The check in

I haven’t written in a while. Sorry! The reason for my absence? Well, I’ve been trying to get on with getting on.
I set myself 3 goals in my last post so I’ll update you on them.

1. Work
I’m now approaching the end of my phased return and (very) slowly building up a bit of stamina again. I’m still tired at the end of each work day but I’m happy that I’m starting to gain confidence and feel as though I know,  more or less, what I’m doing again.

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Back to work with the girls

2. Health
I joined Slimming World a couple of months ago and am getting on fairly well. So far I’ve lost 16lbs and can feel a difference in myself.  My shape is changing and I’m fitting into clothes I haven’t worn in 2 years.
The combination of menopause, estrogen blocking drugs and number of high dose painkillers I’m taking make gaining weight extremely easy so I’m really pleased with my progress. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself to have lost a specific amount before the wedding,  just to feel a bit more confident and be happy to have my photo taken.

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My second award

I’m still having problems with my hips and have had a terrible week of pain. Luckily my medical team haven’t gotten tired of me complaining (or are doing a great job of covering it up if they are) and I’m getting an appointment for a bone scan within the next week. I understand that these are issues that I’m going to have to face as my payment for getting rid of cancer but I’d hoped to put off anything seriously debilitating until I’m a bit older! I’ve decided I don’t have space in my heart is head to get stressed out about this until I have to.

3. Education
In my last blog I mentioned applying to do a college course in graphic design. We’ll I’m pleased to say I got in and I’ll be starting in August. I’m definitely going to find it challenging as I’ve been out of education for almost 12 years and my treatment has made retaining information and concentrating quite hard. However, I’m looking forward to it. I need to start stamping down positive parts of the ‘new me’ rather than my endless list of negatives. 
In preparation, I’ve created a nice new office space in my old sewing room (which I sew in maybe once a month now). I saw it as an opportunity to up-cycle another piece of furniture too. So, it was on with the old clothes, out with the chalk paint and away I went.

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The 'before' picture

*waves a magic wand*

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The 'after' picture

Ta-Da! I always love completing a decorating project. It makes the room feel exciting again. I’m going to start making my wedding dress pretty soon too so I’ll be spending a lot of time in there.
My bed is going to wonder why I’ve abandoned it.

The ‘World Cancer Day’ post

I’ve been dabbling with the intro to a new blog for weeks now and not getting very far at all.
Mostly it’s because I didn’t have anything I particularly wanted to say.
I’ve been feeling very up and down both health wise and emotionally. I’m taking steps to kick start those new year’s resolutions, namely losing some weight, getting stronger and trying to address some of the after effects that cancer so kindly bestowed upon me.
The reason I have chosen to pick up my pad and pen (Ok, my phone) and write a little is that it is World Cancer Day today and as I see it I have two options:

1. Hide under my duvet, stay away from social media, watch and read nothing which mentions ‘the C word’ (which is almost fricking impossible by the way!)

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On a previous hiding expedition

2. Face it head on. Acknowledge that life has been pretty rubbish since cancer came-a-knocking and, raise a little awareness and/or cash for Cancer Research in the process.

No.2 it is then.

I still live in a world where cancer surrounds me every day. This can mean a lot of things, for example, I can hear about a lady who was diagnosed in her 30’s and, 40 years later, is still here to tell the tale.
On the other hand, it can be hearing from a friend that her primary breast cancer has spread into her bones, liver and lungs and she is now termed ‘incurable’.
The word rollercoaster is often used to describe this type of experience. I see it more like being bipolar. The exhilaration of good news, positive test results, happy smiles from oncologists and surgeons are indescribably wonderful. The world seems better and a bit of the old you is released. However, this feeling of glee can be cut down in an instant. It can be bad news, unclear results, a series of headaches or joint pains that have you convinced the cancer has made it’s new home in other parts of your body and that your life must be on a downward spiral. The isolation, anger and fear can leap at you from nowhere and within minutes, turn you into a tearful, panicking mess.

When I have conversations with people about their understanding of cancer (I’m talking about breast cancer here as that is my specialist subject), I find myself coming back to two stark realisations:
1. People seem very breast aware. I’m not sure how much more ‘awareness’ we need? Check your breasts regularly. If you feel something that is unusual for you, get it checked out!!

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Touch. Look. Check.

We’re off to a great start. Keep it up. *claps hands*

2. People are very unaware of secondary cancer. Once cells from your original cancer find a way into your lymphatic system or blood stream they will then cling onto other areas of your body, commonly your bones, liver, lungs and brain. Once detected, these tumours can be treated but never cured.
Much more money goes into awareness raising than into researching treatments for secondaries. This has to change! If we could find a way to prevent or successfully treat metastatic cancer, it would change cancer from a deadly disease to a chronic illness. 

So, my plea on this day is to reach out to someone you know who’s been affected by cancer. Do not tilt your head in sympathy. Do not try to make them see the bright side. Instead, be real. Acknowledge the situation and listen. A simple, honest act of kindness and empathy will go further than you realise!

Also, if you can, donate to a cause which is looking for new treatments and a cure.
I’ll be donating here: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/support-us/donate/world-cancer-day

If you’re out and about and want to make a quick donation of £3, text WECAN to 70200

Let’s make secondary cancer a thing of the past!

My experience with cancer is far from over. I still have several operations in my future and at least another 8 years of hormone therapy to go. I’ve come this far though. Might as well keep going!

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From here, at my worst...

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To here, celebrating my anniversary with Steph

Thanks to everyone who has supported me, reads my blogs and puts up with my regular rants. I love you all! Xx

The month of pink things

October is breast cancer awareness month or ‘pinktober’ as it’s infuriatingly nicknamed. For some unknown reason, breast cancer has become the most pink, glittery, feather boa wearing, cupcake eating, sickly sweet of all the cancers. Pass me the (pink) Pepto Bismol, I feel nauseous.

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Just one of the ridiculous adverts for 'awareness'

I’m 100% up for raising awareness of symptoms and raising money for research, treatment and generally making the lives of those who are impacted by cancer, a little easier.
What I’m not cool with, is turning an awful illnesses into an excuse to play games which do nothing to help and, who’s only purpose is to draw attention to those who play them, in the name of charity.

“Hey girlies! Without replying to this message, put a heart on your wall; no comment, just a heart. Next, post a heart on the wall of the person who sent you this message. Then send this message to your women friends, only women. If anyone asks you why you have so many hearts on your wall, don’t tell them. This is only for women, because this is breast cancer research week. One small act of solidarity between women.”

Where do I start with my problems with this and the countless other versions which have done the rounds over the years?
Firstly, secret games do nothing to raise awareness or money. At all.
Secondly, solidarity amongst women? Men get breast cancer too. Not only that, a female patient’s husband/partner/father/brothers/male friends are also profoundly affected by their diagnosis. How about a little solidarity for them?
Thirdly, these games can be extremely offensive. “Post the colour of bra you’re wearing”. Emm… What about the millions of ladies who aren’t wearing a bra because of the double mastectomy they’ve gone through as part of the treatment for the disease you’re supposedly raising awareness for? That’s just utterly thoughtless. As are all of the other games which sexualise a disease which often strips women of their sexuality. Losing your breasts, going through chemotherapy and being forced into early menopause are difficult enough without having this rubbish on your timeline 20 times a day! While I’m on this subject, the aim is not to “save the boobies”. More often than not, a diagnosis will result in a mastectomy. The object is to save your life. But that doesn’t look as nice written in pink glitter…

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Getting a bit closer....

OK, I’ve ranted enough about my issues with this kind of game. If you want to play a game, how about scrabble?.
If you want to do something useful for breast cancer, here’s a few suggestions:

1. Donate to, or fundraise for, a charity of your choice. My personal favourites are:
Maggie’s
https://www.maggiescentres.org/how-you-can-help/ways-give/
The Willow Foundation
https://www.willowfoundation.org.uk/donate.
Also, my very good friends, Lana and Leigh, are taking part in ‘Go sober for October’ to raise money for Macmillan:
https://www.gosober.org.uk/profile/leighshearer

2. Give blood or platelets. These are often absolute vital during cancer treatment.
http://www.blood.co.uk/platelets/

3. Be aware of the symptoms, check yourself often and visit your doctor if you have any concerns. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/type/breast-cancer/about/breast-cancer-symptoms
Remember that you are not too young or old for breast cancer and never allow yourself to be dismissed on that premise by an ignorant doctor. I would not be here today, writing this preachy blog if I had accepted this stellar piece of advice from my own GP.

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The younger breast cancer network has started a 'not too young' campaign

4. If you do know someone who has been affected by breast cancer, instead of posting an aloof status about where you keep your handbag on facebook, maybe offer some practical support. Keep them company, cook them a meal, drive them to an appointment.

Be genuinely thoughtful.