Back for good

These are the words I never ever wanted to write again. I have cancer AGAIN.

When I first started this blog last March I wrote something very similar. Back then there was hope. I went on to have so much horrendous treatment. I really thought that I’d killed the cancer. Now it turns out that the cancer will kill me.

This is the third time I’ve been diagnosed with the disease. I have advanced cancer, the kind you can never get rid of. All I can now is try to destroy each tumour every time I get one. I’m not terminally ill but I will die a lot sooner than I ever imagined.

The crazy thing is that I feel so well and yet I might be dead by the summer.

The worst case scenario is that I have six months to live. So little time. I’ve been told that it’s a good idea to ‘get my affairs in order’. That’s such a hateful phrase. I’ve started to write my will and think about my funeral. You may be finding this hard to read, I’m finding it almost impossible to comprehend that this is actually happening. It’s unbelievable. This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to deal with.

Can it really be months?? I’m an optimistic person and I just don’t think so. I reckon it’s better to believe that I have ages left to live and be proved wrong, than think I don’t have long and be proved right.

Even so, I have to be realistic. I probably only have a few years left to live. Most likely I can expect five years. Maybe ten or more if I’m very lucky.

As you can imagine I’m utterly devastated. I feel upset, angry, emotional, sad…..it’s just so unfair. I cry so often especially when I break the news to someone. It’s all so traumatic. At times it seems like my head is going to explode as I have so many thoughts swirling around. Right now, the world seems pretty meaningless and irrelevant. Nothing really matters.

It was all so different a few weeks ago. I celebrated my D Day. It was 11 years since the first time I was diagnosed. A big happy cancer-versary to me. To be honest, I didn’t really celebrate too much as the next day I had a check-up with my consultant, The Professor. It was a scheduled appointment, three months after my last one.

“Any symptoms, any pain?” The Professor asked as I sat down in the bare white room.

“Well, some. A little pain near my scars from the operations,” I casually replied not sure whether it was serious enough to mention it.

“Right, you need a scan straight away.” He didn’t need to tell me anything else. The way he looked at me said it all.

And that was it. The moment my life changed forever.

It was at that very second I realised the stupid cancer had returned. I desperately wanted to take my words back. I tried to persuade The Professor that the pain wasn’t really that bad. I’d only had it occasionally at night for a couple of weeks.

“No matter what you say, you need a scan, you won’t convince me otherwise,” the consultant told me firmly.

Of course I had that scan. As I waited for the results, I was overwhelmed by worry. I’ve never been more frightened.

A few days later it was Christmas Eve and I was back at the hospital for the results. The nursing sister brought round a plate of homemade mince pies but it just made the grim atmosphere seem even worse. Only the urgent cases were being seen. Why else have an appointment on this day of the year?

Just as I feared the cancer had come back. Or maybe it never really went away. The tumour is tiny. Just 9mm. It’s so small, I could barely see it when I was shown the scan. Precisely 11 years and 1 day after being told I first had cancer, I have it again in exactly the same spot.

What I felt was likely to have been the tumour growing inside me. With ovarian cancer you normally don’t get any obvious symptoms. That’s why most women die from the disease. It’s incredible that for the third time in a row, my body had told me about a tumour.

This shocking news is still just sinking in. I’ve had a few weeks to start to come to terms with it but it doesn’t seem real. Next Tuesday though the reality will hit me. I start another round of chemotherapy.

My hair will fall out; I’ll get sick and be so incredibly tired. But my time is limited. I can’t afford to put on my life on hold any longer. I want to carry on as normal as much as I can. I’m still going to work, and plan to drink the odd cheeky vodka and flirt with unsuitable men. Maybe not all at the same time!

When I had cancer the first time I came up with my List for Living. It was a five year plan of things I always wanted to do. Thanks to the list I became a BBC foreign correspondent and had the most amazing adventure abroad. Now that the cancer is back for good I’m so glad that I followed my dreams.

I’ve been writing a book about my List for Living. I want to get the book published so doing that will be going on my new list. Every day I have more Ideas about what else I want to do before I die. Some people have asked me if there is anything they can do. Once I’ve come up with my new list, you could always help me with something on that.

I want to have fun and enjoy my last few months/years. Especially as chemo will now be a part of my life forever. It will keep me alive. The aim is to shrink the tumour and all its friends that follow. I will have an evil chemo cocktail every week for 18 weeks in the very same hospital as before.

It’s a case of here we go again. It’s so frustrating after all I’ve been through. With this stage of cancer my treatment options are limited. There are only a few types of drugs that can help me. This is terrible, terrible news but it could be worse. I could be terminally ill.

I know how I’m probably going to die and roughly when it’ll happen. It’s weird having a likely expiration date. I really hope my Best Before is at least 2023. But you know it’s not the years in your life that matter; it’s the life in your years.

Once I have my affairs in order I’m not going to dwell on the dying, I will soon have a new list and a whole lot more living to do.

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.

James Bond is back!

It wasn’t so long ago, that just like today, I woke up stupidly early. Back then a heady combination of steroids and nervous energy meant that I couldn’t sleep. That was the morning back in May when I started chemotherapy.

I knew it was going to be horrendous but I was also well aware of just how important it was. All the tumours had been removed but I needed this to get rid of any teeny tiny cancery cells that might still be hanging around.

As I lay awake in the dark I thought about how the chemo was going to work. I’d been told how cancer fighters often come up with unusual ways of thinking about the treatment to try to take away some of the terror.

This is what I wrote in my blog post, Licence to Kill:

“I tried to think about what it would be like when the drugs went in. I turned every drop from the drip into a killing machine. A kinda James Bond. I imagined my own microscopic army of special agents. Just in case you’re wondering, I’m thinking Daniel Craig as James Bond….

…Anyway, I’m picturing my troops being launched into the killing zone with charm, cunning and a wry smile. Their mission is to destroy any rogue cancer cells.”

A few hours later when the toxic cocktail began to seep into my veins and poison my body, that’s what I focused on. It was the violent visualisation that I used during all the other sessions of chemo too. Whenever I was worried that potentially evil cells may be lurking inside me, I also thought about this fully loaded 007 army. They helped to shoot away my fears.

After six sessions of chemo it was mission accomplished. I got the all clear – the best news ever! The James Bonds had done the business. Of course, along with the drugs and the doctors etc etc. Since then the test results have been great.

So, back to this morning.

It’s a few months on from that first day of chemo; again I’ve woken up all excited and jittery and thinking about James Bond.

This time I’m not imagining gun-toting-cancer-killing-secret-agents blasting away at killer cells. No, I’m picturing 007 on a big screen. A mahoosive big screen. Daniel Craig is sat in the audience, all dressed up in black tie, surrounded by his co-stars. I’m there too. We’re all watching the latest movie. The difference is, this isn’t something else that I’ve just dreamt up; soon this will be for real.

You see, tonight I have a date with James Bond – I’ve been invited to the world premiere of Skyfall!!

The timing is brilliant. I’m finally feeling better than I have done in ages and now I’m off to a red carpet event in London featuring the very character that I thought of so much during the chemo.

It’s all thanks to the Willow Foundation. The charity was set up by Arsenal legend Bob Wilson and his wife Megs in memory of their daughter Anna who died from cancer at the age of 31. It aims to help young adults dealing with serious illnesses by arranging something amazing for them.

Already it feels special. Yesterday a man on a motorbike turned up at my house. Tall with broad shoulders, he was dressed all in black. As I opened the door, he gave me a wry smile and a large plain white envelope.

“Skyfall tickets,” he said.

“Yes,” I nodded.

“I’ve been expecting you…”

Disco dots to the rescue?

When I first started this blog back in March I wondered if I’d run out of things to write about but somehow that hasn’t happened. Well, not until last week.

I felt worn out. I had bursts of energy but they tended to quickly fizzle out after an hour or so. Most of the time I was so tired that I wasn’t able to think about much else apart from getting through each day.

The chemotherapy may be over but I seem to use up much of that energy on medical appointments in London. The surgery I had to get rid of the cancer was extensive and it’s caused me plenty of problems. Nothing too serious, just stuff that needs sorting out.

Of course experiencing all this fatigue is frustrating but pretty normal. Last week, one of the doctors at hospital said I should think of cancer treatment as like running a marathon. You focus on just getting through each medical mile. Exhaustion is just one of the many horrendous side effects. It’s only when you stop that it really hits you.

Weeks after crossing the chemo finishing line it still feels as if I’m sitting on the pavement covered in a silver foil cape, too shattered to move. I want to have a normal life instead of watching it pass me by.

The doctor suggested that I keep a tiredness diary. I was supposed to write down everything I did for a week so I could see if I was doing too much or too little. Each day was divided up into two hour chunks.

I started the diary on Wednesday and gave up on Thursday. It was far too depressing. It made me realise that at one point I was in bed for 17 hours in a row.

So I tried something else.

I gave acupuncture another go. It was one of the things that helped me cope with being poisoned by the toxic cocktails. I still don’t understand why it should work but several of my cancer fighter friends have said that it’s really given them a boost after chemo.

With a checked shirt and a silver hippy necklace, the acupuncturist took my hand as soon as entered the room. He was trying to establish my energy flow, I think, or something like that. I tried not to look too sceptical but he just smiled at me serenely

I lay back on the couch. Through a window in the ceiling I watched clouds slowly drift overhead as he stuck the skinny pins in my hands and feet.

Black dots began to dance in front of my eyes. The spots weren’t in the sky but some kind of optical illusion. Last time I had acupuncture loads of these tiny blobs seemed to rush across my eyes like a river. Now there wasn’t so many of them. These spots did a kind of side to side shuffle. It should have been quite freaky but I felt calm as I concentrated on the disco dots.

After about twenty minutes they disappeared and in their place were tiny white flickers of light that flashed frantically.

“Do you want me to do something that will really get things going? It’ll be painful to start with,” he warned.

And it was. Long needles were pushed hard into my thumbs and big toes, right near to the nails. Really big misshapen spots appeared and slowly swam across my eyes. This mirage also faded after a while.

I’d like to say that I walked out of there with a spring in my step but I didn’t. Instead I went home for a rest and then got the last train back to my parents’ house in the countryside.

That night I had the best sleep in a long time. I woke up to find that the extreme tiredness had gone. It was like someone had just flicked a switch.

Since then it’s been incredible. For the past few days I’ve felt energetic, alert and much more like me again. Okay, I’m no where near back to normal but I’m able to do things like walk without feeling as if I might collapse.

Why the sudden change? Maybe it was the acupuncture. The disco dancing dots. Perhaps it was being back with my parents.

Whatever it was, I don’t care, I just hope it lasts.

To baldly go

Getting your head shaved is one of those big moments. It’s such a bold statement. You can no longer pretend cancer hasn’t happened. Some people get it done as soon as the treatment starts but I waited as long as possible.

For most of my chemotherapy I wore an ice cold cap which protected the hair follicles by freezing my scalp. It worked pretty well but was so painful that in the end I had to ditch it. Thats when the hair loss began properly.

I didn’t go completely bald. Oh, no. I was left with big freaky tufts of soft fluffy hair. It was a cross between a mullet and a mohican. A mullhican if you like.

Meet the mullhican

I really needed to get it shaved off so it would all regrow at the same length. It’s more than five weeks since the chemo ended. Amazingly my eyelashes and eyebrows have already started to reappear. It won’t be long before my hair also comes back to life.

It was good to be doing something kinda normal again. The last time I visited Daniel Galvin, my hairdressers in London, it was a few days before my massive cancer operation. I had a cut and a bouncy blow dry. I wanted to go into hospital with it looking lovely. I’m sure the surgeons appreciated the effort.

My friend Angela has been cutting my hair ever since I moved back to Britain. When I was abroad I had plenty of bad hair days – it had been “accidentally” dyed orange and subjected to many dodgy styles. Angela helped to nurse my hair back to good health. It was finally in great condition and I really liked how it looked. Now I was getting her to chop it all off.

As Angela set to work, she kept checking that I wanted it all gone. I certainly did.

Here come the clippers

It’s taken me months to feel okay about losing my hair. Compared to what I’ve been through it shouldn’t have been a big deal but it was. It’s bad enough to have to fight a killer disease twice. I didn’t want to have another Sinéad O’Conner. However, I slowly got used to being a skinhead again.

Sitting in the busy salon with my tufty mullhican I wasn’t upset or even embarrassed. I was ready for my new look.

I’d thought I was going to get a baldy head, all smooth and shiny. I was worried that I was going to look awful. Instead Angela gave me a number three all over. I managed to avoid getting a close shave. I’’m really happy at how it turned out.

Hey cancer – look – I still have some hair!!!

Tah dah!

Before the drastic cut, I was scared to touch my hair because it would just fall out in my hands. Strands of the stuff got everywhere. It’s now very very short but it feels thick and strong.

With my real hair sorted it was time to introduce Candice and Raquel. This was their first trip to the hairdressers. I needed Angela to work her magic on my wigs and she couldn’t wait to get her hands on them.

The trouble with wearing a wig is that it can so easily look fake. Like a lump of unnaturally big hair that’s been plonked on your head.

Angela, me and Raquel

After both getting a trim, they looked much better and a whole lot less wig like. Even so, I won’t be wearing them all the time. They’re far too hot and itchy.

I’m so glad to have finally got rid of the fluffy mullhican. It was actually making me appear a lot sicker than I was. I had started to hate what I saw. This was something that cancer had done to me.

I’ve taken back control and now when I look in the mirror I see a new start.

A perfect ten

Dolphins. How I dread those hospital dolphins.

They swim along the corridor on the way to the chemotherapy unit. Even the ceiling has been painted to make it seem as if you’re under the sea. It may look tranquil but just seeing the dolphins made me feel completely drained.

There might as well be a neon sign that says CANCER? COME THIS WAY….

As if that wasn’t bad enough, towards the end of the corridor it starts to slope upwards. It takes every last bit of your energy to walk the last part of it. Mum had come with me. My arm was through hers as we slowly made our way up the corridor.

It’s been a month since my chemo ended. I was there for a final check-up to find out for sure that the toxic treatment had been successful.

This is where I was told I had cancer. More than six months later I was back in the same room and in the same chair. Mum was next to me, also in the same seat as before. I felt so sick that I thought I might have to run out of the room.

However I was so focused on what we were about to be told that I felt compelled to stay. As far as big moments go, this was pretty massive.

If I got the all clear, then I’d be done with the disease, the doctors and the dolphins.

But if I didn’t, then it would mean that those evil chemo cocktails hadn’t worked. We’d have to try again. Jump through more hoops. Worse still, it could suggest that the cancer was terminal and that putting any amount of poison into my veins wouldn’t kill it.

At the hospital there’s a team of people involved in my care. For this appointment I was seeing a consultant who I’ve known for years, ever since the first cancer. She’s never had to break any bad news to me. She is the Good Doctor. Surely this must be a positive sign?

I know that the treatment has already gone really well. All the tumours have been removed and my blood test results are back to normal. But you don’t know what could happen next.

The blood test is known as a CA 125. Basically I needed to get a low number. Anything higher than thirty could mean the cancer had come back.

After chatting for a few minutes it was down to business. My consultant looked at my notes, at my records on the computer screen and then back at me as she said the magic number.

I’d scored a ten. A perfect ten.

The Good Doctor quickly revealed that there was also nothing nasty on my scan. It was a stunning set of results. She brought up a different screen on the computer.

“See, your organs look lovely, don’t they?” I had to take her word for it. All I could make out was a moving black and white image of my insides.

She pointed out various bits and pieces. It was a cross section of a healthy body. My healthy body.

“Hooray! It’s all gone!” The Good Doctor threw her arms in the air. We all grinned and punched the air. My sickness went; it was replaced with pure relief.

That’s it. Finally it’s all over.

The treatment has officially been successful. I won’t have another check-up for months.

After lunch in the hospital canteen, oh yes my celebrations are not always Kylie and cocktails, we got a lift home from the flower girl.

It ended where it all began, outside my house with my friend, Chantal in her big flower van. This is how I started out on my cancer journey when she took me to hospital for what turned out to be a life saving operation.

Back then I had no idea just how hard it would all be or whether I’d even be able to defeat the disease. That’s why I originally called this blog - beating cancer, again, hopefully.

I never realised quite how important the blog would become to me. I’ve been blown away by the love and support that I’ve received. I’ve appreciated every comment even though I may not have been able to reply to all of them.

So, thank you.

I’m now cancer free and there will be no more horrendous treatment but I’m still going to continue with this blog.

I’ve been given another second chance at life. Or maybe that makes it a third chance? Whatever it is, I hope that you’ll be joining me as I blog about life after cancer.

From chemo cocktails to cosmopolitans

Could there be a more perfect way to celebrate?

After so many evil chemo cocktails in hospital, it seemed only right to mark the end of my cancer ordeal with some real drinks in an actual bar.

I know I’ve had a few celebrations already but quite frankly I’m going to be very greedy and I’ll be having a whole load more. Don’t worry though I won’t be writing about every single one!

It’s been a few weeks since my last ever chemotherapy and I finally felt well enough to go out with friends. We arranged to meet at a bar in Chelsea. My long blond WAG wig that I like to call Candice was all ready for an occasion just like this.

This was the first time that I’d worn Candice for a night out.

And what a difference it made. Suddenly I’d gone from almost bald to really blond. Putting on the wig not only transformed the way I looked but somehow made me feel better too, almost like a different person.

Lately I’ve been living in headscarves. I find them easier to wear than wigs although they have a certain cancer chic about them. I think I look more like someone who is sick when I have a headscarf on.  

As me and Candice rocked up at the bar I nervously checked out my reflection in the window next to the entrance. Surprised at what I saw, I smiled back. Something special had happened, I realised that I looked totally normal and I haven’t felt like that for ages.

I knew that both my friends, Kath and Anna were going to be late so I ordered myself something. Seconds later, a man at the bar started to chat me up. Really it was just seconds, my drink hadn’t even been poured!

Wow was that down to me or Candice?! Whatever the reason it was my welcome back to single life in London.

I didn’t have to wait too long for my friends, just enough time for the French banker to give me his number. Normally I would have been happy to stand at the bar but there was no way that I could manage that right now so we found a table.

Drinking Cosmopolitans, Bellini’s and the odd Strawberry Mule, it could have almost been a scene from Sex and the City where the girls meet for drinks and gossip in a glamorous bar.

Only, there were three of us. We were English and this wasn’t New York. Although Kath and I have eaten cupcakes from the Magnolia bakery made famous by the TV series. If that counts…no, thought not.

Anyway that was ten years ago. We were in New York to celebrate me beating cancer the first time round. While we were there we came up with a plan about how I could do some some of the things on my list for living. During chemo I’d come up with this crazy list of things I wanted to do when I was well. Within weeks of that holiday I’d moved to Moscow.

Now here we were celebrating again.

Just like back then we talked about the future and it felt good that I can now get on with living.

Before, the most exciting thing I’ve had to look forward to was my next trip to hospital. The chemo has taken place every three weeks. If that had continued then I should have had another session a few days ago.

Knowing that around this time I’d normally be feeling incredibly ill thanks to the evil chemo cocktail, made the drinks taste even better. Compared to the toxic treatment, the side effects were far more pleasant too.

 

I am so lucky

Now that my cancer treatment is over it’s time to start celebrating.

One of my friends organised a picnic in Hyde Park in London yesterday evening. Hot sunshine turned into a beautiful sunset as we drank champagne. Then Kylie Minogue sang for us.

It was just a group of friends and Kylie. Oh and tens of thousands of other people.

Okay this was Proms in the Park and we were actually celebrating my friend Louise’s birthday.

It very much reminded me of going to the Olympics. There were plenty of union jacks in the park. Plus this was something I wanted to go to but wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it, coming so soon after having chemotherapy.

Birthday girl Louise is on the left

Louise had invited me along months ago. I was determined that by this weekend I’d be feeling well enough to go. It was good having such a lovely deadline to aim for. Even so we both wondered if the build-up of the toxic chemical cocktails would beat me.

The day before the event I spent about 15 hours in bed to ensure I wouldn’t be exhausted. One of the girls brought a canvas chair for me and I sat for most of the concert.

It was inspiring watching Kylie on stage. She looked stunning as she performed live in front of so many people. As a fellow cancer fighter, she’s been through something similar to me and has come out the other side in style.

However the most important thing was being able to take part in my friend’s birthday celebrations. If it had been just a picnic in the park it would have still been brilliant.

It’s not a proper picnic without some patriotic cakes!

My celebrations actually started a few days ago.

Another of my friends popped over with pink champagne. Well maybe not quite popped over as she lives abroad and has a high powered job which keeps her very busy. While I was going through the cancer nightmare she helped to keep me entertained by texting with amusing tales about that stressful yet very successful life of hers.

And she wasn’t the only one.  I had so many – just thinking about you, hope you’re not feeling too bad – messages which often included a random slice of life. Friends who were up mountains or had just burnt their kid’s cauliflower cheese or were stood outside a petrol station waiting to go live on the BBC news.

Of course, there have been more colourful ones too. Some friends have kept me right up-to-date with their…err…more outrageous exploits!

I’ve loved all of the messages. I may have been incredibly ill for half a year but at least I was able to live vicariously through my friends. Everything was on hold while I focused on killing the cancer. It seemed like I was an outsider, only able to watch what was going on around me but not join in.

I made it!

My friend’s birthday do was the first social thing I’ve been to since my chemo ended. I was completely shattered after last night but glad I made it. After so long on the side lines it’s amazing to finally feel part of normal life again.

A letter to my cancer

Dear Cancer,

It was six months ago that we were reintroduced. I’d already got rid of you once and I can’t believe that you came back for more. This time I only had a fifty fifty chance of surviving. Like the flip of a coin. Well, heads I won.

After half a year of hell you are now just dust and dead cells.

You started out as ovarian cancer, if that wasn’t bad enough you took the liberty of spreading around my abdomen. It took a team of surgeons the length of an average day at the office to remove all visible traces of you. I imagine that the tumours have long since been incinerated. All that’s left is an awesome battle scar.

The next step was to kill off any lingering reminders of you. I had chemotherapy to destroy the teeny tiny cells that couldn’t be seen. On Wednesday I’m having the last of my six sessions

Like a coward you left me before the chemo had even finished. Repeated blood tests show that you are no more.

I’ve not just beaten you; I’ve proved just how much I want to live. My body hurt so badly when I woke up from the operation that I thought I was dying. I wasn’t.

But the drugs to deal with the pain almost killed me. They lulled me into a deep sleep. I quickly slipped into a happy bubble of unconsciousness and stopped breathing. I was only a few minutes away from my own death. But I fought back.

I wish I’d never met you. Okay maybe that’s only partly true. In many ways you’ve changed my life for the better. During the cancer treatment ten years ago I came up with a big list of things I wanted to do. Afterwards I went out and chased my dreams. The reality was even better than I dared to hope for.

So why did you come back? I thought we were done. I really didn’t need another reminder that life is precious.

When I was in the process of being diagnosed the second time round someone who should have known better suggested the cancer could be terminal. It wasn’t. She told me this devastating news over the phone. I was sitting on my bed on top of my pink stripy duvet at the time. As I cried my life didn’t flash in front of my eyes. Instead I saw images of my future, of what I was still to achieve.

I’m so angry that I’ve had to put almost everything on hold. Hey cancer – in a few hours I get my life back.

Over the past few months I’ve done everything I can to annihilate you. I’ve been having the maximum strength chemo cocktail. It’s been a marathon of pain, sickness and complete exhaustion but I haven’t considered asking for a lower dose.

Chemo has so many petulant demands. It wakes me up in the middle of the night. The poisonous chemicals make me run to the bathroom to throw up. I have no eyebrows now and only six eyelashes. I’ve watched my lovely hair fall out, there’s just a thin covering left to go. Then there have been the bugs, bacteria and infections. I never expected to have an emergency stay in hospital.

And yet, you haven’t managed to break my spirit. I’ve even been able to do some things which I thought were virtually impossible. Just days after my last chemo I managed to get to the Olympic Games. When the cancer treatment is over, I won’t collapse in a heap at the end. I’ll be flicking the V sign at you as I cross the finishing line.

Don’t worry, I won’t forget about you. How could I? There will be tests and scans every few months. When I go to hospital for the results I won’t be able to think about anything else. You’ll be constantly me on my mind.

However I refuse to be scared of what hasn’t happened. Because of you, I appreciate every moment. Well almost every moment. And so because of you I live.

I’ve now beaten you twice. TWICE. I want you to know that if you come back, I will beat you again.

Goodbye stupid cancer.

Helen

Cake therapy

Forget chemotherapy, its cake therapy that’s helping to get me through this.

I used to have such a healthy diet and look where that got me – diagnosed with cancer for the second time.

Now I’m treating myself to whatever I fancy. If only I didn’t need the evil chemo cocktail every few weeks then I’d being able to properly enjoy this.

Cake tends to feature most days, okay, every day.

When I’m not stuck in bed and sometimes even when I am, friends and family come over. Much of the time, I’m feeling sick, in pain or too exhausted to leave the house.

Many of my visitors come with cake. And I love it.

I’ve had white chocolate éclairs topped with multi-coloured sparkles. Cupcakes decorated by my god daughter and perfect meringues made by my aunt.

Plus many many others.

Then there are my chemo coffee sessions. I think I must have tried every type of muffin sold in the hospital. The ones with the lemon curd in the middle have to be the best.

Am I worried about what this is doing to my waistline? Not so much.

After the first session of chemo, I accidentally lost a stone (just over 6 kilos) without any effort. Now there’s something I never thought I’d say! So I have to be careful about not losing too much. Plus if I get ill my weight could plummet dangerously.

As a result of the surgery, my body can’t cope very well with many of the healthy foods like fruit and vegetables that I used to eat. I’ve been told that I should only have small amounts of these things. But cake is absolutely fine.

I don’t just get given them. I’ve starting baking.

As I’m stuck at home lots of the time, it feels comforting to be able to create something when there’s so little that I’m able to do. It’s not since school that I’ve made a cake and it certainly beats watching daytime TV.

I wait until I’m feeling well enough and then start cooking. I’ve only managed to knock up a few cakes so far. One them was a sticky ginger loaf. It wasn’t too bad and gave me a rare sense of achievement.

Anyway I had to eat it as it was packed with ginger and so helped to ease my nausea. Now that’s my kind of chemo-busting-cake therapy.