Tag Archives: Brain Cancer

I Wage War

Lower back pain & intermittent bleeding
Struggling to justify these peculiar feelings
Weeks turn to months, the time has come
I visit my doctor to see what can be done.

The plethora of questions and additional tests,
A hospital referral to meet a specialist is best
Scans begin – PET, MRI and CT
I start to panic – what is really wrong with me?

It’s not long until they discover the answer.
“Sit down” she said “I’m afraid you have cancer”
“You’ve got it wrong! I’m 27 & worry free.
There is no way this is happening to me!”

Revealing the news is the hardest part
I feel like I’m breaking my family’s heart.
I want to protect them & somehow assure
But regrettably – for cancer there isn’t a cure.

A treadmill of appointments pick up pace
The treatment plan is put in place.
Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy and Bracytherapy too.
How do I prepare for the hell I’m going through?

Physically exhausted, deep breathing, I’m traumatised.
Yet somehow I’m still standing – I’m beyond surprised.
Scanxiety returns. Awaiting results, a vicious tease.
I can’t believe my oncologist when she says ‘No evidence of disease!’

Let’s party! Champagne! It is time to celebrate!
But quickly that euphoric feeling evaporates.
Vulnerable, fatigued and emotionally drained
I survived but I’m struggling, and I feel ashamed.

Pelvic pain, infertility & menopause
Just a few of the long-lasting treatment flaws.
I long to return to my life before cancer
But that’s impossible and creating a ‘new normal’ is the only answer.

Determined with courage I set my ambition:
Thriving with passion is my life mission.
I set myself targets on what I want to achieve
Adoption, fundraising and live happily.

Four years go by – I’m strong and succeeding,
Confident and able, I have a new found freedom.
But then I wake in the middle of the night
Paramedics surround me – it’s a formidable sight.

They take me to hospital where they try to ascertain
What caused my seizure? What’s going on in my brain?
They identify a lesion, a tumour in my head.
‘We think it is brain cancer’ – is what the doctor said.

Adoption is cancelled, life is on pause
Beating cancer is my focus and priority cause.
Surgery is planned – an awake craniotomy
One more challenge, life throws at me.

Cancer ghosting, an unfortunate affair,
When friends hear the ‘C’ word and then disappear.
I wish they knew I don’t expect them to have the right words to say.
I just need them to be here and not go away.

Side effects of surgery revealed:
A debilitated side & reduced visual field.
Knock down seven times, stand up eight!
My vigour for life won’t dissipate!

Two more operations & impressive scars remain.
Radio and chemotherapy – I’m back on the treatment train.
My head has lost its hair and I’m starting to feel weak.
I realise I’ll never be a mother and my future now looks bleak.

I lose my temper, I’ve had enough.
This cancer game is far too rough.
My head is down & I’m feeling withdrawn,
But here come my true friends to remind me ‘I’m strong’.

My cellular demon – an unwelcome foreigner.
But I’m the perfect opponent – a tenacious warrior!
Call it a battle. I wage war!
I’m ready and know what I’m fighting for!

The combat continues and I‘m still alive.
I’ll do everything it takes to ensure I thrive.
I’ve overcome the grief and let go of the anger.
I move forward forever saying FUCANCER.

Radio Week 5 – Nailed it!

Excuse the conflicting dates. This was mid way through week 5. Radiotheapy can cause irritation to the skin.

Only 6 more sessions of radiotherapy to go! I am feeling so much better than I thought I would be at this point. When I had radiotherapy 6 years ago, (wow! Has it really been that long!) at this point in treatment I was on crazy pain meds, struggling to sleep and unable to  walk the 3 flights of stairs to the flat we lived in.

Excluding my rock chick inspired hair do and feeling super tired, overall I’d say I am doing really well. I have managed to do some form of exercise everyday which is definitely having a positive impact. As I have said previously, radiotherapy is cumulative and it is highly likely that I’ll be hit with fatigue at some point, but for now I’m embracing what I can do and aiming to enjoy as much as I can.

It’s weird being back at the Edinburgh Cancer Centre for daily visits. All the staff are super kind and it’s a great excuse to pop in to Maggie’s which is literally a home away from home whilst stuck in hospital. They are so welcoming and the centre itself is a huge contrast to the clinical setting of medical appointments.

One of the hardest aspects of being at the hospital is meeting all the other patients who are on their own ‘cancer journey’ – so cliche but true. It is a humble reminder that no matter how hard I think I have it, unfortunately there is always someone who has it worse.

On Monday I have my planning meeting for chemotherapy. I don’t know if I previously mentioned that this is part of a Cancer Research UK trial. I am very passionate (aka – total geek) about the work of CRUK so I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m very proud that my very unwelcome cellular demons are finally proving to be of some use!

As always, #FUCANCER

BRING IT ON

Just before Christmas we recieved the news that the pathology from my recent craniotomy suggests my tumour is a stage 3. As a result on Monday 20th January I’ll be starting radiotherapy for 6 weeks and following this I’ll begin chemotherapy which I’ll be on for up-to a year.

The news knocked the wind out of my sails and left me emotionally exhausted. Thankfully, having allowed time to let the news settle and with the amazing support of my nearest and dearest I am feeling ready to take on the next climb in this marathon called cancer.

The biggest side effects predicted are fatigue, nausea and hair loss.

As always, I’m focusing on the positives: I am strong, I have an incredible team (medically and socially) and I’m prepared to give it all I’ve got. I’m really grateful to everyone who has been in touch to offer support.

A huge part of my coping mechanism is physical activity and I’m delighted to say my oncologist has not only given me the ‘OK’ but encouraged me to keep running. As a result the Funny Boy and I have signed up for RED January (www.redjanuaryformind.co.uk) and I’m now loving Park Run (www.parkrun.org.uk) On that note – if you’d like to join me for a run please get in touch. Always keen for a run buddy and it is a good excuse for brunch after.

Im currently researching wigs. If anyone has any experience and advice – I’d be really grateful for any pointers.

I hope 2020 has been good to you so far and I look forward to see you in the coming weeks and months. BRING IT ON!

#FUCANCER

New Year’s Day Park Run 2020

2019

2019 has been a tough year.

We opened January with me still in recovery from my second craniotomy and within the second week I was back in theatre having my appendix removed. Unfortunately I picked up a post-op infection which kept me in hospital for another 10 days. I was the most physically sick I have ever been and lost a stone in weight.

Appendectomy, January 2019

Fast forward to Spring when I returned to work which brought it’s own set of challenges. The culmination of two craniotomies, one appendectomy and a second cancer diagnosis in less than five years was beginning to hit me. No matter how hard I tried to move forward I struggled mentally. After a long internal battle and huge dose of gentle encouragement from the Funny Boy, I finally sought help. I still find it easier to say I have cancer than admit I have depression but I have learned the more I talk about my mental health, the easier it is to manage.

With the family at Tiny, Ontario – June 2019

June was a definitely a highlight. Thankfully I was allowed to travel to Toronto to see my brother get married and spend two weeks with my family. Upon return we had the fourth STICK IT TO CANCER which raised over £11k meaning since its inception in 2016 the festivals have raised over £30k for the Maggie’s Cancer Centre in Edinburgh.

STICK IT TO CANCER 2019 raising over £11k for the Maggie’s Cancer Centre in Edinburgh,
July 2019

In August, whilst walking Parsnip with my mum and the Funny Boy, my mum collapsed. I thought she suffered a stroke but when the ambulance arrived and she eventually regained consciousness, it was apparent my mum had experienced her first seizure. This day is a vivid memory filled with fear.

As we waited for my mum’s appointment with the Neurologist, my mind wrestled with facts over thoughts. My seizures led to my brain cancer diagnosis. The specialists told us that less than 8% of seizures are as a result of cancer so as always I stayed optimistic but I found myself imagining the worse.

Pumpkin (L) & Parsnip (R), October 2019

October saw the very welcome arrival of Pumpkin. Another highlight! Our family has grown and our hearts are richer as a result. Parsnip has been promoted to big sister and the Funny Boy has dropped down another rung of the ladder in our home but everyone is happy.

Pumpkin’s first holiday. Ballater, November 2019

November brought the news of another craniotomy. My mum had another seizure but this did escalate her appointment. We finally got the all-clear from her MRI scan which was a huge relief. She has since started anti-seizure medication and hopefully that means no more episodes.

In December I returned for my 3rd craniotomy and now I am here – recovering from major surgery, digesting the news that my tumour is a stage 3. Getting ready to meet my Neuro-oncologist next week and preparing myself for radiotherapy in the New Year.

3rd Craniotomy, December 2019

The hardest part with all of this is seeing the impact it has upon my parents. They are at a point in life where they should be enjoying retirement and only stressing about where to go on holiday. Instead they are chaperoning me to appointments, babysitting me whilst I recover from surgery and doing anything in their willpower to make life easier for the Funny Boy and I.

Cancer is very isolating. Being unable to play hockey and exercise is a huge loss creating empty evenings and Saturdays. Surrendering my driving license means I don’t see my family or friends as much as I’d like. I really miss my independence and all of this has contributed to a rapidly shrinking social circle. Cancer really teaches you who your true friends are.

The ‘cancer life’ is a treadmill of appointments, making difficult decisions and dealing with the ongoing emotional and physical side effects. The Funny Boy and I are addressing issues the average couple in our peer group have never experienced. It is an evolving challenge which we are constantly adapting to. We sometimes imagine what life would be like without cancer and at times we feel alienated.

But, we do take time to appreciate how lucky we are. How grateful we are for our loyal friends who keep in touch and consistently show up when the sh*t hits the fan. For our new friends who surprise us with FUCANCER brownies, who send sausage dog decorations in the post and leave lovely letters decorated with Parsnip and Pumpkin illustrations. We are truly blessed and no matter how challenging the last 12 months have been we are reminded that in the worst of times, you often see the best of people.

On behalf of the Funny Boy, Parsnip, Pumpkin and myself I’d like to extend a huge thank you to everyone for your generosity and support. Wishing you & your loved ones a joyous Christmas and a new year filled with love, laughter and good health.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas & prosperous 2020!

As always, FUCANCER

Finding my Mojo

Today I had the pleasure of attending Scottish Power’s Partnership day with Cancer Research UK.

It was amazing to learn that Scottish Power have raised £25million for Cancer Research UK in just seven years! Even more impressive is hearing they have no intention of stopping. A fantastic example of how a corporate partnership really can make a difference.

We had the pleasure of hearing from world leading researchers Professor Andrew Biankin and Professor Steven Pollard. Professor Biankin leads Precision-Panc, a groundbreaking project developing personalised treatment and improving survival for pancreatic cancer- one of the hardest cancers to treat. Professor Pollard leads a team of scientists from the UK, USA & Canada carrying out pioneering research in ‘glioblastoma’- a fast growing type of brain cancer. 

I was very excited to meet Professor Pollard who specialises in Brain tumour research. Prior to working for Cancer Research UK I assumed research only occurs in London. I was hugely mistaken. Cancer Research UK is funding institutes, centres and projects across the length and breadth of the UK. Locally, research happens within yards of the Cancer Unit at the Western General in Edinburgh where I receive treatment. Professor Pollard knows Imran Liaquat, my Neuro Surgeon, and the Neuro-oncologists who I’ll be meeting in the not-too-distant future. Imran regularly refers to current research when discussing treatment options and knowing that there is an open dialogue between the clinic side (Professor Pollard) to bed side (Mr Liaquat) is really reassuring. It reminds me that research is not an isolated activity happening in the distance but a huge team effort which brings together specialists from all fields. Professor Pollard kindly invited the Funny Boy and I to have a tour of the lab in Edinburgh which we hope to do next week.

After a tiring and mentally tough few days this morning’s event has definitely helped me rediscover my ‘mojo’. Research does make difference. Huge thank you to Scottish Power for your unwavering support to Cancer Research UK. A constant reminder that you don’t need to wear a lab coat to help find a cure for cancer.

As always #FUCANCER

Feeling Lousy

Craniotomy #3 is in 12 days and I’m beginning to feel the pressure.

Cancer initiates a lot of conversations and generates a lot of admin that most people my age won’t consider. It destroys plans, impacts friendships and wreaks havoc on the mind and body. All of which can be very isolating.

With another operation and radiotherapy planned my focus is on taking everything one step at a time.

As always FUCANCER

Living with cancer

On Wednesday this week I finally met with my neurosurgeon to get the results of my 3-month follow up MRI scan. 

As usual he uploaded the 3D images of my brain on the monitor and began to talk through the results. My surgeon is not solely responsible for my treatment. He is part of a Multi Disciplinary Team (MDT) which includes different kinds of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals working together as part of a specialist cancer team.

The MDT are confident the surgery has led to a 90% resection of both tumours – this is good news. The bizarre reality is I now have two big holes in my brain which were previously occupied by separate Astrocytomas. The not-so-good news is there is a ‘grey patch’ at both sites which could be inflammation and scar tissue or it could be leftover tumour. Unfortunately the imaging is not advanced enough to make the distinction. The MDT discussed options and have agreed that surveillance is best so I’ll be returning in August for another scan. If either of the  ‘grey patches’ grow in size this indicates it is tumour and therefore surgery may be required

Overall, I would say this news is neither negative or positive. Yes, there is a small relief that all going well I won’t need any treatment for the next 5 months. But, beyond that who knows? I am effectively stuck in limbo.

When I was diagnosed with cervical cancer 5 years ago the life I knew pretty much vanished overnight. After ploughing through treatment I had to come to terms with a ‘new normal’ – one which included infertility, menopause, fatigue and a total loss of confidence.

Once again I am faced with the challenge of adapting to another new normal. There is not one part of my life that cancer does not impact. I can’t put into words how much it has stolen from me and I feel duty-bound to share how this really feels.

I am ANGRY.

I am FRUSTRATED.

I am SAD.

I am HEARTBROKEN.

It has been a very tough few years and the last 12 months in particular has been an epic challenge but I do believe in the saying ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!’

As always, FUCANCER