Thursday, 18 December 2014

An Odd Coincidence

2 years ago today I was fast asleep having the bastard c cut out of me. Today, I just got handed my P45....
Easier said than done, but rather than being sad about this odd coincidence, I am going to (try to) look at it as both being about new starts....

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Time to Fly

adjective: redundant
not or no longer needed or useful; superfluous.

Sad news. I didn't get a job in the new company. I'm being made redundant as of Christmas Eve... Happy Christmas to me! My head is all over the place at the moment. If I am truly honest with myself, the journey to NW London would have been horrible, about 2 hours each way. But I want to be wanted. It's so hard. People say that I shouldn't take it personally, it's not me that's not wanted any longer, it's my role. But that's so much easier said than done. I've worked for my current company for 7 years and I almost feel like I'm in mourning for my work family. I will miss the camaraderie and friendship more than anything, but if I reflect honestly, it's not been the same place for a few years now. It's scary to be pushed rather than to jump but maybe it's all for the best. Let's see what the future brings. As this blog shows, I've faced far scarier things in my life so far!

Qué Será Será

Today I find out if I have a job at the new company or not. I'm anxious, nervous and apprehensive. I hate other people holding the cards in my life. If I do get a job there then it will be an exciting new change and if I don't then it will also be an exciting new change.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Not Again....

*Spoiler Alert*

When I was younger, I used to have something called Trichotillomania. Basically, when I got anxious, nervous or worried, I used to twist my hair round and round my finger and pull it out at my crown. It led to me having a big bald spot in the centre of my head which I covered by brushing my hair over it. I eventually grew out of it, but I've noticed that now when I'm in the same anxious state, I continually touch my bad boob. Not in a sexual way but in a squeeze it, feel it, search it, sort of way.

About a fortnight ago, I found out that the company I work for is merging (in truth it's an acquisition) with another company, and as a result my job is at risk. SBG (Self-Boob-Groping) goes into overdrive. And then I find it. A lump. No no no. Oh please no. Shit. My already stressed out brain goes into meltdown. How in the heck am I supposed to process this much stress. We have just moved house (said to be one of the biggest life stressors), I am potentially losing my job (another stressor) and now another lump. The trouble was, as soon as I found the lump/ridge/oddness, I couldn't leave it alone. Which made it swell. Which made me feel even worse. Which made me touch it more. Complete vicious cycle.

As it was my time of the month, I decided to leave it a week before calling the doctor. During your period, hormonal changes and fluctuations can cause your breasts to feel lumpy. I put a massive plaster over it to stop me touching it, and hoped against hope that it would disappear.

I desperately tried to put it out of my mind over that week but I couldn't. I didn't tell many people about it (I had to tell HR at work because of the impending job loss), because admitting I'd found something and saying it out loud somehow made it more real.

A week passed and I peeled the plaster off. It was still there. Felt myself about to break, but managed to centre myself and use some of the calming breathing techniques I learnt on my Cancer Survivorship Course last year. I waited until 8am when the doctor's surgery opened and made the call. I had to call 24 times as it was permanently engaged, when I finally got through I was given an appointment for that afternoon.

I went to the doctor's and was sat in the waiting room for about 15 minutes. I could feel my heart rate rising with every minute sat there. I was eventually called through, and as it was a new doctor's surgery (as we have moved house, I also moved doctor) they didn't know any of my medical history. The male doctor took notes and then called in a chaperone. He gave my boobs and armpit a good feel and confirmed he could feel what I was talking about. He said to me that he didn't think it was anything significant, but as it was definitely *something* and given my medical history, he had to refer me.

When a doctor suspects a Breast Cancer, you have to be referred under the 2 week emergency referral period. I was called the very next day (Wednesday) and was given an appointment at the breast clinic for the following Thursday.

The next day a letter arrived in the post, the NHS stamp in the right hand corner, familiar and sinister, instantly recognisable. I open the letter and it tells me everything I already know. I have an appointment at Mr Ball's One Stop Clinic at 10h20 on Thursday next week and it details all the procedures I *could* go through. I read the letter. A One Stop Clinic does mean you get the results on the same day which is something at least. I digest all the info. But I know all of this already. Which is what makes it worse. Last time I thought it wasn't anything. What if it is again....

What followed was the longest week ever. It made me remember the wait I had before. Not only did I have this to contend with, but in the middle of the wait, we also found out more about the new work structure and my role as it is now doesn't exist. How much stress is one person supposed to cope with :(

I don't know how I got through it, but Thursday eventually arrived. I spent the morning feeling sick, being sick and crying, as I was very much aware that within a few hours, my world could be right back in 2012 again, but this time with the threat of not having a job. Rob drove me to Crawley hospital and we were told that the oncologist was running half an hour late. It's always the way but it does absolutely nothing for your nerves.

Eventually I was seen by Mr Ball. He ran through my medical history and then felt my boobs and my armpits. I just about held it together, lip quivering and a few tears falling. He then said to me that he thought it was scar tissue but to be 100% he wanted me to have a Mammogram and Ultrasound. He said that if the radiologists thought it was serious, then I would need an MRI as well which would involve another weeks' wait for results. I knew this was coming, but I feel horribly sick. There's a term called Scanxiety, it's the fear cancer patients face when they know scans are approaching and would 100% say I suffer from it.

I walk round to the x-ray department and am told where the mammogram waiting room is. I know already. I've done this before. Rob and I walk there in a sort of brain fog. And we sit for another 40 minutes. The wait is excruciating. I'm the youngest person there by a country mile (what is a country mile anyway?!) I'm called into the mammogram side room to confirm my details and I burst into tears. The lady doing the mammogram is lovely. She tells me she remembers me from before. I suppose you would do seeing that I was 28 at diagnosis and everyone else in the waiting room looks over 50. She also tells me that as my annual mammogram was due in December/January, this one would be replacing it. I sit in the side room for 5 minutes and then I'm called through to the room. It's hideously familiar. My boobs are scanned and squashed, it hurts but I know it's what's needed. I try and read her face but she gives nothing away. She must have her game face completely perfected as she does this every day.

I then have to wait another 30 minutes for the ultrasound. I am called to the room. I take off my top and lie on the bed. Tears fall again. The doctor doing the ultrasound walks in and tells me that the mammogram looked clear. A little bubble of hope rises in my chest. He then spends a good 10 minutes performing an ultrasound on the area I have found the lump in. He is very kind in the way he talks to me. He has a soothing voice which calms me a little. He then turns to me and smiles. "It's scar tissue Joanna" he says. I fully burst into tears. Overwhelm. Happiness. Relief.

They want me to keep an eye on it anyway, just in case. I have my follow-up appointment in 3 months that I had booked in anyway (it was due to follow my January mammogram), and they will no doubt check in on it again then. But for now, I have one less life stressor to worry about.

Panic over.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Chemoversary #2

2 years ago today I finished chemotherapy. I don't want any fanfare or recognition, but to simply remind everyone (young, old, men, women, those with a family history of cancer and those without) to do their monthly TLC

Hair Diary

I thought that as part of the next stage of my blogging journey, it might be a good idea to keep a hair diary. Firstly so that I can track my hair growth progress, and secondly so that I might help other people in the same situation understand what stage they might be at by what time.

My Head Hair regrowth from November 19th 2012 to October 19th 2014

Each photo is taken on the 19th of each month and is au naturel, so no make-up or hair products (apart from my trusty GHDs!).

Here's a breakdown:

Month 1 - November 2012
First set of pictures taken exactly one month on from my last chemo treatment...

Head Hair



P.S. What can be done with a bit of make-up.....

Month 2 - December 2012
Head Hair
So my head hair is coming on quite well :)

Eyebrows & Eyelashes
These are still a bit sparse but they're slowly growing...

So although my hair is still fairly thin, I'm not bothered about wandering around without any sort of head covering...... Was nice and early into work today so decided to stroll to the coffee shop and grab a drink. Place my order and as I'm waiting the serving "wench" says to me.... "Oooh that's a very short haircut, what made you do that?" so without thinking I replied "cancer" - her face was an absolute picture!

Month 3 - January 2013
Head Hair
Continues to grow, although I do appear to have a random bald patch at my crown!

Eyebrows & Eyelashes
I think my eyebrows are almost back to normal. My eyelashes are certainly getting there... The lower lashes are longer than the top ones which looks a little bizarre but hey, they're there!

Month 4 - February 2013
Head Hair
My hair is growing at a super speedy rate! It seems to have developed it's own Jedward Mohican type style and it growing upwards... Hopefully it'll be long enough to do something with soon enough.

Eyebrows & Eyelashes 
My eyebrows I think are pretty much back to how they were before. They're a little patchy in places but as I had almost plucked them into oblivion before, I'm not 100% sure how they will grow back anyway.

My eyelashes are getting there. The lower ones are still longer than the top ones but i think they appear to be thickening out which is cool. There are still not as many as I had before, but I don't think Joe Bloggs on the street would know that...

Month 5 - March 2013
 Head Hair
Head hair is still growing at a rate of knots! It now looks like this:

So I have a random bald patch at my crown and my hair is going wavy (a little mullet-like!) but I am leaving it as long as possible before I get it cut so there is more to work with for the wedding!

Eyebrows & Eyelashes 
Apologies for the shiny forehead in this one! Blimmin flash. 

April 7th 2013
2 weeks to go until the wedding! I've got my "first" haircut booked in on Thursday 11th April, am absolutely bricking it for some reason but fingers crossed :-)

Month 6 - April 2013
New Haircut.... Top left is before, others are after - excuse the cheesy grin!

My eyebrows and eyelashes haven't really grown much this month but they're still there! I'm also having individual falsies on my wedding day 😊

My Wedding Day 21/04/13 - 6 months + 2 days post chemo
I'm not naked in this pic! Am being laced into my dress. My hair looks really full and thick plus the hairdresser managed to straighten it :) The eyelash falsies look amazing too!

Month 7 - May 2013
Head Hair
Seeing as I had a haircut a month ago my hair has grown like crazy! I think the Mexico sunshine has made it go a bit more blonde too!

Eyelashes and Eyebrows
I think my eyebrows have been dyed a bit by the sunshine and so look a bit more sparse. I also need to start shaping them a bit now!

Here's a close up of my eyelashes:

Here's what can be done with a bit of make-up 🙂

Month 8 - June 2013
Head Hair
My head hair has gone a bit bonkers! I really need it cut again!

Eyelashes and Eyebrows
I think my eyelashes are pretty much back to normal now which is great. My eyebrows are gradually filling in but still fairly thin. Pencil and brow make-up are still in constant use!
Month 9 - July 2013
Head Hair
My head hair has really had a growth spurt. It's also become really shiny :) I'm able to use my straighteners on the ends now too which is great. I'm still deciding whether or not to get it cut so it's more one length but I think I'm going to leave it for now.

I was going to edit this photo before I uploaded it but I think it's kinda funny to see rob & I in the mirror - peekaboo!

I sent a copy via Twitter of my Months 1-9 photo and they retweeted it :-)

Macmillan Cancer
@joanna_cugley thanks for sharing that Joanna. Really reassuring for others going through the same thing #notalone

Eyelashes and Eyebrows
There's not been much change again here so I think they might be back to where they were before. I had really over-plucked my eyebrows as a teenager so I think it'll take a long time for them to become full again. My eyelashes are *almost* there. They are definitely as thick but not quite as long yet - hooray for good mascara!

Month 10 - August 2013

Head Hair
My head hair seems to be changing every month. It's almost long enough to have a proper style now. What I might do is have it cut ready for Michelle's wedding when I'm a bridesmaid :)

Hooray for GHDs

Eyelashes and Eyebrows
Not much change again tbh but I do think they're both thickening up :) My eyebrows are becoming more solid rather than patchy and my eyelashes are feeling a bit thicker. They don't look much different in the photo but I can feel it!

Month 11 - September 2013
Head Hair
It's getting pretty long now and is easy to straighten because of the length :-) The other day it even got tangled and knotty!! It still feels really soft like baby hair so I am extra careful when using my GHDs and use a heat protection spray every time.
Exciting news is that I have booked in my first proper haircut. I know I had one in April before the wedding but there wasn't this much to play with then! Am also gonna have some highlights put in it :-)

Eyelashes and Eyebrows
Some definite thickening this month - hooray!

Month 12 - October 2013
My First Proper Haircut! 
 Now I know I had a haircut before my wedding but there wasn't that much to play with. so I was a bit nervous before going for my first "proper" haircut.... but I'm delighted! Results below (had a cheeky bit of colour put in too)
Eyelashes & Eyebrows
My eyelashes are definitely thickening up :)
The reason I've left this photo in is so that you can see how long the shortest bits of my hair is. I don't think it will be very long until I can tuck it behind my ears!

I've also just realised that my brows are going a bit ginger! Nothing wrong with that, just a bit new having never been a redhead!

One Year On
Here's a snapshot one year on!

Month 13 - November 2013
Head Hair
Boy my hair has grown quickly again! I want it highlighted and cut again soon. It sounds silly but I have my first annual mammogram coming up and I don't want to have my hair done for fear of cursing it and having to have chemo. Might be an irrational fear but until you've had BC it's really hard to explain something like this.

 Eyelashes & Eyebrows
Finally some growth, darkening and thickening!

Month 14 - December 2013
Head Hair
I think I can officially call my hair shoulder-length now. In fact, from this picture it looks like it's just below my shoulders :) There are parts that are still shorter and wispy and I still can't quite tuck those bits behind my ears but it won't be long! I'm so pleased with how shiny my hair is now as well.

 Eyelashes & Eyebrows
I'm still a bit fed up with my eyebrows - they just won't grow! I think I'm going to invest in some Browzings which all my YBCN girls rave about. I do have some eyeshadow in on this photo but no mascara. 

Month 15 - January 2014
Head Hair
My hair is now getting to a real length. I'm able to put it back in a ponytail, though wispy bit do fall forward at the front.
Also as I had my clear mammogram (yay!) results I've booked myself another haircut for the beginning of February!

 Eyelashes & Eyebrows
Getting fed up with my eyebrows now, just wish they would grow! My lashes are back and full, and thick but no joy on the blimmin brows!

Month 16 - February 2014
Head Hair
My hair was getting pretty long and a bit unruly being lots of different lengths so I was really looking forward to my haircut that I had yesterday - before and after pic below! Went a bit blonder this time as well - am really pleased!

 Eyelashes & Eyebrows

Blimmin brows look even more sparse this month! Grow damn you.... I think I might get some Revitabrow and see if that makes any difference but it's so bloody expensive.

Month 17 - March 2014
Head Hair
My hair is really getting manageable now, I can do lots with it and *almost* tuck it all behind my ears. It's still a bit of a pain to go to the gym with but it's getting there. I think by July it'll be where I want it to be. Although I had it dyed last month, I think it went even lighter from my holiday :)

Eyelashes & Eyebrows
Although my brows got lightened a bit on hols I think they're growing - hooray! If you click on the below photo and make it larger, you can see a few stray hairs where the brows either need plucking or I need to have the untidy look until they fill in. I think I'm going to brave leaving them messy and will just neaten them up a bit using make up :)

Month 18 - April 2014
Head Hair
Check out the length of my hair now!! I'm so pleased with it :) It's not all one length still but I can get it up in a ponytail for the gym. In July I'm a bridesmaid for Amy & Andy so fingers crossed by then I can have it in the style I want!

Eyelashes & Brows
Have finally started lengthening but my brows are still sparse. I think I'm just going to permanently have lighter, thinner brows now.

Month 19 - May 2014
Head Hair
I'm so pleased with my hair now, I can finally tuck it behind my ears, get it up in a ponytail and just feel like I have "normal" hair :-)

Eyelashes & Brows
I've started to need to pluck my eyebrows this month. Although they are looking thinnish still they are getting messy. I guess that's a mini bonus!

Month 20 - June 2014
Head Hair
Only a bit of growth this month and it's going more mullet-y with sticky out bits.... But I am having it cut next week which feels like such a treat.

Eyelashes & Brows
My brows are definitely getting messier, they just won't really grow thicker. Ho hum! I think I'll ask for some nice eyebrow make-up for my birthday in a few weeks' time.

Month 21- July 2014
Head Hair
I had my hair cut at the very start of July ready for Amy's wedding. It was more of a trim than a restyle this time as my hair is gradually becoming one length. I also had it highlighted again. I love being a bit more blonde, helps me feel summery!

Eyelashes & Brows
Both my lashes and brows are thickening now :) I'm trying to leave my brows alone because I'd like to get them properly shaped but there are a few messy stray ones. I'll try and cope for another month or so I think!

Month 22- August 2014
Head Hair
It's really becoming one length now, I'm so pleased to have "proper" hair again. It's softer than ever before and really easy to manage. I know a lot of girls get massively curly hair after chemo but mine is just wavy like it was before. Next month I'll post a picture of it in its curly state just so you can see how it is without the mighty GHDs

Eyelashes & Brows
I'm really happy with my eyelashes now. I still wish my browns would thicken out but I fear I may have damaged the roots beyond repair when I was younger.

Month 23- September 2014
Head Hair
As I said last month, my hair is really getting back to being one length. I can put it in a ponytail with ease. There are wispy bit still that I have to clip back but on the whole it's really manageable. Pictures below taken with a really low top on so you can easily see that it's below my shoulders.

This is it up in a ponytail:

Eyelashes & Brows
Finally!! Some thickening and growth and noticeable change :)

Month 24 - October 2014
Two Years On! I've decided that this will be my last Hair Diary post. 2 years is a good amount of time to document hair growth and anything on from this will just be me having haircuts etc. I really hope that this diary has been useful to anyone who's read it and provided some reassurance that it does come back (and pretty quickly!)
Head Hair
I think the pictures speak for themselves....

Useful websites: