Cycle 7. One more to go….

The end of Chemo is near. (but who knows what the future holds with further treatment) I started Cycle 7 this week which means I have just 3 more chemo sessions left. The last one falling on 1st March, just a week before I celebrate my 36th birthday.

Once I finish my last chemo session, I will have another CT scan to see where my cancer is at. It will either have shrunk, be stable, or have grown. This will determine what happens next. (that’s a scary thought the level of extremes I have; grown or shrunk. Just please go away and leave me alone). I have been told I will have 3 months off chemo anyway, to allow my body to adjust back to normal. (yay – that will be a nice feeling) My Picc line will also come out allowing me to properly have a soak in the bath and also go swimming. My hair will start growing back and I will finally be able to go to the hairdressers and become a much loved blond again.

This month is Cholangiocarcinoma awareness month. If you are wondering what this is, well in short it is the cancer I have. It is pronounced Ko-lan-gee-o-kars-cee-nome-a. (bit of a mouthful). It is cancer of the bile duct. AMMF are the only UK charity working to raise funds for research into this cancer and this month they are raising awareness. (please see link at bottom of blog for more information). Cholangiocarcinoma is becoming more common in younger people so it is with great importance that people are aware of the symptoms. However in most cases there are not usually any symptoms until the cancer has grown and spread (which happened to me). But, if you get any of the below symptoms, even very slightly this could be the cancer slowly growing. Please go to your doctor and get them to do blood tests.

  • Jaundice
  • itching
  • dark urine
  • abdominal pain
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • fever
  • nausea/vomiting
  • fatigue

I only had one symptom and that was abdominal pain; it got so painful I was doubling over in my bed not being able to move. I was feeling a bit tired, but put that down to being extra busy at work as I was always on my feet. There are many different types of bile duct cancer but the one affecting me is Intrahepatic bile duct cancer and this starts in the liver. Basically Intrahepatic bile ducts are a network of small tubes that carry bile inside the liver. Your right and left hepatic bile ducts then drain bile from the liver. So it is so crucial at this stage I am doing everything I can to help my liver out. (what with it being the most important organ in our body)

  • Since January 1st I have not eaten any meat. I first watched ‘forks over knives’ (Netflix documentary) and was intrigued in the link between meat and cancer so I thought id look into it more. Research is showing that yes, it is a major factor, eating more meat does result in more cancers. But my main reason for giving up meat was because meat takes a lot longer to digest by the body and therefore putting more pressure on the liver. (but of course it is all about moderation) The only thing I am craving recently is chicken, but then I discovered the Quorn range of breaded chicken nuggets. (LOL) and the Linda McCartney range is also very good (chorizo sausages are a treat).
  • No booze but that’s been in motion for a while now.
  • Supplements including turmeric, Vitamin c+ d, milk thistle, multi-vitamins, and fish oil. I take these daily alongside a shot of apple cider vinegar. (great for so many ailments)
  • Lots of fruit daily (especially red grapes)
  • A high vegetable based diet (esp beetroot, spinach and carrots)
  • Going to the gym class ‘Body Balance’ which is a mixture of Tai Chi, yoga and Pilates. Granted some days I do just stop and sit as I am exhausted but it is all about giving it a go. I have also used weights and treadmill at the gym just to change it up a bit. I have a fitbit watch so I do aim for those 10k steps a day. Getting out and getting oxygen into the lungs is so good for the soul.
  • I am still visiting Purely Cancer Centre for Aromatherapy massages and Reiki. That place is truly a godsend. My time there so far has been enlightening. I have learnt a great deal about alternative therapies and the importance of our mind. Positive thinking = Positive outcome.
  • I also have been doing a lot of research within aromatherapy and essential oils. They are a great source of relaxation and help with so many other ailments. I have Epsom salt baths with lavender, castor oil, coconut oil and baking soda. It is such a great way to get rid of all the toxins in your body, relax and at the same time increase your PH levels which is what the baking soda does. It is imperative to have a higher PH level in our body to stop cancer cells growing.

So as my chemo comes to an end, I feel all kinds of emotions and thoughts. The worry of the CT scan results and the available treatments for me. You hear all the time about different clinical trials coming up but lack of research into mine makes everything more limited. I am currently looking into new trials with my consultant so if something suits, for sure I will go for it. I am only 35 and am ready to take whatever is thrown my way. I have My Army of friends and family behind me, and really, what more do we all need.

‘Life is ten per cent what happens to you and ninety per cent how you respond to it’ so here’s to responding with a fight and my army. I am a powerful woman who is ready for the rest of her life back.

As always thanks for all of your support and well wishes. I think a lot of candles are being lit for me by my Irish family which I am very grateful for. Please keep all your messages coming as I do love to read them. Until next time… pray for me and my progress. Much love Claire x

AMMF Charity link


I’m halfway through…

As I sit here and write this, it’s coming to the end of a very eventful and emotional year. To say the very least! Goodbye 2017 and good riddance to you. I never would have thought I would be ending 2017 with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. But no one does. It has been a hard process of both acceptance and self belief that I will get through this. As 2018 starts I will continue to increase my positivity and healthy living lifestyle in order to beat this awful, awful disease.

I am currently just over halfway through my chemotherapy at Guy’s hospital. 5 cycles down, with 3 to go. (So in simple terms, that is just 6 more visits to sit in that seat where they drug up my body for a total of about 4 hours. I am on countdown mode). Last month I got a PICC line inserted into my arm. This was a small procedure which took 40 minutes and I got injections to numb the area. Those injections hurt let me tell you. The whole procedure was only slightly uncomfortable, and a vein did collapse so the surgeon had to re start and find another vein, which meant massive bruising and being in a great deal of pain for 10 days after. I am not the easiest person to get on with needles and blood, so I couldn’t even look at my arm for the first 3 weeks. Now I have got used to it, and chemo days are so much easier with nurses being able to insert my drugs with ease, and blood being taken is like a dream. No more arms with black and blue bruises. One small grace.

I am still on steroids but only for 3 days after the chemo. This helps with my appetite and gives pain relief. I have noticed that my face puffs out on these days, and I have the worst bags under my eyes. Eurgh. Thankfully there are all sorts of eye creams that ease this look, but nothing to really get rid of them. My hair is thinning, but thankfully I do have really thick hair so its currently quite unnoticeable. I cant get any highlights in my hair either, so my hair is currently half blond, half brunette with a few silver strands for good measure. I live in my leggings and jumpers as they are the ultimate comfort. Gone are the days of dressing up and putting on make up. Hahah. I just cant be bothered. I am so looking forward to the end of my chemo. Chemo takes a real strain on my day to day life, with constant fatigue and lack of motivation. Thank goodness I have such a great network of family and friends who get me out and about.

That said, I am not a lonely cancer victim. Far from it. Since starting chemo, it really does make you think about your life and the people around you. I want to live life to the fullest and enjoy everyday. (yes admittedly some days I have slow days where I don’t leave the flat, but those days watching a bit of Netflix makes me happy. The onset drowsiness doesn’t help either when I just feel like being in bed). I have made more of an effort to meet people and make plans. Me and my girls went to see Little Mix and Boyzlife this month. What a fab night Boyzlife was. One of the greatest!! Haha.

Unfortunately people, life is full of uncertainty. Look at all the terrorism, acid attacks, house fires and car accidents that are happening all around us. People dying unexpectedly. Lives taken in an instance. Noone can predict what will happen day to day and having this disease makes me ponder life daily. Good news, I am still here, getting a chance to heal and for me, that is a god send. I want to take both hands and grab at life. But right now, I can’t. But I will.

‘Live every day like its your last day.’ I love this quote.

My brother, Daniel, my cousin, Ciaran and my dearest best friend, Becky are all taking part in a fundraiser which involves abseiling down St Thomas’ hospital 160 foot tall. All monies raised will go to Guy’s hospital so please if you can spare a few quid, please sponsor them on the below link. It is not till May so they have time to embrace their fear of heights.

I want to say thanks to everyone who reads my blog and sends me messages of support. It does mean a lot. I never ever thought I would get cancer and I am guessing you reading this would agree. I want to be open and talk about my situation but there are a lot of people that won’t, which is also fine. We all deal with things differently. But if there is one thing that comes out of my blog it is to raise awareness in the fact that they are not alone. 1 in 3 people now get cancer. That is a sad fact.

I end my last blog post of 2017 with a toast to ME.

To ME beating the shit out of this cancer. To be able to grab life with both hands. To be able to get on living my beautiful life surrounded by my family and friends.

To 2018. May God bless me. I am a Powerful Woman.

3rd Chemo cycle underway

What has been going on with me I hear you ask? Well, living with cancer changes everyday, depending on if you are having a good day or not so good day. It seems my 1st + 2nd cycles of chemo are finally creeping up on me. Dam you!

I had my 3rd consultancy meeting with the doc last week; the major issue for me is fatigue and the feeling of just pure exhaustion. It is so draining. It really is the worst feeling. I am also suffering from a joint ache in my left knee (a symptom of one of my chemo drugs). The doc also went into a bit more detail about the coming months and showed me my CT scan of when I first when into hospital mid August. The cancer started in my bile duct but spread into my liver. My poor liver. It was a shock to see, but made me more motivated to keep my ‘healthy diet, walking and complementary therapies’ up.

I went to a Reiki session four weeks back and was telling my aunt about the experience. I wasn’t overly convinced on the healing or in fact the overall experience, but had heard such positive things about it. She then proceeded to tell me about the ‘South East Cancer Help Centre’ (Purely Way). It was set up in 1983 for people who had been diagnosed with Cancer, and since then has just grown and is funded by voluntary donations and volunteers. I signed up with Mum and Dad (they too can use the services) and so far I have had another Reiki session and have met with a nutritionist. Both have been amazing. The Reiki session was with Yvonne, and I truly felt that I had emotional tension and anxiety removed from my body. What a great start! My next session is already booked in. Next week I am going to a seminar on ‘low immune systems’ and will also be getting an aromatherapy massage. All of these Complementary therapies are so good for the overall mind and positive being. I truly recommend it to anyone.

The start of my 3rd chemo cycle day at Guy’s was both tough and emotional. In total there will be about 8 cycles (which will take 6 months)  This day was the hardest one yet. At each chemo session before any of the drugs can be put through my body, a nurse needs to insert a cannula into my arm. It has proved tougher each time, and last week they couldn’t get a vein as easily. I was in so much pain I cried. The drugs have weakened my immune system, but I never had the best veins to start with. Thankfully 4th time lucky they were in (and the drugs could start doing their thing!!!) After realising the pain and time consuming nature the nurses recommended getting a PIC line inserted into my body. It means no more constant fights with trying to get veins and blood. This will stay in till the end of my chemo. It scares me. But it is for the best.

In my time of being diagnosed with such a horrible disease, life has changed. I no longer go to work, I no longer drink booze (too much impact on my poor liver), I no longer have the freedom of being spontaneous. So many more, but they are the main ones I miss. My life is taken day by day. Each day I check my temperature 3 times, take my anti-sickness pills, take my steroids, constantly thinking how I can ‘kill these dam cancerous cells’.

I would like to thank everyone who has sent me amazing messages of support and love since my first blog post. It really has meant the world to me.

Like I have said before, I will be as positive and strong as I can throughout this whole process. Life is a book, and this is just one chapter for me. . Everything will make me stronger and if that means suffering fatigue and having ‘down days’ so be it. I am a Powerful Woman who wont take any of this cancer shit.



My C Journey

‘Claire. You have cancer.’

It is never something you imagine is actually going to be said to you, but the day it happened to me I cried like I had never cried before. (August 2017) It was actually more of a wail.

‘Excuse me, whatttt?!!!’  I heaved straight into the sink in the hospital room. Classy! I am a healthy, half-marathon running, mid thirties, career driven woman. Of course you can imagine, it was a massive shock. More than massive; I thought I was going to have to get my gallbladder out. Where did this come from??? I only went into hospital with stomach pains and now this shocker! As me Mum and Dad drove home that day, there were no words for that kind of shock. No words.

Why me? Why not happen to someone older. I say this, as my diagnosis is normally only found in males over 60. Bile duct cancer. Clearly not fair. But that word fair doesn’t really come into it. I never thought this would be happening to me. Why?… well because I  am not finished with my ‘life plan.’ (not that I really ever knew what that would entail.) I am a 35 year old, single, no kids, independent Powerful Woman.

Chemotherapy. It is just that word. It really does mean that I have cancer. I have just finished cycle 2 and would say it is going well. But I mean how do I know what those cells are doing inside me. Just go away would you. The whole chemo process will last 6 months and from there I am sure more scans will be done to see my progress. The days that follow on days 2-6 after chemo are when I have sporadic days of fatigue. Some days are harder than others. When you need to sleep you just need to sleep. Others days I go swimming, go to Body Balance classes, walks in the parks. My walking tracker encourages me to get out and about which is so important. (easy to say but not so easy when your energy levels are in the minus).

I am trying to eat as healthy as possible, but who can resist a bit of chocolate or the cheesy temptation of a pizza. I know I can’t. I have spent a lot of time researching the different ‘cancer’ foods to eat and alternative therapies (high alkali levels, top 10 cancer fighting foods, Reiki, Vitamin C LV, massages, meditation) The internet is a huge mass of what to do/ what not to do. How do we know what to do and where to even start?

When you get news like this, your whatsapp goes through the roof. Friends and family from all over sending their messages of love and support. I thank them all for every little thing they have all done in their own way. My kitchen was like a florist at one point. Parcels and cards coming in everyday, my postman must have hated me! Those first few weeks passed like a blur. A lot of tears and a lot of laughing. Well, you always have to to look on the bright side of life.

I am here taking on this battle and will fight it with the strength I have deep down inside my soul. I take each day as it comes, and I am confident I will get to the end of this path and get to finish my ‘life plan.’