Tag Archives: breast cancer

The Good Life (nearly 3 years after chemo)

So three years ago, this is what I was blogging about: wigs,coping with losing my hair to chemo, celebrating that I just had my fifht round of treatment, my frustration at not being able to do chemo on time and my stay at the hospital due to being neutropenic. You can read it all here.

Three years on and my life (and hair after chemo!) looks quite different that it did then. For one I have moved back home to Barcelona, best decision ever. I have met a wonderful man and a great dog, who are now my family and who make me oh! so very happy. I have an exciting job. I am finishing my PhD. And I am hoping to have children in the future. In short: I like my life.

So while this is great and lovely, it is also terrifying. It appears sometimes that the happier I am the more fearful I become of my cancer coming back. For those who have had cancer, you know how much of a life changing experience it is. Emotionally it wrestles you to the ground, it makes you re-asses your values your priorities and it can often push you to the limit. It brings home how fragile life really is. It confronts you with death. From a practical point of view, don´t even get me started: hospital appointment after hospital appointment after…well you get the point.Your day to day life and routine may also significantly change, being absent from work, not being able to go to the gym or losing (some) of your social life. And the thing i that I love my life and I hate the idea that cancer may come back and take this away from me. Please cancer, stay away.

And this is what I have been up to since my last post in June and what my hair after chemo looks like, nearly 3 years on from treatment. This is why I am happy.

Raoul and I did the anual 10k run in our neighbourhood

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My little brother (yes brother, not nephew) is growing up so fast. He is simply gorgeous.

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I did the women´s race in Barcelona, along with my friend Vicky who makes the cutest plushies and many other things over at Anda Panda. Big fan of her work.

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One of my best mates came to visit over from London. Friends are the best. Particularly Fausto.

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Aby loves being on my lap. And I love her being on my lap. What you call a win-win situation.

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And last but not least, the man and dog who help me through my darkest moments. Meet the family.

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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!

Sweet dreams are made of…

Hair!!! yes. Surprised? I guess not… Recently I have been having lots of vivid, wierd dreams. And a recurrent one is that I have hair. The funny thing about it is that every time it goes like this: I have beautiful, loooooooooooong hair that has grown overnight. Just like that.In my dreams I wake up one day and, hey, hair is back!

I miss having hair. I miss washing it and combing it and running my fingers through it. However, I have not found losing it a traumatic experience, and understandably, it is common for women undergoing cancer treatment to feel that way. And I think I know why this side effect of the chemo drugs has not upset me.

Before getting breast cancer I was really really, I mean really, attached to my long hair. I spent years growing it with the aim of it reaching my waist. But it never did ( not because i had to cut it, but because i do not think my hair could grow that long). In a way, this attachment was a source of anxiety. I loved it and i loathed it. I wanted it, the hair, to grow longer, faster, stronger. At the same time I sometimes day dreamt about having it chopped off. But no. I could not do that. No no no. This was particularly strange, I thought, as I am someone who has played a lot with her hair through the years. It all started when I was 13. Since then I have had bleached, shoulder length hair. Short spiky hair. Blue, green, red, purple, pink hair. Bicolor (red at the front and black at the back) hair, which then I turned into long dreadlocks. Bob length dreadlocks (bleached at the front). There is photographic evidence. One day you may see them.

So there I was, at the doctors practice being told that I had breast cancer. Being told that chemotherapy was on the menu. And then suddenly the thought of losing my long hair was very, very liberating.

My Long hair

So here it is! my long hair. the one I was a slave to 😉 oh, and the baby is my little brother aged two weeks.