Tag Archives: cancer

Life in Lockdown

Covid 19 from an 8 year old perpective
My eight year-old nephew was asked to draw a picture about a current affair for his art project. I think he has captured 2020 perfectly!

How are you?

Are you missing your daily routine you once took for granted?

Are you yearning to be back at work, gossiping with your colleagues and moaning about impending deadlines?

Are you itching to return to your sports club? Desperate for the endorphins exercise supplies? Wishing your Saturdays were spent on the pitch followed by commiserating and celebrating with your team mates post-play.

Are you desperate for a vacation? Dinner date? Coffee date? Play date? Have your holidays been cancelled and pre-planned dates been put on pause?

Are you stressing about your finances? Agitated by the impact this could have on your job?

Are you watching social media and feeling overwhelmed? Envying those who are positive, productive and achieving great things?

Are you longing for your loved ones, wishing you could be united? Questioning when you’ll next get to enjoy each other’s company.

Are you scared to leave the house? Fearing you might get sick?

Are you lonely?  Feeling isolated?

Are you struggling with the unknown? Waking up each day with a nervous, unsettling feeling?

Are you worried about what the future will bring? Wondering what the new normal will be?

If you asked me 6 days or 6 months ago – the answers to these questions would be the same because life in lockdown is very similar to life with cancer.  Frustrating? Sure, but necessary when saving lives.

As always, 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

Radiotherapy begins…

6 weeks ago I was preparing for my third craniotomy. Tonight I am preparing for the first of day of radiotherapy.

It has been a busy fortnight. The Funny Boy returned to work so I’m getting used to flying solo again. I continue to visit @maggiescentres to help prepare for the upcoming weeks and months, and I have started wig ‘shopping’ which is proving to be a surreal experience and really testing my decision making skills. I am hoping I’ll find something I like this week.

70s chic?

Over the last few days I have been blown away by family, friends and colleagues who have shown me their support. From a surprise crew of runners from my hockey club at Park Run on Saturday to lovely hampers in the post and a ‘Radiotherapy Advent’ of treats to open everyday of treatment – I am a very lucky girl ❤️

I’m sorry for the slow response but I will reply to everyone. I want to say thank you and let you know your kind words of encouragement mean so much!

As always #FUCANCER

I love our NHS

With surgery on the 9th of December and the small matter of a general election 3 days later, the Funny Boy and I have confirmed a postal vote so we don’t miss out. In the last few years I have found political news fascinating – it is so gripping it resembles a Netflix blockbuster series! From Independence to Brexit there has been plenty of drama.  It is hard to watch and at times even harder to believe. For one programme we simply have  too many villainous characters – I don’t  know who to trust!

Two major hospitals in Scotland have experienced huge challenges under the Scottish National Party: The Glasgow Queen Elizabeth Hospital is facing one problem after another and as for the revamped Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh – that was due to open 4 years ago but can’t due to problems with air conditioning and risk of flooding.  As a Neuro patient I was promised the move to the new department in May 2018 but to no avail – a date is still ‘to be confirmed’.

More so than ever before, I have people asking me who will get my vote and the truth is I am still unsure. 

It is fair to say that I’m a hospital patient more than your average person in their 30s and on each occasion I always leave feeling in awe of  the doctors and nurses who support me. Their dedication and passion is second to none and I have never met a harder working group of people. On more than one occasion I have watched nurses work  a 12 hour shift finding no time to finish a hot cup of tea, let alone a proper lunch break! 

As for the Conservative Goverment – they have steadily reduced budgets,  the number of nurse training places has been cut and they abolished bursaries for trainee nurses. The result of which is 93% of NHS trusts falling short of the number of nurses they need: that’s three times more than five years ago. Nurses are being substituted with untrained assistants. 

Ultimately the front facing team who deliver healthcare are not able to do their job to the best possible standard meaning people’s lives are at stake. 

Now, there is proof that our current Prime Minister has initiated conversations with the USA which suggests that privatisation of our NHS could be a reality in the future. This terrifies me! 


The average cost of someone being treated for brain cancer in the USA is $150,000 per year. I cannot begin to imagine how hard it must be to face a cancer diagnosis whilst dealing with the financial implications. 

Today I had a four hour appointment to check I was fit for surgery. This allowed time for me to discuss the procedure with my surgeon, anaesthetist and nurses. Living in the UK, I don’t need to worry about the cost of treatment because we have the INCREDIBLE NHS. This is what our taxes pay for – the NHS is our lifeline that is there when we need it: 7 days a week, 24 hours a day!  I am genuinely frightened that our vital lifeline could be lost within the next two decades. 

In my lifetime I have had 8 operations. In the last decade I have had over 20 MRI scans, countless blood tests and more. In the last 18 months I have required 5 ambulance trips and spent  more than 40 nights in a hospital bed. Every morning I take three types of medication which I depend upon to get me through the day. I have a medical team which includes specialists from surgery, oncology, neurology, epilepsy, psychology and even menopause.

Cancer doesn’t discriminate, accidents happen and everyone will experience poor health at some point. Let’s not jeopardise healthcare based on who can afford it. As you prepare to vote, please take time to appreciate our NHS and consider how your vote can protect it.

As always, FUCANCER

I would prefer to have a picture of my medical team – especially Mr Liaquat but I’m afraid this will have to suffice.

#MeetandMove

Cancer has been a part of my life for over 5 years now and regular followers of my blog will know how much I have relied on Maggie’s during that time. It really does make a difference to meet other people who understand what living with cancer is really like. The centres are safe places, very similar to a friend’s home opposed to the clinical setting you become so familiar with. The most important aspect is meeting others who simply ‘get it’!

At times my diagnosis has left me feeling ostricized. There are not a huge number of people who fully appreciate cancer limbo; agonising over appointments, tackling numerous side effects and struggling to maintain a social life whilst keeping the raging hormones at bay. There are even fewer people who are at a similar age and stage of life who fully understand how cancer touches every aspect of life. People who know how hard it is to be told that you’ll never have children or fulfil your career ambitions and worse.

On three occasions I have gone to events specifically for cancer survivors where participants have assumed I am either running the session or delivering a fitness class. This is probably because on all occasions I have been the youngest person in the room by at least two decades.

In September, the Funny Boy and I attended Meet and Move organised by Trekstock and hosted at the Maggie’s Centre in Edinburgh. Trekstock is a charity specifically targeting people in their 20s and 30s who are living with cancer. The event was described as being a day of wellbeing, getting active and meeting others who get it.

As eager as I am to participate in these events I always feel anxious, especially when you don’t know what to expect. We were greeted with a very warm welcome and a busy agenda. The day kicked off with a choice of yoga or circuits in the sunshine. We then regrouped in the centre to chat with the Maggie’s counsellors followed by a delicious lunch and nurtition session delivered by Kellie from Food to Glow. In the afternoon we discussed fashion with Cabi clothing and had an intro on skincare from LUSH.

It was an awesome day with lots on offer but the highlight had to be meeting the other participants. I didn’t feel like an alien anymore. Everyone knew what life with cancer is really like. We shared our journeys, compared our horror stories and even laughed at some of the shocking situations we have found ourselves in. There is nothing more validating then when you talk about what you’re going through and see people nodding because they understand. It was powerful!

The Funny Boy was the only male participant in the room but even he got a lot out of the day. He has now committed to a weekly face mask which I must say is doing wonders for his skin. And if you see him he will probably be rocking the French Tuck!

I would highly recommend Trekstock to all young adults living with cancer. For those of you based in Scotland, we have created a Facebook group for future meetings in Edinburgh. All of which include some form of physical activity. We are getting together on Saturday 30th November – please join the event or Facebook group by clicking the links below:

Trekstock Facebook Group – Join us!

Edinburgh Trekstock Meet Up – Sign up

As always, FUCANCER

Circuits in the September sunshine
Enjoying delicious & nutritious food by Kellie from Food to Glow
Funny Boy and I enjoying LUSH massage products

Discharged!

Standing outside the Edinburgh Cancer Centre on the day I am discharged from Gynae-oncology! Note the superhero pose!

On the 8th of April 2014 I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I was given a life expectancy of 2 years.

Since then I have become a proud puppy mum to Parsnip, married the love of my life, ticked a few life goals and raise funds for Maggie’s and Cancer Research UK. None of which would be possible without my incredible medical team! I had a card made for a few of the key people who have helped me get to where I am.

On the 30th September 2019 I was discharged from gynae-oncology. I have been in remission for 5 years.  I may still have brain cancer but for now it is time to celebrate!

#FUCANCER

 

Why is it easier to say I have cancer than admit I have depression?

Cancer has been a part of my life for 5 years. In that time I have grown immune to the range of reactions people give:

“But you’re so young!”

“You must have a history of it in you’re family”

“But you’re back to normal now?”

And another common response is one of silence carried with a look of disbelief. I am an open person and frequently use my story as an opportunity to raise awareness. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t introduce myself as ‘I’m Heather and I have cancer’ but if the topic does come up in conversation I will reinforce how important it is to regularly check your boobs or balls, attend your screenings and go the GP if you do notice any changes. I do wish cancer wasn’t a part of my life but it is not something I am ashamed of. I think it is important to educate people that cancer does not discriminate which means we are all at risk. There is no history of it in my family and unfortunately life never goes back to ‘normal’.

Cancer has a huge impact on mental health and over the last few months I have really struggled. At first I thought it was just a blip – it has been a crazy year and at some point the emotions were due to catch up on me. After a gentle nudge from the Funny Boy I finally visited my GP. I explained how my mood was impacting my work, relationships and even preventing me from making simple decisions. She diagnosed me with depression and suggested I try taking an anti depressant. I left the surgery with my prescription and dismissed her diagnosis. I was stubborn and embarrassed – I had no intention of taking the medication.

Unsurprisingly my situation didn’t improve. I felt like I had failed at everything and even started questioning ‘what’s the point?’ Once again the Funny Boy intervened. We booked another appointment with my GP and planned a trip to Maggie’s. I was honest with my doctor and admitted I hadn’t started the medication. At both meetings I explained how ashamed I felt – I wasn’t prepared to accept or admit that I was depressed.

Thankfully, with the support of my GP, Maggie’s and Funny Boy I started to take the medication and see a psychologist. More importantly they gave me the courage to start talking about my mental health with my family and friends.

According to statistics 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. Or to put it another way at some point pretty much everybody will experience poor mental health in their lifetime – so why is it still a taboo?

Why did I fear telling people?

Why was I so scared of being judged?

And why, why, why do I find it easier to say i have cancer than admit I have depression?

I am definitely beginning to feel better but it hasn’t happened overnight. For me everything began to improve when I admitted there was a problem and I started being honest with my nearest and dearest. The reality is my family and friends have shown me nothing but love, support and understanding.

As always, FUCANCER!

I agree, Mr Crosby

This week I spent an evening helping my mum  finish decorating  the ginormous Christmas tree which now sits in her living room. Once it was finished we settled down in front of the fire and put on a firm festive favourite, White Christmas. One of the many songs sang by Bing Crosby has the line:

‘When I’m worried and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.’

Despite seeing  this movie countless  times, including a stage adaptation, I never realised how true these words are. Counting  my  blessings is  something I find myself doing  frequently.

A number of people – friends, family even my medical team often ask me ‘How do you cope?’ It is impossible and unrealistic to expect myself to not have negative emotions: Cervical Cancer at 27 was pretty harsh. Losing my fertility, being catapulted into menopause and managing the ongoing side effects has been a challenge too. Brain cancer four years later and  discovering not one but TWO tumours  with their own set of  life-changing side effects. It is a simple reminder that life sometimes is just not fair. That being said everybody faces hardship and  I doubt anyone will walk this earth  experiencing no form of heartache. Another sad truth is regardless of how tough I think I have it there will always be someone who is worse off.

So, how do I cope?  Three steps:

1. I have to accept that at times I do feel anger, heartache and fear.  As an optimistic person these feelings  – despite being perfectly natural – are somewhat alien and something I hate to admit.

2. More importantly,  I give myself the space to feel those emotions. I allow myself time to release whatever I feel rising inside. No sugar-coating, no BS just ‘how do I feel?’  My ways of expression take various forms – sometimes it can be as simple as a lengthy rant, a solid cry or even taking the dog for a walk on my own whilst mulling things over internally.  Once again Maggie’s have been an endless source of support. I prioritise a fortnightly visit which is where I do most of my emotional ‘dumping’. But for all of this to work I have learned  I need be honest. I have also found since I have started ‘allowing myself’ the space to be sad, mad or angry , the time required gets less and less. On some days a 10-minute rant about my frustrations is all that is required,  on others a 5 minute cry will do the job. A daily dog walk without my mobile phone is  probably my favourite way to achieve this which leads me onto the third and final step.

3. I always take time to appreciate the good things in life – or as Bing Crosby put it ‘counting my blessings’.  I regularly talk to Parsnip on our walks about how lucky we are. Yes, my health may not be great but I am blessed in so many other ways. It is through these blessings that I am not just ‘coping’ with cancer but I  actually enjoy life.

So to finish here are just a few of the blessings I am thankful for…

My surgeon and the whole medical team who make me feel supported, safe and grateful for the NHS. For the Maggie’s Cancer Centre in Edinburgh, and in particular  Yvonne, who I sometimes think knows me better than I know myself.

For friends who drive for over an hour at 9pm at night with a homemade lasagne so my family are well-fed whilst I’m in hospital. The Friends who insist on picking me up before our night out because they know how tired I get and want me to save my energy so we can enjoy ourselves. Friends who  send Christmas trees in the mail and organise  group Skype chats. Friends who write me an exercise programme  because they know how much it means to me but more importantly so I can exercise safely!

The neighbours we  call friends who  turn up at our door with plates full of roast chicken dinner and are always up for a game of UNO.

The colleagues who go above and beyond to make me feel included. Who have an early Christmas lunch so I can attend before my second operation .

For our lovely postman who took the time to introduce himself and offer his support.

For my amazing family  who simply do too much for me to even begin counting.

I’ll finish with the wise words of Mr Crosby and should anyone ask me in the future how I cope I’ll remind them to do the same:

‘So if you’re worried and you can’t sleep
Count your blessings instead of sheep
And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings’

As always, #FUCANCER