Thursday, 15 December 2011

All I want for Christmas

I can hardly believe it will be six months tomorrow since receiving my diagnosis.  Surreal would be the best way to describe the events that have taken place since receiving that dreaded phone call back on 16th June 2011.  It has also been a huge emotional rollercoaster ride for me and my family but I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel now.  Hallelujah!

I am absolutely thrilled that I made it through Chemo - especially considering I didn't think I would survive the first cycle!  My next phase of treatment is radiation therapy which is a localised form of treatment using high energy radiation to kill cancer cells.  I have to complete 25 sessions (5 days a week for 5 weeks) at the Perth Radiation Oncology clinic in Wembley.  All the radiographers are lovely and very friendly so it is nice to see a smiling face when I arrive, although I wish my appointments were the same time every day!  Unfortunately the waiting room often gets me thinking 'why me' with nearly all other patients in their 60's or 70's.  Of course I wish none of them were going through this either but I must admit they all stare when I arrive and are probably trying to guess my age as they wait for their name to be called.  There are many do's and dont's I have to follow during this treatment such as; no deodorant, no perfume, no sunscreen, no direct contact with the sun and I must moisturise the treated area (chest and upper arm where lymph nodes were removed) daily with lots of sorbolene cream.  So far I have had 8 treatments with another 17 to go (but who's counting!) with Thursday 12th January 2012 marked as a day to celebrate - the end of all of my treatment!  All is going well with radiation although I have noticed the area has become a little red with a couple of very small blisters which is a worry as I was told I shouldn't see any burning (as such) until week 3.  In addition, I have been told that I will start to feel tired and fatigued around this time.  Fingers crossed the burning doesn't get any worse and I will be one of the lucky ones who breezes through radiation with minimal side effects - here's hoping!

Unfortunately I am still experiencing some pain and swelling in my arm from the two lots of surgery I had in June and July.  Thankfully I haven't developed Lymphodema although I have had a few scares in the past few weeks. It is mainly the cording that is giving me grief. Cording is a tight and sometimes painful band of tissue (like a cord - hence the name!) running down the arm towards the hand. It occurs as a result of lymph glands and channels being removed from the axilla region (under the arm). To assist with the swelling and potential onset of Lymphodema I now have to wear a pressure glove on my right hand every day until my treatment is finished. It is not the greatest look but I know it is important I continue to wear it.

We have been quite busy in the lead up to Christmas with lots of social events and I am very happy I have been feeling well to enjoy this time.  Last Saturday night we enjoyed a nice meal with a few friends at Zephyr in North Beach (it was delicious!), on Sunday we celebrated with my work friends at the Raffles (need I say more!) and on Monday I attended my support group lunch at The Boulevard Hotel in Floreat.... what a busy few days it was!  It was lovely to see everyone and to meet some new girls. We had a great time and I had the opportunity to present the Organic Home 'Think Pink for Emma' candle cheque to Cathie and Karina from Breast Cancer Care WA. We had a photo taken which I have included below.

Last week Ryan and I (and my Mum) attended Jasmine's Pre-Primary Christmas Concert. It was so fantastic to see all the kids dressed up. The last time Jaz had a concert, I was in hospital so I was very happy I was able to be there and support her. These events are so special and I was so proud seeing Jaz dancing and singing along with all of her friends.

I had my final Chemo follow up yesterday with my Oncologist and I must admit it was nice to get in my car afterwards and return home rather than head to the cocktail lounge for a few hours!  Arlene gave me my blood test results that I had done the day prior and she confirmed that I am now in menopause (a Chemo side effect) although this will most likely be temporary due to my age - only time will tell.  She also went on to say that my liver and kidneys are functioning well and that my white blood cell count is nearly normal which is great although she did mention that I am low in iron and need to watch this especially during radiation.  I will continue to see her every 3 months for the next 5 years which is both overwhelming and reassuring at the same time.  As my cancer is estrogen and progesterone positive I have now been prescribed the drug Tamoxifen which is a tablet that I will need to take every day for the next 5 years.  Tamoxifen is anti-estrogen therapy and works by blocking the hormone receptors so they can't signal cancer cells to grow and lets hope it does its job!

So back to the blog title - all I want for Christmas....

I know what you are all thinking and yes nothing would make me happier than starting to see my HAIR grow back!!! Well I have to report that if I look very closely I can see very fine baby hair starting to show although to everyone else I still look bald!  But more importantly, I wish someone could guarantee me that this cancer was just a one off 'out of the blue' illness that will never ever return. I would be happy to give up everything I own to receive this guarantee but sadly I know this is not possible :(  I will just need to remain positive and hope that someday soon a cure will be found.

I will end this post with a lovely email my friend Renee sent me at work - I really liked it and hope you do too :)

“Live life to the fullest, tell someone what they mean to you, speak out, dance in the pouring rain, hold someone’s hand, comfort a friend, fall asleep watching the sun come up, stay up late, be a flirt, and smile until your face hurts. Don’t be afraid to take chances or fall in love and most of all, live in the moment because every second you spend angry or upset is a second of happiness you can never get back”

Julie and Allison from Organic Home presenting the cheques from the 
'Think Pink for Emma' candle promotion

Em presenting the big cheque to Cathie Smith from Breast Cancer Care WA
at the Christmas Luncheon 

Our Jaz at her Christmas concert