Bone Island

Is a tiny, lagoon island in Batticaloa District, in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. It is also an area of increased cancellous bone. I have one and you may have one, too. Mine is in my lumbar vertebrae and I love it for not being an area of metastatic breast cancer, or any other kind of cancer, for that matter.

I waited almost a month to find this out but I’m OK with this; I’m used to it. Waiting is what you do, when you have cancer. Appointments, scans and blood tests; appointments, scans and blood tests. The constant monitoring of one’s mortality is exhausting but, on the flip side, what marvellous fortune, to be living in an era of appointments, scans and blood tests.

Chemo 4 is coming up, at the end of next week. Following my nose dive, after the first chemotherapy, I’m no longer on FEC, just EC….Still feels like FEC, to me! The (E) epirubicin, goes in first; it’s a bright red and then, as soon as the (C) cyclophosphamide is injected, I start to feel strange, unwell and sort of drunk, without the nice bit! Over the next few days, I take a battery of drugs to combat nausea; my heart thumps and my head sings. Sleep, at night, comes in two hour blocks of, what I can only describe as, anaesthetised loss of consciousness. Day 5 brings overwhelming fatigue. I don’t know how I get out of bed and I don’t know how I get back in. It feels like paralysis has set in as I spend most of my time horizontal on the sofa or in bed drifting in and out of sleep. By day 8, I start to pull out of the spiral and the relief I feel on day 10, as I wake up, refreshed and renewed is indescribable.

Almost normal, then, until day 21, next Friday. Oh ‘EC!!

Russian Roulette

“Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘do I feel lucky?'” (Dirty Harry)

And, welcome to my world.

It’s the Friday evening before Christmas and I find myself in A&E, with sudden and extreme back pain, because of a reaction to an injection which boosts white cell production, during chemotherapy. This is unusual, I hasten to add, but those who are close to me know that I’m prone to pulling stunts, like this. My body doesn’t seem to discriminate between what’s good for it and what’s deadly; it’s foreign and that’s enough! During the course of this evening, a spinal X ray reveals a large, white spot on one of my lumbar vertebrae, causing a degree of concern to the consultant looking after me. “Vanessa, I’m concerned about this!” Pointing at aforementioned X ray. I can’t remember what I said but I do remember what I thought….not printable. I’m thoroughly checked, Velindre Cancer Centre are informed and an MRI scan is duly booked.

You can get many things, that you don’t want, with breast cancer: the interruption that chemotherapy brings to your life (I can take six months off work, no problem!). The loss of a breast or two (who’s counting?). The depletion of any remaining oestrogen (Didn’t want a sex life, anyway!) and so on and so on. Top of the list, however, is white spots on a spine (Could this be secondaries?) Well, my lymph nodes are clear so this cannot be. Not so fast! I discover, online, (and, yes, I am aware that, in the world of online medicine, anything and everything will kill you) that breast cancer can metastasize through the blood without showing in the lymph nodes. So, why do we all get so excited about clear lymph nodes? That’s one to ask my oncologist when I get the results of the MRI scan.

On the plus side, I’ve had an X ray that I wouldn’t have had, if my body had reacted like most everyone else and I’ve experienced the best of the NHS. The staff in A&E, at UHW Cardiff, were professional, kind and efficient and I’m grateful for their concern and prompt response.

I’m feeling lucky…..I think.

The Cancer Cyclone

Breast cancer is, quite clearly, not a joke but, I do feel that life has played some kind of prank.

In August, 2010, both my husband and myself were diagnosed with cancer.  I, with follicular thyroid cancer and he, with advanced renal cell carcinoma.

In December, 2013, my son was diagnosed with papilliary thyroid cancer with local spread.

In July, 2014, my husband, sadly, died.

In February, 2015, my daughter was diagnosed with a stage 1, triple negative breast cancer.

A four out of four hit, in a little over four years.  You couldn’t make it up.

October, 2017, I have been diagnosed with a stage 1, ER+, grade 3 breast cancer.

“Come on, you must be ……. joking”  There was I thinking that it was time for some icing on my cake but I’ve been landed with a bitter cherry on the top.