Friday, 20 December 2013

Hark The Herald Angels Sing

This week I went to a carol concert at Mutley Baptist Church. My 9 year old sister Ella is in the choir. She is the the school choir & the 'green squad' choir which is another choir in her school which she had to audition for. It was really lovely and again made me feel really festive. Ella really loves to sing at home she doesn't stop and apparently I was like that when I was younger to believe it or not. Ella goes to the same primary school as myself and I was also in the choir and had the same teacher which is pretty weird...shame i'm no beyonce now because I would love to be able to sing. I love singing Christmas carols and every christmas time me and my family attend a carol service at church. We are not hugely religious it is just a tradition we have done for years. LAAALAAALAAA

Always smiling x

Saturday, 14 December 2013

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

This year we put our decorations up on the 1st, my younger sister always nags my mum to put them up before but it's always a no as it's too early. My mum is a real perfector when it comes to our tree. 
I have been travelling a lot these past few weeks to Birmingham and Bristol. Obviously we went to the malls and they had beautiful decorations. When we went to Bristol cribbs causeway they had a beautiful ice castle outside the mall with a ice rink and snow everywhere it felt really Christmassy and definitely gave me & the girls a festive feeling. 
Also last week we all went to my aunties for tea and mulled wine to decorate her tree...when I say all I mean 12 of us. We had Christmas music blaring and it was a lovely evening. 

This year I have also decided to decorate my room a little bit. I have bought a lot of these decorations from poundland and tesco. You may recognise the little reindeer ball as I received it as a present from Kath and her family. It was one of my advent presents from when I was in hospital. If you didn't read that post, here is the link. Christmas Surprises


Always smiling x

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

This month is childhood cancer awareness month and my aim is to raise as much awareness as I can. CLIC SARGENT are a great charity for supporting children and young adults who are affected by the evil C. I am going to be doing something very exciting to help raise awareness. CLIC SARGENT have contacted me asking if I would be interested in doing some radio interviews and writing press releases for local papers. I have just sent a draft this morning and am waiting to hear back. 

CLIC SARGENT are an amazing charity and have been chosen this year to be one of ITV1 TEXT SANTA charity's. If you don't know what this is, it's a bit like children in need but six different charities are involved instead of just the one. It is airing ON FRIDAY 20TH DECEMBER AT 8:00 PM. It is important to raise awareness of childhood cancer and CLIC SARGENT are amazing at supporting as many children as they can. I know this because they give me so much support. I have mentioned CLIC SARGENT in a lot of my blogs and they are well known of in the UK. Me and my family love to support CLIC SARGENT as much as we can. Next Tuesday 17th we are going to be taking part in THE BIG BUCKET COLLECTION at our local Tesco store. There are also CLIC SARGENT christmas badges being sold at JD Wetherspoons & Lidl, they are £1 each and all proceeds go to the CLIC SARGENT Sargent charity. 

UPDATE : Me and mum raised £227 doing the BIG BUCKET COLLECTION. I want to thank everyone who helped out. Also this afternoon I had an interview on BBC RADIO CORNWALL and it was a success, although I was really nervous. I managed to raise a lot of awareness about CLIC Sargent.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Irradiated Blood

I was rooting through my medical box and found a leaflet called: Information for patients needing irradiated blood. I forgot all about this. So thought I would share it with you readers and give you a sort of lesson or learning post. 
As I had a stem cell transplant last year, if I ever need blood transfusions in the future I have to ask the medical staff if the blood I am receiving is irradiated before it is transfused.

What is irradiated blood and why is it needed?
Irradiated blood is blood that has been treated with radiation. (by x-rays or other forms of radioactivity) This is to prevent Transfusion-Associated Graft-versus Host Disease.(TA-GvHD)

What is Transfusion-Associated Graft-versus Host Disease?
It is a rare but serious complication of blood transfusion caused by white blood cells in the transfused blood. A very small number of these cells may see the patient receiving the blood as 'different' and can cause a severe illness or even death.

Which patients are at risk of TA-GvHD?
Patients receiving transfusions of family members.
Patients with an inherited immune system disorder.
Patients who have developed an immune system disorder (Hodgkin's disease)
Patients who have had a bone marrow/stem cell transplant.
Unborn babies and babies needing exchange transfusions.

How does irradiation work?
Irradiation of the blood prevents lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) dividing and causing harm.

Is all blood routinely irradiated?
No. Red cell and platelet transfusions are not routinely irradiated and need to be irradiated 'on demand' for patients at risk of TA-GvHD.

What if blood is needed in an emergency?
Although irradiated blood is recommended, if I receive a small amount of non-irradiated blood the risk of TA-GvHD is very small. In serious emergencies there may not be enough time to arrange for blood to be irradiated. The medical team will judge the balance of the risks.

I have a card that I carry around in my purse just incase anything was to happen to me. I also have stickers on my medical notes to ensure all medical staff are aware.

Always smiling x

Friday, 29 November 2013

My 1st Birthday


Before I start this post I just want to wish 2 of my best girlies HAPPY 21ST BIRTHDAY KATHLEEN AND CHARLOTTE. Char's birthday was yesterday and Kath's is today! 
I can't believe that today is MY 1ST BIRTHDAY, a year ago since I had my Allogeneic stem cell transplant. Well what can I say... I am really over the moon. I couldn't have got this far without the huge support from EVERYONE! Seriously all my family, friends, nurses, neighbours, teachers and friends of friends. I am shocked how many people have supported me since the beginning of this long journey and I am so grateful for it!  It has been a bloody hard journey but I am so happy to be alive today! 
Last night I went for a meal with all my close family & friends to celebrate my 1st birthday. I had a great time and stuffed my face with delicious food! I also had an amazing cake made for me by Funky was delicious. There are so many kind people in this world, yesterday I went to have my nails shellacked by a lady called Michelle Searle, she heard about me by Funky Mammas ( Tracey) and offered a free shallac. Amazing! Also other people have donated some cupcakes and a ferrero roche tree. Amazing support! Thank you so much! 
My amazing cake!

The main reason I am alive today is all down to my superhero brother, Kieran. A truly amazing lad. Yes he's my annoying little 17 year brother but god not many 17 year olds can say they saved their big sisters life can they? I can't thank him enough for what he has done for me and now we have a huge connection as we share the gift of life. His blood cells are keeping me is pretty fascinating! I don't thank him enough for what he has done for me.
Back to the very start..when I was diagnosed we were told my plan of treatment, this was to have chemotherapy and the last resort was a stem cell transplant which I was not expected to have. I was told in August that due to my cancer being a pain in the ass, being an aggressive form and returning that I would need a stem cell transplant. When me and my family were told that there was only a 1 in 4 chance my sibling would be a match we instantly thought there's no chance he will be. He was tested the next week and n the 21st August me and my family were told Kieran was a 10/10 match. We were gob smacked and could not believe it! Having my younger brother as my donor is really amazing and we will always share a special bond.
TODAY I seriously feel better than ever. I have a great family, great friends and great health what more do I need?  
My recovery from the transplant is still ongoing. My consultant said that having a transplant and the preparation for transplant (having chemotherapy & total body radiotherapy) really knocks the life out of you and people recover very differently. I suffer from chronic fatigue and get tired really easily! I also suffer with muscle and joint pain and am told this should ease in the future. I don't beat myself up about this too much. Yes I will be on tablets for the rest of my life and have a lot of hospital check ups but I am enormously grateful to be alive today. 
Over the last year I have done some amazing things and met some amazing people. I have met a lot of young people who are fighting cancer who are an inspiration to me. I don't take life for granted as you never know what is around the corner. 
Future Plans
When I have fully recovered from my transplant I am hoping to return to college to complete an access to nursing course. Before I go back into education, I would love to travel. Next year I am definitely planning on going away on another girls holiday and a family holiday. I also would love to go to New York with mum, when I was in hospital we always said we would but money is the main issue...the flights are super expensive! As much as I want to achieve goals and go to university etc, I now feel that after fighting cancer life is too short and I want to rush and go travelling wherever I want. Don't let anything or anyone stop you doing what you want to do. 
I think about everything differently after having cancer. Yes I live in the fast lane and I think a lot of people live this way as I have spoke to others who agree with me. After being in hospital for 8 months I feel like I missed a year and I want to make up for that. I keep myself busy and want to plan to do things every day, my body on the other hand doesn't feel the same so this results in me pushing myself too much. My family and friends are always telling me to rest and rest but I tend to not listen. Silly I know!  I haven't got 'the all clear' and will feel a lot more 'safe' once I have. I feel like I'm living in limbo but I try not to dwell on this too much. This time next year I shall be saying those words! 'all clear' Yes there are many future complications that can arise and hopefully I will avoid these. 
Some people may question my emotions. I will never forget I had cancer and the journey I was faced with. It will affect me emotionally for the rest of my life but I see it as a positive thing. It has made me a stronger person and I feel different in myself. It has changed me but for the best. I get days where I will sit and think about everything I have been through and compare myself how I felt then to how well I am doing and feel today.  
I really can't believe how time flys by. This year has gone super fast and I think the fact I have kept myself constantly busy has helped me a lot!

Kieran, I can't thank you enough for helping me out when times were tough, 
You stepped in when my neutrophils were zero, Thank you so much for being my hero!
Health Update
I have to have all my 'baby' immunizations in a few weeks to help my new immune system. Which is crazy to think jabs I had 20 years ago are no longer in my blood?
My Iron levels are slowly dropping and should take another 6 months of venesections for my level to be 'normal which is great news. :)
I am taking a pill that helps to control my HRT side effects, so hopefully less hot flushes! Yay
I have my next clinic appointment next year! Sounds crazy to say that but such good news!
 I am looking forward to celebrating many more birthday's in the future. I will celebrate this date every year as it really is a very special day and I am so grateful...all thanks to my brother! 
 I am going to Bristol this afternoon for the weekend with all the girls to celebrate kath and cj's 21st. I will also have a celebratory drink to celebrate my 1st Birthday!
 Celebrations All around, I can't wait!

Always smiling x


Friday, 22 November 2013

Feeling Festive

It's 33 days until Christmas and I am feeling pretty festive already. People are lacking Christmas spirit this year! It is my favourite time of year as me and my family go all out. I feel like this Christmas is much more exciting than last year as I was in hospital so couldn't go Christmas shopping etc. This year I have definitely made up for it. This is one of the main reasons I am feeling really festive.
 Last weekend I went away with family and family friends to Birmingham. My parents go every year at Christmas to do a lot of their Christmas shopping. I have never been before so me and Kate decided to go this year and it was great. We shopped until we dropped...literally. We stayed at the copthorne hotel which is located across the road from Westfield Merry Hill shopping centre in Dudley. Three days of shopping, 7 hours a day was pretty crazy and super tiring. My feet swelled up and I have rested so much this week. I had a great weekend and have nearly finished my Christmas shopping...were not even in December. I'm doing pretty well I think! 

Winter is one of my favourite times of year. I love wrapping up warm and going for walks but also love being snug and cosy with the fire on. 
 I have been to see Santa and his reindeer's arrive and have also started to play my Christmas album in my car. Never too early is it. A few of my friends have put up their Christmas trees and decorations! Crazy!
 I love The John Lewis advert this year, it's very sad but really love Lilly Allen's version of Somewhere only we know. I don't know if it beats the snowman one from last year though! Hmmm....The Sainsbury's Christmas advert also makes me cry :'(.
 As you can see, this post is just me ranting on about how much I love Christmas! I love giving at Christmas. Seeing the smile on someone face and knowing I have made them smile means so much to me. 
I hope this post has made all you Scrooges start to feel festive and excited for Christmas!
Just realised I have said the word Christmas 13 times in this post. Excited much?

Always smiling x

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Busy bee

These past few months have flown by and this is probably due to me keeping myself busy. Even though I need to rest and family and friends tell me not to push myself, I feel like after missing out on last year I have to do everything I want to do NOW. Well this isn't the way forward as I have realised my body tells me to stop. In August I had this urge that I wanted to go back to college. As some of you may know that before I was diagnosed I was in the middle of completing a business apprenticeship....that went down the drain as I was too poorly to complete it. So this year I have had a new change to heart and now would love to be a nurse. I think part of wanting to do this is due to the fact I spent a year in hospital last year and the nurses who looked after me have inspired me. I went for an interview to start a full time access course in September and luckily I got accepted for a place. I was super excited to get back into education and start getting back to a 'normal' life. 
I was really busy in September. The second week of September, me and my auntie took little Esme away to Hendra holiday park in her camper van for a few nights. I had a lovely time and had a nice relaxing weekend. We took Esme to Newquay zoo and she loved it. I think me and my auntie enjoyed it as much as her as we were allowed to feed the penguins! It was my first time at Newquay zoo and would go again as it wasn't too big and hilly as our local zoo in Paignton. 

 The week after coming back from Hendra,me and the girls went to Newquay to celebrate Ash's 21. We had a great weekend! It was nice to spend time together before everyone went back to uni and college. 

After these eventful few weeks, It was time to start college. I settled in pretty well, made a lot of friends and already started a Biology assignment. Unfortunately I started to feel really tired and my mouth flared up in ulcers. I booked a clinic check up with my consultant and she said that my mouth ulcers were a sign of my body telling me to slow down. She said my immune system is still new and not even a year old. For this reason I have decided to defer my place at college and continue with the course next September, my health is more important right now. I think that being out of hospital I want to rush and get back to some normal life but this is going to take a while and I wasn't expecting this. The college were really understanding and said I can 100% continue next year. Even though I was only there for a month or so, I made some great friends who support and understand I still stay in touch with them and wish them all the luck that they complete the course and gain their chosen course at university. 
After my recent clinic appointment I have been told that I have to have all of my baby injections again. As I now have a new immune system all my previous jabs are no longer there. I have to have some of the jabs a year after transplant and the live ones two years after. I am also still having venesections for my iron overload and am not sure of the ferritin level but I am guessing it's still high because my consultant said it will most likely take months before it starts to drop. Due to the level being extremely high this affects my tiredness and my joints and bones aching a lot. Thank god for co-codamol pain killers, even though they make me super sleepy, they ease the pain. 
Since leaving college I am now focussing on MYSELF and health, I have returned to swimming once a week and do get tired after swimming a few laps of the pool but I am determined to regain my strength and increase my energy levels. I am looking forward to the future I have and although I want to rush and get back to normality, it will take time. I need to keep reminding myself that I have my whole life ahead of me. 
Always smiling x

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Teenage Cancer Action Week

This week 14 - 20 OCTOBER is teenage cancer action week.
Take action.
Learn the five most common signs of cancer in young people aged 13 - 24. Remember these signs could be due to an everyday illness so I don't want to scare anyone but please if you are worried make an appointment to see a's better to be on the safe side.
- Pain
- Lump, bump or swelling
- Extreme weight loss
- Extreme tiredness
- Changes in a mole
If you have any of these signs and you are worried you must go to see your doctor. If your illness is continued please return to the doctors. From past experience I had extreme problems with mouth ulcers and bruised gums. After many appointments with my dentist, he continued to say it was due to my bad hygiene. It wasn't until he sent me to the dental hygienist when she cleaned my gums they didn't stop bleeding I knew something wasn't right but never did I think 'oh I have cancer.' After having severely swollen glands and thinking I had glandular fever I went for a blood test and I was then diagnosed. From my first 'sign' it took about 5 weeks to get a diagnosis. It was something my dentist should have picked up but didn't. Therefore it is so important that if you notice a change in your body or are worried about something then tell someone and see a doctor. Be safe! 
Help raise awareness!

Always smiling x

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Blood Cancer Awareness Month

This month is blood cancer awareness month and my aim is to raise awareness. Nearly 30,000 people this year will be given the devastating news that they have a blood cancer. Thanks to research, the survival rate and quality of life for individuals diagnosed with blood cancer continue to improve. Unfortunately last year I was one of these people and from the symptoms I had it was the last thing I expected. I have recently been sorting out the photos on my laptop and come across a few of me in hospital. These are quite personal photos but I have learnt to not be afraid so I want to share these with everyone to reassure people who are also fighting cancer or know someone who is fighting cancer. It is a hard battle but i'm now on the other side and recovering well, there is hope. At the time I felt like complete shit but I stayed as positive as I could and beat cancer and today I am 9 months post stem cell transplant and so far cancer free :)
Staying positive is a huge key to fighting cancer.
This is what me and my family call 'THE PHOTO'.
This photo was taken the morning after a night out I had with the girls. On the night I felt poorly and not myself at all. I was complaining how ill I felt and everyone said how I looked like a vampire.This was taken 3 days before I was diagnosed and I did not have a clue what I was going to be faced with in the next few days.
My symptoms included bruising of the gums, bruising, mouth ulcers, swollen glands, sore eyes and weight loss. Never did I think of this resulting in me being diagnosed with cancer. My advice is to go to the doctor even if you think 'oh its nothing.'GO!
The photo below was taken when I was in hospital. I had been in for 4 days and had already started my first round of chemotherapy. I didn't realise at the time but looking back I looked as white as a ghost and am covered in bruises. I had a Picc Line fitted in my arm and had to have lots of bags of blood and fluid as I was really anemic and dehydrated.
This was taken on the same day as the previous photo. As you can see it didn't take me long for me to decide to cut my hair. When I was diagnosed it was one of the first things I thought about, I'm sure any girl would. As most of you all know I had really long blonde hair and when I was told that I was definitely going to loose my hair I wanted to cut it short. I was told that my hair would fall out in clumps and I would rather short clumps to fall out than long pieces of hair wouldn't you?. This didn't bother me as much as I thought as I knew it would eventually grow back.
3 months into my treatment, I had 2 rounds of chemotherapy and things were going smoothly (well sort of) I was in the middle of having a platelet transfusion through my central line (line in my chest) and I had an allergic reaction which resulted in having a huge itchy, hot rash all over my body. It was so horrible that I cried my eyes out like a baby, it was not pleasant. Mum covered me in freezing cold paper towels to cool my skin down and after having a piriton it calmed down. I was pretty worried after this but was told It is normal and happens because it's a donors platelets and my body reacted to them as they are 'unknown'. After having this allergic reaction I had to take a piriton every time I had a platelet transfusion. 


Everyone reacts differently in different situations. Me and my family believe to stay positive in a bad situation and what's more positive than being funny and laughing. When I had my down days I could always rely on family and friends to cheer me up. This picture was taken by my mum, when her and Kate were playing buckaroo on me! They were balancing anything they could find from my room, bottles, chocolates, books...anything and when I eventually moved everything would fall off. This is just one of the funny games we played to pass time.
5 months into my treatment and my positivity was strong and smiling. This photo was taken whilst I was waiting to go down to have total body irradiation. This involved in having probes attached to my head all the way down to my ankles. I had to lay on a bed and stay as still as possible while I was zapped by a big lazer (radiotherapy process).I had to have TBI as part of preparation for my transplant. Having TBI prevents production of blood cells. After having my full dose of TBI over 3 days, I had Kierans stem cells infused through my central line to 'rescue me'. This stage of my hospital journey was my worst. I felt REALLY ill. My energy levels were really low and I genuinely couldn't do much.
These are photos of Kieran having his stem cells taken, the day he saved my life :) He was attached to a machine for 4 hours and produced an excellent level of cells. It was really brave of him to do this and it was great news that he was a perfect match. We only had a 1 in 4 chance that he was a match so we were really really lucky. You can read more on this here at Stem Cell Transplant
The last photo is of the stem cells. They are not what I expected them to look like, they  look like a small bag of blood and they really smell like sweetcorn. 
These photos were taken 2 weeks after I had my transplant. I suffered with a lot of side effects and one of these were jaundice this is where your skin and eyes turn yellow in colour. This happened because my liver was affected by me taking a high dose of cyclosporine (my anti rejection drug). Scary to look at really, but after a few days it cleared up.
After looking at these photos I have realised how far I have come and how well I am doing today. Even Though I don't have half as much energy and strength as I used to and still have to go to hospital every month. I am cancer free and thats all that matters to me. It was a very rough year but I am looking forward to getting back to normal life and I know it will take time but I am slowly getting there :) I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for my brother donating his cells to me. If it wasn't for research this treatment would not be known. Thanks to the development into the research of treatments for blood cancer more people each day are successfully treated.

Always smiling x