It is feeling like we have turned a corner after what can only be described as an annus horribilis. One year on we have been remembering all those who have tragically lost their lives not just from COVID but cancer, heart disease, strokes and other illness. We are also feeling thankful to all of key workers especially in the NHS who have kept going through unimaginable stress. As spring arrives we can start to feel hope with a vaccine programme that is currently going well and I cant wait to see family and friends again. As I write this I am feeling very thankful to still be here 4 years on from that horrible day on Mar 31, 2017 that I was told melanoma had been found in my brain. A BIG thank you to the fantastic team at the Marsden still doing a kick ass job of keeping me alive and kicking.
As you know from my last blog, 2021 started for me back on the cancer rollercoaster. Many fellow patients will identify with this rollercoaster as it goes on from scan to scan (currently every 3 months) but doesn’t take much to disrupt the apple cart. After the worry of the numbness in the ear in January I turned up for my latest scans feeling a bit more relaxed. As I now have breast cancer checks along with the melanoma scans the team at RMH had booked all of my tests in for the same day so that I didn’t have to return to the hospital over several days. It was all going well, I had my CT and MRI scan and turned up for my ultrasound on my breast when I noticed that my arm was bleeding badly. The nurse patched me up and the ultrasound went fine and I set off to get some lunch, as I was starving not having eaten all morning.
I usually enjoy a trip around Chelsea but with everything closed and it being a bitter cold day being sat on a bench outside Marsden HQ didn’t hold the usual joy. As I munched my sandwich I noticed that blood was still running down my arm so headed back into the hospital where I was due for blood tests. It seemed my vein had burst after the cannula was removed from my scans so the nurses were fantastic as by this point I was feeling faint probably a combination of the lack of food and the stress of seeing my blood covered arm that made me look like an extra from a horror movie. It was decided to leave the blood tests to the next day they gave me cup of tea and a biscuit made sure I was ok and I headed off for my consultation with my breast doctor. This was all going well; the tamoxifen continues to work when she noticed the results of my CT scan that had taken place in the morning had come through. The scan showed I had a chest lymph node that was “indeterminate”, this could be caused by the cancer or inflammation but could also be a result of the COVID vaccine which I had recently and has resulted in several patients having lymph node anomalies pop up on scans.
Anyway I left the hospital with my head in a bit of a tailspin especially after the day I had just had. I jumped in a taxi to head home and as I opened the door my nurse Nikki had called David as they had been told I had received my CT results and left the hospital worried. I spoke to her as soon as I got home and she reassured me not to be too concerned and I had my consultation with Prof Larkin the next day and we would discuss it further then. I felt better and by the time I returned to the hospital the next day I was feeling less worried and in a better frame of mind than the day before which had been long and stressful. After the meeting with my doctor at which my MRI brain scan results had also come through and these were fine it was decided they would bring my next scans forward a month to double check the chest lymph node. He was positive the brain scan was good after all the concern in January, the tamoxifen was working for the breast cancer and fingers crossed the chest lymph node is nothing untoward. I left the hospital feeling much happier and have managed to put it to the back of my mind.
One of the positives of my cancer diagnosis is that it has made me really focus on what’s important in life. The last year has been hard for everyone but it has taught us not to sweat the irrelevant and make the most of every day plus appreciate the small things. I have also enjoyed channeling my energies into fundraising to support ongoing melanoma research projects at the Royal Marsden. It’s my way of saying thank you and giving back whilst the challenges keep me fit and active along with those that I love. The challenges have been curtailed for the last year due to COVID but are about to kick back into gear with a new challenge the Shomelanoma Skipathon , which will be taking place during the Melanoma awareness month of May. Team Shomelanoma will be skipping for 10 mins every day in May, having fun, counting their skips, getting fit, sharing photos and videos and raising valuable funds for melanoma research at the Royal Marsden. We would love you and your kids to join us. Full details are available here https://shomelanoma.com/fundraising-skipathon
I also have to say a huge thank you to Phil and Sharone Slavin who made a very kind donation to melanoma research in memory of Phil’s father who sadly passed away last year. In addition, Russell and Anna Bliss have also made a kind donation to the upcoming Giants Causeway Hike, which is due to take place in mid July. The support we have received over the last 4 years for the fundraising has been amazing and I want to thank everyone who has participated in all the fundraising activities and generously supported them. This means the world to me, the melanoma team at the Marsden and the charity so a HUGE thank you. It also keeps me motivated to continue and also helps keep me fit and mentally well.
If you would like to join any of the upcoming fundraising challenges or organise your own please let me know. I will be doing a full update on the melanoma research projects the funding is supporting in an upcoming blog.
As the lockdown starts to lift, I am excited to get back out to see friends and family and very much looking forward to a trip north of the border to see the Scottish family plus a trip to one of our favourite places the Outer Hebrides. We have been spending the last few weeks with regular trips to Richmond Park, which is a pretty beautiful spot and with the arrival of spring is looking lovelier each week. It will be good to go further afield and catch up with the hiking gang soon as we have been missing them all and all of their banter.
As the weather starts to heat up with the UK forecast to have a mini heat wave this week we will no doubt see the excitement of the British public stripping off as soon as they see the sunshine. Remember that UV damage is cumulative and to protect you skin and stay out of the mid day sun. Most importantly don’t get burnt and if you do notice any changes to any moles or new skin lesions get them checked out by a GP or dermatologist. The motto is if in doubt get it checked out and don’t delay.
Thank you as always for all of your support. I’ll be back soon to report on an update on the Skipathon and to offer some training tips. In the meantime happy skipping and I’ll be back with more Shomelanoma updates soon.