Working through Cancer

Looking Good and Feeling Better

Look good feel better

It’s not easy to look good when you’re going through cancer treatments. If you’re having chemotherapy there’s the inevitable hair loss which can include the eyebrows and eyelashes. As someone who doesn’t usually wear a lot of make-up at the best of times, knowing how to enhance or replace what minimal skin colour and eyebrows you now have at this time, is a great confidence booster, especially when you might have to appear in public feeling and looking less than great.

Look Good Feel Better run workshops around the country for women and teenagers where you can learn how best to look after your skin and enhance your eyes and lips. They’re free and a great way to be focus on yourself, chat with other women and have a laugh.

It’s also just the time you need a little pampering, as your body is taking a bashing. Massages may be out depending on the type of cancer and treatments – check with your surgeon or oncologist but a good manicure of pedicure may be just what you need.

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Chemo Brain


I had another discussion with my oncologist this week as regards evidence (or lack of) for ‘chemo brain’. Apparently there isn’t any definitive evidence that such a thing actually exists.

Well I let him know that, in my case, it most definitely does exist! I certainly suffered from it when I was going through chemo. It was worse in the first few days after each session. I found it difficult to think of everyday words, struggling to have a conversation, feeling as though your brain was fuzzy or mush, not able to concentrate for long on anything – reading, watching TV, working on the computer.

Perhaps it will add to the anecdotal evidence and people, particularly those dealing with those going through chemotherapy, will be more aware of it when talking to other patients or their family.

I have to say my concentration, thought processes and recall hasn’t entirely returned since. Those moments were you go into a room for something and then trying to remember what you came up in there for are more frequent.

Now it could be due to drugs or just age but more than a few people, who have been through either chemotherapy or the menopause, have mentioned the same thing.

Let me know your experience. Have you noticed the effects of ‘chemo brain’ – either during or after your treatment?


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Victoria Derbyshire Takes Off Her Wig

This week Victoria Derbyshire showed a video removing her wig and revealing her shorter hair style now that it’s grown back after her chemotherapy treatment.


Losing your hair when you’re going through chemotherapy can be devastating for many women, as it was for her. For many, you’re losing your crowning glory and something that defines you and is an important part of how you look. For Victoria, having the job she does I can imagine that the wig option gave her the ability to look ‘normal’ while carrying on working.

Whoever you are and however you feel about it – there are options. Some of the wigs I saw were great and you would never have known. You can experiment with a different style or colour, wear scarves or hats.

I always knew my hair was going to grow back, so I wasn’t too bothered about losing it temporarily. I had it cut short before I started treatment so there was less to lose, in length at least.

I decided not to have the cold cap treatment, although I did give it a try.

The amount of hair loss is different for everyone. A few people won’t lose any, most will lose some to varying degrees. I lost most of mine – the grey ones lasted longest! After the first treatment I had my head shaved as losing handfuls of hair each day and the sparse hairs that were left was worse than being bald.

I didn’t take up the wig option either. By all accounts they’re itchy, hot and not that comfortable – unless you can afford a well-made one. If you do go for this option – definitely get it cut into a style you like rather than as it comes.

I found being bald was liberating and apart from being cold (my chemo started in September) as I was hair-free over the Winter, it was also hassle free – minimal washing, no hairdryer or products needed. I did have a selection of little skull caps and scarves I wore to keep my head warm and spare the shock to others. If it had been the Summer – perhaps I would have braved being bald a little more.

I often forgot I didn’t have any hair – except when I looked in the mirror, caught my reflection in a shop window or wondered what family and friends thought – sitting with the bald version of me!

It will grow back and quite quickly as soon as your chemo finishes. Within a few months you’ll have a good head of hair – short and possibly fine to start with but it’s back. Mine is now slightly darker, slightly less grey and at the beginning there was a little more wave, although I seem to have lost that sadly – my hair being mostly straight and fine. I’ve stuck with the shorter style, at least for now.


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Hurrah! A new bra

It might not sound like a big deal and most women struggle to find a good fitting bra at the best of times but since surgery, I’ve been wearing my post-surgery bras when needed and unable to wear a ‘normal’ bra because they just didn’t fit.

Now, after adjustment surgery, I’ve finally been out shopping for new bras! Not everything fits but at least I can now find one or two that do. Plain and practical or pretty, feminine and sexy – just one small part of getting back to normal.

It’s difficult post surgery. Clothes don’t fit quite the same as before. Whether you’ve had a lumpectomy, single or double mastectomy, the breasts have changed according to the type of reconstruction or not.

What are your clothing experiences post surgery?


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Follow-up Op


If you’ve had reconstruction as part of your surgery, it’s likely you’ll end up back in hospital for a further operation. It’s not always possible to get it right first time. Our bodies are complex things, not symmetrical or exact and the different options have a different level of success and indeed risks.

You need to be happy with the final outcome, whatever you’ve decided, so it’s worth a couple of operations to get it right – if there isn’t a health concern or risk to having another operation.

Earlier this week I had an ‘adjustment’ operation.  Not quite right first time around, impacted by the radiotherapy the implant had moved and became tight and uncomfortable, making sleeping and some activity awkward.

Now – much happier even after such a short time. Far less pain than the first time around as I didn’t need a lot done. A much shorter op (about an hour) and out the following day.  Driving just after a week. Oh and the hospital food was much better this time around.

It certainly helps to keep fit and healthy going in as I really believe that it helps with recovery.

Any radiotherapy will impact your tissues, so the skin, tissue tightening isn’t over yet and could still change over the course of the next few years.

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Thinking Ahead

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin

When you’re confronted with your own mortality you start to think about the inevitability of your own death.

There are only two life experiences we all share but have no memory or control over – our birth and our death.

A cancer diagnosis inevitably leads to thoughts of our own impending death, even when you have a good prognosis.  While you might not be around, your family and friends will be.  It’s a sad and painful time whatever the circumstances but you can make it easier for them when you’re gone by thinking ahead.

Make sure you have written your Will and create a Memorandum or Letter of Wishes which provides the detail of what you want and how you’d like your money and possessions to be distributed.  Don’t assume everything will go to your spouse or that people will know what you want, especially at such at emotional time.

  • Do you want to be buried or cremated?
  • Do you want your ashes placed/scattered somewhere in particular?
  • What type of ceremony do you want?
  • Any special hymns or pieces of music?
  • How you would like your children raised?
  • Are there particular possessions you want to go to specific people?

Make your wishes clear and avoid any potential confusion or conflict.

Plan your own funeral.  This is can be an added expense and source of stress to the family.  Put aside some money to cover funeral expenses or have a plan in place for what you would like, it can help to ease the burden.

Talk to your local financial or legal adviser who can talk you through the process.  There is also plenty of help available online if you want to do most of it yourself.

Making A Will

Which? Guide – Writing A Will



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Alcohol & Tamoxifen

Recently I’ve noticed an intolerance to alcohol.  Feeling particularly nauseous if I have more than a couple of glasses of wine.

I’ve never been a big drinker and can go for weeks, or even months, without consuming any alcohol at all, so it’s not been particularly obvious and my tolerance to alcohol has always been fairly low but it hasn’t had this effect since my twenties!  I certainly can’t consume it in large quantities, three or four glasses was my limit but it wasn’t even as though I’d had a lot to drink each time but the effect was pretty unpleasant.

I’ve since read that Tamoxifen can affect the way your body reacts to or tolerates alcohol, so this could be the reason.  Or it could just be one of the many menopausal symptoms I’m now experiencing, the change in hormones or even the impact of chemotherapy or the gastric bug I got while having chemo.

So, I will now be limiting what I drink or even eliminating it altogether.

Has anyone else noticed a change in how you react to alcohol as a result of either chemotherapy, tamoxifen or the menopause?


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25 years on!

Last week I met someone who was diagnosed with breast cancer 25 years ago.  She’s still here!  Looks amazing – has a wonderful family and husband and is proof that cancer can and is being beaten, day by day, year by year.

Twenty-five years ago treatment was much more of the sledgehammer and nut approach.  Not as tailored as it is today.  Now it’s much more refined and targeted.  There are different options available for surgery, not just a mastectomy.  Different variations of chemo depending on the type of tumour.  A combination of one or more treatments.

I’m always heartened when I meet or hear about someone who has been through it – especially when their diagnosis and treatment was many years ago.

Cancer Research has resulted in a much better understanding of how many cancers are caused, how they grow and how they can be successfully treated.

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Victoria Derbyshire’s Breast Cancer Diary

Victoria Derbyshire has recently publicised the video diary of her cancer operation.  She shares very similar thought and emotions to my own experience, although I wouldn’t have been sitting up in bed just a few hours after my operation doing a video diary!

Victoria Derbyshire’s Breast Cancer Diary

Watch the video to understand a little more about the process and take some of the fear and mystery around the diagnosis and treatment involved.

Although everyone’s experience is different, as I’ve said here and in the book and Victoria also says – it’s treatable and manageable.

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Tour De Cymru …


Just under two months to go until I’ll be cycling 225 miles in 7 days from Cardiff to Caernarfon along Sustrans Route 8, while pedalling up (and down) 5000m of ascent.

I’ve been in training on my new bike for a few months now and being encouraged to tackle a fewer bigger and steeper rides to get me fit.

The reason I’m doing this challenge is to raise money for Odyssey a small charity that helps those who have gone through or are going through cancer treatment.

Can you help me to reach my target.  Any amount however small will go towards this great cause.

You can find out why this is important to me and make a donation on my JustGiving page:

Thank you.

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