Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

If you ask just about any woman undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer what the worse thing is or could be, the majority of them will say it is to lose their hair.  I’ve known some women refuse treatment because of that fact alone.  There is something about losing our hair which makes the cancer visible.  It is difficult to hide the fact, although wigs are so much better than they used to be, even a few years ago.  If we’ve had surgery, we can hide under our clothes; if we aren’t feeling 100%, we can hide behind make up, but it is so much harder to hide hair loss; on our heads and our facial hair.

As I indicated in my last blog, I experienced major hair loss shortly after my last treatment and after a week of umming and aahing about what to do and feeling very self-conscious, I decided I would stop the torture that is the cold cap treatment and let the chemo treatment take its course, which will, in all likelihood, mean losing all the hair on my head.  My lovely friend and hairdresser Gemma (currently on maternity leave), very kindly agreed to cut my hair short which was a major deal – I’ve not had short hair since I was about 14 years old – but she’s done a fantastic job and thank you to all you wonderful people who’ve given me such fantastic comments about my new “do”.  (And I didn’t cry – a major achievement!)   I’ve also now picked out a wig, so I’m all set for when I do lose my tresses.

I’ve had a third treatment since my last blog too, so I’m now halfway through (YES!) and still feeling relatively okay.  I tend to feel very tired and rather fuzzy-headed, particularly during the first week after treatment, and of course I’m still experiencing the numb tongue (which is getting right on my wick now)!  Treatment wasn’t quite so long this time round as I ditched the cold cap.  If you have the cold cap treatment you need to put it on half an hour before the chemo, keep it on throughout the chemo (in my case, an hour) and then have it on for a further 45 minutes after.  The entire time your head feels like you have the worse brain freeze EVER and it can (and did) make you feel very nauseous.  So now you know why that didn’t seem a very appealing prospect to continue.  Hats off (very carefully of course, so as not to lose any hair), to all those ladies who choose to continue with the cold cap.  I salute you; you are the epitome of bravery in my eyes!

A word about bravery…  I’ve had some really lovely comments about my blog and many describe me as “brave”.  I don’t feel brave at all.  Bravery to me is when you have a choice and you decide to go through with something.  I don’t have a choice!  I believe that my oncologist has my very best interest at heart and therefore when she suggests a particular treatment that is the one that will benefit me the most.  It is not through choice that I (and so many others) are going through the rigours of cancer.  So please, don’t call me brave – I am many things… stubborn, determined, bloody-minded, pig-headed (I’ve just realised where my youngest is getting it all from!), but definitely not brave!

As a way of combating the visible effects of cancer, today I had a lovely treat; albeit at the hospital…  A charity organisation called Look Good, Feel Better run beauty workshops for women undergoing cancer treatment all over the country.  Ten gorgeous ladies were brought together and given a hands-on beauty therapy session with a staggering amount of products for each of us donated by the cosmetics industry, alongside beauty therapists who generously give their time for free.  All in an effort to boost our confidence and feel empowered.  We went through a whole routine, from cleansing and toning to applying full make up, and I for one left walking that little bit taller with more belief and self-assurance.  Perhaps if you get a chance, you could look up their website, www.lookgoodfeelbetter.co.uk and find out what it’s all about.  None of us want to be seen as a victim, and make up can really act as a great coat of armour in our battle for normality.

“May you find the strength to face tomorrow
in the love that surrounds you today”

 

Take care all! xx

A Bit More Me

So, I have a confession to make…  I haven’t given you the full facts.  Not because I wanted to mislead you in any way, but I guess I didn’t want my first blog to sound too much like a “pity-fest”.  But I think I should tell you all, so that you understand.

Before my diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, when I just had a bad back, I also had a very painful right leg along with some weakness.  If you’ve ever had growing pains when you were young, think of that annoying pain but triple it.  At the time of course, I just thought it was as a result of the bad back but shortly after my spinal surgery I had a bone scan to determine the extent of the cancer spread.  This showed that my right femur was significantly compromised; so much so that I was immediately given crutches as any weight on the leg might result in the bone breaking.  So only five weeks after major spinal surgery, I was back under the knife; this time to have my right femur pinned.  (Think of me more as Metal Mickey than bionic woman though.)  Luckily, as you already know, it was successful and after several months of rehab I was able to get back on my dancing feet once more.

The other blip came at the end of last year, when I mentioned that a small lump in my neck (which scans had shown up before and they were just keeping an eye on) seemed to be getting larger.  Although I was told that it was highly unlikely to be connected, an ultrasound was ordered and a biopsy done.  They were right, it wasn’t part of the metastatic cancer, but it was thyroid cancer – just another primary cancer (how lucky can one girl get, right?).  So, when I say “trust your gut instinct”, I really DO know what I’m talking about!

So, where are we now?

I have metal in my spine, metal in my leg, I am minus a thyroid, minus two ovaries and fallopian tubes, and the cancer has become resistant to the hormone treatment which has controlled it over the last two years.

Onwards and upwards onto a new treatment regime.  This time the dreaded chemotherapy!  I’ve been put on a lovely little cocktail of something called Docetaxel, six cycles (one every three weeks) alongside two targeted therapies, Herceptin and Pertuzumab which work on the HER2 protein, and which will continue for as long as they work (fingers crossed we are talking years here…) All these are given as an infusion through the vein and I’ve been given an implant in my chest to avoid having to cannulate each time – maybe I am more bionic woman now?  So far I have had two cycles (that’s a third of the way along already – hurrah!) and have used the cold cap treatment to stave off hair loss.  Unfortunately, the cold cap doesn’t seem to have been successful (judging by the amount of hair that came out on Sunday).  I have a lot of hair, but even I wouldn’t be able to sustain that amount of loss.

As far as side effects are concerned, I have had relatively few.  (I currently have everything crossed as I say this – fingers, toes, eyes…)  The main side effect I am experiencing seems to be a numb tongue, which halfway through the last cycle did turn into a very painful mouth.  I do, of course, have to be super careful to avoid getting any infections as my immune system is very low (particularly during the first week after treatment).  Having said that, I am still working when I can, and work has been fantastically supportive!

So in the great scheme of things, I am extremely lucky – not to have cancer; that well and truly sucks; but the thing that keeps me going is that it could be so much WORSE!!!  Which I guess is a pretty strange way to look at things, but you know what I mean…

I saw a status today on someone’s Facebook page which resonated for me, so will leave you with this thought:-

“Time is like a river. You cannot touch the same water twice,
because the flow that has passed will never pass again.
Enjoy every moment of your life!”

Till next time.  Take care! xx