Hooray hooray it’s the end of my chemo holiday. It was lovely having a week off. What amazing weather for a spring break.

After treatment was cancelled last week due to a bad skin reaction I was given some new medicine to take which was knock-out. Literally. I was so drowsy. But it seemed to have done the trick.

After a week off from the usually toxic drugs I thought that I’d feel great but it was only on the last day or so that I started to feel normal-ish. It was just like a typical vacation where you only start to relax, just as you’re about to go home.

I worked over the weekend and ended up reporting on the London Marathon for the BBC News Channel. I enjoy working as it’s time-out from all the cancery stuff.  Physically it’s hard but mentally it’s brilliant to step back into my old life. To a time before I needed all this treatment again.

As I was still on a chemo holiday I decided to try something that I’d been thinking about for while. I had a CFD – a cancer free day. I didn’t mention the disease and if anyone spoke to me about it, I just told them about the CFD. I didn’t mind talking about the chemo and how I was feeling but not any of the bigger things.

I’m coming to terms with my advanced cancer in my own way. I think about it a lot but when I’m not, I don’t want to talk about the horribleness of my situation. People want there to be a happy ending. I don’t like having to say that, no, I’m not going to beat the disease, it’s going to kill me. Despite all what I’m going though I still enjoy life pretty much most of the time. However these conversations can leave me feeling sad. A CFD is sort of like a mini-break for the mind. In the future I’m going to be having a lot more of these days!

On my way home from the BBC, I saw several runners on the tube. All skimpy lycra and shiny new medals. I too was exhausted. Considering how ill the treatment makes me feel, being able to do a shift at work is a big achievement. I ended the day tired but smiling. It was like I’d just done a marathon myself.

I was so glad when I was told that I was well enough for chemo to resume. The rash on my arm had cleared up nicely although we may never know for sure what caused it.

This week I had my chemo cocktail with Rache, my friend who I’ve known since we did A Levels together. She’s the one who loves a bit of fancy dress. I was delighted that we got an upgrade at hospital. I had my favourite side room without a view, as everywhere else was full.

Rache didn’t want to miss a call so she came prepared. She actually admitted that she’d left mobile number five at home!

My friend has visited me in hospital before but she’d never been to this part of the building so I explained where everything was.

Perhaps most importantly I pointed out that the hot drinks trolley was parked in the corridor, just outside the room. Rache said that she didn’t need to know as she doesn’t drink tea or coffee. I replied that I was showing her in case she fancied making me a drink, you know, the patient that’s lying in bed all hooked up to a drip!

We were having such a good time that it was easy to forget why we were there. It was lucky that we were in a private room on our own as we spent most of the time laughing. It was good way to end my chemo-cation.

Chemo holiday

Sometimes you should be careful what you wish for because it might just come true.

In my last blog post, I wrote that momentary I considered giving up but soon afterwards I realised that I wanted to continue. How ironic.

I’m now on a chemo holiday. It wasn’t my choice to skip treatment. This is an enforced break.

Last time I listed all the chemo cons. Well, there was one that I forgot to add. I had a nasty rash on my arm that itched like hell. It looked like a big patch of eczema, something I used to get as a child. It didn’t seem too serious. But when I turned up at hospital this week, my doctors thought it was.

Looking at it with them I had to admit it did seem quite red and angry. They don’t know what caused it to suddenly flare up however they’re sure there is a chemo connection.

After putting up with all the awful side effects I can’t believe that a stupid rash has postponed my chemo cocktail. Hopefully it’ll be better by next week and I’ll be able to have the five remaining sessions.

I should feel happy that about my chemo holiday but I’m not. I’m very disappointed.

Mentally I was all ready for another dose of the toxic drugs. I just want to complete this course of treatment. I’m so annoyed at the delay. Ever since the start of the year I’ve been working towards the end date in mid-May. I thought I had less than a month to go. My chemo has now gone into extra time and the final date has moved a bit further away from my grasp.

Also I don’t like my routine being disrupted. When you have cancer your life is changed for ever. At times it seems to spin out of your control. There are big question marks against all the things you thought were certain.

And yet there is one thing you can reply on. The regularity of your treatment. The chemo sessions and all the other associated appointments are comforting. Having a medical schedule gives your life shape and it gives you back some control.

After wondering whether I wanted to continue with the anti-cancer treatment, I’m more sure than ever that it’s what I want. Thanks for all the messages of encouragement and support, sorry I’m too tired to reply to everyone. I loved the way that after saying that I’d briefly thought about giving up, there was a massive noooooooo from the internet!

This chemo-cation has made me even more determined to carry on. When you’re told you can’t have something it makes you want it even more. I know that I’m lucky to still have options and I want to make the most of every moment. I’m more confident than ever that I have the strength to continue.


This is Ruby’s chair. Ruby is one of the regulars at the chemo cocktail bar. Like many of the others, she’s twice my age.

I’m calling her Ruby although this isn’t actually her real name. I don’t want to identify her but I wanted to write about something she said.

After the drama of my last visit, my chemo treatment has now become almost an all-day affair. While I always have a friend or two on hand to keep me company- this week it was Kath and Chantal – Ruby is often alone. But don’t go thinking that Ruby is a helpless old lady.

This week hospital was the busiest I’ve ever seen it. It was late morning when we arrived. There wasn’t a spare chair in the place.I was given a bed that was free on one of the main chemo wards. Everyone around me had more miles on the clock and seemed much sicker or sleepier. I offered the bed to the patients who had chairs in case anyone else fancied it. I had no takers.

The bed proved to be a perfect picnic table. We laid out our lunch on the white sheets. Ruby had also come prepared. She too preferred not to eat the hospital food. With one arm attached to an IV drip she wasted no time in calling Kath over to help get her lunch out of her bag. My friend arranged it on the table in front of Ruby.

“Can you get me a coffee now please?” She then said to Kath.

It wasn’t a question. Ruby asked in way that was friendly but also confident and assertive. She didn’t apologise or prefix it with a “hope you don’t mind”, or “can you do me a big favour”. She knew it wasn’t too much to ask. Ruby was hooked up to the drip which was plugged into an electricity socket at the wall. She had toxic drugs dancing through her veins. While Kath was fit, healthy and just visiting.

I’ve known Ruby for a while. She has absolutely no problem in asking anyone who’s passing to get her a coffee – milk, three sugars – from the trolley in the corridor.

It might seem like such a small thing but having this sort of no nonsense approach is so important when it comes to your health. I’d been thinking about this a lot after a woman had left a comment on the blog to say that she was about to get tested for ovarian cancer. Her husband had heard an interview I’d done on the radio and recognised some of the symptoms she was having.

In case you’re wondering some of the main ones are bloating, eating less but feeling fuller and abdominal pain.

The problem is that these symptoms are so vague. It can mean it’s difficult to get diagnosed. You need to be determined especially when you suspect something is seriously wrong.

Last month I met an inspirational woman who had ovarian cancer a while ago. When she first had the symptoms, she went to her GP. He said she’d probably pulled a muscle and wouldn’t need any tests. She told him that he was talking rubbish or words to that effect!

Soon after the cancer was discovered. She had a better chance of surviving because she didn’t accept what her GP had said. It just shows how powerful it can be, not taking no for an answer. It’s the kind of attitude that could help to save your life.


It was a room without a view but I wasn’t complaining. Once again I’d been upgraded. I had my own private room. It came with a bed and an isolated sense of calm. Stark and clinical, it was such a contrast to the country pub where I pulled a pint from my List for Living, a few days ago.

I knew I was in for a long afternoon. My magnesium levels have got so low that I needed to go on a drip of the stuff for two and half hours before I could even start the anti-cancer drugs.

Luckily I had company. My friend Keith came for chemo coffee although it turned into chemo coffee, lunch and tea. He was well prepared. With sushi and sandwiches and cream cakes, he laid on a hospital bedside banquet.

When I’d walked onto the ward earlier, I hadn’t really looked at the other patients. In my little room, Keith kept me entertained with a laptop stuffed with movies. It felt like a lovely lazy afternoon albeit in slightly strange surroundings. I could almost pretend that I wasn’t being pumped full of poison. Normally just being there, surrounded by sick people and all the medical equipment means that you focus on the cancer. It’s hard to avoid it.

Yesterday I also had a visitor – a fellow patient from my previous lot of treatment last year. We had got to know each other quite quickly as most of the other people at hospital are about twice as old as us. My chemo sister is totally fab-u-lous. She is positive but pragmatic and ensures that she looks amazing at all times. Something that takes an admirable effort.

My chemo sister came to see me with something sweet. A sparkling chocolate cake that she’d baked herself. Me and my steroids were very happy to be taking home that beauty.

By the time I was unhooked from the drip, the ward was almost deserted. My session at the chemo cocktail bar had left me a bit dizzy and almost like I was drunk. Probably thanks to the pre-meds.

I also felt surprisingly well. I reckon that was mostly because of my afternoon with friends and the chemo-cake-therapy. Despite the hours of treatment, it had been easy to forget about the cancer. Sometimes a little dose of denial isn’t a bad thing.


I have a confession to make. The last two blog posts have been written under the influence. I didn’t realise it but both times I was on a steroid high. Chemo#1 and chemo#2 have gone something like this…

Tuesday – Have chemo along with a load of steroids to help my body cope with the toxic side effects. Tuesday night – Insomnia.

Wednesday – Feel so energetic that I go for a little run. I know. A run – the day after chemo! Wednesday night – Horrific nightmares followed by insomnia.

Thursday – Feel miserable.

Thursday night – Sleep returns to normal.

Friday – Wake up feeling like me. No high, no low, no desire to do any running.

On Wednesdays I felt amazing and was bursting with energy. The real problem was with that awful Thursday comedown. Both times it’s hit me hard and I have months of treatment to go. I couldn’t work out what was happening until I mentioned my mood swings to a doctor.

If I really needed to have so many steroids then I’d just deal with it but why put up with something that can be changed?

Red band spells steroid danger

Before I started chemo#3 I asked if I could get the moody drugs reduced. It caused a bit of a kafuffle. Not many people opt for this. Steroids are used to reduce this risk of your body from having a bad reaction to chemo; like that patient did last week. Apparently it’s rare but a really bad reaction can be deadly. Cutting back on the steroids was a gamble although the doctor on the ward preferred to call it a calculated risk.

I knew that my body copes well with chemo. Oh yes, it’s one of my hidden talents. But I still wasn’t sure and neither were the medical staff. In the end we agreed that I’d have half the usual steroids and be closely monitored.

If something scary is going to happen it will do so in the first 15 minutes or so. I wanted to be awake to watch and worry however like before, the chemo cocktail put me straight to sleep. I didn’t even have time to take my wig off. I was relieved to have my friend, Chantal the flower girl at my side.

So what happened? Nothing. I was totally fine and slept all the way through the critical period and beyond. I’m still writing this after all!

It was quite stressful though. Not exactly what you need. I’m trying hard not to turn chemo into a big deal. I want it to be just part of weekly life.

As I’m keeping everything normal I offered to work an early morning shift before chemo in the afternoon. Getting up at 4.30am wasn’t great. But that was the whole point. I was playing mind games with myself and it worked. My brain was more annoyed about the stupidly early hour rather than the prospect of chemo.

It was a busy morning at work doing live TV reports and interviews for the BBC News Channel. I didn’t have time to think about my impending trip to the chemo cocktail bar.

I can see why my consultants have encouraged me to continue to work if I’m able to. The morning made me realise more than ever just how important it is to do the things you really enjoy. It gives you a sense of purpose that you’ll never get from a trip to hospital.

Also work is a big part of my identity. I may have cancer but that doesn’t define who I am. Being active is another part of my identity which has nothing to do with the disease. Earlier I went out for some exercise. I used to be very sporty and I’m keen to get fit again. Playing netball again is on my List for Living which I’m still working on.

I think that I’m now having much less of a steroid rush. The insomnia wasn’t so bad last night. The steroid highs made me feel like I had boundless energy. Today I managed to jog for two and half minutes with great difficulty. It’s good not to feel so hyper but just happy, tired and rubbish at running again.

Chemo #2

For my second week of treatment I was out for lunch. No,really, I went out for lunch half way through my chemo day. I escaped from hospital although I did it with permission from my nurse.

Weekly chemo is supposed to be quick and easy. Ha! That’s more hope than reality. The day starts with blood tests; this is to prove I’m well enough for what’s to come. It takes about half an hour for the results to come through.

It’s only once the doctors get these, that my order is put in at the chemo cocktail bar. The clear liquid has to be mixed. Shaken not stirred. This then has to be delivered to the chemo ward. The process takes around a couple of hours.

As I knew that there was a long wait ahead, I decided that the best time to leave would be straight after the blood tests. I snuck out with Mum and my Aunt Rose who’d come up to London to keep me company. My friend, the blogger joggingjenny, also joined us although instead of running there, she did actually get the bus! For a couple of hours I was free.

For a stressful day, it was lovely to go out for lunch. It took my mind off things. I wasn’t surrounded by medial sights and smells. Plus Jamie Oliver has a far better menu than the hospital canteen. It felt strange, almost like I was skiving from school.

Afterwards I was able to start my treatment with a really upbeat mood. That lasted about oooh a few seconds until the moment the needle went into my hand for the IV drip.

“I just need to push it in a bit further,” my nurse kept repeating.

Before I had Tamsin promising to pinch me as a distraction, this time I thought of yellow. Bright, warm, sunshine yellow. It may seem odd but I’ve been reading an interesting book called The Yellow World by Albert Espinosa. He had cancer as a teenager and is now in the clear. But not before he had more than 8o sessions of chemo. In total I’m only on number 14.

The Spanish author has a big thing about the colour yellow. He reckons it’s very special. As I looked away from the nurse I saw a woman in a yellow jumper…maybe he’s onto something. Albert Espinosa also believes that if you think – this will hurt – then it will. Following his advice, whenever the word pain popped into my head, I replaced it with pavement because it’s a word that’s totally unconnected with pain. And it worked, a bit.

As the drugs started to flow, my friend Louise stopped by for the chemo coffee club. With a posh paper bag, she came carrying contraband. Louise broke the no-cake-it’s-chemo-again rule! The fancy cup cakes been sprinkled with blue sparkles and were inside a box tied with a long pink ribbon. I’m trying to be super healthy but the cakes tasted amazing so all was forgiven.

However just being there, squashed into a small cell of the stuffy chemo unit, made me want to cry. I was so tired and my hand was in real pavement. It was that bad I had to take my wig off.

One thing that helped me was a comment on my blog from a woman called Mary, who I think is from Australia. She was told she had five days to live. She was given some advice by a woman in the next bed to her who was also dancing with cancer.

Now three years on she wanted to share this advice with me. First of all try to think of chemo as your friend, as something incredible, like liquid gold flowing through your veins. Yet more yellowness. Accept it and welcome it. Secondly, instead of thinking why me? She suggests that it may be more helpful to try considering, why not me??

She’s right. I’m coming to realise that self-pity is such a waste of valuable energy. I’m sure that no-one thinks that they deserve to get this killer disease. But I have it and I need to focus on the fight.

Then something terrible happened on the ward. A patient near me had a serious reaction to the chemo. The drugs are so toxic that there is always the chance your body will reject them with frightening consequences. After some emergency care the paitent was fine. Not well but no longer in danger.

While the only problems I had came from my hand hurting thanks to the drip and the side effect of sleepy drunkenness. I didn’t say a word about them. I’m just so grateful that my body is still strong and can take the kicking it’s getting from the chemo. Long may this continue.