Tag Archives: marathon

Happy #FUCancerversary – where’s the moet?!

As I spent my birthday fighting flu I have no shame in admitting that today I intend to fully celebrate my 1 year cancerversary. For those of you who have followed my journey you will be aware I have two cancerversaries; the 8th of April which is the date I was diagnosed and the 27th August is the date I found out I was in remission. Both dates are etched in my memory and will forever hold an importance in my life.

As with any anniversary, I find myself reflecting on where I was this time last year. The 24 hours which surrounded the appointment itself could be described as a tornado of emotions. The night before I was due to get the results, my family had cleverly orchestrated a sleepover for me and my two year old nephew. Wether this was to keep me distracted or simply exhaust me so I had no option of sleep I am still uncertain! Either way the hours passed quickly and I don’t recall struggling to sleep that night! On the day I recall sitting in the room with my Onocologist and Nurse whilst the Funny Boy, Iceberg and Buggernuts literally stood behind me in anticipation. Upon hearing the words ‘there is no sign of cancer’ I had to ask for clarity: Am i hearing this right? The cancer is gone? It was simply too good to be true! Upon receiving the confirmation I needed I simply thought ‘How lucky am I?’

Elated and relieved, the four of us left the appointment hand in hand and as we exited the building the sun was shining down. I stood in the hospital car park making the important phone calls to the family and friends who were eagerly waiting on the other end of the line. On that day, nobody allowed their phone to ring more than once! Aside from announcing my engagement to the Funny Boy, it was the best phone call I have ever had to make!

Upon returning home the four of us put on our best dressed outfits and headed out for dinner. Even the Iceberg joined us for a glass of champagne. It was the only time in all my life I had heard her admit to ‘feeling squiffy’ after half a glass of Moet!

Following our meal and several glasses of champagne I was suitably exhausted. The adrenalin had worn off and it was time to go to bed. I had gone to bed feeling like an athlete at the end of the marathon. I had come to the end of the race, the job was done and it was now time to relax and bask in the glory. However, when I woke the following day it was a very different story.

When the doctor told me there was no sign of cancer – I assumed that meant the cancer was gone. The marathon I didn’t sign up for was done! I imagined that magically my old life would return: Back to work, back to hockey, back to socialising, back to me. I could not have been more wrong. Physically and mentally I was not the same person. And as much as I wanted, wished or even prayed for my old lifestyle to return this was something that was never going to happen. The realisation of this began to hit me. Everything was different.

So here I am 12 months on and how do I feel?

I don’t think the marathon is done but I have come to the realisation that perhaps it never will be. I will never get back to being the old me but it does present an excellent opportunity to continually strive in being a better me!  Admittedly I do have my days of exhaustion and some of my ongoing appointments are not the most enjoyable (I have a new found appreciation for sedatives! My colonoscopy is a blur) which can bring me down. However I simply have to think of what I have achieved in the past year:

  • Returned to work full time and got a new job!
  • Married the Funny Boy and had an epic adventure in Thailand
  • Graduated the Women’s Sport Leadership Academy
  • Successfully began Project 30

Here is to my first of (hopefully) many cancerversaries! Cheers!!

#FUCancer

Happy Cancerversary #FUCancer
Happy Cancerversary #FUCancer

Life in Limbo

Treatment finished five weeks ago now. I am relieved that after an arduous fortnight of pyrotechnical side affects it appears the symptoms have managed to settle and although I have a pitiful supply of energy it is good to have a bit more freedom and independence again. I have immense gratitude being able to visit the toilet without some form of pain relief.

Within the final weeks of treatment I had got to a point where I was constantly in the company of Iceberg, Buggernuts or the Funny Boy. All of whom adopted the role as my carer. I had around the clock supervision. They bought my food, prepared my meals, washed my clothes. I was chauffeured anywhere I wanted to go. Even at nights if I couldn’t sleep someone would sit with me. Sometimes I would get upset thinking about the unthinkable where other nights it would simply be the steroids keeping me awake. It is only now as I get back to ‘normality’ I can see how dependant I had become. I was actually proud of myself having slept at home alone whilst the Funny Boy was on a night shift. I was anxious ‘What if I don’t feel well? What if start to feel scared again? What if…’ But these are the things I am learning to accept as my new ‘normality’.

What is normality? Normality was life before cancer (BC) where I would happily be at my desk for 8am every working day. Where a pre-work run and post work gym or hockey session happened most days of the week. Weekends BC were jam packed. Saturdays were dominated by hockey fixtures, family visits and the odd glass of wine. Sunday mornings BC were made for long runs along Crammond promenade followed by a guilt-free afternoon where I could eat whatever took my fancy. Goal setting BC was a favourite of mine, wether it be holidays, marathons or career aspirations – I loved having something to work toward. As I await the results I am stuck in limbo waiting to move to the next BC (life beyond cancer). Getting back to ‘normality’ in the meantime is difficult. ‘Normailty’ now is uncomfortably hot flushes, limited energy supply and an increasingly short temper – largely fuelled by frustration. I get frustrated by the fact one game of table tennis leaves me needing a lie down for the rest of the day. The sound of bells made me think of Christmas, possibly my favourite time of the year, and I was angry at the thought of how many more will I get to enjoy? I get upset knowing the Funny Boy and I will never (biologically) have children. This is my new normality. I am adapting to the changes – both physically and emotionally. As I am reunited with friends and colleagues I have been flooded with messages of ‘you look great’ and ‘nobody can tell you’ve been ill’. This has been a source of comfort especially as I look at myself and struggle to see beyond my sweaty brow and increasingly large love handles! My peers still see me – the old me – and that is good but in some ways it’s difficult. They can’t understand why one day I will be fit to sit at my desk all day and the next I will struggle to get out of bed. They won’t appreciate how a simple ‘See ya later skiver!’ is the last thing I need to hear when it’s taken all my strength to get me to work in the first place. How can I expect my peers to understand something that I am still getting accustomed to?

As I rebuild my social life and return to work I find myself setting new goals with a firm understanding that these can easily be changed following my next appointment. However I refuse to let cancer deny me the life I am living right now. The Funny Boy and I had an incredible engagement party surrounded by loved ones which inspired us to start planning our wedding. The date has been set, groomsmen and bridal party recruited and our honeymoon is rapidly turning into the trip of a lifetime. When I ran the marathon last year I had to prepare my body and mind. I am learning to adapt to my new normality and much like the marathon this means listening to my body and more importantly thinking positive thoughts. So #FUCancer! I am Heather, I am strong and I won’t let you beat me.

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This week has been the hardest so far.

I was warned in advance of the side effects associated to the treatment. As per my previous blogs the biggest inconvenience had been the ongoing battle in my bowels. Constipation versus diarrhoea. What would your preference be? Constipation is a welcome relief in comparison to the latter. In addition to this I am learning to accept the change in my body’s appearance. The steroids are causing me to gain weight and the constipation guarantees a bulbous belly. This has caused a few girly tantrums as I moan about turning from Heather into a heifer! However in the grand scheme of things I have bigger fish to fry! What’s more the Funny Boy assures me I am still beautiful. Silly sod!

Heather the heifer??
Heather the heifer??

At the weekend I started suffering from cystitis. Like most unlucky women I have experienced cystitis before. It is a common side effect associated to radiotherapy however on a much more severe scale. Following chemotherapy on Tuesday night I was in a great deal of discomfort and pain which kept me up for the majority of the night. Unfortunately this followed into Wednesday where the pain was beyond inconvenient – it was unbearable. I didn’t want to leave the bathroom, let alone the house. For the first time I found myself not wanting to go to the hospital for my daily treatment. Upon returning home the only relief I found was sitting in a luke warm bath. I spent over two hours in the tub watching movies whilst the Funny Boy brought me cranberry juice and ice lollies (did I say the Funny Boy is my knight in shining armour?) When I eventually brought myself to leave the comfort of the tub I was left with no alternative but to call the Cancer help line. I was in agony. The Johnny Cash song ‘Ring of Fire’ has a whole no meaning to me now. Within 20 minutes of being on the phone I was back in the hospital. With daily visits I am sure you can appreciate the last place I want to go voluntarily is the hospital however I felt a sense of relief upon arrival. Once again I was impressed with the excellent staff who greeted me and assured my complaints were justified. I get the fear I am over reacting sometimes and worry that I am wasting people’s time. However the staff comforted me and within three hours I was discharged with pain killers and antibiotics. This led to a reasonable night sleep – the best I have had in ages. As I write this now I am still in mild discomfort but it is merely an inconvenience opposed to the debilitating pain I was in yesterday. Tomorrow brings the first operation to prepare me for two subsequent doses of brachytherapy. Following a successful series of pre op tests today it looks like I am ready and raring to go!

Yesterday was the first time I felt properly ill. The nature of chemotherapy and the side affects of radiotherapy are gradually having their impact. It is like getting hit by a truck very slowly. My whole body is feeling the effects. My emotions are all over the place too. Trying to plan a wedding is difficult when you find yourself welling up over photos of complete strangers on their special day. However these are all things to be expected and I am nailing this. I am over half way through and as I sit here I still have a smile on my face. The past few weeks have been tough but I have been blessed by great moments shared with my wonderful family and friends. At the weekend I had a long cwtch* with Conor who agreed to my page-boy for the wedding, I brought my sister-in-law to tears by asking her to by my maid of honour and I spent Saturday in the glorious sunshine with my family at the Drymen show. Another highlight this week has been the news of two of my oldest friends welcoming a beautiful baby boy into the world on Tuesday – Jack Harvie – I can’t wait to meet you! What’s more I was I was greeted by a video of Ryan this morning as he stretched his legs and sang a song – hopefully it wasn’t his attempt at Johnny Cash though! Life is beautiful!

Great weekend with my top nephews!
Cwtching with Conor and Ryan! (*Cwtch – Welsh word for an affectionate hug)

So as I approach the last two weeks I would say I am at mile 18 of this marathon. The 18th mile for the Loch Ness Marathon was a monster; steep incline and all uphill but I smashed that and I am going to smash this monster too! #FUCancer

 

 

A little and a lot!

It is officially four weeks on since I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. A lot and a little has happened in a relatively short timeframe: I have had a PET scan, a CT scan, two further planning meetings and three new tattoos. Treatment begins a week today which will be combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The most common question in response to that is ‘what about your hair?’ and I am relieved to say that my golden-locks are safe (otherwise I would be raging having spent a fortune getting my roots done!) Anyone who has ever been through this will no doubt agree that when you get a diagnosis you want treatment to begin yesterday. Waiting is frustrating. Every bodily function, every pain, every niggle you automatically think ‘It’s the cancer!’ Even the funny boy had to laugh when I claimed my hiccups were related to cancer. The prospect of treatment doesn’t scare me – don’t get me wrong; the idea of feeling nauseous, enduring sunburn and various other side affects doesn’t sound like the best fun. Saying goodbye to the prospect of motherhood has definitely been a grieving process for me. So yes, with regards to starting treatment a little has happened however I am ready to tackle this head on. I am young, fit, strong and I have an army of people supporting me!

My army of family and friends have been amazing. I have been flooded with supportive messages, inspiring words, thoughtful gifts – I love my FUC bear (http://designer-j.co.uk/). Old friends, new friends, friends of friends all going out of their way to say something. I appreciate how difficult it can be for some people. You don’t want to say the wrong thing but you don’t want to say nothing either. As I said previously this is a marathon and it is great to know you have people at the finishing line but it is even better knowing they are running it with you! My family and the funny boy have been particularly outstanding…

My mum is now known as Alma ‘Iceberg’ Williams. For those of who you have met my pocket sized mother you will understand what I mean when I say she is petite. To look at you probably wouldn’t back her in a fight, but you would be wrong! She may look small but she has the strength and power to take down the Titanic! Out of everyone she was the person I was most nervous about telling. I assumed she would cry and ask ‘why’ – I was wrong. She has helped me with every emotion and supported me through every step of the marathon so far.

Then, there is my Dad. He is a classic Dad. When it comes to ‘lady-things’ he doesn’t want to know. He doesn’t understand womens’ bits and nor does he want to. Who could blame him?! I can only imagine being told your daughter, your only daughter, has cancer is a parent’s worst nightmare. Top that by it being cervical cancer and a whole host of awkward conversations then it is definately a dad’s worst nightmare. Yet, my dad has amazed me! He has attended every appointment, listened to every consequence of treatment and held my hand through it all. My dad already had the nickname ‘Buggernuts’ – it doesn’t seem appropriate to rename him Amazeballs but that is what he is! Amazeballs!

The siblings (Owain, Gags & Angela) and the nephews (Conor and Ryan aka Ryno (apologies Ryan you will hate that name one day)) are top pacemakers too! Each showing their support in their own way. My nephews have prepared a superb pack of FU Cancer treats which are in my bag all set for next week. Angela has been an ear for me to rant and rave when needs to be. Owain and Gareth are the same which is exactly what I need them to be. They approve of the funny boy which is a major bonus too!

And then there is the funny boy! There aren’t enough words to describe him. Maybe I should keep it simple and rename him my fiancee!

Yeah, so a little and a lot has happened in the past four weeks! Treatment is still waiting to start but I am no longer free agent! After a very romantic and personalised proposal (in true funny boy fashion) I said yes! Exactly four weeks to the day and time I was getting my diagnosis I was sat in a jewellers picking my engagement ring! I am beyond elated. Marathons have their ups and downs and today is definately a high! Looks like I have a training partner for life now. Lucky, lucky me!

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The Marathon I didn’t sign up for

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Today signals the start of a marathon which I will conquer, a marathon I never signed up for.

2013 was a great year for me. I was settling into life in Edinburgh, work was a passion where I met loads of inspiring people and I had made a whole new crew of friends. In addition to this I set a target of running my first marathon in Loch Ness. I loved the months of training especially in the Summer Sun. I found myself running on the sandy beaches of Fuertaventura, the down town streets of Toronto and, more often than not, the promenade at Crammond. The feeling on race day was electric! I was terrified but confident. Being a self confessed control freak I had created a rigorous training plan and diet which I was committed to. I knew I deserved to conquer my goal – I knew I could run a marathon, I just had to prove it. I found the experience of running exhilarating. I was surrounded by hundreds of other runners of different ages, sizes, runners with their own motivation, their own agenda. I would often find myself reading other runners vest which told of fundraising stories, people touched by disease or battling a cancer. I chose to raise funds for the Craig Gowans Memorial Fund in partnership with the Sick Kids Friends Foundation. I chose this because of a close friend at the time and many of the children I work with are involved with Sick Kids. The support of family and friends helped me raise over £1000. I was overwhelmed that my small efforts could raise an impressive amount for such a worthwhile cause. Upon completing the marathon, in an annoying 4 hours 17 minutes , I knew I had to do it again if not only to get a sub 4 hour time. The whole experience of setting a goal, working towards it and smashing it was so rewarding: it is genuinely one of the best feelings I have ever had. In the the following months I allowed myself some time to calm down from the training. (In addition to training for hockey and coaching boccia I spent the majority of my free time running) I dubbed the month of October ‘Yestember’ where I had to say yes to any social opportunity that came my way. Not so surprisingly this included a lot of drunken nights. On one occasion I met a very funny boy. This funny boy asked me on a date and despite saying no initially I remembered it was Yestember. We shared our first night of giggles over Beverly janes which is something we hev repeated over the past 6 months. So, yes 2013 was a great year for me. Loving life in Edinburgh, smashed a marathon and I met a funny boy who I am proud to say is now my funny boyfriend.

We are now in the fourth month of 2014 and it is safe to say that this year is proving to be a bit more challenging. Saying goodbye to my gran, realising who my true friends are and then there is that dark day in April. On Tuesday 8th April I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. An appointment which lasted less than an hour turned life as I know it upside down. I am currently on route to the hospital for my planning meeting which will decide my treatment. A meeting which will impact the following months with a strong goal at the end: beat cancer! There are a lot of similarities between cancer and a marathon…

– You can’t prepare yourself for it overnight
– It will take time and you have to take the ups with the downs
– You’ll discover you are much stronger than you imagined
– You’ll be overwhelmed by the people who are there to support you, to love you and help you conquer your goal.

So, did I sign up for it? No but I LOVE a challenge. What’s more I LOVE my life and everyone in it. Just like the marathon, I will beat cancer.

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