Monthly Archives: March 2014

The day I told everyone


Thursday 20th March

For the past few days social media has begun to be inundated with ‘no-make-up’ selfies, supposedly raising awareness for cancer research.

When this trend began I saw many of these selfies that were purely self-congratulatory where the person only seemed to be fishing for complements with their staged photo. There was no mention of cancer, raising awareness, nor of donating money.

It did make me cross. However, the power of the internet and social media being what it is, the campaign snowballed, raising over a million pounds in twenty four hours, and that is amazing. Being cross and critical initially, to get one’s point across will make some people unhappy, and I’m sorry, but I just felt I wanted to say something.

To date, only a very small number of people knew of my condition: family, close friends and some work colleagues.

I decided to unburden myself, to stop hiding away, to release the secret I had been keeping.

I posted a picture of myself on Facebook.  My own no-make-up selfie.

I was hooked up to a morphine pump, saline drip, intravenous antibiotics, and oxygen ‘spectacles’.

I described the plastic drain tube sticking out of the top of my leg, and the 20cm scar where all the lymph nodes in the top of my leg had been removed.

I stated that I am now a Stage 3 malignant melanoma patient.

It began with a dodgy mole on my foot.

The cancer spread to my lymphatic system.

I said I am raising awareness by asking you all to check your bodies.

I am trying to do something for scientific research by signing on to a clinical drugs trial to find out whether a particular combination of drugs can prolong cancer patients’ lives.

I am trying to do something to raise awareness by appearing on a poster recommending sunscreen use, having a SunSmart attitude, and staying away from sunbeds.

Following my declaration, I was inundated with messages of good wishes.

Oh my goodness.

It really was quite overwhelming.

Having finally decided to go public with my diagnosis, on my wall, posting a no-make-up selfie showing me in a hospital bed, hooked up to various tubes and the like, I do now feel quite relieved that everyone now knows what’s been going on.

I admitted that the actual photo was taken in November, in Exeter, where I had the lymphadenectomy.

I did feel like I was hiding away, only coming out to make short walks around the town or to have a coffee at Tesco!!

I deliberated for ages over posting about this topic, but have been amazed with the response from everyone.

I had so many comments, private messages and shares of my posts, I’ve felt quite tearful.

I haven’t done this to gain likes, nor as a ‘poor me, pity me’ post. I really do hope at least some have taken on board my message, check your skin, be SunSmart and beware of sunbeds. And donate something!

I haven’t been to school since last May, but aim to return in September, albeit on a much reduced timetable. In May, I will have been at HDS for nineteen years. I must love the place ~ in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger: “I’ll be back!”

I try to keep smiling as much as possible, keep as positive as possible, and keep on keeping on.

Two month review


Tuesday 11th March

Leaving home at 8am to make the drive to Exeter, just over two hours away, I feel twinges of anxiety. I have been taking the pills for the Combi-Ad trial (trametinib and dabrafenib), for two months, and have appointments with the dermatologist and oncologist, as well as the trials nurse for bloods and obs.

A whole body skin check is first, and a small freckle-like mole is noted as something to keep an eye on. It’s on the inside of my left ankle, about 3mm in diameter, with a slight dark, raised pigmentation to it. Hmmmm, have not noticed that before; will have to watch it. Two consultant dermatologists had a close look, but were not unduly worried.

The next stop is to see the senior trials nurse who takes four vials of blood, my temperature, weight and blood pressure. Whoops, 145 over 92 is a bit high, maybe the result of my worry about the day! My nurse is lovely, and looks after me so well, answering questions, putting me at ease, making sure that the day runs smoothly. We talk about any changes that I may have been aware of, and I tell her about my tiredness, constipation, and a few spots around my mouth and nose. We also discuss the lymphoedema in my leg, and the great results that are being achieved with the weekly massage sessions.

The final appointment of the day is with the oncologist, who starts with a look at my left foot, the ‘mole which demands awareness’ on my ankle, the glands behind my knee and in my groin, and finishes with the tapping on my back ~ not sure about the last bit, but lots of doctors do this in films!!

I wait for my new pots of pills to be dispensed by the pharmacy, and we are done for the day. Arriving home at 6pm, it has been a long ten hours, but all seems good as I begin my third month on the trial.

And I’m still no further forward in knowing whether I’m in possession of the real drugs, or the placebo. But, the intensive monitoring is certainly very reassuring. Big smile, deep breath, and relax. See you in a month!