Chemo#7

It’s not quite what you expect to see but there to greet us at the entrance to the chemo unit was a bird of prey. It wasn’t long after lunch and the kestrel had just killed a vole in the hospital car park.

Like the bird, I was about to do something pretty violent, in my own way, in order to survive.

Rather than feeling squeamish, I enjoyed seeing such a powerful creature. It seemed like an inspiring sight just before chemo#7. I didn’t realise why until I did a little research while waiting for my chemo cocktail to be mixed up.

Some people apparently see the kestrel as a warrior or a warlike symbol and in battle they use its image believing that it gives them prowess. The bird represent success, victory and rising above a situation.

Wow – I’ll take all of that thank you very much.

The skill of the kestrel is to hover in the air, locate its target and then choose the right moment to strike. According to a mystic on the internet, they are all about focus. When you see one it’s a sign that you should focus on your goals and do what’s necessary to make your desires become a reality.

The bird’s timing was perfect. I’m now entering probably the hardest part of my treatment. The side effects are getting worse and yet it seems like there’s no end in sight to the chemo sessions. Still 11 to go after this one. Even if none of the kestrel stuff is true, it was lovely to see something so special.

It was almost a relief to get back to the business of fighting cancer. This week has been a nightmare thanks to the actions of one person. I don’t even know if they are a man or a woman but The Idiot has caused me lots of trouble. And yes, they know that I have cancer.

I have wasted hours worrying. I even spent a whole day of my precious life just crying in bed. This big stressful thing has come along just when I really don’t need it. I won’t go into details as it’s complicated and I’ve had to explain it far too many times.

The day before chemo I didn’t put on much make-up as I knew I’d probably end up in tears. Ahead I had some horrible hospital tests and the prospect of throwing away huge chunks of time on the phone because of that big stressful thing.

I decided to base myself at Maggie’s Cancer Care Centre. It’s a place offering coffee and support. It’s right next to a hospital but it doesn’t look or smell like one. There are a number of Maggie’s Centres around the country, mine is a beautiful oasis, designed by a famous architect. I was hoping for some friendly words of advice and perhaps some cake. I got that and much more.

make upI was already on my phone talking about the actions of The Idiot when I walked into Maggie’s. I could see that one of the staff wanted a word with me. Once I’d finished my call, I was asked if I wanted my make-up done by a professional. Oh, let me think about that for a few seconds.

The make-up session at Maggie’s was only interrupted twice by my mobile and that big stressful thing. However getting some smokey eyes certainly relaxed me.

Later when I ended up sitting in a hospital corridor with only a couple of cotton gowns to cover my dignity, I looked a lot more glam than usual. I continued to take yet more phone calls relating to The Idiot but I felt stronger. Thanks to some very lovely people, hopefully it’s being sorted now.

From the random make-over to the magnificent bird of prey, life didn’t seem quite so bad. Then during treatment I got an upgrade from chemo club class. I didn’t have to sit in a big pink chair; I had a proper bed in an en-suite room.

Perhaps I got the side room as I was living dangerously. Once again I had opted to cut my steroids. Now I’m on a quarter of a dose. Reducing them before didn’t give me any problems. Mum and my friend Chantal, the flower girl, kept an eagle eye on me. But it was fine. I just slept in the comfy bed covered by a thin blanket.

I dreamed of the kestrel. My warrior bird of prey hovering in the sky, waiting for the perfect opportunity to swoop on my tumour. Attacking it and killing the cancer.

Normally I focus on 007 doing my dirty work. Could it now be a case of move over James Bond there’s a new bird in town?

Chemo#6

Despite a busted thumb, Chantal, my friend the flower girl, offered to drive me to hospital in her van. Although she looked like she was the one who needed treatment and not me. Chantal apparently dislocated her thumb while doing some extreme gardening. Who knew that potting a plant could be so dangerous!

Before chemo we met for lunch at a local pub. There we spotted something unusual on the menu – homemade tonic water infusions. They were kept behind the bar in giant coloured glass bottles with labels written in biro. Designed to be served with gin, the tonic had been infused with things like celery and lemon, cucumber and mint, green tea and pickled ginger.

Tempting as a G and homemade T sounded; I knew that my body would soon be awash with poison so thought it best not to try one. What I didn’t realise is that it wouldn’t be long before I’d get my very own infusion.

It’s been another tough week with plenty of side effects. An almost constant nose bleed, mouth ulcers and a sore throat. Oh and of course, tiredness. A few days ago I felt so shattered that I wasn’t sure if I could make it out of the living room to bed. I desperately wanted to lie down but I feared that if I stood up I’d collapse. Thankfully I did make it to bed without any drama.

An afternoon of deep sleep later and I was feeling better. I didn’t think much more of it. I try not to dwell on the awful stuff. I’m glad that I still have options even if that means a bit of pain and getting through lots of bloody tissues.

There are some side effects that are easier to hide. My hair is just about starting to fall out, again but because the chemo is weekly I shouldn’t lose it all at once. While I still have some left I’m enjoying not wearing a wig every day. My hair is super short hair and when it’s cold outside I cover up with a hat. Even when there’s a beautiful blue sky.

As the chemo cocktail bar is well heated and then some, I left my hat in Chantal’s flower van. Before the treatment can start your blood is tested to check how your body is coping. I was told that I was well enough to continue but I’m low on magnesium. Ahh, that makes sense. It explains all the fatigue.

As always I was hooked up to a drip and promptly went straight to sleep. I woke up just as the chemo finished and was given another bag of clear liquid. This was a magnesium infusion. It wasn’t in a fancy coloured bottle or quite as nice as a proper drink but hopefully the effect of this hospital tonic should give me a boost that lasts for days.

Now that chemo#6 is over it means that I’m one third of the way through my treatment which is brilliant. I now know that I’m pretty much able to deal with the cancer-killing drugs. It feels like the right time to start focusing on the future. However long that may be.

So I’m finally finishing my List for Living. I reckon that I’ll do a post on my new list towards the end of next week. In the meantime I’m looking for some examples of inspiring bucket lists. If you’ve seen any great ones I’d love you to leave a comment for me. Thanks x

Chemo#5

Horse meat. That’s what has been getting me through. Well, horse meat and my knitting friend.

Okay, I’m not talking about the accidental eating of horse. I’ve already done that.

A few years ago I was tricked into having horse meat. I was on a story about a ski resort in Western Ukraine. At the end of filming we had a meal with the people who ran the place.

On the table there was a traditional spread. Vodka, pickles and slices of pure pork fat. Along with the more usual things including salads, bread and a selection of cold meat.

I was tempted by what I’d been told was a local delicacy. I popped a piece of red meat into my mouth. Ham, I thought or maybe cured beef. No, it was raw horse meat. It didn’t taste of much and was incredibly chewy. Then I was told what it was. Eugh! Everyone else found it hilarious.

So how exactly does the horse meat help?

This week has been tough emotionally. Not so much sobbing, but lots of stray tears. They seem to surface so often but I’ve learnt that I can kinda stop them by thinking about something totally different.

I’m finding that focusing on horse meat is working for me. I imagine it red, raw and ready to be disguised as beef. It’s my way of interrupting my cancery concerns. I don’t always want to deny the tears but there are times when I just don’t want to cry.

Like during a trip to see a musical a few days ago. It was a big family outing with mum, my aunts Judy, Rose and Juliet and my cousin Marie. It was a happy occasion. But let’s just say that when there was a sad song, I thought a lot about horse burgers.

As for my knitting friend, that was Sally. She came to keep me company for chemo#5. Not going on your own to hospital makes it so much less stressful. Sally is my oldest friend; we’ve known each other since we were about five. She’s a nurse but that doesn’t mean that hospital visits are any easier for her. We just hoped it wouldn’t be a traumatic day like one of her previous trips.

She saw me soon after my big cancer operation last year. I’d come close to death and was recovering in intensive care. As if that wasn’t bad enough, just before she arrived I had some kind of a scare. The doctors thought I might have had a stroke. I’d come round not knowing where I was and unable to use my left arm. Sally was only able to see me for a few minutes as I had to go off for a brain scan. I was seriously ill; it must have been shocking to see me like that.

This time thankfully it was all very different. I felt strong and alive as we walked into hospital together. We went along the corridor painted with dolphins which leads to the chemo cocktail bar.

The drugs sent me straight  to sleep in the pink reclining chair. It’s lovely to have someone by your side who doesn’t mind just sitting there for hours. I was totally out of it but I knew that I had a friend there if something went wrong.

Thanks to the PICC line, it was all so easy. I barely noticed as the toxic liquid slipped into my veins. The only big scary needles belonged to Sally. I was in such a deep slumber that once the treatment was over I had to sleep for another hour afterwards.

Chemo#5 was wonderfully uneventful. There was no drama and by the time I came round Sally had finished her knitting.

Chemo#4

It’s not even Valentine’s Day but already I’ve been struck by chemo’s very own Cupid’s arrow. There’s now something very close to my heart. I’m the proud owner of a PICC line. For a cancer fighter like me I’m going to get a whole lot more pleasure from it than a dozen red roses.

It’s become just too painful to have needles forced into my hand every week. The veins on my hand are difficult to find at the best of times and the chemo is making them worse. To solve this problem I’ve had a permanent line put into my upper arm where the veins are a lot more juicy.

I went to get the PICC line the day before treatment. Simple, I thought. I had to go into a side room of the chemo ward and it would soon be sorted.

Wearing a beautiful silk blouse, the hospital’s vein expert arrived for the small op. As she was wearing such a lovely purple top, how bad could it be? When she put on a blue surgical gown, I realised I’d lulled myself into a false sense of security. Even then I didn’t quite realise how gruesome it was going to be.

The consultant selected a big vein on the inside of my right arm. After some local anaesthetic she made an incision. A thin plastic cable more than 40cm long was inserted and gently eased into the vein in my arm. Bleugggh!

The tiny tube travelled through the vein up my arm, across my shoulder and then down until the tip was pointing right at my heart. There it will stay for months, until the chemo is over. The other end of the cable now pokes out of my arm but most of it is covered with a clear dressing.

It means that I can’t play netball, swim or have a proper bath. I can carefully shower but I won’t be able to have long hot showers. That’s a real shame. Showers are the perfect place for a good cry. Although I don’t seem to have so many emotional showers these days. I still get upset but I have far less of the raw grief that seems unstoppable. I guess that I’m coming to terms with my new reality.

The restrictions of this chemo Cupid’s arrow are a small price to pay. It’s lovely to say goodbye to the needles plus there’s no need for any more friendly threats to pinch me. The PICC line will be used for chemo to go in and blood for tests to come out. If I get an infection like before and have to go into hospital in an emergency, it can also be used for an antibiotic drip.

The next day and chemo#4 was a breeze. It didn’t hurt at all. Just like last time, I only had half a dose of steroids. It seems I’m not the only one who gets a rush from this medication.

I had a comment on my last blog post from a woman called Janice whose husband who was being treated for tongue cancer, telling me how the day after hospital he’d be out in the garden from 6am wielding a powerful petrol strimmer. She said he was as high as a kite and worked like a dog for two days and nights. Their garden had never looked so good!

The past week has been much better. No steroid high, followed by a crash and burn. Instead I felt good but incredibly tired. I was wiped out. Now I’ve lowered the dose my mood feels more stable.

As always once the drip started the chemo cocktail virtually knocked me out. My consultant, The Professor was visiting the ward. I saw him walking towards me but I didn’t recognise him until he spoke to me and gave me a hug.

I wasn’t much company for mum and dad who were with me for this week’s chemo. As always I couldn’t stop myself drifting off. As I fall into a deep sleep I love to imagine my tumour getting a good battering from James Bond.

On the way to my parent’s home I dozed on the train, again I visualised Daniel Craig, I have to admit it got quite violent. I think of the chemo as 007 licensed to kill my cancer. Normally he has the biggest, baddest gun. On this occasion he took me by surprise as he turned up with a rocket launcher! Good work Mr Bond.

Almost home and I woke up, still woozy from the drugs. On the opposite seat – someone joined me for the journey. I’m sure he wasn’t there before I went to sleep. There was something familiar about him and I did manage to recognise this man.

Smells like…

The other day I had a big cancer flash-back. I was stopped in my tracks by a strong smell. Straight away it made me feel very sick.

This wasn’t a disgusting smell. It was actually what most people would consider to be quite nice and Christmassy.

It was a waft of cinnamon and it was coming from a bakery.

For me, this is the smell of chemotherapy.

It was just before Christmas, almost 11 years ago now, when I was first diagnosed. After surgery I spent what seemed like far too much time in the hospital’s chemo unit. The treatment took twice as long as it did this year. Luckily there’s a lovely café. Based in the glass roofed waiting area, it has an inviting aroma of freshly ground coffee beans and warm pastries with a hint of cinnamon.

I was told that it was best to avoid my favourite foods as they could become forever associated with chemo. It meant that if I had all the things that I shouldn’t really eat, then afterwards I wouldn’t want them. It was my kind of diet!

I began with a cinnamon swirl from the café. I experimented with other cakes and chocolate too. And I tried really hard. Despite my best efforts, once the chemo was over, the only naughty thing that I hated was the cinnamon pastries.

When I was treated again a few months ago, the cafe and the smell were pretty much the same. This time I stayed away from the pastries. Even so, cinnamon remains the most evocative reminder of my fight with cancer.

It’s not just this spicy scent of Christmas that I have a problem with. For a long time I couldn’t stand the smell of coffee. These days though I don’t find it too bad. I have a mug of proper coffee next to my laptop as I write this.

Of course, after all I’ve been through, I continue to despise that distinctive hospital smell.

During the first lot of chemo I also became very sensitive to herbs. It was thanks to eating a cheese and basil sandwich during my first ever session of chemo. After that I found the smell of all herbs far too strong to stomach.

So it was very unfortunate that when I moved abroad soon after cancer treatment I chose to live in places that loved dill and I mean they absolutely adored it. In Russia and Ukraine it seemed to be on everything. I even once found some stray dill on a fruit salad in a cafe!

At Besarabska, the most famous market in Kiev, the smell of dill was overwhelming. The roof of the indoor market kept the cold out and the smell of the devil herb in. If that wasn’t bad enough, as soon as you walked in, some of the old lady stall holders would thrust bunches of herbs at you, ‘young girl, try my delcious dill’ they would try to tempt me.

Euuugh, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to willingly eat that herb again.

Just like with food, there’s the potential that your perfume too could provoke bad memories. Almost as soon as I found out about the my illness I stopped wearing my favourite scent.

When I ended up in intensive care after the operation, I was so sick that I could barely move or even focus my eyes. All that seemed to work well was my nose. My sense of smell became heightened. It was strange how it was suddenly so incredibly powerful.

I was aware of everything. Shampoo, soap and hand cream. But especially perfume. I had to ask my family and friends to stop wearing it when they visited. I was so aware of almost every smell. Mostly it made me want to throw up. As I got better, my sense of smell started to go back to normal.

Now that the whole cancery ordeal is over, one of the things I’ve done to celebrate is to buy a new bottle of my favourite perfume. I love wearing it again.

It’s a sweet reminder that I’ve beaten cancer twice. This is the happy smell of success.

Back to the future

Yay I survived my first day at work since the stupid cancer! I’m shattered now but in a good way.

It was such a fantastic feeling walking into BBC TV Centre. Almost as soon as got to the correspondents’ desk I was handed a story – it was great to be back. Yesterday made me realise just how important work is to my identity. It felt like a part of me that was missing had returned.

Seeing everyone again was brilliant. I haven’t done that much talking and hugging for a long time. I’m sure it was all much easier because of this blog. People knew that I had cancer but gave it a good kicking; now I’m healthy and happy.

It was such a warm welcome, like a celebration. And of course, there was cake.

My correspondent colleagues were very good to me. Fetching me as much coffee as I wanted. I could get used to this!

There were times when I was exhausted. Just getting into work was hard. There are two flights of steps from the reception to the newsroom. Before I’d hardly noticed them, yesterday they left me totally breathless.

I felt so relieved to be back. It seemed just the same but also at times very different.

Thankfully it wasn’t a manic day. I managed to delete a few emails. Some were invitations to events that had taken place ages ago. I was erasing part of my life that never happened.

Back in March I went from being diagnosed with cancer to having the operation very quickly. It meant that my next shift after getting the bad news became my last shift. On that day I felt such fear for the future. I didn’t know for sure that I’d be able to return.

But I made it.

To be back at the BBC without any of these worries was incredible.

To be there without any hair wasn’t a problem at all. My new wig was as comfortable as it could have been although that’s not saying much. At times it was hot and kept my cheeks rosy red. I had lots of comments about looking well. I was glowing in more ways than one.

I needed to get a new ID pass as mine wasn’t working. For this I had to get my photo taken. In the picture I appear healthy with shiny hair. Now, every time I use my new pass it will remind me of my first day back.

Returning to work

This is one of those big moments that proves I’m really getting my life back. Today I’m returning to work! It’s exciting to be normal once again.

Cancer steals your usual routine and replaces it with something alien. For months my job was beating the stupid cancer. I’ve done that, had all the evil chemo side effects and now finally it’s time to move on.

I was a bit nervous about going back but not so much anymore. Yesterday I saw a totally new consultant. There are a few medical things I still need to sort out, problems caused by the treatment. Somehow my notes hadn’t turned up so I had to tell this doctor my entire medical history.

It made me realise that being in the newsroom after so much time off is not nearly as scary as any of that awfulness.

Also it made me see just how far I’ve come. Like when I was in hospital after the operation and I virtually had to re-learn how to walk. Back then I couldn’t even imagine that I’d ever be well enough to do my job again. I’d wanted to work during my chemo but my consultants advised me not to. Sadly, I knew they were right.

So it’ll be strange being back at BBC TV centre after such a long time away. Strange but lovely. I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone. That’s one of the things I’ve missed the most. I’ve been promised plenty of hugs and cake to welcome me back.

I’m going to enjoy getting ready for work. My day will have a purpose and structure which doesn’t involve anything medical or daytime telly.

At the same time, it’ll be a test for my immune system. I’ll be armed with anti-bacteria wipes and hand gel. What I’m most worried about though is how I’ll cope physically. I’m having a phased return to work which will make it much easier to deal with the tiredness.

I hope that no-one will find it awkward knowing what to say. Do you mention the C word or not??  I don’t mind either way.

After everything I’ve been through, I think that people may be surprised at how well I look. Appearances can be deceptive. Even when I was in intensive care I didn’t look that ill at all.

Today I won’t be blonde. Raquel and Babarella will stay home. I’ve decided that I’m going to wear my new wig. The darker one with no name. The wig that’s the most like my old hair. In many ways I’ll look like nothing happened. And that’s just fine by me.

Honey honey

I have a carrier bag full of tablets. Pain killers, anti-sickness, anti-this, anti-that. My medicine for the side effects of the cancer treatment is all pretty potent. Some of it is so strong that I have capsules which I have to take first to prepare my stomach for the toxic onslaught. Thankfully most of the stuff now stays in the bag.

This week I’m celebrating a medical breakthrough but it’s not thanks to a pill or a chemical potion – something much more natural – honey. It’s helped with a problem that’s been bothering me for a while. For many months actually.

Medical honey – not to be put on toast!

Before I go on, I have to warn you that there are a few euwghhh medical details so if you’re a bit squeamish, you might want to give this a miss. Otherwise let’s get on with the gore…

So, the operation to get rid of the stupid cancer was way back in March. The wound was held together with what looked like metal staples. I was left with a massive scar. I don’t mind its size as it reflects just what a big battle I fought and won.

A couple of weeks after the surgery they were pulled out (even more painful than it sounds) the skin should have all joined up. That’s not quite what happened.

Once the staples were out, I laid back on my hospital bed and stared at the scar. It looked as if it had healed lovely. But over the next half an hour I watched as part of the wound opened up. It was like a real life horror movie. It seemed like my stomach was being ripped apart. I was totally freaked out.

If you imagine two decks of cards on top of each other, that’s how long, wide and deep the wound was. Just gruesome.

I had a mixture of sickness and panic but the faces of the medical staff didn’t reflect the fear that I felt. They told me that it would improve. I wasn’t convinced. I couldn’t bear to look at it for weeks.

The area needed to be treated every day and then every other day. There was a lovely team of district nurses who came to see me at my parent’s house. Sasha the dog enjoyed having the regular visitors but it meant my life was planned around my wound. Gradually it shrank but the chemo ensured that it never healed.

You might think that compared to dealing with cancer this isn’t really a big deal and you’re right, in the scheme of things it’s not, but it just dragged on. Once the chemo was over it seemed to get worse. When I came back to London it was the wonderful nurses at my GP’s surgery who gave it the attention that it constantly demanded.

My life seemed to revolve around the wound. It was a lingering link to my traumatic time in hospital. Until it was sorted out, I knew that I wouldn’t feel like I was really getting better.

I went back to hospital where a tissue specialist suggested we try putting honey on the affected area. She told me how honey has antibacterial properties and has been used to help with healing for centuries. I was willing to try anything. Medical grade honey that had been sterilised was smeared on my wound. This wasn’t quite the gloopy stuff that you get in a jar but very similar.

I had the sweet, sticky treatment for about a month. It made such a difference.

After 37 frustrating weeks, the wound has now finally healed and it’s a huge relief. This is another step towards getting my life back. It’s amazing that in the end, it was an ancient remedy that came to my rescue.

Hair we go

Something strange happened. I was taking off my make-up recently at the end of a long day.

Make-up is the cancer fighter’s friend. It helps you to look kinda normal and feel good. It fills in the gaps, giving you eyebrows and lashes plus a healthy glow – all the things that go missing.

After my chemo hair loss, I stopped looking at my face too closely and put my make-up on using a rubbish tiny mirror. I didn’t want to focus on what wasn’t there.

Anyway, that night I was removing my make-up. The eyeliner was proving to be quite stubborn, it just wouldn’t come off.

I found a proper big mirror that was well lit. I stared at my eyes and rubbed harder. Then I realised that it wasn’t smudged make-up. Ohhh no.

Amazingly, it was my actual eyelashes. They’re back!!

I was so surprised to suddenly see them again. I thought that it would take much longer. Not only that but I also have eyebrows again! Even the hair on my head has started to come back thick and fast.

I now have a brown coloured scalp. It’s like snap-on Lego hair. It’s way too short to go wig-less. Besides, I didn’t choose to have this very severe hairstyle; this is what cancer did to me. That’s why I don’t want to be seen out in public like this. I’m sure no one would care if I did but that’s not the point.

The toxic treatment takes away much of your identity but it also gives you a chance to experiment. I think that why I’ve enjoyed being blonde. I’ve had fun being Raquel and Candice which came from the hospital’s wig man.

I decided that it was time to see what else was out there and went wig shopping. I tried on plenty of new styles but there was only one that I wanted.

So, what did I get?

Me.

Candice, Raquel, the new wig and Barbarella

I chose to be me again. My new wig is just like my old hair. A bit shorter and slightly lighter but very very similar to what I once was.

It feels much softer and more natural than any of my other ones and moves almost like real hair. For my fellow wig wearers – it has a monofilament top and comes from the Vicki Ullah Wig Boudoir – hey get me!

Right now, my new wig has no name. I can’t think of anything that seems suitable. Maybe it’s because this isn’t a new identity. This is me.

But, don’t worry, I won’t be putting the other wigs back in their boxes just yet. I’m now going to a part time blonde.

It’s in the bag

The first time that I celebrated beating cancer, more than a decade ago, I bought myself something very special – a ruby ring.

The sparkle made me think about the bright future that lay ahead after getting the all clear.

Now, don’t go thinking this was super expensive. After some haggling, it cost me something like £38 in a Turkish market. I wore it everywhere during my time abroad. Its chunky band felt comforting when I was a bit stressed.

But I only realised just how precious it was to me when I was covering the story of a devastating earthquake in Italy. We were staying some distance away from the disaster zone. It was the early hours of the morning and I’d only just gone to bed, when there was a violent aftershock. It was the same strength as the quake itself. My hotel room shook so much that I was convinced I was going to die.

Once it stopped and I’d established that the hotel was safe, I went back to bed. I know that might sound strange but I was exhausted. However I was aware that I might have to suddenly flee the room again.

So I slept with the ring on. It was the only thing in the world I didn’t want to lose. After that I was a lot more careful. For years I continued to wear it and I managed to keep it safe.

That was until the end of last year. Around the same time that I had the painful symptoms which led me to be diagnosed with cancer again, the ruby in my ring cracked and eventually shattered. Sadly, I had to stop wearing it.

Fast forward to now and yayyy once more I’m celebrating killing the cancer.

This time I’ve spent a lot more than £38. I’ve bought myself a Mulberry handbag . It’s something that’s been on my wish list for years.

Coming face to face with your own mortality gives you new meaning. You reassess what’s important and it changes your perspective. It also told me that I needed a fabulous new handbag in my life.

I didn’t actually plan to buy it quite so soon. When I went into the shop with my friend Lynne, I only went to look. Honestly. I saw the one that I loved but I needed to think about it. You can’t buy something like this on impulse.

My friend told me to just man up and buy the bag! I didn’t need much persuasion.

And so that’s exactly what I did.

It’s a fantastic feeling to suddenly have something I’ve wanted for so long. To me it symbolises beating cancer twice. It may be only a bag but it makes me so happy every time I look at it.

Last week me and my bag went to the dentist. You’re not allowed any treatment on your teeth while you’re going through chemo. Risk of infection and all that. It was lovely doing something normal even if it was a trip to the dentist. Perhaps that’s because I didn’t need anything too awful.

On the way home we popped into a little shop on a main road. The man behind the counter said he could help me and that I should come back in an hour.

When I did, he gave me back the sparkle that I was missing. The jeweller had found the perfect ruby and fixed my ring.