Cancer 101

So obviously there are no rules to cancer or the treatments that may follow. No rules. No map. No way of teaching. Nothing. And that means there is no actual way I can tell you how to deal with cancer and the treatment that comes with it. All I can do is give you an insight to the symptoms and effects I experienced with the treatment I recieved.
According to Cancer Research UK‘s website, 1 in 2 people in the UK born after 1960 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer durning their lifetime.
I have found that since starting my blog I have had a few people contact me on what to expect when they undergo chemotherapy. What to expect, how can they prepare themselves, etc. So below I have created a post on what to expect and what is good to know before treatment begins. Whether you are just curious, about to go through treatment yourself or know of someone that may find this helpful and you’re just doing some research, please be aware that this is what I discovered for myself, experiences vary and you may find you have more symptoms than what I did or if you are lucky, less! My experience is UK based under the care of the NHS with Intravenous Chemotherapy and External Radiotherapy. I’ve also had Internal Radiotherapy known as Brachytherapy but this is not discussed in this post. There are hundreds of varieties of chemotherapy and can be given in different forms. If you would like more of an overview of chemotherapy then click here. You can also find more indepth information here which may answer any questions you may have. The Chemotherapy drugs I have experienced are Paclitaxel, Carboplatin and Cisplatin.
Feel free to message me if I have missed something or if you want me to go into more depth in certain areas! You can also find at the bottom of this page some relavent links to previous posts I have created when undergoing treatment. If you find you want more, then I have set up an easier system where you can now look back on older posts too. Take a look under the archive, it is linked in the drop down menu above, under the heading “blog” or if you prefer click here. If you are that dedicated then Kudos! I’m grateful that I have been of some use!

 

OK, first things first, don’t believe everything you’ve heard about chemo. Some chemo’s you don’t lose your hair. My first chemo actually made me feel better and function for a few days. If you are sick or feel nauseous constantly then tell the nursing team. There’s no need to feel like that any more. They have hundreds of varieties of anti-sickness. Pills, powders, dissolvables the lot.

If you haven’t started chemo yet and have time, book a dentists appointment for a check up. I would still do it even if you’ve been there in the last couple of months. It keeps them in the loop of your condition but also they may do any work before chemo begins if it needs it. Dentist’s don’t like to touch you, unless they absolutely have to, when you’re undergoing treatment.

If it’s a long infusion, as in you’re in for the day, take a supply. Lunch will be provided for the person going through treatment but not for any others who join you for company. Take a blanket to keep warm, then you don’t have to worry about taking jumpers on and off before being hooked up to the IV. Also I found I was always on the colder side as sometimes the chemo going into me was on the cool side and that does make you cold fast.

Take snacks. I called it my junk food treat bag. Whatever you want take it. Take plenty. Eat it whenever you want too. It’s for you and the person going with you because they will need it as much as you.

Books, puzzles, TV series, movies, music, if you have the option to download and bring it with you, do it. But don’t be surprised if you don’t have the function or attention span to use any of it. I pretty much slept the whole time. But it’s there for your chemo buddy.

Don’t be proud, have a chemo buddy!! It’s easier to be with someone then on your own.

Take warm socks. If they have a grip to the base of them then you don’t have to worry about the faff of taking your shoes on and off.

If you’re in for a long infusion, and you can, ask for a port for your chemo. This is something I discovered recently and wished I asked for it for myself! They don’t tend to like to do it unless they have to, or you’re further into your chemo program. But it’s easier and kinder to you when administering the drugs. You then won’t have to be jabbed everytime to get a cannula in and worry about collapsed veins. Chemo can be harsh on the veins and can toughen them if used too often which can make it sore for you. If you don’t have a port then make sure you rotate arms each time. With a port, you just can’t get it wet but if I’m right in thinking, there’s waterproof sheaths to put over them that the nurses can supply you with.

If you take any non-prescriptive supplements talk to your oncology team to see if its OK to still take them. Some supplements can interfere with the chemo.

Not all chemos make you lose your hair. My first chemo I half lost it. It just thinned a lot. Second chemo I lost it all. Don’t be surprised if you find you have patches of baldness. First lot of chemo made me look like I had a monk cut! Bald on top but hair around the sides. Alternatively, your hair can go all in one go! Second lot of chemo I knew I was gonna lose it all in one go, I could feel it! No time for clippering, no preperation.

There are options to prevent hair loss like the cold cap. That’s personal if you want to use it. Depends on who you talk to on how it feels. Some don’t like it, some feel nothing of it. It basically cools the head down to keep the hair follicles cool to prevent the chemo damaging the hair follicle and prevent hair loss. Using a cold cap doesn’t always work though! My second chemo was strong and a cold cap would never have prevented me from losing my hair.

If you lose hair and want a wig you will have to pay. However if you are in hospital and have chemo when admitted (the day unit is not included) then you can get a prescription and it will be free.

All prescriptions are now free. Make sure you fill in a medical exemption certificate.

Car parking should be free when under chemo and radiotherapy… Just check with the hospital you attend…  I hope it’s not just available at my hospital!!

Eat what you want whenever you want. As my chemo was in 3 week cycles I found I didn’t eat a lot for the first week then a bit more by the second then a lot on the third to build me up for the chemo. Eat junk but also eat healthy… If you can! You may find textures and flavours change. I lost my taste buds the first week of my chemo cycle so strong flavours worked best for me. Meats and fats made me feel sick and were the kickstarter to queasiness if I ate them. By the end of chemo, once it had built up in my body the things that I found in the first week of the cycle were staying with me. So eat whatever you can and what ever you damn well please!!!

Look after your hands and feet. Neuropathy (numbness) is common in these areas during and after chemo. I still have neuropathy in the balls of my feet and I’m 7 months post chemo. It may come back but it may not. Keeping active can help. A brief short walk is good enough.

If you can, get out everyday. Even if its for 5 minutes. But be sensible. Don’t go in the rain and get wet. Avoid anyone with a cold or even a sniffle.

Listen to your body. You’re gonna feel tired. Sleep! Don’t over do it and compare it to what you used to be able to do.

Chemo brain is a thing. You may experience forgetfulness or find it hard to function or even pay attention. For a few days after chemo I zoned out on everything. I couldn’t pay attention to anything. It’s common to find you’re forgetful for weeks/months after it has all finished.

Keep your mouth healthy. If you already suffer from mouth ulcers then talk to your team. They may be able to suggest a good mouth wash that will help. Chemo can give you bad mouth ulcers. This is not something I found I suffered with myself so my experience is limited here.

Keep well moisturised. Chemo will make your skin dry and it will prevent any soreness from occurring. Don’t use perfumed moisturisers. If you are having radiotherapy too only use what they recommend. Cetraben or any similar brands that can come on prescription are fine. DON’T USE ANY OILS!!! AT ALL!!! Aveeno is a good moisturiser brand that you can pick up anywhere and can be still used if you’re undergoing radiotherapy too.

Discolouration or damage can occur to the nails. Ridges, lines, bruising or even the nail itself can fall off. Don’t be surprised if this happens. This didn’t happen to me but I found mine went very brittle. As a beauty therapist, I have had clients who have been advised by the nursing staff themselves to get their nails done. With Gels or normal nail paint is fine, but not Acrylics!! You won’t have the strength there if they’re on the weaker side, if you go for normal nail paint as to UV Gels. They advise this for one, so you don’t see the discolouration to the nail and two, so you have a bit of strength for the nail which may preserve them. Go for the darker shades if you do happen to have discolouration. You may find that still having regular manicures may not preserve the nail or you may find they drop off after treatment is complete. It takes a good 6 months for fingernails to grow from the base to the top, 12 months for toe nails, so be patient.

You are probably going find everyone has an opinion on what you should try to do to beat cancer. Juicing, going organic, turmuric, cannabis oil, aloe vera. All of these I’ve been told to try by others (who have not had cancer). Take it with a pinch of salt. Whatever you do though DO NOT TRY ANYTHING WITHOUT TALKING TO YOUR ONCOLOGY TEAM. A lot of these things can interfere with chemo and can actually compromise you. Although you’ve probably heard “chemo is a poision” there’s a reason it’s the number 1 go to drug still. Most of these “remedies” are still very much unknown and media stories don’t help. If you dig deeper you’ll find they’ve actually had chemo at some point or surgery along the way.

If you have radiotherapy in the stomach region, be careful of heartburn. The second lot of radiotherapy I had gave me odd bout’s of sickness. I found avoiding oily foods helped. Take anti-sickness if you find it but also tell your doctor. They may put you on a stomach settler to help and prevent. My dad also read of a story of someone who had radiotherapy near his head. He had a mouthful of metal filings and radiotherapy heated these up and gave him bad mouth sores! Again talk to your Radiotherapy team if you have the old style metal filings because they may be able to change them for the more modern filings before treatment begins. It could be a case that it doesnt matter, if your radiotherapy sessions are short and few then it may not be a problem. Each radiotherapy program is different. My first lot of radiotherapy was 15 minutes each appointment for 36 sessions as where my second lot of radiotherapy was no more than 3 minutes and I had 12 sessions there.

Same goes, if in chemo or radiotherapy you get an upset stomach, there are pills to help.

Some anti-sickness pills can be steroids or they may provide you with steroids before your chemo infusion. This can cause the usual steroid symptoms. Added weight, restless leg syndrome, a boost in energy for periods of time… usually at inapropriate times like 3am!

Phew… Ok, I think that is everything that I can think of. If I remember anything else then I’ll add it on. You can also check out some of my older posts that I created when going through treatment. Take a look back on those, if they don’t help then feel free to drop me a message! There are loads of different ways cancer can be treated, so please dont be alarmed if I haven’t talked about any experiences you have had or can’t find the information you are looking for. For any other treatments then please take a look here.

A life of crackers and coke

Hair today, gone tomorrow

When in doubt just add hairspray!

When you become a real life zombie

Chemo 21 and counting… 

Chemo: it’s not me, it’s you!

Baby, it’s just never gonna happen

Baby, it’s just never gonna happen

I really wanted my next post to be a vlog and I’ve been wracking my brains for days on end about what my next topic should be.
Obviously this is not a vlog. On this topic, I needed to be clear and concise and I can’t do that without thinking about what I’m gonna say and how it needs to be worded.

So I’ve brushed over this topic before but I’ve never really gone into the nitty gritty.

Infertility.

I’m infertile. My eggs are naff. They’re non-existent. There will be no babies.

This isn’t because of my cancer. Vaginal cancer hasn’t made me infertile and it’s not fucked me up down there. I function normally… In case you’re wondering 😉

Radiotherapy made me infertile. As my radiotherapy was directed in the pelvic region it didn’t just target my tumour. Radio beams hit my womb, ovaries, intestines, colon, stomach, liver, kidneys, the lot. For those of you that have never experienced radiotherapy let me just explain the effects as best I can… It burns you. After treatment you generally have a red mark where its been targeting. Or sometimes your skin peels like you’ve been sunburned. It can blister, swell, redden, peel or all of the above.

With me, by the end of my treatment from the tops of my thighs to my lower ribs front and back my skin changed colour. I went from a fair skin, that tans slightly in the sun but burns easily, to a skin that looked like it’s spent 20 days in the Sahara slicked up with oil. Without sounding racist my skin colour was a different ethnicity.

So with that on the outside, its no wonder it damaged my ovaries. So this probably brings you to the question what we’re my fertility options? There were none.

From the day I was diagnosed, to the day of treatment beginning, there was 3 days. I had a very aggressive tumour. It grew rapidly and with the size of it already (10 cm), they couldn’t risk any more time, in case it spread. It did, but they didn’t know that at the time and they hoped it wouldn’t. The option of harvesting any of my eggs for future IVF treatment was never on the table. It would have meant that I would have to be on a selection of hormone drugs to up my ante for egg collection. Not only that, but to retrieve said eggs it would also mean an operation and the tumour was in the way of the route they would take to collect my eggs.

At the time of being told this I didn’t care of the situation. When you’re that sick all you want is to get better. I never processed this part of treatment. I never dealt with it. I just thought logically and got on with what needed to be done.

After radiotherapy, brachytherapy (an internal form of radiotherapy – they target the tumour directly with radio beams) and chemotherapy I was then under the care of the early menopause clinic.

You can only be officially declared menopause free when you’ve had no period for over 12 months. However I still needed to see them to see what function I had left. A simple blood test works for this to see what your FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) level is. This is the hormone that helps release the egg. My FSH was 84. I remember saying to my doctor “that’s good then?”… Umm… No. On average, it should be between 4 and 20. At 84 it means my body is trying to kick the ovaries into action. So with this, they knew that’s it. It’s HRT (hormone replacement therapy), artificial hormones to replace what my body can no longer produce.

If I didn’t take this? My body would be too screwed when I get old. Osteoporosis, brittle bones, muscle deterioration, heart disease, strokes, the list goes on. I’ve got enough to deal with already don’t I?! So I take it.

Hey, fun fact: did you know that although I’m on HRT I can still have a period if I wanted to! Not a real period, but apparently, some women who go through the menopause early feel they’ve lost a bit of their womanhood. Or naturally your body still bleeds monthly. HRT is expansive like the contraceptive pill. Actually, some use the contraceptive pill as their hormone replacement. Look-wise there’s no difference in the appearance of the pills and the packet they come in. For me, I didn’t see the use of having a period if it wasn’t doing anything. That’s one nuisance I’m glad to be rid of!

During this consultation with my early menopause doctor she asked if I had a sister. Yes, I do, I said. She smiled and said good. She explained that in the future she could be an egg donor for me. I shot that down immediately. I love my sister, don’t get me wrong but that is just crossing too many lines for me personally. Until recently I realised she asked this because the NHS will not fund egg donation. I would have to find my own donor or fund it myself… This is about £5000+

I’ve always had strong opinions on where I stand with such tricky areas like IVF. I just wouldn’t do it personally. I couldn’t put myself through that emotional trauma. I have nothing against IVF or IVF babies I just don’t want it for myself. So it’s never really been an option for me. I never sat down and considered it.

I’m very much a practical thinker in life. And being this way I think has helped me considerably when I’ve had to deal with such emotional situations like this. Don’t get me wrong, I am deep down to my core devastated that I can’t have my very own baby. And it hurts so bad some days when social media is covered with friends babies or pregnancies but that’s OK. I have my cry and I move on. I deal with it.

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Fertility is such a hairy topic for those who go through problems, have IVF or just plainly can’t have babies.

You can’t talk to someone who’s had babies. They don’t get it. They have theirs. And you can’t talk to those who don’t have babies but still can, because they can’t relate either. My friends and family know my situation and they let me talk when I need or want to. They help. But things move on, the feeling of sadness goes at the end of the day, it’s not a topic that they will always be thinking of.

Friends please don’t stop the social media posts if you are reading this! I’m not hating on you. It’s just some days are harder than others and it’s issues I have to deal with not you.

So you may think, but hang on what about fostering or adoption? That’s a good route. And yes, I would agree. It was my option this time last year. But since then my cancer has gone metastatic when it gets to the stage 4 region (did you know I had to Google that bit? I’ve never officially been told its stage 4) you’ll never be cured from it. You have to constantly deal with the thought of it still lingering. It will come back.

I can’t put a kid through such an unstable future. You may not agree with my reasoning but this is the way my life is.

So this is the way it is. My kidless future.

It’s a very different perspective when that option is stolen from you and not a choice you’ve made yourself.

If you have any questions or I’ve not been clear on anything please feel free to message. I’m very open on my infertility and treatment.

Also, if you find you are like me, and have gone through the menopause early, then there is a great charity that can help with people who can relate. The Daisy Network

Kudos if you have got this far! I know it’s a long post! ✌🏻💜

Don’t be a dick to cancer prevention

Now I’m not someone who usually preaches to others on how they should live their lives but I came across something this week that just staggered me.
Women getting smear tests is at a new 20 year low 😱

Are some women just stupid? Or ignorant? With an “it’ll-never-happen-to-me” attitude.

Jo’s cervical cancer trust is doing a #smearforsmear campaign to promote the importance of gynae health. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of gynae health.

https://www.jostrust.org.uk/

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My #smearforsmear – jumper an unintentional match! 😂

KNOW YOUR VAGINA!!!

As a beauty therapist, I can’t tell you the amount of bikini waxes I’ve done over the years. Hundreds. Maybe even thousands. You’ll make yourself look pretty but you won’t make sure your foo foo is in top notch condition?

That’s just stupid. You spend longer on my beauty couch then you actually do getting a smear test.

Well what’s the point in a pretty foo foo if you’re not gonna look after the whole of your body.

Now you may think I’m being over dramatic here when I say the whole of your body but that’s what it is. I had a gynaecological cancer but it’s now in my lungs. Chemo affects your whole body, Radiotherapy irritates your stomach, bowel, bladder. Would you rather that than 5 minutes in the doctors office?

Take it from someone who’s done a smear test. It’s simple. You go in, you drop your panties, nurse does their thing and boom. You’re done. It’s important. That’s it.

Now these days I’m a realist… You may not take my advice. And you may not care about my story and how my life has changed from cancer and that’s fine. It’s your choice. But you’re stupid if you ignore booking in for your test. It doesn’t bother me if you do it or not.

You can take the alternative instead if you ignore that reminder from the NHS or those silly little niggles that you never had before…

5+ Dr’s prodding and poking your vagina, putting fingers up your butt, operating with countless doctors and students getting a good view of you in all your glory when you’re knocked out! Yeah you might not know what they get up to and you may prefer it that way but you know more people have seen your down stairs in a week than ever before.

Case studies are done on your vagina. You’re now a student GP’s case that he talks about and learned from because you’re so “rare”.

No for me, I’m not your usual case. Not all symptoms of vaginal cancer related to me. The most obvious was the heavy bleeding. And I don’t mean just a heavy period. Big big clots the size of your palm. But I knew something wasn’t right.

So I went to my doctors. Now don’t get me wrong if something is not right you may have to fight. Don’t ever give up if you think something is not normal. December 11th was my first port of call to the doctors. January 10th was my official cancer diagnosis.

Doctors and nurses don’t care what you look like. Hairy, bald, clean, smelly, fat, thin, big or small. It’s all in their job. They signed up for it and they knew what they got themselves in for. It’s all in your head so get over it, buck up and get yourself booked in.

If there’s one thing you do today it is book in for your smear (if you’re a girl obviously, otherwise go tell a girl to do it 😉). And tell your friends to do it too. Pass the message on.

Oh also, donate blood when you can too!! I’m not asking for too much am I? 😂 Give blood!

https://www.blood.co.uk/

If you fancy a read and are actually concerned about your vaginal health, check out eve appeal they’re a charity that promotes the importance of gynae health and offers support and advice to those in need ❤️

https://eveappeal.org.uk/

Not cancerous enough

It’s been a week of mixed emotions this week. So I received my phone call from my consultant for the next plan of action and I can’t say I was best pleased with the plan.
And strangely enough I surprise myself by saying this.

So the right lung where the bigger tumor is will be treated with radiotherapy. This will begin this week and I’ll have 12 sessions. 12 sessions seem like a piece of cake after my 36 sessions last year!

And the left lung? Well they’re just going to leave it.

Apparently chemo has worked too well. I’ve been told I shouldn’t have improved so much between the scan after chemo 3 and the scan after chemo 6. They generally don’t see any difference between the 2 scans so to find it’s shrunk again means I don’t fit into the normal cancer category… Again.

So basically the left lung doesn’t show a distinctive enough tumor. Which is great! Hooray! I’ve kinda beat cancer!

But because the left side is so small they can’t really target it with radiotherapy… So now it’s too small.

They’ve decided to just leave it to see what happens.

Hence why my mixed emotions. I’ve been conditioned so much through treatment that treatment is good, treatment is important that it seems impossible for me to see this in a good way.

I feel like they’re leaving me to walk this dangerous tightrope of life and cancer. I mean the growths to the lungs occurred within 3 months then doubled in size within a month. This is a serious cancer they are dealing with. This is my life!

I trust my consultant and the work she’s done for me but I couldn’t help but cry when she told me that she’s not going to treat the left side. And never in a million years did I think I’d be crying over the thought of not having treatment!! Maybe I shouldn’t have bitched so much about chemo! It obviously worked too well!!

The happy pessimist

I got some good news for once this week. Chemo is working! My scan from last week has shown an excellent response. The chemo has reduced the size of the tumors and one is barely visible. With this news it will mean that I will continue with the rest of my planned chemotherapy treatments.

I should be happy, right?

And I’m pleased. I am. But I can’t exactly say I’m over the moon, bouncing from room to room, can’t stop smiling happy. And why you ask?

Because this isn’t the end.

Yes, it’s a good result. But how long for?

I told you last time, after the devastating results from my 3 month post treatment scan it’ll shit on any other happy news in the future. And it really has.

I’m pleased. I am. And I’m happy for my family and friends that they’re finally hearing something good… But it is definitely shadowed by the fact that this isn’t it. Even if it clears up after all of the chemotherapy and whatever treatment follows after, it won’t be the end.

It will most likely come back. It might not be straight away. It could be 5 months, a year, 5 years, 10 years or more but it will at some point return.

Until they figure out a way to completely eradicate it from my lymph or blood… Wherever it is travelling from, its not over.

I’m OK with this. I’d rather it wasn’t this way but I’ve accepted my fate in life. I’m still positive about my diagnosis. Don’t misconceive what I am saying. Just because the news before shat on every other bit of goodness now or in the future, I am still positive about my treatment. I feel good in myself and I won’t let that stop me from living how I want to live.

Its just… I don’t know… The big fat elephant in the room that’s staring me in the face is still there. So I’m happy but I feel like I can’t truly be 100% happy because before I know it the rug will be pulled from beneath my feet again and I’ll be back to square one. And it’ll crush me.

But worst of all, it’ll crush the people I love.

I hate that this now makes me look at the other side of life. The more pessimistic side… That’s not me. But I have no choice. I have to be realistic.

So this week I am happy. But probably not as happy as I would have been this time last year had I received good news. Because although I am happy, any big fat sunny happiness I have now gets shadowed by the dark and ugly side of cancer. And forever will be no matter how small it may become in the future years… It’ll always be there in the background waiting to pop back up and ruin everything all over again.

On another note, apparently I have shingles! 🙄 I’m an anomaly again as I don’t have the “normal” symptoms. Just a rash on my back, other than that I feel pretty normal… Considering.

It shouldn’t interfere with my chemo on Friday thank goodness but bloody hell… Can’t catch a break at the minute! 😂

A scrambled mess of prosecco and overthinking

It’s been a weird few days. A bit of an emotional roller-coaster of ups and downs. It has been a week of cuddling babies, turning 29, popping prosecco and partying with the most awesomest of awesome friends that have helped me through the last few months… Although if you asked them they wouldn’t say that. They think they haven’t done enough or anything at all that deem them awesome but they honestly really have.

Even just a ‘hey, how are you?’ when the world around you has turned into an unstable mess can mean the world. You may read this with skepticism and think how? But there were days that I would struggle to even think about getting out of bed, let alone actually do it. So a ‘hey, how are you?’ can really go far. It gives purpose. It gives hope. It gives you a reason.

Now, I’m not gonna lie to you, there have been many times those ‘hey, how are you?’s went unanswered… Why? Well when your arse has been ripped raw from being burned from radiotherapy and you struggle to climb in and out of a car to go everyday to the place that’ll make you better, but you know in the short term will make you worse, you do get a bit wrapped up in your own self-absorbed world. Please don’t pity me or my arse rubbed raw story. Haha. It’s all better now and you would never even know. 😉 however, I may look at our pothole filled roads in a whole new light!

Now, I’m not randomly going up to strangers and cuddling babies, you don’t have to worry about my sanity quite yet. Haha. But I’m finding that I’m of that “age” now where babies, engagements and weddings are becoming a frequent occurrence. Having one of these factors of mine altered, and I say altered because it’s still possible, remember! I’ve started to question aspects of my life. Nothing is ever going to change what has happened but I think it’s healthy to look at things differently. But it’s another “why me?” 😫 kind of moment, unfortunately, because say for example, I did decide to foster or adopt, every aspect of my life will be under analysis. And that’s fine, I don’t have anything to hide, as you already can tell! But it wouldn’t have been this way if I was 16 and pregnant… Damn it!

I received a very generous message this week from a friend and her situation with cancer. I won’t go into the details because it’s not my story to tell but you just don’t realise or appreciate how many people cancer hits. I always knew that she was attacked with the nasty little bugger that is cancer before I even met her, but I can’t help but wonder if she had enough ‘hey, how are you?’s I know her story was before I even knew her but I certainly know I didn’t give enough ‘hey, how are you?’s after. Because although my cancer story will soon be behind me… It never really will be fully gone from my life. That little bugger will always be niggling at the back of my mind.

Every cancer story is personal and different. You could find you have exactly the same cancer as me but that doesn’t mean the situation is the same… Or the treatment for that matter. In my radiotherapy days, as you’re up at the hospital 5 days of the week for it, you start seeing the same people up there. And slowly, as treatment goes on and on and on, you never see them again. You think “they’ve made it!” like it’s some sort of game and that they’ve reached the top level. It’s weird seeing these people everyday at the worst moment of both of your lives, never to see each other again or to never know what happened to them…

There have not been many days where I have been caught up in my emotions and been pleading the “why me?” card but this last week has most definitely and unfortunately been one of those weeks that I have found the most trying. Damn me and my overthinking brain!

 

Some pictures of me and my awesome friends. I wish I took more pictures! Me and my prosecco filled self didn’t even think to capture this day more! 🍾

 

Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I’m radioactive, radioactive!

As I write this post I’ve just had my 3 month post chemotherapy, radiotherapy and brachytherapy PET/CT scan. Basically the scan that’ll tell me if I’ve kicked cancers big fat hairy butt!
And for the whole day I’ve been pretty chuffed that I can sing Imagine Dragons song Radioactive at the top of my voice and know that it’s true! Well you gotta look at the good side to all this!

I can’t help but feel that this scan holds my life in it’s hands more than ever. There’s nothing I can do about the results. What will be will be. I don’t feel like I have cancer anymore but you can never really know. It’ll be a hell of a lot more devastating for me, my family and friends if the results come back that I’m not clear of it. All because I do feel pretty normal again.

Back in January, just 5 lowly months ago, was when I had my first PET/CT scan. It’s hard to believe I’m the same person today. At 5’11” I was 8 1/2 stone, which is just under 54kg. Massively underweight for my height. I was in hospital, not yet fully knowing what I was dealing with… But I’m pretty sure my family did! The sneaky buggers didn’t tell me I was already in a cancer hospital! Haha. Hey, I told you. Before all this I was completely oblivious to cancer! I knew where I was I just didn’t realise it was a cancer hospital.

So with a PET scan they inject you with some radioactive stuff that goes all round your body and highlights the cancer and any other suspect areas that it may have gone to. January’s results showed how extensive the cancer was… A 10cm mass and that it was becoming a little bit suspect around my lymph nodes in my stomach region… I wanna call them my illiac nodes? As I said I’m not a doctor but I think that’s what it was.

At this point all though it’s scary knowing how big the cancer is I didn’t care. I was in pain, sleeping most of the day away and barely eating. When you’re in that much discomfort you really don’t care what title it is you’re dealing with. You just wanna feel better. And yeah I had cancer but I always looked at it like it’s cancer, it’s not cancer cancer.

I see cancer adverts these days where they’re telling the actor on screen and they’re devastated. They portray how isolated they feel and how life changing it is and yeah… I can kind of get where they’re coming from but for me, it was never like that. Life goes on.

You don’t want to look so broken to your family all the time. They’re dealing with this as much as you and in a way you could say it’s worse for them. They can’t do anything to help. I slept most of the day away and was in a pretty high drug induced bubble of codeine, oramorph and paracetamol.

Do you wanna know how I first found out I had cancer? I find it funny but I know my family don’t. They were pretty pissed. Haha.

I had this cancer nurse come round early one morning and gave me a “how to deal with being diagnosed with cancer” leaflet. Turns out this nurse was gonna be my “cancer nurse” I couldn’t stand her… She just wasn’t very good at empathy but tried her hardest, only it turned out being a bit annoying. No… I don’t want to talk about how I’m feeling to you. But thanks.

I just remember getting this leaflet before the doctors had told me and thinking “oh fuck, it is cancer then”. I made a laugh and a joke about it to my mum when she came in but I can tell you she wasn’t best pleased this happened without her there for support and before I had an actual diagnosis!

So yes, today I’m singing radioactive as loud as I can enjoying the fact that it is very relevant to me and revelling in the irony that is my life!

When your vagina lets you down

Oh gosh… So where do you begin? Cancer is a topic that you think will never touch you. Unfortunately if it does, you hope it is on someone who has lived a long and full life or maybe with wishful thinking, someone who is horrible and vile who deserves it. But that is not life. Sometimes life likes to kick you in the balls and says “hey! lets mix things up a bit!”

So Back in January, I was offically diagnosed with stage 3 squamous cell vaginal cancer. Now normally when you think of a 28 year old female diagnosed with cancer you will most likely think of ovarian, cervical or breast cancer. Vaginal cancer I didn’t even hear of before my treatment so I wouldn’t blame you for thinking of those first either!

If you look on the Cancer Research UK website you will see that vaginal cancer affects just 1% of the UK population in their lifetime. It is a cancer that is more likely to affect those over 70… now isn’t that a kick in the teeth? I’ve got an old lady cancer. Once my oncologist got into the nitty gritty parts of my cancer I found out that the survival rate is 40% after treatment! Well holy hell… How are you meant to get your head around that? Thinking about it now, are the statistics so unfair because these ladies have actually died from this cancer? Or is it because they’re so old and other complications occured?

Vaginal Cancer is also on the same strain as the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The HPV vaccine was introduced into the UK in 2008 for 12-13 year olds. In 2008, I was 20, so at this point I had already missed that boat to be vaccinated against it. In Autumn 2009, a catch-up plan was introduced to vaccinate all girls up to the age of 18. Looking back, I was aware of all the media hype concerning the HPV vaccine but as I wasn’t in the age gap that concerned me I was ignorant to it. Looking at it now though how much more is it a kick in the teeth that I was shy of just 3 years to be applicable for the very vaccine that could have prevented me from having cancer! Not only do I have old lady cancer, I could have been vaccinated against it if i was just a few years younger.

I like to think I’m special. Haha. With life showing me how unpredictable it likes to be I’m thinking I’m not gonna be the average Jo(anne)  when it comes to treatment and recovery. With the only thing positive in this whole thing, my age, they threw everything at me that my body could cope with. So in time I’ll tell you as much as I can the fun journey I took with Chemotherapy, Radiatherapy and Brachytherapy. Coz lets face it… I seem to be a pretty rare case as they keep telling me!