23 – All change

Most of you are most likely aware that my chemo has now finished – mid way through – unfortunately we were unable to control the side effects I was having and the decision was made to move forward to radiotherapy. It is a little bit scary with the change and we are now waiting on a letter from the hospital as to when radiotherapy will commence and when I get the port removed (I’m so looking forward to the port going).

I will admit this past week has been difficult – it was really nice not to spend 2-3 days over a bucket – but for some reason I’m feeling flat I guess that is because I don’t feel like I’m moving forward, I feel a little bit like I am stagnating and it is really, really difficult to feel that way.

I’m also trying to think what I will need to do to get myself back on track with my fitness – this really has taken a back seat with everything else that has been happening. I’ve tried to keep up with my walking but I’ve not been doing as much as I would like and my energy levels are down.

However one bright note is that Pat’s Australian Visa was granted so once my treatment has finished and we have done some travelling we will be heading back to Australia. It’s interesting to be planning for the future, but difficult as well, winter really isn’t the best time to be travelling within Europe.

So I’m still trying to figure things out and hopefully get back into some type of routine soon.

For now a bientôt.

22 – A state of mind

Next week is my 2nd chemo session, something I was dreading and hoping to avoid at all costs. Last week, at some point, I realised that my state of mind had changed and that I felt like I can get through this, whilst horrible it isn’t impossible, so that has been really good. Especially so as on Monday this week the hair on my head really started to fall out, getting progressively worse until today (Thursday). Today everything changed as I went to the hairdressers and had my head shaved (pictures at end of blog). It was not a difficult decision to make, my head was very itchy but the amount of hair I was depositing around the house was just getting ludicrous. I actually came home and vacuumed as there was so much hair everywhere.

In preparation for the shave today, yesterday we (mum, Pat and I) went into Limoges to buy me a wig. After my failed attempt the previous week, we had made an appointment this time. And 40 minutes later I walked out with a fabulous wig and a turban. I’ve also ordered another turban on-line along with watching various Youtube videos on how to tie a head scarf, just need some practice.

In regard to my health, I’ve lost a little bit of weight, and while my taste and appetite were affected for the first week, everything is back to normal now. I will admit it does take a lot to stop me from eating. This morning after waking earlier than normal, I decided to join Pat and Siena for their morning walk, we walked down to the Boulangerie and back – a good walk of around 2.5 km. While I was a little slow on the coming home bit, I was really pleased that I was able to do it and I’m hoping to continue with the walking every day! It really does help mentally and physically.

For now a bientôt.
(yes I look tired in these photo’s – 6:00 am start)

21 – To chemo or not to chemo

It’s been a very difficult week. I saw the oncologist on Friday and we went through the pro’s and con’s of chemo, the oncologist felt that; due to my age, the fact that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and a few other reasons that I really should go ahead and have the chemo. So the decision was made to go ahead with chemo, and we went through a whole lot of info with the nurse – some of which we need to re-visit as we just didn’t understand it all clearly. So that is a job for this week.

Tuesday was spent mostly at the hospital getting a port put in – unfortunately that was the day I fell apart. So much so the nurse went and got Pat from the waiting room to help comfort me. This was while I was waiting to go in to my operation for the port (done under local anaesthetic). Unfortunately I think not having time to process everything, and not wanting to have the chemo has made this week hard – especially as my shoulder is very sore from having the port put in – my vein was deep so it took a long time to find it and I had to have multiple needles to numb my shoulder. Though the nurses who come in daily to change the dressing are very happy with how it is all healing.

So here I am 4 days later (mum arrived on Friday from Australia) still trying to decide if I am going to go ahead with the chemo, I understand why the oncologist has recommended it, but part of me still wants to just run away and hide and not to have to go through it. To me, chemo is basically terrifying and I’m not sure why. I understand a lot about it, I know I’m not going to feel sick every day and I’m going to be having anti-nausea tablets on my treatment days, I’m not worried about losing my hair, but I really, really, really just don’t want to be doing this. Please note that not wanting to do this doesn’t mean that I’m not going to, but at this stage I’m just not in a good place and that is what I want to change, I want to get my head into a much better place before my first chemo session.

So that is where I’m at, sorry it’s not a more uplifting blog, but the reality is sometimes life just sucks!

Until next time.

The above was written last Sunday, I’ve since visited the hospital, asked some questions and feel a bit better about things, however I still have moments when the terror takes over. Soon I will know.

20 – Finding the good

It’s been a tough few weeks for me, which is why I haven’t written this blog for a number of weeks. Finding out I had to have another operation, still not knowing if I need to have chemo (interesting stat only approximately 34%* of women diagnosed with breast cancer have chemo). So all in all, my mind has only been seeing the bad, the horrible and the unjust around me, so the other day I decided that I needed to find ways to fight these feelings.

The results, I’ve re-started my gratitude diary. If you have never done this I would really recommend it as it really, really helps in seeing the things to be grateful for. It’s also an easy thing to do, at the end of each day you write down 3 things that you are grateful for. They don’t have to be big things – clean sheets; 5 minutes sitting outside having a cup of tea, watching your dog run around the back yard (all things from my diary). I keep a little note book & pen beside my bed and do this. The big thing is not to repeat a gratitude for a month – by the end of the month you can realise that you have a lot to be grateful for.

The other thing I did was find a “happy” music play list on YouTube – it’s all instrumental music but it has the “boppy” feel which makes me feel good. I’m also putting together a Delia Feel Good playlist of music that I like (lots of 80’s and dance music) for those days a need to feel better.

I also notice that if the sun is out and I have blue skies to look at, I am much happier. The Australian in me just loves it and I do realise how much I miss that consistency of blue skies and sunshine. So today I’m celebrating 3 days in a row of blue skies and sunshine.

My biggest hurdle in this is trying to find the good in the world – of hearing about the wonderful things that people do out in the greater world. I don’t watch TV news anymore because it is just too depressing for me, and I tend only to do headlines on news web pages with the occasional looking further because I just find the way we report news so blah! I will admit it is getting better but we still seem to hear more about the “bad” in the world rather than the “good”.

If you have any ideas I would love to hear them.

Until next time.

* 34% of patients diagnosed with breast cancer have chemotherapy as part of their primary cancer treatment.
https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/breast-cancer#heading-Five accessed June 2019

19 – Habits

I’ve been reading a book on habits – yes it is a science book – but it is absolutely fascinating, know how habits get built, where they are stored in the brain, but also on how you can go about changing them. Interestingly it isn’t a “one size fits all” way to change because there are so many variants. I will admit however, one thing the book stated was that it is very easy to fall back into old habits and over the past 2 months I have found that. Even though I’ve been eating healthily for around 2 years, when my stress levels went up and the intense emotions have come in – my comfort eating came back with a vengeance. However I will say I must have changed enough habits so that it hasn’t been a total descent back into my old eating habits.

I think partly because I really like the breakfast and lunch that I eat, that bit hasn’t really changed. What has re-emerged is the afternoon snacking and not always the best choices for dinner, but we are both working to get back into the healthy choices. It is however difficult especially as we are waiting for my follow-up with my surgeon.

My recovery from my operation is going well, I finally have stopped my daily injections of the anti-coagulant and I am very, very happy about that. The many bruises on my thighs are gradually fading. The nurse is now only coming in every other day. But we now get to spend the weekend waiting as we won’t know what will be happening until Monday. Waiting is horrible; it is very hard as one’s mind just has so many different scenarios to run through. However, Pat and I will get through this as we have such great support from our friends and family.

Until next time

18 – Life is a journey not a destination

I came across an interesting ted talk (link at the bottom) which is about when we look at our life it is the worst parts of our life make us who we are. Personally I think that looking back at both the worst parts and best parts make us who we are, but I think the worst parts are the bits we tend to re-examine and try to see if we could change (and can stay with us longer).

One of the things I have been trying to do – and I started this before the cancer diagnosis, was to start saying yes to things that I wouldn’t necessarily say yes to. One well remembered example of this was a night in Venice after we had finished dinner at the closest local restaurant, utterly exhausted from our long day of sightseeing, one of our group decided that they wanted to do another trip down the grand canal on the water bus at night (we had a 24 hour ticket that day). I was all ready to head back to our accommodation and just collapse into bed (and that had been the plan), however I decided to say yes and do something that I wasn’t planning on – it was a wonderful journey – yes I was exhausted when we finally got back to our accommodation but I got to see some things that I would never have seen and to really enjoy the atmosphere at night in Venice.

I will admit that I now that I have come face to face with my mortality (and I think any cancer diagnosis will do that to you). So I’ve been thinking how do I say yes to more (especially as I’ve had to cancel 2 long weekend’s away). So I think it is time to start saying yes to things and remember that I may only come this way once so do it now.

Until next time.

https://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_solomon_how_the_worst_moments_in_our_lives_make_us_who_we_are?referrer=playlist-life_is_beautiful

17 – Swings and Roundabouts

Firstly, for those of you who don’t know my operation got moved from the 2nd May to the 9th May – very much a swings and roundabouts moment for us. On the upside it means I’m not having my operation on Pat’s birthday, on the down it means waiting another week for my operation which means my trip to Dublin at the end of the month has had to be cancelled (along with an already cancelled trip to Berlin).

So Pat and I had a wonderful day yesterday, we went and picked up my most recently finished painting – one that has taken me quite a while as I was doing this for Pat’s birthday and it isn’t an easy picture to paint. We also went out for a lovely lunch at a restaurant we have been driving past for years and said we must try. We’re very glad we did and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Then off back home, collect Siena and a drive to a nearby lake – and an 8km walk. Thankfully not much rain and a very nice walk in the countryside around the lake. At the end we stopped at a bar and had a cup of tea then headed home and we all collapsed – me, Pat and Siena. Thankfully the only dinner I had to cook was bacon sandwiches (and a strawberry tart for dessert which was care of a boulangerie).

Also one of the ups for having my operation moved is a trip to the seaside this weekend. As we had cancelled our Berlin trip because we thought I would be in hospital and for various reasons we couldn’t re-book it we decided to pack ourselves & Siena to head to the seaside – something I am really looking forward to as I love being near the sea.

The other thing I have gone back to doing this week is my gratitude journal – so at the end of each day I think of 3 things that I am grateful for and write them down. It is good to remind myself that there are still wonderful things and things to be grateful for – it does my mind a world of good.

So no blog this weekend, but maybe Monday?

And if you want to know the origin of Swings and Roundabouts, as Pat and I did, have a look at this website:

https://interestingliterature.com/2015/09/03/the-interesting-origins-of-the-phrase-swings-and-roundabouts/

Until next time.

16 – The Show must go on

Firstly a cancer update. I’ve had 2 scans a bone scan – which left me slightly radioactive for a number of hours, and I’ve had a CT scan. Basically these scans were to check if my cancer had spread anywhere else in my body. Thankfully these both came back clear. Though my right arm is starting feel a little like a pin cushion (and is getting bruised) as I’ve had to have injections for both of these scans and currently we can only use my right arm, which will actually be a permanent thing due to my lymph nodes being removed in my left arm. If you want to understand more about these two scans here are the links:
https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancer-in-general/tests/bone-scan
https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/breast-cancer/advanced/tests-diagnose/ct-scan-brain

I will admit I hadn’t realised how stressed I was until I had the results from these scans. I was very happy to have these results. I’m now booked in for my operation – on 2nd May (unfortunately this is Pat’s birthday). But I should only need 1 week to recover from the operation. We will find out if I have to have chemo after they have biopsied the entire tumour. Radiation therapy is a definite.

So that is that for now. I’m planning on enjoying the next few weeks before the operation and any treatment start. Partly by just relaxing, it was a glorious day yesterday and we went for a dog walk with friends and their 2 dogs, it was lovely to be out in the sunshine and just doing normal stuff. Today I’m still in bed (it’s noon) looking out the window at the fields (complete with Limousine cows). We are also trying to decide what to do the weekend before my operation to celebrate Pat’s birthday. Very much thinking of a night away and a good restaurant meal.

A year ago I also set myself a challenge of only buying 1 book at month – I’ve just been into my Amazon account to check what I have bought and it amounts to 13 books (both physical and electronic) so just over the 1 book per month – but this is a vast improvement on the previous year (34 books), it also made me actually stop and think about did I really want to read this book, it has also helped me explore my book collection and see what I owned but hadn’t read for a while. This has been good fun, also now that all my physical books are packed up and in storage I’m looking through my kindle and finding books that I had totally forgotten about and re-reading them. I’ve appreciated this exercise a lot.

Also you will remember I was trying to implement a new morning routine, while this has gone a little haywire over the past couple of weeks, I have still been getting up to do my drawing for the first hour of the day – this is going really well and I’m really enjoying this start to my day. Still have been unable to factor in my strength exercises, but will try to do so over the next few weeks as when I come out of hospital I will have shoulder and arm exercises that will need to be done so might as well get into that habit now.

For now a bientôt

Delia

15 – The curve ball of life

Please note that this post is identical to my post in Life amongst the Chestnut Groves

15/03 – Just before we moved, I did the wonderful thing of going to the doctors as I needed a few things to be checked out – which to be honest I had been putting off – things like a tetanus shot, my blood check (due to my thyroid operation) and a pap smear. A couple of weeks before my appointment I noticed an indentation in my left breast, so I mentioned this to the doctor, she did a check, couldn’t find anything but sent me off for a mammogram. This was duly booked in for the 11th March. Anyone who tells you mammograms don’t hurt is lying. They hurt, albeit it is brief. They hurt more when they decide that you actually need a few more and better images. I was then informed that they had found something and had to go next door for an ultra sound and did I want my husband with me! Alarm bells start to ring. So long and short of this after Pat joined us the radiologist (I think that is what she is) showed us the images and effectively stated I had a mass and that it was small and caught early, she explained how she was almost certain that it was cancer. A few tears were shed, we then did the ultrasound, definitely not a cyst and currently nothing in the lymph glands.

A few more tears and a trip back to my doctor, who asked me if I knew and asked if we had any questions (Pat had come with me). After a short discussion she very nicely rang the hospital in Limoges to find out how I get the biopsy done and she helped with all that, wrote a letter for me to put with my scans and notes and to send off. So currently I am waiting for a biopsy – this sucks!

25/03
Biopsy has been done. This also hurts – thought not so bad due to been given a local anaesthetic. Unfortunately this doctor (who very nicely spoke English to me for the whole appointment) did find a lump up in my lymph node so I have had 3 biopsy needles stuck into me. The finding of a lump in my lymph node is scary, thankfully I don’t have to wait that long, I do have my results appointment next Monday. I have taken that day off as if the news is what we are expecting, it may be a little overwhelming so I don’t think I will get any work done. I haven’t done much work today as it has been difficult to concentrate.

27/03
I’ve just had a chat with one of my colleagues around planning if I have to go into surgery etc etc. This was not an easy conversation. Planning for things that one doesn’t yet know. My brain isn’t working at its best so that also makes things difficult, as I have to work to get paid. This is a problem with being self employed. I did think I had cover for illness, but it appears not. So a real pain in the butt.

03/04
Well I’ve been to the surgeon and had my biopsy results, I have a stage II breast cancer – which has moved to the lymph nodes. Knowing it has moved is difficult, I now have to go for an upper body scan to see if it has gone anywhere else (from everything I’ve been told and read, it is unlikely). Next appointment with the surgeon is the 10th April – where we will go through my treatment.

Here is a link that is useful:
https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/breast-cancer/stages-types-grades/number-stages/stage-2
2B on the page gives a close approximation to what I have.

So where to now, we don’t yet know. One thing I do ask of you all – I will be putting my trust in science on this – current treatment has really good outcomes. Therefore, please do not send me information and links to stuff that is unscientific and unproven – it will just piss me off. But support and good thoughts will be more than welcome.

So my fit and fab has taken unforeseen turn but I still plan on being fit and fabulous at 50!

Delia

14 – New Routines

One of the good things about moving house is the ability to establish new routines. As our environment has changed we have to change a few things that we do anyway so introducing new things or changing habits and routines is much easier.

For me, after listening to a vlog (video blog) by a style vlogger (Audrey Coyne – who I love – here is the link to the specific vlog – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExURt6Bq7Eg&t=367s) which was about waking up early, I made the decision to get up an hour earlier – so 7:00am. This was so I could finally get back to my drawing course, so for this week I have been up early and drawing. I get out of bed, put my tracksuit on, some warm socks and my slippers and head upstairs; I then make myself coffee and head up another flight of stairs into the attic space – which is where Pat and I have set up our office. This space also has a sofa which faces the window, I sit myself down and for the next hour I draw.

I can honestly say it has been wonderful. I’m doing something I love first thing in the morning (and which I find at the end of the working day I can just feel too tired to do) and my assignments are getting done. I’m still trying to figure out how to get in my strength exercises in to the routine, but I think as we seem to be finishing breakfast around 9:30 – which is 30 minutes before I actually need to be at the computer I should be able to slot those exercises in relatively easily as they will only take around 25 minutes.

So hopefully next time I can tell you about getting my exercise routine in place.

Until then.

Delia