Living with Cancer - A Year of Treatment

Thursday, 23 November 2017

A year ago today I had my first chemo treatment so I thought it was an appropriate time to give a bit of an update on what's happening with me as I continue to fight cancer.

I originally went public with diagnosis back in February and you can read more about this in my original Living with Cancer post.

I don't remember a lot about the weeks leading up to my first treatment. It was just a whirlwind of appointments and scans and we were just trying to come to terms with the diagnosis.

My treatment journey started at the Cancer Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury. I just had time for one round of treatment before we made the big family move up from Bucks to Cheshire. We had to time our move around my treatment dates.

Then once we'd moved, it was another series of appointments at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in the Wirral including meeting my new oncologist. I was found to be HER2+ so my treatment plan was changed and I had my first round Christmas week. Not great timing and I was pretty wiped out over the Christmas period. The day of my first treatment was when the ward were all dressed up for Christmas so at least this took my mind off things.

I also took the decision to have my hair shaved off on Christmas Eve. It was coming out in great clumps and I was getting more and more upset every time I showered. We took the kids along to a local barbers and I think this helped Miss A to accept that Mummy had no hair as she saw it coming off. We tried to make light of it hence the plate photos etc. I decided on a barbers as I didn't feel I could go into a hairdressers when everyone in there would be getting primped and preened ready for Christmas. This would have been more upsetting. I got used to wearing hats whenever I went out and luckily it was through the winter so I didn't look too out of place.

My treatment has been every 3 weeks with a few exceptions when it's been delayed. I had 7 rounds of this chemo treatment over a 4 month period. I was very fortunate as I got through most of it pretty unscathed with only a few side effects, mostly fatigue. I know from others, that this is definitely not the case and side effects can knock people out completely. I did end up in hospital on two occasions with neutropenic sepsis. Luckily both times I was only in for 2 nights as the hardest part was being away from the kids.

We were so fortunate that for every treatment, we had family members on hand who came and looked after the kids so that Mr MoaB could accompany me on my treatment days. They are long tiring days even though it's mostly a lot of waiting around in between getting bloods done, seeing the oncologist and then having the treatment itself. A massive thankyou to each of them for their support.

Next door to the Cancer Centre is a Maggie's Centre and this has always provided a welcome haven on the long days. There's always a friendly smile awaiting and free refreshments including an endless supply of biscuits. It's nice to have somewhere relaxing to go away from the waiting room of the Cancer Centre.

At the end of my chemo treatment in April, I rang the bell at the Cancer Centre. Even though I knew my treatment was ongoing, it felt important to mark this milestone and I got more emotional than I thought I would.

I was to continue on a 3-weekly treatment plan of Herceptin and Pertuzumab indefinitely from this point. I started to go to the Cancer Centre on my own so that Mr MoaB could look after the kids.

Originally I had a PICC line inserted for my treatment but then I became allergic to the dressings that were applied so it had to be removed. It was great for treatment so I didn't have to have a cannula each time but it was a bit of a pain as you had to keep it dry when in the shower with a big cover, I couldn't go swimming with the kids and it had to be flushed and re-dressed every week between treatment by the district nurses. I opted to have Portacath inserted in my arm instead which sits under the skin and means I can go swimming etc. It's brilliant.

My Breast Cancer Nurse had nominated us for a Special Day through the Willow Foundation. This fantastic charity offer special days to seriously ill young adults. We asked to go on a family holiday to Center Parcs and they made all the arrangements for us to spend 4 nights at Sherwood Forest in June. It was just what we needed after everything we'd been through over the preceding year. We had the perfect weather and enjoyed some amazing family time together.

We enjoyed a great summer and I made sure I made the most of the time with Miss A before she started school in September. I actually felt really good and was definitely managing okay on my new regime of drugs. However, my body had other ideas and I was told at the end of August that I would need more chemo. This time a drug called Kadcyla. It came as a complete blow as I thought the other drugs must be working as I felt so well. But so be it. I have now had 4 rounds of this drug and again seem to be getting away with very few side effects (touch wood this continues).

Fortunately I shouldn't lose my hair this time which is good as it's growing back nicely. When I tell people about my cancer for the first time, they are always shocked as you really wouldn't have any idea from the outside! That's a good thing. I obviously never look that ill even on my off days!

I have found a great support network with the Younger Breast Cancer Network. They have various groups depending on your diagnosis and location in the country. It's always nice to know I can go on their to chat or ask questions with those going through what we are. It can be hard to read some posts but that's the reality of this disease. There are so many young women who have cancer and many who like me have young kids. We need to keep fighting.

Throughout this whole time, it is the kids who have helped me stay focused and not mull on it all. I just have to get up everyday and be Mum for them. Master R is still too young to understand any of it and Miss A just knows that Mummy goes to hospital every few weeks and has an 'ouchy' in her arm but it it doesn't impact her day to day and I hope that continues for a long time to come.

And of course I couldn't have got through all of this without the unfailing support of close friends and family, but mostly Mr MoaB. It's tough and it will continue to be so, but we have our wedding booked now for next year so we have something to focus on and look forward to next year. Thank you Mr MoaB.

So that's where we're at. It's been quite a year. It's hard thinking back but I wanted to record my journey for the kids to read in the future. I have one more treatment this year and then fortunately my next treatment won't be until 9th January so I can enjoy the festive period and Miss A's school holidays without any stress or side effects. Yeay!

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