Friday, 29 January 2010

Frid. 29th Jan. 2010 'Gastro Man'

Slept well last night, apart from a slight headache, no Herceptin after effects. I was also very relaxed as we had friends to stay and a really lovely evening sharing memories of South Africa. I experimented with my slow cooker and the 'Persian Lamb' was great, not to mention 'Eton Mess' for afters, yummy!

This morning I went to The Nuffield Hospital in York for a consultation with the Consultant Gastroenterologist. My Colonoscopy was clear, which is a relief, but still doesn't explain the occasional bouts of griping cramp. Both he and my Oncologist still don't feel it is the Herceptin, but even if it is, it's not worth stopping it now.

He has given me the option of two medications which he says will not stop the problem, but will take the edge off an attack. One is Mebeverine (Colofac), which I know of. The other is Peppermint Oil Capsules (colpermin), which I like the sound of, although they're both fairly gentle medications.

As the Colonoscopy only looks at the large bowel, he has suggested that I should have a CT or MRI Scan, just to be absolutely sure that there isn't a problem with the small bowel, or anything in the vicinity. I'm sure there isn't, but it's nice to know I'm being taken seriously. If all is clear when I go back for my results, I will get the pills and wait with interest to see if the symptoms go away when I finish Herceptin.

Frid. 28th Jan. 2010 'Herceptin No 13'

I was up early and logged on so that I could keep work e-mails to a minimum and keep things ticking over while I waited for the nurse to arrive. I still get really nervous about the treatment, or should I say the actual cannulation. I'm sure I've developed a real aversion to needles, which is probably not surprising really.

Anyway, the good news is this is my thirteenth treatment, which means I have only five left (we think), so fifteen weeks more. I'm hoping the last one will be just before our trip to Skye as that would be a great way to celebrate.

Andrew seems to be my regular nurse and I've grown to like him. I think his cannulation skills have definitely improved and having really warmed up my arm and hand to encourage a suitable vein, he hit the target first time. I only had to curl my toes slightly! We laughed because he secured the cannula with a paediatric dressing - so cute!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Wed. 27th Jan. 2009

It's been more than a week since my last entry and that's largely because I've been too tired to be bothered by evening. I've been trying to increase my work activities, in the hope that confidence will come back too. I do feel I have made some advances, but it still seems like 'two forward and one back'.

Last weekend I had a bit of a set back. I felt that my bowel symptoms had been a little better and resigned myself to the fact that 'anxiety' was probably a major culprit. However, Friday evening, about an hour after Graham left for work, I was reading quietly when I was suddenly aware of the all too familiar stomach ache, which very quickly built into griping pain and a need to visit the loo. It continued in waves for two or three hours and I even took my mobile into the loo with me just in case I needed help.

It did eventually pass, along with my energy and I crawled gratefully into bed. I lay there trying to find something to blame the episode on, but failed to identify a culprit.

This week I have again pushed myself and made my first long car journey to Chester-le-Street, at the request of a Manager. It took me two and a half hours to get there only to find that the Manager had forgotten I was going, so there was no one for me to see. Ok, I could cope with that and I took the opportunity to update him on the 'absence procedure' and Health Surveillance requirements.

Unfortunately, coupled with my increased travel and work, I have also experienced some momentary 'vertigo' symptoms, which I find very worrying. The first was on Tuesday evening sitting in bed - everything suddenly went sideways. This happened again when I was in CLS, plus I'm aware that my head doesn't feel right and seems unconnected to my eyes. Every time this happens I worry, is it a completely separate issue, or is it connected. I have mentioned it before, but it's been waved away. I'm afraid to consult my GP for fear of being labelled 'over anxious', so I'll just keep the prochlorperazine with me and hope it goes away.

Lastly, the long journey has really upset my reconstruction. My shoulder has been aching and my underarm and back feel bulky and uncomfortable. I can only attribute this to driving and hope it settles soon.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Tues. 19th Jan. 2010 'Friends indeed'

Managed finally to get together with some very good friends this week who have supported me with their love, understanding and gifts over the past eighteen months. Sadly Max couldn't make it, but Jean, Jane, Viv, Jackie & I had soup, sandwiches and yummy cakes together(courtesy of Jean). Of course we never stopped talking, laughing and generally catching up - it was exhausting!

I listened to another R4 programme yesterday. Jenni Murray (the presenter) has herself had breast cancer and she went into theatre to watch a mastectomy & reconstruction, which turned out to be exactly the same operation as mine, same technique etc. I found it quite emotional at times as she described what was happening because I could put myself on the table and had never thought about it in such detail before.

Jenni talked to the surgeons and asked how they felt prior to making such life changing surgery. It was interesting to hear the words 'ruthless but wonderful' used to describe what they do. I have nothing but admiration for my breast surgeon, he has the balance just right - professional, empathic, funny, direct. Also the end result is fantastic and as I said to my friends after a private viewing, I'm getting a reputation for 'flashing my tits' what the heck!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Sat.16th Jan. 2010 'Interesting stuff'

It's been a little while since my last entry, which is usually a good sign that all is well. I want however, to continue with some thoughts regarding breast cancer as I've recently listened to a couple of radio 4 programmes which were not only very interesting, but confirmed some of my feelings and experiences as a victim of this dreaded disease.

The first programme was an interview with Barbara Ehrenreich, author of 'Smile or Die' a book I now have on order. Barbara is the lady whose article I linked on my previous blog. She too had breast cancer and writes about her experience in relation to the 'be positive or die' culture which seems to exist and I get the impression it's worse in America.

As I said to my friend Joan today, it's not that we don't really appreciate the comfort and support, or that we're not positive. It's being able to be open too about the insecurities and very real fears which also exist, and not being made to feel as though we have to hide any negative feelings, because God forbid, we should not be one of the 'lucky' ones and people might say "well, if she'd been more positive she may have survived". Much research has been carried out into the latter theory, and it has been categorically proved that it bears no relation to survival rates.

Anyway I intend to read the book, so maybe more on this later. The other programme was on 'Woman's Hour' and featured MacMillan's recent research into victims of breast cancer, specifically what happens when treatment has finished and the many irritating/frustrating residual side effects, which so far have not been documented or even acknowledged.

All I could do was nod in agreement with the lady they questioned. The void which suddenly exists when you finish chemotherapy and/or surgery is hard to describe. The words "see you in six months" ring around your head as you drive away. I remember it so well, even though I have to have Herceptin every three weeks, it was like being 'cast adrift'. For a while I felt really lost and down. It wasn't until I initiated contact with my 'support nurse' that this began to improve.

As for annoying side effects, well, don't get me started. I would be a really good candidate for any research I'm sure. I have suffered pretty extreme stomach problems since I finished treatment, but not only that, I have been left with other strange phenomena, for which I have my own theory, not that anyone has been interested in it.

As the interviewee said, most of the strange problems feel too trivial to bother the Doctor with, but they affect daily life and cumulatively can be very depressing. All of mine I believe relate
to the epithelial cells, cells which regenerate constantly and line such places as the nose, the mouth, the gut, stomach, bowels and private bits!

I have a constantly drippy nose, which streams when I eat. I have also not been completely free of a sore nose, which bleeds on a morning and sometimes feels like someone has driven a bus up there. I still get mouth ulcers easily. I now have what I believe is 'irritable bowel syndrome' which seriously affects my working capability at times. Also I am constantly itchy and sore down below and lastly, I don't heal as well as I used to, small grazes, blisters or bruises take ages to heal. Apart from that I'm fine ! :-)

Anyway, I will be watching for further news on this front, but in the meantime will remain ever 'positive' ha ha!

Friday, 8 January 2010

Thurs 7th Jan 2009 'Herceptin No12'

It's been a really snowy day again and even if it wasn't my treatment day I would have worked from home. Pat & Mike came across and I made us some thick, winter soup. My nurse came at 12.30p.m. and he was grateful for a bowl of soup too.

The treatment itself went ok, but siting the cannula seems to get more painful. First attempt was especially bad and I had to ask him to stop. I suppose the fact that bruising has only just gone from my recent surgery didn't help. The only other complaint would be the temperature of the fluids, it was freezing and I found that it made my thumb joint and wrist really ache, apart from making me feel generally cold. I put on an extra jumper and used a heated wheat bag to counteract this. Obviously they would be better given at room temp, but there isn't enough time to let them warm up.

My Cancer Support Nurse rang today too and I updated her on what's been happening. During the course of the conversation I mentioned that I was still waiting for a follow up appt. to check my surgery sites. She checked and said it was this morning, but I haven't received the letter! That doesn't surprised me, there seems to be a distinct lack of communication between departments.

I think the two scar lines are healing ok, but I'm keeping an eye on the nipple flap as it's still got a build up of old blood on one side and doesn't seem to be healing as quickly as it should. That could have been checked if I'd received the appt., now I'll have to monitor it myself and see my GP if it looks infected.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Tues 5th Jan 2010

Back to work yesterday, but it wasn't the success I had been hoping for. I had a bout of stomach cramps and the usual urgent rush for the loo on Sunday evening. Monday morning the weather wasn't too bad, but very very cold and I set off for Rotherham. It was a horrendous journey as once I hit the motorway I realised my screen washers were frozen, so my screen got gradually worse.

It wasn't until I turned off for Rotherham that they started to work. At the same time, I felt the cramps coming back and when I reached work, my first stop was the toilet. They settled for an hour and then came back with avengence. By 11a.m. I was completely washed out and people began to notice how pale I looked.

Annoyingly, the employee I went in to see didn't turn up, although in retrospect it was probably just as well. I decided to call it a day, packed up and came home to finish answering my e-mails.

Today it started to snow around 7.45a.m. and by 9a.m. we had around 15 - 20cm. I won't be going far this week as I have my Herceptin due on Thursday, that's if they can get here!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Sun 3rd Jan. 2010 'Happy Birthday Graham'

I didn't sleep very well last night, a lot of pain and discomfort. Nothing I couldn't cope with, but annoying. I think the bruising closest to my armpit is coming out and it's really tender.

Graham's Birthday today, and three years since my Mum died, yes, that's one way of marking a Birthday.

I've had an interesting response to my blog re: 'not wanting to sound as though I'm complaining'. I'm most grateful, especially to my daughter Roo, who not only gave me some sound comments, but also sent me an article which I think everyone with breast cancer should read - or indeed any cancer.

So many times I've wrestled with the phrasing or content of the blog, in case it should appear 'negative' or invoke a flurry of comments from concerned friends. But I've suddenly realised that it's ok to feel angry, it's ok to feel negative and it's ok to say 'Yes, I do fear the future'. Of course I don't walk around with an aura of 'doom and gloom', but I think it's time to be true to myself and to those I love.

Being positive all the time is hard work, plus it's not real and I'm sorry, but I actually don't really think it has any bearing on the final outcome. I know that's going to be quite a shocking statement to some people, but I'm willing to bet that most ladies I know who have been through the breast cancer experience, would probably agree, if only in private, that the whole 'positive, pink 'chin up' persona' is actually more exhausting than it is beneficial. Anyway, here's the link to the article for anyone who's interested.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Frid. 1st Jan 2010 'A Happy New Year'

Hard to believe it's New Year again and I can't help thinking of how I was this time 2009. We went to the Ate O'clock party last night and it was impossible not to remember how ill, bald and low I was feeling last year. At the 2008 party I went dressed as Ripley from the Aliens film (it suited the hair style). I think there's a picture on my blog for that time. Graham went as a very convincing Sean Connery.

This year Kenny had a 'Cowboy & Indian' themed evening so we made an appearance as Wyatt Earp and Calamity Jane. It was a brilliant evening, made even better because our good friend Allan came with us - Stetson and all! We had such a laugh, enjoyed really good 'Western' food and left after the champagne & Big Ben chimes.

The evening was topped off by a long overdue chat with Patti & Dave (Indiana USA). Such a good line, they could have been in the other room - if only!

So I'm grateful to be feeling so much better and hoping for a healthy, interesting, positive year ahead for everyone.