Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Get into internet shopping

During my chemo I avoided infection throughout by being super careful. I worked from home (when I felt well enough) and apart from my daily walks, didn't go out very often. I was absolutely committed to getting through the full six cycles without any delays so that meant staying well. This meant that shopping was a definite no-no! So we started ordering from Ocado and I have to say that they were fantastic! They gave us a voucher after our first order, and then when they saw I was going through chemo, they gave us another £20 voucher! They were also really helpful in packing the shopping in the right bags for easy unpacking, and their delivery drivers are lovely. Amanda.

I agree, online shopping is a must. If I ran out of the odd item, I had a fantastic support of friends and family who I could call on and who were more than happy to pick me up the odd bottle of milk etc. I was also super careful and didn't want to risk the thought of picking up an infection purely by running into the shop for one grocery item. Any infection at all and your next chemo session would be delayed but more importantly, your immune system is extremely low and any infection could be potentially life threatening so the easiest option is to not do it!! Debbie.

Eat well during FEC chemo and avoid the fridge!

As it's a month after my last chemo, I've started to look back at my diary to see what I wish I'd known to make my experience easier (I had every side effect going, so it wasn't the best of experiences!). What I've noticed is that the better my diet, the better I felt. I had a pretty rough time with the FEC - vomiting, migraines, piles, fatigue, mouth sores, digestive problems and diaorrhea to name but a few. However, it got easier each time. During the FEC my sense of smell became so sensitive, that if I opened the fridge I would be sick! This meant that I barely ate anything after my first FEC cycle. However, after the second cycle I started to get into a routine of eating a bowl of fresh fruit for breakfast, and plenty of fresh veg (spinach with everything!). I didn't go near the fridge (I would leave the room while my husband opened it!) and we didn't buy any strong smelling stuff. I had a much easier time of it after that, which is largely to do with the fact that as my digestion was better, the medication worked better, plus I was more robust and felt a lot better. So if you can face food, then I'd definitely recommend some healthy, light meals to get you through FEC.

Take suitable precautions when opening the fridge


At the end of chemo, be patient with yourself

As I was coming to the end of chemo (around about my fifth cycle - the second of the Docetaxel) I began to get really excited. I couldn't wait to be free of the constant canulas, hideous side effects and isolation of chemo. I also did a lot of reading and people were saying that you can get really depressed after chemo's finished. I couldn't imagine such a thing since I thought I would be absolutely thrilled that it would be over! However, now I'm four weeks post chemo, I can understand why it's not everything you imagine. My baldness didn't bother me at all when I was going through treatment as I wasn't going anywhere, but it became more awkward when I began socialising again. I was also over-weight from the water retention from the Docetaxel and felt like a huge bald barrel. I was told by the nurse that some of the side effects can last for several months yet I felt under pressure to be the person I used to be - running, working full-time and socialising a lot. My advice is don't expect too much. It is wonderful on the other side of chemo, but it is also a time of adjustment. Be patient with yourself and make it clear to others what you can and can't do. Don't rush back into normal life, but build it slowly. And...the hair will grow back, and the weight subside (mine is starting to slowly drop off now). I promise!
Me, three weeks after chemo ended


Monday, 16 June 2014

The chemo do's and don't list

When I knew that I was going to be having chemotherapy, the first thing I did was consult my friend Mr Google to research diets and/or the best ways of surviving chemo and it's glorious side effects. When I say diets, I mean diets as in the best foods to eat that would give me the best chance of getting through chemo without an infection and hindering my recovery. I found the following simple advice very useful and with only one cycle of chemo to go, I've pretty much 'sailed' through it with minimal side effects. Most of the advice that I researched was actually a case of using your common sense and being careful.
  1. Sleep as and when you need to.
  2. Take short walks, even the shortest walk can make you feel that bit better.
  3. Stay out of crowds (I have not yet been inside any supermarket since treatment started-online shopping is a must).
  4. Do not let anyone visit if they have even think they have any sign of an illness.
  5. Constantly wash your hands.
  6. Don't touch your face.
  7. Eat healthily and drink plenty.
I stocked up on items that I deemed necessary and so far, I haven't actually had the need to use most of them but I know that I had them if I needed them to counteract the side effects of chemo.
  1. A thermometer-this is something that you will definitely need because you have to take your temperature on a daily basis.
  2. Immodium (diarrhoea).
  3. Senokot (constipation).
  4. Rennie (indigestion)
  5. Gaviscon (heartburn).
  6. Antibacterial wipes. Buy the miniature packets and keep them in handbags too.
  7. Antiseptic wipes.
  8. Crystallised ginger or packets of ginger biscuits (nausea).
  9. Countless antibacterial sprays and surface wipes for around the home.
I also made and froze countless healthy meals prior to starting chemo. I would recommend investing in a Slimming World recipe book, they're low fat meals which are ideal during chemo as you won't be burning any energy.On the days where I really felt unwell or had no energy, I knew that I could take something out of the freezer for the following day and that I'd be eating something healthy. I found that making soups full of vegetables were one of the best things to freeze and I've felt better in the knowledge that even when I haven't felt like cooking, at least I've had a daily quota of vegetables.

I had a checklist of foods that I have tried to eat on a daily basis..
All bran cereal to provide fibre.
Pro-biotic yoghurts to aid digestion.
A few almonds daily for energy.
Whole grain toast and peanut butter, again for energy.
Vegetables/meat combo for dinner.

You will have days where you may not even want to eat but I forced myself to eat three meals a day, even if it felt like I was chewing on cardboard. The smallest of meals is better than not eating at all. Debbie.

20 lessons cancer has taught me

  1. All the clich├ęs are true.
  2. There is nothing more touching than someone telling you they would rather be experiencing this than see you suffer. And knowing they mean it.
  3. Laughter, even at the most inappropriate times can be magical.
  4. The thoughtfulness of a friend can make a tough day bearable.
  5. Scars are not ugly but a symbol of what we have overcome.
  6. What you think is a bad day is actually a privilege.
  7. There are some incredibly brave people in this world. And they’re not the ones you would think.
  8. People are put into your path for a reason.
  9. There is joy even in the darkest times.
  10. Being loved is the greatest gift you can ever receive.
  11. Even with no hair, people who love you can still see beauty in you.
  12. You are stronger than you ever thought possible.
  13. Whatever you’re going through, someone else is having a rougher time.
  14. Finding the one you love more than anything is completely priceless.
  15. Normality is seriously under-rated.
  16. You need to enjoy what you have right now rather than dream of what you might have.
  17. Prayers are always answered. Just perhaps not in the way you think.
  18. Peace on the inside can counteract chaos on the outside.
  19. Eating well can make a genuine difference to how you feel.
  20. Patience is not just a virtue. It’s a skill to be learned.
Amanda and Debbie

Triple Negative Breast Cancer - don't believe the hype

When you've been diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer, your first thought is to have a good read about it online. You'll probably wish you hadn't! There's lots of scary stuff about a poorer prognosis and limited treatment options. However, there are some good points! Triple Negative responds really well to chemotherapy and once you're finished with the chemo and radiotherapy, there's no ongoing treatment, so it's not all bad! There's a specific organisation dedicated to TNBC, and this is a really useful information source. So, don't panic! And, several of my friends (who are also about my age) had TNBC many years ago now and have practically forgotten all about it.


Plan in some celebrations

Now cancer treatment can be pretty arduous so it's important to have some treats to look forward to. I've booked a multitude of holidays, and since my 41st birthday was on the day after my last chemo, I am having another birthday in July when I'll hopefully be feeling a lot better. Debbie and I also had a few appointments with the hospital's holistic therapist and these were brilliantly uplifting sessions to look forward to during our 'good' week (the third week after chemo). Being kind to yourself is so important, so whatever constitutes a treat for you, then go for it!


How to tell your children you have Breast Cancer

The best way to break the news to your children that you have Breast Cancer....there is no best way.
I have three children, two are adults age 22 and 23 and I also have a 13 year old. All three of mine knew that I had gone to the hospital for my results after having a biopsy. I have always been open and honest with my children, no matter what the subject and assumed it would be easier telling the eldest two than it would telling the youngest. Well it wasn't easy telling any of them. All three cried and were understandably upset.
I told them word for word what the consultant had told me and tried to answer any questions that they had.
I only have my youngest at home now and the night I was diagnosed, she wanted me to sleep with her and we lay in bed and I told her to ask me anything she wanted. We both had tears on and off but, I was then and still am a very positive person and I think it's half the battle. You have to stay strong and positive because it really does reflect in the way your children handle the diagnosis.
My youngest has probably suffered the most since I was diagnosed because she lives with me and she sees the effects of chemo, whether it's been the side effects or the general life during chemo.
One thing I have done is promised her lots of treats for when I'm through my treatment (last one next week).
She is old enough to understand that: I can't take her shopping, I can't take her the cinema, I can't do 'normal' things with her that we did before BUT she also knows that it's short term and that life will return to 'normal' once my treatment is over. I have always encouraged her to talk to me about any fears she may have and any questions, she knows she can ask me because I've always been honest and open with all three of them.
My youngest also knows she can talk to her siblings or other family members if she needs to. I also informed her school and they have been very supportive and encouraged her to talk if she feels the need.
I've been very lucky as my whole family, children and friends have been an invaluable support system since I was diagnosed.
My main advice would be to just be open and honest with your children, no matter what their age. You will not be able to hide your feelings and they will sense that something is wrong anyway. Debbie.

Mastectomy and Reconstruction

I was originally diagnosed with one small lesion, 6mm Grade 1 and was booked in to have a lumpectomy. I needed an MRI scan to rule out further lesions as my mammogram was unclear as I also had lots of breast cysts. This showed up two further areas which after biopsies, confirmed I had two more cancerous lesions and I was told that I needed a mastectomy and would have an immediate reconstruction. My immediate reaction was 'get it off' once I knew I had the three separate lesions. I actually could not wait for my operation.
I had a fairly new technique, called a Strattice Reconstruction. My operation went well (4hrs) and I remember waking up and feeling like I had a house brick strapped to my chest!! I was also hooked up to two drains, one draining the implant and the other draining my armpit due to having lymph nodes removed. I won't lie, it wasn't very comfortable at all and I had many tears because of the pain but this was compensated by the fact that I knew that the breast had been removed and the cancerous growths with it. I was in hospital for four days and came home with the two drains. One was removed three days later and the second one, a week after that. Once both drains were out, I felt different again, partly because I could have a 'proper' bath. The pain did get easier every day until eventually by week 3, I hardly had any pain and didn't feel the need for pain relief.
My results showed that I had three lesions, the original one, 6mm Grade 1, a 5mm Grade 2 and a 2.5mm Grade 2. All three were tiny but in three separate areas which possibly meant that my breast was prone to cancer and I know that the mastectomy was the best treatment for me.
You will be given exercises to do the day after a mastectomy. Do make sure you do the exercises that the physio give you, they really are essential.
The really positive news is, a few weeks on from my mastectomy and reconstruction, my new breast was much softer and I had no pain whatsoever from it.
Just be warned that you may feel like an exhibit when you have follow up hospital appointments...I'm sure that my breast surgeon treated my breast like it was his work of art that he needed everyone to see!!
I am now six months post mastectomy/reconstruction and unless I tell people, they can't tell the difference with my boobs! Debbie.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

When will my hair ever grow back?

Having had thick, waist-length blonde hair before cancer, I have been very impatient about when my hair will grow back. It fell out completely a couple of weeks after the first FEC cycle, and my eyebrows thinned considerably. I lost all but five of my eyelashes towards the end of the Docetaxel cycles. I wasn't too bothered about being bald when I was going through chemo, as I never socialised and was feeling pretty rough. However, now I'm out and about, I am desperate for my hair to grow back. (I've struggled with wigs as they tend to cause migraines). If, like me, you want to know how long you have to wait, my hair started growing back after penultimate Docetaxel. It started off very, very fine, like a newborn baby chick and is growing vertically. Over six weeks I've got about an inch of this baby hair and still look bald, but at least it's progress! However, this last week, I've noticed some tougher, darker hair coming through. It's about a millimetre long but is thick like my old hair used to be. So, I reckon within a few weeks I might be able to go hat-free without people asking me whether I've had cancer (which they do!). I'll keep you posted! Amanda.

Me yesterday
Now when we talk about laughter being the best medicine, this photo literally had us in stitches and again, when you're chemo buddies, you just get it!! My hair/body loss hasn't quite been the same as Amanda. Yes, I've lost the hair from my head but it started to grow back after my 4th cycle (1st Docetaxel). When I say it's started to grow back, it's about 2mm so hardly enough to wear a clip just yet but at least I know it will grow back. Saying that, I'm quite partial to my wig... I simply wash it once a week, shake it and put it back on the wig stand, comb through the following day and it is perfect, no styling needed. I do not need to dry it or straighten it either (bonus).
 I have never lost any leg hair at all. None!! Totally unfair!! I have one very thin eyebrow and half an eyebrow on the other side! I haven't actually counted eyelashes but sure I have more than Amanda's five! Debbie.

Using supplements to accelerate your recovery

During my chemotherapy I suffered from horrendous, debilitating migraines, particularly after the first cycle where Ondansetron was part of the drugs cocktail. Migraine can be attributed to a magnesium deficiency, so I asked my neurologist whether it would be helpful to take daily doses of Magnesium, alongside Vitamin B12 which I had also read could help. He was keen on the idea as long as my oncologist was happy, as sometimes herbal treatments can interfere with the effects of the chemo. He gave me the go-ahead too, and I took both throughout the process. My migraines improved significantly, and this made the chemo much more bearable. Once the chemo finished, on the advice of my acupuncturist I started taking Co-Q10, Glucosamine and Collagen supplements to boost my energy levels and hair and tissue regrowth. Obviously you will need to check with your doctors, but I am four weeks post chemo, feeling pretty good and have the hair of a new-born chick!


Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Don't forget who you are

I'm not going to lie. There have been a number of times during my cancer treatment where I began to lose sight of who I was. Without the usual markers - work, friends, exercise, a social life, hair...I began to feel like the Amanda I used to be was completely missing in action. But as I got closer to the end of the treatment, I found her again. I realised that not only was she still there, she was actually stronger, smarter and slightly more chilled than the old Amanda. I also had to remind myself that I am not my appearance, I am not my brain and I am certainly not my cancer. I'm bigger than all of that, and those that love you can see who you are when everything else has been stripped away.


Laughter is the best medicine

Well obviously, where cancer is concerned, chemotherapy and radiation are the best medicine. But you really can't underestimate the healing power of laughter. Even during my darkest times throughout the last few months, I've laughed a lot. Whether it's putting mascara on my five remaining eyelashes, making up my own chemo lyrics to famous songs, or wearing the huge prison-issue smock that you have to wear to radiotherapy, there have been some real belly laughs. Cancer is pretty serious, but you don't have to take it seriously all the time! Amanda.

Laughter is by far the best remedy and laughter with a fellow chemo buddy is even better. Trust me, they will just 'get you', like nobody else would understand. Friends can laugh with you but it's not the same as when you and your chemo buddy laugh about comparing eyebrows and eyelashes or the various stages of hair growth, from fluffy chick hair to errmm longer fluffy chick hair!!
Keep on laughing, keep on smiling, this lesson has taught us both that life is way too short to be serious and miserable! Debbie.

Read this book!

A friend recommended Anti Cancer to me and I really enjoyed it. It's got some great tips on diet, exercise and the power of positive thinking and it makes really logical sense. The author survived for twenty years after being diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour, so it certainly worked for him! There's nothing crazy in here, just some really sensible advice.


Walk every day

When I asked my oncologist what I could do to reduce the chances of the cancer coming back, he suggested walking every day for half an hour. I've done this religiously throughout the treatment and even when you feel utterly exhausted, it can make you feel a little better. Don't go far, and take plenty of water with you, but do try it!


Alternative therapies are amazing!

Now I'm not saying that you shouldn't go for conventional medicine - take everything on offer - surgery, chemo and radio, even if it's borderline whether you need it (I only had a micro-metastasis in one lymph node). However, I have found alternative therapies to be absolutely fantastic in getting me through the challenges of cancer treatment. After the first chemo when I was terribly ill, I couldn't digest any medication which meant that I couldn't treat any of the side effects. So I went to see an acupuncturist who worked on my digestive system as well as giving me nutritional advice. He was absolutely wonderful! I found that over the next couple of weeks I began to be lots more robust and less sick. I've seen him every week and will continue to do so over my recovery. I've also seen a mindfulness and relaxation practitioner. It's so important to learn how to rest and avoid stress to minimise the likelihood of the cancer coming back, and it's not something that comes naturally to me at all. I've now learned to relax which will be an invaluable skill for the future.


Don't make any promises

When I was diagnosed with cancer I imagined myself handling it like a super-woman. I expected to be working full-time and looking glamorous and courageous all the way through. Two weeks after my first chemo and I could barely move from the sofa, never mind put lipstick on. So my top tip would be, don't make any promises to yourself or others. Just listen to your body. I've always been pretty terrible at that, so it's been quite the learning curve, but it's very important. If you feel like you can work, then do what you can (I started after the second chemo and really enjoyed it, but didn't go into the office due to a risk of infection, and I rarely worked in the first week after chemo). If you feel like resting all day, then do it! It's so important to nurture yourself and do what you can on any given day. Everyone is different. Don't put yourself under any pressure. Your health is the most important thing, not what others think. And, once you're better, it'll be like you were never away, so take time out and really look after yourself. Lesson over.


Invest in a decent moisturiser

Chemo can play havoc with your body, and dehydration has been a big issue for me throughout. However, before I started, I invested in an expensive moisturiser, Clinique's Moisture Surge. I've used it every day and my skin is probably the only bit of me that feels fantastic!


Cut your hair off in advance

Having long blonde hair before my cancer diagnosis meant that hair loss was going to be a bit of a challenge. I decided rather than wait for my hair to fall out, I would do something positive and give it to charity. There is an amazing charity called Little Princesses which makes wigs for children who are suffering with cancer or other illnesses that cause baldness. I had my hair cut off and then sent it to the Little Princess Trust, giving me a good feeling inside that I had helped a child to feel better during their illness. I then had time to get used to having a shaved head before my hair eventually fell out. When it did fall out, it all happened on one day (two weeks after the first chemo). By this stage it was only half a centimetre long so it wasn't especially traumatic. If I'd had huge clumps of long hair falling out I'm sure it would have been a lot more difficult to deal with. I didn't really feel too awful about losing my hair until after the last chemo, when the eyelashes had gone too. When I was going through treatment, my hair seemed to be the least of my worries, but as I started to get out and about again and resume normal activities, I did struggle with being bald. I don't have much advice apart from just know that people look beyond your hair and can see beauty in you even when you can't. And invest in some comfortable hats! Amanda.

I had below the shoulder length hair and a friend of mine who had previously been through breast cancer, advised me to have my hair cut short prior to chemo, she advised me to have a wig the same length as the new haircut so that it wouldn't be as traumatic when I had to wear the wig for real. I did just that, I had just become used to my new haicut before I started chemo and my hair started to fall out during week two after my first cycle. I then had my hair shaved along with my husband, son and two brothers who all had theirs shaved as well to support me. The men of the family have since had their hair shaved every time I have had a chemo cycle and in the process, we have raised lots of money for Cancer Research.
To be fair, losing my hair hasn't really bothered me, I was more worried about chemo side effects and being ill (I don't do illness). My wig is amazing and people really don't know it's a wig. Yes, it's a strange experience when you have your first outing because you feel paranoid but after a few outings, you realise that actually, nobody takes any notice as the wig is so 'real'. Debbie.

Take all your medication

One piece of advice I wish I'd known when I started chemo was to take all the medication the hospital gives you. Most side effects are best resolved before they happen rather than afterwards. For example, once you start being sick, the anti-sickness medication doesn't really do much, and once you have mouth sores, they are trickier to treat. So, take everything the hospital gives you for the full course. Use the mouthwash every day all the way through, take the anti-sickness medication even when you don't feel sick and this pre-emptive approach does seem to work. I waited too long after my first chemo to take anything and then developed horrible side effects. During the rest, I took everything I was given and felt a lot better. Amanda.

Now I am the opposite of Amanda, I did what I was told and took all the tablets that I was told to take. Unfortunately, I didn't get given the Amend anti sickness after my first chemo session so even with the 12 hourly anti sickness meds, my first night after chemo no1 was pretty horrendous and I was continually vomiting for 13 hours. This was the one and only time that I was sick throughout my whole treatment as I was given the wonder drug Amend to take before my 2nd treatment. You take one tablet 1 hour before chemo and then one on each of the following two mornings after chemo. If you are about to start on your chemo journey and are already aware that you are a sicky person, then make sure you ask for the Amend beforehand!
As for the mouthwash, I started to use this twice a day, one week before I even started having chemo and I have not suffered from one single mouthsore or ulcer and I have just recently had my very last chemo session (2days ago). Debbie.

You don't have to be positive all the time

Now I've always been a really positive person, and even being diagnosed with the most aggressive kind of cancer at 40 didn't dampen my spirits. However, when you've had your head down the toilet for several hours, you've lost your hair and you can't even count the side effects of the chemo on two hands, feeling positive is that last thing you want to do. My advice is, if you want to feel sorry for yourself, then do it! People will be absolutely lovely, give you thoughtful presents, best wishes, prayers and support. But, they do find it easier when you're smiling and brave. When you're having a down day, they really find it difficult to know what to say, and 'stay positive' can hard to hear. But don't feel that you have to be upbeat all the time. Cancer is tough, emotionally and physically, and you need to feel what you want to feel - whether it's good or bad. You will have down days. It's pretty unavoidable. But you will also have days when you feel overwhelmed by love and support and you'll bounce back to feeling positive again. Just be kind to yourself. Give yourself time and space to feel what you need to feel. Take a walk. Read your cards or messages from your friends and family. Watch some mindless TV or read a book. You WILL feel better. It will pass.


On Docetaxel paint your nails purple!

One of the side effects of Docetaxel is that it can make your nails discoloured or even fall off. However, they give you these hideous ice packs at the hospital that you can wear on your feet and hands during treatment to minimise the damage to your nails. Not to be a wuss but I hated these! I managed to wear the mittens for two of my three sessions, but the ice 'socks' were unbearable. I read on a breast cancer site that if you paint your nails purple, it protects them from the light and stops them from being affected. I did this, and never removed the varnish, just kept painting over it, and my nails were absolutely fine. Amanda.

I totally agree, the ice packs were unbearable. Minus 9 degree packs that have to be swapped every twenty minutes. I lasted for one twenty minute session and almost begged for them to be taken off. The risk of losing the odd nail more than outweighed the sub zero frostbite in my fingers and feet!!! I have also had 'gelish' dark nail polish applied throughout my Docetaxel regime and so far so good. I have now finished chemo and my nails are still looking good.  Debbie.

Get a chemo buddy!

Chemo is hard work and no matter how wonderful your friends and family are, they're not going to understand how you're feeling. Before chemo I used to use the word 'exhausted' and think I knew what it meant! Now I truly understand what it means! There were times during the Docetaxel regime that I would have to spend several hours working up to standing up and getting a glass of water. It can be really tough. But I've met a couple of great people (including Deb) at chemo. We swapped numbers and Facebook details and I can't tell you how great it is to be able to share how you're feeling with someone who truly knows what you're going through. You can share the *delights* of eyelash loss, bone pains and fatigue and they get it. You can also share some of the dark times with a chemo buddy that you might not want to share with your friends and family (more on the 'be positive' phenomena later). You'll see the same folk every time anyway, so get chatting and make a cancer friend! Amanda.

I second Amanda's experience! It does make a difference talking to others who know exactly how you feel. Who else can you laugh with about your half an eyebrow or your 3 eyelashes!!! Or the fact that my leg hair has never fallen out which is totally unfair!! One thing chemo will never take is our sense of humour and yes, you do have days where you don't feel yourself but what I find helps, is thinking about something that Amanda and I have laughed about and it always cheers me up.

Keep a diary

A really useful suggestion that one of my friends who'd been through breast cancer recommended was to keep a diary. I actually kept two! One is really functional (and super useful) - it was just a summary of my side effects and how I was feeling each day. The other was more of a narrative of the experience with photos. The side effect diary is a really helpful tool. You often find that the side effects follow the same pattern each time, so if you're feeling terrible on day three, you can look in your diary and see that by day five you'll feel a lot better and by day ten you'll feel great! You may, like me, find that time stands still when you're going through chemo, but it really helps to know that you will feel better in a few days. As a rule of thumb, the first week after chemo is pretty rotten, the second is OK and you tend to feel loads better in week three. Then you start everything again!

The other diary charts my journey, and even now, when I read it, I can barely remember some of the last few months. I look at it with awe that I've actually got through it all, and also hope that it might help other people that have to experience the same challenges. Getting through cancer is a major achievement (although the treatment is far worse than the cancer itself!) and it's good to remember what you've experienced.

Don't give up after the first chemo!

Having finally reached the other side of chemo, I am starting to reflect on the process. Chemo is pretty unpleasant - don't get me wrong. However, it does get better over time. I was told that chemo would increase my chances of survival by 18% so it was pretty important to persevere. After my first chemo (FEC), I felt so appalling that I could barely move. I vomited for twenty four hours straight, felt utterly exhausted and suffered from horrendous side effects such as severe migraines, hot flushes, stomach cramps, constipation, a sore mouth, blurry eye-sight, thrush, diarrhoea, dehydration and hair loss. I was also neutropenic (when your blood cell count is so low you are at high risk of infection). So it was not the best fun I've ever had. If it wasn't for my husband and family, I would certainly have given up. So my most important tip is DON'T GIVE UP! Everyone is different and you may not have the same side effects I did, but either way, it does get better. It's a combination of adapting the chemo slightly (they removed the anti-sickness, Ondansetron which caused the migraines), giving you medication to manage the side effects better, and your body adapting to the chemo, but it really does improve. My second chemo was much, much better and as you knock each one on the head, the end becomes more clearly in sight. And, you won't believe it at the time, but once it gets to the penultimate cycle, it starts to fly by and you will begin to forget the traumas of the first one. Amanda.

I am currently almost at the end of chemo ( cycle six next week) and have had a completely different experience to Amanda.
I did vomit for 12 hours after cycle one and felt nauseous for the following two days. I gradually started to feel well after Day 5 and they were pretty much the only side effects I had. By cycle two, I was given a strong anti-sickness tablet to take prior to chemo called Amend, so do ask for this if it isn't offered to you. Cycle two and three were very similar, I felt quite 'rough' after the treatment, headache and nausea for a few hours and then I was fine. The only thing I found was that the overwhelming tiredness seemed to accumulate after each session, so by cycle 3, it took me at least 8 days to start feeling the slightest bit of energy.
I haven't had diarrhoea, constipation, mouth sores or migraines. I have had the hot sweats, especially at night. Everybody is different so don't think too much about what you read concerning side effects.
Once you are aware of your chemo start date, mark each date on your calendar and cross them off, one by one and although it seems like it's going to take forever when you have your first one, it really does fly by. Debbie.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014


Welcome to Amanda and Deb's breast cancer tips blog. We met through the joys of chemotherapy and thought it might be helpful to share what we've learnt during the fun of cancer treatment in 2014.

A bit about me... (Amanda) I was diagnosed with grade 3, stage 2b Triple Negative Breast Cancer in December of 2013 at the age of 40. I've since had a lumpectomy, six cycles of chemotherapy (three FEC and three Docetaxel) and 23 cycles of radiotherapy. I've learnt an incredible amount, met some great (and very brave people) and I'm now getting started on life after cancer!

A bit about me...(Debbie) I was diagnosed with grade 1 & 2 (3 separate lesions), stage 1b Breast Cancer in December 2013 at the age of 44. All 3 lesions were oestrogen +, her2-. I had a mastectomy and immediate reconstruction followed by 6 cycles of chemotherapy (three FEC and three Docetaxel). It was during cycle 2 that I met Amanda.