Work, Facebook and other sanity preserving measures

Thank the Lord for my work. Genuinely. Honestly. I couldn’t have been signed off and stayed sane. Even working through the fog of chemo is better than endless Jeremy Kyle and Cash in the Attic

But in particular, thank the Lord for work. I started a new job in January and was lucky enough to find myself surrounded by brilliant, fun, motivated, interested colleagues who are all about pulling in the same direction. Even better I have a wonderful fabulous team. I’m the Lieutenant to a truly inspirational Captain. She’s highly intelligent, very quick, fair, kind, straight up, supportive and very hard working. I never hear her complain and she is a very fine yardstick to measure myself against. She hired me in part to take over from her in the medium term yet my illness hasn’t phased her one little bit. She’s awe inspiring. And the team members are also wonderful. Highly intelligent, motivated, great at their jobs and nice people too. Then there’s the work. Top calibre. Incredibly interesting. Fast moving. Great clients. Household names. Cutting edge.

In truth, this is what I have been working my butt off to do. Damned if I’m going to give it up – even temporarily – just because of Genghis.

Also thank the Lord for Facebook. Yes I admit I’m addicted. But as I’ve mentioned before, the online communities I’m in have been an amazing support. It’s also a wonderful way to tell people how I’m getting on without the pressure of sending and responding to individual emails. I’m not lazy but I am tired, so effort sparing measures are very useful at the moment.

Other things that have helped keep me sane:

– texts, cards and emails that don’t demand a reply. I love knowing the support is out there without the pressure to write back.
– gifts. The amount of support shown by a well though out gift is unbelievable. Flowers are lovely as they cheer the place up. Food is always welcome. But the best things have been those where the giver has truly empathised and thought through their gift.
– organising. I’m a huge planner and Genghis is a bugger for putting the kibosh on things. But I’ve still been able to plan my kids’ birthdays, holidays for next year and other fun things. A dash of the normal me. Hoorah.
– those wonderful people who take the load off aka my “staff”. Our nanny. Our housekeeper. Our gardener. My secretary. Ocado.
– conversations about anything other than Genghis.
– the sunshine.
– my iPad.
– my husband. Love and adore him.

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Such a lovely time

I’ve had a lovely lovely week. My wonderful husband surprised me several times on our anniversary. It felt like being on honeymoon all over again. There was lots of laughter and many tears of happiness. I was very emotional and I appreciated every second. No need to go into details of gifts and experiences but my hub was amazing throughout and so wonderfully thoughtful.

We returned from 24 hours on our own private cloud to the chaos of the kids and a family mini break in Suffolk. We all loved it. Sure, it was hard work with the children, as always – the challenges of having two extremely bright and independent kids. But we had amazing sunshine, good food and lots of fun. The kids really enjoyed the kids’ club and we really enjoyed the fact that they went every day – a first for us. They loved the kids’ cinema and the other kiddie-centric features of the hotel. We loved going to a hotel designed for families with young kids where we didn’t have to worry about them being noisy or boisterous as that’s the whole point. All in all it was really enjoyable and quite a relaxing time.

On the way back we took the kids go karting. They loved it. It was so amazing to see their little excited faces and the exhilaration once they finished – even if their kiddie karts only went at 5 mph!

Then it was back home, back to earth and back to chemo. Today was the 6th out of 8 so I am officially 3/4 of the way through. Hooray. I was fortunate enough today for my fabulous sister in law to be the person on duty. I love spending time with her just chatting and today was just that. Thank you darling.

So all in all, a lovely time. The week has given me such a boost to get through to the end of chemo. All being well it’s just a month left to go. Thank goodness!!!!

Happy happy happy

Today is our 10th wedding anniversary. We have spent the night at the Ritz, been to the theatre and had an amazing breakfast. We are off to lunch at Gordon Ramsey. My fantabulous husband has given me a beautiful diamond necklace. I am living in the moment and I am in ecstasy. It all feels super special and it’s wonderful.

Going public

My husband keeps telling me I should publish this blog. To be honest I’m not sure I’m ready. It’s a bit like getting undressed in public. There’s a certain amount I’m not sure I want anyone to see. But that said, it may help people to understand. It may help others going through it. Maybe. Maybe not.

I’m thinking that the end of chemo might be the right time. There is a chance I’ll get trigger happy and do it earlier on a whim, but I don’t think that’s very likely. When I do publish it I might lock myself away for a few days to avoid any comments. I don’t think they will be nasty – just a bit cringeworthy!

Anyhow. Assuming this is made public one day, there are so many people who deserve my public appreciation for their general wonderfulness. So I guess this is a good way to do it. This isn’t everyone but here are just a few of the wonderful people I want to thank (and forgive me that this sounds a bit like an acceptance speech at the Oscars).

My darling husband. For loving me and looking after me and travelling this shitty road by my side. For being a rock. For cooking and washing up and doing the lion’s share of everything while I’ve been ill. For fabulous bread. For everything.

My inspirational mother. For doing this again with me having done it once herself. For being the best mother ever. For her strength which I have inherited.

My wonderful father. For caring so much. For the endless phone calls.

My fabulous sister in law. For being closer than a natural sister. For your selflessness, companionship, friendship, honesty and support. For loving me so much.

My big little brother. For coping with all the shit. For making your days on duty so much fun even when they were crappy.

My marvellous Milly and Northern Pa, who have given so much time, love and effort to help us all through this. What wonderful in laws you are.

My vbf and prima prima. You trod this path before me and showed me how to do it. Your strength, love and friendship mean the world.

My BC twinny, for walking down this road with me hand in hand. For being the voice of positivity.

All my lovely friends who have sent cards, flowers, presents, soup, offers of childcare and messages of support. Thank you. They have helped me more than you can know. Particularly my wonderful BNC girlies who I love so much.

My fabulous team at work who have been so supportive and genuinely caring despite me being a newcomer. And indeed all my work buddies who have become real mates in such a short time – Liz, Ads, Tobes, Marek, Andy in particular.

And last but never least my beautiful children who give me my main reason to keep fighting Genghis. You are my treasures and my loves and I adore you both every day.

Thank you thank you thank you.

The kindness of strangers

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while. It’s all about the amazing people who I don’t know and yet whose support is helping me get through.

I’m a big Facebook user. Don’t have time for any of the other social media sites, but FB has been my “thing” for a long time. It’s bloody annoying and frivolous and silly but it has its uses. And since Genghis appeared it’s been amazing.

Through FB I have reconnected with people from school. We all appear to have done quite a lot of growing up in the 19 years since school finished. The goodwill messages have been phenomenal.

There are a million and one mummy groups on FB but there’s one in particular I’ve turns to regularly and particularly since Genghis. FrankMums is a collection of ladies with things to say. The rules are that you can say what you want without being judged. Some ladies rant about family members. Some rant about work. Some let off steam about the pressures of being a parent. Lots take the mickey out of other, less “Frank”, mummy groups. I’ve been using it to share some of my Genghis experiences. And oh my goodness, the support I have had! These women, ascerbic at times, rude at others, have been wonderful. Beautiful messages. Offers of food, childcare, alternative therapies. Donations to charity in honour of me. And the best of all – a new real friend, emerging from the pack, going through the same thing at the same time, helping me and letting me help her get through the madness of it all. We have the same surgeon, the same oncologist and the same outlook on life. She’s brilliant.

And then there are all the breast cancer FB groups. Dozens. And the young cancer groups. Some of them do my head in a bit. And I have to keep reminding myself that the people who get through this nonsense usually move on and don’t hang around in these groups any more, so of course the slant is more likely to be negative than positive. But, that said, there’s one in particular that’s been very helpful. The Young Breast Cancer Network is run by some amazing women and hosts the views of some other amazing women. So much to admire. The lady who is a makeup artist, posting online tutorials advising how to use make up for those who are suffering side effects. Those going on TV and radio and doing interviews to raise awareness and money for charities. Those who bother to reply to the nervous “what?”, “how?” and “why?” posts. Wishing each other luck with the next chemo (remembering when someone is due another dose, or when someone is about to finish). Sharing post operative pictures to help others. Discussing fertility issues. And it works because we are all younger women, the ones who aren’t meant to be doing this right now, but focusing on jobs, marriage, kids, life.

I know that some people are very private about their illness. But I’ve honestly found that openness brings its own rewards in the form of phenomenal support from even the most unexpected of places. And that includes complete strangers. In truth, there are many that have been far more present than certain friends, whose radio silence has been surprising and saddening. But these kindly strangers, these faceless friends, have stepped into the breach. Thank you, all of you.

Grey

Today has been a grey day. The sky has been grey. My jumper is grey. My face is grey. And to be honest I have felt a little grey. Maybe more than a little.

I had my first dose of Taxol two says ago. It’s been ok ish. I feel sleepy and weary. I have had sore spots breaking out on my hands and feet. I have had various strong aches which ibuprofen has mainly dealt with. My eyelids are very red and look half shut. But it’s not too bad. Bearable. Manageable.

The lack of energy has meant I’ve been a bit bored. That’s probably why I feel grey. I feel like taking a picture of myself and posting it on Facebook and telling all those people who smoke to stop it right now because cancer makes you grey. To be fair, I’ve felt like shouting at people who smoke since I first got my diagnosis. It doesn’t quite seem fair that smokers can get away with it but lots of us don’t do anything too unhealthy and still get cancer. A lot of people who smoke don’t seem to care if they get ill. I want to show them that they should I care because being ill with cancer ain’t fun.

Grey grey grey.

The fact that it is almost dark before 6.30 in the evening isn’t helping.

So I’m trying to plan ahead to when it’s not grey. I guess that means next spring. I have 101 ideas for holidays and I’m impatient to book. I want to look ahead, beyond the grey, to the orange and red and yellow and pink. Those are happy colours. Sun. Fun. Nice things. Yes please. No more grey.

Another year….

Happy birthday to me! 38 years ago today I emerged into the world. 10 years ago today I was preparing for my wedding just a few days away. 1 year ago today I was having a nice day off work. And today I am preparing for my 5th chemo session tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m having a nice day off work. Nice gentle things planned. Lots of lovely presents. Lovely messages. I’m not unhappy. But I am feeling a teeny bit sorry for myself. Why? Because I can’t get away from being the patient. All the lovely messages telling me how strong I am and how this coming year should be a good and healthy one. Lots of lovely gifts to indulge me. Goodness I sound ungrateful! I don’t mean to. I really really really appreciate it all. But I’m just a bit sad. And I have the threat of chemo tomorrow hanging over me which doesn’t help.

But I am also proud. Proud of my friends and family and proud of myself. On the weekend I had a fundraiser for Breast Cancer Care in lieu of a birthday bash. My friends came and donated masses. Those who couldn’t come donated online. And then I took the leftover goodies to work and asked work people to donate – and they did. And then for good measure I posted the online donation link on Facebook and even more people donated – including one perfect stranger and one guy from college
who I’ve barely seen since since I left and who was hugely generous. All in all I’m now up to about £1400. Not bad for a night’s work. And I hardly did the work – it was mainly my fabulous Mum who catered and prepared the thing.

So good comes out of adversity and the support of friends and family is truly amazing. It all means I only have thing left to wish for when I blow out the candles on my cake – that this time next year Genghis feels like ancient history.

Musings from the Big White Chair

Some random thoughts as I sit in the Big White Chair waiting for the poison:

– This is all a bit shit.
– Generally I’ve been feeling upbeat but for some reason today the crap is getting me down.
– That said, I know I will bounce back. I hope it’s sooner rather than later.
– Fizzy water is my new top thing. It gets me through chemo. It gets me through the vile mouth stage post chemo. And at all other times it still feels more exciting than still water. I need to get out more!
– My chemo is administered in a windowless room/pod. It makes me miss the outside. Being outside is good if you’re ill. Fresh air has magical properties.
– I need to think about nice things to cheer me up. Here are some nice things:
* My family
* The smell of the sea and a summer breeze
* Pink champagne
* My girlie friends
* A good giggle
* Winning a new piece of work
* Sleeping solidly the whole night through
* Salmon and avocado sushi rolls
* The shoe shops in Madrid
* The moment you walk into a hotel room and see just how nice it is
And so on. Now I’m smiling.