Saturday, 30 July 2011

Is it hot in here?

We've had a lovely couple of days here in England (hopefully this isn't our summer over yet) as it's been nice and sunny. However, today I felt particularly hot. I figured it was because I was running around the house getting a few errands done. Until I realised that the heat that I was experiencing was very odd: it felt as if it was coming from within me, like I was about to spontaneously combust.

Then it dawned upon me - here it was finally, one of the dreaded effects of chemotherapy. Hot flushes and early menopause. Although initially I had felt sad about this (I wrote about it in an earlier blog entry) today I felt absolutely nothing. Just acceptance. Once I realised what was going on, I just went about my business and did not dwell on the matter any longer.

It's funny how certain things which can seem so important one day may not matter at all the next. I suppose it's because taking everything into consideration, early menopause really is nothing at all to worry about.

Friday, 29 July 2011

When will I learn?

Argh. Was caught again without a headscarf this morning when the doorbell rang, so had to reach for the nearest thing - LH's Loch Ness monster hat. Luckily, it was just a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses wanting to draw me in. I actually believe they breathed a huge sigh of relief when I said I wasn't interested...

Thursday, 28 July 2011


Had the first session of the second round of my chemotherapy yesterday and phew, it's a heck of a lot better than the first. I suppose this is why it's been changed from one every three weeks to one a week for the next twelve weeks. Apart from feeling terribly woozy and quite groggy (from the intravenous antihistamines) for a couple of hours after, I have been fine since. So far, no nausea nor reflux. Hiccoughs still around, but nothing to worry about.

Chemo session yesterday was very quiet (to the silent relief of the nurses, methinks). Most of my girlfriends are on holiday so it was to be expected. I have to mention S though, who still came and entertained, and brought trashy magazines. What an absolute star. (I am convinced that I would have been out of bed earlier yesterday, but I kept myself supine if only to devour the magazines.)

Hopefully this Taxol course continues on this path. Apparently, the fatigue starts later on in the course, when the drug starts to accumulate in my poor body. And the hairloss sadly continues. Not that I have much to lose anyway. But I'm not going to worry about that - I'm going to revel at the fact that it's nowhere near as bad as the FEC course and I'm actually up and about!

(By the way, saw oncologist Dr M yesterday - apparently everything going on course, etc. He gave me a breast exam with the coldest hands. Obviously, a certain part of my breasts did something instinctive which only happens when I'm cold, et al! I hope Dr M doesn't think that I actually derive any sort of pleasure from these exams. Good God.)

Monday, 25 July 2011


Arrived back from Scotland late Saturday, so instead of going for a healthy dinner, we opted for a Chinese takeaway. When the delivery man eventually arrived, LH was in the garage sorting out stuff, whilst the children had disappeared. (As they are wont to do when there are un-fun things that need to get done.) I thus had the task of opening the door to the delivery man and paying for the food. The problem was I had whipped my headscarf off as soon as we arrived home, having worn it throughout the 10-hour car journey. And the only available hat was second son E's highland cow hat. So I put this on, opened the door and pretended that this was entirely normal in the T household.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Head Aches

I am so fed up with walking with a scarf/turban all day long that today, I actually considered shaving all of my hair off and doing a Sinead O'Connor. However, upon closer inspection of my scalp, I realised that it's not the prettiest thing and is really best kept under wraps. First of all, it's a very pale shade compared to my face as it's been covered by hair all these years. Second, I have discovered that I have moles on my scalp. And third, I have a very disturbing dent on my head.

I actually discovered this dent a few years ago, when the twins were newly born. And it did induce some sort of panic so I called NHS Direct and told them my problem.

Me: I have a dent on my head.
Nurse: Okaaaaay, have you been hit by a blunt instrument lately?
Me: No, I woke up this morning and there it was.

The lady said she would call me back. She didn't of course, and who can blame her - she probably thought I was mad. But rather than be discouraged by this, I called my local GP and made an appointment to see him. On the day, I told him I was worried about this dent on my head. Credit to the poor man - he didn't laugh his head off and actually checked my scalp. He then reassured me that I'd probably been born with the dent. (The dent actually does exist, and it isn't just a figment of my imagination.)

I can only plead some form of postpartum insanity - the twins were less than a year old at this time. What I still fail to understand is why LH did not stop me from harassing NHS Direct and our local GP. When I questioned him about it he said I was absolutely determined and nothing would've stopped me. Oh well... I can only comfort myself with the fact that I may have at least given the nurses and doctor some amusement to tide over the tedium of their day. It wouldn't surprise me if they're still laughing about it now...

Ain't no mountain high enough

We're in Arran at the moment - a mini-break (and possibly our only holiday this summer) as the children have been on their summer break for nearly two weeks and I've recovered from the last chemotherapy session. LH's parents live here, and I'm always looking for an excuse to come over. It's a beautiful island, I love the fresh air and the views are spectacular.

We've been going on daily treks since we arrived - as I won't be able to get my gym fix, it's my way of getting fit. Yesterday, we decided to climb Goat Fell. At nearly 2,900 feet, Goat Fell falls short of a Munro, but it's a pretty challenging climb nonetheless. It wouldn't have been my first time to climb it: LH and I did it a couple of years ago but we thought it would be fun to do it again. So, armed with a few chocolate bars and a camera, we made our way with LH's parents, the children and my nieces and nephew, who are also visiting from the mainland. A motley crew indeed.

When we set off, Goat Fell's peak was covered in cloud; and although the locals say the mountain should not be climbed if you cannot see the peak, we decided to go for it anyway. The sun was out and we figured that pretty soon it would burn off the clouds.

Sadly, halfway through the climb LH's dad turned back - but at 73 years old, he had done very well to get as far as he did. A couple of hours later however, over three-quarters of the way up, LH's mum, my niece E and daughter N also decided that they had had enough. I could certainly understand LH'S mum (I will not mention her age here as I do not want to incur her wrath) as she had a fall a few years ago and broke her ankle, and it's never fully recovered. She had done extremely well to get so high up the mountain. I couldn't really say anything to niece E, as she is my niece and not my daughter. However, I found myself very cross with N. I felt she was giving up too easily and not trying her best. I will spare everyone the gory details and just say that words were said and tears shed by my poor daughter; at this point I was so cross I decided to abandon the climb as well.

As soon as we made our way down however, I realised that I still had the camera, so I left N with LH's mum and chased after the rest who had gone a fair distance. Huffing and puffing (I'd had to run quite a way up) I caught up with them - but this is simply because they had decided to turn back too. Nephew C was cold and LH felt that it was pretty dangerous as the cloud had not burnt off as we hoped it would - the peak was still covered in cloud and in fact we were in it. I was extremely frustrated at this point - I told LH that since he was turning back, he could climb down whilst I would continue on with sons C and E and niece N. But LH counselled me against it - it was too hazy thus making it risky to do.

Embarrassingly, I lost it then. Although I did not rant and rave like a madman, I walked away purposefully and started to stomp my way down the mountain. And I stomped all the way down. And because I had stomped and stomped with absolute feeling, I hurt my right knee in the process and was hobbling like a drunken pensioner who had just finished a marathon by late afternoon. The worst thing is no-one said anything about it; although they commiserated over my sore and swollen knee they never mentioned the manic stomping - it became the Voldemort of the day.

LH and I did eventually talk about it (thank goodness as it gave me the chance to finally laugh at myself) and although I had initially blamed my sense of humour failure on my frustration at not reaching the peak, I think a lot of it boiled down to the fact that I wanted to prove to myself - and everyone - that neither cancer nor chemotherapy would get me down. And although I have in the past admitted defeat because of chemotherapy this time I will not. Because I know for a fact that if not for that obdurate cloud we would've definitely made it. Anyway Goat Fell is not going anywhere and neither am I; so I can always climb it another day.

Sunday, 17 July 2011


Bumped into someone I know (let's call her X) the other day, and she made it pretty clear, via her (lack of) words and actions, that she's cross with me. Sometimes I feel that people are nice to me simply because of my circumstances. So although I was irritated at X's actions, I was grateful that she had been true to her feelings and had not compromised them simply because I'm ill.

I want people to treat me the same way, as much as possible. I know this can sometimes be difficult because the word cancer carries with it so much weight, and thus people can't help themselves. However it would be best for everyone all around if we all stayed true to our feelings. I am still after all, the same person - balder and a bit fatter on the outside but pretty much the same on the inside. Which means that although I may be physically weaker (this is grudgingly said) I am certainly still strong enough to fight my own battles.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

It's all in the attitude

My gorgeous friend L sent me this the other day via email, and I found the sentiment so lovely I thought I'd share it here:

There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and noticed she had only three hairs on her head. 

'Well,' she said, 'I think I'll braid my hair today.' 

So she did and she had a wonderful day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that she had only two hairs on her head.

'Hmm,' she said, 'I think I'll part my hair down the middle today.'

So she did and she had a grand day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that she had only one hair on her head.

'Well,' she said, 'today I'm going to wear my hair in a pony tail.'

So she did, and she had a fun, fun day. 

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that there wasn't a single hair on her head. 

'YAY!' she exclaimed. 'I don't have to fix my hair today!' 


Attitude is everything. 

Be kinder than necessary, 
for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. 

Live simply, 

Love generously, 

Care deeply, 

Speak kindly, 

and pray continually. 

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass... 
It's about learning to dance in the rain.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Oops, pardon me...

One unfortunate side-effect of chemo medication is uh... uncontrollable burping. I suppose this is all connected with the hiccoughing and acid reflux - it must play havoc on your gastric system. Now I will tut tut as much as anyone who belches in public, but I have to admit that I secretly envy loud, echo-inducing burps as they do sound so very satisfying. Especially as I don't have the talent to simulate one either. (One thing I most remember about living in Barcelona was paying a man in Las Ramblas 50 pesetas to burp out loud. As you do.)

However, I no longer feel left out, as I can now belch like a man who has just finished a 'drink as much soda' competition. After all, as we used to always say as children, 'Why f*rt and waste it when you can burp and taste it?'. Yes, why indeed...

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Oh no no no

Felt terrible today - perhaps I overdid it yesterday (I did decide, for some altogether strange reason, that it would be a very good time to clean the fridge and sort out the kitchen cupboards). Thus, I woke this morning feeling quite nauseous and very tired. And to top it off, I also woke up with an awful headache. And although I'd made a conscious decision not to show the children my lovely egghead because I'm too scared of traumatising them, I lost it today (oh no no no no). A combination of the nausea, the heat and my headache made me so fed up with my headscarf. I was convinced that if I just took it off I would feel a heck of a lot better. So after dinner tonight, after LH and I re-iterated that my current lack of a hairstyle was temporary, I whipped my headscarf off. And regretted it immediately. As it turns out, I don't feel better - I feel worse. I feel selfish and I feel guilty. Should our children turn out to be maladjusted, the turning point will be this moment in time, when they first saw their mother's Gollum hairdo.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Back to the Land of the Living

I'm feeling like a new person again, arising from my chemo fog. Luckily, this last session has been nowhere near as toxic as the previous ones. And sadly I think I may have to deal with a lot of 'I told you so...' comments as I'm pretty sure that the reason it hasn't been so bad is because I spent most of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in bed, either resting or sleeping. So it seems that everyone was right all along - I do just need to rest and let my body heal whilst the toxic drugs do their work and course through my veins. HA! Why didn't anyone tell me that?

Oh, yes, silly me. Everyone did. Huh.

Thursday, 7 July 2011


Had the last FEC-(*ing) session yesterday! It's still not over I know, but at least the most toxic part is done. I am fervently hoping that the new cycle of Taxol - weekly for 12 weeks from the end of July - will be slightly kinder on me. I'd like to think that it will be as I cannot imagine something as horrible as the FEC being given on a weekly basis. Having analysed it (anal, me?) I think I will lose two (positive thinker that I am) to a maximum three days to this treatment. But Taxol sounds like toxic. Argh. Why couldn't they have named the drug Grass, Flower or Seascape???

Apart from the truly wonderful LH, I was joined yesterday by some lovely friends for my last FEC session. These chemo parties have been an absolute godsend as I have found that I have become more fraught with every hospital visit. My anxiety levels have gone up so instead of just experiencing palpitations on the way to hospital, I'm also starting to feel sick and actually found myself doing some dignified crying (ie silent tears and not sobbing like a babe) during the car journey yesterday. By the time I reached hospital I was in such I state of distress that I felt faint. However, once friends started streaming in I was immediately distracted from the treatment. When conversations range from the absolutely absurd (vajazzling) to the ridiculous (that news item of the Mexican smuggled in a suitcase is hilarious) to the more serious topics of phone hacking, I cannot help but be distracted. By the time I left hospital yesterday I was certainly in a much better state of mind.

But no less tired. Once home from hospital and the pub (where I did NOT order the Chicken Liver Salad) I spent most of yesterday in bed, flitting in and out of sleep. I'm feeling much better today though, although I am still spending a lot of time supine. Figuring out if there's any possible way we could contort LH so that he can fit into one of our suitcases.

Monday, 4 July 2011

A Question of Mortality

I remember very well the day that I received the telephone call from hospital, asking me to go back because there had been a shadow in my mammogram result. It was a Thursday and I was just on my way out to pick up the children from school. I cried most of the way there as I was terribly frightened; I only composed myself once I was on the school road.

The next few weeks were no better as I vacillated from one emotion to the other - from incredulity, self-pity, anger and extreme sadness. I couldn't shake the idea of death; I thought of my children, my husband and the family and friends I would leave behind. Things however changed as soon as my treatment began - I knew that I was on the road to wellness and although I would have a few months having to deal with the unfortunate side-effects of chemotherapy and surgery, there was a deadline to it and by Christmas I would be a picture of health.

Last Sunday, my blog was featured on the front page of one of the Philippines' top broadsheet newspapers. As a consequence, I have received messages from friends, acquaintances and even strangers all wishing me well. However, I have found that some of the messages have saddened me - although they have been sent with the best intentions, some of them have had a tinge of fatalism, as if I have been given the death sentence with my cancer diagnosis. So I have found myself, once again, thinking of death. Or the possibility of this treatment not working.

This has freaked me out - I had reached the point wherein I thought of my cancer as a temporary affliction that will be cured. The thought of the chemotherapy not working, or the possibility of a recurrence had not crossed my mind since I started treatment in May. I need, desperately, to get out of this mindset - as I believe that a positive attitude is one thing that will most definitely get me through this (hopefully) temporary nightmare.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Hair today...

Woke up in the morning (feeling like P Diddy...) to find out that I'd shed the equivalent of a shaggy carpet on my pillow. This surprised me as I didn't realise I still had that much hair left on my head. But I suppose this is the effect of the last chemotherapy session as I did not use the cold cap. The hair loss does not affect me any longer, but I find it such a hassle as I have to pick up all the hair afterwards. Even though the little hair that I do have left is very short, it's still not short enough to come away unnoticed. Thus, I leave a trail of hair wherever I go and I have to tidy up after myself all the time. If the CSI came to our house, they certainly wouldn't have any difficulty whatsoever in finding my DNA.

I've made the conscious decision not to shave my head; it's because I feel that by going bald, I will most definitely look like a cancer victim. Right now, I wear headscarves or turbans and because I still have hair peeking out, it looks like I have chosen to wear these - after all, headwear is apparently trendy at the moment. (At least that's what I tell myself.) A couple of weeks ago, whilst waiting to pay in our local supermarket, a lady approached me and told me she loved my headscarf. I laughed and told her I was actually undergoing chemotherapy - she was very apologetic but I told her that she'd made my day.

This morning however I found myself fed up finding hair everywhere, so I asked LH to shave my head. After making sure that I was not being impulsive and had actually given the process some form of logical thought, he agreed. I'm still not bald though - I've just gone for a long buzz cut. And what a relief - I should have done it ages ago. Apart from the fact that it looks so much better (that weird fringe left on its own in the front of my head was very odd indeed) I'm also not leaving a hair trail behind me. Or if I am, it's certainly less evident.

Friday, 1 July 2011

The Sweetest Thing

My beautiful daughter N surprised me yesterday when I picked her up from school. She decided that she wants to raise funds for breast cancer and she'd spoken to her form teacher Mrs. G earlier in the day. So they spoke to the Headmaster, and now N's class is organising a cake sale to be held during their lunchbreak on Tuesday. N chose Breast Cancer Care as her charity, and I do hope that you can help her raise funds too by donating via this website:

Thank you in advance!