Wednesday, 22 May 2013

One Year

This time last year I was living a normal teenage life partying and going out with friends. I had an evening job and a business apprenticeship at the ambulance station. I also had a lot to look forward to, going on holiday with the girls to Tenerife and the birth of my niece. Then everything changed and I was faced with the biggest journey of my life. I did not ever think I would have cancer,things like that don't happen to people like me? To think that I went to the doctors to have a blood test for glandular fever and then being told that I have leukaemia is just devastating. But on a positive note to think that this time last year I had cancer and today I am cancer free is AMAZING and such a great feeling. I feel really positive and look at life in a totally different perspective. You Only Live Once. You never know what could be around the corner. Today I feel really well and healthy 100% better than what I was feeling last year. Although I feel and look better it is going to take a while until I am back to my normal self. I still need to build up my energy as I get really tired easily. I am also going to have to take tablets for the rest of my life, but what's a few tablets a day to stay alive?

Having cancer and a transplant has affected my life in so many ways..both good and bad. I still face my fears and issues but I am thankful to be alive, I just try to live life one day at a time and be in the moment with whatever I am experiencing. I live my life differently. I try to live each day to it's fullest and take one day at a time. It is scary not knowing what is going to happen in the next chapter of my life but I hope and pray I am cancer free forever. There are so many people that live in the fast lane and think there will always be a tomorrow. I know how fast all of that can be taken away so I don't take things for granted anymore. I couldn't have come this far without the support of my AMAZING family & friends. 

Through fighting cancer I have suffered many losses - lost fertility, lost hair, lost time - but I have also uncovered many treasures and have become a happier, more hopeful and STRONGER person.

Always smiling x

Monday, 13 May 2013

Bold Is Beautiful

When I was told that I had cancer and have to have A LOT of chemotherapy, one of the first things I thought was 'Oh shit i'm going to loose my hair!' 
After being told the side effects of chemotherapy and that I will 100% lose my hair I was reassured by my doctors that it WILL grow back. To be honest my family were more upset about me losing my hair than I was, especially my mum. It didn't fall out straight away but my instant thought was to cut it really short. I had really long, thick, blonde hair. It wasn't my natural colour as I used to have it highlighted.
My hair was so long I thought it wouldn't be as much of a shock if I had it cut really short first and then shave it all off when it started to fall out. I asked my hairdresser (My best friend kate's sister.) If she would cut my hair. As I was in isolation and only allowed my 4 visitors in my room the nurses made an exception and she was allowed in my room to cut my hair. Me, Mum and Kate were in my room and my mum was very emotional but it honestly didn't bother me that much I just kept thinking in my head 'it WILL grow back,it WILL grow back'. First she put my hair in a ponytail and cut it, she then styled it into a short cut. 
I didn't like it as I was so used to having really long hair and never tried a different hairstyle. Family and friends said it didn't look that bad but I thought different. I did want to donate my hair to make real hair wigs but as I had it bleached etc and it wasn't 'virgin' hair I wasn't allowed so don't know what to do with it and still have it at home.
Most teenagers would go crazy about losing their hair but I just tried to stay as positive as I could. I remember after having it cut really short all my friends came to the hospital to see my hair but as I wasn't in a proper isolation room with big windows they could only peer through the little window in the door. They had to keep rotating in turns to look through the small window. It was really funny at the time and put a smile on my face :) 
I was lucky and kept my hair for a few weeks into treatment, usually it comes out within days but my strong locks were not leaving my scalp. 

The thought of being bald was scary as it isn't normal for girls not to have any hair, boys can get away with it a lot more. Because of this case I was adamant on buying a wig, my nurses arranged a lady to come in with wigs for me to try on . A lovely lady from browns wigs came to my room and brought lots of wigs. I tried on a lot of different styles, short, long, light and dark. I was going to try a different hairstyle but fell in love with a long, blonde wig. It was the one that looked the most like my 'old' hair so I think that's why I liked it. My Nan said she would buy the wig for me which was lovely. The NHS gave £100 towards the wig and the wig I wanted was £170 so my Nan paid the rest, she also bought a wig stand and a special shampoo and conditioner spray for the wig bless her :)
 You don't have to wash it everyday like you would normal hair, you wash it every few months. I was really excited and the wig took a few weeks to arrive. 
In the meantime I had a lot of chemotherapy and was feeling pretty sick. It was at this time that my hair started to fall out. 
At first it fell out in little strands here and there, then it became extreme and I would wake up and my bed was covered in hair. I used to brush it and the hair brush would be completely covered, it was a difficult time my hair actually falling out. I then decided to have all my hair shaved off. My mum was going to do it but she was shaking too much and really upset so in the end one of my favourite HCA's Catherine shaved it off. She had done it a lot before so she knew exactly what she was doing. Also I was allowed to have a shower after having it shaved as I had hair everywhere this was quite a treat as I was in an isolation room without a shower.
As well as my wig I bought myself a lot head scarves and bandanna's. I found a really good website that sells pretty head scarves and would definitely recommend - Anna Bandana. I used to wear them on my week home or when I was in hospital. This website is amazing and you can get really pretty accessories for head scarves to make them look really nice at a affordable price. I had thin patterned scarves and even hair clips, I spent lots of time choosing but it kept me busy while in hospital.
To be honest I didn't wear my wig a lot. I wore it to my auntie's wedding and on a few more occasions. It made my head really hot, itch and uncomfortable. It didn't look really fake but I could just tell that it was, every time I looked in the mirror I could just see myself that it was so I didn't wear it often. 

My hair started to grow to a really short length but due to constantly having treatment, every time it grew back, it would fall out again when I had more chemotherapy. It wasn't until after I had my stem cell transplant that it started to grow and 'hopefully' NEVER fall out again. When your hair falls out it can grow back completely different to your previous hair. It can grow back a different colour and style. Mine has grown back really thick and a dark brown colour. It started out growing really straight and now it has started to curl at the back. (6 months after transplant) I can't do much with it at such a short length, I blow dry it and have tried straightening  it with my little sister's mini straighteners but as it's really short it's pretty hard to style. I am going to the hairdressers this week to have it cut and styled as it is starting to look quite messy.
This is my hair now.
Before having cancer and having to loose my hair, I would never have thought a short hair style would suit me but a lot of family and friends say how nice it looks. People saying this has boosted my confidence. As you can imagine my confidence has been hugely knocked since loosing my hair. I am used to it myself and am considering keeping it short. 
Anyone who is worried about losing their hair I hope this blog can help reassure that you can still stay positive and that it WILL grow back. There are also some amazing wigs and head scarves you can wear but remember 
Always smiling x

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Mrs Carter World Tour

Well after my busy weekend in Cornwall, I had a night at home and then had to set off on my train to London to see the one and only Beyonce! She was honestly amazing! I have always wanted to see her live and my dreams finally came true. I went to London with my auntie, mum, Kate & Kath and our family friend Tracy.

On the Tuesday we got a train from Plymouth to London (4 hours) we met a dear old man on the train who amazed us, he could tell us the day we were born on by us telling him our dates of he done it i don't know but it passed a lot of our time on our long train journey!
 When we arrived in London our hotel was a walk away from the station. Luckily Tracy used to live in London so she knew where she was going which was so helpful. After checking into our hotel we wanted to go for something to eat and I wanted to do some shopping in London at Westfield shopping center. 
The shops were HUGE and there were so many different shops that we don't have in Plymouth which I loved. I could have spend £££ but only picked up a few bits of makeup, few tops and then went to nandos for something to eat which was lush. I got really tired and my feet started to swell up which was not good! :( so we headed home and had an early night. 

On Wednesday (THE DAY!!) we decided to go to Madame Tussauds for the day. We got ready and went to find somewhere to eat. We found a lovely patisserie at the end of the street where we were staying and I had poached eggs, bacon and toast. It was really yummy! 

We then got on the tube to Madame Tussauds (luckily Tracy knew where to go) I have been when I was a lot younger but Kath & Kate had never been. We got to Madame Tussauds and it was busy busy busy, we were told it would be a 2 hour wait but luckily we only waited about 45 mins. We had 2 4 1 tickets too which was handy! We had lots and lots of fun and I was amazed how real some of the wax works looked.
After a few hours of fun and laughter at Madame Tussauds we went back to the hotel and started to get ready to see Beyonce (AHHHH) We bought a few bottles of wine to share as we had plenty of time to spare and when we arrived at the 02 it was packed.
Excited much?
They had Beyonce everything, the bars were selling Beyonce drinks & cocktails.
The Beyonce merchandise was amazing and I bought myself a top. I could have spent £££.
We  had Sky Backstage passes, this didn't mean that we could go backstage and meet her
( I WISH). Because we were sky tv customers, at the O2 they have a sky backstage area where you can have pictures taken on a red carpet, have plenty of drinks, a massage, a makeover and sing star. It is so worth doing if you are with sky or know anyone that is and you are going to a concert at 02. We had so so much fun and even missed the support act cus we were enjoying ourselves too much! 

After having an amazing time in the Sky Backstage bar we were ready to see Queen B. 
Even Though we didn't have the best seats, it was amazing! We could see her very well and she was amazing. She's a beautiful talented woman, me and Kath cried because we just couldn't believe we were there seeing her! 
We were all dancing and booty shaking. Loved it.
Truly amazing woman!
I still can't believe I have seen her live. How she can dance and sing like that god knows but she is blessed. It is definitely a night i will never forget and I hope to see her again when she next tours the UK.

Perran Sands

Last weekend I went on a vacation to Cornwall at Perran sands holiday park, with my family and friends. It was such a fun weekend and my first get away since leaving the hospital. 

We all stayed in chalets. I stayed in one with the girls, Kate, Rach, Kath and Ash. I love staying with the girls, any time one of us have a free house at home we decide to move in together. Also it was my cousins birthday on the Friday and mum's on the Monday so it was nice to all be together and celebrate it over the weekend.
Our chalet was very basic but it had everything you needed. We went to the club, went swimming and went out for the day to Perranporth. It was nice to get away, relax and chill and also not have to worry or go to hospital for blood tests. 

My blood tests are so well that I am having 3 weeks off. YAY :) 

Friday, 3 May 2013

Baby Shower

This last week has been super super busy! I have had my friends baby shower, stayed at a caravan site for the week then went to London for a few nights to see Beyonce. It has been an amazing week but now I have crashed! 

On Thursday 25th April I had my friend Maria's baby shower. She is due to have a baby boy on the 10th May. Me and the girls are really excited as she is the first girl in 'our friendship group' to have a baby and we all know she's going to be an amazing mama :).
The shower was held at my friend Aimee's house, we ate food & cakes, played games, spoke babies, opened presents. It was such a lovely evening and really nice to see and catch up with all the girls as a lot of them have moved away for uni and we managed to all get together, although not everyone could make it. 
We all can't wait to meet the little man. It is really exciting and she & Sam (the daddy) will be great parents. I can't wait to see what he looks like, how much he weighs and what they are going to name him.:) 
I hope everything goes well and labour isn't too stressful.
Happy Days.
Baby Update!!
Louie James Cameron weighing 7 pound 9 oz was born at 13:10 on 12th May 2013. He is gorgeous. Congratulations Maria & Sam. 

Transplant Clinic Update

Today I am day 148 post transplant. I had my transplant on 29.11.12 and left hospital on 23.12.12 and since then I had only had to stay in hospital for a week and that was due to having a fever and being sick a few weeks after I was discharged. Hopefully I don't have to go to hospital to stay ever ever again! After 8 months of being in there it's great to know. I have to go to hospital for weekly blood tests to check my blood levels and to be monitored. As I had my brothers stem cells there is more of a chance that the transplant will be a success, but you don't get 'the all clear' until after up to 2 years as problems can occur. (hopefully wont!) From my blood tests I am having there are no leukaemia cells which is amazeballs
If my doctors are happy and my blood tests are clear. Then it's a great week for me :).
I still have a long way to go but take each day as it is and enjoy my life to the full.
Stem cell transplants are complex procedures that carry significant risks of serious complications. Generally risks are reduced if:
  • you are young - studies have shown the younger you are, the more likely the treatment is to succeed. 
  • you receive a donation from your brother or sister.
  • you have no other serious health conditions.

Luckily all above relate to me so the risks of having a transplant are reduced. Before having the transplant the doctors did weigh the risks of living with leukaemia and the risks of having the transplant and the best option was transplant.

I was told if i didn't have the transplant I would have 2 years to live.
In some cases, the transplanted cells (graft cells) recognise the recipient's cells as 'foreign' and try to attack them. This is known as graft versus host disease (GvHD) and it often occurs following stem cell transplantation.
There are two types of GvHD, they are:
  • acute GvHD – which usually happens during the first three months of the transplant
  • chronic GvHD – which develops from acute GVHD and can cause symptoms for many years
Chronic GvHD can develop anywhere between three months and two years after the transplant. The symptoms can persist or they may come and go for many years. They can range in severity from mild to life-threatening.
Luckily I have had no sign of this. I have been on cyclosporine which are anti-reject tablets, this reduces the risk of GvHD.Although my doctors are slowly reducing the amount of cyclosporine I take as my body will rely on the tablet if I continue to take it. 
I have to take daily tablets and will do for the rest of my life. The tablets I am still on are penicillin, cyclosporine, aciclovir, septrin and anti-sickness when I need it.
I see myself as being well and recovered but my body is still suffering and not fully recovered from having treatment and chemotherapy. I have to take pain killers a lot because my body aches If i do too much walking etc, theres so much I want to do but my body can't cope, I think  this is because I was in a hospital bed for so long and didn't walk a lot. Now I am more active  it is going to take time for my body to regain strength. I also have to be extra careful in the sun, as I have really sensitive skin after having chemotherapy & radiotherapy.  This means I have to wear a high high factor sun cream when I am out and about.