Twenty days in…

“Do you want to wear your wedding ring when you’re cremated?”

It was one of the more stand-out moments of the past twenty days – that’s the time since I learned my life is likely going to be shorter than I’d previously been expecting.

Since sharing my news via a blog post, I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by messages from near and far, from strangers, sending me their best wishes, sometimes offering nuggets of advice, or signposting me to people or services or products that they think may be of help. Some fit the bill. Some don’t. All are well-meant and that’s what matters.

It’s also been twenty days where “living your best life” has been on my mind.

What does it mean?

I’ve had lots of people advising me to quit social media, quit my job, go on endless luxury holidays. Now, aside of the small fly in the ointment we shall call a pandemic, there’s also the practicality of paying for it all and my husband’s not endless supply of annual leave.

There’s also the reality that all the things I love in my life are in my life. My husband, my work, having fun on social media, seeing friends, reading books, going on holidays.

I think “living my best life” is actually more about tinkering with the balance of all of those things. Dialling down the stuff that grinds me down. Dialling up the stuff that brings me joy, including getting back to work on TV last week.

But this past twenty days has also been a massive eye-opening insight into the myriad practical things that need to be sorted. And that includes planning my funeral.

To sit at the undertakers, to talk venues, orders of service, coffin, hearses, whether I wear my ring, even which newspapers I want my death notice to appear in, is surreal in the extreme.

It’s also utterly fascinating, but again and again it then dawned on me that we were talking about me. And that it would all happen when I’m dead. Effectively, it’s organising an odd party where my attendance is in a wooden box. That’s quite a sobering thought.

We also visited a lawyer to draft a will. There’s the pension scheme to sort out. What to do with those shares. Oh, and I must transfer the Netflix account into Alan’s name.

It sounds daft, but thinking about that level of detail right now will save agro for me in my dying days, or agro for Alan when I’m gone. It’s not morbid to sort all this now, it’s actually sensible.

My plan, and all my plans are moveable feasts, is to get the life admin sorted by Christmas, so after that we really can focus on living.

But there’s another issue on the horizon. The oncologist is rather keen that I really do reconsider more chemotherapy while the “window of opportunity” is there.

It’s not chemo to save my life. It’s chemo that could slow down my death. The difficult question is whether the damage to my quality of life in the short term from yet more chemo is worth what it may add on at the end.

There’s inevitably a sweet spot. If they could say it’ll add a year or two but I lose the next three or four months to the chemo, it’s worthy of consideration. If it’s nearer a one-for-one ratio, I’m yet to be convinced. My gut tells me my focus should be on living a good life, rather than stretching out my life while feeling less than good.

It’s a lot to think about. I’ve more research to do. And my oncologist and I have more conversations to work through. But what’s brilliant is that we are having these conversations, that the options are there for me, and that there is absolute support for whatever I choose in the coming weeks.

The strangest thing has happened, emotionally, in the past twenty days. And that’s a constant drift to feelings of gratitude and luck. I keep feeling like I am the luckiest man in the world to have received so much kindness from so many people in recent days.

Alan and I have both basked in the loveliest words and wishes as we come to terms with our new lot in life. It really is quite the wave of warmth.

We’ve done tears. We’ve done laughter. I’ve done a fair share of pity and “why me?” What’s intriguing, so far, is that there’s been no anger. I suspect, at some point, it will hit. And it’ll probably happen out of context when we least expect it. But right now, it’s about gratitude and love.

So there we are. Some thoughts, reflections and observations after twenty days of this stuff. I thought it useful to document on an as and when basis as much for my benefit as anyone else’s.

And, as for the wedding ring, well you’ll have to wait and see!

Life and death

Yesterday I found out I will die soon.

A half hour video call with my oncologist in Southampton concluded I have a life expectancy of six to twelve months as my cancer is terminal.

The nasties growing between my heart and lung that three months of “salvage chemotherapy” had shrunk earlier this year have come back to life, but there are now more, and the expectation is they will continue to do their thing, possibly making their way to my liver, my brain and elsewhere in my body. They’re inoperable. There isn’t a treatment left to get rid of them.

I’m apparently unusual (I knew that!), with my oncologist seeing only one such case of this rare cancer each year.

There is a chemotherapy treatment that has the potential to add a few extra weeks, maybe months, to my life, but the trade off is the loss of quality of life due to the side effects of that chemo. Right now, I’m yet to decide whether to go for it or not.

Hearing you’re going to die is odd.

I’ve had friends and acquaintances receive that news and I thought I could empathise with their devastating news. I now know I couldn’t.

It’s a strange, other worldly experience, to think there may only be one more birthday, one more Christmas, one more wedding anniversary.

It immediately washed over me like the most overwhelming sea of guilt to think that my husband is likely going to be alone at home without me. Our holidays. Our watching telly on the sofa. Our weekend breakfasts down the west coast. I won’t be there to laugh or nag or snuggle up in his lap.

It just feels totally unfair. For him. For me. And I know that makes me sound selfish. I don’t mean it like that.

Having to ring your dad to tell him you’re going to die is horrible. Then your brother. Then a friend. Then another friend. Then your boss. Each call is utterly exhausting.

The weirdest bit is that, deep down, I’ve sensed I am dying for around three months now. I just kept hoping I’d be wrong.

The doctors didn’t know as I only had the scan and other tests last week, but I knew I was dying. I just didn’t have the words to describe it and I was determined to keep my best game face on as each day had become ever so slightly more difficult than the previous day.

It’s tiny stuff. I’m just a shade slower. I’m just a shade tireder. My skin is just a shade drier. My pain is just a shade sorer. And on it goes. Incremental, but over time it adds up. I don’t feel good.

But I smile my smile. I do my work thing. And when wonderfully kind people say nice things, especially “you look so well”, I cry a little inside, and outwardly I smile, thank them, and say “I’m plodding on”. It’s my way of trying not to lie to them while not burdening them with my woes.

Right now I finally feel able to let that mask slip. Again it feels selfish. But I think that’s okay.

Do I transfer my savings to my husband’s bank account? What happens to those flight loyalty points I’ve got? Do I need to ring the tax office and let them know I’m dying?

They’re the daft, wide-ranging and random questions that pop into your mind at odd times of night.

It’s currently 2.40am. I’m absolutely wide awake. I can’t sleep. My mind is racing.

Should I plan my funeral now? Do I want to be buried or cremated? What will dying feel like? How can I not exist any more?

I told you the questions were random!

I’ve Googled “what happens when you’re told you’re dying of cancer” and I now know the results are rubbish. Not rubbish in the sense that the situation is rubbish, but rubbish in the sense that all the results are inane. Apparently I’ll be upset.

No shit, Sherlock!

I may get angry. Yup.

I may find it helpful to cry with my partner. Oh we’re doing that alright!

Weirdly one of my very first thoughts after being told I’ll likely be dead in a year is that I need to write a book for other people to read as soon as they get similar news to tell them what happens. Then it occurred to me, the last thing you want to do when you’re told it’ll soon be game over is read a how-to guide. So I’ve parked that one.

The other oddity is how the normal bits of life just continue to happen.

Within two hours of being told the news, my husband and I were chatting about what we were going to cook for dinner. We both smiled when we remembered it was Only Connect night on TV. We treated ourselves to a bowl of ice cream while we curled up and watched the quiz.

It was like nothing had happened.

Yet he’d had the awful job of phoning his parents and brother to tell them the news. He’d rung his boss to let them in on what was going on. He shouldn’t have to do that. We’re both relatively young.

We should be thinking about holidays and home improvements and all the things we want to do in life, together.

Now my heart breaks at the prospect of the person I love more than any other in this world being cut adrift. It’s not fair on him. I feel like the worst husband ever, even though I know that’s just self-serving self-pitying silly talk.

We lost our holiday at the start of this year to my chemo. We rebooked it at the end of my chemo and lost it to the pandemic. We then rebooked it for this week, and the pandemic has put pay to our trip away yet again. Damn you, Covid!

It sounds so daft, but I just want us both to be on the cruise ship we love, sailing from place to place, sitting in our cabin, on our balcony, or in a cosy corner of the ship just letting the world go by while we read a book. I want us to go to the daily quiz, the nightly show, and to disembark in different places each day.

I hope, if this world reopens in time, we get our chance to do that. It’s our happy place.

We all deserve happy.

Anyhow, I’m rambling, and for that I apologise.

Letting these words spill from my fingertips to my computer screen is helpful. It’s also, currently, giving me reason to use the ‘dying’ word. I’ve never been a fan of abstract euphemisms like “passed on” or “gone to a better place” as it’s always been my feeling that it’s delaying the inevitable reality check that somebody is dead.

And now it’s me.

They say six to twelve months.

It could be more. It could be less.

I promised the oncologist I wouldn’t be alive to complain if he got it wrong. That was my attempt at humour, but I do have a point!

Right now I am broken. But, with the love of my friends, my family, and most of all my husband, I’ll get it together with a view to living my best life.

I’m not dying. I’m living. It’s just that I’ve got less of it to do so it’s my obligation to make it matter more.

Thank you for reading this. Thank you for caring. x

(This blog was written in the early hours of 3 November 2020, but posted later to give us chance to speak directly to our nearest and dearest first. I am 100% certain that I will have forgotten to speak directly to at least one person I had intended to who, instead, has just read this. For that, I apologise).

Guess what’s back?

It’s back.

The phone rang at 1.56pm on Monday. It was a Southampton number. It was my oncologist calling for an appointment I would, in normal times, have flown over for.

Last week I had a CT scan and a bunch of bloods done at Jersey’s General Hospital. This was, effectively, exam results day.

Sadly, I had a suspicion I wouldn’t be getting an A+.

Even more sadly, my track record of accurately predicting the results before they came was on the money again.

First the good news: an oversized lymph node in my chest, that the chemo I had from last November to February hadn’t shrunk into submission, hadn’t grown any since my last CT scan in February. And the other cluster of nasties that the chemo had seen off, are still gone.

The not so good news: a growth in one of my lungs that wasn’t there in that February scan had since sprung to life and grown.

This cancer game just won’t go away.

The decision by the multi-disciplinary team, having consulted the surgeon who cut into me a couple of times around five years ago to remove parts of my lungs, is that the surgery route is an option. So that’s good.

To do it right now would mean open surgery and a massive recovery time, so the plan is to wait for the growth to grow some more so that it can be attacked laparoscopically meaning the recovery time is only a few months.

The plan? Have another scan in three months from now to plot its growth and consider diving in for it then.

Meanwhile, I’m back at the Jersey oncologist on Thursday this week to attempt to tackle other symptoms that have noticeably worsened over the past month, primarily centred around fatigue.

For those who don’t know, it’s less about feeling tired, and more about feeling like your whole body is wrapped in chain mail, just making everything – even thinking – feel a much greater effort than it ought to be. The outcome of that is needing to spend whole days in bed of late to let my body recover.

Anyhow, I’m only sharing because you’re kind enough to care, and sharing like this also means I don’t have to tell the story multiple times over which, itself, is frankly tiring.

My emotion right now? I’ll be honest, along with my amazing husband Alan, I’m having an ‘it’s not fair’ day or two. And then: onwards!

Life’s for living. So time to live.

Three months on…

Goodness. Where did that time go?

Three months ago, today, my chemotherapy treatment came to an end. I remember vividly leaving hospital in Southampton and making the trip to Southampton Airport, then a flight, then a taxi, then bed.

It was my ritual after each cycle of chemo, though the recovery from the final cycle was the worst of all and involved an emergency overnight admission into the General Hospital in Jersey for a blood plasma transfusion as my return to strength just wasn’t happening. I was fading. I could barely make it from bed to loo without throwing up and needing another lie down.

But what a difference three months make.

And how much has changed in that time!

The holiday we booked after being told the chemo had, broadly, done what it needed to never happened. We were due to be in New York in mid-April, having lost our previous trip to Hong Kong and Singapore to my chemo. This time around it was the small matter of a pandemic getting in the way!

That holiday will happen one day, when some form of normal life resumes for us all. For now, I have relative health.

I’m now back at work, though all being done from home. I’m reporting on the news on ITV News in the Channel Islands two to three days a week, writing a fortnightly column for the Jersey Evening Post, and presenting a weekly radio show on Channel 103.

It’s all helped get my mind sharp again. It was a real surprise to me to realise that it really did take a good few weeks for that to happen, and it’s only afterwards that you can see how much your brain goes mushy while undergoing chemo.

Physically, I’m not quite there yet.

My hair’s growing back (though alarmingly thin on top!), and it’s been so lovely getting messages from viewers of my TV reports saying how pleased they are to see me looking well and that they’re noticing the return of my follicles.

But there are some lingering symptoms that, if I’m honest, have actually been getting worse over the past three months: peripheral neuropathy. That’s a fancy way of saying I regularly have numb hands and feet, and the effect of that – beyond not being able to feel things – is that I am clumsier. I drop things more often (my poor phone!) and my ankles seem to give way more often so I have little falls at home and generally feel less steady than I ordinarily would when I’m out and about.

The upside of a pandemic, if there is such a thing, is that I’m only going out for around one hour, once each week, so my opportunity to come a cropper is limited.

There’s also the lingering worry of what might happen next with the actual cancer. The last I was told was that there ‘might’ need to be surgery in future but that the chemo had done a pretty good job of zapping the nasties. But I have missed a trip to hospital to have bloods taken and get a follow up as, having spoken to medics locally, the feeling was hanging on a few weeks until there’s less Covid-19 stuff going on might be wiser than rocking up at the hospital right now.

So there we are. Three months on. Life goes on. Let’s see where the world is in another three months! Stay safe and well.

What’s next?

It’s one of my favourite phrases from the world’s greatest TV show, The West Wing: “What’s next?”

In other words, once something is dealt with, move on to the next thing.

My awesome friend Katie bought me a cap emblazoned with that phrase a few months ago and I pledged to myself to wear it as soon as I got the results of the scan after my chemotherapy.

Today I am wearing that cap for the first time.

Yesterday I was in Southampton for a CT scan and then an appointment with my oncologist to find out if my chemo had done its job.

I’ve been through four cycles of TIP salvage chemo since last November for a late relapse of cancer which had returned to the area by my trachea, oesophagus and lungs.

It’s been a grim few months, with some difficult moments, but all aided by the constant presence of my wonderful husband, Alan, as well as friends near and far including my Best Man, Alistair, who even sent me a daily video update of his life to keep me connected to the world. There were friends in Jersey who visited me at home and messaged and FaceTimed, and there were friends in the UK who came from near and far to be at my hospital bedside, including Steve, Alistair, Paula, Andy and Nick who travelled all the way from Blackpool. Quite amazing, really.

But yesterday was ‘the’ day.

And it was good news.

The tumours have shrunk to the point where the before and after CT scans are in such stark contrast to each other. My oncologist thinks what’s left is mainly scar tissue, thought he’s going to liaise with the surgical team to see if they want to try and go in and remove them.

I asked him to translate his expertise into layman’s terms on a scale of one to five stars. “Oh, this is a four star result. Very good”, he replied. That’s what I wanted to hear.

Late yesterday I started sending messages to my nearest and dearest, though I am certain I will have forgotten somebody. If that’s you, my apologies. Back came even more messages, including this joyous video from my friends and colleagues at ITV News. How amazing is this?

And then, landing back at Jersey Airport last night, friends Katie and Sophia were waiting in arrivals with champagne and party poppers which was just overwhelmingly thoughtful.

I feel quite emotional today as it all sinks in. Life can now resume.

I need to build up my strength but the pledge Alan and I made to each other to immediately book a holiday has already been fulfilled. We booked it over breakfast this morning! Can’t wait.

To those who’ve read this blog, shared this blog, sent good wishes, posted cards and gifts or done frankly anything to make the past four months more bearable, including the incredible doctors and nurses at Southampton General and Jersey General, I simply cannot find the words to thank you enough.

Right. What’s next?

World Cancer Day

I was aiming to post this on World Cancer Day, a day dedicated to shining a light on all things cancer. I’m a day late so do forgive me!

For me it’s was day of a strange coincidence as it’s also the day that marks the end of my chemotherapy treatment, three and a bit months after it all began.

There are still technically two weeks left of this cycle as the chemo leaves me wiped out, with no immune system, so the next few weeks are about rest and recovery to allow my blood count to improve and strength to return and – hopefully – for my tastebuds to return as I’ve been struggling on that front since last November. I’m missing my coffees!

Last day of chemo – wiped out but pleased

So, on World Cancer Day, a chance to shine a light on all the amazing medics who’ve made a difference during this process. Every single person on the wards I’ve stayed on at Southampton General, and in the Oncology Unit at Jersey General where I’ve gone for weekly appointments between in-patient stays has been tremendous. They have a knack of making you feel you’re the only person that matters when they’re dealing with you, despite me knowing they’re mad busy at all times. That’s a real skill.

Then there are the consultants and house doctors who’ve looked after me so closely, giving me extra medication when needed, and always being ready to answer my questions when I had any.

I’m back in Southampton at the start of March for a CT scan to see if the tumours have been beaten.

One thing I learned only recently was that one of the magic medicines doing that fighting – cisplatin – was discovered as a result of work by Cancer Research UK. It’s why, last week, I was delighted to support them in promoting their Unity Bands which are on sale now. An easy way of supporting an excellent cause and I should, at this point, thank Jersey’s media for giving it such prominent coverage across newsprint, radio and online.

I’ve also had loads of messages from friends and strangers – lots and lots of strangers – calling me “inspiring” and “brave”. They’re odd words as I don’t feel like I’m either. I’m not sure there’s anything brave about having the medication the doctors tell you you need. And inspiring is an odd one, as I actually feel quite selfish for writing these blogs as they really help me exorcise thoughts in my mind by committing them to this electronic paper. All that said, every message I’ve received – in the hundreds at this point – means a lot. I’ve read each and every one and tried to reply to them all. Inevitably I will have missed replying to some as they’ve arrived when I’m at my weakest and most fatigued, but my gratitude is in no way diminished.

What next then? Well, whatever the scan results, Alan and I will be booking a holiday. He’s done more than anybody to look after me so a chance to get away and do something nice feels more than overdue.

For now, though, it’s time to rest. As with each cycle, I’ve been knocked sideways by the chemo and feel weak and unwell. But it will pass and – as my friend Alistair wisely observed – if it makes you feel that bad, just imagine what it’s doing to those tumours. So true!

If you know somebody who’s going through it, say hello to them. A call, a text, an email, a silly gif on WhatsApp. It’ll be appreciated. They may not reply, but they’ll know. And that’s what matters. You may feel like they don’t want to be disturbed but, as I’ve found on occasion, that can mean lots of good-minded people don’t make contact. Better to let them know than hesitate and leave them not knowing.

Also, if there’s any way you can support the many cancer charities – both national and local – do so. A coin in a collection pot by a shop till, a visit to a charity shop to buy something, or sponsorship of somebody taking on a feat for one of those causes. We all have myriad calls on our kindness, but today I’m urging you to focus on cancer. Statistically, either you or your best friend will have a brush with cancer in your lifetimes. It’s a cause that matters and affects so many of us, either directly or indirectly.

Finally, thanks for reading this far. It means the world to know people near and far are following my ‘journey’. I’m hoping the next post – most likely once I get my results – will make for happy reading.

The worst week

There’s nothing like a dramatic headline to get things started but I thought it worth sharing a little bit about how cycles of chemotherapy really can be so different.

I’m just approaching the end of cycle three which means – *cue the party poppers* – I begin my final round next week.

Each cycle of chemo basically consists of one week of chemo as a hospital in-patient and then two weeks of recovery at home, to allow my blood count to return to some kind of normality, before we start over. That two weeks of recovery is basically a week of feeling awful and a week of feeling ‘okay’.

But this time was a different scale. I think it’s fair to say it’s the worst I’ve felt in my life.

Despite the anti-sickness medication, I was throwing up every day. My appetite had gone so I was bringing up bile and the contractions to my stomach and body while being sick were exacerbated by the fact I was physically wiped out all week. It was a different level this time around. As an example, the stagger to the toilet was followed by a long lie down as even the act of having a wee left me exhausted.

Throughout all this, as ever, my husband Alan was being the world’s greatest carer, tending to me morning, noon and night.

But then things got better. And I didn’t just improve gradually. One morning it was like a switch had been flicked and suddenly getting out of bed felt fine, rather than feeling like climbing Everest.

The contrast was also demonstrated by two hospital visits I made in Jersey this week. On Monday I needed to be taken to the oncology unit by wheelchair. Yesterday I strolled from the car to the unit quite ably.

Isn’t the body an amazing thing?

As ever, I reflect on all of this by seeing these changes as evidence that the chemotherapy is doing its thing.

Ahead of me is one more cycle of treatment: one more week of chemotherapy, and likely one more of these ‘worst week’ periods of recovery. Beyond that, by the end of February I’m expecting to have a scan and then learn whether or not this has all worked.

For now, the rest and recovery continues, buoyed on by the many lovely messages from friends and strangers. The sort of thing that, even at the worst of times, makes a world of difference.

Woah… we’re halfway there…

Today marks the half way point in my chemotherapy treatment.

It falls on the last day of my second cycle of chemo, tomorrow I return to Southampton to begin cycle number three of four.

The whole thing is a learning process for me. Symptomatically, after getting through the first cycle I naively thought the second would be easier.

In reality there are clearly some cumulative effects of it all so the constant taste of metal in my mouth means the food and drink I can manage and those that taste of anything are more limited this time around, while the tingling sensation in my lips, hands and fingers and pain in my toes has been a little worse. On the sickness front it’s not been quite as bad as the first time around, but it has come and gone a little more often.

The other bit is the remnants of my hair, which exist as a buzz cut after I had it all chopped off when it started falling out, are now moulting at a heady rate. Every morning my pillow is covered in a layer of hair, while my scalp is looking somewhat patchy.

Overall, this time around, the sensation is broadly one of being wiped out. But being at home over Christmas and New Year, even in that state, beats being in a hospital bed. And Father Christmas was jolly kind to both me and Alan.

It’s also provided plenty of time to reflect on lots of things, on what matter to me, and to remind myself to let go of the stuff that really is of no consequence. I find myself focusing on thoughts about the work I enjoy, the holidays I want to go on, the friends I really value, and so on. While cancer is a bit of a drastic route to going about things, evaluating what really matters is an exercise I’d recommend to everybody. The upshot is my own personal pledge to myself to spend more time on things that will add to my life, and less on the stuff that sucks the joy.

The half way point is a perfect time to thank all those who’ve been in touch or popped round for a visit at home or in hospital. Most of all it’s a time to thank my husband Alan who’s juggling working full time while being my carer: dealing with the mass of medication and multiple injections I need while at home, plus doing all the household tasks we’d normally share while I’m unable. He’s an absolute star and will get his reward once it’s all over.

Another person I want to mention is my lifelong friend Natalie who’s running the Windermere Marathon in May, inspired by what I’m going through, to raise money for Cancer Research UK. How amazing is that? She’s building up the miles as part of her training plan, but she also wants to build up the fundraising. So if you felt able to support her click this link for all the details. Thanks if you can.

Right. Time to pack my bag for another trip to S-town. And just 42 more days of treatment to go… so long as it bloody works it’ll all be worth it!

The kindness of friends… and strangers

Welcome to day four of my second cycle of chemotherapy at Southampton General.

It’s fascinating how much all of this is a learning process, and the learning about needing more anti-sickness medication was a good one. So far, this cycle feels a little more in control with fewer waves of nausea sweeping over me.

It’s also been a good time to reflect on the hundreds of messages I’ve received from friends new, old and lapsed and from complete strangers, too. It really has been overwhelming.

Alongside those, a lovely flurry of get well cards and even some unexpected parcels through the post, including a super snuggly blanket and a famous cushioned iPad holder that means I can type and watch and read to my heart’s content.

Another constant joy is FaceTime natters, with friends back home and colleagues in the ITV newsroom, as well as my media studies teacher from back in 1992 at high school who I’ve kept in touch with over the years. Margaret Anderton, 80, remains a brilliant force of nature.

There have also been some unexpected and utterly welcome visitors. A couple of days ago my friend and best man Alistair Clarke, and radio station management superstar Paula Davies drove the 550 mile round trip from Blackpool to come say hello. It was just wonderful to see their smiling faces, and have a good goss.

Yesterday, Amanda Compton and Guy Phillips from ITV News – they’re the people who keep all the regions shipshape – swung by. I know they’re constantly busy so it meant so much to see their faces appear on the ward (and the goodie bag which included chocolates and a cuddly reindeer was most welcome).

After each visit I’ve been pretty exhausted and followed it with an hour or two dosing. It’s a reminder that while I may feel ‘okay’, there’s a lot going on as these chemicals are pumped around my body . But make no mistake, the boost you get from a message, a video call or a person arriving here cannot be overestimated.

As things stand we look on track to be home in time for Christmas. I may not be up to anything on the big day, but just being in my own bed will be the best present.

That’s all for now, blog fans, have yourself a wonderful and restful Christmas surrounded by all you love.

My hair fell out

It was 9.20am this morning. I was in the kitchen and was cooking some bacon.

My dad had come to visit for a few days so I thought it would be a nice surprise for him to see that I was having a good day and had enough energy to do a little bit of cooking.

I scratched my head.

I noticed there were hairs in my hand.

I then tugged at a bit of hair on the side of my scalp and it pulled out without any effort.

Today would be the day.

I knew it was coming. Hair loss is a common symptom for the type of chemotherapy I’m on, and my oncologist had said it would happen around two weeks after the start of my chemo.

Today is exactly two weeks!

What I hadn’t reckoned on was how utterly heartbroken I would be.

I’d made a plan to message my lovely hairdresser Paul to come round ASAP and shave it all off. I figured I didn’t want the ‘slow death’ of my hair over a few days and hair remnants everywhere to constantly remind me of what was happening. I genuinely thought I’d be very relaxed about it.

Instead I was curled in a ball on the kitchen floor crying and shaking like some kind of wreck. I eventually pulled it together and went to the lounge. And that crying just kept coming.

Anyhow, Paul arrived within the hour. He shaved it all off, which set me off again. And I went upstairs for a shower to freshen up and wash away any loose hairs.

By the time I got to the bathroom I forgot that my hair has gone and got the shock of my life when I looked in the mirror!

It’ll be a few days, no doubt, before all the hair goes. Eye brows. Arm pits. Body hair. There’s a lot to shed but it’s likely all going to go. On the upside, I’ll be very aerodynamic.

What helped no end was a FaceTime call from my dear friends Sophia and Katie. I answered with the camera pointing away from me so I could ‘warn’ them about what happened. But they didn’t bat an eyelid, said I actually looked handsome, and we got on with our usual round of gossip (oh the things I could tell you!).

As ever, sharing this with you helps me. And I hope it’s also useful for anybody who’s got this event coming up. For me, the shave-and-get-rid approach is the right one.

And, in case you were wondering, I’m going for beanie hats rather than a baseball cap. Not sure I can pull off that look at the age of 44.