Olive Buckley 1961-2016


An early morning phone call usually harbours bad news and this morning was no exception. My friend Olive had passed away during the night.

I only met Olive three years ago but there are some people you click with and Olive and I clicked. We became great friends. We sat for hours putting the world to rights. Olive was eager for change in Northern Ireland and it was no coincidence that we met at the birth of NI21. She was hopeful that a new political party could help to break the cycle of sectarian voting here and encourage people to be proud  of their individual identies. She was bitterly disappointed that this did not materialise.

In May of 2015 she called me to say she was in hospital. Doctors were concerned and decided that the symptoms needed further investigation. When she called on a Sunday morning to say she was dropping over for a coffee I knew something was wrong. My worst fears were confirmed when she told me she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Olive’s twitter bio says that she was ‘ a happy cheerful person.’ It was this disposition that kept her happy and positive throughout her illness. I never once heard her say why me? Never once heard her complain despite coping with amputations and numerous infections, not to mention the chemo and the stays in hospital. She was interested in all that was going on in the political scene and in the NHS ( she was a member of UNITE)  and she got out and about as much she could manage.

Olive was courageous in standing up before an audience in Stormont, telling her story and describing her symptoms so that a life might be saved. She also spoke on BBC Talkback, again to highlight the symptoms of pancreatic cancer.

img_2760Her birthday was a couple of weeks ago and in her words it was ‘the most wonderful day’ and she felt very happy.

We will miss you Olive, as will Gary who has been your partner, best friend and carer. My condolences to her mum Breda, her sister Roisin and her long time friend Paula and to the wide circle of friends who are now mourning her loss.


Ann Allan: Pro Choice

What makes a woman of mature age call for the imprisonment of a young 19 year old for having an abortion?

Why would she stand outside a Marie Stopes clinic berating those going inside?

Who has given her the right to become judge and jury as to how others choose to live?

Is there something in her past that has stripped away the compassion that one woman should feel towards another. Is that what she would want for a female relative who decided to go down that route?

Most women who choose to have an abortion, choose it because they do not want a pregnancy at that time, whatever the reason or the circumstance. Alright for Precious Life to say ‘ we’ll show you an alternative, We’ll help you through your pregnancy’ But parenthood is for life or at least for eighteen years. By that time I imagine PL will be long gone. We don’t know the circumstances of this particular conception. Incest, rape or the woman feeling she can’t cope. All reasons why she may not want to bring this foetus to full term and birth.

There are thousands of children today being born into a life of poverty, hunger and abuse. Why doesn’t Bernie and her cohorts pay attention to those children already born. Those children who are dying every day in huge numbers.  Leave those woman alone who have to make a difficult and I would imagine traumatic decision to have an abortion to be in control of  their own bodies.
The fact that we are still being bound by a law dating back to 1861 shows how backward looking our laws are in Northern Ireland. We need to put pressure on our new assembly to amend the abortion laws so that no more cases like this occur and then maybe women will be left in peace to make their own choice. I think it’s time for a referendum!

Girl in a Wig: Girlie Stuff

Hair and Nails and Girlie Stuff

Well here I am, 16 weeks since last chemo. Two months since radiotherapy finished. I’d like to focus on important stuff for anyone else in my position…namely rate of hair regrowth.image

I spent a lot of time googling this particular subject. Over the past few weeks I have (to my shame) used a tape measure to try to assess the rate of regrowth on my head. I’m lucky in that I was never totally bald but as can be seen in earlier blog posts I didn’t exactly have much. My hair is coming back quite thick but as can be seen is a rather surprising shade of grey and white.

But I am so excited to see it, I thought I’d never get to this point. My Consultant says it is long enough to dye although bleaching it would not be wise as the hair is still quite fragile. I’ve used a semi permanent today for three-quarters of the allotted time, it hasn’t made much difference to be honest . However the whites seem less white now. I think I’ll have a proper pixie crop style by Christmas.

Other hair: well it’s all back. I never thought I’d be pleased to see leg hair, but I am.

imageEyebrows: grew back by end of July.

Eyelashes: back by end of July and almost back at full length. I’d spent May to mid July with one solitary forlorn eyelash.

Facial hair: Well! Here’s a weird one. Chemo makes all the hairs fall out everywhere on your body. I’d never really noticed that there were tiny hairs on my arms and face until I realised they were growing back. What no one tells you is that chemo can cause a fuzzy type of hair growth all over your face-like the fine hairs babies have all over that drop off shortly after birth. I realised I had fuzzy soft furry cheeks and after a quick googling of breast cancer forums I was able to defuzz my furry face. It will be funny with hindsight…maybe.

Nails: my nails struggled valiantly on despite my consultant saying I’d probably lose them. They then turned yellow, thickened and I developed several layers to them. One by one they fell off. You don’t notice how much you use your nails to open lids (eg shampoo) or scrape off price tags etc until you can’t do it. Couldn’t even open ring pull cans, still can’t. They are almost back at normal length now though.
Toenails : See above.


Before they dropped off

Physically though I feel quite good. Fatigue hasn’t been too apparent and I think that walking five days a week for 30 mins at least has helped.
I’ve even gone back to work too, but that is for another post.



Girl in a Wig: Don’t Mention Kylie

imageJULY 27, 2015

When I told people that I was getting treatment for breast cancer I generally got one of the following responses from people.

1: A list of colleagues or relatives who had it and survived. Or died.

2: Famous people who had it and survived. Or died.

We all try to make sense of things that are unusual by trying to link them or anchor them to something in our experience. Hence the “S at my work had it and she’s doing fine 20 yrs on”. It isn’t worth trying to explain different grades, types, stages and prognosis . The reality is one size of breast cancer does not fit all. Your cousins neighbours sister’s type will probably have been different in some way or other. But I still heard about it.

The same applies to celebrity cancer . I got a list of celebs including ” your woman off The Killing” “That ginger one-off Sex and the City” , ” her off Loose Women” and of course ….Kylie Minogue. “Look at how great Kylie is now, she’s just done a World Tour”. I got that a lot.image

Anyway I’ve taken time out from planning MY world tour in order to note down some things that are helpful in supporting someone though treatment for cancer.


Offers to help with school run, child minding or shopping.

Texts or emails. Gossip, everyday chat or stories. These keep you focused even on days when you feel so rough you can’t speak.

Turning up with meals on the day of /after chemo. My neighbour did this each time and it really made a difference. Simple things like chicken bakes, lasagne, casseroles. These were brilliant.image

Entertainment: books, magazines , DVDs- these are great. Don’t have to rush out and buy anything. Just share what you have that you think may be of interest.

Not helpful

Staring at the person with a sad look on your face. I’ve had this. It isn’t pleasant to be the object of pity, especially when you don’t feel you need to be pitied.

Crying. I felt guilty that I made 3 different people cry by telling them I was having treatment. Contain your emotions people.

Telling the person about every death you’ve known from cancer. Or tragic stories . Really not helpful. I also got one or two who had watched The C-Word on TV then said ‘I thought of you’. Again, there are lots of variations within the diagnosis.

Telling a person they ‘look fantastic’ with a surprised expression. I get this a lot. I must have looked really rough prior to my diagnosis then.

Staring at the persons boobs, even if it’s a subconscious act. It has happened quite a bit to me. Even though I’ve said it was only a lumpectomy and I am luckily not much different, I’ve still had to restrain myself from saying “eyes UP” . Please don’t.

Telling a person they are ‘brave’ or ‘a survivor’. Or they are ‘battling’. Nonsense. I’m just me, having some treatment. It hasn’t altered who I am . Likewise having a diagnosis does not make you a saintly “victim” . If you were a bitch before diagnosis, you’ll still be a bitch after. It isn’t an excuse for special treatment from the world around you. Even though at times I wanted to whip the wig off Mo Mowlam style and stamp my feet to get treated like a princess for once. 😉image

Most helpful thing to do

Treat the person as normal. Talk to them as normal. Plan to do things as normal, when you can. Don’t always talk about treatment. And…please don’t mention Kylie. Again.



Sarah Walsh: I’m Perfect Just as I am.

Chatter has gone global. I am delighted to publish Sarah Walsh’s courageous account of dealing with her disability. Written when she was just thirteen it shows a great maturity on her outlook on life. Ann Allan

My name is Sarah. I’m in a wheelchair and I’m 13. But that’s only the outside stuff, the obvious things. I have Irish heritage on my dad’s side, and Scottish on my mum’s side. I was born 30th May in Canberra. I have a thing called Ulrich Congenital Muscular Dystrophy which basically means weird skin, weak muscles, thin bones and this is all caused by a lack of collagen 6. But the weird thing is, I didn’t have that diagnosis until I was 7, so for 7 years of my life I was basically living a lie.
Over the years I’ve had many significant moments, all worthy of being in this speech. But there’s only one moment that really deserves to be said aloud. That moment is my first MD camp.image
You see, in 2007 I had an operation to try to help me walk, but it had the opposite effect. It stopped me walking altogether. So, I kind of wasn’t myself for 2 years, saying things like “I hate myself” and apologising when anything happened that involved my wheelchair, as I felt it was my fault I was like this. Really, when I think about it, the only thing that ended up taking me out of that phase was this camp.
I can remember that I wasn’t too thrilled to be going. I don’t like being out of my comfort zone, and the idea of making new friends really scares me. Of course, seeing that nothing ever happens in Canberra, we had to go to Sydney for this camp Narrabeen Sports and Rec camp to be precise. The drive took at least 4 hours, so naturally I was bored out of my mind. When we arrived, you can imagine I was nervous as I just couldn’t imagine 30 kids in wheelchairs being in one spot all week. It would just be hectic and there wouldn’t be enough space. Or so I thought.
So we went to meet my carer,  Kelly,  who would help me with everything throughout the week (the carers were physiotherapy students). We went to our room and a few minutes later my roommate arrived. Her name was Bodene and her carer was Elise.  Bodene was 4 years older than me, but that didn’t stop us from clicking straight away. After we settled in and had the first awkward conversation and figured out that Bodene and I were completely obsessed with Twilight, we were told we had to go out and do the first activity.

We were put into groups and, because this camp was near Halloween, we made banners for our groups with Halloween kind of names. My group was called the “Bloodsucking Campers”. Unfortunately, Bodene and I weren’t in the same group but it was also a good thing. A little friendly competition never hurt anyone.
The rest of the week went by in the same way; spending time in our room getting to know each other, an activity, and back to the room partying and getting to know each other better. The more I got to know Bodene, the closer we got, and I found myself somehow forgiving myself for what happened on ’07.  Forgiving the surgeon and realising that I can be who I was; I just needed to understand that I won’t be the exact same, that things have changed. When I realised that, I was able to have more fun, throw more of me into the activities and not be so reserved.image
My favourite thing on this camp had to be the Halloween party! It was awesome!! It was on Wednesday night, so I had basically fully become a child and was doing everything I wanted and doing it with a smile on my face a smile that almost never left my face, which hadn’t happened since the operation.  We all had face paint on, and it wasn’t the face paint you get at fetes, this was movie worthy face paint! Warts, blood and all! The hall was filled with all sorts of things: streamers, Halloween decorations and Halloween food,  all of which Bodene and I helped set up.

They also had karaoke. I was so happy there was karaoke because I’ve always wanted to do it and I said to Bodene, “Dude, we have to do that”, but of course she said no, because she was too chicken! So I went with Elise because I didn’t want to go up alone. Then the next few times I did it, Bodene did it with me! I remember saying goodbye on Friday was really hard. There were quite a few tears, but I knew I was coming back next year as I just had so much fun and, for the first time in ages, I was fully myself and felt as though I belonged somewhere.image
This camp has helped shape my identity by making me realise that I’m not alone in what I’m going through. If I’m having a rough time, all I have to do is call my best friend and ask her for help seeing she’s already been through most of it.
This camp also shaped my identity by making me who I was when I was 10: a person who always smiles and makes pathetic jokes but still laughs like crazy at them. Without this camp, I would still hate myself, wishing I was “normal”. I’m perfect just as I am. And that’s the most important thing this camp has taught me.

Ullrich Congenital Muscular Dystrophy | MDA
31 Mar 2015 – Children and adolescents with Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy or Bethlem myopathy are invited to participate in a study of a daily …

Girl in a Wig: Normality


Been thinking about blogging a lot recently. I started this to offload my own thoughts and feelings and also act as a journal. I have had some published via Chatter at http://www.apvallan.com a local blog and the author of this has been very encouraging.
I have deliberately not looked at other blogs in this whole area though. I did have a look at one recently and while our stories were similar in some ways the author was having a difficult time. I also saw comments on her lblog that as I have described before were almost competitive. That is – who had the worst side effects/ diagnosis etc. Competitive cancer.
I really can’t be arsed with that.
So, my pledge to anyone who reads this is that when I’ve got enough of the stuff about cancer treatment out of my head, I’ll be blogging about normal stuff. That was always my intention anyway.
Because in the end, whilst I’ve had a bit of cancer taken out, I’ve had lots of treatment as an insurance policy. I’m probably in better shape than a lot of people as my health will be monitored closely for the next couple of years. I’ve had a clean MRI and CT scans with no signs of everyday wear and tear or things like arthritis lurking away.

What you focus on, grows. My focus is on normality.



Anon: Girl in a Wig, Looking Forward


June 1st 2015: Began radiotherapy.

July 1st 2015:  I finished radiotherapy. In between had 23 sessions ( called fractions). Each of these entailed a trip to the Regional Canimagecer Centre to get zapped.

The waiting room is massive, apparently they treat 300+ per day there. The desk is manned by volunteers from the Friends of the Cancer Centre and also I saw a gentleman volunteer playing guitar one day . It all helps keeps your spirits up. There is some horrendous artwork though, one huge piece in particular was what looked like a playground in blood red. Made me think of Terminator 2 and laugh every time I saw it which possibly wasn’t the artist’s intention.

Anyway you get a pager and can wonder about in the vicinity until the radiographer pages you. Once you’ve been paged they take you off to one of the rooms where they check your details. After partially undressing you get on the bench, get lined up to the lasers and then zapped. This bit only takes a minute .


Anyway, radiotherapy itself was fine. To anyone having to have it, the staff are all very nice and it only takes a few minutes. If you drink lots of water and moisturise as advised it is fine. I managed to avoid any skin damage luckily but it can break down a bit. What I do have though is a very brown tanned circular patch where I had the Boost treatment. This is a few fractions where the beam is focused in a very small specific area. This also entails a bit more drawing on you with felt tips, this time using a template to trace the area. Not so fun with male radiographers doing it. I tried to make it normal by chatting about the weather etc but really- strangers drawing on your boob is not normal.

Wasn’t too unhappy to finish though. I had got sick of trekking to the hospital every day and not being able to wear deodorant under the nearest arm to the area being zapped. Apparently the metallic particles can effect the radiation -which makes me wonder what exactly we put onto our skin without thinking.

When it was all over I did feel a sense of relief. The active treatment phase is over and I’ll just be reviewed regularly from now on. That plus 10 yrs of taking tamoxifen .

But….far better than the alternative. At least I have an alternative



Girl In a Wig: Looking Back.


Fifty Shades of Radiotherapy

JUNE 26 2015: Have found a new lease of life for my tentative blogging in the past few days. I poured out a lot a few weeks after the surgery, mostly to get it out of my head and away. Reading back now and tweaking posts has been strange but good and I have been inspired to continue. To put in the normal stuff too.

But first….Radiotherapy.

13 days after my last chemo session I spent an hour planning my radiotherapy. Was wrecked to say the least. The appointment consisted of me lying on a table with measurement scales with my limbs in various contraptions, a nurse taking Polaroid pics, people drawing on my boobs, followed by an CT scan. After this scan I got my first ever tattoos. Nothing exciting, just three bluey black spots. One in my cleavage and one at breast height either side of my torso.

But I’m telling everyone that now I’ve got three tattoos. Makes me seem cooler.

Then 18 days after my last chemo session I began radiotherapy. Bit fecking harsh if you ask me, was still recovering. Usually quite cool in the room and with your arms stretched out behind your head in metal restraints, it is like something out of an S&M dungeon. Not that I’ve been in one, but I kept expecting Christian Grey to swan in.IMG_0638

Radio isn’t so bad, more the fiddling about, wriggling your bum up and down the table, strangers gently manoeuvring bits into position but on the upside it has cool green lasers. The actual bursts of radiation only take a few seconds each.

Have got through 20 so far. Three left. Been doable. Everyone has been very nice and professional but I have to admit that I haven’t liked having men do it. There are always a few people in the room but I swear half of Belfast have seen my boobs at this point and I have reached my limit. It’s pointless even undressing behind the curtain when minutes later you are lying there with them drawing on your boob or squashing it into a different position. Dignity long gone.

Anyway…I’ll be really glad . Have had my fill of hospitals and medical folk. And sinister looking contraptions.

Wigging Out
JUNE 28 2015:  Am going to back track to before Valentine’s Day, to when I still had hair. Before I went to the wig salon, before chemo had even started I began half heartedly looking online at wigs. Hours and hours of it.

Let me tell you I had never believed there was so much fake hair out there. Raquel Welch also seems to have cornered the market in swanky auburn or brunette styles too. She’ll not starve anytime soon judging by the prices.

I thought long and hard about the colour and style of my hair. Didn’t want to look dramatically different and wanted to slip unnoticed through the playground. There is real hair (expensive),  synthetic, lace front (gives you a natural hairline if the wind blows your hair up), monofilament, etc. etc…. It really is worth a visit to a proper wig fitting salon to discuss all the options and try some on.IMG_0636

In the end I chose the second one I tried on, from the Ellen Wylie Hair Power range. Five months later there are people I know who have not realised my hair isn’t real, after hours of face to face conversation. They somehow have managed to miss the drawn on eyebrows (top tip : an eyebrow brush swept across the line helps make it look natural) or lack of eyelashes (top tip 2: black kohl across both sides).

It isn’t so bad wearing a wig. There have been a few worrying moments on windy days and I went through a few months with a pull on beanie hat in my handbag, just in case. Ditto for rain.

Upsides to wig wearing : salon fabulous hair EVERY day. Can change your look completely if you wish. No hairdresser costs. No hair dyeing.

Downsides: windy days are stressful. Rainy and snowy days too. Hoodies and hoods in general are tricky unless you hold your hair with one hand while removing your hood. Opening the oven too close is a no-no, ditto, getting too near barbecues and fires. You also need to take care bending over in public and I’d really advise against handstands.

One thing I realised about wigs though is that there is a whole other world of secret wig wearing going on. Not just girls like me. When I’d been looking online for a cheapy spare I googled ‘cheap wigs.’ There are loads out there. I never even wondered why. But then one day I realised….

I’d kept seeing a UK site with some pretty decent wigs. Their homepage however had seemingly unrelated items on sale. Shoes. Stilettos to be exact. Didn’t think twice until one day I returned and took a closer look at those shoes. Very nice shiny stilettos. I checked out the sizes. Started at size 5. Went all the way up past Size 12.

Soooooo. Like I said. A whole other world of secret wig wearing is out there……


Anon: girlinawig ( Part 2)


March 2015:  Second lot of chemo was on Thursday p.m. I’d called into work for an hour in the morning and had a laugh, which was a real boost.

6 p.m. Chemo round 2. This time I used a hand warmer I’d got stashed away for footy spectating . Seemed to work as the nurse got in my vein first time. Big relief as I don’t want a PICC line fitted that needs to be regularly dressed by a nurse.

Asked about Monday’s blood test results. Apparently all my scores are those of a normal healthy person. Neutrophils too, which is a relief. These drastically drop during chemo so the higher they are to start with, the better. If they drop v low, you can end up in hospital just because of a sniffle. Came home, ate a bit of dinner. Not too bad.

Friday : Felt a bit more sick in the early hours but better after a morning nap. Even got across the threshold this time. Last time I didn’t go out of the house from the Thurs night until the Wed.
Walked up the street to collect my boys from their friends. My lovely friend had brought them home from school and fed them. Walked them back up the street for her to take them to a school disco. Then lovely friend 2 dropped them off. Then I took them up to MIL for a sleepover as hubby was out. Was all planned in case I felt as ill as the last time. Except I didn’t!

Saturday: Got up, not feeling so sick. Not got a bright red shiny face this morning like last time.


Saturday was great. Pootled about in the car taking youngest to his friends to play. Even nipped into the Spar garage for stuff. Got my Neulasta injection from the District Nurse…once she’d worked out with her colleague how to open it. Had never seen one before. Yet it would be cheaper for the NHS than an admission to hospital for a few days. Should be given as standard.

Sunday:  BLEURGHHHH.  Neulasta side effects kicked in. Sore in every bone. From top of my spine right down to my shins. But that was it working, forcing new blood cell growth. Fuzzy headed all day. In fact felt like that for a few days. Luckily this coincided with a trip over by my parents .

I napped. I did nothing. They pottered about fixing and cleaning stuff. Things I hadn’t been up to doing in months what with surgeries etc. . It was brilliant to be looked after.

JUNE 2015: First three cycles of FEC went by without too much bother. In the week following chemo I took it easy and while I didn’t feel fantastic, I didn’t feel horrendous either.

Yes there were side effects but they were manageable.

The last three cycles I had were Docetaxol. I assumed that I’d (relatively) breeze through this too.


So…less nausea but I really thought I was going to die from the pain. Every single part of me hurt. No painkiller could touch it. Couldn’t even cry as it hurt to move my cheeks. Even the duvet hurt my legs. Three days like that. It might have been four. It’s very hazy. I spent Easter week in bed. Finally called my nurse for advice and she brought me in. After a quick blood test, I was given antibiotics and told my neutrophils were very very low, surprisingly. If I developed a temperature I had to go directly to A&E to get admitted.

I  took a couple of antibiotics over the day and sat watching my temp go up. And up. I figured the trip alone to A&E would make me worse as I couldn’t get downstairs again at that point. If I was admitted I’d get antibiotics anyway….so I hedged my bets. Very risky. But it was fine. My temp started to come down at 3am. The next day I felt like a different person.

Side effects, apart from the pain and need for antibiotics, were pretty spectacular. My hands swelled up and were fiery hot and red. After a few days of this the skin began to peel off in big strips. like sunburn peel but much, much bigger pieces.   Lovely.

IMG_0631Anyway scab handed I went to my next checkup, hoping I’d be too ill to go ahead with chemo. Apparently not, my blood levels were ok. However the consultant said he was reducing the chemo dose by 20 % due to my severe reaction. It had packed a pretty hard punch he said, then smiled. Yay!

Last 2 Docetaxols


That’s all.

Had been given a co-codamol and brufen schedule to keep ahead of the pain. This helped a bit. Not totally. Mouth sores weren’t as bad, though I ended up with scabby peeling feet instead of scabby hands.

My parents came over to stay for a week each time, given how ill I’d been the last time. This was amazing. I could barely sit up in bed for a few days let alone eat or function. I let them pamper me and hid as best I could how unwell I was from the kids. Childhood comfort food like eggy bread, hit the spot

For the penultimate cycle I was offered tramadol to see if it helped. So I took one in a vain attempt to help pain wise. Never ever again.

I woke up crawling on the bathroom floor, trying to clean it with my hands. I was convinced I had weed all over the floor and bed (not true). When I came to enough to realise I was dreaming, I went back to bed. As I sat down I was pulled onto the bed by hundreds of pairs of hands that I started fighting off. All I remember after that is fighting demons and flying and more fighting.


As my Consultant said afterwards, You’ll never make a junkie.

Suede Head

JUNE 2015: Never fully lost it. Was never a shiny baldy. I kept a v fine layer of grey patchy fuzz. Lost eyebrows, eyelashes and everywhere else though. I am a dab hand at fake eyebrows now. The first pic is about 4 weeks after the last chemo.


The pic below is tonight. That is 6 weeks exactly since the last chemo.


It might be coming back with a lot of grey, but it is coming back.

To be continued.


Anon : girlinawig (Part One)


First attempt at blogging. I’m new to all this. But hey ho, will give it a go. My aim is to write about life, right now.

A bit about me : Aged 43, wife, mum of two boys, charity worker and all round busy person. All very mundane.

Why I’m writing this? Well it’s a type of journal. A place to whinge and feel better. Whinge a little. Not too much. Promise.
To set the scene….

Sept 2014.

On my birthday I felt a lump. Yes, a lump. Bit of a rubbish birthday present. Didn’t tell anyone as my folks were over visiting. Plus nothing was actually wrong. Really.

After a few days it disappeared with some bruising, but I went to my Doctor anyway. He said to come back if in a few weeks,  if needed, which luckily I did as I wasn’t happy. He suggested I go to my local cancer charity who do mammograms as there was nothing he could refer me on for as ‘urgent’ . It would mean I wouldn’t get a scan til March 2015 at least , given the pressures on our NHS.
Totally had forgotten the decent health insurance we have via my husbands work which would have done it sooner, but I was seen within two weeks at the charity.
My mammogram was easy enough but something on this got me referred to the one stop breast clinic at the Regional Cancer Centre. The letter said four out of five such referrals were fine. I assumed I’d be one of the four.

December 2014

I spent a morning getting poked and prodded, more scans, an ultrasound and a biopsy. In between which I accidentally saw WAY too many elderly lady boobs in the waiting room, due to the ill-fitting gowns.

Then a meeting with the Consultant. The waiting room emptied. Husband kept saying ‘ it’ll be fine’. Last patient of the day. Consultant came in, I saw her expression….and I just knew.

Small tumour. .04-what-is-that12cm
But…early stages. Type of cancer that responds to hormone treatment.
All in all, very treatable.

But still.
I’m not ill I thought.

JANUARY 30 2015

As surgery approached I began to panic about the general anaesthetic. Silly I know but I was convinced I wouldn’t wake up. Ridiculous anxiety .

Anyway, got to the day ward for 7am. On my own in a taxi, so the kids wouldn’t be disturbed or know anything was awry.
Anyway met 2 chatty wonderful women , we collectively rallied each other’s spirits and moaned about being hungry.

There was no surgery in the morning due to theatres being inspected. While inconvenient, it was good as I knew they would be spotless and everyone would be on their toes.

9am. A trip for me and an older lady up to radiography to receive a tracer isotope. This was to enable the surgeon to locate and remove sentinel nodes -lead lymph nodes that can show if cancer has begun to spread.

How they do it it is, in hindsight pretty funny. But at the time it was excruciating.
A portly bow tied gent introduced himself with a radiographer.
After which , he injected the side of my nipple with radioactive gunge.
That wasn’t the worst. The worst bit was then having to massage my own boob, for a couple of minutes , under the watchful eye of said Doctor.

The scan after that , was pretty easy.

Got back to the ward and the other lady came and sat on my bed. She was a bit out of sorts bless her. She said “I’ve never done anything like that in front of a man. Never in all my puff” .

Time rolled on. We could smell the nurses lunch. Even the magazines we had between showed page after page of food. Humour got us through.
Then one by one people were wheeled off. I was the only one left. It was 4 p.m. I knew I had to recover enough by 8p.m. or I’d have to be admitted as the ward was only a day ward.

4.20p.m.. Finally wheeled down. Pretty panicky and my heart rate went up to 140. Last thing I remember is the rapid ‘ping ping ping’ of the monitor.

Woke up crying at 7p.m.. Has happened before with anaesthetic. But partly relief too. Made it down to the ward and forced the mandatory tea and toast down. Walked out the door, 8p.m. on the dot, having put a bit of make up on.
We picked up the kids from MILs, and that was that. Almost normality.

Well. I was told all along that I’d lose my hair. Never quite believed it. Joked that no doubt it would fall out for  Valentine’s day.images

Day 11:  Had scalp tingling on day 11 after chemo. Having looked it up I knew it was a sign that the epirubicin (part of the FEC treatment) was working to blast all the fast dividing cells. Unfortunately some of the fastest cells are in your hair follicles.
Day 13:  Ran my hands through my hair. About 20 strands came out. Ran them through some more. More came out.
This happened through the day. Was surprised at how low I felt about it.
I know it’s temporary. I know I am choosing to have the treatment to ensure I have another 40 years hopefully.

Day 14:  A lot more. Going to have to arrange to collect the wig.
Going to have to tell the kids too.
Mood isn’t great tbh. But I’ll get there once I get my head round it. No pun intended.

Day 15: Run my fingers through and loads comes out. I definitely have less all over. Ordered a spare wig online. Hopefully will arrive in time.

Sunday: Out in absolute handfuls. Looks straggly. Pony tailed it all day to hide from the kids. This resulted into a third of said ponytail coming out when I took out the bobble.
Wishing I’d taken the plunge and got it short before it came to this. But that would have meant explaining things at school gates. I.e. Drastic haircut. Then sudden long hair lol.

Monday: Went to get my wig fitted. Booked myself into a Look Good Feel Better thing run at the Macmillan Centre. And a makeup demo. Mainly because you get freebie products but also shown how to draw on eyebrows. Which will be useful.

As I was collecting the wig, a teenage girl was coming out, with her mum and wigs. I will never complain about having to wear it. Imagine being 14 or so and having to wear one. Doesn’t bear thinking about.

So..kept it on from the fitting. Nipped round Sainsburys. Did school run. Nobody even noticed. Not even the kids. My spare cheaply wig from Annabelle”s Wigs online arrived today too. Only £26 and actually looks like the posh one.

Wednesday: Not much left. Straggly long bits and handfuls and handfuls out. I got a hairdresser to cut it v short. He says clippers would be too traumatic. After this I looked pretty good. Patchy but good . Wigs fitted better too.

Couple of days of jumping out of bed to put my hair on before my boys saw. Took it’s toll though. I had to tell them so they wouldn’t be upset if they came into our bed for cuddle. I said ” Mummy’s had some medicine like strong antibiotics. It’s made my hair fall out a lot, but it will grow back in May’. They accepted all this, didn’t ask why. No further questions. Told them their teachers knew, if they ever wanted to talk about it, but that it was just a side effect.MARGIE WON Phew!


To be continued