Cancer · Fundraising · Living with Cancer · Melanoma

Frequent Flyer at Marsden HQ – Walking the Cancer Tightrope 

As a marketer I am used to writing attention grabbing headlines, but in this case it’s strange dreams that that have prompted me to question, are the wonder drugs still working?  It’s also usually a sign that scans are fast approaching. Of course I always have everything crossed that my wonder drugs continue to work and I haven’t arrived at my sell by date ( they work on average for 12/14 months) and I have been on them almost 4 years. That may sound dramatic but as most fellow stage 4 cancer patients know you are only as good as your latest scan and sometimes the whole process of living in the window of the next 2-3 months feels exhausting.

I have been quiet on the blog front for the last 3 months but am back with a big update and the last 3 weeks have been particularly busy on the medical front after a quiet summer. At the end of September,  David and I escaped for a week to Lefkada (Greece) more of that later. I knew that when I got back there were a slew of medical appointments awaiting that I had tried to put at the back of my mind. October arrived and I was back at Marsden HQ for my latest melanoma scans.  A lot of my medical appointments over the last 18 months have been remote (obviously you have to go into the hospital for scans) but I prefer getting my results in person from my doctor. I used to have monthly phone consultations but since the summer I prefer just going in for a face-to-face appointment every 3 months when I get my scan results too. If I feel any issues in the meantime I contact my team and they arrange for it to be investigated. This gives me breathing time where I try not to think about the cancer, get on with living my life and I find it helps my mental health.  I have also been on my melanoma drugs almost 4 years so my body is used to them and I haven’t been experiencing much in the way of side effects. I turned up for my scan results 2 weeks ago to be told that everything was good on the melanoma front so I felt happy about that but the scan had detected a cyst on my ovary. Of course with the frequency of scanning I have it is not surprising that other things may be picked up. My Oncologist told me that this was not his area of expertise but if I wanted it investigated he could refer me to the gynecologist for follow up. As I had my breast cancer follow up scheduled the following week I decided to discuss it with my doctor then. I left my appointment feeling happy that the melanoma was still under control, but there was a nagging doubt concerning the ovarian cyst. I did feel better after speaking to some girlfriends and understanding that it was quite common.

Last week I was back at the Marsden for my breast cancer check up. I had an ultrasound and follow up appointment to check that the tamoxifen I have been taking is still effective. Fortunately that was all good but my doctor agreed that the ovarian cyst definitely needed followed up and referred me for an ultrasound and blood tests the following week.  

This week, it was back to the Marsden for the third week in a row for a regular dermatologist appointment and to check up on the pesky ovarian cyst.  I have dermatology check ups once a year and normally they are uneventful. This week the dermatologist found a basal cell carcinoma on my back. This is a skin cancer but is the less dangerous more common skin cancer than melanoma. It is also a side effect of the targeted drugs that I am on. The dermatologist removed it immediately there and then with liquid nitrogen, which was a bit painful but over quickly.  It was then onto the ultrasound to check out the ovarian cyst. I felt really anxious about this as I had been having bad dreams and kept thinking I am already dealing with 2 cancers which is bad enough surely there wont be a third as well. Fortunately it was ok and I was told that the cyst looked normal and there was nothing to worry about. I felt so relieved as I left the hospital after what had felt like a very long day. I do have to say the staff at the Marsden as always were amazing looking after me and given that I attend all of these appointments on my own just now they are always caring, reassuring and comforting whilst you are dealing with stressful situations.

Over the summer and early Autumn Team Shomelanoma has been out on more adventures raising funds for melanoma research at The Royal Marsden. In July after being postponed twice it was third time lucky on The Giants Causeway Marathon Hike. We were blessed with amazing weather and had a glorious weekend hiking in Northern Ireland’s stunning Causeway Coast. We missed 3 of our teammates due to COVID including Phil who plans most of our training walks. Both he and Adrian will be hiking 26 miles in early November on the Thames Path. In the meantime planning and discussion has already started for next year’s hiking challenge watch this space if you would like to join us. 

Last month Melissa, Becky and Sarah took part in the Bleinheim Triathlon, they all did fantastically well and we had a fun day supporting them on a beautiful day. The plan is to return next May to take part in this one. If you would like to join us entries open soon and we would love to have you join the team.  My gorgeous friend Jen got her hiking boots on to take on The Chiltern Way 50km in late September and successfully completed it in just over 10 hrs. I love the photo of her at the end of her hike resting her weary legs well done Jen. A couple of weekend’s ago we had the return of The Royal Parks Half marathon, this year without Dave running he will be back next year. Chris and Fraser did a fantastic run on a new course and were both running the race for the 4th time. Unfortunately Steve Baldock who had trained so hard for this race was also struck down by COVID but will be back soon for another half marathon as soon as he is recovered. A special thank you also to Phil Hines parents Margaret and Ken Hines who had their friends and family support Team Shomelanoma fundraising in lieu of gifts for their 90th birthday. Cheers and a huge thank you to everyone who has undertaken a challenge and supported all of the fundraising it is hugely appreciated. We are currently just under £200 away from the £75k,  which is amazing. There will be a full update on the melanoma research in the next blog.

Over the summer we have also been travelling around the UK to catch up with family and friends, which included a lovely trip to Scotland, the Peak District and we have just returned from a gorgeous weekend in Devon. We also felt very fortunate to get away to Lefkada in Greece for a week at the end of September, which was stunning and we just loved every minute. Here are a few pics from the recent trips.

With the green light back on to go and live life to the max, I am back planning more Shomelanoma adventures. It’s 5 years almost to the day since we had the adventure of a lifetime climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with a very special group of friends and since that trip I have really loved going out and taking on all of the different challenges. It has kept me mentally sane (something David is  pleased about) created many happy memories and funny moments, raised a lot of money for two much loved charities the Royal Marsden and Wellchild which are both very special for the wonderful work that they do.

As we approach the winter and get more covered up please remember to do a monthly skin check. The Melanoma UK website has an excellent skincheck guide https://www.melanomauk.org.uk/Pages/Category/skin-check. If you have any changing moles or spot anything you are worried about get it checked out. My motto is always if in doubt get it checked out.

I’ll sign off for now and will be back soon with more Shomelanoma adventures.  

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