Just because I haven’t written much here doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing much. I’ve even managed a holiday in the sun. Well I say in the sun, but mostly I was in the shade as I’m still very sun sensitive following Radiotherapy last month and any exposure is not a good thing. Packing for a break post Radiotherapy was a different experience, ensuring that you have total sun block, your medication, cooling patches and clothes that keep you cool whilst cover you up can present a challenge.
Shopping for a few new holiday clothes (a legal requirement) crystallised this challenge. My aim was to find stuff that ensured that on very warm and even hot days I felt comfortably cool but not exposed to the suns vicious rays. The nurses at the hospital had recommended tops that came up to your neck and covered the whole area that had been radiated; not a consideration for clothes designers obvs. For a fleeting moment as I was browsing around some stores I imagined a whole new line of outfits specifically designed for cancer patients but quickly talked myself out of that career change (however it remains a gap in the market should you be interested).
Tamoxifen continues to remind me of its presence with alarming regularity and increasingly high heat too. ‘Hot flushes/flashes’ sounds like such a gentle side effect but the reality is that they are uncomfortable, omnipresent and disruptive. I have been taking my Tamoxifen at night as some fellow flashers suggested that their side effects were easier to cope with during the night rather than in the day. However I found that being in the Mediterranean with their warm nights the combo was increasingly troublesome and left me feeling shattered from poor levels of sleep and rest.
On return to the UK I’ve now changed to taking Tamoxifen in the morning as I felt that possibly I’d cope better during the day when I wasn’t bundled under a duvet, not to mention Steve trying to get some sleep without me behaving like a windmill on fire. Thus far it’s been a vast improvement, potentially some of that is linked to being in a cooler climate but whatever the rationale it’s better and
I’m we’re more rested.
I still have some redness and tenderness in the radiated area and the scars are beginning to soften and settle down. Oncology appointment is planned for next Monday, so we’ll see what ‘she of the beautiful hair’ thinks (my Oncologist) and what needs to happen now. Hopefully its watchful waiting and probably 9 & 3/4 more years of hot flushes and the other lovely side effects of hormone therapy. But hey, it’s all #TeamPositive.
So we’re back in the UK and focusing on all the things that are now in front of us. Our trip to the Gambia is looming up fast at the end of next month and that means that preparations for it are happening now. I’ve been touched by such generousity from friends and colleagues sending items through to me to head out on a shipment that will arrive when we are there and we’ll unpack with the villagers, nursery teachers and children. It’s amazing how certain stories connect people to what’s happening in other perhaps less fortunate parts of the world and how those stories trigger a response. To say that we’ve not been able to see the floor in much of our sitting room recently is an understatement. Human connection is a wonderful and generous thing.
Also in the UK it’s virtually impossible to not notice that its Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For some people and some shops that means ‘just turn everything pink’ and all will be ok. I must admit on reflection to buying some items previously and feeling pretty bloody virtuous, not thinking too deeply beyond the purchase. How times have changed.
Spin offs from the campaign have included the utterly pointless #NoBraDay this week, urging people to take selfies not wearing a bra! Needless to say the links to the main campaign (if any) are completely tenuous and in fact have done nothing to convey the core messages, a bit like the life that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge took on last year where the majority of people taking part were more interested in how they looked in their challenge videos than the ’cause’ they were doing it for.
For the most part the campaign is a positive forward motion in providing information and awareness in order to increase funding for a cure and earlier detection. The statistics of course remain shocking and don’t necessarily fully highlight the challenges of those with secondary (incurable) breast cancer or where reoccurrences happen. However awareness is awareness and with it comes some level of normalisation in terms of conversations that can take place or advice being taken notice of to check for potential signs and symptoms and not put off any actions that can be lifesaving.
Facts and Statistics 2015
Every year nearly 55,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK, that’s the equivalent of one person every 10 minutes
1 in 8 women in the UK will develop breast cancer in their lifetime
Nearly 12,000 people die from breast cancer in the UK every year
Breast cancer also affects men, but it’s rare – around 400 men are diagnosed each year.
The three main risk factors:
1. Gender – being a woman is the biggest risk factor for developing breast cancer.
2. Getting older – the older the person the higher the risk, more than 80% of breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50. Most men who get breast cancer are over 60.
3. Significant family history – this isn’t common, around 5% of people diagnosed with breast cancer have inherited a faulty BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.
More than eight out of 10 (85%) people survive breast cancer beyond five years.
For free, confidential support and information visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk or call our Helpline on 0808 800 6000.
Watch this space for further information on supporting awareness and services.
And so its Autumn, my favourite season of the year when the leaves on the trees start to bid us their farewell for this year. The colours are currently spectacular and with some of the Autumn sunshine we’ve been having it’s been a kaleidoscope of oranges, browns, greens, reds and of course pink- perfect for October!