Melanoma, the Unwanted Xmas Pressie

As the Strictly glitterball trophy was presented to winner Joe McFadden this weekend, I was experiencing an unwanted early scanxiety. For a couple of weeks I have been experiencing a rather strange feeling in my gums and on the left side of my mouth making it feel slightly numb. I visited the dentist who said my teeth were all good, there was slight inflammation of the gums but nothing abnormal. I left feeling relieved but a week after the dentist visit the numbness was still there and getting worse.

Last Monday I visited Marsden HQ for blood tests, which was due to be the last appointment before Xmas. Given my “If in doubt get it checked out” mantra, I mentioned the gum issue to my lovely nurse. She immediately spoke to my Oncologist and 15 minutes later I was in his office discussing my concern. I will admit that I was feeling like a hypochondriac but was told don’t worry it’s best to address any concerns. He recommended I have an MRI scan in the next couple of days just to check for and hopefully rule out any problems. I left feeling quite relieved, as I was aware that it was bothering me and I was starting to become anxious.

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My scan was booked for Friday and in the meantime I had lots of lovely catching up with the girlsquad to be done plus keeping myself calm with the yoga and pilates classes at Samsara. I have to say that over the last 12 months I have to count yoga as the key to keeping me calm. I am not the most flexible and whilst my competitive and adventurous nature would love to be doing full back bends and head stands (as my physio often reminds me … “remember you’ve had back surgery”) I stretch myself as much as possible whilst also focusing on the breathing and relaxation.

I was also aware that almost 12 months ago to the day, I was experiencing exactly the same anxious wait when the cancerous lymph node under my arm was detected plus the pre cancer cells in the breast, which was the trigger to the January 2017 month of hell.  Anyway I tried to put that to the back of my mind plus nothing can be done about that now, its best to focus on the present.

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The scan came and went. Luckily I don’t get claustrophobic, it’s not pleasant but was over in 25 minutes and I didn’t have long to ponder over results.  We were out on the annual Wimbledon village pub-crawl over the weekend quite an interesting experience as for the first time it was with no alcohol. By the time we reached pub 5, it was jumping and the karaoke band playing “All I want for Xmas is You” not sounding particularly Mariah Carey esque. I almost took to the microphone myself (the Ramages are not gifted with vocal talent) so take it from me it was bad.

Monday morning dawned and I had a slight feeling of dread as we headed off to Marsden HQ for my scan results. I usually have a gut feeling about these meetings and unfortunately this morning, I was not feeling good. We arrived to see Dr Larkin and he told me a new small tumour had been detected in my brain. This new tumour is located in the middle of the brain, which controls the sensory feeling and is why I have been experiencing the numbness in my mouth. It is a different location to the previous tumour. which was in the left frontal lobe.

As you know I am a complex case definitely not boring. I have responded positively to immunotherapy previously but given I experienced a grade 4 adverse liver reaction, it is currently considered too risky to put me back on immunotherapy treatment as I may experience the same issue and it has taken almost 6 months to resolve it. That is not to say that immunotherapy will not be considered in future. I have the BRAF faulty gene in my melanoma and my medical team is putting me onto the targeted therapy Dab/Trab, which works to block the signaling to stop the growth and shrink the cancer cells. This treatment is taken in tablet format twice a day and I should start later this week. I am also booked in for a body CT scan on Friday to set the baseline for monitoring the effectiveness of the new treatment.

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Whilst this is obviously undoubtedly a disappointing development and a set back, it goes to show that melanoma takes no account of Christmas! My good friend Liz said yesterday that I should delete December from my calendar next year as the last two have not proven to be that great! As the infamous ‘Bowelbabe’ says “cock off cancer”. I will be continuing to get on with life as much as normal and I’m hoping that I don’t suffer too many side effects. I have an amazing medical team looking after me at Marsden HQ to whom I am eternally grateful for the care they provide.

After learning the news on Monday and following a lovely walk and lunch in Wimbledon Village with David, I headed off to my oasis of calm Samsara to do my yoga class and distress my mind. I recommend yoga to any cancer patient going through this rollercoaster of a disease.

We are looking forward to a lovely Xmas in London with family and friends and will be celebrating every minute of it. David and I are then planning a week in Cornwall over New Year and Dr Larkin is actively encouraging us to go to his hometown!

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We are also in the process of Danceathon planning for March 10, 2018 and a full update of all the fun planned will be coming soon. Save the date and join us to raise funds for the melanoma team at Marsden HQ.

Ten of us have signed up for the Marsden March on Sunday 4 March 2018, which is the annual 14 mile walk between the two Marsden Hospitals, starting in Chelsea and finishing in Sutton. The deadline for sign-up is early January 2018.  https://www.royalmarsden.org/support-us/marsden-march

We also have a shomelanoma team signed up for the 100km Jurassic Coast on July 22, 2018. If you would like to join us you can sign up here.  https://www.jurassiccoastchallenge.com/

If you would like to host your own Bakeathon, Curry Evening, Quiz or undertake a challenge to help the shomelanoma fundraising please get in touch.  https://www.justgiving.com/teams/shomelanoma

Thanks again for all of the support you have given, all your messages keep me going when times are tough on the melanoma rollercoaster.

Happy Xmas to you all and look out for the next installment of shomelanoma coming soon.

4 thoughts on “Melanoma, the Unwanted Xmas Pressie

  1. Keep your chin up Shona and we’ve got everything crossed that this new treatment is as effective as last time but minus the side effects! Rotten timing but I know you ‘ll make the very best of Christmas regardless! ! All our love. Jill and Rick xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another brilliantly written blog Shiona . Despite this weeks obvious setback, your resilience, positivity and sheer lack of self-pity shines through once again. You really are quite incredible and a real inspiration to us all. I know you and Davey will throw yourselves in to Christmas. Sending So much love xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Shiona you rock!! Always so positive, we could all do with taking a leaf out of your book. Best of luck with the treatment plan and hope it doesn’t impact on your Christmas. Thinking of you guys lots and sending love . Zoe xxx

    Liked by 1 person

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