Showing posts with label cancer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cancer. Show all posts

Monday, 18 November 2013

A quiet connection...

I have a new Monday morning routine. Kids dropped off at school and nursery I head to my local cafe and meet with a lovely friend.  Laptops on, coffees and smoothies ordered, we set to work. Heads down, brows furrowed we mean business.  I get on with whatever it is that I'm writing and she works on reports and her 'stuff'.  We probably don't even quite know what the other is doing. It really doesn't matter.  Our Monday morning meetings give us both a focus, a break from the distractions at home and the week gets off to a super postive start. Maybe it's the feeling of uninterrupted time after the demands of the weekend or the blueberry and papaya smoothies that do it, whatever the reason,  I come away feeling energised, ambitious and appreciative of the way my working life is finally taking shape in a way that I'd always hoped it would.
Every twenty minutes or so we stop for a little chat - how was your weekend, how are the kids...the usual. Today we, unexpectedly, went a little deeper and found ourselves talking about the very reason we met.
Her cancer story started a year before mine.  We were put in touch by a mutual friend when I found myself facing the chemotherapy she'd not long finished. She was rocking a cute, post chemo, pixie crop and my hair had just been chopped in preparation for impending baldness. 
Over the tricky months that followed we'd meet for the occasional coffee, raise a latte glass to celebrate the return of our eyelashes and get the tissues out when one of us, usually me, was having a wobble.  Cancer aside, we slowly but surely became real friends.  We both get it.  And it doesn't need to be talked about as much these days.  But when it does... well, we just shut the lid on our laptops and order another blueberry smoothie...

Saturday, 26 October 2013

A drink's too wet without one...

I'm having one of those weeks where, as if from nowhere, I am reminded of how it feels to be unwell. Fatigue, achey limbs and a head full of cotton wool is all it takes to plunge me into a pit of gloom and negativity. 
I'm shocked at how easily I can slip back into ill person mode.  Unwashed hair, no make up and tracksuit bottoms doesn't tend to be my signature look but it's the one I naturally adopt during weeks like these.
The gremlin I thought I'd silenced has found his nasty little voice again and is whispering in my ear from his cosy spot on my left shoulder.  Taunting me with the 'what if' game.  I don't want to play.
Fitful sleep and morbid thoughts ensure that I wake up feeling worse than ever.
'Miss Depression,' my ten year old called me today. It was like being shot with a little dart.  I'm not depressed, my darling.  Just a bit scared.
And angy.  That, yet again (so boring) I have let myself get this run down and depleted. I want to grab myself by the shoulders, knocking that stupid little gremlin to the floor, and shout.
Come on!  You're doing so well, you've done so well, you're three years in, three whole years clear!  What are you trying to do? See how far you can push it?  I feel...disappointed with myself.
Quite how I expect my poor body to thrive, flourish and remain well, I don't know.  I wouldn't feed my children a diet based solely on snacks and treats so god knows why I think I can get away with it. 
'You shouldn't eat so much sugar,' mutters my mother on a regular basis.  I want to punch her, instead I defiantly rip open another Twirl bar. 
So, once again, I find myself resolving to do better.  Vitamin supplies replenished, a salad drawer bursting with rainbow food and it's another new start.  I will drink green juice and litres of water when all I really want is another cup of tea. And something to dunk in it...

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

My old friend Fear...

The last few weeks have been strange.  I've come to the blank page on several occasions and found myself staring into space feeling like I have absolutely nothing to say.  Nothing new anyway. No shortage of thoughts buzzing around in my somewhat soggy brain but a feeling of reluctance about writing them down and sharing them.
Surgery a few weeks ago.  Nothing to worry about, just a straightforward and final procedure to improve the er, look of things in the chest area. Compared to the ordeal of a mastectomy this latest trip under the surgeon's knife is really barely worth mentioning - could almost have been called a mini break.  One night away from home, breakfast in bed, complimentary paper and no kids.  I really know how to live.
The sensible, rational me knew that there was nothing to worry about. That I wasn't being admitted into hospital as a sick person and so there was no need to behave like one.  The sensible, rational me gets dwarfed and shouted down by a neurotic, fear ridden crazy lady  and I spent the days leading up the op in a state of real anxiety.  Pre-op blood tests are routine for anybody about to go under the surgeon's knife but after cancer they carry a little more weight. Hardly surprising, par for the course etc but nearly three years on I wonder if I should be managing the concerns I feel a little better? 
'It'll get easier' That's what everyone said in those early, post treatment, days as I stumbled around doing my best to start living in a vaugely normal way again. And it does, kind of. You have days, weeks and if you're lucky months of not giving illness much thought, you feel fighting fit and warrior like.  You hit certain milestones, celebrate life and good health and then get on with the important business of living. That's the idea, anyway.
I'm yet to master the art of fearless living and doubt I ever really will.  The real victory is learning to live with it, link arms with it or simply just stick two fingers up at it. In the nicest possible way, of course..

Friday, 2 November 2012

Nipple talk.

I had my right nipple tattooed last night. As you do. Or breast re pigmentation to use the correct term.  Headed up to Harley Street after work and met the lovely Karen Betts who, in about fifteen minutes flat, managed to make my boobs look like..well, a little bit more like my boobs again.
I got a bit emotional as I watched her working in the mirror and saw the colour appear before my eyes.  I've got so used to having two very different looking boobs.  One soft and squishy, one hard and high.  One nipple with colour and one without.  Oh, the joys of being mismatched and aysmettrical. 
They're still wonky.  The surgery I had six months ago didn't quite do the job of levelling them out and so in the new year I'll go back in to hospital for what I hope and pray is the final time.  I'm aware of how lucky I am to have an amazing surgeon who also happens to be a total perfectionist - refusing to stop until he's sure that he's done as much as he can to restore my confidence and bring about a possible sense of closure.  Maybe hoping for closure is a tad optimistic.  I doubt the day will ever come when I declare my experience of breast cancer as being over with, done and dusted.  But, I'll take what I can get.  It will be lovely to look at myself in the mirror and feel a little bit more like the old me. 
Oh and as an unexpected bonus, Karen also worked her steady handed magic on my radiotherapy marks.  The three vivid, bright blue dots (one of which practically glowed from it's prominent position on my breast bone however hard I tried with the concealer) have now been magically transformed into what I like to call beauty spots and it no longer looks as though I've been stabbing myself with a fountain pen.
I really am a lucky girl.  New boobs, new nipple and no more strange neon markings.  Getting there.  Not quite sure where 'there' is but I'm bloody determined to find out.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Thought for the day...

I'm anemic.  This is a relief as it explains the overwhelming exhaustion, low mood and pale complexion that I've been sporting for the last couple of weeks.  These days, anything less than rude health and my imagination tends to run away with me and so a low iron count I can handle.  Celebrate even.  Rather that than something else.
It was my two year 'all clear' the other day.  It's a funny old thing.  You think you know how you're going to feel when these significant dates roll around and are sure of how you're going to mark the occasion but it's rarely as you imagined.  Instead, a strange mix of emotions rise to the surface, many of them gloomy and before you know it you've not even had a celebratory cup of tea, let alone a glass of something with bubbles in it.
In the early days, post mastectomy, every week and month that ticked by felt like a lifetime.  The fear of recurrance was overwhelming and I looked on in envy at people who had passed the magic five year mark and beyond.  Two years is nothing really -  gone in the blink of an eye.  Who knows  how the next three, five or ten will unfold. The trick is to stop wondering and start living.
Celebrate how things are now, I tell myself. Because right now, despite the gremlin on my shoulder, I'm doing pretty well. 
Don't need bubbles tonight.  Just a nice cup of tea.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Just watch and learn Mummy....

Today was spent watching Ella scribble on a freshly painted wall in a gorgeous house in north west London and be applauded and rewarded for doing so. All in the name of cancer research. We were filming a short clip for CRUK's forthcoming Stand Up To Cancer telethon and well, Ella took to her part like a duck to water. A simple, heartwarming little scene - Mum (er, that's me) finds daughter scribbling on the kitchen wall, looks momentarily cross then breaks into a loving smile and reaching for a chubby crayola of her own, joins in.
Let's be honest- it was never going to be much of a stretch for my very own little Banksy.  The walls of our house have long since resembled something you might see under the arches at Waterloo station and so I really wasn't too worried about my darling girl not embracing the role of pint sized grafitti artist with great gusto.  A tad more acting was required from me I have to say. I just kept thinking about how often I yell at her and her brothers as they run towards my magnolia walls brandishing a chunky felt tip and how I now keep every single crayon, marker, biro and blunt Ikea pencil so far out of reach that when it comes to writing a shopping list or jotting down a phone number you can just forget it.
She stole the show off camera too.  Obviously.  We joined the crew for lunch on the catering bus and all tucked into crumble and custard.  Standing up on her seat and bouncing up and down, Miss Ella prodded the cameraman sitting behind us on the shoulder. Repeatedly.
'I NOT SHY!' she shrieked at him emphatically as the entire bus turned their heads to see where the noise was coming from. He smiled politely, not daring to disagree and doing his best not to choke on a piece of rhubarb.
Filming finished, she swept out of the house flicking her hair,waving an aloof farewell to her team of lackeys and once safely harnessed in the back of the car fell instantly into a deep slumber. 
Not shy?  Where the hell was I when they were dishing out the kind of confidence that my little madam exudes?  Whatever it is you've got Ella Bella, can I have some?

Friday, 5 October 2012

Chicken pie and a facial...

When I was in the grip of everything (and by everything I mean newborn triplets, a hideous break up and a breast cancer diagnosis) I found myself on the receiving end of some truly incredible acts of kindness.
There's nothing like coming home from a heavy dose of chemotherapy and finding a just cooked chicken pie on the doorstep to remind you of just how incredible people can be. As if I needed reminding. Or answering the door on a wet Sunday afternoon to see a former employer standing there holding a brown envelope filled with funds to help pay for much needed childcare - the result of an office whip round at a company I'd worked for very briefly several years before.
Life was so full of extremes at that time. Most of them completely undesirable and so I found myself craving nothing other than a mundane, boring existence and would observe other people's seemingly slow and steady lives in awe, wondering what the hell had happened to mine.
But that was then. Two years on and I still have as much emotional support as I need.  I still feel beyond blessed when I think of the team of angels that surrounded me on my darkest days and the core group that continue to stick by me still.  And now, lucky lucky me, the crisis seems to be over.  Life has moved on and although there is still the occasional bump on the road at least I can say that most of the unwanted drama has subsided. Most of it...
People still continue to astound me, however.  A few days ago, just before I embarked on the SHINE marathon walk, I was handed an envelope.  A lovely friend, but one I don't see nearly enough of, drove to my house with the intention of posting it through my door unseen.  She was spotted.  We hugged, chatted briefly, she mumbled something along the lines of 'treat yourself' and then was gone and I was left, envelope in hand and smile on my face.
I set off in the car to pick Jake up from school with Ella, Louis and Theo killing each other in the back and as we sat at the traffic lights I opened the envelope.  Inside was a voucher to be used at an exclusive beauty salon in the heart of Knightsbridge. But not just any voucher.  The amount gifted was in three figures and I did a double, then triple take as I looked at the shiny card and read the words, 'A little something for after your walk...'
People are just so bloody lovely.  I sent, via text, an effusive if woefully inadequate message of thanks to my gorgeous friend and wondered quite what I'd done in a past life to deserve such a random act of loveliness.
The walk came and went. Twenty six miles in eight and a half hours. We crossed the finishing line as the sun came up on Sunday morning and a few hours later I enjoyed the best hot bath of my life.
Two days after that I hobbled and limped, voucher in hand, to be indulged and pampered by the same hands that smooth away the fine lines of every international A-Lister going.  Pure bliss.
Random acts of kindness really are the best kind. Think it's about time I started dishing out a few of my own...

Monday, 27 August 2012

A token of affection.

Jake was six when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  About to start chemo and therefore about to see my appearance dramatically altered I knew I had no choice but to try and explain to him in simple, non scary terms what was happening.  "Mummy's got a nasty lump," I said as we sat together in the kitchen one sunny afternoon. "But the doctor's are going to give me lots of strong medicine to make the lump go away."
It didn't seem necessary to fill his head with the nitty gritty of what lay ahead - a full mastectomy, lymph node removal, six weeks of daily radiotherapy not to mention the five years of medication and near constant anxiety facing me if I was lucky enough to get that far.   And talking of lumps - the one in my throat was pretty sizeable during our 'chat' and so I thought it best to keep things brief and to the point.  How much does a six year old with wobbly bottom teeth and a Spiderman obsession really need to know about the harsh realities of a cancer diagnosis anyway? 
The first time Jake saw me without hair he literally keeled over.  He bounded downstairs one morning and before I could stop him had yanked the trusty little turban I'd taken to wearing off my freshly shaved, beautifully bald head.  He fell backwards onto the floor in horror, shrieked and then went very, very quiet before saying, "Mummy, are you going to die like that lady off the telly?"  
That lady off the telly was Jade Goody.  It shocked me that he'd absorbed and remembered her heartbreaking story even though he was only five when she died and I should have known then that even if it's not talked about, all the big stuff that our children observe and experience is filed away somewhere, shaping who they are and who they will become.  Trying to regain my composure I retrieved my (cough) funky, protective headgear and attempted to convincingly reassure my darling boy that mummy would be absolutely fine whilst crossing every single finger, all of my toes and furtively tapping on the nearest bit of wood.
Two years on and I often wonder what Jake really remembers of that time. He certainly never refers to it or seems to express any anxiety around the subject of ill health.  Is it wishful thinking on my part to hope that mummy having had cancer really wasn't such a big deal for him?  That he was too young to really know what was going on and that it hasn't affected him adversely at all?  That maybe, just maybe, we've got away with it?

Funny, revealing, poignant little moment in the supermarket the other day.  As I packed the last few items into yet another, just purchased, bag for bloody life, the cashier handed Jake four of those green tokens - the ones that look like tiddly winks that customers then deposit into the charity box of their choice as they exit the store. 
On this particular day the three local organisations all worthy of support were an animal welfare centre, a specialist children's playgroup and Paul's Cancer Support Centre.  I was distractedly analysing the alarmingly long till receipt I'd just been given and putting my depressingly light purse away while Jake bounded over to the large, clear, perspex boxes, clutching his valuable tiddly winks, ready to make his choice. He studied the information displayed above each box and looked over at me.  He put his first green counter in the box for the local cancer charity. He looked over at me again, smiling shyly.  He put his second counter in the same box and the third and finally the fourth.  Between each and every deposit he looked at me with a sweet but knowing expression on his face that told me all I needed to know.  Tiddly tokens donated he grabbed my hand, squeezed it tight, absolutely no words required.  We set off, pushing our wobbly wheeled trolley back towards the car and began discussing the ever so serious business of what was on the menu for lunch.
And so, thank goodness, life goes on - huge, defining moments alongside three for two discounted deals. It's a mixed bag, but I wouldn't swop it for the world. I'm hoping Jake wouldn't either...

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Five a day farce...

So, the smug Superwoman status I granted myself last week for remaining fighting fit in a house full of sick children has well and truly gone. I've slipped to the bottom of the I can do it all just watch me charts and on the emotional scale am languishing somewhere between an unconvincing fine thanks and thoroughly fed up.
It probably was a little optimistic to think that after ten days of breathing in the germ-ridden air of my beloved four and not holding back on the endless dribbly kisses and constant cuddles that I wouldn't succumb to the unpleasant virus they'd passed to each other but I was so determined not to!   I feel like I've failed.  And so, as my glands swell and temperature rises my mood plummets. I feel angry.  Angry with myself for not taking my vitamins and eating my greens.  Frustrated that even after cancer I still seem to think that two cups of tea and a digestive biscuit constitutes a decent breakfast. I remember when I was diagnosed and stumbling around in a terrified daze. Food was way down on the list of things to think about. Hardly surprising. It took every ounce of strength to carry on functioning as a mum.  Still feeding the triplets round the clock at three hourly intervals the last thing on my mind was nutrition.  But that was okay because I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by an army of angels who regularly placed delicious, rainbow coloured meals down in front of me, put a knife in one hand, fork in the other and stood over me as I ate.  In those very early days between biopsies, bone scans and the start of chemo I ate more berries, oily fish and green food than I ever had before and vowed to myself that this would be the way forward. It felt so right. So bloody obvious.  I would nourish my ailing body, heal it from within and fight those wayward cells with more anti-oxidents than they'd know what to do with.  Those good intentions didn't last. Left to my own devices and no longer under the watchful eye of loved ones to quite the same degree it wasn't long before I was back to my old, chocolate covered ways.  I'm worse than the children.  Veg - do I have to?  Fruit - if I want to bite into something crunchy can it not come in a shiny gold wrapper?  And it's not ignorance. I know exactly what I should and shouldn't be eating, we all do.  I use exhaustion and a tiny, cluttered kitchen as an excuse not to cook properly but really it's laziness and a set of totally skewed priorities. What's the point in having a shelf full of Jamie's books if the freezer is full of turkey twizzlers?   Forget the kids, I'm the one who needs a reward chart.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

All that glitters...

 SHINE - Cancer Research UK's night time marathon walk is drawing near and so today a photographer, along with a lovely lady from the charity's media team, came to the house to take a few publicity snaps of me and the children  Ella immediately entered into the spirit of things and within minutes was dressed from head to toe in a silver sequinned skirt and jacket. Louis morphed into a minature 1970's game show host donning an oversized silver sequinned blazer and sequinned hat and Jake wore a silver sequinned waistcoat and a mortified expression (did I mention the silver sequins?)  Theo was miserable with a streaming cold, refused to go anywhere near the shiny clothes and seemed to have decided that blowing bubbles out of his nose would be his contribution to raising the profile of what is a fantastic event.
I definitely got the short straw as far as dressing up fun went.  No glittery garments for me. Instead, I was handed a large t-shirt with the SHINE logo and charity name emblazoned on both sides.  All well and good and I was proud to wear it but goodness me - is there a less flattering item of clothing to be found than a unisex, oversized t-shirt?  If I'd wanted to accentuate my large, wonky boobs and give the impression that I had absolutely no waist then I couldn't have asked for anything better.  We did the shoot in the garden and I thought seriously about grabbing a couple of clothes pegs off the washing line in at attempt to create the illusion of a nipped in midriff.  I didn't and silently told my ego to go and hide somewhere.
And so the photo shoot began and all was fine.  Jake was being a tad resistant and sulky but a few snarled threats of computer game withdrawal and he soon managed to raise a smile.  Louis was scarily enthuiastic about the whole thing and seemed to have found his calling - fluttering his eyelashes, smiling his best showbiz smile and stealing the limelight from the rest of us, hands down.
It all started so well.  It fell apart spectacularly. Fifteen minutes in and we had three screaming toddlers and a sullen nine year old.  I'm not sure that the photographer got one shot with all five of us actually looking at the camera and smiling at the same time. My shiny smile got more strained and tense by the second as I tried to prize a dummy out of Theo's mouth and a stinky, soggy muslin out of Ella's.
"They're not normally like this," I kept mumbling as the whole shoot crumbled and our sympathetic but slightly startled guests tried to work around the chaos.  "How strange, I don't know what's got into them," I said laughing nervously as I tried to wrench Louis's jaw from Theo's left shoulder.  We ended up having no choice but to barracade the triplets in the living room, Jake in charge whilst I sat on a blanket in the garden grinning manically for the camera and doing my best to ignore the three squished faces pressed up against the glass screaming for me and tearing each other to pieces.
I don't expect to see our faces gracing too many bill boards anytime soon.  Unless Cancer Research UK decide to turn the whole thing around and plaster pictures of my children at their astonishing worst on every corner - thereby terrifying the public into supporting the amazing work they do.  Wait a minute, that could work...