Friday, 10 August 2018

A mixed bag 

The 2 May 2018 - the anniversary of my breast cancer surgery and my first year of being cancer free. I happened to be at a work conference in England and wanted to celebrate. A couple of my senior colleagues chipped in with me to get some prosecco. 

As my colleagues toasted my health, I said a few words of thanks to everyone but my emotions got the better of me and I stood like a lemon choking on my words and my eyes filling up with tears. It was a really nice evening though and it was great to celebrate with so many lovely, supportive people.

After many, many months of being in a dark place I could at last feel my mojo coming back.

Couch to 5K

After my first anniversary I decided I needed to get fit and build up my strength. So I started doing the couch to 5K programme. I was also inspired by my step-daughter who ran her first ever marathon (in fact she did two in two weeks). On my first outing, I could barely run a single minute without wanting to give up but I stuck at it and gradually over eight weeks I built up to 28 minutes non-stop. I was getting fitter and stronger - both mentally and physically. I was beginning to feel really great.

5k to couch

One day during one of the longer couch to 5K runs I felt something 'go' across my back. I reckoned it was muscle strain and thought nothing of it and then went on holiday to Portugal.

My back and ribs were still sore when I got back from my holiday so I went to see my doctor who decided to refer me for an x-ray. To cut a long story short, it turned out that I had a compressed vertebra and a small area of 'consolidation' (yeah, I didn't know what that meant either but it sounded dodgy) in my right lung. My doctor thought the fractured vertebra was down to the radiotherapy beam travelling through my body which had then been exacerbated by my running. But he seemed to be more concerned about my lung. He said he would write to my oncologist and that I was to go back for another x-ray in a few weeks to see if the consolidation had gone. In the meantime, he said, if I lost control of my bowels or couldn't pee I was to get emergency help as it would be really serious.

I left the doctor's surgery in tears, thinking, 'Shit, not again.' 

When I got home from the doctor, I thought, 'Feck that, I'm not waiting weeks for another x-ray' so I decided  to contact my breast care nurse for advice. She was wonderful and luckily she managed to get me an appointment the next day to see my clinical trial oncologist.

The oncology appointment

I was bricking it when I went to see my oncologist. He looked at my x-rays and said he was less worried about the consolidation as he thought that was due to radiotherapy damage but the vertebra concerned him. He said he didn't 'think' it was cancer but thinning of my bones (chemo can damage bones and I was already on calcium supplements plus hormone-busting tablets which can cause osteoporosis). I would need an MRI scan and a CT scan just to be sure.

I walked out of the hospital feeling marginally happier. That night I went to see Iron Maiden in concert, which was a great way to end the day. And no head banging either. Someone suggested my head might fall off if I did.

MRI scan day

I wasn't really looking forward to the MRI scan. They are claustrophobic and make a lot of disconcerting very loud noises. I was given an eye mask, earplugs, a panic button, noise cancelling headphones (yeah, right) and got strapped in. I lay there listening to the bizarre, unnerving sounds which to me sounded like a cross between a 100 game show buzzers being sat on at the same time, constant blasts of point blank automatic gunfire, a pneumatic drill and a very bad Kraftwerk album.

Before I went in, I had a large latte to calm my nerves - not a good idea as even though I'd been to the loo three times before I went in for the scan I still ended up lying there with a full bladder. Top tip - avoid drinking too much before an MRI scan!

So I now just have to get a CT scan before I can get my oncologist's verdict. No more running for me for a while, no pilates either. I can do gentle swimming with a float and static cycling as long as I don't twist my pelvis.  The thing is, I'd run my first ever 5K around Stormont between having the x-ray and getting the results and I'd done it without knowing I'd had a fractured veterbra. Idiot.

Why can't cancer and its after effects just feck off and leave me alone! It's a roller-coaster. 

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