The past eight months have been full of ups, downs, difficulties and joys and so much has happened but, luckily for you, my forgetful chemo brain won’t be able to remember half of it let alone tell you all about it!
First off, I will tell you a bit about chemotherapy.
I can honestly say that there is absolutely no way that anyone can prepare you for what’s to come. Unless you have been through chemo yourself you can never in a million years imagine what it’s like.
It has been the most hideous, scary and draining time of my life and I am glad I didn’t know what it was like before I started.
I remember on the day I received my first cycle of Doxorubicin (better known in the cancer world as The Red Devil) I was so nervous yet so eager to get everything going. I had been told that it was an amazing drug and I thought that all I needed to do was get through the planned six cycles of chemo and I could have my life back again. Little did I know it wouldn’t be that simple.
After three cycles (each cycle is 21 days long) I had a CT scan to see whether the tumours were responding. Unfortunately for me the lil’ old Red Devil didn’t work and the tumours had grown.
I was absolutely gutted and I felt like I had wasted my time having three awful cycles of chemo for nothing.
There was only about a week and a half before I was being put on to the next lot of treatment which was a combination of Docetaxel and Gemcitabine. I had heard that the side effects wouldn’t be as bad as the first chemo I had – wrong again!
Unlike with the first lot of chemo where I had one lot of drugs every cycle, this time I was given drugs on the first and the eighth day of each cycle. I ended up feeling like I lived at the Christie as I was having chemo on the Monday and blood tests on the Friday for two weeks in a row with just a week off in between.
Although I don’t remember a lot about the early days of the treatment, I do remember the tiredness, the pain, being unable to move or open my eyes because I was so achy, not being able to bare anyone or anything touching me and feeling so sick even though I was on a range of anti-sickness drugs.
I had another CT scan after the first three cycles just like last time. Amazingly, this scan showed that each of the tumours had shrunk by a few millimetres each. Of course, it was brilliant news but strangely I didn’t feel relief and happiness like Ash and my family did.
Thinking back, I can’t really remember why apart from the fact I was filled with fear and despair that I still had another three to six cycles of treatment left to go. I hated the chemo and I hated feeling like my life had been taken away from me.
As the chemo progressed it started to make me poorly and I was being sent into A&E by the Christie chemo nurses almost every week. I was having to have blood tests, x-rays, scans and various other tests but, luckily for me, more often than not it wasn’t anything too serious.
Although there was one very bad incidence when I was sent into A&E with a high fever along with pain, swelling and redness in my legs. This turned out to be a bacterial skin infection called Cellulitis. I felt so ill that I thought I was dying and so did my Mum.
It was terrifying and I have never felt so poorly. I was on up to ten doses of antibiotics a day and was in hospital for five days.
It wasn’t long after this that I decided to tell my Oncologist that I wanted to stop the chemo. I was absolutely worn out and I knew I couldn’t go on anymore. I felt broken and like my body was shutting down.
After a couple of meetings with my specialist nurse and my Oncologist it was decided that I would stop being treated with both drugs and that I would carry on with the one that carried the least side effects. Deep down I was too frightened to decide to stop the chemo myself so I pushed myself to carry on even though everything in me didn’t want to.
Unfortunately, the side effects and trips to A&E didn’t stop and the team responsible for my care at the Christie decided that it would be a risk to my health and well-being to carry on with the treatment. I was so relieved that the decision had been taken out of my hands and I felt like a massive weight had been lifted off me.
Fast forward six weeks and all of that seems like a complete blur however chemo has, for now, made a lasting effect on my body.
As a result of the chemo I am having to live with pins and needles in my feet and hands, clumsy fingers which give me difficulty with buttons and lids and pain in my legs and feet. There are times when my entire body is filled with so much pain that I struggle to stand for longer than a few minutes, I have to crawl up the stairs and Ash has to help me undress myself.
As well as that, I also have a collapsed vertebrae in the top of my back and thinning disks in the bottom of my back which cause me excruciating pain.
My doctors don’t think that the cancer has caused these back issues but there is a possibility that the chemo has worsened them.
It’s a pretty shit situation to be in, especially at just 32 years old. However I’m not telling you because I want sympathy, I’m telling you because I want you to know that I’ll be damned if I’m going to let all of this rule my life!!
I have stage four cancer which, in the eyes of the professionals, is going to kill me very soon and that is bad enough without all the other things I have to deal with. However, rather than moping around, crying and feeling sorry for myself, I want to try my best to be positive and happy. I want to have a life that can be as normal as possible because cancer has already taken so much from me.
I want to show that having cancer doesn’t mean you have to stop having fun and enjoying your self.
Most of the time I sing so loud and passionately when I’m alone that I practically hold a concert every day at my house, I get up every day and make my favourite breakfast, I do the things that I enjoy like scrolling through make-up tutorials on Instagram, drinking pints of tea with honey and eating scones with lots of cream and jam!
Of course, I have down days and there are times when I am so beside myself with pain and fear that only my Mum can make me feel better.
My sister, Nesta recently told me that I should do whatever I need to in order to get through the tough days – within reason of course. I think that her advice is so important to remember because we all need to give ourselves a helping hand at times. It doesn’t matter if that means watching your favourite film for the millionth time, sitting in a bubble bath until you look like a sweaty prune, buying yourself a treat or cancelling plans with friends or family if the thought of socialising is making your day tougher.
Life isn’t always easy and it can be testing but I think it’s how you choose to deal with the difficult things that can really make a difference to your day to day life. I know some people who have been through or who are currently going through some really hard things but they are some of the most beautiful people I know because they are enjoying living too.
Anyway, this was longer than intended so I’ll stop writing for now, however, I will take the chance to remind you all to check your lumps, bumps, boobs, balls and poo and keep a look out for anything that’s unusual for you!!!
Cancer is a massive f***er. Let’s catch it early, let’s not be afraid to talk about it, to ask our doctors about it and let’s not be afraid to push harder if you don’t think you’re being taken seriously.