Wednesday 31 October 2012

A pink night in ... and night out!

As many of you will know, last Friday was 'Wear it Pink Day', the annual event to raise awareness and money for the fight against breast cancer.

As part of that campaign, women across the UK were encouraged to have 'A Big Night In' - so that's exactly what we did! Many thanks to my lovely friend, Wendy, for hosting and to Hannah from Stella & Dot who will be making a donation from October sales to Breakthrough Breast Cancer. So, of course, I did my bit and am now eagerly waiting for my new jewellery to arrive ...

Then, on Saturday, was our ‘Wear it PUNK’ party – also in aid of Breakthrough Breast Cancer. My 'big' indulgences of the previous evening almost threatened to put a dampener on things but I rallied and, with the help of a few left over anti-sickness tablets from chemo(!), was back in action for a bit of ‘skanking’.

Thank you to everyone who attended or made a donation, (additional donations still welcome!), but special thanks must go to Mr P. for his fantastic musical efforts - which had the entire pub dancing by the end - and to Teresa and Thayu at The Viaduct for their generous support (and AMAZING food).

However, today marks the end of Breast Cancer Awareness month, and also my period of extended sick leave. It’s been a tough ten months but the time is now right for me to head back to work.

I’ll be returning to the office, albeit part-time for a few weeks, from Wednesday 14th November. I’m sure it will feel strange (and tiring) but also good for me to get back into a normal routine.

But before that, Mr P. and I are off on holiday – we hope! We’re meant to fly to the US on Saturday but that minx, Hurricane ‘Sandy’, is causing no end of trouble.

So we’re keeping our fingers crossed; not just for ourselves but for all concerned.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

No pain, no gain?

Seriously. My newly inflated boob really hurts. The tissue expander is certainly doing its job.

It’s there because the final implant will go under the pectoral muscle, instead of over the top where the breast tissue once was, and the muscle needs to be stretched to get used to having something there.

The sensation really is distracting at times; at best, tight and sore and at worst, sharp and scratchy. The discomfort will die down, of course, as it did after its first inflation post-mastectomy but I had got used to not feeling uncomfortable and now I’ve got to go through that cycle again. (And for a third time in November). It affects the upper arm muscles too and can make it difficult to sleep.

And, my tit feels enormous! Very round and very firm ... but it doesn’t move and has no feeling, now that the nerve endings have been cut. It’s like having half a grapefruit stuck to my chest.

Fortunately, I have invested in some mastectomy bras (and a bikini for my holiday) that have a pocket for me to insert a gel ‘chicken fillet’ and balance what are now uneven sides. That does seem to work quite well and you’d never know through my clothes.

In fact, people tell me that I’m looking very well - which is nice - even though they also seem convinced that I’ve lost weight. (I haven’t) I think it’s just that, without my voluminous mane of hair, my short crop exaggerates how slight in build I am.

That won’t last though, because my barnet is coming through thick and fast and it won’t be long before I have to blow the dust off the hairdryer and straighteners.

And it also won’t be long before I return to work. I’ve got a meeting on Friday to discuss a phased return in November. Mr P. and I both agree that getting back into a routine will do me good, as I’m getting to be very, very lazy!

But before that happens, we’re going to go on holiday – a week in the US to mark the end of this chapter. We’re off to Las Vegas, baby, and I’m feeling lucky!

Friday 19 October 2012

With our compliments

Yesterday I was back at the 'Marsden for the first time in five weeks. It felt familiar and strange all at the same time.

I’d gone in for two appointments, the first of which was to see my Counsellor. Clearly a lot has happened since I first saw her in August, so it was good to be able to chat openly, and positively, about how things had progressed.

In particular, I was able to talk about how - with a few exceptions - my life is pretty much back to normal. I've healed from the operation and my boob is looking good. My hair has grown back and I've finally been able to get jobs done at home and visit friends and relatives that I've not been able to see during treatment.

Indeed my short, wavy hair is proving quite a talking point. Even complete strangers, with no knowledge of my cancer, are complimenting me on my barnet. It's flattering, if unexpected.

However, being the awkward, embarrassed sort when someone says nice things to me I must learn to resist dropping the 'C' bomb as some sort of mitigation for my hair style. I give you 'The Case of the Friendly Neighbour' ...

There is a gentleman who lives on my road and with whom I have been chatting and exchanging pleasantries for the last four or five years. I don't see him that often, and do specifically try NOT to talk to him when he's running in his Lycra onesie, but he is a lovely guy.

However, the embarrassing fact is that I can't remember his name. Worse still, he always remembers mine and too much time has elapsed for me to ask for a 'reminder'. Anyway, it transpires that we can't have spoken for quite a while as the following embarrassing exchange recently took place:

Neighbour: "Kate! Hi! I've not seen you in ages ... Love the hair!
Me: "Thanks ... I've had chemotherapy."
Neighbour: [stunned silence] Oh. God. I'm so sorry ... "
Me: "Oh. No. Honestly, I'm fine ... and at least I've got some hair now."
Neighbour: [long awkward pause] “Yes*.”
*The man is completely bald.

When I’m not shoving my foot in my mouth though, life is going very well and the reconstruction process is now well underway.

After my counselling and a spot of lunch in the ‘Marsden cafe, where I was pleased to find it was music free – (last time I went they had ‘Never say goodbye’ by Bon Jovi on continuous repeat, which I did think was a bit much in a cancer hospital) – I had an appointment to see my surgical consultant and breast care nurse.

And it was all good news. The mastectomy has healed well and the swelling has gone down, which meant that I was ready to be ‘pumped up’ a bit more to stretch the pectoral muscle to make room for what will be a silicone implant in the new year.

I have to say though, apart from surface skin sensation, I have little to no feeling in my new boob so when she jabbed a needle into the tissue expander and started to inflate it with water it did seem a little surreal.

Part of that strangeness is also the fact that they have to put a magnet to my chest to locate the valve. Not any old magnet, I should add – fridge magnets don’t work (we’ve tried) – but the metal in the implant does mean that I can’t have an MRI while I have it inserted, and that my boob needs its' own ID card to get through airport security.

Anyway, post inflation, I’m now looking lop-sided. I’m also feeling sore again, like I did straight after the operation, as the pectoral muscle is being constantly pulled. On the plus side though, it does appear that I will – in the wider scheme of things - automatically get bigger boobs than the ones I started with as they want to to ‘perk up’ lefty to match the shape of my new righty, so I will get implants in both sides. Ree-sult!

It’s up to me how much bigger I go, (probably not that much), but I do have one more injection scheduled for mid November. After that, I’ve opted to have some fat injected over the tissue-expander to try and make it look a bit more natural before I get the proper implants.

That will require an operation, in early January, but a relative minor one I think. Basically, they put a couple of nicks in the back of my thigh – siphon out a bit of fat – and pop it in my chest. How good is that? A boob job and lipo-suction, all in one!

When I’ll actually get my final matching pair though, I’m not quite sure. It would be nice to have them in time for Mr P’s birthday at the end of March ... I think he deserves them. Failing that, mine at the end of June. That really would be one hell of a 40th birthday present.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Calling all the heroes!

As mentioned in my last post, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month - which not only serves to highlight all the important facts that people should know about breast cancer, but also to celebrate the fantastic achievements of those either fighting or supporting someone in their fight against the disease.

The Breast Cancer Campaign are therefore urging people to recognise their 'Superhero'; someone who has inspired you and/or changed your life for the better.

So, of course, I've nominated my lovely Mr P. He's been such a fantastic support to me over the last year - I really don't know what I would have done without him.

But there are lots of equally wonderful people and heart-warming stories, so I would urge you to take a look and maybe nominate someone that you know/love too.

I've said before, that it's the indiscriminate nature of cancer that makes us all equal but - through experiencing and sharing that adversity - I really do believe that it can often be a catalyst to bring out the very best in people. No experience is ever wasted.

And, talking of good people doing good things! The lovely people at Stella & Dot are donating all the net proceeds from sales made in October to Breakthrough Breast Cancer. They have some really beautiful items and it's not too early to be thinking about Christmas presents!

The more the merrier!
However, if handbags/jewellery aren't your thing but having a drink/dance is (and you can get over to west London) ... then Mr P. and I, with assistance from our good friend Russell, will be hosting a little fundraiser on Saturday 27th October. Full details are on the events page and via Facebook.

It would be great to see some of you there but, if you can't make it and would still like to make a donation, you can do so via our Just Giving page.

Monday 1 October 2012

Do your bit!

October is ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month’. So cop a feel of yourselves, or someone close to you (do ask permission first!) and help more people to understand, and treat, what is now the UK’s most commonly diagnosed cancer.
One in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime, with over 48,000 women (UK) diagnosed with breast cancer each year. (And it’s not just the girls - around 350 men are diagnosed annually too.)
But, while sadly over 1,000 women still die each month, the good news is that more patients than ever are surviving thanks to better awareness, screening and treatments. 
The main thing is to catch it early and that means checking regularly. It’s not always easy and sometimes you’re not sure what is suspicious and what isn’t – for example, my tumour was very high on my breast bone – so, when in doubt, get yourself to the doctor.

1 in 8 women (UK) will be
diagnosed with breast cancer
during their lifetime
Breakthrough have some great guidance on their website and are encouraging all women, regardless of age, to give themselves a little ‘TLC’ ...
  • TOUCH your breasts. Can you feel anything unusual?
  • LOOK for changes. Is there any change in shape or texture?
  • CHECK anything unusual with your doctor.
Of course, there are other brilliant charities and web resources out there: Breast Cancer Care, Macmillan and Cancer Research, to name but a few.

Suffice to say, all these services need money and, this month, lots of well-known brands are lending their support with many products - everything from hair-straighteners to zumba-wear - offering limited edition 'pink ribbon' versions and making a donation from sales.

The other way to raise money is to hold an event. All through October people are being encouraged to 'think pink', with Friday 26th October designated as 'Wear it Pink' day.

Mr P. and I shall be doing our bit too. Knowing what a bunch of fancy-dress-loving exhibitionists our friends are, we plan to hold a pink-themed Wear it PUNK Halloween party to raise some funds and 'scare the shit' out of cancer.

Mr P's very excited and already working on his DJ set. It's going to be one 'hell' of a night!