Posted in Living with cancer

ONE MORE TO GO

O Hai!

I thought we’d do a quick hair status report before we get started:

Haircut: A smidge off Natalie Portman, circa V for Vendetta.

Eyebrows: Half a dozen each side, multiplying slowly.

Eyelashes: Three. The magic number.

——-

Since last I wrote I have mostly been thinking about 4×4 Porsches. Specifically, I’ve been busy trying to figure out whether people buy Porsche 4x4s because they want a Porsche, or because they want a fancy 4×4. I mean if you’re in a position to be buying ANY fancy 4×4 of your choice you’re going to want a customised Range Rover, aren’t you? And if what you want is a Porsche then surely you’re going to want something a little bit flashy. Showy, even, no? All I’m saying is I don’t know what’s going on in peoples’ heads when they buy Porsche 4x4s. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that. As an aside, I suppose now might be a good time to mention I’m starting to get a bit bored of my sick leave…..

How have you all been anyway? All is well here in WeeGee land. Or at least as well as can be expected when you’re six months into five months worth of chemotherapy. Still, yesterday was chemo number 15 out of 16, which means there’s one more to go! I’m looking forward to being able to tick something off the list at last, but I’m tired and I’m keen not to get ahead of myself. My active treatment won’t finish until at least the end of the year and that means there’s still a long way to go. In my case, the chemotherapy isn’t even the primary treatment – it’s neoadjuvant, literally meaning before the main treatment. My main treatment will be the surgery, and it won’t be until that’s done that we know what we have been and are up against.

two to go
The ‘two more chemos to go’ face

Of course, I’m glad I’m nearly at the end of chemotherapy, but I’m only glad in a small way. It’s that thing about not counting your chickens, I guess….

Six months later

Oddly enough, six months ago today, I was busy having my first chemotherapy session – it feels like a lifetime ago. It was Christmas Eve, and while I don’t exactly know what the opposite of festive is, I think it’s safe to say that’s pretty much what I felt as I walked into the Osborne Building, past the jolly holly Christmas tree in the foyer, and  up to the chemotherapy suite for the first time.

I’m still not entirely sure how I got myself to that first appointment because every single fibre of my being was SCREAMING at me not to go. I was still at the ‘this isn’t really happening’ phase, still more than half convinced that somebody had made a terrible mistake somewhere along the line and still wondering why, if I didn’t feel ill, I had to have the treatment at all. In the end, I suppose I  got myself through that day in the same way as I’ve got myself through pretty much everything – by putting one foot in front of the other until I didn’t need to anymore.

I’m sure there are all kinds of ways to get through chemotherapy. You just go with whatever works for you and for me, it was one foot in front of the other, in front of the other, in front of the other until I got myself here with the finishing line in my sights. It’s been a bumpy old road, that’s for sure.

Six months is a long time to do anything for. After six months, the thing will have smashed a path into your life, established a new set of routines, and settled in for the long haul. After six months it isn’t even a new thing anymore, it’s just a way of life. After six months, that thing that you didn’t want to do with all of your might, is just a standard flavour of normal. After six months you find yourself somehow attached to the thing – to the tedious, repetitive nature of it all, to the cotton wool you’ve been wrapped in, to the rhythms and routines.

All of this is really just to say that I’m still feeling a bit reflective as I near the end of the chemo. Either that, or it’s Stockholm Syndrome….

Ring my bell

As I near the end of chemo, a couple of people have asked me if I’ll be ringing the bell and the short answer to that is no, for a couple of different reasons.

The end of treatment bell is a relatively new concept here in the UK, brought back to Manchester via Oklahoma for a little girl called Emma, who was treated for soft tissue sarcoma back in 2013. Over time, the bells spread out of children’s wards and into adult hospitals and they are now fairly common up and down the UK. The hospital I’m being treated at has an end of treatment bell in the chemo suite, radiotherapy unit, and out-patient clinic.

End-of-treatment-bell

There has been quite a lot of talk in the cancer community recently about the end of treatment bell. This blog post, in particular, caught my attention and has generated quite a lot of conversation online about the impact that the end of treatment bell has on those receiving treatment for cancer that can’t be cured.

For my own part and for what it’s worth, my feeling is that there is perhaps an argument for moving the end of treatment bells away from main treatment areas, but I see less merit in the case for removing them altogether. In the past six months, I have seen countless people ringing the bell in the chemo suite during my treatment, and do you know what? I’ve never seen smiles like it. It always seems to me like a tiny moment of pure joy at the end of a thousand dark days and I can’t make a case for taking that away from those who want it.

As for my own decision not to ring the bell at the end of the next treatment, there are two factors. The first is that for me, the end of chemo doesn’t really mark the end of anything in the true sense of the word. There is, as I keep saying, still a long way to go and I’m not in the business of tempting fate right now. The second is that I’m not exactly mad keen on being the centre of attention at the best of times and ringing a great big bell so everybody turns to stare at me standing there ringing a bell like a giant plum is my idea of FUCKING NIGHTMARE. So you know, no thank you very much…..

Meanwhile, in other news.

Meanwhile, in other news, it is STILL raining here in Harborough, but the good news is, on the box sets front I’ve rocketed through The Good Fight, Chernobyl, Year and Years, The Good Doctor and Sacred Rivers with Simon Reeve. I’m all out now though, suggestions, please?

Nothing else to report today so here endeth the blog post. It’s over and out with a song as usual. This one is more than 20 years old, and if you’re struggling to believe that, well I  guess that can only mean you’re as old as I am.

Love you all lots, like jelly tots,

WeeGee xoxox

Posted in Living with cancer

Leap and a net will appear

Hello there you lovely lot. How’s it all going? I’m sorry I’ve been absent – I’ve been busy having chemo, and writing short stories and passing my creative writing course WITH A DISTINCTION. Go me.

I’ve also been relatively busy despairing about the state of UK politics, but that’s not exactly news, its just what we all do now, isn’t it?

Eyebrow news

Since last I wrote, three whole weeks have passed and, WAIT FOR IT, there is eyebrow related news to report. No less than six of the little beauties had sprouted at the last count, although the situation on the ground is fast changing. It could be as many as EIGHT by now. Okay, so they’re nothing much to write home about just yet, but I’ll take them. Huzzah!

he man giphy
One day soon. One day.

Two more chemos to go

Things have also been going pretty well on the chemo front since we last spoke. Reducing the dose of the paclitaxel worked wonders for the awful pain that I haven’t moaned nearly enough about, but also delivered the happy coincidence of much better liver function test scores. As a result, I managed to have four chemos on the bounce with no breaks in between and, as I write, I have only two more chemo sessions left to go. It  feels both awesome and strange in equal measure.

I haven’t enjoyed chemotherapy. Nobody does, I guess. For the past six weeks, my mantra has become ‘I’ll be glad when this bit is over with’ because weekly chemo is hard going – it’s incessant, and exhausting and so utterly dull. Mostly I’m tired. I’m tired in my bones. I’m tired in my head. I’m tired my heart. When I walk out of the chemo suite in two weeks, I will be glad beyond any measure I can imagine.

I thought I was smiling 7A6DD366-A7DA-42CE-B4FC-F85FAE656331
I honestly thought I was smiling when this picture was taken – I guess this is just the face I pull during chemo now

Truth told, there’s another feeling mixed in with the anticipation of being free from the drudgery of weekly treatment. Fear – I think. Fear of what comes next, of how much longer the path ahead of me actually is, and of course, fear of where that path might lead me to, in the fullness of time. During chemo, I’ve been all wrapped up in the routine of it all, focused on ticking the next treatment off the list, and most of all, cocooned by the amazing NHS. The doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants, and admin staff know me and what my story is. They’re looking out for me, week by week, treatment by treatment, day by day. As difficult as it’s been, I guess I’ve gotten used to chemo. I know how it works, what I’m doing, and how to get through it. What comes next is another huge leap into the dark.

What’s the plan then, Stan?

It’ll be a while before I know what I’m going to have to face up to next. There will be tests at the end of chemo, and decisions to be made about surgery, and then more tests, and more decisions about what to do once the full impact of the chemo and surgery is understood. There will likely be fairly extensive radiotherapy in my future, there might even be further chemo or additional surgery. I always knew I was on a long and uncertain path, and I am still absolutely resolute that I will do whatever it is the experts in charge of my care tell me to do.

So the plan at the moment is this: I get through the next two weeks of chemo, and I celebrate when it’s done. Then I get through the tests and await further instructions from my team. And then, when they say so, I leap.

LeapNet
I’m sorry about the ‘inspirational’ quote but as far as they go, it’s quite a good one.

Meanwhile, in other news.

Meanwhile, in other news, it has been raining here in Harborough FOREVER. Which is most disappointing in some ways, but it does make for some lovely cosy afternoons with the cat, a good book and Cadbury Darkmilk, which I’m eating by the bucketload because Jason Donavan told me to.

rainy days IMG_5234
Happy days. Rainy, but happy

Nothing else from me today, other than to say that I hope this post doesn’t seem too miserable. I’m perhaps feeling a little reflective as I approach the end of chemo, but I’m in good spirits nonetheless, and my chin is very firmly up.

I’ll leave you with a song as usual. I think we just have to accept the fact that all of the songs are going to be old now because, well, I is old and new music mostly baffles me.

Love you all lots like jelly tots,

WeeGee xoxox

Posted in Living with cancer

This cat has got better eyebrows than me…

Hello and welcome back to WeeGee Land where the sun is shining, the chemotherapy is flowing and – I regret to inform you – the eyebrows have STILL yet to sprout. Man, do I miss my eyebrows….

Eyebrows 872b24c808caf0add2ec2574ce52a301
This cat has better eyebrows than me and I can’t stop thinking about it…..

Since last we spoke, there has been no drama whatsoever for me to contend with – huzzah! At my last meeting with the oncologist, we agreed to reduce the weekly dose of paclitaxel (that’s the one I’m allergic to) slightly, mainly to help manage the quite extraordinary bone pain it had been causing. The good news is this seems to have done the trick – the pain is now well within manageable levels and, as an added bonus, my liver seems to be coping a little better with the toxicity. My next chemo is scheduled for Monday and – GET THIS – once that’s out of the way, I’ll only have THREE more chemo treatments left to go. I don’t want to tempt fate, but there’s an outside chance I’ll be finished with the chemotherapy by the time I turn 40 in August.

I guess the other news is that I’m currently signed off work. Somehow, I managed to get through twenty weeks worth of chemo while working pretty close to full time, but in recent weeks, I’ve found it more and more of a struggle. Up to a certain point, working was contributing to my overall sense of well-being, but over time, that changed. The chemo tiredness was really beginning to creep up on me, and I had started to worry about what I could realistically contribute at work. In the end, it became about where my priorities were at and, after a little thought, I decided that every single ounce of energy I have needs to go into getting through the last two months of chemo. I guess it was always going to be a balancing act but I’ve stepped back and for now, work can wait.

funny-ecards-the-nicest-way-to-make-your-friends-happy-08

Anyway, without work to think about I am basically living the life of a retiree – I spend a lot of time at medical appointments, I potter in the garden, I read, I write, I knit, and I shuffle about at canals on weekdays. Apart from the whole medical appointment thing, I don’t even completely hate it….If anybody needs me, I’ll be busy being a lady of leisure. Sorta….

Foxton IMG_5155
Foxton Locks, Leicestershire

Meanwhile in other news the creative writing is coming along quite nicely thank you very much. I’ve learned a lot on the ten week course and do you know what? I think I might even have at least a basic aptitude for it. I don’t think I’m going to get the novel out by the time I’m forty, but this time next year? Well. I guess you never know.

Nothing else from me today – I was conscious it had been a while since my last post so I wanted to get something down. I’ve still got plenty of more interesting posts planned – maybe now work is out of the equation I’ll get round to actually writing them….

I’ll leave you with a song and catch you next time….

Love you lots like jelly tots

WeeGee xoxox

Posted in Living with cancer

I’m still standing

24 weeks have passed since my diagnosis – winter has been and gone and already spring is starting to make way for the summer. It’s mind-blowing (to me at least) to think that nearly half a year has passed. Time didn’t stop as I thought it might – and while some things have changed beyond recognition just as many have stayed exactly the same.

Perhaps in years gone by I might have felt sad that another six months had disappeared and allowed myself a moment of melancholy reflection about getting older. But since my diagnosis, I take every single day as a victory. There’s no good being sad about getting older when something like cancer comes along – you soon realise that getting older is the one thing on your to-do list that you’re not prepared to give up on just yet.

NUMBER CRUNCHING

Since my diagnosis I’ve had about three million* blood tests,  two million** mouth ulcers, 82 steroids tablets, 30 stem cell injections, 21 blood thinning injections, 11 infusions of chemotherapy, 8 meetings with the oncologist, 3 infections, 3 mad dashes to the acute oncology assessment unit, 2 ultrasounds, 2 CT scans, one trip to accident and emergency, one hospital admission, one PICC line in, one (same) PICC line out, and a blood clot.

STILL STANDING

Whichever way I look at it, it’s been quite an adventure. And here’s the thing – I’m still standing!

source
Yeah, yeah, yeah…

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

The good news is that as of Friday, I’ve had the first six of my ‘weekly’ taxol/carbo infusions – this really is the home straight.

6 left A69F4BFD-D278-4B5A-8043-641B36C4ACC7
My chemo number six face

In an ideal world, I’d have six infusions over six weeks left to go, but in reality, and given my reaction to the Paclitaxel, I’m expecting a few more delays along the way. Either way, I’ve got six more chemos left to go. Whether it’s over six weeks or over more weeks is no matter. In fact, the only thing that really matters is that we are entering THE FINAL {CHEMO} COUNTDOWN.

final countdown 2c49bc9f0e11fe96dc07248eae6df635

MEANWHILE IN OTHER NEWS

Meanwhile in other news, we’re having another bank holiday in the UK so if anybody needs me I’ll be doing bank holiday stuffs like buying books:

books CFD4A9B6-411E-4829-8957-22F485D3502C
I bought all these books today for less than TWELVE GREAT BRITISH POUNDS from the Oxfam book shop in Harborough. Huzzah!

And mowing lawns:

Chores E4A885B8-50C8-41F3-B440-480F645E298C
Does Monty Don have to mow his own lawn?

And chasing a reluctant and oh-so-wise-to-every-trick-in-the-book cat around the place trying to administer flea drops…..

Cat 5B4C5044-1803-460F-83CD-1B7C65BBB822
This is the face of a cat who has not yet forgiven me.

Nothing else from me today other than to say I’ve got a couple of meaty posts planned for the next week or so. Stay tuned for my hot takes on fake cancer cures and the ghoulish ghouls who peddle them,  whether breast cancer fundraising campaigns are too pink and fluffy, and how it feels to have a chemically induced menopause ON STEROIDS***

I’ll leave you, as always, with a little song and a promise to catch you laters, alligators….

Love you all lots like jelly tots xoxox

WeeGee xoxox

 

*Numbers are accurate at time of publication

** Ditto

***Spoiler alert. The answer is shit. It feels SHIT.

Posted in Living with cancer

I’ve started so I’ll finish

Since last we spoke people have taking to asking me how I’m feeling in myself as if I’m some kind of old person who’s just had hip replacement surgery. I don’t know the answer to the question by the way BECAUSE WHAT DOES IT EVEN MEAN – except maybe that after twenty weeks of chemotherapy I look so shitty that people can no longer, in good conscience, tell me I’m looking well all things considered?

Like shit b0526938969ee3e86eda110001c7c84cd84aec483c2e5fae8bc4da45fe31ab70

The Carbo/Taxol chemo continues to give me an absolute battering. It turns out I’m allergic to the taxol half of the cocktail, but not quite allergic enough to merit abandoning the treatment altogether. So we press ahead – a little more slowly than before. As things stand, I seem to be getting the green light to go ahead with chemo once every fortnight rather than once a week as originally planned. It’s endlessly frustrating, not least because it means that every time I think I’ve got the chemo finishing line in my sights they come along and move it back by ANOTHER week. That said, I’m told the delays are unavoidable if I want my liver to have long enough to pull itself together before it gets the buggery poisoned out of it again.  Which, on reflection, I think I probably do….. and so I limp on, battle weary but determined to finish what I’ve started.

Mastermind
I’ve started so I’ll finish

Some people sail through chemotherapy without so much as a second thought but for plenty more, it doesn’t quite work out like that. For a while, it looked like I might be one of the lucky ones, that I would just breeze through it with very little detriment to my life, but alas, it wasn’t to be. It isn’t so much that I hit a brick wall (as I was so often warned I would) but that the taxane based drugs came along and brought a tonne of bricks crashing down on top of me. For the first four cycles, chemotherapy was just something that happened alongside my normal life but now it is very much something that I find ways to endure. It seems like such an obvious thing to say, but I’ll be glad when this is all over.

Of course, it isn’t all bad because nothing ever is. There are always little chinks of light, tiny reasons to be cheerful, small pockets of hope. For one thing the sun is shining in Harborough once more. For another thing I’m off work now and so I stayed up way past my bedtime reading Pat Barker’s new novel ‘The silence of the girls‘ last night and after 100 or so pages I can categorically confirm that it is a THING OF ABSOLUTE BEAUTY. And for yet another thing, there’s Gryff because if he isn’t a reason to be cheerful, I’m sure I don’t know what is….

Gryff B930FC04-3740-48B6-9EE4-A9C29FEB302B

And for another, final thing, I’ve made it through twenty weeks worth of chemo already. Even if the worst case scenario comes to pass I’ve got less than that left in front of me. I guess what I’m saying is that if I could do what I’ve already done, then I can certainly do what’s left to get done – if you see what I mean.

Like I said – I limp on.

Meanwhile in other news I have now grown a convincing fuzz on my head and – this is the good bit – it very definitely isn’t looking grey so far. Huzzah! Still no sign of the eyebrows returning though, which is a source of constant consternation. I honestly didn’t realise how attached I was to them before they went and fell out….

Ate my eyebrows 4a4c19c4bc994dbb274d76e5a6e80206

Nothing else from me today save that I hope you are busy being out there in the world having all the fun it has to offer. I’ll leave you with a song, one of the prettiest songs I know, and bid you farewell – until next time of course…..

Love you lots like jelly tots,

WeeGee xoxox

Posted in Living with cancer

The one about triple negative breast cancer

Hello there you lovely lot. How on earth have you all been?

There’s not an awful lot I can tell you about the past week here in WeeGee land. I mean, it’s been pretty boring. I got my head around the whole blood clot thing, dragged myself through the post-taxol side effects, and survived my first blood test since the demise of the PICC line. And that, as they say, is that.

Or at least that should have been that. Sadly, there’s a small matter of some sub-par blood results and the yet-again-postponed-chemo to throw into the mix but I’ve decided I’m just going to go ahead and be philosophical about that. I’ll get chemo when my body is good and ready to get chemo and in the meantime, there’s a bank holiday weekend without any post-taxol side effects to look forward to.

The good news is not having any chemo today has also given me a bit of extra time to write a post I’ve been meaning to write for a little while now. So, ladies and gentleman, I give you….. the one about triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). Huzzah!

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 15.36.28_646x363

Before I start though, I want to sound a huge note of caution: if you are diagnosed with TNBC please (please, please, and pretty please) don’t Google it unless and until you have discussed the diagnosis with your team. TNBC is often portrayed as the Bogeyman of breast cancer, particularly in the popular press where the available word count doesn’t necessarily lend itself to subtleties or nuance in cancer reporting. The best advice I can give someone with a recent TNBC diagnosis is to listen to your doctors and take some time to understand what they’ve said before you head off to explore the quagmire that is the Internet unaccompanied. 

———-

Before this whole thing kicked off I hadn’t even heard of the thing that was going to come along and change my life forever. In fact, prior to my diagnosis, I didn’t fully appreciate that there were different types of breast cancer at all. So, when I first heard the words ‘triple negative breast cancer’ they barely registered. I heard the breast cancer bit loud and clear, but the other bit? Yeah, that sailed right over my head.

Less than a week later I was waiting to meet with my consultant oncologist for the first time. My appointment was at 7pm and I was the only person in the waiting room. Thinking back, I suppose it should have struck me as unusual that I was sitting there waiting to see a NHS consultant at 7 o’clock in the evening, just a few days after my diagnosis but at that point in my breast cancer journey my brain was completely fried and everything felt unusual. It was only as the appointment unfolded that I started to get a sense of the urgency that surrounded my recent diagnosis.

What even is triple negative breast cancer?

I’m not even going to try and explain the science here – others like Macmillan and Cancer Research have already got that covered – but in layman’s terms, in order to grow some breast cancers respond to a protein called HER2, some respond to oestrogen, and some respond to progesterone. And then there’s triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), which responds to none of the above.

TNBC accounts for between 15 and 20 percent of breast cancers and, in contrast to other types of breast cancer, comparatively little is known about why some women develop it. It doesn’t share the common risk factors for breast cancer, and for most women with the disease there is no genetic component* TNBC is more likely to affect women under the age of 40 and black women are also disproportionately affected by the disease.

Cat IMG_2493
It’s all getting a bit serious, so here is a picture of my cat.

What’s the big deal?

TNBC is often described as the most aggressive form of breast cancer, because it tends to be fast growing. More often than not, TNBC will be diagnosed as ‘grade three’ meaning it is made up of the fastest growing cancer cells of all. Because it is fast growing, TNBC also has a habit of spreading to other areas of the body meaning that the number of women with TNBC who are diagnosed with, or go on to develop a metastatic form of the disease (that is stage four, incurable cancer) is higher than those with other types of breast cancer. The fact that it is both fast growing and quick to spread also mean that comparative with other types of breast cancer, it is more likely to recur within the first three years. This recurrence risk has a knock on effect on survival rates which are measured over five years in the first instance.

That’s the bad news, but it isn’t all doom and gloom. For one thing, TNBC responds well to conventional treatments, like chemotherapy and surgery. For another, although the odds of recurrence are comparatively high that’s only true in the three years immediately following diagnosis. After that, there is no elevated risk of developing breast cancer again at all. And then – and this is the most important thing for me – notwithstanding any of the above, the overall survival rate for women with TNBC is almost eight in ten. It may not be the 93 percent for protein and hormone positive cancers, but it’s still a fairly sizeable majority – a fact that is all too often missing from the literature on the subject.

TNBC and me

Whichever way you look at it, TNBC is a nasty little disease and, given its propensity for growing and spreading, one that requires super fast treatment. Which is why, after my diagnosis had been confirmed, I was sitting in an oncologists office within a week, and a chemotherapy suite within a fortnight. Without wishing to put too fine a point on it, you just don’t fuck about when it comes to TNBC.

My cancer is not, in triple negative terms, particularly aggressive – grade two which is exactly in the middle of the three point scale. Unfortunately, some lymph note involvement was confirmed at the time of my initial diagnosis, or to put it another way, breast cancer cells were detected in the lymph nodes in my armpit. This isn’t ideal as it’s via the lymphatic system that cancer comes to move around the body and metastasise, or grow in secondary areas of the body. At the same time, it isn’t the end of the world because there is no evidence whatsoever that the cancer actually has travelled beyond the lymphatic system.

Even in the event that there were microscopic cancer cells swimming around undetected last December, the chemotherapy will have knocked the stuffing right out of them before they had the chance to take root and start growing anywhere else. And this means that by the time I’ve had my surgery and radiotherapy later in the year, the anticipation, expectation and hope is that there will be no evidence of cancer left anywhere in my body because I will be *whispers it* cured. That’s the plan and I am very definitely sticking to it…..

Me, he and the cat IMG_2573
Getting serious again, so here is a picture of me, he, and the cat.

Before I go, I wanted to come back to the point about TNBC being the Bogeyman of the breast cancer world. It may well have earned its reputation because, as I’ve said, it’s aggressive, quick to spread and eager to recur. But here’s the thing, the most important thing of all perhaps: the majority of women with TNBC will recover and go on to live the rest of their lives untroubled by the disease. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and I just don’t think we make enough of that fact. When we talk about TNBC we get all serious and gloomy and ashen faced. But – and I cannot stress this enough so I’m going to risk repeating myself, the majority of women with triple negative breast cancer recover and live the rest of their lives untroubled by the disease.

Pass it on.

—–

Quick song before I dash, to get your bank holiday started like:

Love you all lots, like jelly tots

WeeGee xoxoxo

 

*As an aside, a small number of women with TNBC carry the BRCA1 (another thing I’m not going to attempt the science on – see here). At the time of my diagnosis I wasn’t recommended for genetic testing, primarily because I don’t have any sisters. Now I’m a bit more comfortable advocating for myself I’ve decided to push for it to happen so it can inform my decisions about surgery and radiotherapy in a few months time. But that’s another story.

Posted in Living with cancer

A bit of a disaster

The last time we spoke I was busy boasting about how it had been plain sailing weather here in WeeGee land for three whole days. In the end, I think I got about a week of calm before I hit choppy waters again which I suppose is better than if I hadn’t got a week of calm at all.

To be quite honest with you, it was a lot like Frank Turner’s mohawk in Fathers Day – that is, a bit of a disaster.

As an aside, I’ve wanted to share that song with you for AGES and I’m sure you’ll agree that I haven’t shoe-horned it in at all.

As usual I’ll do away with the long, boring details and put it in a nutshell for you – when I turned up for chemo on Friday with pins and needles (which had been previously deemed ‘just a side effect of the paclitaxel’) and a swollen arm (which had been previously deemed ‘just an allergic reaction to the PICC line dressing’) ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE. Turns out it wasn’t a chemo side effect, or an allergic reaction at all. No! It was that blood clot I didn’t have a couple of weeks ago but actually quite probably did have all along. Fan Dabbie Dozzie…..

Blot clots (or deep vein thrombosis – DVT) are an occupational hazard for cancer patients. The fact of your cancer puts you at increased risk of developing them, and then the way chemotherapy drugs interact with your blood increase your risk slightly further, and then if you have PICC line – as plenty of chemo patients do – you get another layer of risk on top of that. When I think of it now it seems INEVITABLE that I was going to develop one!

PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING ANNOUNCEMENT

There’s a more medical run down of blood clots on the NHS website if you want to check it out because, and this is important boys and girls – blood clots are not just for cancer patients. In the meantime, if you get any of the following:

  • throbbing or cramping pain, swelling, redness and warmth in a leg or arm
  • sudden breathlessness, sharp chest pain (may be worse when you breathe in) and a cough or coughing up blood

You need to seek medical advice pretty sharpish (in the UK by dialling 111).

END OF PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING ANNOUNCEMENT

I was lucky. A very vigilant nurse decided that she wasn’t happy to accept the previous diagnosis and sought a second opinion from a doctor who also wasn’t happy to leave things as they were. So off I went for an ultrasound which detected a nasty little clot hiding out right next to the PICC line site. It’s impossible to know whether the clot was there when I was examined last week or whether it had developed since and at this stage, I don’t suppose it matters. The main thing is it was spotted and we’re now treating it with daily injections which I’d rather not talk about thank you very much because TRAUMA.

Alas, the dramatic interlude did not put paid to my weekly dose of Paclitaxel which I ended up having via an old fashioned cannula because the PICC line, which I resisted, and slated and hated with all my might (but secretly came to love) is GONE. As soon as the clot was confirmed they whipped that out in seconds flat, and I do really mean that they whipped it out in seconds flat. Which is all I’ve got to say about that because TRAUMA.

DNUse C78D457C-F5B1-4086-B2E4-FAD29B8CA553
DO NOT USE

We’ll wait to see how my veins cope with the Carbo/Taxol chemo and weekly blood tests. The thinking at present is that we’ll give it a go for the next two weeks, see what happens and then consider an alternative plan of action if the veins are starting to put up a fight. The Carbo/Taxol chemo is ALLEGEDLY kinder and gentler than the EC chemo that caused my veins so much grief earlier in the year but between you and I, I’m not altogether convinced they are up to it, particularly given we’ve only got the non-clotted arm to play with. Time will tell I guess…..

By the time all was said and done we were on the chemo suite for a full eight hours yesterday, rather than the two hours we’d budgeted for. The day was made slightly better than it could have been with a visit from a LOVELY former patient who had held a bake-off event with her friends so she could put together little gifts for everyone on the suite. It was such a genuinely gorgeous gesture and yet another reminder – as if I needed one really – that people in general, are generally nice.

Gift A5CEB013-7995-4ED5-9DB6-32E1C373F216

It was a long and frustrating day and by the time we got home I was completely, utterly and well and truly wrung out. I made it as far as 8pm before the steroids wore off and it all caught up with me, manifesting in what shall henceforth be known as the Marks and Spencer’s Chocolate Cake Incident. But I’m not ready to talk about that yet, because – you guessed it – TRAUMA.

So, yeah. That’s the story of the blood clot I didn’t have last week but probably did have all along and the rather unceremonious end to the much-maligned-but-not-as-bad-as-all -that PICC line. The fun never stops….

Meanwhile in other news I am continuing to sprout an impressive little fuzz of hair on my head but alas, the eyebrows are not yet ready to return. Nothing else to report today save that I hope you are well and that those of you in the UK are coping with the ravages of Storm Hannah. Stay strong…..

Look – I know we’ve already had a song but it’s tradition to have one at the end. So here is a song. At the end.

Love you all lots, like all the jelly tots

WeeGee xoxox