Happy New Year to the Princess's followers, I hope 2018 has started well for you. In fact, I hope it has started better than mine...
Monday 15 January was dubbed Blue Monday, because it is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year - the festive period is over, weight has been gained, money has been spent and pay day is still a couple of weeks off.
I decided to buck this trend and posted on Facebook some tips how to avoid feeling blue on that bluest of days:
Tip#1: Don't get up until 10am...
Tip #2: Have something to look forward to and focus on that...
Tip #4: Make a steaming vat of vegetable soup...
What I omitted to add as Blue Monday Tip #4 was:
"Don't visit your oncologist for a three-monthly appointment on Blue Monday".
However that is exactly what I did and received some news which I believe elevates my Monday to the bluest of them all - my blood markers are continuing to rise, indicating a recurrence and my oncologist's recommendation is to embark on yet another course of chemotherapy.
The back story
In October 2017, I had routine blood tests to check my CA125 (the marker for ovarian cancer) and the results showed a slight increase. The Avastin was clearly not working and as it was also slowing down the healing of my leg wound, it was decided I should stop the treatment.
I put this all on the backburner whilst I spent two blissful weeks in Spain, assessing whether the internet is good enough to work over there from time to time. Conclusion: it is and so far this year, I have plans to spend most of February and May there.
On my return in November, I had a scan which indeed revealed a recurrence of the ovarian cancer, still contined within the abdominal cavity and only very small, "not enough to get the big guns out", as my oncologist put it, recommending I try the hormone therapy, Tamoxifen (as mentioned in my blog Christmas with Cancer).
I had a lovely Christmas and New Year, celebrating with family and friends. I enjoyed having my little princes back home, waiting on them hand and foot and I focussed mainly on the present, whilst keeping half an eye on the future. The Tamoxifen brought some interesting and unexpected side effects. Since having a hysterectomy 18 months ago, I was plunged into early menopause, with thankfully no more periods or the hormonal effects which accompany them. Tamoxifen however changed my mood to such an extent that I had what can only be described as PMT-like outbursts on several occasions, once even sending a bottle of red wine flying!
2018 arrived and I was fully of excitement and anticipation at entering my 50th year. Plans are afoot for the celebrations which are due to span two months. Unfortunately, try as I may, I have not been able to convince the powers that be to declare 27 April, the Princess's official and actual birthday, a public holiday!
January also meant that I would have to face the reality of the recurrence. Another blood test revealed a further elevation in the CA125 level and the Fairy Oncologist waved her magic wand and cast a spell for a further course of chemotherapy.
The next chapter
So, at the beginning of February, I will start a 4-weekly regime of Carboplatin (which I have had twice before) and a new drug, Caelyx (Liposomal doxorubicin). Expected side effects are the usual nausea (although I am confident we have found the correct cocktail of anti-emetics to mostly alleviate this) and fatigue. There is also the possibility that the Caelyx may cause redness on the hands and feet, skin rashes and itchiness.
On the upside, the 4-weekly schedule bizarrely slots in nicely with all the plans I have made through to the summer - I couldn't have planned it better if I had tried.
So, a week after my first chemo blast, I will be jetting off to Spain for nearly three weeks and recuperating in sunnier climes (see weather forecast on the left).
The same is true in May, when I will hopefully fly out to Spain the day after the chemo blast, nausea permitting, and spend nearly four weeks recuperating in the Med.
I also have my 50th birthday (have I mentioned I have a big birthday?) which fortunately falls at the end of April, which means I will be fully recovered from the chemo blast at the beginning of the month.
This latest recurrence is not unexpected. After my first recurrence back in March 2017, the Fairy Oncologist told me the cancer will unlikely ever go away completely and I needed to accept I have a long-term chronic condition which is treatable and manageable with drugs.
In fact, 70% of ovarian cancer patients will experience a recurrence; of those diagnosed as stage III (like me), 70-90% will see their cancer return, more than once. Of course, the positive me always hopes to be on the right side of these statistics, but the realistic me expects to be one of the unfortunate ones.
I could share with you the survival stats for ovarian cancer, but as a positive-minded person, I prefer not to dwell on those.
Back in November, I decided to seek a second opinion, not because I doubt my oncologist's abilities and knowledge, but this is my life and my health and I felt the need to take back some control. I sought out one of the top oncologists for ovarian cancer and paid him a visit. Well, not only is he one of the best, but he is without doubt one of the best looking too. Think Sean Connery, not just looks, but also the lilting Scottish accent.
He immediately reassured me that the Fairy Oncologist was taking the right steps in the right order and he would do exactly the same if I were his patient. We discussed various options which would be available to me in the future and he assured me that there were plenty of avenues still to explore.
Cancer is a often described as a journey and it is so true. There are many paths one can take and I think it's best to follow the route recommended by the experts. Oncologists are like a cancer patient's sat nav, they will expertly guide you through the maze, ensuring you don't come to a dead-end (literally!) Like driving, where you may consult a map to check that your sat nav is taking you the best way possible, I always read up on whatever my oncologist is recommending to me, so I am in possession of all the facts.
Whilst I acknowledge this recent development is a bit of a setback, I refuse to let it bring me down. Instead, I am focussing on all the good stuff I have to look forward to this year. The way I see it, it is yet another hurdle I have to jump in this great race which is my life. It's dreary and a right pain in the arse, but it's just something I have to do.