The thing no one ever wants to talk about.

Death and dying is such a taboo subject. It’s a bit like sex, no one really casually discusses it and if they do then there is a sense of awkwardness and it makes most people feel uncomfortable. However, death is something that is going to happen to each one of us at some point – no one gets out of here alive. I believe it should be given more conversation time so that it isn’t such a touchy subject. 

As hard as it is to discuss, it is even harder to comprehend at age 33 that death is something that could potentially happen to me before 2021 is out. Of course, I don’t like to think about the possibility of this but with it being my current reality it has made me start looking at life differently. 

I have made certain decisions, for example, where I would like to be when, or if, I die. It is sad and it is beyond difficult to think about, but I believe that I should do it to help myself become more familiar with it. If I get to the point where I am told that I haven’t got long left, I hope that it won’t come as such a shock because I haven’t been living with my head buried in the sand about it. Whether this will be the case or not I don’t know, but I would rather plan for the ‘just incase’ than not plan at all. 

When I was 15 years old a tragedy struck our family and my cousin of only 24 years died in a car accident. To protect my family, I will not go into detail about this however, I will say that it was one of the most terrible things I have ever had to experience. Because of this, I grew up with only one idea of what death was like and it was a death of this kind; completely out of the blue, a total shock, something that tore people’s lives apart. 

It was only a few months ago that I realised that death isn’t always this way. I know this might sound stupid, but it has been the only time that there has been one of those realisation moments for me. It happened when I was in the hospice for the first time and during my stay there were a couple of deaths. Knowing that there had been a death, I was waiting for the screaming and the panic but there didn’t seem to be any – there was just peace, stillness and calm. I obviously don’t know what it was like in that moment when that person breathed their last breath but everything about it was just very different than I expected it to be. 

I really had no idea death could be this way but then I have never thought about death in enough detail to really think about what it might be like for other people in different situations. 

It was this experience at the hospice that made me feel very differently towards my own death. Let me just state for the record – I DO NOT want to die. However, because I have cancer there are so many times, for one reason or another, that I am faced with talking about the end of my life. Don’t get me wrong, if I think about dying for too long then I can’t cope with it, I get upset and I cry, but if I am to think about it briefly then I can make little plans – which I have done. I have found this easier all thanks to my experience in the hospice. 

It has made these decisions that bit easier because I feel more secure and at peace with how the end of my life may be due to how I have witnessed death in the hospice.  I know that the staff are all so caring and kind and that they have patients’ best interests at the forefront of their care. They will do anything to make you feel as content and as comfortable as possible. 

Another thing I have had to deal with recently all thanks to cancer is whether I want to be resuscitated if I die. This is because of my diagnosis and my prognosis; the doctors have to ask and have me come to a decision on a ‘Do Not Resuscitate Statement’. I will refer to this from here on out as DNRS, so I don’t have to type as much haha! 

The first time this was ever mentioned to me was when I was in A&E at the start of lockdown. A doctor came in and asked me if I would want to be resuscitated. I replied with a quiet and quivery ‘I have no idea’ to which he replied ‘If I was you, with the state your body is in, you wouldn’t have a good quality of life so I’d say go with do not resuscitate.’ Oh, yeh thanks for that doctor, I’m on chemo, ill with an infection, on my own in A&E, maybe just f**k off!

This experience was not a nice one and I purposely didn’t think about it again until the next time chemo took me into hospital, and I was asked for a second time. This time the doctor asking was much nicer, but I still didn’t make a decision. There was a third time too and a fourth, it was on the fourth time, I made my decision. 

I was asked about it last week in the hospice and I thought to myself that I needed to make a choice so that I can box it away and not have to think about it again.  I came to my decision by talking it through with the doctors here and with Ash – who like me had no idea about what decision to make! 

Basically, because I have decided that if I die from cancer I would like to be here in the hospice, by agreeing to a DNRS, if my heart stops, that will be it, I will be gone. They won’t call an ambulance and rush me for CPR at A&E. So the decision was kind of made for me and I was at peace with that. 

It was an incredibly hard thing to decide and it isn’t a decision that you expect to be making at such a young age, but my attitude was – I have to decide on this so just come on and do it. So I did. 

For the rest of the day and night afterwards I felt very on edge and teary, it wasn’t until I was about to go to bed that I realised how big of a deal it was for me to have made that decision. It was only me that could have made that choice and I did it, on my own. That is big. 

I know that the way I feel won’t help those that I may leave behind but for me and what I have to go through on a daily basis, it is a comfort that I can now put these thoughts into little boxes in my mind and not think about them again. I definitely feel like a weight has been lifted after making my decision on a DNRS. 

I decided to write about death and dying as a blog post because if it hadn’t been for my experience at the hospice and my realisation about death then I would never have had the chance to feel that little bit more at peace with it.  It has always been my hope that through writing this blog I may help someone else. That in my eyes is a job well done. 

I am keeping this short (I think) and sweet as I know it isn’t an easy thing to read about – it wasn’t an easy thing to write about and I feel so nervous about posting it, but I think that is a good thing. There won’t only be me that has had to go through this, and it won’t only be my family that have to deal with someone in this situation. I am breaking down a barrier by speaking about the ‘un-spoken’ and I hope that it is as helpful to you as it is to me to write about it. 

Faith 

X X X

Let me update you!

It has been a long time since I did a blog post.  So long in fact that I can’t even recall when I last posted or what it was about!

I have been wanting to write again as it helps me to get what I hold in my head everyday down on ‘paper’ and I do like to keep people updated with how I am.  I know that so many people care and that there are people who would like to know how I am but don’t like to ask.

So here we go..Enjoy!

I seem to have fallen into a routine since Ash has gone back to work – which I am loving – not gonna lie!  It is so nice to have some time to myself again.

My sister, Nesta says that she gets asked so often about how I am doing and her answer is always ‘She gets up everyday, gets dressed, does her make up and goes about her day, so we all do the same.’  I love that this is her answer and I love even more that it is true.

My daily mantra has become ‘Get up, dress up and show up.’ and that is what I do everyday.  I get up when Ash gets up for work between six and half past, I make myself a big cup of tea and my breakfast, sit and watch an episode or two of Desperate Housewives and then have a shower and get ready for the day even if all I am doing is sitting in the house. I do this so that if that’s all I do in a day, I know that I have overcome the desire lurking somewhere inside me to slob in my dressing gown or lie in bed all day.  By getting up, getting dressed and showing up, I have proven to cancer that I won’t be stopped.

As I have mentioned a few times now, I am no longer on any treatment for the cancer. The chemo that was working for me at the start of lockdown was stopped as my Oncologist was worried that carrying it on would make me too vulnerable to Covid-19.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Fast forward a few months and I was told it was safe enough for me to restart the same chemo, I can’t really remember much about this time to be honest but I know that it made me feel poorly and I did a spell in hospital with an infection. 

I had a CT scan after two rounds of chemo and then attended the consultation to get the results.   I was told that most of the tumours had grown so clearly the treatment hadn’t worked.  The consultation felt very final and almost like I was being left to fend for myself whilst waiting for death.  It was quite surreal.  To make things worse, I had to go on my own as you cannot take anyone in to your appointments at The Christie at the moment.

I have now been off treatment for almost three months (I think?!) and as I am coming up to my three monthly scan, I am starting to have moments of worry about what the results will be. Time will tell though I guess.

Now, on to the highlight of 2020 – The Wedding of Mr & Mrs Rigby!

We actually had to rearrange our wedding date twice and as we came up to our planned wedding date, we eventually thought we should start discussing what we should do about going ahead with it.  We decided that at the end of the day we just wanted to be married so we kept the date of the registry office in the diary and then went on to find somewhere we could safely have 30 people for reception drinks.  

It was so difficult choosing such a small number of people to have in attendance.  We were able to invite just six people to the registry office and 28 people to the reception drinks. My direct family is 30 people so it was more than difficult! In fact it actually felt like it broke my heart having to message people like my nieces and nephews and tell them they weren’t going to be able to come.  It was horrible telling those we loved that they wouldn’t be invited. Luckily though, everyone was so understanding which helped massively.  Unfortunately we had no choice and it was completely out of our control but everyone totally got that which we both appreciated so much.

It turned out to be the best day we could have ever wished for.  We had the ceremony at Chesterfield Registry Office – which I highly recommend by the way! Afterwards we went to the Leewood Hotel in Buxton for a few drinks.  In a way it almost made it more special being such a small group of people as there was a chance to talk with each person, spend time taking pictures and we had the time to really enjoy everyone’s company.  We hope to hold the second part of the wedding as soon as we can, although after Boris changing the guest number to 15 for at least six months, that now seems like a distant hope!  

Although it has been a time of such joy over the past couple of months with my hen do, our wedding, honeymoon and my birthday, it has also been a time of reflection on how my life is right now.

Being a newly married woman I want to be doing my part as a housewife.  Some of you might frown upon this but all I ever wanted from life was to get married and be a housewife.  Now I feel like I have everything I ever wanted – besides the cancer obviously!  But it just isn’t that straightforward for me.  I want to be home making, baking and having Ash’s tea ready when he comes home. I try so hard to do the things I want to but my body just doesn’t play ball.  

I can’t stand for long periods of time, so for example, making a meal takes much longer than it should because I have to take regular breaks, same with washing up and don’t even get me started on showering! I can’t easily go up and down the stairs, I get exhausted from using them, especially in the evening when I am more tired.

There are times when Ash has to help me do little things like get ready for bed, put my shoes and socks on because I can’t easily bend my legs, wait for me outside the bathroom whilst I have a shower when I feel faint because of pain and finish off or do little jobs around the house for me. It is so frustrating not being able to just get on with things.  It feels like my independence is slipping through my fingers and there is no way I can grab it back.

However I count myself so incredibly lucky that I have a husband who is willing to do all of these things for me and even more, he wants to because he wants to see me safe, comfortable and happy.  I really feel so blessed that he stuck around for me.  He could have easily cut and run but he chose to stay – What a guy! 

**I am actually writing this post from my very comfy recliner armchair at the East Cheshire Hospice.  I have come for a stay for pain management and to try and sort out some other cancer related issues I am currently dealing with.  

I suffer with pain every day however over the past few weeks it has got to the point where it is so bad it is making me feel sick and it leaves me unable to do anything. On top of this I am not sleeping well,  I get between two and four hours sleep a night which isn’t good when you have a body that is fighting so hard every day.  

I have had an inpatient stay here before so I know that it will help me massively and that I will leave in a much better place than when I arrived!  Everyone here is so lovely – last time I was here I described them all as angels in scrubs and that is definitely what they are!

I think I will leave this post here for now – I could go on forever so I have to stop myself somewhere haha!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read.

Faith

X X X

If you’d like a little catch up with me, please read!

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.

When the beast you tried to forget rears it’s ugly head..

It’s been so long since I have written a blog post that I hardly know where to start. I have thought about writing and not writing so many times since I found out that the dreaded beast had returned and today was the day I decided to do it.

It is hard to get all that has happened over the past few weeks in to one post so I have skipped over chemotherapy for now and gone for a quick run down of my brief cancer free time, the day I found out about the new diagnosis and how I try and cope day to day.

So here goes…

As the clock struck midnight on New Year’s eve I was relieved to say goodbye to 2018.  A year that had completely turned my world upside down.

I wanted 2019 to be my year and I wanted to move on. Ash and I had decided we would start saving for a house, we were thinking about holidays and I was building my hours back up at work to be full time within the next month or two.

I decided to put myself on the waiting list for counselling and I went to see my (new and amazing I must add!) GP for help as I had been suffering with depression.  It was a difficult step to take but I knew it was time as I was spending so many of my days in tears not knowing how to get my life back on track. I’m so glad I went and got myself sorted as I dread to think how I would be feeling now without the anti-depressants. They did and continue to do an amazing job of taking that lingering feeling of darkness away.

Fast forward a few weeks and I was stood in the queue at The Christie outpatients desk.  I was called forward and the receptionist took my details and told me that I would go for my clinic appointment with my Oncologist and then I would have my bloods taken.  Alarm bells started ringing in my head immediately and I knew something was wrong.  Usually at clinic appointments like this you get your bloods done and then go and see your Oncologist.  It had been that way every time I had gone to The Christie.  I knew something wasn’t right.

Soon enough I was sat in the clinic room and I was being told that the cancer had returned and that it had spread. I remember feeling like I had lifted up out of my body and I wanted to ask if I was dreaming. It was the strangest feeling. I kept crying and saying ‘I knew it, I just knew it’. I felt like it broke my heart and I was filled with fear that I had done it, that I had done something wrong and that’s why it had come back.  

I remember asking a few questions and then Ash began to ask some too.  He asked my oncologist how this new diagnosis would affect the time I had left and they both asked me if I would mind her answering the question.   I said I wanted to know.  I pulled myself together and told her to tell me.  I’d done this all before, it was familiar territory and I wanted to know what I was up against.

As I sit here today, I think about what I was told in that appointment.  I was told that I would be starting chemotherapy in a matter of weeks, that there was very, very little chance of me still being here in five years’ time and that the chemotherapy would kill my one remaining ovary which meant that children would no longer be an option for Ash and I.  All of the plans I had started to make were taken away from me and I was so angry.

It absolutely terrifies me when I think about it and I live 90% of the time in complete denial that I even have cancer let alone Stage 4 cancer.  I can’t think about it because I’m scared that if I do I will completely lose it. 

This is why I have decided to try and live every day in a happy bubble and in hope and belief that there is something bigger out there that will exceed any expectations that the doctors have for me.  

Fortunately for me that something bigger is God.  I believe God is real and although that doesn’t always stop me from being scared or having brief moments when I think about the songs I would want played at my funeral, I have the comfort of praying away my fears and knowing that there are people all around the world praying for me and wishing me well.

There are days when it is easier than others (Ash will definitely vouch for me there!) but I don’t see the point in moping around crying and feeling sorry for myself all the time. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely days when I have a good cry or ten and it is a struggle to get through the day but I know that with every day I succeed in doing so I am proving to myself that I can.  

I sing in the shower, I dance around the house when no one is here, I joke, I laugh and I do all of those things because I want to try and prove to myself that I’m not dying. That I am strong enough to stick two fingers up to cancer – even if it is for fleeting moment.

Cancer I have beaten you before and I’m not afraid to do it again – this is just the start so watch your back.

 

‘A merry heart does good like a medicine..’ Proverbs 17:22

What’s normal anyway!?

It’s been good for me giving this blog a bit of a rest, but I have been feeling like I’ve needed a bit of writing therapy of late.

It’s mainly because it’s that dreaded time again – CT scan time.  Well, it’s a week away but that hasn’t stopped scanxiety rearing its ugly head nice and early!

I have noticed recently that there have been times I have felt more ‘me’ than I have done in previous weeks.  I have more energy than I have done in a while and I feel like I’m slowly but surely ‘getting there’ wherever there is? I say it to people all the time, so I should know right!?

However, there are also times when all I do is wonder about how I can get myself completely back to ‘normal’ again.  I tell myself daily to just get a grip because it can’t really be this difficult?!  Cancer’s been and gone now and I need to move on – but how? How on earth do people do it?!

I see people with cancer running marathons, people who have survived cancer partying on the regs and seemingly living their best life and I see people doing so much more than me.  It makes me stop and wonder if I’m doing it all wrong?  Should I be doing more and making more of life?

I quickly remind myself that it’s not even six months since my surgery and that I can’t even do a full day’s work yet never mind run a few miles!  I remind myself that although there are things I want to do, it’s just not the right time yet.

However as quickly as I have told myself just that, I waste no time at all in sending myself in to a complete panic because I’m worried I’m running out of time but I don’t know it yet.  It’s a vicious circle.

I haven’t felt normal like I know normal for about a year now.  It was around this time last year when I started to feel poorly and a lot of stuff has gone down in the last 12 months!!

I can’t remember what life was like before.  I just know it was a lot easier than this even though I may not have thought it was at the time.

Being told you might have cancer is bad, being told you have cancer is worse, being told you may only have six weeks to live is even worse but I was carried through it.  I leant on other people and I felt like I was floating on a cloud of love and prayers that took me through all of that.  I was in the hands of, who I believe to be, the best surgeons, doctors and nurses going.  I didn’t need to do much, everyone did the fixing for me.

This bit though, the get back to normal and get on with your life part feels harder than any of that was.

Now I know what being faced with cancer is like I feel like it has taken away any innocence I had left.

I see now I lived quite obliviously to a lot of life’s horrors and rightly so!

All I ever wanted was to find a boyfriend and move in with him.  I felt like life was really going to start for me when I met Ash and we moved in together – I had what I had always dreamed of.  It wasn’t plain sailing because I felt so poorly but I didn’t think anything too bad was going to happen.  I had everything I needed to live a nice, easy, happy life minus a few million in the bank!!

I know that I still have this and that there is nothing stopping me from feeling like this again but it’s just not as easy as it sounds.  I want so much for it to be, but it just isn’t.

I now know that there is a very real possibility that there could be something very horrid and very real right around the corner and I just can’t seem to get past it.  Does this feeling ever stop?  Do you ever go back to normal?  Do you ever get ‘there’?

For now, I don’t know the answers but I hope one day soon I will.  Time is a healer so they say.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kicking cancers arse and the aftermath!  

I have read a lot about scanxiety and now know through experience that it is so real.  The wait between my latest CT scan and the results day was filled with so much emotion and anxiety.  A part of me didn’t want to let myself think or hope that everything was going to be ok.  I didn’t want to be let down.

The day finally came so Ash and I went to meet our friend Sophie at The Christie.  As we sat in the waiting room there was nothing except laughter and happy chatter from the three of us – a feeling I definitely didn’t expect to have based on how I felt last time I was sat in that same waiting room.

The consultant I saw seemed so indifferent to me and the whole appointment with him was bizarre!  He rushed the news of my clear CT scan and seemed more interested in any questions I had for him.  I didn’t feel like I had much faith in him after he told me that he was certain I hadn’t had an ovary removed (I have since double checked and I am definitely one ovary down!).  All of that aside, all I really cared about was hearing my fate and I sat there trying to read my notes as they sat on his lap. On hearing the news I was CANCER FREE I felt a sudden rush of relief and I could taste the celebratory champagne!

I immediately felt like I had my life back and I forgot for a while about all the struggles I am still facing because the joy I felt wiped all of them away – for a few moments I was just me again.

The feeling I had as we walked out of the doctors’ room is indescribable.  I was so happy and I kept saying those words out loud – ‘I’m so happy!!’  I was almost too shocked to say much else.  I had no idea cancer could turn out the way it did for me, the only stories we tend to see and read are those of despair, sadness and death.  My journey has been difficult, but I have done the worst bit now, I have kicked cancers arse (!!!!) and I hope that people seek comfort in knowing that just because you are diagnosed with cancer it doesn’t always mean that the end of your life is just around the corner.

I celebrated over coffee with Ash and Sophie in the hospital restaurant, again with Ash when we got home and again with some of my family that night. If someone had said that less than four months after finding out I had a cancerous growth that I’d be sat drinking champagne (with a full head of hair) after receiving the all clear – well I would never have believed them!!

It still doesn’t seem real to me that I’m cancer free and that I don’t need any further treatment.  I know that I have overcome ‘the beast’ as I now call it and I am so happy and relieved that it’s gone but I still struggle daily with different things that crop up and reality hits – popping my happy bubble once again.

I cry at least once a day to the point I can’t breathe and more often than not it is over something small and insignificant.  For example: I cry at Desperate Housewives, yesterday I cried because I had to rip a pair of my leggings down the front because they hurt my tummy and my scar and – this is my favourite reason to date – last week I cried because I took a bite out of a doughnut I had just given to Ash and all he said to me was ‘you could have waited until I was ready to eat it because all the sauce has run out of it now’.  These silly things then result in me having lengthy meltdowns because actually I’m not sad about a pair of leggings or a doughnut or a TV programme, I’m sad about the fact I’m fed up because I’m still in pain, my brain is tired and I am still so full of terror and shock.

I want to be completely fine again and back to my normal self but there is so much I still need to get over emotionally, mentally and physically and there are no rules about how long it will take.

As well as all the tears and the good news I have recently experienced, I find myself feeling a bit guilty.  A part of me feels guilty that I have come out of the other side of cancer seemingly unscathed and I find myself worrying that people think I am milking it for all it’s worth – which of cause is a load of crap, but I do, I feel almost ashamed that I have been so lucky compared with some people.

I have to remind myself that although cancer didn’t take my hair or any of my external body parts, cancer has changed my life, it has changed me as a person, changed my body on the inside and changed my ‘normal’ mind!

Cancer doesn’t just disappear on hearing good news, you have to pick up all the shattered pieces of your life and try and piece them back together again – which is made a lot more difficult when a lot of the pieces just don’t fit anymore.

I can’t think about my future past the next scan which is now less than three months away.  Whether or not this changes in time I don’t know, but for now this is how I cope. I didn’t know cancer was in my future and even if I had done I wouldn’t have been able to stop it from trampling all over my life– as hard as I would have tried!  So sometimes I think it’s ok to not look too far ahead because really what difference does it make anyway?!  Enjoy what you have at the exact moment you have it because you never know what’s around the corner.

‘Even when you think you have your life all mapped out, things happen that shape your destiny in ways you might never have imagined.’ – Deepak Chopra

A few things I didn’t realise before about…

My mind:

Sitting here eight weeks post-surgery I find myself thinking about how far I have come.  My scar is 90% healed from what I can see, I’m back to eating more or less normally again and I’m able to do a lot more for myself.  Although all of this is good progress I find myself struggling mentally – stupidly I thought that surgery was the end of all of this for me.   Most days I count down the hours until bed time because when I’m asleep I’m shut off to the world and none of this exists anymore.

I think because everything happened so fast, from the first ultrasound scan through to surgery, I didn’t really process what was actually happening.

Although I have written on several occasions about staying positive and being strong I realise that it’s not actually possible or realistic to do this every hour of every day. I do think that it’s more helpful to me than sitting in tears all day feeling sorry for myself but I realise now that it’s ok not to be ok.  Sometimes we need a good cry and a moan to keep us sane!

Having a cuppa in my kitchen last week with my good friend Amanda, she told me that not only has my body been through a massive trauma but that my mind has too and that I need to give myself time to let that heal just as I have done with my body.

Having faced cancer herself she understood the feelings and emotions I was experiencing and it was so comforting to know that what I was feeling was ‘normal’.

I would say to anyone else going through something major in life – if you’re in doubt as to whether or not you are experiencing ‘normal’ feelings, speak to someone who has gone through similar to you, cancer or not, it’s good to know you’re not alone!

The Christie

I didn’t realise the enormity of going to Christie’s and what having to go there really meant.  It wasn’t until I arrived there for the first time last week that I realised and, to be honest, it shocked me.

When I’ve been sat in other hospitals it has been around people who are there for all sorts of reasons, however sitting in a big waiting room in Christie’s with around 50 or so other people, it suddenly dawned on me that we were all there for the same reason.  I saw so many people, patients and loved ones who have been affected by cancer – I just never realised how big this whole cancer world really is!

It felt a bit like I was now a part of a pretty crap members only club that no one really wants to be in.  I sat there for the first time looking at one young girl who was waiting in the queue for the main Outpatients desk, I felt so sad for her, then I realised that I was there for the same reason. I wasn’t there for a random appointment, I was there because I am one of the people who have been hit by cancer.  It’s surreal.

On the upside, it’s no dingy hospital, it is modern, clean and bright and everyone there is so lovely.  The staff and other patients are so warm and kind.  It’s a strange but comforting feeling knowing you are not alone and there are people out there going through what you’re going through.  Plus the car park is cheap and John Lewis is on my way home so double bonus!

People who just don’t get it:

Recently I have noticed that frustration creeps in when I am discussing cancer with someone who doesn’t understand what it’s actually like.  Although most people are great, some can be dismissive and that’s hard to deal with. I’m aware not everyone knows exactly what to say but some things – and I may have said them myself in time gone by, so I apologise! – but some things are just unhelpful even though they are more than likely said out of kindness. I’m scared of cancer everyday and there are times when all I want is for someone to agree with me about how horrid, unfair and life changing it is, not to tell me to be joyful, or that I have a ‘good’ cancer or to be positive because I have gone on about being so in my blog.  Being positive is important for your mental health but it doesn’t turn back time or make cancer disappear!

Kindness:

I knew kindness before but nothing like what I have experienced since all of this began!

Since I became public with this journey there hasn’t been a single day gone by where I haven’t received a message, phone call, parcel or a card from somebody simply letting me know that they are thinking of me, praying or sending me a load of love.  It is the most amazing support for me and I wish I could do more than just say thank you to each and every person who has shown me kindness in these ways.

I have recently found out through calling Macmillan that because me and Ash live together and we don’t have children that I’m not eligible for financial support.  Going in to my third week of statutory sick pay this isn’t ideal but I am so lucky to have such generous and kind people around me who are offering their support.  As hard as it can be to take it, I am making sure I do and I would tell anyone in a similar position to take help if you’re offered it.  Whether it’s someone offering to go and buy you a loaf of bread and a pint of milk or an offer to pop a few quid in your bank, brush off your pride and accept it!

Love:

Over the past few weeks I have really struggled with my confidence, not with my family or my friends but with Ash.

Before all of this started I was used to going out to work everyday, hair and make-up done and a nice outfit on.  For the past eight weeks I have been sat around in pyjamas with no make up on, a frizzy mullet style hair do and constantly reminding myself that Ash has seen me in some really embarrassing states since my operation. To be completely honest I have been a real bitch at times too. I feel like I have lost a lot of myself over the past few months and it has been hard for me to understand how he can still like me let alone love me.

I didn’t expect for us to be faced with cancer ever in our lifetimes – especially with me at 30 and him at 28.  There is a pressure that has been put on both of us and it has been and still is so difficult but Ash has exceeded my expectations through it all. He has been to all of the appointments with me, stayed strong when having to hear the same things I have heard and seen me at my absolute worst.  He has been there for all of the highs and the lowest of the lows yet his love for me never gets any less.

I thought I knew what love was before but I didn’t.  Having someone love you through all of the bad stuff, not retaliating when you are an absolute cow and standing with you through something so scary, all the while thinking you’re the most amazing person in the world is what love is to me.  I really couldn’t have asked for a better person to have had by my side throughout all of this and I am so thankful for him.

‘Faith is seeing light with your heart when all your eyes see is darkness.’ – Barbara Johnson

Post-surgery, my new bowels & an evening at home.

After the operation I spent six days on the HDU (High Dependency Unit).

I was in the worst pain I had ever felt and I could barely move.  I had a cannula in my neck, five cannulas in my left arm, a catheter, a drain in the lower right side of my tummy, monitoring wires stuck all over me, an oxygen tube up my nose, a tube going up my nose and down into my stomach, three small cuts in the lower left of my tummy and a vertical cut about 10 inches long down the middle of my tummy.  I remember thinking on several occasions that there was no way I was ever going to feel better.

I decided early on in my recovery that I was going to grit my teeth and do what I was told by everyone – professionals only though of course!   I knew that they knew best and that what they were telling me to do was for my benefit and to keep me safe. However I immediately regretted this when I was told that I’d be getting up and out of bed the day after surgery. I dreaded the thought of it but I knew I had to do it.

I advise anyone going through any kind of surgery to do what you’re told, whether you want to or not it is so important for your recovery.  However I also advise that if you’re not happy with something, tell someone.  I had a bit of a struggle with not being able to get the pain relief I wanted when I felt like I needed it.  Although some of my pain relief was released slowly in to my body over the course of each day, I had to ask for any extras and one day I had to ask my nurse several times before she was willing to give me anything.  I felt upset and restless – it’s the last thing you need when you’re lying in agony.  I decided to tell a senior member of staff and it was sorted straight away.  Don’t be afraid to speak up – you’re the most important person during treatment and recovery and don’t forget it!

The time came for me to sit up and get out of bed for the first time.  The physios came to help me up and I’m not going to lie, it was pretty awful and I felt like I was going to rip in half.

It was so painful moving around and I felt sick and dizzy but I was so proud of myself when I was finally sat in that chair.  I had to sit out for an hour at the minimum, this was to enable my blood to pump around my body effectively and also to encourage deep breathing.  After surgery you are more prone to chest infections and blood clots so I knew it was important for me to be doing it.  As I sat in the chair for the first time the nurses changed my bed and gave me a wash – I always thought I’d find this mortifying but I didn’t care, I wanted to be clean and feel fresh and I wasn’t bothered how I got that way!

During the operation, as well as removing the tumour, I had about a third of my bowel plus my right ovary removed.  The portion of my bowel they removed had been killed off by the tumour as it wasn’t allowing any blood to flow to it which was also the case for my ovary.

The removal of a portion of the bowel is called a bowel resection.  Luckily for me the surgeons were able to sew mine back together so there was no need for me to have a colostomy bag, however it pretty much meant that I had brand new bowels. I was told by one of the surgeons that the bowel is the one organ that when touched it panics and just stops working.  Because of this my bowels had to learn to work again and I had to build them up to help them along in their recovery.  In order to do this I had to slowly increase my intake of liquids and food.  I was only allowed water for a couple of days, then I progressed on to dilute juice on day three, on day four I was able to have a cup of tea, ice cream and yoghurt and on days five and six I was allowed low fibre solid foods.  My first cup of tea was incredible,  as was my first slice of buttery toast!

There were a few moments during recovery where I had to break down my own barriers of shyness and it’s fair to say I lost a bit of dignity!

Being on the HDU I was constantly monitored but as I began eating and drinking the doctors had to continually make sure nothing was coming back up through the tube that was going down into my stomach.  They also had to listen regularly using a stethoscope to check if the rumbling of my bowels had started.

I was asked by the doctors several times a day if I had passed wind or opened my bowels.  When I was asked for the first time I nearly died of embarrassment, giving them a shy and quiet ‘no not today’, but a few days in I was loudly declaring my latest bowel related news to anyone who would listen! I felt so relieved when my bowels started to work again and I felt so proud of my clever little body, not only for working so hard to keep me going for all of the months beforehand but for being so strong after the trauma it had just gone through.

Before the surgery I was quite naïve as to what was going to happen to me. I assumed that I’d go in to hospital, the surgeons would whip the tumour out and that’d be it.  I didn’t realise how difficult it would be, how serious the surgery was and that I’d have to teach my bowels how to work again.  I realise now how much I took my body for granted before.  The things our bodies do every day that we probably don’t even realise are absolutely amazing!

There was another big side effect of the bowel resection which I wish I had known more about before my surgery (I think?!)

Now I’m not sure if this is exactly the same for everyone so don’t take it as fact but it was the way it was for me, basically because my bowels were learning to work again the usual signs of knowing when I needed to go to the toilet disappeared and I was warned in the early days after surgery that there was a high risk of a poo related accident because of this.  It seemed to become a bit of a highly anticipated moment in the recovery process for me and most of the staff taking care of me.

Fortunately for me this long-awaited moment came whilst I was enjoying the luxury of a commode in my cubicle behind the curtains.  I felt so pleased with myself there had been no unfortunate accident and I slept soundly that night knowing I didn’t have to worry about it anymore.

That same night I woke up at about 3am and buzzed for a nurse to help me out of bed so I could go to the loo.  As I got up I turned to my bed to see that I had actually been lying, for I don’t know how long, in a small pool of my own shit!!

I have to say at the time it felt like the most embarrassing moment of my life, though soon after I did learn to laugh about it!  Plus the nurses have seen it all before and they do an excellent job of cleaning up the mess and reassuring you. There’s no giggling behind your back or making you feel like it’s only you it’s ever happened to – it’s soon forgotten about.

It’s not the most pleasant story to share but at the end of the day it’s the reality of having a bowel resection without the colostomy bag.  The comfort for me was knowing that it was actually a good thing as it was a sign that my bowel recovery was well underway.  Let’s face it, there aren’t many people who are comfortable discussing their bowel habits so if this story either gives you a good old laugh, prepares you or lets you know you are not alone then that’s good enough for me!

After six days on the HDU it was time for me to be moved to a standard ward. All of the staff on the HDU were beyond amazing, they blew me away with how kind and caring they were and I had become as familiar with them as they had become with me.

It was about half an hour after Ash had gone home after visiting had ended on the Sunday night.  I was wheeled down to the ward and I was put in to a bay with two other ladies, they were both quite old and poorly which felt unnerving however one of them had 24-hour carers with her which was a comfort.

I didn’t take too well to my new surroundings though.  I was on an uncomfortable bed, hardly able to move or able to do anything for myself and the one to one care of a nurse was gone, it was awful.  I rang Ash and just burst in to tears.  I wanted to go home.  I felt like I had been cast out and left to fend for myself, which of course I hadn’t been but that’s what it felt like. I got the nurses to dose me up on as many painkillers as I was allowed and eventually managed to get off to sleep.

I told you I was dramatic!!

I spent a further two days in hospital before I was told the news that if I was able to tackle walking up and down a small flight of stairs I was allowed to go home.  I built it up so much in my head that I made myself scared – actually scared to walk up and down the stairs, although I was so desperate to go home that there was no way I was letting anything stop me and I did it on my first attempt!

Ash came to pick me up and I flew (well, was pushed in a wheelchair!) out of the hospital doors knowing I never wanted to go back.

Being back at home was great, though I just didn’t feel comfortable.  I was on edge and I felt quite stressed at not being in hospital with nurses monitoring me.  I had back ache that started soon after I got home but I put it down to moving around quite a bit that day and sitting in the car so I tried as best I could to ignore it.

Unfortunately that night after less than two hours sleep I started being sick. Ash called the ward that I had just been discharged from and they told us to go straight to Stepping Hill A&E, I was seen almost immediately and before I knew it I was lay back in a hospital bed, gorgeous hospital gown on, a cannula in my arm and on IV paracetamol.

After lots of tests, an X-Ray and a CT scan I found out that my bowels had stopped working. This meant that everything I had consumed for the past day or so couldn’t go down so it had to come back up.  According to the doctors it is something that normally happens five days post-surgery, not eight days which mine was.  I was back in hospital but I was relieved to be.  I’m pretty sure that has to be the shortest trip home before readmission to hospital on record!

I sincerely hope that I haven’t unnerved anyone with the tales I have told in this post – it was certainly not my intention if I did! I just want to prove that no matter how rocky your road is, time doesn’t stand still, you will get through set-backs and pain doesn’t last forever.  I am aware that not everyone’s experience is like mine and that there are some people out there in much worse situations than me.  I do think that every cloud has a silver lining, whether that silver lining is a funny story you can share, receiving crazy amounts of love, the beautiful care of a nurse or having new found time to yourself, it’s not all bad and we can all learn to find the good in any situation we face – even if it is just a little bit!

Leaving my life in their hands…Literally.

I don’t really remember much about the days after I found out I most likely had cancer. I think I’ve subconsciously blocked them out though I do remember feeling like I wasn’t actually living on this planet. I remember that although I tried to stay strong and positive I felt so angry and sad. I cried at the thought of dying, of leaving my family, of leaving Ash on his own and of not living to be as old as I thought I would.

I found myself feeling like a little girl again, I wanted my Mum to take away the pain and fix everything like she always seemed to do. But this wasn’t mum fixable, it was completely out of anyone’s control.

I love the house where Ash and I live, I love the beautiful things we have in it but all I wanted to do was smash everything up. I felt so angry and it was the only way I thought I was able to get it out of my system. Thankfully all of our house and its contents stayed intact and I made it through that very angry period with my hair straighteners, phone and make up brushes being the only things that took a bit of a battering!

My next step was waiting for the MDT (Multi-Disciplinary Team) meeting to be held at Stepping Hill Hospital. I was told that these meetings are a place where all the brainiest people in the hospital get together to discuss patients and what their plans of action are for treatment. I got a call to say that I had an appointment two days later on the Friday to discuss their plan for me.

The appointment is something else I don’t remember a lot about but I was told that my operation would be on the Tuesday of the following week, with admission in to hospital on the Monday before. There was a chance that they wouldn’t be able to remove the lump they now referred to as a tumour and that if they couldn’t they would only be able to do a biopsy. They were still in the dark as to what type of cancer I had and I still held on to the fact there was a slight chance it wasn’t cancer at all. It really seemed to be a case of opening me up to see what they found. There was a chance they were going to have to remove a portion of my colon because the tumour was squashing it and although they planned to attach it back together there was a chance that they wouldn’t be able to right away, in which case I would have to have a temporary colostomy bag. The doctors suspected that the cancer had spread to my pelvis and uterus and if that was the case there would be no point in removing the tumour because it was already too late. My heart sank, and what I mean by that it is felt like it dropped out of my body and smashed right on the floor underneath me. Although at the same time I felt peaceful. As well as Ash I had taken my friend Sophie to the appointment with me. She’s a doctor and came all the way from Liverpool to sit and listen, she seemed so confident in the doctors and so positive about everything. She didn’t seem panicked and I didn’t feel that I needed to be either. She was an amazing strength for me that day and so was Ash – I couldn’t have got through it without them.

I know, and not just because I have been told, because I have experienced having to do it, that being positive is absolutely vital in fighting.

The minute you decide something has its grip on you, you fall into a big black pit and it’s hard to get out. You won’t fight, your mind won’t fight and your body won’t fight.

I’m not saying that I have spent the past 11 weeks in denial about everything that has happened to me and is happening to me. It is shit, unfair, sad and so disgusting, I miss my other life before all of this and I wish that I could remember what I felt like before I had cancer, but I try everyday as best I can to fight, to fight my thoughts on a daily basis. It’s not easy though, it’s bloody hard!

We all have that choice, we either fight strong and carry ourselves through situations with hope and belief or we don’t fight and we carry on with nothing, accepting the worst and being completely miserable and ready to lose. I personally believe that goes for a lot of other things in life too, not just cancer.

During my last free weekend before the big operation I spent time with Ash and my family, drinking champagne, prosecco, anything fizzy, eating my favourite foods, shopping for bits and bobs I needed to take in to hospital and removing all of my gel nail polish – which I hated doing because I feel disgusting with naked nails!

My cousin Sarah and her husband Chris held a ‘Pre-op Party’ for me at their house. We sat in the garden and gave my old damaged body a proper good send off!! #laterscanceryoulittlebitch

Before I knew it Monday morning had rolled around and I was waiting for someone to call me to let me know my bed was ready for the night in Stepping Hill Short Stay Unit.

I arrived in hospital that afternoon and got settled in and straight into pyjamas! I spent most of the afternoon being asked and answering the same questions by various nurses and I had two of the stoma nurses come and draw a target on either side of my lower tummy for where the colostomy bag would go if I needed it.

Two of the surgeons who were going to be performing my operation came and saw me for a chat. The one I spent most time talking to completely scared me and I felt traumatised after he left, he made me feel angry at him because of what he was telling me, I didn’t think it was fair. I now know it was the drama drawers girl in me rearing her head because I look back and I see he was just being honest – he has since become one of my favourite doctors and when he came to see me after the operation he held my hand as he was talking to me – what a lovely guy! He told me there was a big chance the tumour wasn’t coming out at all and that because the tumour was lying right next to my vena cava (the bodies main blood vessel) they had to ensure there was no way they would risk performing surgery that may cause damage to it – I would more than likely bleed to death if they did. I asked the surgeon how long I would have lived if the tumour hadn’t been detected and had been left untreated, a couple of months at the most was the answer. I couldn’t believe it. If I hadn’t have kept pushing the doctors to take notice of me I probably wouldn’t be alive today.

I hadn’t eaten anything since about 9pm the night before I went in to hospital, no brew on Monday morning – I missed the two brews I usually have in the morning to wake up properly. I was on water all day and a pre-load drink to fill my body full of energy, which I had hoped would be like one of those protein shake type drinks – it turned out to be water with a special powder in it, nothing exciting and certainly not filling! I love my food so it was torture for me! I was starving and at about 6pm I was finally allowed to eat, it was the low fibre option so nothing fancy but I wasn’t going to refuse it. I took the lid off the plate I had been given…poached fish, boiled carrots, mashed potato, egg custard, cheese and crackers. It was vile, I heaved eating the potato and didn’t even touch the rest so all I ate were the two cream crackers with warm cheddar on them. Fab! I did get a black tea with sugar though, that was amazing!

That night after I had said a long emotional goodbye to Ash, even though the nurses were letting him sneak back in the morning, I managed to get some sleep. I woke up at 4am and couldn’t manage to nod back off because my mind was racing. I sat in bed and read over and over bible scriptures and the messages I had received over the past few weeks of love and encouragement. I had saved them in a folder on my phone and I had been reading them daily to help get me through each day.

I was brought up in a Christian family and so I have always believed in God. Whether he’s your cup of tea or not I believe he saves and loves us and carries us through hard times. I don’t believe he made me poorly. What I do believe is that he gifts super amazing people, people to research science for cures, out of this world surgeons who are able to mend our bodies and beautifully kind people to nurse us back to health.

I was absolutely terrified of the operation, of being cut open and all my insides exposed, scared of the surgeons not being able to take the tumour out, scared of the unknown and scared of being out of control. I was wheeled down to theatre at about 11:30am and was sat in bed in a little room opposite the big doors to the operating theatre. I had a student nurse on one side of me, we were talking about Buxton, I have lived there all of my life and she had recently moved there. There was the anaesthesiologist and another guy who were trying to get a machine working – they were about to hook me up to it so I was relieved when they decided to go and swap it for a different one. The anaesthesiologist was brilliant. I told him I had watched films and read lots of stories about people waking up in the middle of surgery, so I made him triple promise me that that wouldn’t happen to me. His exact words were ‘I promise, promise, promise you and absolutely guarantee you won’t wake up during surgery’ and I knew he meant it!!

I didn’t even have to count down to go to sleep because I must have been gone before I realised they were about to knock me out. The next thing I knew I was being woken up, I was in pain like I had never felt before and I took this as a good sign. I had been given a button to hold that I could press every five minutes to give me pain relief and I remember telling whoever I had around me that it was shit – I’m sure I heard a few laughs at that! I remember asking someone if they had removed the tumour but I was too out of it to listen to the answer. The next thing I knew I woke up on the High Dependency Unit, Ash was sat next to me and I asked him what had happened. He told me they had removed the tumour and that the operation had gone really well. Ash said to me later that the look on my face was such happiness and relief.

‘Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, and all the fears you have overcome.’ – Unknown

The first photo below is the last picture of Ash & I before surgery and the second is the first picture taken of me afterwards.

Let’s Start From The Very Beginning..

Here is the start of my story – it is slightly more lengthy and detailed than I anticipated however it goes back a few months before I finally found out that I had been ‘gifted’ the shower of shit that is cancer!

Stage 2 Leiomyosarcoma – well between Stage 2 and Stage 3 Leiomyosarcoma. That’s what I got dealt.

Since around October 2017 I had suffered with repeat UTI’s (urinary tract infections for anyone not in the know!) Any girl who has ever had one will know how crappy they are, having to wee every 10 minutes and literally nothing comes out, burning, irritability, feeling like you’re losing your mind, and on top of that having to once again excuse yourself from work for another trip to the doctors. Sometimes I was prescribed with antibiotics, sometimes I was sent away after no infection trace came through on the dip stick tests. The doctor or nurse would feel my back to check I don’t know what but would send me on my merry way with nothing. I tried cranberry tablets, not using harsh soap to wash, drinking tons of water, herbal remedies. Nothing helped and it started to feel as though it was ruling my life.

At the beginning of 2018 I started suffering with really painful back and hip ache, constantly feeling down and unwell, I was bloated, had permanent heart burn and I was still going for a wee for what felt like a million times a day. I forced myself to get on with it, the doctors weren’t phased so it was obviously all in my head. No matter how many times I told the doctor or spoke to the nurses over the phone no one was doing anything about it. I knew something wasn’t right, I was putting weight on around my tummy, my clothes weren’t fitting. I must be pregnant I thought. I did loads of pregnancy tests – which was absurd anyway because I have the coil fitted. Nothing.

There were a few times when I felt like I was going to give up with the doctors. I felt stupid and embarrassed that I was pestering them but I carried on, I persevered and pestered some more. Most of us know how our bodies feel when we are well so we have a pretty good idea when something isn’t quite right. What I learnt from this was that non of us should ever let anyone else tell us how we feel or make us feel guilty and stupid for pushing to get help.

Just FYI I know not everyones experience with doctors surgeries are like mine and I’m not tarring them all with the same brush!

I decided to try the doctors one last time and got an appointment with a new doctor at my surgery – who I am now certain was an angel because she bloody saved me. I told her about the UTIs, the pain I was feeling and that I had started to notice a large lump on the right side of my belly. Me not having a clue where any of my insides are located except the obvious had been feeling this hard lump, it felt big and I just found it strange. She decided to refer me for an ultrasound scan at my local hospital. Little did I know what was coming next.

A week later I had the scan. It felt like it took forever. The lady who did it told me that my right kidney looked a little full and that she was sure the doctor would want to carry out more tests. In my foolishness I said ‘Ah ok, I had been feeling a bit of a funny lump there, it must just be that!’ – she didn’t respond. Derr how thick of me, I now know your kidneys don’t sit at the front of your body under your ribs!!!

No more than two hours later I was on the phone to the same angel doctor from the surgery. She was telling me that the scan had identified a lump, they were concerned about it and they were going to refer me on an urgent basis to Stepping Hill Hospital to have more tests. She told me these tests were to rule out cancer.

I felt panic, shock, how could she have just said this to me? How can this be happening to me? What is actually going on? I felt sick, I felt scared and I felt nothing all at the same time.

I felt pissed off that I hadn’t found my first boyfriend until I was 29, we had only been going out together for 17 months and we had only been living together less than six weeks. How bloody unfair.

I was told I would receive a call to attend an initial assessment with a consultant within two weeks. I got my call on the last day of that two weeks. It was awful waiting, knowing that I had something in my body that could be potentially killing me and noticing movements or feeling things in my body that I didn’t before – or was I imagining it because I knew what I knew. Every time my phone rang my stomach flipped. Finally the call came and I had an appointment, I was relieved!

The consultant I saw was lovely. She asked me a series of questions, had a feel of the lump and said that she would refer me for a CT scan which ended up being on the Sunday of the following week.

I was nervous about the scan but I had been told that CT’s were the kind ones, no tunnel just a giant plastic high tech polo (you know the mint?!) and a blue dye injected through a cannula that made you feel a bit warm, fuzzy, almost drunk and like you’d wet yourself!

I was nervous anyway because I was starting a journey of new things, of what if’s and a lot of wondering and waiting. I felt like it was all so utterly ridiculous anyway because it was surely just a cyst. You can’t even begin to get your head around it, around any of it and you start to feel as though you’re someone else. Like someone has taken over your body because it definitely doesn’t feel like yours anymore.

I didn’t really know what to expect next. Would I have a phone call from someone to go to an appointment to discuss the results? Would they send me an appointment in the post? I decided to just wait but people kept telling me to call and ask if the results were in yet. I was hesitant but I did it, I managed to get the direct dial of my consultants secretary – someone who would later know my voice so well that she didn’t even need to ask my name because I had rung so many times – I loved her for that and she was always so happy to take my calls.

I’m glad I got brave enough to call, a lot, it got me seen faster, it got me in for tests quicker. So don’t be afraid to call, don’t be someone who sits and waits. If you spend long enough trying and being as kind as you possibly can you will get through to the right person or get the number of someone in the know – trust me it’s worth it and it could be saving your life!

The secretary told me that my results were back but that my consultant was away that week. I was disappointed but thought hey ho, can’t be that serious, they wouldn’t wait to tell me something if it was serious. It was after this that I was heading out of work on my lunch break and I bumped in to a couple of ladies I work with – they practically forced me to call back straight away and ask to speak to someone else about my results – I’m so thankful they did that, talk about right place right time! I did as they said and was told there was a registrar I could possibly speak to, she was in surgery all day but she would try to get her to call me the next day.

I wondered if she was fobbing me off but low and behold the following day I got a call from the same medical secretary to tell me that the registrar didn’t want to speak to me over the phone and had asked if I could go in and see her that day. Right then I knew something was wrong, I pretended I wasn’t expecting the worst but I knew, deep down, I knew. I knew how my body felt, I remembered stuff I had read on the internet – naughty of me I know but I’m sure we’ve all done it! I knew I didn’t really believe people saying to me ‘oh they don’t even give good results over the phone’ or ‘it won’t be cancer you would have more symptoms’ or ‘don’t worry about it I’m sure you’ll be fine’. I think there is something in you that wants to believe all those positive things and of course wants it all to be ok but when you know, you just know. Well that’s how I remember it anyway.

Sitting in a room in Stepping Hill Surgical Assessment Unit with my boyfriend Ash, the registrar and a nurse – I knew that it wasn’t going to be great if someone had sent for back up! Looking back now I can’t remember exactly what was said but I was told that word no one ever wants, or expects to hear – CANCER. My first repose was ‘oh shit’ and I burst in to tears. I asked if there was anything else it could be, were they sure? At that point they weren’t completely sure as to what it was. It was suspected to be one of two rare types of cancer and there was a possibility but a very slim one that it wasn’t – I clung on to this for a long time – they don’t actually know.

Both the nurse and the registrar were amazing, they were kind and gentle and peaceful. Exactly what you need when you feel like your world has just collapsed around you. I felt numb to any feelings and words except practical questions like ‘can you take it out’, ‘how long has it been there’ and ‘will it affect how long I get to live’ when the registrar answered me with the words ‘there is a chance this could affect your time yes’ I wanted to be sick and I imagined my life disappearing right before my eyes for a split second. There was a lot of uncertainty in the answers I got as the registrar didn’t know herself but she answered as best she could. Remembering the pain I felt at that point still gives me goosebumps and makes me sad, thinking back to that conversation feels completely surreal.

I asked for a cup of a tea with loads of sugar. My mum has always said a tea with sugar does the trick for shock. I remember thinking it was one of the best cups of tea I had ever tasted.

We stayed in that room for a while, asked some more questions and I had some bloods taken, they were tumour marker and kidney function blood tests. The lump was pressing up so close to my kidney it was squashing the life out of it – finally an explanation for all the UTI’s I was getting.

They managed to get me in for a second CT scan that day – it was actually booked for the following week – I was more than lucky in getting the scan and the blood tests pulled forward a week – unbeknown to me at the time I didn’t have a lot of time to lose. The second CT was to see if the lump was causing any problems in my lungs or my upper body – I didn’t really click on to it but what they were actually looking for was to see if the cancer had spread.

After I left the hospital that day I kicked myself for the questions I didn’t ask. Advice given to me at the time was to write questions down as I thought of them in between appointments and to take someone else along to appointments as an extra set of ears. I did both of these things, they helped, massively and I highly recommend both.

I pulled myself together for the phone calls to my family, I am one of six girls so it wasn’t a quick job. My parents along with three of my sisters and their families were camping down in Lyme Regis – great timing hey, just when you want your Mum and Dad they’re five hours drive away. I hated ringing my family, hearing them cry and me telling them it would be ok, telling them to ring each other to console the other. It was at that point, although I didn’t realise at the time, but it was then that I took the first step in handling it like no one knew I had the power in me to do. I have always been dramatic, a right drama drawers, a total hypochondriac my sisters always said. I surprised myself and everyone else with how I turned out to be in a time of complete and utter crisis.

‘You don’t know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have.’ – Bob Marley

My heart felt broken for my Ash, how could I have ended up being such a shit girlfriend who gets cancer. No one wants to be stuck with someone ill. I told him he didn’t have to stay with me, I understood. He needs someone better I thought, someone well. All this in the same afternoon I had pretty much been told that I had cancer. Nothing like kicking yourself when you’re down hey!?