Tuesday 25th July 2017

Over the worst maybe?

So it’s been exactly 2 weeks since my surgery.  I’ve posted photos of my new body under the medical picture section of the blog and more details of surgery if anyone wants to look.  I’ll upload some actual surgery pictures when I get them too so keep checking if you like the gore!

https://battleofbritten.wordpress.com/medical-pictures/

So how was it?

As you know from my last post I was pretty scared.  Surgery is always a risk and always scary but this was different as it was my choice to have it done and I had nothing to go by as to whether it would leave me better or worse off.   But I decided, with the help of my consultants, that it was worth taking the risk as the condition of the implant, if left, would only worsen as it had been damaged due to the radiotherapy.

The day before surgery went well.  I was all marked up and forms filled and ready to go.  No beds so plan was to go home to sleep and return to ward by 7am the next day.  We were at the hospital for 4 hours! So tiring, but just before we were due to leave a registrar came and told us that they were urgently trying to contact my surgeon as it was highly possible that my surgery was going to be cancelled as no beds available!  I had been quite calm up until then.  Unbelievable how things can change so quickly.  So that night was not calm at all.  In fact we were all very anxious as it’s the not knowing, again!  I had to go to hospital the next day and just wait and see.  So Phil dropped me off with my bag and  I went to a waiting room with about ten or so other patients.  Some in for major surgery, some just for the day.  I was feeling ok.  At this point we still had no idea whether surgery was happening or not.  But then by 7.30am I was called up first and whisked away to my bed where Mr Griffiths was waiting saying…. hurry up, aren’t you ready yet??? I’m waiting for you! ha ha! He has a great sense of humour! So quickly quickly I got changed, leapt on the bed and we were off.  I quickly messaged Phil to say my surgery was happening and I was on my way now! It was like something from a carry on film! I had no time to worry……..

I had a canular fitted ready for my anesthetic and they explained how they would give my body physio throughout my surgery where they could to help with stiffness afterwards.  I was in good hands……

and then I woke up after surgery and opened my eyes to my lovely surgeon Mr Matt Griffiths at the end of my bed.  He was asking me how I felt?  I remember him telling me the surgery was easy and straightforward for him and all went perfectly well.  He said my anaesthetist had given me extra pain killer directly into my stomach to help with the pain.  All good.  I felt amazing.  In fact I couldn’t feel anything at all! My whole body was pain free.  This was great! All happy, I should be back on ward in no time, was I dreaming????…….

I was still in recovery when about half an hour later and suddenly with no warning the pain kicked in.  In fact my whole body was in intense pain like I’ve never felt in my whole life. I can’t even compare it to anything.  I couldn’t breath, or speak or move or anything.  The poor recovery nurse was frantically getting some pain relief into me.  She didn’t understand why this was happening – I had been fine. I had tears running down my face that I couldn’t control – pain tears.  What was going on?  I couldn’t have morphine as it makes me extremely sick and with a stomach op that wouldn’t be good, but they gave me a synthetic drug instead (which I can’t remember) but it worked for a bit.  So when that kicked in I was ok again.  For a bit – just normal uncomfortable pain that was expected. But then again that wore off and again I was in sudden intense pain.  This went on and on without gradual warning for the next few hours until finally on Tuesday evening my body stabilised and I was able to return to the ward. Not a nice experience but it’s done now. My body just doesn’t seem to react well after surgery – it must be the hypersensitivity and it takes a while for my body to normalise it’s senses.  Who knows? But it’s over.

So the op went well.  Mr Griffiths said it was the smallest tummy he had ever removed and the smallest boob he had ever made! Quite funny really.  Although it hurt to laugh! I hadn’t given him much to sculpt with.  But my stomach muscle was good and he had managed to lift it to get to the blood vessels – this was great news as it meant he hadn’t had to cut into it – less to heal.  He also said that my ribs were well spaced (must be the yoga!) so when it came to connecting the blood vessels in my chest he was able to work between my ribs instead of having to break or remove one.  Yay! This was great news for me too.

So, yes at this point my body did feel like I had been trampled by wild horses or run over by a bus or whatever.  But immediately I felt the relief of having the tightness of the implant rock boob removed which was great.  I no longer feel I have a rock sewn to my chest – even after surgery it feels so much better. My bones hurt a lot – did they have a party on me? Or hang me upside down and use me as a piñata? It sure felt like it.  But apparently this is normal.  Plus I already have the joint pain and fibromyalgia to contend with – this just intensifies things.  I felt I could just sleep forever, but even laying down, moving or breathing hurt – but it was manageable hurt now. I needed to rest and repair.

Thank goodness for electric beds in hospital! Plus we were on high dependancy care which meant every half an hour our nurse checked us.  Over the first few days this gradually went down to every hour to then every two hours etc.  The nurses were so lovely and caring but it really felt wrong to have them do everything for us.  Literally! even putting the straw to our mouths to have a drink, or moving a pillow.

So over the next few day we were encouraged to get out of bed and try and stand, walk, sit in a chair and gradually get to the toilet and have a shower. At the beginning every time I stood up I threw up! Not so good but this eased over a few days. The staff and nurses on Stock Ward in Broomfield (Chelmsford) hospital were amazing. I can’t fault the care I had at all. Even when my veins decided to pop they stopped immediately.  It makes such a difference to have the right people looking after you.

There were 4 of us ladies together, all been through similar ops on the same day – Lou, Anne, Lorna and myself. It really helped as we each knew how the other was feeling and encouraged each other. It’s wonderful the bond you form with others so quickly when you can relate to each other.  They made hospital too much fun when it really shouldn’t have been! Plus laughing hurt a lot! And coughing and don’t even mention sneezing!

Anyway, by Sunday I was allowed home.  We had to be able to have all pipework out (cannulas, drains, catheters etc), and be able to walk and shower ourselves.  We had a particular focus to keep us going in the form of a prisoner chained to his bed further up the ward.  Far too nosey for our own good we all took it in turns to check out, it was difficult not to feel sorry for him.  We had felt chained to our beds after surgery but that was due to all the equipment.  Must have been awful actually being physically chained to the hospital bed with guards!

Having the stomach drain out was the worst.  I had one that stretched from one side of my body to the other to drain excess fluid.  When drains are removed they just feel uncomfortable and tugging but when this one was removed it was painful – very strange pain that made me feel sick.  Wouldn’t recommend that feeling again!

So since being home my family are looking after me well.  I missed the fur babies so much and they missed me.  Clover wouldn’t leave my side!

I’m gradually pottering about and I’m doing good.  The wounds are healing well, still sore but all ok.  And in clothing the boobs look more even already……

I can pretty much stand straight now – at first I was bent over.  My stomach is so stretched like a trampoline – very tight indeed – you can’t even see my ribs! And apparently there is swelling underneath still! Don’t know where that is!  Mr Griffiths said he had some private patients that would pay thousands for a stomach like mine! I was quite happy with my old stomach but needs must eh! If I eat too much or move awkwardly it feels like it could pop open at any moment and an alien appear!!!! Not nice.  This op is definitely a better option if you have more flesh to work with than I had. But now I’m home I’m allowed to massage and moisturise to help the itching and tightness. I still have to wear the compression band which will help support the stomach wound.  I’m meant to wear this 24 hours for weeks!!!

I’m also using these essential oils for healing of wounds, skin and bruising and to fight any infection…..so far they are helping amazingly but I’ll update you with this.

My family have been wonderful and we have even been able to celebrate my mum’s birthday! Ok I wasn’t able to cook or anything but ‘make your own baguettes’ worked well!

Yesterday I saw Mr Griffiths and he’s happy with my healing and said I’m doing well, but to continue to listen to my body and not to do handstands yet!!!! Funny! Last thing I feel like doing!

He has peeled away the mesh across my stomach and new belly button so all is revealed.  All looks good so far.  A little sore still but it’s neat, 9/10 for the sewing so far!  He’s even given me the ok to pick off the surgical glue over the new stomach-boob!  I still look like frankensteins monster but give it a few more weeks the bruising and swelling should settle down.  It’s very sore across my chest from where the vessels were connected and I have some fat necrosis lumps, which he said is where he stuffed my stomach into the boob – it’s better to have too much and remove rather than add.  But it should even out and subside a little.  So after just 2 weeks I’m feeling better than I thought I would.  I actually think my own pain tolerance is amazing now.

Today I’ve been hanging out at the hospital again for more physio and wound checking.  Exciting life I’m leading at the moment! Can you tell I’m bored?

I think I’ll be ready for some lunches out and some visitors soon! please!

And thank you for all the lovely flowers, cards and gifts – they are helping me so so much….

I am so grateful. Every day.  So let’s hope I continue to heal with no complications.  Slowly does it.  And maybe, just maybe I’m over the worst? I really hope so.  But the for the moment, I’m still doing one day at a time still.  Although I am doing a little holiday research while I’m resting!!!!  Apparently I’ll be able to travel by the end of September.

Thank you all for your support.  Please continue to share my blog – if it can help others then it makes all this worth it!

Much love x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday 9th July 2017

Wish me luck! Scary times ahead….

Surgery day has come round fast! Good in a way as I’ve been too busy organising my family and home to worry too much. It’s a bit like organising before going away on holiday. But without the excitement, or the beach. I should get lots of rest time but that’s about it. It’s also a bit like being told the world could end in a few days too. It’s a strange feeling. So I’ve been cramming a lot in.

I’ve finished college work for the summer – it’s worked out great timing as I don’t have the guilt of letting people down or having time off work.  So I’ve had these last two weeks to frantically catch up on everything and everyone. I know I say this often but I feel like the luckiest girl ever when it comes to friends and family – near and far, old and new – everyone.  I am so grateful every day for you all and we are going to be needing everyone a lot these coming months of my recovery – thank you all in advance!

It’s been busy here setting up the new business “Better Call Britten”.  For any of you that may have watched Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul will see how we came up with the name.  We are trying to persuade Phil to do an advert so watch this space!  He is getting bookings from friends already but we will start the business properly in September.  Please can everyone share and support us – we still need to eat and pay the mortgage! But so long as he’s smiling then that’s what’s important.

We are lucky enough to have great friends, with parents who have a swimming pool, hot tub, sauna and a lovely garden! Thank you Jane and Andy, (and your mum and dad of course!) – who needs a holiday eh? Check out my beautiful Mermaid Freya! I’m going to miss swimming with her as it’s going to be a long time til I can swim again.

We’ve managed to fit in some strawberry picking too…..

…delicious! love strawberries! and of course we had to test quite a few as we picked…. mmmmmmm!

I’ve been out for some driving practice with Nathan too. He is doing so well! Really impressed and proud of him! Phil will be taking over from now though.

We managed to fit in a Doterra Oil evening to spread the word of these wonderful oils which was great fun.  Tiring for me but worth it.  And needless to say I will be using them a lot to aid my healing and recovery – I will keep you updated on my progress.  Please contact Jennie 07967060236 or Steve Varney 07802450187 while I am busy with my hospital stuff if anyone would like to order or need advice – you can find them via my Facebook too. Or you can go to my link www.mydoterra.com/traceybritten

I’ve been using the oils to help Dillon heal too….Lavender is amazing for dogs! Needless to say he didn’t like the “Cone of Shame”, bless him but he made us all laugh.  He is doing well and his wound is slowly healing, so long as he stops scratching it, naughty puppy.  I’m going to miss our fur babies while I’m in hospital.  Wish they could come and visit me too! Hospitals should have a dog visiting area as dogs = happiness = healing.

I am looking forward to trying this special oil after surgery….

Helichrysum is best known for its restorative properties to the skin. Also referred to as the Everlasting or Immortal Flower.  I’ll be taking in lots of others too……

The whole ward is going to smell devine! I had no idea my interest in natural healing would be so useful! I can honestly say that everything I have ever done in my life is coming together to help me and my family.

Which brings me to another thing people often say……”I suppose you write your blog as therapy for yourself“….. not really……

I started this blog as a way of communicating what was going on with the cancer crap.  I have family and friends all over the place and I didn’t want to put everything on Facebook or email everyone or call. Or put added pressure on myself or my family to have to repeat stuff all the time.  I needed a way to let people know what was happening without things getting distorted, plus I can type faster than I speak! I am seriously super fast! Which means I can type even when I’m really really poorly – even faster with an apple keyboard! I’m a bit pants on my phone though!

But it has now evolved….. yes, it helps me a little, it’s good for my family to have everything written down – like a diary I suppose for reference if ever needed, and it gets the info out there to those of you that are interested and need to know.  I haven’t ever read my past posts – maybe one day but I can’t yet.

But most of all it helps me to know how much I can help so many others – so much I have been through and still to go through can be compared to so many other things.  Doesn’t just have to be all about cancer – it’s so much bigger.  It’s a journey of healing inside and out as naturally and healthily as possible.  Keeping a focus and positive thinking.

I now know that cancer happened to me to enable me to help others even more than I already did, but also to help myself too. So please continue to share.

So back to surgery….. am I worried? of course! I am a worrier anyway! But I am trying to keep busy, be organised and stay calm.  What will be will be and I will do the best I can to get through this.

The NHS food has worried me but luckily I have a wonderful friend who actually works at Broomfield in the catering who is going to help me – for example if I bring in my own sweet potatoes the chef said he can bake them for me etc. It’s all the little stuff that will help me recover – sweet potatoes are amazing for skin cell renewal and repair. Plus I can’t wait to catch up with Clara – see you soon lovely lady. There’s always a positive! I’m hoping to use my resting time to catch up with friends – not sure how coherent I will be but at least I will have some spare time!

We spent an epic day at the hospital on Friday, starting at 8.30am! Questionnaires, medical for pre op (apparently I am a perfect patient!), bloods, heart checks, medical photographs.  Phil even got used for a bit of computer sorting! It always happens! ha ha.

My heart is healthy for surgery, all the swimming and healthy stuff has paid off….

I have to be in on Monday for more meetings and preparations – it’s all been such a rush.  I’ll stay over night ready for surgery all day – about 6 or so hours if all goes well – on the Tuesday.  I will have my phone and I’ll post via Facebook to let you all know I’m ok.  I will also be posting some before, after, healing staged photos under the Medical section if anyone wants to see the gory stuff!

www.battleofbritten.wordpress.com/medical-pictures/

Surgery….

So many of you have been asking me what exactly I’m having done now?? I know, it feels endless to me too. On and on and on. But it’s taken so long as it’s major, it needs organisation and it isn’t to do with the cancer – it’s just the aftermath. It’s like my body has had a major disaster hit and it then takes years to put back together, if ever.

So here goes……

Firstly some of you that have read my blog throughout may remember that 2 years ago I had immediate reconstruction with a strattice implant.  Basically I had a right mastectomy to remove my breast, the cancer and lymph removal, then at the same time I had an implant put in under my muscle and supported by a strattice mesh (instead of using muscle from my back like they used to).

At the time I had lost so much weight from complications with chemotherapy so this meant that I didn’t have options as to what type of surgery I could have – I was too skinny and the cancer had to be removed fast.  Plus this was the surgery that was done at Colchester at the time – all in one.  It was a better option than having a complete mastectomy as it was skin sparing.  Plus although there were risks that radiotherapy could ruin the implant it was worth trying anyway.  What we didn’t know was how my body would react to the implant! No one knew this. Since then I have been in constant pain, which I have got used to living with, but it’s not great believe me!  So basically the Radiotherapy has caused the implant to capsulate, meaning to harden and form scar tissue around the implant, which is only going to worsen in time and distort the implant and cause more pain.  My consultants also think that my body is so sensitive to the implant that it could also be causing the widespread body pain I suffer – fibromyalgia or Implant Illness (where your immune system fights against the foreign body implant).  But we would only know this for sure if the implant was removed.

So I had the decision of do I live with this pain and see how long I can take it knowing it will only get worse? Or do I risk having surgery to remove and replace with a homegrown boob from my tummy tissue.  But this is a huge risk in itself as due to the pain sensitivity I suffer (basically my brain doesn’t turn off the pain sensation very well!), and the fibromyalgia – which may or may not ease? and add on the joint pain, fatigue etc etc bla bla bla…… equals big huge decision as I could be so much worse off – I could end up with boob and tummy pain.  Not to mention all sorts of whatever else could go wrong! But I’m not going there so google that yourselves!

Anyway, with delays in between, finally I have a date for surgery with Dr Matt Griffiths my plastic surgeon…..

He is quite popular in North Essex! Every nurse, secretary, or anyone I meet or speak to seems to totally adore him!  I think this is a good sign! I trust him, he’s got many years experience, he is honest and direct.  No fluffing around. I like him!

Although I haven’t found the exact combination of surgery I will be having online to watch via youtube Mr Griffiths has done in the past with a few patients.  Check out his website for more info if anyone is interested… www.matgriffiths.com.

So this is the man, with his team of course, who is going to be chopping me up on Tuesday…..or re-sculpturing my body….or trying to mend me, whatever way you look at it. This is horror movie stuff – I hate horror movies!

After the removal of the implant, strattice and scar tissue – which in effect is another mastectomy with less blood, I will be having a DIEP (Deep Inferior Epigastric Artery Perforator) surgery to replace – eeeek!

This diagram may help you understand. Basically remove right breast implant, cut chunk of tummy, reposition belly button, sew up, connect tummy blood vessels to chest and sculpt (or stuff out) a boob shape with tummy tissue. Sew up. Ta da!

It’s huge! I’ve been told 6 months recovery to back to normal.  I have 2 months to do this! I need to get back to work in September! But Dr Griffiths has emphasised I must not have any expectations at all.  And I will have quite a few more tweaking operations to follow.  I can do this.

I am really trying to keep positive and focused but I am scared.  There are so many ‘what ifs’ and ‘what could happens’ and the totally unknown.  I have nothing to compare to and I’m doing this voluntarily – sort of.  Am I mad?

I am worried about leaving my family.  I’ve never even been away from them except when I’ve been in hospital! I hate us being apart – we are a team. And now I need to leave again and I don’t like it.

Phil and Nathan are taking everything in their stride.  It helps that Phil is off work – it’s worked out good he was made redundant! Everything happens for a reasons! Although ask me again in 6 months.  Nathan only has a week left of college and both school and college have been really supportive.  But Lewis is not good at the moment – things are getting to him – it’s hard to reassure him.  What you see is not what you get with Lewis – he’s a sensitive soul.  It’s so tough on the kids.  And to top it off Freya and Nathan are both poorly with a rotten cough and cold.  Phil will have to look after them until I can help again – he is amazing and will be fine and I have my mum near to help now too (thanks mum). I love my family x

Please everyone support them – we have a tough time ahead as a family.

So enough about my worries! I am sure you all understand – it’s horrible.  But I am in good hands and everything will be fine.

I hope to have some of my close family and friends visit me so if anyone needs to know I will be at Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford on E320 Stock Ward under Mr Matt Griffiths.  Visiting is between 2pm to 8pm but please message or text me first 07817 645486 – no surprises!

Thank you all for your support, kindness and well wishes – I will let you all know how I am as soon as I am able, much love xxx

 

Thursday 22nd June 2017

Well the last few months have been crazy! Someone up there is sure throwing stuff at my family! So here’s the update…..

So just to recap…. my cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer in April. She is doing well and was caught early so she’s had a double mastectomy and reconstruction and is lucky enough not to have to go through chemo or radiotherapy. Couldn’t ask for better news!

Keep checking those boobies girls! Early diagnosis is crucial and remember sometimes there isn’t anything visible like me, so go with your gut feeling and don’t hang around getting checked. These lemons are a great guide!

Because of my cousin, my consultants decided to delay my surgery and await further genetic testing as 4 out of 6 of us had now been diagnosed with breast cancer! I have already had BRCA testing and the results were negative. This time I had PALB2 testing and I found out last week that this is negative. Again, brilliant news for my family – especially Freya.

We needed to wait as if the cancer had been genetic then my ‘good’ boob would need to be removed too and if this had been the case my tummy tissue would have needed to be shared between the two. As I have said in the past, if it was my choice alone I would opt to have had both removed as a precaution.  Unfortunately, under North Essex it’s not the hospitals policy to do this unless the cancer is found to be genetic.  But it would have been silly to go through such big surgery without finding out first.

Anyway, today we had an appointment to see my Breast Consultant – Dr Liptay-Wagner and he has booked my surgery to be on Tuesday 11th July with Dr Matt Griffiths – my plastic surgeon.  That’s in 3 weeks! This will now be the original surgery plan – which is to remove the implant and the capsule and replace with my tummy fat on the right side only.  Then at a later date when the new (hopefully less painful boob) has settled and been tweaked etc, I will then have ‘symmetry surgery’ on the left side to even up.  As my tummy won’t be needed for this surgery, as the breast tissue will not need to be removed now, it makes much more sense to do at a later date.  This should reduce recovery time for me too.

So what else has happened you ask?

Only that Phil got made redundant! OMG! What a shock – RBS literally shut London office apart from some skeleton staff.  The saying “it never rains but it pours” springs to mind!  But we can do this! We are a strong family and we’ve been through worse.  So things have been busy here building a plan of action! And the other saying “every cloud has a silver lining” comes to mind too! I have focusing on this one more!

Firstly I’ve been trying to work some extra hours as I finish for the summer tomorrow!  I am tired! But this warm weather eases my bone and joint pain a little so I’m finding I have a bit more energy.

Another big positive is that I got to see my students through to the end of the year. Here’s a few pictures of their end of year Art exhibition…..

  

It has also been very sad as my friends in the Art, Fashion, Photography and Music departments are relocating to Colchester.  Unfortunately I won’t be relocating with them at this point – maybe in the future, who knows.  But at the moment I need, and want to stay in Braintree Campus.  So who knows where I’ll be supporting in September.  Maybe bricklaying? or engineering? or evening with the electricians? The main thing is this gives me a focus to heal and mend after surgery to get back to work in September.

It also means that we won’t be getting away on a holiday but maybe at a later date, we shall see. Will give us something to aim and look forward to in the future.

So plan for Phil?  He doesn’t want to return to office work! At first I thought OMG! How are we going to afford to live, feed the forever hungry family, pay the mortgage etc etc.  But then I calmed down and thought the most important thing is that my husband is happy! Happiness is important as hopefully it will help to keep him healthy too! His health is very important now.

So he’s starting a few new ventures.  I’ll inform you more as they happen but to start with he will be freelancing in odd jobs to see what he actually enjoys and wants to do…. lawn mowing, bicycle repairs and servicing, car washing and valeting (have you seen how sparkly our cars always are!), house clearance or taking to charity, setting up new computers for people or advice etc etc or just an extra hand to build a shed or whatever!  He’s very useful and I’ve decided to rent him out for the summer and share him with you all!!! ha ha!

Please checkout his Facebook page “Holiday Help” and share for him…….

Over the summer this will also work well with Freya’s Animal Holiday Hotel and Care business.  That’s how he came up with the idea.  So many people go on holidays over the next few months.  Freya has quite a few bookings already.  But we always go along to help her out – especially with the multiple animal feeding and quite often the grass and garden get overgrown or need watering or odd jobs could be done.  This way people come home to a lovely garden and home and happy animals too! It means that I most probably won’t be able to help out much this year – who knows but at least Phil will be about now.

Our family life is important and I hated it when Phil had to work such long hours in London or travelling when the boys were little. I appreciate how hard it is as a single parent as I might as well have been then.  He’s been lucky that he’s been able to work from home all these years and especially while I’ve been sick but it would be unlikely in a new job if he stayed in IT.  We may never have lots of money but at least we’ll be rich in family time! And who knows he may dip in and out of IT locally – he’s an excellent project manager!

There has been lots of other minor stuff happen too that I won’t bore you all with – but the other major thing was our little (or quite big and fluffy now) Dill dog has been so poorly again.  He’s had a grass seed or something work its way to his neck.  Remember Lewis’ thorn in his hand last year? Well similar.  He’s been on antibiotics, he’s had surgery to flush, but they couldn’t find what was causing the abscess.  Today he has had his stitches out and now we have to wait to see if it swells again.  Fingers crossed.  Silver lining? he’s insured and it’s not cancer! Yay! But he’s also become very clingy to his humans and has been sleeping on our white sheets in this sweltering heat! Nice for him, not much sleep for us! ha ha.

Please universe stop throwing stuff our way now.

So put 11th July on the calendar please all those close to me! I will be in hospital for at least a week or two at Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford and I would love some visitors if anyone fancies a chat and a catch up from a hospital bed?  I will update you more about surgery after my next meeting with Plastics. Until then, thank you for all your love and support – please don’t get bored as I still have a long way to go!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday 26th April 2017

Let’s start with some good news!

We have a brand new lovely kitchen!

I’ve been planning and budgeting since last August and I am so glad I did so much research. We came in just under budget (£7000 – thank you Triumph Stag!) which I think is good for a kitchen considering what we had to have done.  So we are officially poor again but it looks amazing so worth it! Check it out – here are some progress pics:

New lowered ceiling to meet the tops of the cupboards and tidy up some pipework:

New plastered ceiling, walls and screed floor.  Units going up, new flooring and oak worktops:

 

Painting was sheer agony for me but it’s amazing what you can make yourself do, plus I had a little helper – Dillon:

Ta da! Still a few little bits to finish but it’s pretty much done.  Our fridge still needs to go back as it’s still in the lounge but we are nearly there.

Thank you to Fred Sleap and builder friends! and Angharad from Wickes design team and discounts! Highly recommend Fred and his project managing – he’s a great electrician too.  He was honest and hardworking and will definitely use again so if anyone is looking to get a new kitchen fitted or some work done find Fred via facebook or message me for his number.

We love our new kitchen and the whole family is cooking! It’s making such a difference already! Food helps to make happiness in our house!

Since I last wrote we’ve also had a great month of birthdays to celebrate!

Nathan was 17 and is now on the roads learning to drive! Freya was 12 and we are stretching out her birthday celebrations with a spa day this Saturday to celebrate with her girlie friends. Phil was 50! That’s half a century! We had fun with friends at ‘Friends’ Chinese in Halstead.  We even got the bus there! Such a fun night!

Even the dogs got involved! Happy 50th Daddy!

So lots of good things to focus on – hold that thought!

Now for the not so good news I’m afraid…..

Someone very close to me has just been diagnosed with breast cancer (in her 40s).  I can’t say who as I need to respect her privacy but this diagnosis has rocked us all again. It has made me feel so sad that someone else dear to me will have to go through this.  We are a strong family and we can help each other because that’s what we do.  It’s been caught early and hopefully not spread further than the breast and she has good care.  In fact my breast consultant said he knows her breast consultant and she is extremely good which was great to hear.  She’s in good hands! I will keep you posted as much as I can.

Which leads me to my meeting with my breast consultant Dr Liptay-Wagner (he is now my takeover from Dr Chakravorty)…..

So this news has also impacted my next surgery as it could now be genetically linked.  I gave my genetics doctor – Emma Williams – a call to inform her of the recent news and she is working out the impact on our family risk factors now.  But more importantly there is a new gene called PALB2 that has recently been found to link to Breast Cancer.  She is going to use my DNA to test for this but it will take 6-8 weeks to get results.  I have already been on a trial for genetic testing and the BRCA genes came back negative, which was a relief.  I really hope this is negative too but on the other hand if it isn’t then it’s better to know, right?

I also messaged my plastic surgeon – Dr Matt Griffiths – about how this may impact my surgery which should have been in the next month.  All a bit confusing but this meant I needed to go back to my breast consultant to discuss.  So urgent meetings were arranged with Dr Liptay-Wagner.

So just as a reminder….already my surgery is complicated – it involves removing my painful implant, scar tissue and strattice – so in effect a mastectomy again. The implant was done well by Dr Chakravorty at the same time as a mastectomy, and at the time I was very slim (under 7 stone!) so not an option for DIEP surgery (which is taken from donor sites to rebuild a boob with your own flesh).  But this was a new skin preserving procedure and there was always a risk of rejection and that the implant would need removing.  Unfortunately the radiotherapy I had afterwards has tightened the implant and caused scar tissue which is worsening and causing so much pain all of the time.  There is also a possibility that my body is fighting against the implant as a foreign object causing all the body pain I am constantly suffering.  But we won’t know this until it is removed of course.  So many things to consider. But the implant has to come out – we’ve tried it, it didn’t work, it now needs to go no matter what.

So this is the op I’ve been waiting for.  At the same time my plastic surgeon – Dr Matt Griffiths – would then use a whole section of my tummy – hip to hip under my belly button – to reconstruct the right boob (to a little mini boob) – using my own flesh.  Then the plan was to reduce the left side at a later date for symmetry. We had a plan.

But with this latest news we needed to discuss the possibility of the cancer being gene related.  Which would mean that my left side would need to be removed for risk reducing.  I hear you ask “why not just take them both away and be done with it?” But it’s not as simple as that……Colchester and Chelmsford and many other trusts do not remove a good boob unless the cancer is tested to be BRCA gene positive (we are negative), in which case would be removed as a preventative measure.   It depends where you live and what your hospital trust’s policies are as to whether a double mastectomy is agreed.

I must say at this point that normally if breast cancer was to spread it would not spread from breast to breast – it would more likely move to bones/lungs etc.  But even knowing that and having mammograms to check I would still opt to have the other boob gone too and especially due to the fact that it could now be gene related – even if it’s a gene not yet known.  Or it could still be just a cruel coincidence.

If this is the case then we don’t really want to use up all my belly tissue on one boob as what would we do at a later date if we needed it for the other side too? I have some bottom and thigh flesh but still not much.

I think it is worth the risk to have both removed in the same surgery and use both sides of my tummy to reconstruct on both sides – very small but enough to enable me to stretch my arms above my head to still swim and yoga etc.  That’s all I ask.  Who looks at my breasts now anyway? Just doctors! And as Phil said we can just tattoo me later to make me pretty again as I’m going to look like a patchwork quilt.

Yes it is a big risk, longer surgery, more recovery, more sites that could get infected.  It’s scary.  Anything could go wrong but I’m trying not to think of that.  I would rather risk it now while I’m fit and healthy than later down the line find out I should have had it done. So difficult.  But this isn’t my decision, or my consultants alone.  It may sound like a ‘no brainer decision’ but unless it is proved to be genetic decisions like this have to be taken to a board meeting.  The next meeting is mid June.

So discussions with Dr Liptay-Wagner resulted in my surgery being postponed to at least June/July.  This way the decision will be obvious if the gene test is positive but even if this one comes back negative it could still be genetic! We just don’t know.  I will also be sent to see a counsellor to talk about how this news has impacted me, my family, screwed with my mind, made me a bit crazy and worry like hell etc etc and this report will be used as evidence in my case for the board, as well as the gene test.  We will wait to get the genetic results and they will also discuss with the Genetics consultant on the family risk.

The removal of both breasts at the same time and reconstructed using my tummy will be discussed at the board meeting.  The surgery is possible, makes it longer and riskier – Dr Griffiths on the right and Dr Liptay-Wagner doing the left.  They could work together.  That would mean one anesthetic which would be better. But recovery would be even worse for me.  Add in the fibromyalgia and hypersensitivity, joint pain etc etc – it will be horrible.

But I still think this would be the best option.  There may be further smaller ops afterwards to sort out but at least the main op would be done.

Again my life is put in other’s hands.  But I trust my team to decide on what is best.  I need to try not to worry.  But this is difficult as again my life is on hold until we know what is happening.  I keep having to remind myself that things happen for a reason and what will be will be. So it just means a little more waiting.  The decision made should be the best one for me (as the board decide!) and if it’s a no then I’ll still have the op on the right side and then the left reduction at a later date as originally planned.  Just a few more months to wait right?

The best positive is that I can help my students at college with their final major project! Crazy I know but this means a lot to me.  Plus,  I am going to gradually spring clean my house! ha ha! there is dust everywhere from the building work!  And just wait for updates. Again.  I just hope I can get back to work in September otherwise I may not have a job!

So will keep you all updated as news unfolds.

Changing the subject.  A few people have asked how I’m getting on with the Doterra essential oils?

mydoterra.com/traceybritten

To be able to test properly I haven’t taken any antihistamines or inhalers for my hayfever.  I’ve also stopped the Amitriptyline I take in the evening – which is to help ease the pain and enable me to sleep.  Brave of me I know but how else could I properly try out? Obviously I’m still taking the Exemestane to keep cancer away.

So the results?

See last months posts for the oils that I’ve been using and for more details.   But so far:

I’ve been massaging the ‘Deep Blue’ products onto aching joints and muscles – this helps for about half an hour but not for long. It smells good and I would definitely buy, but for me I’d have to constantly be using! I use every morning after a shower, during the day using the roll-on (especially on my wrists), and all joints again before bed.  Not sure how long this will last but I only need a very small amount, so I feel this is good value for money.

I absolutely love these little roll ons.  They are good value and easy to take and use everywhere.  They are the best things ever at the moment! Def recommend!

I can’t report on the tablets I’ve been taking yet but I certainly don’t feel worse for taking them.  And I definitely seem to have more energy for taking them.

I’ve been diffusing the oils every day.  This is brilliant! The smells are divine, much safer than a candle too and cheaper in the long run.  The house smells so good too and you can change the smells by what oils you drop in.  For £20 off Amazon it’s brilliant!

If I had to choose just one oil it would have to be Lavender! It’s cheap and good value as it can treat so many things.  The Doterra product is a really high quality as I have lots of other Lavender oils and I can immediately smell the difference.  I’ve been using Lavender at bedtime to help sleep, relaxation and for my allergies and all is really good.  Being off the amitriptyline I have noticed that I am in more pain which wakes me so I will probably have to go back onto this for my own wellbeing long term.  But the lavender is definitely helping me get to sleep, calm my mind and keep my hayfever at bay at the moment.  Usually I would be pretty bad due to the grass cutting and blossom trees this time of year!

I absolutely love Frankinsense but it is very expensive and I would just use too much of it as it smells sooooo good.  If cancer came back – I would definitely use but this oil but at the moment it is a special treat.

Lemon is another favourite (along with the wild orange, lime and lemongrass too!).  I’ve been dropping in my hot/cold water every day and diffusing – it is so uplifting.  If you suffer from low moods or allergies then this is worth every penny – it is cheap to buy too. Love it!

Lots of the other products are great too – the Onguard hand wash, toothpaste, and the deodorant are all fab.  But worth the cost? Not sure yet – depends how long they last.

I use all of the oils and I love having the selection for different needs.  I look forward to sharing my findings with you all! Watch this space.

Also check out my hair!

Some days it doesn’t go so curly! I think it is finally looking more normal! Or the weight is pulling the curls out.  Either way, I’m liking it more!

Take care all – will message again soon when I know more. Thank you for reading x

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday 23rd March 2017

Everything’s progressing…..

No surgery date yet but things are happening.

I had to go for a CT Angiogram with contrast dye as part of planning before surgery. This scan was so Dr Griffiths (my plastic surgeon) can be sure where my blood vessels are as they are needed with the skin graft to keep the flesh alive. The micro surgery is what takes so much time so this scan is very important.

Unfortunately I am allergic to the contrast dye so I always need a little more planning.  I had to go to Nuffield hospital in Brentwood – it’s a private hospital but does NHS scans when needed but this means they don’t have any of my notes! Luckily I know a lot about my health and treatment now but I was so impressed with their organising and planning for me.  I spoke directly with the Radiologist doctor several times before this scan as I needed to be on stronger antihistamines to help prevent another reaction as each one is much more risky.  Luckily I seem to be ok with a contrast dye called Visipaque which they used in the end.  I was going to have a different contrast but they decided that it wasn’t worth risking even though it would have given a clearer scan.  I was relieved to say the least.  In this scan they have to inject dye into my veins.  It’s the scanner that looks like a giant white donut.  You get moved in and out of it and have to hold your breath when they say.  The dye makes you feel warm and need a wee! But it’s fine. It takes lots of pictures of your insides from all different angles – it’s really interesting!  I even got given a free CD of my scan. Here are some pictures. I had a paperclip taped over my belly button as a marker.

You can see I have a couple of really strong blood vessels that I think Dr Griffiths will use which lie either side of my stomach.  Unfortunately not a lot of flesh to build a boob but can’t have everything.  Main thing is to remove the implant and any damaged skin and scar tissue and then patch it up with my stomach tissue.  Will detail more soon for anyone interested and will let you know as soon as I get a date.  Although I have a busy April ahead so I hope it’s not too soon!

I have a mammogram scan tomorrow to check the ‘good’ boob – just to be sure there is no cancer there before this op so fingers crossed as that would be a disaster!  Mammograms are always a bit scary as they always bring back memories of the Cancer diagnosis day.  But needs must and better to have.

So how am I?  My body is like a weather vane! I can definitely tell when the weather is cold or damp! But on the whole I am good.  I am concentrating on keeping fit and well and building my strength ready for surgery.  I feel so happy, positive and strong.  I can do this! It’s almost like being an athlete and getting ready for a big race!

What am I doing for this? Well there is a story here.  And you know how I love a bit a research!

So for a little recap…….

I already eat really well – lots of fruit, veg and nutritious foods – very little sugar, dairy or white foods, no processed foods.  I exercise by walking, swimming, yoga etc.  And I don’t drink or smoke – sometimes the very occasional cider but that’s it. I drink lots of water and herbal teas.  But if I really want chocolate or a biscuit then I will.  You get the idea. It’s getting the balance but if there was ever any signs of the cancer returning then without a doubt I would be stricter!

I really don’t want to take a lot of conventional medication.  I am on a daily Exemestane (which keeps the cancer away – it’s a hormone inhibitor) which I need to take for a very long time (10-15years!)  And I’m also on a 10mg amitriptyline before bed to help me sleep with the fibromyalgia pain – it dulls the nerve senses.  It’s important to get plenty of sleep so then I can work through the rest.  But I would like to try and do without this.  So I’ve been researching what I can do naturally.

A little while ago I tried CBD oil (cannabis oil without the addictive stuff!)  There is a lot in the press about this.  I wanted to try this to help with sleep and ease the fibromyalgia pain etc.  I tried Hemp oil first which didn’t really do much and was gone in a flash.  I would say that the CBD oil definitely took the edge off the pain but it didn’t make it go away.  It’s also very expensive (£60 per tiny bottle) and that was for the lower concentrate too. I decided that it didn’t work well enough for me to justify the expense.  But it was worth trying.  There is lots of research happening and if anyone was thinking of giving it a go then I would recommend if you can afford.  I got mine from CBDBrothers.com. I would think you’d have to use a higher dose to actually help prevent cancer growth but I am sure things are going to start happening with this in the medical world.

So meanwhile I’ve continued with my herbal remedy.  My herbalist is Louisa Hallowes (www.louisahallowes.com).  She’s a wonderful contact and I would recommend her to everyone! She is very reasonable in cost and I just text or call her every 6-8 weeks to tweak my herbal remedy to what I need it for and order.  This costs about £25 which I think is totally do-able and really worth it!  I can actually feel it working when I take it. Louisa is also a naturopath so she has lots of other nutritious information.  I am now addicted to Dandelion root coffee! I love this stuff and it is so high in vitamins and minerals (could maybe help to keep cancer away too!).  You just brew it like a tea and it’s so good for you.  I use blacktrap molasses in flapjacks, eat lots of porridge oats and only drink oat milk now too (I can’t have almond milk due to allergies), and of course I’m taking the Vitamin D and K drops for my bones.  But this month’s tincture is all about building me up – it has lots of herbs for energy, stamina and immunity ready for surgery.  But I especially like the Shatavari which is for my yin and gives ‘the strength for 100 husbands’ according to ancient ayurvedic texts! We shall see! I could do with that strength but one husband is enough!

But I still felt there must be something else I could do to help myself…..

I’ve been reflexologying my own hands, I’ve been practising the EFT (tapping) but I keep falling asleep! But I still felt there must be something else but I didn’t know what. I’ve already tried acupuncture, wasn’t sure about kinesiology but all costs so much which I just can’t sustain financially.

….but then….. it all started with a candle!  I had a beautiful NEOM candle – it burned and smelt so well.  But when I went to buy a new one it was £45! for a candle! That’s when I started thinking of using essential oils to make my own.  Just thinking! And then suddenly Jennie contacted me….

My friend Diane’s, sister came into my life! Jennifer Varney is one amazing and inspiring lady.  Last August Diane (who I work with) gave us all the bad news that both her sisters had been diagnosed with cancer. Just awful to hear of more people having to endure this terrible disease.  And that’s how I knew of Jennie as she was one of Diane’s sisters. But she decided to refuse conventional cancer treatment and continue with treating herself naturally. Cancer is a fungus! Cancer are cells that reproduce out of control! So this means no sugar or processed foods to feed it and the body needs to be alkaline – exactly what I did when I was diagnosed – and what I pretty much  still do.

But she was a homeopath and also used essential oils.  So she has been using Doterra pure essential oils – digesting, diffusing and applying – especially frankincense.  She was diagnosed last August with 4 cancerous tumours in her body – lungs and stomach I think.  Now I have read a lot of books and information on the internet about how people have helped reduce cancer tumours naturally but I have never actually met anyone in person.  You always have a tiny little doubt when reading a book.  Jennie had her most recent scans a few weeks ago when she was given the news that the cancer had almost gone!  In fact she only had scar tissue and a very small legion (0.5cm) on her lung – the doctor thought she had had chemotherapy or radiotherapy it was so good!  She looks and feels great, she still has pain where the cancer was and gets very tired but she just glows!  I have seen her doctors reports – so amazing!  Now I am no doctor and I’m not saying this is for everyone or could work or anything.  We are all different and there are a lot of cancers.  I decided right from the start that because I was reasonably young and had 3 children still young I was going to try everything to blast the cancer away – I was not going to risk it so a combination was for me and still is. But I am proof as how eating well can make chemotherapy extra powerful!

Anyway, we had a great day together last week.  We tried all sorts of essential oils over my body to see how I would respond and what I liked the smell of or was drawn to.  I smelt divine!  I use the common essential oils anyway and I love my herbs and edible flowers and veg in the garden.  But there was such a difference in smell from the Doterra oils and the ones I had already. You could literally smell the difference! I had already done a little bit of reading up on the Doterra products and I loved their ethos and quality and testing.

We also tested my body with a clever little gadget to see what essential oils my body needed – not exactly sure how this worked but it was interesting!  I came home with lots of oils to try out!  But I didn’t need persuading – this was right for me, it felt right – this was what I’d been looking for. I could help myself, my family and lots of other people too! There is no hard selling of products, no pressure, but if people want to buy then great as I get free gifts if they buy through me.  Bonus!  I can use and test the products and recommend what I like to help others too.  Perfect.  So I ordered a family pack….

…. I have lots of goodies to try and lots to read and research about – this was right up my street!  So I will be using various oils and tablet blends.

I love an experiment and I love guinea-pigging myself.  So I will be trying everything I have ordered on myself either by diffusing (I have a plug in diffuser – costs about £20 from amazon which is fab), massaging over specific areas or applying to reflex points, also taking some orally dropping under my tongue or taking in tablet form.  I will report on how it works and what I think is worth buying – my way of helping!

These are the oils that Jennie helped me choose for their specific properties to treat my specific problems – fibromyalgia pain, implant pain, menopause symptoms, allergies and hay fever, to calm the mind and aid sleep, to help against fatigue and exhaustion, to aid digestion and to help keep cancer away (obviously I won’t be able to draw any conclusions from the anti cancer as I have already had treatment to remove and destroy but worth doing as an added bonus to try and keep away!)

Wintergreen – applied to joints and diffuse for bone and joint pain

Eucalyptus – massage for muscle pain

Clove – massage for muscle aches and pain

Lavender – used neat and diffused for hayfever and allergies, prevent cancer, menopause symptoms, exhaustion, pain, and to calm relax and help sleep

Clary Sage – applied neat to wrists and diffuse for hormone balance, hot flashes and muscle fatigue

Myrrh – applied neat to reflex points for cancer prevention and anti inflammatory

Wild Orange – massaged and diffused for anti cancer, menopause symptoms and mood uplifting

Peppermint – massage, diffuse or in cooking for fatigue, hot flashes, muscle aches and to prevent osteoporosis

Lemon – I put this in my hot/cold water to help with hay fever and allergies, cleanse the body, help with digestion, uplifting – plus it’s great for cleaning the home or washing with!

Frankincense – applied neat or massaged, diffused and drops under the tongue to help against cancer, anti inflammatory, anti tumour, anti depressant, support and stimulate the immune system, help with mental fatigue and allergies – this is my favourite! It smells lovely too!

I will also be taking a variety of capsules daily to help boost my immune system, to ward off illness, for energy and stamina and also for tissue and cell renewal – all contain a mix of essential oils to help build me up to cope with surgery.

My family with be taking the On-guard supplements and beadlets to help keep them healthy and well and Nathan particularly will be trying the daily Food Nutrient Complex as he can’t eat raw fruit or veg due to allergies and tends to eat far too many pizzas so this could be good for him.

I’ve tried the toothpaste which is brilliant and I would definitely buy again but I still like my aloe vera toothpaste too. We also have hand wash to naturally guard against germs!

I’ve been massaging and applying the Deep Blue products already to help with joint pain – this is one of my favourites already.  It reminds me of the ligament oil my mum used to put on us as children when we twisted our ankles! Love it! Phil has been dropping this in a bath and applying to his back.  We are also using Peppermint, Rosemary, Lavender, Eucalyptus and Ginger to aid repair of his herniated discs and help with his back pain.  He is off all pain medications now so this will be good to see if it helps him too.

I have already been diffusing lots of oils so my house smells lovely and I haven’t had to buy a £45 candle.  So in the long run these oils will be a better investment for me anyway.  I already mix my own body lotion (shea butter + coconut oil + caster oil + essential oils – all whisked together)

I absolutely love the mini roll on blends too –  I have a Deep Blue one joints and a PastTense for tension which I will take into college and see what the students think!

Today I went to see one of my dearest (and oldest!) friends, Kath.  She’s been through so much already this year and is now recovering from a hip replacement. She always brings a smile to my face and she is such an inspiration.  I think we will have some fun with the oils together!  We tried a few out on our wrists and she loved the smells.  Doesn’t she look beautiful (she’s 50 years older than me!)

I’ve been using some oils on the dogs too – I will write more another time.  But Lavender is so calming for them and they seem to love it – although they may just love being stroked too. Willow especially liked the smell.

I will keep you posted on Facebook how my experiments go and what I recommend the most.  If anyone is interested or wants to know more please contact me or Jennie Varney via Facebook (please say you heard through me so she doesn’t wonder why she’s getting random messages!) I am sure if anyone wants to know more about how she is fighting cancer then she would be happy to explain further.

If anyone is interesting in buying any oils or products then I have a Doterra website for purchases.

www.mydoterra.com/traceybritten

I’m not doing this as a business as I am too busy trying to keep well and muddle along myself! I am trying to help myself naturally, keep my family well, but also help as many others.  I believe if we can help ourselves naturally and help prevent disease and illness with nutrition and healthy lifestyle – and I think our doctors are beginning to realise this too as I am asked often by doctors what I am doing.

So meanwhile, I am also keeping busy doing some nice things with my family! It’s important to keep smiling and be happy for our minds! Well that’s my excuse!

Me, Freya and my mum went to see Beauty and the Beast at the cinema! It was fantastic! I absolutely love the cinema.

Me, Phil and the dogs have had a few lovely walks to the Five Bells pub with the doggies! Definitely recommend as fab food and really dog friendly too. The dogs love the cheesy chips and a swim in the river! We are so lucky to live where we do.

And to complete my week of doing nice things to keep my mind happy, my friend Hannah (thank you Han x) did my toes for me.  I may not be off on holidays but my feet are now in the mood! This colour even glows in the steam room under the fluorescent lights. What do you think? Flip flops will be out soon I hope!

It’s all the little things that can help us get through each day – one day at a time.  Life is tough and this week there has been some terrible things happen – my friend lost her baby which has been devastating, another friend lost her dad, and of course the terrible attack in London. There is always something bad happening, that’s life. Most of the time we don’t have any control over stuff.  But there is still a lot we can do to help ourselves to get through the bad things that happen – even the small things can help.

Take care everyone and I’ll keep you all updated on the surgery as soon as I know x thank you x

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 3rd March 2017

Still waiting……

But, meanwhile, I have had so much to keep me busy…..

Firstly my poor Phil has injured his back by just twisting! Not good – really bad in fact. It’s been a horrible 7 weeks or so for him and us. He’s been in such agony as this is the worst he’s ever had his back go. It was so bad at one point that he actually passed out due to the pain – luckily I heard the thud and got an ambulance out. So not good. We spend far too much time at hospitals as it is!

Thanks to our wonderful GP’s and NHS he got an urgent (well after 5 weeks) MRI scan which has shown he has a couple of prolapsed (slipped) discs (L4&5). So he’s now being referred to a back specialist and physio. He’s been on a super strong med combination which has also caused other problems – especially combined with his IBS so he’s had that to contend with. Poor Phil. But the good news is he’s img_2767walking better now, managing some yoga, lowered the meds and may even be able to get back to work soon – very gradually as he has to sit a lot for work which has probably led to this in the first place. Positives are that Dill has loved having him around to give him lots of attention and cuddles! If anyone is wondering, Dill is doing great – even though Basil tried to eat him they are becoming good friends.  Dill is like a cuddly bear cub – he’s so naughty but too cute!

As Phil is our ‘strong’ man, and the one who’s at home the most, the rest of us have had to muck in and do loads extra which is so tiring – especially for me. But it’s amazing what you can do when you need to. My family is like the ‘A’ Team!  – things just need a little planning and delegating and we can do it together! Thank goodness the kids are older and can help so much now – so proud of them all – they are growing up so quickly. And I am so relieved it’s not anything more serious for Phil – now I can’t help but worry that everything is cancer! Grrrrr!

I appreciate what he does so much anyway – especially since I’ve been so sick, but it’s made me appreciate him even more.  I rely on him so much for the heavy stuff! It’s like having my own personal Mr Strong! And I think he realises a little of what I’ve had to endure too now – although I wish he didn’t!

It’s also reminded me of what I’ve been through too. Especially withimg_2769 the pain, the meds and the constipation complications! I’ve really tried not to look back as it’s been quite grim. I’ve never really thought of myself as being ‘brave’ – but looking back and being reminded at what I’ve been though I think I have been pretty brave! Although at the time I had no choice really. Sometimes we surprise ourselves! Two years down the line and every single day is a blessing, but where does the time go?  March already!

So we are hoping Phil continues to mend and doesn’t need surgery otherwise we could end up both at different hospitals at the same time.  Time will tell and we’ll cope with whatever is thrown at us, as we have done everything else, as a family.

What else?…..

I’ve been busy at work, which is good to keep my mind occupied – lots going on there – love my job!

I’m still swimming which helps me cope with the constant pain, I think the weightlessness helps so I must try a trip to space some time! ha ha.  Main thing is it doesn’t seem to be getting worse – not better either but no change is good I suppose. I always find it amazing how I can swim over 50 lengths in a breeze but it takes me half an hour to move out of bed in the mornings – but so long as I keep moving I’m fine when I get going.

Not doing much sewing as the house is a mess but I’m working on a small project – I’ve designed my own small piece of fabric which Ulrike help2017-03-02-20-55-16ed us print and now I’m embellishing it with sparkly things!  I think I’ll make a little bag out of it. Looks good so far and I’m enjoying this project….

And of course lots of dog walk2017-02-01-14-13-28ing to wear out our naughty puppy! I love being able to get outside. Dill is learning from the others and loves the stream!

I’ve been planning the new kitchen too (thanks to the Triumph Stag going to it’s new home in Hastings and giving us funds!) I hope to get the work done before my surgery but we will see. The house is in such a mess with kitchen bits everywhere, and the kids are enjoying TV dinners a little bit too much as our dining table has everything on!  But we’re still sitting down together! When the work starts properly I will have to rely on the Thermomix and the BBQ or eating out. I’m getting a bit more excited about the new kitchen now.  Plus I’ve managed to keep well to the budget – 6 months of planning and researching has been worth it!  Will post pictures when done.

I’ve also been spending as much time as I can with my mum.  She’s settled in well to her lovely new house in Colchester and it’s so great to have her near.  I love spending time with her – we are closer than we’ve ever been!

Treasure your family! I do more than ever now – and I couldn’t be doing all of this without them all. Love you fam x

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My beautiful Freya is growing up so fast! This week she had her first period (I’m sure she won’t mind me sharing with you).  What a surprise!  She’s only 11, nearly 12! So me and my mum went and bought up lots of new knickers and girl bits from the feminine isle of Sainsbury’s!  I spent a fortune! Bless her, Freya is so chilled about it all.  I think I’ve been more worried for her.

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer all sorts of things went through my mind. One of them was “what if I wasn’t around to help Freya with her periods?” It may seem silly but this really worried me so much.  So this makes me so happy – another milestone ticked off the list. Every moment is so precious.

I must share something else I have discovered!  I heard about them a while ago on a podcast on Radio Gorgeous by my friend Nicki Bannerman – interviewing Carole Smillie about Period Pants! Things happen for a reason! Brilliant!  Check out the link if you have teenage daughters!

www.diarydoll.com

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All made in the UK! I’ve ordered Freya some pants to try – they look nice too! So will let you know what she thinks.

I am suffering terrible – and I mean terrible hot ‘melting moments’ sweats.  I have actually realised there are some positives I can focus on:

  1. No more periods ever! No more cramps, nothing.
  2. I can dress for summer every single day – even in the winter! (although I do have to wear many layers on top of summer vest tops or dresses but at regular intervals throughout the day I strip down to summer wear!)
  3. I won’t get ovarian cancer as I don’t have ovaries!
  4. I don’t have to have the horrid Zoladex injections to induce an early menopause anymore – it’s all done now super sonic menopause is here!

And that’s all I can think of.  But that’s pretty good really.  I am not even going to discuss the negatives – far too depressing!  The other day I was so hot while I was deciding what to wear to work that I dressed for summer – I had no idea how cold it actually was until I got to work and got out the car! Brrrrr. My work colleagues must think I’ve finally lost it.  And what with the ‘chicken’ hair at the moment too! Oh well!

So what next?

Well, I’ve had my blood tests ready for the pre-op.  That took 5 attempts as my veins are not so great now – we have to wiggle the needle about a bit.  Plus my arm hurts so much more for days after blood tests – think it’s to do with the fibromyalgia sensitivity.  But I’m fine with the actual needle as I can zone out and pretend my arm is a sponge – really interesting.

I’ve got to go to Nuffield Hospital at Brentwood for this CT scan with contrast as apparently they have a more detailed scanner?  Just need to make sure they don’t use the die I’m allergic to! That would not be fun! Dr Griffiths needs details of my blood vessels for the surgery, check the amount of fat on my body for transplant etc etc.  Bit worrying as all the hospitals don’t communicate very well as different trusts.  This means I’ll be between Colchester, Chelmsford and Brentwood.  I’ll need to help project manage this one!  But when that’s done, hopefully a date for a pre op meeting and then surgery.

Will keep you all updated as soon as I hear more.

 

 

 

 

Sunday 22nd January 2017

2017-01-22-10-39-41Brrrrrr! It’s been a cold start to the year and this weather is not good for my body! I hurt. A lot. And I want to hibernate, but it’s still good to get out for a lovely walk – I just wrap up like an eskimo and walk fast! And I feel good when I’m out.

My mind and body have felt really torn in so many different ways, but it’s made me give myself a shake up and a gent2017-01-22-10-01-08le reminder to suck it up and get on with it and stop feeling sorry for myself! I have a family to look after. I may want to hibernate and sometimes I need to but most of the time (in short doses) I feel better doing stuff (even if it’s cold!)……… it will soon be spring!
My mind (and bank account!) wants to work but my body wants to lay in a hot tub (luckily Freya and I do get to do this quite a lot). But I can really understand why it is difficult for so many people with chronic pain to work, get out of the house or even out of bed some days.  I am lucky and I have good motivation and willpower. For me I need to, and want to, so I make myself but it’s tough going – and I only do 2 1/2 days! Working at college also helps me to appreciate how lucky I am to have my family – so many of our young students have it so hard already.

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I’ve been eating a lot, and I mean a lot – trying to put on some extra weight around my middle to help my surgeon build-a-boob! But it is so difficult eating so much when you’re not hungry – just forcing myself to eat more. It has helped me to understand how difficult it is for people to diet – especially this time of year. I am doing the opposite and its hard – I crave celery and salad which don’t have many calories!! Good news is my surgeon has confirmed that there is no need for me to go to so much trouble to gain weight – it’s good that I have and he says I’ve done well, but he also said that the fat would go as soon as I went back to normal eating. He would prefer I continue to eat healthily with good high calories and to exercise (I had cut down so I didn’t burn too many of the calories I was eating – it’s difficult to swim slowly!)  Keeping fit is so important for blood flow and will help me to recover after such major surgery. This means I can stop sitting on the sofa and get off my arse and swim, yoga, gym and walk and be active as much as I want. Exercising releases those feel good endorphins that seem to take my mind off my pain for a bit – so long as I don’t over do it – all about balance again.

In January I would usually be planning nice things for the family for the whole year ahead. This is how I usually get through January’s until Spring! But this year (yet again) I can’t plan. I have some really major surgery to look forward too instead! Just not quite as exciting as a holiday is it? We did think of trying to get away for a mini break but it’s just so expensive for 5 and the family aren’t too bothered – the children said they would prefer we saved up and went somewhere nice and hot with a beach and blue sea later in the year – will be a good incentive for me to heal after surgery!

I still can’t bring myself to look too far ahead yet but I’m sure it will come again with time – so long as I can stay healthy!

At the moment I’m finding little things to keep me going – all the normal swimming, dog walking, baking, sewing, watching box sets on TV with the family (Freya and I are hooked to Blindspot – very good), and Homeland and Game of Thrones are back on soon – makes me rest and sit! Also reading a good book.  The last few weeks I’ve read Ronnie Buckingham’s book, “Medium Rare” – I could have binge read it but I’ve made it last.  He’s a local medium but he’s lead a really interesting life of crime before he realised he could communicate with the spirits – he has reminded me of my own dad so much – which has given me that boost to keep going.  All sorts of things can help – we all need something to focus on and keep us looking forward, no matter how small.

A couple of my favourite quotes from his book are:

“Just rub it out, start again, it really, really doesn’t matter.”

“….you have the ability to change anything and everything in a moment and if you need help, then remember that Spirit is always there, waiting to be asked.”

I’ve also been trying to work out a plan for replacing our kitchen on a very tight budget. It is staggering how much brain power this takes and it’s so exhausting just looking!  The kids are all getting into cooking now – Freya loves baking cakes – the boys are working at the Lion pub – Nathan is an assistant chef and getting great at cooking proper italian pizza in their wood oven! Lewis is moving a GCSE to cooking and nutrition at school so he may get promoted from washing up in time too.  So this would be a great thing for them – I am so proud of them all.  And it will help me if they all cook more at home! So we shall see what we can do. Unfortunately I’m not finding this task exciting a such – more of a needs must as our kitchen is falling apart – it will certainly keep me busy while waiting for a surgery date!

So to update you all – I’ve had a really super busy hospital week – I may as well have camped out there! It’s been tiring.

Firstly, Phil and I met with my plastic surgeon again – Dr Matt Griffiths. My next surgery will take a lot of planning so this is the 3rd meeting now.  He has  confirmed he will do my surgery and put me on his list. Unfortunately as I will need to be in hospital for at least a week after surgery it all depends on the beds available. There are already 10 ladies on his list so I will be number 11, and also available for short notice in case anyone before me cancels.  He hopes I can be booked in for around March/April but it may be later if the NHS keep cancelling his surgeries – he doubts it will be earlier.  He explained he’s already 2 weeks behind due to cancellation because of no beds and if this goes on everything gets delayed even more.  Frustrating for everyone!  But I need to be patient as it’s out of my hands. Part of me really just wants it over with as soon as possible so I can start recovering and moving on but part of me is dreading it so it can wait. Very mixed feelings.

At this meeting I had to strip down to my pants yet again.  The plan is to remove the painful implant and the damaged scar tissue, stattice and any skin that has been damaged from radiotherapy – in effect this will be a mastectomy again.  Then he will cut a large incision from my tummy – hip to hip – similar to a cesarean but bigger.  Scrape out and gather any fat he can get including some good blood vessels and then skin graft this to make a small boob – I have agreed that I’m fine with an A cup or a very small mound so long as they reduce my left side to match at a later date – I feel it will be better to cope with if symmetrical.  Just to have relief from the implant pain will be good. He seemed quite surprised I would make this compromise – but because of this he has agreed to go ahead even though I don’t have much flesh.  He said we may be able to transfer some fat from other parts of my body to fill the new boob at a later date.  It’s going to be a long road.  I will probably have more scaring than other ladies too as he will need to stack the tissue from my stomach but to be honest it’s mostly doctors that look at the boobs now anyway! And in time I hope to tattoo my body to make the scars pretty but long way off yet. He will close up my tummy flesh (luckily stretched from having 3 babies) and reattach my belly button and sew me up. I am going to look like a patchwork quilt.

It’s scary because there are so many risks involved – it’s a long operation with a long recovery time.  I could end up in more pain than I’m in now if it all goes wrong.  But I’ve done my research and spoke to a lot of different medical staff and I feel it is worth the risk.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.

So all in all that meeting went well.

On to the next appointment, which was with my oncologist, the lovely Dr Vivien Loo – we discussed how I was tolerating the medication (Exemestane) which is a hormone inhibitor to keep the cancer from returning or getting out of hand.  I explained that since being on the Amitriptyline I have been sleeping better which in turn helps me to live with and cope with the pain (joints and bones) caused by this medication – it’s still tough but with enough sleep I can muddle along at the moment.  She explained it was important for me to stay on it as long as I can as it’s a good option but also there aren’t really better options at the moment – they all cause side effects! She also recommended to take a good Vitamin D (and K) to help my bones – especially this time of year when there isn’t so much sunshine! So I’ve called on Louisa Hallowes – my herbalist friend for help here, along with a new herbal remedy to keep me strong.


Dr Loo saw my file and realised I have a lot still going on which is grim but so long as I’m ok I don’t need to see her for 9 months! yay! Obviously if I take a turn for the worse with the meds I can see her at any time before that.  So all good.

My next appointment was a long one.  This was a referral from my rheumatologist for the fibromyalgia pain.  So off I went to the EEG Department.  Now this was a fascinating test.  I had my hands, wrists, feet and ankles all wired up in turn to a machine that gave me electric shocks to graph how my nerves reacted.  It was really interesting to see how the img_2599machine could make my fingers and and feet jump involuntarily.  It’s all to do with the reflexes.  The doctor explained that the machine can’t read pain as everyone is so different but they can tell if any of my nerves have been damaged from the cancer treatment.  He also stuck needles in various places on the muscles of my hands, arms, feet and legs.  Bit like accupuncture. This was more uncomfortable especially when he hit a nerve.  It was like having cramp! ouch.  It really looked like torture testing! He said that some people actually agree that it is torture.  It was uncomfortable but do-able.  I found it interesting so that helped.  He found some unusual readings in my wrists that could be signs of carpel tunnel which was disappointing but really nothing much to worry about at the moment.  So all good there too – nothing serious anyway.

What’s next? The waiting game begins! I also need to have another mammogram to make sure the ‘good’ boob is clear of cancer before major surgery.  I also need to have some more speciality CT scans at Broomfield to check out my blood vessels before surgery there.  And there will probably be more appointments.

So one day at a time, keep active and busy, eat well, be happy and just wait……….