Monthly Archives: December 2009

The wigs

Ok, since some of you seem to be having trouble seeing the wig pics on the post entitled “chemo chic” (see below) I’ve put them up on a separate post…so there you go. Hope it works this time! let me know if you cannot see them!

The 60s look inspired by the bob-length wig.

This is the casual look that got me into being asked for id at tescos when I was buying some beer. First time I've been id in my life!!!!

Scandinavian Rosa, inspired by lack of eyelashes.

No eyelashes = green make up!

And last but not least…the red wig I have worn a couple of times over the festive period! Hope you’ve all had a great xmas! I did.

The festive wig

Ps.

Hey,

If you read this, could you leave a comment letting me know if you can see the pics with the wigs? I am having trouble with them!!! thanks!

Chemo chic

In this blog I have talked extensively and intenselyabout hair, as it has been a central part of my cancer journey. As soon as I found out that I was going to undergo chemotherapy, and thus lose my long hair, I decided that it was my chance to try lots of different haircuts. I found a trainee hairdresser called Stuart on gumtree and a bunch of haircuts that I wanted to try out. Then off I went down to Taylor Taylor (www.taylortaylorlondon.com) every two weeks to gradually chop off the hair via trying different hairdos, and this is what happened:

I found the going-for-haircuts-experience extremely therapeutic. Ok, so I am going to lose my hair to chemo, right? well, let me have some fun with it before then! and fun I had.I was too very lucky to find Stuart. I told him from the beginning what was going on and why I was cutting my hair and why I wanted to come back every two weeks to try something different. He seemed unfazed by it all and treated me with complete normality. Since he was at the end of his training we were the perfect match. He was experienced enough to try more risky haircuts and I was happy to be the guinea pig.

The haircuts  also gave me some control over cancer treatment and its consequences. In a sense I was not losing my long locks to chemo, but to an array of hair styles I chose to try out. On top of that, on social occasions (read parties, gatherings in the park and trips to the pub) it helped take the attention away from my newly diagnosed breast cancer and onto the hair:  “Oh your hair looks great!”… was always the first thing that was said, instead of “Awh,  how are you doing?” (often coupled with a sad-puppy-eyed facial expression). It really was a massive help. The change in my life was not just a breast cancer diagnosis, it was also my hair!

But you may wonder, what happened after the haircuts finished and the baldness arrived? I mentioned how I don’t feel comfortable going bald in public. I have been encouraged by friends, but don’t fancy the attention that would come with it. Maybe it has something to do with making that ultimate statement to the world: I am a cancer patient/I have cancer (do not like the expression ‘cancer victim‘). Maybe I am too vain (even if I don’t find myself ugly without hair). Maybe…I could actually come up with so many maybes as to why I do  not go bald outside my home. So I chose to wear not a wig, but wigs. Well, I might as well keep on experimenting!

First time I wore a wig out I was so self-conscious I felt that I had the words “Hello world! I am wearing a wig” written across my face. I got on the tube. Whenever I made eye contact with anyone I thought “they can tell I’m wearing a wig…they are thinking ‘look at her wig!…’oh my god she is wearing a wig’… ‘why is she wearing a wig?'”. I felt so faked. And it made me think of these women who happily fake it all: fake tans, nails, boobs, hair (extensions), eyelashes. And how all I was doing was fake the hair, because I  had lost to chemo, and yet I felt like a complete cheat. How do these other women do it?

On subsequent trips out the feeling was similar. Extreme uncomfortableness. But the more I went out with the wigs, the more the feeling of self-consciousness lessened. Nick did tell me that I’d get used to it and would stop thinking about it. But at first I really couldn’t see how that would happen! Fast forward 5 months and here I am now, happily walking around with my wigs, not only not thinking about it but not caring t if anyone realises that I am in fact, faking it.

Another thing with the wigs was getting used to “the perfect hair”, and how to dress accordingly. I do often dress myself around the wig that I am wearing, and at some point I was going to document in the blog the looks that I was coming up with (but didn’t carry it through in the end). The bob length dark wig always makes me feel like dressing up with dresses, could be a 60s look or a 20s one…the shoulder length dark one is good with jeans and more for day time wear. The blonde one is perfect now that my lashes and eyebrows are pretty much gone, so I can get away with the Scandinavian look. Being fair-haired also allows me to wear colours that do no look so right with dark hair. Above all, to me this is an example that losing your hair, as traumatic as it can be, it can also give you the chance to play around with the way you look and dress ( the wigs are only £20 a pop! ). But to me it is also a way to feel better. At the moment, I do not look in the mirror much. My eyebrows, which were dark and framed my eyes prior to chemo, are gone (well i think i have about 10 individual hairs on each) and the circles around my eyes are deep and brown in colour. I look like someone who is doing chemo, in a way that I didn’t do before (this chemo is harder on your hair). But when I put my wig on, the make up and a nice outfit I feel so good (specially by comparison) that I truly feel ready to take on the world. It takes very little time and makes you feel healthier and thus more empowered and energised. No surprise then that this charity exists http://www.lookgoodfeelbetter.co.uk.

5 down, 1 to go!

Christmas came early for me this year! For the first time ever I did chemo when I was supposed to. What a nice feeling! I was cheering and clapping when I found out, and this other chemo patient said to me: “it’s funny what we get excited about…”yeay, I’m doing chemo!”.

And it’s true. When you are waiting for your blood results, and  you get a “go ahead”,  it doesn’t feel like “Oh no, chemo!” but “yeay! chemo” bring it on”. Well, at least that’s how it feels for me.  Because there is nothing more daunting than waiting for your next chemo session. ‘Un-planning’ previously arranged plans and temporarily planning new ones. Feeling like a slave to your treatment.

So how do I feel at the moment? the part that’s most affected, I would say, is my head. My brain feels like jelly. It feels like there is a cloud between my senses and whatever is happening out there. It all feels a bit dreamlike. I am also sleeping a lot.  Waking up occasionally by nightmares (chemo drugs seem to do this, as if invading your reality is not enough they enter your dreams too).

Having done chemo on time means that there is a good chance I’ll be able to enjoy the joys of xmas day with my friends. Please please please santa, don’t send me to hospital. let me have some festive fun!

Ps

In the last post I forgot to give a big up for nick and the earplugs (plus all the other bits and bobs requested), Nadia and the yummy soups, Caz and the lovely plant, Emma and the gorgeous green & blacks dark chocolate  Julie and the delicious Moroccan meatballs. And last but not least Richard and the impromptu visit which meant I had someone to take me home (perfect timing may i add). Also thanks to all of those who wanted to visit but sadly couldn’t.

Chemo or not chemo? that is the white bloody question.

As I said in the last post, I was admitted to hospital with fever and a white blood cell count (well neutrophils) of 0.1. That made me neutropenic. Which meant that I had neutropenia, which then developed into a condition called neutropenic sepsis. Lets see what the intro from good old wikipedia says:

Neutropenia (adjective neutropenic), from Latin prefix neutro- and Greek suffix -πενία (deficiency) is a hematological disorder characterized by an abnormally low number of neutrophils, the most important type of white blood cell, in the blood. Neutrophils usually make up 50-70% of circulating white blood cells and serve as the primary defense against infections by destroying bacteria in the blood. Hence, patients with neutropenia are more susceptible to bacterial infections and, without prompt medical attention, the condition may become life-threatening (neutropenic sepsis).

So there you are. Have you noticed the life-threatening bit? and i thought they were over-reacting keeping me in for a few days!! Thankfully I only found out that people with neutropenic sepsis can, as my doctor friend fausto put it, “die very quickly”, if not treated. I say thankfully as had i known it would have made my stay in hospital more daunting. And I can pat myself on the back for going to the hospital so quickly. Well, lets pat nick on the back as I have to admit that it took a bit of “convincing” on his side. I was all cosy in bed. It was a saturday,  I woke up made coffee and toast. Had breakfast in bed and read last saturday’s guardian (well i couldn’t read it on the saturday when it was bought and then i was knocked down by chemo all week). The sun was shinning through the window and nick was sleeping in the living room, so the flat was peaceful and quite. But as the day went on my throat, which had been a bit sore all week, got worse. My ears were starting to hurt. But I was tucked in bed and the idea of leaving was just not appealing at all.

So nick came into the room around 2 in the afternoon, to see how i was doing. “Not so good” I replied. We checked my temperature. It was a bit high, but not high enough to yet go to hospital. Then checked again. Shit! it was now nearing the temperature needed (37.8 FYI) to start to worry . Then when it did i was like “wait wait, let me check again” and I did, about 20 times i think.  I just didn’t wanna leave my bed! my room! We called the “chemotherapy help line” as I like to call it. Basically if i get a temperature or feel “unwell” (feel unwell??? hello!!!! i am doing chemo!!! I am meant to feel “unwell”) I have to call a phone that a doctor picks up. Then I have to report what is wrong with me and they advise me what to do. As expected, he said: “go to A&E”.

So nick and i  made a deal. He could get me some soup from the supermarket, and some baguette, I would eat  then head to a&e. Straight away. I would not complain. I would not stamp my feet. I would be a good girl.

By 6 o’clock we were in a&e. By 8:30 I was in a cubicle having blood taken and other bits and bobs done and given. By 10 I finally saw a doctor. By 10:30 she was on the phone to my oncologist (who is happy to be contacted any time of day or night if one of her patients is ill, isn’t she amazing?). Then it was antibiotics and fluid through my vein. By midnight I was having an x-ray of my lungs (to see if I had pneumonia). And by 1 o’clock I was up in a ward, with a bed and a jug to piss in so they could know how much wee i was passing (to discard urine infection as the cause of the temperature). It is pretty weird to have a nurse asking you how much you “water you passed” after each visit to the loo. But then again, this whole experience alone is pretty weird. I sometimes feel like pinching myself. Is this really happening? are you sure it is not just a very long dream?

First night at the ward: patient vomiting on one bed WHILE another one was snoring. Someone else has some sort of crisis which meant that she was attached to a machine in the middle of the night. The machine beeped. Really loud. Asked nurse for ear plugs, but they had none. Thank god for my MP3 player! laura marling sent me nicely to sleep. Second night I had my own side room. It was like being in a hotel. Well, in a hotel with very bad food. Jesus!!! thank god lovely friends came to visit with delicious food and chocolate to munch on! third night I was back out in the open ward. But this one was quieter and by then I had my ear plugs. This, however, made it really hard for the nurses to wake me up, which meant that they had to shake me on top of calling my name. Was pretty funny.

My oncologist didn’t want me out till my neutrophils were up to 1.5. I went in with 0.1. By monday they had gone up to 0.5. Tuesday came with the good news that they were now up to 4.6. Excellent. Time to leave hospital, their bad food and continuous day-time tv watching. Time to join the world once again! one of the loveliest and most amazing feelin at the moment  is getting my health and energy back after a spell of chemo-related-sickness.

So you would have thought that with a healthy count of 4.6 a week and a half ago I would now be ready for chemo. But not. I had a blood test on monday and they are back down to 1.2. They need to be 1.5 for them to do chemo. Arrrrrgh. So tomorrow instead of going to my appointment at 13:00, having my herceptin and then chemo it means that i have to be there at 9:30, have a blood test. Wait for the result. Then either be extremely disappointed, as i have learned to be, or have the good news that yes, chemo number 5 is happening. Please body, do not let me down.

Oh and some pics from the hospital stay, thanks julie!

My room, my tv, my hospital stay.

My room. My tv.

Action shot. lets move you to the open ward.damn! I liked having my own room!

Action shot. lets move you to the open ward.damn! I liked having my own room!

Back from hospital

Went to a&e on saturday because I had a temperature and they held me captive till today. Nothing serious, they were just being cautious as my immune system was non-existent. Was released today…it’s good to be home.