Sunday, 19th August 2007; Today is the first anniversary since my grandad ‘Fred Benson’ passed away, and I wanted to go to the cemetery to take him some flowers and see his smiling face looking up at me from his head stone. I thought I would give him a treat and instead of wearing my normal wig; I decided to wear my pink one ‘Candy’.
Obviously every visit back to my home town requires a bit of visiting; my mum, my nana and my two brothers if they are home. I’m so pleased that all my steroids have finished from my last chemo, so at least I don’t feel all drowsy from them, and will be able to enjoy the day for what it is rather than wishing I was at home, so I could get my head down and sleep.
Lee started singing to a song that came on the radio, and in a matter of seconds we were both jigging around in the car singing at full belt. “You’ve been all over, and it’s been all over you. It’s a beautiful day. Don’t let it get away, it’s a beautiful day”. Thinking about it; we must have looked like total lunatics to other drivers passing by. We had gotten about half way when one of my hot flushes came on. Pheww this wig palaver is definitely not good on hot days and in a matter of seconds the wig was off, which must have made me look like an even worse lunatic, bopping around in the front passenger seat, waving my arms around and singing my head off, complete with a bald pale head that defiantly didn’t go with the colour of my bright red face from the flush. I didn’t care though because Lee and I were having a right good old laugh.
We arrived into Thorne and of course the first stop was the cemetry. Lee asked me if I wanted to go in on my own.“No” I replied. “Come with me, my grandad would like that”. So off we went down the path with the flowers in my hand. This time instead of just walking up to the grave I slowed down as we got closer, I could see the back of the headstone and something suddenly came over me; without any warning to Lee I jumped ahead and turned round to face the picture of my grandad on the headstone saying “Ta daaa, do you like my hair”. Lee set off laughing and called me a silly sod. I placed the flowers neatly onto the grave and stood there staring at the smiling picture of my grandad while Lee stood with his arm around me holding me close. I filled up a little bit and wish he was still here with us, I reminisced about the fun times that we had had, the holidays we went on; him popping his false teeth out at me every time I went to give him a kiss, the joking around that he was always doing; hence the reason I did the grand entrance with my hair to him. These memories are so special and even though I have tears in my eyes as I write this, they are not sad tears, they are happy ones for the memories and love that my grandad had given me. My grandad; the joker, the loving family man, the man that never grew up.
I am not a deeply religious person, but I do believe that there is something else after we die, I think there is something more powerful and more beautiful that what we have when we are alive, I know he is still out there looking over me, and watching me as he will be doing with the rest of the family, especially my nana and I sometimes wonder if the reason why I am coping so well with this chemo is because my grandad is actually helping me. They always say; everything happens for a reason, so maybe the reason that my granddad died when he did, was so that he would be able to help and guide me through this journey. Saying that, I still haven’t worked out what the reason is, as to why I have breast cancer in the first place, but I suppose that will come in time.
Walking back out of the cemetery, Lee commented on how beautiful and peaceful it was in there, he couldn’t believe the amount of flowers there were, not one grave is neglected or abandoned; there are Teddy bears, wind chimes, candles and lots of other trinkets displayed along with the thousands of flowers that fill each and every grave. This cemetery is a peaceful and a much loved cemetry.
Next stop was to go to my mums. She is always pleased to see me and as the car pulled up outside, she was out of the front door and walking down the drive to greet us. When she spotted me her face lit up and started to laugh saying “Whoo you got Candy on, it really does suit you”. When my mum bought me this Pink Wig, she had said it was for the down days to cheer me up., I have learnt that this pink wig ‘Candy’ actually brightens up everyone else’s day, which makes me happy to see them happy, the down side to this pink wig is that it is very very itchy, so after my mum had her laugh and made a cuppa for Lee and I, the wig came off for me to give my bald head a right good old scratching. We had a good hour of chatting and then decided to pay my nana a visit. My mum had taken a photo on her phone on her last visit to my house of me bald, no wig or scarf on and had told my nana about it, but my Nana wouldn’t look, she said she didn’t want to see me like this as it’s too upsetting for her to think of me losing my hair and being bald. I think it’s her way of dealing with my breast cancer, for her not to see me bald it’s like she can pretend that this breast cancer hasn’t changed me. Different for my mum though as she has set her phone up so that every time that I ring her, my bald headed picture pops up smiling back at her.
My mum hadn’t told my Nana that Lee and I were going through today so it was a nice surprise for her. She has been made to put the chain on the door at all times by my mum and the rest of the family, and as added precaution she also puts a chair in front of the door too. She hadn’t spotted me and Lee straight away but when she did, her face lit up “Whoo I didn’t know you was coming” she said as she flung her arms around me and gave me a great big kiss. My nana is the kind of person that you know loves you, but has never been very good at showing it, or saying it, until this last year or so, she has mellowed and I think from losing my grandad she has realised that life is just too short and you never know what is around the corner. So today she hugs and shows her love and of how pleased she is to see me and straight away she was giggling about my wig.
Once the hugging was done the first sentence to come out of her mouth was ‘Have you been to see your grandad’? Lee and I told her what I did when I first got there which made her laugh. When I go to my Nana’s I always make a bee line for my grandad’s chair. I get a sense of being close to him by sitting there which is ironic really, cos if his spirit was still in the chair I would actually be sitting on top of him, this thought has made me smile and have just realised, that it is like me sitting on my grandpa’s knee like the old times. We sat and talked; about my grandad for a quite a while and I can tell that my Nana misses him terribly, she is bound to; after all they had been married for over 60yrs. We talked about my pink hair, which she repeated over and over again of how much she loved it and thought it suited me, which is making me think that I do actually suit it now. She asked questions about the chemo and how I was feeling, and with the look on her face, I don’t think she actually believed me when I told her that I was feeling really great.
The subject soon went to the hairdressers, my Nana’s favorite pastime. She has for years always gone to the hairdressers on a Friday and everything has to be planned around it, it’s not just about having her hair done, it’s a day that she can get together with the same ladies every week and have a right good old gossip. My mum doesn’t like it when she switches subject from me to her hairdressers, and thinks that I should be the centre of any discussion. Understandable I suppose, as I am her little girl, but sometimes it’s nice for me to get away from the subject of cancer.
Every time my mum goes round to my nana’s she always asks how I am doing, so it does show she care’s and thinks about me, the only problem that I have, is why she doesn’t ring me herself from time to time. Everyone is still going to my mum for information rather than asking me, it would be nice to actually hear their voices and to know that they have taken some time out to think of me and ring me on the spur of the moment, rather than think of me when they see my mum, which is how it feels.
I had been sat there for some time and the hot flushes were coming on strong, these made me feel like I had steam coming out from the sides of my wig, which was itching like crazy. I had to take it off. Thinking about how my nana reacted when my mum went to show her the bald picture of me, I did the decent thing and went into the bathroom and changed the wig to a very thin bandana, at last I felt like my head could breathe again. My nana wasn’t really impressed with the bandana look, but hey! It was either the bandana, or bald. I am more comfortable bald, than wearing a wig or bandana but I realise that not everyone can cope with seeing the bald me, after all I have come from beauty queen look, to a bald alien.
I didn’t get chance to see my two brothers today, they were both out but I will hopefully get to see them soon.
It was late afternoon before Lee and I set off for home, I had started to feel very tired and told Lee that someone had flicked off my energy switch again. I relaxed back in the car and of course with the wig and bandana demoted to my bag. I lost count of how many times I had a hot flush on the way home, the breeze from the fully open window was my savior and I can’t remember how long we had been driving before I had drifted off to sleep. Lee told me that I looked quite funny, with my fat cheeks and bald heading bobbing around all over the place from every bump in the road, and I wonder if he purposely went over the bumps and pot holes just to make my head bob about even more, giving all the other drivers that we passed a good old giggle, or leaving them wondering what the hell they had just seen.
When we arrived home, Lee ran me a lovely hot bubble bath which I relaxed back in while he made dinner. It must be hard for Lee, not knowing how I am going to be from one minute to the next, asleep, awake, cherry red, freezing cold or normal and I know that I do have my quiet moments, which I suppose could lead to Lee feeling quite lonely. After dinner, we both got settled on the sofa together to watch a film. Lee knew I would fall asleep through it, but he told me that he was happy just to lay on the sofa with my close to him.
I think I again have put my mum’s mind at rest that I am actually dealing with this chemo really well. Today has given me some happy memories, the smiles that I got from my pink wig and the good feeling that I got when I jumped round at my grandad’s headstone to show him my wig. I am going to wear this pink wig more often, the smiles from everyone else actually makes me smile even more, seeing people smile makes me happy. I love people being happy and if it means that I have to endure a couple of hours of itchy scratchy scalp then so be it. It is well worth it.
Monday 20th August 2007; I had an appointment at the Breast Clinic for additional Blood Tests, Biopsies and a Trace Marker put in for the trial that I am on, I was a bit baffled to why they were putting a Tracer in cos I’m having a mastectomy, but wondered if it was so they could mark the centre of the tumor, so that when they cut it out they could make sure they got good clear margins of cancer free tissue surrounding it. Or maybe they were thinking of giving me a lumpectomy rather than the mastectomy due to the amount that my ugly squatters had shrunk. Maybe they are thinking that by the time I have had my last chemo there will be no cancer left, which would be the best news ever, but I think under the circumstances I would still demand a bilateral mastectomy, after all I have had so many lumps prior and the thought of finding another lump, after I have gotten rid of these squatters and done the treatments would scare the hell out of me.
Maureen came to pick me up and accompany me to this one and I was surprised that once we got sat down in the waiting room at the clinic, we weren’t there that long, I had just picked up a magazine and flicked through the first couple of pages when I was called in. Once in the ultra sound room, I was questioned about the trace marker; my nurse told me that she was puzzled due to the fact that it was in my file that I am having a mastectomy.“That’s what I thought” I told her. She hummed and arr’d a bit and then told me to stay put while she checked with my oncologist whether he wanted me to have a marker put in or not. She disappeared, leaving me in the very same room that just 3 months ago; I first saw the sight of my ugly squatters on the big telly monitor. She came back with a radiologist; “Nope” she smiled “We just need some blood from you and some biopsies” I got settled back onto the bed ready for the biopsy procedure, which I am a super pro at now, it doesn’t bother me one bit and don’t really notice the loud clicking noise it makes as it snaps away a piece of my big ugly tumor. I was feeling rather good as the tumor and white dot calcifications were barely visible on the monitor this time, which just goes to show how much the chemo has worked. Four biopsies were taken and then I sat up on the bed for the nurse to take my lovely red blood.
The chemo and my veins have had a real big fall out; my veins have gone into hiding, which made it difficult and very painful as the needle went in. My blood flowed lovely and red straight away and then just as if the tap had been turned off, it stopped. “I’ve ran out of blood” I laughed. The nurse apologized, as she wriggled the needle inside my vein to try and get my blood flowing again. Nope! My vein wasn’t having any of it, it had curled up into a tiny ball, nobody or nothing was going to get it to come out and play. My nurse withdrew the needle slowly apologising as she did and then got another cannula to try again, the needle this time seemed to glide in, so she must have slid the needle straight down the centre, without hitting or scraping against any of the sides. Again my blood flowed freely but in seconds it dried up once again. ‘Not another needle’ I thought. Again my nurse apologised and said that this sometimes happens with patients undergoing chemotherapy. ‘Sometimes’ I laughed “What I,ve heard, it’s the norm”. As she started to withdraw the needle, my blood started to flow a little again, so my nurse kept giving it a little wriggle to try and keep it coming, rather than have to stick yet another needle in my arm. Stopping and starting it took quite some time to get the syringes of blood that she needed. It was a little uncomfortable and by the time she decided that she had enough my whole arm felt like it was going to drop off, not to mention the stinging and soreness that the wriggling needle had made. The last syringe we didn’t manage to get filled as much as she wanted but my vein had totally dried up, I was thankful that my nurse said that she should have enough to do the tests that were needed and as she pulled the needle out, it must have hit the ‘ON’ button because as soon as the needle left the tiny hole that it had made in my arm, blood spurted out so fast, both the nurse and I panicked to get a swab put on it to avoid getting my blood all over her and my clothes. I couldn’t believe the force that it came out, it must have spiraled up at least 20 foot, maybe there’s a tiny fisherman’s tale going on her, but it did shoot out very high and far. We were both giggling like naughty school girls “Oh I’m so sorry” she apologised again “it’s just one of them things that can happen, when your veins are collapsing from the chemo. “At least I know I’m still alive and you’ve left me some” I laughed. “And at least we can laugh about it too” I added.
Tuesday21st August 2007; This morning I got up as Lee left the house for work and got straight in the shower. I love showers in the summer time; they are so refreshing and even though I felt very tired when I got out of bed, the shower really energized me. I think it must have been my new energizing shower gel, what I do like at the moment is the feeling of the water splashing over my head rather than my hair getting in the way, the feeling is so soothing and I have decided that if I were a man I would not let my hair grow back and would shave it every morning just so I can have this lovely shower feeling. I turned the jet of the shower head on quite high today and whooooo I had a full blown head massage, this shower experience has left me wondering what it would actually feel like with rain drops dropping onto my head, am I turning into a weirdo? I must be because the next time it rains I am going to run out into the garden and do a little dance to the rhythm of the rain drops dropping onto the top of my shiny bald head.
Anyway I’m starting to drool about the shower and rain drops so I will put that into the back of my mind for a moment. The reason why I got up so early this morning was because I had promised Maureen that I would go into Town with her to do a bit of shopping. I’m not sure if she wants anything pacific or whether it was just an excuse to get me out of the house to stop me getting bored, either way I appreciated it.
Maureen didn’t really want anything in pacific; she just wanted to have a look in a few shops that had started their summer sales. We got some fantastic bargains, off the pound rail. I picked up a few summer tops; longer ones to what I normal wear, loose fitting, short sleeve and alter neck styles. I desperately needed them, as the toxins from my chemo have really made my clothes shrink terribly in the wash, this clothes shrinking business is one of the side effects that the hospital forgot to warn me about and could prove to be quite costly, unless; you raid the sales that have a pound rail.
Maureen and I were constantly checking our phones for messages; we were waiting for some very important and exciting news. Lucy had been taken into hospital and was in labour having her first baby. Maureen and I were out all afternoon shopping, we had coffee and once Maureen thought that I’d had enough she took me back home for a rest. Lee came in from work and asked if I’d heard anything yet from Martin about the baby and after I told him no, he tried ringing Martin, obviously because he was still in the delivery sweet with Lucy, his phone was switched off. Later that evening, Lee got a picture message saying “I would like you to meet Alfie Paul Goodwin” Alfie was born and within minutes his little face was being passed around to family and friends by text messages, It was so lovely to see his tiny little face and I can’t wait to see him and have lots of baby cuddles.
It’s times like this that bring it back to me the anguish that I went through trying to conceive and the heartache of losing my babies (Yes I said babies). When I conceived with my IVF treatment, my first ultrasound at 4 wks showed one developing foetus, just two weeks later I miscarried, three weeks later, I developed severe stomach pains and was rushed back into hospital. After an ultrasound I was rushed into surgery with an ectopic pregnancy. Two out of the Three Embryo’s that had been implanted back into my womb had taken, but one in my fallopian tube. I was devastated and this in turn was the start of me turning my life around which resulted in me leaving my first marriage. I could not forgive him; he left me just the day after the surgery to go and work in Scotland even though his boss told him that he didn’t need to go so he could be with me at my time of grief. Time is a great healer and I learnt from this that acceptance is the key, I accepted that I would never have children of my own, like I have accepted that I have breast cancer. My acceptance, I think is why I am so upbeat and positive about the treatment and I know that I will beat the crap out of my big ugly squatters.
Lucy and Alfie were discharged from the hospital the following morning and yes you have guessed it, both Lee and I just had to go visit and meet our new little nephew. He is adorable and looked so tiny in Lee’s arms. Mind you anyone can look tiny in Lee’s arms; he is after all my gentle giant of 6’ 5.
Thursday 23rd August 2007 ; Maureen came to pick me up and take me to her sister Moya’s sandwich bar ‘Poppy’s Pantry’ Another of their schemes to keep me occupied so I didn’t get bored and spend too much time on my own. I think they are worried that I will get depressed or something, anyway, we had arranged that I would help out just for a couple of hours when I felt up for it. I made sandwiches and basically had such a good laugh, Moya really does make me laugh; she is so funny to be around, on top of that, when Maureen and Moya get together you just know something is going to happen. Little did I know that today the ‘something’ was going to be me!
I was dressed in loose white cotton trousers and a thin lose top making sure that I would be comfy. Wanting to make a good impression, incase customers saw me, I had put my wig on and gripped it back into a pony tail, so that the hair didn’t flop around in the food. That’s the beauty of having a long wig; you can still do styles with them. Anyway, the morning went really smoothly and at lunch time, other relatives of Lee’s turned up at the shop; Bridget, Vicky, Young Moya and Siobhan. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and after the shop had finished the rush hour and had gone quiet we decided to have a coffee just outside the back door and soak up some of the sun rays.
All was well when suddenly Moya let out a scream, that was when all hell broke loose. Moya was screaming and flapping her arms up in the air as she ran back through the door way making everyone laugh as she did so. I couldn’t do anything but laugh either even though I didn’t have a clue what was happening. Bridget was the next to scream but as she did so she pointed to me. “What?” I laughed. “Wasp” she shrieked as she ran off in the direction that Moya had just gone. The panic had all been over a wasp and now that wasp was in my wig.“Get it out” I squealed but no matter who I turned to, they ran away from me, laughing and screaming. I could hear it buzzing away and so close to my ear, I tried to flick the hair of my wig hoping the wasp would be flicked out, but no that just got the wasp tangled in the nylon threads even more. Bridget ran to the other side of the shop, Moya was now half way down the street still flapping her arms up in the air, Maureen was squashed up in the corner with tears running down her face from laughing, Young Moya and Siobhan were huddled in another corner and every time I went close to them they started screaming and panicking like raving lunatics. All the time I was trying to flick the wasp out and all the time all I could hear over the screaming and laughing, not to mention the buz buz of the buzzy bea was “Its still there”. Vicky eventually braved it and came to my rescue, some rescue though, she was as scared of wasps as everyone else and every time she got close to getting it out, she panicked and ran off again, leaving the wasp buzzing away in my ear hole.
Eventually she got the wasp out for me, everyone was doubled over with laughter, me included and it wasn’t until after that I realised it would have been much easier for me to just whip my wig off and throw it out in the street until the wasp had decided that it wasn’t fun to be in there anymore. So why didn’t I take my wig off? Well because I was too embarrassed too, Maureen had seen me bald, but none of the others have. It’s a vanity thing, everyone has always known me as the one with the long blonde hair and piercing blue eyes, but here I am now with nothing but a shiny bald scalp and a wig. I could have been stung and yet my vanity got in the way. How long do I expect to hide behind a wig for? Until my hair grows back to the length it was before?I don’t think so, cos these wigs aren’t that comfortable. I am more comfortable without anything on my head, but how do I get the courage to go outside like that. Why am I bothered about being stared at, I was stared at all the time while I was on stage in the beauty competitions, or in the middle of a country village working with photographers on a photographic assignment. Again it comes down to vanity. Today’s society is so up on vanity whether we think it or not, it is so wrong and in so many ways, not just about hair and make-up but about weight and diets. If I went out bald, would I start a new trend that everyone would follow, No I don’t think so! I’m still not ready to venture out into the open world as the bald lady that has got breast cancer.
These past few days have been so good. Laughter is the best medicine and it’s totally free! Through all the laughter that has been created I haven’t had time to feel ill from the chemo. I have not felt half as tired as I did and yet I think I have actually done more don’t get me wrong I still did the most important thing and that is listening to my body, I have had fun and I have rested when my body has needed it. This week has taught me so much. Life is about being with family and friends, and not being around negative people who try and bring you down. It’s having such a good fiancé, family and friends that is keeping me positive, they are my support group and I feel so lucky to have them