What to do if Your Cancer Comes Back
This is one of the hardest articles I have ever written. I took an age to write it, I kept putting it off. But I decided, with the encouragement of my friend at Happy Magazine – Holly Kennedy, that it had to be written.
It was Autumn 2018 when I noticed problems with my eyesight and blurred vision. I took myself to the Opticians, but she didn’t find anything amiss. I put it down to the consequences of 30 rounds of radiotherapy during my cancer treatment for Triple Negative Breast Cancer. When I started miss-hitting keys on the keyboard, and my mobile phone keys a week later, I thought I ought to get a pair of glasses! When I started scraping the ground with my right foot, on one of my countryside hikes, I broke out in a cold sweat – I thought I must have had a stroke! I rushed home and got my partner to drive me to the nearest A&E.
On the way to the hospital I checked out the symptoms on the phone for a stroke, I had a good number of them! The A&E team rushed me into an MRI scan thinking it could be a stroke only for them to change their minds 20mins later after spotting a 2.5cm tumour in my brain. The Cancer which seemed behind me was back, but in the zone I dreaded it being in.
At the original diagnosis meeting with my Doctor for my breast cancer I specifically asked him could it spread to my brain, he said ‘no way!’ I asked my Oncologist the same question he said he hadn’t seen any patients where breast cancer had appeared in the brain. To say I was peeved is putting it mildy. The ironic thing was that I had just had all clear breast scans (a mammogram and ultra sound) and my blood work done the week before I went to A&E and nothing on my bloods caused a single murmur. As far as my Oncologist thought, at my blood report meeting, I was fit and healthy! Now, I am aware that if you are reading this you might be quite alarmed but I want to assure you of the importance of being vigilant.
If I had thought there had been a chance of a brain tumor appearing I would have known what symptoms to look out for. Every doctor I have since met have asked me did I have headaches? No, I did not. As if headaches are the only symptom of a brain tumour! It was only the Neuro Surgeon who explained that it depends which area of the brain the tumour is sitting in that determines if there is any pain or for that matter what symptoms can arise. The main signs are: blurred vision, trouble co-ordinating, slurred speech, mood swings, headaches and memory loss are the varying signs to look out for. But generally anything different or odd with your mental cognition should be mentioned to a Doctor.
I had the tumour removed by a fantastic team of Neuro Surgeons and I didn’t feel an ounce of pain at any stage or after the operation. They are truly super heroes!
Cancer cells are tough little cells. The problem is the Cancer stem cells can migrate anywhere and unfortunately do not always respond to standard protocol treatment. So, it never ‘went away’, and in my case, being as I was stage three, I didn’t expect a great deal. But I did take those symptoms to be a consequence of radiation and chemotherapy, as they are well documented consequences, apart from scraping my foot along the ground. I am ever so grateful for that Autumn hike! That hike pointed me in the direction of A&E and not a moment too soon, because if the tumour had been another ½ cm bigger they wouldn’t have been able to operate and I would have had a tougher road ahead of me.
But I can pass on how I dealt with it, as I am sure it can help.
What I did to Help Myself
1. Apart from the anxiety caused by thinking I had a stroke I didn’t panic. In fact, I was relieved to not have a stroke. This is because I knew all about Cancer, I knew how to deal with it and this knowledge reassured me that I could handle this.
2. I turned my hospital stay into a mini health spa! So in need was I of a fully inclusive holiday and as I found myself in hospital for 5 weeks straight (the first 4 on high dose steroids and the last week recovering from surgery), I decided to get creative.
Before the diagnosis my partner and I were planning a vacation to an all-inclusive warm place – well I certainly got that wish, it pays to be careful what you wish for! It was a balmy 28 degrees in my hospital room! I listened to loads of classical music, meditation and sound waves through my headphones, it was lovely to have so much time on my hands.
I tweaked most of the hospital food given to me to make it mostly keto and alkaline. I had a box of supplements with me including amongst others super Greens, Turmeric and Piperine, Berberine and a few other good things. My sister gave me beautiful lavender aromatherapy infused gloves and slippers, which I used every other day for a couple of hours. I had a bunch of essential oils, which I inhaled, including Frankincense to ease the edema (swelling of the brain). At night I watched the ‘Mrs Maisel’ or ‘Outlander’ series on Amazon. I went for 30 mins walk two times a day around the hospital. I struck up conversations with other long stay neurology patients, most of whom were Stroke patients. I sunbathed on warmer sunny days on a park bench outside, in addition, I took a Vitamin D supplement too.
I was strangely enjoying myself. It was the first time in 22 years that I had had so much time off with no obligations!
3. I wrote a letter and emailed it to close friends only filling them in on what happened and explaining I would not be able to communicate much. They respected my wishes to only send me funny stories and positive news.
4. I delegated research tasks to my partner. He read the cancertutor.com protocol and got me engaged with it, instead of me having to explain everything. He truly stepped up to the challenge.
5. I had my will updated.
6. I had power of attorney letters drawn up for my business and my life.
7. I wrote instructions for my funeral, which I had some fun doing, in a bizarre way, because it made me feel calmer when I had finished.
8. We looked at getting married for tax purposes, but it was too awkward, and time was too short leading up to the operation.
9. When I woke from the operation to find I was unable to talk, or move my right hand, I didn’t panic. I had been informed that this would be likely, but I would regain full speech and hopefully my right hand in approximately 3 months.
10. I am pleased to say I did all my physio and speech exercises and am recovered in both areas.
11. I quit reading the news as I needed a calm mind.
11. Managing expectations is crucial so get informed of what consequences can arise from any surgery and treatment.
What I Learnt
Overall, I think I managed this better than the first-time round. I didn’t have to do so much research as I had done it before. I knew what to do. One of my friends likened it to having a second child in that I was so well prepared and more relaxed than I was the first time I was diagnosed. I enjoyed having the time off to contemplate and do little. I even liked the time off after surgery and not being able to talk, but I knew I would recover my voice. Indeed, I was 6 weeks ahead of schedule in the recovery, to the amazement of my Doctor.
The only slight issue is that it has truly metastasised. But I have a plan in place and some wonderful alternative treatments, which I found out about from The Truth About Cancer documentary series on the TTAC teams journey through Asia last year.
It’s quite amazing the difference in treatment for Cancer in Asia. I have learnt some awe-inspiring alternative treatment protocols for complimentary healing.
If your Cancer has metastasised don’t panic, think of the learning and information you already know and put it into practice.
If you don’t want to do conventional treatment again or it’s not an option, there is a whole world of learning backed up with scientific studies in Asia that are holistic and uses natural products for healing the body and for killing Cancer stem cells.
I offer a life enhancing service in my CBT therapy to Cancer Patients both past and present and Carers. I was a Cancer Carer myself once, as well as being a Breast Cancer survivor and understand both sides of the story really well.
I love to help people get through their treatment journeys and out the other side with their sanity and relationships intact.
I use Cognitive Behavioural techniques to provide you with great coping mechanisms, plus coaching in communication skills and actions to help you be the person you want to be.
Contact me for more information through my website www.cbtforcancer.com all my therapy sessions are conducted by Skype which makes my therapy accessible wherever you are in the world.