Tag Archives: chemotherapy

That difficult third post…

Hi,

(ok, so I know the phrase is supposed to be ‘that difficult second album’ – but I’ve already written my second post, so it’s too late for that. And under the circumstances, I think I will allow myself the small pleasure of misappropriating the odd phrase for my own purposes)

So it’s been just over a week since my treatment. In terms of side effects, a few more came on over the weekend. Started to feel a little grotty Friday evening, and felt dead tired Saturday (and a little ‘not with it’ – not dissimilar to being hungover).

I was worried for a while I was developing a chest infection / fever – which would have been bad. I have a little yellow ‘this patient is on chemotherapy’ card from the hospital, which lists the circumstances under which I immediately have to go to A&E, including high temperature, flu like symptoms, etc, etc. I didn’t really want to go to A&E, not on my first cycle at least! But fortunately with some early nights and resting, it didn’t materialise into anything significant.

My back has been giving me grief over the last few days – as mentioned in my first post the lesion on my spine is giving me sciatic pains down both legs. Not sure what’s made it worse the past few days – I think I slept awkwardly Friday night due to not feeling well; or maybe it just seems worse as a result of being a bit more sensitive to pain in general the last few days (a chemo side effect I assume).

Sally has been amazing (as ever), doing the vast majority of the Saskia work (entertaining, changing, bathing, feeding of porridge, removing of porridge from nose, ears, eyes, hair, etc) while I rest to help my back recover. Hopefully it will improve soon and we can share the load a little more evenly.

All that makes it sound like the last few days have been terrible – which I should stress isn’t the case. On Friday the three of us had a lovely sunny alfresco lunch at ASK (courtesy of our Tesco Clubcard vouchers – guilt free lunch tastes even better). And I’ve even begun venturing back into social situations – met with some NCT (ante-natal) friends Friday afternoon, and spent some very enjoyable time with friends Saturday and Sunday.

The last few days have also brought more acts of kindness and generosity. We’ve had a hamper full of goodies, offers of financial support, been treated to lunch, and plenty more messages of support and goodwill. I also received a collection of Daniel Kitson (stand up comedian) material to watch – which is good and very timely, as over the last month I have exhausted Stewart Lee’s (another stand up comedian) entire back catalogue. My recent routine has been something like this…

Go to hospital, get told you have cancer… go home, watch a Stewart Lee DVD to take your mind off it…

Go to hospital again, get told your cancer is worse… go home, watch another Stewart Lee DVD to take your mind off it…

And so on…

I wonder what will happen if (or thinking positively, ‘when‘) I go to hospital and get good news? Perhaps I’ll feel the need to come home and watch a documentary about cancer, just to keep myself on an even keel psychologically.

Right, I think I will leave it there for now – thanks to all those who have viewed the blog so far, and sent feedback and messages of support as a result – it’s been very encouraging.

I think I will try to make the next post about Saskia, for a bit of a change / light relief. Going swimming with her this morning – should be fun.

P.S. If any of you want to receive blog updates automatically, there is a button near the top right called ‘follow’. Click here, enter your e-mail address, and it should e-mail you whenever I make a new post, to save you checking back and finding nothing new.

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Filed under Battle with Melanoma

The beginning of a journey…

Welcome.

I never really thought of myself as someone who would keep a blog – to be honest I couldn’t think that my life or opinions were interesting enough to warrant documenting for the world to read. I could have ranted endlessly about the Daily Mail, but that would have got boring after a while (for you I imagine, probably not for me).

But in the last month or so things have suddenly got a lot more interesting, but unfortunately not in a good way – I have been diagnosed again with cancer.

Some of you may know my history – almost 5 years ago I was found to have a malignant melanoma (a form of skin cancer) on my left shoulder. I was 27 years old, otherwise generally healthy, and had never been near a sunbed in my life. The odd bit of sunburn as a teenager while prancing round Cornwall trying to become a surfer, but nothing major.

It was surgically removed, and after a lot of debate (for about six months) between doctors as to whether it had spread, I was given the ‘all clear’ and sent home.

Two years later it was detected in a single lymph node under my left arm. I was promptly back in for surgery, and had all the lymph nodes from my left armpit removed. Some more scans later, and I was again given the ‘all clear’ (albeit qualified with ‘as far as we can tell’).

The three years since then have been characterised by worries about recurrence, trips to various hospitals for scans and biopsies on various innocent lumps and bumps, and wondering whether I was becoming paranoid and beginning to annoy the doctors with questions about lumps on my testicles.

So in January this year, when I started to develop some lower back pain, I worried about cancer. But I told myself I was being paranoid, and put it down to having a new baby – lifting her up, hauling prams in and out of cars, bending over doing her bath and changing nappies, etc. So much so that I nearly didn’t mention it at my six monthly check up at the Royal Marsden (for those who don’t know, generally ace cancer hospital in London – one of the best places in the country).

In the end I did mention it, just in passing I hoped…

“Bad back? No, that won’t be cancer, probably something like a new baby or something”.

“Great, thanks Doc, see you in another six months”.

Unfortunately the conversation didn’t go quite like that. An MRI on my back and a CT of the rest of me later, and in late February I was told it was back, and had brought friends to play this time – on my spine, in my liver, lungs and spleen (what does a spleen actually even do?).

This news obviously came as a massive blow, and the weeks since then have been a real roller-coaster (and I don’t like roller-coasters!). I won’t bore you with all the details, but in short I had just picked myself up from the knock of the initial news, when I got more bad news – I couldn’t go on a clinical trial of a promising new drug as my melanoma didn’t have the right gene mutation.

Ok, pick myself up and get positive again, there’s another trial I can go on. Except that a week later (last week) I was the told I can’t go on that one either due to the location of my cancer – another blow to pick myself up from. The only treatment option available to me (at present) is the standard chemotherapy treatment for melanoma.

So that’s where we are. I started chemotherapy treatment Monday (two days ago). One silver lining of being on the standard treatment is that it is apparently relatively well tolerated. The infusion of the chemo only took about an hour, into a cannula in my arm. And other than a slightly foggy feeling and a few hot flushes on the train home, since then I have felt fine. No nausea, tiredness, sickness (they give you anti-sickness meds). There might be other side effects to come later in the cycle (each infusion and the following weeks leading up to the next infusion is known as a ‘cycle’), but so far so good.

Then in three weeks I am back in for my second infusion of chemo . Three weeks on from then I have another scan. If the chemo is working then I carry on for another four cycles – if not then I come off it and we try something else.

To be honest after all the trips I have had to London in the last month or so for scans and results it’s just nice to know that I don’t have to go back for three weeks.

So there we are – cancer has motivated me to become a ‘blogger’. Why?

Well in all the turmoil and upheaval of the last month it’s been difficult just keeping on top of everyday life – Saskia, the house, etc (fortunately I am currently signed off work). In the course of all that I have been relaying the news to various people – but I knew there were many good friends who I had not come across in day-to-day life who had no idea what was going on. Hence, the ‘blog. I figured this would be a great way to disseminate news and keep people up to date, without me having to say / type the same thing again and again – and for people to follow my progress, leave messages of support, etc (or abuse if you feel that way inclined).

Don’t worry, I’ll try not to make it all about cancer. I’ll put in nice stuff as well – news and photos of Saskia, other photos, and just general news of what we have been up to. The cancer is the motivator for starting this blog, but will not be the sole focus. It’s important to focus on the positive as well.

Speaking of positive – despite all the recent bad news and stress of the last month I am remaining fully positive that I will beat this. As far as I can see that’s the only way to fight this battle. Not long after the first set of bad news, I came down with a chest infection. Then a few days after the bad news about not being able to go on the first trial, I had several attacks (spread over four days) days of an excruciating stomach pain, lasting hours at a time – so bad that the first time I ended up going to A&E in an ambulance at 4am in the morning. The doctor in A&E, my GP and my gastro nurse put these stomach pains down to excess stress due to the cancer diagnosis.

While horrible at the time, these experiences were a clear demonstration and reminder of the effect that the mind and mental state can have on physical well being. If I get down and depressed my body will give me even more crap to deal with. So I figure I can turn this to my advantage – by keeping a positive attitude I minimise both mental and physical stress, hopefully minimise chemo side effects, and put myself in the best possible state of mind to beat this.

There is every reason to stay positive – there seems to be nothing to be gained by sinking into negative thoughts.

Right, I think I will end this post here. I have (believe it or not!) more to write. I haven’t yet touched on the amazing support and generosity we have received from family and friends in the last month.

But it’s late, and I’ve written a lot today, so I will continue tomorrow.

Bye for now.

P.S. This blog is also heavily inspired by a similar blog kept by a guy called Ezra in New York, who has been fighting colon cancer (hopefully, it looks successfully). It would be wrong of me not to credit him for his inspiration, so for anyone who wants to take a look, I have copied the link below. It’s a great read, and he is a wonderfully honest and funny writer (as well as good photographer, bike builder, and cook). So I would fully recommend it. You might also pick up some decent recipes! Thanks to Dan Morse for directing me to his blog.

Link > http://www.fastboycycles.com/teachingcancertocry/

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Filed under Battle with Melanoma