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My Cancer treatment

The realities of cold capping - or how I haven't lost my hair during chemo

(My previous chemo hair cut!)
Recently we had a door to door charity collector come round for a cancer charity. I eventually managed to cut through her chatter and tell her I already give to a cancer charity (and have since my Grandad died) and that as I currently have cancer I wasn't looking to add to that list at the moment. Her first response was "But you still have your hair". Which is something I hear a lot. I imagine it's the first people think when they hear cancer. Hair loss. And I'll be honest it was one of my biggest concerns too. Which I know is a really vain thing to worry about but it was a real concern, and so there's no point lying about it. I've written about it before when I thought it was all going wrong.

There were many reasons that I worried about my hair, but most of them weren't because I didn't think I could rock the bald look (I could totally have done that!) but because my face is way too fat to rock a pixie cut when the shaved head was growing out. Which is why when I was offered the opportunity to use the cold cap I decided to take it. For those of you not in this world, The cold cap is a gel filled hat that is cooled to -25 degrees with the thought that cooling your hair follicles can reduce the chemo drugs from reaching them and reduce the chance of it making your hair fall out.

Now, I know that I am having my treatment privately, and not all NHS trusts offer the cold cap, but most of them do and it does baffle me that there are a lot of people who don't take the option if it is offered to them. I see women who find out they have to have chemo and just shave their heads, thinking hair loss is inevitable. Which might be the right choice for them and I respect that, but for those of you not wanting to take that route I wanted to write about my experience.

Because whilst I'll be the first to admit I had the thickest hair in the world to start with and I have lost a LOT of hair - maybe 60% of it - I still have a full coverage and I don't look like a cancer patient. Which for me is a big thing.
So, first things first - The cold cap I had is basically glorified riding hat that has been frozen to -25degrees, so, yes, it's cold. It goes on half an hour before chemo, and comes off when the drugs have been administered and gets changed every every 45 minutes. Yes, it's very cold. But I honestly didn't find it too cold to cope with. Which I know is the fear of a lot of people.

So, in case you have found your way here at the start of your chemo journey and you're considering the cold cap - here is a mixture of some advice I have been given, some things I have done that are totally against all the advice, and some of my observations on the realities of using the cold cap during chemo;

  • On my first time I took painkillers 20mins before the cold cap went on. Just after my anti-sickness. I haven't taken them since though and I've been fine. 
  • I make sure my forehead and ears are padded with gauze to stop the cold touching skin.  This is the most important thing as I can tell when it's changed if there isn't enough. I go with 3 gauze pads all the way round. I've heard a headband might work but i'd worry about where the back of it would go. Would it cover hair that should be being kept cold?
  • Wear something warm. It makes you cold having it on your head so wrap up! 
  • Make sure that it's really snug. You should be able to feel the cold all across your head - if it's not touching your head, it might not be working. 
I know there is another style of cap that requires a hair conditioner seal to be made, and leaves ice on your head - I did get some tips for this one, but as I've not used it I can't say, but if you do have any tips for that one please pop them in the comments, because I haven't used that one!

Once the actual chemo session is over, and the cold capping is done, this is where being careful about my hair had to start. And this was the bit that I was dreading really, because I'll be honest, it has been a bit of a pain in the ass - but it's been worth it to keep some hair on my head!
  • I currently only wash my hair once a week. That means there's only one hair wash for it to come out during. I wash it on a weekend which not only means it's looking decent if I have weekend plans, but as my chemo day is a Monday, it's washed quite a while after the treatment is given. Oddly a once a week wash hasn't really been a problem -maybe because of how dry my hair is after the cold capping! 
  • I was told to just use Simple shampoo and conditioner. And I did. for a while. But I have such frizzy hair I found it was easier for me to carry on using the Treseme that I had been using before. It's more moisturising and leaves my hair in a better condition I think! Plus, it seemed to fall out at the same rate no matter what I used! 
  • The advice is to only use a wide tooth comb on your hair to avoid pressure. I even bought a pink one! Personally, I found this was worse for my hair as I found the comb dragged at any knots and it came out in clumps. Using the large paddle brush I already had has, for me, been easier and I've felt my hair comes out less this way! I'm still getting a lot of hair in the brush, but it doesn't seem to come out in clumps the way the comb made it. I also brush my hair once a day because brushing it less (as I was advised) made it more knotted and therefore, it came out more. 
  • I was told not to straighten my hair or hair dry it. But I'll be honest I straighten my hair once a week. Not straightened, the frizz bomb that is my hair was knotting more, and therefore coming out more when brushed it. So for me, straightening, gently, is a far better option! 
  • I cut my hair from being long to a bob as I figured there was less weight on the hair, so less of a pull on the roots. I have no clue if this works, but I did it. 
  • It was suggested to me that I buy horse riding nets and a silk pillowcase to reduce hair loss at night. I bout the nets but found my hair got stuck in it and tangled up, so stopped that quite quickly. And I didn't buy the silk pillowcase as I thought that mu pillows were silky enough!  
My hair came out worst the week of the 2nd round of chemo (enough to fill a Tesco carrier bag in one go) and I honestly thought about shaving it then, but luckily Jim told me not to and I am so glad that I didn't do anything drastic after the shock of that loss. But be warned, there will be that moment when your hair starts coming out in clumps. But you'll be amazed at how much hair you actually have. I promise you. And full disclosure - it's still coming out now more than it used to, pre chemo. And I'm 3 weeks post my 6th one. But what you forget is that you shed hair normally, you're just more aware of it now, so some of the hair loss is normal!

See - hair - recently - in February!
The only thing I would say about keeping your hair is that it makes some people think I've not faired badly with my treatment, or that I've not been sick, that I'm cheating at having cancer, but in truth I've worked bloody hard to keep my hair and I'm pretty proud of the fact it's all there! 

And for those of you not facing chemo, or the hair loss - good on you for making it this far! That's one hell of a commitment to blogging. You've done better than I do with baby posts ;) 

A lust list for March

Creating a lust list this month has been kind of hard. I have so many things that I want but they are things I want to make rather then buy this month! But there are still a few things that I have my eye on;

1. I have been on the hunt for the perfect boyfriend jeans for a while, something to mix it up with the skinnies, and I think I might have found them in this Hush pair! They're the perfect amount of scuffed up and baggy but still nice! 
2. Never has there been a truer sentiment on a necklace than this. Actually fuck cancer
3. I've got The Roanoak Girls, on my must read list - once I have worked my way through the pile of books I bought in my last shopping spree. But I've read such great reviews! 
4. I am a bit worried as normally I'm not a fan of rose gold or Toms but I kind of love these shoes, and that scares me. A lot! 
5. When a gin is your name sake and you've already drunk one bottle, you need to replace it don't you! Fishers Gin for the win! 

What are you lusting after at the moment?

And just like that chemo is over......and I can get back to 'normal'

Chemo drugs

14 days ago I had my final chemo session. 

It feels so strange that the 6 sessions I'd dreaded starting last September, are over! And if I'm honest, what i thought would be a celebration was an anti climax. My nurses had had a shit day. One chemo patient had really bad reaction. And they'd left the ward before I had my shoes on so I couldn't thank them properly for the care they'd given me. 

Then I was hit hard by the side effects. I felt really sick by 6pm and just wanted my bed. So I sent Jim to play football and i went to sleep. Plus. Lets be honest. Who actually cared that it was my last session but me? So I'm yet to celebrate it. I doubt I actually will. It was such a long time ago now. The bottle of Moet in the fridge can just wait for another event. 

So here I am. Post chemo. Having taken my last lot of drugs. Being told left right and centre that I'm done with treatment. That I'm all sorted now. It's over. Mostly I just smile and nod. I don't have the heart to tell people that in a week I have a planning session to start my radiotherapy. That there are 23 sessions of that to go. That the CT scan they'll do at that session terrifies me, because who knows what's going on in my body.  That I have no clue how the radiotherapy might affect me. 

I'm told I can get back to normal now. But I'm not sure that people grasp that the 'normal' me that went in to this with won't be the normal that comes out. That I won't be the same. I won't be normal any more. Not for a while at least. 

How can i be? Chemo might be over but the side effects are still going strong; 

I can't straighten my arms without them hurting because of the cording in my veins.
I can barely make it round the park without stopping. Hell. I can barely make it through the day without a nap. I'm just so tired all the time.
I forget what I am doing all the time. I forget things I said I'd do. I forget pretty much everything unless I write it down.
My hair is shit. Really shit. It needs some moisture. And dyeing. And de-frizzing. It needs to be the 8 inches it longer it was this time last year.
And my stomach needs to un-bloat after the drugs.
And I burst in to tears all the time.
And I need to reassess how I'm spending my life.
Oh and lose the weight I've put on during chemo before I start taking a drug, for 5 years, that is known to make you gain weight. The joy!

So no. I don't think I can get 'back to normal' just yet. I'm going to try my hardest but it might not be as easy as everyone thinks it will be!

And if any of you have been wondering what it's like to have chemo - I made this video for Instagram a while back. I haven't shared it here but maybe it's time?

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Creating Latte Art with the Nespresso Creatista

The thing I've discovered about having treatment is we're always having to make drinks for the people who come round to see if we're OK. Which would be fine if everyone wanted a glass of water but guests keep wanting coffee.  

I have no qualms with sending Jim to make drinks for people (it's his job because, you know, cancer and all that. On a side note - how long can I use that excuse with him?) But as we've been living with a slightly broken, really slow and fiddly coffee machine for the last, well, forever, it seems a bit mean to keep shipping him off to the kitchen! Especially as everyone we have round seems to take their coffee a different way.
But we might have a solution. This week a Nespresso Creatista arrived in our kitchen and it's already changing the way we entertain guests! It's the first pod coffee machine we've had but I have to say it's really impressing us so far. I've even gone as far as to set up a coffee station in the kitchen so if needs be guests can just help themselves. 
It heats up in a fraction of the time of our old machine, there are eight different coffee settings on the Creatista, including flat white which is Jim's drink of choice, 4 different levels of milk frothing, which I am loving playing with because the selling point of the Creatista is that it makes creating latte art easy. 
Although I am not sure that the people who created the machine and figure latte art is easy have met me. No matter which of the milk frothing settings I choose, I just can't make the patterns appear. Jim thought my first attempt looked really rude, and well, this latest one looks less like the heart that I intended it to be, and more like a bum! Although it's clearly due to lack of skill as my friend Zoe came round to see me and she managed to create some really pretty patterns! But I blame that on her barista training. I mean she has an unfair advantage right?

But you tell me - bum or heart?
Luckily for the people being subjected to my latte art attempts I'm off to the Creatista Studio in Leeds next week for some pointers in how to make the perfect patterns in the top of the drinks I'm serving them. I'll be beating Zoe at her own game in no time! The pop up will be in the Victoria Quarter until the 19th so if you're in Leeds drop in and see the Creatista team and see what art you can create! 

Travel: We're off to Washington, Philadelphia & New York!

Earlier this year I posted about our travel plans for the year and I mentioned the trip we had planned to California snowboarding - but that had to be postponed due to my chemo schedule. Initially we thought we might take the trip, just later in the year, but we've decided that we want to take the California trip when we can go snowboarding so have put it off until next year!

BUT.........But........but.........we still had some airmiles that needed spending, and a celebratory end of treatment holiday to take so, after some moving of my radiotherapy dates, we have booked a new trip. 

So, the day after my treatment finishes our new trip we're flying First Class in to Washington, (yup, you read that right, First Class, thank you airmiles) driving up to Philadelphia, then on to New York and the Hamptons (Well, this Hamptons bit will be on if I can convince Jim that we should go. He's clearly not watched enough Gossip Girl as I'm just not sure he's up for it!) Then we're flying out of New York 18 days later. 

As we only booked it yesterday we've not planned how long we'll be in each place, where we'll stay, where we'll go in between. We've not planned what we should see, where we have to eat or any of the things we already had sorted for the California trip. 

So if you have any recommendations of what we should be doing, hit me up - I want to know your tips, tricks and must visits! 

My new favourite timepiece from Welly Merck

No matter how much of my life is lived digitally, I will never be able to give up wearing a watch. There has always been a place in my life for them, from the pop swatch I got as a birthday gift in the early 90's to the Animal watch I bought with my first wages, or the G-shock I thought was so cool even though it stuck a mile off my wrist. I have always been a watch wearer. I always will be. And I like watch faces and moving hands. The digital watch life is not for me. I've tried it. I didn't like it. 

My latest obsession is this beautiful black and turquoise watch I got from Swiss brand Welly Merck. If you've followed me for a while you'll know I have a slight obsession for all things turquoise, so when I saw this beauty, The Classic Bern, with it's black face and mesh strap and bright blue hands, it was a must for my life! A little bit classy. A lot of fun! 
I hadn't heard of Welly Merck before discovering this piece, but there is the cutest story behind the creation of the brand; 
The Story

American boy Merck, born in a steel artisan family, is passionate for Iron craft and travelling. During a trip in Italy, Merck met a girl named Welly, who is from a traditional watch-making family. The two fell in love at first sight, unfortunately, they soon had to travel back after the trip. However their affection and passion continued though in distance and departure. Distance and differences didn’t fade their hope on plan for future. Though suffered a lot, they overcame various difficulties with the blessing of friends and relatives, Merck came to Switzerland and finally married his beloved girl Welly. To memorise their own love story, the two created their own watch brand ''Welly Merck'' after their marriage.
The watch face itself, whilst larger in face diameter than my other watches, is thinner, which makes it feel a bit more elegant. Less bulky and 'there' on my wrist! It also features swiss quartz Rhonda 762 movement, sapphire crystal glass, and on top of that, it's waterproof, which I never thought much about about until I cracked the face of my Nixon watch and realised how often it got splashed!
My only little niggle is that the strap seems harder to get to grips with than my other watches - but after a few days of wearing I've got it figured out. And speaking of straps, there is also the option to change the straps with the click of a switch, which, whilst I don't have any other straps for this watch, is a feature of my other current time piece that I love.

I have to say I've had this watch for the last few weeks now and I've so many compliments it. I think the bright pops of colour on the face make it stand out, plus and it sits perfectly with my growing collection of turquoise jewellery!
Tell me, are you a watch wearer? What's your go to time piece?  

*I was sent this watch for the purpose of this review, but all the views and words are my own*

Travel: A long weekend in Morzine

Right now we're supposed to be in California, snowboarding in Mammoth, but as we had to postpone it, we thought we'd still take the chance to get out to the mountains for a long weekend on the snow! 
Luckily Jim's sister and her husband also wanted to escape for a few days too, so we had some partners in crime to plan with and we found a great chalet in Morzine that would accommodate our mini break. As we weren't going for very long it wasn't as easy to just book something, but we put a message on the Chalets Direct forum and Alpine Adventure got in touch and were very helpful and made sure that we had lift passes and ski's for Jane and Mark delivered to the chalet. Plus the hosts were really lovely too.
We chose Morzine as we've been before so we know the slopes a bit - which is important when you're only there a few days - and we all really like the town too, plus there's stuff there for me to do as I wasn't planning on being on the slopes all the time. It also turned out a couple of other friends ended up coming out to see another friend living there.  
We were so lucky in that we had bluebird sky days. The glorious sunshine and unseasonable warm weather meant the snow was a bit slushy, but nothing we couldn't cope with. 

I managed to snowboard for 2 of the days we were away, not full days, but I managed to get out which made me happy. And because of the sunshine, it meant chilling out mid runs, waiting for our friends wasn't a hardship. If there are better places to spend some down time than sitting on a deckchair, slopeside, in Avoriaz - I can not think of them. It would have only been made better if a waiter had come by and let me order a boozy hot chocolate.

We made it over to Switzerland on my second day riding but I abandoned the others to head back to France and somewhere I could chill out whilst they rode some of the slopes over there. We did avoid the Swiss Wall though - for one, it didn't really have any snow on it, and for another - it's hideous! 
On the day I didn't snowboard I took a trip on the free bus to Lake Montriond at the advice of my friend Zoe, who spent some winters living in Morzine, then spent the rest of the day wandering round Morzine, looking round shops, visiting boulangeries, before heading back to the chalet to sit in the sun and read. Thoroughly perfect way to spend a day recuperating I think you'll agree!  

Lake Montriond was beautiful, but as Morzine wasn't under any snow, I hadn't factored in the sheet ice that would surround the lake. I know. Foolish is a ski resort right? So whilst I didn't walk all the way round it as I know how clumsy I am and so I feared for the safety of my bones, I still got to see some of the lake in all it's beautiful glory. 
As our chalet was catered we didn't eat out in the evenings in Morzine, which is a shame as there are some great restaurants in town, but the yummy 3 course meals and free flowing wine made up for it. We did however have some lunches on the hill. On our first day we met up with some friends at Changabang in Avoriaz for nachos and burgers and a few beers. It's a totally unassuming little shop/cafe but it has a great terrace looking over the slopes and the food was great. Plus it gave us a chance to catch up with a couple of friends who weren't able to snowboard! 

And on the other day I snowboarded we ate at one of the restaurants in the Lindarets Bowl, Mamo's Cafe. Again, this was recommended by Zoe and it really didn't disappoint. Jane had the most amazing looking salad, Mark had a crepe thing with sausage in it and we had croque monsieurs, all with a beer and I think it came to about 60 which is really not bad for 4 to eat on the mountains! The lunch I missed on the swiss side on my lake day was about that for 2 to eat. Talking of that day off, I had what might have been the most rubbish cheese and ham baguette that has ever existed, so the less said about that the better!
And as for apres, we gave it our best shot. Some of us more than others! We made sure to grab a few glasses of biere peche at Dixie and a the boys had some Mutzig's, a local, super strong beer that is legendary in the town.   
Being in the mountains has a completely restorative nature for me. It clears my head and makes me happy. There is something about those never ending peaks when you're at the top of the mountains that makes me happy, and the snow and the atmosphere when you're there. It just makes everything better - which was sorely needed after a bit of a crappy 5th chemo session.

As for travelling during chemo, I found insurance through More Than. It was about £24 for a weeks cover - including winter sports - and that was declaring I was mid treatment. I took my chemo record, a plethora of drugs and my thermometer with me. I snowboarded with water in my bag, my anti-sickness tablets and some tummy settlers just in case. 
And in true me style, I made a little video of our trip. It's nothing too fancy but I hope you like seeing how we spent a long weekend in the alps. I sure had fun taking the photos and making the video! 
A long weekend in Morzine! from emma fisher on Vimeo.

Learning how to make things with silver!

I have a new favourite hobby!

For my birthday my mum bought me a course of silver jewellery making sessions with The Jewellery Business. I found out about the class chatting to the lady who runs, Emmie Ball them at the Sheffield Etsy Fair and thought it'd be the perfect thing to try this year, given my word for the year is learn. So once a week, for the foreseeable future, I'll be in a workshop learning a new skill. 

I started on the classes last week and finished my first piece this week - my first plan is to make a collection of bangles that all work together but are all slightly different!  
It's really interesting learning the skills it takes to create something with silver - even something this simple. I've been sawing, filing, bending, soldering, sanding, hammering, shaping and polishing. I have to admit that when we started the bangle was WAY too small for my wrist, and it was amazing to see how it grew as I hammered the shape and the patterns into it.  
For now I just have the one bangle (and one that has been half started too) - but I love it so much, and paired with my favourite turquoise number and silver beads, I think it looks just perfect! Future plans include ones with pearls on it, and maybe another with charms of a sort. The start of a great arm party - don't you think? 

And now I also have ideas for necklaces and earrings and a plethora of other gifts for people! Be warned, if you know me in real life, any birthday gifts you're expecting from me might be silver and jewellery related. That's ok right? 

Hello March

I can't quite believe that I've managed to complete 2 months of 1 Second Every Day. Honestly, it's a small miracle to me that I've remembered to do it. I must be in a better video frame of mind these days. Although it is mostly videos of the dogs, but I guess that reflects the month I had - I spent a lot of time hanging out with those cuties.

February was mostly dog walks, some home improvements, my 5th chemo, I started a jewellery making course, started planning an alternative trip to America, saw friends and went on a little weekend trip to France - I'll share some photos from it next week! 

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Now, on to March - I'll be celebrating the fact I'll be finishing chemo on the 6th - and recovering from it. And I'll be starting radiotherapy at the end of the month. It's Flash's 5th birthday, and my Dad's 70th in the same weekend to celebrate. I've got a few days lined up seeing friends. And a lot of healthy eating to do.  Nothing too ground breaking but I think it might be just the month I need!

What are you planning to do?