Wednesday, 12 November 2014

A Year and a half On....a little update

I remember switching off from my blog in April and thinking that it would be my last post.  However I felt that after a year and a half since my diagnosis I would give you all a little update into my progress, my state of mind and my general health.  (For those of you who care anyway!)

There have always been opportunities for me to log back on to my computer and tell you all how I am feeling, a year from first diagnosis, a year since my last chemo and so on.  But I never quite managed to find the energy to update you all. For it occurred to me that for the rest of my life those dates will be embedded into my brain and I will never be able to forget, much like the birth of someone or sadly the death of someone.  Those dates will never be forgotten.  What is the point of remembering them all, life does go on for most.

Today was different.  Today I went back to Frimley park, where it all began to see my oncologist.  I sat in that waiting room anxious, excited and nervous. Seeing my Dr again at that hospital made me feel uneasy yet happy all at the same time.

He had my life once again in his hands.  My mammogram results had come back, clear.  He felt my breast again and under my armpits and felt nothing.  I was free to go until next year.  I started to cry.  It was a strange feeling to be told that everything was alright.  18 months is a long time to be ill, I almost still feel like I am and I have to remind myself that I am no longer a cancer patient but a cancer survivor?  I hate that phrase, survivor.  It's a silly term when so many are not, more so than I dare to think about.  I am not a survivor I am just me, I am back to being Alex again, but with much thicker hair!!!  Anyway does anyone really ever survive cancer?  It will always be a part of me, Clive for all his sins will never quite leave me, he will however fade into the distance and leave me in peace,  for now at least.

I still take my tamoxifen once a day.  It has become generic.  I never forget to take that white little pill.  The damn thing is playing havoc with my weight!  I have put on a stone.  But as my work colleagues said, if this is as fat as I am going to get then I'm ok!!  Nicely put.

So since I 'got better'  I am back to full fitness, my hair has grown so much it is beginning to rememble an afro.  Honestly I never thought my hair could get any thicker.  My eyelashes grew back, fell out, grew back, fell out and now they have finally grown back and are staying put, for now anyway!

I moved house, went to America for what can only be described as my best holiday ever and I have got a promotion at work. I have a new nephew, Zander and my other nephew Bastiaan may possibly be the most beautiful boy ever. The charity is coming a long nicely with a little help from some very special people and I am already planning next years adventures.  Nothing can stop me from making the most out of life.

18 months has flown by.  I wonder where the time went.  I am often asked how I am feeling about the last year.  That, I can not answer and I feel I never will.  When you have gone through something like this I don't ever think there is a specific answer.  Happiness is something I,  like so many others crave, but summing up happiness can be hard.  It is a very misunderstood word sometimes.  I realized a long time ago that I always had it, I was always happy and at this very second sitting in my home I am also very content.  I still have no man but he will come,  he may not be on a white horse but he's on his way.   For now I have my health, my friends and my family and that is happiness in its self.

Bring on 2015, I have a feeling I am going to be far too busy to think about Clive.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

6th April 2014 my final post

It's been a long time since I wrote. I'm sorry for this but in a way that's a good thing. You see I have been living. I have not had a reason to write to you all. Or maybe I just never knew what I wanted to say. I went to the computer so many times but I wasn't ready to say goodbye but now I am. 

It's been nearly one year since I found out that Clive would be joining my life and I cannot believe how quickly the time has gone. 

It has taken me a long time to accept myself. To look in the mirror and not hate my reflection. I have had to adjust to being a new person. The old Alex has gone. She is never coming back. The new girl is slightly stronger, less afraid of life and a little bit harder.  I am no longer afraid to take chances. What's the worst that can happen really? All these things will be a constant reminder of how far I have come on this very long and painful journey. I am a survivor and I will continue to be in everything I do. 

I was always honest when writing this blog but now as I think about the summer, the treatments, hairloss, ect my heart skips a beat because it has only just dawned on me just how painful this experience has been. It plays on my mind that I will always live with the fear that Clive may return but I also know that I can't let him ruin my future. He has already dictated so much of my past. 

I have such admiration for anyone fighting this disease. Whenever I hear of someone about to face it my heart stops just for a second. 

I never allowed myself to really think about what I was going through. I knew that if I did I wouldn't have coped very well. Now I can. Now Clive has gone I can take a step back and breath. Sometimes I cry but I don't know why I'm crying. I have no explanation. 

I am hoping that my charity will help others going through this disease and turn all the negativity into hope and inspiration for them. I needed to do something to help others. I knew that my life would never be the same. I couldn't just walk away. It would always follow me. 

And so with all this in mind I have decided that this will be my last post. There is no need to keep you all updated. I am living. I am alive and I'm free. For now this is all I have ever wanted. To be normal again. They say normal is boring. To me it is simply wonderful. 

Thank you for all the support. For reading and for actually giving a damn about my little life. Let's hope my book is as successful! That's if I get a chance to finish it!

Sunday, 16 February 2014

16th February 2014

It has been a week and a half since my radiotherapy finished.  I rung my mother the day of and just burst into tears.  I did not know how I was feeling.  Was I happy?  Relieved?  Scared?  I think maybe all three but what I did know was that I was about to start my life again.

I have started work again full time and I have turned 32.  The past year is officially over and I am onto the next.  This week has been wonderful.  I remember thinking and saying to all of you that I thought I would not cope very well when treatment was over.  It is a bit like planning a wedding(not that I know but can imagine)  There is so much planning that you get carried away in the moment, caught in the tidal wave and there is no escaping.  Your entire mind-set is tuned into planning for that wedding, party, holiday, whatever and then when it ends there is a sense of loss.  A feeling of.....What's next?  I have heard this from several brides.  I thought I would be the same.

Well for me it has been the exact opposite.  I have finally been able to plan all the things that I could not do due to the fact I was tied to being at hospital.  Now I have the freedom to start my life again.  It had been put on hold for 8 months and now I have started the race again.

I have never felt so free and so relieved and happy.  Of course there are things that I would like, (to fall in love, buy a house) but all in good time and now I know I can really go and get them without fear.

I still have the constant worry that I am not completely healed and I know that it will be 5 years until they all, including myself stop checking up but I have confidence in the doctors, surgeons etc that I can just stop thinking about it.  I can't live the rest of my life in fear.  It will be the ruin of me.

I have energy that I never thought I could have again.  I have a skip in my step and a giggle in my heart that hasn't been there in a long time.  I have excitement for the coming year.  Holidays with my bestest friends, moving in and renting with a very good friend, big birthdays, new nephews and lots of work to do for the charity Be Bald Be Beautiful.  I am literally jam packed this year.

Who knows what will happen in the future.  I cannot control it, but I can enjoy the coming months and know that I have great things on the horizon.

As for my hair, well I am a cross between a Bieber and Haley Cropper from Coronation Street! There is lots of volume! I will update you in my next blog.


Monday, 3 February 2014

3rd February 2014….its been a long journey but its finally come to an end(almost)

Pure shores by All Saints was playing in the background of my very last radiotherapy session today.  The words themselves meant very little to me but it reminded me of a line Leo's character uses during the scene where he is running from his demons…hallucinating

"I had nothing left to offer but pure reflex, pure reflex and mankind's basic drive for survival that somehow shouts I WILL NOT DIE TODAY"

I always remembered that end quote and it has stuck with me all the way through this journey.

Nine months ago when they told me I had breast cancer was the hardest and most frightening sentence I had ever heard.  It feels like it was ages ago yet I can still remember that exact day, the weather, the smells, what I wore and how I felt.  That day will stay with me for the rest of my life.  Part of me wants it gone, erased never to be talked of again but the other part of me wants to remember.  I want to remember because I need to.  I am now on my way to being a survivor.  I am no longer Alex the cancer patient.  It feels really good.  I feel really good.  I feel relieved that I can look towards the future and really plan for the year ahead.

I have another appointment with my oncologist Dr Laing in about six weeks to give me the final results from my scans ect but as far as I am concerned I am all clear.  A mammogram in May will tell me for sure but I have to believe that I am well on the way to 100% health.

I will never take my health for granted.  To wake up each morning and to be alive (sorry for the cliche) is out of this world and I intend on really living.  I'm not talking about jumping off a cliff or taking a year off to find myself in India(although that would be nice) but merely to not be afraid of failure.  I will take more opportunities and not be afraid to take a risk.  Life is too short to sweat the small stuff.

I have already got two holidays planned, a couple of big birthdays and I am moving in with my good friend, oh and I am going back to work next week.  My charity will be up and running this year and so another ball will be arranged too.  Lots to do and I can't wait to start.

I hope those who have read this blog and kept up to date with my treatments all the way through have maybe become a little braver and stronger?  And to not fear if you find a lump.  It can be treated just don't ignore it, they don't go away!!

I will be continuing my blog for the foreseeable future as I will still have follow up appointments throughout the year.  They still want to keep a close eye on me due to the fact that I am on my hormone drug Herceptin but I am happy for them to be there.  Letting me out into the wild is a little scary but I know I will be alright.  Sometimes you have to just let go and see what happens. 

And of course I will keep a hair blog.  This is more for me to see how quickly my hair has grown and more to the point how hair can change you as a person!  It is really quite extraordinary. 

Right now at this very moment I feel relieved, happy, nervous, sad and extremely tired.  I don't think it will really hit me, not for a while yet and when it does I will let you all know.  Hopefully it won't hit me too hard.  The tears will come, they have already and they will continue for a while, in a good way obviously!

I think my holiday in March will be my life saver.


Thursday, 23 January 2014

23rd January 2014 A hair update

Tonight I thought I would give my readers an update on the hair front.  To most of you this may seem like a stupid and pointless blog but to those of you who are about to embark on this cruel journey or for those of you who have finished chemo and are staring at your reflection waiting to see the first signs of hair, this is for you.

I have openly googled the next phrase over and over.

"Hair growth after chemo" and "how long does it take to grow out a pixie crop"

My impatience is costuming me and I am constantly wondering if my hair has grown at all over night.  I have shamelessly measured my hair with a ruler!  It is about 2 1/2 inches now.  In my head I thought it was at least 4!!  The disappointment was crushing.

I do now have an actual crop, it is no longer chemo hair.  But now I know why my hairdresser always insisted that I never have short hair.  Because it is so thick that it has started to grow outwards.  It is also very dry and a little course.  Lovely.  I am very much looking forward to the awkward mullet/bowl cut phase.

I would like to state that I do not hate cropped hair, in fact on certain people I think that they suit shorter hair like Frankie from the sats or Ginnifer Goodwin.  Even Posh spice I have to admit that her hair in a crop personally for me looked better.  But for me I just want my bob back.  I have dreams that I have the length again and i'm so happy!  If I had chosen to have this style of course I would like it but having to be forced to have a style that I would never have normally chosen is causing havoc with my confidence and it is not helping me find myself again.

I am still so confused about who I am and as I try and figure it out a little bit more coverage would be nice.  There are only so many accessories I can place in the hair to make it look 'pretty'.

But on the plus side and as you know I do love a positive, is that hair does grow quickly.  I am impatient yes but it amazes me when I look back at pictures just how far I have come.  So for those of you ready to google, do not fear, I am ready to help and I will keep the blog updated on hair growth this coming year to show you all how I will eventually turn my skin head into a beautiful blonde bob.

So I have put together a few pictures for you all to look at and see how quickly (although it feels like an eternity) hair actually grows.

July 2013

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

So there you have it.... The story so far. Like I said I will keep a photo diary and keep you all posted on the state of the hair.  Blogs like this have really helped me and so I hope that this will help those of you desperate for your identity back because I think that is the main dilemma.  Not having your identity back even though treatment may be over.

Hair growth everywhere else is completely back to normal.  The lashes are long again although a little wispy but I think once the slightly crooked ones fall out the rest will grow through.

It's funny really but hair grows at such rapid rate when you are not paying attention.  One day I woke up and literally had eyelashes again.  I wish I could switch off on the hair on the head front but I guess it is human nature to worry and to think. Like watching paint dry, its boring and frustrating. I will never be able to change it but recording the process is also fun.  This time next year I will say wow look how far I have come. (Here's hoping)


Friday, 17 January 2014

17th January 2013 only 2 weeks to go

Anyone who has been through or going through cancer will or should understand this next sentence. 

In the beginning cancer is easier. I'm not saying you sail through the beginning of diagnosis but you feel safe and looked after. There are doctors, nurses, oncologists waiting to help you. They are at the end of the phone literally. 

Whilst going through treatment it's almost like a safety net. 

Then it stops. 

I am starting to feel anxious. It's stupid and maybe a little pathetic but I've only got two weeks of treatment left. 

In two weeks they will send me on my way with a leaflet and a number to help me if I can't cope. It's very daunting. 

I am at the same time so excited to get back to normal. To be me again. To not say to people 'I'm going through cancer treatment' but to say 'I beat cancer'. 

It's all just very surreal and my heart is filled with mixed emotions. Even when I tell myself I've beaten it, do I really believe it? Do I honestly believe that there isn't even the slightest chance that it could come back? 

The emotions are too intense to understand. I don't want to tempt fate by saying I'm ok. Yet it's ridiculous not to say it. 

How do I feel? I feel everything right now. My emotions are on the highest volume. I cry at night and then I smile. I get butterflies for no reason and anxiety just sitting at home. 

Cancer was funny in the beginning. Now it's just confusing. Clive left the building two months ago and yet he still taunts me. 

I guess this is all just a learning curve. One day I will understand all this, but for now I will just have to accept that this is all part of the journey. 

No one said it would be easy. In fact no one ever really knew what to say. 

I don't think anyone ever will. Saying that this time next week I may be jumping for joy! I'm a little nuts right now!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

9th January 2014……One week of radiotherapy down

'You cannot choose how you die but you can choose how you live, so live life with no regrets.'

I heard that from a television show today.  

Everyday I am lying on a hard metal bed with a huge machine above my head.  I am naked from the waste up and I have two people both men and women drawing dots all over my chest whilst I lie there vulnerable, lonely and frightened.  My life is once again in someone else's hands.

I was staring at the ceiling today blocking out the various numbers that the radiographers are shouting to each other and Florence and the Machine played on the radio.

'And i'm damned if I do and i'm damned if I don't,
So here's to drinks in the dark at the end of my road,
And i'm ready to suffer and i'm ready to hope,
It's a shot in the dark and right at my throat
Cause looking for heaven, found the devil in me
Looking for heaven found the devil in me
Well what the hell i'm gonna let it happen to me

Shake it out, shake it out
Shake it out shake it out
And it's hard to dance with the devil on your back 
So shake him off'

That verse stuck in my head.  I heard this song go round and round in my head.  Do not ask me why the words struck a chord they just did.  I guess I am dancing with the devil on my back.  Maybe I was just reading into something.  Who knows, but music at the right time or a certain place can be very nostalgic and very surreal.  In that moment I got caught up with words and my emotion at that exact time. 

Radiotherapy is actually very easy.  I go into hospital every day, undress and lie flat on my back.  The machine does its job and then I leave.  There are no side effects, no drugs, just radiation which is slowly sunburning my breast.  These machines are my god and I have to trust them with my life.

I have three more weeks of radiotherapy.  I go home every night and undress for a shower and I look in the mirror.  I  look like a dot to dot puzzle.  I smile then I nod to myself and carry on.  There are no words with this treatment.  This is the weirdest treatment as you literally cannot feel the effects.  Sometimes I wish I could just so I knew something good was happening.  Why is it I need to feel pain to think something is working?

Tomorrow when I go in and see them they will all laugh.  I had a spray tan but I wore a crop top.  I wasn't going to say anything to them but I have realised that a massive white patch across my chest is a giveaway!  Anything to make me feel better though cannot be a bad thing?  I may get told off.  I will let you know.

I do feel sad when I go to the hospital everyday and I cannot put my finger on why.  Maybe it is the fear that one day I may have to do this all again.  Maybe because I look around at all the people having treatment and it scares me to think how many people are actually ill.  Everyone has a story.  I get a lot of looks being young.  The average age at the hospital for radiotherapy at the moment is 60.  I can tell they are wondering what my story is.  I guess a part of me is wondering what there story is.

My biggest fear is what happens when it is all over?  Am I really going to be able to just get back on the train of life and carry on.  I do hope so but as the end is becoming increasingly near I am starting to panic.  At the beginning I was ok.  I was positive and I had seven months of getting better to focus on.  

I am just not sure, at the moment how I will ever really switch off from all this.  Will I ever really be able to forget the last year of my life?  Do I even want too?

Maybe that is why those words from that television show made me think.  I cannot choose how I die, cancer has proved that.  It was a warning.  So I guess I choose life.  There is really is no other answer.

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