Thursday, 28 April 2011

Number Thirteen:The Skidderz and I…

WARNING: I have been putting off this post as it could really be a ‘Well, you had to be there’ kind of affair! In which case we’ll have a very happy audience of two! (Plus Liz and Dr Love!)

Way, way back many centuries ago I was a fairly newly qualified teacher (with a lot of time on my hands now we come to look back on it!) bumbling through life in a middle school when into my classroom (and into my life) popped My Skidz. (She has earned this title by having one of the rankest senses of humour I have ever known for such a lady-like individual! Plus her surname is Kidd so it just works!) Hilariously she came to observe me teach- she was a student and I was the master- ahh, how times have changed! She is now ‘super career woman’ and I haven’t worked in more than a year (Looking likely that I’ll be back in the world of work about October time- sooner than I thought- so I’m happy!) So, anyway- the tables have turned and My Skidz is now an indispensable assistant head in her own middle school. We had our fair share of fun whilst working together for her NQT year- me disguising myself as a plumber and working on her radiator during my PPA- nothing can put her off her outstanding teaching you know! (and clearly I was fully planned, prepped and assessed to the max during this particular week as I had time to be dressing up and arsing about!)

Whiz forward a few years and I have one very fond friend- one I could call upon at the drop of a hat (she’s not my only one just the most available- read into this what you will!) On the eve of my first operation, (the lumpectomy- pah! How pathetic!) I had reason to call upon My Skidz. An evil winter vomiting bug had swept its way through our house and the capable, coping ‘usband you’ve heard so much about was last to be struck down, rendering him useless as hospital sidekick!  It had been three weeks since diagnosis, three weeks of badgering my loving other half about whether or not he’d cried yet!
‘Have you cried today? Did you cry when you thought about that? Will you cry when they put me to sleep?’ There was a brief moment during Disney’s Tangled when he claims he shed a tear but it was the putting to sleep bit that he had assured me would get his waterworks flowing- really not sure why seeing a grown man cry was so important to me but it was at the time- and now he was going to get out of it!!!
So, I suddenly had an opening… and the desire to sleep in a bed other than with the ‘vomiting one’! Lucky Skidz- she got the call and was at my front door in minutes.
An emergency sleepover and a Wicked sing-along car ride later and we were in the waiting area! The place was packed full of nerves… a lot of nerves- mainly about whether or not visitors would be allowed to stay- they’re very strict but My Skidderz assured me she’d stand her ground and stay as long as she could! The pressure had got to us a little by the time we reached the lift and the matron lady announced that visitors could come no further- all except me! Yep- they read my name out as being allowed a visitor and what did we do? We whooped with joy then studied the ground as we were instantly the most hated pair in the squashed lift! Slight lack of sensitivity towards my fellow patients- opps! Anyway- she was IN and we were soon settled in our own room. Not for long though because then Liz entered our lives- almost as giddy with excitement as the two of us she quickly asked us to take another patient under our wing. ‘You two seem so positive, I’ve got a really nervous lady out there, will you try and cheer her up on our way to the scan*?’ A challenge? Well of course!

*When I say scan… I in fact mean easy ultrasound followed by the most awful mammogram ever- it involved a hook being inserted into my boob to mark the depth of a second lump they’d discovered. Yep- a hook like on a fishing line- into my squished, clamped down boob, whilst my neck was forced into an incredibly uncomfortable angle by the evil mammogrammer machine! Oh yes- I’m all up for getting you to check your own boobs but you’ll not hear me crowing about the delights of mammograms I assure you!

So having jollied along our ‘other patient’ and had a second lump confirmed it was time to roll on the surgical stockings…photo opportunity of course! (Just wish my consultant hadn’t walked in as we were really messing about!) I honestly do not know what had got into us but we were just very over excited- our little way of dealing with the seriousness of the occasion? I think she was just trying to jolly me along too really because she also managed to take her role as information provider to sick ‘usband seriously- she was the one who passed on the news of the second lump- yep a second tumour- breast cancer… twice. Possibly not the easiest phone call she’s ever made.

Sadly My Skidz wasn’t in the room when Dr Love (I kid you NOT!) introduced himself- this was just too much for me and I actually had to be asked to calm down and slow my breathing in order to be put to sleep properly. I even asked to see his badge as proof and enquired as to whether or not there was a Mrs Love. I think the drugs were beginning to kick in at this point- well that’s my defence and I’m sticking to it!

Next thing I knew I was coming round and My Skidz was by my side armed with snacks, treats and a squeeze of my arm as we together surveyed the damage done to my chest- minimal at that point!

Now don’t be thinking that this was a one time deal- she’s been re-drafted in since. Easter School put pay to Rob coming to my chemo lesson but My Skidz was again by my side- armed with her famous notebook (she actually wrote 5 pages!) and logged the name of every member of staff in the Macmillan unit.

She’s a superstar and has well earned her iPhone icon of ‘Angel+Princess’ I give you… My Skidderz. P.S. Happy 30th you lovely old lady you! Xx

Monday, 25 April 2011

Number Twelve: The Lucky One

To finish this week feeling like ‘the lucky one’ is really something indeed! I started the week a miserable, scared, ratty beast; continued the week a nauseous, fatigued lump and ended the week on a high surrounded by my friends and family. What a week!

Yesterday was my (rapidly growing) baby boy’s baptism. Despite starting chemotherapy we’d decided it was a good idea to go ahead with his celebration (we just made sure we delegated every aspect so we had nothing more than ourselves to worry about.) Cue HUGE thank yous to Jane, Ruth and the catering team! I’d also like to apologise to anyone who didn’t but should have got an invite- hasty text messages and word of mouth replaced formal invitations- surprising what you can get away with ‘in our situation’!

I am the lucky one because a ridiculous amount of people turned out to celebrate with us- as we arrived outside the church I assumed it was the glorious sunny day that had made the local pub so busy- it wasn’t- it was our amazing turnout of friends and family! This throng may have made the readers, caters and even the priest a little uneasy but how lucky we felt to be so well supported! (And with all that kissing and greeting at least I won’t know which one of you to blame any infections on!)

Inside and on to the main event; we are also lucky to have a priest who really does know how to put on a good show- he had his (not altogether particularly religious) audience oohing, ahhing and laughing out loud! He invited the little ones up to the front which they took full advantage of (spying a snail on the side of the font and causing much hilarity!)

The Snail Moment!

My baby boy was loving the attention of being up at the front and didn’t even cry at ‘the water bit’ (technical religious term I think you’ll find!) And then there were the godparents; Leanne and Emma- just goes without saying- from the very moment you were asked, you have taken your responsibilities very seriously- ridiculous excitement at the prospect of being on ‘Team Haz’! But Ian (Yep- here’s the special mention you’ve been waiting for!) I don’t think I’ve seen a man dote so much over my beautiful baby boy- you truly are his biggest fan and the perfect godfather! (Slight pressure on delivering a son this time Leanne!) So thanks to the Godparents Grove and to my Skidderz ‘Team Haz’ are a solid one indeed!

The next thank you goes to one of the very nicest ladies I know- my lovely head teacher- she gave us the run of the school hall, field and playground for the perfect place to continue our celebrations. (Especially perfect for games of Frisbee, Easter egg hunting and lounging around in the sun!) So when people were not busy complimenting me about what a lovely place to work this is, they were talking about what a wonderful service it was and what delicious food had been prepared. (Some of the cupcakes look suspiciously professionally baked but who am I to question?) I truly think my eldest had his best day on earth so far yesterday- He started the afternoon looking like one half of the smartest pair of brothers ever known- too cute in their matching suits but he ended it looking like the grubbiest chocolate covered urchin- never has a child eaten so much cake and had so much fun playing. (Shame he didn’t sleep in this morning!)

I do though feel I have to set the record straight- my husband said a few words thanking everyone for coming and for their support over the recent ‘difficult time’ but then veered off to talking about me- how well I’m coping blah, blah… The truth is I’m not really the one charged with coping with day to day life at the moment- he is. I only maintain my own basic hygiene and get myself (Sometimes rather stormily) from A to B, whilst he does the rest (which is a lot with two little ones believe me!) He even managed to bath and dress them both in the last twenty minutes before the service in order to ensure they remained smart enough for the all important photos! It reminds me of that saying ‘Behind every successful man is a woman’, it works both ways. So my final thank you goes to Rob. I am expecting us to successfully kick this thing but it’ll definitely take two of us! (Rob armed with his calm and confidence; me armed with my bronzer!)

So perhaps God was smiling down on us yesterday (who am I to put it solely down to luck?) but the sunshine and the snail did really set the day off- thanks for being there!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Number Eleven: The Race for Life (The one where I ask you for money!)

What choice did they have? As far as fundraising is concerned, I was diagnosed at the perfect time of year! With ‘The Race For Life’ AND ‘The Midnight Moo’ coming up, my friends couldn’t exactly refuse! One of the cancer perks is…people will do pretty much what you tell them! I have also instructed my friends to dress up in all my fancy dress costumes, they are yet to agree to that part of the deal yet but we’ll see!

My favourite quote is from Michelle’s Just Giving page…

‘I'm not a runner but my struggle to be able to run 10K is nothing compared to the struggle cancer sufferers have on a daily basis.’
I read this and straight away joked that by 7K she’d be begging for chemo instead! (You see- joking about chemo- clearly haven’t started it yet and in blissful ignorance!)

Feel free to add to their fundraising totals…

So, chemo starts today- we’ll see by this time tomorrow if I still think it’s a laughing matter!!

Now what do you reckon they’d say to this? Maybe next year?

Monday, 18 April 2011

Number Ten: The Difference a Year Makes

I just cannot believe how much can change in a year! Things keep happening to make me take a sharp intake of breath and say. ‘Oh, my God, this time last year…’.

This time last year…my big boy was still in nappies and in a cot!
This time last year…I had long(ish) blonde(ish) hair
This time last year…I was getting ready to go on maternity leave!
This time last year…my best friend was just across the road (that’s as far as she’d been away from me since we were 5 years old) now she’s in Thailand!
This time last year… I did not know the beast breast had other ideas for my 2011 plans and this time last year I had 2 boobs!

This time last year…I had a baby bump as big as this…
This time last year…I had still not met my new baby!

It’s hard to look at a list like this and think that, apart from having the most wonderful birth and the most wonderful baby not much else has changed for the better! I do truly believe that having my second born does more than cancel out the bad news and I am thankful we had him when we did- any more of a gap and the beast breast might have taken hold and scuppered my plans for baby number two!

There are less dramatic changes that have taken place for the better. I’d never have thought a year ago that I’d like being at home rather than at work! Friends I’ve made more recently are just amazing and thank God; the terrible twos are behind us (my fingers are firmly crossed as I say this!).

Not to mention my Pandora… this time last year it was pretty empty!

So let’s look to the future (again, my fingers are firmly crossed!)

By next year I hope I’ll have …
taken up skiing again
booked a holiday (somewhere hot with a pool)
Cycled around Cornwall (in the sunshine please)
Seen Billy Elliot the musical
Done my sewing course
And my float glass course
Made a good start on growing my Rapunzel hair!

But… most of all I hope that I handle the terrible twos a little better second time around. (Go easy on me Harris!)

Lots of people have said to me ‘You never know what’s round the corner’… Corners? I think I might just keep going straight on from now on! (Who am I kidding? I’m WAY too nosey not to at least peek around every corner- shame there’s no turning back!)
 So the difference a year makes- guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the next 12 months… hope I can tick at least a few off my list!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Number Nine: The Young One

I’ve been getting really confused about where I fit in age-wise lately. I swing from feeling ancient, the oldest one, surrounded by bright young things to feeling like a bright young thing myself. Twice now I’ve been chatting to people, talking about where we both went to school before realising they were about 12 years younger than me! So that makes me feel old! At work; the staff are getting younger and younger (this is of course not true… it is me who’s getting older!) on a recent work night out I found myself gazing around a bar (feeling about ninety) and thinking thank God I am where I am in life. How I would hate to be out looking for boys now! And at what point do you drop into conversation that you actually have just the one boob? By the way the left one’s filled with gel! I keep remembering the episode of Friends where Joey throws that girl’s wooden leg on the fire- imagine the possibilities with a prosthetic boob! Agh!

Nope, give me a quiet bar any day, where there’s somewhere to sit and I can actually hear my friends speak! Throw in an early night and I’m all yours! Thank the lord I already have a husband who loves even the one-boobed version of me. ‘In sickness and in health’ he quotes at me anytime I have a wobble about whether he’ll still love me and how sorry I am he has a sick wife. I worry he’ll be freaked out when I have no hair. ‘I’d fancy you even if you had a poo on your head!’ He actually said that! I’m telling you he has a one track mind and no amount of boob or hair reduction will be putting him off! I digress…so anyway, nightlife- makes me feel old. Realising my younger sisters can pull off denim dungaree shorts but I cannot- makes me feel old. Steve Wright’s golden oldies are getting more and more familiar by the bloody day – making me feel old!
There is, however one place where I feel like the sprightliest of spring chickens… the Breast care unit waiting room. I gaze around this room and feel like a kid myself! I’ve even had to take my own magazines in to add to the waiting room collection so I have something to read each time I go. There are a couple of support groups I could go along to but judging by the group shot on one of the posters I’d be thirty years younger than the other members (this may not be a bad thing- life experience and all that). I just get the feeling that my main issue (coping with the beast breast treatment whilst having very young children) wouldn’t be something these older ladies could help me with. My boys are the only children I’ve ever seen in the waiting room (which due to its lack of children is excruciatingly quiet).
When they talk you through having a mastectomy, they show you the choice of fake boobs you can have. ‘There is a silicon one that folds over like a natural droopy breast.’ The lovely breast care nurse told me before looking up and informing me that she didn’t think I’d be needing that sort just yet. See? Spring chicken-me! She also told me to take care when fastening my brooch, not to pierce my silicon boob. I don’t wear many brooches but looking around the waiting room I’ve spotted a few so I can see why this advice is mandatory!  Apparently cat claws can also be a potential hazard but anyone who knows me will know how unlikely it would be to find me handling furry creatures- Michaela Strachen I am NOT!
I said before that I’m hoping my boys are too young to be affected by this beast breast thing. Children are funny how they take things in their stride. At three years old my eldest has been very matter of fact about the whole thing- no sympathy what so ever but he does demand so see my scar every now and again! ‘Oooooh, can I touch it?’ and at preschool one of the staff said he grabbed her boobs the other day and said. ‘Oh, you’ve got two boobs. My mum’s just got one!’ I was embarrassed to hear this story but she thought it was hilarious so no harm done. I wonder if he’s going to grow up more boob obsessed than the average male? 

The Young One - The Stats!
The Young One-Proof!
Since I found my lump in my early twenties I claming I'm in one in 15,000- makes me feel more 'special'!

It’s worth noting what a fab job CoppaFeel are doing raising awareness of breast cancer in younger women- check out their website for advice on getting to know your own boobies!

Because breast cancer knows no age.

So Ginger’s leg ended up as firewood- I’ll keep you posted on the adventures of my fake boob!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The Beast Breast Bulletin

So today (no more waiting- yippee!) was the next ‘big appointment’ got my results- just about all clear- one small patch of pre-cancerous cells which just proved as confirmation that a mastectomy was indeed the right decision! (What a clever team they are at the Breast Care Unit!)
Now I’m still no cancer expert (I prefer to focus on the hair and weight issues of treatment- Vain? Me?) But it turns out that my two tumours were different types of breast cancer. I think there are only 2 types- I just like to sample everything there is to offer. (Hummm think this may have got me in trouble somewhere before!) It would seem that having every type of cancer under the sun results in needing every type of treatment too- boo!

So here’s the list…
Firstly… a line will put into my arm so that the drugs can be pumped into somewhere near my heart!
Tamoxifen (Will induce menopause- slight problem as I can be a moody beast at the best of times- wonder if Tamoxifen will also induce divorce?!) Tablets to take everyday for the next five years- maybe 7-10 as I’m sooooo young!
Chemotherapy starts next Wednesday (Hair will be gone 3 weeks in!)
Herceptin this will last a year but can thankfully be administered in my own home (or even at work!) saving me hundreds in hospital parking fees!
There was some talk about giving myself injections to suppress my ovaries at this point but the order of things is still a bit of a blur! Have to admit I’m a bit excited about being an injector! One more skill to add to my set!
Radiotherapy will leave me exhausted after all the other treatment!

This would be a lot to take in even without the ‘Any more children planned?’ question. We were never planning any more babies but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to say ‘Yep, shrivel my ovaries all you like and I’ll just hope I remain in this frame of mind!’ I think we established early on I’m quite faddy and quite partial to changing my mind! I have been forced to confront every possibility- would I want another baby if…
a)     Rob dies and my new husband wants us to have children together
b)     One of my children dies and I don’t want the remaining one to be an only child
c)      I just change my mind (totally possible when my sisters/friends have more)
These may seem morbid and extreme scenarios but I defy them not to cross your mind if you were me!
Still, I’m taking my chances- fingers crossed two remains enough for me! I can take no more waiting (and no longer with this awful hairstyle!) there’s no time for egg stimulation or harvesting in my speedily moving plan. Sooner we start-sooner we finish and I can get on with my life with the two wonderful boys I already have!
Just to point out there is a slim possibility that I’ll still be able to conceive after treatment so I’m going with the ‘Whatever will be, will be’ school of thought!

I now have a ‘Chemo lesson’ to look forward to on Friday too- I certainly know how to kick off my weekend in style!

Right back to bed for me- filling my ‘waiting time’ with crazy busy-ness has left me exhausted! Night night. Xx

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Number Eight: The Underwear

I said goodbye to my left boob, even gave it its own post on facebook- I thanked it for serving me well for 31 years, before realising that as a fairly late bloomer I’d probably only had about 11 good years out of it! And I reckon cleavage-wise it’s only since having children that there was even anything to see!  This thought prompted an underwear related stroll down memory lane… oooh the fun I’ve had shoving the boobs into various tops and dresses. The beauty of having little ‘uns is that in my youth they could be contained by the teeniest boob tube or little waif of fabric with a back and neck tie. (One reason to be glad I do not have daughters… I dread to think what my mum thought when I went out dressed in a square of material with ties I now more readily associate with the back of a hospital gown!) I have though found the perfect cleavage picture to document what once was!

Look at me pretending the photo is about the food not my boobs!

This photo was taken about five weeks after Harry was born; my boobs grew throughout the evening and were ready to burst by the time I got home to feed my baby!

My bra related story takes place at work; yep in a school- not the kind of place you expect underwear related stories to be set! (Not unless you’ve maybe lost said job!) In my old school we had a special day every year ‘Dads in school day’, all the dads were invited to spend the day in lessons with the children and the day ended with a big assembly where certain dads performed with their offspring on stage. This went on merrily for a few years until the dads got a bit too confident! My story takes place at the very end of the very last Dads in school day’, (you may see the connection!) well, on the way out of that very last assembly one (for arguments sake let’s call him stupid) dad thought it would be wise to walk behind me and undo the back of my bra! Now I’m no prude and had this happened in a club or bar I’d have elbowed stupid dad in the nuts and told him to ‘eff off, unfortunately I was surrounded by a class of Year Sixes so had to remain professional! (Very frustrating!)

My knickers related story is set further away in Corfu! (And long, long ago…when I was about 17!) Now, you have to understand that my mum had a bizarre habit of storing away any underwear that had seen better days so that all five of us could pack it as ‘Holiday Underwear’. I’m reliably informed that most of you would be more likely to buy new underwear to celebrate going on holiday but oh no not us! We took our scabby undies away with us! Why? I hear you cry! Why indeed? (I still to this day 14 years on from this event cannot believe the reason!)  Here it is: because then, whilst on holiday we could wear it and throw it away… saving us room in our suitcases on the way home! Room for what?? Tacky souvenirs? I’m really not sure but some things you just do not question until you move out! And believe me what happened next was definitely going to lead me to question this certain little family tradition! Probably about a week into this family holiday I went off with another teenage girl to a bar further down the beach, there was some kind of Greek night event that we thought we couldn’t miss! After a couple of hours of entertainment, one part involving us drinking Ouzo through a funnel, there was some dancing. A Greek waiter grabbed me and pulled me up onto a table to dance. I was having fun until I realised that the waiter was gradually pulling my already short dress higher and higher. Oh my God, I realised… the table of holiday maker below were about to get an eye full of my throw away knickers! And as I gently forced the ‘gentleman’s’ hands back down he laughed and said relax! Relax! Relax!! Again I’d like to clarify that I’m certainly no prude but how could I explain about the throw aways? (And would I really want to even if I could?)  I’m now looking back on this story and wondering if my mum had an ulterior motive…maybe she already knew all about Greek waiters and found a practical way of keeping them at arms length when it came to her daughters!

So now that my old bras now have new homes, (eBayed!) I’m now sporting a crappy selection of M&S post surgery bras. I think after this little trip down memory lane I might just pop out and treat myself to a whole new lot of knickers! (But no backless tops for this respectable mother of two!)

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Number Seven: The Waiting Game

16 days is the length of the most recent stretch of waiting… day 12 of waiting and it’s getting to me! I’ve never had much patience. (Any patience!) I’m more of an ‘Ooh… I’ve just thought of something… I need it now’, kind of a girl. (I am very aware that I’m coming across as somewhat of a brat in these posts - oh well… I promised openness and honesty!) I’m quickly beginning to realise that ‘lack of patience’ should have been top of the ‘Why NOT Me’ list when it came to who makes the best cancer patient. There is not a lot of patience at all to be found in the girls on my side of the family - therefore I’m blaming my genes! For the ‘good things come to those who wait’ attitude to life I have to look to my ‘In-laws’ and in particularly- my mother-in-law. The woman has the patience of a saint! From her I could certainly learn a thing or two!
About a million people (slight exaggeration) have informed me so far that the waiting is the worst part. The fact that so many people have been able to tell me this illustrates just how long the various waits have been! But they are right. Waiting is excruciating!

There are the big landmark appointments, where you get life changing news and then there are little appointments in between. I even hanker after these little ‘uns. I find it strangely comforting attending the Breast Care Clinic, (Probably to have a quick glance around the waiting room to check I’m on track with being the best one!) comforting in the sense that it is all real and not something I’ve imagined! There I go again… questioning my own illness!
Waiting: It’s almost like I drift around between appointments, existing until the next. I keep counting down: how many days now? Wishing the time away! Surely this is a dangerous past time for a cancer patient! Am I not supposed to be out there living life to the full, not wasting a precious moment?  Nope, not me I feel like I am currently conducting some kind of scientific experiment to see what can make another day pass more quickly than the last. Two opposing theories… One: sleep- time goes fast when you’re not awake! So, lay in, have daytime naps and go to bed early. Two: cram as much into your day as possible, whiz from one thing to the next whilst constantly making mental notes about what other things you might just squeeze into your day! End the day exhausted and sleep well. I’m favouring this second theory at the moment; I’m hoping that it’ll see me through until Wednesday at least!

I have to say that starting this blog was a stroke of genius when it comes to time filling; not only do I constantly think about what to write next, I have to actually write, nag Rob to check it for me, and then waste endless hours checking the ‘stats’ page! And then yesterday the best thing that could happen to a beast breast blogger actually happened to me… the one and only Lisa Lynch of ‘Alright Tit and ‘The C word’ fame actually replied to my email! (Eeek!) Not just a courtesy email. No no no…she said my blog was good (maybe I should go on a course to see how to make it outstanding… I’m sure Milton Keynes Council could help me out!) She was lovely and encouraging and wonderful. Thank you Lisa you made my day! (Actually you made my waiting period!)
One thing I’m not doing to fill my time is cooking- not because I’m lazy (I am) but because I’m still getting dinners delivered to my door- thank you lovely ladies from both our schools! This had led me to question what service I could offer if anyone I knew was ill. Would I ever cook a meal and deliver it to a friend’s house? And more importantly would they thank me for it? I’m not certain that this is where my talents lie!

And so the waiting goes on…The most annoying thing is that I’ve made it to the next landmark once already… after the lumpectomy I was all set to get my results and move on to the oncologist for chemo timetabling. This was not to be. I made it to the results appointment, only to be told that (in a move that took me swiftly back to square one) I would unfortunately need a mastectomy. So now, lumpectomy- done. Mastectomy- done! I’m nearing the results and timetabling day for the second time. I wonder if it’s the teacher in me that is so fixated on having my chemo dates safely plotted in my calendar? I do love a good timetable! Maybe it’s just a lack of patience patient thing!

Another thing I have been wondering is (and this is directed to others with just the one boob… mono boob…uni-boob) do you sometimes have the urge to scratch the boob that’s no longer there? Oh my God- it’s the most excruciating thing ever… an itch you cannot scratch! And the more you think about it the more it goes on tickling away! Rob reckons it’s something called ‘Ghost Itching’ I’m not so sure- must remember to google it! 

So, whilst harping on about not wanting to be defined by being a cancer patient (I am still me, blah, blah) I am living for appointments… waiting for news… desperately needing dates to tick off further into the future. Unfortunately I am yet to attend a results appointment that goes totally my way, despite this I am feeling confidently positive in the knowledge that Wednesday will soon be here and I’ll sail from meeting to meeting hearing all the things I need to hear. Then, finally I can come home and get down to important business… plotting my social life around my chemo dates.
The sunshine is calling me…until next time… Keeeeeeeep waiting!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Number Six: The Best One

I’ve just arrived home from another appointment at the Breast Care Unit, this time for a wound check. I skipped out all pleased with myself having been told my wound is healing beautifully. Something you must understand about me is that I’m a sucker for praise (and a twist at the end of a film) there is nothing more likely to make me beam than being told I’m the best at something! Beware mothers to be- this is where I came unstuck- the mummy role is difficult enough to do full stop, let alone be the best at! So it wasn’t the fact that my wound was doing so well that made me happy but the feeling that I had sailed in and out of the appointment so smoothly… Uh-oh, it’s happening again… I know this elated feeling… I’m pleased because I think I’m the best breast cancer patient!  I’m so setting myself up for a fall! I then remembered what I had said to Rob as we left the previous appointment. ‘I’m really good at breast cancer!’ (I know, I can be a dick!) I did have good reason to be pleased with myself that day though and here’s how I justify it- I had my drain removed with absolutely no pain or fuss. I had been assured that it was an unpleasant procedure and had got myself a bit worked up about it- this coupled with the fact that the drain was the cause of much of my irritation- put bluntly having the drain put me in an ‘effing bad mood! It was the constant worry of it getting caught or pulled- slightly more likely when you’ve got little ones! And when I wasn’t worrying about it I was forgetting about it and catching it on things myself! Under the computer chair, down the side of the sofa and under my own foot in the shower! So my pleasure at having the drain removed was two fold- one: the straggly, tangly thing was gone and two: no one has ever done it better than me! (I make this brave claim with no evidence what so ever and I don’t care!)

Bye-bye catchy, grabby drain.

So far I have raved on about my positive frame of mind and how well I’m coping- so much so that I’m on the slippery slope to thinking I’m the best one, but there is a worrying sense lurking that everything is going a little too well. You know in a film when everything is so rosy and you just know that someone is about to get kidnapped/stabbed/invaded. This worry was compounded recently when in the middle of a trailer for a dreadful looking film in which all the actors were having a blissful time on an island, I turned to my lovely girl M and said ‘Something bad is about to happen!’ The sentence had not even finished leaving my lips when I thought; Oh god, that’s me too, it’s all gone a bit too well so far, hasn’t it? It’s going to get really horrid isn’t it? And I know exactly what it is that’s coming to spoil my rosy scene setting… Chemotherapy! This is the part that I’m dreading! Even though I’ve have totally butchered my hair (I may be the only cancer patient looking forward to losing her hair) I’m not sure I’ll be able to cope as well as I hope with having a bald head. Also, I hate feeling sick and moaned on and on about nausea during pregnancy (attempted to combat this by eating a truck load of salt and vinegar crisps- hence the weight gain!) I get mouth ulcers at the smallest sign of stress (or late night!) I am Bonjela-ing it up as we speak! The only silver lining here is that I might lose some weight! Don’t go thinking I’m going all body conscious on you- I’m not- I would just love to be able to fit my wedding ring back on my huge sausage fingers! (I’m sure steroid bloating will put pay to these plans!) It’s my own fault really for wanting to be the best bride with the best wedding! I was too skinny for my own good, now I flatly refuse to have my rings resized because maybe just maybe they’ll fit again one day- imagine how much more pleased with myself I’ll be on this day compared with the day I get the larger versions back from the jeweller! I don’t normally like to wait for anything but for this I’m willing to play the long game! I’d like to say wearing no wedding ring means I get flirted with more often (it doesn’t) but it did the make the first breast cancer nurse ask if we were married so it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Rob on the other hand lost his wedding ring after about six months of marriage (just as he started at a new school- read in to this what you will…) he’s not known for his organisational skills and often loses/forgets/misses things (need we mention the loss of the passport that meant we missed our honeymoon?) but the wedding ring does play on his mind and he’s even woken up and searched in bizarre places having dreamt he’s found it somewhere in the house!

So I may be the best breast cancer patient but only so far and as the pre-op lady said (in the strongest northern accent known to man) ‘It’s a long road, and there’s many ‘urdles along the way, you just gotta take ‘em one at a time.’ (She also referred to Rob as ‘usband – clearly she didn’t need to check for rings! This I found hilarious and called him ‘usband myself until the novelty wore off!)
Now, I haven’t watched Eastenders for about ten years but I think I’ll recognise the duff, duff, duffer, duff moment when it hits me. For now I’m swimming along all pleased with myself for being the best one… dun…dun…dunnnn!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Number Five: The Rather Me than You…

I have been thinking more and more about how actually glad I am it’s me who got the cancer and not someone else whom I hold dear. The fact is- I’m the ill one I therefore get all the help- I have literally tripped over meals kind friends have left on my doorstep! I also get all of the compliments and kind thoughts. (They sound lovely but are definitely exaggerated and in some cases totally misplaced!) I get to go for a lie down whenever I feel like it- believe me this as good as shopping as far as I am concerned- I do love a daytime nap!
If it were someone I love that was sick instead I would have to cope. I would have to cope whilst being upset. My overactive imagination would run wild and I’d have to cope whilst being upset and conjuring images of the worst.

So, when I say ‘rather me than you’, I do not mean that I am so virtuous as not to trade places with a total stranger but I am selfish enough not to want to swap with someone I love.

Lately, every time I hear someone’s bad news I can’t help thinking how my news is nothing in comparison. It’s almost as if there is a hierarchy in my head of the worst news possible. (Or maybe a league table for you Glenn) I seem to be saying ‘At least I’m not...’ an awful lot.
Cancer seems to have struck quite often throughout my extended family but fortunately it has been met in equal measure by cancer survival! Maybe this has something to do with my positive outlook because in my experience- cancer is not something that kills you. The fact that this is my personal experience of cancer has led me never to question how this will end. I haven’t had to dig deep to find the mental resources to remain upbeat… I was lucky enough to know that having been diagnosed with cancer ten years ago; my own mum is fit, well and most importantly cancer-free! Surely this sets me up to tackle my own situation much more positively than had no one close to me every have gone through the same thing? In stark contrast to yours truly, my mum is a very private person so although I remember her diagnosis being a sad and scary time I don’t remember unpleasant details. She managed to keep her hair throughout chemotherapy and so I suppose that helps you disguise what you are going through from the rest of the world. (Or at least from fellow Centre:MK shoppers in my mum’s case!) The reason I tell you all this is because it was more upsetting having someone I love go through this than to have it myself. Call me a control freak but there’s something comforting about it being my body rather than the precious body of someone close to me.
‘Did it just feel like the worst thing in the world when you had cancer?’ I asked my mum.
‘I remember thinking it would be the worst thing for one of my children to have it.’ She replied. ‘And now I’ve done both.’
This rang very true; I had been thinking exactly the same thing. (We were sat in my hospital room and a young boy had just been wheeled past on a trolley.) I was reminded of three years ago when I was told my new baby boy, at just eight weeks old, was going to need an operation and would have to have a general anaesthetic. I searched for the silver lining then and could not find it- I was distraught. When you’re little and something horrid happens your parents make it better- there are treats, gifts, sweets and special visitors to make it all better. When it’s your child you would give anything to swap places. I wonder if it’s any different when your child is all grown up. Was my mum feeling as awful as I had felt three years ago right now? 

So thankfully it’s me... not one of my beautiful boys who are so special, I completely agree with mum that it would be devastating for your child to be sick. Thankfully it’s not my husband... he’s much better cast in the ‘capable coping with anything that’s thrown in his lap’ role and makes an awful patient.
Thankfully it’s not one of my sisters, one of whom still needs to have her own children before she’s ready to tackle this, the other whom cares so deeply about her daughters that she couldn’t bear to spend a night away from them even if it were to be in hospital making herself better! Thankfully it’s not one of my closest friends who is petrified of needles and would maybe just freak out a little at the thought of endless blood test, drips and cannulas!

At the end of the day I had decided pretty early one that this whole thing would be something that may just benefit me in the long run. Crappy along the way (But not everyday) however maybe I’d get a new zest for life (something I’d lost for a split second there thinking I may have post-natal depression) maybe cancer would gift me confidence and perspective. (I would have an awful lot more time on my hands if I wasn’t so consumed by what people thought of me!) Just maybe instead of groaning at another early morning wake up with young children I’d wake up happy to be alive!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Number Four: The Silver Linings.

Determined to look on the bright side, one of the first things I turned my attention to was recording a list of silver linings. Anything good that has followed as a result of the obvious bad news! (I think telling everyone over and over again about the silver linings actually helped perpetuate a steady flow of gifts- not just a pretty face hey!) I’ve just checked my scribbled list and have forty! Four. O. Not too bad!
So, here’s a list of the top ten…

10. No more underwire in my life- have always hated bras… first thing to come off whenever I get home. (Hilariously for me people are currently bidding on my old bras on ebay!) Plus I don’t have to worry about looking good- even if I look shocking visitors are still obliged to say I look brilliant. (Sometimes they add… considering.. which I do NOT like!)

9. New pyjamas- my favourite thing in the world! (I even ironed them for my two hospital stays!) Get me in PJs with no bra under ‘the best blanket in the world’ in front of a good crime drama and that’s where I’m happiest!

8. Not working! Do not have to think about getting back into work clothes for ages! No work shoes=new converse- a very good investment! Missed the little Ofsted visit last week- this can only be a good thing! (Plus no APP in my life right now- this alone is a HUGE cancer perk!) And not rushing back to work after baby number two has meant I can spend loads more time with my gorgeous cheeky bundle.

7. Pandora charms- Bless Pandora for having a breast cancer range! Although they need to add a new collection as I now have them all… come on Pandora! (Spoilt you’re wondering?)

6. No dishwasher… I literally have not emptied or loaded since diagnosis! I have dishwasher aversion at the best of times but thank god I now have a brilliant excuse! Number 6 is now reminding me of ‘The Rota’ at my old school where if the dishwasher was forgotten on your turn you were named and shamed on the staffroom notice board! (A tactic that did not phase the then very laid back ‘I’m a man in a primary school- isn’t that enough’ attitude of my now husband!

5. Autographs-The hilarious Girl Skidz has written a ‘well over the top’ email to all the famous people I love. She’s given them a proper sob story version of events and now I’m getting quite a stock pile of signatures, posters and souvenirs. Thank you Skidz!

4. Two Massive boxes of presents from my lovely school. Filled with a ridiculous amount of goodies for my whole family. It’s very lovely when something like this happens- restores your faith in humanity (if you’ve lost it because you’ve been watching Jeremy Kyle- more fool you! You know who you are!)

3. The return of having a cleaner… Yay to having a brilliant excuse for a cleaner AND not having to work full time! And he might just be about the nicest man ever- he is able to sit drinking coffee, chatting to me AND get the house clean- amazing! I’m starting to think of him as a Monday morning visitor with benefits! (Some of my neighbours have cleaners without a valid excuse- judge them if you will!)

2. The IPhone- Sorry to bring it up Girl K but as Rob says ‘I love it like a third child!’ It’s changed my life as much as cancer has (bold statement- don’t think Apple will be using it in an advertising campaign anytime soon!) It has however got me ridiculously addicted to facebook and now twitter too! And I have to live with the constant panic of not dropping it down the toilet like the last phone- I will never learn and will not be told!

1. My friends… I see so much more of them now- bit of a wake up call for all of us really. Life is short and we’d much rather spend it laughing (at each other) than working. (Or in my case sleeping!) The love, care, support and sarcasm I have been shown is amazing and I love them. Please note: sisters are included here as friends. I am lucky enough to have sisters who I count as amazing friends! 

There are of course clouds for each of these silver linings and I wonder above all how this thing will have changed me. For Good I hope. (Thank you Elphaba!) I wonder how in the end it will have affected my confidence- particularly when returning to work after such a long break. Temporarily though it seems to have given me a ‘live for the moment’ confidence where I don’t want to waste time and now keep speaking my mind rather loudly- this could be dangerous! Oh well!