The Balancing Act

After an MRI – please note how casually I said that, MRI. An MRI is a frightening thing, especially if like me you don‘t really know anything about them! Well here is a rundown of what you need to know:-

  • They are not claustrophobic unless you let them be. In fact I didn‘t find it all that small. I was laid face down so couldn‘t see any of the machinery at all. I‘m not sure if this is the same for all MRI scanners
  • They are really uncomfortable. Oh yes, they are built to house a person of one size only and anything else just has to fit into the pre ordained molded shape. So there are bits sticking in where they have no place to be. And you will have to stay in this position for some time.
  • They are very, and I mean very, very noisy. They bang and crash about and even though you are wearing earplugs it still almost hurt your ears. How amazing that in a day and age when we can take pictures of every part of the inside of the human body, we can‘t do it quietly!

And that is it. MRIs done. All there is to know.

So after the MRI I had another visit with my Consultant who we are going to call Mr B. It appears that Boogie is quite small about 1.8cms and does not seem to have spread to anywhere else. Good news! Maybe this is the end of it then, I can have it taken out and go home? Not so. I needed to see the Oncologist. He turned out to be such a nice man, all smiles and jokes whist he lists the treatment plan they have in mind for me:

– TC chemotherapy x 4 three weeks apart

– Herceptin injections (this fights my particular type of tumour) and these injections will continue at home for one year. Every three weeks.

– Then surgery (a lumpectomy they think, not as drastic as a mastectomy) I might lose my nipple (I don‘t think so).

– Then radiotherapy x 20 sessions daily for three weeks

– Then hormones via tablet for 5 years

– Paired with zometa injections for the bones: the hormones will give me brittle bones

Blimey, I don‘t remember when I last took a pain killer! It felt rather overwhelming I can tell you. But what I actually said was, I don‘t want to lose my nipple, but apart from that do what you need to do to make me better.

It was decided that I would have my chemo in Hinchinbrooke as this is closer to home and then have the rest of the treatment at Addenbrookes.

I asked if I was going to die? Eventually, came the reply, but not because of this tumour. This is all I really heard and I went home feeling elated that I was going to live, and petrified I might have to do it whilst missing a nipple.

At home I waited for the letter to arrive with my first chemo appointment.

Feeling pretty balanced, for now.

I am by nature a bit of an organiser. So naturally I started to organise my Cancer. There were decisions to be made. I had just given up my job and become self employed. This was a no brainer, firstly no one would employ me with Cancer and needing time off for treatment so I couldn’t get a job even if I wanted to. Therefore I would remain self employed and would just have to work my way through treatment. I let all my clients know what was happening, and I have to say they became very much part of my support network.

I read as much as I could about Cancer, although I did find some of it very hard to stomach. There is a lot of chat forums out there, and these definitely were not my cup of tea. And as time went on I realised that for me this would be very much a lone journey. I didn’t want to get involved with various support groups that were offered via MacMillan and the Hospital. I would take up a couple of offers towards the end of the treatment. But I couldn’t get my head around this for some time, it wasn’t like me. Eventually towards the end of the treatment, well after the operation in fact I realised that in a way I was burying my head in the sand. If I didn’t spend time with people with Cancer or talk to them over the internet then I didn’t have to face up to the fact that I was one of those people, with Cancer. It was a kind of denial, and it served me well. It enabled me to stay positive because there was nothing wrong with me, and that in turn kept me going and got me through the chemo especially. People tell me often how brave I’ve been, how inspirational. I’m not sure this is true. I was as usual stubborn, they weren’t taking my nipple, and I wasn’t going to die of breast cancer, simple as that, nothing brave about it.

Anyway I digress.

I worked out a budget for the next few months with minimum hours working. All my chemos would be on a Friday so I would not be able to work that day, would have the weekend and the Monday off, returning to work on Tuesday. This would happen every three weeks and in-between I should be able to carry on as normal. This in fact is exactly what happened, with the exception that at Christmas I got a very bad cold and missed a few days work. Sometimes I needed to reschedule things a bit.

I thought about wigs. Checked them out on the internet and eventually decided that I would wear scarves instead. I was horrified to see false eyebrows (stick on). I hadn‘t even thought about my eyebrows and eyelashes. Of course at this point I wasn‘t even sure that I would lose my hair, not everyone does you see, and I had such thick hair that I figured if I lost half it would still look reasonable.

Still keeping positive.

I read that chemo can affect your eyes and can make you prone to cataracts and give you really dry eyes. Well I already have a cataract in one eye and wore contacts which wouldn‘t like dry eyes one bit. Therefore I got fitted for some new glasses and put my contacts away for a few months.

I felt so prepared. The lists of course were much longer than this, and kept going on and on.

At some point I came across Kefir. This is fermented milk and is full of pro-biotics. You can make this stuff at home. Here‘s a link to Healthline‘s website that talks more about exactly what it is and why it‘s so good for you for anyone that has an interest in learning more. It takes a bit of getting used to because it looks like milk, smells like beer and tastes disgusting. But I‘m still on it four months later. It is incredibly good for our gut health and as Chemo kills off your guts and therefore your immune system as well its worth the effort. So I started drinking this two weeks before my chemo. I believe, but of course don‘t really know that this helped me alot through my treatment. I wasn‘t sick once, didn‘t pick up any infections apart from a cold at Christmas (and everyone I know caught that cold).

I also read about fasting and the benefits of this on our systems, for people with cancer and without cancer, as a prevention of cancer. I‘ve linked a couple of useful websites I came across at the end of this blog for anyone who‘s interested in reading more and you really should, you owe it to you.

I am doing the intermittent fasting and have been on and off since the beginning of the treatment. I havn‘t lost any weight, but I havn‘t put any on either which I was expecting to. It is really much easier than you think it is going to be.

I‘m not going to go into too much detail about the chemo itself. It will be different for everyone and will have different effects on everyone. But I will tell you that this scared me, I was frightened by this. This was pumping poison into me that would not come out again until it was ready. I felt out of control and I didn‘t like it. A feeling of no going back. The scales were definately not where they should be. Beforehand I needed a bone scan, and an ECG. I will have more of these to make sure the chemo isn‘t doing more harm than good. The actual intravenous bit where the chemicals go into you was nothing at all. Couldn‘t feel anything, didn‘t hurt or cause any major problems. I was given a whole carry bag of medications when I left to go home though which horrified me. I hadn‘t thought about having to take medications! I don‘t take asprin! But there were quite a few. Steriods to stop me feeling sick, tablets for constipation, mouth wash to numb my mouth when it got sore. Antibiotics to start the following week when my immune system was knocked out and I would pick any infection going, more steroids to start just before my next chemo in three weeks. But the worse by far was the five ready loaded injections I needed to put into my stomach every morning for five days!!!! I can‘t do that. This caused me great concern and kept me awake most of the night.

The scales were right down now, I was miserable.

Then in came the thought – I could hear the nurse saying it – the mouthwash will numb your mouth. Okay then surely it will numb the skin on my stomach as well before I need to stick a needle in it. [Of course, I‘m not advising anyone else to do this, the nurses were pretty horrified when they found out, but admired my ingenuity.]

Balance resumed.

Each subsequent Chemo was slightly different. I got used to the side effects which for me were very few. I wasn‘t sick once. I did feel tired and needed to have a rest during the afternoons, and this got more pronounced as the chemo went on. I had terrible constipation once and did have very painful bones due to the injections which make the bone marrow make more white blood cells to counteract the effects of the chemo. Once I found out I could take pain relief this was sorted. Oh yes I did suffer from nose bleeds a couple of times. Other than that it was okay really just a pain in the backside.

Oh yes I nearly forgot to mention it, two weeks after my first chemo, all my hair fell out.

Down go the scales again.

When I say hair I mean all of it, my legs, privates, armpits, nasal (this causes major problems, especially when you have a cold), ears, fine face hair, head of course. I was a smooth as can be. I kept my eyelashes, well some of them, and I didn‘t lose my eyebrows until after my chemo had finished. I did have a very light fuzz on my head, but I still looked very odd every time I caught sight of me in the mirror, you know what its like when you have a hair cut! But I have had the smoothest legs ever and the skin on my face has never looked so good. Not much of pay off, but better than nothing, and up the scales go a little. Wearing the scarves has become normal for me and I am excited by what sort of hair I will get when it starts growing again in a couple of weeks. (I am writing this post chemo). The worse part of all of this is the actual losing of the hair. It comes out in handfuls, gets in your mouth, all over your bed and house. I had mine cut short but it still got on my nerves, actually I was quite glad when it had all fallen out which took about four days. After Chemo I was awaiting another MRI to see what had happened to Boogie, and then be booked in for the surgery.

In the meantime people constantly pin pointed me to articles of cancer cures, or alternative remedies for cancers. I have checked out soda, cannabis, cucumin and many many more. All worth a read but we will talk about them later in another blog. One friend sent me a link to a website called Cancer Active and said a friend she worked with who has had cancer recommended it. I ignored it of course. Well I did for some time anyhow but when I was ill at Christmas I did read it and this changed everything I thought I knew about Cancer and it transformed my life a little. I stopped denying to myself that I was ill and took ownership of my cancer and the probable reason I had it in the first place. I took a long look in the mirror for the first time ever in my life and wasn’t sure I was very pleased with what I saw.

I had another shift, and the scales shuddered a bit.

Links about intermittent fasting:

https://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/…/07/…/intermittent-fasting-cancer-treatment.asp..

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-health-benefits-of-intermittent-fasting