Pants

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Part of preparing for this next lot of lopping and trimming involves buying yet more underwear.  Before cancer came to play, I used to thoroughly enjoy any excuse for a spot of lingering in the lingerie department.  Not so much since.  I am in possession of three mastectomy bras that bizarrely seem to hide my lopsidedness whether or not I wear my prosthesis so despite much research, I generally do not bother with it.  I do not understand why my size B cup and size F cup look relatively balanced while wearing them.  I think it is the magic of the Mastectomy Fairy.  That can be the only reason for having to wear such hideous and ugly garments.  I will, of course, have to buy a whole new set of bras in a new size but just at the moment, my brain is fusing at this prospect and it cannot compute that yet.  Which is just as well as it is too soon.  To begin with, my delightful Asda Soft & Comfy bras will be pressed once more into service.  Mm mmm!

So no, it is not bras I am after.  My latest venture into underwear consumerism is for big pants.  Think Bridget Jones.  Think Trinny & Susannah.  You see, this latest op involves a spot of hoovering.  Surgical Spice is going to connect a Henry Hoover to my stomach, suck out some fat (I have suggested she may like to leave it running longer than is strictly necessary.  She seemed less than keen), then use it to fill in the pot holes in my newbie.  As techniques go, it maybe one the council should consider as the potholes round our way are dreadful and I bet there are many who would queue up to have their fat hoovered out.  Anyway, anyway, anyway.  Once this has happened I have to wear compression pants for sometime.  That’s shape wear.  Control knickers.  The sort of thing one dons to look incredibly svelte on a posh night out.  No one has told me how long I have to wear them for yet.  My record for such garments is about two hours.  Usually I last until the first trip to the bathroom.  And then I am undone.  Literally.  Flapping in the breeze if you will.  Or alternatively, totally removed and shoved in my handbag.  I will have to be more disciplined.  Tunnels may result if I am not.  And while that sounds curious, I think it is better not to find about them first hand.

I am now in possession of several pairs of the aforementioned constricting garments.  All of them come with popper openings to make the bathroom trips less of a struggle.  I foresee much wailing and gnashing of teeth as I have never been a girl for restrictions but needs must.

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Preparation – Days 19 & 20

Freezer

As I suspected, the weekend has taken its toll.  I.  Am.  Knackered.  This is a tad irritating, but I standby my ‘It was worth it‘ attitude.  I still managed to press on with most of my planned activities, although a theatre trip had to be postponed.

As well as catching up with friends, these two days have been all about preparing for the next week of incapacity.  Now I have some idea of how being poisoned affects me, I can better plan.  The Captain is pretty good in the holding the fort stakes but he does appreciate guidance.  So I have drawn up a meal planned for the next ten days.  The shopping has been completed.  Most of the meals are done and in the freezer.  Those that need to be cooked fresh have all the ingredients to hand with the recipe, page number and book all listed.  This list is stuck firmly to the fridge door.

Besides meals, I have also prepared a series of easy to grab snacks for when I need to eat to keep the nausea at bay.  Ginger is an ever present theme.  I am well stocked with ginger snacks but you can never have too many so imagine my delight at having been given a ginger hamper 🙂 :

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Just for completeness, for the past couple of days I have been troubled with sore eyes.  Sometimes they leak.  Sometimes they are dry.  Always they are sore.  It is not the end of the world.  But neither is it pleasant.  And today, I am back with the sore scalp.  The whole lemming like hair situation seemed to slow up a bit once the Great Shave had happened.  We could debate whether this was down to the lack of weight pulling on the follicles.  Or we could assume my follicles had had a change of heart.  Whatever the reason, this reprieve has been temporary.  All things hair like are plummeting once again.

Finally, today, I have been reflecting on the whole of this first cycle.  Tomorrow I see The Doc for a check up.  I have collated a list of my most troublesome side effects to discuss with him.  In particular I am hoping for some improving in my nausea management.  And in the management of my exploding bottom.  So, in The Doc we trust.

Last minute busyness

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Blimey, it is just like the chaos surrounding the start of a new term.  At a new school.  Only with more of the dread.  And less of the excitement.  I have two and a half days to go until I descend into the Wacky World of Chemo where mind altering substances are given as standard and toxic concoctions are positively encouraged.  But until then, I am racing around trying to Get Everything Done.  My reasons for this are two fold.

First, I am not sure how all this poison is going to affect me.  I am hoping to be one of the luckier ones who carry on a seemingly near ordinary life.  However, I feel I should prepare in case I am instead pole axed by the whole business.  So, I have completed all the birthday and anniversary cards for the month of June and they are lined up in date order near the door ready for posting.  Presents for aforementioned recipients are likewise organised and in the process of being delivered.  Do not be too impressed with this, I am bound to have forgotten at least one individual, mis-directed a card to another and invented an entirely wrong anniversary for someone else.  While in the writing zone, I have been compiling lists galore.  There are lists of my daily meds in case chemo brain robs me of the ability to remember what I take when; lists of recipes for juices; lists of tips for coping with chemo; lists of emergency telephone numbers; lists, lists, lists.

In a bid to maximise my health, I have taken up juicing again.  Shopping for my 500 a day has become an almost daily occurrence.  I have been drinking avocado, cucumber, carrot, apple, pineapple, spinach, kale, lime, ginger and all manner of other things.  To increase my fluid intake, I have taken to using a fruit infuser which I love.  My current favourite is strawberry and pomegranate but who knows how long that will last?  Probably until the pomegranate is used up.  Consuming an average of two litres a day, I am already pretty good at this whole drinking malarkey.  But as my body is used to that and we are advised to drink plenty to plump up veins I figured going for three to four litres would be no bad thing.  Post chemo it will help with flushing the toxins out.  Apart from all the time I spend weeing, I am not finding it difficult.

While thinking of diet, I decided to investigate the options for supplements.  Well, heavens to Betsy!  Would you ever believe the number of suggestions there are out there in Internet Land?  It is terrifying and bewildering and more than a little confusing.  Having talked to a friend, done some research and then consulted The Doc, I have decided to go with a cocktail of supplements designed to support adrenal function and therefore increase energy.  Thanks to years of stress, I already struggle with exhaustion much of the time and would like to do what I can to conserve my paltry energy stores.  However, I am well aware that this may all be a load of baloney, but it seems worth a go.  And I am all for the placebo effect.

All this eating requires diligent mouth care.  Chemo targets rapidly growing and dividing cells first, including healthy ones.  Mouths are basically a mass of such cells therefore some form of soreness/yackness (trust me, that is a word.  I deem it so) is likely.  So today, while shopping for the 500 portions of fruit and veg, I went in search of an extra soft tooth brush head for my electric toothbrush.  Not as easy as you might think.  I have a child’s toothbrush in my hospital bag (packed today in case of emergency admissions for sepsis) but wanted another for home use.  I searched our local town and finally found perfection: extra soft, pack of four, on offer.  What more could I ask?  And for additional coolness, each one is decorated with a Power Ranger!  How epic is that?

As I said at the start of this post, I have two reasons for all this busyness.  The second is this: the busier I am, the less I think about the bad stuff and the more prepared I am.  The more prepared I am, the more in control I feel.  I realise this is all illusory but I do not have time to analyse that.  I am way too busy!

Food, Glorious Food

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You do not have to know me very well to know that I enjoy cooking.  I run a food company for goodness sake!  Prior to being diagnosed with cancer, I had only ever lost my appetite once when a cold removed my sense of taste for a few days.  It is reasonable to say that I love food and all things relating to it.  So the prospect of the FEC-ing chemo interfering with that is not a happy one.

I think everyone associates chemo with nausea and vomiting.  I know the medical staff load you up with anti-emetics so I am hoping this will not be too bad.  Following on my puke-tastic time after surgery I have been promised Emend, a top notch drug.  Only time will tell if it works, but I am hopeful.  However, there are other prospects.  Sore mouth, bleeding gums, metallic taste, and all sorts of other delights.  With this in mind, the Captain bought me The Royal Marsden Cancer Cookery Book.  It is lovely.  All sorts of delightful recipes with a grid listing which are suitable for particular symptoms.  So for a sore mouth, one might be tempted by a Blueberry & Avocado Smoothie or Pea & Pancetta Risotto.  For nausea, there’s Green Tea & Peach ice lollies or Elderflower Jelly.  While still on the mouth theme, how about Cinnamon French Toast with Apple & Blackberry Compôte or Mongolian Stew for changes in taste?  All sounds a bit delicious to me.

I have begun to fill the freezer with such goodies in order to have some things on hand when required.  Inevitably the recipes have had a little tampering.  I am not used to cooking while having painted nails so the Celeriac, Lemongrass & Lime Soup with Nail Varnish Chippings should be interesting.  When I have done a few cycles, I will try to reflect on which recipes I found most helpful.

Hanging on by my Nails

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Really, that should read ‘Hanging on TO my nails’ but what care we for convention?!  One of the side effects of the FEC-ing chemo I am to have is that it will muck about with my nails.  Or at least, it is a side effect that many report.  One of the drugs reacts with the UV light and hey presto!  The yellowing nails of a serious smoker result.  On top of this, ridges form, a bit like rings through tree trunks, for each cycle of chemo.  And sometimes, nails may actually fall off.  Sounds super, doesn’t it?

Consequently, I am keen to avoid this.  Apparently, a bit of attention and a lick of varnish could make all the difference.  I have never been good at doing my nails.  I hesitate to confess it, but I am actually a nail biter.  Not through nerves.  Just sheer idleness.  Why use a pair of scissors when I have a perfectly good set of gnashers that will do the job without have to shift my lardy arse?  For now, though, I am a changed woman.  It may be temporary.  It almost certainly will be temporary.  But currently I am the proud owner of all sorts of manicure accoutrements.  Who knew there was so much to buy?

There are inevitably problems.  The first is: I have no skill.  This is not me being modest.  It is a genuine impartial assessment of my nail painting talent.  The second problem is: to block the UV light out, I need to paint in a dark colour.  So we have no skill + dark nail varnish?  This is not a happy combination.  The third and final obstacle is: since surgery, my left arm shakes when I try to use my fine motor skills.  Thus rendering my incompetence even worse.  Despite practising for many days, I am not improving.  Think five year old let loose in Mummy’s make up drawer.  So bad are my efforts that the Captain has come to my rescue.  Just look at that picture of him as he tackles my tootsies.  What a star!

Full Time Job

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I am beginning to marvel at anyone with cancer who manages to hold down a job.  Since this all began, it became obvious early on that we were going to have to put my business on hold for the year.  Or at least, manage a very scaled down version.  As you know, the Captain has been taking jam making lessons.  Today he moved onto chutney.  With some success I might add.

However, even if I wanted to, I would struggle to fit in working.  During the next 7 days I have the following appointments:

  • Psychologist
  • Echocardiogram
  • Oncoplastic Surgeon, follow up
  • Pre chemo dental check up
  • Citizens Advice Bureau cancer appt – not entirely sure why I’ve got this, will report back
  • Pre Chemo talk
  • Wig Fitting
  • Complimentary Therapy Reflexology
  • Presentation on breast reconstruction – optional extra.  I was invited as my surgeon is speaking.

It is exhausting.  Apart from the reflexology.  Last session I fell asleep.  ‘You relaxed really well,’ said the therapist.  Understatement of the year.  I probably snored.

Bra-less

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I have always been fond of lingerie.  Lingering in the lingerie department has been something that I have enjoyed since the early days of my bra wearing career.  But just lately it has become something of an obsession.  And not in a good way.  Seeing those rows upon rows of perfectly symmetrical satin cups, all ribbon and lace, and knowing that they have no part in my current wardrobe has not been fun.  Of course, I will have to buy an entirely new set of bras, but in what size?  Or shape?  And will lace ever feature?

The bosom friends at the All Singing All Dancing Breast Unit have been helpful but what I really would like is for one of them to come shopping with me at regular intervals between now and, oh I don’t know, say Christmas?  Good they may be, but I rather suspect that is too much to ask.  I am advised that for the initial post op period I needed to buy from the Soft & Comfy range by George at Asda.  This I have done.  Obviously a large was in order.  I do not know how long I will be expected to wear these bras but I cannot see me going out of the house in them.  Soft and comfy they may be but I suspect that they only remain so if you do not so much as move a muscle as I cannot see how they will be supportive.  Thankfully at only £6 it is worth a punt.

Once all my swelling has reduced and I fully embrace the glory of my lopsidedness, I am told I may be provided with a prosthesis, or a ‘softie’, to even things up a little.  When this happens is a little more unclear.  I do not like unclear.