It’s been a few weeks. February was a crazy month blogging wise. February photofest is always fun, but fitting in other posts too makes it all a bit of a challenge. I know I have the time these days, but normal life still has to be fitted in. Also February was challenging for another reason – post radiotherapy blues well and truly set in. Thankfully at the end of the month we headed off on holiday and now I am feeling fit and healthy once again (well kind of).
Diet and weight loss
February was a right off for weight loss. I put on a couple of pounds early in the month and spent the rest of the month losing and putting on the same two. Then I went on holiday and so am where I was at the end of January. Thankfully that gain was just 1.5lb, I guess if I hadn’t had those pizzas and that extra wine I would have lost weight. But where is the fun in that. I only really eat pizza on holiday anyway. It is 6 weeks till Easter and my next trip away, so I’m going to knuckle down and try to shift a few pounds.
Thank goodness for holidays. For a whole week neither of us drove a car and apart from taxis from and back to the airport in Cape Verde we used either public transport or our legs (mostly the latter). Walking beside the sea is much more enjoyable than walking down to the shops at home. Plus exploring new places is always fun. So, not surprisingly my step count shot up and I surpassed 10k steps each day for 9 or 10 days in a row. I also swam while away and was pleasantly surprised that I have full range of movement in my right arm. Now I plan to start going to the local pool to swim each week.
Sao Vicente is quite a hilly place, as is Lisbon where we stopped over on our way. Many of the steps while away were up (and down) hill which will have helped keep the pounds off. Keeping up the walking at home is also an aim, but since we have been home the weather has been awful and I am a fair weather pleasure walker.
I guess I naively thought the worst effects of radiotherapy would come at the end of treatment rather than 3 weeks later. I was wrong. The skin under my right arm shed and the area was absolutely raw. My chest area was sore but had nothing on my under arm. Thankfully the dressings supplied by the radiotherapy radiographer helped immensely and by the time we left for holiday I was healed.
The after effects of treatment also brought with them an anticlimactic feeling that I know is written about. I felt very low and lethargic. Our holiday couldn’t have come at a better time.
I was very careful to protect my skin and wore a 50 factor sun block on my chest and moisturised very regularly. I also chose clothes that covered my chest a bit more than usual. for swimming I had my new costume and also a gel prosthesis that doesn’t retain water. It’s a little lighter than the other one I have so win / win.
Since returning I have had one day where I felt exhausted. A combination of travel and lack of sun light I think. But now I’m feeling good. I have a small piece of work to keep me occupied till Easter, so can expect some income in April. I am also very much looking forward to Eroticon, which is next weekend.
In so many ways, the person I am now is the person I was then. I look the same, dress the same, know the same people but underneath I am different. I am living a life that runs parallel to the one I had before. But it is and I am different.
This isn’t just about cancer or about the surgery I had in October. Nor is it because I split up with my husband, started a new relationship, gave up my job and moved house to live with Master.
But those things are important, they are part of the person I now am. Just a year ago I was a busy professional who came home to an empty home most evenings. How I both loved and also hated that feeling. On one hand to close the door behind me and know that no one could or would turn up. But on the other that my life had just a hint of sadness about it. At times in the evening, I felt a little lonely. Now, I am not often alone.
I enjoy living with another person again and am happy with the person I have chosen to be with. We have a great time together, do fun and interesting things, visit great places and enjoy good times. But I do feel I have lost a little of what is me. The fierce independence I fought to have and the drive to do just as I wanted. It isn’t that I can’t have those things but I am not yet quite clear how to be the person I want to be. The cancer diagnosis has definitely changed me. I feel less sure of myself as a person, as a woman. It made me more dependent, in a good way but that also irritates.
The experience of having cancer, surgery, copious numbers of hospital appointments, radiotherapy has taken something from me. I feel I have become reliant on Master in a way that is good because it is something I needed. I know I don’t have to be the strong and silent type any longer, but that doesn’t stop me feeling insecure. Not having my own house, a job has freed me from some of the shackles that bound me to my old life. But they make me anxious too and fill my mind with what ifs.
I have savings now, something I didn’t have before but I need a larger financial buffer than I have. This week I had a meeting about a new project. Over the next few weeks I will be writing professionally again and not just blogging about life and sex. There isn nothing wrong with writing for my blog, but it doesn’t pay. Also this project will help me to refocus on myself as an expert in my field and escape the sick role I have allowed myself to slip into. Post treatment I have experienced a malaise that caused my mood drop in a way that I think is rather dangerous. I could quite easily settle into a new way of life. One that is just as claustrophobic as the one I had before I began this journey.
There are many aspects of my life that I wish to retain but there are new challenges that I want and need to take on. It is healthy to look back and to reflect and to be sure that the life we have is the one we want. This time the changes will be small and discrete, life will run in parallel but not be quite the same. That feels healthy and exciting too.
Radiotherapy took much more out of me than I expected. The journey to the hospital, waiting around and receiving the short treatment was fine. It has been the ensuing 3 weeks that has been difficult. I have been sore, very sore and I have been tired. Surprisingly too my mood has been low. You would imagine that reaching the end of treatment would be a high and it was. So why do I feel so low? Finally this week I admitted to Master, not only am I dead tired and weary but I feel depressed. Not seriously, just a little.
I have rarely in my life admitted these kind of feelings to another and I still feel slightly surprised that I can. Maybe not quite the astonished of the Wicked Wednesday prompt, but surprised all the same. Acknowledging my vulnerability to Master is something of an achievement. Admitting it to friends and family, now that would be something. But actually, I have.
There is strength in not admitting your vulnerability
That was what I believed for many years. I wanted to appear strong, not weak. But then was often surprised people did not see through it. People, including my husband used to tell me how strong I was. While all the time I would be crying inside, unsure which way to turn, what to do. There was always someone I needed to be strong for – my son who was a young child when my husband was cheating, my husband when he was made redundant, my parents when my dad was diagnosed with cancer. The list is almost endless.
The longer you keep that stiff upper lip going the tougher you and others think you are. But in the end something has to give and when I reached outside of my marriage for another man to love me I was searching for something else. It is no surprise that I found men who wanted to use my body, who wanted to restrain and beat me. Luckily I chose wisely and neither of those men turned out to be in any way abusive.
Over the past 5 years, Master has helped me reveal my vulnerable side. He has helped peel away the layers of armour with which I had surrounded myself. I always held secrets, things I didn’t want to tell others. Sometimes because I didn’t want to hurt another, or because I wanted to hold something back. Now though, there is nothing to hide. There is nothing I can’t tell. Secrets and lies multiply over time and then when they are told they have a greater effect. By admitting a vulnerability at the time takes away some of the weight of the problem.
It is amazing I didn’t recognise this in me before. When my son was small, around 6 or 7 he worried about so many things. We found a book in the library which, was all about a little boy like him, who learnt how to share worries so they didn’t become a huge burden. It seems a shame I didn’t make the link then, as I would have saved myself a huge amount of heart ache.
My doctors, nurses and others said that the period just after treatment would be difficult. That people often feel vulnerable and they were right. The soreness, even though I knew it might happen, surprised me. As did the extent of the exhaustion. But thank goodness I am with someone who had listened and read about the effects of diagnosis and treatment. Someone who understands and wants to care for me.
This illness has allowed me to be vulnerable and to allow my family to see a different side of me. Some have embraced it and reassured me while others have chosen to ignore it. But it has taught me about myself and my body and about what is important. I hope that in the future I will take the memories from this experience and choose not to try to rebuild that armour. I’m sure Master will have something to say if I try.
Maybe I am a little bit astonished so this piece fits nicely into the Wicked Wednesday prompt of ‘astonish’ as well as the Safeword D/s club prompt of vulnerability.
There was no time last weekend for a fit for Friday post. After a quiet January, we burst into February with a vengeance. There have been old films to see, concerts to attend and a couple of gallery exhibitions. We are culturally on top of our game. But this meant a lot of meals out, wine and beer. Enjoyable but not necessarily conducive to weight loss.
Diet and fitness
We’ve had some great meals out as well as in. When we are home we try to eat healthily, and include lots of vegetables. When out though it is difficult because even when you think you are choosing wisely it can still turn up smothered in oil. Mind you, being out and about lends itself to tons of walking and an improved step count. Unfortunately one doesn’t cancel out the other, so the net gain over all has been another pound. Today though my weight stayed the same so perhaps I can turn things around next week. Steps averaged 7000, with some highs of 12,000 and more. But there are some post radiotherapy lows that have definitely got in the way.
They tell you that the after effects of radiotherapy continue for a few weeks following treatment. Also that effects are cumulative. They aren’t joking. I am now 16 days post end of treatment and am as sore as someone who lay in the sun for 14 days without sun lotion. Worse, much of the burnt area is under my right arm. It is red, bruised and bow the skin is peeling. On Wednesday I went back to the hospital for advice and dressings. I know this will pass, but it is seriously unpleasant. I am also tired and fed up.
Luckily we are off on holiday in a week and to be frank I cant wait. I’m hoping that by the time we get home I’ll be ready to step up the steps and exercise in general and lose so e weight.
When I took this little selfie I had no idea that the target was slightly out of focus. But sometimes imperfections are just the right thing and today feels like one of those days. This is my nipple. It’s the only one I have and it is time to celebrate what I have, imperfections, blurriness and all.
From time to time I post on facebook a lot. Checking in to bars and restaurants, announcing my departure for and arrival on holiday. Posting daily holiday snaps, often of churches and historical buildings. Friends and family expect this stuff of me. They pull my leg about the number of trips we take and my brothers expect the churches etc. (mainly so they can wind me up). Recently though I have been quieter. For one thing, we have been to fewer interesting places. But mainly it is because I don’t write about breast cancer there.
All of the people who need to know about my recent diagnosis do so. But I feel guilty that I haven’t told some people. For one I couldn’t cope with telling people who aren’t close or I don’t know well. Others it just felt wrong sending a message to give them that information. Last week I felt tempted to write an end of treatment general message, I felt happy and wanted to share. But it would have caused something of a storm, so I didn’t.
There is one place on Facebook I can go to though and that is the Breast Cancer Facebook Group I have joined.
Checking in, support and sharing experiences
Shortly after I had my mastectomy I searched facebook for Breast Cancer related groups and found one that is UK based. Posts now pop up on my timeline on a daily basis. It is very friendly and supportive. It contains practical resources about equipment, lingerie, insurance etc. But respects that there are many types of breast cancer and that everyone’s journey is different. It is a place for people who have or have had breast cancer, but excludes family and partners. This is for a good reason as everyone needs a safe space. Like me, many haven’t told family and friends and are unable to express themselves elsewhere.
As people will know, I couldn’t post the image above on Facebook. Not that I would since I don’t want my family, friends, ex work colleagues and acquaintances to see my bare tit. But anyway photos of breasts are banned so it would get removed quickly and no doubt I would be suspended from the site too. Thank goodness though I can show photos on twitter, though of course that is my secret account and I am not followed there by vanilla friends. We are allowed though, to show mastectomy photos on the breast cancer facebook page.
This is how I know that my mastectomy scar looks similar to others who have had one that is skin sparing. It is also how I know that the red skin I have from radiotherapy is about right and doesn’t warrant a medical opinion. The page has helped me understand the treatment plans that occur for different types of cancer and recognise mine is on a par. This is reassuring stuff.
Doom and gloom
Checking in to the breast cancer page though, can be a bit depressing. There are people of all ages from young women often with little children to those in their 70s and 80s and often have other illnesses. Many people are calm even when frightened about their diagnosis but others are full of panic and anxiety. People don’t read and take account of what has already been said and so the same questions are asked time and again. The journey of diagnosis and treatment are frightening and this is a safe place for people to express their fears. Sadly too, some people have recurrence, or secondaries at diagnosis. There are those for whom this is a palliative journey and that is really sad.
I’m not sure how long I will stay a member of this group. I may already have taken most of what I need. However it is a useful place to go and to know you are amongst others that understand what you have been through. I am lucky that I have a supportive partner, friends and family I can talk to as well as a whole community of sex bloggers. I have my twitter account to post pictures to and rant on if I wish.
This experience with breast cancer has made me think about what I place in the public domain though. Whether it is here on my blog, on my @MPB twitter account or on facebook. That is probably for the best.
I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of family and friends over the past few months. People checking in regularly to see how I am. Those who sent or gave me cards and flowers following my operation. But I have been most touched by the generosity of people I don’t really know and those who are more like acquaintances.
On Wednesday at our local Munch, I received a beautiful gift. when we last met a couple of weeks ago I told her about my forthcoming holiday and of the anxiety I have about showing off my body in a swimsuit. On Wednesday she gave me the beautiful shawl / sarong that I am modelling below. I was overwhelmed by her kindness, but also I love it so much. I am very much looking forward to wearing it while we are away.
Week 4 hasn’t quite gone to plan, you could say I’ve had a bit of a hiccup.
Diet and fitness
It started a week ago. Before I’d even posted week 3, I had fallen off of the Dry January wagon. I did have every intention of climbing back aboard, but that didn’t really happen. Intake of wine has been much lower than before, but I have had at least a little each evening. Food intake has been pretty average and we have had some lovely meals. So my half a pound gain is directly due to alcohol. Plan for next week is not to drink at home on week day evenings.
In terms of exercise, I had an amazing day on Monday. After my radiotherapy, we headed into London for an exhibition at Tate Britain. I really enjoyed the paintings and the walk through London afterwards. My step count by the end of the day was just shy of 15,000. That’s the best in a long while. Unfortunately the rest of the week hasn’t been so good. A combination of feeling tired and the weather (cold then snow yesterday / today). My average though was 6600. Once the snow goes I plan to step things up. In fact, we will be in London on Saturday and Sunday and will be walking lots.
The radiotherapy is finished. It is difficult to imagine that 15 short bursts of radiation can cause such weariness in a person. But I really have been lacking energy this week. Also the skin on the right side of my chest is pretty red and sore, so I have stepped up the moisturising. Apparently I received some bolus does at the end of treatment which account for the skin issues. Effects are expected to continue for a couple of weeks. It is a month till I have my hospital follow up appointment so I can enjoy the freedom from hospital waiting rooms and car parks (and so can Master).
The slug at the top is from outside the Tate Modern. Rather fetching for a slug wouldn’t you say?
Over the past few months I have found myself in some strange but pretty serious situations. I have had to take my top off for doctors and other health professionals more times than most models do for a photographer in a whole career. Everyone is very professional and careful to protect privacy and dignity. But we do smile about it afterwards. G comes with me to appointments and even though they think he is my husband they are very careful that he doesn’t see my naked chest behind the curtain. Of course you should never take these things for granted, but it does amuse us.
In the waiting room
Over the past 3 weeks we have been making daily trips to the cancer hospital for radiotherapy treatment. It’s a reasonably big place with about 9 or 10 Linear Accelerators and most have their own little waiting area. The radiography teams are often running late, so you are sitting in close proximity to (often anxious) people for a while. During the first week, there was an abundance of people talking about their illnesses, not only their own but everyone they have ever known. Not so much funny as irritating, especially for G who has to spend longer listening.
Last Monday though we were waiting with a group of 3 women; daughter (the patient), her mother and a friend who had driven them. The conversation was about whether the mother and daughter who lived together should invest in amazon prime. There then ensued a conversation where all 3 called out films that could or could not be accessed on the service. A conversation about the chronological order and quality of the Alien films ensued. Plus the daughter wanted access to ‘christian’ music to listen to all day. I guess it is a measure of our daily lives right now that this was amusing. So much so that we have been talking about it all week. Especially when we were trying to find something to watch on Amazon Prime that was worth watching and at no extra cost.
Our own laugh filled viewing
We don’t watch much real time TV, mainly because we can’t find much to appeal. Recently we’ve been binge watching some old stuff. One from our youth that made us laugh was the Beiderbeck Trilogy – jazz, intrigue and comedy rolled into one. I never watched My Name is Earl when it was on TV, but we’ve been watching some episodes of that too.
At the cinema we saw the new Laurel and Hardy Biopic: Stan and Ollie which we really enjoyed. The bits when they were doing their act was like watching the real thing. It made us laugh out loud. It was serious and sad too, but the funny bits were real belly laugh moments. We rounded off with a couple of original films which added to the fun and laughter.
I pledge my commitment to blog for my mental health. I will write about mental health topics not only for myself but for others. I do this to destigmatize mental illness and to promote mental health awareness & education. I am a sex blogger for mental health. #sb4mh #bfmh #notalone #SexNotStigma
I was late weighing in this week due to hospital appointments yesterday. So consequently my post is late too.
Last weekend we were out both days and so ate out. Tapas on Saturday at our favourite restaurant in London and burger on Sunday. The tapas lends itself to sherry or wine and I decided to break dry January and drink both. After the meal I resumed my alcohol fast and felt fine with it. During the week my meals have been on plan and when we went out again on Thursday I ate a fish stew and drank lemonade. Yesterday I made a lovely Thai curry paste from scratch. It’s ages since I have done that and it was so much nicer than the stuff you get in jars. Last night I decided I wanted wine and sadly drank a little too much of the stuff. I don’t think I’ll be drinking today!
At the end of all of that, I have lost 1lb, less than the 2lb I wanted, but as my Slimming World friend texted, a loss is a loss. So that is 5lb in 3 weeks. My aim is for another 7lb by the time I go on holiday at the end of February.
The weather hasn’t been conducive to long walks so I haven’t been out for the sake of it. There was snow earlier in the week and then it was pretty cold till Thursday. But I have managed to get more steps in, what with going to London last weekend, doing some shopping in a large Mall and going to the pub yesterday. So my average has gone up to 6732 for the week. I plan to try to push it higher this week coming, weather permitting.
Day 12 of 15 radiotherapy treatments was completed yesterday. I will finish on Wednesday. We have a Munch to go to that night and I will be having a glass or two of wine (though not as much as last night!). My chest has become quite red this week, a side effect of the radiotherapy. This is likely to continue up to 2 weeks after the treatment finishes. I haven’t felt so tired this week and have been sleeping pretty well. Though I was weary yesterday afternoon after two appointments in one day. As well as radiotherapy I had a bone density scan. This is because of the Letrozole tablets I have started. These cause oestrogen production to shut down and can cause loss of calcium from the bones. The scan revealed that my bones are healthy at the moment. They advise weight bearing exercise and plenty of calcium in the diet to maintain that.
All in all I’m feeling good health wise and so it is definitely time to step up the exercise.