At the weekend, Facebook reminded me that I started this breast cancer blog a year ago. When I wrote the first post, I had no idea what reaction I’d get – if any!
I had no idea how blogs worked…and even less about search engine optimisation. I still haven’t worked that out and it did bother me for quite a while. I’m fine with it now and I’ll get round to working it out one day.
When I started the blog, I wanted to increase the visibility of flat women and advocate for all patients to be given all of the treatment options after mastectomy. I think I’ve made some headway on both of those aims and have been lucky enough to have had some great experiences too. I’m not going to bore you with all of that, but you can read about them here if you’d like to.
So that’s the past…what about now?
Is currently NED – no evidence of disease – which is brilliant. I still have annual check ups with my breast surgeon and oncologist and will do for another two years. I’ve stopped taking Tamoxifen as the side effects were grim and had put me into a second menopause. One was enough thanks…so I’m not taking any drugs at the moment. Recurrence is always a possibility but I have to weigh up my quality of life vs the minimal benefits against recurrence that Tamoxifen was giving me.
Mental wellbeing status
Is sunshine and showers – which is brilliant because that is what it is. I think it’s safe to say that cancer is a head fuck. Especially if, like me, depression and anxiety were companions before the arrival of cancer. And I’m lucky. My oncologist told me that he was pretty sure that he wouldn’t see me again after the five years were up. Do I believe him? Can I believe him? What’s that ache in my chest? Pain in my groin…definitely secondary bone cancer. Can I get an appointment to see him?
I saw my surgeon earlier this month and reported a strange sensation where my cancerous left breast used to be. It was a feeling of fullness, and I’m aware of it as I sit here writing. Turns out that it’s phantom body part sensation. Which makes sense as I have had amputations. My anxiety must have been apparent, and I was sent for an ultrasound to check that there was nothing sinister going on. Of course there wasn’t. But it just shows that fear and worry bubble away in the back of my mind. It is getting better the further away from diagnosis I get.
Anxiety is often around for me and has been for many, many years. I’ve accepted that I’m an anxious person and I’m learning to live with the emotion rather than fight it. I have weekly psychotherapy sessions and am working through a Headspace meditation programme, aimed specifically at anxiety.
No holidays here
The most tangible manifestation of my anxiety is my inability to go on holiday at the moment. I love planning where and when to go but I’m unable to actually make a booking. Last year’s trips amounted to two nights in Kent and one in Oxford…I had planned to visit Spain, France and South Africa. I even pulled out of a weekend away in Yorkshire on Friday. The pull of my home and its safety is very strong right now.
Physical wellbeing status
Is a work in progress and that really is brilliant– I’m fitter and stronger than I have been for a very long time. And I’m working hard at getting fitter, stronger, leaner and lighter. Sport has always been a massive part of my life and not being able to do much of it, or even walk much, for the last five years has been really really really horrible.
I’m making up for lost time and it’s amazing. When I exercise I feel fantastic. I walk my dogs every day and I walk fast. A couple of days a week, I take my poles out for a Nordic walk as well, and I’ve started working with a personal trainer. Tennis is high on my agenda for Spring and I’m planning a long walk challenge later in the year.
Being able to exercise has been the highlight of my year so far and something that I don’t take for granted. There’s loads of research that shows that exercise may reduce the risk of recurrence and improve survival – hopefully I can be one more statistic that proves this.