Yesterday was a year, since I finished the radiotherapy I had after chemo and I just had the Herceptin till March but the main treatment for my breast cancer was over.
Shortly after this, I went away and was very apprehensive in case something happened, as for eight months the Royal Marsden Chelsea has been my safe haven.
Now a year has passed and what have I achieved since then?
I gave up work in February at Coming Home where I did fundraising for injured service personnel to adapt their homes. Off I went on my holiday to Africa, which I had waited two years for and it was amazing, just what the doctor ordered.
On my return however, I worried about what would I do with my time and enrolled to volunteer as a Friend at the Marsden Chelsea and have not looked back.
Firstly, I had to complete the Marsden March, 14 miles (half a marathon) which I did and managed that, to my surprise where I raised over £1,250.
So, the Friends volunteering well I love it, some people ask how I can work in a cancer hospital and are around patients who have cancer. My answer has always been simple, it’s like being at home and I believe that it helps the recovery period and I can also give some comfort to patients.
I do ‘meet & greet’ and whereas I don’t remember asking for assistance on my journey, I wish I had as everyone is lovely. I also do the Friends Shop and recently I have started doing a water tray in outpatients on a Thursday afternoon and enjoy it all.
Only this morning, after a few weeks of banter, Mr Gross who always says, that when I am sat on the stool by the reception, that I look like I am on the naughty step, charming. Anyway, it turns out his daughter Laura has been writing a blog about her journey and what an inspiration she is at 27 years old. It’s worth a look www.findingcyril.com.
After your treatment, you have a six months check up and then you go onto Open Access for the next five to ten years which is where I am at with annual mammograms. Though you do have access to the aftercare treatments.
I developed a frozen shoulder as a result of the operation, stress through past job and carrying artworks which has been going on for about a year now and I am pleased to say it is finally in the thawing stage. The pain I have had as a result, I can safely say is more than the operation itself and the treatment. The frozen shoulder got me down as it was inhibiting and as a result I over compensated other parts of my body, as it was the right shoulder and I am right handed. But as it thaws thanks to swimming, exercise and tennis and elevating stress, I believe with physio starting again on Friday I should be back to new soon.
I have a number of friends who have advised me to change my lifestyle and diet and I have always said I didn’t believe it and I don’t believe in a big change is healthy. Anyway, the hot flushes at night brought by early menopause are not fun and a friend who was at the same stage said stop drinking red wine and chocolate after midday. Immediately I started this and wow it stopped, it worked.
Then, fast forward to six weeks ago, I noticed I was craving sugar all the time and started to have the gremlin in my head telling me all kinds of things, the biggest which some of you may relate to, was it was back.
I went to the GP and told them my concerns as it wasn’t the general weight gain that comes with Tamoxifen –I then learnt that you also had lymph nodes in the breast area and lymphedema was not only the arm. Big mistake, as I took to the internet something I have always been very against and within two days I had self-diagnosed it was truncal lymphedema and it was back and maybe even spread to my liver. Boy how the brain can get carried away and play scenarios and I was carrying it myself not wanting to share with friends and family. So, I make an appointment and had 48 hours of hell, as not only did I have swelling but another lump had appeared. I can’t thank Nikki in the Open Access Team and the Rapid Diagnostic Unit (RDAC) as they were amazing and after a rollercoaster of 3 hours in clinic, where I had a scan, a meeting with the nurse and the consultant and told it was nothing to be worried about.
The next day I saw Shannon in Lymphedema and again nothing just a little swelling and with exercises and lymphatic massage it will be fine. I have a piece of padding which looks corrugated so must attractive by the end of the day as the imprint is very evident.
I believe the thawing process of the frozen shoulder and my sugar cravings all erupted and it was another wake up call for me. As a result, I have not had alcohol for two weeks, well a couple of vodka and soda and lime but only liquorice and I don’t even craze it. I am now have lymphatic massage and yesterday was the first and already I can feel a difference, so thank you Patricia, alongside my exercises and on Friday I start physio again with Megan, so my worrying is over.
I always tell people to be positive and avoid the internet and this was the first time I did not practise what I preach. I am embarrassed to admit but I wrote emails, letters and started to plan a wedding and funeral all in one. So, the moral of this story is don’t stop communicating and sharing concerns and know that in the Marsden they have trained nurses to hear it all.
I believe that I am where I am now is thanks to the support I get from everyone at the Marsden and especially Karin on Wallace Reception and a number of the Friends Volunteers and that is why I enjoy being a volunteer, giving back to the place that saved my life, not once but twice.