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My Cancer treatment

We got some good news - and an update on my treatment plan!

Or should I say I got some good news, because despite everyone's protests I went to my last hospital appointment alone.

I should preface this with the fact that I was cheating a bit as my nurse had told me that it was going to be good news so I didn't feel like I was going to be walking into anything scary when I went. Plus I figured now that the chemo is over I'm going to have to start going in for my Herceptin and Perjeta on my own. I can't expect Jim to have Mondays off indefinitely to come and sit with me, so I thought it best to kick off my independence as soon as I could. 

But on to the good news, it turns out that my chemo has been working. The last 6 months haven't been for nothing. All those days of feeling crappy (all the future days of feeling crappy). They've had a point to them!

The chemo was doing its job.

The cancerous lymph nodes in my neck and ribs are no longer showing on the scans, the tissue around my sternum isn't showing as cancerous either, and the best news is that the cancer in my sternum is clearing up too, there is barely anything there any more.......And my brain scan came back clear too. Well, if you must know, unremarkable! Which, not gonna lie, is offensive AF!

I'm nearly, kind of, almost, NED (No evidence of disease!). Which my oncologist says is fantastic news. And it is fantastic news. Such fantastic news. Even knowing it was good news, I didn't expect that sort of good news!

It doesn't, however, mean that I can stop treatment. Nope. Even if all my cancer clears up, I've still got to keep going with it, so here's what I am currently on; 

  • Herceptin (Trastuzumab) and Perjeta (Pertuzumab) - IV - Every 3 weeks. 
    • Pertuzumab and trastuzumab both work by targeting specific proteins (receptors) on the surface of cells. Some cancers have too much of a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) on the surface of their cells. These are called HER2-positive cancers. The extra HER2 receptors stimulate the cancer cells to divide and grow. Pertuzumab and trastuzumab work by locking onto HER2 proteins. Each drug locks on to a different part of the protein. This blocks the receptors and stops the cells dividing and growing. Pertuzumab and trastuzumab only work in people who have cancer with high levels of HER2. 
  • Zoladex - injection - every 4 weeks
    • Zoladex, or Goserelin is used to treat ER positive breast cancer in women who have not yet had their menopause. Before menopause, almost all oestrogen in women is made by the ovaries. Goserelin stops the ovaries making oestrogen.
  • Letrazole - tablet - daily
    • Letrozole is used to treat oestrogen-receptor positive (ER positive) breast cancer in women who have been through the menopause. Obviously, I haven't naturally been through the menopause, but the Zoladex makes sure i'm forced into it
  • Denosumab - injection - every 6 weeks
    • Denosumab is a type of drug called a monoclonal antibody. These drugs are sometimes called targeted therapies. They work by ‘targeting’ specific proteins (receptors) on the surface of cells. The type I have is Xgeva® is given to people with cancer that has spread to the bones (secondary bone cancer) from a solid tumour. A solid tumour is a cancer that occurs in one of the body’s organs, such as the breast, kidney or lung, but not a blood cancer, like myeloma or leukaemia. 
I'll be on these drugs until they stop working, and, unless I get any crazy pains, it'll be another 6 months before I have any scans to check they're still going ok!

But that's my news. The cancer is under control and I'm pretty happy to be able to tell you that! Especially after the losses the mets community has suffered of late. 

Friends, I need to know the beauty in your day. Not the gloom!

Friends. And cancer. 
It's a strange and sensitive subject.

Because over the last few years some of the most wonderful friendships have been formed or cemented. People have risen to help, pulling me out of dazes, force feeding me doughnuts and grilled cheese, taking me on days out, demanding I let them visit, treating me like normal but also understanding my limitations.

But other friends seem to have disappeared. Visits become few and far between. They don't text or call so much any more. They ask too much and don't understand I'm not able to do as much or visit them as much. Or at all. They see this as me giving up on our friendship.

And whilst, honestly, its a shit feeling, I feel like I need to put this out there. 

I need to let you know that it's ok if you need to take a step back from my life. Distance yourself from my world right now. I understand it. It's not exactly an inspiring place at the mo is it. But please tell that is what you're doing. Don't just disappear. Because I'm still the same girl who over analyses everything. And I'm still going to be feeling hurt about it. 

But to the friends who have stuck about, I also need you to know that right now, that as much as I love hearing about your day, getting your news, I'm just not sure I can be the one you complain to now. About your job. Or being busy. Or your kids. Or your being tired. Or how annoyed you are at things that are, let's be honest, all of your own doing! Or the minutiae of life, because, quite frankly, it's drives me mad to see you not recognising the beauty in it all. 

Of course I'm not living every moment as if it's a #blessing. I've still got to pick up my dogs poo and go to Tesco and do the washing, but I'm trying to find a way, most days, to be in some way grateful for being alive. 

And you, complaining about feeling tired when I'm on a chemo week, and I'd only dream of feeling of just feeling tired, isn't doing me any good. It's not making me the Zen master I'd like to be! Not even after reiki!

So, let's try and be more positive. Don't just tell me how shit your current situation is or moan about the things you should be grateful for.

Tell me the beauty in the day.
Tell me your favourite thing you saw.
Or about the delicious thing you are.
Or the funny thing you overheard.
Tell me about your dreams, and your hopes, and what you did to make them come a little bit closer to coming true.


400 seconds of fear - or that time I stood up on stage to chat about cancer!

The other week, a friend of mine, Jonny, convinced me to stand on a stage at the Pecha Kucha Sheffield event that he runs, and chat about how I'm dealing with cancer. Or not dealing with it, as it might be. 

I've never been very good at public speaking - it terrifies me, so lets just say that this was a huge thing to agree to for me. And I won't lie, until about 5 seconds before I got on stage I thought I might bottle it and run away, but somehow, and I'm not sure how, I made it through the talk and I came out the other side. 
If you're not familiar with Pecha Kucha, each event has a theme, and all the speakers speak about their version of the theme, and when you're on the stage, you get  20 slides, that last 20 seconds each, which totals 6minutes 40 seconds, or, 400 seconds.

Doesn't sound too long right? Until you're standing at the side of the stage, about to go on, with a packed room full of people in front of you and you realise that you've 100% written far too much in your google doc to fit into that time, so you decide to wing it! (I've always had a problem with too many words. Every essay I wrote at uni had to be shrunken considerably before being handed in!)
PK Sheffield host Jonny Douglas!
I realised that I'd be breaking every public speaking rule book if I tried to cram everything I'd written into my allotted time, so slimmed it down. I took on board the wise words a friend told me. She said that this was my story, and no-one else knows it like I do, so I'm the expert at telling the story. Which is so true.  
I was going to post my entire speech here but there were so many points I'd like to expand on (see, too many words), that I'm going to cut it up and use it as blog post fodder - who knows, it might even get me posting again regularly as half the work is already done. 

But, as nervous as I was, once I came off stage, it was an amazing feeling. To have got up on there, and to have told my story, and to hopefully have educated people on what a secondary cancer is, and the issues that face people with a secondary- mostly about the lack of funding into research to help find more treatments and cures for this type of cancer!

It's almost got me thinking that maybe I could do it again- albeit, without the pressure of the 20/20 slide situation going on behind me!

I was also privileged enough to share the stage with some amazing people, people who are dealing with some incredible and inspirational situations. Each of them so different to the next. 
Vanda from The Suit Works
Lara from The Snowdrop Project
Sheffield's Major Magid
Neighbourhood voices choir
Dodge and Co

But before I get carried away, I might need to up my public speaking skills - got any tips for me?