on their front doorstep a week ago and the cat (Tilly) contemplating whether or not to brave a garden expedition. (As a side note, for those of you who’ve followed this blog since the very beginning, Nurse Molly and Tilly are both doing most excellently. Molly has taken a well-deserved break after being my chemo companion for six months and has decided to sleep for the rest of 2013.)
Happily, everything was just as fine as I had expected with my boob (see? No need to worry!). Because of the scar tissue, my breast can feel a little lumpy to the touch (but only in a totally attractive and sexy way, you understand) and I was reassured to know that this was indeed just scar tissue and not further cancerousness.
However, I did inquire about a tiny little ball-bearing-sized lump under my armpit that appeared after the surgery and has grown slightly, and it turns out it’s a sebaceous cyst that will need to be removed. I am reasonably convinced it came from the days post-surgery when I had surgical adhesive goop stuck all over my armpit area. In my very humble and highly experienced medical opinion, this must have blocked the pores and led to the little cyst. In any case, it’s absolutely no cause for alarm, nor is it dangerous, but nevertheless I’ll have to have a little procedure to get that removed back in Dublin.
Anyway, that’s a relief. Back to the hospital next week for another check-up after the radiotherapy. Now on to more important missions: there are Easter eggs to be eaten and snowmen to be made. (Okay, maybe I won’t do the latter…)
My latest blog post for Breast Cancer Care UK’s Vita Magazine:
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.
After 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.
It 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.
Unfortunately, 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?!”
On 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.
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.
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.
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, I 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. As 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!
Cancer is a marathon and I’m on the ‘final straight’. So how come I feel like crap? Read my latest HuffPost blog here:
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:
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)
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.
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!