Putting my gob to good use

That one word “amazing” was to have a profound effect on me…it really has propelled me to even greater efforts to raise awareness – it’s another reason I started this blog! It gave me a confidence I’d never possessed before. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had a gob on me but I saved it for special drunk occasions and when in the company of the people I’m most at ease with. The thought of getting up on a stage and opening my gob and anything meaningful coming out in a very quivery voice has always been the stuff of nightmares to me. So imagine my utter shock at myself agreeing to speak at a charity football match being organised by the local council back in May 2018 to raise awareness of ovarian cancer!! A friend tagged me in a post about the football match so I rang the organiser of the event and when he asked me to speak at it, I couldn’t say no! Altogether now…FECK!!!

Just before the football match (and just after I’d done those 3 days of gardening that I mentioned in my last post), I started hobbling about at work…I knew the signs, I’d had it before a couple of times…SCIATICAAAAAAA!! The most hateful pain! I was hoping walking about would ease it, but by the football match I was noticeably trailing my right leg about. 3 of the fabulous ovarian ladies (Dorothy, Pauline and Shauna) and their mums/daughters joined me and my sidekick Alison at the Ballymena Showgrounds at very short notice…it was our wee group’s debut appearance! Coz, yeah, there was no way I was getting up on that stage after the football match on my fecking own so I dragged them up with me (see the pic!). Shauna’s trying her hardest to escape! As it was my first attempt at talking about this shitty cancer, of course I got up without having written any speech or even some notes to keep me on track!! It was proof that for once in my life, I knew my subject material off by heart and don’t need to write a script! I just stand up on what I now call my “ovarian cancer soap box” and start gobbing off! I followed a great speech given by the gynae consultant I’d met waaay back when he called me a “wile woman”!! It was great to see him and my original CNS again. They both go that extra mile to support us women with gynae cancers and try and raise as much awareness as they can too.

I had a captivated audience which made my job a lot easier and I managed not to waffle or swear! Woo-fecking-hoo! Us ladies got a lovely, warm applause at the end of my speech (think I talked mostly about the symptoms and how easily it is missed by GPs so women need to go to see their Dr armed to the teeth with info about their symptoms being linked to ovarian cancer. Don’t know the symptoms? They are own their page on this Blog) and I was blown away – firstly by my actually doing an off-the-cuff talk and secondly, how well it had been received. I was grinning from ear to ear and got lots of lovely feedback from many people in the audience. It was such a great feeling, I was able to forget about my sciatica for a while.

Unfortunately, the sciatica soon came front and centre on my radar as the pain got worse every day. By the Friday evening of the first May bank holiday, I had to lie in bed as I was just so sore and uncomfortable. I stayed there the whole of Saturday but by Sunday I was in such agony I had to lie in the back of the car while Neil drove me to see the out-of-hours GP. Some co-dydramol and diazepam (oooh those bad boys are sooo gooood!) were prescribed to relax me and deal with the pain. I was still in a lot of pain over the Monday holiday, so I booked in to my GP on the Tuesday. I was still so sore that I had to ask reception if there was a bed I could lie on while I waited. As always, the receptionists were fantastic with me and had me comfy in an empty Dr’s room in no time. When my GP saw me, she could see just how bad I was – lying coiled in the foetal position, miserable! There wasn’t really a lot more she could suggest so she said she’d get onto my oncologist. “Just make sure you mention that I was an eejit who gardened for 3 days straight!” I said.

By the Thursday I was feeling much better – thank feck coz it was my son Elliot’s and sis-in-law Robyn’s birthdays that day so we all headed out for a good feed (see the pic of me with the birthday peeps). I had another good feed a week or so later with Alison and Helen (see the other pic)…I was making up for feeling so rotten (and having to take a week off work – unheard of! Well…apart from the obvious chemo and Big Op forcing me to be off for months) and had another chance to meet up with several of the ovarian ladies at a gynae cancer event later in the month. Some of us had been at the same event the year before and had found it very informative and a great way to meet more ladies who were going through the same or similar to what we were. Our original CNS (she’s now gynae CNS at another hospital) and the gynae consultant were both at this event too. See? They go above and beyond what their roles entail. Of course several of us made the most of the day out and stayed on for a late lunch and a chance to do some more yarning and our CNS joined us for a wee while too – we are all very fond of her! Let’s just say we were our usual loud, happy selves (with the odd wobble thrown in for good measure as some of us were going through tough times) and provided a lot of entertainment for a few folk at the other tables!! Thankfully nobody seemed to mind.

May had a couple of other surprises up it’s sleeve before it was over. I had a chance meeting with J’s hubby and it was so good to see him and to catch up with him. He has been through so much – if my heart is still broken I can’t imagine the pain he has gone through. I’m just so pleased that he is doing so well and that we’re back in touch.

If that meeting wasn’t emotional enough, I was sitting in my garden later that afternoon and got a Facebook friend request from a local professional photographer. Since I knew of her (and loved her work!), I added her without a second thought. Imagine my shock/surprise/gobsmacked-ness when she sent me a message to say I’d been nominated (by a lovely workmate!!) and had only gone and won her competition for a free photoshoot! Cue Neil coming home 10 minutes later to me bawling my eyes out on a sun lounger!! It was quite the emotional day!!

I also got a phone call from “oncologist 2” asking about my sciatica – I was pleased to tell her it had really eased up and that I knew it had been the gardening that triggered it. “My GP did say in the letter that I’d gardened didn’t she?” I asked. No, no she hadn’t…but my oncologist believed me and trusts me that I know my own body well enough by now.

Oh…and May was also the month that I started blogging – I really had started to tap into using my gob (and my chemobrain) much more than I ever have before.

Big hugs,

Carol xxx

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Amazing…

Little did I know that April 2018 was going to be another month when I’d experience many more memorable moments with my nearest and dearest…and that one word (the clue’s in the title!) could light another fire in me and push me that bit more on the awareness-raising front.

First of all, it was time to celebrate one of my absolute rock Alison’s birthdays by thoroughly spoiling ourselves at a nearby spa with the most amazing thermal village (of course I’m talking about Galgorm!). We’d booked an overnight stay (coz we’re soooo fecking worth it!!) and it was absolute bliss! When you’ve had to avoid swimming, baths, jacuzzis and hot tubs for months because of having a PICC line in your arm, it really is luxury!!! We had a very chilled day followed by a yummy meal and lots of bubbly prosecco and chatted the night away. Any hangovers were soon sent packing by a big fry-up in the morning followed by more relaxing in the thermal village. We squeezed in an afternoon tea before we eventually had to pack up and come back to reality! It had been just what we’d needed – I had scan results to get the following week and to say I was fecking bricking it is an understatement. I knew the second line chemo had been successful up to a point as my 4 tumours had shrunk significantly…but I hadn’t been declared as NED (no evidence of disease) and I knew that it would be highly unlikely that I’d ever reach NED status again.

So the following week saw me and Neil heading up extra early for my appointment as Shauna was up getting her latest results too so of course I wanted to see her! It certainly does help calm the jittery nerves when you have an equally nervous buddy sitting beside you to chat to. Shauna was duly summoned in to see one of our oncologists and came out with good news. We had some more hugs and then began my agonizing wait to have my lucky dip number flash up on the screen to be called in.

When I entered the corridor, I was relieved to see “Oncologist 1″ – the very first oncologist I’d met. I threw my arms around her…”You’ve made my morning doing that Carol” she said. “Well, I figure we’ve known each other for two and half years so I think it’s about time I started hugging you!” I replied and then pointed out it was now well into the afternoon (these oncologists really do work flat out – who knows how many women she had had to deliver bad news to that day already?). We had a wee chat about how I was feeling (apart from the scanxiety I was feeling good) and then got down to business – the results were as good as they could get! The only tumour that wasn’t still decreasing in size was the one in my lymph node – the other 3 were hardly visible!!! Oh happy fecking days! I was so relieved as you can imagine! I almost cried!! We then chatted a wee bit more about me doing the Sun ovarit campaign, about my hair-cutting skills on my teacher mate, how happy “Onc 1” was that Shauna had found me and our wee group and just how chuffed she was with all the awareness-raising I was doing. “You’re amazing Carol…” she said. I was so humbled and was stuck for words (for once!). “Coming from you…I’ll take that.” I eventually replied. It was the first time I’d truly looked at myself from someone else’s point of view…and not just anyone…an oncologist who had who-knows how many years of experience dealing with women who had the same rotten disease as me. If she didn’t know what she was talking about, no-one did! I walked out of that appointment feeling 10 feet tall (with a slightly inflated head!!). Not only was the cancer still behaving itself but “I’m amazing!!” I said to Neil as we waited at the lift. He just rolled his eyes… “We’re never gonna hear the end of this now are we?” trying to burst my bubble!! I started texting and messaging people as we were leaving the hospital who were all delighted I was getting another 3 months of watching and waiting. It was soon decided that a celebratory meal was in order that night so me, Neil and the kids went out with my bro Davy and his missus Robyn, their wee boy Logan and my Mum. It was a great wee night, lots of fun and laughter and great big grins – days like that day are so precious! The next day, I was sitting at home when the doorbell rang…not expecting anyone, I went and answered it and saw the big bunch of flowers as I approached the door. I sure wasn’t expecting that! Stunned and confused, I thanked the delivery man and took them in for a closer inspection. The card on them said one word “AMAZING”. My hubby believed my oncologist after all! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry – so I did a mixture of both!

A few days after that “amazing” day, I decided to go buck daft when it came to getting my hair cut and dyed – I kept the bright pink colour and got the sides shaved and left their salt-and-pepper shade – ta-dah!!! I was rocking a mad pink mohawk and I loved it!! I developed quite a good punk sneer to go with my new do – check out the pic of me on another wee night out with Alison! I was a bit worried going into work – there was a high chance one of the teacher’s would suspend me, especially if a pupil decided to copy the daft look!!!

Me and Neil did some calculations (we basically worked out what was 3 months until my next scan date) and realised we would have time to book a family holiday at the end of June/beginning of July when the schools broke up for the summer. So our next quest was popping down to our local travel agents and booking a holiday to Paphos, Cyprus. I was sooo excited! It was a holiday I didn’t dream I’d get to go on! Roll on July!! But not too quickly as I wanted to make the most of the whole 3 months I had in front of me. It’s hard living with cancer in bite-size chunks like this…but unfortunately it’s how so many cancer peeps have to live so the vast majority of us make sure we pack as much living into those months off treatment as we can!

By now, April was drawing to a close and the weather started to heat up. I was feeling as good as I could after the chemos (it takes a LONG time to recover any semblance of former fitness for a lot of cancer peeps) so I decided to attack my long-ignored garden. I weeded and pruned and swept away leaves over the course of the next 3 days (Elliot and Neil cut the grass in case I fell in a carefully-concealed dug-out dog hole – it wouldn’t be the first time!).

What could possibly go wrong with doing a bit of gardening??? Quite a lot as it happens…but that’s another story!!

The pics are all from my fun times in April with my family and my besties Alison and Helen. These people are all AMAZING in my eyes!!

Big hugs,

Carol xxx

A memorable month

So…March 2018 got off to a bang with my appearance in the Sun…how was I gonna fecking top that??? I’ll tell you how…

As I mentioned in a previous blog, me and my lovely science teacher pal, Jill, had hatched a plan for me to cut her hair to raise awareness and money for Target Ovarian Cancer. We were going to do it up on stage in school at break time during the last week before the Easter holidays. Any pupils that wanted to watch were charged the entry fee of £1 (well worth it!). I met up with Jill plaiting her hair (I think I’ve mentioned before that it was so long she could sit on it!!) in the ladies loo just before we were due to hit the stage…it probably wasn’t the best time to mention that time that I cut my hubby Neil’s hair and managed to take the tip of his ear off!! (I was heavily pregnant with Elliot at the time so was having trouble reaching over my bump – that’s my excuse!!) So if Jill hadn’t been nervous, she was now!

I don’t think either of us were expecting the sight that we walked into that day – the assembly hall was packed! Sure, we had hoped a few pupils would turn up…but we weren’t expecting the majority of the school! Now, I’m not generally one for blubbing…but I started to well up and weep – I was already overwhelmed and hadn’t even got up on the stage yet! The whole thing was a blur to me – thankfully some kind soul captured the blur and if anyone wants to watch it, it’s public on my Facebook profile – feel free to share it too! The more views, the more awareness I’m still raising! Jill (ever the professional teacher) was a lot more composed than I was and gave a great speech before I started hacking away at her hair and Target Ovarian Cancer had provided us with tons of information leaflets and collection buckets. The whole event was fantastic and so emotional – and Jill’s hair didn’t look like a disaster I was so relieved to see (she was super-organised though and had a wee trim already booked!).

So that was another awareness-raising event ticked off…what on earth was I gonna do next????

How about heading off on a wee family holiday to Bonnie Scotland to tour through the Highlands and stopping off to see family and friends…and to meet my hero??? Yep, the amazing lady that is Fi Munro and I had become really good pals over the course of the past 2 years – ever since I had commented on one of her early blog posts to give her support when she was facing her Big Op. We share the same dark sense of humour, the same passion for awareness-raising, the same need for as much love and support as we can throw each other’s way…and the same love of letting out the odd f-bomb!! (Although I’m much more polite than Fi, I only say feck!! Hahaha!!!).

By this stage, we were whatsapping each other regularly and we were in constant contact once I hit Scotland. I know a lot of you reading this also follow Fi (and if you don’t – go do it now!!) and if you cast your minds back to March, you might remember Fi was not at all well and had to be admitted to hospital. So in between stopping off in the Western Highlands before heading into the Cairngorms (via Loch Ness of course) and then ending up in Fi’s neck of the woods (all while I was capturing thousands of pics of beautiful scenery – you can never take enough pics of mountains and lochs!!), I was hoping that Fi would be well enough for me to actually see her. The day before I was due to see her, her hubby Ewan sent me a pic (she later shared it on her page) – Fi looked so small and weak, with a drain in, all curled up asleep in a wee drugged-up state. My heart broke…how was I gonna breeze into a hospital tomorrow to meet this amazing lady for the first time and not shed a tear or 2 if I saw her like this???

Again, anyone who follows Fi knows just how tenacious she can be…so you won’t be surprised to hear that when I walked into the hospital and found her ward – there she was out of bed, Ewan at her side, chatting away happily to the nurses!! Talk about being fecking relieved!!! We went off to a wee day room where we sat and chatted like 2 long-time pals…what can I say about Fi to do her justice – she just is one of the sweetest, kindest, friendliest wee bundles of energy…and that was her in hospital! She sent Ewan off with his shopping list (that man is a sweetheart too – we are both so lucky to have such supportive hubbies too and we never take that for granted) and the chat never stopped flowing – even when a lovely complementary therapist came and gave Fi a wee reflexology session. Only wish I could have got my feet done too!

I stayed for 2 hours – way longer than I’d ever dared to hope to stay. I only left because I had a pre-arranged curry date at my sister’s!! It goes without saying that me and Fi are still in contact all the time – she is being her usual trail-blazing self and is currently on a ground-breaking immunotherapy trial…and plans are afoot for us meeting up again in 2019 – watch this space!!

It also ģoes without saying that I had an awesome holiday with Neil and the kids – anyone who knows me knows I love my hot, sunny hols…but I was completely outnumbered 3-1 so I had to settle for Scotland…let’s just say I’d had my fill of caravanning in rainy Northern Ireland when the kids were wee shall we??!! By the end of the holiday, I had completely fallen in love with Scotland – from going up a mountain railway to glimpsing a baby polar bear (at a zoo obviously!)…to sharing some special times just the 4 of us and hiring out the most awesome cottage…to seeing family and friends…yeah…a lot of very happy memories were made in March 2018.

Have a very Merry Christmas everyone!!

Big hugs,

Carol xxx

Ovarit!!!

Well, that was a bit of an extended break from blogging for me wasn’t it!! Spoiler alert…it of course involved my fecking bowels playing up and me needing to start third line chemo. Yeah…the bogging cisplatin is back in my life for the time being. Needs must…

Anyway…time to go back to where my last blog left off…the beginning of 2018 when I started feeling like my old self again after months of chemo and magnesium infusions. I got stuck back into working – being able to work through the second line chemo stood me in good stead, plus the complementary therapy sessions really helped with the neuropathy in my feet so all in all I was feeling pretty good!

January passed by in a blur – mostly a white blur – as the weather was pretty shocking with snow days off school and abandoned cars outside our house becoming a common occurrence. By the time February arrived, most folk were fed up to the back teeth of all the snow. Thankfully, there was a lovely surprise at the start of February – my brother Davy and his better half, Robyn, decided to go and get hitched and not let on to anyone apart from my Mum and Robyn’s Mum!! Me, Neil and the kids managed to get the newlyweds to ourselves that evening for a lovely meal – see the happy pics! This pair have been there for me and my wee family – and my Mum – through thick and thin…anyone who knows them knows that they have their own struggles too. I am so grateful for everything they’ve done and continue to do! Love you guys!!

As it was now February, plans were also afoot for March – aka Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. I got chatting to my teaching pal, Jill, who mentioned she was going to cut off her (so long it reached her arse!) hair and donate the hair to the Little Princess Trust to make into a wig for a child going through chemo. It didn’t take long for us to hatch an even bigger plan – complete with fundraising and awareness-raising for Target Ovarian Cancer – and to get a date set for the Big Chop just before the Easter holidays in March. Woohoo!!

I then got an email from one of the lovely ladies at Target Ovarian Cancer…how would I like to go to London for a photo shoot for the Sun’s Fabulous magazine campaign to raise more awareness? Try and fecking stop me!! This was scheduled to happen at the end of February with the #ovarit campaign going to print for the first week in March. This again was so far out of my comfort zone but as you all know by now there’s nothing I won’t do to raise more much-needed awareness!

I soon found out that the one and only Julie from our NI group had also been asked to do the campaign. Yippee!! The 2 eejits were about to go off on a road trip!! There was a flurry of emails between us, Target, the health editor at the Sun and the journalist covering our individual stories. Plans were soon put in place and it wasn’t long before I was meeting Julie at the airport for our whirlwind visit to London. Let’s just say Julie’s a way more seasoned traveller than me – I panic at the slightest wee hiccup while she took everything in her stride. There was plenty of chopping and changing planes, trains and buses. When the car that was meant to pick us up at the station failed to show, Julie called our contact at the Sun and we just jumped into a black cab to get us to the studio.

As soon as we arrived, it was a whirlwind of activity. There was a lovely spread of food which we were soon tucking into before being whisked away for a quick video to be featured online to go with the campaign. Then it was my turn for hair and make up. It’s probably worth me pointing out that the wig had finally been put back in its box. No waiting for 6 months before I dyed my hair this time (I was about 4 months post chemo by then)…and no being sensible either!! I decided to embrace the madness that having cancer can bring and went BRIGHT FECKING PINK!! Thanks to my awesome hairdresser, my hair now looked worthy for a photo shoot! I called this look my “Fat Annie Lennox on steroids” look!! There was no getting away from the weight I’d piled on during treatment – but it’s a small price to pay to be able to still be alive innit!!

The make-up artists were both lovely and thankfully had worked with Eamon Holmes the day before so they didn’t need a translator for me and Julie with our accents! There were 5 of us ladies together at the studio…unfortunately it was a bit too rushed for any meaningful conversations but as we all had our own stories about dealing with a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, it meant we sure all had bonded by the end of the day. We had all passed on info about dress and shoe size before the event so there was a range of clothes and shoes for us all to put on. Oh feckity feck!!! I will never forget trying (and failing!) to get into the dress that was picked for me. Thankfully a lovely lady who worked at the studio came across me in the loos with the dress wrapped around my ass somewhere and managed to get me wriggled into it properly!! Phew!!! And then…I saw the fecking shoes that I had to put on!!! Oh feckity feck AGAIN!! FECKING STILETTOS!!! With my dodgy, half-dead feet this was a recipe for disaster!! Thankfully, with lots of giggling and me holding on to people/chairs, I managed to get the feckers on and walked gingerly over to where I was needed to strike some poses for individual shots. Think baby Bambi taking his first steps and you have a fair idea of what I looked like!!

It was then time for the group shots…lots of placing arms here/hands there, smiling at the lovely ladies who were practically holding me up in my heels, waiting a few seconds while the make-up artists preened us a bit more…and all the while me and Julie hardly shutting up in between all the clicks of the camera. The photographer made a big mistake by putting us pair together for a set of pics…he realised the error of his ways pretty quickly and said that the “troublesome Irish” needed to be separated asap!! It was all a great laugh and fantastic experience from beginning to end…but all too soon, me and Julie found ourselves back en route to the airport and on the plane back home. I was completely shattered by the time I got home but totally elated I got to play a part in a national awareness-raising campaign.

Unfortunately, literally days before the #ovarit campaign hit the news-stands, there was some devastating news from the Sun. Christina, the lovely health editor, had died very suddenly and unexpectedly. As you can imagine, us 5 ladies who had been in contact with Christina arranging every detail about the photo shoot were all so shocked and devastated. It really rammed the point home hard to myself and Julie – who are living with our cancer each and every day and dare not think too far into the future – that each day truly is a gift and no-one can know what each new day will bring.

So the feature in the Sun’s Fabulous magazine came out without its mastermind seeing the finished article. The accompanying video though thankfully gave us some much-needed laughs! Just listening to the broad accents of me and Julie compared to the lovely English accents was bad enough…but we’re both pretty convinced they added subtitles for us pair as well!!! In all seriousness though, the video is full of the facts about how women can be suffering from what seems to be ibs-type symptoms only for the reality to be something far more sinister. And another thing…all of us women who took part are under 50 – it’s soooo not just a disease that post-menopausal women get. The video went on to be viewed by over 150,000 people. So by my reckoning…if 1 in 50 women is diagnosed with ovarian cancer…then hopefully that video and campaign will have saved some lives. And that’s so worth me struggling in a dress and heels!

Big hugs,

Carol xxx

Ho ho NO!!!

Sooo…where was I?? Oh yeah…scan results time!! It was now fast approaching December 2017 but November had one final shocker of a blow to hit us Ovarian Ladies. I got news from ‘A’s lovely daughter that her amazing Mum had died. I was gutted but glad that ‘A’ was finally free from all the pain and that she had managed to hold on to see her son who had travelled over from Australia to see her. She was determined to die at home and that’s exactly what she did. All throughout her treatment she never once complained. Sure she was angry about never being able to have an operation and she hated her “bitch” of a cancer – many people have a nickname for their tumours and hers was called “the bitch”. Very fitting (I called my original 2 “the twins”…yeah, I’m warped!). Here in Northern Ireland, funerals normally take place 2-3 days later. I was gutted all over again as I couldn’t go to the funeral as I had to be at the City hospital for my results and my latest magnesium drip. With hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t go – I’ve actually never been to another funeral since J’s as it totally devastated me – I have admitted to myself that going to funerals – especially when they’re for my very dear friends who have lost their battle died of the same shitty disease that I have – just takes one hell of a toll on me mentally. I just can’t do it.

So December rolled around and with it my scan results date (plus another vomit-inducing dose of magnesium to look forward to). I popped into the Bridgewater Suite first to get my latest magnesium number – it had finally climbed back up to 0.6!! By this stage I’d discovered a good magnesium supplement that I was taking religiously every night. Whether it was that or the weekly infusions that were finally doing the trick I’ve no idea. It looked like I’d need another infusion so I was to return to get it after my results. So it was time for me to head to see my oncologist. I hardly dared to hope that I’d reach the no evidence of disease (NED) stage again. All I knew was that my CA125 numbers had still been dropping and my shoulder pain had never returned. I was hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

It was Oncologist 2 I went in to see – with Neil fretting as much as I was. The results turned out to be not too hideous but not as good as I’d hoped. My CA125 had dropped to 34 – normal is under 35 – so my oncologist was delighted with this result. I wasn’t – my CA125 at its lowest had been 12 so that value gave me the head’s up for the next bit of news…the 4 wee buggers were still there. BUGGER YOU FECKING BUGGERS!! The good news was that they had all responded to the chemo and had shrunk significantly. So no NED but the chemo had worked up to a point. It was a disappointing result with a silver lining. The oncologist did give me some excellent news though – she was happy with my magnesium result and said I didn’t need an infusion that day. Woo-fecking-hoo!! I said my goodbyes, went and got another sample of blood taken for my CA125 (I have no idea to this day what my current value of this is – it’s a number I don’t like dwelling on and just adds to my general uneasiness) and then practically skipped back to the Bridgewater Suite to tell the nurses that they didn’t have my delightful company for the next couple of hours!

It was then time to get the feck out of Belfast and pass on my latest news to my nearest and dearest – most people picked up on the “chemo has worked” part of my message rather than the pisser part that the cancer was still there so I got lots of relieved messages back which made me realise that, yes, the news could have been much, much worse.

And just like that, my life started getting back onto an even keel again. What I’m about to say might not make much sense…but I have found that it was easier to deal with mentally – knowing that I still had cancer inside me – rather than being put back in an anxious tailspin waiting and wondering when and where the wee fecker would pop up next. I have had to get my head around LIVING WITH CANCER and for the most part, that’s exactly what I’ve done. Sure, I have days where I do nothing but worry about what the wee buggers are doing inside me…but in between the 3-monthly scans, I generally cope pretty well and I know a huge part of that is thanks to my support network – my hubby, my kids, my rocks (sometimes rockets when we’ve had too much prosecco – you know who you are!!), my job and all my great friends there and – last but by no means least! – my ovarian ladies and fellow cancer buddies – both here in Northern Ireland and my online pals. I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating – nobody gets cancer peeps better than other cancer peeps and I am so glad that I’ve made so many firm, loving friendships with so many amazing people. Give yourselves great big hugs from me!

Sooo…it was back to working nearly a whole week at a time – bar the hour or so I’d need to disappear to get my PICC line cleaned and checked by the district nurses and my bloods taken for my magnesium levels and then the day a week I’d have to go up to the City hospital for my magnesium results and the dreaded drips. It was so much easier this time to cope at work because I’d kept going into work during my chemo. I wasn’t as badly affected by fatigue and was nowhere near as weak as I wasn’t recovering from a big op this time. Sure, I’d had 7 shades of shit knocked out of me (sometimes literally – remember all that sharting??!!) but I was being my usual belligerent bugger and carrying on regardless.

My Macmillan social worker had referred me on to the Cancer Fund for Children as requested and they had kindly asked me if I’d like to bring a pal with me for a lovely pampering experience. I took Alison along to Daisy Lodge down in the Mournes (one of my favourite places and the views at Daisy Lodge are amazing) where we were completely spoilt. I had a lovely foot and leg massage and even had my wig cut into a slightly choppier do rather than the sleek bob – there is nothing sleek about me normally! We had the most relaxing yoga session and even made wee Christmas decorations. Oh and the food!! The food was all cooked in the on-site kitchen and it was delicious! But the best bit was meeting fellow cancer peeps. There weren’t many of us down there as the weather was pretty grim which meant some people had cancelled. It meant that those of us there were thrown together in such a relaxed, beautiful place and it was easy to just start chatting and not stop!! Having cancer is a double-edged sword – it can build barriers between the person who has cancer and some of their friends and family but when we meet other people with cancer, any barriers that might have been there come crashing down and we can start chatting straight away…finding out what cancer each of us has, what treatment we’ve had, what stage of regrowth our hair is at, enjoying hot flushes together – you name it, we talk about it and we hardly have time to draw breath!! It was a very special experience. Any families affected by cancer please do get in touch with Cancer Fund for Children – I can highly recommend it and am so grateful to my kids’ teacher for suggesting the charity to me! It is for all kids affected by cancer – both those who have cancer themselves or who have a parent who has cancer.

The next day I was back up at the City with Alison again for my latest magnesium drip. I was in for pleasant surprise – my magnesium was holding steady at 0.6 so I didn’t need a drip and my oncologist was happy that it was stabilising so I could get my PICC line out!! About fecking time and a very Merry Christmas to me!! If anyone doesn’t know what a PICC line looks like, have a wee nosey at the pics. I have to be a wee bit different as per fecking usual and have mine anchored to my arm by something called a stat-lock as the usual device is embedded in your arm and contains nickel – something else I’m allergic to besides carboplatin chemo!! Thankfully I remembered that allergy before I got my first line put in back in 2015. Phew! It’s pretty self-explanatory that there’s a before and after pic of my arm there!

It was now full-steam ahead to Christmas and my birthday – I made it to the grand old age of 45!! Yippee! Unluckily for me, I had caught a stinking cold AND I had given myself a fat lip the night before my birthday when I fell asleep reading my tablet in bed and it fell on my face! It takes a special kind of stupid to manage that manoeuvre!! There was nothing else for it than to go out and drown my sorrows and spice things up with a yummy curry and lots of booze! My nearest and dearest joined me – Neil and our kids, my Mum, bro Davy and his better half Robyn and their wee boy Logan plus my 2 blood-runner pals Alison and Helen. Prosecco, an Irish coffee and a hot toddy (whiskey, boiled water, plus honey, cinnamon sticks and cloves – yummy and great for colds!) when I got home all meant that I woke up the next day with a mild hangover but feeling much better stinky-cold-wise. My day got worse when I got the news that I just knew was coming…’A2′ had died. Our wee group of ladies had now lost both ‘A’ and ‘A2’ in a matter of weeks. It was hard news to take – my heart went out to the families whose Christmases would never be the same again and, like with ‘A’, I was glad ‘A2’ was at peace but just gutted that this bastard cancer had robbed another fun-loving, passionate, vibrant woman of her life.

Christmas was a lovely, relaxed affair. Christmas Eve saw Neil and the kids all gathered on the floor all x-boxing together while I captured the moment for posterity. See the pic! They’re a sociable-looking lot aren’t they! The main thing for us all was that I’d successfully made it through another round of chemo and had lived to see another birthday and Christmas. These big events are so much more precious and special to us cancer peeps. We treasure them but can’t help wondering if this is our last birthday/Christmas/holiday. It requires giving ourselves a damn good shake and just enjoying the fun times when they come along. Nobody knows what is around the next corner, whether they have cancer or not. Us cancer peeps just feel things extra deeply. I compare it to taking my rose-tinted specs off – I’m seeing life in its most raw and beautiful state and can grasp how fragile and special it really is.

Neil had had his usual meltdown of what to get me for my birthday and Christmas and I’d made things even more difficult than usual by not giving him big hints on the Amazon wishlist by saying there was nothing I wanted or needed and to just go ahead and surprise me. He managed just fine and I was very happy with all my surprises. There were a few wee hiccups caused by my increasingly fecked-up chemo brain. One of Neil’s shirts was the wrong size…as was one of Elliot’s t-shirts…and I unwrapped a box of chocolates going “Oh! Great minds!! You might find something very similar in a mo Thea!”…only to find out a mo later that I’d used the wrong fecking wrapping paper and I’d unwrapped Thea’s fecking chocolates!! Whoops! Good job Neil’s always in charge of the Christmas cooking innit!!

The rest of the day was a relaxing success. Yummy food, the obligatory game of Monopoly (we used Elliot’s new Game of Thrones version – I still was the first one to be bankrupt, I nearly always am!) and lots of bucks fizz! The next day we went up to Davy and Robyn’s for more of the same and I had a couple of mates round that night for more games and watching Elliot kill Neil over and over and over again on the Xbox. Ahhh, good times!!

The next day saw us drop the dogs off for a wee overnight break at the local kennels while we escaped for a wee break back to Daisy Lodge. Neil and the kids were gobsmacked by the location and the sheer awesomeness of our rooms and of course the yummy food! It meant that I was unable to go to ‘A2”s funeral. Again, I had mixed emotions about this – but me and ‘A2′ had chatted on several occasions about how badly going to our chemo buddies’ funerals had affected us so I knew that if anyone could understand me not being there, it would be ‘A2’ herself. Instead, I made the most of being in those beautiful surroundings with my wee family and again got chatting to another couple of families who had either the mum or dad with a cancer diagnosis. When Daisy Lodge has events on, they always tailor it so that the families there always have the parents with cancer there together OR the kids with cancer there together.

Back home, we another big event to look forward to – New Years Eve round at Alison’s house. Certain events leading up to the night (death of the 2 ‘A’s being major ones for me) meant that the night was a huge success as the adults there got…a wee bit merry shall we say?? Neil was the only slightly sensible adult by the end of the night…Helen was squishing me to death with gigantic hugs declaring her undying love for me, Alison was ensuring our glasses were never allowed to run dry and was the hostess with the mostest playing all our music requests and I was doing my Single Ladies dance routine with Alison’s daughter as I’d had to come up with a routine to it for her group at Girl Guides a few years ago – Beyonce has nothing to fear, her choreography skills are still unmatched!! I’d also be highly put out when a song came on that I couldn’t stand (according to Neil my music taste is a bit limited…I argue that nope, I just don’t like shit music) and could be heard guldering “wank!!” when a rave song was played and then when “You’re beautiful” came on I was muttering “James Blunt…rhymes with….!!!” You can fill in the blanks!! One thing that is definitely not limited is my colourful vocabulary!!! I was back in a much happier state by the end of the night/middle of the morning. I just hope my singing Duran Duran all the way home didn’t break any windows or mirrors, waken sleeping babies, set car alarms off or make dogs howl the house down. I apologise profusely and can only try and reassure folk that the same thing won’t happen this New Year!! Aye right!! The hangover the next day was totally worth it – it was such a memorable (albeit a little bit blurry at times!) night…good friends and our families all getting together for a right good laugh with plenty of craic. A couple of the less messy pics are included here! It was a solid 2-fingered salute to the back of another mixed bag of a year and a big “c’mon let’s see what you can hit me with!” invitation to 2018 to hit me with its best shot.

Big hugs,

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End of the (second) line

It’s about time I did another blog innit…so here goes! It was now mid October 2017 and I headed up with my other “blood runner” pal Helen (she’s a healthcare assistant about to start her nursing degree and has had breast cancer so another ideal companion). It was the day of the bad hurricane when schools were shut and everyone was battening down their hatches. I had to hold onto my wig tightly so it didn’t blow away which had me and Helen giggling! I got my bloods taken and we were sitting chatting when something caught my eye…I was getting waved at by a couple of ladies tucked away in the corner! It was Shauna and her Mum Mary! I almost didn’t recognise Shauna…she’d started chemo so had lost her hair and was modelling a lovely scarf. It was so good to see her again! She was slowly adjusting to her rubbish diagnosis and we had a 2-way conversation (4 way if you include Mary and Helen!) this time rather than me blethering and them listening. All too soon we were summoned for our results and said our goodbyes. Thankfully my bloods were good enough for my last chemo on Wednesday and my magnesium was holding steady too so I didn’t need a drip that day. A lot of chemos were being cancelled because of the storm so me and Helen headed home for a yummy meal at a local restaurant…and then we got kicked out of there at 3pm because they were shutting early too! We decided to risk a wee drive along the coast (we like to live dangerously!) and quickly realised that it really was a wee bit windy when we saw the fallen branches and waves crashing over the railings. Oops! We turned tail and Helen dropped me home. We found out later that a concert we’d wanted to go to had been cancelled too…we hadn’t got tickets because I wasn’t fit to go anyway so we were relieved we weren’t missing out.

I was back in work the next day for my last wee bout of working before my chemo and the crappy week that followed. Soon enough I was back up at the Cancer Centre for my last looooong day wired up to the toxins. It really did turn out to be a really loooong day as the drip machine kept throwing beepy strops while I was getting the taxol so it took well over 4 hours rather than the usual 3. I got an unexpected phonecall in the middle of my chemo from a teacher at Thea and Elliots’ school. He was wanting to give me the heads up about another brilliant local charity called Cancer Fund for Children who have been fantastic with him and his family. I promised him I’d look into what the charity could do for my family and thanked him so much for thinking of me. It’s lovely when people reach out to support others and it gave me a big lift.

Yet again I didn’t fancy the hospital food…I really didn’t fancy any food by this stage. The nausea from the cisplatin was pretty constant by this stage…it was so bad that I’d finally stopped piling on the pounds. I was still bloated with the classic steroid moon-face but my appetite had definitely been beaten into submission. I nibbled on some sandwiches and crisps and nodded off a couple of times but it still felt like forever before I was finally getting my antisickness jag in my arm and being sent on my way. Just like the end of my last set of chemos, I left with a whimper rather than a bang. It had been a long day and I just wanted to get the next week over with so that I could start to recover. It was the usual lying on the sofa, trying not to overdo the dulcolax (I succeeded – no sharts! Yay!!) and eating my way through Robyn’s yummy chocolate treats again…one of the only things I could stomach (honest!!) along with my daily dose of tuna, cheese, mayo and pasta. I dug as deep as I could to get through the really rough days, hoping that I wouldn’t be needing more chemo any time soon and had my usual vomathon on the Monday morning. I was summoned up to the City that Monday again to get my magnesium checked and Neil took me that day. I was waiting for the results when I spied a familiar face – it was ‘A”s hubby! I really wasn’t with it as I introduced him to Neil forgetting that they had already met 2 years ago and sat with us ladies getting our chemos for all those months! What was he doing here? Where was ‘A’?? Turned out she was in a bed bay right next door getting her ascites drained…her bitch of a cancer was making it’s presence felt in a big way now. I asked her hubby if I could pop my head in to see her and he said she’d love to see me…so I got up and went and peeked round the curtain while saying “Cooo-eee! Fancy seeing you here!” It was so good to see her! She was shocked and surprised to see me but boy did we have a lovely big hug! I explained I was up getting my magnesium checked and I could see fine rightly why she was there – her tummy was all swollen with the shitty ascites. I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating…I really fecking hate this bastarding cancer (sometimes a really good swear really does help!). We had a wee chat but I couldn’t stay for long in case my name got called and ‘A’ was about to get her drain put in. We said our goodbyes and promised we’d be in touch. It wasn’t much longer when I got the news that my magnesium was as pants as ever and I’d be needing another barf-inducing drip (good job I had kept my PICC line in I guess). I was resigned to needing these drips now for the foreseeable future and I was soon back in the Bridgewater Suite getting my drip. I ended up chatting to lady beside me. She had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer – stage 3b – 8 whole years ago!! I was gobsmacked – it gave me a lot of hope that ladies can and do live with this shitty cancer for a lot longer than ever predicted. She was getting magnesium too so we had plenty in common to chat about. It certainly helped pass the time and this time I made sure to ask for an antisickness jag in my arm to avoid the usual head-down-the-toilet later. I certainly tucked into my dinner feeling great back at home…but by 10.30pm I had assumed my position at the toilet saying turrah to my meal! I went off an awful lot of food for months after throwing it back up again but at least I was feeling better each time by the morning. Half term break was fast approaching so I had decided to just stay off work and recover. I really should have hit the town trick or treating, I sure did a good impression of Uncle Fester from the Addams Family…or yer wee girl from The Exorcist if I’d had a magnesium drip!

Half term was pretty quiet apart from a trip up to Belfast for Alison’s son’s birthday in an all-you-can-eat restaurant. Always great value for money when Elliot goes! We had a good giggle and Elliot was being his usual wee eejit…sitting doing Spock’s hand gesture not very subtly at a girl who – I have to be honest – was doing her best at trying to look like an alien. The more I chittered at him, the more he giggled and kept doing it!! Aarrggh!!

The next time I was up at the City for my magnesium drip, I mentioned to my Macmillan social worker about the Cancer Fund for Children so she said she’d do a referral for me. I also asked her to pass my mobile on to Shauna – I was always too busy chatting to her to remember to swap numbers plus yeah, fecking chemobrain!! I was getting used to these weekly drips now and the realisation that nothing stopped me chucking my guts up every night after having them. What started to concern me was that I was scheduled to have my next ct scan on the same day straight after my magnesium drip. There was no way I could drink the dirty dishwater on an empty stomach after the magnesium so everything was tweaked around so that I had my scan first. Another long day at the City – Helen had gone with me and I was put in a different ward in the Cancer Centre for my drip. I got a lovely big comfy seat and Helen sat in a smaller but still comfy-looking seat beside me. It wasn’t long before we had both conked out!! Bear in mind that we are both usually BIG talkers – it really had been a long day! Needless to say I had my usual barf when I got home. A barf a week I could cope with. The chemo-induced nausea had thankfully really eased by then and I was starting to enjoy food again.

Julie had been keeping us ovarian ladies up to date with how ‘A2’ was doing. Me and one of the ladies, Ruth, decided to be very independant and arranged to get trains up to Belfast to go and see A2 in hospital. We met up and took a wee walk up to the Ulster museum to see the lovely poppy display cascading down the side of the building – see the pic of us pair. Then we went for a lovely lunch and a cocktail for Dutch courage! We managed brilliantly to get a bus to the hospital and found the ward A2 was in no problem. Now it was deep breath time as we popped our heads in to see how she was. Her hubby and one of her daughters were in with her so it was big hugs all round. She was looking not too bad at all thank goodness but was having problems managing her pain. It was lovely to see her but heart breaking too as we knew she was too weak for any chemo and it was all about trying to keep her pain-free now. We had a good chat with her but were very conscious of not wanting to wear her out so when a nurse came in to check on her, we said our goodbyes and headed back to get our trains home. We were both so glad we’d gone together and very proud of ourselves for managing to plan the day to perfection!

Another big event happened while I was waiting for my scan results. Thea (after weeks of indecision) finally decided that she was going to go to her school year’s formal. A hasty panic-buying stint in Debenhams for a dress, shoes and clutch bag was very successful and thankfully I have a fantastic hairdresser who worked her magic on Thea’s hair and a fab friend who did her makeup. Both of these ladies are absolute stars so I arranged for bouquets of flowers to be delivered to them both while they were glamming Thea up. It was lovely being there to see them getting their bouquets! They certainly deserved them as when they were finished Thea looked so stunning! The pic below is of her all ready to head out. She had a great night too. She’s growing up way too quickly!

By this stage, I was back in work every day, except for Magnesium Mondays and popping out to the district nurses on a Friday to get my PICC line cleaned and checked. They also started doing my bloods for my magnesium so I didn’t have to wait quite so long on a Monday as they had my magnesium results ready and waiting. By this stage on a Monday, I was seeing Shauna regularly when she was up to get her blood checks (and we’d finally swapped numbers yay!!) and another ovarian lady – Margaret – was starting her second line chemo so it was great catching up with her too. One day, Shauna left her seat beside me to head home and another lady – Rhona – jumped into it. “I couldn’t help overhearing you chatting so I hope you don’t mind me wanting to talk to you…” she said. Of course I didn’t mind! It also shows how loud I fecking am if she had heard me! We had a great wee yarn – even though it was another devastating diagnosis of ovarian cancer I was hearing about – and added each other on Facebook and I added her to our wee secret group of ovarian ladies. Margaret did a sterling job of recruiting new ladies to the group too. Her and Shauna had yet to meet so I texted them both to say to look out for each other on their chemo day. Thankfully they found each other and Margaret added Shauna to our group too.

The ovarian ladies met up in mid November – only me, Margaret and Dorothy were able to come for the meal and a good old yarn but ‘A’ did manage to join us for some big hugs. I can’t lie, we saw a big change in ‘A’…her face was very pale and drawn and her tummy was very bloated with ascites. We were all so pleased to see her but we knew – as did she – that we probably wouldn’t see her again. My last-surviving original chemo buddy was dying. Devastating.

My all-important end-of-chemo scan results were now fast approaching. Was I going to hear the magic phrase “NED” (no evidence of disease) again?? Sure I’ll just end this latest post here on a cliffhanger and hopefully not take quite as long doing the next blog post!!

Big hugs,

Carol xxx

 

 

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More hiccups (and barfing!!)

It was now the last week of September and on the Monday, me and Alison headed up to the City for my latest blood tests. As soon as I entered the Bridgewater Suite, I spied a familiar face…’A2′ was sitting waiting to see our oncologist as she was hoping to start third line chemo asap. She wasn’t long back from a holiday to New York but was hospitalised just a few days after she had got home as she was in extreme pain. It’s fair to say she wasn’t in great shape – a far cry from the stoic, determined lady I knew and loved. I got my bloods taken and then proceeded to wait for the results. A2 went in to see the oncologist and didn’t come back out for ages. When she finally reappeared, she said that she was being given steroids for the week to build her strength up to hopefully start chemo the following week. I gave her a great big hug and we promised we’d stay in touch.

While I was still waiting for my results, I spotted another young woman sitting close to me and Alison. She was so upset and I started chittering quietly to Alison “I’m gonna have to open my gob here!” (I have been told since that my chittering didn’t go unnoticed and she was hoping I’d stay quiet – she knows me better now!!). I just knew in my gut that she’d had an ovarian cancer diagnosis (it’s not a great stretch as Mondays and Tuesdays are mostly ovarian and breast cancer patient days) so I spoke to the lady sitting beside her (I rightly assumed this was her Mum) and said my usual chat-up line…

Me: “Soooo what’s she in for?”

The Mum: “Ovarian…”

Me: (to myself “I fecking knew it!!”) Out loud…”Same here! And here I am 2 years down the line!”

I wanted to give this devastated family (her sister was there too) some much-needed HOPE – it is us cancer peeps’ secret weapon. Without it, we are sunk. Shauna (yep it’s you as if you didn’t know!!) was still too upset to really take in anything I was saying but her lovely Mum and sister listened to all I had to say (they had only just met me so don’t judge them – plus I was steroid-free at the time!)…I didn’t have anything that amazeballs to say, just that I was living proof that the treatment did work and Shauna could and would make it through. Her story is all the more upsetting as she had initially been told she had a different, completely curable cancer…she was then dealt the devastating blow that nope, it was actually stage 4 ovarian cancer. It’s hard enough when we’re told we have cancer but to be told that…no wonder she was fecking gutted! We were soon both summoned for our blood results and went our separate ways. My bloods were fine and the CA125 marker was still coming down so it was all systems go for chemo on the Wednesday. Oh happy happy joy joy boke boke!

I had my usual Tuesday in work ducking and diving away from the pupils before Wednesday morning dawned and I found myself back in the Cancer Centre for chemo number 5 (sounds a lot shitter than “Mambo Number 5″ doesn’t it!). All went swimmingly…I peed in the jug, I drank as much as I could stomach, all was grand for the cisplatin AND I had the presence of mind to ask for an extra anti-sickness jag in the arm before I left! This jag made all the difference and I was able to get home without needing my plastic pharmacy bag to vomit into…not that it mattered so much as Neil had taken no chances and had taken my car that day!! Cheeky bugger! It had still been a long day – not quite 12 hours from start to finish – but we made it home before my fave chippy had shut so I got to tuck in to some chips when I got home. I’d kind of gone off the hospital food (and doughnuts and the M&S fruit) since my vomathon so the chips went down a treat! The antisickness jag had the added bonus of making me sleepy so it wasn’t long before I headed off to bed for a decent night’s sleep. I remembered to only take one dulcolax that night (so hopefully no more sharting in the morning!) so my wee head might have been addled with all the drugs in me but I still had some sense lurking in me somewhere!

This time around in the days after chemo, I didn’t shart (woohoo!) and I didn’t get as severely down and depressed – I was still fecking miserable and nauseous and felt like hammered shit BUT I knew that I would soon be feeling better again. It was during my crappy days that Target Ovarian Cancer released their latest Pathfinder survey results. Julie (who was still going through her third line chemo) was able to go along to Stormont (where our local politicians are meant to work representing their constituents – I’m not even going to start on that sorry state of affairs!) where Target presented their findings. I was still feeling too yucky to go so I readily agreed to a phone interview instead with the Belfast Telegraph highlighting the lack of symptom awareness and how vital it is to know the symptoms – the article is the bottom pic below. They agreed to use an old pic of me from the tattoo article they’d done that previous November when I explained I was in too sorry a state to even try and get presentable for a photo! The article appeared the following week when I was beginning to turn a corner again. I was sick as normal on the Monday after chemo…but only in the morning and was feeling much better by the evening. So it was back to my usual routine of seeing Robyn and her wee Logie Bear on the Tuesday and back to work on the Wednesday. Yay for normality!! And boo for shit news!! It was around this time that I learned that things had gone from bad to worse for ‘A2’. She hadn’t been able to start her third line chemo as she’d been readmitted to hospital. An MRI scan had found the cancer had spread to her brain and she had suffered a couple of mini strokes. Things were looking dire for her and my heart broke. ‘A’ was also not doing great. The Letrozole wasn’t working for her so it was stopped. It didn’t take long for the ascites to make its presence known again but she was nothing if not determined to keep on living her life on her terms. How I hate this fucking cancer bringing such lovely and much-loved ladies to their knees. Between us, the NI ovarian ladies kept each other informed and were there to console and comfort ‘A’ and ‘A2’ and each other. We were already a tight-knit bunch (even though we’d only known each other for a year and a half at the time) but this brought us even closer as we all shared the pain and heartache.

On the Thursday, there was a change to the routine as I had been told to go back to the City as they wanted to do my bloods to check my magnesium levels. So up I dutifully went with Alison again. I got my bloods taken relatively quickly and then the waiting began…I wasn’t even sure if I had to stick around for the results so I asked and was told yes, just in case my magnesium levels weren’t great. It took nearly 2 hours before a lovely nurse came to find me and informed me that my magnesium level was at a very low 0.33 (at that stage I didn’t know that was crazily low) so they were organising a drip for me…excuse me??!! This wasn’t part of my plan for the day! Me and Alison were for going out to lunch fer feck’s sake!! Nope, the drip would be made up asap and they would then administer it over 2 hours. There was only one response I could manage when I heard this…”Ooh bollocks!” I exclaimed to the poor nurse. She assured me that I’d be hooked up as soon as possible but she knew I was peed off, not like me at all but I don’t like shitty surprises dumped on me!

It felt like forever before I was wired up to the magnesium drip. At least I was back in the Bridgewater Suite with other patients for company. As soon as I was settled, Alison headed off to get our lunch sorted out from the shop downstairs. It was now mid-afternoon and we were both starving. I tucked into a sarnie and crisps (see the middle pic below – I was just about able to smile again, through a gobful of food no less!) but was in a pretty shitty mood still, not so much for me but because I felt like I was making Alison lose out on her day off! She reassured me over and over again that she was fine (any wonder I love this girl to bits!) and she was fascinated watching all the comings and goings and all the patients wired up to their drips. As I said quite a few blog posts back, Alison is a nurse at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children so she is well used to a hospital setting but seeing so many people needing blood tests and chemo has been an eye-opener for even her. The sheer numbers of cancer patients is alarming these days and rising all the time. She was also able to see first hand how I wasn’t so unique in my attitude to dealing with a cancer diagnosis and chemo. She enjoyed the camaraderie and “all in this shit together” attitude  that many of us cancer peeps share. It sure does help pass the time…and so we were eventually hitting the rush hour traffic in Belfast and gradually making our way home. After some big hugs in the car and thanking her profusely again, I was back in my front door…still mildly peed off and starting to feel really “off”. I’m not sure what meal I ate that evening…but I do remember it coming back with some projectile force into my toilet a short time later!! What the feck was this fresh hell?? I was sick on and off the rest of the evening. I thought I was unlucky enough to have caught a tummy bug so I was soon tucked up in bed ready for a night of vomiting. I can’t remember how many times I was sick during the night but I do remember feeling heaps better again in the morning – so much so that I headed back into work! I really am a bit of a loony bin I know…but work really does ground me and gives me something else to focus my attention on rather than this cancer crap floating around my brain all the time. Of course my lovely Head of Science boss was appalled that I was in (he has since learnt that I’m a thran bugger when I want to be and sometimes there’s no turning me. Sorry Sir!!).

I worked happily away that Friday and the following Monday to Wednesday. Then it was back up to the hospital on the Thursday for another magnesium check which resulted in another 2 hour drip! Alison came with me again and this time we got chatting to a lovely couple. The wife was starting chemo for lung cancer and was taking it all in her stride. Her hubby was an absolute sweetheart who was just totally devoted to his wife. He would have done anything to have been rigged up to the chemo instead of her and he made me and Alison well up several times. It was a really heartbreaking but heartwarming experience all rolled into one.

That evening, I got that old, familiar feeling and ended up saying turrah to my dinner again. This time I realised that this was no coincidence – was the magnesium making me throw up now? I was already coping with a truck-load of nausea from the cisplatin…was I now gonna barf every time I needed a magnesium infusion? Un-fecking-believable! Thankfully, like the week before, I felt fine on the Friday so I popped into work again. When me and the kids got home after school, Elliot was buzzing. Along with one of his school friends, he had given a presentation to their year group nominating Friends of the Cancer Centre to be their charity of the year. Out of the four nominated charities, they had won by an overwhelming majority! He was so chuffed with his wee self and I was a very proud Mum. Having seen what the charity provides for the City hospital, it’s a charity I hold dear to my heart.

With the extra two hospital visits for the magnesium infusions, time had whooshed past even faster than normal. I was heading up the following Monday for my latest bloods leading up to my sixth and final chemo. Thank feck!!

I’ve already explained the bottom 2 pics. The top one is of me with my adorable nephew Logan. I’ll admit that only one of us is a natural redhead!!

Big hugs,

Carol xxx

 

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