Saturday, 29 June 2013

And the wait goes on

Hi everyone!

Well, I am still waiting to hear if I need radiotherapy! The MDT meeting a few weeks ago decided that I should be referred to the Royal Marsden in Sutton to discuss my options with the gynae clinical oncologist. Apparently this doesn't mean that I definitely need radiotherapy, but I guess if they are going to the trouble of referring me, then on balance I'm more likely to need it than not! Anyway, I am still awaiting this appointment, so life is a bit on hold in case I need to have radiotherapy, which could mean treatment every weekday for 5 weeks down in Sutton - fun, fun, fun!

I'm the meantime ...

Last Monday I went to see the gynae surgeon again, to have a review of my HRT and get the results of my bone density scan that I had last week. This scan was just really there to get a base line for future scans as they check me for any signs of osteoporosis (something that I am at risk of having gone through the menopause early). Well, the scan results came back fine and I'm next due to have one in a couple of years. My hormone levels are within the normal range as well, so I'm sticking with the HRT I'm currently on for now. With these two pices of news, the surgeon discharged me from the gynae service and I'm now in the hands of my GP for all things HRT related. I am now trying to work my way through the pile of books that are recommended reading from the Daisy Network (a charity that works with women who have gone through early menopause for various reasons). Amazon always does well out of me!

With my sick note (or whatever it's called these days) expiring last Wednesday, Thursday marked a return to work for me! This was exciting and I was glad to get back to the office and catch up with some of my friends. I must admit though, I've kind of got used to having 9 months off at a time, so going back after just 7 weeks felt a bit odd. Of course, I may be having a radiotherapy holiday again yet, but I think working again is a good step! For the time being, I am just working part time whilst I continue to return to full strength, so I can't be totally to blame again for the weather yet! (You will notice that the weather is showing signs of improvement though, now I'm back ;-))

Last Sunday I took part in the Race for Life at Crystal Palace Park. It was a great atmosphere as ever and I had a lovely walk with Stacey, who's mum Jill is a lovely friend of mine. We had a lovely natter all the way around the 5km course, which we completed in the sunshine and showers in 1 hour, 10 minutes! Yay! Thank you so, so much to everyone who sponsored me! The current tally stands at £665! If anyone still wants to make a donation, here's my page:
Race for Life sponsor page

Today, I've been a bit of an armchair sports fan and may have given myself an injury by straining my thumb using the remote control! ;-) I've managed to clock up watching the 2nd Lions rugby test, the British F1 Grand Prix qualifying, Laura Robson's tennis match at Wimbledon, the final few laps of the Moto GP, the IPC athletics Grand Prix in Birmingham and the highlights of the Tour de France! I think I now have square eyes! It's certainly been a tense day to be a British sports fan!! It's probably a good thing that I am back at work now to get me away from the tele! ;-) Just to reassure you, in amongst it all I did go for a bit of a walk in the sunshine to top up my vitamin D levels and restock the fridge from sainsburys! All in all a 'busy' day!

One last thing for today, can I just say a massive thank you to all the British armed forces, past and present, on Armed Forces Day 2013.

XXX

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The sun has got his hat on ...

.... Hip hip hip hooray! 

Yes, I seem to have some lovely weather for my continuing recovery from surgery. This makes me very happy and I am making the most of it by getting out for a walk each day :-)

In other news, apparently my name wasn't on the list for discussion at the Gynae MDT meeting on Monday, so as yet there is no decision on radiotherapy yet. Apparently I'm on the list for next Monday's meeting. Oh how I love to wait! 

Xxx

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Something suspicious that glows

Over the last few months I have been again been back under the microscope as the clever peeps look for some way to explain why my cancer markers were rising. Back in January, my routine 3 monthly checkup showed that the little buggers had risen from the all time low of 8 at the end of chemo last October. Anyway, this prompted a CT scan and colonoscopy. The latter showed up nothing worrying, just a couple of small polyps that were removed. The CT scan however, picked up 'something' roughly in the area of my ovary - possibly a cyst. To check this, I was referred to have an ultrasound. This was done and nothing was found - if there was a cyst, it had apparently burst, as these things do. This all took me to March. The day after my birthday I got the news that the cancer markers were still going up, so it was decided that a PET scan would be a good idea, to see if there were any areas that picked up the radioactive glucose more than it should.

I had a bit of a shock when it came to finding out that there was something not right with the scan results. I was due to get them from my oncologist a couple of weeks after the scan. On the Monday before this I got a letter in the post saying that an appointment had been made with my surgeon for the following Tuesday. This meant that there was obviously something there that needed cutting out, but what and where?! My imagination was working over time! I called my CNS nurse, but she was on holiday! I just couldn't think straight. I called my surgeon's secretary to try and get more info. My surgeon was in clinic but his secretary kindly said she would see if he could give me a call. The secretary called back and arranged for me to see the surgeon the next day rather than wait a week. Mum and Dad rushed up to London to come with me.

When we saw the surgeon, he explained that the PET scan had picked up 'something suspicious that glows' roughly in the region of my left ovary (the same area where the CT had picked up something). With the two operations I had already had, they weren't sure if and what it could be attached to as my innerds were likely not in the correct anatomical position anymore. Therefore, it could be attached to the ovary, my womb, the outside of what's left of my bowel, my bladder or the peritoneum! Cripes! The list was near endless! The best way to find out would be to open me up and then they could remove it at the same time! (Gulp) This would potentially leave me with an illiostomy, if it was attached to the outside of the bowel and therefore they would have to remove more of the bowel (I was only just able to get away without having one when I had my initial bowel surgery). I was given a surgery date of a meat two weeks later! (Gulp, gulp) To check that there were no signs from the inside of a tumour pushing in from the outside, I was to have a colonoscopy the day before the operation (triple gulp)!

As they didn't know exactly what they were going to find, I had to effectively sign a blank cheque when I consented for the operation. I had already said that if it was attached to the ovary or womb, then they could remove it. I wanted more to have the best chance of survival than worry about having children. I'm now 35 and so my chances were reducing anyway. I also think that there are plenty of children out there that need love if and when I am in a position to want a family. Besides, who knows what effect the chemo had already had!

Anyway, after long delays before the colonoscopy because of equipment problems, the scope came back fine, with no sign of any intrusion (phew). After a dinner of soup (welcome after no food for more than a day), it was finally the night before my operation. With all the unknowns, we didn't know how long I would be in hospital for or how long recovery would be. All the unknowns were a bit scary! At 7am the next morning, I was admitted. The operation didn't take place until the afternoon and the last thing I remember was going to sleep in the anesthetiser room at 12.10pm.

I woke up again around 5 hours later. My surgeon was soon at my bedside and he explained that they had found the growth on my womb and a cyst on one of my ovaries, which had become stuck together, so they had done a hysterectomy!! (Huge gulp)

I spent the next four days in hospital recovering on the ward. I was mobile a lot quicker than my first operation and with having the morphine pump to control my pain I got on better. They had cut out my original bowel surgery scar and just extended the cut a bit to access my abdomen so in effect I have had a big of a tummy tuck (not as much of one as I would like, but hey ho ;-)) the new scar is also very wiggly, which has made for some interesting times trying to get the dressings to cover it! Sometimes I think it would be easier if the surgeons could cut me the same length as the dressings and in a straight line ;-)

Sarah looked after me for the first couple of weeks at home and then I came to my parents place. It is now just over 3 weeks since the operation and I am recovering well. The staples were taken out by my surgeon when I saw him for follow up about 10 days ago. He was pleased with how everything was healing, as was my Gynae surgeon. They said that it was another bowel cancer met rather than a new type of cancer. My oncologist, who I saw a week ago, said that there was no need for chemo (yay)! I am still waiting to hear if I need radiotherapy - it will depend on how big the margins around the tumour they were able to cut out). The decision on this comes on Monday. Fingers crossed it won't be needed!

I have been very luck with being able to see friends whilst I have been in recovery and thank you all for the well wishes, cards, pressies, tweets, texts, calls etc! You are all so kind! I have decided that this will be my last adventure with cancer and am now looking forward to getting back to full health and enjoying the rest of my life - so many things to do, places to go, people to meet! And I'll now save a fortune on tampax to help me fund it! ;-)

Take care everyone

All my love

Xxx

Sunday, 28 April 2013

The madness continues - Race for Life

OK then folks, I've already been called crazy for doing this, but I am determined that I am going to complete the Race for Life at Crystal Palace Park on Sunday 23rd June 2013. This will be 46 days after my operation - plenty of time, right?!?! I need to have something positive to aim for as I recover from the operation. Anyway, the plan to run the Race this year is out of the window, but a slow shuffle should eventually cover the 5km I am sure. Does anyone know if there is a time limit??!! Maybe I can set the record for the slowest Race for Life!! ;-) 

Anyway, any ladies out there wanting to join me, here's where you sign up: 
Crystal Palace London Race for Life 2013 sign up

Of course, cheer-squads are more than welcome to help me get round the course!!! 

Oh, and if there's any spare pennies floating around, I would be very grateful for sponsors: 
Rach's Race for Life sponsor page

Thank you all

xxxxx

Pick Me Up interview

Hi folks,

Here's the interview I did with Pick Me Up magazine for Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. There's been a lot of journalistic interpretation of my story to fit the style of the magazine, but the main thing is to raise awareness.

xxxx


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

My TV appearance!

video


Here's a copy of the interview I did with BBC London News on Thursday 4th April 2013. I am not sure why it won't play on iphones or ipads - if anyone knows how to make it work, please let me know and I will try and fix it (not very technically minded at all)

xxxx

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Golly, it's been a while!

Well folks, I can't believe it has been over a month since I last wrote a post! I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome you all to winter, well if you're in the northern hemisphere anyway, and happy second day of advent! Hope that opening those little doors every morning has revealed some treats! I'm very lucky this year and have four advent calendars on the go!!!! As well as a wee bit of chocolate, I get a Liz Earle mini from their advent calendar, a mini pot of nail polish from my Ciaté one (Thank you so much Lesley and Laura for this) and on my iPhone I get a photo from A Year to Celebrate 2012 app, to remind me what a great year this has been.

Anyway, where did I leave off with this blog ... (Goes back to read last post) ....

Oh yes, I remember now ... I'd seen the registrar and they thought my scan was all clear. Well, after a week of waiting back at Mum and Dad's, I came back to London to find an answer phone message from the registrar confirming that the scan report was in and that it was indeed all clear - phew! The message had been left the Monday after I'd been to the hospital (a week before I found it), so why couldn't the registrar have called me on my mobile? They had the number! Oh well, what was done was done. Now I could get on with enjoying my time off before my planned return to work in the last week in November. Oh yes, and I was recovering from my treatment and building my strength back up ;-)

During my week at Mum and Dad's I went down to Dorset to celebrate the christening of a good friend's daughter. This was a lovely day and I really enjoyed catching up with everyone! Thank you so much Poppy for inviting me to your special day!

Half term week bought my good friend Sarah to London and with it a lovely catch up session and a trip to the cinema to see the lovely Mr Bond! ;-) I really enjoyed Skyfall but was thankful that the seats were comfy! I'd recommend seeing it if you are one of the few that hasn't already!

I think that bought me to the end of October and therefore into the month of my return to work - eek! I was feeling loads better already and my cetuximab rash was beginning to clear up, so I was looking less scarey too. A trip to the hairdessers for a colour and cut helped with this too. I was even managing to stay awake all day (no more afternoon naps). I was getting out on my walks and enjoying some lovely sessions with my yogi! It was time to start planning again. I wanted to do some sort of retreat to try and help set me on a healthy footing. Initially I wanted to try and fit something in before going back to work, but in the end I decided that I'd prefer to do something when I was sure I'd have the energy to enjoy it and make the most of the experience. Therefore, I have booked myself onto an 8 day retreat in Costa Rica in February, which I am SOOOOOOOO excited about!!!! It is aimed at people affected by cancer and as well as yoga, meditation and healthy cooking classes, there is a trek up a volcano, rainforest hikes and visits to the local villages! It all sounds so much fun and just up my street! Hopefully my sister will be able to come too, but it will depend on her work - she's just changed jobs. If she can't make it, off I go on my first holiday on my own! How have I got to be a single 34 year old without doing that before? Anyway, my aim now is to try and be as fit and healthy as I can be to make the most of my trip.

November has bought with it the opportunity to meet up with friends, both old and new. I had a lovely pamper session with Lucy, a day of culture at the Science Museum and V& A with Jo and Oliver and a lovely walk in the park with Nikki and Callan. I have also managed to meet up with some of my lovely new friends that I have met through twitter that have also been affected by bowel cancer. There are far too many of you to mention individually but it has been great to meet you all and I hope that we can meet again soon - you are all so lovely and an inspiration and so special to me - thank you! I wouldn't have got through this year without you all! A special mention must go to Paul though, who invited me to join him and his friends to go to Twickenham to watch the England v South Africa rugby match. Despite the rain and the result, I had a really fun day! Thank you sooooo much Paul! :-) Hopefully over the coming months, I will be able to meet more of my twitter family!

Friday 23rd November bought with it the return trip to the hospital to see my oncologist. I'd been to the hospital a few days before to have blood taken so that the test results would be there ready for my clinic appointment. It was time to see what the all important CEA had done in the weeks since chemo had finished. I must admit, I was very nervous about this appointment, although I knew in my head that I had done everything I could to beat the cancer and I was feeling great. Mum and Dad came up to London and Dad came with me to the hospital. After the usual wait, my oncology consultant called us through. She asked how I was and then told me that everything was looking good. The CEA was now 8, and whilst not back within the normal range, it had certainly dropped from the last time, 5 weeks earlier, and was the lowest it has ever been recorded at for me. Yay!!! As a result of this, she doesn't want to see me again until March next year! This means that my next hospital appointments are with my surgeon at the beginning of February and then with my oncologist in mid March! I can't believe that I am now working in months rather than weeks! Hooray!!!

OK, the next milestone to get through was my return to work! It seemed to come around so quick and I was really looking forward to getting back and seeing everyone again. Thankfully the 8am starts and long shifts are waiting a bit longer as my managers have agreed to let me take it slowly with a phased return. As a result, I am currently working half days and not every day. So last Sunday evening I set my alarm for going back Monday morning. This week has gone well and although I have been tired, I have still managed to have a bit of a life around work - I really didn't want to go back to work but be too tired to do anything else, even just the little things like do my grocery shopping or clean the flat, which is why I'm doing the phased return thing, even though it means a few less ££ at the end of the month. Anyway, week two beacons this week, so hopefully that will go as well as last week. I've tried to be a bit prepared and have made some stuff for lunches that are in the freezer, and planned my other meals - hopefully I'll be able to resist the pasty shop at the station again, although they smell sooo good! ;-)

Now, I know many of you will be aware that November is the month of the dodgy tash in aid of Movember, raising money for prostate cancer. Well, did you know that December is the month of the dodgy beards? Decembeard is to help raise money and awareness of bowel cancer and so is therefore an event that is close to my heart. Both Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer are hoping to get people to raise money for them by growing a beard. Now, as this is not something I can do very easily, I have decided to wear a cut out beard to raise money for both of these wonderful charities  Now the plan at the moment is to wear the beards on 27th December and I am asking for sponsors for this. I know it's not the best time of the year for spare change, with Christmas just around the corner, but if you have any spare pennies I would be ever so grateful if you could bung them my way, via www.virginmoneygiving.com/RachelVince Thanks ever so much! Now, anyway, 27th December is my first live shift back at work, so it will be 11 hours sitting in the office. I will get photographic evidence that I will be wearing my beard though and I will of course wear it too and from work on the train and when I am out and about on my lunch break. I just have to figure out how I am going to eat my lunch and drink my tea - through a straw maybe?!?

I think that's about all my news for now ....

take care everyone

xxxxx