Patricia Brown Clinic
This blog feautures our 'Wedding' category with lots of information relating to weddings, wedding make up ideas and some advice for a stress free wedding morning.
The 'Cancer and Me' blog talks about cancer related issues and my personal experience, positive thinking and the Paxman Cooling System. Hopefully it can give a different perspective to cancer and take some of the fear away. I'd like to take the chance to say to one of my main chemo nurses 'my little micky' (you will know who you are) who was the first to suggest that I should do a positive blog, hope I make you proud xxxx
Hope you enjoy and please share with your friends and family on social media to try raise awareness. Thank you xxxx
|Posted on September 2, 2017 at 7:00 PM||comments (886)|
I thought I would get this blog post done a few weeks after finishing treatment, this was the post I was waiting for, the 'I Did It' post. But when I'm actually writing this is now sometime after chemo finished, its well over a year and a half ago.
I had my last chemo on the 28th January 2016, that 12th one had finally been and gone. You walk away with a strange mix of feelings, I was ready for the end of treatment, I was tired of the whole chemo procedure, tired of having needles and my veins had held out for me, but after that final one I knew they were closed for business and if they 'd of had feelings and a mind of their own, I wouldn't of blamed them to say they'd had enough. My routine of chemo day not all been about hospital and doing the ritual tea at my mum and dads had worn off and those last couple all I wanted do was too go home and sleep. The pain in my arms from the chemo had started to build up and up and I was definitely getting to where I did not want that anymore. For as many reasons as there were to be more than relieved to walk away from the chemo ward, you are left with a strange longing to stay. Not for more chemo, you want that to be done and behind you, but because the hospital becomes like your safety net, even for a medical loathing, hospital phobic like me. But the staff I came across at the North Staffs were so amazing, bonds were built and to walk away knowing you no longer had the regular meetings with them was just strange. Even stranger, for the cancer I had was the period of waiting for my scan, 6 weeks. During treatment you are in a little bubble, but that six week period you are back into normal life, your giving yourself some recovery time. But for the first time in at least 7 months there was no hospital appointments, no blood tests, scans, nothing, just hospital free life. So you slowly start to get your 'normal' back. You find yourself easing back in quite nicely to your normal. But then, you have to go back into hospital world for your scan and you don't know what they will show, will you stay in the land of normal or will you be back to hospital world because things haven't gone as they should?
I had my scan in March and a couple of days later I phoned my support nurse for the results. I will never forget those words, it was a full remission. That meant no radiotherapy, no more scans, no biopsies to see what was left, no operations, I'd got 'normal' back. I'd be checked every 3 months, then going to 4 monthly but other than that I'd got my second chance at life. So normal is what you do, I started building back up at work, the neuropathy from chemo, the pain, the numbness did bother me daily at first, intensely at first, but gradually it gets better, I don't think it will ever be back to how I was before but I think its a small price to pay. I had lots of aches and pains in my feet which again gradually have got better, at the hospital they always say to give yourself time, but you don't get it, all this time on I get it, you just need your recovery time. Mentally, during treatment I think you go on autopilot, just get on with it as what choice do you have? The months after can be strange as I think it hits you what you have been through. But there are many positives, I found a respect for myself I didn't have before I'd been through a lot, I said I'd walk out of chemo looking how I walked in only healthy and I did, my hair had stayed 100% and even though the hair loss subject still gets mixed reaction as I have said before, keeping my hair was part of my fight, cancer was not taking anything away from me, I was fighting to beat the cancer and fighting to keep myself, through an amazing medical team, supportive family and friends and my own determination I succeeded. But there is a flip side to this, you look like nothing has been wrong, which is what I wanted, but some people can quickly forget, some dismiss what you have been through, assume it couldn't of been that bad because you still have your hair, some want to take away what you have been through by saying 'your hair probably wouldn't of gone anyway'. I don't need to defend myself, but the simple facts are, yes I would of 100% lost my hair if I had not used the scalp cooling treatment. Actually it was quite bad, the mass when I was diagnosed was huge and very close to major blood vessels, had it of been left undiagnosed much longer, I may not of had a chance to fight the cancer, to be blunt, it could of been it quite quickly. I wasn't sick throughout chemo, but I was on strong anti-sickness to start with, yes other than certain things I felt relatively well throughout, but looking back I was so ill before chemo started, that the side effects from chemo were an improvement to how I'd felt before. I was positive all through, saw the humour wherever possible, a small few dismiss this, again assuming the only reason I was like this, was because it wasn't that bad or I was in some sort of denial. I could of wrote in this blog all the negatives, but how would that help? You have no choice in cancer and if it chooses you then you do have to get on with it, find your inner fight and fight all the way. I chose to fight my way it amazes me how some people cant just say you did good and want to pick at everything and find faults that aren't there. Cancer and chemo is hard, the hardest thing you can probably ever go through, but you can do it. I chose to be positive and so wanted to write positively in the hope it can make others believe that they can do it too, give them some courage and reassurance. From many comments I've had from people who have looked at this blog either newly diagnosed themselves, or family/friends of people starting the cancer journey, it has done this and that's all that matters to me.
Living 'normally' is amazing, you aren't the same person afterwards, but again I don't this has to be a negative. It certainly makes you appreciate everything. Since chemo finished we have organised a party for family and friends and this was a fundraising event for the chemo ward, we had an amazing night and raised over £4000, all of the donations and raffle tickets bought came from family and friends and we are so grateful for everyone's kindness. This money we designated to go to Patient Comfort and Nurse Education. through determination into turning my experience into a positive I soon got in touch with Paxman Scalp Cooling, the company behind the cooling cap. My story went to the National Press and it appeared in many online publications, such as the Daily Mail, the Sun, who brilliantly named me Coldy Locks! Network She, Paxman's website, Huffington Post and many more. My story managed to get down to a consultant in London, who recommended scalp cooling to one of his patients, I have been in touch with her since and it was reading my story that gave her the courage to not only use scalp cooling but also to fight the cancer, her own words, and this is all I ever wanted, if my experience could help one it was all worth it, knowing it has helped many more means everything. I knew then I had done the right thing by making my story public. I've been down To Guy's Hospital in London to take part in a Paxman Scalp Cooling, myself and two other users gave a talk on our experiences to a large group of oncology nurses. I am an ambassador for Bloodwise and just starting the buddy scheme for people newly diagnosed through the Lymphoma Association, so I feel I'm giving back. Its also for me as the after cancer period is mentally weird, some days it feels like it never happened, other days it feels like it was only yesterday and you do have to face it all over again with every check. For me pushing it aside like it never happened is not the way to deal with it. It will always be part of life for a good while, everytime a check up comes round, but by doing something productive from my experience I feel I've dealt with it far better. I've also just finished my qualification to teach further education, not easy at the start with chemo brain, but its something i've wanted to do for years. Getting that certificate through the post was another reminder that there is life after cancer, it doesnt have to stop you, dreams and ambitions can still be fulfilled.
I don't know why it has taken me so long to right this post, maybe its a case of not wanting to tempt fate. You don't want to brag about been in remission and because your way of thinking changes a little. All that matters is your well today and life is worth living so get out and do it. For all the hard times, there were plenty good times and lots of laughs, good memories were made in the worst of times, and after everything I wouldnt change a thing. If I could sum up in one word how I feel after it all, GRATEFUL would be it. It seems easy to say now that for anyone newly diagnosed it goes quick and you will get through it, but it shouldnt be forgotten that those of us who say this were once at the start of the cancer journey oursleves, we may look back and wonder how we did it, but you do just 'do it' and you get through. So to anyone newly diagnosed, power through, you will get there. It is each person's individual journey and do it your way. One day lets hope the world beats cancer for good, but for now we just have to keep fighting and in the words of Rocky, which played its part in my journey, "Its not about how hard you hit, its about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, that's how winning is done" xxxxxxxxxx
|Posted on January 21, 2017 at 1:05 PM||comments (882)|
Yes this is what the title says, a guide to a stress free wedding morning and yes it realy is possible! No doubt any bride to be has become pretty skilled at planning, negotiating and time management. Im sure there has been stresses, but just look all that planning and here you are on your wedding morning! So don't let all your skilled planning fail you at the last minute, all you need is a little extra thought put into those final few hours before you say I do! I've being a wedding day make up artist for almost a decade now (suddenly starting to feel old!) but I have seen lots of wedding mornings so here are my tips for an enjoyable and relaxed wedding morning...
- Make sure you have contact details (ideally mobile numbers) for everyone who will be arriving on the morning, including your hairdresser, make up artist and florist. That way if they are running late or not arriving at the time you thought you can contact them. Why not even ask if they could send you a quick text to let you know they are on the way?
- Allow more time than less. Your wedding day is one day where you would be better to be ready early than late. Work back from your wedding time, what time are the cars coming? Then aim to be getting in dresses an hour before cars are due to arrive, so hair and make up ideally should be done by this point. It may seem early but a lace up dress can take some fitting, I've known it take 45 minutes in the past. It will also allow time for any photographs your photographer may want to take before you leave or just a quick glass of processco with your bridesmaids! It may seem early but it is far better to do this relaxed than be rushing and getting hot and bothered when you have done your hair and make up.
- Make sure your bridesmaid, mum, friend, or whoever is fitting you in your dress, especially if it is lace up has practised and knows what they are doing. Less stress for them and you. Some dress shops even offer a service where they come out to fit you in your dress on the day and from what I have seen this is well worth considering.
- Have the morning you want! If you want to be surrounded by bridesmaids and family, friends, neighbours.... then go for it, it certainly creates a more party, buzzing atmosphere. But again only if this is what you want. If this is going to stress you too much just keep it small and get ready peacefully.
- Eat breakfast, even if you feel you cant face it, go for something light. It can be along time until you eat your meal and you don't want to feel faint.
- Stay hydrated. Yes you are well entitled to a glass of fizz on your wedding morning but stay hydrated too, stop a little before so you arent loo running but early on to make sure you get some water, not only will you feel better but you will look better too with fresh, hydrated skin.
- Avoid using any new products (e.g facially or in the shower) just before your wedding incase of any reactions! Maybe unlikely but not worth the risk. Give your skin a little massage when putting your night cream on the night before and again in the shower on the morning to give skin a natural boost and glow.
- Check that you are getting the same make up artist/hairdresser as at your trial! Saves stress if a different person turns up on the day.
- Take a deep breath, relax and smile and enjoy your wedding morning! It will be one of the best days of your life and enjoy the hours leading up to it too! Why not have a little time to yourself saying as the day will be so busy? Maybe just getting up a little earlier to have a coffee on your own, time to compose yourself and look forward to what is to come.
|Posted on June 19, 2016 at 5:30 PM||comments (434)|
As a thank you to Tangle Teezer for the lovely products they sent me and for offering to retweet my Paxman Pioneer story, I thought I'd tell my own little Tangle Teezer story...
Tangle Teezer, you have been in my life now for years. Our journey started one Christmas morning when you were there waiting under the Christmas tree, you were one of the presents I couldn't wait to try. Your box promised miracles for those of the unruly hair, the answer to unmanageable hair but would you live up to your promise? But yes you did. You tamed my thick hair, you took on and won where most brushes failed. I wasn't left cutting out knots anymore when I had styled it too much and used too much product, you glided through my hair effortlessly and when it came to bigger knots you put the work in and got through them too. You were kind to my hair, you didn't tug and painfully pull leaving sore patches, you didn't leave a trail of lost hair from over brushing, you detangled as you promised, you were a hero in brush form and transformed a mane of thick, untameable hair into healthy, manageable hair. You were put to the test in our early years together, when I was young and constantly trying new styles, too much hairspray, too much curling mousse, but you were my hair saver and you saw my hair through these testing times. You brushed, you back-combed, you really did it all, you brushed out bed-head hair in a morning, you refreshed hair throughout the day, you detangled before bedtime. You have been out and about in my handbag with me for years, you have been on the beach, poolside, squeezed into a clutch bag when going out, waved about in discussions on boy issues in the toilets on nights out, borrowed by friends. It was quite sad to throw you away when you got old and putting you in soak didn't clean you up anymore, but I got a new Tangle Teezer and the story started again, but we now had a happy life, you had tamed my hair, I had left the experimental stage behind and was now kind to my hair, we washed and blow dried and you did the rest and kept my hair in check. Then after all those years along came cancer, the chemo would make me lose my hair and it threatened to part me and my Tangle Teezer, you wouldn't be needed anymore, put in a drawer for months while I waited for my hair to grow back, maybe after all those years of detangling you would brush out my hair as it started to fall out. You had been used many times a day for years but I wouldn't have use for you anymore. But even cancer couldn't part me and the Tangle Teezer. I chose to fight to save my hair by using the cold cap and you were with me all the way through, you were in my hospital bag on biopsy day, you came to every chemo, I brushed my hair before the conditioner and cold cap went on, you gently brushed through my hair after washing it the next day and you continued to look after it all through. We must of made a good team, you, me and the cold cap, as I had zero hair loss. From teenager, growing up, to cancer survivor you have been there through it all, I'd never say no to diamonds, but Tangle Teezer really is a girl's best friend.
|Posted on June 11, 2016 at 6:15 PM||comments (566)|
Yes it really is a side effect, not just something we make up to justify when we make no sense! Chemo Brain is a change in memory, concentration and how we think, which people link to chemotherapy, breast cancer patients were the first to report this problem which they believed to be linked to chemotherapy. These changes are called Chemo Brain or Chemo Fog, or if you want to get technical, Mild Cognitive Impairment or Cognitive Dysfunction. Put simply, its how our brain processes information or understands the world and how everything works. I have read some research that suggests Chemo Brain isn't related to chemotherapy, it could be related to other factors, or from the cancer, as some research has shown people suffered with it before and it improved during chemo. This must be the case in some instances, if there is research to prove it, but all I know is I supposedly had cancer for about 12 months before diagnosis and I wasn't saying things like "Chub Tair" before chemo! I also read that people who report problems with Chemo Brain are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than people who don't suffer Chemo Brain. Well I go against research here as I haven't suffered with anxiety or depression throughout and after the cancer experience. I'm sure people do and again if the research is there.... but it does amaze me how a negative has to be attached to every chemotherapy side effect. Lets give people some hope, rather than swinging the bell of doom over everything. So on that, let me ring my little, happy, shiny bell and tell you the reality of my Chemo Brain...
Chemo Brain started for me during the months of chemotherapy, but I can't remember exactly when. I suppose I first noticed that I struggled to concentrate on things. I might love my reality TV, but I also love history and my inner geek loves anything Tudor Related, after all these years there probably isn't much I don't know about Henry and his six wives and Queen Elizabeth 1 or Mary Queen of Scots but I could still read history books or watch endless documentaries. My partner bought me a bag of Tudor related books before chemo and I recorded quite a few documentaries to watch. I finished one book within a week the week before chemo (I am a fast reader usually) yet the next book on my list 'Lamentation' by C.J Sansom is still sitting on my coffee table and I still haven't got any further than chapter 4, that's took me over 8 months. It's just a mental block, I just can't hold my concentration. It's the same with the documentaries, I couldn't concentrate on anything that requires a higher level of thought or attention this is getting better now but the reading is still an issue. This is why I over indulged in reality TV, easy watching was all I wanted!
I also have to think about writing, I was an A and A* student in English, Maths has always taken effort but English used to come so easy to me. Now I have to really think about my grammar, I struggle with the correct use of spelling, for example if it should be 'being' or 'been' and actually spelling in general! So if there are any spelling mistakes in my blog posts, blame the Chemo Brain!
I also have to think of how I speak, not all the time, just occasionally it tends to just come out of the blue every now and then. I can be mid sentence and just completely forget what I was going to say. Then I have to stop and literally do the whole thought process of what I wanted to say. Or I'll pronounce words wrong, which actually can be quite amusing at times! I found this was worst the few days after chemo and now I just get it the odd time throughout the day.
Does it have a big impact on my everyday life? No, it can be annoying, can be frustrating but I can see the humour in it. I guess it depends to what degree of memory issues you have with Chemo Brain. Like most lasting side effects from chemo, its likely to take around 12 months to recover from these problems. I have found that been pro-active in helping myself does help, I have tried reading more simple books or magazines, just taking it slow to build my concentration. Writing these blogs has helped immensely with my grammar and I've found recently most of my writing comes quite easy to me again now. I have just got back from a week's family holiday in Wales and the holiday home we stopped in had books and board games in to use. So I did something I haven't done in years and years, read a Goosebumps book! I was determined to finish it in the week and I did I read all of King Jelly Jam. I also played Scrabble, but don't knock it, it worked. We only played it a couple of times over the week but I noticed quite a difference the last time I played to the first, I actually won a game, not bad for Chemo Brain! This is another positive from the cancer experience, it gives you such a different outlook on life, it's like been a kid again and you just see the fun in life and have a go at anything, all those little things you forget about and don't do as you get older. So yes I have Chemo Brain but it is getting better.
All I will advise if having issues with Chemo Brain, like most chemo side effects just go with the flow, don't be too hard on yourself or push yourself too much, just do things as and when you feel ready. But try to help yourself a little too, whatever works for you. If your mind is more mathematical thinking maybe you could try Sudoku. If you are creative maybe painting and colouring could be for you. If like me English was your thing why not try a game of Scrabble or start with easier reads. Exercise your brain in small amounts little and often and as time goes by you will notice Chemo Brain issues less and less. I might just try another Goosebumps book, Revenge of the Garden Gnomes anyone??
|Posted on June 11, 2016 at 3:40 PM||comments (438)|
Yes believe it or not, chemo results in food cravings, very strange ones too. You would think the thing that we all believe to make you feel really sick would send you off food, but even people I know who have had sickness have still experienced the weird world of chemo food cravings.
As I've said in an earlier post, my first chemo led to a craving for curry, anything spicy but preferably a Jalfrezi Curry microwave meal, a tinned one was ok as a back up. I think this was physiological, as I have said spicy food seems to sort me out if I've had a sickness bug lurking so with the expectant sickness you think will come with chemo, I resorted to the curry. But these cravings are I suppose like pregnancy, you get a thought in your head and you have to have it, you can't settle until you do. Also on my first few chemo's my other big craving was for Loveheart sweets and Swizzel's Fizzers and double Lolly pops. I could not get enough, I'd have the kids bag from the supermarket and a pack of Fizzers or a Double Lolly Pop was always in my bag if I was out and about. I did find sucking the Lollies helped with my sore mouth on the first chemo, but I did love them to and carried on with them when my mouth wasn't sore. I loved it when my friend, Miss B said I've got a little pressie for you and it was a big box of Fizzers and a tin of mini Lovehearts, or when my partner raided the local Mr Simm's sweet shop for me to stock me up too, I think he bought them out of Fizzers that day!
After a few chemo's I went off spicy food, my taste buds changed so anything slightly spicy tasted extremely spicy to me. I tried a Korma and anyone would think you had give me a Vindaloo. So from this I avoided spicy food. I craved bland food, chicken and mushroom soup, Batchelor's Pasta Packs and I hadn't ate them in years! I ate lots of home cooked pasta, but plain, no sauce. I made one in a pasta sauce but all I could taste was sugar, it seems to really heighten your sense of taste. So I loved a bowl of plain pasta with olive oil, or the filled pasta. Then I went off pasta and chicken and mushroom soup. The next craving was meat and lots of it. I have never been a big meat eater, was almost vegetarian at one point and if I did have meat it was always diced, never a steak or fillet. But I craved meat, and fatty meat, I had to eat all the fat off bacon, something I would never normally have done. Still, I could eat bacon every day but I limit myself to every other week now. I couldn't get enough of steak, or chicken fillets, pork, lamb and I don't like to eat lamb but I craved it. I still really enjoy meat.
My other big craving, peas. Yes peas. I was at my happiest eating a bowl of peas, at least that was healthy, garden peas, mushy peas not so much, but marrow fat peas, now I did love them. I even dreamt about them. My partner said I had been talking in my sleep one night, saying "Peas...Peas....Marrowfat peas" I could happily eat peas all day long, I had them for breakfast one time or often just as a snack. I really loved them peas.
The other craving which led to an embarrassing incident, Mr Kipling's Halloween French Fancy cakes, they were a limited edition. My dad had picked me up a pack from our local shop, they must of had an early batch as it was a few weeks before Halloween. Loved them. I did limit myself to one a day but the craving kicked in and I knew I would want more, I dropped on another box in another local shop, but then that was it everywhere was out of them until Halloween, there was another Mr Kipling cake with the same Halloween theme about, but these were no good, they weren't the cakes. So I resulted in Asda late one night, I'd had a lead that they might have them. I made my partner track down a store assistant for me to ask, probably quite desperately I asked "where are the Halloween Mr Kipling French Fancy cakes, the mint ones?" This caused confusion to start with as my taste buds were seriously off as they were actually lime! But I was convinced they were mint and I had a few minutes of been adamant that I was right but did eventually admit defeat when my partner showed me the evidence on Google, how did we live before Google?? I was then told that the Halloween cakes 'didn't land in store' until the week of Halloween. "Land?" I replied "Land? Its not a jumbo jet! Its a pack of cakes! And if it doesn't land until the week of Halloween and they go off the shelves a few days later that means I'm only having a week of eating them!" The store assistant looked quite scared, I probably seemed quite possessed! "And look" as I pointed to shelves of mince pies "they are out months before Christmas, Halloween is before. Why can I eat mince pies anytime but cant have a Mr Kipling Halloween Cake!!!" I had to admit defeat, and I did get a pack before Halloween but the taste buds had changed again and I wasn't actually that much for them!
Another few cravings, lettuce and mayo, dorito's and salsa dip, pork scratchings, Tyrells's Chilli Bites, Ready to eat cooked chicken, sliced ham, onion bhajis, crisps and orange juice. Most vegetables I really enjoyed but I went off fruit.
One bit of advice, even though I didn't have sickness as in being sick, I must of had some sensitivity as certain things I ate during chemo I cant stomach now and I still feel the same and I doubt I'll ever want to eat some things again, mostly any foods I ate while having chemo or in the days directly after. So beware eating your favourite food, it may not stay favourite for long!
Things I no longer can eat, Ice cream, dorito's, crisps all varieties other than Pom Bears, pork scratchings, Tyrell's Chilli Bites, Cocktail Sausages, ready cooked chicken, dairy milk chocolate, Galaxy hot chocolate, tea with milk (only like it with soya) chicken and mushroom soup. I cant eat from the Chinese take away that I had from during chemo, but I'm ok with others. Even typing these has made me want to heave!
I have also found chemo has changed my taste buds, I always used to be more of a savoury person, now I prefer sweet and still actually crave something sweet every day. As the chemo I had does cause weight gain (which I did need as I had wasted away to start with) but I would like to make my diet and lifestyle really healthy, which is hard when you crave sugary foods! But I've found a good alternative with Dark Chocolate Coated Cranberries. Its hard to control what you eat during chemo as the cravings really are quite strange and you just have to have it! Also, I'd say like a sickness bug, just eat what you feel like. But once you're out of it and given yourself a few months get your strength back try to get into a healthy lifestyle to keep your body in good condition, its important for everyone, but especially us who are in remission. So that's my next goal to get fit and healthy, pass me them chocolate cranberries!
|Posted on June 11, 2016 at 1:40 PM||comments (1388)|
Hodgkin's Lymphoma is a form of cancer that develops in the Lymphatic System. It is also sometimes referred to as the 'young person's cancer' as it most commonly occurs in the 15-30 age group and then the over 70's. Statistics say around 1,900 people will develop Hodgkin's Lymphoma a year. Hodgkin's is a different form of cancer to Non-Hodgkin's. In Hodgkin's Lymphoma the B-Lymphocytes (white cells) start to multiply in an abnormal way and begin to collect in certain parts of the Lymphatic system such as the Lymph nodes or collect together as a mass (tumour). Hodgkin's Lymphoma will require ABVD Chemotherapy treatment, the amount of chemo cycles will depend on the stage of the cancer. The cause for Hodgkin Lymphoma is not known, you cannot catch it as some people asked me, I'm not even going to justify that ridiculous question with a longer answer! There maybe a link between Hodgkin's Lymphoma and the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) the common virus that causes Glandular Fever, but not all people who have had Glandular Fever will develop Hodgkin's, to be honest I can't remember ever having proper Glandular Fever.
The most important thing to get across is that Hogdkin's Lymphoma is highly treatable, the figures vary from source to source slightly but most are over 90%. Don't go into a panic when you read survival for 5 years, this is simply your remission time, not that you will live 5 years. This term just means that over 90% of people were alive and healthy 5 years after they finished treatment and are classed as out of remission. Hodgkin's is also one of the few cancers that will can have the word cured attached to it as most others will be classed as treatable. Also most medical professionals will openly tell you that if you have to have any cancer, this is the one to have. So if you are sitting reading this after been newly diagnosed, you may think its crazy but by having Hodgkin's out of all the cancers, you have the odds in your favour, and if it has to be cancer its a lucky position to be in.
The symptoms for Hodgkin's Lymphoma, come on fairly slowly most of the time. It doesn't hit you like the flu does, feel great one day, awful the next. I found it was just a general run down feeling, that didn't go away and got worse over time. The main trouble with this, is you can easily put these things down to other things, particularly as Hodgkin's commonly hits the 20's age group. From mid twenties most people will be in full time work, a home of their own, maybe children starting to come along. It's the age where you are trying to juggle adjusting to grown up life while not missing out on been young either, so feeling more tired, well you just assume that's normal and maybe its the first sign of ageing? Of course 20's isn't old but it's not your teens either so you can adjust to feeling more tired and just think its completely normal. However there is a difference between usual tiredness and Hodgkin's tiredness. It will creep on you over time but these are your warning signs...
*finding you are falling off sleep very early in the evening most nights
*finding you can sleep for hours in the day
*struggling to get up in the morning, or lying in for long periods on days at home
*difficulty sleeping at night, maybe due to itching
I am naturally an early riser, usually have lots of energy and prefer to be busy. When I had Hodgkin's I struggled to wake, I could easily lie in bed on a Sunday until dinnertime, and most nights I could be asleep by 6pm, then find it difficult to go to sleep at bedtime.
Another few things that seem to come with Hodgkin's are again mundane symptoms that can be passed off as viral or allergy based. The important thing here is that if these problems persist for long periods, start suddenly or get worse ask for it to be looked into. I battled these 'common' problems for 12 months and they were a sign of the cancer.
*constant sinus problems, extremely blocked nose, loss of sense of smell, constantly feeling like you have a sinus infection
*Ear problems. Feeling like ears are blocked, or painful.
*Sore throat that would regularly come and go
*Sore tongue that would come and go
*Re-occurring throat and chest problems or coughs and colds
*Itchy skin, which intensifies to extreme itching all over
*Swollen, puffy eyes. Usually in the morning and that itch at night
*Muscle aches and pains
I went the doctors on a number of occasions with all these but I was told I didn't have any sign of ear infections, that sinus infections could take weeks to go and that the other problems were allergies. However it never fixed my problem as I still had the pain. I knew it wasn't right and should of pushed for blood tests and further investigation, don't be afraid to do this if you are hitting a brick wall. They could be common symptoms but they could be something else.
The main symptom of Hodgkin's Lymphoma is usually a hard, painless swelling, usually in one of the lymph nodes. However this symptom came later for me, so if your are experiencing the other things I've mentioned I recommend getting it checked early, don't wait to see if any glands come up.
There were other things I noticed, more so towards been diagnosed, so as the cancer was progressing.
*Itchy feet, extremely itchy! Mostly at night, but could start anything from around teatime.
*Feeling the cold far more than usual
*Feeling hot more than usual, mostly at night.
*Lack of energy
*Irritable, lacking concentration and general feeling of can't be bothered by anything
I have never had itchy feet before but I put this down to eczema, it wasn't this is a classic Lymphoma symptom. I felt more sensitive to cold for quite a few months before diagnosis in the June, I spent the winter before that permanently attached to a hot water bottle when at home. Then I was far more heat sensitive the closer it came to been diagnosed. I am someone who doesn't usually sweat (nice topic ay), but I don't, I rarely sweat and I don't often feel over sensitive to cold weather so I must stay at quite and even body temperature. However with Hodgkin's, I did feel hot and sweated quite easily. Night Sweats are a common symptom of Hodgkin's and I'm sure I would of had these, had I of left it longer. I had no energy, looking back I had no energy at all really, I just couldn't be bothered, a few days before going to the doctor's I couldn't even be bothered walk to the top of the garden.
All these things built up and were starting to show before the lumps came, my lumps came first on the right side of my collarbone (in the little dip) then the left. My Hodgkin's started as a mass in the chest, which I had probably had for about 12 months before diagnosis. It grew slowly as it was positioned in the chest cavity so has the room to grow quite big before it causes any problems. The mass getting bigger was what led to my sinus, throat and ear problems as it was squeezing my airways as it grew. I also started to notice some indigestion which I had never had before and rarely finished a meal. As it was on the right side as it got to about 12 cm it had pushed everything up so this area was very lumpy and swollen, my veins on my chest were also very noticeable.
Basically, its just about knowing your body, which we all do, sometimes we just may choose to turn a blind eye and hope it will go away, either through fear or the inconvenience of been ill, life is busy and fast paced, none of us want to be stopped in our tracks. But if you keep having a nagging feeling that something isn't right, are often thinking "I don't usually get this" or "I've never had that before", are tired but no matter how much you sleep never feel refreshed or just feel drained of energy, get it checked! It may be nothing, but if it is something the quicker its found the less treatment you may need. Had I have pursued it sooner I may not of been stage 2, the mass wouldn't of been so big probably meaning I would of only needed 6 chemo treatments rather than 12. But if like me, you have been feeling not right for some time don't worry as my consultant said time isn't a big problem with this cancer, but still don't put it off any longer. Also don't take note of any scaremongering you may read, my consultant has never said to me that I am more likely to get another form of cancer later in life and my monthly cycle continued as normal throughout so they never thought this was an issue. As my consultant told me, you get treated, then you get on with your life. So do just that, get treated and get on with life, don't worry what might happen, any of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow (no morbid thoughts intended just a reality check).
Now I'm in Remission, I just see it that I've got a good check on my general health for 5 years, not counting down the years until I've done my 5 years remission, that's wishing my life away and I'd rather enjoy every minute than worry about what if. I'll repeat what I said earlier Hodgkin's Lymphoma is treatable, highly curable. It is a manageable road to recovery and you will be there before you know it xxxx
|Posted on May 31, 2016 at 12:55 AM||comments (496)|
On my first chemo session, a man sat in the chair next to me. We were two completely different people, different lives, he was older, retirement age I would think, me only in my 20's. But we had one thing in common, it was my first chemo and it was also his. My first treatment is a little bit of a blur, I remember saying hello to him. I was set up first, he was probably left slightly traumatised by me. I get louder and more talkative when I'm nervous so he had full brunt of it been next to me, then the cold cap going on, which is a novelty as not something people tend to know about or have seen before. On his turn to be set up (minus the cold cap) he was far quieter. We were both being strong that day, just I was more vocal, him more a dignified silence. I had my mum and partner with me, he had his wife. My mum talked quite a lot with his wife. There were more similarities, they had had to cancel a holiday round diagnosis time and so had we. He had been having a few health problems like me, but still the cancer diagnosis had been a shock.
But there was one big difference. The Hodgkin's Lymphoma I was having treatment for, had very high success rates. I'd got 6 months of chemo ahead of me, but as my consultant said if all goes to plan "that's it and you get on with your life" for the man next to me, his cancer was terminal. Then the similarities were there again. We had all said even though it was cancer we were so thankful it was Hodgkin's over any other. This man's family were so grateful that he had been offered chemo as they didn't think he would of been. We bumped into them a few times over the course of my treatment. My mum was counting down my treatment in 3's, saying we are a third of the way through, or 3 months was halfway through, another 3 months would be the end of treatment, another 3 months would be knowing the results. This man's wife was counting in 3's but for a different reason, each 3 months to them was another 3 months they didn't think they would have.
I sat opposite another man on another chemo session, named Michael. He was a pensioner but me and my partner got chatting to him, you usually find that older people are so interesting to talk too, as they have so much life experience and stories to tell. He told us about his work life, how his wife looked just like a young Elizabeth Taylor when they married, that they had children. Then we got onto cancer, he asked about mine and I told him the basics, I asked about his, Michael was also terminal although he didn't describe it that way. He started to talk about Greek Mythology, I remembered learning about this topic at school and I found it fascinating at the time. He said that the ancient Greeks believed that a boat carried you along a river to the Afterlife, so he put it that he was on the dock, waiting for the boat to take him. His chemo session was over about 10 minutes after that. I held it together while he was there, but I had to have a little cry when he went. This was the unfairness of cancer. He might of been in his old age and we all have to go at some point, but he was still somebody's husband, somebody's dad.
There were many reasons, but these two people I met were one reason why I didn't let my situation get me down. Why I refused to let it get me down after, because I had a chance at life after cancer that these two brave men sadly did not. The first man with his wife, she would often say that they would both with their family often mention me, that even though they were in that situation, they found it awful that me, being so young should be sitting on the chemo ward. As you go through chemo, I think you go on a automatic pilot almost, so I didn't think much into it back then, but I do think of this man from time to time now. I don't know if he is still fighting his cancer, I hope with everything that he is, that he is defying the odds and still with his wife and family. But how they would talk about and remember me, I will always remember him. I will always remember Michael waiting for his boat, lets hope he's still waiting or if not, that he's sailed to somewhere better. I will live the life that has been given back to me for me, but also for them and I think all of us who are lucky to survive should live our life to the fullest and happiest for all those that sat in the chemo chair too and didn't get to do the same xxx
|Posted on May 31, 2016 at 12:55 AM||comments (84)|
When it comes to having cancer, this is the time when you do not want to become absorbed in yourself or you will find you get swallowed up in the negative thoughts, and once you go there, its hard to get away from it. It is easy to say it, but I can speak from experience, no matter how hard, try not to go on that downward spiral, going there can be easy, climbing out of it, not easy. You may find that if you go there, you are stuck in that emotional black hole for a long time. I'm sure there could of been dark thoughts in my mind somewhere, but I didn't entertain them, just didn't go there, plain and simple. I could repeat this over and over again, but just take things for what they are, not what could of happened. I put off going to the doctors, the mass in my chest, had it got any bigger would of been pressing on the two major blood vessels and most likely would of caused me big problems. I could dwell on what if I hadn't of gone, what if I'd left it longer, what would of happened? Well I suppose in all honestly, a good chance is that I now could of been 6ft under or close to it. But that really doesn't matter, all that matters is that, that wasn't the case and I am here. Yes lesson learnt, but I'm here, living life so I aren't going to dwell on the fact things could of been different. I could dwell on what if it hadn't of been a complete remission? But it was, so 'what if' doesn't matter. So please, don't fall into this trap! All that matters is the reality, deal with what you have to deal with, not what might of been. Try not to feel sorry for yourself, yes having cancer it isn't fair, it's not right but if you take all the emotion away, it is simply a disease, that anyone of us could have at anytime. So who are you going to be angry at? Your cell's messed up, did something they shouldn't, but that's all. You could tear yourself up been angry, thinking why me, why me? But harsh truth, its life and it isn't fair at times for lots of reasons, some people go through life easily and carefree, even if they may not be the nicest of people. Some people are truly good, honest people through and through yet seem to have the worst thrown at them. We could be debating the fairness of this forever and there is no answer to it.
All you have to decide is do you want to be a survivor or a victim. I don't just mean in the sense of if you beat your cancer or not, you can beat cancer but still be a victim to it, if you let it define you. If you wallow in the why me, how unfair it is, hate the world for it and feel sorry for yourself, you are only harming yourself and you are letting cancer win. Unfortunately people like this, may beat the physical disease but cancer will still have won because they cannot move past it, they let it haunt them forever, it is their battle scar to carry for life, everyone knows about it and knows how awful it was, they are their own victim to cancer. Choose to be a survivor, not just to the physical disease but refuse to be cancer's victim. Don't let it haunt your life, be your battle scar. Let it be the thing that doesn't define you, it will always be a part of you but you aren't just a person with cancer or someone who had cancer, you are you. Don't let it weaken you, let it be the experience in life that made you stronger. You may not find it easy all the time, sometimes you might have to work at it, but you do have to help yourself when it comes to dealing with it. The professionals will handle the disease, but your emotional well being is down to you. You aren't weak if you cry or if you have a bad day, this is natural. But what is important is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and find your inner fight again.
I despise the term cancer victim. I believe you are only a victim if you let yourself become one. I am proud to say I'm a cancer survivor, yes my disease was packed off into remission, but I'm a survivor because I didn't let cancer rule me or make me a weaker person, it made me stronger. I rose high above the ugly thing that is cancer. Cancer as much as it is a disease, as humans it effects us on a deeply emotional level. The fact it can take people's lives, take children from parents, parents from children, part couples way too soon. That is awful and we cannot help but feel a deep anger at this. This is again where you have to be in constant thanks if you aren't facing this outcome, another reason why I believe if the odds are stacked in your favour to survive you shouldn't be wallowing in self pity. Those who are faced with the worst outcome, often live a more full life than some of those who have been given their life back. If you read any of the stories, last words or blog posts of terminal cancer patients it seems in general they don't want to be defined by cancer or be seen as a victim. Cancer is portrayed so negatively as in its such a awful, scary, lonely place. Yet these amazing people use their last months to do something positive out of the most negative situation. They raise awareness through their story, raise money to help save lives of the future and really want it to be known that there is more to them than just cancer. They don't seem to spend the time they have left wanting you to feel sorry for them. I read an article in YOU magazine one Sunday, where a boy with terminal cancer had been writing a blog and he wrote about death. Max Edwards was just 16 when he died. One quote "Being told you are going to die is a shock... but I was largely over it in a week" as I read Max's article, as he talked so openly, so dignified about death, I found myself constantly reminding myself that he was only 16. All boys should be thinking at that age are GCSE's, hobbies they like and probably discovering the fun of the attention of girls, not cancer, certainly not death and knowing it would happen soon. This particular piece he wrote did concentrate on the fact he was dying, but amazingly, what shone through the most, was that he was living. He spoke about doing AS-level history, learning to play a blues harmonica, write songs and compose music on his computer, as well as his weekly blog. He also spoke about the normality of life, that even though you are faced with terminal cancer the everyday routine of a cup of tea and a shower still happen, and life finds some normality in the strangest of circumstances.
Max died in March 2016 at only 16 years old. For me, March 2016 was the month of my 27th birthday and also when I got told my cancer was in complete remission. I had a look at Max's blog and saw that he died on the 26th March, the day I went away for the weekend to celebrate the end of my cancer experience. You can see the stark difference between me and the boy I read about, that in the same month that Max lost his young life to cancer, I got my life back from cancer. I never felt sorry for myself, or chose to indulge in what an awful situation I was in, but if I had of done I think I would of felt pretty s**t about myself after reading Max's words. Because what right would I of had? Yes, it wasn't always easy, some things were tough but I was in the fortunate position that my cancer could be beaten, yes I'd gone through it, but I had come through it. I will go on to have a life, cancer will be in my past, Max didn't have that option like so many others like him. So if you are at time when you feel down, or feel sorry for yourself just remember if you have the chance to live your life after cancer, be hugely grateful for this and most importantly live it to the full. I'm sure those, like Max, would of given anything, gone through anything, to be able put cancer in their past and carry on with life. We owe it to them. At the end of his article, Max spoke about how it wasn't "all about him" and that he is "nothing more than a dot on this planet", this maybe the case, maybe Max was just a dot, but a very special dot. A dot that all us other dots can learn a lot from.
The Anonymous Revolutionary: A Collection of Communist Writings by Max Edwards published in hardback by Short Books £14.99
|Posted on May 31, 2016 at 12:55 AM||comments (7038)|
With the type of chemo I had, I would of 100% lost my hair had it not been for using the Paxman Cold Cap. I was so thankful to also experience zero hair loss, I know I owe this to the cold cap, but I have put together a little guide for cold cap users, as I think they all contributed to the fantastic results I had...
DO NOT CUT YOUR HAIR! I repeat DO NOT CUT YOUR HAIR! I wasn't told I had too, but I have heard that some people are told to cut their hair short before using the cold cap, No, No and NO! You do not need to cut your hair, this will have no effect on how effective the cold cap is for you, it is completely pointless and defeating the object! You are preserving the hair you have, so keep it exactly how it is.
On the day of your treatment take some over the counter painkillers, I found Panadol to be good. I would either take two as I had my anti-sickness tablet an hour before chemo, or when I got to the hospital. This will just take the bite off if you do find it uncomfortable.
Before the cold cap goes on, your hair has to be wet, well your scalp to be exact. You don't need to wet the length of your hair, but the top and your scalp needs to be soaking wet. If like me you have thick hair make sure you get through all the thickness and get it soaked! Use a water spray bottle and the nurses are very busy so you can help out by doing it yourself, or getting whoever has come with you to chemo to do it for you.
You want to use products with the least chemicals during treatment, that goes for your hair too! Retire your hairspray, hair mouuse and dry shampoos and go natural. Look for shampoo's and conditioners that are sulphate free and I'd recommend starting to switch to these in the weeks before treatment and avoid colouring your hair before your first treatment.
Then you need to apply a conditioner, again you don't need to do the ends. I found Body Shop's Rainforest Volume Conditioner worked well, as it was a thick consistency so gave a good barrier to stop your hair sticking to the cap as it freezes.
Body Shop Rainforest collection is ideal to use not just as the conditioner to put on while using the cold cap but also when you wash your hair at home too. These shampoos and conditioners are lovely and natural with no sulphates, parabens or nasty chemicals.
Now the important part, cap fitting! Make sure that the cap is a good fit, it needs to be a really snug fit. Don't rush this part, it is vital to get the correct fitting cap. Your silicone cap should cover your scalp, then the helmet should hold this snugly in place with no air pocket underneath, it needs to be a good grip to the top of your head.
It is a good idea to wear a headband so the cap isn't touching the skin around your hairline directly. I found the velour headbands with the Velcro worked really well, but be careful to not let it cover the hair that is going under the cap. I would recommend tucking the top of your ears under the headband as they can get a little frosty!
Then you are good to go. The machine will be turned on for the required time, I'd always say have the cap left on a little longer than the recommended time than less.
Don't have the cap applied while it is cold, this will be too much of a shock to your head and you will very likely feel discomfort. Switch it on once it is properly in place, then it will gradually get colder as its on, far easier for you to get used too, but allow the extra time for it to get to the right temperature when on your head.
You may hear a slight whooshing noise as the water goes from the machine to your helmet and it should feel cool all over.
Usually, it is the first 10 minutes that are the worst. If you are going to find it painful or uncomfortable it will be the first 10 minutes, if you can stick with it for this first part you will find it gets far easier after that. You may like me, not even notice its on.
At the end of the required time, the Paxman Cooling System is switched off. Don't take the helmet and cap straight off, you need to defrost. You may as well be a chicken you have taken out the freezer, but don't worry your defrost time will be minutes not hours. I found 5 or 10 minutes did the trick.
Carefully remove the cap, leave it a little bit longer if it still feels stuck to your hair, what you are likely to see is a frosty covering over your hair. This is good and ideally what you want to see every time.
Leave your hair alone for the rest of the day.
Wash your hair gently the next day in lukewarm water if you can. Don't rough towel dry it! Just gently pat dry it to get out the excess water then get on your comfy clothes, leave your hair alone and have a well deserved rest for the day.
In the time between chemo's try to do as little as possible with your hair, try to avoid tying it up, avoid heated appliances to start with. If you must blow dry do so on a low heat.
If like me, you find your hair is doing really well you can ease up on your routine, I would blow dry it gently, run the straighteners through it, but other than that I wouldn't do much in the way of styling with it unless I was going out, but I still wouldn't mess with it too much.
You can't colour your hair while using the cold cap and I also didn't have mine trimmed until after chemo, this was just personal choice but the less stress and trauma to your hair the better. Ideally you want to just leave your hair alone and do as little to it as possible during the months of your treatment.
Invest in a good quality brush that wont pull or snag your hair as you brush it. I found the brushes mentioned below to be essential to my hair care during treatment. If you have an old brush that pulls at your hair throw it or retire it to a drawer. A good qulaity brush will keep your hair in top condition.
Tangle Teezer: Amazing, been my hair's best friend for years but really came into its own during my treatment. This gently brushes through your hair, easily brushes out and knots and can be used on wet or dry hair.
You can purchase these from a range of shops like Boots or www.tangleteezer.com has the full range.
Denman Tangle Tamer Ultra: This large paddle brush is ideal for brushing through dry hair to keep it in good condition and knot free. You can find these in Boots, Amazon or www.denmanbrushus.com
Wet Brush-Pro Amazing: Amazing, Amazing! This brush is in my opinion is a superb de-tangler for wet hair. It glides through your hair when wet and does not pull at all. Your hair is effortlessly knot free. I would never be without this now. www.thewetbrush.com
I used all these brushes and would highly recommend them. The reason I kept my hair was of course down to the cold cap. But due to having fantastic results of having zero loss, I do think that really looking after my hair during treatment and maintaining that routine helped.
The Paxman Cooling System will give you a really good chance of prevent or minimising hair loss. But here are the most important points, get them ingrained into your mind and stick by these rules all through!
Make sure your hair on the top of your head and scalp is soaking wet each time.
Make sure that the cold cap is fitting properly every time you wear it. This is vital. Don't take a "I think its on right" or "it should be ok" it has to be on correctly for every chemo.
Make sure the cap is on for the right amount of time, every time.
As hard as it is, try not to stress about if you will still lose your hair as stress can affect us in many physical ways. You may think it's easy for me to say as I had zero hair loss, but remember I had 12 times of using the cap, the wait to see if any hair came out each time. Had it of been on wrong at any one of these I still could of lost my hair even on my last chemo session. As I found I was experiencing zero hair loss, I didn't get flippant over it, I insisted on the 3 points above were done properly every single time and I didn't let it enter my head that my hair was going to go, it wasn't, simple. I refused to entertain anything else. Maybe part of it was luck, maybe positivity and determination did play a part, maybe it was lots of things. But the cold cap has 100,000 users and many of these have experienced zero or minimal hair loss, you could well be one of them.
It is your choice, but at least give it a go, why lose it if you don't have too? xxx
|Posted on May 30, 2016 at 11:55 AM||comments (567)|
My hair, a story in itself. I was born with thick dark hair, that went a honey blonde as a toddler. Then as the years went by, my hair grew longer and thicker. I liked having long hair as a child, I would wear it down, get my mum to plait it at night so it would be curly the next day. Any photos of me as a child, first thing you spot is my huge hair! Then as I got closer to my teens I wanted to change it. This is the age, where you want to be the same as your friends, and things that are unique to you, whatever they might be you often don't like. Mine was my hair so I would have it tied up most of the time (I was going through a rather embarrassing tomboy stage too). I'd plaster it down with a load of hair spray, I suppose you could call it the 90's take on today's wet look. I would wear a headband to keep it as flat as I could. Then as I got a little older I would straighten it, young people now would be horrified by the old straighteners, how they used to pull and snag at your hair, until GHD's came to the earth and became a life changer for hair straighteners everywhere. I would try to get my hair looking fine and sleek, to the point I would straighten it multiple times a day. It never looked like this because it just wasn't how my hair was meant to be. While in high school my mum started to book me in at her hairdressers and I would have my hair trimmed and always asked them to thin it out as much as they could, how ironic that back then I was trying to lose some of my hair, yet years later id be fighting to save it. As I got older still, I was allowed to have my first colour, this is where it all starts! Over the years I have been a variety of colours, copper highlights, bright post office box red in thick streaks (I didn't ask for this in my defence) plum, a dark brown that was almost black, a very light brown, almost blonde, back to dark and finally the Ombre look with lighter ends. Hairdresser's in the past would always ask "how do you cope with all this hair?", I'm sure they dreaded every time my appointment came round! Back then, it was a little unruly and it didn't really like been styled, cut it too short and it would just grow outwards, it seemed my hair just wanted to be big! But fast forward a few years and it was finally tamed, my hairdresser now, knows how to cut it, and she doesn't moan, not vocally anyway! I've kept it longer as this seems to keep it weighed down and prevents it from growing outwards. I've also found that doing less to my hair seems to suit it better so I let it dry on its own, then curl any parts that need it and that's it really until I wash it. So for the last couple of years my hair has no longer been the struggle it once was and I could say I was happy with it.
I think we all have a feature that is our trademark if you like, what people think of that associates with us, mine seems that it has always been my hair. I can see why, in younger years I was the kid with the big, thick hair. As I got older it was still part of me, my friend, miss J in our teenage years decided to style it to see how big it could actually go, I looked like a bushbaby in her words and I did, that has stuck since, so my hair has always had its own little nickname 'the bushbaby'. The night I met my partner he liked my long dark hair, he hated it when I had a fringe, hated it even more when I went almost blonde. So the hair as been a part of my life when I think about it, it was part of me.
When diagnosed with cancer, of course we all automatically think hair loss. I remember in one of my early consultations my consultant put it so politely "it may mean a change of hairstyle" as he sat looking at me with a mass of hair. However on my official results consultation he offered me the choice to use the cold cap. I was told it was likely to be painful by the head nurse, but I didn't care I had been given the chance and I was going do all I could to save it. Why did I choose to do this? The answer is quite simple. Why lose it if you don't have too?
Worldwide, millions is spent each year on our hair, whether that be at the hairdressers, hair products, hair colours etc, women have countless conversations with other women over their hair, deliberating over a change of style or colour. Its silly but we have a better night at a party for example if we feel our hair looks nice. Bride's to be have trials and spend out on making sure their hair looks perfect on their big day. If we have a special occasion we might have our hair done professionally as a treat to ourselves. Elderly ladies, even though they may be frail still make it to their hairdressers for a weekly blow dry. Top of our 'to do list' before a holiday is to get our hair done. We buy straighteners, curling tongs, flick through magazine pages looking for inspiration. If we have had a traumatic event in our life, like after a relationship break up, most of us women get off to the hairdressers or buy a home colour kit and go for a complete new look, washing that man out of your hair! Hair is a big thing to us, and men too they just might not openly talk about it or want to for hours on end.
Either way hair matters to us, so you can't just dismiss hair when it comes to cancer and just say "it's just hair" or it "will grow back". You could say in the grand scheme of cancer, when you have to face that you are having life saving treatment, does your hair really matter? So what if it goes? But you could dismiss lots in life and say it doesn't matter because I have cancer. But see what you are doing here? You are making life about cancer, nothing else matters because you have cancer. But that is so wrong. Everything does matter, every little thing about you or things you do matter. They are what keep your sanity through the cancer ride, they are your little fighting soldiers against cancer, they are what make you who you are. It is well known that cancer patients say the most traumatic part for them is losing their hair, the coming out part, the seeing yourself without hair for the first time, adapting to this, the physical reminder that is still there long after your treatment has finished. Yes hair grows back, but at around half an inch a month, so if you have anything from shoulder length hair, it is going to take a long time before you get your hair back.
I myself had a day of thinking does it really matter? I had told it would be painful, you are feeling low and you have the chemo on top of that, you do think can I face putting myself through that. My parents and partner knew I wanted to do it, but even they said don't feel that you have to put yourself through it. But then at an appointment with the nurses a few days before my first chemo, I asked if I didn't use the cold cap would I lose my hair, her reply "100% yes, don't use the cold cap and you will without doubt lose your hair" this was enough for me, hell no! I was determined no matter what I was using that cold cap. As it turned out I didn't find the cold cap painful, not even uncomfortable and it did save my hair, to the point where I had zero hair loss, I actually grew new hair so it got thicker, half way through my 12 chemo's I had to go up a cap size, I grew lots of new hair round my hair line which gave me a little fringe, when I had it cut for the first time when my chemo had finished my hairdresser confirmed that I had got lots of new hair throughout it. Now as silly as it might seem to some, I feel me and my hair are a little team, we have our own story to tell. My hair as always been a part of me but it is now even more so. I fought to keep it and it fought to stay. It kept me stronger through treatment because I felt and looked like the me I had always known. I could of said it didn't matter and not used the cold cap and lost it and worn a wig but it wouldn't of been my hair, I would still have to look at myself first thing in a morning and before bed and see the destruction cancer and treatment can do. Instead I chose to fight to save it, now other than my biopsy scar I have no physical reminders to myself of having cancer, I aren't having to spend months waiting to get back the hair that I had.
It isn't vanity wanting to save your hair and it outrages me that some people would even think it is, it is just preserving yourself through the strange, crazy time you find yourself in. It's taking control. It also makes it far easier for those close to you as they don't have to face seeing you different, they go through their own trauma seeing you lose your hair, it is worth trying the Paxman Cooling System for so many reasons. When my hair had stayed for a few chemo's my friend said "mate nothing could take out the bushbaby, not even cancer" and cancer didn't. Whatever you hair story is, why not do battle with cancer together? Be a team with your hair and both come through it together, there is over a 50:50 chance you can save your hair, as like I said earlier, why lose it if you don't have too?