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My Cancer treatment

What it means when I say I have Stage IV or Metastatic Breast Cancer

A couple of weeks ago we got more news about my cancer recurrence, it is the news that, ever since we were told it had come back, I knew, but I was dreading getting confirmed. 

I now officially have Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer. 

But what does that mean? What do those words, in that order mean? I'm not expecting anyone who isn't enmeshed in this world to have a clue, so, in case you've been wondering, I thought I'd break it down for you to the best of my abilities. 

Stage IV cancer - well, that's incurable cancer. In many cases it's cancer that can be managed, can be treated, in some cases, it can even disappear from your body, but it can't be cured. Not fully. So I am now officially classed as living with cancer. 

Metastatic Breast Cancer - This basically means that the cancer has spread to a different part of the body from where it started. When this happens, doctors say the cancer has “metastasized.” In my case, it has spread to the bone in my sternum and the tissue around the sternum, and the lymph nodes around them. Which is classed as bone metastases, but because it originated in my breast, it's still classed as metastatic breast cancer, rather than bone cancer. Which, let's be honest is just super confusing. 

But I hear that just as breast cancer is the 'best' cancer to get if you're going to have a mets, bone mets is the best too. Lucky me, hu? Best of both worlds! 

We have a new cancer plan!



Last week we had a meeting with my oncology team about the plan for my treatment. I don’t quite know what I was expecting, but it was a bit of an anti-climax, and I’ve been in this weird sort of funk ever since.

In the interest of being all open and informative; here’s the news on my cancer. I am now living with cancer. Stage IV/metastatic breast cancer in my bone, (do not google it. It's not worth it. The stats are based on old people getting this shit!) 

It’s my my sternum bone, there is about a 1 inch square we think, and then it’s in a couple of lymph nodes in my neck and then, more surprisingly, in a bunch of lymph nodes across my chest. Surprising because I literally know nothing about the body and I didn’t even know you had lymph nodes in the places mine have become cancerous. Who knew there were lymph node between your ribs? And, if I remember correctly, in the tunnels that connect your lungs. Well, I am sure that those of you who are doctors knew, but me. Nope.

And so, because of all the lymph nodes, and the fact my cancer is ER+ (6/8 for those of you in this world) my treatment plan will involve putting me in the menopause - so hot flushes (yay), mood swing (because I need more of those), weight gain (again, no more required) – that sort of thing. Before putting me on a couple of other meds to stop all the oestrogen in my body being made, or absorbed, or something. And a bone strengthening treatment. And a tablet form of chemo.
All of which is there to keep me stable. To stop the cancer from growing. And moving.

I’ll be monitored for 6 months and we’ll see how I am getting on. If I’m doing well, then they’ll keep me on these meds for life, well, as long as they are working. If it’s not going so well, then there is always IV chemo to move to. The big guns, I guess.

So why the anti-climax?
Well, I’ve just been so tired and in quite a lot of pain for such a long time now that foolishly I had it in my head that we’d get to the hospital and they’d tell me the plan, and miraculously I’d have time to rest and not be tired and they’d do something so instantly I’d not be in pain anymore and things would get better.

But the plan being as it is, I’ll just be expected to carry on as normal. Much like last time when I didn’t lose my hair and could still pick up a blusher brush, the world will assume I am perfectly fine and able to do everything I could before, only inside I’ll still be tired and in pain. And  I won’t have time to get untired – I’ll be working as normal, I'll still want to do things at weekends so my life isn't all work, and I'll still be wanting to take the dogs for their walks. And the bone strengthening can take a while to even start working, let alone stop me being in pain.

I’m not sure what REALLY I expected to happen. Maybe I thought somehow, having incurable cancer might make me exempt from the boring minutiae of everyday life, maybe I thought I might suddenly find some enlightenment to make this new, shorter time scale I have been given, more meaningful. Or, at least, in my dreams I hoped I'd win the lottery to balance out this crap, and that would allow me to be a lady of leisure…….

But instead it’s back to worrying about traffic on the way to work, and hating on our (tiled) kitchen counters but unable to afford a new kitchen, and trying to find the right shade of boxed hair dye in Boots. Minutiae at it’s very best.

I know I should be grateful for the opportunity to carry on with these things, but quite frankly I am fed up with being made to feel I should be grateful for anything that involves cancer! Although, I will get a blue badge, so no more searching for a space in Tesco's carpark, so maybe I ought to be more grateful than I am!

House Update: A Bedroom Makeover

The bedroom was always quite far down the list of rooms we would revamp, I can't really remember why I assume it was something to do with it being functional. But at some point last year I decided functional was not enough and started ripping out the build in wardrobes we had in there. Pretty much forcing our hand to make over the room.

This is what the room looked like when we moved in. 70's built-in wardrobes that didn't fit our bed between them, green carpets, the wallpaper had faint yellow stripes and the fireplace was, well, orange.......
It's pretty interesting right? But we sort of sucked it up and lived with it. Changing up the curtains, painting that orange, trying to make it liveable. But, then I cracked......... I just couldn't live with it anymore. I wanted a nice bedroom....... And I couldn't be happier with the results. 
Once the wardrobes had been ripped out we then had the fun job of taking the wallpaper off the walls. It turned out, that behind the wardrobes was more of the woodchip that keeps appearing in the house! So much fun. And taking off the wallpaper revealed even more walls in need of plastering. 

If you're in Sheffield I can't recommend Jon at J S Plastering enough. He totally helped us out when a plasterer we've used a few times before let us down, and did a fab job too! We ended up having all the walls plastered and the ceiling boarded. There was woodchip on the ceiling and our electrician had warned us not to try and remove it as he thought it might bring the ceiling down, so the best option was to cover it. I'm sure there will be people who are distraught about the removal of the original features of the woodchip (I'm looking at you Apartment Therapy readers) but hell, it had to go!
I've had the idea of what I wanted the room to look like for a long time. Navy blue wall behind the bed, white everywhere else. But finding the colours was the big issue. I wasn't sure which blue to go for, and then Pantone released their shades for 2018, and their Sailor Blue from the Spring Classic colours was just perfect. Luckily there are quite a few places you can get paint made up to any colour you like near me, so as soon as I saw it, I knew it could happen. 

Just as it happens, I had applied to be part of the Valspar Paint Club and a few weeks before the painting was due to start, they got in touch to say I'd been selected, which meant that we could use their vouchers, and the colour matching paint mixing service to paint the room. 

We used their V700 premium paint and went with a custom mixed Pantone shade on the blue wall, and I chose to use their 'Blank Space' white on the other walls. I'm not a fan of a harsh white and this one has a slight grey feel to it that was just what I wanted. 
As we'd ripped out the wardrobes we had, we popped to Ikea and picked up an entire wall of their PAX wardrobes. Jim has two double wardrobes, one of which has drawers in them, and I have a double and a single wardrobe. Jim spent the Christmas break putting them together for us, and installing lighting to insides of them. I can honestly say, there's nothing that makes me feel more grown-up than opening my wardrobes to be met with lights. My 16-year-old self would be disgusted in how happy that simple thing makes me.

He did a totally amazing job of building and fitting them though.
As we have so much Ikea furniture in the room already (our budget didn't run to new beds or a new dresser for me quite yet) I did want to avoid getting my vanity from there, but, and honestly, I searched and search, I just couldn't find a thing in my price range that I liked from elsewhere. So, I went with a Micke desk as my dresser, and bought an Eames style chair to sit in front of it. 

My beautiful friend, Liz, made me that amazing blanket for a Christmas gift knowing what colours the bedroom would be. Isn't it just perfect...... 
One of my favourite little touches are the Made.com sconce lights. I love the pop of white on the blue walls and it also makes me super happy to not have a lamp taking up space on my bedside table, because it basically gives me loads more room for books!

There are still things we need to do like add wardrobe door handles, and put up some more pictures and if I am honest, figure out what we're doing with the fireplace hole because the stacks of wood are a bit of a temporary measure, but I am so so happy with the room and I just love crawling into bed at night and seeing just how much of a different space we've created. 

What do you think? 

Walls - Valspar Premium V700 paint in Pantone 19-4034 and Blank Canvas. 
Carpet from Mintons. Our local carpet shop. 
Wardrobes - Ikea Pax
Dresser - Ikea Micke
Bed and drawers - Old Ikea Malm furniture
Sconce Lights - Made.com