Ascent Complete!

Ascent CompleteSnow 0 Tracy 6

Ascent Complete
Snow 0 Tracy 6

That’s it. FEC-T is over. Everest has been ascended in flip-flops and a sarong – entirely inappropriate attire but it was all I had on me at the time so I had to make the most of it.

It was snowing this morning and had snowed all night. My handsome prince was a no-show so I guess he accepted the crone’s apple!  I managed to stay awake all night thanks to dexamethasone.

Fortunately the journey to chemo camp involved traversing sparkling powder snow but at 8.30am it wasn’t too treacherous. By 1.30pm the situation had moved on.  I’m glad the journey home wasn’t later in the day as it wouldn’t have been feasible; folks had already abandoned cars in many areas.

Snow didn’t defeat me today and I’m happy about that but above all else I’m so glad the chemo part of this adventure is over. Bye-bye FEC-T hello return to normality.

The journey, however, is not yet complete.  I still have to master the descent to base camp via successful completion of the Persephone herceptin trial plus some further surgeries. I’ll make a date with Miss M (oncoplastic surgeon) and Mr Ch (gynae specialist) so they can extricate the remaining female parts of my anatomy during 2013.  Miss M will create a new silicon masterpiece matching the one she gave me last August. With up to a 90% reduction in the risk of further sinister developments in my presently human left side, this is a surgery with ‘do it’ stamped all over it.  Mr Ch has offered additional risk reducing surgery via removal of bits and bobs that are likely to go wrong – ovaries and tubes!

Unfortunately breast and ovarian cancer mounted a dual assault on my ancestors decimating them all at an early. Miss M, Mr Ch and my own GP all recommend these additional surgeries to improve my odds.  For my part I intend to do as much as possible to avoid another tango with a small dark stranger who isn’t handsome, charming or in any way a pleasure to dance with.  For me, more surgery is less daunting than the prospect of early recurrence/metastasis; HER2 positive breast cancer is renowned for these traits.

I know surgery isn’t a silver bullet but I will know in my heart I did everything possible to keep the stalker of evil intent at bay.  For now though I can’t get too excited about my Everest descent because I have to deal with a huge parcel of drugs plus a bright yellow sharps box designed to see me through the aftermath of TH-3.  I’m adverse to drugs especially when copious quantities are involved; the weather and my dangerously high temperature incident a few weeks ago have changed my mind just this once.  I can’t afford to be snowed in with neutropenia because the emergency services can’t get here at the moment. Dying of neutropenic sepsis will never be on my to do list, so I’m having BONC.   (N.B. this is not to be confused with having ‘a bonk’).

BONC includes dexamethasone, the insomnia inducing beet steroid that turns me into an overgrown version of the Ready Brek Kid complete with deep Beetroot coloured glow visible from c.3 miles away 🙂 . Ondansetron to combat sickness.  11 days of Ciprofloxacin (preventative antibiotics) and 5 days of Neupogen injections that I’ll self-administer.  Neupogen forces the bone marrow to produce neutrophil precursors, a very good thing following Taxotere. The downside is that it can cause pain inside bones, especially long bones and the sternum.  As ever I’m hopeful any side-effects will be minimally disruptive.

Nurse L (one of the loveliest people on our planet) said my return to normality will begin very soon now… I can expect to see some hair putting in an appearance. This will be weird. I’ve finally become accustomed to the bald cone-head look though I find it very chilly.  I’ve been tempted to borrow Elizabeth’s rain hat, complete with its warm ear flaps but I don’t trust UK customs officials to get it here undamaged. So the sooner my hair decides to show up the better and I don’t care what colour or texture it is, I’ll be fine with anything that delivers a nice warm feeling in the upper head region 🙂

One final word before I sign off. To everyone out there faced with an aggressive breast cancer diagnosis, a conversation that says it’s treatable (not curable) and what seems to be a very long, daunting and arduous journey ahead, please know that you can do this.  I’m not going to say it’s easy or enjoyable but equally it is not the end of the world.  You can get through it and you can take your life back – whether it’s many years or a  few months it is still your time. Cancer cannot be allowed to ruin it.  As my dear friend Kozo (call in on him at Everyday Gurus) advises, this applies to many of the adverse situations we face in life, it is not restricted to the uninvited stranger that began stalking me with evil intent last May. So please don’t forget, you can do this.

Steroids, sleeplessness and snow, snow, snow


Snow crystals 2b

Snow crystals 2b (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s the night before chemo and all through the house, not a creature is stirring… Except steroid-fuelled sleepless little ol’ me. I want to get this one over and done with. It’s the scramble to the summit and its taken what seems like a lifetime but is, of course, just 5 months. Long enough though.

Factors that might impinge on TH3 include the weather. We are obsessed with weather in the UK. We use it as a polite way to converse with people we don’t know terribly well; typically this involves bemoaning low temperatures and rain over the summer months. Occasionally we have the opportunity to remark ‘what a glorious day.’ (We don’t go beyond 24 hour time frames because chances are storms are just around the corner!) Every now and then we get the chance to say “bloody freezing innit” and coupled with that comes the opportunity to panic because we aren’t very accustomed to snow. Snow causes chaos here, our cities grind to a halt, anyone in the countryside can be cut off for weeks and when there’s particularly heavy snowfall our electricity supplies can be affected. On the bright side, snow outside the cities looks beautiful, people take to sledging and lots of fun can ensue.

Tonight, tomorrow and Saturday we’re forecast to have heavy snow. In Britain this is anything upwards of 10cm. The forecast is 10-30cm. It’s not the kind of heavy snow you get in Scandinavia, China or the Rockies but its enough to cripple our transport and utility infrastructure.  I like snow. I like walking in it, seeing it blanketing the fields and encrusting the trees with a myriad of diamond flakes. I don’t enjoy driving in it because someone crashed into me head on a few years ago. Fortunately I was only shaken and bruised but it made me very wary of what can happen when people touch their brakes coming down a hill. We’re surrounded by hills!  So the main challenges to successful completion of TH3 are:

  1. Will the volume of overnight snow prevent me getting to chemo camp – 17 miles away with three 1:5  /1:6 hills to negotiate?
  2. Will chemo camp call me in the morning because the brilliant chemo nurses are unable to get to work?
  3. Will steroids keep me awake until 6am by which point my body will be so exhausted it falls into a Snow White like slumber only to find the handsome prince couldn’t get here because he too has been thwarted by the weather/ate a drugged apple given to him by a suspect-looking crone as ‘sustenance for the journey’?

I sharpened my ice axe and have plenty of crampons at the ready but only time will tell.

English: A train blocked by snowdrifts in Sout...

English: A train blocked by snowdrifts in Southern Minnesota, USA, 1881. Deutsch: ein Zug hat sich im Schnee festgefahren, südlicher Teil Minnesotas, USA, 1881. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)