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Then and now

Four years ago, a year after I was diagnosed and life had taken a few stumbles, I wrote this article for the Daily Mirror https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/single-mum-terminal-breast-cancer-5942662#ICID=sharebar_facebook

It popped up on my Facebook memories yesterday and after reading it, I realised how different it would be if I had to write it again now. Lots has changed.

I wouldn’t wish I wasn’t ill. I don’t know what I ‘believe’ but I do know that things happen for a reason. My life now is so different to what it was before and in a weird way, I actually prefer it. I have more zest for life, have experienced some amazing things and made many, many friends. I’m honestly living my best life right now!

If you’d told me then that I would still be here 5 years later, I would never have believed you. I never take it for granted though because I know I’m one of the ‘lucky’ ones.. Weirdly, I don’t want to put a limit on years anymore. I would just like to be here forever. Failing that…as long as possible.

I never finished the journal. It took an awful lot of strength that I just couldn’t find at the time. It’s not really relevant now as the children are much older and their quirky ways have changed somewhat.

Life has really levelled out. Living with cancer has become part of the norm and I don’t really give it much thought. I still have the routine doctor/hospital appointments but even they have become part of the woodwork.

I no longer feel guilty about the way certain things happened – I had to do what was right for me at the time. I’m choosy with my friends too. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!

I still struggle with tiredness/fatigue and that won’t ever change but it’s just about learning to manage it….I don’t obviously 不 I just crack on and do what I have to do then hit the stumbling blocks and have to have a few days rest. It’s so frustrating!

Being a single mum and living with cancer can still be tough at times, mostly due to tiredness but also because you have to deal with everything else that ‘Normal’ life throws your way as well! I wouldn’t change it though and seeing my children grow into the strong, beautiful, polite, well rounded beings they are is reward enough.

Having a cancer diagnosis really makes you take a look at life. It changes you. At first, everything becomes kind of urgent. And then it settles. I’d like to think I’m in a much better place compared to 4 years ago. Its all a bit old hat now!!

Expect nothing – appreciate everything

Xx

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What a weekend!

If you have read my previous blog, you’ll know that Thursday 2nd of May was my 5th cancerversary. I have been living with stage 4, metastatic breast cancer for 5 whole years. It’s quite a milestone.

This weekend, I have ‘celebrated’ in style!

Thursday saw me heading into London with my oldest Daughter, Gracie, to watch ‘Hamilton’ at the Victoria Palace Theatre. It was AMAZING!! I mean, REALLY amazing!! If you get the chance, you HAVE to go!!

Friday night I was at the O2 with a fellow ‘lifer’, Dunise, to see Take That. It was the first time I’ve seen them live and they didn’t disappoint. They were fab! It really took me back to my youth – both school days and nights spent dancing on the bar in Jumping Jacks having an in house competition between the guys in there and us from Hotshots. Never Forget was always the last song of the night and the whole bar would join in with the chorus.

Saturday night was 80’s night at Watford Colosseum. We’ve been going since 2015 and haven’t missed one yet! It’s a good excuse to dust off my tutu and leg warmers and dance the night away. I may have got a little bit tipsy but a little (or lot!) of what you fancy does you good 不不

Sunday I took my son, Louis, to his last football match of the season. I had the night before hair, a ‘skew with’ head and pink stained eyelids from my 80’s inspired make up but I made it!! I did keep my dark glasses on though 不 I had a restful afternoon in the cinema watching Long Shot which was hilarious.

Monday was slower paced. My brother popped in for a cuppa with his family and then I went to the cinema with Becca again – this time we saw Tolkien. I have an unlimited card so go quite a lot. It’s nice to immerse yourself in a film and forget the real world for a while.

So, I have had a fab few days. But, I’m not gonna lie – I’m absolutely shattered! I may have had a granny nap this afternoon 不

The next few days will be rest days. Catching up with myself. Nothing new and just a part of my life these days. We often use the ‘spoon theory’ to explain what it’s like living with a chronic illness that can leave you fatigued after doing the smallest activity. One day out usually takes a good couple of days to recover so you can imagine what 4 days has done!

Not moaning though. I’d much rather be busy and am lucky that I can still get on and live my best life. One day that will all change so until then…..

5 years..

5 years!! 5 bloody years!!

It’s madness isn’t it?!

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve had flashbacks of the week that led up to my diagnosis. I remember what I did on what day – even down to the films I watched at home, my brother visiting, and eating the chocolates that he bought round (never too ill for chocolate!).

I remember being signed off from work because I kept bleeding heavily. I went to the doctors so many times between January and April that year but they just gave me mefenamic acid tablets to stop what they thought were heavy periods.

I drove myself to the breast clinic on the Monday of that week. Being told by the doctor that I was basically a hypochondriac and that she’d told me, not quite 6 months before, that I was too young to get breast cancer.

I went to my GP on the Tuesday and he sent me to my local A&E for a platelet transfusion only to be told by doctors there, that they don’t give them out willy nilly!! They were rough and, due to the lack of platelets, when they cannulated me (unnecessarily I should say), my blood went everywhere. It was up my arm, down my leg and over my shoes. Then they sent me home.

My mum took me back to the GP on the Wednesday. She promised to get me seen by a gynaecologist as quick as possible. She also told me that should I start to bleed heavily from any orifice, I was to call for an ambulance. I didn’t think much of it.

Until Friday morning. The 2nd of May 2014.

I was at home, getting the girls ready for school when I started haemorrhaging from my lady bits. I couldn’t get off the toilet. It was pumping out of me. I rang my mum and then I rang an ambulance. I’m not sure how I stayed so calm but I think it was for the girls. Daisy’s dad came and took her to school. Gracie didn’t go but instead followed the ambulance up the M1 (to a different hospital thankfully) with my mum.

The only thing I don’t have, is any sense of time that morning. I have no idea how long it took the ambulance to come – it felt like forever! No idea that I was in the back of it for quite some time before they drove off. No idea how long I was in A&E before I got a bed on a ward.

Until 6pm. That was the time I was told by the same doctor I had seen only a few days before, that I did indeed have breast cancer.

From that moment, time was everything. I didn’t sleep much that night, instead I sat in the corridor talking to one of the nurses. They gave me sleeping pills after that.

The rest, as they say, is history.

When you’re first diagnosed with incurable cancer , you just assume you’re going to die. Your mind goes into overdrive and there’s an urgency to make memories, to get affairs into order, make a will and plan your funeral.

You find a ‘new normal’ – the same but different way of life. You learn to live with never ending hospital appointments, scanxiety, medication side effects, fatigue, pain and depression.

But, as time goes on, I know I’m lucky.

I’ve lost many friends to this disease. Some diagnosed before me, some after. There aren’t any rules where cancer is concerned. Some of my friends have had progression, had to start chemo again, have surgery. I can’t help but feel a little guilty.

I feel incredibly lucky to have been stable for as long as I have. I don’t know what I’m doing but long may it last.

5 years ago I was given 6 months to live. Isn’t life crazy.

Xx

Strictly Learn Dancing 7/2/19-16/3/19

I am loving life right now!

Sometimes it’s amazing, sometimes it’s not. You learn to take the rough with the smooth – all part of this wonderful rollercoaster in *Cancer-Land.

I tweeted today about being dealt a shit hand thanks to my secondary breast cancer diagnosis but it’s really changed the way I live my life, in a positive manner.

I never in my wildest dreams ever thought I would be doing some of the things I’ve done. From my 40 things before 40 list, having my own community radio show to starring in a tv advert for Breast Cancer Now. I mean, I’m even ‘friends’ with Dame Julie Walters!! Ok, so I haven’t actually seen her for 4 years but she does ask after me and the children a few times each year and always sends us a hamper at Christmas – definitely bezzie mates

The past 6 weeks has seen me take on a new challenge – I learnt to ballroom dance!

My hospice, St Francis, which is in Berkhamsted has supported me and my children since I was diagnosed nearly 5 years ago. They rely heavily on charitable donations and hold lots of fundraisers through the year to be able to fund the care they give to patients and their families.

The ‘Strictly Learn Dancing’ fundraiser was brought back this year (after a few years break) and I just HAD to take part. I applied last August/September time and found out in October that I was in!!. I didn’t actually have a partner but I didn’t tell them that!

Each couple has to raise at least 瞿600 so I started baking cakes and selling them to my friends. At Christmas I made and sold cookie jars and also had a cake stall at a fair. I raised 瞿660 through my baking and then another 瞿465 online.

I asked on Facebook if anyone fancied being my partner and thankfully Gav, a fellow presenter at Radio Dacorum, stepped in! I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better partner.

Our dance lessons started on the 7th of February after being cancelled the week before due to a snow threat! For the next 6 weeks we were shown how to dance a waltz and a jive.

I really didn’t expect it to be a tricky as it was! There was so much to remember but our dance teachers Brian and Shirley were so patient with us, breaking down the dances to manageable chunks, repeating the steps over and over until we got it. The waltz came easier than the jive – it wasn’t until week 5 that I felt I knew what I was doing.

And then, before we knew it, it was the night of the grand finale!

There were 9 couples in total, all with a personal reason for wanting to fundraise for the hospice. We finally got to know each other on Saturday whilst we had our hair and make up done and got ready for the show.

As 7.30pm approached, so did our nerves! There were about 250 friends and family in the audience waiting to watch us.

I went a little blank during our waltz but we managed to pull it back thankfully. I was really annoyed at myself because we’ve danced it faultlessly so any times. The jive was much better (although I did forget my box steps ). The nerves just took over. The jive was scored and we got two 8’s and a 9.

Everyone was amazing!

Then, as quick as that, it was the end of the night. We all gathered on stage waiting to find out who had won the audience vote and then the judges vote.

Unbelievably it was Gav and I who won the audience vote. I was absolutely over the moon!! Our trophy has pride of place on my mantelpiece.

I’m still on cloud 9. I keep watching the videos of us dancing and am just so chuffed with what we all achieved. I’m truly going to miss seeing the other couples on a Thursday evening.

Definitely living my best life.

Xx

*I wouldn’t recommend it

2018 – what a year!

So here we are at the end of another year. A year that was full of fun, frolics and turning 40!

I had 2 MRI scans, 2 CT scans, 4 lots of bone juice (Zometa), 5 blood tests, 12 zoladex injections and a flu jab! Throw in a couple of bouts of shingles for good measure and I think I’m done . I’ve presented 27 shows on Radio Dacorum. I’ve volunteered every Thursday in my local Keech Hospice charity shop and I finally finished reading my 40 books challenge. I’ve also written a couple of guest blogs for the Huff Post.

I think it’s safe to say there’s never been a dull moment!!

January started with the flu but I was soon feeling better and had signed myself up to a ‘learn to ice skate’ course – it’s a lot harder than it looks! I also conga’d my way around town (twice) with some of my lovely friends from my fb group.

February was a busy month! I went to Paris for lunch but didn’t actually have time to stop for lunch! Fell over ice skating and pulled the ligaments in my thumb but somehow (amazingly!) managed to pass my Grade 1 – I think they just wanted rid tbh 不. I also climbed the O2 with my children and definitely recommend it.

In March I went sledging, learnt to crochet, went to Belfast for st Paddy’s day, tricked Daisy into thinking she had a box of cornflakes for her 11th birthday and saw both of my best friends turn 40 (and used all the ‘it must be your age’ gags I could find!).

In April I got 2 new, small tattoos. Saw Sam Smith at the O2 and went on a road trip to Cornwall for a family wedding and met my nephew for the first time.

May is always momentous because it’s my cancerversay. I spent the day with a friend who taught me how to use fondant icing on cakes. I went on a relaxing spa day with Michelle and Becca. But, the highlight has to be when I was stood a few feet away from Prince Harry and Meghan at a garden party at Buckingham palace. I was nominated by Breast Cancer Now as a thank you for the support I give them.

In June, Daisy and I took part in the St Albans 1.5 mile fun run and then we did the 5k midnight walk for the Hospice of st Francis. I had 6 monthly scans and got stable results.

July was a whole month of birthday celebrations – I really eked it out 不

In August I went to my first ever outdoor cinema at Ashridge House and learnt the Dele Alli celebration thingy 不

Daisy started secondary school in September and I met the Prime Minister!

October saw me ‘Snapchat ting’ with my cat (she wasn’t impressed!), I met my new niece and started baking to raise money for the Hospice. I also filmed with ITV for ‘Lorraine’.

I had shingles again in November but I also met Callum Best at the Ideal Home Christmas Show.

December is my most favourite month of the year. I did my first ever Christmas fair selling cakes. I walked with the rotary club Father Christmas to collect money for local charities. I met Ladbaby in the cafe and I got quite drunk at the 80’s night Christmas party! I also had 6 monthly scans and got stable results.

But most of all, I’ve really enjoyed Christmas with these beauts – my children.

Phew, what a year!! And I wonder why I’m so exhausted all of the time!!

Next year is looking busy already with an adult holiday at Butlins to see Boyzone in January and George Ezra and Take That gigs at the O2.

When I was first diagnosed, I had no idea whether I’d still be here doing all these things. I didn’t know if I’d see my children grow up – Daisy start secondary school, Louis play football or Gracie flourish into the young woman she has become.

I don’t know what it is I’m doing but long may it last. I’ll be celebrating my 5 yr cancerversary in May and for that I am eternally grateful xx

Coming around again..

Today I got the call I knew was coming. It was Mount Vernon, arranging a date for my six monthly MRI and CT scans.

December 3rd.

And so it begins.

Now is the time when I begin to wind life up slightly. I tend to shut myself away and not make plans. Slow everything down. (Apart from the 80’s night Christmas party – now that will be messy!!!) This is my way of dealing with the upcoming date and everything associated with it.

I try and ignore the looming date and shut out the anxiety linked to this period of time but it’s so hard. The ‘what ifs’ creep in and you convince yourself that every little ache is something sinister. You can’t help it.

My scan results are on December 21st.

A few people have asked why I don’t move the results date to after Christmas. It’s simple really – I don’t want to have it hanging over me through the festive period. Scanxiety is horrible no matter what time of year! I see it as a bit of a blessing – I’ll have plenty to keep me busy and regardless of the results, we’ll still have a bloody good Christmas!

I feel good at the moment but sadly I know this is no reflection as to what’s going on inside. I’ve seen friends, knocked for six with progression when they least expected it. My way of preparing for results is to expect the worst. It can’t knock you if you’re already down. But then I panic in case I’m tempting fate – you honestly can’t win!! It all goes round and round in my head.

So, all we can do is hope for the best but (mentally) prepare for the worst. Please keep everything crossed.

Xx

Its all too much part 2..

Yesterday I hit rock bottom. I knew I was struggling but I didn’t realise quite how much.

I’m scared. For the first time in 4.5 years of living with secondary breast cancer, I’m scared.

For so long I’ve been able to live obliviously, ignore the reality, carry on regardless but yesterday, after losing yet another friend to the disease and hearing another has had progression, it really hit home.

This shit is real.

Yesterday I cried. My thoughts were jumbled – did I feel poorly or was it just the anxiety and stress? Was that niggle there yesterday? Is my time coming to an end? What if? What if? Everything came at me full force and smacked me in the face.

I did something I find hard to do and that was tell people. I actually told people I’m not ok. I messaged my two best friends, I messaged two of my girls from YBCN and I rang the hospice to see if my counsellor was free.

The homecare team at St Francis must’ve wondered what the hell was wrong with me – I was sobbing down the phone! I felt stupid but they understood and gave me an appointment for this morning.

That was my turning point.

I didn’t see my usual counsellor today but the lady I did see was lovely. She listened to what I told her and made all those irrational thoughts and worries easier to deal with.

I’d already taken some steps to helping myself – I’ve taken a step back from YBCN. At first I felt bad but I can’t be dealing with anything ‘cancer’ atm and I’m not sure I’d be much help to anyone right now. I’ve also made an effort to not beat myself up about having these low days. I’m always busy and that’s how I like it but I need to be kinder to myself too.

All in all, I’m feeling much better than I did yesterday. I’m going to be gentle on myself this weekend and start a fresh new week Monday. I’m hoping to get back to the gym too as it really does help my mental health. I miss not going and that’s probably why I’m more achey than usual.

I’ve learnt that it’s ok to be scared. I’m only human.

Xx