Raising Awareness

Some people wonder why I talk about my cancer experience so much. The simple reason is that it saves lives.

Back in June 2015 I contacted a friend of mine to see if she could teach my 17 year old to drive. I had met Donna earlier that year at a brass band contest (yes brass bands again) and I told her I would be in touch later in the year.

Anyway when I phoned she told me that she was no longer teaching and in fact was about to undergo a double mastectomy. Rather than going into the details she then directed me to her blog – Just Get Rid

Of course I knew people, usually friends of friends, who had had breast cancer. Indeed I remember speaking to a colleague at work not long before this about a funeral she was going to for a friend who sadly died of breast cancer. These things always happed to someone else right?

Donna’s blog struck a chord with me though and something in the back of my mind started to nag. Then of course you wonder whether you are being a hypochondriac. The lump on my head was just some sort of cyst. Maybe the flu I had earlier in the year was a different strain to the one I had a vaccine for. My itchy mole on my left breast was a figment of my imagination.  The weird lumps in my armpit were just weird lumps – yes I was aware of them then.

iuWKVI4TS3These things whizzed round in my head – and I did nothing about it – I was an ostrich

This last week I have had headaches and dizziness. Again you get the “I’m just being a hypochondriac”  thoughts – recovering from my late night last week, too much sun, etc

Is my new normal to worry about every little thing. How do you know which little thing to worry about and which to ignore? Do you go to the doctors to be dismissed and then possible not return when there really is an issue. Do you go to the doctors and go through the worry of tests and results or do you bury you head in the sand and wait to see how you feel next week? (and I am feeling fine now!)

I am being an ostrich for the time being.

 

 

Whit Friday

I have been involved in brass bands since I was 9, I met my husband whilst playing in a brass band, my brother plays in a brass band, my kids play in brass bands but I have never been to the Whit Friday marches.

OK, so what are “the Whits?” …………….

Whit Friday is the first Friday after Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter. There appear to be different traditions around the country. Where I originate from we used to parade on Whit Monday. Although I walked in the parade I never got to play in the band. In the North East the Whit Walks or Parades are held on Whit Friday.

Image0042In 1870 one of the villages holding a Whit Walk combined this with a brass band contest. Gradually more villages started to do this and today there are some 23 villages holding a contest.

So what happens …. If you have ever seen the brilliant film “Brassed Off” then the Whits feature – you know the bit where they are supposed to be marching but do rather a lot of drinking.  So the bands march down a specified route then play a contest march before an adjudicator who may be in a caravan, pub, tent, etc, and cannot see the band who is performing. Bands of any DSC04096ability can enter.  Prizes vary from village to village, some are for deportment, some for playing depending on the level of the band, best youth band, most entertaining etc. They then jump on a coach and go to the next village.

Last year I had the chance to go with a fabulous organisation called “Boobs and Brass” who I will talk about a lot more another time but as you can guess by the name they are all girls and work to raise money for Breast Cancer Now.

So why didn’t I make the trip this year? Luckily it’s not my health that stopped me this year. The other members of the family are all played- in different bands – and someone needed to be at home to pick up the youngest when her coach got back – at 2 am!

Next year I will be there. Will it become my new normal? Not sure. I think it may be one of those things you want to experience, but once may be enough for me!

Cycling

I’ve been out on my bike three times in the last week – the first time out for some 8 months! I didn’t suffer too much, although feeling a bit tired today, and it was great to get out on my own. 

Back in the pre-children phase of my life cycling was the thing. I rode my bike some 3 miles each way to school for 7 years – some days it was loaded up with trumpet and PE kit, even had a clamp to carry a hockey stick.

I hated sport at school though and tried to avoid it wherever possible – trumpet lessons were often scheduled during PE. At 17 I learnt to windsurf and did a few races but that was more fun than sport!

Cycling continued when I left school, mainly for transport, but then somewhat crazily I started to train to race and ride time trials contre le montre. I wouldn’t say I was any good at it, a lot fewer girls rode back in the 80s and I used to come in around middle of the field.

Tour de France

Iteam photo (2)n 2014 the Tour de France came to Yorkshire. I am one of the few, I believe, people who has seen le Tour every time it has come to the UK, starting in 1974 in Plymouth. To celebrate the Tour my employers decided to stage it own bike ride between all our different offices for our charity of the year, Cancer Research UK, riding some 454 miles as a relay. As it was my boss’s idea I was heavily involved in sorting out a route and we decided to ride the last leg, the glory leg from Sheffield to our head office. I was fit then. Sadly since then I was diagnosed with cancer and a dear colleague who was also involved in the organisation has passed away with cancer.

I rode a few times on holiday after my initial diagnosis – it is another family thing, me, my husband, the kids (albeit one of them somewhat reluctantly), my mum (in her 80s) and her partner. I didn’t ride again until last September when I went out a few times. Unfortunately I had problems with my ankle and spd pedals – I had sprained my ankle a month before and it was, and still is, taking a long time to recover.

So my new normal so far as cycling is concerned is slow rides with toe clips! Still use the tracking app on the phone though and I am sure I will be trying to improve on the segments of my ride – and I still hate to be overtaken when out riding!

Off to do some “armchair cycling” now – the Giro – come on George

 

 

Where to begin

Who am I?

I’ve re-read my original post and realise I haven’t introduced myself. I am a 50 something lady living in the East Midlands of England with my husband, 20 year old son and nearly 18 year old daughter.

Around this time in 2015 life was plodding along nicely. Ourtrophy pic life revolved around music and the occasional bike ride, a bit of running and more music – OK just to warn you, this blog may turn out to be as much about music as anything else. So what changed this state of affairs – a diagnosis of breast cancer. To make my writing of this blog easier I am going to try and keep this blog on a rough timeline of the run up to my diagnosis.

Back in May 2015 our band decided to go on a road trip to Weston Super Mare. This was almost going home for my husband and myself as our first house together was in the next town up the road. We had last played in this contest some 20 years earlier and it was great to return to play with the kids. The band played well and we won the competition, had great fun playing cricket on the beach (ok the kids played and we watched), and met up with lots of old friends who we had not seen for years.

I felt fine. No idea of what was going to happen. Unusually I had been ill earlier in the year, a bought of flu (even with a flu jab courtesy of my employers) and a weird abscess on my head which I ended up going to the doctors about.

How Am I?

Jump forward to now, how am I? To be honest I am feeling better than I have for a long time.  Although my active treatment finished almost a year ago I have been suffering really bad fatigue recently which resulted in me cutting down my hours at work. A trip to the doctors, some blood tests and an intensive course of vitamin D seems to have done me good. Have read up on it, as you do, apparently my factor 50 sun cream that I now slap on my arm every day (in an attempt to stay off lymphedema) inhibits the absorption of sun and hence the manufacture of vitamin D so I am now taking vitamin D supplement. One of the ongoing joys of living after cancer.

Do I feel “normal” no, not what normal was but maybe now my new normal is starting to be defined. 

New Boob Day

P1060847And finally ….. today is “new boob day“. No P1060848I haven’t gone down the route of having reconstruction following my mastectomy but I have today picked up my new prosthesis in it’s nice pink bag. I’ve gone up a size in the last 2 years – thought I’d put on weight – and apparently a left sided boob looked better than a right sided one!

 

 

 

What is Normal?

It was suggested to me that I write a blog, that people might actually be interested in what I have been through. So here I am sat in front of a blank screen and it’s a bit daunting.

The aim of the blog is to recount how I am “getting back to normal” after treatment for breast cancer but unless you knew be before you will have no idea of who my life has changed.

That’s a starting point I suppose. Life comes in phases

There is that dim and distant “before school” phase followed by the wonderful(!) “school days”. For some these are swiftly followed by the “university days” but not for me – girls at my school were not encouraged to go to uni in the early 80s – so I skipped this phase and went straight to the “working phase”.

The “working phase” runs alongside various other life phases. Meeting the other half, the “courting phase”, followed some 8 years later by the “marriage phase” and then the “children phase” through whom you relive the early phases of your life.

So where am I know? Through my children I am coming to the end of the school phase and starting on the university phase.

It is very easy to lump all of these as the “pre-cancer phase” of my life – which it was but I cannot and will not let cancer define me like that. The “Cancer phase” was, in the grand scheme of things, fairly short – from the first trip to the doctors to end of treatment around 2 years.

So where am I now? I think this is the “rediscovery phase“. Treatment is finished but I am yet to define my new “normal”. Normal will never be what it was, but will hopefully improve as time goes on.

Normal will never be what it was, but will hopefully improve as time goes on.

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