Friday, 30 September 2011

Grumble, grumble

The sun is out and everyone is very happy. Except for me. My feet are swollen and covered in rashes so the only shoes I can wear right now are my UGG boots. And when it's 20 or so degrees outside, the last thing you want on your feet are sheepskin boots. I could, I suppose, wear flip-flops - but my vanity is still intact so I refuse to impose my ugly feet on friends and family. So in case you bump into me, and I've got a frown on my face, take pity on my poor feet in the winter boots.

PS. Am not happy with the bald look today. Am convinced I look like Arnold Schwarzenegger's disguise in Total Recall. Not good.

An inspiration

Last week, I met up with fellow breast cancer victim A for lunch. Although we'd been communicating regularly via email and telephone, it was the first time we'd met in person. And it couldn't have come at a better time. Being a few months ahead of me in this cancer malarky, she's finished her Taxol, had the operation and has just finished her radiotherapy. And she looks fantastic. Her hair has grown and although it's very short, it's a very chic look. (Gamine would be the proper word, methinks.) Her nails are lovely and white and her skin is clear. In other words, she looked absolutely radiant. Not the wasted image you would expect from someone ravaged by cancer treatment. I am hoping that in a few weeks' time, I will come out from this experience looking as well as she.

Apart from being overwhelmed by how lovely A looked, it was also very comforting to know that we had gone and were going through the same range emotions regarding this cancer: anything from anger and denial to the current fear of recurrence. But A is staying positive and so shall I. She is an inspiration and when I am feeling annoyed at the inconvenience of this evil crab, I will think of her and feel much better.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


Bloods okay, so all go for chemo tomorrow. What a relief.

Also, am really liking this bald look. I feel I look more windswept and interesting.

Monday, 26 September 2011


Just shaved off all my hair. Wow.

I would really really like it, except my mother's just informed me that I have a strange birthmark on the back of my head. Hmm...

Sunday, 25 September 2011


It's 7.30pm on Sunday and I'm in bed. I feel terrible: my head hurts, and it seems every part of my body is in pain. This past week has seen the Taxol really take its toll on me. Apart from the physical, such as the bad case of water retention, the very sensitive nail beds, the pins and needles on my hands and feet and the itchy rashes, I'm also very tired. I've had to finally stop my weekly spinning classes and last night, LH and I went to see a play and I fell asleep for ten minutes after the intermission. Oops. It was a play set in the trenches during WWI though - it was very dark plus the flickering lights were very hypnotic. I had no chance...

I am getting very nervous. I hope that I am well enough to have my chemotherapy session (number 10) this coming Wednesday. We have booked to go away during the half-term break - two days after my last session. Which means that I really cannot afford to be unwell and have my sessions postponed, as this would mean not being able to go on holiday. A few weeks ago my blood test results were borderline - since that time I have been unable to relax till 4pm the day of the test. (The nurses say that if they don't call you by 4pm, chemotherapy the next day is a go.) This is one instance when The Sick Face does not work: I need to prove to them that I am well enough to undergo chemo, so a song and dance number is more apt.

Friday, 23 September 2011


Literally. Woke up with a start this morning because I dreamt that I had unintentionally driven on an unfinished road by a mountainside. The car started to turn turtle and I prayed as I knew I was hurtling towards my death. I woke up then, of course. They do say that when you die in your dreams, you die in real life.

What struck me as bizarre was how calm I was; I wasn't screeching and wailing. I had just accepted my fate. This is the opposite of how I feel - although I am calm and not screeching! The thought of cancer recurrence is foremost in my mind at the moment but I am definitely not accepting it as inevitable - I will do anything I can to keep it away. Although this year has been challenging and enlightening, I certainly do not wish to experience it again.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


I counted August 31st twice in my calendar which means that I don't actually finish my Taxol on the first week of October, but rather the second. I know this doesn't sound like much, but it's still terribly frustrating.

Groan, groan and all that.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

A new fear

I had a facial the other day with the lovely A, and at the end of it, we got our phones out to make the next appointment. She mentioned a date four Wednesdays away, and I immediately said that I couldn't make it as it was a Wednesday and I would have a chemo session then. But then I suddenly realised that I would not have chemotheraphy on that day as I would have finished my Taxol the week before. Needless to say, I was absolutely ecstatic. I would've jumped up and down for joy right then and there; but I have a suspicion that A already thinks that I'm slightly odd so I controlled myself.

Although I still have roughly two and half months to go (with a two-week break in the Philippines in between) I am getting quite excited that I'm nearly at the end of this journey (let's not count that horrible menopause inducing, weight-gaining drug that I have to take for the next three years or so). However, I seem to have developed a new fear overnight: that of the cancer coming back. Although I have remained fairly upbeat throughout this entire ordeal, I know that a recurrence would upset me tremendously and would make me go into a very dark place.

I have experienced an entire myriad of emotions throughout my cancer journey: the initial fear at diagnosis, the positivity once chemo started, the joy at shrinking tumours and the mood dips every now and then. But one thing I never thought I would feel on nearing the end of my journey is fear. But I am scared. I don't want to have to go through this again. So once again I have gone back to my books and healthy living magazines, looking for answers. Although I know there is still no ultimate cure for cancer, I am pinning my hopes that an even healthier outlook will keep the evil crab away forever.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Taxol side effects

So far Taxol has been pretty easy on me. Real fatigue is only starting now (nearly passed out and fell off my bike at spin the other day and it took me ages to recover from a not very late night last night) but it's still not as bad as the fatigue I experienced with FEC. However, I think things are creeping up on me as I'm starting to get the small niggles. For instance, I've developed a really itchy rash on my feet and ankles. And because I don't have much self-control and scratch away to my heart's content, I now have ankles and feet like a street urchin's. I tried to get the oncologist to take pity on me, but apparently The Sick Face doesn't work on him. I was hoping he would ask that my Taxol dose be lessened by no such luck.

I've also started to get some very odd pigmentation thing on my face - thank goodness for concealer. My (facial) skin still hasn't recovered from the beating it took from the FEC, and the Taxol's not much help. So I'm still sporting the spotty teenager look.

The weight gain is still there but it seems to have plateaued at two kilos. (I was speaking to friend A earlier today and mistakenly said I had gained two pounds. As you can imagine, I didn't receive much sympathy as that's just the equivalent of a very heavy wee.) I suppose this is because I am continuing to exercise. It does make me feel a lot better with all the endorphins it releases and I do like staying active.

I'm also experiencing: a few sleepless nights, swelling of the feet (my poor feet are just not pretty at the moment), sore legs, dark nails and my eyebrows show no sign of growing back. But nothing I can't live with.

I only have four more Taxol sessions to go, and I'm really hoping that this is the worst of it. I can't believe the end is so very nearly in sight...

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

A second opinion

Breast cancer is one of the most researched cancers around; because of this, new things are popping up about it all the time. On average, I google 'breast cancer' and look under news items every week. And in doing so, I found out that February this year the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York (one of North America's top cancer centres) released a study saying that for certain circumstances, full axillary dissection (ie removal of lymph nodes in the armpit area) was not necessary. This is quite groundbreaking; for almost fifty years it's been standard operating procedure that once the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes (which mine has) a full axillary clearance is automatically done. However, this operation has its share of side-effects, the main one being lymphedema. Lymphedema is basically a swelling due to a blockage of the lymph passage, which can cause decreased flexibility, tightness, limb swelling etc. And I read somewhere that it occurs in nearly 25% of the breast cancer patients who have the dissection. Egad.

Needless to say, this is something that I'd rather not encounter, so if my breast cancer does not call for it, why do it? And based on the MSKCC study, I seem to fall under it.

I've spoken to my breast cancer surgeon about not doing the dissection. And although he was hesitant initially (we've always done it - but yes, a few years ago mastectomies were automatically done as well) he eventually agreed to it. But according to him, only because I'm on private healthcare, where monitoring is apparently better.

The funny thing is, once he agreed, I suddenly started to wonder if this is the right thing to do. So I've decided that I'm going for a second opinion. I've collated all my papers from both my oncologist and breast cancer surgeon and am sending them all to MSKCC, straight to the authors of the study. This is not going to be cheap; but you can't put a price on your health, can you?

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


Sorry for the radio silence. My mother is around and if you think I'm chatty, think again. I can barely get a word in edgeways. It's a miracle my children are still being fed and watered.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Very good news

Saw Mr Tit-man tonight and had a mammogram (ugh) and ultrasound done. And they could barely find the EVIL (evil, evil) crab! It's nearly completely disappeared so I have to go back to hospital tomorrow to have a clip or marker put on it. This needs to be done so that the doctor can still find it when he does the lumpectomy. Hurrah!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Living on a Prayer

In the famous words of Jon Bon Jovi (yum) "We're halfway there!" Yes, six Taxols done and only six more to go. A bit of a break then lumpectomy and radiotherapy. To be pedantic about it, I'm actually more than halfway. Presuming that I will be all healed, so to speak, by the beginning of December, I'm actually three-fourths of the way home since I was diagnosed late March.

Yippee. And so far, what a journey it's been. Not just for me, but for everyone around me: family, friends and even the nurses I harass during my chemo sessions. And although this whole cancer/chemo thing has been a bit of a bother, I almost don't regret the experience if only for the lessons I've learned along the way, and the relationships strengthened. It's true what they say that things that don't kill you can only make you stronger - although I am physically weaker, I certainly feel stronger with all the support and love that friends and family have showered upon me. I know that I will pull through this ordeal because of them.

It's been awhile since I've gone out of my way to thank these very special people. So THANK YOU, all of you. You know who you are. And a special mention has to go to LH and my three wonderful children. I love you.