Vita Blog: My Graduation

Posted: May 20, 2014 in Vita Blog
Tags: , , , ,

Here’s my latest Vita blogpost:

http://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/news/blog/my-graduation

After my last post I worried that I might run out of things to talk about. However, cancer is a sneaky and unpredictable disease. Whenever I relax and start thinking about a cancer-free future, the bitch comes back and bites me on the bum.

On 7 May, exactly two years after discovering the first lump, I found out I have cancer again.

Big Crocheted Boob at Manchester Art Gallery

Big Crocheted Boob at Manchester Art Gallery

Last Monday I had a CT scan to determine the size and spread of the disease, and on Wednesday a follow-up appointment to discuss the plan of attack.

Last week I cleared the decks and indulged myself in some major distraction techniques in preparation for bad news. I saw some weird art, tramped over hill and dale and did everything I could to de-stress.

A yoga, massage and meditation binge, in the days leading up to my appointment, really helped. I went to morning meditation on Vesak (Buddha’s birthday), believing that it might nudge the gods in my favour. However, this wasn’t to be.

On Wednesday afternoon I found out that the cancer has spread to my lungs. This means I have secondaries or metastases.

I’m now officially stage 4.

Finding the key

As is the norm with these appointments, it didn’t go as planned. I’d gone expecting a date for surgery. I was really hoping they’d chop off my reconstructed breast, the site of one of the new tumours, but because of the small lesions on my lungs, I’m going straight to chemotherapy.

I’m surprised at how calmly I took the news, but this was probably because the consultant didn’t do the apologetic ‘side-head’ manoeuvre usually associated with breaking bad news. It also helped that he didn’t use the words secondary, metastatic or stage 4. He described the small lesions on my lungs as a puzzle that needs fixing. In his words: ‘We just need to find the key to unlock the puzzle.’ Once we find the key, he hopes that things will ‘settle down’. I burst out laughing when he said this. I’ve never been so underwhelmed by such devastating news.

Breaking bad news

The past few days have all seemed a bit unreal, and it’s only now I’ve begun to tell people that it’s starting to sink in.

Whether you’re a cancer newbie or a career patient like me, the words ‘secondary cancer’ are infected with terror. It was only when I started telling friends that it really hit me.

Breaking bad news can be quite traumatic and I’ve learned from previous experience that it’s easier to wait until you have all the facts before telling everyone. You end up trying to comfort and reassure everybody else that you’ll be OK when you’re the one that needs comforting. This time I only told immediate family and a few close friends until I had more information. Telling fewer people definitely helped soften the blow.

I thought it might help if I read up on the new direction my cancer has taken. However, I just ended up frightening myself so I’ve stopped Googling for now. I am burying my head in the sand, but I would like to enjoy my last few days of freedom before the rollercoaster of cancer treatment begins again.

Treatment

I had all my previous treatment in Scotland where I’m originally from. However, this time I’ve decided to stay in Manchester and I have my first appointment at The Christie in a few days’ time.

4913

My new home

I feel like I’ve reached a turning point and I think it will be a positive move having my cancer tackled by a different team of experts. It’s the biggest cancer centre in Europe, so being treated there means that I might have the opportunity to take part in trials not available to me in Scotland. It’s also within stumbling distance of my house, so it’s handy for emergencies.

There are many questions that have come to light since my recent diagnosis. I wonder if mistakes were made during my first round of treatment and whether I should have questioned things I wasn’t happy about. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I can’t change what’s passed. I feel like I’m running out of lives so I’m not taking any chances this time round.

Being vigilant

The nipple tattoo I chatted about in my last post seems so trivial now. However, it was this, along with my lymphatic drainage routine, which led me to discover these new lumps. I discovered a tiny pea-sized lump on my reconstructed breast, right next to my nipple tattoo. The other lump is under my arm, in among scar tissue. I have an area of cording (hardened lymph vessels) in my axilla, but I discovered a new lump in this area, so I went to my GP to get this checked.

I’ve been incredibly unlucky, but I can’t stress highly enough that if something doesn’t feel right, you must get it checked by your GP or breast care team. Get to know your lumps and bumps and trust your own judgement. I delayed going to the doctor because I’d been given the all clear a few months earlier. I’ve been right every time.

Cancer is everywhere

Since my recent diagnosis I feel like a magnet for all things cancer related. I’m convinced there’s someone walking 10 paces ahead of me pasting up Macmillan posters. They are everywhere. People with cancer seem to be following me around too. A woman sat next to me in my Pilates class who had just had a mastectomy. The following day, I ended up sandwiched between two women at the eyebrow salon exchanging cancer-fighting tips. On both occasions I was feeling a bit fragile and I didn’t have the courage to say: ‘I have cancer too!’ Sometimes you’re just not in the mood for tumour talk.

Fun

Regardless of the crappy news I had this week, life goes on and this weekend I’m off to a wedding on Colonsay (in the Hebrides) with a 1920s theme. A friend pointed out that if they’d offered me a double mastectomy I’d be the perfect flapper girl – extreme fancy dress?! It’ll probably be my last social event for some time so I’m really looking forward to letting my hair down before treatment begins and it all falls out.

This weeks’ news means that my blog will take on a dramatic new direction. By the time I write my next post I will have started chemotherapy. I’ve dug out my wig Stevie. I might even get a Scouse Brow. I’m still in good health and I’m determined not to let cancer take over my life.

I hope I can share some tumour-fighting tips with you as I jump on the cancer carousel again.

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Comments
  1. josnewlife says:

    Hey there – just want you to know I’m pulling for you from the US – I live in Florida – I was stage 2 a year ago, with all kind of other issues – I had surgery / chemo – am ok now, my Chicago friend has been stage 4 for several years – yes years – she’s doing great & you will too! love your writing & honesty – with love from Jo

    • killerkath says:

      Thanks Jo! I sincerely hope I’m one of the lucky ones. Everyone says that cancer is one the way to becoming a long term health condition and I’m trying to think of it in that way. I hope life is good for you in sunny Florida!! BC love from rainy Manchester xxx

      • josnewlife says:

        You will be one of the lucky ones! When I ended up in hospital last year – my counts went to “0” my friend (who had leukemia) texted me “you are strong, you are healthy!” And you will be! You did everything right – it’s this (insert really bad word!) cancer thing – if you have a mailing address I’d love to write you – people sent me funny things & it helped along the way – I’m 53 & I know you’re younger – to your advantage! Manchester sounds great & I’d love to see it one day & you can visit sunny FL too! Thank you for the excellent – practical blog!

  2. We are with you all the way Kath. Keep up the fantastic writing and fighting spirit my friend! Love and miss you xxx

  3. Kate Gould says:

    Fucking cancer, indeed! Big hug to you, Katherine. Let me know if there’s anything at all I can do.

  4. loulouctee says:

    Kath you are a beautiful woman turning your twisty turning life into fucking art. In here for distraction or tea anytime xx

  5. loulouctee says:

    Reblogged this on Lou Lou's Blog and commented:
    This woman is totes amazeballs defined

  6. Jane says:

    Brilliantly written and always funny – yer a wee beezer x

  7. Barb Wood says:

    Hi Kathy, wow you certainly have a gift for writing! My name is Barb Wood and I’m an Oncology Psychotherapist in Australia. I am days away from announcing that I have established a charity…boob buddies Inc. the reason behind this is that I want my services to be gratis…free. I will be in the UK in August for a week and then in early Sept…if you would like a visitor from
    Australia simply get in touch and we’ll take it from there:)
    Take care,
    Barb

    • killerkath says:

      Hi Barb or g’day!
      Wow your charity sounds really interesting. I think we’re a bit lagging behind with psycho-oncology in the UK. It would be lovely to meet you when you’re over and to hear more about it. I’m based in Manchester but often up in Scotland. Anyway you can contact me directly at :katherine@killerkilts.co.uk
      Look forward to hearing from you.
      Katherine 🙂

  8. todayitstops says:

    Hi Kath,
    I’ve been reading your blog posts with interest on the BC Care site. We met at the Younger Women’s Forum in Manchester and had a chat on the last day before you were heading home. I’m so sorry that this b*stard disease has struck again! I love your attitude and positivity and whilst it’s crap to be heading into the chemo cocktails again, I really hope you get good results from it. I live in Leeds but I’m over in Manchester a lot as it’s where I’m from originally so if you need anything, be it a chemo buddy or someone to have a brew and a vent with feel free to give me a shout. Hoping strength and better health are heading your way. Best wishes Michelle x

    • killerkath says:

      Hi Michelle, thanks for your message. I remember meeting you at the Younger Women’s Forum. I never thought I’d be in a position to be looking forward to chemo but I can’t wait – it’s horrible being in cancer limbo! Anyway fab to hear from you. Give me a shout if you’re over Manc way and we can meet up for a brew. I hope life is treating you well Xxx

  9. Anonymous says:

    G’day cous, just back from hols in Spain, have seen Roberto.
    Tough news, go with your flow,
    Big Love Sam and al xx
    P.S Love the photo with the boob xxx

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