From cocktails to codeine in 24 hours

In 24 hours I have experienced the best and the worst of living with Genghis. I have cried with laughter and with pain. I have celebrated, I have been thankful, I have been joyful; I have also cursed, I have ached and I have suffered.

That all makes things sound very melodramatic but, to be honest, it was a day and a half of extremes. Oh, and I’m tanked up with codeine, which is probably partly to blame for the perhaps exaggerated tone of this blog.

So, the cocktails. The good bit. I took a half day holiday from work to meet up with some fabulous ladies. I’ve blogged before about the online community of which I’m a fairly active member and which has been a huge emotional and practical support to me. Within the wider community is the wonderful Younger Breast Cancer Network, which I’ve also mentioned before, and within that is my special group of girls, aka The Seven Bitches (!), aka my lovely friends, Sarah, Rebecca, Aimee, Cinzia, Andrea and Jojo. We all received our primary diagnoses around the same time and over the months have gradually come together, some of us meeting up in person, all of us supporting each other remotely.

We met in Central London (unfortunately Aimee couldn’t make it) and started with cocktails. I was hugely excited. It felt like one if the few very fun things to happen since my initial diagnosis last June, and certainly since the secondary diagnosis in December. It felt very decadent to be out in the middle of the day. It felt great.

It was an amazing afternoon. We talked about cancer, to be sure, but also about everything but cancer. We laughed and laughed. We drank and ate. We bonded. We were silly. We were carefree. Sarah has blogged about our meet up and included some wonderful pictures: http://hbocuninformed.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/the-seven-bitches.html. You can see how fun it was (and how much we drank!).

What you can’t see is quite how much it meant to all of us. So let me tell you why these girls are so important, so wonderful. They all get it. They all understand what this cruel disease can do, how it casts a shadow, how it never goes away. They understand the fear and the sadness. These girls in particular are a wonderful group. They are all intelligent, articulate, witty, individual, strong, sassy, motivated. We may all have different backgrounds but we all share a lot. These girls who – absent Genghis – I would never have met are now firmly rooted in my life.

I had to duck out slightly ahead of the others for a treat with my amazing husband. Thanks to him (and his membership of BAFTA) we had tickets to the premiere of the first episode of Series 3 of the US drama House of Cards. This was set up like a film premiere, with a red carpet event in Leicester Square, a big screen and the stars of the show. So I got to walk the red carpet with the paps either side. It was more than a little surreal but great fun. After the screening we all decamped to a glitzy hotel for the after party (dahhhhling) where we quaffed champagne (think it was Prosecco actually) and scoffed some very delicious canapés. And I got to spend some real quality time with my darling husband.

Needless to say that by the time I got home I could hardly speak, I was so exhausted. But it had been worth it. I’d had so much fun, and been taken away from it all. You can’t put a price on that. In my situation any distraction is a welcome one. To have two fabulous experiences in one afternoon/evening is downright amazing.

Unfortunately, in a few hours I went from the ecstasy to the agony. And agony is unfortunately not an exaggeration. I had requested a liver biopsy to test the mets on my liver. There is a possibility that when breast cancer metastasises to the organs, its receptor status may change. You will remember from my earlier blogs that my breast cancer is triple negative. So I wanted to see whether the spots in my liver are hormone or HER2 positive, as if so, there may be other chemotherapy or targeted drugs that could treat them. This is pretty unlikely for various reasons, but worth testing, given the belt and braces approach that I am taking to fighting Genghis.

The doctor who performed the biopsy was absolutely lovely. The procedure itself was absolutely horrific. It was hugely uncomfortable and required me to stop breathing for what felt like an eternity so that my liver did not move in the middle of the doctor trying to grab a sample of it. And yes, you will have gathered from this that the procedure was performed under local anaesthetic so I was wide awake throughout the whole thing.

The pain kicked in fairly quickly afterwards. Initially, it felt like I have been kicked in side several times by someone with a very hard steel capped boot. I quickly found that lying on the opposite side to the incision was far more comfortable than lying on my back, but didn’t realise at that time that I would then spend a very considerable period of time on that same side. Lying on my back was only painful at the site of the incision, but also brought on an excruciating referred pain in my shoulder, which is a common side effect of liver damage. I asked for pain relief – I was given paracetamol. Suffice to say that was not the most effective of drugs for the pain I was in. Eventually I was given something a bit stronger – codeine. Thankfully after about an hour this took away the worst of the pain and I was able to breathe a bit more deeply again.

The other particularly unpleasant immediate after-effect of the procedure was that I had to lie perfectly still for four hours. This was to help my body repair itself. It would perhaps have been more bearable if I had been able to lie flat on my back, being stuck on one side for four hours wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had.

Eventually they let me go home so, groggy and tired, I crawled into bed, only to realise that I would be stuck sleeping on the same side for the whole night. And here I am, the morning after, still lying on that same side! Needless to say, it’s getting a bit stiff. It makes you quite inventive being stuck in one position. And
the dictate function on my iPhone is coming in extremely useful for the purposes of this blog entry.

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