Just follow your arrow, wherever it points

June is absolutely my favourite month. It’s a month of blossom and peonies and light, bright evenings. Rose wine, the hope of a blissful summer with high blue skies, more time outdoors. Strawberries. Ice cream. No more opaques, off with the jumpers, fill the fridge with salad. June smells better. I just love it.

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After a couple of weeks that have been frankly, some of the very toughest, I am so happy that June is here. June sees the arrival of my star sign, because yes, I am a Cancerian… A home loving, water dwelling, moon sensitive, occasionally crabby, badge wearing (nicer than everyone else) Cancerian.

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In the last week I was notified by the blog site that my blog had hit 7,000 views. It only seems about five minutes since it hit 6,000 so I was taken quite by surprise. I’m not going to pretend that I understand what caused the upsurge in views, but I can tell you that it makes me happy. There have been a couple of instances recently where people have contacted me seeking advice or information for people in their lives affected by cancer. This is a direct result of people sharing the blog to others and spreading the word. You just never know when somebody might need a little help. It truly worries me that people are not being offered more practical and tangible advice and support. I am more than happy though to fill that gap if I can. Sometimes people ask me if it’s OK to share the blog and the answer is completely and utterly yes. Please share it, write about it, comment on it, talk about and give it life. Let’s remember the point is for me to share my experience and also remind people to be aware of and actively look for changes in their body.

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On the subject of guidance and finding information, there are many, many sources. Ranging from what to buy somebody going through chemo to what to say when you are really struggling to find the right words. I will share a few sites and links here, but there are also loads of books and other sources. Maybe I will do a book review in a future blog, but just ask me if you want recommendations of books relating to cancer.

MACMILLAN is a good place to start. Fabulous charity helping all those affected. From the practical to the emotional. They have helped me with financial advice as well as pointing me in the right direction to find local support. Looking out for friends and families as well. They offer so much and I urge you to take a look.

BREAST CANCER NOW is another great site. Loads of info, blogs, access to forums where questions can be asked. Lots of ways to get involved.

LOCAL HOSPICES. Hospices generally these days are not just about end of life care. They are moving towards supporting people with life limiting illness but also those recuperating. If you are supporting somebody going through cancer (or any serious illness) I would recommend contacting the local hospice to find out what services they can offer. I am really lucky to be under the care of The Hospice of St Francis, in Berkhamsted. The work they do is truly incredible.

BEAUTY DESPITE CANCER is a good find. They provide products that are OK to use when going through treatment and believe me, there is a lot of stuff you just can’t use. Their products are really lovely, good selection of gifts and the site is quite useful in terms of advice and information. So for example, if you had a friend who had sore hands because of chemo, this would be a good site to find the right product to help.

NOT ANOTHER BUNCH OF FLOWERS is a brilliant site. Great gift ideas (not just for cancer patients) when you need something a little bit different. They also have an unusual greeting card selection.

There’s loads more, once you start looking.

That I share this with you during my birthday month is ENTIRELY COINCIDENTAL 😉

In terms of my treatment, I remain confident in my decision not to take The Prof up on his offer of IV chemotherapy. In return I offered him my liver, again, to test the status of the mets, given that was never established in the first place. He turned me down, again. I have been quite astounded by the fact that nobody tried to question my decision not to take The Prof’s advice. Not one little rumble of disapproval or vague notion that maybe I should take whatever treatment is offered. If there was, it was kept well hidden. Everybody seems to have complete faith in my ability to make the right choice for me. I wish I was so convinced. I figure that 45 years of telling anyone that would listen that I am an independent, self-reliant individual may finally have paid off. Actually I think it’s a real credit to those nearest and dearest that they are not trying to tell me what to do. I am hugely respectful of how difficult that must be.

Following the last meeting, we agreed that I would try a different oral chemo alongside a new hormonal treatment. Should you be a fan of the details the chemo is Vinorelbine and the hormonal treatment is Examestane I went to the cancer centre at Elstree a couple of weeks ago, not really knowing what to expect, but given I have started new regimes a few times now, I was pretty relaxed. The blood tests were good, so they started pulling together all the drugs. I was told I would have a strong anti nausea tablet, followed by some toast, followed by the chemotherapy tablets. Previously I took my tablets home and took a dose twice a day. Not this time. I take the weekly dose in one hit, which has to be done at the cancer centre. I was given some more anti nausea and steroid tablets, as well as a whole host of other medicines and sent on my way. It was a nice sunny day so I set off to the nearest park and went for a stroll in the sunshine. Approximately 8 hours later my body decided to eject the poison that is chemo via the nearest available exit. I will spare you the finer details, but it felt a lot like food poisoning on an epic scale. The next day, feeling pretty ropey but better, I started taking the 3 day cycle of antiemetic steroids. It’s hard for me to describe what happened next because it’s frankly a massive blur. I was dazed, confused, wobbly, massively anxious, jittery, angry and felt like I was living on a different planet. My ears were blocked and I had tinnitus like ringing in my ears. I couldn’t really communicate because it felt like there was a wall of fog between me and the rest of the planet. I didn’t feel sick though…

I could go on and on about how awful that week was, but to be honest, all you need to know is that that was the worst week of all the treatment so far. I thought I had lost my mind. In amongst all that, I tried to remind myself that I had taken the “easy option” of not having IV chemo to maintain a quality of life, and that plan had gone horribly wrong. I had to go back the next week to do it all again. I sat in my chemo chair and told my nurse that I could not and would not do it again. After the blood tests and a lengthy discussion which involved a call in to The Prof, we agreed that the worst side effects were almost certainly a result of the steroids, rather than the chemo itself. I agreed to quarter the dose of the steroids and on that basis, went for the toast and chemo again. The chemo had the same effect on my gastric system, but I managed to spend the rest of the week in a much better state of health. Not brilliant, but functioning. This week, I have had a week off chemo and steroids completely. What a blessed relief.

The steroids I was given were dexamethasone – this is a corticosteroid. I won’t bore you with the science, but they effect the adrenal system. They are meant to reduce nausea, boost metabolism, reduce inflammation etc etc. But if, like me, you are apparently hyper-sensitive to a corticosteroid, they make you feel like an irate Martian. Not to be recommended.

Next chemo I am pitching to do it completely steroid free. I would rather vomit myself inside out. Wish me luck.

Somehow or other, I did manage to fit in some fun stuff in between the narcotic meltdowns. My sis came to visit, we ate cake, we celebrated my gorgeous girl’s birthday, I went on a few walks and have again been spoilt with numerous floral deliveries. I got my hair cut. I haven’t missed a yoga session. I even had a weekend away to see another of my gorgeous girls. There may have been some wine.

In a couple of weeks time I will turn 46. Be assured Goz Fam will celebrate in style. The best thing you could do for me to mark the occasion is check your boobs and bits. It even falls on a Friday. Lets all have a celebratory Friday feel.

Happy June. Follow your arrow.

Big Love, AG xx

FOLLOW YOUR ARROW : KACEY MUSGRAVES
If you save yourself for marriage
You're a bore
If you don't save yourself for marriage
You're a whore-able person
If you won't have a drink
Then you're a prude
But they'll call you a drunk
As soon as you down the first one

If you can't lose the weight
Then you're just fat
But if you lose too much
Then you're on crack
You're damned if you do
And you're damned if you don't
So you might as well just do
Whatever you want
So

Make lots of noise
Kiss lots of boys
Or kiss lots of girls
If that's something you're into
When the straight and narrow
Gets a little too straight
Roll up the joint, or don't
Just follow your arrow
Wherever it points, yeah
Follow your arrow
Wherever it points
If you don't go to church
You'll go to hell
If you're the first one
On the front row
You're a self-righteous
Son of a-
Can't win for losing
You just disappoint 'em
Just 'cause you can't beat 'em
Don't mean you should join 'em

So make lots of noise
Kiss lots of boys
Or kiss lots of girls
If that's something you're into
When the straight and narrow
Gets a little too straight
Roll up the joint, or don't
Just follow your arrow
Wherever it points, yeah
Follow your arrow
Wherever it points

Say what you feel
Love who you love
'Cause you just get
So many trips 'round the sun
Yeah, you only
Only live once

So make lots of noise
Kiss lots of boys
Or kiss lots of girls
If that's what you're into
When the straight and narrow
Gets a little too straight
Roll up the joint, I would
And follow your arrow wherever it points, yeah
Follow your arrow wherever it points

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