Thursday, 18 August 2016

Measuring time.

I found myself referring to my cancer diagnosis the other day, and I had to think for a moment as to how long it has been since I was diagnosed. It is nearly 4 years to the day that I was told I had to have a mastectomy.

Hold on. 4 years. How? I mean, really - how? 

Is it a good thing that time is passing so quickly? I really don't know whether it is or not. 

The fact that I find it hard to remember the exact date I got my diagnosis is clearly a good thing - the blurring of these sorts of details is to be encouraged, but everything seems to be speeding by in a blur, which is definitely scary.

In fairness, I don't think that this phenomenon is restricted to us cancer patients - all of my friends complain of the same thing. Perhaps it is age/job/children/life related? We're all grown ups now, and there is constantly work to do of some sort or other, be it catching up on work emails, housework, homework (1 set for each of the urchins) and in my case, farm work as well.

I had my annual check up with the lovely Mr Pain at the end of July, which all went well. This included the most thorough mammogram of my life so far, which also came back clear, thank goodness. 

I've also had my post op check up with the Gynae dept and they seem happy with me which is all to the good. The nurse did get a couple of sarcastic comments from me though when she asked whether I have had any menopausal symptoms - I mean, I've been on Tamoxifen and getting hot flushes for nearly 3 years, and was on Zoladex for nearly 12 months so signs of the menopause aren't exactly new for me. I don't think that things are much worse, for which I am very grateful. Admittedly I do on occasion feel like I'm about to burst into flames, but that is normal isn't it? ;-) 

Anyway, what else has been happening? I had a fab couple of days down in London - a treat to myself, at the end of July which was amazing. I did something amazing as well at the same time - not sure if I am brave enough to share yet, but perhaps in time. I will have to leave you in suspense for now! Either way, it was nice to get away and have a bit of sleep!

All is fairly quiet on the cancer front really, but I say that with fingers and toes tightly crossed. 

One of the downsides of time passing is the fear that the forward momentum of time brings me closer to a repeat diagnosis. I don't want to, and in fact, I don't think about it all the time, but at this time of year the memories do come flooding back, even if they are a bit blurry. 

The more I read up about breast cancer, the scarier it is. Despite the fact that many people think of me as being in remission, it is more of a case of there being NED - no evidence of disease which, does rather lurk at the edges of my vision on occasion. There's also a lot of new research about now, regarding types of cancer and the probability of recurrence, and I am as always torn between reading up about it so that I am aware and on guard, and being slightly more in denial which, we all know is a much more comfortable place to be.

Silly things make me scared.

For instance, I bought my niece presents for her 18th birthday today, and Isobel - my eldest was with me. The sudden realisation that I might not be alive to do this for Isobel (let alone Jack, who is 2 yrs her junior) was utterly terrifying and I still haven't shaken it off.

I need time to slow down. There is a LOT that I want to do and I need the time to do it - decades, not just a few years. 

It is just as well I have a half marathon or three (yes, three!) to train for - at least this gives me something else other than children, work, and the farm to focus on. 

I'm not sure how to sign off this time - I really came here for a ramble/head emptying session which I think has worked. There's only so much I can burden my husband, wonderful though he is, with and friends assume these days that my brain is dealing with things. Not that they wouldn't talk about my fears if I wanted to, but to be honest it is easier not to talk about it to people in real life - it does change how people look at you, that's for sure.

So I think I'll sign off by saying that I hope you, whoever and wherever you are, are having a great summer. Enjoy every moment you can - I'm certainly trying to.

Monday, 20 June 2016

All clear!

Just a very quick post, before my internet dies (which is my sorry excuse as to why I have not posted before now), BUT, my tongue biopsy came back all clear, thank goodness!

Apparently, it is Keratosis, probably caused by me grinding my teeth (due to stress - go figure!), so I have to get fitted for a mouth guard - nice.

Thank you to everyone for the support - as usual you have been amazing.

Not much else to tell you except I have accepted a new job, so I am officially a Chartered Surveyor again, working in Norwich, which is rather exciting. The children have taken the news quite well which is a relief as I didn't know whether they would be cross at me not being around as much. Why it makes so much difference to them when they are not even home during the day I got know, but I guess they just like to know where I am, which is pretty cute really.

So, that's me signing off for now. 

Living in a rural area really has its low points as well as all the positives - our wifi waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon, which is somewhat of a pain. 

Lots more going on which I will update with in the next week or so - never a dull moment, or so they say!

Sunday, 22 May 2016

I'm alive!

And home.

Sorry for not posting this last night but I was shattered. All went well, and everything went to plan, with all tissues removed sent off for testing but looking okay from the outside.

I had the most amazing treatment at the hospital - all the staff were fabulous, and as experiences go it has been an amazingly positive one.

I think I ended up going down to theatre at 2.30pm. I was having a nap when the anaesthetist came to take me down to theatre which wasn't ideal as I was a bit shaky and emotional, but then I probably would have been like that anyway. We had a couple of comedy moments en route, the first being the attempt to get the bed out of the room as it was a bit tight. I offered to get out and help but wasn't allowed! 😉

When we got down to theatre I will admit I began to get even more nervous and shaky, but the team we're great at keeping me calm, and the canuoa insertion (which I loathe to high heaven) was actually really good 😳. I don't remember much after that, as I went under pretty quickly in no time at all woke up in recovery, a bit shaky, emotional, and desperately in need of a hug, but after 15 mins or so of oxygen and talking to the nurse I was okay. My consultant and registrar, oh, and the anaesthetists popped in to say hello and goodbye (I was the last patient of the day) and reassured me that all had gone well, and after a while I went back to my room.

Being next to the maternity ward was a bit daunting, having just lost my ovaries as I felt a bit odd/different, and also weirdly under lots of pressure not to cry as I didn't want to upset anyone, particularly not the ladies wondering round in labour! I had a bit of a cry when I got back to my room, and was a bit panicky when I couldn't get hold of my husband Stuart so rang the friend where our children had been for the day and spoke to Lucy which took the edge off a bit. My other lovely friend, Bea, was at the hospital in the cafe waiting for me to come round, and shortly after me texting her was there for a much needed hug. Bea's husband had seen Stuart during the day, so could export back that he was fine and not worrying about me which was a relief.

Pain wise it wasn't too bad. The worst thing is the pain from the gas they pump into you (expands the cavity so they have more room to work) and of course the gas (CO2) takes a while to be re absorbed so when you move to become more upright there's a lot of pressure and pain in the shoulder/collar bone area which is really odd.

All in all, Bea and I had a lovely afternoon catching up. I went from being an emotional wreck to having verbal diarrhoea 😂, and managed to drink and eat enough to satisfy the nurses.

Eventually, I was discharged at about 8.45pm with a dose of painkillers, deptaparin injections (anti blood clotting agent) and lactulose 😳, and got home about half an hour later.

I didn't last long before going to bed, which was pretty uncomfortable (disappointingly) but managed to get a few hours sleep, but I have been up since 5am. Once the gas goes I will be much much much more comfortable, but it really is sore at the moment. My wounds are small and look fine under the dressings but due to their positioning I do look like I've been pronged with a big fork!!

I suspect I shall have a quiet couple of days before I'm back to serious walking with the dogs (😂😉) so will probably catch up on some reading and the pile of paperwork which is waiting for me.

I also have a job offer to consider - did I mention Friday's interview? Anyway, the offer was emailed through last night and I think that after a little tweaking I shall probably take it as the people I would be working for are really really lovely and it would be varied and interesting work with potential to work from home.

So, lots of positives already and it's only day one post op. It's certainly good to have something else to focus on.

Signing off for now, thanks for reading and putting up with me.

Rebecca X

Bye bye ovaries.....

....... And thanks for everything.

So. I'm here, at hospital, with ugly socks and "netty knickers" on (don't ask!), waiting to say adios to my ovaries.

It's our wedding anniversary - 12 wonderful years today we were just finishing up at the church before heading to Eastnor Castle for our reception, which was a truly wonderful day.

There have been lots of curve balls thrown in our direction, but we've dodged most of them. Other than fucking cancer, that is.

Yes, I am nervous, does it show? 😂

I'm aware I left a cliffhanger the other day - apologies for not using finishing off properly but I had to go in to my appointment and have been flat out running around ever since.

I had a biopsy under my tongue, and will find out the results in 2.5 weeks or so, after half term anyway. It bloody hurt and the stitches felt weird but at least it's done. Just have to keep my fingers and toes crossed now that they don't find anything.

Pre op tests all went okay, and I am just trying to keep my cool about having to have a GA as I'm still a bit of a wimp about this. I forgot to say good bye properly to the children today, which is giving me major wobbles. We dropped them off at a friends to play and they ran off to have fun, which is lovely, but has left me feeling guilty and sad that I didn't make a big fuss of them.

But, I'm going to see them in a few hours, SO, I will be fine and stop panicking, right?

I was slightly worried when the lovely (and quite hunky) registrar I saw on Friday told me I wouldn't be riding or running for 8 weeks, but the consultant this morning said nearer two weeks, so that is a big relief. Having just got my horse fit and in the groove, 8 weeks would have been a bit of a Bugger.

Have been entertained whilst waiting to go in by the fact that my urine test was "invalid" for pregnancy. Not negative (as it should be), but Invalid! After today there will never be another chance to have children, so I thought that being invalid was a bit premature. Only by 24 hours, but still.

I am wobbling about losing the major organs that make me a woman, but trying to remind myself that no one will be able to tell from the outside, and it isn't really that likely that I'll start growing a beard. Not straight away....

I'm going to sign off for now, but will catch up with you later and let you know how it went.

I am feeling a bit morose and scared of not waking up, so darling husband, if you're reading this and I'm not around any more, please remember how much I love you and our two gorgeous children.

Happy anniversary xxxx

Thursday, 19 May 2016

A year?

Just over a year since my last post? Bugger. I really did have great intentions about keeping you all updated.

All I can say is that a lot has happened since I last blogged. Some of it good, some of it bad - life, really - the never ending roller coaster has continued without pause, and I have to say that at times over the last twelve months, I really would have liked to have been able to disembark.

So, how to catch you up without writing 5000 words? Tricky.

Bullet points seem a little on the lazy side, but it really has been that busy I am seriously considering using them.

I think I shall make a list of the good and bad, then extrapolate further in a few more posts else it will get messy.

Good things that have happened since last May:

I'm still alive (and healthy I hope)
Husband, children, animals - all healthy 
I ran the London Marathon and have raised £1500 for Children with Cancer UK
I have a place to run the Great North Run and the London Parks Half

Bad things that have happened since last May:

I got made redundant by my employers of 11.5 years (prepare to hear lots of bitching about this in due course as I'm still rather heartbroken about it)
We have had to de- stock our pig herd 
I'm trying hard but really struggling to get a job - too qualified in one sense and under qualified in others, plus I seem to go for the really popular jobs with about 100 other applicants.

I'm trying to keep the list of bad things short. After all, family, friends and health are the most important things. 

I can, I suppose, add to the list of good things with something to balance the lack of work issue - mainly that I am finally having a bit of time to rest, properly, see my family, and actually enjoy my horses, dogs, farm etc. Could just do with a few more pennies really.

The only real downer at the moment is that I am currently sitting in my local hospital waiting for an appointment with the Oral Health team due to a worrying white patch under my tongue. I am then off to a pre op appointment as I am having my ovaries out on Sunday.

Sunday? Yes, apparently - the hospital is rather stretched.

Notice? No, I didn't give you much, but then I only got 9 days notice myself.....!

So, I'm a bit of a basket case at the moment.

The oral health appointment is terrifying. I mean, really, really terrifying. My history has rather scared my dentist (she found the white patch, I didn't know it was there), and it has only taken 6 days from referral to appointment.

I don't know whether to be pleased that I haven't had to wait long, or scared that they think it actually might be cancer.

Permission to say 

Thursday, 9 July 2015

PS to the last post - Zoladex

I know, another post - on the same day! Almost unheard of other than at peak times of crisis.

Having just re-read my post about starting Zoladex, I thought I would update you/the blog, as what I wrote was factually incorrect, which is irritating and also dangerous if someone reads it and follows the same advice I was given (mistakenly) by the GP that gave me the first implant.

Basically, last time I wrote about it I was somehow under the misguided illusion that I didn't have to take Tamoxifen any more.


I double checked with the 12 yr old GP that gave me the implant, and he was sure that I could stop taking the Tamoxifen pill every day. Rather unlike me, I hadn't done any independent research so blithely followed his instructions and cancelled my repeat prescription. 

Fortunately I saw Mr Pain for a check up the week after, and when he asked where we were at with treatment etc I mentioned the Zoladex and said that I was so glad I didn't have to take the Tamoxifen any more....... cue me looking like a complete idiot when he reminded me that even women who are post-menopause have to take Tamoxifen (or its equivalent) for 5-10yrs if their cancer was oestrogen positive.


So, I hot footed it back to the surgery and have added Tamoxifen back to my list of drugs. I've also ensured that the 12yr old GP has been educated regarding the reasons for this type of treatment.

I know, calling him a 12yr old is mean, and I know that GP's can't be specialists, but it turns out that had he read the instructions from my Oncologist, we wouldn't have gotten into this mess.

It has been a timely reminder to me that only one person is in control of my treatment, and that's me. Not a mistake I'll make again, with any luck. 

Other than that, v little drama regarding the side effect of the Zoladex. My cycle returned as normal, to my bitter disappointment, after the first implant, but I'm now 1/4 of the way between implant 3 and 4, and have not had another period, which is definitely a positive side effect.

The hot flushes aren't that fun, particularly in 36 degrees Celsius, but I'm trying to embrace each one as a sign that the drugs are working and are sticking two fingers up to cancer. The chewable calcium and vitamin D tablets are not delicious, but my nails seem to be a lot stronger, so I am getting over the taste pretty quickly.

The first two implants didn't hurt, but the 3rd was really painful - it has taken 10 days for the pain to diminish. I see my Gynae consultant on the 15th and shall ask then whether I can go to 12 weekly implants rather than 4 weekly - if it hurts like that every time from now on I shall be needing the Emla cream again!

All in all, lots of positives, other than the fact that more research into cancer and it's strength as a carcinogen mean that I am on the wagon, except for very special occasions. I believe that the NHS are going to change their guidelines as to what a "safe" level of alcohol is. 

If you want to read more about it, click here, herehere, and there's even a Wikepedia link, here.

Obsessing much? Me? Surely not.

I don't drink often anyway, but on the basis that I don't "need" alcohol to survive, I shall steer clear as much as possible. We've now found that Tesco sell bottles of bitter lemon at £1.50 for 4, so I shall drink that (the slimline/low sugar version of course) instead, just minus the Gin.

Happy Days!

So, the work life balance.....

Two posts in three months - I'm really spoiling you!

I thought I had better explain what has happened work wise - to go from a workaholic control freak managing a team of 8 people to a one day a week auctioneer/marketing consultant is a big step! Not necessarily a step down, but the gap is still huge.

From about this time last year (my daughter's first sports day, to be precise), I was in a bit of a mess - right through to Christmas, when I pretty much fell apart.

Having had a life changing event such as cancer, there is SO much pressure to get everything back to normal, be it work, home, children, lifestyle etc and the feeling that I had to get through everything and "beat the bastard cancer" possibly even fueled me to be more than I was before.

Not surprisingly, this took a bit of a toll on my mental health and well being, and during the latter end of 2014 I wasn't enjoying life very much - was stressed out at work and home - didn't really enjoy any facet of my life, which is exactly the opposite of what should happen to anyone, regardless of whether they have had cancer or not.

So, in December - and I can't really pinpoint what set it off, I cracked. Just slightly, but enough that my work appraisal ended up with me as a sobbing wreck. You're probably rolling your eyes at me, but with the state I was in, the question: "Where do you see yourself in 12 months time?", was one that could only be answered with: "I just want to be alive/not diagnosed with cancer again". 

Melodramatic - maybe, but I was in a place where on almost a daily basis, I was planning what my funeral might be like. Not. Good. 

Fortunately I had an appointment with my GP the next day (which I sobbed through), and she basically told me, in a stiff German accent, that I was clearly putting too much pressure on myself (moi, surely not!) and had got to the stage where I was making myself depressed. So, I walked out with a prescription for anti-depressants.

Now, you know how much I like taking pills (not), so over the Christmas break I re-evaluated my life, and though I hate the cliche, I "took stock". 

When was the last time I truly enjoyed spending time with my children? Not for some considerable time. Ditto, really, my husband. Work was work - frustrating and rewarding all at once, but I didn't feel that I was in a place where I could do myself and it any justice. 

My in-laws are spending a lot of time out of the country, (Brother in-law issues, don't ask!!) so we were short staffed on the farm, and my husband just couldn't do the level of childcare that he had been doing so I was having to try and cram everything in as well as school runs, which of course meant I wasn't at work as much as I should have been, which is not ideal when you are managing a team of people. 

So, when I went back to work in January I had a plan. As much as I love(d) my job, I was not in a position to be everything that it needed me to be, therefore I had to either leave, or scale back dramatically. I am very lucky that my employers are very supportive and still see me as an integral part of the long term structure of the firm, but for now it is pressure that I do not need, so I have been able to step back to part time. I'm still doing the auctioneering and the marketing for the auctions, but I'm not managing the staff and the auction rooms, which is a load off my mind. They are a wonderful team, but I have two children and a husband at home to keep organised - I can't look after everyone.

It's quite a big thing to admit, that you can't do everything. I'm not very good at "failure". But, having had a long think about it, I haven't really failed - I've passed the baton at work onto someone else who has got the time to put into the business, and I now have the opportunity to "not fail" at being a wife and mother. Let's face it - these are far more important roles in the grand scheme of things.

It has been a huge adjustment - everything happened in March, and in honesty I don't think I have fully adjusted yet. I do miss the buzz of work, and the people, but I would almost certainly have had a nervous breakdown by now. 

I haven't taken any of the anti-depressants, and I'm a lot less likely to burst into tears than I was, which is a massive improvement although shares in Kleenex have gone down in value.

I am finally getting to spend more time with my husband and children, and we are all still talking to each other, which is good! Caring for two small people is still very stressful and hard work, but not having to work until midnight to make up for "lost time" is a huge bonus. I am also getting to ride my lovely young horse on a more regular basis, which I am loving, and we have even been out to our first dressage competition! 

I still don't have time to do everything I want to do, but hey - who does?! At least I'm a lot less stressed about it.

So, that's what has happened to my career, in a sort of a nutshell. Yes, I regret the feeling that I might have thrown it all away, but I had to choose having a life over the career.

Apparently, this sort of "episode" is totally normal after having cancer. It feels the exact opposite of normal - perhaps we should start saying that it is not "uncommon" to experience stress and to feel concerned about how to get back to a "more normal" routine" following what feels like endless treatments and follow up visits. 

One does tend to feel "abandoned" or "let loose" which is disconcerting, once you're out of the regular 3 weekly trips to hospital. What comes next? Annual check ups. What can you do in the meantime? Be vigilant - check your body for changes, or any warning sign that might save your life. 

It's kind of like being on Defcon 4 rather than Defcon 5. It would be wonderful to be able to go back to the days of being Defcon 1 on a bad day, but it is impossible. 

Three years ago, nearly, I started down this road. Probably, I had made the appointment to see my GP (which I nearly cancelled), and was feeling stressed about the fact I would be 45 mins late to work afterwards. What a wally. Ignorance was such bliss.

On a good day, I can nearly forget that I have had cancer, and that is definitely progress. 

It is still hard though, not to let having had it be something that guides my decisions over how to live my life. Sometimes, don't get me wrong, it can be a good thing - accepting an invitation that you wouldn't have accepted before for example, but at other times the responsibility to not waste the time, the life, that I have been given is so huge it nearly crushes me. 

After all, I don't know how long I have left, do I? It could be that I never hear the "C" word again. Let's bloody hope so anyway.