Sunday, 26 October 2014

Younger women with breast cancer - Andrea's story

Today's featured story about diagnosis, treatment and being breast aware is from Andrea, aged 39. Andrea is a make up artist undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer and has created a you Tube channel called Baldy Beautiful, full of make tutorials to help us chemo baldy birds feel better about ourselves! Oh, and they are also good for non baldy ones too ;-) You can find Angela's channel here .

Andrea also has a Facebook page which you can find here . You can also follow her on Twitter  - @Baldlybeautiful.

'Straight after Christmas 2013 I decided that after being a lazy bitch for a year and letting myself go a bit - after a car accident which kinda left me a bit scared to exercise in case I hurt my back more - enough was enough and that in one years time (Jan 2015) I would be 40 and there was only one way I intended to be for my fabulous party - fit and frickin fabulous. I got straight back into an exercise and healthy eating routine and the weight dropped off and I was back to my slinky self by May/June, as well wanting to super slinky I decided i wanted hair as long as possible for my party and had successfully got it to half way down my back. I was very pleased with myself!

One morning after one of my 'Hannah Waterman DVD' workouts - which are quite tough I might add, lots of jumping jacks/burpees/pushups and planks, I jumped in the shower and was planning on taking my daughter up to oxford street to forever 21 as she was desperate to see what it was all about (all the teen bloggers she follows on youtube shop in forever 21 don't' you know!) So I'm in the shower just soaping up to wash under my arms and boobs and I felt a bone sticking out, literally it was so big it felt like a bone, I was confused, had I injured myself whilst doing all those burpees? had I broken something, I felt it again, no it wasn't a bone, what was it? a lump? but it cant be, I would have felt it before, it certainly wasn't there yesterday or the day before. Panic started to rise and I felt the tears streaming down my face under the water of the hot shower. It just couldn't be, I would check again once I was out of the shower and dry. So I dried myself off and felt again, there it was, still there. I phoned the doctors surgery straight away and burst out crying on the phone to the receptionist! She told me to calm down and that it was probably fine but I got booked in for the next morning with a female doctor. Unfortunately I couldn't go in straight away because the only female doctors in that day were locums and they didn't want me to see a locum, fair enough but the stress of having to wait a day was awful. I debated on whether to tell my husband or not and for a while I really thought I would just go on my own so as not to worry him but in the end I burst out crying and told him I had found a lump. He thought I had probably just pulled something whilst exercising considering I hadn't felt it before and I started to think he was probably right.

Next day the GP examined me and said she could feel the lump and that it was 'fully mobile' which is a good sign but said she would hate to miss anything (funny enough two nurses and a receptionist at the surgery have all recently had breast cancer) so booked me an appointment for the breast clinic at the hospital the following week. Another agonising week of waiting until the appointment.

At the hospital  I was examined by one of the breast doctors, an old American guy who looked like 'face' from the A-team! He sent me down to have an ultrasound. The ultrasound ladies told me that it was a fatty lump of tissue but to be on the safe side wanted to do a biopsy, they called a doctor in to do it who from her actions was quite reluctant and even question the ultrasound lady, this doctor assured me it was a fatty lump, told me the name of it and told me to Google it and what it meant! Meanwhile the ultrasound lady was insistent they do the biopsy just to rule anything out and so they did and off i went in pain from the biopsy but extremely hopeful that it was just a fatty lump, after all the doctor was quite sure that it was so it must be mustn't it?

Finally the 2 week 4 day wait for the results of the biopsy was over and sitting in the waiting room waiting for my turn I felt very sick. Ladies going in coming out smiling, ladies going in coming out looking shell shocked. Ladies who obviously had cancer, with wigs and scarfs on....I wanted to be anywhere but there. I turned to my husband after an hour of waiting (they were running late....all that bad news I expect) and told him I felt sick. Why? he says, whilst playing on his phone, totally oblivious to what was going on around him and that fact that the results could ever be anything other than negative.

So i get called in, sit down, doctor shuffles about with her papers......'so' she says....'your here for the results of the biopsy you had two and a bit weeks ago, and the results of the biopsy show that the lump is cancerous........and she just carried on talking and talking.............I felt my mouth open, you know in cartoons when the dogs jaw opens and hits the ground and its tongue falls out? well that's how I felt, like my tongue was hanging out of my mouth and my head was saying 'say what?' For a few seconds I couldn't look at my hubby and then I looked at him and he was looking at me with the same expression on his face and I knew this was real. All I could hear was Robodoc (that's what we later named her) going on about how great it was that I was her2 positive - what the hell? positive what? because I was going to get herceptin!!! She told me this like i had won the lottery...the next bit II
 heard was going to fall out....but you will get a wig...... my head was spinning, what the hell was this doctor telling me? I have breast cancer, I am her2 positive, I am having chemo, a drug called herceptin and the hair I have grown all year for my party is going to fall out??!!!! WTF?!!!!!

Next thing I know I am off to get mammograms done to recheck the lumpy breast and check the 'good' breast, 9 mammograms on the bad breast and 2 on the good breast later I am out of there and back in Robodocs office with Anna the breast care nurse. I then get told I am going for MRIs as something else has shown up in the 'bad' breast, this turned out to be 4mm DCIS and booking my appointment with the oncologist. I left there with my head spinning and piece of paper with my diagnosis which I didn't fully understand at the time and just knowing that in a week and a half I would be seeing my oncologist - I didn't even know what that was but I was guessing it was the doctor in charge of looking after me.

So off we went home, crying our eyes out at the news in disbelief that I a 39 year old mother of two aged 9 and 13 (now 14) who was super fit and healthy and just about to book a summer holiday without a care in the world looking forward to being super sexy at her 40th birthday party in January had cancer.

My poor hubby had to make the calls to my mum and dad, brother and auntie to let them know as I hadn't told them - didn't see the point -  I was told it was a fatty lump! what's the point in worrying everyone???? I had to call my two best friends as they knew something was wrong when I took time off work (boob really hurt after biopsy) as I never have time off and I didn't look ill to them so they managed to get it out of me. I had about ten missed calls and messages from each of them so had to make those calls and well, they ended up hysterical and crying and I had to tell them to calm down!

The week that followed was a blur, the family and my two besties Anna and Emma round almost every day, a lot of crying and a lot of laughing once we'd got our heads round it - still it didn't seem real and to be honest it still doesn't. I still don't believe that I have cancer, and when I catch my reflection in the mirror and see that bald head sometimes i forget and get a shock...

The few weeks that followed until chemo started were full of hospitals and tests, mri's, ct scans, oncologist appointments - who I might add is amazing and one of the leading breast cancer specialists in the country so I am very lucky to be under his care. more ultrasounds, biopsies, blood tests, picc line fitted, tour of the chemo unit.....and it just goes on...for someone that has never been in hospital other than tonsils out and giving birth twice all this hospitals and being sick malarkey was all new to me and i hated it and still do.

I am now half way through chemo and not doing too bad, I have high energy days and very low energy days, days of feeling happy and okay and days of feeling like the most miserable bitch in the whole world and days when I look at myself and think who is this alien, this bland looking person, this head, this thing that has taken over Andrea. And other days I slap my warpaint on and become Baldly Beautiful the image I have created to keep me going. When I was first diagnosed my husband said I should put my makeup skills (I am a fully qualified makeup artist) to good use and help other ladies like me going through chemo feel better about themselves, I poo pooed the idea but once treatment started I realised that he was right, I could help so many ladies and if I could help just one or two people feel good it would be worth it, so I decided to set up my own youtube channel and  do makeup tutorials for ladies going through chemo or finished chemo that were having to deal with the same beauty problems I would be and they could follow me on my journey. So far the response has been more than I could hope for especially from all the girls on the YBCN! I have received so many messages from people and not just from the UK from across the world saying how my tutorials have really helped and inspired them, which makes it so worth while, so at least while I am off work and going through the worst time of my life I know I am helping others feel good about themselves which makes me feel a tiny bit better.

At the end of the day this shit can happen to anyone, nobody is immune, nobody is too young or too old and it can happen when you least expect it. The moral of story is check your boobs, know what feels right and what doesn't, My lump seemed to appear out of nowhere, I did ask the doctors how did this happen? it wasn't there the day before or the day before that, did I strain something whilst exercising is that what made it pop out? is it because I lost weight and my boobs got smaller? They said the lump had been there a while as it was grade 2 but still caught quite early and was probably pushed to the surface when I came on and my boobs became lumpier and more tender than normal (I did come on a week after finding the lump) who knows how or why I just know that I was lucky that it did pop out from where it was hiding and I felt it and it was obviously there, had it not I probably would never have found it as I was guilty of not checking my boobs regularly at all and when I did it was just a quick what I would call 'rummage around'. At the end of the day no matter how young or old you are, check those boobies and check them regularly, it could save your life!

Oh and in case you are wondering, the 40th birthday party has been postponed to the summer when I will have a joint one with my hubby, I wont have hair half way down my back but at least I will have a bit of hair by then hopefully, be cancer free and looking and feeling fabulous. Not looking how I expected or would have wanted to look with short hair and maybe minus a boob but at least I will be here and be alive and that's all I can hope for and at this moment in time its something I can look forward to, reaching a goal in my life that I just assumed would happen, now its something I am fighting to achieve, for me, my kids, my husband and my family.'

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Younger Women with breast cancer - Laura's story

Today's featured story is from Laura, aged 32:

'It was smack bang between Christmas and New Year 2013 when I started getting a dull ache in my right boob; it wasn't constant or overly painful, just annoying! But everyone gets aches and pains every now and then don't they?! I had a quick feel and couldn't feel anything sinister so just got on with things.

But the ache gradually got more frequent and intense and just two weeks later, where I had initially felt nothing, a small pea had appeared. These things come and go though I thought, must be my time of the month. Two weeks later I noticed that a lot of prominent veins had appeared on my breast in the same area; I had a feel again and what was a pea had now grown to the size of a grape.....

Now if you google breast lumps, I would say that maybe 90% of websites state that cancerous lumps are NOT painful, and that if your lump is painful, it is likely to be a cyst or a fibroadenoma (a benign lump) - nothing to worry about then maybe I thought? I'm 31 so it's not likely to be cancer now is it! I booked an appointment with my Doctor though just in case.

On the day of my appointment, the Doctor confirmed that she too could feel a lump; but she also believed that as it was painful and as I was so young, it was not likely to be anything sinister. Either way she referred me straight to my local Breast Care Clinic so I could be checked out thoroughly. My referral letter came through and I had an appointment at the clinic exactly two weeks later. In those two weeks, what had felt like a grape, now felt like a grape with a pea next to it......

I'm lucky enough to have a 'One Stop Shop' Breast Care Clinic in my area, which basically means that they do all the tests in one place, on one day. I first saw a consultant who confirmed the presence of two lumps and referred me for an ultrasound. The radiologist again confirmed the presence of two lumps and noted a swollen lymph node in my armpit. Two core biopsies and one fine needle aspiration later, I was free to go and asked to return a week later.

I won't deny, the wait was pretty torturous! But I also somehow knew what the answer was going to be and was therefore able to prepare myself. When the day finally arrived and the diagnosis was confirmed, I was basically ready to 'take it on the chin' and just get on with it! You see, despite all this, I am an eternal optimist and pretty stubborn! This was not going to stop me!

My Diagnosis? A grade 3 (fast growing) Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (the grape) next to a benign fibroadenoma (the new pea) but luckily no lymph node involvement.

Through all my subsequent treatments (which has included a lumpectomy, removal of two lymph nodes, 6 cycles of chemotherapy, and finally a double mastectomy with reconstruction as a result of a BRCA1 gene fault diagnosis) I have continued to work, dated, been to gigs, had great times with friends and met some pretty inspiring people along the way. Cancer does not have to be a death sentence, nor does it mean you have to put your life on hold! What is important is to ensure you get to know your body, be breast aware and never assume! Although I caught mine early, I could have caught it even earlier if I hadn't have been so dismissive of my body telling me things!'

Tumours and eggs

A short and sweet blog post from me today just to update on a bit of news.

Just got back from hospital and a booby ultrasound appointment. My tumour has shrunk by 5mm hurrah! Its gone from 23mm to 18mm. Not a dramatic shrinkage but I still have three more chemo sessions to go of a different drug. So lets hope it smashes the s*it out of it!!

Also, a node that I was panicking about in my opposite armpit is perfectly normal in appearance and size. Funny what makes me happy at the moment!!

In other news, I shaved off my remaining stubble to try and even it out and also so I could tape my wig on. What with the stormy weather the other day I had visions of having to chase it down the street... Anyway, I now look like a boiled egg. Just need to find me a soldier! ;-)

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Younger women with breast cancer - Sarah P's story

The first personal story I am featuring on my blog as part of breast cancer awareness month is from my good friend, fellow feminist and tumour twin Sarah Perry, aged 33:

More of Sarah's wonderful scribblings can be found on her blog.

'There were two things that brought me to the Breast Care Clinic at Glenfield Hospital for an ultrasound scan on 18th July 2014. A wonky nipple, and stubbornness.
I’d spent the last 18 months obsessing over cancer – and with good reason. On my mother’s side of my family, just looking at the women across 4 generations, this is what my family tree looked like:

·         My great grandmother – died of ovarian cancer in her 50s. Had one daughter...
·         My grandmother – diagnosed with breast cancer at 59, died at 66. Had one daughter...
·         My mother – diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer at 47, died at 53. Had one daughter...
·         Me.

It actually wasn’t until my mom died at the end of 2012 that I started to panic about this pattern of cancer. I only have a small family, so the numbers aren’t huge – three cases of breast/ovarian cancer across three generations. When you start reading information online about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer you’re told everywhere you look that most breast and ovarian cancers aren’t hereditary, breast cancer is so common in the UK (1 in 8 women) that many families will have multiple cases of breast cancer within a family and that doesn’t mean anything, and you need at least two close relatives to have been diagnosed with breast cancer (mother, daughter, sister) to be considered for genetic testing.

But when I sat and thought about it, I wasn’t reassured. It might only be three women in my family across three generations, but they were the only three women in those generations! And my mom was young at diagnosis. Plus the combination of breast and ovarian cancer was a red flag. So at the start of 2013 I went to my GP and made my case to be referred to the Family History Service.
To try and cut a long story short this is what happened: The Family History Service referred me to the Genetics Clinic who thought the pattern of cancer in my family was suggestive of a fault in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. I had a genetic test and got my result in April 2014. It was an “uninformative” negative. This means that no fault was found, but as no living relatives with cancer were available for testing, they didn’t know if this was because there was a BRCA fault in my family which I was lucky and did not inherit, or if the cancers in my family were caused by an as yet unknown genetic problem which I could have inherited.
However, I was told that while I would still be considered high risk, having no faults in my BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes was very, very good news – they were the most likely offenders in my family and the most dangerous genes when it came to risk of breast and ovarian cancer. I was told I should be happy! I should relax now!

Yeah well, I wasn’t happy and I didn’t relax. I’d done my research, and while both breast and ovarian cancer in a family suggests a possible problem with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, the specifics of the cancers in my family (detail I won’t go in to here) didn’t fit the profile. I was convinced that the cancers in my family were hereditary, but caused by another genetic problem.
At this point I think the people around me started considering my cancer worry as a mental health problem rather than a physical health problem. Oh if I had a pound for every time someone (who didn’t really know what they were talking about) told me not to worry, that the test result was good news, and that I should just put it out of my mind I’d be a millionaire! (Ok maybe a slight exaggeration but I’d certainly have enough for a bloody good night out.)
But remember, I’m stubborn. I have a mind of my own, and when it’s set on something, I’m not easily swayed or fobbed off. And in this situation, this might just have saved my life.
In July 2014, just three months after my good news genetic test result, I noticed my left nipple looked kind of wonky. It was really subtle. I wasn’t even sure myself if it had just always been that way or not. But being the cancer-obsessed-panicker that I had become, two days later I was showing it to my GP. She wasn’t worried, if there was a change it was probably hormonal and she said she’d look again in a few weeks. I went away. I wasn’t happy. I am stubborn. I called back and insisted on an urgent referral for an ultrasound scan to check it.
And that’s how I ended up at the Breast Care Clinic on 18th July for an ultrasound scan. A wonky nipple, and my own stubbornness. I had so many supposed reassurances – I definitely didn’t have a BRCA fault, I was only 33, the nipple change was subtle and no one could even feel a lump – but none of this mattered to me. I knew I was next on cancer’s hit list and I wasn’t going to ignore even the tiniest thing. The ultrasound scan which I was having for my own “peace of mind” (to shut me up) clearly showed a gnarly cancerous tumour. There was no mistaking it.
This was the one time in my life where I would have liked to have been wrong. I’d have liked nothing more than to have looked like a silly idiot that day, to have been over the top, to have to apologise for wasting people’s time. But (as always!) I was right. It’s a good job I was stubborn, it’s a good job I insisted on getting it checked right away. Time is everything when it comes to cancer. The earlier you catch it, the better.
If there were three things that I would want anyone who has read this far to take away from my experience they would be:

·         When it comes to your health, don’t ever, ever be fobbed off by anyone, including the doctors and experts. If there is something you are not happy with, or not sure about, get it checked. And if necessary, get it checked again, and again, and again, until you are satisfied. If you have a gut feeling about something, even if it doesn’t make sense or you can’t quite put your finger on it, you should listen to it and trust it.

·         Not all breast cancers are identified by a lump. Be aware of all the signs. Mine was a wonky nipple. My mom’s cancer was inflammatory breast cancer – signalled by changes to the skin. Know your own body well, know the signs well, be vigilant. Then if there are any changes caused by breast cancer, you’ll spot them early and probably save your own life.

·         Be aware of your family history of cancer. Don’t panic about it – most breast cancers really aren’t hereditary. I’m in an unlucky minority. But it’s sensible to be aware of any cancers in your family, so that if a pattern does emerge, you can let your GP know and take it from there.

Anyway, if you’re interested in any more of my own story, I’m blogging over at I’m writing about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, and my own experiences since a cancer diagnosis. If you have any questions about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer please contact me via my blog, I’ll be happy to try and help if I can.'

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Breast cancer and all that jazz

For the rest of October, as my contribution to breast cancer awareness month, I will be featuring a number of stories about diagnosis and treatment from younger women with breast cancer on my blog, written in their own words.
Before I do this, I wanted to write a post containing information about breast cancer that you may not be aware of. I’ll mostly be using information taken from sites such as Breast Cancer Care, with a smattering of information about my own personal situation.

Contrary to popular opinion, breast cancer isn’t just ‘one thing’. It’s a complex beast and there are a number of different types. I won’t go in to this in too much detail now but if you wanted to find out more about the different types of breast cancer you can find this here. Because all breast cancers are different, people have different treatments depending on what will work best for them.

Some facts about breast cancer (taken from the Breast Cancer Care website):
  • The lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is 1 in 8 in women
This means that 1 in 8 women in the UK will develop breast cancer in their lifetime– it also means that 7 out of 8 women won’t develop breast cancer.
  • Estimated risk of developing breast cancer according to age
Risk up to age 29, 1 in 2,000.
Risk up to age 39, 1 in 215.
Risk up to age 49, 1 in 50.
Risk up to age 59, 1 in 22.
Risk up to age 69, 1 in 13.
Lifetime risk, 1 in 8.
  • Both women and men get breast cancer
Although it is much rarer than in women, men can get breast cancer too. Every year about 400 men are diagnosed in the UK.
  • Older people are more likely to get breast cancer than younger people
After gender (being female), age is the strongest risk factor for developing breast cancer – the older the person, the higher the risk. Around 81% of breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50.
  • Most cases of breast cancer don’t run in the family. Most cases of breast cancer happen by chance. Only around 5% of breast cancers are caused by inheriting an altered (faulty) gene.

  • Breast cancer can affect any woman, regardless of the size of their breasts (trust me mine are very modest!).

  • Finding a lump in your breast doesn’t mean you have breast cancer. There are several benign (not cancer) conditions that can occur in the breast and may cause a lump. Also many women will experience lumpy breasts just before their period. This is a normal response to changing hormones and often the lump or lumpiness disappears after the period. However, if this doesn’t go away, it’s important to get it checked out by a doctor. Any new lump should always be assessed by a doctor.
Even though breast cancer is more common in older women it can and does happen to younger women! Please check regularly and visit your doctor with any changes or lumps. And never be fobbed off. If you are unhappy push for a referral to a breast clinic.

Please click here for information about what breast changes look and feel like.

Breast cancer can be oestrogen receptive or not, HER2 positive or negative or triple negative. If a breast cancer is oestrogen receptive, simplistically it means that oestrogen is making it grow. My tumour is as strongly oestrogen receptive as you can get. This means the little bastard is doing the happy dance on the stuff. 

However, this is apparently a good thing as because they know what’s making it grow, they can use drugs to try and stop it coming back.
Tamoxifen (or Tamoxibollocks as its affectionately known) is a drug that they give women who have had oestrogen receptive breast cancer. Sometimes it is given to women with an increased risk of breast cancer as a preventative measure. Tamoxifen is usually given for five years after active treatment (chemo, surgery, radiotherapy) for oestrogen receptive breast cancer has finished. However, studies are now showing that ten years may be the more effective treatment strategy. I’ll be having Tamoxifen to try and reduce my risk of recurrence.  Because breast cancer can come back. Unlike some cancers, the term ‘cured’ is not used with breast cancer. It can return – either as a local, regional or distant recurrence. Most people do not have a recurrence, however it can and does happen.
So there are measures that you can take to try and prevent this happening. Tamoxifen is one. On the whole I am happy about this, but there are things that I find a little difficult to deal with. The first one is that you can’t get pregnant on Tamoxifen due to the risk of damage to the foetus. So ten years would take me to the age of 43 - fertility is not at its peak by this point. That’s if the chemotherapy hasn’t fried my ovaries first. But, for me I think I’d be terrified to get pregnant even if it were possible. All that oestrogen flying around. Would be like bloody Christmas for breast cancer. So, children more than likely out the window for me. Not literally obviously. I don’t go around throwing children out of windows…
Anyway, Tamoxifen also has some lovely side effects, mainly in the way of menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, weight gain and osteoporosis. Delightful.
On to surgery. As I have one node involved I will need to have a full axillary node clearance. This means taking out all the lymph nodes from under my arm pit and possibly the right side of my chest. Cutting through layers of muscle and nerves. Not pretty. I’m still in pain from having four nodes out so having around 20 removed doesn’t bear thinking about. It also leaves me at risk of lymphoedema – a permanent, painful and sometimes disfiguring condition which can involve having a very swollen arm.
I’m having chemotherapy first to try and shrink the tumour as the surgeons want to do a lumpectomy rather than a mastectomy. If they took it out now it would leave me quite disfigured as I’m definitely not Kelly Brook in the boob department. I think the words my consultant used were ‘quite small breasts’…
Chemotherapy is usually a given if you are a young woman with breast cancer. They want to try and give you the best chance possible to live a long and happy life essentially. The main purposes of chemo are to try and blast any other stray cancer cells that may have done a runner from the original tumour and be floating around the body and also to try and reduce the risk of recurrence.  Chemo is nasty and makes you feel like shit, but I’m happy to lay back and take all the NHS has got to try and give this thing an almighty battering.
When they perform a lumpectomy they need to get what is called ‘clear margins’. This means that when tested, there are no stray cancer cells in any of the healthy tissue that has been removed with the lump. If there is, it can mean another lumpectomy. And if this then fails again, a possible mastectomy. So, not as straight forward as whipping the bugger out and stitching it up!
Breast reconstruction

A mastectomy means removing all the breast tissue. Essentially taking the whole boob off. I wanted to clear a few things up about mastectomies and reconstruction. Breast reconstruction after a mastectomy is not like having a boob job. You do not just get a ‘new boob’ Pamela Anderson style. Reconstruction is a lot more complicated than that. I’m not an expert but here is my limited knowledge about breast reconstruction:
One method of recon is to build a new boob from tummy fat. This wouldn’t be an option for me as I don’t have enough. Reckon they would be able to build about a nipple from mine
Another is an implant. However, if radiotherapy is required, an implant can’t be inserted at the same time as the mastectomy as the radiotherapy is likely to damage the reconstruction. In this case, something called tissue expander can be used. This involves inserting an empty implant which is gradually over a period of time filled with saline. This essentially stretches the skin and tissue so that an implant can be fitted at a later date. But then this means another lot of surgery later down the line. And obviously no feeling or sensation in that boob.
Or you can just go flat and wear your battle scars with pride.
There is also an operation that involves taking tissue and muscle from your back and reconstructing breasts from that. My friend Sarah, who will be having a double mastectomy and this op due to a gene fault, described it like this:
'They take muscle and tissue from your back. I think this is what I'm having. It's basically swung round from your back to front. So boob removed at front chunk taken from back, swung round to front and stitched in to the gap, and hole in back sewn together. Lovely!  

There are other options and I’ve definitely explained reconstruction very simplistically - its much more complicated than this, but as you can see, definitely not a boob job!

So there we have it. Some breast cancer facts and information. Please do click on the links I have put in this post to find out more as I am definitely no medic and no expert! i hope you have found this whistle stop tour through the land of breast cancer informative - please stop by again soon! 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Breast cancer awareness month malarkey.....

As many of you may know, October is breast cancer awareness month. Cue the saturation of the world with all things pink for four weeks.  But for what purpose? I mean, everyone knows about breast cancer right? It’s the most common cancer in the UK. Around 55,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their life time. The openness and honestly of celebrities like Kylie Minogue have ensured that breast cancer has appeared on the public’s antennae and stayed there.

I know that breast cancer awareness month provides excellent opportunities for charities to raise awareness about their services, to increase donations, gather support for campaigning work and to reach out to those who may be in need and I fully support that. I can’t help feel however, that sometimes the real, important messages about breast cancer get lost in the plethora of pink and tits. The amount of times I've heard 'well, its not that big a deal now a days is it?' scares me. And breast cancer is often sexualised like no other cancer – I refer to The Sun's Check 'Em Tuesday and the Playboy Club London's #bunniesinpink as examples.  I don’t even want to think about the photo of the ‘save second base’ t-shirt I recently saw on Twitter…

So, in the midst of all things pink, I want to provide you with some information and facts about breast cancer, some taken from brilliant websites like Breast Cancer Care and Cancer Research UK but also personal, from the heart stories. I want you to hear from young women who have been personally affected by breast cancer – about the signs they spotted, how they were diagnosed and their treatment.  I want to raise awareness that no one is too young to get breast cancer and that every young woman should be vigilant regarding any changes to her body.  I want you to hear from the heart what it means to be diagnosed with this disease and the effect that it has on your life. How all of a sudden you are plunged in to a whirlwind of tests, scans, results, hospital appointments and gruelling treatment that leaves you feeling like you no longer recognise yourself anymore and that the person you once were has been lost forever.  That breast cancer is not all ribbons, fluffy teddies and pink tea towels. 

But I also want you to share in the pride and awe that I feel regarding my wonderful friends from the Younger Breast Cancer Network. Many of these women I have never met in person but yet every day I know they are just a keyboard away, willing to take the time to respond to any fears, concerns or rants despite battling through diagnosis, treatment and the aftermath of breast cancer themselves.
So, during the month of October, as my contribution to breast cancer awareness month, I will be featuring a number of personal stories written by some of these wonderful women on my blog. I hope you find them as bloody fantastic as I do.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Frightening Fun-raiser!

Please come and support our night of fundraising for two amazing charities!

Breast Cancer Care is a fantastic charity and is the only one I have found that provide information, support and resources specifically for younger women with breast cancer (we are a rare breed!).

Breakthrough Breast Cancer carries out cutting edge research focused entirely on breast cancer. Their scientists are discovering how to prevent breast cancer, how to detect it earlier and how to treat it more effectively.

DJ is booked to play a mix of 80s, 90s and current chart.

Event ticket price includes a donation to the charities and Halloween cocktail.

Raffle prizes include:

  • A tour of the Houses of Parliament and afternoon tea in the historic Pugin tea room with Jack Dromey MP.
  • Cut and finish with the style director at Nicky Clarke in the Mailbox.
  • VIP Pamper party at home for four people with a choice of treatment each.
  • Two guest passes for Virgin Active Gym in Solihull.
  • 2 x vouchers for a needle piercing at Dollyrockers Piercing
  • Selection box of fireworks worth £150.
  • Two tickets to Embraced Burlesque Caberet Show plus a bottle of wine.
  • Two tickets for the Midland Arts Centre cinema.
  • Bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne.
  • Bottle of prosecco.
  • Marvel Collectors Edition Monopoly game from Oggames.
  • Two tickets for a production at the Crescent Theatre.
  • A signed Peter James novel.
  • Bottle of rose wine.
  • 15 consecutive days of unlimited yoga at Yoga Haven Birmingham
  • Two lots of 3 personal training sessions at Boxfit Birmingham worth £75 each -
  • £20 voucher to use at Beauty for Queens
  • Three crossfit classes at Crossfit Digbeth
  • Two passes for Adventure Island Mini Golf at Star City.
  • Mancine body product hamper worth £80.
  • Make up goody bag with lip balm, lip glitter and Christian Dior Mascara

Raffle tickets are £2 each or 3 for £5.

If you would like to donate or buy raffle tickets but you aren't able to make the event you can do this here -
Please e-mail me on or contact me via this blog if you donate for raffle tickets.

Friday, 10 October 2014

FEC off!

I'm back! I apologise for the radio silence but I've had a bit of a pants few weeks what with being sent for more tests and having to wait for the results. So much so I've been almost unable to think about much else let alone write. But thankfully the results came back ok - I have to say I have never felt relief like it. Funny the things you get happy about after a cancer diagnosis! However, as always in the back of mind I know that this will not be the last time I ever have to deal with something like this again (far from it) so I need to find ways of managing the Canxiety. Maybe it'll get easier as time goes on who knows? Ugh.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know I'm halfway through my chemo sessions all being well. Yey! No more FEC!

This photo was taken at the beginning of my last chemo on Tuesday. I think in all honesty I've had  a pretty easy ride with FEC which makes me nervous about the next lot - the Docetaxel (or Taxotere). With FEC, my side effects have been mainly a bit of a floaty head at times, feeling tired and having a bit of a sore mouth on occasion which has easily been sorted with Difflam. I've still managed to run - one week I did 16 miles - and I went in to the office last week a couple of times. No sickness and only a very short period of nausea after the first one. Oh yeah - and my hair has fallen out but nothing they can give you for that unfortunately! I have some pretty awesome wigs though :-). I've more or less been functioning pretty normally although the tiredness seems to have hit quite badly this time. I look and feel bloody knackered. Oh and my veins are screaming. The photo above was taken when the epirubicin was being administrated. You can see it snaking its way down the tube in to my arm. It's nasty shit that stuff. I guess it needs to be though. I call it the red devil. Its done this to my veins:

Meh. Lets hope it's annihilating my tumour as much as it is my poor sore veins!

Anyway - on to the Tax (as it's affectionately called) next time. I've heard it can be considerably more taxing than FEC ('scuse the pun). I'm worried my easy ride with FEC could be the calm before the storm. Side effects of Tax can include more tiredness, tingling in hands and feet, fluid retention, muscle and bone pain and yet more hair loss. I still have my eyebrows and eyelashes so far which I would really like to hang on to!

But you know what - chemo is shit there is no denying that and there are times when I get incredibly frustrated and upset that my body sometimes doesn't do what I want to anymore. But ultimately I am so glad that I am being equipped with this arsenal in my fight against this crappy cancer. So come on NHS, in the words of Britney - hit me baby one more time (or three more times at least ;-).