Category Archives: Cancer

FUCANCER FRIDAYS

As of today I will be updating my blog weekly. Depending on how I am feeling this might be a simple sentence, picture or alternatively might be blog or vlog.

Cancer is a very negative business. Emotionally charged appointments, the agony in waiting for results, extreme treatments and of course the horrid and very real fear of death. Something nobody ever wants to talk about. Naturally it is very overwhelming. So, I am determined to use my personal experience to flip the negatives and find some positives.

In yesterday’s post I talked about how powerful exercise is – not only physically but mentally. So to follow on from that here is my first FUCANCER FRIDAY where I share just some tips on how I manage living with cancer. As always, if you find this useful please consider sharing.

#FUCANCER

The Power of Exercise

As I write this from my hospital bed it is safe to say that it has been a tough week. I am still waiting for a confirmed date for surgery and the ‘unknown’ has been causing some stress.

I have had ongoing issues with my bowels since completing cervical cancer treatment four years ago. At a recent appointment with Gastroenterology they found a build up of faecal matter (aka POOP) in my bowel. The advice was to start a daily dose of a bulking agent and a hot water cleanse. I also recieved a ‘how to guide’ on the correct way to poop. Apparently I have been doing it wrong for 32 years!! I chose to delay starting this as I thought it might impact surgery but after receiving the go ahead from the Neuro team I began the process on Tuesday this week. Long story cut short, I was taken into hospital on Tuesday evening after experiencing vomiting and diarrhoea – lovely!!

The doctors initially ran some tests which found a fever, high white blood cell count and low blood pressure so I have been kept in since. Today I am preparing for a sigmoidoscopy – another unwelcome surprise!

Anyway, before all the drama (including me being sick on all fours in the middle of AnE whilst a little girl asked her mum ‘why is that lady being sick in her hat?’) I prepared the following vlog which I still stand by. So if you are having a crap day make sure you get outside and at the very least go for a walk. That is the first thing I will be doing when I leave here.

#FUCANCER

Continue reading The Power of Exercise

Proud

For the past year I have been working as a Fundraising Manager for Cancer Research UK. Having gone through treatment for cervical cancer in 2014 I was left feeling in awe of the work they do and after a lot of deliberation, I finally took the plunge and left a career in sport (my first love) to pursue one in a new-found passion – fundraising!

I recently returned to work after taking some time off following my new diagnosis. My first team meeting in over 2 months led me to the Cancer Research UK Centre in Edinburgh. When I began my role I was surprised and impressed to learn that research was happening literally yards away from where I had been receiving treatment at the Western General Hospital. As part of my induction I had a tour of the labs where I met a few of the researchers.

I don’t come from a science background. My strengths at school were PE, Sport and English – if organizing was a topic then I would have passed that with flying colours but alas chemistry, physics even biology were a challenge! The idea of meeting researchers, especially those who focus on cancer was slightly intimidating.

On my first lab tour I was amazed at how the researchers were able to breakdown a very complex process into layman’s terms. What really struck me though, was their passion! I LOVE passionate people – the topic itself isn’t so important – but when I meet someone who is dedicated and determined to a particular cause I find it very appealing. I am not shy in admitting that upon finishing the lab tour I had a crush on several of the researchers!

About 6 months ago I walked past one of the researchers whilst I was shopping with my mum. He wouldn’t have remembered or recognized me but upon seeing him I had the same reaction to the one I had when I saw Rod Stewart in Harrods: I grabbed my mum’s arm, pointed and repeatedly whispered his name! Basically the researchers, in my eyes, are total rock stars!

So, how does it feel to have cancer whilst working for a cancer charity?

In two words I feel lucky and proud!

My job has allowed me a backstage view to some of the ground breaking, life-changing, life SAVING research which is happening right now! I have met the real life superheroes who are actively bringing forward the day where we will find a cure for cancer. I have also had the honour of working with just a few of the thousands of people who support Cancer Research UK. From the Tartan Monster in Selkirk, to the phenomenal Lanark Local Committee who are celebrating their 50th year and reaching their £500k fundraising milestone to people like Pete the ‘Can Man’ who has single-handedly raised several thousand pounds through collection cans across the capital city. These volunteers have taught me the valuable lesson that you don’t have to wear a lab coat to help find a cure for cancer.

It is because of all of them – the researchers, the volunteers and my awesome colleagues that I feel lucky. I know there is a an almighty army of people who are continuing the fight everyday. Together we are stronger and I am beyond proud to say I work for Cancer Research UK.

#FUCANCER

 

A Gift

In 2016 I ran the London Marathon for Cancer Research UK. As part of my preparations I remember training on World Cancer Day and putting the following post up on Facebook:

“1 in 3 people will develop cancer in their lifetime. But the impact of cancer goes much wider. Like a pebble hitting the water the ripples spread far and wide. When an individual is diagnosed it changes life for them and their family and friends. Today is #worldcancerday and it is a #adaytounite everyone who has been touched by cancer. Grandparent, parent, sibling or other. Stand up and say #fucancer If it wasn’t for Cancer Research I wouldn’t be here today.”

Personally, the hardest part of being diagnosed for a second time is seeing the impact and strain it has upon the ones I love. Regardless of how hard they try I can see the concern in their faces. I can tell how worried they are and I know how desperately they wish this wasn’t happening to us.

Similarly, since my new diagnosis I have been reminded of how awkward cancer can be for friends and acquaintances. The reactions can range from invasive questions about diagnosis, treatment and even to query if it runs in the family (it doesn’t by the way) to complete avoidance: ‘don’t make eye contact, don’t engage in conversation, just sidestep at all costs’! On some occasions I can virtually see the panic on peoples’ faces desperately looking for an escape route as they prepare to flee. I don’t believe it is me they are running away from but most likely a fear of saying the wrong thing.

I genuinely believe most people are good at their core but we are human and that means we make mistakes. The good news is that is how we learn! So here is a valuable lesson to help everyone in this scenario – a gift from me to you…

It was during my treatment for Cervical Cancer when I was referred to the very useful article and diagram below on ‘How Not to Say the Wrong thing’.

Silk & Goodman’s Ring Theory

I find Silk and Goodman’s ‘Ring Theory’ to be a VERY useful tool and one to be shared. This theory can be applied to anyone facing a crisis or a challenge. And let’s face it we all have difficult times at some point – it’s part of life I am afraid! Likewise, the theory helps set a precedent for the family, friends and acquaintances and even includes suggestions on what to do or say.

If you have found this useful please consider sharing.

#FUCANCER

Leaving Limbo

On Wednesday I met with the specialist to review the results of my scans. Following his advice we have decided to go ahead with surgery in September which will aim to remove as much of the tumour as possible. Due to its location this comes with inherent risks which could lead to long-term impairment physically, sensory and visually. In an attempt to minimize these potential side effects the surgeon will be performing an awake craniotomy. If, like me, you are a Grey’s Anatomy fan then you will know what this entails but as the name suggests – they plan to wake me up mid-surgery. In doing so they will ask me to perform certain tasks so they are able to remove as much of the tumour as possible without impacting the surrounding areas.

As the reader I am sure you will find it a lot to digest. Major surgery… on your brain… whilst awake! Crazy hey?!

So, how do I feel? In all honestly I feel very calm. After an hour long appointment with the surgeon where myself, the Funny Boy, Iceberg and Buggernuts asked many questions I left feeling strangely at ease. This is the most relaxed I have been since having the seizure and I think it is because knowledge is power! It’s cliché but it is true! I hate life in limbo – the not knowing, impossible to plan, unable to see my future beyond the next few weeks is difficult. At least with this I now feel like I know what I am up against over the next few months.

Many of you have already been in touch asking how you can help. So here are two things I need from all my family and friends..

  1. I want to make full use of all my abilities whilst I can so over the next few weeks I want to do as many fun, active, outdoorsy things as possible. Particularly if they are things I have never tried before.  I will be using my annual leave before surgery and hopefully making some trips – so, if you have any suggestions and would like to join in please let me know.
  2. I want  NEED you all to PROMISE me that if my motivation drops or changes when I come through surgery that you will remind me of how stubborn, determined and able I really am! You have full permission to kick me up the butt!

I am not one to dwell on things, I am looking forward and I would strongly encourage you do the same too. Before I draw this entry to close and head off to play hockey, I have a secret obsession with Winston Churchill – what a man, what a life! He has a wonderful way with words so I will finish with one of his many, famous quotes:

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts!

And as always, #FUCANCER!!!

Hello Bus Pass!

Before I begin I thought I should provide some context. Over the years the Funny Boy and I have fundraised for Cancer Research UK and the Maggie’s Cancer Centre in Edinburgh. Never one to shy away from a free T shirt and with a strong dislike of waste, the Funny Boy always makes use of items within his possession…

It has been a particularly emotional start to the week. A trip to the GP, long chat with the epilepsy nurse and a huge list of cancer admin has left me feeling – how can I put it? Lousy? Crappy? Simply bleurgh!

The GP was great and after a long chat (well beyond the allocated 10 mins) she reiterated the advice Maggie’s offered: take more time to process everything; try to focus on facts not thoughts; don’t feel guilty and practise self compassion.

Likewise the epilepsy nurse was very helpful and after explaining the cause and effect of my seizures she offered more practical advice. Just to be clear I have a non epileptic seizure disorder which is a symptom of the tumour in my brain. This conversation did result in more ‘Cancer admin’. Cancer admin is what I am calling all the forms to complete, appointments to fulfil and general to do lists caused by the tumour. I don’t recall cervical cancer causing this much paperwork! One of the tasks on my list is surrendering my driving license to the DVLA. Goodbye independence! Hello bus pass! So after ploughing my way through all the necessary cancer admin I was suitably grumpy by the time the Funny Boy arrived home.

As always he practically skipped through the front door looking for Parsnip and I. We, Parsnip and I, are very rarely apart – I like to call her my sausage shaped shadow! Anyway, I debriefed the Funny Boy on my day. I shed a wee tear, cussed a LOT and by the time I finished my emotional dump the Funny Boy had miraculously put a smile back on my face!

So, I decided to follow doctor’s orders and practise some self compassion by drawing myself a bath. However due to being high risk of seizures I can no longer do this alone – it’s not as sexy as it might sound! The Funny Boy didn’t join me but he did pop his head in or call out to check I was ok every few minutes. Not ideal and definitely not as relaxing either! After my bath I came downstairs and picked up a mindfulness colouring book which was gifted to me by my brother and sister-in-law to be.

I caught myself moaning this weekend. I said to the Funny Boy that I feel alone and like nobody understands. He never challenged me on this. And as I settled down to start ‘Colouring Weiners’ with my own wiener cuddling on my lap I looked at the Funny Boy playing his Xbox and realised I was wrong. I don’t know if he did this on purpose or if it was his subconscious – in fact I’m not sure he was even aware what he was wearing – but either way he is right: TOGETHER WE ARE FIGHTING CANCER and I am beyond lucky to have him!

#FUCANCER

Unprepared

I met with the neurosurgeon on Wednesday. It was a very different experience than when I first met my oncologist. When I met my oncologist she was very direct and came to the appointment armed with a clear plan of how they intended to treat the tumour in my cervix. I was prepared for a similar style meeting – I had planned a list of questions largely focusing on treatment, side effects, timescales etc. But this appointment was very different.

Any treatment – regardless of where it is targeted – comes with it’s own set of risks and repercussions. But it is only now I am beginning to fully appreciate how complex an organ the brain actually is. Treatment in such a delicate area and the side effects are all the more acute. A lot was discussed and it has been a huge amount to take in. The anti-seizure medication alone warrants its own set of side effects, one being ‘rage’ – not the best news for someone who’s nickname used to be Ragebox! (Watch out Funny Boy!) The situation is far from straight forward and each option has a range of potential risks and benefits. Decisions need to be made and in order for those to be thought through thoroughly more information is required. I struggle to decide what to wear on a day-to-day basis so this is going to be tough. For now we are taking time to do more tests, time to review our options and time to decide our plan of attack.

So how am I feeling?

My good friend put it best when she said ‘Cancer f*cks with everything’ and on this occasion I have an extended list of life admin as a result of my new diagnosis. I spent today drawing up a spidergram to help manage the tasks within my control. I feel completely unprepared for how life is going to change. I am trying hard to pre-empt and where possible minimise these changes but already I am feeling a loss of independence – the luxury of being able to drive wherever and whenever I want is something I definitely took for granted. My poor dad is definitely feeling the strain as chauffeur – not because he hates driving – because he can’t listen to the cricket when I’m in the car!

I haven’t had a big emotional break down yet. Despite glassy eyes on several occasions I have managed to keep all tears at bay but this is not to be confused with me ‘putting a brave face on’! Believe me – I have the best support system who are actively waiting, encouraging, hoping I’ll cry! But the reality is it still doesn’t feel real and despite breaking the news to friends and family I don’t feel like this is happening to me. I don’t feel scared for what lies ahead I simply feel unprepared.

#FUCANCER