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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Spreading BRCA mutation awareness

img_6204Today I had the privilege of meeting Caitlin Brodnick (@caitybrodnick), who is 31-year-old comedian living in New York. Caitlin carries the BRCA 1 gene mutation and made the life-changing decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I am currently battling ‘Cyril’ in my ovaries, but my mind is made up that when I am back to full health next year, I too will have a preventive double mastectomy. My current situation makes me feel that my breasts are a ticking time bomb. When I watched Caitlin’s documentary; ‘Screw You Cancer,’ which documents her journey, I felt inspired by her story. Previously, the idea of removing my breasts seemed terrifying. Meeting Caitlin today, and seeing how happy she is with the surgeries, fills me with hope for when it is my turn to go through it. As Caitlin says, ‘they are DIY boobies!’ But these DIY boobies will take all my fears away, and as I discovered today, the constant need for a bra (so every cloud and all that!)

Caitlin spoke of growing up knowing that cancer was prevalent on her father’s side of the family, but it took her a long time to want to take the test. After finding out that she tested positive, it took her a while to comes to terms with it and decide on her next steps. I felt similar to Caitlin. When I heard that I had tested positive, I did not know what to think. I was so anxious about this news, and waiting for breast screening at age 30 did not sit right with me. I immediately went to have my breasts checked and a plan was put in place to have screening every six months. At the same time, I went to my gynecologist to have a pelvic scan and CA125 blood test, which would be once a year. My anxiety about the potential risks of this gene started to get better because I was being checked. However, in the back of my mind, I always wondered about what would show up on the screen. Lumps in my breasts were found, but thank God they were always benign.

Even though going for constant checks is frightening and leaves a nervous feeling in my stomach, I do not regret being tested. In fact, I am thankful that the BRCA 1 gene mutation was discovered in my family, because knowledge is power. It allowed me to make informed decisions about my body. Even though Cyril has hit me at an age that is very rare (most probably due to the gene mutation), I am comforted by the fact that I knew about the gene mutation and was getting myself checked. If you have strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer, I urge you to visit your GP and have the discussion about genetic testing. As I prove, it can hit earlier than the national statistics state in BRCA 1 and 2 positive people. It is a very challenging test to go through, but knowing allows you to make plans for the future and take steps to manage the risks. I had my test at Northwick Park Hospital and the genetic specialists support you through the whole process.img_6202

I also had the privilege of meeting Caroline Presho, who is head of the BRCA Umbrella group. Caroline works tirelessly to raise awareness for BRCA mutations and provides vital support to lots of people. We spoke today about the issue of misdiagnosis; the need to raise awareness amongst GPs and how women of all ages with BRCA gene mutations need to be vigilant of the risks these mutations cause. I look forward to doing more work with Caroline in the future and being part of a group that is bringing BRCA gene mutations to the public’s attention and making people stop and think.

To follow Caity’s story, please click this link to view her documentary.

http://video.glamour.com/series/screw-you-cancer

Please have the conversation with your loved ones about your family history regarding breast and ovarian cancer, and get to the GP to see if you are eligible for the testing. The links below will provide you with further information.

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/inherited-cancer-genes-and-increased-cancer-risk/genetic-testing-for-cancer-risk

http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/genetics/brca-fact-sheet

http://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/diagnosing/causes-and-risk-factors/genetic-testing-and-counselling/genetic-testing.html

#FindingCyril