Chemosabe Four – New Faces And Perspectives!

I was contacted the day before my chemo treatment this week which is usually on a Thursday, to ask if I would mind having my treatment of Friday. The nurse explained that the pharmacy that makes my chemo shuts down once a month and my mixture hadn’t been made on time before the shut down. I was so happy to know that I’d be able to have the treatment, it didn’t make any difference what day it was.

Of course going into the Infusion Suite on a different day means new faces and it didn’t take long to get to know the lovely people around me that day. Sophie had offered me a few Netflix recommendations for the hours I’d need to be entertained, but I didn’t really need them as the room was quite chatty and I actually love the nurses in the ward and have such admiration for what they do, so I sometimes just sit and watch and take it all in. They don’t stop!

I arrived with a few concerns. Without going into too much detail and embarrassing anyone who isn’t comfortable, this chemo was timed in the same week as my monthly womanly “stuff”, should we say. I explained to the nurses that I was experiencing a rather different and demanding few days and so once my bloods were taken, they sent an extra sample off to check my haemoglobin levels.

I quickly got into the routine of waiting for the cold cap machine to warm up, observations were done, then I wet my hair to get ready for the cap and half an hour into the cap, my chemo began its hour long drip.

Conversations flew around the room and I slowly got to know the predicament of the other patients around me. Some were back for a fourth round of chemo, some were terminal, but in general, their spirits were incredibly high and I found being around them to be incredibly inspiring and insightful. There was even  a birthday celebration for one of the patients, so we heard the nurses singing in the room next door. It felt quite special.

As is often the case at the hospitals, they also have a wonderful person offering massages to patients. I remember after my second surgery a young girl came into our ward and massaged my feet and legs. It was heavenly. On Friday, Carina, who has massaged me before, very kindly took care of my neck and back, which often needs some TLC and then my feet. We had a lovely discussion about all sorts of things. Just a beautiful energy she has!!

Before I knew it, the chemo bag was empty and all that was left was another hour of the cold cap. Another hour!!!! Shew, I was actually finding that quite daunting on Friday I have to say. I was shivering for the first time, so a nurse brought me two blankets and helped me wrap my bedspread/scarf around my neck to try and keep me warm. Such kindness and care from all of the nurses there. I really am in such awe of what they do!

What I haven’t mentioned yet is that during my last hair wash which was on Tuesday this week, quite a bit of hair has begun to come out. I called Jen upstairs to show her and presented it to her like a surprise birthday cake. Funny how you think you may have an issue with something and it’s just not how you react when it actually happens. I watched with intrigue as the basin got fuller and fuller with my lovely brown locks. It was strangely exciting to me!

Now you’re all really going to think I’m a nutcase, but that’s honestly my reaction. Perhaps I struggled with the cold cap as a result of some hair loss?

Who knows? And who knows what the end result will be, but either way, I think I’m up for the adventure and change. It’s coming out evenly with no bald patches so you actually wouldn’t even notice a difference as I do have quite a bit of hair to begin with. Watch this space 🙂

So just before I left the hospital, we got the results of my haemoglobin tests and I was told that they were 8.5. A normal count is 11 so I was told to contact my GP to get an emergency appointment, which I managed to do. I left the hospital, went back to the house for a quick green smoothie and then made my way to the clinic down the road just before closing time. This was turning into a rather long day. I met my lovely GP who did various tests and we chatted about everything. He explained that if my haemoglobin count was 8, I would need a blood transfusion and told me what to look out for over the weekend. He gave me medication to begin straight away and so I went directly to the pharmacy for the supplies and home for supper. I’d been out since early that morning and made it back in the dark. Not a bad chemo day…

Besides taking the medication, I did a massive juice that night and did more juicing today (Saturday). I juiced an entire broccoli, besides loads of other fruits and vegetables. I’ve had a pretty chilled day writing at home which I’ve enjoyed and am actually feeling quite good!

I AM NOT GOING TO A & E THIS WEEKEND FOR A BLOOD TRANSFUSION!!!!

My haemoglobin levels are rising as we speak!!!

Got it? Good 🙂

Healthy, Happy Food That Heals!

What began as a very stringent diet plan has evolved and softened over the past months, according to how I feel from day to day and what I think my body needs. More than ever, I am very connected and in tune with myself so if I feel like cheating, then I allow myself a small indulgence, but for the most part I remain very committed to making the best decisions for my overall health and recovery. Healing is my first priority 🙂

“Every bite you eat has the potential to promote health in your body or disease, depending on choices.” – Author Unknown    

Most of what I’ll share here is research provided by Chris Wark, who survived his own cancer diagnosis and has written a book called ‘Chris Beat Cancer.’ I highly recommend that you find his website or follow him on Facebook. He’s very passionate about all of this and prevention is everything when it comes to cancer, so he will be the best source of information and will show you the way.

From my perspective, the first thing I wanted to do was detox my body and cut out anything that would cause the cancer to grow.

I loved my coffee as most people do, but quitting caffeine was something I was prepared to do. Coffee and sugar go together for me so there was no question that I would let them both go and it’s a known fact that sugar feeds cancer. Sugar just doesn’t feature anywhere in my diet, unless it’s coconut sugar which is an ingredient in my organic dark chocolate.

Dairy and wheat were also tossed out and meat was never a part of my diet to begin with. I have been vegetarian for many years.

Raw organic fruit and vegetables were the best options and because I wanted a really strong detox, I researched what was acidic and what was alkaline, tossed out the acidic stuff and my new diet in the first couple of weeks was all alkaline foods only. Added to this was a 24 hour water fast once a week. Water fasts become easier the more you do them and I felt incredible the day after a fast. I highly recommend them. Paramahansa Yogananda says fasting recalibrates the body and therefore the mind.

I’ve made a list of some of the foods Chris recommends, but his recommendations are probably more thoroughly laid out in his book.

Garlic – most powerful anti cancer vegetable. It stops cancer growth

Leeks, onions, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, cabbage are all powerful anti cancer vegetables

Broccoli sprouts  and oregano are potent for cancer

Mushrooms – significant anti cancer effects especially for breast cancer

Carrots – inhibits cancer growth

Celery, parsnips, parsley, coriander, cilantro, ginseng – all have anti cancer properties

Beets – high in antioxidants and carotenoids which protect from cancer

Ginger- powerful anti oxidant which shrinks tumors and blocks the formation of tumor blood vessels

Turmeric is one of the best anticancer spices

Curcumin has the ability to block every stage of cancer development

Cayenne pepper and hot spicy food is good for cancer

Bananas and grapefruit cut cancer growth by 40%

Red grapes, strawberries, lemons, cranberries and apples are also potent

These were from the notes I made while I was on tour. I hope they are accurate. The list goes on and on so I would suggest that you find Chris online or buy his book.

“Eat fruits and vegetables. Food from the earth. No meat, wheat, sweets or anything that comes from a teat.” – Chris Wark

Here is the basic diet I’ve been following. I have adapted it here and there according to how I’m feeling and what I’m able to put together. Most of my fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, powders and oils are organic.

My Green Smoothie (you need a blender for this)

Banana, strawberries, blueberries, apple, ginger, organic oats, linseeds, chai and hemp seeds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, almonds, olive oil, organic protein powder, turmeric, chaga mushroom and chlorella powder. I add half water and half almond milk and top it off with watercress and spinach. 

It’s delicious and filling! I have this every day if I can.

Juicing

This is so beneficial and besides Chris recommending it, there is a lot of research and support out there for juicing. I was lucky enough to receive the best juicer on the market as a gift from someone very special. Thank you Ben!!

I juice, carrots, cucumber, ginger, celery, apple, pear, beetroot, oranges, kale, spinach, broccoli, red cabbage or pineapple. You can juice anything really. I choose a different combination each time and add olive oil into the mixture afterwards and I try to do this at least 3 times a week or more.

Chris has his Square One Juice Formula which you can probably find on line and of course there is also the Gerson Green Juice Formula and the Breuss Juice Formula.

My Salad is a basic green salad adding in avocado, olives, kimchi, sauerkraut, garlic, leeks, nuts, seeds and chickpeas. I drown it in olive oil, flaxseed oil, hemp oil or avocado oil and often add hummus into it. I make a massive salad 🙂

For dinner I would steam or cook a wide variety of vegetables and add quinoa, organic brown rice or lentils and lots of turmeric, hummus and olive oil into the mix.

Chris recommends his Giant Cancer Fighting Salad every day for lunch and dinner. He also says you can blend your salad and make a soup for variation.

In terms of alternatives, I use coconut and almond milk instead of milk. I don’t have any dairy.

My coffee alternative is Mindfuel which is basically roasted chicory root and maitake mushrooms which is naturally caffeine free and looks just like coffee.

I drink a variety of herbal teas, particularly Rooibos which has great healing properties and most importantly, I drink lots of water.

I allow myself a cheat every now and then. My idea of cheating is a decaf flat white with coconut milk and a piece of dark chocolate:)

As I’ve mentioned before, I listen to my body and go with the flow of everything so if I feel like a Spag Bowl, then that’s what I have  … and it just so happens, that’s exactly what Jen’s making for us for dinner tonight. Thanks Jen!!

Happy place 🙂

I Hope I’m Not In The Way, But Please Could You Pass The Packet Of Chocolate Digestives!

Before you read further, I am in no way saying that my poor eating habits are the cause of me getting cancer. It’s firmly in the family genes and as I’ve said before, there are many reasons behind a cancer diagnosis.

I was recently asked if I would be prepared to share my current diet. I’m happy to share more than my diet as I think that there is such a psychology behind food and how we nurture ourselves with it or choose not to.

For me it’s not only the food choices that you make, it’s also about how you connect mentally to the food you prepare and eat that makes all the difference, or so I’ve discovered.

When I lived on my own in my little apartment in South Africa, food was never an issue for me. Besides having a massive sweet tooth and easily finishing a packet of sweets or a slab of chocolate in one sitting, I was on a good innings when it came to planning healthy meals each day. When I gave up my home to travel on tour for nearly three years with The Sound of Music, things changed. Perhaps that’s when the cycle began. I was fortunate enough to stay with family and friends in between tours and so I got the benefit of home cooking for a couple of weeks before I set off on the road again. A huge thank you to my aunt Lynndy who makes the tastiest meals, Ricky and her mom Ina for their incredible food and all the laughter we had in the kitchen together, my JenBen in Cape Town – I miss our rusks and coffee in the morning  and anyone else who cooked a delicious meal for me over that time. Thanks for the spoils 🙂

Moving to London definitely escalated the problem. I was in survival mode in the first year, so nurturing my body wasn’t exactly a priority. I was more focused on getting through the day and spending as little money as possible, as I wasn’t earning very much.

I was also sleeping in the living room, on a sleeper couch in a gorgeous little flat, with my brother Ash and his girlfriend Cazz, who is now his wife and my sister. Yay!!! Cazz makes delicious vegetarian food and can turn anything into a meal from the Gods. They would often, very generously invite me to eat with them and sometimes I would.  Mostly, I didn’t want them to feel the need to include me in their dinners and I wanted them to have quality time for one another at the end of a long day at work.

Another concern was taking up space in their fridge.  None of these issues were theirs, I was the problem 🙂 Love you both millions for taking such good care of me in those first 6 months.

This is a big part of my realization since my diagnosis. I don’t feel comfortable taking up space in someone else’s home. I don’t want to be in the way and often find myself apologizing in case I am. This is a longstanding and rather deep layer from my childhood which has taken a while to work through, but I’m peeling back those layers thankfully.

With all this in mind, I would grab sandwiches or pastries after work and because my job as a telephone fundraiser was rather depressing, I drank one cup of coffee after another. It was one sugar with every cup of coffee and on tough days I could knock back at least 5 cups or more. Then I’d get home and have tea and chocolate digestive biscuits and there was sometimes no end to that cycle.

I’m sure you get the picture.

The reason I’ve chosen to include all of this and not just give an outline of my diet is because I have undergone such a massive turnaround as a result of a cancer diagnosis and the end result is extremely positive and healing for me, physically, mentally and emotionally.

As I’ve mentioned before in my writing, I live with a wonderful family who have shown such support and generosity. I take up space in their kitchen. I have my own drawer in the fridge, which, if you can believe it, I asked for. That alone is a miracle and a sign of growth. I have my own shelf in the cupboard and even though I still ask most days if I’m in someone’s way, it’s out of politeness and not because I’m feeling guilty for being there. Jen very kindly asked if I would like to eat with the family at dinner times which was extremely helpful after my surgeries and now, while I’m going through chemo, is one less stress for me. I said yes to that too! Yay!

I have always been fiercely independent in how I manage my life so these changes are all a part of me learning to let go and receive. Being grateful is an understatement.

What was supposed to be a short explanation and introduction to sharing my diet has now turned into over 800 words, so we’ll talk ‘pomegranates’ on the next blog 🙂

Make good food choices today…and every other day! You won’t regret it!

Chemosabe Three…And Me!

I can’t say I’m in the most inspiring space and perhaps my writing will reflect the same, but as is normally the case with me, I’m determined to carry on regardless so I won’t apologize or throw myself a pity party in the corner of the room.

It is what it is and I’m still smiling.

Since my first surgery on the 18th of October last year to the second on the 12th of December to now, there is a slight monotony to my life that I have accepted and cooperated with because I understand that this phase of my life is ultimately about healing and in order to heal, you need to allow things to happen without trying to force an outcome. Otherwise you may miss some important steps in the healing process or even regress and cause your body a disharmony if you insist that it happens in your time. Acceptance is key!

I’ve no doubt that the viral infection set me back a little and the lack of sleep certainly made things more challenging in terms of fighting it off. One thing I’m hugely grateful for is that since I had my third chemo treatment all I’ve wanted to do is sleep and nothing has stood in my way. I have slept and slept and it has been glorious 🙂

I decided to be alone for my third treatment. Sivan and Sophie offered to come and sit with me, but I actually wasn’t feeling like I wanted the company at all. The day felt a little heavier, as it was the first time I would have chemo and the Herceptin injection together on the same day and because both have side effects, I suppose it’s normal to wonder how you’ll manage. I sat by the window in the Infusion Suite which has a lovely view, unpacked my iPad and a few other things I’d need and waited for the nurse to come around and start the usual routine. We began with the Herceptin injection. Good to get that out the way.

Things unfolded rather slowly from there, but I was already stuck into the movie I’d started watching on Netflix, so besides having to break away from that to wet my hair for the cold cap, I hardly looked up and didn’t even notice that the chemo had already started to drip into my system. Tea and a sandwich came around and I carried on watching ‘The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind’ which was recommended by Fortune, who works at the Costa Coffee at the hospital. He’s also from Zimbabwe and we have struck up a lovely friendship over the last few weeks. I sometimes go in for my decaf flat white with coconut milk after my treatment and we have a quick catch up.

The film is directed and written by Chiwetel Ejiofor and he also plays Trywell Kamkwamba. It’s based on a true story and is a film I’d highly recommend.

I was actually lucky enough to meet Chiwetel a few years ago when I was singing at a jazz club called Katzy’s. I was on a break and went for a walk to the hotel and bumped into a well known SA actor accompanied by Chiwetel. I’ve never forgotten his face. Anyway I digress.

If chemo and Herceptin happened that day, I was hardly aware of it. I was completely absorbed in other things. I was actually quite grateful to have recovered from the virus so I could jump back into the treatment and not delay it any further. I’m sure most patients feel like they just want to get on with it and not have any setbacks. I certainly feel that way! I packed up, thanked the nurses and then went to say hello to Fortune. I told him how much I appreciated his film recommendation and left with my decaf cappuccino (he’s been trying to convert me.)

So, Chemosabe Three, no trips to the A&E this weekend.  No extreme temperatures or long frustrating nights feeling out of sorts and worried about Sepsis. All that was on the menu for this weekend was hours and hours of long overdue sleep and deliciously good food, thanks to Jen and Jono’s wonderful cooking. I can’t thank them enough for their kindness!!

I feel like I’m in a very quiet, neutral space with no pressures or demands. It feels like I’m working through something important, but I’m not going to spend too much time thinking about it. Think I’ll just listen to the rain and go back to sleep…

Carrying On With Life, The Tour And Making Big Changes

So, I’ll pick up where I left off after the week I was diagnosed. I got back to London from Leeds and we had a week off from the tour. I was booked in for an MRI scan to have a closer look at the tumor. I arrived early at the X-ray department and ended up chatting to Simone who was also waiting for her scan. We made a lovely connection and discovered that we had a similar outlook on life, so it was a great way to pass the time. Simone was called for her scan and I was prepped for mine. I’ve never had an MRI so honestly didn’t know what to expect.

Simone came out, sat down quietly and I awaited my turn. The nurse called me in. I climbed onto the table and was instructed to lie face down with each breast resting in a cup in the table. Once I was settled into place the platform moved into the long tube-like tunnel. It was explained that I needed to keep absolutely still all the way through so they could get clear images. I was given a headset so I would be able to hear the instructions, but this meant I could also listen to the radio which would drown out the loud thumping noises produced by the machine.

The nurse communicated that at some point into the scan she would count me down before the liquid dye is injected.  This is so they can get a clearer image. I meditated, listened to the radio and kept as still as possible. She gave me a clear countdown and I felt the cold flow of liquid go up my left arm. I carried on listening to the radio and the song to take me through the final few minutes of the scan was ‘Firework.’ I thought Katy Perry was a pretty good choice for company while I lay there motionless with my breasts cupped. Girl Power!!

Besides the MRI that was booked for that week, I also had an audition to prepare for and nursery rhymes to learn for an upcoming recording, before I packed for our week in Cardiff in Wales.

Monday consisted of my usual appointment at the hospital in the morning and my audition in the afternoon. I didn’t want to run late for my audition, so I prepped everything so I could go straight from the hospital to the audition. I dressed for comfort that day. After a long wait and a discussion with my doctor I was sent down for another ultrasound, 4 biopsies and more mammograms. The biopsies were messy that day and quite painful, but the nurse helped clean me up, I put on my white t shirt and she wished me well for my audition. I hopped on the bus, found somewhere to have lunch while I ran over my audition sides and song and then made my way to the audition venue.

I don’t dwell on things, but I did have a moment on the bus thinking how odd it felt to go from a messy biopsy at the hospital to an audition on the same day. It seemed surreal, but I had made the decision to carry on with life, so that’s what was happening.

Nick Winston, who had directed me in Annie in South Africa was on the audition panel, so I offered my left side for a gentle hug hello and was genuinely happy to see him and to be in the room. The team were great and I had fun and once I was done, my next focus was to get home and pack to leave for Cardiff in the morning.

I woke up early and I made my way to the station. I packed light again so as to avoid too much discomfort after the biopsies. From the station in Cardiff, I caught a cab to my digs and was greeted by my host who showed me to a delightful little bedroom that was to be the most comforting space for me that week. I adored it on sight! Next, I had to find the theatre, so I packed my bag and began my walk.

The Wales Millennium Centre is a rather impressive complex. This was one of the larger, more modern theatres on our tour and I have to say, as I stood on the stage looking out into the auditorium, I wondered how I would manage to fill that huge space with my energy. I was beginning to feel tired that week, for a number of reasons.  I had undergone a complete change in my diet and had committed to a 24 hour water fast once a week which I’d started on the Friday in my week off so perhaps that’s why I was feeling drained. I was on a massive detox!

We finished our tech rehearsal and I went in search for food. I found the Wagamama which was a short walk from the theatre. I was on a mission with my diet and under no circumstances was willing to compromise on anything. I explained my situation to Christian, the manager of Wagamama and he immediately took charge.  He compiled a menu that included 3 options, took me to meet the head chef so he knew the protocol and I left with a dry, alkaline based salad and freshly squeezed juices to see me through the first show. In the beginning, my diet basically consisted of only alkaline fruits and vegetables with no added extras of any kind. No caffeine, sugar, diary, wheat or soy, which may seem drastic, but it was the choice I made. The staff at Wagamama in Cardiff were incredible that week in supporting me and adjusting their menu.

Wagamama wasn’t the only thing supporting the changes I’d made. A few days before I left for Cardiff, I received two emails from friends introducing me to Chris Wark. He’s written a book called ‘Chris Beat Cancer.’

The email was about his ‘Square One Programme’ of 10 modules that he was releasing for free for 10 days. His first module went live the Tuesday evening that I arrived in Cardiff and his philosophy seemed aligned to mine so each night after the show, I watched the next module and took detailed notes. This meant late nights for me, but I was inspired so I continued with his modules and managed to get through the week without too much hassle.

When I look back on Cardiff, I realise how exhausted I was. My mood and energy levels were extremely low and having to find the motivation to play Stella with all of her loud and over the top craziness was a really big ask for me. On the up side, I was beginning to get on track with a slightly less radical diet, supported by the incredible research Chris had done through his journey with cancer and I felt that I was beginning to settle on the best way forward and was feeling really inspired about the change.

Here’s some food for thought and one of the lessons I’ve learned. Don’t wait for something to happen to you before you start living your best life. Chris says that a cancer diagnosis is sometimes a divine tap on the shoulder to say that you aren’t living your best life. It happens for various reasons, no doubt, but the one thing I had realized was that I certainly wasn’t looking after myself properly when it came to making the best choices with food. My commitment to healthy eating is a life-long commitment and as I’ve said over and over again, I’m probably the healthiest I have ever been.

Final word…

“If you don’t take care of your body, where are you going to live?”  Unknown

Chemosabe Two – Slightly More Dramatic This Time!

Warning! This is a long read, but the ending may be just what you’re after 🙂

I remember a few occasions when I felt this ill. My mother nursed me through months of glandular fever when I was young. I couldn’t lift up my own head and needed assistance with pretty much everything. She was incredible!

Another time, was after we were rescued from the Achille Lauro (an Italian ship) after it caught fire. I ended up in Mombasa, Kenya for a couple of hours and must have picked up a small dose of malaria. When I got back to Johannesburg my boyfriend Paul had to manage a fever that was out of control and he was wonderful!

This time it feels quite different, more isolated, but still as intense. It feels like I’m doing a karmic burn of some kind. I go through moments of relentless shivering and my temperature is spiking all over the place and in between, when it finds normality, I’m able to go downstairs and make something to eat and take care of myself. I have incredible support in the house where I live. I wouldn’t have gotten through any of this without Jen and Jono (the man of the house), but I will dedicate a blog, or maybe more than one to them. They are absolute angels.

In your pre-treatment assessment meeting for chemotherapy, they give you a little booklet that is yours to bring in every time you have treatment. Attached to the front of the booklet is a small red card. On the card it says, CHEMOTHERAPY ALERT CARD!  THE COMPLICATIONS OF CHEMOTHERAPY ARE POTENTIALLY LIFE THREATENING, THEY INCLUDE NEUTROPENIC SEPSIS WHICH IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY AND MUST BE TREATED URGENTLY! Inside the card are emergency numbers to call should you be experiencing any side effects.

I wasn’t feeling great on Saturday after my second chemo that Thursday, but I monitored myself every hour or so in the night and as a result had no sleep. I kept a close eye the following day, but distracted myself until I felt it wouldn’t be wise to wait any longer. I called the number in the card, described my symptoms to an Oncology nurse and was told to go straight to A&E. I packed an overnight bag in case and Jen kindly dropped me at the hospital. The emergency room was pretty full, but I had my little chemo book so I went to the window for quick admission. I did get the evil eye from a gentleman, but I averted my eyes away from his judgement. It wasn’t long before a nurse called for me. My temperature had increased, so I was told it was a good decision.

I was taken to my own little room with a door. I felt a little more protected from all the germs flying around the ward with the door closed. A lovely nurse explained the procedure to me after we ran through my symptoms. Procedures always involve needles. I never really took to needlework as a young girl, but clearly my nurse had and she was doing a fine job on my left arm. In no time, I had a cannula needle in my left hand, she was taking bloods from a stubborn vein in the middle and was taking blood from the picc line to check for infection in my upper arm. It was all happening.

All the appropriate meds were fed through the cannula, while we waited for the all important blood test results to check for Sepsis. It was a long wait so I closed the door and attempted a nap.  My bloods came back perfect. Yay!!!! I was told I could go home once the fluids were complete and I was stable. After 5 hours, I wrapped up warm, ordered an uber and made for the kettle when I got in. Tea fixes everything…not just coffee!

That night was the same incessant struggle, except I had developed a nasty cough. I stayed up with the moon, taking my temperature, shivering, barking and drinking water, but I decided to persevere and not rush back to emergency. I figured my body needed time to fight this virus and if it’s not sepsis, then I’m ok. By 10:30 the following morning I still had no grip on things, so I contacted the emergency number again, explained my circumstances and was told to go back to A&E. I picked up my overnight bag and ordered an uber. Just to explain, even though it wasn’t sepsis yesterday it could be sepsis today and any other time throughout your entire treatment. Lovely thought and one I certainly won’t be dwelling on.

This time, at reception there was an almighty queue. I didn’t hesitate. I took out my little booklet and explained to the patient who was next in line that it was protocol for chemo patients to go straight to the window for assistance. I apologized. She was calm, but unimpressed and spoke over me, telling me how much pain she was in. I persistently apologized, repeated that it was a rule that I wasn’t prepared to break as it could be serious if I’m not seen immediately. I showed her the words on the card. She relented. I’m sure I’ll be more relaxed in the weeks to come, but I was tired and shivering so when the window became available I said thank you to her and jumped in.

This took a lot for me to do. I’m one of those people pleasers, or at least I used to be. No time for that when you’re in my position. I was logged into the system straight away. This time it was a longer wait and I was very fortunate to keep company with a gentleman with a horrendous cough. I immediately wrapped my giant scarf, (my friend Julius calls it a bed spread) around my face and apologized to John for my rudeness. The wait was longer than last time and John made sure there was little space for me to think or speak so I was distracted. I know a bit of John’s life now 🙂

I was back in the same room as the day before, with more drips and blood tests and this time it was a 6 hour time slot I’d been given, but I got a cup of tea, an egg sandwich, had a little nap with the door closed and was told my bloods were good, except for the virus of course. I could go. They gave me advice on how to control my temperature so I didn’t have to rush back, but said if I did, it was normal. Normal? There’s the perspective! Huge respect to anyone who’s gone through chemo. My body now belongs to medicine. Not gonna argue with medicine NOW!

I won’t bore you with all the details, but needless to say my Monday evening at home was no different. I was getting really restless with this. I was lying in bed and had a thought. If I can jump the queue at A&E, I think I can put out a request to be first in line to get this virus out of the way so I can get back to my 100 squats a day. I had my chat with God. I said I’ve done a good job of surrendering to all of this from the start, but right now, in THIS moment, I’m asking to jump the queue. I’m now exhausted. I meant business. I had a nap to celebrate my request.

My mom called later in the day for a check in. She mentioned some meds that I’d forgotten I had, so as soon as we’d had our chat, I made up a little cocktail and went straight to sleep so it could take effect. I woke up soaked. A bikini bottom mark and a back mark were left on the sheets and my duvet felt like it had been dunked in a shallow river. Wooohooo! I was beyond happy about the sweat fest and was reminded that mother’s know best, which of course she loves to hear. Thanks my Marmie.

I persevered through more coughing and night sweats and I have to say, it may be lifting. I remain ever hopeful, ever positive. At 5:30 this morning (Thursday), I woke up with the same little happy patches of healing on the sheets and another high temperature. I put on a dry set of clothes and felt slightly strange and unfocused. Delirious would be the perfect description. I reached for my phone so I could document what had just happened. Here’s what I wrote..

“I am writing this in my notes, on my iPhone, with my head in an awkward position, as I’m balancing a cold facecloth on my forehead to get my temperature down. Before that, President Trump called me to see how I was doing and to offer his advice on my condition. He said my name clearly and then explained that his life was very busy and threw the word “nuke” somewhere into the sentence. I pretended that I knew what he was up to and that his call was in no way surprising. In his call he was trying to direct me to this village in Africa to get some rare herbs to cure my infection. I wrote the name of the village down TWICE, on brown paper, in pencil. I said how much I appreciated his time, realized I had no idea what to call him, so went with “boss.” Then he nuked the call! I’m trying to find the piece of paper with the name of the village, but I’ve settled on 2 paracetamol and a cold facecloth. I doubt he’ll call again!”

True story! Thanks for staying with me!! No chemo today!!!

PS..maybe the boss was telling me that my virus had been nuked? Fingers crossed 🙂

A Call From The Hospital! “We’d Like To See You Urgently On Wednesday Please!”

So, now that my treatments are set up for the next couple of months and I have a fair idea of what to expect, I’ll be able to go back to the beginning of this journey. I wasn’t present enough, nor did I have the time to start writing a journal, but hopefully I’ll remember most of it.

I had felt a small lump in my right breast during rehearsals for Summer Holiday, but there was no time to check it out. At the beginning of July we had two weeks off from the tour, so I made the appointment to have it looked at on the 6th of July. I was told I’d need another appointment, but because we were due to be in Brighton on the 17th, I requested they see me after that. On the 23rd of July which was our Monday off, I found myself at the hospital in a consultation with a doctor who told me they had to have a closer look. I had an ultra sound, mammogram, two biopsy’s with two markers inserted, then another mammogram and blood tests after that. Nice day off I thought 🙂

The following day I was packed for our week in Blackpool. After being told to not lift anything heavy, there I was carting my suitcase on and off platforms and trains, but I packed as light as I could. I struggled a bit with the pain after the biopsy’s, but I bought some natural remedies from Holland and Barrett to help with healing. I got through the week, but I don’t recall feeling terribly strong or even upbeat. I remember drinking an awful amount of coffee in that week. Coffee often feels like such a life saver doesn’t it?

I got back to London on the Sunday and did the usual unpacking, washing and repacking and on the Monday I received a call from the hospital to say they needed to see me urgently on Wednesday. I replied that I was busy on the tour and had two shows in Leeds on Wednesday. I asked if she could inquire how urgent it was, hoping it could wait till the following Monday. She called back with the news that it was a matter of urgency. I called Abbie, our company manager in tears to explain and apologize that I would have to miss out on some performances. I had told her of my situation in Brighton, so she was aware and very understanding. She said I should take care of myself first and not worry about the show. I sat quietly with this sudden change, focused on my breath and didn’t move for quite a while. Clearly, something was about to happen and I began to feel it in my gut.

After chatting to my family, I began researching immediately. I went online and found as many sites as I could that had information about cancer. I got into gear and took charge and didn’t sit dwelling for a moment. I ordered a book recommended by my friend Julius about how Vitamin B17, found in apricot kernels was making breakthroughs in cancer. It’s called World Without Cancer by G. Edward Griffin. There is some controversy, but I overlooked that and contacted a health store called Planet Organic to see if they had the kernels I needed. I settled on a plan for myself which involved cutting out caffeine, sugar (most important), dairy and wheat. I was never a meat eater so that was also a given. It made sense. I was committed!! I hadn’t been given the diagnosis yet, but I knew.

My appointment the following day was an early one. I sat with the doctor and nurse as he told me I had breast cancer. They had found a 17mm tumor. He went through the exact diagnosis in detail. I listened, smiled and listened some more. He went through my options which were chemo, radiation, surgery, then hormone therapy OR surgery, chemo, radiation, then hormone therapy. I told him that I was about to change my entire diet, that I meditated and was strong physically and that I would carry on with the tour. I was extremely calm which may be a surprise to hear, but I was. I spoke with the nurse afterwards so we could be clear on what they still needed from me in terms of procedures going forward. I said if I agreed to have surgery, which was the only thing that made sense to me then, that it would have to be at the end of the tour which was early November. I was sent for a chest x ray, had blood taken and then went straight to Planet Organic for supplies. I came home armed with apricot kernels and threw out anything that didn’t fit with my new regime. I felt like I was renewed and empowered.

Of course my priority was to get on the next train to Leeds so I booked one that wasn’t too early and informed the company manager that I’d be joining the cast the next day.

On Thursday morning, I set off and while I was en route decided to quickly check the schedule for the week. I practically jumped out of my seat when I saw that we had two shows that day. It was out of the ordinary so I had overlooked it. I phoned Abbie in a panic. We worked out that I would get to the theatre just in time to get ready, but I’d miss the warm ups. She told me that my understudy had to be with her family last minute, so wasn’t with us. Needless to say I arrived at stage door, clambered out the taxi, bumping into our lovely drummer Dave and managed to find my dressing room. I could hear the company getting notes on stage so wandered slowly onto the stage. They all applauded. Haha, what a welcome back. I took a look at all of their gorgeous faces and then turned to look at the auditorium and literally lost my breath. The Leeds Grand Theatre easily has to be my favourite venue so far and of course it carries something extra special for me considering what was going on personally.

There was no time to unpack what was happening with the cast, but I did share with 3 close members and we decided that I’d tell the cast the following day, which I did. We stood in a circle and I shared my news with them. I remember each face so vividly. I remember the tears and the looks of concern and love. This was my family. Of course, I’d shared my entire journey with my real family, but when you work in theatre, on tours, you bond to one another. They were just beautiful. I told them that I was feeling positive and strong and that this diagnosis changed nothing so let’s just carry on together and have fun.

Sophie and I got straight into our usual chats getting ready for the show and I was thrown right back into the routine. I must say it felt strange to perform in the venue that day as normally you have time in the tech to get a feel of the space.  There was little feeling of security, but we just carry on don’t we. The show must go on!

The next day I rallied around getting all my healthy food and supplements and was on track with my eating plan. Sophie was listening to her music and was asking me what kind of music I liked. I responded with a few of my favourites and we casually got ready for the show. I thought nothing of it.

Sophie is often up to no good…in a good way. She’s a clever little thing and so is another member of our company Caroline. Such beautiful big hearts they have. Our entire company is extraordinary when it comes to talent, but as people, I adore them all. Caroline and Sophie had a plan up their sleeves.

So there we were on Saturday morning, gathering together for our physical warm up, which Caroline was taking and… bam, the first song of the warm up is Red Hot Chili Peppers – This life is more than just a read through. I ran up to Sophie while she was warming up and said “Soph, it’s the Peppers, it’s my boys!!”  She laughed at me. I carried on warming up and the next song that played was Tracy Chapman – Fast Car. I thought, that’s wierd, two of my favourite artists? Next song was Bob Dylan – Rolling Stone. I shouted out to Sophie, realizing what was happening. I think I said, “Sophie, you little s…!” There will be no swearing in my blog!!!! 🙂 I started to get quite emotional. The last song was John Mayer – Waiting on the world to change. Wow! What a moment. I felt their love.

That week was most definitely not the worst week of my life and the news that I had breast cancer hadn’t hit me like a ton of bricks and made me crumble into a state of helplessness. I vehemently made the decision to carry on regardless and this was just the beginning of what was to come in terms of me receiving so much love and support. More than I could have imagined possible.

To the Summer Holiday cast, musicians and crew. I love you all so much for making that week an absolute highlight. You are always in my heart! And to Sophie and Cazza and to my partner on stage Wayne, who blew me away with his love and support – Thank you!!

Reeedddddd Bus….Yess!!