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.

Let it rain

What fantastic weather we’ve been having!

This afternoon I watched an angry rain storm drench the garden from the comfort of the living room. As the wind howled down the chimney I sat and enjoyed the show.

I’m too ridiculously tired to do much else. Mornings don’t really exist for me anymore. I sleep for at least 12 hours every night and still my limbs feel like they’re made of stone.

When it’s wet there’s nothing like being indoors and knowing that you don’t have to go outside.

Besides, now that the Olympics Games are over the bad weather is proving good entertainment. It’s still a couple of weeks before the Paralympics start. Even Sasha the dog is missing Team GB.

However cosy and dry it is inside, part of me would love to be out there going about my normal life. It’s amazing what you crave. Being stuck inside for so long means you lose touch with the elements. You understand just how much the weather makes you feel alive.

These days I’m never too hot or too cold. Unless of course I’m coming down with an infection. Sometimes if there’s a blustery shower I’ll put my wellies on and wander around the garden so I can feel rain drops on my face.

The first time I was treated for cancer I also really missed the weather. It was confusing as I lost track of the seasons. Experiencing extreme weather was on my big list of things that I wanted to do after chemo. It was one of the reasons why I loved living in Eastern Europe.

And I certainly got a whole load of extreme weather. Snow, ice and bitterly cold temperatures I had it all.

One day I was live on the TV news while stood outside in what seemed like artic conditions. When I came off air I realised my lip gloss had frozen.

At the time this was all part of my foreign adventure. Maybe I was packing in lots of wild weather back then so I wouldn’t be too frustrated now. Even so I’d quite like some more of it. Sorry in advance if you get caught in a sudden downpour but I’m going to be stuck at home for a little while yet so I’m really hoping for some more truly awful weather!

Olympic victory

Yes I made it!

Not long after my last session of chemo I actually got to see the Olympics. I still can’t quite believe it.

The day before I’d been shattered. I wondered if I could even make the journey across London. But there was no choice. I wanted to go so I had to feel well. After months worrying about tumours, rogue cells and being so agonisingly ill, it was great to focus on something totally unconnected to cancer.

Mum and I had tickets for basketball but our first event of the day was show jumping at Greenwich Park.


To get to the venue we did it like David Beckham and sped along the Thames by boat.

I have to admit I was nervous about the day ahead. I hadn’t done anything requiring this much effort for such a long time. Despite being determined not to be beaten by the chemo, I knew I was going to have to take it easy. But this wasn’t about what I couldn’t do; it was about enjoying a glimpse of normal life and how things will be when I’m all recovered.

Because of this I thought there was no better time than to wear a wig for real. Say hello to Raquel! This is a Raquel Welsh wig and so it becomes my Raquel. It was quite surreal suddenly going blonde.

The Olympic day was planned like a military operation. I’d slept as much as I could since chemo. I’d organised my medicine so that I was taking the max pain killers at the right time on the Sunday. Most importantly mum had hired me a wheelchair.


There was a torrential downpour as the morning session of the show jumping started but it didn’t matter. I’d managed to get to the games. It was an amazing feeling to be part of the Olympics.

For Team GB it was the beginning of an historic gold medal winning performance. I was also finding it quite tiring. Plus the super strong tablets had left me drowsy. As the final horses finished I had a sleep in my wheelchair. I was very grateful for that chair. There was no way I could have managed without it.

It had been mum’s idea to get the wheelchair even though it meant that she had to push me. I thought that we might only manage the morning. Mum had had other ideas and we headed for the Olympic Park. Luckily she’s very fit and when we had a clear stretch of pavements we whizzed along. If there were people walking the same way as us, mum enjoyed overtaking them.

It was definitely fun but shocking too. It made me understand just how much of an impact the cancer, surgery and chemo have had. Thankfully I know that I’ll recover.

Spending all day in the wheelchair also left me stunned. It was as if some people had never seen a wheelchair before. As we tried to navigate busy areas, some just starred and stood in the way. When we needed help few people offered any assistance.

The people working at the games however were brilliant. At the Olympic Park we were given a lift on a golf buggy. The wheelchair was strapped to the back. Our driver tooted his horn and shouted, “Team GB on board” as we made our way through the crowds.

The last time I was there was back in January. I was reporting live for BBC News on the start of the Olympic year. Just a few days before I had symptoms that made me think that something could be wrong. So much has happened since then but it’s almost all over. I’m so glad that I made it. This feels like I’ve come full circle.

Incredibly we managed to stay to the end of the evening session of basketball. I was knackered, of course and in some pain but delighted. This was good pain, the kind that you get from doing too much. It’s taken days of sleep to recover.

Since the opening of London 2012 I’ve been watching Team GB with so much pride. Now the Olympics has helped me to achieve something that was way beyond my expectations and I feel very proud of myself too.

Just one more

Exhausted, so exhausted. But also I was slightly excited that I managed to make it through chemo number five. The end of my cancer treatment is really in sight now.

For the previous sessions friends have come over for a chemo coffee on the ward with me. I was too ill for that this week. Although I did have a cheeky chocolate muffin before it started. Then all I could do was to lie in bed.

Not only do I want this to all be over but so do my veins. They’re beginning to give up on me and I don’t blame them.

They appear normal but once a needle goes anywhere near them they seem to disappear. During my emergency stay in hospital last week, it took three people to get just one blood sample and some rather spectacular bruises.

The chemo is delivered via a needle that has to stay in a vein all day. My evil chemo cocktail is so toxic that the nurses wear gloves when they’re handling the bags of liquid. If the drugs escape from my veins into the surrounding tissue this could be really dangerous. So the nurse has to hit a good strong vein.

One way that I cope with this is to play the alphabet game. I look away from my arm and silently name countries of the world from A – Z. Usually I get to Egypt or France. These days I end up in Kazakhstan, Libya or even Mexico.

And that wasn’t the only pain. I’ve been persevering with the pink cold cap. The hat with a rubber lining that’s frozen to -5c and helps to stop you from going bald. I love my new wigs but I’d still rather have my own hair even though it’s very thin now.

Of course the more exposed your scalp is, the colder your head gets. Normally the frostbite feeling gradually subsides but not this time. This time it hurt so much. After two hours I couldn’t stand it any longer. I gave up.

So that’s it, there’s no real chance that I’ll keep my hair. It was a sad moment but I was too tired to get upset.

That’s the best thing about being so shattered all the time, you don’t have the energy to worry about much. You just focus on getting through each day. When I had chemo before, it was this period between the fifth and sixth session that I found the toughest. It seems like your body is screaming at you that it can’t take any more of the poison and yet you know there is still one final dose to go.

Since the chemo on Wednesday, all I’ve done is sleep. Mostly just waking up to be sick, take tablets and eat. My life is almost completely on hold but I’m hoping that the Olympics will help me to feel a little bit better.

Before I was diagnosed with cancer, maybe before I even had the disease, I got tickets for London 2012. This Sunday I should be there watching show jumping and basketball but the Sunday after chemo is normally my worst day. However I’m determined to make it. Even just for a few minutes.

Not only that, I’m going to wear one of my new wigs for the first time. While I won’t be going for gold, I’m quite looking forward to being blonde and proving that I won’t be beaten by the chemo.

My Olympic recovery

I really was getting worse.

Not long after updating my blog I climbed into bed and got under the duvet. It was a sunny afternoon, my temperature was rising and yet I was freezing.

Then suddenly there was a spike in my temperature. I knew I couldn’t put it off any more. Mum drove me to the nearest hospital.

By the time we made it to Accident and Emergency my heart rate was racing, my blood pressure had slumped and my temperature was a sweltering 39c. I was quickly put into a hospital bed in what felt like the hottest part of the building.

So I was now a MEDICAL EMERGENCY and terrified. I may have been in hospital before but not this one and never in such a rush.

Tests showed that I was neutropenic. Basically my immune system was dangerously low. I had some kind of an infection and my body couldn’t fight it. Surely it was just a cold?

The doctor wasn’t so sure. He went through a list of possibilities with me; some were very serious and would mean emergency surgery.

I was put on a drip of antibiotics. Lying on my back, I stared at the ceiling and worried. Mum sat at my bedside, occasionally swatting the insects that flew in through an open window.  

It wasn’t until late that night that I was taken by wheelchair through the empty corridors to the cancer ward. I was wheeled into a side room with a television and an ensuite bathroom.

Result, I thought to myself.

The next day I realised it wasn’t such a good thing. I was almost in isolation. With the door shut, I stayed in the room on my own. I looked out on a couple of building and the wonderful weather.

By the time I saw a specialist consultant I was already responding well to the treatment. I was relieved to be told that I probably wouldn’t need anything more than antibiotics.

Most of the time bags of medicine or fluids were slowly pumped into my veins. It was lovely to be on an intravenous drip that made me feel good rather than the evil chemo cocktail that I’m more used to.

My consultant had said the treatment was going to be boring but relatively painless. And he was right. Less than 48 hours after I arrived at the hospital my immune system had recovered enough for me to be allowed home. I was shocked that I was so better so quickly.

Having an emergency stay in hospital was pretty traumatic. I was so glad to be leaving that I cried on the journey home.

I know that while the last lot of chemo will be horrendous, it won’t be nearly as bad as that.

I’ve been celebrating my release with Sasha the dog. It’s amazing that I got out in time for the start of the Olympics. I thought that I’d be stuck on my own in a hospital side room instead we’re going to be able to watch the games together!