I’m sat here not really knowing where to start. When I was first told that I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I dreamt about being given the all clear and thought it would be the happiest time in my life, with me running through the streets screaming and shouting in ecstasy. It definitely was an AMAZING thing to be told (I restrained myself from running through the streets) and I was beside myself with joy and relief that the treatment had worked, but I can honestly say that the past couple of weeks has probably been the hardest. I’m going to try to explain my thoughts and feelings and need you to know that I’m giving myself a hard time for feeling like this because I know a lot of people would kill for the news I’ve had.
The only way I can explain it is that I’m struggling to process the last 4 months. There has been some major things going on in my life and it’s not until now that I feel like they are getting on top of me. I was diagnosed with hodgkins lymphoma and induced for labour on the same day, I had an assisted delivery which has left me with ongoing postnatal appointments (had my last one on Tuesday thank God), I had to stop breastfeeding at 4 weeks so I could start Chemotherapy, I’ve had MILLIONS of hospital appointments to get my bloods checked, treatment, clinic review, scans…. and have almost completed 3 cycles of chemotherapy resulting in numerous side effects with the main one being losing my hair and having to wear wigs/hats.
Now I’ve been told I’m in remission.
How has this all happened in such a short space of time? Until now I’ve got my head down and ploughed on because that’s what I needed to do – the main focus being to get better. There was a purpose, a goal, something to achieve… but being told that I’m now in remission and I still have 3 cycles of treatment left has just messed with my head. I know why it’s necessary and I know it’s to make sure every last bit has been eradicated from my body, and I’m trying to dig deep and find the strength and motivation to get through the next lot of treatment but it is bloody hard. It’s almost got to the point of me spitting my dummy out and screaming “I want it all to stop”. I’m tired, I’m emotional and I just want it to be over.
The psychological impact is a funny one. I’ve never minded needles or injections, and in fact when I had my wrist op to repair cartilage after a netball injury, I watched the whole thing! The curtain fell down in between me and my open wrist and I told the surgeon and nurse to leave it down. It’s never bothered me and I’m not a squeamish person. Now, I’m slowly developing anxiety before each needle, whether it’s for my fortnightly blood test or my chemo. I can feel my body become rigid and my heart beat that little bit faster – I try to act normal and look away or chat to whoever is stabbing me, but it’s difficult. The apprehension of what’s to come seems to be winning at the moment, and I’m desperately trying to combat it. I’ve made the joke to a few nurses now, “you’d think this would get easier” followed by me trying to laugh it off, and every nurse has said the same…. “unfortunately it doesn’t but you just have to carry on”. They know. They know that everyone going through these experiences are struggling whether they admit it or not.
When we were first told that I had Lymphoma at 39 weeks pregnant, we didn’t know which type of lymphoma, the prognosis, the treatment or anything. We heard “cancer” and our worlds started to fall apart. We’d booked to look round a nursery (loads of people had told me that I needed to get on a waiting list or I’d miss out on a place!). This was crazy to me, I hadn’t even given birth and I was already having to choose a nursery to put Baby Aldridge in for when I went back to work. Anyway, we decided to keep the appointment even though we weren’t particularly in the mood to go (funnily enough we drove straight from the nursery to the Women’s Hospital to have a consultation about my pregnancy and the lymphoma) – surreal doesn’t quite cut it. Visiting the nursery was probably the toughest thing I had to do and I didn’t really talk to Andrew or anyone else about it. Looking round a lovely nursery, with children and babies in their appropriately aged rooms, was heartbreaking. Every room had a designated age group, and I couldn’t help but think “will I still be here when the baby is 2, 3, 4??” The thought of not being part of my baby’s life, or leaving Andrew to be a widower and a single parent was almost too much for me to cope with, so I put these fears into a box in my head, locked them away and didn’t open it again. Sitting here now, knowing that I’m going to be ok, has made me think about that poignant visit. It’s unbelievable how life changing these things are, and as I said previously, I’m one of the lucky ones. My heart goes out to families who haven’t had the same results as me and are coping on a daily basis with the knowledge the outcome may be bleak. I’ve been one of those – a daughter who knew her Dad was going to be taken away by cancer. At the time, I had absolutely no idea what was going on in Dad’s head because he just whacked a smile on and got on with things – I’ve always thought of him as a hero, but being on the other side of it now and knowing some of the thoughts and fears he must have been feeling, he truly was an absolute legend. My Dad dealt with a terminal diagnosis from the beginning – my short-lived fear of losing this fight was nothing compared to what Dad went though. I take my hat off to him and to everyone who is having to deal with such a terrible prognosis.
Wow, this is a pretty dreary blog. Apologies if you wanted some light reading. I told Andrew and Mum that I’d started writing this blog and it was depressing and sad, and I was going to go back and re-write it but they both told me not to. The whole point of doing this was to be open and honest, and I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said everything’s been great since I got my scan results. Truth is, I’m trying to process everything and it’s going to take some time.
In other news, Macmillan released 4 short videos on how to deal with hair loss. They are brilliant. I sat and watched them and picked up some tips. There’s one on how to tie a head scarf – I’m sorry but it’s just not for me. I have tried the scarf look but it’s not a winner – I’m opting for winter beanies and wigs. Another one showed a make up artist helping a lady re-apply eyebrows and create the illusion of lashes, and this is the video I wanted. Whilst I still have both, they are definitely thinning and I want to be prepared in case I lose the lot. In hindsight, I should have had micro-blading done before I started my treatment, but it’s too late now and I’m not allowed to have it done until I’ve finished. It’s been an ongoing joke between Andrew and I that he’s not allowed to touch my eyebrows because he’ll rub them off my face (we tend to play fight a bit and with me wearing hats he sometimes pulls them down over my face and then I’ll start screaming “Stop it! Think of the eyebrows!”) Is it weird that we playfight? Anyway, I went out and invested in some pencils to help with the thinning eyebrows and eyelashes… I bought an eyebrow sculpting pencil which is slightly more waxy than a normal eyebrow pencil. It works really well on its own or with powder over the top to give a more dramatic look and the angled edge gives a more precise finish. I also replaced my dried out liquid eyeliner and bought a brown eye pencil. Usually I’d always wear black, but brown gives a slightly softer feel so if I’m having a pale day, it doesn’t look as harsh. This is Macmillan’s YouTube channel and it has loads of videos that people may find helpful!
I also bought a new wig – I like to call her Anya 2. I didn’t want to wear Anya 1 every time I went out as it wouldn’t last that long, so I went for a shorter style. The shorter the wig, the longer it lasts as it doesn’t gather friction from clothes. When I first got told I’d be losing my hair, someone recommended Amazon for wigs…. I read the message and started laughing, “As if I’d buy a wig from Amazon!” More fool me! This was a bargain at £14.99 and I love it. It’s an easy ‘throw-on’ wig that actually looks almost as good as Anya.
As part of ‘operation build my confidence’, I am starting slimming world again. This jelly band around my middle doesn’t seem to be shifting. I’m back on the slimming world bandwagon as I know it works for me, and I’m buying a 6 week countdown to kickstart me before Christmas – first weigh in on Tuesday. Whilst I can’t exercise how I want to, food has to be my main focus. Back to counting syns and curbing the fatty (but delicious) foods! I ordered a lovely short skirt that I wanted to wear last weekend and it was way too tight. Instead of sending it back, it’s hanging in my wardrobe as motivation! On maternity pay, I can’t justify any wastage so I WILL be getting into that skirt for Christmas!!
Hopefully the next post will be cheerier – I’ll get thinking up some jokes 🙂 In the meantime, you can find me chilling in my onesie with my girls xx