Hello from me!

Welcome to my blog.  I will be updating you with ramblings about my fitness journey along with how I am fighting breast cancer.

My story so far.  I have been a fitness instructor for over 15 years.  Married for almost 8 years and have 2 beautiful children.

On 10th May 2017 I was entered a new era in my life. I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer.  Totally not prepared for it.  In denial some may say or naive.  I had found a lump 3 weeks earlier, purely by chance as I had never checked myself before.  My local GP convinced me it was more than likely benign, therefore that is what I told myself.  2 weeks later I was at the Breast Care Unit at Queens Hospital, Burton.  I had a mammogram, examination and 3 biopsies.  Another lump was found in the same breast when they used the ultrasound scan.  I then had to wait 1 week before I could return to find out the results.  I remained upbeat and didn’t linger on the thought of returning to see the consultant the following Wednesday.  Consequently I was not prepared for those few little words my consultant said, “I’m sorry but it’s not good news.”

The next week or so I tried to get my head round the words ‘cancer’, ‘tumours’, ‘mastectomy’, ‘chemotherapy’ and ‘radiotherapy’.  Slowly it began to sink in.  I cried buckets, every thought was about cancer and what would happen if I died!  My children, my husband, I looked at everything in a different light.

Then I turned a corner and thought I can do this.  The only way I decided that I could fight this terrible disease was to be as positive as I could possibly be.  I would not let it beat me.  Cancer is gonna wish it never picked on me! I truly believe that positive thinking and being as fit as I can possibly be will help beat this.  Negative thoughts are not allowed, ever!

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Post Op and Recovery

Tomorrow I am 4 weeks post op from phase one in my breast reconstruction journey.  All  went according to plan and my surgeons were pleased with the outcome.  The expander is hard and ridge compared to an implant.  It is literally just below the surface of my skin and you can see and feel it.  I am still getting use to the feeling of it and sometimes find it uncomfortable and painful.

I returned after one week to see my surgeon as she wanted to check the condition of my skin.  No redness or signs of infection so I was due back the following week for the removable of my plaster/bandage.  My scar is so neat as it wasn’t stitched but glued back together.  I have healed well and seem to be recovering fairly quickly.

Last week I returned to the my exercise, firstly easing into Pilates which helps my flexibility and range of movement.  I also completed a few leg sessions which resulted in a good case of the DOMS.  I’ve also been for a couple of runs which felt really good.  Next week I may test the waters with some upper body workouts.

My first fill is due 28th December – exciting and scary at the same time.  My surgeon has agreed to try 60 ml fills to start with and see how that goes.  Because I am lean and don’t have much fat or tissue around the expander or beneath the skin, she doesn’t want to take the chance of rupturing the scar.

It still feels very strange to me but I am hoping that I will get use to that over time, or maybe I never will.  I’ve got this baby with me for about 6/7 months.

I will keep you updated and let you know how the fills go over the next few months.

 

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I’m Back!!!!

Soooooo sorry it’s been too long!

Life has run away with me and I have no idea where this year has gone.

Updating my blog has been on my list of things to do but always got pushed down the list.

But here I am back again to tell you my latest tales…..

I met with my surgeon before the summer to talk about reconstruction, something I’ve always had in mind since the beginning.

We spoke in length about my options and what would be best for me. I have a lot to consider as I don’t want my muscles being cut due to my job as a fitness instructor and the fact that it plays a massive part in my life. The most common options of breast reconstruction requires taking a part of your own body, skin, fat and muscle, to create the new boob. Usually from either your stomach area or back.

The option using excess skin and fat from my stomach area was a no go because I’m pretty lean. The other option would be a LD flap which means using the latissimus dorsi muscle (back). Although this would work for me I didn’t want any messing with my muscles and effecting my fitness levels.

Therefore the other viable option is an implant. The risks are obviously infection and rejection of a foreign body. Generally they place the implant under the chest muscle, giving it a more natural look. But I didn’t want any option that would or could effect my fitness. And I had read that this option can cause a lot of pain and discomfort.

So with all this in mind we decided that implant over the chest muscle would be best for me. It’s not a very common option here in the UK, whereas in USA it’s becoming very popular.

Having an implant is a big decision because of the risks associated with them. The fact of rejection by your body, the higher chance of infection and the longevity of the actual implant. In fact making the decision to have breast reconstruction is not an easy one and not for everyone. And no it’s not a free boob job! That is a cosmetic procedure, this is an attempt to regain some sort of normalcy after a traumatic, life-changing event, breast cancer.  

We decided that I would delay my surgery until after I completed the Great North Run which I was doing in September for Breast Cancer Care.

So here we are in November and my operation only 2 days away! Previously it had been scheduled for end of November but I received a phone call last week asking if I would agree to have it sooner. I said yes then thought f@@k what have I done!! Totally not prepared!

This week has been a mad rush of rearranging time off work, hospital appts with pre op and consent forms to sign. The reality of it all only just beginning to set in.

I know exactly what is going to happen and in the grand scheme of things it’s not big op, less than an hour. But my worrying mind is working overtime right now.

Am I doing the right thing?

What if I hate it?

Is all this time and effort worth it?

The thing about breast reconstruction is that you don’t go into surgery with a flat chest and come out with a fine set of boobs. It’s a long haul process. I don’t have an exact timeline but it’s going to be probably a good year or more.

This first stage is having an expander placed under my skin on top of my chest muscle. And it does exactly as it sounds expands the skin, makes a pocket for the implant to go in at a later date.

My surgeons will make a decision whether to fill my expander whilst I’m under the knife or to wait until my scar has healed in a few weeks time.

I then have to go back every few weeks to have the expander filled with saline until it has reached the desired size. Then I will have exchange surgery for the actual implant.

As you can see it’s a long journey and even once the implant is in, I may have more surgery to even things up with my real boob.

A dear friend of mine said to me today, that I need to look at things a little differently. That I can’t go into this with a sense of perfection, it will ever look like a real boob out of clothes but in them it will.  I can’t compare it to my boob from before cancer because that has gone and because of that I am still here and alive.  I need to compare my new boob to having a flat one sided chest.  Whatever my surgeons do will be better than what I have now.  I suppose part of me is once again reliving those sad feelings of having lost my boob to cancer.  It’s only a year ago……..which is not very long.

Getting the balance right…

My last post was about clothes, what to wear, what not to wear and more to the point coming to terms with summer and only having one boob. I know that my shoulders are a great feature so I need to focus on those rather than my one boob.

I was going on a fitness weekend and once again didn’t have anything to wear that I felt comfy in. So I got my thinking cap on and eventually found a bodysuit in Quiz. I tried it on and it felt just right. I didn’t have to wear a bra and it covered my boob. Chuffed or what!

But I still didn’t have any summery tops to wear and I knew the sunny weather was just around the corner. Cue another meltdown, admittedly a small one. After a prep talk from the girls I went onto Next and ordered a load of stuff. Shame of it was, a lot of the tops I could wear were out of stock 🙁 but hey ho.

My parcel arrived the following day and I am pleased to say that I found some really nice tops. It’s a start.

Another hurdle I combated this week was to go out in public wearing only a spaghetti strap top with no bra or fake boob. I was conscious that people were looking but I kept thinking I can do this. I walked around bald when having chemo like I didn’t care so I can walk around with one boob like a don’t care! I even went to Tesco’s 😂 As a friend of mine said, if anyone is staring at your tits, they deserve a slap anyway! And you know what she’s bloody right 👍🏼

It’s a hard path and even when you think you’ve got over the worst there is always something else there to try and pull you down! Onward and upward 💋

Dealing with one boob…..

The things they don’t tell you about…..

Winter is coming to an end and did we see a glimpse of spring/summer coming??  So out go the long trousers, big snuggly hoodies, layers of clothes……layers and big baggy tops that I can hide in, hide the fact that I have only one boob.  Some may say they don’t notice but I feel very conscious.  I had a huge meltdown a few weeks back.  I had arranged a girlies night out in town and began stressing about what to wear as the time got closer.

The problem I have is the majority of my clothes were bought at the time when I had 2 boobs and cleavage.  Even with a decent bra I don’t wear my prosthesis very often, if at all.  It is next to my skin, I get hot and sticky and I don’t like the feel of it.  I can invest in a proper mastectomy bra but most of the prettier ones don’t go down to my size.

I had a complete meltdown over my clothes which then turned into what was I going to wear in the summer.  I usually go around  in spaghetti strap vest tops, what was I going to wear.  If I had no boobs at all it would be easier than one boob, I could be totally flat! There were tears and tantrums…… I wasn’t in a good place.  I had a chat with some of my girlies and they managed to get me to turn it around.  I found a top to wear and wore a bra with my fake boob.  I didn’t feel totally comfortable but I went with it anyway.

I’m not really any closer to sorting out my wardrobe or getting a bra that has a pocket that I can put the fake boob in.  But I have found this awesome lady on Instagram called Melissa. She had a unilateral mastectomy but has decided against reconstruction.  She offers some amazing advice about how to dress and especially how NOT to dress or draw attention to the fact that you only have one boob.

So my goal for now is to focus what I can wear and how to wear what I have.  Hubby took me out on Friday night for a rare date night and I didn’t wear a bra or fake boob and I felt amazing! I felt comfortable! And I think I look pretty hot! 🙂

New Beginnings

What’s new pussycat?? Whoa whoa 😃

Life has taken a different turn, back to normality which is good.

Cancer still plays a big part in my life even though I’m in remission. The thought of it coming back never really goes away. Every ache, every pain, every niggle has me worried. I have been experiencing pains and aches in my chest area, where my left boob was. Against all my instincts I told hubby and rang the breast care unit about my concerns. They were very good and got me in straight away to see the nurses and a doctor. Who wasn’t concerned it was anything to do with my mastectomy or previous breast cancer. But advised me to see my GP as soon as possible to rule out any issues with my heart. So thats next week……ECG and bloods

The other news I have is that I have only gone and bagged myself a job!! Woohoo!!!  Back doing what I love the most, gym and fitness instructor.  I will be teaching classes too which I am really excited about.  I have so missed teaching.

Life is good……..

New Year New Me

It’s been a while guys.  Christmas has been and gone, which was fabulous! It was so nice to relax with my family and not have to worry about chemo or radiotherapy.  Plus the fact that I was in remission.

So into 2018 we go with a clean slate.  As the hustle and bustle of Christmas leaves and the children return to school, normality settles down.  Suddenly you find yourself in a bizarre situation, no appointments, no doctors, no hospitals, no treatment just around the corner……no nothing.  Its such a strange feeling.

You go from having a normal life, doing the normal things we all do to being shell shocked and rocked after hearing those words, you have cancer.  Then it all disappears as quickly as it arrived.  I felt lost, wasn’t sure where my focus was.  I felt frustrated, my fitness wasn’t where I wanted it to be, I suppose because I felt better, had recovered from my mastectomy, I expected my fitness to return quicker than it was.  It’s very hard to explain without having gone through it yourself.

So I do what I do best and look for the positives.  I gave myself a talking to and took a moment to realise what I have been through, what my body has been through.  How far I have come in the last 9 months.  I am stronger than I have ever been, not physically but mentally.

At the moment I am back on the fitness train, building my strength back up and working on my summer body!

Recently I was contacted by Macmillan about my story and they asked to feature me in a press release they were doing for World Cancer Day on Sunday 4th February.  They are raising awareness of how cancer sufferers partially women are turning to social media for support and inspiration whilst battling cancer.  Today I was featured in the Daily Mirror.  I am super proud that I can continue to inspire others with my story.

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This Chapter Draws To An End

Wow! I can’t believe its been almost 3 weeks since I posted last.  The time is flying by as 2017 comes to an end.  I will be glad to see the back of this year, it has not been what I excepted on so many levels.

My appointment with my oncologist went really well, confirming that I didn’t need any radiotherapy and that my treatment has officially ended.  I am so happy that this part of my journey has ended.  It’s hard to ever imagine when you are mid treatment, what it feels like not to be ill from the drugs they give you.  What you will feel like after treatment and will life ever be the same again?

My life has returned to some normality, I’ve upped my exercise game, induced weights again and living life to the fullest.  I was fitted for my prosthesis last week which was fun, got to coppa good feel at lots of fake boobs and eventually managed to find one that I was comfortable with and fitted well.  Unfortunately they don’t fit my current bras which are padded push up bras.  So I will be going shopping sometime in the future with my new boob for new bras.

I still have questions that float around in my head; will cancer come back? How do they know I haven’t got cancer just somewhere they haven’t found it? Am I unlucky that I’ve had cancer or lucky that it was caught it early?  I try not to think of these things too much as it would drive me crazy.

My scar has healed nicely and I am very happy with it.  I amaze myself by how quickly I have become use to one boob.  I am proud of my scar, it shows how cancer tried to defeat me but I kicked its butt!

Life is for living so go out and get it because you never know what is around the corner.

 

Results and the road to recovery.

The day after my last post saw me back at the hospital for an appointment with my surgeon, Mrs Carmichael, to get all stitches and dressings removed plus the results from the breast sent away for examination.  I was a bit nervous, hoping that I wasn’t going to be told they had found more cancer in the breast.  And eventually seeing for the first time myself in the flesh with no dressings on, my scar where left boobie once was.

I arrived early straight from the school run and managed 2 laps of the hospital with coffee in hand.  I didn’t have to wait too long once in the breast care unit.  First was the removal of the stitches from the wound in my armpit.  And then the steri strips from the scar of my breast.  Mrs Carmichael was extremely pleased with the scarring and happy that I was healing.  She asks me if I wanted to look in the mirror.  I did of course.  It was strange but I am happy with my scar, it follows the natural curve of my breast making reconstruction better in the future, meaning the scar would be under the new boob created.  The scar in my armpit is now a zig zag shape going upwards rather than the small horizontal scar I had previously from the sentinel node removal in May.  She explained that the infection I had was a really nasty one, damaging my skin tissue  which she had to remove.

We then sat down and discussed my results.  The left breast had been sent away to be examined after my operation.  Originally there were two lumps, the largest one I found and a second one which was found on the ultrasound scan at my initial consultation.  The results showed the smaller lump had completely disappeared and the larger one had reduced in size to only 6mm.  The chemotherapy had done a remarkable job in only 4 rounds.  And more good news was I don’t have to have anymore chemo!!!  At this point I cried! I had mentally prepared myself for the other two rounds of chemo that I have missed, with the possibility of having my last chemo 4 days before Christmas Day.  It was pure relief.  And it looks like I won’t have to have radiotherapy either, although I have to get that confirmed with my Oncologist next Friday.  I could not have been happier.

We spoke about reconstruction and some of my options.  But that is for another blog post. Mrs Carmichael doesn’t want to see me for 6 months.  I need time off from hospitals and doctors and let my body recovery and heal from the treatment I’ve had. We hugged at the end and I literally bounced out of the room.  I agreed to have my photos taken for medical purposes, my own personal file and for medical publication if needed.

I was so happy, I can’t remember feeling so happy.  The relief and joy is still overwhelming.  I spent the rest of the day grinning like a cheshire cat and we celebrated as a family last weekend.

I have come so far in a relatively short space of time.  I am a different person, a better, stronger, more positive person.  Cancer messed with the wrong girl! It came and I kicked its arse!

Revised, unedited and raw Fitnessfi!

Here I am the other side of my mastectomy, one boob lighter.  Today is 2 weeks post op and the road to recovery has been pretty good so far.

As per usual my operation day wasn’t as straight forward as previously planned.  I was told not to eat from midnight and only water until 5am.  I arrived at the hospital with Andrew as requested, 7.30am.  We made our way up to the Elective Surgery lounge where I discovered, an hour later, that they didn’t know why I was here so early as my operation wasn’t scheduled until 2pm! I was quite annoyed as you can imagine, I could have eaten breakfast and drank water!!! They had a bed for me on a ward already so was told I could go down a bit later, I had no option but to hang around the hospital for the next 6 hours on my own.  Looking for the positives as usual, I went for an hours walk around the hospital and got my daily steps in before midday.  Tried to stay away from the lunch trolley as I was so hungry and the smell of food was driving me insane.  Then the next few hours whizzed by as I got ready for surgery, saw the anethesist and the theatre manager.  2pm on the dot they came for me and I was pushed down to theatre on my bed.  And not long after in the land of nod………

I woke up a few hours later, feeling stiff and sore.  I had a drain in the left side of my body, which if you didn’t know, its to drain away any fluids and/or blood from the wound.  I wasn’t in too much pain, it was more uncomfortable than anything.  I was back on the ward by 5pm and rang Andrew to say they could come in and see me.  It was lovely to see my munchkins, we had lots of gentle cuddles.  My request for egg mayo sandwiches and slabs of chocolate were fulfilled. Plus of course a decent coffee.  I’ve got a keeper 😉

That night I did not sleep a wink.  I was on a ward with 5 other older ladies, who all slept like logs I might add but I could not get comfy.  Plus I was up and down to the loo every 2 hours, must have been all the fluids they pumped into me.  I was glad when the morning came round, I was hoping to be on my way home as soon as.  My surgeon arrived just after 9am and she said I could leave that morning and my drain would be removed before going home.  Yah I was so happy.  All I wanted was my own bed.

The next few days I took things easy, Andrew was on hand to help out with the kids as were some of our friends and family.  The pain wasn’t too bad, I was taking paracetomal a few times a day only.  Sleeping was uncomfortable for the first week, I like sleeping on my side which wasn’t possible.  I was driving 5 days later and it felt ok, movement in my arm was getting better and stronger.

I went back to the hospital a week after my operation to have the stitches out from under my arm, where the open wound was.  The nurse decided to leave them in as she didn’t think the skin had healed enough.  I had my dressing changed reducing the bulk, and making me look really flat.  It was the first time I looked and felt totally flat.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel post op about losing left boob and being totally flat.  I thought I might have a breakdown, be an emotional wreck or meltdown.  But no, for the first time I really had got my head round the whole mastectomy.  I knew that I no longer wanted or needed that boob because it was trying to kill me and it needed to go.  I want to be here for my children, my husband, enjoy life to the full and I am not going to lie down and let cancer take over my life.  So now I am a new revised and edited version of fitnessfi, one boob less but stronger than ever before, mentally and emotionally.

This week I got back on the fitness wagon, admittedly it’s not weight training but I started doing a 30 day squat challenge with a few friends.  Also started walking 5km a day and today I did a bit of running, just a little.  It feels so good to be exercising again.  I keep saying it but I truly believe being as fit and healthy as I am has helped enormously fight breast cancer.  It has helped me get through the tough days, helped me mentally and emotionally.

Tomorrow I am back at the hospital meeting with my surgeon and hopefully getting all my dressings and stitches removed.  I have had a dressing on my underarm since the beginning of September and will be glad to be rid of them.  I will also get the results from my breast.  It was sent away for examination, to see if there was anymore cancer in the breast.  Fingers crossed for good news.

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A Bump In The Road…

I know it’s been a while since I last updated…..the weeks fly by in a blur and before you know it, my baby boy has completed his first term at school! How did that happen??

Since my stay in hospital with an infection under my arm, I’ve been having daily dressings either at the Doctors surgery or Breast Care Unit at Burton and then the District Nurses at the weekends.  It really is endless.  It was decided by my oncologist that I could no longer have chemotherapy whilst I had an open wound therefore the best option was to bring the mastectomy forward.  After meetings with my breast care consultant and my surgeon it was agreed that I would go in on 25th October, slap in the middle of half term.  I can harder believe that the time has come round so quickly, it is now only 3 days away.

I have been through all the emotions and sure the next few days will be testing.  Part of me wants to get it over with so I can deal with it and move on but the other half would run a million miles away from it if I could.

Other than coping with the wound under my arm, my fitness has improved, yah! I have not been in the gym lifting weights as a lot of movements are restricted for lifting.  But I have been hitting my 15,000 steps a day and running as much as I can.  Managed a 5k PB this week of 27mins 22secs.  Extremely chuffed with this and know I that once I am clear of all this shit, then I can well and truly get back on track with my fitness.  At the moment that is the one thing that gets me through the rough moments.  2018 is going a bloody good year!

Chemo may be back on the cards after my stitches have healed, my oncologist wants me to have the 2 rounds that I have missed.  Good news on not having chemo is, of course, my hair has started to grow back.  It’s amazing how quickly it does grow, even if it is grey/white!

So I will see you all the other side, one boob lighter!

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