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Secondary breast cancer: Treatment Roller Coaster – Part one

Ismena Clout

Breast cancer 300x199 Secondary breast cancer: Treatment Roller Coaster   Part oneIt’s been two long months since I have last written and even longer since I have filled you in on how my treatment is going. As I told you in my last blog, the cancer had come back, spread and was to be treated with chemotherapy.

Now, more than three months since that change in diagnosis I’m looking back and wishing it had been as simple as some chemotherapy! A few of you have emailed to see how I’m doing, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your concern.

Describing the last few months as a roller coaster seems very appropriate as it seemed like each time I would think I was settling down to ‘just’ have chemo something else would happen!

I started Eribulin chemotherapy, which treats those with advanced breast cancer, on the 16th September and it seemed to go well to start with. But then unfortunately I had some valuable property stolen on Saturday 28th September, which caused (and continues to cause) a huge amount of stress. It made me scared to be in my own home and sad that those  treasured items had gone. Yes, of course I was pragmatic about it all but in those quiet moments I was very upset – which I am pretty sure led to the first big dramatic episode. Boy, do I know how to pick my moments!

It was Wednesday 2nd October. I was at the amazing Breast Cancer Care Fashion Show that I had modelled in myself the year before, I had tickets to the afternoon show and had invited a great friend Anna to come with me. That morning I had a very stressful phone call with the police regarding my property and was deeply upset at the incompetence they were displaying.

While Anna was driving us both to the event at the Grosvenor House Hotel I started to feel a bit of nausea and it just seemed to get worse once we were there. I wasn’t able to eat much but was trying my best to enjoy myself, I put my best smile on as they showed the video I’m featured in to go with Breast Cancer Care’s  body image campaign and stood up to receive an amazing response from the audience at the end of the showing.

Then the main event, the catwalk show with 23 amazing women and men who all have had a breast cancer diagnosis. For me though this turned out to be the worst part of my nausea and I had to run out the room half way through the show to be sick. I am never sick like that! We left quite quickly after the show and by the time I was home my temperature was above the magic 38oC and it was time to turn around and go to the Royal Marsden Hospital to be admitted as a patient.

This was to be day one of an eight-day stay that was to include IV antibiotics to get the infection under control, an emergency MRI scan to investigate a pain in my back and a breaking down of my pain medication to rebuild it at the correct dose for the extra pain I was in. We ended up doubling the amount of morphine I was taking and adding in an extra nerve pain killer.

It was the MRI that was to throw up the main curve ball though. It showed a growth next to my C6 vertebra which was growing around the nerves and blood supply to my arms. It had developed in just a few weeks and was going to need urgent radiotherapy. So the rest of my course of chemotherapy was delayed by three weeks in the end so I could have the radiotherapy.

I had the first of five sessions on Monday 14th October, which was also the day of the awards ceremony for the institute I am chairman of. So I went from lying on a radiotherapy table to being on stage at a black tie event for 1,300 people at the Grosvenor House Hotel (again). It was a strange day – I seem to like mixing events at that hotel with a visit to the Royal Marsden!

The radiotherapy went fine and initially only made me tired. It was about a week later that the main side effect reared its ugly head, which was radiation burn to my throat. It is unlike any sore throat I’ve ever had before and needed totally different treatment. Normally with a sore throat I like really acidic things to soothe it and make me feel like I’m helping to heal it. Things like lemon in hot water, citrus fruit and fresh orange juice. This time though acidic things were the last thing I could think about.

After days and days of trial and error I found that ice-cream worked, pot noodles (yes I know, super nutritious) and jelly, the magic formula was bland, moist and very runny. It was like my whole throat, the full length of my neck, was swollen and sore and it lasted for about four weeks. For that whole time I wasn’t really able to eat anything and by the end was on complan to make sure I was getting nutrition into my body. I lost a stone in weight during this time and had the most horrific constipation. And that wasn’t all that was going on! But I’ll fill you in on the rest in part two next week.

For more information on secondary breast cancer visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk/secondary

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  • letshavelunch

    And cancer of the tits is an issue why? Most men are more concerned about their balls.

  • Ismena Clout

    Because cancer if the tits is killing me, seems a good enough reason to be concerned.


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