Back again


I never thought this would happen so soon. I had hoped to have a cancer-free Christmas but that’s not to be. I have another tumour lurking inside me.

I start another round of chemotherapy today. I’ll have it every three weeks. It’ll mean a chemo session on Christmas Eve.

Of course, I knew that it was likely. When you have advanced cancer like mine you’re told to expect it to keep coming back, each time quicker than the last.

My last chemo ended in May. I arranged my next check-up at the very end of August. I wanted to leave it as long as possible, but not too long, if that makes sense. In the weeks leading up to the hospital date my body was full of pain. I feared the cancer had not just come back but it had spread. What the doctors call metastasis. One of the most evil words you’ll ever hear as a patient.

Two weeks before the appointment I had a blood test. It was taken after a busy day at work. I felt so alive, surely, I thought to myself I must be okay.

But no. The result was bad. It was no longer the perfect ten, the score had almost doubled. There and then I had to repeat the test. When the result came back the number had doubled again. It seemed like my worst fears were coming true.

Later a scan confirmed that the cancer was active again. It turns out that my new tumour is small and thin and not too far away from the last one. Along with sadness, anger and frustration there was some relief that it hadn’t spread. Apparently a lot of the pain was caused by stress and scar tissue.

Now that I know what’s causing the pain, it hardly hurts at all. I don’t look like I’m ill and I don’t feel it either. This is the best I’m going to be until next spring so I’m celebrating that with a picture.

After my diagnosis last Christmas Eve when I found out that my cancer had become incurable I was told to get my affairs in order which I sort of did but not really. You don’t want to think that you really have to. However now I’m more prepared. Last week I wrote my will. That was a hard day.

So here we go with more chemo. Uggggh. It’s all exactly the same. It makes me want to cry being back again so soon. The same walk along the dolphin corridor to the treatment centre. Seeing the same lovely nurses. Sitting in the same chair. Having the same side effects for the same anti-cancer drugs. Being pumped full of the same steroids. And losing my hair once more.

But I do have something very special on my side that’s making me smile and it’s not just James Bond.

Along with the conventional chemo, I’m also taking part in a clinical trial. I’ll take a tablet every day which could make the chemo more effective and stabilise my cancer. It’s very exciting as the results of the trial so far are looking very good. It’s having hope that’s keeping me going and got me out of bed this morning. Now I’m just waiting for it all the begin.

Stupid, stupid cancer. You have no idea how much of a kicking you’re about to get.

57 thoughts on “Back again

  1. Hang in Helen and keep writing when you can. Good luck. Think of you often…and we’ve never even met!

  2. I was totally crushed for you when I read the news. But I join you in the ‘stupid cancer’ comment! Give it a kicking. I’m not as eloquent a writer as you: and there’s so much I want to say! I am praying for you x

  3. i just read this then had to read the bloody thing again as I could not believe it. Very sorry to hear this. Understand that you must be so pissed off that even your splendid way with words can quite grasp the pain and frustration you must feel (you could try a few sweary words!) well at least if you are to feel awful it will be in the grey months and you can emerge like a gorgeous butterly in the first sunny days of spring. Hope your new tablet helps! x

  4. So very sorry to read about this Helen but you are incredibly brave and positive and you look so healthy in the photo! I’m glad you at least managed to squeeze in the glassblowing before starting chemo yet again.
    Rooting for you and those trial tablets, C x

  5. Goddamit, ‘it’ is a bastard isn’t it? Keep fighting Helen, we are all thinking of you. X

  6. bugger – it’s a relentless thing,that’s for sure. Really hope the new tablets give the chemo a real boost. Loads of good wishes.

  7. Oh Helen, I am lost for words. PLEASE GOD let the chemo and tablet together have great results and benefits.

  8. You are so strong and positive . What an amazing young woman you are.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  9. Oh blimey Helen. I’m so gutted for you but also hoping that the trial will kick that cancer into the gutter again. It is such a rollercoaster that you’re on and I hope you are proud of how what you write on your blog helps so many. I know you’re still dealing with how it impacts you (and that is probably how your blog helps you) but the impact you are having is just huge. Good luck with the treatment regime. Will be thinking of you. X

  10. Fab picture, fab attitude Helen.
    You go on fighting it with huge boxing gloves on
    My brother has not been so lucky.
    Friday will tell if there’s to be more chemo or not. All my fingers are crossed for both of you.
    I hate this disease xx

  11. I’m all for clinical trials – so get stuck in there. It is a total bummer but you are a great example of how it is possible to remain ‘Helen Fawkes, Journalist’ and not become an invalid. The cancer does not define us. Don’t lose sight of that. I have a feeling that the odd cocktail/drink helps. I’m now on to radiotherapy and I’ve been told to drink plenty to help my bladder. I’m not going overboard of course, but no one said ‘no alcohol’.

    • Great idea. Have you invented a “Kick Cancer Cocktail” ? We would all drink to that.

      • Hey yes – how about that as a competition? Then we could all try and drink it on the same day – like the Macmillan Coffee Morning only less of the blue rinse (sorry Macmillan, I dont really mean it) and raise money for our local cancer centres or something?

      • I’m sure there could be a competition in it – of course it would pack a punch in order to kick cancer :)

  12. And I am whingeing about sinusitis! I know you only through your blog, but really widh you to have the power to cope and survive!

  13. I’m just gutted to read your latest update. You’re such an inspiration so keep fighting….no better woman to give this latest news a good ol kicking….Take care of yourself

  14. So sorry to hear this, Helen! Go on, give it a really hard kicking this time. Praying for you…

  15. Helen, I’m so sad at reading your latest blog – keep fighting cousin! Thinking of you xoxoxo

  16. Dear Helen. So sad to hear the chemo starts again so soon. Doesn’t this stupid Cancer realise what an iron will you have and the stomach for the fight? And of course, your wonderful family, friends and colleagues. Plus the support of thousands of followers of your blog. So kick ass girl. Go get ‘em. Thinking of you. Tris xx

  17. So sorry to hear your news, Helen, but I’m sure the trial drug will help you to kick the cancer’s arse. You look wonderful in the photo BTW :)

  18. Dear Helen
    I usually enjoy reading your blog, but this one is the exception. I am sorry that your remission has been shorter than you were hoping for. I am impressed by how much of your list you have ticked off during those months. Thank you for taking the trial drug; all of us with OC benefit when women like you try out new treatments for us. I hope this trial has excellent results for you.
    Very best wishes,

  19. When I saw the email from you “back again” I thought it was you coming back to tell us all something that you had forgotten to mention about the glassblowing. When I saw the photo of the dolfin corridor my heart sank. I have absolutely no idea how you are feeling today walking that walk again but after reading the above comments please know that we are all walking with you shoulder to shoulder and willing you on!! Sending you a heap of good wishes and happy happy thoughts.

  20. Hi Helen, I’ve only just found your blog and spent most of the day reading it from start to finish. You are one pretty amazing lady and give so much strength (even though you may not always feel strong) particularly to those of us on a similar journey. Thank you so much for sharing your blog. You have achieved so many things already and I love the latest photo! The boxing gloves are on and I for one, along with all your followers are right behind you with every punch, chemo and tablet. Ding… Ding.. Time to kick its ass!

  21. Hey Helen,
    Good luck with the new drug – here’s hoping that daily pill is as effective as results so far suggest! XX

  22. Where is the dislike button? Knowing you could expect it I’m sure doesn’t make it any easier. Sorry to hear this news, but I’m happy to hear you’re part of a clinical trial. Yes give cancer that kicking! Sending all good thoughts wishes and prayers your way.

  23. I’m so sorry to hear the evil has returned but I think you have an amazing attitude to treatment and life in general and wish you the very best with the next battle…..I’m also so pleased to hear you are taking part in a clinical trial-I am an oncology research nurse ( I cover upper gi , lung, urology and gynaecology trials) and we depend so much on such selfless people as yourself taking part in these trials to develop new treatments for patients in the future- your legacy will live on for future generations- thankyou xx

  24. After wiping away the tears which welled up when I first read this, I am once again in awe of your tremendous spirit and determination. Most of my work nowadays is translation of medical articles so I’m only too aware of the value of people like yourself who are willing to take part in clinical trials. I feel privileged to have met you back in those alcohol-fuelled days in Kyiv :) Stay strong and positive – sending all the love and positive energy I can your way xxxx

  25. So sorry to hear this. I’ve just finished six months of weekly chemo and the thought of the cancer coming back fills me with dread. I am just starting to almost feel normal and I want hair again!
    Stupid stupid cancer!!
    This daily drug you’re taking sounds promising though….everything crossed for you Helen
    Lindy xxxx

    • I finished my ovarian cancer chemo in July and i, like you, am so worried it is coming back. I didn’t know it could come back after 10 years like Helen’s, so now i am more worried. My hair seems to be taking ages to grow as well, but it is coming, slowly but surely x

  26. I am also new to your blog and found it to be informative and uplifting even during your toughest times. Now “Stupid Cancer” is even more stupid…cruel…unrelenting…and acting like a total moron! Knowing you now through your writings I know you have the right frame of mind and spirit. Please know we are all there with you in our prayers and thoughts.
    Hugs, hugs, and more hugs.

  27. Helen, Someone else you have never met but who has followed your posts carefully and laughed and cried at them. It is so very hard and so difficult to find any words. Just remember there are lots of people thinking of you. Andrew

  28. Oh Helen, I’m so sorry you are having to go through the chemo again so soon. Just want to send you a massive gentle hug and tell you you are the most beautiful person. Stay strong lovely, you have so many people who will have your back. Your positive attitude is nothing but amazing. Keep smiling! Lots of love xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  29. Really sorry to hear this news. What a swine this cancer is. With all your strength and fortitude I trust you will give it a good kicking! Coincidentally, I have a friend also on a clinical trial (for oesophogeal cancer) and he seems to be responding well. I know through my own experience just how painful and difficult it is, especially after metastasis takes place, but 22 years later I’m still here and (as I probably said before) if I can do it, so can you! Sending you all positive vibes and wishing you a full recovery.

    Willo xx

  30. Be strong Helen. Look on the bright side – you don’t have to suffer me in the edit suite….xxx

  31. Helen thank you so much for writing this blog. It’s the way I follow you all the way from “sunny” california! This latest post got to my inbox in the middle of the night – couldn’t sleep sort of night!
    You are a wonderful inspiration to me personally and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
    God Bless Helen – I am keeping you in my prayers.

  32. I echo what most people are saying. Despite not knowing you but reading your blogs, your words are an inspiration to many. I sincerely hope that the trial medication will help you to combat this disease and that we will see more of your smiles. Good luck.

  33. Dear Helen,
    Just want to say how proud I am of you and I’m sure that I can speak for all of us “Young Ladies” in the support group that we all wish you well and look forward to seeing you again soon- think of you a lot and we’re walking alongside you xxxxx

  34. So sad to hear your news, and how hard you are taking it. I agree its so hard to hear those words of its return and having the anger and fear of what’s next.
    I felt so defeated that I had come so far doing so well only for it to not care and return. My cancer isn’t following textbook rules and spreading to other areas so its uncertainty that gets me worried where next.
    I have chemo every 3 weeks too and I am on doxirubicin. What chemo and trial are you doing?
    I am visiting Cardiff soon and maybe London and wondered if you wanted to meet for coffee or vodka lol depending mood. Would be great to chat and share stuff along with a good cancer bitching session?

    Drop me a line let me know.

    Take care and keep smiling as you have a wonderful smile.


  35. Hey, as a distraction wondered of you had read the Jennifer Saunders article and what your thoughts were??? Perhaps write a new blog post and see what followers think too.
    It certainly helped me get fire on my belly to get my thoughts out on it

    Also for you and any followers have a look here for support too. O found it hugely helpful and wrote my will via here. Also O an ambassador for mninc.

    AlsoI am cutting the starting ribbon at my local 10k walk on Sunday as its a fundraiser for my tumour unit appeal I fundraising for. Got a bit of local publicity too.
    Find info here!.aspx

  36. Hello Helen,
    Just caught up with your latest blog postings. In a world were I’m surrounded by trivialities and idiocy, thank you for reinforcing what’s important about life. Keep fighting and keep smiling.

  37. I want to tell you how brightly you shine. You shine like a star! I can feel your energy from my living room. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story, from a fellow lifer x

  38. You look stunning. Your attitude is stunning. Much love and ass-kicking thoughts xx

  39. Oh Helen I am so sorry you had to hear those words again. I’m glad you have decided on a clinical trial . I was in one when I was first diagnosed but not when I recurred. I found a lot of extra support from the nurses and docs with issues that occurred . Hope you have a good experience with it and that the little pill ( is it a Parp inhibitor?)will help kill off all those cancer cells.
    You can do this and you will do it with grace and beauty.

  40. Hi Helen, I hope to see you strutting your stuff at the next Champagne Tea in the Park Lane Hotel. love and blessings Juliet x

  41. Helen,
    firstly you look wonderful. Hang in there – thinking of you and wishing you strength as you start on another leg of this difficult journey. Keep smiling but it is ok too to have a cry now and again. Big hugs Cathy

  42. I cannot simply hit “like” because it seems wrong to hit it for such news. However, I do like your post, your positivity, and the clinical trial hopefullness. Saying a prayer for you.

  43. You’re not fighting it alone.
    Movember is coming and I will be growing a ridiculous moustache and risking daily humiliation to ensure that donations are made to cancer charities.

    I will be thinking of you every time I look in the mirror and every time someone sniggers at my pathetic attempt to look ‘manly’.

    I will then ask them to donate to a cancer charity. A small price to pay for their amusement.

  44. My wish for you is that the new pill you are taking is as magical for you as mine has been for me. Fingers crossed, and wishing upon a star….

  45. Sending you strength from Oz Helen, so sorry for you. I am continually amazed by your positive approach. Incredible. I just wish it could be so very different. Thinking of you. Anne

  46. Hello Helen, So sorry to hear your news, You are a very lovely young lady and deserve better, I just hope your journey helps others in your situation. Not everyone has your journalistic expertise and what you have described to everyone who reads your blog I sincerely hope others get some hope and comfort from your writings. As you know I am a survivor of this horrid cancer and you inspire me and give me hope and comfort for my own future. Please God keep you safe and help you win your fight. Keep writing when you can. Sending healing thoughts to you my friend in need..

  47. Hi Helen, I came across your story on the BBC website this morning. I won’t make reference to your condition as I can’t begin to understand what it is like to be in this position. But I do know reading your blog I found it quite humbling and it seems to me that you are one fantastic human being. I’ll pray that all the wishes on your list are fulfilled. I see that you had a go at glass blowing, if you’ve space for one more and you haven’t tried it, add throwing on a potters wheel. It worked for me. Best wishes and keep strong.

  48. Dear Helen, I was on the website and one of the posts referred me to your article about the living list. I will continue to read your interesting and inspiring posts. I have terminal cancer, stage iv, inoperable and was diagnosed in May, 2013. I was absolutely devastated by my diagnosis. I tried to be brave but it was difficult to accept. I am usually a positive upbeat person who enjoys life and also I try to make the world a better place. I was not done with life. It was difficult to accept that my life would change. I read an article about terminal illness and that evening while sleeping it finally hit me. “I’m not dead yet!” It felt as though a caring spirit had washed my fears away. I finally accepted my terminal illness and my positive spirit returned. Your writings will continue to help me be brave and stay strong. Thank you for making the world a better place. You have not wasted your life. Please know if you have helped me and you have given me the courage to live each day. Sincerely, Patricia Avery, Linden, MI

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