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I am 44 years old, Married to Sean for 19 years and have 3 lovely children Hope is 14, Jack is 10 and Joe is 5.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Reality of being treated for Breast Cancer - Part 11 - Lost Track of the Days

Well I know how many days I have been stuck in hospital.....4 so far :-/  I have lost track of the number of days I am post chemo as I'm now on the countdown to the next round....6 days. It comes around too quickly. This is the reality of cancer.

I am getting well and truly fed up now. This is my 'good' week, when I feel much better and well enough to do 'normal' things. Spend time with my family and friends, Mum taxiing, shopping, cooking, working but I'm feel it's been wasted battling infections. This is the reality of cancer.

So yes this IS the reality of having cancer......exactly what I'm writing about, but it doesn't make it any easier to swallow. Usually this week I can almost pretend life is moving forward as if this nightmare wasn't happening. If you'd told me that I'd be spending this afternoon discussing genetic testing, how much hair I'm losing, mouth ulcers and which type of breast reconstruction was preferable, with my dear friend Sally I would have told you that you were nuts. This is the reality of cancer.

No matter how positive you remain you are still staring your own mortality straight in the face. Relying on the statistics that 78% of women get through this barbaric treatment and live their lives as they choose to again. You can't help but have that niggling doubt and embrace every give your child that party they REALLY want even though it's expensive, buy them that game they desperately covet or take that trip you've always dreamed of, read your child just one more chapter of the book, watch that show you've always planned to see; you want to make sure you create those lifelong memories...just in case. This is the reality of cancer.

Yes I am lucky to have several friends and family who have beaten this dreadful disease and it's never come back. Plus everyone I meet has a positive story about a friend, family member or neighbour who has too and it does help to hear these BUT it's hard to push those out of your mind who haven't. Such as the wife of a friend of over twenty years who died of breast cancer 2 years ago and having been in this environment before, all those you meet along the way who don't make it. This is the reality of cancer.

I am protecting myself more this time around. I don't catch the eye of the person next to me in clinic or pre-assessment, I am thankful for my own room, I'm avoiding The Robert Ogden Centre and The Haven. I don't want to hear everyone's awful heartache that I meet whilst I'm on this journey. Yes bone tumours are much rarer and have nowhere near as good survival rates as breast cancer but I lost 8 out of 10 of the friends I made and kept in touch with. I can't deal with that again. This is the reality of cancer.

I am fighting a losing battle with my Hickman line. It's sore and stops me sleeping, I have a bug around it and in it and now another one in my blood. I will let it win on this occasion. It has served me well for half my chemotherapy treatment and taken away the stress and pain of having needles.

I do not want to waste more time stuck in here; battling to get fed properly, I'll have the next chemo in my hand and then when all these infections have cleared I can have a PICC line. I hope chemo won't be delayed, tomorrow I will see the Professor of Oncology and the Registrar and I will convince her it's the best course of action. How soon I will get a theatre slot and whether they will release me yet after the removal with oral antibiotics are all questions for tomorrow. I will just have to be patient.

Monday, 20 March 2017

The Reality of being treated for Breast Cancer - Part 10 - Day 12 Post Chemo

Well after battling a problem with my Hickman line site for as few days now, after one emergency visit to St James' last weekend and a week on oral antibiotics it was worse than ever. I rang the hospital and asked for the oncology bleep holder and they advised me to come in to Ward 95. Which is where I'm typing this from now on Day 13 post chemo! Yes they captured me and I had to stay in!

I'm not too fed up as I know it's what's required and I am in the best place to get this nailed once and for all. I am lucky to have my own room therefore some privacy for me staggering to the loo on the crutches, drip stand in tow! I am hoping to escape later this evening after 24 hours of IV antibiotics as they seem to be working and my chest is far sore woo hoo!

Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Reality of being treated for Breast Cancer - Part 9 - Days 9-11 Post Chemo

As seems to be the pattern I have felt better and better as the week has gone on. Ha, even the students I saw on Friday noticed the improvement since Wednesday (subtly conveyed of course ;-) I've enjoyed being back at work and have been very busy, so thankfully no time to dwell on things.

The main problem I've been battling against is where my line exits is sore and not only that, for about 3 days post flush it's been sore under the skin too, as if bruised. I have been on antibiotics all week but this doesn't seem to have shifted the problem - maybe not the right drugs....

It is a worry as problems with it can delay chemo but we'll cross those bridges if they arise. I keep thinking each day I need to go back and get it checked, as it's oozing again tonight, tomorrow may be that day.

Another frustrating aspect is that I feel 'well', then as soon as I start to do anything, whether teaching or walking around the shops I have the most awful head and neck sweats, where I'm literally dripping onto my collar :-/ and get really breathless. I was told by the oncologist that these are chemo side effects. The state of me when I was teaching this afternoon, goodness knows what people would have thought!!

As you start to feel better and more like yourself it's hard as you know you're shortly going to have to go back and be made so poorly again. My rational mind knows 'needs must' and that it all means it's one step closer to this brutal treatment being over and preparing for the Mastectomy. More appointments scheduled too over the weeks to come with my Oncologist, Breast Care Nurse, Breast Surgeon. Scans and weekly line flushes, blood tests and counselling for Jack.

So the world keeps turning and as has also been the pattern, our friends and family continue to be so hugely supportive, with everything from meals to childcare, gifts, cards and flowers. Yet again I really cannot express how this is all helping us to continue with 'life as we know it'. The children are finding it hard, so any semblance of their normality is a bonus. Jack started counselling this week as we really don't know how to help him sometimes to deal with his feelings and worries. I'm hoping and praying it helps for him to talk to someone who is not emotionally connected. Hope took the brave decision to stay at school whilst I was in for chemo and for the following few days. A mature attitude from a 15 year old, who could recognise what she could and could not deal with. Thankfully school have been helpful and accommodating beyond measure and I know she will be well looked after and thankfully has a great connection with staff. It is heartbreaking for me though..... Cancer is never easy for anyone and sometimes (both during this experience and the last) I think it's almost harder to watch someone you love go through this and be unable to do anything to take it away.

I will keep on keeping on.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Reality of being treated for Breast Cancer - Part 8 - Day 7 post Chemo

I was too tired to post yesterday, after another busy one!

I need my line flushing weekly, ordinarily you wait in on that day for the District Nurses to come but that would of course mean I'm unable to plan anything else for that day. This way I get to go into work before and after. And to be honest my first (and last) experience of waiting for the District Nurse wasn't very positive. She rang me and told me they were too busy and wouldn't be able to come.

Although as you will see in the clip trying to actually park at the hospital is easier said than done (N.B. I wasn't holding the phone while filming it was in the cradle!).

Since the line was flushed (saline gets syringed through to check it's still 'open' and they check they can still draw blood from it) it's been really sore (tender and uncomfortable even to the touch) I'm just helping it settles tomorrow but we shall see.

So Day 7 I was shattered and Day 8 I'm hoping is the turning point, as it has been the previous 2 cycles  and from Day 9 I start to feel myself again. Both boys hav been off school ill which has been tricky. Obviously looking after them, whilst trying not to catch anything but also not wanting to have any more time off work.

I also took Jack for his first counselling session. After not wanting to go in it seemed to go well, as he was quite cheerful when he came out and I took him for a special tea together.

Monday, 13 March 2017

The Reality of being treated for Breast Cancer - Part 7 - Post Chemo Day 6

So off the hard drugs now and on the homeward straight! Back to work today which was a welcome distraction. I saw numerous lovely colleagues who enquired as to how I was doing and also taught for a few hours before getting on with other administrative work.

My mouth feels like it's been burnt again, especially the roof and everything you eat tastes like furry cardboard!

Sadly by the time I'd done some Mum Taxiing after work and spent my gymnastics 'waiting time' hanging about in Seacroft Tesco, the bone pains were so overwhelming. So on reaching home this evening all I could do was lie down, resort to codeine and put heat packs the affected areas. But these will reduce now that the final G-CSF injection has been given and the chemo will gradually get further away and hopefully when it's done it's work, out of my system.

Need some zzzzzzzzzzz so I'll check in again tomorrow :-)

Sunday, 12 March 2017

The Reality of being treated for Breast Cancer - Part 6 - Post Chemo Hell

So the last couple of days have been pretty hellish, hence the title of my latest Vlog Post 'Post Chemo Hell' anyone who's been through or watched their loved one go through this will be able to relate. It's so hard because you're taking all the drugs to counteract the side effects of the other drugs and it's a vicious circle to be honest.


I ended up having to pay a visit to Ward 95 at St James' yesterday. You ring the switchboard and ask for The Oncology Bleepholder and a CNS advises you over the phone. You have to take an overnight bag in case they admit you ( I had no intention of letting that happen!) Although to be honest by  the time we got there I was the colour of their magnolia walls and couldn't have cared less.

They were terribly understaffed, as most places are these days so I had to wait an age to be seen by a Dr, after two seperate ones who were reviewing my notes got called away. We finally got seen and felt listened too.

We're coping with this, and it's knock on effects to us, in our own way and thankfully have tonnes of medical and non-medical friends and family to help and advise 👍🏻

My Dad and Carole thankfully came to be with me yesterday, so Sean was able
to take the big kids and do his fundraising, whilst Dawn took Small off my hands for the day and night. So they took me into hospital and stayed several hours until I was able to escape with more painkillers and some oral antibiotics for the possible line infection. My Auntie Jan came for the 2nd time this week and was on ironing duty thanks so much 😘

They also gave me morphine due to the bone pain caused by the G-CSF injections and some to bring home. At least it worked  😬 And enabled me to crash out and sleep!

Today has been better and I had the last of the 5 injections 💪🏻

More #TeamVicki arrivals and lifts, sleepovers etc since Friday for the kids, thanks once again lovely friends and family 😘😝

Friday, 10 March 2017

The Reality of being treated for Breast Cancer - Part 5 - Post Chemo Day 3

Well it's 3 days since I had my last round of chemo and things are going pretty much as expected, which is a 'good' thing I think. 

Huge raft of drugs - steroids, pain killers, anti sickness etc to try and keep on top of everything and me out of hospital this time around. 

3 lots of GCSF injections done to stimulate the bone marrow to produce more blood cells to counteract infection, anaemia etc This creates quite bad bone pain especially where there are bigger surface areas e.g. Pelvis and thigh bone. Coupled with the bone pain caused by one of the chemo drugs it hits hard. They get injected into your stomach. Thankfully I have a friend come and do it, so we arrange a mutually convenient time rather than waiting in all day for The District Nurses to come.

Long days and nights it felt like I woke every five minutes in the night! Keep your fingers crossed for  me for a better one tonight.

Yet again today wonderful friends bringing soup, meals, flowers and plenty of goodies!! Thanks for the virtual hugs, messages and gifts from all over the world #TeamVicki is awesome!