Everybody needs good neighbours…especially when recovering from surgery.

Being at home after surgery has had its ups and downs; both emotionally and physically, but I do believe that being in my own surroundings has pushed me forward in my recovery. The way that I’ve been trying to manage is by taking each day as it comes. I find it helpful to have routine. I’ve been keeping on top of my medication, trying to walk a little more each day, and doing my physiotherapy exercises. I have also started working with a physiotherapist from Chai Cancer Care at home, which has helped me become more confident and motivated with my daily exercises.

Eating has been a gradual improvement and I’m now able to manage more food and bigger portions again. I’ve been able to get back to my usual weird mix for breakfast: kiwis, eggs, bananas and pancakes. Diet is a really important focus for me because I want to be preparing my body for restarting chemotherapy.

I’ve tried to keep things as quiet and relaxed as possible at home – I’ve had lots of relaxation time and with the help of my auntie, two wonderful facials. My skin really needed this after a week in hospital!

 

The texts, emails and phone calls from family and friends have also helped to push me forward in my recovery. The encouragement I get from everyone reminds me that I am strong enough to deal with what I’ve been through, and what I’m still going through. And the support has come from people of all ages. This includes my three year old nephew (see the video below), and two of my young neighbours baking very tasty brownies for me!

I’ve also had some words of encouragement from some celebrities. For those who know me well, you will know that I have been an avid Neighbours and Home and Away fan for as long as I could turn the TV on. I will never miss an episode, especially now that I have quite a bit of time on my hands. I’ve even been known watch episodes on my phone when I can’t get to a TV. So you can imagine my excitement when I received signed cards and messages from some of the Neighbours cast, who had taken the time to read my blog, learn about my experience with cancer and what I am trying to do to raise awareness. It’s made my week and I’m fully intending to take them up on their offer to meet them all once I’m well enough to travel to Australia!

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Emotionally and physically I’ve been up and down, and I’d be lying if I said that ‘Cyril’ hasn’t tested me since being home; probably more than it ever has on this journey. I have had my moments where I’ve cried, sometimes not even knowing why, felt in pain, angry, sad and happy. However, I kept to the promise I made to myself; I look down at my scar and no matter the emotion, I’m spurred on because my scar reminds me that I’m surviving.

I can’t quite believe that time has come already but I am starting back on chemotherapy tomorrow. Do I feel ready to begin cycle 4? The answer is yes. Am I anxious? Yes. Tired? Double yes. I’m worried about how I will find having the chemo treatment and side effects now that I have gone through surgery and am still in recovery mode. But in the words of Franklin Roosevelt, ‘When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on.’ So I’m going to tighten my grip and hold on tight, as I start the next phase of recovery.

On 10th September, I took my first proper trip out with my sister. There really was only one thing I wanted to do…get a manicure! I had my nails painted and I opted for a more personalised style than normal to match the #FindingCyril wristbands.

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These bands are a sign of support for the amazing work The Marsden does. They cost £2 each and proceeds go straight to the Royal Marsden. You can donate on the Just Giving Page or by texting FICY58 £2 to 70070. Please get in touch if you would like one.

Finding Cyril has so far raised £5,538.07 for The Royal Marsden which is just beyond amazing! I want to take this opportunity thank everybody who has donated. I find it hard to express in words just how much it means to me. The Marsden are providing life-saving and amazing treatment on a daily basis. Treatment which I’m still receiving and will be for quite some time. I’m determined to raise as much money as I can, and so the support that people have given, and continue to give, means just so very much. So thank you.

So it’s more resting and relaxing for me to prepare for chemo tomorrow. Which means back to my Monday routine of scalp cooling, card games and foot massages…

 

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So I’ve had my surgery…

IMG_1984On Wednesday 24th August, I woke up a lot earlier than usual because I was due at the Surgical Admissions Unit at the Royal Marsden at 7am. It was the day I had been nervously waiting for; my surgery day. I was feeling anxious, frightened and confused, but I knew that the surgery was the next important step in my journey, and the only way to say goodbye to ‘Cyril. 

Despite my fears, I knew that my chemo had prepped my body really well for this day. Also, it was comforting to hear that the dietician felt that I was going into my operation well nourished, which was not only important for my body during the operation, but also for my recovery. Since diagnosis, one of the main ways that I have been looking after myself is through food. I have made sure that I eat all the right things to keep my weight up. I’ll give you an example – my daily breakfast has consisted of three boiled eggs, two kiwis, a banana and some mango. It has sometimes felt like a huge challenge, but has meant that my body has been getting exactly what it needs. I don’t eat meat so eggs are a good source of protein for me. My dietitian told me that there is no problem with having more than two eggs a day, and she also taught me that eating kiwis with eggs helps my body to take in more protein from the eggs. It’s no secret that I cannot cook, and that I’m rarely allowed anywhere near a kitchen, but I guess since being diagnosed I can now offer people healthy eating tips!

 Once admitted to the surgical unit, my consultant and his team came to see me. The plan was to go down to theatre for about midday. I then met the anesthetist. AI mentioned in my previous blog, one of my biggest worries was general anaesthetic, because I’d not had one since I was a child. I had this fear of waking up mid operation. My anesthetist was incredible, and when I met him, I instantly felt less worried about this. He told me that he knew about my website and had been reading my blog as a way to get to know me. So he already knew about my worries and was able to reassure me so much – I cannot thank him enough for this. 

IMG_2030At about 10am, the nurse on the ward came to tell me to stop drinking water and to get changed into my gown. I had a lorazepam tablet, which helps with reducing anxiety, and got changed into my very fashionable surgery outfit, hat and (very hard to get on) socks. It turned out there was little time to wait, because not long after, I was told by my nurse that the team were ready for me earlier than planned. I had enough time to get my sister to help me with my plan to write a message for the surgical team across my stomach with my eyeliner… It only seemed right to bid farewell to ‘Cyril’ in French because of my love of the language! I hugged my dad and everyone else, and was then taken down to theatre. Because I’d taken a lorazepam, I wasn’t allowed to walk down, so had to be wheeled down in the bed. This made getting down to theatre less frightening. My sister, auntie and boyfriend came down with me and said goodbye at the theatre doors. After more hugs, I was wheeled into a small room that led onto the theatre. Soon my anesthetist came in and was just really calming. He asked where I’d like to go holiday. My response was the Peloponnese in Greece because that’s where Jonny and I were meant to go this summer. He then started to do something with the equipment and all I remember is that I asked him whether it was going in, and hearing him say, “Yes.” At this point, my job was over and would start again in recovery. 

The operation took about seven hours. Some of my family stayed near to the hospital for the whole day. My sister, Davina, kept a diary for me of their day waiting because one of the things I found hard to get my head around was the idea of loosing a whole day and having no idea about what was happening. It was really helpful to read it after so I knew what had been going while I was dreaming about the Peloponnese!

Once I was out of surgery, my consultant met with my family to update them and let them know that surgery had gone really well. My dad and aunt were able to see me briefly in Critical Care. I was sedated and intubated at this point so I have no memory of this. However, I do know what I looked liked, because before surgery I made my dad promise to take a photo! 

Fast forward to Thursday 25th August – I could not tell you what time. The first thing I remember was opening my eyes and it being really dark. I had no idea where I was or why I couldn’t talk. I heard a very sweet and calming voice explaining that she was my nurse and that I was in Critical Care. She told me to stay calm and that the tube in my mouth would come out when the doctor arrived. She also told me that my dad had telephoned and we would call back soon so that I could say hello to him. Before I knew it, the tube was out, I was put on oxygen, the lights had come up slightly, my nurse held the phone to my ear, and I heard my dad’s voice. It was at this point that I remembered that I’d had the surgeryMy nurse gave me a bed bath using wipes, changed by gown and helped me to brush my teeth. I was becoming a bit more alert and my consultant and his team came round to tell me that everything had gone well and that they would be back later on once I was more settled to explain things in more detail. 

IMG_2208My boyfriend Jonny and my sister visited that morning – it was wonderful to see familiar faces. We spoke for a little while and then I started to feel very sleepy. When I woke up I had a new nurse looking after me. She explained that the physiotherapist would be coming to see me. She combed my hair and fashioned a hair tie out of a hospital glove (that’s right, a glove!), which made me feel much better and dealt with the interesting bed hair situation! 

The physiotherapist explained the goal for that day was to sit at the end of the bed and do exercises to move my legs. I thought that there was no way that I would be able to do this so quickly but was proved wrong! With her help, I managed to roll over and lift myself up so that I was sitting on the side of the bed and was able to move my legs. My sister was able to stay with me for this, which was great because knowing she was there spurred me on. It was also the first time that I could see around the bed and look at all the machines and drips I was attached to. After a few exercises, I started to feel nauseous so with a lot of help and a very useful sliding sheet, I was put back into a lying position and had another much needed sleep.

Later on, more family visited but only for short periods and two at a time. I was still quite dazed but it was wonderful to see more familiar faces. Just knowing that they were there comforted me and gave me strength

My consultant and his team came back in the afternoon and I was more alert to hear about the operation. They explained that they took out all signs of visible disease; lots of which was ‘burnt out’ disease because the chemo had worked so well. They also mentioned the message on my tummy and how much they liked it! 

Critical Care have specific visiting hours, so by the end of the day my family had left, but my dad stayed with me until 8pm. He held my hand, spoke to me and encouraged me. He helped to get me settled for the night and make sure I had earphones in so I could watch some of Eastenders on the TV. I’m not sure that I really paid much attention but it was a nice distraction because Critical Care can be a noisy place. I found it hard to sleep that night because of the pain but the team there are amazing. They just seem to know how to make you comfortable, both mentally and physically, and I did manage to drift off at some point. I also had a patient controlled analgesia button (PCA), which meant that I could respond really quickly to the pain that I was feeling. 

On Friday 26th August, I woke up feeling a little more comfortable. Up until this point I had only been allowed water, but it was a special morning because I was allowed apple juice! The first sip was just incredible. It may sound like a very small thing to be excited over, but recovery from surgery is like taking lots of small steps and when you’re doing it, each one feels like a massive achievement. My consultant came round and examined me. He was able to hear small bowel movements so told me I could start to try eating soft foods, if I felt that I could.  

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It was soon time for my second physiotherapy session, and this time the plan was to walk! I doubted myself again, but I had my dad, sister, nurse and physiotherapist spurring me on. Despite being attached to several things, I managed to walk in the corridor for a few minutes and then out onto the veranda behind my bed. Breathing in the fresh air was amazing, but all the exercise was overwhelming and exhausting. When I went back to bed I fell into a deep sleep for two hours. I remember thinking, ‘How have I just been walking one and half days after major surgery?’ Looking back I know the answer. It was down to my determination (which I didn’t feel that I had at the time), my family supporting me, and also the reassurance and encouragement from the physiotherapist and my nurse, whom I had complete trust in. 

That afternoon I woke up to more family visiting: my sister Tara, brother in law Chris, and cousin David. For me, seeing the faces of everyone encouraged me to stay motivated and move forward with recovery. It also was a really good distraction. That day I attempted some food. My sister fed me some tomato soup and then a little bit of ice cream. Again another small step, but a great feeling to be able to do it! 

I had a chest X-ray in the day, which had showed a small pocket of air (pneumothorax) on my right lung, which I learnt can happen after surgery. It was partly why I was finding it quite hard to breathe, but the team felt confident that this would resolve on its own, so it was agreed that I was ready to be discharged from Critical Care and transferred to the ward. So I was off into the hands of another wonderful set of nurses. My consultant came to check up on me that evening and it was decided that I would have a blood transfusion overnight as my iron was low. One of the main things that made me feel safe in hospital is the close monitoring and amazing speed at which issues are investigated and plans put in place.

IMG_2040On Saturday 27th August, I woke feeling as though I had lots more energy – which was thanks to the transfusion. I still had very little appetite and my tummy was quite bloated because my bowels had not started working again. This is a very common effect of anesthetic. It was great to have visitors that day, but I also needed lots of rest and had to save my energy for my walking. My wonderful nurse got me up and walking around the corridors of the ward along with my myriad of medical attachments!

Sunday 28th August was another step forward because I had my catheter and central line taken out. Having the catheter out meant that every time I needed the toilet I had to (with assistance) get up and walk. This was a good thing because it meant more exercise, which is so important after surgery. Although I felt quite good in the morning, one of the things I’ve learnt about recovery is that things change very quickly, and by mid-morning I started to feel sick. I was vomiting and had developed a temperature. My first instinct was to view this as a setback, and when you’re already feeling weak and tired it’s sometimes really hard to feel motivated. However, ‘a setback is a chance for a comeback,’ so with this is mind, when the physiotherapist arrived and asked if I still felt up to walking, I didn’t think twice. 

I felt awful for the whole of that day, but I tried to remain as calm as I could, and tried to remember that on the days when I didn’t feel well, my body was continuing its boxing match against ‘Cyril,’ and perhaps this bit was just a slightly tougher round. 

My consultant made some changes to my medications that day. He stopped the pain control buttongave me a drip to replenish my electrolytes, introduced new pain medication and also administered some medication to help get my bowels moving. Also, having my aunt’s massages again was such a help with trying to rest that day. By that evening, my bowels started to kick back into action, and the result was a lot of exercise in going to and from the toilet! 

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On Monday 30th August, I woke up feeling as though I had less energy, but my stomach felt so much better. My consultant came to see me and was so impressed with the good results overnight. I thought I was hearing things when he asked me how I felt about going home the following day! I was so shocked because the initial plan was to be in hospital recovering for up to three weeks. However, things just seemed to progress quicker than anybody, (including my medical team), expected and he explained that one of their aims is to get people home to recover as quickly as they can because there’s a higher risk of infection in hospital. I felt anxious at the thought of being away from the doctors and nurses who were making me feel so safe, but also so excited thinking about being back in my own home. I spent this last day in hospital resting and also took my first proper walk outside with my dad and brother, Josh. It was so wonderful to have a change of scenery from the hospital room and breathe in the fresh air! 

On Tuesday 31st August, I had another chest X-ray that showed that the pocket of air on my lung was improving. That morning my sister visited and helped me get ready to go home. This felt important for me because I wanted to leave feeling as good as I could. She helped me to wash my hair, get dressed for the first time and paint my nails. Those of you who know me will know how important painted nails are to me, and because I had to have all nail varnish removed before surgery, this was an important goal for me to get to!  Unfortunately, because I have to wear lovely surgical socks for a month, my pedicure will have to be put on hold! However, given English weather at this time of of year, this might not be an issue! 

I saw my consultant again, went through all my medications with the nurse and the plan for managing these at home. My consultant reiterated how amazed he and his team were at how quickly I was able to leave hospital which made me feel so encouraged. Getting to the point of being able to be discharged was very emotional for me because in my mind it took me back to Friday 3rd June when I was first admitted to the Marsden under investigation. It made me think about how just how far I have come. This time I wasn’t leaving the hospital with the fear I had waiting for the diagnosis, but instead knowing that the surgery had taken me one step closer to hopefully saying goodbye to ‘Cyril’ forever. 

IMG_2129I’m now back at home continuing to take each day as it comes. I am also being very organised with my medication and protein drinks! It’s only been a few days so far, but I’ve already gone through so many emotions and ups and downs. I’ve laughed, cried, felt happy and felt sad. I have points when I feel physically different about myself, and I have times when I feel pain (physically and mentally). I have to keep reminding myself that this is normal and all part of the healing process. I know that the next few weeks will be hard but there are lots of things in place to support my recovery. 

I will be working with a physiotherapist at home thanks to the wonderful support offered by Chai Cancer Care. This will help me to strengthen my muscles and areas of my body that are weaker at the moment. 

Also, my team at the Marsden will be supporting me with understanding and coping with changes in my body because of now starting menopause. It’s still a really confusing and hard thing to make sense of at the moment and especially when I think about doing this at 27. It’s going to be a hard journey but for now, just knowing that there is support for me as I start this journey, is making me feel more at ease. 

The other thing I’m starting to now have to deal with more than I was before is not ever having children of my own. At the moment, this is bringing up all sorts of emotions for me and I have to allow myself to feel this sadness. However, as I have said before, I must try to remember that there is more than one way to become a mother. I know that support is there for this too and I must call upon it when I’m ready. 

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The support that I have, and continue to have, from family and friends is such a help with recovering from my operation. They help me with something physical that I can’t do, eating healthy food, doing physiotherapy exercises with me and even just sitting and laughing with me. It is so helpful having family and friends sending me texts to make me smile and continue to push forward, or just reminding me that I’m in their prayers. 

When I stop and think about it, I cannot quite believe that I have been able to come home so quickly. I had a major operation on the 24th August, and my body ended up getting itself to the correct place so that I could leave hospital only six days later. There are so many people that I am thankful to for this. My consultant, his team and all of the surgical team, the Critical Care Unit, the ward nursing staff, the physiotherapists, my family, friends, and also myself and my own body. Back in June, I was harbouring a lot of anger towards my body because I felt it had failed me for allowing ‘Cyril’ to enter. As chemo progressed I started to feel a bit different and see that my body was now protecting me and fighting ‘Cyril’ with me. My body’s greatest test was surgery, and it has coped really well. I’m also so thankful for how my body has helped me start to recuperate quicker than expected from my operation.

Since being home, I’ve been back for a check up with my consultant and he took my bandage off to reveal the coolest scar on my tummy, which I will always wear with pride!  know that the next few weeks and more might feel like an emotional roller coaster, as my body continues to recover. But when I feel low, I am going look down at the scar and remember that my body and I are surviving stage 3 ovarian cancer. I know that this will help to push me forward, regardless of whether I feel happy, sad, angry, scared, unwell, weak or tired.  Why look at a scar to help in low moments? Keynote Speaker, Dr. Steve Maraboliexplains this well… 

‘My scars tell a story. They are a reminder of times when life tried to break me, but failed. They are markings of where the structure of my character was welded.’ 

There is a lot of truth in these words for me because my fight against ‘Cyril’ is making me stronger as a person, even when I don’t know or feel it

Back on the 3rd June ‘Cyril’ on my ovaries was suspected. On the 9th June, ‘Cyril’ on my ovaries was confirmed. Then followed nine weeks of chemo. On the 24th August I said, ‘Au revoir’ to the parts of me that had been infected by ‘Cyril’. Now I am building up my strength ready to fight any remaining ‘Cyril’ with more chemo. 

Writing this and reflecting on the huge events of the past week has reminded me once again just how lucky I am, and it makes me more motivated with my aims for #FindingCyril. I have so many people who are loving me and supporting me through my journey, which makes it all that bit easier. This is why I am adamant that I want to find ways to continue to be somebody who loves, supports and guides others going through this journey, now and forever. 

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Its been a good week

IMG_1778I didn’t update the blog last week because I had a lot happening with chemotherapy on Monday and then three additional hospital appointments. So I thought that I would update the blog at this point… I have the time to because I had no chemotherapy this week- my first Monday in 9 weeks without it!

I completed cycle three of chemo last Monday and was given the brilliant news that my tumor markers are now 16! My iron was low again which meant that I found myself back on the chemo ward the next day for a blood transfusion. This took four hours but I was as cool as a cucumber about it because I knew what to expect this time round. It was irritating that I started to experience tummy cramps during my transfusion, which makes it uncomfortable to have to sit for as long as you do, but once again I have come to the stage where I know these cramps. Also, they don’t worry me because I know they are a side effect of the chemo.

IMG_1709I also had to stop eating during the transfusion because a few hours later I was due to have my repeat CT scan As 3pm came closer, I started to get more anxious about what would be found on the scan. I could not stop myself from worrying that the chemo would not have done what it needed to, even though my tumor markers were so good. The scan itself was quick but it felt like an eternity. As the machine was doing its job, I found myself panicking and questioning whether ‘Cyril’ was being defeated or not. Once I was out the scanner, I knew it was a waiting game until Friday. However, luckily the appointment was brought forward a day and so on Thursday I got some more good news….I am overjoyed to say that the scan looked great! The cocktail of chemo drugs has successfully taken the lead in the boxing match with ‘Cyril,’ and has now well and truly started to push him out of the ring! The good news meant that I was then given confirmation that my surgery will be on the 24th August. During my appointment, we also reviewed what the operation would involve, my recovery and what to expect during my hospital stay.

IMG_1691On Friday, I was back again at the Marsden to meet the professor in charge of my chemo. This meeting reviewed the three cycles of chemo overall and the plan ahead for my chemo schedule post-surgery.  The support provided by my team at the Marsden is amazing. Every appointment feels so well planned and I go into them feeling supported, not only by my family but also my team. They are there at every stage and answer any questions you have. It doesn’t matter how many times you ask a particular question…which is good because I’m known to repeat myself!

With the consent form reviewed and signed, it is now just a waiting game. The last time I had an operation I was three years old, so the idea of having one scares me. I have this fear of waking up during the operation, which I know is not going to be the case but it does still play on my mind. When I am not thinking through that worry, I am trying to imagine how I will react and what I will see when I come round after the operation. I’m worried about seeing the wires, drains and tubes attached to me. I know these are normal worries, and that the thing that helps me calm down is reminding myself that I am in very safe hands. It also helps knowing the outline of the plan and I know that with all of the support from my family, friends and the team I will get the things I need to heal physically, mentally and emotionally.

My siblings refer to me as a ‘tenacious little thing,’ and through my chemo they kept telling me that it was my tenacity that would ensure I came out on top after three cycles of chemo. They have told me that they expect me to wake up ready and raring to get on my feet and make my usual demands such as, “I need my lip balm,” “Tie my hair up” or “Rub my feet”. I can’t see this being true right now but I am sure that they will end up being right!

IMG_1568I think at the moment I’m scared of the unknown like I was before I started the chemo, but I look back on the past nine weeks and it feels strange to think how ‘normal’ it all became as I grew in confidence with what was involved. So at this point in my battle against ‘Cyril’ I see it as having another choice to make. I can focus on 24th August or I can take each day as it comes. I’m trying to do the latter but if I’m honest I’m probably doing a bit of both at the moment, and that’s ok. I have moments where I find myself freaking about the operation and the recovery and others where I can focus more on the day ahead. With the support of Chai Cancer Care, I am going to be learning Mindfulness. The idea of this is to develop skills in focusing on the here and now and being in the present moment. I think this is going to support me ahead of, during and after surgery. It will also equip me with useful breathing exercises to do when I begin my recovery.

When I get worried and anxious I try hard to not go with all the fears in my mind but instead focus what a huge milestone I will have crossed once this operation is over and I begin to recover from it. I also know that there will be moments where this hard to do and that is okay. I know myself and I know that I can get anxious and it becomes hard to get out of that state. This is when the support around me will help the most. I also feel that laughter and humor are essential. For me that is such an important part of my personality. I’ve learnt already that when you face hard things in life, like cancer, I can’t feel sad or be serious about it all the time because laughter is such a big part of who I am.

For example, the other day, my sister and I somehow managed to change my panic into laughter by googling the following questions: “What do surgeons do when they need to go to the toilet?”, “Do surgeons get hungry and eat during surgery?” and “What if the surgeon accidentally drops something in?”  I thank Google for the myriad of interesting (and sometimes concerning) replies! My boyfriend also managed to turn my panic into laughter over a Friday night family dinner when I asked, “How will they be opening me up?” He replied with, “Bring me the rest of the roast chicken and I’ll demonstrate!”  My friend Laura also calmed me down by sharing her operation stories and the time when she wrote messages to her surgeons on her tummy with eyeliner, which they discovered in theatre!

image1For those who don’t know, I am primary French teacher. I have had a love of all things French since I was teenager, which is why I ended up studying it at university and eventually teaching French. So, in keeping with my love of French, I wanted to share a quote by Henri Matisse. ‘Il y a des fleurs partout qui veut bien les voir.’ This translates as, ‘There are flowers everywhere for those who want to see them.’ Matisse was highlighting the importance of optimism and having a positive outlook on life. I know that when I face this next week building up to surgery, going into hospital, going into theatre, waking up and then starting recovery, these moments will be scary and I might feel like I want to give up. I’m going to push myself to remember Matisse’s words. I want to remind myself to see the flowers even if they do not seem very visible.

I’ve added a mixture of photos this week from chemo and the things I have done with family and friends to keep me busy and distracted.

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My eighth chemo session

IMG_1344This Monday I had my second chemo session of cycle 3 (each cycle is made up of three sessions). Last week, I found out that my tumour markers have dropped from 58 to 31, so I was feeling really positive about having more chemo. Last week, I also met with my consultant surgeon to talk about: how I am doing, the plan for my upcoming surgery and chemotherapy plans following this. It was a really positive meeting and it felt so different from when I last met with him to confirm the diagnosis. This time I felt better emotionally and felt more able to think and talk about what’s to come. It’s a long road ahead, but I just have to take it one step at a time.

Once again, my chemo session this week went smoothly. I had just one little hold up because I had to have my full blood count test repeated because there was not enough blood taken in the first set. You do sometimes end up feeling like a pin cushion by the end of the day!  I was happily distracted by playing ‘UNO’ and ‘Guess Who?’ with family. It was also great to see my friend Rosie at lunchtime. Also, as you can see from the photos, I had one of the best sleeps ever during my foot massage!

IMG_1341I now have to prepare myself for the last session of my current chemotherapy cycle next week and then for surgery in a few weeks’ time. I naturally have my fears about the operation. I worry about being put to sleep, coming round in Intensive Care with lots of tubes, being attached to machines and wires and being in hospital for up to three weeks after. I’m also worried about the pain I will feel after and coping with recovery. One of the biggest things which has started to hit me more now is the consequences of surgery with regards to my future, and not being able to have my own children. It is obviously a really difficult thing to get my head around and something which I know will take time, so I know not to pressure myself to ‘be ok’ with everything at the moment but instead to think one step at a time at the moment.

The Royal Marsden team understand all of my concerns and they are encouraging of the additional therapies that the hospital offers that can support people on their journey with ‘Cyril.’ I am keen to access the art, relaxation and psychological therapies before and during my stay in hospital to help me through the next hurdle and find ways of coping with what is to come.

IMG_1338Eleanor Roosevelt once said, You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’” This quote makes a lot of sense to me at the moment as my current chemotherapy treatment draws to an end. When I reflect on my last eight sessions of chemo, I can honestly say I have gained in strength, courage and confidence and this is going to help me with coping with the next stage. I know that as I continue on my journey I will keep gaining this strength, courage and confidence to deal with the next chapters.

 

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My seventh chemo session – Start of the third cycle

IMG_1252On Monday 25th July, I started my third cycle of my chemo. This was a big milestone for me because it brings me closer to the doctors repeating the CT scan and finalising an operation date. Whilst the repeat CT scan and the pending operation are scary, the fact that my tumor markers have now come down to 58 brings me hope!

During my consultation with the doctor prior to starting to chemo we went through the regular checks and penciled in a date for the CT scan, meeting the professor in charge of my chemo, meeting my surgeon and a possible 4th round of chemo. She prepared me for the fact that based on CT scan my professor might decide to attack ‘Cyril’ a bit more prior to my operation. This is not a bad thing. It means that the operation will be made easier. My doctors will not know if they are going to do this until they repeat my scan.

For this chemo session, it was lovely to welcome my great auntie to the usual crew. She is a fun-loving person who always makes me laugh. UNO was the game of choice for my brother Josh, my boyfriend Jonny and myself. My meds must have been extra powerful yesterday because I beat Jonny (twice) and he’s known to win any game that you play with him! Overall the chemo session went smoothly. Although it was the start of a new cycle, I didn’t have Avastin (Bevacizumab) which is one of the chemo drugs I usually have at the start of each cycle. The Cancer Research UK website gives a good explanation about Avastin; I have copied it below:

Bevacizumab targets a cancer cell protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). This protein helps cancers to grow blood vessels, so they can get food and oxygen from the blood. All cancers need a blood supply to be able to survive and grow. Bevacizumab blocks this protein and stops the cancer from growing blood vessels, so it is starved and can’t grow. Doctors call treatments that interfere with the development of a blood supply anti angiogenesis treatments.

I didn’t have the Avastin yesterday because I am too near the point of surgery. It shouldn’t be used for at least 28 days before or after surgery and until surgical wounds are fully healed as it can slow down the healing process.

I felt quite drained after this week’s chemotherapy session, as you can see from the photograph of me on the sofa. I lay down intending to watch my daily dose of Neighbours but ended up sleeping through the whole thing! I woke up with an appetite (which doesn’t always happen at the moment) so I took advantage of this and tucked into a my new favourite meal…hoisin duck and pancakes with a twist. The twist being the duck is turkey. Eight (ok nine) pancakes later, I felt much better. A good meal definitely helps to boost your mood! IMG_1258

I would like to finish by saying fighting ‘Cyril’ is a bumpy journey. You have to be prepared for changes to your treatment plan. I was reminded of this on Monday when I was told about the possibility of a 4th chemo cycle prior to my operation. Tony Robbins, the motivational speaker, says, “Your life is controlled by what you focus on.” This is an important quote because I am not going to focus on changes to my treatment plan; instead I am focused on the end goal. That is to say, saying goodbye to ‘Cyril’ in my ovaries once in for all!

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If you would like to read more about chemotherapy for ‘Cyril’ in the ovaries, have a look at the links below. 

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/type/ovarian-cancer/treatment/chemotherapy-for-ovarian-cancer

http://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/ovarian-cancer/treating/chemotherapy/chemotherapy-explained/chemotherapy-for-ovarian-cancer.html

http://www.cancer.org/cancer/ovariancancer/detailedguide/ovarian-cancer-treating-chemotherapy

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A guide to scalp cooling and managing hair loss

imageI received my diagnosis on a Thursday and on the Friday I was sitting in front of the professor in charge of my chemotherapy treatment; which was to start on the Monday. There was not much time to get my head around what was happening. I felt relieved that my sister was taking notes during the consultation, because there were moments when I felt like I was present in the room in my body, but not in my mind.

Before the professor came in, we met with his specialist registrar who took us through how the treatment was going to work and what drugs were going to be used. Initially, I was meant to have chemo once every three weeks (3 sessions). When the issue of hair loss came up, I became very distressed. I was told that the hair loss would happen three weeks after my first session and that it would fall out quickly. I think this distress was due to the fact that so many things were changing so quickly.

When the professor eventually came I was imageclutching my sister and was very tearful. He immediately said, “Everybody has given you bad news so far, but I am going to give you some good news.” Instead of having the drug that causes hair loss in one big dose every three weeks, he decided he would administer it weekly so I could try the scalp cooling treatment. Even though he was clear that scalp cooling does not always work, this news instantly took a worry away from me. Although it is hard having chemotherapy each week, this pattern has actually worked well for me. I feel comforted by the fact that I see the doctors each week, and having the chemo drugs administered each week gives me clear milestones to tick off.

imageScalp cooling can reduce the hair loss caused by chemotherapy drugs. These drugs can cause hair loss because they target all the rapidly dividing cells in the body. Cancer cells are rapidly dividing but there are also healthy rapidly dividing cells in our body, like hair follicles.

The scalp cooling treatment works by reducing the amount of chemotherapy drug reaching the hair follicles. Scalp cooling doesn’t work with all chemotherapy drugs and it is not possible to know how effective it will be. In my case the drug Paclitaxel, which makes up 20% of my treatment, is the one that causes hair loss. Scalp cooling doesn’t work with all chemotherapy drugs and it’s not always possible to know how effective the treatment will be.

The cooling cap is placed on my head thirty minutes before the chemo drugs are given. This ensures that the scalp is frozen to the correct temperature. Prior to putting the cap on, the nurses wet my hair, put conditioner in and place my soft headband on, making that it covers my ears. Next, two nurses place the cap on together and push down hard to ensure that there is no gap between the top of the cooling cap and the scalp. Then, they put the chinstrap in place. I find the strap the hardest element of the cap because it is very tight. I don’t seem to find the cap cold-I know this is bizarre! My boyfriend Jonny, who plays American football, looked at me once when I was wearing the cap and told me that he could not cope with his hand in a bag of ice when he dislocated his thumb in football, so he was in awe of how I could deal with a cap that freezes the scalp to -4C. Interestingly, when my cousin came to chemo the cap impressed him. He is known in the family as the one who always gets hot. I recall family holidays with him sleeping with wet flannels (or sometimes even makeshift flannels!) He saw the cap and declared, “I need one of those at home; it would sort out my issues of getting too hot at night!”

Going back to the cooling cap.. As I said, it goes on thirty minutes before the chemo is given and it must stay on one hour after the chemo drug have been administered. It is at this time that I have one of my aunt’s famous foot massages! The massage seems to take my mind of the cooling cap. The paracetamol and lorazepam that the nurses provide also help to deal with the cap. The paracetamol minimizes the chance of a headache and the lorazepam instantly calms you down. I also find that playing games or working on my colouring books helps to take my mind off the cap.
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The nurses are amazing because from the first session they gave lots of advice on how to care for your hair during the treatment. I have been following this carefully in order to have the best chance with the scalp cooling. The fabulous Sandra washes my hair for me on Tuesday mornings and that is the only time I wash my hair. We do it on Tuesday mornings, because after the treatment on a Monday, my hair has lots of conditioner in it. It sounds strange, but having somebody else wash my hair makes me feel better. This is because if hair comes out at this point, I seem to panic less.

We wash my hair using the Paxman shampoo and conditioner. The company that make the cooling caps produces these products, and they were recommended by the nurses. Once my hair is washed, Sandra gently combs my hair with a wooden wide comb, taking care not to apply pressure on the roots. I then wear a soft headband and leave my hair down to dry. The nurses also advised that I do not use straighteners or a hair dryer on my hair as it damages the follicles. After this, I do not comb my hair until the following washing session. I wear soft bands to keep my hair away from my face, or tie it up with a very soft scrunchie. Finally, I sleep in a hair net (this was also recommended by the nurses) The hair net means that my hair is contained during the night, and fewer knots occur. They are actually quite comfortable to sleep in. It is quite an interesting look to be sporting and my sisters have come up with some interesting nicknames! The nurses suggest sometimes cutting a couple of inches off your hair to reduce the weight of it on the roots. Now that my hair has got longer, this is something I will be doing soon.

imageUp to this point the scalp cooling has proved effective for me. I have had normal hair loss but nothing has come out from the roots. I fully expect my hair to thin because the nurses explained that this happens. Today, I commence cycle 3 of my chemo. I will continue with my hair regime to give myself the best possible chance of the cap working. If it continues to work, I will be really relieved and happy. I feel like whilst a lot of things are out of my control, using this cap has given me the chance to take control of, what is in the grand scheme of things, a small thing. In the back of my mind, I know that the effectiveness of the cap might change, but I feel more at ease with this now. This is partly due to a lady I met on the chemo ward. When I went for my second session, the lady sitting next to me was having her first session. My family and myself got chatting with her. She was bright, bubbly and kind. We spoke about the treatment we were both having. She is not having the scalp cooling for her hair, and when she said to me that she was going to embrace any hair loss and “rock the look,”she made a very big impact on me.  I realised that if it happens to me I have the strength to do exactly what she said. I feel like I was meant to sit next to this lady on that particular day because sometimes it is the words of somebody that you do not know that make a mark on you.
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The quote below is taken from the Paxman website and is a description about what scalp cooling offers.

“For patients, this means the opportunity to regain some control, maintain their privacy and encourage a positive attitude towards treatment.”

I firmly believe these words, because if I think back to the meeting with my professor when I was clutching my sister in complete distress at the thought of loosing my hair, the mere fact that I am using the cold cap has instantly given me a more positive attitude towards the treatment.

Using the cold cap can be worrying, but if it is something that can be offered to you, it is worth trying. It can be uncomfortable and some patients will find the cold harder to deal with than others, but the nurses go above and beyond to make you feel comfortable, like making sure you have heated blankets.image

I was anxious the first time the cap went on, and there were moments when I wondered if I would manage with it. However, I think it helped that I had made my mind up that I was going to persevere and think positively about the cooling cap, no matter how it felt. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”

Further details on Paxman’s scalp cooling and hair care products can be found on http://shop.paxmanscalpcooling.com

 

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Getting to know Laura; Her friends perspective – A guest article by Jess Millett

image3When Laura told me about her diagnosis, I was devastated. I could not think of a less deserving person. Having never smoked, never drank alcohol (apart from that one time at Oceana in second year 😉 ) Laura was the healthiest person I knew. Her dentist even told her to stop eating so much fruit at 15, at a time when most kids were cramming their bodies with junk food and alcopops. But Laura has never been one to dwell on life’s lemons.

You see, Laura is incredibly special. She touches lives and never does anything by halves. She sees the finish line in the distance but on crossing the line, she continues going for a second lap – not to gloat or boast but simply because giving 100% is simply not enough for her. This blog is that second lap. Instead of taking her diagnosis on board and working on her health and happiness, she has taken ‘Cyril’ and created something so incredibly powerful and inspiring.

I have had the absolute pleasure of knowing Laura for the majority of my life. We met in Turkey and on discovering that we lived one street apart and that Laura was to join my school that September, we quickly became inseparable. Laura describes her first day at school and how I coaxed her out of her Dad’s car. It is not a memory I remember but I do recall countless walks home from the bus stop, endless gossips and teenage giggles. Over the years, we went our separate ways. Laura moved house and I moved school. It wasn’t until our final year at the University of Birmingham that our friendship was cemented, moving into a three bedroom mould-ridden, filth-infested house in Selly Oak – Jewish Princesses, we were not.

It is here that I got a glimpse of this determination that had been developing over the years. One of four siblings, Laura gave as good as she got in that dusty old house in Birmingham, retaliating to practical jokes, putting up a fight and standing her ground. It became clear to me while we were at university that instead of scratching the surface, Laura would dig for Australia. It’s a determination that only being part of a large family can give you and she puts it into everything she does. image1 (1)

On graduating, this strength and determination only grew. Not satisfied with being a teaching assistant, Laura gained experience by working at a school for children with learning difficulties. Not content with a PGCE, Laura threw herself into a Masters and today, Laura heads up the French department in a primary school, revolutionising the way French is taught.

Like all of these huge accomplishments, kicking ‘Cyril’ off her ovary is not enough for her. Laura wants to change the way women view their bodies. She wants us to get talking to our family and find out our medical history, get checked if there is a cause for concern and raise awareness for a type of cancer difficult to diagnose.

The last month has been an emotional rollercoaster, not just for Laura but for all those who love her and it will continue to be tough but for every bad day, let’s make sure there is one person out there getting tested for the BRCA mutation, putting them in control of their destiny.

#FindingCyril

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With BRCA, knowledge is power- Laura has been featured in Ovarian Cancer Action

Ovarian Cancer Action has posted a new article about Laura today.

“About a year ago, my great aunt in Australia was diagnosed with breast cancer. Discussions regarding the family history of breast and ovarian cancer prompted her oncologist to carry out genetic testing. My great aunt tested positive for the BRCA1 mutation so her oncologist advised her to inform family members.

You can find and read the article on the link below.

http://ovarian.org.uk/news-and-campaigning/blog/with-brca-knowledge-is-power

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My sixth chemo session – end of the second cycle

IMG_1105I had another good week before having chemo session 6 yesterday, which marked the end of the second cycle. I also felt the effects of my blood transfusion from last week. I had more colour in my face, I was a lot less sleepy and I was able to walk more without getting breathless. Last week, I also found out that my tumour markers dropped again to 151! The doctors are really happy with this and getting these results weekly gives me a great boost!

Last week, I was asked to take part in a segment called ‘Jewish Views’ on Spectrum radio. Clive Roslin led a conversation with Jenni Frazer (Jewish News journalist), Phil Dave (Spectrum Radio Presenter) and myself. The aim of this was to open up conversations about cancer because this is often something people find challenging to discuss. The interview gave me an opportunity to share my story and raise awareness of the BRCA gene mutation. I was also able to talk about how my diagnosis at age 27 shows that we need to be wary of statistics that suggest ovarian cancer is only a risk for women of an older age, and that women need to know about and be vigilant of the symptoms. We also spoke about the cancer journey and the importance of keeping a positive mindset. One thing for me that contributes to my positive mindset is sharing my story and raising awareness.


Recently, Finding Cyril tried to launch the #loveyourovaries campaign and I’m happy to say its started to develop some traction. So far, there have been quite a few #loveyourovaries photos being shared on Facebook  and I am hoping for more. The aim of this campaign is to help women know and remember the symptoms of ovarian cancer. Here is all you need to do:

  1. Take a #loveyourovaries photo (see below)
  2.  List some of the symptoms of ovarian cancer that you know of and then nominate some friends to do the same.
  3. I have also included the Finding Cyril text donation code FICY58 with the campaign. If you are a UK resident, send this code and an amount (e.g. £2) to 70070 to donate. All donations go to The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.
  4. Post it on Facebook!

You can copy the text from my photo here to use on yours:

Persistent pelvic and abdominal pain, constant and increasing abdominal bloating, difficulty eating and the urge to wee more often. I know the symptoms of ovarian cancer. NAMES- Do you? What symptoms can you name? Spread awareness and show love for your ovaries with a ‘Love your ovaries photo’. If you want to donate to The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, text FICY58 £2 to 70070 to donate. findingcyril.com #FindingCyril @FindingCyril

The way I see it, every person who takes part is another person who will learn about symptoms to look out for. As I have mentioned previously in my blogs, women should not be satisfied with the diagnoses of IBS for symptoms that may be indicative of ovarian cancer. I will aim to post as many of your photos on the blog and on twitter as possible! Be sure to tweet them to @FindingCyril if you want them on the website. You can also email them to findingcyril@gmail.com. Here are some from last week:

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So onto chemo session 6…It was so nice that sun was shining from start to finish. Once I had gone through all the usual bits and bobs, (weight, cannula, blood tests, talking to the doctor etc.) I was ready to start. This week I found out that I’m still low on potassium so I’m going to keep on with the daily potassium drinks. I also found out that I’m low on magnesium so depending on tIMG_1100he level next week, I may start supplements for that too.

After this, my hair was prepped for the cold cap and then I had my pre-meds. Once the cap is on, a flush goes through your system for 30 minutes before the chemotherapy drug (Paciltaxel) is started. This allows the cold cap to start working before the drug does. The Paclitaxel takes one hour to go through. After this, the cap stays on for an extra hour to make sure that my scalp stays cool while the drug is still moving round my body. This is the time when I find distractions so helpful. Yesterday, it was the usual games with the inclusion of UNO. It was wonderful to have my superstar sister Tara and my wonderful friend Sophie join the usual crew. Competitive sides came to the surface and UNO is now definitely on the list for next week! And of course, I had my regular foot massage from my wonderful auntie. Yesterday’s session was much shorter than last week. This is because my treatment plan is weekly. The longer sessions are at the start of each cycle. They includes: Avastin, Carboplatin and Paclitaxel drugs. The following two sessions are shorter because I only have the Paclitaxel.

IMG_1099My lovely specialist nurse Jane came to see me during my session yesterday too. The moment I saw her walk through the door she made me smile. She is so comforting and I feel so lucky to have her by my side throughout this journey. We spoke briefly about what will happen at the end of cycle 3. I’ll have another CT scan and then meet my surgeon to talk about the plans for surgery. It’s good to have an idea of what’s coming up because it means I have small goals to be working towards.

I left yesterday feeling really excited that cycle 2 is complete. To be honest, I’m now just waiting in anticipation for next Monday to come round because I just want to get cycle 3 started. As more chemo drugs drip through my veins, I know that ‘Cyril’ is being hit harder. Hopefully, it won’t be long now before ‘Cyril’ looks exactly like the depiction created by my wonderful friend and fantastic artist Laura Footes. IMG_1107

This week I’ll be back at the Marsden again for a kidney function test. This is routine when you’re on Carboplatin. It can feel scary to be having lots of different tests as well as the chemo. However, I keep reminding myself that these help the doctors monitor everything and make sure that they are giving you exactly what you need.

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My fifth chemo session – Halfway to surgery

IMG_0956So this past week has gone quite well for me. I had one day where I was sick but it passed quickly this time and I did not have to visit A&E! I also got an updated tumour marker result… In three weeks, my markers have gone from 3052 to 375! This news gave me such a boost and the doctors are really happy with the result.

I felt quite washed out last weekend so it was nice to spend some time relaxing in the garden; on Sunday night, my boyfriend, my friend Chloe and I sat outside wrapped in blankets drinking tea, eating fruit and cheesecake and surrounded by candles (there’s a photo in the slide show). We spent a couple of hours chatting about all sorts! This was the perfect way to calm myself down before my chemo session the next day. I get my moments where the anxiety can get too much, and I don’t always feel I know how to handle it. However, I know that this garden time is one to keep on the list for these moments… despite the insect bites that I got!

‘Cyril’ in my ovaries means that, for the moment, I cannot be at work. It is hard to put down in words how much I miss the pupils and the staff I work with. I love my job, feel privileged and honoured to be part of such a wonderful school and cannot wait to be back there. I was beaming from ear to ear when I recently received beautiful cards and gift from my colleagues and pupils. I look at these every day because they help me to stay positive, and they remind me of just how many people are fighting Cyril with me. This continued love, encouragement and support really does mean the world to me. It’s helping me to show Cyril that he is not wanted and must simply go away! I looked at these reminders before I went for session number two of cycle two yesterday.
I felt slightly more nervous having chemotherapy yesterday than I did last week because I was having a blood transfusion, which is a new experience for me. After going through the regular things yesterday morning (checking weight, putting a cannula in, taking bloods and talking to the doctor), it was time to get started with the transfusion. My haemoglobin fluctuated again over the past week so they decided to give me two units of blood to avoid me becoming lethargic and breathless. The blood transfusion process took five hours. Initially this felt like a lifetime, but surrounded by loving family and friends it flew by. My wonderful nurse and doctor made sure that the blood was covered up to avoid me feeling faint at the sight of it and potentially being on the floor before the infusion even began!

My friend Rosie joined me for my chemo session yesterday and brought the card version of Guess Who, which was a great distraction and kept my focus off the drugs. We then moved onto the ‘guess the celebrity game’ followed by ‘Heads Up.’ My cousin David proved himself to be pretty good with accents and impressions! I did of course have the famous foot massage by auntie Roz! As I was sitting and lying down for longer than normal yesterday, the foot massage helped to improve my blood circulation (and transport oxygen though my the cells in my body) over the five hours. There were moments where I felt hot, tired, stiff, agitated and woozy but these feelings seemed to pass quickly because I had lots of people to distract me and talk with. When my nurse came round and said, “Four minutes left,” I felt a sense of relief and achievement at having managed the five hours.

Before starting the chemo yesterday, my nurse gave me an injection of a drug called Zoladex. This goes into my ovaries and is given once a month. It works by essentially telling the brain to stop the ovaries from making oestrogen. Once you stop taking the medicine, the ovaries begin functioning again. The doctor’s aim is that it will put my ovaries ‘to sleep’ during chemo because otherwise ‘Cyril’ can cause damage to the ovaries and affect fertility. Research studies have shown good result from patients who have used Zoladex. In my case, I know that ‘Cyril’ has affected my right ovary but I’m unsure for the moment if he has affected the left ovary, which is one of the reasons why I am having Zoladex. So I don’t know at this point if my left ovary can be saved and even if I want it to be. I am at higher risk of ‘Cyril’ than other women. I am in the very rare situation of battling ‘Cyril’ in my ovaries at a young age and because of the BRCA gene mutation. This makes me feel uneasy and very scared to possibly keep one ovary even if there is a chance that I can. I feel that will I be continuously wondering whether the other ovary will be affected by ‘Cyril’. For me this is too much anxiety to bear because the BRCA 1 gene mutation (which caused ‘Cyril’ for me) is not leaving my body. This is a very hard thing to get my head around but I know that even if I cannot have my own children in the future, there is more than one way to be a parent.IMG_0982

Once the Zoladex injection was in it was cold cap time. I was quite excited to get the cap on (I was so hot yesterday!). This why I could not understand how my amazing cousin David who joined us yesterday had a sweatshirt on all day! My nurses prepared my hair and gave me my pre-meds. They know I have funny reactions to pre-meds. These range from: asking for jellybeans, holding the sides of chair, giggling and saying things like ‘I feel like I’m flying!’ Yesterday, I did all of the above! After thirty minutes of the cooling cap on, the chemo started to drip into my veins. This meant that boxing match with ‘Cyril’ started up again. ‘Cyril’ has learned that chemo is not a contender to mess with. I had my regular foot rubs with the cap on. This week I have to thank my superstar auntie and wonderful friend Rosie because they both did this for me!

Whilst the cap was on, Rosie and I were talking about #FindingCyril and its aim to raise awareness of ovarian cancer amongst women of all ages (with and without the gene). I encourage women to think carefully about the symptoms, and if you have experienced any of them consistently even for a short amount time go to your GP and been seen. This is because ‘Cyril’ in the ovaries is often known as the ‘silent killer.’ Also, if you get checked and all is okay but the symptoms come back, you must get checked again. Remember this ‘silent killer’ is hard to find and diagnose (it can take months), and this often results in it being found in the advanced stages. If you have any further questions please email Finding Cyril.

Yesterday was such a long day and I didn’t leave hospital until gone 7pm. It was strange because I didn’t instantly feel tired. I think this was because I felt a sense of achievement for completing the long day. In the coming days, I will feel the full effects of the blood transfusion. I will never know the person who donated the blood that I received, but I am forever grateful to them. I am so happy that the post I wrote last week encouraged people to give blood. Thank you to all of my friends who supported the @JoelyBearAppeal last weekend by attending their blood giving session. During my transfusion, Rosie and I asked the nurse my blood type. It turned out to be the same as Rosie’s (A positive). This made us feel like from the two units of blood that I had been given, the unit of A positive blood that Rosie donated on Sunday somehow contributed. It’s great that my boyfriend’s work colleagues have also been inspired to give blood since learning about me needing a transfusion. My brother and his friends are also planning to set up a blood donor session soon; the aim will be to encourage people to sign up to donate at a blood drive they arrange at Edgware hospital – more details on this to come.IMG_0967

Please take a look at my photos from this past week; relaxing in the garden the night before chemo, the chemo session yesterday, and the gifts and cards from school that make me smile and face my recovery so that I can get back to working with my pupils and the best staff team in the world!

I would like to finish this entry with a funny story from last night. As I have explained, I have scalp cooling for my hair (I will be writing about this process and how to protect and support the hair between treatments in another blog post). So far it has worked really well. Yesterday evening, I went to the toilet before bed. I turned round to flush the toilet but as I did, I noticed a clump of hair on the toilet. It was strange because it didn’t look like it came from my head, but naturally, my first instinct was to panic. My dad came running upstairs. He looked at it and was baffled. He was as confused as I was. “But it can’t be from your head!” he said. “Well then where has it come from?!” I shouted back. We stood silently for a few seconds trying to find an answer. All of sudden, my brother chirped up from his room. He said, and I quote, “No, no! It’s my armpit hair….I was grooming earlier and thought I flushed it properly.” My panic fizzled away and we had a good laugh, not only with the situation but also AT my brother. It was so great to be laughing before falling asleep because, as they say, laughter is the best medicine!

Note to self: Check for Josh’s armpit hair in the toilet before sitting on it!

IMG_0971I once again urge you to talk with your family about your family history of breast and ovarian cancer. If you feel you have a history of these cancers, go to your GP and get the ball rolling for genetic testing. Please refer back the article about on Spreading BRCA awareness for information about gene testing. Remember that knowledge is power, so if you find out that you carry the gene mutation you can make choices that are right for you. Once I knew that I carried the BRCA 1 gene mutation I made the choices of getting my breasts and ovaries checked which has helped me with ‘Cyril’ because my doctors know that it was not there seven months ago when I last had a pelvic scan and a CA125 blood test. @BRCAUmbrella is a great group for more support on genetic testing. If you have any further questions about my experience with genetic testing, please email Finding Cyril.

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