Breast cancer, Breast Cancer Care UK, Cancer, Hair loss, Health, Taxotere, UK, Uncategorized, Vita Magazine, Women's Health

Vita: Ten Chemo Tips

IMG_3350This 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!

Breast cancer, Cancer, Chemotherapy, Food, Health, Humor, Humour, Wigs

“Can I Touch It?” – Wig Etiquette & First-Class Train Woes

“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.

Chemo Update

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.

Breast cancer, Breast Cancer Awareness, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Cancer, Hair loss, Health, Humor, Humour

A Candy Pink Announcement

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:

Whatever you do, don’t ignore this message. Thanks!

Breast cancer, Cancer, Chemotherapy, Hair loss, Humor, Humour

Chemo and Rouge

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

Cancer, Hair loss, Humor, Humour, Uncategorized

Meet My Alter Egos

You’ve had a bit of an introduction to my wig collection and many of you helped in the selection process, but I don’t think any of you have seen the full line-up, so here we go:

Valerie (Val, for short) – so named because she came from my friend Valdimir. She’s the posh one from Selfridges and goes well with my hoop earrings for a night out. She’s probably the most similar to my natural hair, though she’s a bit more 50s and has a lot more body than my own hair ever had. She also gives me the Rachel-from-Friends haircut I always wanted, even if it’s 15 years too late. Val is a sensible, classy lady who can go casual for a day’s work or play, or get dressed up for a night on the town.

Tiffany – The cheapest of the bunch, but by no means cheap. She is smooth, sleek and stylish and a little smoky. Granted, this is mostly the eau de burnt plastic from her cheap, synthetic material, but Tiffany is no plastic faker. She likes to laugh wholeheartedly, eat spicy food and is proud of her Peckham roots. She also needs a hair cut, because I can’t actually see through this super-long fringe (that’s bangs, to the American readers out there).

Samantha – She’s a classic, but she’s no plain Jane. Samantha is the shortest and darkest of the bunch and she’s a simple, wash-and-go kind of gal. She’s the girl next door and likes simple, fun, down-to-earth people. Samantha enjoys cooking more than any of the girls, largely because she doesn’t pose quite so much of a fire risk. Probably the quietest of the bunch, Samantha is shy but she’s no shrinking violet. (Just FYI, the bit in italics is an actual line from one of my school reports when I was 15 – thanks, Mr Downs, my GCSE drama teacher).

Brandi – The first of the redheads, she’s subtle but strong, with fire and flavour. She loves strong coffee and rich, flavoursome foods. Brandi, like her name, is intoxicating and will woo you with her secret charms. Deep down, she’s a family gal and loves to hang out with friends. She also loves to curl up with a good book on a cold day – her current read being Fifty Shades Darker. That might give you a bit of a clue as to her darker side, though she’s not into BDSM, so don’t go getting any ideas! (I’m talking hair dye here, obvs).

Joana – She’s a full-bodied red with a fiery temperament. Foxy and fruity, there’s never a dull moment with Jo Jo. She loves to flay her hair around like in the Timotei adverts and she’ll easily catch your eye. Joana doesn’t like to be ignored, but she’s no attention seeker. Probably the cleverest of the bunch, she’s a straight ‘A’ student who speaks several languages and loves a good conversation, but she’s no stranger to a night on the tiles with her girlfriends either.

Miss Candy Pink – Candy is a party girl who likes to let her hair down. She loves to be the centre of attention and will always be noticed. She’s a sweet girl, though, and never a diva. She’ll flut her big lashes at you and expect a smile, but she has a deep and meaningful side if you dare to look past her blinding neon exterior. There’s a lot more to Candy P than meets the eye.

The Egghead – she is liberated and free, the happiest of the bunch. She likes to go running and listen to loud dance music. She is smooth and serene and likes to smile. In the winter, Egghead likes to accessorise with hats and occasionally team up with Brandi and friends, but she loves nothing better than to let her hair down at the end of the night and relax with a nice cup of tea. The Egghead is also a tough girl, a warrior. Those who mess with her will feel her wrath.