Wednesday 9 January 2013

New year, new boobs!

Yesterday I went to the 'Marsden and had my third breast operation but the first that was cosmetic.
That makes it sound like it was driven by vanity – it really wasn’t – but it will hopefully enhance the end result when I finally get my reconstructive implants.

Essentially, I’ve had fat siphoned out of my outer thighs and injected into my boob. And yes, I know that sounds like every woman’s dream - especially post-Christmas - but, before you get too jealous, please try to remember that I’ve only had one tit enhanced and have to wear support pants for a month!

The immediate result is that my fake boob is now even bigger than it was before (and now significantly larger than the other one) and bright red! My legs are also very, very bruised and sore. Once I am stood up, or sat down, I’m fine – but getting there is an entirely different matter. I’m feeling very battered and pretty immobile.

Fortunately Mr P. has come to stay with me for a couple of days and was, yet again, the designated ‘responsible adult’ into whose care the hospital discharged me. However, when I say ‘responsible’ most people who know him will roll their eyes ... and with good reason! I’ve cited some of his hospital exploits in the past but this time I decided to get photographic evidence. I really can’t leave him on his own for more than two minutes!

Logging in to the hospital system and playing a football game; trying to take his own blood pressure (the machine stopped working altogether after this); having a little lie down on my surgical trolley.

Also keeping me and my lop-sided cleavage company this week is my new furry flat-mate, Phoebe. She moved in on Saturday and has already made herself very comfortable. She's also had about five different names but, hopefully, this is the final one!

The name was actually suggested by Mr P's Mum and it seems to suit our little glamour puss very well. In fact, it’s also proved rather prophetic as we have discovered that little Phoebe has a few, ahem, ‘digestive’ issues – so has been serenaded with more than a few choruses of ‘Smelly Cat’ in the last couple of days.

But naughty boyfriends and flatulent cats aside, everything else seems to be on track. I’m hoping 2013 could be my year.

Monday 31 December 2012

A hair-raising year!

Dear 2012, what a God awful year you’ve been. I won’t be sorry to see the back of you!

So much has happened in the last twelve months, it’s hard to remember how I felt at the end of 2011. I know I had been to the doctor and been referred for hospital tests but I certainly couldn’t have anticipated just how things would progress.

But now, although my life is different in many ways, it is also (nearly) back to normal. I’m looking forward to 2013 with a renewed sense of optimism. Indeed, Mr P. and I have already got a variety of trips and activities scheduled - well into next summer!

However, I will certainly remember this year. And despite the challenges and the disappointments, I will never forget the support of our friends and loved ones and how it helped to carry us through in the most difficult of times.

I will also never forget some of the more ridiculous moments: Mr P. with surgical socks on his head; being diagnosed with ‘small breasts’; or lifting my wig in a road-rage incident to make the other driver get out of our way! The C-bomb has never been dropped so effectively. ;-)

But that was then and this is now.

So 2012, if you don't mind, I'd quite like you to F*ck Off!

Monday 10 December 2012

Christmas comes but once a year …

And thank, God. I don’t think my liver could cope.

The festive celebrations are now in full swing for me and Mr P, heralded at 1am on Saturday by the birth of Niamh – Mr P’s niece. It’s all very exciting but now I’m busy trying to work out what she might like/need for Christmas.

We’re also preparing for another new arrival. My new cat. We’d popped over to the Mayhew Animal Home to drop off some items that our drama group are lending them for their charity dinner this evening and Mr P. suggested that I might want to look for another feline friend.

I used to have a lovely little cat, called Ellie, who I adopted from the Mayhew in late 2008. After a testy start and some wilful biting (her, not me) we settled into a very nice life together. We became the best of friends and I loved her dearly. Then one day, (Aug. 2011), she just disappeared.

She wasn’t the sort of cat to stay out for more than 24 hours, so obviously I was distraught. An army of friends (including Mr P.) put up posters, knocked on doors and scoured the area for any sign of my “little mate” – but there was none. And there hasn’t been since. She was less than five years old.

Suffice to say, I have often thought of her: the way she would jump onto the seat beside me and lick my hand while I stroked her paw, and the annoyed way she would come into the bathroom and ‘miaow’ when she thought I had been in the bath too long. She was a funny little lady.

But now, with my hospital treatment in its latter stages, I do feel ready for another house guest – and my new lodger (currently called 'Bubbles', but her new name to be decided) will move in after Christmas.

Saturday night was therefore quite a celebration with a new baby, a new cat and a friend’s birthday to toast. It was great fun … what I remember of it. And then on Sunday, Mr P. and I were invited to a ‘fizzy wine tasting’, where my friend (an award nominated wine blogger) educated us in the different types of sparkling wines and how they are produced.

It was a hilariously drunken way to spend a Sunday afternoon! In truth, I was probably just topping up my excessive Prosecco levels from the previous evening, and warming myself up for the Mayhew’s ‘Tinsel and Tails’ fundraiser tonight, but it was a great start to the week.

After all, if you can’t celebrate with ‘Bubbles’ at Christmas, when can you? ;-)

Saturday 1 December 2012

'Tis the season to be jolly

Blimey. It's December already. Doesn't time fly when you've been having fun ...?!

In many respects my life is settling back into the old routine while, in others, I'm still getting a few surprises.

The main 'surprise' is just how crap I still feel. Not physically as my chest muscle is improving, but mentally and emotionally. I'm on the verge of tears quite a lot of the time

It's hard to know how much of this is provoked by the Tamoxifen and how much was there already but, suffice to say that, the insomnia, hot flushes and now high cholesterol are really getting me down.

I've had some body hair fall out too which, after only 2.5 weeks of taking Tamoxifen is a bit concerning. Hair thinning is cited as a risk but I wasn't expecting it so soon. Maybe I shouldn't put the wig up the loft just yet?!

Fortunately, I do have a Counsellor at the 'Marsden and my GP is very supportive. And, of course, I have my lovely Mr P.

Ultimately though, I do have to manage this for myself and come to terms with the residual issues that are bothering me as well as the hormone-related changes that have been induced.

That said, I should also make a point of saying how supportive my company and colleagues have been. The return to work did cause me enormous anxiety but - with special thanks to AW and the HR team - my confidence is slowly coming back.

And I've also got a lot to look forward to this month: assorted shows, gigs, gatherings and parties ... Not to mention a new niece or nephew for Mr. P.

So while I won't be sorry to see the back of 2012, I do plan to enjoy what's left.

Friday 16 November 2012

So far, so good ...

This week I've managed three days in the office, been to see the boob specialist and had a little haircut.

Going into the office was daunting. But Mr P. met me at the station, armed with an enormous cookie and a gingerbread latte, and that made me feel much better.

Everyone at work has been very sweet; welcoming me back but also recognising that it's going to take me some time to readjust.

I'm taking it slow, just working four hours a day, and having catch up meetings with people to get a flavour of what's been going on.

However, Mr P. and I did have some bad news on Wednesday from the fertility clinic about my test results. And I know you can never say never but, post chemo and with an ovarian function level that barely registers on the bottom of their scale, I've probably got more chance of winning the lottery than ever falling pregnant.

Of course, generally for people, IVF might be an option but (a) I'd have to do it before I'm 40 (on the NHS) and (b) I can't have any hormone related treatments because of my cancer risk. Oh, and Tamoxifen causes birth defects anyway ... Ho hum.

I should point out that at no stage prior to this, or even now, was I planning to have a baby. However, what is upsetting is that it seems that I should have been offered some options to preserve my fertility before/and during chemo and I wasn't. So, of course, I do feel pretty cheated and let down.

Anyhoo ... I've got enough to be getting on with, without crying over spilt milk. So, I had a haircut.
Weller: he may have soul
but he's got shit hair
Post chemo my hair has grown through, as it has always been, very thick and bushy. What doesn't curl or kink stands at right angles to my head. Up until now I've just about managed to keep it in check with a little bit of hair putty but, after blow-drying my hair for an early morning start and seeing what looked like Paul Weller staring back at me in the mirror, I decided that I needed a tidy up.

As for my breast reconstruction, it's going well but I've opted not to have any more saline injected as I think further inflation will (i) be uncomfortable, (ii) look odd, and (iii) probably pop a few cardigan buttons.

Instead I'm having a fat graft, from my belly or thigh, which will soften the overall appearance and add another, more natural looking, bit of volume - particularly in the original lumpectomy area. If I do decide to have more saline, I still can, but - assuming I don't - I'm probably looking to get my 'proper' implants from mid/late April - just in time for summer. Nice.

But for now, I'm tired. Really tired. Normal life is exhausting!

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Turning the page ...

This week a new chapter of my life begins. Today, I start a five year course of Tamoxifen and, tomorrow, I go back to work.

Tamoxifen is what they call 'maintenance chemotherapy'. It suppresses oestrogen and keeps it away from any potential cancer cells which, given my cancer tested 8 out of 8 on hormone responsiveness, is undoubtedly a good thing.

However, all drugs have their side effects and I'm understandably apprehensive. No woman wants to read that she might get fat and grow facial hair!

But needs must ...

I'm also nervous about going back to work. I'm sure that once I get back into the swing of things it will all be fine but I have had a few sleepless nights.

I was chatting about it this morning with my GP. He reassured me that it was natural to feel low, as I have done, since the mainstay of my treatment ended. When you're in the thick of chemo and operations you become overwhelmed by the process. But, when it does end, you can finally 'exhale' and reflect on what you've been through.

And that's the bit that I've found hard. I think I'm doing alright but can then, quite unexpectedly, suddenly get breathless and start to cry. It's quite odd - like all the residual emotion that I've still got bottled up is trying to release itself.

I know some people might think that it would be better to let it all out in one go but, apart from the fact that I don’t think I could, I do think that would be like trying to open a fizzy bottle of lemonade. This way I just release the pressure slowly and a little bit at a time, instead of making an unholy mess!

However, please don't think that everything is glum and that I'm not still able to enjoy myself. Mr P. and I have just come back from a fabulous week in San Francisco and Las Vegas: visiting Alcatraz and the Grand Canyon, playing the slots and doing our best to live up to the name of the 'Big Belly Buffet'!

I even got home from the 10 hour flight back and went out to a pyjama-party-themed Hen do. It was a raucous affair but at least when I finally crashed and needed my bed I was dressed and ready for it ...

And so the next stage of our story begins. I'm sure it will still have its unexpected twists and turns but I'm rather hoping that it will be more 'JK Rowling’ than 'Stephen King'.

Mr P and I are hoping that our luck
might be about to change

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.