Does it get any easier?

Tuesday 19th August, 2.30pm.

18 month check.

Bart’s hospital, West Wing

Seeing it written down doesn’t make it look scary. Seeing it written down in my scrawl on a post it note doesn’t make it look scary.
But scary it is and really thats a misnomer too. I’ve had an unscheduled MRI for a hiccup that I had and the results say its clear.

However, fear and anxiety hit me like a brick wall. Its the same every time. 7-10 days before the appointment, my brain kicks into overdrive and suddenly, its time to think about everything and then think about it all over again just for good measure. I think about there being something there on examination of my hoo-ha; I think about what would be the next course of treatment if there was something there; would I need a hysterectomy and then I think how that might be a good thing because then it would take away equipment that I no longer need, because thats how I think of my womb now. Redundant equipment. No longer necessary. No babies here. And then I think about what if wasn’t as simple as removing something, what if this was the appointment that told me that its back and its not going anywhere except to take me down with it.

And so on and so on ad nauseum.

Someone this week asked me if it gets any easier, I think my blurb up there says it all.
In some ways, yes, I think it has. But in many ways, nothing has changed at all.

The waves of panic in times when I need to be clear and concise, always catch my breath. I could be talking to someone about a meeting room booking system and BAM. The image of a concerned doctor drums into my head.

Does it get any easier? Like with many things, I think you just learn to live with it.

Send your prayers, if you pray.
Send your good thoughts and vibes, if you have them.
Send your love, luck and hugs.
And send your pictures of you in purple.
That gesture alone is worth so much to me.

I love you all and here is to the 18 month appointment, which will forever be known as the ‘Phoney’ one.

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Here we go again…

Another year is about to end, with the promise of a shiny new one about to descend.

No denying it has been a tough year, but I’ve been very lucky also.

The last couple of months have been especially trying. I’ve felt like I have needed to prove myself in every aspect of my life.
Work.
Friends.
Married life.

I honestly don’t know whether I am coming or going. I could sit here and wax lyrical on everything that is wrong with me. I feel like I should write it down as if to justify my behaviour.

Part of me wants to do that, get it out there and let people know. List everything down. Outwardly I might be fine, but fuck me, am I a mess inside.

Part of me wonders why on earth I have to write anything at all. Do people not realise what I have been through this year?

Part of me wants to hide. Hide in a very dark place and wait for Spring.

Part of me knows I should try to move on as much as I possibly can.

Part of me…well you can see from above why I feel at such a loss.

I made an appointment for my Doctors for the 23rd December; I need to stock up on my patches but also, I need help.

Psychologically, I need some assistance. Not necessarily through meds (but I am open to that option) but maybe some therapy.

When you finish your treatment for Cancer, if you are lucky (like I am) you don’t see anyone (doctors/nurses etc) unless you need to or at scheduled appointments. For me, it has felt like you’ve been cut loose from the pack and you are out there to defend yourself.
And that was fine in the beginning, you are given a new lease of life, you’ve beaten something and for a moment, you are invincible.
But now its a bit farther down the road, and you’re still doing well, but the novelty of conquering cancer is waning.

I found myself looking in a dark hole. I was looking at a girl I used to know.
A girl who was paranoid about every tiny thing.
A girl who just wanted to please everyone and not upset the dynamic.
A girl who, at one point even considered leaving her job, just to make it so that her colleague was happy.
A girl who cried herself to sleep because she had forgotten to reply to a text and the recipient was upset because of that flippant forgetfulness.

I realised I had changed. I’ve written about it before, and although this whole bloody situation has made me stronger, it also took away some of my softer side.
I don’t suffer fools gladly and you can’t walk all over me anymore. And the other day, I realised that what people didn’t like about me anymore. They couldn’t take me for granted and weigh me down, because I simply don’t let it happen.
Someone recently told me that I was cold-hearted now, that I didn’t care as much as I did before.
To a certain extent that is true. Although I care about the bigger things now, the people and things that are important to me instead of fretting about the small things.

I think it is because I am being told I need to move on. I need to get over that fact I can’t have my own children anymore. I need to stop playing the cancer card. So I’ve just stopped it.

I guess I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve anymore. I think I used to make myself too vulnerable to people (why do you write a blog then?!) but I have shut that down now. I rarely talk about my personal life in work (apart from James because he is farking hilarious and EVERYONE should know about his antics) and actually I go to work for a rest from my ‘real life’. I get an eight-hour break from having to deal with the shit storm our family had to go through.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my little family. They have got me through the worst time imaginable, but it pains me that I/we have lost so much along the way.
I can switch off at work and forget what I have done to our family and just pretend to be someone else for a little while.

I can pretend to be Frannie, who gets her job done (and works bloody hard to do that) and flirts with people and can talk about stupid inane pish without letting any of the other hurt in my life get in the way.

But all that has changed recently.

The crushing anxiety which feels as though someone is sitting on my chest is creeping back in. The shaky hands are there, which is becoming noticeable when you pass something to someone. The paranoia that people are talking behind your back is ever-present, as is the nausea that follows it.

So why am I writing all this down, on the cusp of the New Year, which is to symbolise a new beginning? Because I want to leave all this shit in 2013. I don’t want it to drag me down in 2014.
I will never regret this year. This year I BEAT CANCER. I was on DAYBREAK for crying out loud.

But on the 23rd December I was meant to go to the doctors and I didn’t.
I bottled it at the last-minute.

I know I need help. I can admit that much. But I don’t want to go back to how I was. I like the bolshy, takes no shit, Fran. She’s pretty fucking spunky. But I do love some of the old Fran. She was kind and amazing.
How do I get both. Is it even possible?

So, here we go again. The constant loop inside my head.

Oh you’ve got Cancer? I’m suddenly very busy for a long time.

So as I sit here watching Aztec Camera on Vintage TV (or Sad TV if you’d prefer) I am pondering on another question posed to me by the lovely @Kelliet1085

What i’d like to know is how you delivered the news of your cancer to your friends & family and how people reacted to the news?

How did you feel about the way people reacted, did their treatment of you change, did people pop up who hadn’t shown interest in you before?

Have you seen the Macmillan advert where there are people falling over because the reality of being told they have Cancer hits them, right in the middle of doing something normal?
It is exactly how it feels.
I remember feeling eerily calm when I was told I had Cancer. Hearing the words coming out of Mr Hollingsworth’s mouth was just a confirmation of what I already knew. It only hit me a couple of days later, I think it was after my PET scan, and it hit me like a tonne of bricks.
I remember sitting at my desk in work and thinking ‘Shit, I have fucking stupid cancer’. It was like a punch in my tumour bloated stomach.

I didn’t know what to do, I felt like I was trapped in this cancer bubble. All I could think about was how do I tell people what is going on with me.

As you can tell my main way I communicate well is by writing. Before my diagnosis I only let a few people into my writing, I mainly published to Twitter and not on Facebook, largely because I was worried what people would think about my writing, especially people who knew me on a face to face level.

Once I had ‘come out’ as such on twitter and Facebook, I mainly found that people just didn’t know what to say.
I had a lot of people who were shocked and saddened.

I had old school friends message me after over a decade of no contact, wishing me all the best and following my progress. It was overwhelming the response I got.

I had complete strangers wanting to send me cards, presents, well wishes. People were just compelled to do something, anything. I guess it’s part of our human nature to want to help.

I had chocolate, flowers, gifts and at the last count, I had 40+ cards from people just wanting to be part of ‘Fran’s Army’

But, whilst this was all amazing and I felt such an enormous amount of love in a digital way, I found the flip side to a situation which forced people to feel….well feel numb.

In those very early days where we were also dealing with a bereavement, I craved love, reassurance and just wanting to know someone was there. I didn’t need anything more than someone telling me it was all going to be OK.

When Eve was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, my first instinct was to be with her. I had to be with her to let her know I was always going to be there. And I had to get there as fast as I could, as though being there within an hour would somehow change everything.
I know this is just how I dealt with her cancer diagnosis and everyone reacts differently to shocking news, but to me it would have been alien to not have wanted to be with her at her lowest point.

And yes, I know some people just simply do not know how to deal with someone telling them they have cancer, I get that, I get that completely, but if someone you cared about was going through the worst time in there life, wouldn’t you put aside what you were going through with the situation and just sat with that person?

Just had a cup of tea with them?

Just called them to tell them you were going to visit?

No?

Well, some of my closest family and friends didn’t do that either. In fact after nearly 4 months post diagnosis, I still haven’t heard from some F&F.

I was shocked and I was sad, and yes, I probably should have made more of an effort also, but I guess you do find out who is truly there for you when you most need someone.

Maybe people thought I would be different or maybe they were worried about my physical appearance being shocking (I actually rocked the cancer look, thankyouverymuch) but still, they weren’t (aren’t) there. Maybe people didn’t like my writing, was I too frank or they didn’t like I was sharing so much.
I simply don’t know because I’ve never been told.

So I will leave you with this;

If you have just found out someone close to you has Cancer, or anything else serious for that matter, just take a breath. Think for a minute and remember this: The reason they have told you is because they love you and they just want to hear that back.

Feeling like you are not alone or different at a time when all you do feel is alone and different helps more than you could ever know.

Wizard Sleeve

Wednesday was probably one of the most bizarre experiences in my life. Even more bizarre than my friend in primary school telling me how babies are made. Apparently babies are made cuddling tightly and then the man touching your bum. True story.

If you are a lady who has had radiotherapy to the pelvic region, and if you then have brachytherapy, it is likely that after the cumulative effects have subsided that you will get adhesions in the vaginal wall which, can be usually broken by fingers but if left, can harden and then only be removed by surgery. Grim.
In order to prevent this happening, you have to administer dilation to keep you, er, ahem, stretchy.

Below is the conversation I had with Gloria about post brachytherapy maintenance. Prepare to be weirded out.

Gloria: Right, now, this chat is the same with any woman who has had this treatment, any age and any amount of sexual activity-ness.
Fran: *bites tongue at sexual activity-ness*
G: *Gets green bag of tricks out*
F: Ooo do I get a little bag?
G: Ooo yes, well actually you get a case, but you can keep it with your other vibrators if you want, just wash it etc.
F: *eyes widen* oh, ok.
G: Right, I see you’ve had a baby so this is gonna be dead easy for you to do. *proceeds to get out 4 tubes of varying sizes, they all twist on to one another to make a dilator and handle* Ok so as you can see, we’ve got varying thickness most women, feel nothing with this one *holds up rounded tip which is about 1-2cm wide* so you can use this one first but you might as well use this one *holds up rounded tip which is about 5-6cm wide*
F: *gulp*
G: Dead easy, you need to do this 3 times a week. Put some nice music on, relax, maybe do it after a bath. Just slather on the lube and pop it in (she actually said pop it in, i’m wincing just remembering) then turn it anti-clockwise for 2.5 mins then turn it clockwise for another 2.5 mins then bobs your Uncle, you’re all done. Now, there are alternatives.
F: Oh yea, I think I might try that. Never been a big fan of shoving things *up*
G: Really, oh you don’t know what you’re missing. You could get your Husband involved.
F: Erm
G: Actually the alternative is to use your Husband. If you have sexual intercourse (yes, she said sexual intercourse) twice a week you won’t need to use the dilator.
F: TWICE A WEEK?!!
G: Yep
F: *tumbleweed* Anything else?
G: Well, to avoid RSI, we get loads of complaints about wrist injuries from using the dilators too much, we can provide a vibrator which does the turning for you. *Produces THE RABBIT*
F: Oh, so when you said vibrator, you actually meant a proper one, not like a hospital grade one
G: Yes, of course, do you have this one at home?
F: Me? Oh erm, well…
G: These are fabulous, they really work well plus they do all the hard work for you, you can use your own one or we can provide it for you for £17.50. Don’t worry you don’t have to “hide the rabbit”, that’s just for clitoral stimulation.
F: *crimson* Right, I think i’ll stick to the dilators you give me.
G: Good choice. Right, now, lube. You can get it on prescription and seeing as you get your scripts for free, you might as well go to your GP and stock up now. Make sure you get the Sylk lube, its the best one.
F: Right.
G: Now, I suggest you wait 4 weeks after treatment before starting this which will probably be about the 21st Feb.
F: *Laughs* Oh that’s my birthday. Happy dilating birthday to me!
G: Oh that’s perfect, get a baby sitter, get your Husband to make you a lovely birthday meal then have lovely birthday sex, then you’ll only need to dilate one more time that week.
F: Was hoping for some Ikea vouchers, but I guess this could work too.
G: Vouchers won’t make your vagina stretchy. Here’s a leaflet and a DVD on how to use the dilators.
F: I think you have explained it more than enough, Gloria.
G: Oh good, I love these chats, vagina’s are fascinating.
F: Huh, My Husband says the same thing.

I got home later and read the leaflet which informs me that I have to do this for 5 years. FIVE YEARS. My poor foof. I’ll have the wrists of a pubescent boy.

I’ve not watched the DVD yet. I’m not allowed to get drunk enough to get through that…

At least my vagina won’t be like a Wizards sleeve *Punches air*

And a Happy New Year…

So here we are on the cusp of a New Year.

Safe to say that I am not sad to see 2012 go. It has been a shit year for many, many reasons. I am not going to list them, you know it all anyway.

I always get nostalgic when New Year comes round, and try to find the positive in tough times. I’ve struggled to see the light this time, but I made myself think of 5 things that were wonderful about this year.

1. Celebrating my Son’s 1st Birthday with his many friends
2. Welcoming 3 new babies to the family
3. Holding the Olympic torch
4. Having my love grow for the people around me
5. Getting perspective on life

That last one is pretty deep huh? Pretty standard I think once you’ve been diagnosed with Cancer. I’ve learnt not to sweat the small stuff; Let go of some deep seated issues which have been holding me back. Silly things like the clothes I wear, the way I am about what I love to do, like writing.

I am not happy I have Cancer, but I am happy that it’s made me realise that I am person who matters and being comfortable with myself, is just another step in my recovery.

In a way, I am sad to see this year go. I lost two wonderful people this year. Both at opposite ends of the age spectrum. A friends little girl who was snatched from life and a Father In Law who was released from his struggle. I weep that this year ends with them both in it forever, but I hope that wherever they are in the world, they are at peace.

I wish you all an amazing New Year, make of it what you will and most of all….be happy.

I love you all.

Right, now indulge me, give me your 5 wonderful things about 2012.

Oh to be just me

I had good intentions to carry on a video blog at least once a week to keep people updated on my treatment progress, as it turns out, having cancer is bloody time consuming. Travelling everyday for treatment, trying to keep working, trying to maintain a somewhat normal homestead, it’s all that you do.

But Sunday came and instead of having a relaxing movie day with my boys to set me up for the week, I was smack bang in the middle of an anxiety ridden steroid rage (still can’t decide which it was).
It was the most horrendous feeling ever. Even the unnaturally calm emotion I had at being told I had cancer was nothing compared to this.

I was literally climbing walls, punching walls, talking to fucking walls. Too much energy in my head which was atop a very weary body.

I ball of frantic lava in my stomach making me simultaneously starving but unable to eat.
A heart desperate to get out of my chest, beating as fast as a spaniels tail, yet it felt like aforementioned spaniel was sitting on my chest.

The worst part was not being able to hold James. My listless, restlessness was unbearable. For the first time, in his tiny life, he witnessed his mother go crazy.
I will never forget that sad pout at me not being able to pick him up. It’s what is keeping me up tonight.

Sunday, I could take no more. I called the chemo nurses as I was sure it was some kind of reaction to the steroid or anti-emetics. They were pretty sure it wasn’t and alluded that it was maybe more anxiety and that if I could get hold of some Diazepam then maybe I should, even if it was to get some sleep (at this point I should mention I hadn’t slept since Friday afternoon and this was Sunday evening)

As a previous user of anti-depressants I know there is no shame in asking for help and asking for it is actually the very first step in knowing you need assistance. I knew something was up and that I needed someone to step in.

Enter, possibly the best GP I have ever had. I know she will appreciate this as she reads this blog (Hi!).
I literally couldn’t wait to see her on Monday morning. I already felt a tiny bit better knowing she would be able to help me. Dr.S described steroid rage to me (its a real thing, people) and promptly prescribed diazepam and citalopram, to build me up to deal with this shit storm that’s building up.

Monday was possibly the worst day. I don’t actually know how I made it to treatment. I certainly wasn’t with it. I don’t actually know if I was even coherent.
I burst into tears on the radiotherapy table, knickers to my knees being hugged by the radiotherapist.
They were amazing. They made sure I was seen the next day by a nurse just to have a cry with her.

Monday I did my cry for help. I text my sister and said I was struggling. Big time. She was round in bed with me, kissing my forehead telling me all the lovely things we’ve got to look forward to.
She also told me something that really stuck with me.
Someone she knows had cervical cancer but for one thing and another (details are not to be disclosed) she wasn’t told the type of side effects she would encounter. And you know what she didn’t have a single side effect. No nausea, no loose bowels, no psychotic fucking rage. She is now in remission.

I really do think ignorance is bliss.

We live in a world where we can get information in milliseconds and its there if we want it or not. I’m an over-sharer (have you guessed?) and although awareness is key and we do need to be informed, but maybe knowing too much does us more harm than good.

I need to be more relaxed now and I need to focus on me. A step back from work and worrying about the washing, can wait for the next 8 or so weeks.

Relapses are not a good look.

I know James is being well looked after and I can weight on Pete once I’m fighting fit. I need to let some of this guilt go. James needs his Mum Mum around for a long, long time and Pete needs me nagging him until the end of time.

So really these next few weeks of upheaval are nothing in the grand scheme of things.

Now, to get my head to co-operate with my heart.

Strength

Dear James,

My beautiful boy, I hope you know how much I love you.
I love you to the moon and back, beyond the stars and I love you more than there are fish in the ocean.

Yesterday, we found out some news that is life changing. Life changing in both negative and positive ways, but we will focus more on the positive.

There is something in Mummy that’s not very nice. Mummy calls it a nasty word, a word you will no doubt mimic at some point.

At the moment this thing is not making Mummy unwell, but to get rid of it, to make it go, I might need to get a little ill first.

It might mean that you get to see Auntie Giu or Uncle Tattoo more so that Mummy can sleep off some of the nastiness away. But I am sure you won’t mind being the centre of there universe for an afternoon or night.

Mummy and Daddy had to make a decision about our families future which in some ways was the easiest decision to make but it doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking.
James, we weren’t even meant to have you, we really lucked out when you were given to us.
I don’t actually think you could be replicated.

We are about to start a journey together that at the moment has no end. But with you and Daddy at my side, it will be a journey we will get through together.

James, even when you read this back when you’re older, you will never truly know how much I have to thank you. You being in my life has made me a strong person, you give me purpose and strength.

You give me the fight I need to win.

You also give amazing kisses and cuddles.

It will be tough but we are tougher, my gorgeous boy.

Keep growing strong,
Lots of love
Mama
XOX