Some good news at last

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This picture shows my nine-year-old daughter jumping for joy over waves at the beach last week. And it’s kind of how I’m feeling today.

Today’s MRI scan results show my main tumour is finally shrinking. The radius has gone from 11.5mm to 8mm, meaning the volume (V = ⁴⁄₃πr³) has shrunk from 6368mm to 2143mm – a much more impressive reduction of around two-thirds. (No, I didn’t understand the calculation when the oncologist explained it to me either, but my chemistry teacher husband did!)

The shrinkage now won’t necessarily have any impact on the course the disease takes in future, but it’s a massive psychological boost. Compared to the results of my last scan, when the chemotherapy showed no impact on the tumour at all, I will be going into tomorrow’s fifth chemo session feeling much more positive.

I’m taking today’s news at face value: the chemo is nasty but right now it’s working.

And I’ll take that, write it down, and be thankful.

Change of scenery, change of mood

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Sea, sand, sunshine: it’s hard to be blue at the beach.

This week we went to Scarborough for a typically British seaside break, i.e. it was pretty cold and a little wet but we had a blast anyway.

We dug trenches and built sandcastles in jumpers and raincoats, ate fish and chips on the harbour at Whitby, dodged the crowds at Sealife with an early-bird pass, swopped iPads for card-playing, and spent a glorious day on the beach in Sandsend reading a book in a deckchair (me) and Boogie-boarding in wetsuits (Pete and the kids).

I did think about the Big C a bit (debating whether my headscarf/buff could pass as surfer chic or just screamed CANCER) but it didn’t dominate my thoughts like it does at home. I was able to enjoy the holiday for what it was: precious time with my family.

Massive thanks to my friend Linda, for lending us her house for the week – it was just the tonic we needed x

 

Infection

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One of the (many) side effects of chemotherapy is immunosuppression. The drugs cause the number of white blood cells in the body to plummet, making it harder to fight infection. Which is how I ended up back in hospital on Friday.

As a prosthetic limb wearer, I’m used to dealing with skin breakdown, blisters and ‘lumps and bumps’ where my socket rubs at the top of my leg. It can be unpleasant and makes walking uncomfortable but it’s usually nothing a bit of Sudocrem won’t heal overnight. But on Thursday night, a nick in the skin had turned into an angry, red lump, and walking was agonisingly painful.

I phoned the chemotherapy ward the next morning and a nurse advised me to come in to the assessment ward at St James’. There, a doctor examined me and confirmed that the cut was infected, as I’d suspected, and I would need antibiotics. There followed an anxious four-hour wait while the team decided whether I needed to stay overnight on the ward, but after much pleading and a promise to come straight back if things got worse, I was released home with a big old box of flucloxacillin.

I escaped just in time to watch Beauty & The Beast at the cinema with the kids. At which I cried.

I blame the chemo. It’s turning me into a right wet lettuce.

 

The dog with a ridiculous name

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This is Cuddles, the dog with the ridiculous name, who came into our lives via The Dogs’ Trust when our lives were turned upside-down by cancer the first time around.

Back then I was grieving: for the loss of a limb, for the loss of a future with children (the infertility diagnosis was thankfully wrong) , the post-cancer loss of my self-confidence. Getting a dog when our life was an uncertain mess wasn’t the sanest idea  but Cuddles, the car-sick hound with the embarrassing-to-shout-in-the-park name got me through those first dark months. She needed to go out for a walk even when I didn’t want to leave the house, and when I sat down sobbing on the kitchen floor she would pad over and put her head on my lap.  Not judging me, just being there.

 

As the years have gone by, I’ll admit I haven’t paid Cuddles as much attention as I once did. Pete walks her so she is ‘his’ dog really, and life with a full-time job, kids and sport has meant that whilst Cuddles is always a much-loved member of our family, her advancing years mean she’s happy to curl up in her basket out of the way of frantic activity.

And yet, now I’m at home much more on my own, drowning once more in the enormity of my second cancer diagnosis and what this means now for my future and that of my children, Cuddles is playing her part once more. There have been tear-filled hugs lying on the floor (because it’s OK to cry in front of the dog once the kids have gone to school) and some pitifully slow limping walks around the block (because chemo and limb loss don’t mix well).

Today we even staggered up to the field where I collapsed/sat on the soggy grass for a while next to my loyal friend.

Not thinking, not worrying, just being there.