HUGE THANK YOU as Shomelanoma Fundraising exceeds £30K for Melanoma at the Royal Marsden

It’s been a glorious summer in London town made even better after the Shomelanoma team completed the Jurassic Coast 100km on one of the hottest weekends of the year over a tough course (you were so right Fred Edwards), which sent the fundraising spiraling over £30K. The Jurassic coast is truly stunning and we were sent on our way with a morning all from football manager Harry Redknapp who was queuing for breakfast at his local Sandbanks Café. The nudist beach at Studland provided further walking sights although unfortunately no David Beckham or David Gandy lookalikes that morning. It was a tough slog on a boiling hot weekend and due to blisters, vomiting and feeling delirious Colin, Tony and Phil  completed the full 100km with the rest of us finishing after 58km on day 1. Huge congratulations and thank you to all of the team Phil, David, Tony, Sam, Michelle and Colin, who took part, the support crew who were there smiling at the rest stops and everyone who has donated to all of the fundraising efforts it is massively appreciated.


Just 2 days after the big walk it was hiking boots off and heels on for the glamorous Women’s Chapter Travel and Fashion event in aid of the Royal Marsden hosted by my amazing friend Michelle de Klerk who had also completed the Jurassic Coast walk. Tamara Lohan founder of Mr and Mrs Smith shared her experience on setting up a business and her top travel destinations and Stylist Deborah Sheridan-Taylor showed a capsule wardrobe, which was gorgeous. I said a few words about my melanoma journey and the fabulous work of the melanoma team at the Marsden and it was a hugely enjoyable evening. Huge thank you to Michelle and the wonderful Women’s Chapter.


Over the summer, I have been trying to forget the melanoma, I still have the daily reminder with the numbness on the left of my mouth but in the grand scheme of things it’s minor and as long as it doesn’t affect my talking ability that’s fine. Following the Jurassic coast adventure, I set off for the French Alps with good friends Jen and Liz plus their kids. I was really excited about the trip as it felt good to be travelling out of the UK again (not something I had done since Corsica last year). I used to be going to an airport every other week with work but now I associate it with a special times and the fun of going on holiday.


The French Alps trip was action packed and it was fabulous spending quality time with my 2 gorgeous best friends and their children Clem, Felicity, Imogen and Cameron. We loved hiking in the mountains, swimming, laughing, eating, and had lots of fun; melanoma went straight to the back of my mind. I was sad to leave France and once back in the UK over the next few days I started to become aware of a more frequent abdominal pain on my left side. After a week or so, with the if in doubt get it checked out mantra, I contacted my nurse at Marsden HQ and she arranged for me to go for a review with the doctor. After examining me, having blood tests and seeing that I was anxious he agreed to move forward my CT body scan. I felt relieved as the next scans were not due for another 3 weeks and I hadn’t had a body scan since early April. Fortunately the wait was short and the scan results were clear and I felt massively relieved.

Dave and I escaped off to Scotland for the August bank holiday and luckily it coincided with the next big fundraising challenge – Kirsteen’s Great Scottish Swim in Loch Lomond. Now for those of you who don’t know Scotland – Loch Lomond is the largest stretch of inland water in the UK just north of Glasgow. Its beautiful but swimming there is not for the faint hearted as its cold, deep and choppy definitely no bikinis required even after a heatwave summer it was wetsuits all the way. After the sat nav eventually got us to the right location via central Glasgow (who knew that there were two places called Balloch in Scotland!?) we arrived to see superstar Kirsteen successfully completing her swim. She did an amazing job, look as cool as a cucumber and was still smiling through her exhaustion as she got out of the water. Kirsteen was fundraising for Melanoma research at the Royal Marsden and also for Pancreatic Cancer UK in memory of her lovely father. We all spent the afternoon enjoying the Scottish sunshine and catching up over lunch. Congratulations to Kirsteen, thanks for all your amazing support.


During the time in Scotland I was again able to put melanoma to the back of my head. However as soon as I returned to London the MRI brain scan at Marsden HQ was looming ahead. I had my brain scan last week and had the weekend scanxiety wait before the clinic appointment with Dr Larkin on Monday. I felt calm but as we all know going in for scan results is like a game of roulette you just never know how the results are going to land. Fortunately today was good and 9 months on from starting targeted therapy Debrafenib and Trametinib (Dab/Tram) it continues to work its magic and it is currently effectively controlling my melanoma. My tumour has reduced in size and is now stable. As I have said previously the challenge is on average the melanoma develops resistance to the drugs after about a year, which is why it’s vital to continue supporting new research and drug trials to continue developing new treatment options for melanoma patients.

There are some exciting plans coming up for the Shomelanoma fundraising. Next up is the Royal Parks Half Marathon on October 14, Dave, Fraser and Sarah are signed up for this and Dave has even started training. A curry night will be organised soon to support the fundraising efforts.


A new challenge is taking place north of the border when my gorgeous cousin Iain is taking things to another level with a sponsored waxathon. Let me just leave this to your imagination, it’s taking place on Nov 10 and more details will be coming soon.

A final word on upcoming challenges, I dreamt last night I was swimming the channel, when I woke up I was paddling hard and not moving fast. This told me (as did David) that NO, this would not be the next challenge. As Jen said to me today, I think you should stick to hiking and cycling…

As the hottest summer on record in the UK comes to a close please continue to protect your and your kiddies skin, don’t get burnt, wear your factor 50 in the UK and overseas and stay out the midday sun. Check your moles every month and if in doubt of any changes see your GP. Don’t join the statistics 7 people die of melanoma in the UK every day and once it spreads its very difficult to control. Sunbeds have been shown to contribute to rising cases of melanoma and we want them banned in the UK as they already are in Brazil and Australia. Melanoma UK  is leading the charge so please help save lives by signing and share the petition below.


Stay tuned for the next installment of Shomelanoma, which will be a guest blog from my rockstar husband Dave.








Another Year Older and Wiser with a CANCER Birth sign!

Birthdays I love them, another year older and wiser (Mr H may disagree about that one !) or so they say. The aging part, I used to like less “it’s just a number right” but now I don’t care and every birthday is to be celebrated in style as another milestone when I am still very much alive here having fun making the most of life. It may have taken stage 4 melanoma to have me thinking like this but there’s got to be some positive to this awful disease. As for the wiser, well I have learned more about melanoma in the last month after being fortunate to attend the Melanoma Patients Conference on June 22/23 where a host of medical experts, patients, partners, charities and pharmaceutical companies shared the latest information on treatments available, patient support and care. The conference also offered the opportunity to meet up with other patients face to face and share experiences of life on the melanoma rollercoaster good and bad.IMG_1079

Some key developments from the conference included the introduction of adjuvant treatment (treatment given to help decrease the chance of cancer recurring) for stage 3 melanoma patients. This has already been approved in the US and should receive approval in the UK soon having shown positive results in trials. This will likely involve patients in less intrusive surgery once the melanoma has spread to the lymph nodes with a more localized approach to removal of the affected lymph node(s) followed by immunotherapy to try and clear any residual issues. For example, I had 20 lymph nodes removed under my left arm in February 2017 with the associated risk of developing the serious side effect of lymphedema. This is an exciting development for patients as just last year as a Stage 3 patient, the only option was to “watch and wait” to see if the melanoma came back, which is obviously difficult as a patient having only a reactive rather than proactive strategy to manage the disease.


I also particularly enjoyed the patient presentations from Dr Lauren Cara on de-mystifying the role of diet and its impact and Kay English Curtain on Understanding the Statistics. One of the biggest challenges in being a cancer patient is the loss of control on your life but diet and educating yourself to understand treatment options and statistics are two things you are most definitely in control of and personally help you better manage your disease, which feels good. By the end of the conference my brain was hurting and I felt a bit overwhelmed. I also had a worry on my mind as in the few days leading up to the conference I had felt as if the numbness in my mouth was spreading which was making me feel anxious.

After the conference, David and I headed down to Devon to meet good friends Jen and Paul for a lovely weekend of R and R just what was needed and I momentarily forgot my worries. Back in London, the following Monday we had a meeting with Dr Larkin to discuss the Team Shomelanoma fundraising for the Marsden melanoma research projects. I mentioned my concern about the numbness in my mouth and he agreed that we should bring forward my next scans and fortunately they had a slot the next day. I spent the next few days going through the usual scanxiety before the Monday morning appointment. Monday arrived with me convinced that I was to be told bad news but fortunately I was told that there was no evidence of further progression and my scan was fine. The difficulty with sensory nerve damage (which is where my tumour has affected part of my brain) is that it can create a strange numbness sensation. I felt relieved and so much more relaxed departing Marsden HQ.

The melanoma research meeting was really interesting and Dr Larkin highlighted two of the research efforts that the Team Shomelanoma fundraising can support. The first project is looking at immunotherapy toxicities to get a better understanding of why some patients experience such severe side effects from the treatment. This has personal relevance as many of you will recall I spent 3 weeks last summer at Marsden HQ due to developing autoimmune hepatitis as a result of the immunotherapy treatment. The goal of the research is to identify a panel of biomarkers that will identify patients at risk of immunotherapy toxicities. The second project is looking at circulating tumour DNA using blood based markers for cancer monitoring to predict the evolution of disease and response to treatment. These are both much-needed projects that will hopefully translate for patient benefits soon. As the research progresses, I will keep you updated. I have now been on my current treatment Dab/Tram for 7 months and, touch wood, it has been effective at controlling my melanoma. However the challenge is on average the melanoma develops resistance after about a year. It’s vital that medical research and trials are supported to continue developing new treatment options for melanoma patients.IMG_1095

On a very sad note, a fellow Royal Mardsen melanoma patient and YouTube vlogger, Emily Hayward sadly passed away last month, aged 24. I never met Emily but became aware of her when she featured in a Channel 4 Stand Up to Cancer documentary last October. She regularly uploaded her vlogs onto her YouTube channel and had in excess of 50,000 subscribers across the world. She wanted to share her journey in the hope that more people would become aware of the seriousness of melanoma but more importantly to remind everyone that you can still live life to the max even whilst living with cancer. It shouldn’t take cancer to make people realize this but we only have one life, so please live it well. RIP Emily and thank you for sharing your courage and positivity with us all.

This weekend we will be undertaking the next MAJOR Shomelanoma challenge of the Jurassic Coast 100km. There have been a few injuries along the way but the team is fighting fit and ready to go on Saturday morning at 8.30am from Poole. David who has already successfully completed the 100km on the South Downs 9 years ago has been sharing the photo this week and it has been noted he has not aged much since then! However lets see how the bodies are feeling on Sunday when we eventually complete the 100km walk they may be feeling and looking their age at that point. The excitement is mounting, we are looking at a hot weekend and we will post updates on Facebook and look out for the Team Shomelanoma photos. Huge thanks to Michelle, Colin, Phil, Tony, Sam and of course my rockstar husband who is back doing this challenge for the 2nd time because he has forgotten how painful it was the first time. !!! In all honesty we have loved the training walks (thank you Phil for organizing) and the girly chats around Richmond Park with Michelle and with Jen in the Chilterns.


Huge thank you to everyone who has supported us in the latest challenge and all other events to date. It really does help to keep me focused and motivated to do more. We are tantalizing close to cumulatively hitting £30K raised in the last 12 months and we would love to see the magic number hit this weekend!



A final word on this year’s birthday I had a lovely birthday week, it kicked off with a family wedding in Wilmslow and an England world cup win in the local pub (don’t tell the Scottish family!!) I spent a gorgeous birthday hiking on the South Downs with a pub lunch followed by dinner at the favourite seafood restaurant Wright Bros that has a new outpost near Battersea Power Station and the best Oysters in town. On Saturday I had a bonus treat of the Nadal vs. Djokovic match, which was amazing, followed by the ladies tennis final. I was also lucky to catch up with some of the gorgeous girls squad including Ms Majorca 312 Melissa Tarver It has been lots of fun another year older and wiser don’t forget the motto – don’t sweat the small stuff and enjoy every day!

If you would like to support Team Shomelanoma fundraising organise a curry eve, bake sale, pub quiz or sign up for your own challenge to support then let me know and we can help organise it.

More to come soon on the aftermath of the Jurassic Coast 100 KM plus the gorgeous Kirsteen Higgins adventure swimming Loch Lomond and Team Shomelanoma takes on the Royal Parks Half Marathon – Part 2.











Two years on and living life to the full with Stage 4 Melanoma

The churning stomach exam nerves returned to SW18 earlier this week after a blissful 6 weeks of no visits to Marsden HQ. After 2 years of going through scanxiety it just never gets any easier and the mind plays games with you, as the scans get closer. I woke up the other morning thinking I had been in an MDT meeting listening as my Doctor discussed my latest results. It took a few minutes for me to realise I hadn’t actually had the scans yet and I was a week too early. The scan date arrived and I kept occupied awaiting the results going furniture shopping in West London, walking 23 miles in the Surrey Hills training for the upcoming Jurassic coast 100km with Team Shomelanoma and catching up on gossip with the gorgeous Denise Callow who was over from my old stomping ground Hong Kong.


Monday morning arrived and it was good news as Dr Larkin told me the Dab/Tram treatment is continuing to work and the latest scan shows further shrinkage of the tumour in my brain. Of course, I was reminded that it is scan by scan for me and the challenge with the current treatment is the melanoma can develop resistance to the treatment after an average of 10 months. This only reinforces the importance of much needed further research to better understand why resistance develops to the drugs and development of new future treatment options.

In the next 2 weeks, I am looking forward to attending the Melanoma Patients Conference on June 22/23  http://www.melanomapatientconference.co.uk/  This conference will provide information for patients on the current systems of care, treatment access and support for melanoma. It will be attended by patients, carers, leading medical professionals and representatives from Melanoma charities and connected organisations all united in the quest for better outcomes. I am particularly excited as I was due to attend this conference last year but it coincided with me experiencing the adverse side effects to immunotherapy treatment and the start of my 3 week stay at Marsden HQ.

I will also be meeting with Dr Larkin this month to learn more about the current melanoma research projects that require funding and will share more details about this and the melanoma conference in the next blog.

Team Shomelanoma has been very busy in the last few weeks and the fabulous news is the fundraising total has now reached almost 26K which is just amazing news. I want to send a HUGE thank you to each and everyone of you who have been taking part and supporting all of the fundraising activities.

In the last month alone, we have had everything from Melissa Tarver’s extreme Majorca 312 cycle race definitely not for the faint hearted to Chris Lloyd’s Brighton marathon where he smashed his personal best. On the social side Lindsey Graham’s office had a “Wear what you want to work day” and Jennifer Clark hosted a Girls Curry night in Thame, which was lots of fun and the curry’s tasted better than most at any Indian restaurant. Liz Martin and my rock star husband Dave also recently completed the 365 days of the Dryathlon, which also raised more funds. Liz celebrated with a drinks party where she had one too many and Dave had a few glasses of red after winning a golf tournament with his brother. I am still on the teetotal regime and that’s not to say I’ll never drink alcohol again but for now I feel happy with it, my rationale being I am taking strong drugs to control my melanoma and my body is already dealing with enough. Saying that if you had told me a year ago how easy it has been to stop drinking, I wouldn’t have believed you. I have also been reading I am now part of a growing trend of adults who are reducing/abstaining from alcohol (perhaps not for the same reason as me!).


Next up for Team Shomelanoma is the Jurassic Coast 100km walk on July 21/22. The team are training hard and I am loving being back out hiking in the gorgeous UK countryside plus we’ve been blessed by the recent gorgeous weather. From Skye to the Isle of Harris, North Downs, South Downs to the Chilterns I have been lapping up the fresh air which has been clearing my head, helping me feel well and banishing melanoma to the back of my mind. Saying that my legs were shot this week after 3 big hikes in the one week and I crawled into the physio on Thursday for some relief. I am also back in the gym doing strength training plus David was surprised to walk in last week and see me standing behind the sofa doing the bingo wing workout. I explained I was using tins of tomatoes as weights and he commented that in the grand scheme of my current health issues bingo wings are the least of the problems !!!

We have also been lucky to have an amazing holiday to the Outer Hebrides in Scotland last month. Having been fortunate to travel to many wonderful places around the world this was up there with the best of them. It was peaceful, gorgeous, remote and really everything that we needed. At times, I had to pinch myself that we were actually still in the UK. The unfriendly sound of the tube rattling by in the morning was replaced with being awakened by the sound of the lambs outside the door. Larry the lamb from the Isle of Harris is definitely one of the best looking lambs in the world hence why the Harris Tweed comes from there. There are also some of the most beautiful beaches and when the sun shone you could have believed you were in the Caribbean. My woolly hat gives it away that even although the sun was out it was still pretty cold but it didn’t matter we had an amazing time. As one friend told us there is no such thing as bad weather only the wrong clothing and the bikini was definitely not needed for this holiday. We also spent time in Scotland catching up with a lot of the family and Dave was fortunate to play in the first Brian Oates memorial golf day to raise funds for Crohns and Colitis, which was lots of fun.

Since the return from Scotland summer has arrived in the UK. I started this blog to raise awareness of melanoma through telling my story. May was melanoma awareness month and more still needs to be done to get the message through to the public to protect their skin, check their moles regularly and slap on the sunscreen in all weathers to prevent skin damage. If you want a tan faking it is a far better option than getting baked. For more information on skin safety please refer to Melanoma UK http://www.melanomauk.org.uk/about_melanoma/faqs/

As I approach my 2 year cancerversary on June 15, I continue to be hugely grateful to the medical team at Marsden HQ led by Dr Larkin, CNS Nikki Hunter and all of their teams who continue to look after me so well and are keeping me on this planet, plus my wonderful hubbie David, friends and family who keep me smiling, enjoying every day to the max and are there to pick me up when I am feeling down. Cancer, I have learned is as much of a mental as physical disease.

If you would like to support Team Shomelanoma fundraising organise a curry eve, bake sale, pub quiz or sign up for your own challenge to support then let me know and we can help organise it.


More to come soon on the Jurassic Coast 100 KM plus the gorgeous Kirsteen Higgins adventure swimming Loch Lomond coming up in August.



Watch this space for more to come from Team Shomelanoma



Happy Days and One Year On with Stage 4 Melanoma

The Melanoma rollercoaster is currently on a smiling high after good scan results showing further shrinkage to my brain tumour and the body scan remains clear. Over the last couple of weeks, I started to feel the numbness in the left upper side of my mouth was becoming more noticeable and my immediate concern was this must indicate that the tumour was growing. However, my doctor explained that this could be due to nerve damage or inflammation and of course your mind can plays tricks with you as we saw in the run up to the last scans. Today I am also reflecting that it is exactly one year to the day that I started my immunotherapy treatment following on from my stage 4 melanoma diagnosis, and  am feeling blessed to still be here. It also represents one year with no alcohol (albeit I am tempted for a glass of bubbly today!!) plus feeling grateful for the support from my rockstar husband, family and friends and of course the amazing care from Dr. Larkin, Nikki, Lewis and the wonderful team at the best hospital – Marsden HQ.


March has been an amazing month for Team Shomelanoma and we recently reached our heady fundraising target of £20,000 for melanoma research at the Royal Marsden. Back in June during my 3 weeks staycation at Marsden HQ when we set up the fundraising I didn’t begin to think we would reach the target in 9 months. A HUGE thank you to everyone who has danced, run, walked, laughed, donated and supported, it is massively appreciated and there is much more to come.

I presented Dr. Larkin with the obligatory cheque today and he was absolutely delighted with all the fundraising efforts and asked that his thanks be extended to you all. There are several important melanoma research projects being undertaken by Dr Larkin and his team that require funding; I will be learning more about these projects and will share more about these on the next blog.


The Beast from the East may have been in town but this didn’t stop Team Shomelanoma getting wrapped up for the Marsden March on Sunday March 4. Unfortunately, although my heart wanted to be on the walk, my head told me that due to the latest fever it wasn’t a good idea. To say I was gutted was an understatement as David trotted off to meet the rest of the team. They had a fun day and well done to the Hines and Hawkins kids who all walked 14 miles with big smiles on their faces and didn’t miss their iphones once. I loved all the messages on their backs brought a wee tear to my eye.  The team raised over £2,000 from the walk (these funds are in addition to the Shomelanoma funds), which will be allocated specifically to improving the care provided to patients and their families at the Royal Marsden hospitals.


From the Marsden March to the Danceathon a week later it was time to get the 80’s gear on and the pink legwarmers out. There was no way I was going to be missing this one due to pesky fevers, especially as I had a special guest Natasha Watts flying all the way from Hong Kong and 12 hours of cool tunes to dance our way through with all of the girl squad. It was such an amazing day and so much fun. It was one of those days that everything just came together and it not only fulfilled the goal of raising lots of funds, there were also smiles on the faces of all the kids (& parents!) as they were entertained by the fabulous Jonny Awsum to the dancers who bopped until they dropped for 12 hours. Who needs Ibiza when club classics were pumping their way through Kings Cross?


There are massive thank yous to the wonderful Emma Williams and her fantastic team at Green and Fortune for generously donating the danceathon venue, my gorgeous sister- in-law Katy for coming up with the idea and helping organise the event and her husband Sam who designed the website and organised music and DJs plus Jonny Awsum and Matt Edwards for all their entertainment plus all the sponsors who donated raffle prizes – Gibson Girl, The Training Works, Womens Chapter, World of Craig, By Sarah and Seedlip Drinks.

After all the fundraising excitement David and I escaped for a weekend of R and R to the beautiful Southwold on the Suffolk coast. Spring was in the air as we walked along the stunning beach, around the harbour and sat outside for a pub lunch. It didn’t last long however as the Beast from the East mark 2 blew in and on Saturday evening I was in bed with the woolly hat, red nose on alert and with eyes shut feeling as cold as I had on summit night of Kilimanjaro. Watching the Everest film was probably not the best idea to help matters but it did give me a taste for going to basecamp …


Back in London it was lovely to attend the WellChild Awards launch and catch up with all the team there. I was also able to get the pink bomb suit as David named it out of the wardrobe (it hadn’t been in there for long) for the glamorous night out.

We are now planning the next holiday to sunny Scotland and are off to the Outer Hebrides. I am so excited to visit Skye, Harris and Lewis and get the climbing boots back on. And to get training for the upcoming 100km walk. Lets hope the sun shines and the fevers stay at bay we are a long way from Marsden HQ although only a phone call away.

Coming up over the next few months for Team Shomelanoma :


My gorgeous friend Melissa Tarver is taking on one of the toughest amateur cycling challenges on April 29 – the Mallorca 312 which Cyclist magazine says “Is as tough as it gets” to raise money for the melanoma team at Marsden HQ. Full details of her challenge are here.


Team Shomelanoma (nine of us) are signed up to do the 100km walk on the Jurassic Coast on July 21 and 22. Training walks are about to begin BUT its not too late to join us


Another gorgeous friend Kirsteen Higgins is undertaking a crazy challenge and will be swimming Loch Lomond in August. Most of you will know swimming in Scotland is more associated with the Arctic than the Mediterranean so this is one mean challenge where the bikini is not required.

If you would like to organise a curry eve, bake sale, pub quiz or sign up for your own challenge to support the shomelanoma team fundraising let me know and we can help organise it.

As you all know I started my blog to raise melanoma awareness and May is Melanoma awareness month so Iook out for a BIG awareness drive coming your way soon.

Thanks again for all your support, messages and keeping me smiling and having fun, more to come soon XX.




2018 – Health, Happiness and a Night in A and E

As the glasses were tinkling, fireworks blasting and Auld Lang Syne sung around the world we were snuggled in bed at the cosy cottage in Port Isaac, Cornwall not even making it to midnight. For the first time in years (probably since childhood) I was not up partying downing the tenth glass of champagne as 2018 rang in. New Year felt different this year and not because we weren’t up partying but I guess given the rollercoaster of 2017 and all of the run up to Xmas it was good to catch up on sleep, chill out and relax.


After my shock unwanted Xmas present, the medical team at Marsden HQ moved quickly to get me started on my new combination treatment of Dabrafenib and Trametinib. I was sorry that I couldn’t continue on the immunotherapy treatment since I had responded to it previously and when I mentioned this to Dr Larkin he told me it was currently too risky due to the adverse liver reaction I had experienced. This was not to say that they would not consider putting me back on immunotherapy in the future.

My new treatment is targeted biological therapy that blocks the activity of certain molecules within the cancer cells that control the cell growth. The combination of dabrafenib and trametinib work to block the signalling pathway at two different places in the molecular pathway that promotes the growth of cancer cells. The dabrafenib switches off the mutated BRAF proteins and the trametinib switches off the MEK proteins, so that they no longer send and transmit signals telling the cancer cells to grow.   Around 50% of melanoma patients have the faulty BRAF gene in their molecular make-up, including myself. I was fully briefed on the new drug regime which fortunately doesn’t involve hours hooked up to an intravenous drip and is in pill format taken orally twice a day 12 hours apart. There is a new laundry list of side effects to become familiar with the most common of which is fevers, which must be dealt with quickly. I started taking the new drugs on 21 December.

I also had a body CT scan on 22 December and fortunately was told that the scan was all clear when we met with Dr Larkin on 27 December. The scans now form the baseline to measure the effectiveness of the new treatment.


We had a lovely family Xmas in East London where Sam and Katy hosted an amazing fun day filled with family love, gorgeous food and some excellent non-alcoholic bubbly (for David and I). We woke up on Boxing Day with clear heads, no hangovers and full stomachs from the day before ready to head off to Cornwall to celebrate New Year. On Dec 29 we headed off for a much needed week of R and R to the beautiful village of Port Isaac who most people will know as the Doc Martin village. We were lucky to be able to catch up with good friends who were over from Hong Kong, Lucy and Dickson, their boys and Lucy’s parents for a pub lunch en route to Cornwall.


We had a gorgeous cosy cottage near the centre of the village and got out and about exploring the local area. A walk along the SW coastal path to Port Quin and back tested out the leg muscles and reminded us that training for the Jurassic Coast 100km needed to start soon. The waterproofs were soon put to use as the heavens opened and we got pretty wet. It did feel great to be out in the fresh Cornish air away from London. We also had a visit on New Years Day from good friends Tony and Sam our fellow Kilimanjaro adventurers who live in Devon and came down with their gorgeous 4-legged friend Jasper.


By the time Jan 2 arrived, I was starting to feel unwell. I hadn’t slept very well and it felt like I had a bad flu coming on, was developing a temperature, felt a bit nauseous and had the shakes. After going out in the afternoon I felt a bit better but by the evening after taking my medication again I started to feel worse. By the time I was ready for bed my temperature had reached 38.8 degrees and it was time to call Marsden HQ; the Marsden operates an out of hours service for such occurrences. We had no phone reception in the cottage so David went down to the harbour and called the emergency hotline and I’m sure was able to pronounce the drugs I am taking with eloquent precision!! They advised I needed to be urgently taken to the closest A and E in Truro to be checked out by a doctor.

David drove an hour to Truro just as Storm Eleanor was taking force, google maps initially taking us down a single file country lane with quite severe localised flooding … not being able to turn around, we had to drive through the floods and hope for the best! We arrived at A and E in Truro just after midnight and the wonderful Marsden HQ had already sent a medical file to the hospital there. Given the current pressures of A and E a nurse who did all my observations plus blood tests saw me fairly quickly. I was then also found a bed in the A and E area whilst waiting on the Doctor. It was an extremely busy night and I have a full appreciation of the pressures that the NHS is under having seen patients queued on trolleys with my own eyes.

The lovely doctor arrived to see me around 3.30 and by this point my temperature had gone down below 38 degrees and I was feeling a bit better. He said that it was possible I had caught an infection and normally they would give me a flush of antibiotics and send me on my way. However given it was likely to be caused as a side effect of the Dab/Tram I knew that it should not be treated with antibiotics. One of the challenges for the doctors in A and E is many of the side effects of cancer drugs are similar to other illnesses and there are also so many new drugs to treat different cancers that non-specialists can never be expected to keep up with. I appreciated the Doctor’s honesty around this and can further see the challenges this presents. Through discussion with the doctor, he was happy that my situation was stable and that we would contact the team at the Marsden to decide the best course of action as if necessary we could travel back to London first thing.



At 5am we arrived back in Port Isaac, David having driven through Storm Eleanor (I missed most of it as was fast asleep) and flopped into bed. Before going to sleep David contacted the medical team at Marsden HQ via text to let them know what had happened and by 6.30am we had a response telling me to stop taking the medication for 24 hours and take paracetemol, ibuprofen, drink plenty of fluids and see how I felt.

The next day I still wasn’t feeling that great and given the weather was pretty awful, we decided to drive back to London the following day, which was only a day earlier than planned. I felt better being back in London and knowing that if anything further was to happen I was close to Marsden HQ. By the Friday I was feeling much better and I went in to have my bloods checked and everything was still ok and was told as soon as I felt well enough to start back on the medication which I did the following day. I was back at the hospital on the Monday for more blood tests and Dr Larkin explained to me that it was possible I would experience further fevers, as this was the most common side effect on these drugs but it may be the case I don’t experience it again. I do now feel better prepared in how to deal with it and recognising the symptoms early. I am now a week on with taking the drugs again and not wanting to tempt fate am feeling well again.

So there’s never a dull moment in the life of a stage 4 melanoma patient, and the last week has been busy doing a bit of work, getting back into the fitness and catching up with some lovely friends.


I am also back fully focused on the melanoma fundraising efforts for Marsden HQ and a huge thank you to Emma, Katy and Sam we are ready to launch the Danceathon on March 10 which will raise valuable funds to enable the Melanoma team at Marsden HQ continue their research, run trials and continue to develop new treatments . Get your dancing shoes on bring your kids for a fun filled day out at the superb Rotunda London. Full details on how you can join us are available here and we’d love as many of you as possible to come and dance for the day.



The Marsden March is now full but you can join us on the Jurassic Coast Walk on 21/22 July, full details available here.


My gorgeous friend Melissa Tarver is taking on one of the toughest amateur cycling challenges – Mallorca 312 which Cyclist magazine says “Is as tough as it gets” to raise money for the melanoma team at Marsden HQ. Full details of her challenge are here.


A huge thank you as always for all of your support, and New Year good wishes it is hugely appreciated. The 2018 mantra is health, happiness and enjoy every day.




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.

Shiona 1

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.


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.


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!


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.


The Ups and Downs of “the glass half full” Shomelanoma

Most people who know me would testify I am a glass half full girl. I get it from my lovely Dad who always tells me “don’t worry about things until they happen” and is positivity personified. I have always tried in the last 18 months since my cancer diagnosis to stay as positive as possible and the most common thing people have said to me is “stay positive” which I can testify is not always easy. One of the challenges I have found is that I immediately think any pain or twinge is related to my cancer. If I have anything worrying me I wait a few days to see if it subsides and then contact my lovely nurse at Marsden HQ. My motto is if in doubt get it checked out. They are amazing and respond quickly telling me to either go to the GP or come and get it checked.


I have recently developed horrid red dry skin around my eyes, which has been sore and hurting. I put it down to a new anti -aging eye serum I was using to help any wrinkles. This didn’t seem to do the wrinkles any good and I fairly quickly developed an “I’ve been through 12 rounds with Mike Tyson look”. I contacted Marsden HQ with a photo and they organised for me to see the Dermatologist. One of the many side effects of the steroids I have been on is that they make your skin thin. I can’t tell that it’s thin but I do know it is drinking up moisturizer!

I saw the Dermatologist this week and she did my regular skin check of all my many moles, which were ok plus prescribed a special Elidel cream for my dry skin around the eyes. Hopefully this will get rid of the Mike Tyson look before the party season kicks off.


The second trip to Marsden HQ this week was for my synacthen test to measure how well my adrenal glands are producing their own cortisone and to see if I could come off the steroids. This involved having a blood test then special injection in the bum (rather painful) and half an hour later another blood test. Fortunately my results were good and I have now been allowed to come off the steroids, 5 months on from the “bouncing off the walls” mega pulse of 1000mg to the 5mg of predisone I have been on for the last 6 weeks. Fingers crossed I wont have any adverse reaction without them but all things considered my body has coped pretty well. I am still being weaned off the mycophenolate and that should be completed before Xmas so I may still reach the goal of being drug free by the time I tuck into turkey on Dec 25. I have one more blood test in 2 weeks and then no appointments until Jan.

I recently had the chance to meet some lovely fellow melanoma patients from the online support group where I am a member. We met up for lunch in London and it was really lovely to share experiences and trade stories of what we are all going through. There were plenty of laughs along the way and to any other observer we looked like a bunch of women out for a girly lunch with no wine involved! If anyone had tuned into the discussion it was somewhat different than the normal girly lunch. A number of the ladies are also treated at Marsden HQ by Dr. Larkin and team so there will now be some familiar faces to catch up with in the waiting room on treatment days.


With my husband David back at work, I have also been doing a bit of work and did discover recently that my brain was somewhat out of “executive gear”. I turned up a couple of weeks ago to give a client presentation and 2 hours later I walked out feeling quite exhausted. It went well but it had been a while since I had been grilled with questions and had to think on the spot to answer them. I enjoyed it and look forward to getting my brain back into mode more often.


David still manages to have the odd day off and we recently managed to get off to one of our favourite spots West Wittering a couple of weeks ago. It was a stunning cold November day and as we walked along the gorgeous beach (very like New England) I realised how lucky we are to have all these beautiful spots on our doorsteps. I am now getting excited about the New Year trip to Cornwall definitely one of my favourite places in the world. Last weekend we had a freezing trip north of the border to see the family, which was lovely and caught, up with Mum and Dad plus Catriona and family. As it was SO COLD the boots required for this trip were not the new red ones but the black furry snow boots


I started my shomelanoma blog to raise awareness of melanoma plus keep family and friends up to date. Sadly, I can often receive a cruel reminder of how awful this disease truly is. Earlier this month, one of David’s friends from Hong Kong (a former work colleague and teammate on the football field), Robin, sadly passed away. Robin had uveal melanoma, which develops in the eye and is very rare and challenging to treat. Despite his own issues, Robin was regularly in contact with both David and I throughout the summer often offering advice, motivation, comparing adverse liver experiences and just asking about our general wellbeing. We caught up a couple of times at Marsden HQ whilst Robin was investigating potential further treatment options; he faced his own challenges with much courage and a good deal of humour. Robin was 47. David attended his funeral earlier this week and all our love goes to his lovely wife Bunty and their 2 gorgeous children, Owen and Ava.

This makes both David and I doubly determined to continue to try and help raise funds to help research better treatment options and ultimately to find a cure for this awful disease.

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. Please let me know if you would like to join us  https://www.royalmarsden.org/support-us/marsden-march

Next up for the shomelanoma fundraising is the Danceathon, which is now confirmed for March 10, 2018 at Kings Place, Kings Cross, London. More details to follow and if you would like to take part please get in touch You may be missing Strictly Come Dancing after Xmas and this could be the perfect tonic to channel your energies and help raise much needed funds for melanoma at RMC


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/

Don’t forget the dryathlon – David, Johnny, Liz and myself have almost reached the 8-month mark. Will we make the year? Xmas is going to be challenging this year.


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.

Thanks again for all of the support you have given, all your messages have kept me going when times have been tough.