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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
The Funny Boy and I attended Scottish Power’s Stand Up To Cancer Gala Dinner on Friday night. I had the pleasure and somewhat daunting task of sharing my cancer story. It was a fantastic evening hosted by Des Clarke with hilarious entertainment from Ria Lina, Larry Dean, Jamie Macdonald and Stuart Mitchell. I would highly recommend checking them out!
The event raised over £60k towards translational cancer research! I was amazed to learn that Scottish Power has raised £26m for Cancer Research UK in 7 years. Every corporate could learn from their example!
Raising funds and promoting cancer awareness are two of the few benefits my diagnosis has afforded me. Finding small positives is an awesome way of saying FUCANCER and it is good for the soul too. My belief is nobody has the power to change the world for everyone but everyone has the power to change the world for one person everyday. Whenever I have the opportunity to do something that makes a difference I always grab it with both hands. My project management skills transfer well into the world of fundraising and as for public speaking, well I wouldn’t say it is my forte but it is something I am working on.
We recently formed another committee working on a once in a lifetime event raising funds in aid of Cancer Research UK. We will be revealing more details in the coming months.
You don’t have to wear a lab coat to help beat cancer so if you’d like to STAND UP TO CANCER please visit the link below to find out how you can get involved!
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!
It has come to my attention that yesterday was World Gratitude Day. Despite a very challenging year I believe I am more thankful than ever!
My family, my friends, my medical team and Maggie’s are top of the list of who I’d like to show my appreciation for. I simply wouldn’t be where I am today without them. The reality is the list is a lot longer. I am grateful for the ingenious researchers who made my cancer treatment possible and the phenomenal NHS who I’ve become far too familiar. It’s quite apt that I am writing this blog from a hospital bed…
Unfortunately I had a seizure last night which resulted in another trip to A&E. Every trip to hospital, especially when visiting the emergency department, I feel like a drama queen wasting precious time and valuable resources. Once again I was reminded of how hardworking and caring the NHS team are. From James, the reassuring and thourough doctor who gifted me his banana as a snack, to the ever cheerful nurses who are always on hand and the super thoughtful porter who searched the wards to source me a toothbrush and toothpaste. They are simply amazing.
Following a CT scan, a good night sleep and a slight change to my medication I am happy to report that I am back home with lady Parsnip and the Funny Boy. I am not ashamed to admit that the only time I experience homesickness is whenever I am forced to stay in hospital.
With family living in Canada and a slight insight to the cost of medical treatment – I realise how much I take a funded health service for granted. Within the last 12 months alone I have required two operations, spent multiple nights in hospital and received several MRI and CT scans – the cost of which is more than tens of thousands of pounds. To put it simply, if I lived in another country I doubt I could afford to have cancer!
So in light of World Gratitiude Day I want to show my appreciation for everyone who lifts me up but especially the NHS. You are incredible. We are so lucky to have you. Thank you!
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!’
Happy FUCANCER Friday and apologies for the long pause since my last update. I would love to report that I have been sailing the Carribean, skiing in the Alps or encountering the big 5 in the Savana but I am afraid this bitesize update is quite dull. I suppose with all the drama we have had in the last 10 months (crikey – is that all? It feels much longer) I should be thankful for some peace and quiet.
In my last update I shared my frustrations and honest emotions in the aftermath of a second craniotomy. Literally 8 hours after uploading that vlog I found myself back at hospital wearing another operating gown as I prepared myself for an appendectomy! The surgery went well (Goodbye appendix!) and I was home within 48 hours but unfortunately I picked up a post-op infection which led to another week spent in hospital. On account of the infection I didn’t eat for NINE days. For those who know me well, I am sure you can easily imagine how challenging this was for me. On the bright side I did lose a stone in weight – a goal I hope for at the start of every New Year but the means in which it was achieved is something I would never recommend.
It took me another fortnight to get over the infection but I am delighted to say since then I have been exercising! Running, Bodyattack, weights and even a single session back on the hockey pitch. I have said it before and I will say it again – physical activity is the best medicine! Physically, mentally and emotionally I simply feel stronger.
So with 5 new scars (2 from the craniotomies and 3 from the appendix) I am in a stage of limbo once again. I have had my 3-month follow up scans and the plan is to meet with my surgeon again in April. That meeting will dictate the next steps. It is looking likely that I might need more surgery and following that a combination of chemo and radiotherapy. At the moment it is largely outwith my control and I have made peace with that.
There are a number of ramifications that the Funny Boy and I have had to deal with over the last few months. Those closest to us will know we were preparing to start the adoption process. Given my health we have made the difficult decision that this is something we can no longer pursue. Cervical cancer treatment left me infertile which is something I have come to accept but this realisation feels like another devastating blow. Forgive me for sounding arrogant but I know the Funny Boy and I would have been awesome parents but c’est la vie – it was not to be!
Anyway – back to the positives! I have been cleared to fly so I am looking forward to celebrating the marriage of my big bro and the lovely Katie in Canada! I am so excited to have two weeks away with my whole family! The Funny Boy and I have quite a few weddings this year which is great because it means plenty time to catch up with friends we don’t see often. We have also booked in a few extra special dates too. STICK IT TO CANCER is on track for the fourth year with the addition of two junior tournaments. Everything kicks off this Sunday for the Under 12s, June for the Under 14s and the adult tournament in July!
Before I finish I just wanted to say how much we appreciate everyone who has been in touch. The Funny Boy and I have been overwhelmed with how generous and thoughtful our friends have been over the last year. Even Parsnip has been the recipent of handmade, personalised gifts. You have made a challenging time much easier. From the bottom of our hearts – THANK YOU!