health, holistic health, ovarian cancer

Carol Bareham 22.12.1972 – 01.04.2020

As many of you are already aware, my dear friend, my ‘cancer bestie’ as I liked to call her, passed away on 1st April this year.

Like me, Carol lived with late stage ovarian cancer, being diagnosed just 4 months before me.

In the year leading up to her death we talked almost every day about life, death and love. In many of those chats Carol would remind me that when she died (always convinced that she would die before me and no wonder with the treatment options in Northern Ireland being far inferior to those available to me in Scotland) that I was to write ‘an epic blog post’. No pressure Carol!

However, despite writing being one of my most utilised healing tools I have found it impossible to write this post for her until now, 6 weeks after her death. The reason? Writing it means that she is actually gone. Writing it is the final goodbye, the ‘closure’ I have been avoiding. Writing it means that I really don’t get to see my friend again and that reality has just been too hard to face.
Almost every day, I find myself having conversations with her in my head,  desperately seeking the advice and guidance she offered me over the past four years of friendship, unable to believe that she is actually gone.
However, despite my avoidance, I could imagine, only too well, Carol telling me to get a grip of myself and write the bloody thing already so, here goes. Carol, this is for you. I’ll love you for always.
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Carol and I didn’t meet in ‘normal’ circumstances. In fact we first ‘met’ over the internet on 8th May 2016 . This was an auspicious date. It is World Ovarian Cancer Day and it was also the day before I had major surgery to remove multiple organs from my cancer ridden body.
Carol wrote a comment on my blog that day which read Good luck tomorrow…I had the op in January after 4 chemos too and I am pleased to report all went well and I recovered from it well. Having 2 further chemos after the op, well that is another story! I hope it is a big success and will be keeping everything crossed for you. Have just discovered your blog and have been hooked on it all day…have experienced very similar thoughts and feelings, you have a lovely way of saying what many of us cancer patients are feeling. Will be awaiting your next post now post op! Carol xxx”
People comment on my blog and send me messages and emails all the time. I mean I literally get hundreds of private messages every week and yet this one, from Carol, stood out for me and, to this day, I have no idea why but I am so glad that it did. This simple message became the start of one of my most valued friendships and just goes to show we really never know what a simple act of kindness will lead to.
Over the months that followed Carol and I would often exchange weekly messages. Over time we exchanged phone numbers and began texting each other on a more regular basis. While I had no one in Scotland who I could talk to about living with late stage ovarian cancer, I had found in Carol someone who I could share everything with. She just ‘got it’. Every thought, worry, hope, fear, anxiety, pain, horrible embarrassing experience cancer had brought me, Carol had seen and experienced too. There is nothing quite like a friendship build on the common ground of literally shitting yourself through chemotherapy!
However, despite regular messaging, it wasn’t until two years later that we first finally met in April 2018 when Carol and her family were visiting Scotland from their home in Northern Ireland. Despite having planned a lovely ‘normal’ get together my cancer had other plans and I ended up in hospital for the entire time Carol was over. Despite this she still visited me and it was pure joy to finally put a face to the name I had been messaging and sharing ‘everything’ with over the previous two years.
Then, a whole year later, in April 2019 I visited Carol in her hometown in Northern Ireland as part of my book tour for my second book‘How Long Have I Got?’
During this trip I was finally able to meet Carol’s incredible family and friends, including the group of ‘Northern Ireland Ovarian Cancer Ladies’ that she had established. I have never been made to feel so welcome and supported.
Another year of messaging passed during which Carol’s health started to decline more rapidly than my own. She had stopped chemotherapy; her body, mind and spirit having now had enough and she was now doing her best to enjoy her life as best she could despite cancer. However, it wasn’t until winter 2019/20 that I finally started to accept (as best as one can accept) that I was going to lose my dear friend.
At the time my own health was declining rapidly and so began a daily discussion, peppered with the darkest of humour and jokes that only two terminal cancer patients could share and get away with, of who was fairing worse off. This shared dark sense of humour and a willingness not to shy away from the hard times is one of the reasons I will always love Carol so much.
One of the most powerful things about going through this cancer experience together was that we were able to have completely honest and frank discussions. Neither of us ever avoided discussing the reality of either of our situations. And neither of us ever pretended things were any easier than they actually were. I didn’t pretend that Carol wasn’t getting sicker and likewise she offered me the same courtesy. This is a rare and beautiful gift, as hard as it may seem, because it meant that we were able to have conversations that may have otherwise been avoided.
For instance, once Carol had transitioned from her home to a local hospice and I had finally accepted that Carol was going to die, instead of pretending otherwise, I messaged her one day and said “I am either coming to your funeral or coming to see you now. Which would you prefer?” this was in response to her telling me repeatedly not to come and see her. I knew, however that this wasn’t because she didn’t want to see me but because, like many of us, she didn’t want to accept the love that I would be offering in the act of traveling from Scotland to Northern Ireland just for her. She replied almost instantly, “come now”. And so, I found myself sitting at my kitchen table, at 5.30am the following day making plans to go to Northern Ireland to visit her.

The earliest I could go was two weeks later due to a number of hospital appointments that I already had scheduled. During these two weeks our connection and friendship grew stronger. She knew that I was dropping everything that I could to come and see her and she accepted that love and connection. Similarly, I knew how important this time was for her and her loved ones, and I accepted the love and deep honour it was to be a part of this precious time. And I mean honour. So many of us shy away from facing the hardest moments in life like tragedy, grief and death but, I’ve found through my own personal experiences, that it’s in these moments that the greatest opportunity for connection truly lies and that is an honour, and a gift.

During this time some of my other friends would message me to ask how Carol was doing. Many would reflect on how sad it must be for her to be dying. I knew a different truth, however. Carol wasn’t sad. She was ready. Over the previous few months she and I had discussed frequently how she was done with the suffering her illness was causing her. She had taken time to connect with and love her family and friends and she was now ready to release the pain. It was because of this that I didn’t feel sadness about her dying. I felt loss yes and I felt pain, deep pain, but they were my pain, my loss, my imminent suffering, they weren’t Carol’s.

Her messages during this time and, indeed, her conversations when I visited her were all about how happy she felt about the life she had lived and how calm she felt about the death she now faced. I remember having a similar experience with my friend Ali before she died from the same disease. Our final conversations weren’t filled with fear, they were filled with love and acceptance. This, I’ve realised is a gift that the dying can offer the living; to show peace in the face of death. In exchange and recognition of this, the living can offer the dying a gift too. We can choose to show up at this time. To be there, in whatever way they need us. To express love and gratitude for the time we shared together. And, above all, to not avoid their death and our grief because it is too hard for us but, instead, to recognise that grief is often an unavoidable expression of love.

I’ll never forget the journey across to Northern Ireland to see Carol. The weather was wild to say the least. The boat rolled from side to side and up and down as many of the passengers took to lying down in a desperate attempt to avoid sea sickness. I have never been so grateful for a childhood brought up on boats in the Channel Islands!

When we arrived, after a stop for some much-needed food, Ewan drove me straight to the hospice. I wanted to see Carol straight away. I’d waited two weeks and I wasn’t waiting a minute longer. He dropped me off at the door, driving away to check into our hotel. This is what I’d asked for. I wanted to see her on my own first. I wanted time for the two of us to connect. Part of this was about my needs, but part of this was also about protecting Ewan. Carol’s diagnosis is the same as mine and, as a result, our stories have often mirrored one another’s. Ewan knows this and I could see the fear in his eyes about what her now being in a hospice meant for me and, ultimately, what it meant for him. Despite the open honesty in our household about my death and, indeed, about everyone’s certain death, I still wanted to protect him from it being so tangible. It turns out, however, there was no need. When death is faced with love, in the way Carol taught us both to do, it can actually be a really beautiful thing.

I walked into Carol’s room with no idea what to expect. We hadn’t seen each other face to face for a year and for at least half of that time she hadn’t allowed any photos. But I needn’t have worried. I was greeted by the same smiling and vivacious woman I loved and remembered. Without a second’s hesitation she had wrapped her arms around me in a hug, despite her pain and multiple medical attachments, and was asking me to get into bed beside her for a proper chat. I, of course, obliged.

As I lay there with her laughing and sharing stories with one of her other friends who was also there, sitting in a chair beside her bed, I began to reflect on the beauty of this connection. Here we were, three women, all of us living with a terminal diagnosis of ovarian cancer, two of us currently receiving chemotherapy and one of us dying from the disease and yet there was not one ounce of sadness in that room. There was only joy. How often could I say the same of other encounters in my life?

While in Northern Ireland I’d spent my mornings with Ewan walking our dog Ozzy, before spending the afternoons and early evenings with Carol at the hospice. We spent most of our time together sharing stories and laughing. Carol had even managed to plan a short 80s themed party in her honour at which all of the people in her life were able to come along to; many of them to say their final farewells. It wasn’t a sad affair, however. Instead it was one filled with music, food, celebration and fancy dress. Above all, it was filled with love. This wasn’t a woman mourning her premature death, it was a woman celebrating her incredible life. As I stood back and observed all of these people coming to see her, dressed in full 80s fashion no less, I couldn’t help but think of my own death and how what I was witnessing would be exactly what I wanted for myself – love, laughter, music and, of course, fancy dress.

The following day I knew I would have to say my own goodbye to Carol. We didn’t have the 80s costumes, or the party to hide behind. We were having to face this head on, in full recognition of the fact that we would never see each other again. I spent the afternoon with her, as I had done over the previous days. We were joined by one of her best friends, whom had welcomed my presence with such warmth despite it, undoubtably, encroaching on their precious time together. During this time we recorded a podcast together. This was something that Carol wanted to do to not only dispel some of the fears around being in a hospice, but also to share some of the lessons she had learnt about life and death. Unsurprisingly, most of what she talked about was love.

We both put off the moment when I would have to leave. “Just ten more minutes” became a frequent and then desperate phrase until, eventually, there was no choice but to say goodbye knowing that we would never see each other again.

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

As I drove away, my heart broken, tears streaming down my face, I reflected on how often I take for granted that I will see someone again. You see, while I knew I wouldn’t see Carol again, I never know I ‘will’ see anyone else in my life again. I reflected on myself saying goodbye in a rush to those I love; dashing away, not always lingering to hear my loved one’s words, to hold them a little longer, to entwine our fingers, to kiss their cheek, to hold them close for just one more second. All these things I did with Carol instinctively as I fought back the inevitable, love filled, tears from cascading down my cheeks until I left the room, not wanting her last image of me to be one of sadness but, instead, one of love and joy.

In one of the last messages I sent to Carol after I had returned back to Scotland, I asked her “but how will I do any of this without you?” “Simple,” she replied, “You will love harder like I have taught you just as you make every day good like Ali (my other friend who died from ovarian cancer) taught you and you will keep living your life every single day as best you can for as long as you can.”

As I reflected on this and the legacies that her and Ali had gifted me through our friendships, I wanted to know what my own legacy would be. What message would I leave for the people I left behind and those that came after me? I realised then that there was no better phrase than “never at the expense of joy”. If I were to leave any kind of impression on the hearts of those I love and who love me then please let it be that.

This brings me to the final and lasting lesson and legacy that Carol left me and all those who love her: LOVE HARDER.

Perhaps it’s that simple. Perhaps it’s not about always thinking that you may never see a loved one again. After all, that does feel more than a little depressing. Perhaps, instead, it’s just about loving them harder.

What does loving harder look like?

For me it’s about looking someone in the eye when they speak to me, rather than looking at my phone. It’s about always valuing my time together with loved ones as sacred, fleeting and precious. It’s about listening when they talk. It’s about asking about the things that matter to them and caring about the response. It’s about making memories, laughing and experiencing joy but also about being there in times of need and support. It’s about not being afraid to show your vulnerability when times are tough and also not being afraid to show your awesomeness when times are great.

I don’t always get it right. Far from it. I’ll sometimes sit scrolling through my phone replying to messages rather than cuddling into Ewan on the sofa. Or I’ll get distracted when someone I love is talking and miss the important part of their story. But I catch myself now and I call myself out for it. I’ll pause and ask myself “Is this how I want to live my life? Is this how I want to be remembered? Is that what Carol would have done” And then I’ll make different choices the next time. Ultimately that’s all any of us can do; take little steps, day by day to love harder, to connect more deeply and to choose to spend our time with those that matter most to us. Anything else, over time, ultimately costs us our joy.

This is what Carol taught me above all else and it’s the lesson I will carry in my heart until the day I take my own last breath. May this lesson be a gift to you too, even if you never had the honour of meeting Carol for yourself.
With love for Carol and all those who love her always, Fi xx
I’m sorry Carol. This post isn’t as ‘epic’ as you might have hoped because how can I put into words what you truly mean to me, the lessons you taught me or the fact that I will always carry you in my heart every single day that I am alive and able to do so.
I may not have known you through your school years, never had the opportunity to work with you, to go to the pub with you, to have adventures or holidays or build wild and fun memories together but what we had was something entirely different from these types of friendships. What we had was a deep understanding of each other’s pains and fears, of our daily struggles and what it feels like to live with late stage cancer every single day year in and year out knowing that one day it will cause so much inevitable pain to those that we love.
What you gave me, dear Carol, is one of the greatest gifts anyone has ever given me. You gave me true, unconditional love and friendship that enabled me to be seen in all of my darkness as well as my light, without fear of judgment.
I am so grateful that cancer brought us together and so sad that it tore us apart. While this blog post may not have been what you hoped for (it’s a lot of pressure writing for a dead person you know!) I want you to know that when I publish my next book it will be dedicated to you my lovely so that everyone will know what an incredible woman you were and continue to be in the hearts of those who love you.
May your name and all that you stood for continue to shine bright for many years to come and, in your memory, may we all remember to tell the women in our lives to be hyper aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. I know that you, like me, had only one wish following your diagnosis – if we can’t be saved then at least let our diagnosis save the lives of other women.
So please, dear readers, share the following symptoms with the women in your lives. There is no screening test for ovarian cancer (no, smear tests do not test for it!) The only way to find out if you have it is to know the symptoms and see your GP if you have two or more of them for two or more weeks.
Please do not ignore any of these symptoms. Early diagnosis of ovarian cancer is curable…only late stage diagnosis is not.
THINK TEAL
T – toilet habit changes
E – energy levels dropping
A – abdominal pain and/or swelling
L – loss of appetite and/or weight
Carol and I also both experienced shoulder pain prior to diagnosis and I always start to get migraines when my cancer is spreading.
Know your body.
Don’t be embarrassed.
See your GP.
If you don’t do it for you or for me then, please, do it in loving memory of Carol Barenham.
With love and gratitude always, Fi Munro xxx
health

The Little Things

My brother in law is one of the amazing people working front line. Today he is also delivering us essential supplies as we are social shielding (I’m on chemo for late stage cancer, high dose steroids and no spleen).

I had chemo a few days ago and I’m feeling slightly worse for wear (understatement!) so it was the loveliest surprise that today he brought my niece with him and we had a quick hello through the widow!

I could cry from joy! 💜💙💜

It’s the little things in life that matter!…love, connection, joy, family, friends….all those things I certainly thought would always be there without question…now I’m 3 weeks into lock down and a minimum of 12 weeks to go…these stollen moments are what keep me going.

I’m so grateful for today and so hopeful for the day I can open my arms and have my niece (and her three crazy brothers!) run into them again.

If this situation teaches me nothing else, I hope I never take those moments for granted again.

This is what I live for.

Stays safe my lovelies 🥰😍🥰

gratitude, health, holistic health, kindness, ovarian cancer, positivity

Today I Rise Again

Today is a new day.

I rose today having felt what I was meant to feel, having seen what I was meant to see, having said what I was meant to say.

So many people ‘advised’ that I stop writing and that I focus on me. I know they meant this with the deepest kindness but writing ’is’ me focusing on me. It is my therapy, my release, my way of processing and feeling everything that is there to be felt.

I do not write for anyone else but myself – although, admittedly, it brings me so much joy to realise how my words have helped so many others.

I can’t help but wonder how different our world would be if someone had told Anne Frank to stop writing. I’m not suggesting I am anything like Anne Frank, a courageous young girl whom I have admired since first discovering her words when I myself too was only young, but I am suggesting that our stories are important, healing and essential. We must share our stories. We simply must.

I feel in a good place today, like I am emerging from something, like I am shedding an old version of myself and stepping forward into something new.

I sense change ahead, yes, but change isn’t necessarily bad and I find myself feeling a sense of excitement at this new adventure I find myself on.

I’ve been in worst places in the past four years since my diagnosis than I find myself in just now. There is, of course, one significant difference now. Now I don’t see chemotherapy as an option for me when the trial completely stops working (which it hasn’t, yet).

As I’ve written many times before, chemotherapy (and any treatment) is a very personal choice and I do not advocate for or against any options. But I do know that chemotherapy is not the right option for me. Not again. Not after 4 years ago. This is my inner guidance and I trust it profusely. Nothing and no one will ever change my mind.

So what are my options?

Just now, medically, it is to stay on the trial. It is to keep breathing in the gratitude that this wonderful cocktail of significantly less toxic drugs is doing something to slow down this disease (even if they can’t stop it completely).

But that is just the medical picture and, if I’ve learnt nothing else on this journey it is that the picture is bigger than what can and can’t be done in a hospital. There is so much more that can be done for my mind, body, spirit and soul.

So, yes, it is accurate when I say I am excited because I find myself wondering ‘what if there is another way?’

And that’s exactly what I intend to spend the next 16 weeks finding out.

Why 16 weeks? Because that is the length of time someone with ovarian cancer is on chemotherapy for…AND, more importantly, because 16 weeks today I plan to get my adventurous soul onto a plane to Bali where I plan to spend 4 weeks healing with my gorgeous husband…something that will only be possible if my lungs stay stable…so I’m excited…I have a focus, I have an aim and I have a shit load of passion.

It ain’t over and, as ever, I ain’t dead yet (motherf*ckers)

health, holistic health, ovarian cancer

The Necessary Grief of the Life Unlived

My cancer markers rose again.

Four months in a row.

Slowly rising, creeping upwards, no longer stable and far from dropping.

It’s not good news.

My treatment is no longer as effective. The trial I fought for is no longer holding things at bay. There is a crack in the dam. The dam is still there, yes, but it’s no longer as effective at holding the tide back from crushing me as it once was.

Was I naive to think that it would keep things at bay longer? Was I overly hopeful?

I thought I was realistic. I thought I had accepted and understood the odds, that I realised how lucky I was that it had worked for as long as it had. Yet my tears tonight tell a different story.

They show the hope that’s been lost, the fear, the anger, the sense of defeat in a battle I never even willingly engaged in.

And while it’s far from over (I am still on the trial treatment and it is still doing ‘something’ even if that isn’t as much as it once was) this rise marks a turn in events.

No longer do I feel like I have the upper hand. No longer do I feel in control. No longer do I feel like I have a grasp on what is coming next.

It’s the fear that hurts the most. The fear of more bad news, of more pain, of less options, of death.

It’s the fear of breaking other people’s hearts, of no longer being able to keep a brave face, of losing my sense of self to this insidious disease.

But most of all it’s the worry that I took the time I had for granted; so busy telling others to live like they are dying that I forgot to do it myself.

I’ve had many great adventures yes but did I love enough, did I laugh enough, did I open my heart to the deep vulnerability necessary for true connection?

I don’t know. But I plan to spend the rest of my days finding out and making sure.

Today marks a change, a shift. Tonight it feels painful. I feel deep sorrow and grief for the life I thought I was ‘supposed’ to have. Tomorrow I will welcome a new day, a new phase, a new beginning.

But, for now, I grieve.

ovarian cancer

Chase Your Dreams 

I could have missed my run today. I could have looked at the bad weather and thought ‘nah I’ll stay in tonight’.

But instead I remembered the old me, the me lying in a hospital bed after surgery to remove half my organs. The me with stage four cancer fighting for her life. The me that would have given anything to be able to walk across the room unaided.

So I got into my running gear and I went for a run.

Was it tough? Absolutely!

But was it worth it realising how incredible my body is, how wonderfully well it has healed and how powerful it is to not only recover from cancer but to be able to run in the rain? Hell yeah!

I used to run to burn calories. I used to run to lose weight. I used to run to beat my personal best. Now I run for the old me. I run for my fellow warriors to show them that anything is possible. I run for health. I run for my future self! I run so that when I next see my oncologist I can tell her how amazing I feel!

I don’t know how far I ran. I don’t know how fast I ran. I don’t know how many calories I burnt. And I don’t care! What I do know is that I did something I once thought I’d never be able to do and that is the best feeling in the world!

Tonight I will be celebrating with a curry at a friend’s house – not because I ‘earned it’ but because life is too short to worry how many calories you eat as long as you are eating the right food! The main word being ‘food’ – not highly processed or ‘low fat’ bullsh*t!

Have a great weekend everyone! Go and do something you once only dreamed of!

Love and light, Fi xx

—-

You can now buy my new book on Amazon – “Love, Light and Mermaid Tails”

ovarian cancer, yoga

Follow Your Bliss

Today I achieved one of my life long dreams I couldn’t be more proud.


As many of you know, in May 2016 I underwent major surgery for stage four ovarian cancer during which I had multiple organs removed. The recovery was tough and involved a week in a high dependency unit and almost two months in hospital whilst I regained enough strength to walk, recovered from sepsis in my liver and adjusted to life with a colostomy bag.


At the time I was told it could be several months before I was even able to walk up stairs or bend down and my husband moved our bedroom downstairs into our dinning room in preparation for my return home.

Not one to be defeated I, perhaps crazily, decided this was the time to pursue my dream of becoming a yoga teaching and so, with the support of my oncologist, I approached a yoga training school.

Just weeks later I was sat in a cafe having an interview with the course leader. I was convinced she would be put off by my medical situation and turn me away however, miraculously, she took a chance on me and in early September 2016 I started a 12 month training course. 

I had a PhD by the age of 26 so I am not shy of a little hard work but what followed was, at times, the hardest education journey of my life. Physically weak from surgery, emotionally and mentally drained from chemo, I constantly struggled to keep up with my wonderful classmates. Each month we would have coursework to complete, postures and adjustments to learn and, of course, hours of yoga practice. We not only studied yoga but also pranayama (breathing), chakras, meditation, nutrition, yoga philosophy and so much more! 

Each weekend of training left me exhausted and requiring often days to recover but I loved every single second. My monthly yoga training weekends became key milestones for me. Getting through two days of training reminded me how alive I was and how incredibly well I was doing despite everything my body had been through.


My physical, emotional and spiritual health responded and my holistically health drastically improved as a result. Now, a war after finishing chemo my cancer markers are low and stable and I have never felt more alive.

Today after what could have been the worst year of my life I completed my yoga training and received my full qualification.

I have never been more proud of myself and hope that my story will inspire others to never give up on their dreams because if you just believe in yourself and you keep taking tiny steps in the right direction then anything is possible!

If I can train as a yoga instructor whilst living with and being treated for stage four ovarian cancer then just think what you can achieve.

Follow your bliss and magic happens!


With special thanks to the wonderful, inspiring and supportive people who trained alongside me; to the course leaders and trainers who took a chance on me and to everyone who has supported my yoga business. You have all played a massive part in making my dreams come true and I am forever grateful.

Love and light, Fi xxx

Find Fi on Facebook.

ovarian cancer

Mixed Emotions: Chemo 4 – Day 2…

Today is the day before chemo four and, as always before a chemo dose, I had a mixture of emotions ranging from excitement that my cancer would be receiving another hit to dread at the prospect of the onslaught of the subsequent side affects – I’ve just begun to start feeling like a normal human being again over the last couple of days how can it be time for another dose?!

As a result of the mixed emotions I also became terrified of my phone ringing today…let me explain…when they take my blood tests on day one there is always the possibility that my blood count will not be high enough for another dose of chemotherapy. If this is the case then the chemotherapy ward will call me to let me know. Normally they would call on day one, however yesterday was a holiday and so they would have been calling today. So, whilst I am dreading another dose of chemo it turns out that I was dreading not receiving it even more – crazy I know!

I class the day before chemo as my ‘last day of freedom’. It’s usually the day I feel my best as my white blood count should be at its highest point in the cycle. Although still suffering from fatigue and in pain from where my tumours are I wanted to do something nice for my couple of hours of exertion today and so had lunch with the most special little lady in my life – my four year old niece! We had a lovely time filled with giggles, play dough and stickers! Exactly what was needed to take my mind off of things. My favourite point was when out of the blue she said: “you are beautiful Fifi…but you do have no hair”. I love her!

After returning her home I was absolutely knackered! Unfortunately, however, the day before chemo also involves a late night as I am required to take 10…yes 10!…steroids at midnight. This is to help prevent me having a reaction to the chemotherapy tomorrow (I also have to take 10 more at 7am!). Thank goodness I have no issues swallowing tablets!

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Tonight also involves getting my ‘chemo survival kit’ together. My chemotherapy is administered over 7-8 hours and during this time I am sitting in an armchair unable to leave the ward so it’s good to have a range of activities to hand! This time I am taking a couple of books I am reading just now about cancer, a fiction novel, an adult colouring book (because they are amazing and sooo relaxing!) and a portable dvd player. I’ve learnt that sometimes receiving chemo can make me really tired meaning that I only have the energy to watch a rom com, whilst other times I am able to read quite easily…so now I take a range of things to cover all eventualities.

Having already had three treatments I now also appreciate the importance of feeling comfortable so I always bring slippers and a blanket too!

On a practical note I take gloves to wear on the way to the hospital – this is to help make my hands warm and subsequently help to make my veins come to the surface so that it’s easier for the nurses to get a cannula in. I also take anti-bacteria gel and tissues. Finally I take a notebook and my diary because I am likely to be given a lot of information and dates that my chemo brain will never remember!

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I also take some food with me. This is for two reasons…firstly hospital food is disgusting(!) and secondly as I have a gluten allergy and now also limit my dairy and sugar intake it is much easier to control what I am eating if I make it myself. This time I am taking a homemade buckwheat salad (yes buckwheat is gluten free – news to me too!), some seeds and some fruit.

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So for the next 90 minutes I will be fighting sleep and tiredness until I can take my steroids and go to bed. In the past this dose of steroids causes me to wake me up about 2am with a burst of energy and I am then unable to sleep the rest of the night – we will see what happens tonight…

Love and light, Fi xxx

 

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When life gives you lemons…

So I’m always of the opinion that “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” and I wasn’t going to let something silly like a cancer diagnosis change my opinion on this so, when I got diagnosed I made the decision that I wanted as much positivity to come from my journey as possible.

when-life-gives-you-lemons-224454_w1000As well as sharing my story on social media I also set up a ‘Justgiving page’ to raise money for Macmillan Nurses and invited friends and family to donate to this wonderful charity that, in just a short while, had made our journey so much smoother already. Amazingly in just 24 hours they had donated nearly £15000!!! Isn’t that mind blowingly awesome! I can honestly say that the love I felt from every one of those donations and the lovely comments people left will give me the strength I need to make it through my journey!

I will continue to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support throughout my journey and always so that together we can help them to continue in their pledge to ensure that no one faces cancer alone.

I have also made my own pledge to cut all of my hair off before I start my chemo so that it can be donated to be made into a wig by the Little Princess Trust for a young child facing cancer and to dye my remaining hair pink until it falls out as a result of chemo. I invited others to do this too and was amazed to receive messages from people that they would be donating their hair to this amazing cause. My heart honestly sings for people like this!

Other people also offered to dye their hair pink too – including my mum and dad! Support like this is priceless and I feel like the luckiest person alive knowing I have so many awesome, positive people cheering me on from the sidelines.

I also have friends and family signing up for the race for life and the overrun ovarian cancer run and I plan to join them all – walking, or crawling, if I have to!

I cannot put into words how grateful I am or how loved I feel but want everyone to know that I have never felt so blessed. Thank you.

love and light, Fi xx

Uncategorized

Stage Three Ovarian Cancer*

The next morning my parents arrived and it was wonderful! They had been in Spain when I had to tell them the news and had spent over 24 hours driving back (with little to no sleep acquired only in service station car parks) since my diagnosis and I have never been more happy to see them!

I may be 30 years old but let me tell you, when you hear you have cancer you are instantly a 6 year old wanting a cuddle from your parents…I don’t care how old you are!

The nurses kindly let us sit in a side room together and we talked for a couple of hours about my diagnosis and the questions they had. I am in awe of their strength for me as I can only imagine what was going through their heads but, as ever, they respected my positive outlook and stayed optimistic and strong throughout our chat.

Again, I repeat that the hardest part of a cancer diagnosis is telling the people that you love that for some unknown reason this devastating illness has now selected you.

After my parents left my husband and I were met by an oncologist and macmillan nurse to receive my full diagnosis.

They explained that my cancer had spread to stage three. This meant that it had spread out with my pelvis and was now in both of my ovaries, my womb, my peritoneum (the membrane that surrounds and keeps my organs in place) and my omentum (the fatty membrane that covers the front of my bowel). I’ve included a very helpful image from Macmillan Cancer support’s “Understanding Cancer of the Ovary” booklet (pg. 13) incase, like me, you hadn’t taken all this in during biology at school!

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They explained that this diagnosis meant that I would need to have a full hysterectomy as well as having my peritoneum and omentum removed and that this would involve a team of up to 6 specialist surgeons in one operation. They also explained that I would need chemotherapy and because of the aggressive nature of my cancer (feisty like me!) they would be starting with chemotherapy before surgery and repeating the CT scan after three rounds of chemo. Yay more dye in my wrist – note sarcasm!

They went on to explain that the CT scan had also shown a small collection of fluid in my right lung and that this would need to be drained to be tested for cancer cells. If this did contain cancer cells then I would be diagnosed as stage 4 because the cancer would have spread to organs out with my abdomen. It goes without saying that this was a lot of information to take in but I can honestly say that the clarity that it was explained in by the oncologist and the support of my Macmillan Nurse made it all the more easier to take in.

**warning the following may be graphic for some**

I was told that I would need to have the fluid drained from my lung and that this would need to be done straight away. This was to be done in the respiratory ward of the hospital where a Dr used an ultrasound on my back to locate the fluid and then inserted a needle into my lung through my rib cage and extracted the fluid using a syringe. Remember I said the dye going into my wrist for the CT scan was painful? Yeah that ain’t got nothing on a needle in your lung with no pain relief! Wow is cancer a painful process!

After the fluid was collected the Dr put it in three vials for me to take back to the ward for the lab to screen. I took these on my lap as I was being wheeled in a chair between wards. Now I’m going to be gross but they were warm and that was just weird! Yeah I know that the fluid had come from my body but oddly I just didn’t expect them to be body temperature- although it sounds kinda obvious as I type it!

**graphic description over**

After that ‘experience’ I was free to go home with my suitcase of drugs! A crazy concoction of pain relief and anti-sickness medication. Something none tells you when you get cancer….you need a huge handbag(!!) for all the notebooks, leaflets, medication, books etc you will need to carry with you at all times! Oh but you won’t have the strength to carry it so you will also need someone to do that! Haha. So my poor husband is on official pink/yellow/orange handbag carrying duty!

When I got home my awesome hubby wrote a motivational quote on our kitchen blackboard that will be my mantra as I get through this:

I have cancer. Cancer doesn’t have me.

That night it was pure nirvana just to be in my own home and own bed and able to get a good night sleep. The little things in life (that we are all often guilty of taking for granted) are really all that matter in the grand scheme of things…

love and light, Fi xx

* I was diagnosed with stage four cancer two weeks after my initial diagnosis of stage three.

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CT Scan…finding the cancer

Following the news I had cancer my consultant asked me to come to hospital the next day and be admitted as an inpatient. This was so I could get a CT scan, some medication to manage the pain and sickness and a drip to manage my dehydration.

I was told to arrive at 10am and, because I didn’t know how long I’d be in for and because I love an excuse for some nature time, I went for an early morning walk with my husband. Isn’t there something magical about the cold winter air when you are feeling down and crapy?!

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It was a beautiful day and really helped to give us some perspective, and time away from our constantly buzzing phones(!), to just be alone together and talk about what was going to be happening over the next year.

When we arrived at the hospital I was put on a drip as planned – cue a million attempts at getting a cannula in my hand!…hard to believe I used to be a blood donor with the hopeless veins I know have!

I was told I’d been booked in for my CT scan at 2pm so in the meantime I sat and chatted with my husband and two sisters playing ‘Cards Against Humanity’ – if you’ve not played it before I can only warn you that it is not for the faint hearted(!!) and probably sums up my dry sense of humour entirely! It is a great laugh!

There was almost a sense of relief in going for my CT scan – it may sound crazy but I knew it was taking me one step closer to my recovery and although I knew it was likely to uncover news I didn’t want to hear, it was all part of the necessary process. However, once I was in the CT room I had what we will call my first ‘moment’. They had to put dye in the cannula in my hand and it was so painful! I am pretty good on the old pain threshold side of things but wow was that a sore one! I cried and think I may of actually screamed at one point as the poor nurse injected the dye and rubbed my hand for comfort.  On reflection, this was the first time I had been alone since my diagnosis and I think what actually caused this reaction wasn’t the pain but the reality of a long journey in which often only medical staff would be able to hold my hand.

The CT scan only lasted about 10 minutes and then I was able to go back to my bed on the ward. I was exhausted – it is amazing how much cancer (and not being able to eat because of cancer) exhausts you!

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That evening my husband and I met with two oncologists and were told the early results of the CT scan. They explained that they review the suspected primary sites first (in my case my ovaries) and then your vital organs (head, liver and lungs) and then the rest. Whilst we knew we would get the full results the following day following their multi-disciplinary team (MDT) meeting they wanted to let us know that it had been confirmed that I had cancer in my ovaries and that my head and liver were clear – well thank f%&k for that…some monumental good news in a sea of crazy!

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That night I didn’t sleep well – a result of having a bed next to the nurses station and the anxiety of waiting for the full results the next day.

love and light, Fi xx