Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunshine and camping

Just one more radiotherapy to go, and I don't know whether tiredness is going to kick in anytime soon, but I suspect not. Yesterday, I was up at 8am and went for a run (back to beginner training again), walked into town for a few bits and pieces, got stuff ready for camping and then woke Greg up!

We went down to Cockwood, near Dawlish Warren, just for one night with Luke and his girlfriend Charlotte and stayed at Cofton Country Holiday Park. It is really nice campsite, and was a walk away from one of Greg's favourite pubs, the Anchor Inn, which sells his favourite beer, Otter. We sampled a few pints and I had a nice baked camembert and a fish pie, before we headed back to the campsite and a short visit from Greg's mum.

This morning, I woke early again and made the tea, while Greg slept and Luke and Charlotte packed up their tent to head off to another social engagement. After a sausage sandwich brekkie, we soon followed, going via Greg's dad's to say hello, and then to Darts Farm to buy a couple of crates of bottled Otter to take camping next weekend at Westermill.

The sun has been baking hot all weekend, so I have had my hat on, factor 50 suncream on my upper half, and a scarf tied around my neck and draped over my shoulder so that my radiotherapy side does not get burnt. The radiotherapy will make it ultra sensitive to sunburn for the rest of my days now, but it will be particularly sensitive early on, so I have to be very careful with it.

I have found some 'secret support' vests from M&S which fit my 'comfy' boob (the one I was given after surgery, which is like a mini-pillow) as I find my regular prosthetic boob is too big now. It matched originally, but my real boob has deflated in recent months - as my oestrogen levels have dropped, I guess - and it looks odd now. The vest tops can be worn in the summer and I think, look quite nice. If you're looking, or if I bend down, you can tell that I have no boob, but it isn't obvious to most casual observers and I'm not ashamed. When I went running, I didn't wear any prosthetic at all, I was just lopsided!

This afternoon, it has been too hot to do anything much. Greg has had to go to work to make sure his network comes back on after a scheduled power outage, I have unpacked all our camping things and put a couple of loads of washing on, and caught up on some iPlayer and 4oD TV programmes.

My last radiotherapy is tomorrow morning - I have bought the nurses a cake from Darts Farm - and I have a 4 day week before 8 days off. This of course means the weather is going to break. We can't have it all, can we?!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Walk the Walk

The time for me and my wonderful friends to Walk the Walk is nearly here. We are walking a half marathon - with a bra on - for breast cancer research and causes, on 4th July.

If you feel like donating, please go to our fundraising page:

Particpants of Team Flora are:
Me :-)
Greg Lovell
Charlotte Adams
Hannah Wilson
Yvonne Willingham
Claire Delaney (and possibly others from the Delaney clan)

We are called Team Flora as it is a moniker I use on some internet forums I chat on, friends from which have been amazingly supportive, and some of whom are walking other Sun and Moonwalks around the country. Honestly, the internet can be amazingly supportive and powerful sometimes. I am extremely grateful for all of their support.

Rads #10 done. 5 to go...

Hi blog fans

I have now had 10 of my 15 radiotherapy treatments and all is going well. I have a square of 'tan' where my boob used to be, and my shoulder is slightly red, but at the moment it is not sore - just a little itchy occasionally. I'm feeling a little bit tired, but not significantly. It certainly isn't stopping me doing anything and Greg is helping with the long drive (45 mins to work in the morning, 1.5 hours from Gloucester to Cardiff in the afternoon, and 45 mins home again - occasionally with an extra trip to and from Bristol thrown in for good measure).

The nurses are really lovely and we have a chat and a joke each time I go, and I'm getting better at getting into position correctly without too much need for them to adjust me, now.

If you're interested in seeing how it all works, I have found the video below which shows you (click on the picture to play):

Otherwise life is ticking along nicely. My hair is slowly getting thicker - Greg tells me that every day it looks a little darker, although it seems a lot more grey than it was before! It still isn't thick enough to go wig or hatless, but it won't be too long before I do.

It feels like my eyebrows and eyelashes have thinned slightly more, and quite a few of my fingernails are trying to escape - 4 have lifted from the nail bed, but only the top half of the nail has separated, so they are all in place and it looks like they will just grow out. I am covering their slightly strange look with dark nail varnish! This is a side effect of the chemo, delayed due to the slow growth of the nails.

I also have some itchy patches on my arms and neck, so will mention that when I go to the GP's on Thursday. It might be a side effect of the Tamoxifen (or maybe the Herceptin), or it might be entirely unrelated! Who knows.

Nearly at the end of the major treatments now. Will find out what happens next when I see Dr Iqbal in June.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Rads #1 done. 14 to go...

My first radiotherapy session went well today. The staff were very friendly, as always, and we had a chat about what was going to happen and tips about skin care before I was taken to the machine. I asked about what the planning session does, and the radiographer showed me an image from my CT scan. They use the scan to identify the edges of the breast tissue to make sure that the radiotherapy targets all of the former boob area, and also the neck area to get any remaining lymph nodes.

When they deliver it, you lay on the bed and the machine moves above your head and to your side. You have your arms above your head, but held in arm holders and they wiggle you into position to make sure that you are positioned absolutely correctly. I could see the lasers they use to line you up reflected in the metal of the radiation arm!

Apparently, I can expect to get a couple of 'sunburn' squares on my chest, and tiredness, but apparently most people don't get these until at least the third week.

Today took about 40 minutes in all, but tomorrow should be much quicker now that all the forms have been signed and information given. In, zap, out.

Oh, and the work conference? I'm not really sure I got the point of it....

Monday, May 3, 2010

The day before I go nuclear

It's nearly time for the radiotherapy to begin - tomorrow at 5pm. Eek. I am sure it will be a non-event, but I am also sure that I will be slightly anxious tonight and won't quite sleep properly.

Before I go there tomorrow, there is a conference at work for all of us over a certain grade. We have to bring an object that demonstrates how we feel about the university now, and how we want to see it in the future (the conference is titled "Future Focus"). I think some people are planning on bringing in joke dog poo for the former... I have not worked there long enough yet to be so cynical, and think the staff there are very lucky to be employed by them. I see it is more paternal - and in the future it'll be a slightly thinner father!! How do I take in that as an object? !!

This week, I had my latest Zoladex injection and BOY did it hurt! Admittedly, it is only sore for a short while, but it was certainly sore. I'm now having it every 3 months, which means the needle is bigger and leaves a hole behind. The nurse patches it with a plaster, but there is always a spot of blood leaking through... I now just have a slight bruise.

I have now made it to the end of my first box of Tamoxifen, and can say that the side effects of that are: sweatier nights (and therefore more disturbed as I am hot one minute, cold the next - bigger extremes than before), and an itchy rash that came up on my neck last weekend. It stayed for a couple of days, then calmed down, and is back today although not as itchy as it was originally. I think it is the Tamoxifen causing it - some others on the cancer forum think so. I'll keep an eye on it.

I am also very impressed by the nurse at the GP's surgery. I went in for my Zoladex and also asked for them to add the Tamoxifen on a repeat script. I had only just thought about this as I was coming to the end of the box I got from the hospital, and realised I'm not going to be seeing the oncologist again until the beginning of June! Even though they haven't had a letter from him asking them to prescribe it, she took my word for it (and I produced my copy of the original hospital script), added it to my file and gave me 6 months prescription. They get held at the pharmacy and you just pop along and collect the next box when you are ready - this makes sure there isn't any waste, should you have a bad reaction and get taken off them.

I'll be back at the doctors in two weeks time, this time to look at contraception. At risk of sharing too much, but I had obviously come off the pill a while ago to try for babies. I am now not allowed to get pregnant for a while (and certainly not while still having herceptin or radiotherapy treatment), so we need to use some precaution. It is not advised that you have any contraception that contains hormones, especially as my cancer was responsive to both oestrogen and progesterone.
o The pill - hormones = no.
o Implant - hormones = no.
o Mirena coil - hormones = no.
o Diaphragm - fiddly = no.
o Condoms - fiddly and desensitising = no.
o Copper coil/IUD - no hormones = yes.

I have to have a chat with the doctor before she'll fit it, but seeing as the usual side effects of a coil are heavy periods, and I have none at all at the moment, then it should be straightforward (I hope!). Such excitement to look forward to [emma rolls her eyes!].

Righto, I'm off now to Charlotte's to celebrate her birthday, so I'd better put my face on and wrap her present!

Will try and wrestle the laptop off Greg tomorrow and update on how the first rads sessions goes.