Shit my Dad says
Dad: “Your hair’s getting blacker and thicker every day. You know who you look like?”
Dad: “That little Mexican bloke who plays for Manchester Utd. You know, Chick-a-rito [sic].”
Huh. So I do!
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.
I was always planning on a Saturday night in front of the TV watching the X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing and Jonathan Ross. I just wasn’t planning on watching it all at the hospital.
I had been getting the tiniest of nosebleeds on Friday night and Saturday and decided late Saturday afternoon to ring the chemotherapy hotline as I knew it could be a symptom of a low blood platelet count and I wanted to make sure I was ok.
Unfortunately, the nurse advised me that I needed a blood test and would have to go to the hospital to get it. My chemotherapy drug, Taxotere, can have a massive effect on the bone marrow and lead to reduced blood platelets, which could mean my blood failing to clot. I spoke to the oncologist, who also said patients usually start with a small nosebleed and then get a much bigger one later, so it was best for me to get it checked out. Since I have also had a little itchy rash on my neck for the past few days and this is another symptom of low platelet levels, I knew I should get it checked.
Unfortunately, I would require a platelet transfusion if my levels were low. Normal levels are between 150 and 400, according to a quick Internet search, and a platelet transfusion – which is different from a normal blood transfusion – would require an overnight stay at the hospital.
And so it was that I quickly packed an overnight bag and we set off last night towards the Christie in Manchester. We could have gone to A&E at a nearby hospital in Huddersfield, but I didn’t fancy waiting in a noisy room with the usual Saturday night crowd of drunken teenagers requiring stomach pumping and domestic violence victims. This turned out to be a very wise decision.
At the hospital I was given a very painful blood test – painful because my veins are no longer working properly and refused to give blood, and as a consequence I now have a huge bruise. So much for no more injections for 10 days!
We then waited for an hour while watching Strictly Come Dancing in a private room before getting my result. The result came back just before 9pm and the good news was that my platelet levels were ok (190) and I wouldn’t need a transfusion – PHEW! The oncologist was satisfied, but unfortunately he wanted me to wait to see a doctor before I could leave, and this meant waiting for an on-call doctor who had to see all the emergency cases before she could see me.
Two and a half hours later, the on-call doctor arrived. She was much younger than myself and ran through a series of tests and questions on pretty much everything I could imagine. Finally, at 11:30pm, I was given the all-clear and could go home. The whole trip took six hours. Although we missed dinner, I know I should count myself very lucky that I got to sit watching X Factor and Jonathan Ross in a comfortable private room instead of sitting in an uncomfortable chair in a possibly blood-drenched A&E room at the local public hospital.
So, just a typical Saturday night…
The silver lining was that the clocks went back last night so when we arrived home at 00:30, it was actually only 23:30 and we could all have an extra hour in bed. And, to make up for the missed dinner last night, I just had a large sirloin steak for Sunday lunch and – as an extra special treat – a small glass of red. I’m sure the red meat and wine will help boost my platelet levels, right?
“Who’s this then?”
That is the question people often ask me as soon as they see me these days, referring to whichever wig or alter ego I am currently wearing. (The options being Brandi, Valerie, Candy Pink, Samantha, Tiffany, Joana or the very natural but chilly Sinead).
“Can I touch it?”
This was the not-quite-as-common follow-up question I was asked by a friend yesterday, fortunately in reference to the wig (Valerie) and not to my post-surgery breast. (FYI wig touching is fine, breast touching is usually not).
After very nearly cancelling because I felt so ill, I made it down to London yesterday for a quick trip to support superstar singer-songwriter Tom Figgins at his EP launch. The trip to London was brief, rainy and fun-packed and involved an interesting challenge as yesterday’s self-injection took place for the first time in a Starbucks toilet!
My short stay in the capital was also replete with gastronomic opportunities, my favourite of which was this chicken teriyaki hot bento box at Blossom, City Point.
It was all going well until I jumped on the train home from King’s Cross station yesterday. Unfortunately, the train before mine had been cancelled, so all 15 coaches’ worth of rush-hour travellers had to pack into my already busy train. This meant that every seat was taken and many people were standing, so my tried-and-tested infection-avoidance technique was about to be truly tested.
I have been splashing out a fortune on first-class train tickets whenever I go anywhere since starting chemotherapy because the first-class carriages are usually empty and thus I normally have a whole germ-free table or area to myself. This time, however, I was wedged into a corner surrounded by businessmen, people standing and – horror of horrors – a rather large lady with a dreadful cough, who squeezed into the seat right next to me. There was only one thing for it, I would just have to hold my breath for the entire two hours and avoid touching anything…
Not only that, but I had been wearing my wig for a few hours by the time I got on the train and was ready to take it off. To give you an idea of how uncomfortable wigs are, gentlemen, I’d say it’s like you wearing a bow-tie. Or a shirt and tie on the beach on a very hot day. Ladies, the equivalent would probably be wearing an extremely tight corset sitting down at the dinner table over a very large meal… or perhaps tights on a hot, sweaty summer’s day… or an uncomfortable pair of heels, maybe? Anyway, you get the hint – anything you want to take off at the earliest available opportunity.
So let’s just say I was a little bit distressed when I took my seat on the train and realised I’d forgotten to take my wig off in the loo before I got on. And you can’t exactly just peel your own hair off to reveal a bald head in front of a load of strangers in close proximity on a train – I mean, of course you can, but it feels like unwritten wig etiquette that you probably shouldn’t. It’s up there with applying your make-up on the tube (I know people do this – I personally struggle with the concept) or stripping down to your swimwear anywhere other than the beach. It’s fine to be bald in the first place, but the shock factor of wig removal is sure to make people feel uneasy.
So anyway, I was lodged in among seated and standing commuters, preparing to spend the next two hours holding my breath and grinning and bearing my uncomfy, tight hairpiece. Fortunately, just as I was starting to panic, coughy lady was asked to give up her seat to its rightful owner, who got on at the first stop, after twenty minutes. Peace and tranquility in my life were restored and I could finally exhale, even if I couldn’t take my wig off. Huge sigh of relief…
Here’s a photo of me awaiting the train to London, sans hair, with an enormous marshmallow-and-cream-laiden hot chocolate afternoon treat.
It’s been a long and rather painful 10 days since chemo. The terrible aching bones lasted a few days before it started to ease off a bit and I thought that was it. Unfortunately, 24 hours later, the terrible aching pain was back and had just moved positions. The pain was all-over but for the first few days it was concentrated in my legs and lower body, making my knees and joints feel like those of an arthritic 100 year old. Then, by Monday night, it suddenly went to my back and upper body and I spent the night writhing in pain as I experienced what felt like sharp, shooting electricity volts going through my back constantly. This lasted for another day or two before finally easing off a bit by Wednesday. I then began Thursday with a tremendous wig-induced headache, which could only be eliminated with a very large cup of tea (the Paracetamols didn’t work!) And then finally, after the Starbucks toilet immune-boosting injection, the aching pain was pretty much gone but the all-over sore muscle pain (like you might have after a hardcore spinning class and a spot of weightlifting) returned. So I’ve been through the wars a bit, as my mother might say. I still feel quite crippled and still have the soreness, though it is gradually easing and is totally bearable compared with the aching. Oh, and I’m pleased to say my tongue has now gone back to a perfectly normal shade of pink!
I also have my 10th and final self-injection to do today, followed by 10 injection-free days – yippee! (I am now a total self-injection pro, by the way, and have been taken off the local district nurses’ system for good.) For my final post-jab treat, I will be digging something out of this delicious, retro sweet selection sent by the very kind and thoughtful Lizzie G.
Finally, one of my readers pointed out that he feels well-versed on the colour of my pee. I do appreciate sometimes I share a little too much information, but I must say that it’s purely for educational purposes and I know you can all handle it. The one thing I haven’t been sharing, and probably never will, is photos of graphic stuff like needles and yucky medical things. I am personally 100% squeamish, if you haven’t noticed, and don’t like looking at those images myself (or living the reality of them, for that matter) so I promise to keep the images in this blog as fluffy, happy and food-related as possible!
To prove my commitment to banishing thoughts of my multi-coloured pee, I leave you with this picture of my hot chocolate treat. See, dear reader, I am good to you! Happy Friday.
Four down, two to go. Almost two thirds of the way there! Elated doesn’t begin to cover it.
Today was by far the worst chemo session yet. The good news was that the steroids worked and the treatment was allowed to go ahead.
The bad news was that I felt so sick I very nearly puked all over myself in my chair and had to whip my wig off at top speed lest I vom all over the lovely Joana. (That’s another advantage of being bald/wearing wigs – you don’t need anyone to hold your hair back when you’re sick.) Fortunately, I managed not to spew and the new anti-sickness drugs eventually kicked in.
The biggest piece of bad news, however, was that I would have to wear special ice packs on my hands and feet for the duration of the chemo session to stop my nails from rising from the nail beds and falling off! (Grim doesn’t begin to cover my thoughts about this).
Words cannot describe how awful this was, but I’ll certainly have a go. I can only say it was like having your hands and feet pushed into a bucket of ice and not being allowed to move them for 1 1/2 hours as the ice is constantly topped up with freshly frozen cubes and you slowly lose all feeling in your extremities. I already have a low threshold for cold, despite being raised like a hardy northern sheep, and found the whole experience so deeply painful and uncomfortable that I almost didn’t notice the nasty drugs going into my arm.
As if that wasn’t enough, on the way home, after stopping to buy crisps to quench my sudden salt craving, we missed by the very skin of our teeth what would have been a crippling if not fatal head-on car crash. My already shot nerves were rather shaken by this point, and I pretty much shut down when the very aggressive driver of the other car tried to get out and start a fight with us. (Fortunately my father wisely drove straight on, concluding there were more important things to worry about.)
As soon as the crisps had gone down, I immediately craved vanilla ice cream and made us stop at Longley’s specialist ice-cream shop in Holmfirth, heart of Last of the Summer Wine country, for those of you who know what I’m talking about. We were just innocently eating our ice creams when we came across another car crash (the product of a very bright, sunny, cold winter’s day in Yorkshire) and had to stop in front of the police vans. Fortunately we were not involved in this particular collision and made it home safe soon after.
All in a day’s work then. All in a day’s work.
My blog has a new home on the Huffington Post UK website. You can read it by clicking on this link, or click here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/laura-price/breast-cancer-20s_b_1951530.html
Here’s a preview:
For those of you who didn’t read the WordPress blog from the beginning, the new HuffPost blog is a good place to start as I go right back to the day I was diagnosed.
For those of you who have read the original blog from the start, please don’t dismiss the new one as there’s loads of original material and I’ve told the story differently. It might be a bit samey initially, but once I get up to the present day, both blogs will be aligned.
I need all the support I can get, so please click the button to become a Fan, follow me on Twitter @bigscaryCword and comment as much as you like on any of the posts! The more, the merrier!
Thank you all so much for your continuing love and support,
Hi, I’m Candy Pink and I’m 30 years old. Earlier this year, I found a lump in my breast. I went straight to the doctor and was fortunate enough to have discovered the cancer before it had chance to spread anywhere else in my body. I am now half way through chemotherapy treatment and feel lucky every day that I found the cancer when I did.
October is breast cancer awareness month all over the world. If you’re reading this blog, then you are no doubt fully aware of the existence of breast cancer. But when was the last time you actually checked your breasts?
It only takes a minute, and it’s easy. You’re not just looking for a lump, but any change in appearance, a rash, discolouration, discharge or pain.
If you find anything unusual, make an appointment with your doctor straight away. In most cases it will be nothing to worry about, but ignoring it is the absolute worst thing you can do. If I had ignored my symptoms, I could have lost a lot more than just my hair.
Men: this does not just apply to your wife, sister, girlfriend or mother. Men can have breast cancer too, so check yourself out right now.
Take a look at this link on the Breast Cancer Care UK website for more information:
To see the video for this post: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151092016077971¬if_t=like
Whatever you do, don’t ignore this message. Thanks!
I went to the hospital this morning to test my blood count to see if I’m ready to have round three of chemo tomorrow. Unfortunately, after all it has been through, my blood is now refusing to exit my body, so it was a bit of a painful process as the nurse prodded and poked at me, wondering if it might be easier to get blood out of a stone.
Rather than make the 3-hour round trip to the hospital in Manchester just for one blood test, we then decided to make the most of the journey and go to the nearby Trafford Centre for some shopping and lunch. I purchased this rather fetching trapper hat and a new coat and gloves for the winter weather that is fast descending on us. I’m pretty sure nobody will even dare to call me ‘Chemo’ in this baby!
It was a good job we didn’t drive straight home because the nurse called back just as we were leaving the Trafford Centre and asked me to go back to the hospital. Unfortunately, my blood count was even lower than it was last time, meaning I’m unfit for chemo tomorrow. My immune system is obviously getting a battering but it’s odd because I feel perfectly well. I did have a hunch that my count wasn’t going to measure up though, as last week I started feeling a little shaky and weak in the exact same way I felt after round one.
The oncologist prescribed me some steroids, which I am to take now and in the morning before heading back to the hospital tomorrow for another test. If the steroids work, round three should go ahead. However, if it doesn’t work, I may have to switch to weekly chemo sessions instead of three-weekly ones. I know this will mean a different dosage so perhaps it won’t make me ill for quite as long, but frankly, I’d like to avoid the change of medication. The current three-week cycle plan is convenient because it gives me at least a week of relative normality before I have to go back to chemo hell again. I don’t really fancy non-stop chemo hell for the next few months…
Oh, and one of the nurses told me I won’t get a wink of sleep tonight because of the steroids. Thanks for the optimism!
Otherwise, I’m all set for chemo. I got my fingers and toenails painted on Friday at the salon (by a girl who turned out to be my best friend’s sister’s best friend – small world!). Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to have a manicure or pedicure because of the infection risk and because both include a little massage, which I also can’t have. But hey ho…
Speaking of nails, I thought I was being original when I painted my nails alternate orange and blue a month ago after the doctor told me to keep them painted to prevent them from going black from the chemo. But I was rummaging through some old photos the other day and it turns out I am two decades behind myself – I had exactly the same nails in 1996 when I was 14!
(You will see from this photo that, not only was i a natural-born trendsetter, i also had a keen interest in boys from a young age. Unfortunately, I am yet to find a suitable one…)
So, nothing else to do but cross my fingers for chemo tomorrow. It has been bucketing it down with rain for two days solid, so I’m rather looking forward to spending a week in bed.
It’s all happening in London, indeed.
So I go down to the capital to stay with my friend Danie for my final pre-chemo weekend before Round Three. It’s the usual drill – down on the first-class train with my hand gel and medical necessities in tow. This time I decide to wear Valerie from the moment I leave the house, mainly because if I put her in my bag, she’ll get all tangled, and I know it’ll be cold on the train so I need something to keep my head warm.
I get to London and everything is going well but by the time I get back to Danie’s house at 6pm after a few hours in London, I’ve been wearing the wig for a full 7 hours – the longest time yet. I have a considerable headache from the tightness of the wig by this time, so i whip Valerie off the moment we enter Danie’s place and i don my bold beanie for comfort. So, when we head out for a bite to eat and a film a couple of hours later, I think ‘what the hell’ and decide to go wigless for the night. After all, it’s a casual Saturday evening at the cinema with a friend and I’m not out to impress anyone.
Danie and I walk the ten minutes to the main street in Putney – one of the nicer boroughs of London, for those of you unfamiliar with the area. It’s getting a bit nippy and rather autumnal (fall) and we’re both dressed accordingly. (When I say we are dressed accordingly, I mean by global standards, as opposed to Northern England or Irish standards, which would often favour the wearing of a mini dress and no outer garment in temperatures of 8 degrees Celsius (46 Fahrenheit)).
Let me just explain, since it is central to the tale, that Danie is one of my many beautiful, ginger-haired friends.
As we walk down Putney’s main high street, we pass a couple of very inebriated men who are drunkenly ambling along the street. So far, so normal for a Saturday night.
So, imagine our surprise when we pass them and hear one of them shout:
“Well, if it isn’t Chemo and Rouge!”
Chemo and Rouge!!!
It takes us more than a few moments to register what we’ve just heard. Initially, I think “chemo and rouge” is a description of myself, since my coral-coloured beanie could be described as rouge (if one were slightly colour-blind). But within moments it dawns on me that “Chemo” is me and “Rouge” is my flame-haired companion.
Danie spends the rest of the evening thinking up things she wishes she had retorted, while I think of ways i would have karate-chopped them to the ground, had we both not been quite so stunned into immediate inability to react.
After the chemo and rouge incident, we walk into Wagamama and order some food. Our extremely lively young waiter is of bright ginger-haired descent and clearly more than proud of his, ahem, roots, as when I order a ginger beer (no alcohol) he beams at me and says “Ginger beer, the best sort of beer.”
We then head to the cinema across the road and bump into my friend Hannah from Bloomberg, who assures me she is an avid reader of the blog, so here’s a quick shout-out! Rouge and I watch Hope Springs, a great film, which adds up to two great films on two consecutive Saturdays – the other being Anna Karenina, since you asked.
We then walk home to Rouge’s house, discussing earlier incidents as we go. Rouge comments that Putney is usually “such a nice neighbourhood” and tells me she has never been heckled here before. Moments later, from the other side of the road, three young ruffians spot us and the bravest of the bunch shouts a series of things over to us, as we ignore them entirely, in that polite manner that is so customary to us Brits.
“Oi!” (not in the Brazilian sense)
“Looking lovely tonight, ladies!”
“Aren’t you going to say hello?”
“You look very nice,” etc etc.
Just a couple of moments later, a passing car beeps its horn at us. Well, indeed. May I just point you back to the beginning of this tale, where I noted that the temperature has taken a turn for the chillier and both of us are dressed accordingly. By this, I mean that there is not a single bit of flesh showing on either of our bodies, save for our hands and faces, and we are both wearing jeans, Converse and leather jackets (without looking like we’re from a boy band, if you know what I mean.)
Who knew evenings in Putney could be so entertaining?!
The rest of the weekend is pretty tame in comparison. Saturday lunch time, before the aforementioned incident, Rouge and I go for late brunch (more commonly known as lunch) at a trendy new place called Caravan behind King’s Cross station with Rouge’s sister, George (who is brunette, for the record). The restaurant is in an old grain store and has a very cool, New Yorky feel.
I can never resist a brunch menu, particularly since brunch doesn’t seem to exist back in Huddersfield, but everything on the menu at Caravan is unusual, to say the least. It’s one of those trendy gastro-cool menus with all manner of items that require translation to the ordinary British eye (‘satsouki sausage,’ ‘girolles,’ ‘sumac,’ etc) and unfortunately they’ve gone a bit over the top and the food doesn’t taste as good as it sounds. Nor does the service match up, and it’s a good job we’re in for a relaxed, long lunch as we end up waiting 30 minutes for the bill and similar periods of time for service.
I order the deep-fried oyster, bacon and potato omelette for want of something more appealing. It’s an interesting dish and looks quite appetising, but I have to say the omelette I cooked earlier this month was far superior. (See Pricey’s Guide to Hair Loss). The butterscotch caramel pot with salted shortbread dessert is pretty good though.
Here is a pic of me and Rouge earlier in the day at Caravan. Note the purple-haired girl in the background, who tried to get in the picture. Candy Pink would have fit in well!
Chemo and Rouge