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Part 19. The End of an Era.

Today I finished chemo. It’s not actually the end of an era, but that day will come some time in the nearish future. More like the end of a chapter in this jooouuurney. But today sees the end of exactly 4 months of being poisoned in order to kill the gruesome twosome and it seems to have done the trick. It’s also killed (temporarily), my hair, some of the sensation in my fingers and toes, my weight, my sleep, my hormones, the skin on my hands, my eye sight a bit, and any chance of being active, amongst other things. But it hasn’t killed my spirit and that, my friends, is motherfucking key!

Here’s the catch though kids – I DIDN’T HAVE CHEMO TODAY! We talked about my hands with their internal burns (insert sad emoji), we discussed the neuropathy (numbness and tingling in fingers and toes) and joint pain, and we decided it wasn’t worth putting my exhausted body through this last small top up when it really doesn’t need it.

Because chemo really has done the trick. The results of my MRI at the start of May showed a massively reduced tumour, from 6x5cm to 3x2cm. Then the surgeon examined me on June 6th and said he was fairly certain the only thing he could feel was ‘thickening’ in the breast where the tumour once was. Er, fucking MASSIVE YAY!

So today the only ‘treatment’ I had was getting my picc line removed by my glorious friend Anna in the company of my bro Ollie who recorded the moment for posterity (see insta!). I took pics with some of the amazing team who have supported me over the last 4 months. I also gave them a hamper of goodies to sustain them on that hot chemo unit. I love that team from the tips of my nipples. Then family and two besties went for a meal and we celebrated and I drank my first gin in months – albeit over the course of 2 hours and not all of it. I felt/feel elated! All this in my very own personalised QEK t-shirt which will now be worn on many occasions thanks to the Osomi team!

As for shrinkage, it’s really quite something. I can say with a degree of certainty that in March/April the interaction with chemo made my tumour grow beyond the 6x5cm measured at my first oncology appointment, as my breast became swollen to almost double it’s lefty mates size, went a purple/red colour, and my nipple went a weird yellowish colour and was misshapen. An image I’ll never forget, and perhaps neither will you now…sorry! My oncologist said she’d be surprised if a ‘lumpy’ tumour like mine was completely gone by the end of chemo, but that she’d be glad to be proven wrong. Me too. I’m bloody thrilled.

My next MRI is Thursday and I look forward to the results very much. That’ll be 3 times I’ve put my head in a pneumatic drill and my tits in giant buckets. It will give the surgical team definitive info on what’s where, or not hopefully, ahead of imminent surgery.

Surgery looks set to happen in the second week of July and discussions on what that will look like began at the meeting with the surgeon 2 weeks ago. Our discussion involved a huge amount of information and has resulted in the need for some serious decision-making on my part. The decision I make will impact on my future health and the rest of my life, physically and psychologically. When you’re faced with the decisions I now have, the relationship with your body comes in to even sharper focus, as does the impact of change on various parts of life. I like my boobs. I have since they fully developed, and they’ve served me well. They’ve looked good, felt good and fed both my beautiful babies. For many women, not all, boobs are a huge part of your sense of femininity and sexuality. They are part of the way you present yourself, whether that be a Bet Lynch cleavage under tight leopard print, or the soft drape of silk over a brilliantly shaped bra. Whatever floats your boat, one can enjoy the form and shape of boobs. They’re great if you like that kind of thing! And I do. For some people they’re a big part of sex, and, if you have big boobs they literally affect how you hold yourself and what you can and can’t wear. These puppies are heavy.

Not all women feel this way of course and perhaps in time my relationship with my boobs will change, but given that it’s always been a good relationship, I hope not. This article based on a striking photography project shows women who are at one with their scars and, in most cases, their choice not to undergo reconstruction. They are beautiful and inspiring. I respect every single choice but I now fully recognise the mental process a woman has to go through both to make that choice and then to live with it. It’s really bloody hard I tell ya.

What I know deep in my gut is that I am not ready to embrace being without breasts, which one of the surgical options would require for over a year. Delayed reconstruction is the clinically ‘cleaner’ route to take considering I will also need radiotherapy in September of this year. Having recorded the surgical discussion and charged mum with researching evidence-based articles, my immediate gut reaction still trumps every bit of information. When I wake from surgery I would like to wake with boobs. There are many factors playing in to this decision and perhaps I’ll go deeper in a future blog.

For now lets end with some goodbyes:

Bye chemo. Thanks for doing what you were supposed to do and not landing me in hospital or bed-bound in the process. Bye steroids. Thanks for stopping me from feeling sick and helping the chemo or whatever it is you do. Thanks too for making me loads rounder both by being in me and making me dead hungry. Bye G-CSF. Thanks for protecting me by pumping out the white blood cells and being pushed in by a needle I could just about handle. Bye anti-sickness drugs. I didn’t need you but I liked knowing you were there. Bye acid reflux drugs. Likewise with the anti-sickness. Bye Movicol. Thanks for helping me pooh. No really, thank you. Finally, bye picc line. You were a very very good friend, but I don’t miss you and I never want another one of you.

I won’t miss any of them, but I’m glad they did their work alongside my own work and all the things I’ve consumed and surrounded myself with to help this part of the jooouuurney. That, my friends, may well be the hardest part over. Here’s bloody hoping!

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