I’m fundraising…. twice

I know that some people would consider me one of those annoying people who is constantly fundraising and yes I have to put my hands up and admit to being one of them but the way I look at it, is that even if I raise £1 that’s £1 that my chosen charity wouldn’t have had before.

So I have decided to combine the celebration of my “End of Treatment” party on the 1st June with a fundraising opportunity. So on the actual night I will be holding a raffle and will be collecting donations but my biggest fundraising tool is an online auction that I am running currently.  I have been asking friends, relatives, local and national companies for help with donating items that can be sold online.  I have been astounded by their generosity and have managed to get some fantastic items which can be found at: http://www.tiggertots.co.uk/auction

Information on the whole event and reasons why can be found here: http://www.tiggertots.co.uk

 

Ok my second fundraising event is a bit more regular!  I am taking part in Race for Life at Gloucester Park in Gloucester on Sunday 23rd June 2013.   I was lucky to be asked by Cancer Research if I would be willing to use my story to feature in an article about Race for Life so last week I was in the local papers!

Glos Citizen 090513

Anyone wishing to sponsor me please do 🙂 – http://www.justgiving.com/Amanda-Westlake1

Please help me in anyway that you can, it will mean such a lot 🙂 xx

 

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Catch Up

I know I havent written anything for quite some time on here so I apologise for that, I have found the last few weeks have gone so fast it has been a blur and to be honest I dont really know if I am coming or going!

I am now three weeks clear of all of my treatments!  Wahoo!  <<does a little dance>> I finished my Radiotherapy on the 24th of April.  I have to say that I found the Radiotherapy to be a piece of cake compared to the chemo.  Yes its inconvenient going in every day especially at middle day, but the appointments were quick and on time.  No more waiting for hours in the depressing Oncology Waiting Room.  The staff and nurses were lovely, it felt like there was more interaction with them than before, but I think that was more to do with how I was feeling, I was more relaxed and didnt get nervous before the treatments like I did for my chemo.

Each session took around 10 mins, with the exception of the first couple which took longer as they were setting up and preparing me and describing what is going to happen.   I didnt find any of the Radiotherapy process scary, in fact I was almost captivated by the machines and the way they move around you and the technology is amazing!

I found myself quite often escaping to another place in my head and would actually almost doze off at times, even the nurses commented on how relaxed I was.  There is no point in getting worked up, there is nothing to worry about and it just makes it uncomfortable if you are tense as the position you have to lie in isnt the most natural feeling in the world 🙂

I found walking out of the hospital on my last day quite emotional, I had been told that quite often people find it scary when you finish as there is no structure with appointments and being around health professionals so much.  I must admit I poo pooed this, but have to admit it is real.. I walked out of there thinking…. what do I do now…..  For a brief moment I felt quite lost.

Luckily I am a positive thinker and also keep myself busy with lots of things, such as getting back to work, organising a fundraising “End of Celebration” Party, being part of the committee for Gloucestershire Pride and so on….. I think sometimes I take on too much, but other times I just love it!

I have found I have good days and bad days emotionally, mostly good but when I get tired I get quite down as I feel frustrated at not doing what I want to do. I have returned to work now, my first week was a 4 dayer and I did mornings only and that was ok.  I felt ok during the week but the weekend, wow I was hit for six!   I was as much use as a chocolate tea pot!  I had all these plans of tidying the flat so that I can get an estate agent round to get it valued.  I am really keen to move now, I am desperate for a place with a garden and have seen a place I fell for so am itching to get things into place but tidying my flat is my nemesis!

This is my second week back at work and I did my first full day yesterday and boy oh boy did I feel tired afterwards!  I had to man up and get my tired butt to choir, as I have joined a choir in Cheltenham that is part of the Everyman Theatre.  I am the only “true” newbie this term as everyone else has been going for some time now so clever me joins when they have a massive concert happening in July!  All 8 everyvoice choirs are joining on the main stage to perform songs and guess which choir pretty much sings every song…. yup mine!  So I have shit loads to learn and I am struggling so any tips from my actor chums on how to learn lyrics would be most gratefully received!

Links to the show: http://www.everymantheatre.org.uk/m-shows/ev-one-voice-everyvoice-concert/

Well that’s it for now I am going to write a post about my End of Celebration Fundraiser.  🙂  Ta ra xx

Ladies and Gentlemen its time for Radiotherapy Planning

Well tomorrow is scheduled to be my last chemo session, I feel a strange sense of relief that its nearly over, then also pretty nervous about it as the last few chemo sessions have made me feel pretty yukky, which is understandable as I knew that the more sessions I had the greater the impact would be.  But I know that compared to a lot of people I am lucky that it hasnt affected me hugely, but then if I look at some of the stuff thats happened, I know it hasnt been the easiest of rides, but the main thing is that I have made it through so far and only have the one to go.

I am hoping and praying that my chemo will take place tomorrow, I am a little nervous as I have had the start of a cold for the past few days, but I am hoping that my white cells must be dealing with it as the cold hasnt progressed into a full cold yet.  I just hope there are enough of the little buggers to get the chemo tomorrow!  So attention little white cells, I want you all present and correct for tomorrow ok!!

Well today is my Radiotherapy Planning day, I will have my first CT scan and then they will mark where the radiotherapy will take place, so that each time I come in for radiotherapy the machine will line up with these dots they put on my body and hey presto I should be out within ten minutes.  Well thats my understanding anyway.

I went in last week for a chat with the Radiotherapy trials nurse, as I have been invited/accepted to take part in a Radiotherapy Clinical Trial. This is paid for by Cancer Research UK which is a cause very close to my heart so I am glad its something for them, as I have done a fair bit of fundraising for them over the past few years.

Well the clinical trial is called Import High and today once I sign to say I want to do it (which I will) I will get entered into the computer and allocated at random one of the following radiotherapy treatments:

IMPORT High is looking at radiotherapy after surgery for breast cancer in women with an average or above average risk of the cancer coming back (recurring).

It is recruiting 840 women in the UK into 3 groups

  • Group 1 has standard radiotherapy of 15 daily doses of radiotherapy to the whole breast and 8 doses of radiotherapy to the area of the breast where the tumour was
  • Group 2 has a boost dose of radiotherapy to the area of the breast where the lump used to be. At the same time a medium dose of radiotherapy is given to the area around this, and a low dose to the rest of the breast. The treatment takes 3 weeks.
  • Group 3 has a similar treatment to group 2, but the boost dose is a bit higher.

More info on the trial can be found here if anyone is interested:  http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-help/about-cancer/cancer-questions/what-is-the-import-trial-for-breast-cancer

Now initially when I was given my radiotherapy schedule it had me down for 3 weeks, starting on the 4th April and ending on the 24th April so I thought I was accepted for either Group 2 or Group 3 trial, but I found out last week that they just schedule me in for 3 weeks as thats the minimum time I will need radiotherapy, so I could end up with the 4.5 weeks anyway so I was a bit disappointed with that news.  As the thought of driving in to Cheltenham Mon-Fri daily for 10-15 mins of Radiotherapy is a bit pants!  I’d rather the higher dose 3 week schedule and get it over with, even if I do end up with a glowing sun burnt boob lol 🙂

Apparantly I should find out tomorrow what schedule I am on, so will have to keep my fingers crossed.

One thing I am looking forward to is the CT scan today, I have never had one and I have seen it on the tv loads and find it fascinating,  Apparantly they scan my breast to see the exact area that the surgery took place and apparantly there should be some “clips” left in the area the tumour was removed so that the radiotherapy planning can line up with them to enable them to precisely target the right area.  I have to admit I nearly jumped off my seat when they told me that, what do you mean there are clips left inside of me, so I plan on finding out more today!

CT Scanner aka The Stargate!

Anyone else look at this and think of the Stargate TV Series?? or is it just me??? I can pretend lol

I will be so glad when the chemo is over, to start with I found I coped with it pretty well, but now the thought of that toxic crap going into me makes me feel physcially sick.  My right arm is knackered from it, my veins are hard and lumpy, even the main vein down my arm is hard.  They dont tell you about those side affects when you go in.  I wish I had known as I would have fought for either a PIC line or a Central Line if I had known.  I cant stretch my right arm out fully as the vein is quite sore and feels like an elastic band that wont stretch, I have been told it will get better but can take around a year to heal.  So it makes me very aware how toxic that stuff it, no wonder my veins shrink when the needles come out.  They cannot use my left arm as thats the side I had my lymph nodes removed so that arm is shouting hey use me, save the right arm but the Drs and Nurses say Noooooo.

I just hope it all goes ok tomorrow, as I am an emotional wreck when I go in now, I have cried the last couple of times when they are struggling to get my veins for either the blood test or the actual chemo.  I dont like getting upset there as there are so many other people going through alot worse or even new people coming in for the first time, they must be nervous as hell, they dont want to see someone crying as it would upset them, but sadly my control on my waterworks (hmmm I mean tears not bladder lol) is useless, they just keep making my eyes leak lol.  I have no control on them 🙂

Right time to get dressed and prepared for today, lots to take in and I must ask questions 🙂

Toodle Pip!  🙂 xx

Chemo 4 – Over half way

Well today is the day of my 4th chemo session so as long as all goes well I should be well into my second half of my chemo treatment. I can’t say it’s been an easy journey as its been a case of a few little things making my journey all the more testing.

Mainly my teeth have continued to be the Bain of my life since my second treatment. Despite the tow bottom wisdom teeth being removed I still get a lot of pain from my teeth around the wisdom teeth area and it shoots along the jaw which leads me to think the chemo must affect the nerves in my jaw. This has meant a lot of sleepless nights and broken sleep which has got me down.

I also had problems with constipation and getting sore because of this so am now on laxatives which helped and can now take as and when I need to as its likely to be an ongoing issue with each chemo session.

I also had a bit of a scare with the breast lump area as last week this suddenly became very sore and tender and I didn’t Know why so I went to the Dr and had an X-ray and noticed on the notes something about her wanting to check for bone abnormalities. I have to admit I was pretty scared about this as I thought maybe the cancer had spread to my bones but luckily I got the all clear and there was nothing to worry about.

I have found my chest has become pretty tender in the last two weeks, it’s the chest lining apparently, I can only liken it to when you run till you can’t breathe and the chest pain you feel temporarily when you stop, it’s like that. This has meant I get out of breath easily and even simple things can tire me out.

I am resigned to the fact that my teeth are likely to continue to play up until the chemo is well and truly over and the drugs have left my system. So have to ensure I am well and truly stocked in ibuprofen, paracetamol and co-codomol or similar pain killers. I don’t like taking them but the pain from not taking them far outweighs that!

Emotionally I have done a lot better than last time, it feels a more steady and even path with ups and downs, I haven’t felt quite so withdrawn and empty but the recent snow did mean I have spent a lot of time alone in my flat and although I am quite happy with this most of the time, I did get a bit lonely and felt cut off but the last few days have been better. This also meant I couldn’t get to Di’s last weekend as the snow meant the journey was too treacherous and I was scared of being snowed in at hers, as the previous weekend I had a terrible time with my teeth being so painful and I felt quite anxious about being away from home and the hospital. In the end I had to drive to Gloucester Royal for treatment from the dental team which at one point I didn’t think I would be able to drive so it scared me.

This weekend, I’m hoping Di can make it down here, but the snow is still bad with her so we are having to play it by ear and see so as a backup plan I have come to mums as its going to be a long day at the hospital as mum has an appointment at 9:15 to see her eye specialist and is going to have her eyes dilated so she can’t drive for sometime, my first appointment is at 11:20 so we will go for 9 and do mums appt then mine then wait for results of my blood test and then chemo should be at 3pm ish. But anyone who knows what it’s like waiting for chemo etc will know they are always running at least 90 mins late so I can see its going to be an all dayer. Last time I didn’t leave till gone 7pm and my appt was earlier.

Well I’m going to sign off now as its time to get up so I will be in touch after today with updates on how it went.

Oh last time my chemo took ages as my veins keep contracting so I dread to think what they will be like today. My right arm hurts where the vein is obviously damaged from the chemo and they struggle to take blood now so it’s not nice. They can’t use my left arm because I had the lymph nodes removed so it won’t be long till my feet come into play I reckon.

Ta Ta For Now xx

Neutropenia is a stronger force

Well I know I haven’t written for a while but I was going to write about the wisdom teeth pain I’ve been having. Last treatment my wisdom teeth hurt a little bit but this time it’s been a lot worse, it’s been a chronic pain for 4 days and I’ve been taking paracetamol like they’re sweets.

I came home from Di’s yesterday and felt really cold, so I went to bed and still couldn’t warm up so I had a nice hot bath. That felt amazing but I felt a bit dizzy afterwards so went back to bed. After a while I got too hot so took my temperature and it was 39 so I rang the chemo helpline and they said to come in.

So I had to ring my mum to ask if she could take me in. This was around 9pm and by the time we got in it was 10pm. A friend of the family had also come in and she looked awful so was a bit shocking.

I had my bloods taken after about an hour and had to wait about 3hrs before the doctor came to see me. I felt rough as a badgers bum, my teeth were killing me and they couldn’t give me anything.

My temp had come down to 37.5 so a lot better. I thought I’d be ok then.

Around 1am I was told I would have to stay in as my white cell count was so low. I was gutted as I wasn’t expecting it.

Around 2am I got taken up to the ward and there was some emergency going on so nurses were running left right and centre so I was shown to my bed and then had to wait 40mins before they came to check my vitals. My temp was still low and they gave me some painkillers so eventually I settled in to try to sleep.

Hmmm that didn’t last long, snoring, coughing, footsteps and talking kept me awake most of the night. They woke one lady at 5 and then the rest at 6.

A few hours later I finally got some painkillers as my teeth were killing me. I’ve had antibiotics (on my second dose now) and have been on a saline drip for the past 4 hours.

The doctor examined me and checked my teeth, she’s going to refer me to the dental team so they can see what’s happening with my teeth. They mentioned X-rays but I’m still waiting to hear on that.

So I may be in for a few days, I’m not sure. The nurse said its likely while my neutropenia is still low I will have to stay in.

I’m hoping to be out in time for sat, as I’ve organised a Christmas Party and will be gutted if I have to miss it 😦

A Few Days On – Post First Chemo

Well I had my chemo on Monday and reported all was ok in the afternoon and in most respects it was to be fair, but I have to report the side effects that happened after.

Around 3pm on Monday I suddenly felt violently sick and was so, this seemed to come out of the blue a bit so caught me on the hop slightly, my Dad had come to visit me so was a bit of a “there one minute and gone the next” lol.  After that I pretty much continued to be sick regularly until Tuesday 7:30pm when I ended up going to the Out of Hours Doctors at Cirencester Hospital after speaking to the chemo helpline and they advised I should call the out of hours and get given an anti sickness injection there.  Once this was done (into my arm) I started to feel better.  I was able to drink and keep fluids down as I was pretty dehyrated by this point.

I managed to eat some toast and lunch the next day followed by a hearty supper, so everything was looking up.  After the meal Mum and I watched “Water with Elephants” the lovely movie that Di had lent me.  During the film I kept thinking that it was going blurry so was squinting and rubbing my eyes but put it down to being tired.  I went to bed feeling ok and was looking forward to heading home on Thursday as I needed to sort out clothes for a family funeral on Friday and also I had a family party with Di on Saturday and I felt it was time for me to come home and check my post and leave Mum and Ron in peace.

I got up early, packed my bags and started wandering out to the car and felt all dizzy and my vision was even worse, I carried on for a bit but after a while I told mum my vision was blurry and basically got upset as I so wanted to be able to nip home and retain some normality and Di had said she wanted to pop down and see me for the evening.  Mum persuaded me to stay put for longer and not to worry.  So I rang the chemo helpline and they said it was probably down to the Dexamethasone anti sickness drugs that I was on as that could cause blurred vision.  Knowing that was a huge relief, especially when she said once I stop taking it (Thursday night was my last dose) it should start to wear off.

Thankfully that appears to be true, so now I am sat at home having ironed my clothes for the funeral this afternoon and have put the heating back on as its frickin freezing in my flat as I turned it all off while I was away.  So I shall return home tonight then head to Di’s on Saturday in the day light as I will feel safer driving then.

So thats all for now folks xx

All Clear :-)

I know I havent written on here for a while, mainly because I havent really had much to say, I have been in a lot better place than I was immediately after surgery, as I did feel pretty down in the dumps at that point.

All Clear :-)

All Clear 🙂

Well the good news is that the results came through as all clear from my second surgery and no further cancer was found in my breasticle.  🙂 So that was a relief, for once my gut instinct was right!  I had a feeling all would be ok this time, I had prepared myself slightly for the news that it wasnt all clear and had started to process the thought of losing the entire breast.  I have to admit that this did scare me, so I didnt want to put too much thought into it, just in case it wasnt needed, which is what happened.  But just for blogging info, I would have been happy to have a masectomy, what I couldnt get my head round was whether to go for reconstruction or not.  Initially it hadnt even occured to me to have reconstruction, it wasnt until I mentioned it to my mum that she said she presumed that of course I would have a reconstruction.  I replied saying I hadnt even thought of it, I was prepared to not have it and she was shocked to say the least.

It did make me giggle as she said something along the lines of “when you are of a certain shape and have larger lumps and bumps than some, the lack of a bump will make you look uneven” so in other words, as I have a more than ample bosom, only having one would be a little odd 🙂

I guess I had just presumed I would lose that shape and I would wear a prosthetic boob and carry on like that. This opened up another can of worms, my thought process was going along the lines that I would rather lose the lot and know it has all gone.  I guess if the decision had gone that way I would have sought more advice and information and seen what my options were.

During my results appointment, I showed the Breast Care Nurse the swelling in the area where the lump had been removed as once again it felt like it had filled up and was feeling tight and I was noticing it when extending my arm as it felt restrictive.  She said she would get the Consultant to check it out as she may decide to draw off some of the seroma.  I also showed her the speckled bruising/rash that had appeared on the underside of my boob over the last few days.   I remember thinking that post surgery bruising was a lot less this time, I only had one small bruise so wasnt sure why this bruising had appeared, it wasnt a typical bruise, it was almost speckled.

The consultant took a look and did an ultra sound on the lump area and agreed to remove some of the seroma fluid and said that the speckled bruise/rash was a bruise and it was due to everything settling down and actually pushing down slightly due to the tissue being removed from the top, she said I was wearing the right kind of bra, to keep the support constant and it would disappear.

I was told to lie down and she asked the nurse to get a 50ml syringe, ok I had no idea how big a 50ml syringe was….. OH BOY it looked huge when she came over with it… I thought she cant possibly fill that….. pah… she did!  lol!  I once again was fascinated watching the ultra sound screen as she drew off the liquid, I could see the big gap in my boob and it moving as the fluid was drawn off.  Closing in really.  The Consultant advised I may notice a dip from now on, as the fluid was packing it out, this didnt bother me really, I would rather have a dip than feeling tight and over stretched….. (hmmmmm that sounds rude ha ha!)

Once that was drawn off, I had a little plaster put on and could get dressed.  The Consultant then advised that basically I would now be handed over to a different department, I would now come under the Oncology department rather than the Breast Care Clinic.  I have to admit I felt a little strange hearing this, I have only seen this woman 4-5 times, but she has played such a massive role in my life in such a short time.  Thanks to her and her team I am now cancer free!

I think I felt sadder knowing I might not see the nurse again, she is a lovely lady and has been so supportive and kind and I have enjoyed my appointments with her.  She did say that no matter what, I can still call them, as that is what they are there for, just because I am now under the Oncology department, doesnt mean I cant speak to them anymore, so that was nice.

The nurse also told me that my hair would fall out, apparantly with Breast Cancer, the type of chemo they give you does mean it will fall out as a lot of people had told me, mine might not fall out.  It still doesnt bother me, I am actually pretty curious about it, I wont shave my head when it starts happening, I will see how it goes, I want to leave it to fall out naturally as much as I can, but having said that, my clippers do call me to use them on occasions and its rude not to 🙂

Someone who also obeys the call of the clippers!!

Someone who also obeys the call of the clippers!!

I have not long had a phone call to say my first appointment with the Oncologist is this Weds.   Luckily it is after work so that makes it a lot easier, as I do feel bad taking so much time off work.

I will write another post shortly on emotions as I wanted to keep this one a bit seperate 🙂