Tablets, needles and scans – Life after cancer.

October is breast cancer awareness month, so I wanted to do an update on my ongoing treatment 2 and a half years after my diagnosis. Firstly, I can’t say it enough but please, please, please CHECK YOUR BREASTS!  Know what’s normal for you and if you have any doubts atall, no matter how slight or “silly” you think it is – GET IT CHECKED.  When it comes to cancer it is ALWAYS better to err on the side of caution and get a medical opinion on anything you are unsure of.  Chances are it is nothing but don’t leave it to chance.  Early detection can be the difference between life or death, a scar or no boobs, a treatment plan to prevent the return or your cancer or a treatment plan to try and prolong your life with incurable cancer.

Please do not be fooled into thinking you’re too young, too healthy or fit. I had just turned 42 when I was diagnosed, I was fit, I ate healthily, I breast fed both my boys for 7 months each (which is supposed to reduce your risk), there was no history of breast cancer in our family.  If I have learned anything since my diagnosis it’s that this disease does not discriminate, yes it is more common in women over 50 but men can also get it and I have met so many amazing YOUNG (in their 20’s and 30’s), FIT, HEALTHY women who found themselves battling breast cancer.  So please do not use the excuse that you “don’t fall into the category” for someone with breast cancer, there is no category so check yourself regularly and if you find anything unusual – get it checked straight away.

For guidelines on how to check yourself check out the  Irish Cancer Society page on How to check your breasts

I’ve said it many times, but I was one of the lucky ones, I found my lump early and have been cancer free since my lumpectomy surgery in May 2018.  My cancer was a grade 3 (fast growing) tumour but because I caught it early at stage 1 my prognosis was really good from the outset.

Lucky to just have my scar!

This time two years ago I was preparing for my last chemotherapy session and facing into a month of radiotherapy.  My breast cancer was ER+ (Oestrogen Receptor positive) which meant that the hormone oestrogen had helped it grow so my ongoing treatment plan was to remain on hormone treatment for 5 years once my chemo and radiotherapy were finished. The purpose of the hormone treatment is to reduce the risk of my cancer returning.

I feel like I’ve been in and out of hospital as much recently as when I was at the height of my treatment.  Thankfully, this has all just been for routine check-ups.  At the moment my annual check ups are:

An annual mammogram – just to make sure all is ok – thankfully I heard nothing back from my most recent mammogram, so all is good!

Bone density (DEXA) scan – I had this last week – A lack of oestrogen over a long period increases the risk of osteoporosis so this scan checks how my bones are doing.

An annual pelvic scan – I just had this this week – it’s an external and sometimes internal ultrasound (mine have always included an internal exam but it’s painless).  Again this is just another pre-cautionary check because the hormone treatment can increase your risk of cancer of the womb (which is what mum had) so this is just to check the ovaries and womb and ensure all looks ok.

My hormone treatment up until recently has been a daily tablet called Tamoxifen, however recent blood tests showed that my oestrogen levels were still too high so I was put on a more intensive hormone treatment plan which involved a monthly injection (hormone implant) called Zoladex.

Zoladex is a hormone therapy drug that works by stopping your ovaries from making oestrogen in prememopausal women.  It changes the levels of hormones released in the brain that control how your ovaries work. The effects of these drugs are usually reversible once the drug is stopped (depending on your age).

The Zoladex injection / implant – a nice big needle!!😬 Thanks to @cancerisabigb for the photo

The needle is a big ass needle but getting the implant  is not as bad as it looks (and I hate needles!).  The injection is given into the stomach and it’s the one time I’m grateful for that extra bit of fat my stomach has gained lately!😏  Adrian did my post chemo injections for me but I’m not sure I’d trust him with this one, although some do self administer it to avoid the hassle and cost of monthly visits to the doctor (the injection costs about €124 on the drug payment scheme so add a doctors appointment each month on top of that and it could add up nicely).  I’ve been told that I might be able to get free appointments with South Doc so I’m looking into that.

Once my oestrogen levels had lowered enough (they’re practically non existent at the moment) I was changed from Tamoxifen onto a new drug called Anastrozole.  The tamoxifen had worked by blocking the receptors on the cancer cells so that the oestrogen cannot attach to the cells, whereas the  Anastrozole (an aromatase inhibitor) works by blocking the production of oestrogen in the body fat, (stopping the enzyme aromatase from changing the hormone androgen into oestrogen).  These drugs are used for women after menopause, who no longer produce oestrogen in their ovaries (which is what the Zoladex injection has done for me)


The great news is that the injection worked and did what it was supposed to.  I had thought that once it worked I’d change my medication from Tamoxifen to Anastrozole (which is supposed to be more effective in preventing the return of my cancer) and that would be it.  What I didn’t realise is that the new drug (Anastrozole) will only work if I continue to get the monthly Zoladex injection because it is the Zoladex which put me into and is keeping me in menopause.  So, it turns out my new treatment plan for the next 4 years or so is a daily tablet and a monthly injection.  A small price to pay I guess!

The good news is I didn’t get another migraine after the 1st month on the injection and the few days of headaches each month seem to have eased aswell.  I’m only 2 weeks in on the new tablets so it’s a bit early to notice the side effects yet, hot flushes, muscle or joint pain and tiredness are just a few of a list of common side affects but I’ve learned by now to just take it as it comes and see what happens and hopefully I’ll get away with mild symptoms.

Besides all that life is going well since our move to Cork.  The boys have settled well into school and are loving making new friends.  We are really happy in our temporary home and are loving checking out the gorgeous sights around us.

The boys on their 1st day in their new school

We’re still waiting for our house to be sold but fingers crossed that will be done and dusted in less than 2 weeks (eeekkk!!) and I start a new job next week (double eeeekkkk!!!)

It’s been a bit of a bumpy start to our new life and I think it’s fair to say Covid and lockdown have put a few spanners in our plans but we’re getting there and grateful for all we have.

I’ve really learned over the last couple of years that life is not about waiting for everything to be perfect because it rarely is, it’s more about savouring and appreciating all the perfect little moments within all the imperfectness. No matter how bad things are, if you look for them, there are always moments to enjoy and be grateful for.

After school swim – Roberts Cove

“If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more.  If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough”  (Oprah Winfrey)

“Enjoy the little things in life, because one day you will look back, and realize they were the big things”

And finally…….. Don’t forget to CHECK YOURSELF!!!! 😘

Another year bites the dust…… and what a year!

It’s been over a year since my last post so I thought it was time to do an update on my cancer survival journey and how my treatment is going.  It’s been an eventful year filled with more challenges, some heartbreak and more precious moments and memories.

My return to work at the end of May last year (2019) went well.  Returning to work life was an adjustment, it was tough trying to balance the temptation to get stuck back in and make up for lost time versus managing and minding my energy.  I was determined to do it right, prioritise my health and ease myself back into it so I used holidays to go back 3 days a week initially, giving myself time and space to adjust.  I eventually built back up to 5 days a week but was really lucky to have the option to work from home a few days a week which really helped.  Life was busy but it was great to get back to a sense of normality.

I was still wearing my hair piece everyday when I went back to work – my hair was growing back but my head was covered in baby hairs with a big ball of frizz at the back of my head where my biggest bald patch had been – not a pretty sight but it was still great to see it growing back.  I probably could have left the hairpiece off a lot sooner than I did but it was a bit like getting rid of a security blanket and took me a little while to feel comfortable enough to leave it off permanently.  I finally parted with it in January this year (on mum’s birthday) and have thankfully been “hair piece free” for 6 months (although it was touch and go there again there for a while with the hairdressers closed down during lockdown!!)

My eyelashes grew back a month or two after chemo but unfortunately they have never been the same.  They are a lot shorter and thinner than they used to be but I am just grateful to have them!  As for my eyebrows – they were plucked to near nothing before I lost them totally during chemo but the emBrowdery lasted well.  I got a top up last October (a year after first getting them done) and got the Phi Brows done 2nd time round.  I’ve attached a link to the Up to My Eyes website where I got my brows done explaining the difference between emBrowdery and Phi Brows – just a reminder, you can’t get Phi Brows done during chemo but you can get emBrowdery done. The difference between emBrowdery and Phi Brows

If my cancer journey has thought me anything it’s that life is too short to sit back and wait for things you want to happen.  We are all in the driving seat of our own lives so it was time to take more control of the direction mine was going in.  As much as I loved the work I was doing and my amazing and supportive colleagues I knew it was time for a change.  Adrian and myself had spoken about moving to Cork for years but we had never done anything about it, always waiting for the “right time”.  So, last summer we started putting those plans into action determined to make our goal a reality.

Last day in AIB – Speaking on a panel at a Wellbeing event

Things didn’t go exactly to plan – I finished up work in AIB after 17 years on a Thursday evening at the end of November and got a call on Friday to head home because mum wasn’t doing well.  Mums cancer had returned during the summer and her chemo hadn’t worked so she was on hormone treatment.  We started to realise her cancer was terminal but so many people live with terminal cancer these days so it was a big shock to us to realise that she probably wouldn’t make Christmas.  Mum died (she hated the term “passed away”!!) the following Monday morning.  Mum was our rock, the absolute core of our family and our super hero.  Her whole life was spent looking after everyone else, life will never be the same without her here and we miss her every day.  We were lucky though, we got to spend her last few days at home with her as a family and we were all with her in her final moments – precious moments many families have been unable to experience in the last few months so I’m so grateful that we were able to be with her.  We are also lucky to have had someone like mum in our lives.  Mum never complained, she saw the good in absolutely everyone and was always so grateful for everything she had, she had such a caring, welcoming nature, she had the biggest, most gorgeous, generous heart.  She just loved having people around, having a laugh and any excuse for a good party, she loved being outdoors, enjoying nature and making the most out of every moment.   I have no doubt that she had a positive impact on the lives of anyone she met, no matter how brief that encounter was.  I am determined to live my life to the fullest in her memory – to get out and enjoy, appreciate and live life to its fullest.

Remembering mum on her birthday by going for a family dip in the sea on a cold January day!

The boys talk about Granny constantly, always laughing at memories of silly things she did and remembering her loving hugs, kisses and story times.  They miss her so much but know she is always with them although they totally freaked their Uncle Pat-John out one evening when out for a walk by shouting “I see Granny”!!!!!! “There she is…., over there – in the bushes”!!! until he saw they were actually talking about a Robin!!

Bon Jovi concert with Mum and Maria June 2019

Looking back on last Summer, mum, my sister and myself had some lovely girlie weekends and I’m so grateful to have those memories.  Mum went to her first Bon Jovi concert and loved it, signing her (tone deaf) heart out!

Strip and dip June 2019 Photo: Boudoir Barn

We also did the Strip and Dip together raising over €1000.  The day was such a great day – at the time we were celebrating two of us surviving cancer, my sister Maria said to both of us “I’m so glad I don’t have your names written on my back” (like many fellow dippers had, in memory of their lost loved ones).  Maria and myself planned on doing it again this year, conscious that it would have been a totally different experience, with a lot more tears but one that I think would have been very healing – maybe next year!

So, our goal to move to Cork got off to a bumpy start but it was still on, more than ever now we wanted to be closer to family.  We put our house on the market just before Christmas and went sale agreed the start of January, all was going well and it was easy to think – “It’s meant to be”, then in February our buyer pulled out, we did more viewings and a week later had gone sale agreed again – a little bump but we were back on track!  We found a house to rent in Cork in February, the boys were enrolled to start school and pre-school in Cork after Easter, Adrian finished up his job in March and started a new one which would be based in Cork.  All was on track for a move in March.  Then along came the Corona Virus and along with it a global pandemic!  Our house sale fell through again in May and instead of starting our new life in Cork we found ourselves in lockdown in Dublin.  Stuck in limbo it was easy to start doubting our decision and wonder if we were making the right choice but deep down we knew the move was right for us so in May, a couple of months after we had planned, we packed up and said goodbye to our first family home, friends and neighbours (from a distance) and set off on our new adventure.

Finally on the move!

It was such a strange time to move, arriving down to Cork and not being able to have family around, but it gave us time to settle in, spend time together and appreciate all the gorgeous places around us as restrictions started to lift.

First family get together post lockdown – over 5 months since we had all been together

I have a new Oncologist in Cork (Prof Seamus O’Reilly)  I have met him twice since our move down and I’m really happy with him.  We did blood tests and it turns out the tamoxifen tablets aren’t having enough of an effect on  my oestrogen levels which are still too high so I’ve started a more intensive hormone treatment.  I am now on a monthly “Zoladex” injection (which is basically a hormone implant) in addition to the tamoxifen tablets.  The plan is to speed up my transition to menopause and then change my medication off the tamoxifen and onto different tablets for the remaining 4+ years.

The change in treatment brings back the familiar fear of the unknown – wondering what affect the medication will have on me and how it will impact my life.  To quote my Oncologist “this makes total sense from a cancer perspective but not so much from a standard of life perspective”!! I’m only one month in on the injections so still unsure of what they have in store for me but so far all is going better than I expected.  I’ve had a few headaches and one bad day where I was stuck in bed with a bad migraine and vomiting for the day but hoping to get something at my next injection (next week) to help if the migraine returns.

Cuddles from my boys after missing our day out because of my migraine and vomiting

I’ve found myself  feeling stressed and getting a lot “snappier” with the boys lately.  To be honest I’m not sure if that is down to the hormone changes or just too much time at home together since lockdown!!!! Reflecting on it I really think it’s the feeling of conflicting prioritites – I don’t know when I’ll get this kind of time with them again and I want to make the most of it, but I am also under pressure to find work, I’m trying to do some courses to re-fresh and build on my coaching skills and I’m working on setting up my coaching company.  So life is busy and I’ve felt torn – the stress has come from feeling like I’m not doing anything properly.

So, I’ve switched my approach a bit – I’m trying to just focus on what I can – I’ve been getting up and doing my mindfulness and getting out for my morning runs before Adrian heads off to work (my “me time”) and I’m now getting up even earlier to get as much of my own work done as I can before the boys get up so that I can then just enjoy the rest of the day with them.  We’ll see how that plan goes but so far I feel like getting a head start on the day means I can enjoy more time during the day getting out with the boys which helps my sanity!!!!

So that’s been my year in a nutshell.  Treatment is still ongoing, the fear of the return of my cancer is always there, niggling away at the back of my mind.  Having my mammogram and other appointments cancelled this year hasn’t helped but I had a mammogram last week and no phonecall yet (which is good!) so fingers crossed I don’t get one this week meaning I’m in the clear for another year!!!

To anyone on their own cancer journey right now, you are strong and brave but you’re allowed to break a little too, ask for help and keep going – You’ve got this!

I’ll leave you for now with some quotes from “The boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse”, a gorgeous book by Charlie Mackesy.

“When the clouds come…. keep going” “When the big things feel out of control… focus on what you love right under your nose” “This storm will pass”

“Sometimes just getting up and carrying on is brave and magnificent”.

“Tears fall for a reason and they are your strength not weakness”

“Asking for help isn’t giving up,” said the horse.  “It’s refusing to give up.”

This time last year!

It was about this time last year that I found the lump in my right breast and my cancer journey began.  I mentioned in my first blog post that I found the lump randomly in the shower.  At first I thought I felt something but it took a little feeling around to find it again – skip forward on a couple of weeks and there was no “feeling around” needed, the lump was now solid, obvious and very easy to find.  This was what turned out to be my (as my consultant described it) “nasty” grade 3 tumour which probably hadn’t existed 2 months previously but was aggressive and growing quickly.

I wanted to re-share this powerful picture which has been doing the rounds on social media.  My right breast was lemon number 12.  I dread to think how much longer I might have left it if my symptom was a more subtle one.  I don’t think this picture can be shared enough to highlight the importance of us checking ourselves and not ignoring any differences we find.  Don’t just look for a lump – look for anything that’s different for you.  I recently read another blog “My Wonky Boob” where Mandy Gabriel shares her amazing story, describing how she never had a lump, after the birth of her second child one boob went back to normal size but the other just stayed a bit bigger or a bit “wonky”.

Last Friday I had the honour of hearing the Sea of Change choir performing “This is me”.  When I saw them on Irelands got Talent I felt a little emotional. It was the first time I had really listened to the lyrics in the song and they really resonated with me.   Listening to them I felt a sense of pride – proud to be a woman, proud to be a cancer survivor and just in total admiration of their strength and courage.  When I heard that two members of the choir were AIB colleagues (Claire Phelan and Catherine Flannery) and were talking about their experiences for International Women’s Day, followed by a performance from the choir I knew I had to attend.

Claire Phelan and Catherine Flannery (photo by Maurice Grehan photography)

Claire and Catherine kindly met me for a chat earlier that morning.  The event was great, both bravely shared moving accounts of their stories and the choir gave a fabulous performance afterwards.

Photo by Maurice Grehan photography

Little did I know heading in that morning that I would end up talking at the event myself! I was very honoured (although totally unprepared!) when I was asked to stand up and speak about my own experience and my blog and I felt very privileged to be in the company of such inspirational women.

Photo by Maurice Grehan photography

It was a perfect way to mark International Women’s day.  Please remember to vote for these amazing women in the semi-finals of Irelands got Talent on March 31st!

My energy is still very low and will take a while yet to get back to normal but I’m trying to manage it with early nights, exercise and diet.  I’ve been on my hormone tablets (Tamoxifen) for over 2 months now and luckily all is good so far with little or no side effects (besides some night sweats).  For anyone suffering with hot flushes “A. Vogel Menoforce Sage Tablets” were recommended to me last week by one of the members of the choir.

My eyelashes are continuing to grow (still not what they used to be but I’m hoping they continue to get a little longer before they stop growing!)

A UK Breast Cancer survivor has teamed up with Eylure and created a brand of eyelashes specifically for cancer patients. The lashes are specially designed with a larger, more flexible adhesive band, and a bigger surface area to help them stick to the lid when there are little-to-no natural lashes.  These are available in Boots.

You may also have seen the ads released last year on Boots Cancer Beauty Advisors.  Boots have worked with the Irish Cancer Society to support people affected by cancer.  A number of their stores across the country have beauty advisors specifically trained  and can give you tips on how to recreate your brows and lashes, and how to care for your skin, nails and hair during and after treatment.  More information is available on

My bald patches have filled in but I now have a head of short whispy bits of baby hair.  It’ll be a long while before my hair is back to normal or looking anyway decent but its all progress in the right direction!

I’ve celebrated my birthday since my last post (yes another year older and not a lot wiser!).

Birthday celebrations in Cork

I received so many lovely messages and birthday wishes (thank you to all my wonderful friends!) but one card really made my day and nearly had me in tears with its heartfelt message.  Thank you so much for your kind words Liah, I don’t think you realise how much they meant to me! X

I got this lovely diary from my sister when I finished my Radiotherapy.  In January I started using it as my gratitude journal.  On the 1st page I have a list of things I was grateful for in 2018 (and yes there were plenty).

Every night I write down 4 things I’m grateful for that day and at the back of the diary I have a reminder of my 2019 goals.  They’re nothing major, just small stepping stones to keep me on track towards bigger goals.  I don’t think I’ve made a bad start on them so far:

  • Keep a gratitude journal (tick!)
  • Go to bed early (tick)
  • Watch less TV and read more (tick! my new bedtime routine is looking after this one for me)
  • Finish my Mental Health and Wellbeing Coaching Diploma (tick – all assignments completed, just waiting on results!)
  • Start running again (tick – I’ve officially reached the 5K mark and try to get out for a run every second day)
  • Spend more quality time with family (tick – we’ve kept up our weekend adventures with trips to the beach, the forest, the cinema)

There are plenty more on the list left to tackle but it’s a start.  I’ve also started a clear out of the house, starting with the attic.  So far I’ve cleared out over 45 bin bags of clothes, toys and electrics – and there’s still loads more to do!  I think the clear out is as much a psychological one as a physical one.  It won’t be long before I’m back at work so I think I’m “nesting”.   There’s no baby on the way but I think I’m trying to get everything in order to mentally prepare myself for heading back to work.

A friend of mine sent me a link to a helpful guide the Marie Keating foundation created providing information and advice for both employees and employers about going back to work after cancer.

Part of me is dying to go back to work but another part is dreading it. I received such a warm genuine welcome from everyone I met when I was in the office for International Women’s Day, everyone has been so supportive in the last year and I will be forever grateful for that.  I miss all my great colleagues, however, I’m dreading not having the energy to do as good a job as I want to do.  I’m afraid that I’ll struggle with keeping a good balance and that my time with my family will be the first to suffer if I start feeling under pressure.  I know though that I just need to be open and honest with how I am coping with both myself and my colleagues and the support will be there if I need it – I won’t know until I give it a go!  I’m determined to go back with confidence but I know this is a lot easier said than done especially when I’ve missed a year but I’ll give it a shot!

I’m aiming at going back to work in May, a year after I left.  It’s crazy to think a year has passed already, and what a year! I’ve realised what great friends I have, what an amazing family I have and that I am stronger and braver than I thought I was and this is just the start! While I’m about to come full circle on my year of cancer treatment I know that this year will be a defining point in my life.  I truly believe that it has already changed who I am for the better and that it will continue to influence who I am and what I do for a long time and I’m determined that these changes will be positive ones!

My journey will continue for many years with hospital appointments and managing side effects from medication but I think it’s now time to move on from fighting cancer to living the best life I can after cancer.  So  I have decided to create a new Instagram page “Mad’s Lemonade” – because when life gives you lemons…… The Instagram updates will be shorter and snappier than my blog posts so no essays to read!!  I’m hoping to set challenges and goals for myself and use my coaching experience to create a motivational page on living and loving life!!   I will still post the odd update to Beauty and the Cancer Beast if and when I come across any relevant or useful information but most of my updates going forward will be on Instagram.  My 1st mammogram since my diagnosis is scheduled for April 30th so fingers crossed! I’ll post an update on “Mad’s Lemonade” so please follow me!!!

I found this quote online and liked it – I’m usually the first to down play or criticise myself or something I’ve done but f*ck it, I’m not afraid to say I am proud of myself and what I have achieved in the last year – but I couldn’t have done it on my own – so a massive thank you to everyone!! Xx

“I’m braver because I fought a giant and won.

I’m stronger because I had to be.

I’m happier because I’ve learned what matters.

I stand taller because I am a survivor.”

New Year – new me!

2019…..let’s be havin’ you!!!!!

My radiotherapy all went to plan and finished on December 17th as scheduled.  Adrian helped me mark the occasion by arranging for our neighbours to look after the boys for a few hours and we headed out for a bite to eat and celebratory drink.

It was a lovely end to a busy few weeks of Radiotherapy, Christmas shopping, college and 3 school plays in 2 days -where I had a very bad mammy guilt moment and forgot to record Alecs starring line as Joseph “We will call him Jesus” (Oops, sorry honey!!)

Aarons Christmas play
Our Joseph

After a lovely Christmas and New Year with family (Thurles for Christmas and Ballymena to ring in the New Year) it’s that time of year again where we all set out our best intentions for the coming year – this is the year I’m going to do x, y and z.   The last 9 months have given me a greater determination than ever to stick to my goals this year so here’s hoping!

Self-development is one which is important to me and with that in mind I’ll be keeping this post short and sweet as I have college assignments and a fast approaching deadline lurking over me for my Mental Health and Wellbeing Coaching diploma.   I’m really enjoying this course, as with the Leadership and Executive coaching course the content is so interesting and relevant and it’s great to be doing some practical coaching again.

My main focus for this year though, unsurprisingly is around my health and wellbeing.  While I tried to keep up a certain level of exercise throughout my treatment my fitness level has definitely been affected and my body is slower.  Although I was doing plenty of walking with hills and steps, it had been a long time since I’d been out for a run so I decided to start from scratch with the couch to 5k.  I reckoned it would be better motivation to start slowly and build up to the 5K again than feeling demoralised by attempting 5k and not managing 1k!!!! I had thought I’d end up skipping the first few runs because they were too easy but oh no – I definitely needed to start from scratch again!!! I’m using the “5K Runner” app which I’ve used before and found good.  I’m 3 weeks in and only half way there but it’s going well so far!

I’ve been trying to “run” every second day with a short kettle bells ab work out and on alternative days I’ve been doing “Yoga Burn” DVDs (a series of 45 minute workouts with fast passed yoga poses to increase metabolism).

I’ve never really been an unhealthy eater but there was definitely room for improvement! The last few weeks I’ve been trying out some new recipes (most from Roz Purcells “Half Hour Hero” book), increasing my intake of fish and vegetables and generally just trying to eat a little healthier.

My final goal for now is to get on top of my sleep issues.  I was taking Xanax throughout my treatment, it never really worked for me but I was still afraid to stop taking it in case I was even worse without it.  I started on my hormone tablets (Tamoxifen) at the start of January so on my first night taking these I stopped taking the Xanax and started a new routine of going to bed earlier and reading for an hour or so before trying to sleep. I got a lovely new Kindle for Christmas which has been great (thanks Maria!)

I was a little worried about how this would work as the Tamoxifen can affect your sleep but while I’m still a long way off being a good sleeper, I have noticed an improvement (if only Alec would stop waking me in the middle of the night!!!).  I had always talked about going to bed earlier but never really managed it, I always used the excuse that once the boys were in bed this was the only time I had to sit and relax.  When I thought about it more though,– Adrian and myself would generally just end up flicking through stations, trying to find something to watch, regularly watching something just for the sake of it.  We were both often on our laptops or phones at the same time so it wasn’t quality time.  Now that I’m getting to bed earlier I find I’m more relaxed when it comes to trying to get to sleep.

This has come with an added bonus – watching TV is when I am worst for eating junk food – it’s pure habit but even if I know I can’t be hungry as soon as I sit in front of the tv I have to have some snacks.  Now that I’m going to bed instead, I’m no longer eating junk – so win win! (during the week anyway – we all deserve to go a little wild and stay up past 10.00 at the weekend, lol).

I had an appointment with my Radiotherapist this week and he is happy with how my skin has heeled (it gets pretty irritated and itchy in the final two weeks of treatment and for a week or so after treatment but mine was fine after that) and said he doesn’t need to see me again.  While my energy levels probably won’t be back to normal for a year or so he told me the worst of the fatigue should have passed in 2-3 months but for now my new bedtime routine is helping me manage the fatigue.

Now I just need to focus on turning my new routines into sustainable habits that make it past January!!

So, the final stage of my treatment is the hormone therapy.  I started on Tamoxifen after meeting with my Oncologist on January 3rd.  My breast cancer was oestrogen receptor positive (ER-Positive) which means my cancer was relying on oestrogen to grow.  Tamoxifen is a hormonal therapy drug that blocks the oestrogen from reaching the cancer cells.  This means if my cancer was to return while I’m on Tamoxifen, it would cause it to grow more slowly or stop growing altogether.

As with most medications Tamoxifen comes with a lovely long list of possible side effects, most common being hot flushes, leg cramps, discharge, itching, hair thinning, weight gain and the list goes on and on.  These side effects vary so much from one person to the next that really it was just a matter of seeing how my body reacted.  The tablets basically bring on symptoms of menopause but you can still get periods and it is still possible to get pregnant (which is advised against as the tablets will harm the developing baby).  So – periods, risk of pregnancy and menopause all in one – yay – what more would a girl want!!!

In all seriousness though, if these little tablets help prevent the return of my cancer then I’m more than happy to take them. I was told that there are many different brands of the drug so it could be a matter of trial and error in finding the one that suited me best.  For anyone who is dreading starting on these tablets like I was they are all only “possible” side effects – I know it’s only been 3 weeks but thankfully so far I’m doing well with hardly any side effects.  So the lesson for me is – stop worrying about what “might” happen!

Another side effect of Tamoxifen is it can increase the risk of Cancer of the womb which is what mum had.  Because of this I will receive an annual pelvic scan as well as my annual mammogram.  This is a great reassurance as I know I’m on their radar just incase!

Have I mentioned before that I have the best sister in the world? Well I do!!! She made up a fab hamper for me to mark the end of my Radiotherapy with Prosecco (and a cooler that doesn’t need ice), false tan, chocolate, false eye lashes, a journal (which I’m using as a gratitude journal at the moment), a “Cancer…been there, beat that” keyring and a framed photo of me on Killiney hill with the inspirational quote:

Remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think”.  Thanks sis, love you!!

The eyelashes in Marias hamper were lovely ones from Benefit but if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative I really like “i.Envy Au Naturale 01” by Kiss (from Pennys) – at only €3.50 a pop they’re really good value and I found the style and length really natural on.

My used eyelashes so a bit worse for wear!

I used “Duo” eyelash glue, which I also got in Pennys and which really impressed me by keeping my eyelashes in place until the following morning when I was too “tired” after a recent night out with a friend to take my makeup off going to bed (yes Claire, I’m talking about you and your bad influence, lol!!). Great night, crap following day!

The good news on the eye lash front is that mine are now growing back, Yay! Three weeks ago, I had 2-3 stragglers on each eye but now I have a full line of lashes (with a little gap on the lower right lash line).  They’re still very short and stumpy but making good progress.  I’m continuing to apply my homemade serum (castor oil, aloe vera and vitamin E).  I have no idea if it is speeding the growth of the lashes or not but I reckon it can’t be doing them any harm!

One thing I’ve realised in the last year is the importance of making the most of time with family and friends.  Part of my “new me” includes making the most of the weekends with my boys and getting out and about for some family adventure (or even just a coffee and bun treat).  At the age they’re at it doesn’t take a lot for them to have “the best day ever” but the memories last a life time! So far we’ve done the Giants Causeway, Glendalough, Killiney Hill and Powercourt Waterfall.

Fun in Glendalough

#Making it count! xx

eMbrwodery update; Post 3rd session

It’s now about a month since my 3rd and final eMbrowdery session.  We forget what a difference eyebrows make on our face until we’re faced with not having any.  Being able to maintain the illusion of having eyebrows (without any makeup) throughout my treatment has made a huge difference to me.   For that reason I’m delighted I went through with the eMbrowdery.  Overall I am very happy with the results, however, being totally honest, I had expected that once I had them done I wouldn’t need to touch them when doing my makeup – at least for a good few months until they started fading.  Maybe this was just an unrealistic expectation but I am a little disappointed that I have felt the need to fill them in when I’m wearing makeup.

I also feel the shape of my right eyebrow is a little “wormy” it has a bit of a slant and a slight dip on the top that isn’t on my left brow which means it needs a little extra help to get the shape I wanted.  What I need to keep in mind though is with virtually no natural hair as a base the results are unlikely to be as effective so maybe I am being a bit critical here, the results do save me a lot of time, it’s just a bit of a pain having to fix and fill in the shape after spending almost €600 on them!

All in all though:

Am I happy I had it done – Yes!

Would I pay the money again – Yes!

Would I recommend it to anyone going through Chemo – Yes!

However, If I decide to continue to invest in the top ups (which I probably will) I think, going forward, I will opt for Microblading (which goes a layer deeper) but for now I’m very grateful that I had the eMbrowdery option during my treatment.

My Radiotherapy Countdown

While everyone else is opening their advent calendars and counting down to December 25th I have another countdown.  December 17th will be my last Radiotherapy session and will see the end of my Cancer treatment for this year! I’m just thinking I should have done my own Advent calendar – I think I’ll write a big “17” on the fridge door and open it on my last day to find a nice cold bottle of bubbly waiting for me!!

With less than two weeks to Christmas day this will probably be my last post before the holidays. Christmas started a little earlier than usual for us this year.  We went to see Santa at the end of November (basically because I left it too late to book our Santa tickets!) and our decorations also went up before December for the 1st time ever! This year we went to Christmas Island in Rathdrum, Co Wicklow to see Santa.

It was our first year there and the boys loved it.  They got to see Santa again at the start of December at AIBs Santa day so they have him well versed in what they’re looking for – all they need to do now is make sure they stay off the naughty list!!!

AIBs Santa day

Uncle Mikey and Auntie Leanne gave the boys homemade Advent Calendars to help with their Christmas countdown (I think Auntie Leanne might have to get most of the credit for these though!).  They are so excited coming home from school/crèche each day to open a new number and see what’s inside – Adrian and I were particularly happy with the toy whistles (thanks Leanne lol!!!)

On November 13th, two weeks after my last chemo session, I had my planning appointment for my radiotherapy.  This involved meeting with the consultant, having a CT scan to determine the exact area needing treatment, getting my treatment dates and some “tattoos”. Unlike my husband who has had to tell the boys that the marks on his arms and legs are because “some bold boys drew on me”, I have never had a tattoo (thankfully I never went through with the dolphin one I wanted many years ago!) Now, however I technically have 3 (one to the side of each breast and the 3rd in the center).  These are 3 drops of blue ink placed on the skin with a needle, the marks are permanent but luckily each one is only the size of a freckle so hardly qualifying me for tattooed lady status!  These marks are used during treatment to help line up the radiation equipment accurately.   My treatment plan is for 20 Radiotherapy sessions (each day, Monday to Friday) for 4 weeks.

The weekend before I started Radium, one of my best friends, Kathy, came down from Belfast to visit me with Alex, her handsome (and very well behaved) one year old. We had a lovely catch up and even managed a “few” glasses of bubbles when Alex went down to bed.  We’re all grown up and sensible now (winking emoji!!!) so there was no dancing around the sitting room at 3am this time round! I’m sure we still have a few more of those nights in us yet but for now it was the perfect catch up with an amazing friend! (love you honey!!)

I started my Radiotherapy, on November 20th, exactly 3 weeks after my final chemotherapy session.  The sessions themselves are quick and easy (thanks to the Radiation therapists who are all lovely and amazing).  This is my very unscientific description of what is involved!  As one patient is receiving treatment another is called and is given a gown and individual changing room (keeping the whole process running like clockwork).  As it’s my breast area being treated I just need to strip off to my waist and wear the gown open to the front.  Once the room is free I’m called and brought in.

I lie on a table with my arms placed over my head resting in stirrup like supports.  The radiation therapists then make tiny adjustments to my position (arm up a little, bum down a little, boob over a little – you get the picture!)  to ensure I am in the exact position for my treatment.  Once I’m ready to go the therapists then leave the room to administer the treatment.  This is when I always seem to get an itch or tickle somewhere on my face, just knowing I can’t move a millimeter!  I wasn’t sure what to expect during the treatment – I thought I might see a “laser beam” to the area being treated but the only indication the treatment is taking place is a loud buzzing sound.  It only takes a few minutes and is totally painless (you don’t feel anything).

I need to be really careful about what I’m putting on my skin in the area being treated at the moment and there are only a few products they recommend.  I’ve continued to use the Elave shower gel and Aqueous cream as my moisturiser.  I can’t use my normal deodorant so Crystal Rock deodorant was recommended to me and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by it and am finding it better than I expected.

I also can’t shave under my right arm (thankfully the hair hasn’t really grown back here yet so I’m not rocking Julia Roberts’ 1999 red carpet look!!).  I’ve continued to use my tan but avoiding the treatment area for the few weeks.  I started to develop a slight rash under my right breast in the second week of the treatment, it has now intensified and is spreading up closer to my collarbone.  It’s not painful, but it is red, itchy and irritating with a slight burning sensation at times.  This should ease off in a few weeks so in the meantime I just need to keep applying the aqueous cream (I can’t put anything else on it) and no low or sleeveless tops for me over Christmas! Just as well I returned the sparkly boob tube (lol).

The toughest part of the last few weeks has been the continued lack of sleep.  I’m wrecked – but what’s new, I feel like a broken record at this stage, I’m nearly embarrassed saying I’m tired when anyone asks!!  I really don’t know whether the tiredness I feel is a result of the treatment or just my boys – I’m presuming it’s a mix of both.   I’m actually getting to sleep a bit easier but haven’t had a chance to test out the staying asleep part because Aaron is still coughing through the night.  Last week saw us into our 7th week of sleepless nights and with Adrian in a new job it’s been a bit of a nightmare so I finally brought him back to the doctor and thankfully came away with an inhaler which he’s been using for about 6 days now.  He’s still coughing but we have noticed an improvement so I’m keeping fingers and toes crossed that it works and we manage to catch up on some sleep before Christmas.

I had my graduation for my Leadership and Executive Coaching Diploma two and a half weeks after my last chemo session.  It was a great night and a lovely catch up with some of the college gang with lots of well-deserved bubbles and laughs.

I started a new course last weekend, a diploma in “Mental Health and Well-Being Coaching”, again with Kingstown College.  So more reading and assignments ahead to keep me out of trouble but the topic is so interesting that I’m looking forward to getting stuck into some of the books (not so much with the assignments!). I made some great friends throughout my last course and I seem to have been blessed with another amazing group for this one and I am really looking forward to getting to know everyone, learning more about resilience and well-being, putting some of it into practice for myself and then using what I’ve learned to help others.

Some Christmas reading!!

I’ve managed to catch up with my work colleagues a few times over the last few weeks through different events which has been lovely – some more academic and work related events e.g. the EMCC Coaching Conference, others not so academic e.g. our team Christmas lunch which was great fun with a few cocktails and loads of giggles!  They’re a fab bunch and have been a great support to me and really helped me feel like I’m still part of the team while I’ve been off.

Work Xmas drinks / Christine’s work Hen!

Alec turned 5 this week – scary!!! We had his party at the weekend (I’m just about recovering!). This is the first year he’s had a party in Dublin.  Given the time of year (and the size of our house) a party at home wasn’t a realistic option so we used a local hall and had a bouncy castle, music, football, pizza, popcorn, sweets and cake.  The kids had great fun and left all hyped up on sugar (sorry mums and dads!!).  Both boys loved it – Aaron was delighted to finally be invited to one of the parties and was chuffed with himself when we told him he was the special guest! We ended the day, all tired and happy watching Home Alone in front of the fire.

It’s been another busy few weeks and I feel like I’ve been on the go constantly.   Before getting my treatment dates I had hoped that I’d have a few weeks off in December and start my treatment in January but now that I’m nearing the end of the Radium I’m glad to have it over and done with.  I’m back in with my Consultant on January 3rd to get me started on the hormone tablets but besides that January will be a month of getting myself back on track – building up my fitness levels, focusing on my college assignments and starting the new year as I mean to go on – creating new habits that allow me to work smarter rather than harder while prioritising my well-being and a healthy work life balance (a bit of practicing what I preach really!)

While one part of me wants to kiss (or kick) 2018 goodbye, another part is grateful for it.  It’s not the year I thought I’d have, it hasn’t been easy but there are still plenty of reasons to say it was a good year.  Like many people, I’ve always been very critical of myself and my inner critic was always loudest in a work context. While I still have a long way to go, 2018 has shown me what I’m capable of and given me a strength and dare I say “confidence” I could not have envisioned at the start of the year.  I’m hoping I can use this to hush my inner critic and to be a braver, more assertive, resilient version of myself.  More than anything though, this year has taught me to be grateful for what I have, not to sweat the little things, to make the most of out of life, celebrate the little moments and just have fun and enjoy it!

Happy Christmas and New Year! xxx

False tan during chemo

From a self-confessed “tanaholic” I can’t believe I’ve gone this long without doing a post on tan! I have done my tan religiously twice a week for years.  I’ve tried a number of different tans over the years but before my diagnosis I was using the Cocoa Brown moose (after changing from St Tropez a few years ago).  It will seem ridiculous to most people but one of my first questions after getting my treatment plan was – “Will I be able to wear my tan”.  The thoughts of reverting to my natural pasty white /blue complexion wasn’t appealing. Since starting my chemo I’ve changed my tan to an organic one and have been using Tan Organics Moose.  I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised with this tan.  The colour has a lovely natural tone and the tan lasts well.  If I was to be critical there are two things I would fault it on – First, and as far as I’m concerned its biggest downfall is it’s price – at €29.99 for a 120ml bottle I find it hard to justify given you can get a 150ml bottle of Cocoa Brown for less than €9.00.  I know it’s Organic, and for anyone who just does their tan occasionally it would be worth it but it adds up pretty quickly when using it so regularly.

Secondly, I find it really difficult to exfoliate in particular from the feet, it requires a lot of scrubbing, especially around the toes.  Saying that I’ve received a few compliments on it and how natural shade is.


When you’re diagnosed with cancer it’s a massive blow and can take a while to process so looking for a wig is probably pretty low on many peoples list of priorities but the advice given to me, which I would definitely echo is to start your wig search as soon as possible and definitely before you start treatment if at all possible.  By doing this it means you can have the search done before you need to start dealing with the side effects of treatment but it also helps them to see your hair/hairstyle in the store to enable them to recommend a good match if you’re not opting for a total image change. There are so many different options available, from synthetic to human hair or a mix of both in all styles and colours.  When looking, consider what will suit you and your lifestyle and budget best.  If you are a medical card holder you are entitled to an allowance towards a wig or if you have health insurance many providers offer cover for wigs (I was very lucky with my cover as both my wig and hair piece were covered).

Reminiscing my blonde days (lol!)

The synthetic wigs are the easiest to care for but cannot be styled.  The human hair options can be blow-dried, curled, straightened and styled like your own hair but take a little more looking after and are more expensive and the mix can be styled a little (just no major heat so not straighteners or curling tongs).  It’s also important to consider how long the wig will last.  Take your time with your wig search and don’t be afraid to ask loads of questions and shop around until you find the right one for you.

Cancer support centres will have a list of local wig suppliers but I just did a google search which brought up stores near me with reviewer ratings.  Based on this and other recommendations I received I narrowed my search down to 3 stores (I only made it to two in the end though).  I first tried the Hair Club in Donnybrook who have a great selection of wigs and accessories.  Being totally honest, my first visit here wasn’t a very pleasant one.  This surprised me because I had been here previously with mum as this is where she got her wig.  One of us may just have been having an off day but for some reason that I can’t quiet put my finger on I felt an impatient vibe – as if I was being awkward wanting to try a few different styles and not finding what I was looking for during my appointment which made me upset.  I have been back since to buy a hair piece and had a better experience so I would still recommend them for their range if nothing else.

The second store I visited was Snips (which was on Middle Abbey street but has since moved to the Beacon in Sandyford).  My experience here was totally different – Laura runs the shop and has had personal experience of hair loss and wearing a wig so is very understanding and so friendly, helpful and kind and she made the experience so pleasant.  Laura understood what I was looking for and ordered in some additional pieces she thought would suit.  I would highly recommend taking a visit to Snips and I found Laura amazing.

Laura in Snips

The third store I had on my list which I know is very popular is Roches, however I had already found a wig in Snips so didn’t look any further.  In hindsight I probably should have had a look anyway – just to be sure and would recommend having a look in a few stores so you are 100% confident you have chosen the right Wig for you.

If you are opting for the cold cap I would recommend still going and looking at wigs and hair pieces but don’t rush into buying one.  I bought one which I have never used.  I will hang on to it for a little longer until I get the all clear (just to be sure!) and will probably donate it.  Some shops will hold a wig for you if you select one that you like so it’s there for you if and when you need it.  Many people using the cold cap won’t need any form of head cover but I have felt like I needed a little extra coverage the last few weeks.  A hair piece was a better option for me as it gives me the coverage without having to wear a full wig (it just sits on top of my own hair).

First night out with my hairpiece

Whether you go au natural, opt for a scarf, a wig or a hair piece it will all take a little getting used to.  I remember the day I bought my wig and wore it home, I felt everyone was looking at me and knew I was wearing a wig.  I still feel the same with the hair piece but the truth is, no matter how odd we feel ourselves, people are too consumed with their own thoughts to bat an eye and the paranoia is mostly in our heads.  I’ve also noticed when I see others with wigs on /trying on wigs I’ve thought they look amazing on them but looked desperate on me and likewise I’ve seen some women rocking gorgeous scarves which I felt I could never carry off.  So I think we need to try our best to be kinder to ourselves and rock whichever look we opt for with confidence while remembering how fabulous we are (wink emoji!)!!!!

Bye Bye Chemo!

At over a week and a half since my last chemo treatment I’m later than usual with this update.  To be honest it’s been a challenging couple of weeks and I just haven’t had the energy or brain power to write anything.  We’ve had a busy few weeks – Adrian had a lot of job interviews and we’ve been awake a lot with the boys – we’ve had a week of dodgy stomachs followed by a week of bed wetting accidents and we’re now into our 2nd week of Aaron coughing through the night.  And somewhere in the middle of all that I finished my last round of chemo last Tuesday! Yay!!!!!

It’s great knowing the chemo is done but lack of sleep and tiredness can be so draining and mood altering that at a time I feel I should be celebrating I’m consumed with mixed feelings.  I’ve found myself on a bit of an emotional roller-coaster the last week or so, more so than at any other stage of my treatment and I’ve found that tough.  The good news is, while I’m still totally knackered, I’m starting to feel more like myself again.

I’m so relieved and feel so blessed to have gotten through my chemo journey with only minor complaints.  It didn’t consume my life like I had initially feared.  Thankfully, while the boys know I’ve been in and out to the doctor and getting medicine to make me better, they haven’t had to tiptoe around me because I’m sick – their daily routine has stayed the same and life has been able to continue fairly normally which has been great.

Now that my chemo is over I’ve found myself thinking more about the next steps – 20 rounds of Radium is next and I find out next week whether they will be before or after Christmas.  I know these will really zap my energy and the after effects will leave me feeling fatigued for months after treatment but I’m prepared for that and ok with it.  The part I’ve been dreading from the outset has been what will follow that.

As my Cancer was hormone receptor positive (meaning Oestrogen was helping the cancer grow) very soon I will start 5 years of hormone tablets to block my Oestrogen levels, amongst other side effects this will bring about menopausal symptoms.  I hate that at a time when I am supposedly “better” and finished my treatment these tablets are likely to cause weight gain, acne, hot flushes (which have already started – I’ve needed to change my top during the night every night this week), increased facial hair (I have enough already thanks!!!), lower my energy levels and top of my fear list – affect my mood! Adrian can’t wait (lol), we joke about me being a fat, hairy, spotty, sweaty, moody, still slightly bald mess!! (for better or worse!!!)

But on a more serious note, I have experienced my change in mood the first few days after each chemo session when I’ve felt more irritable than usual and I hate the thought of not being in control of my emotions.  I know it’s so silly worrying about “what might be” but it’s hard not to let these thoughts creep in and egged on by my lack of sleep this is the direction my mind was wandering in last week.

The boys haven’t helped with my sleep but they’re not totally to blame – I’m still really struggling with it myself and lying awake when everyone else is sleeping.  You know you’ve hit a low when you send your son to school wearing two pairs of underpants because, in a fatigue induced fog, you put one pair on over another (Sorry Alec – that’s what you get for not dressing yourself though!!!).

I finally gave in last week and asked for sleeping tablets.  I was told to start off with a half one 1st to see how I got on, however the tablets were so small I found it hard to break one in half so I ended up taking a full one and went to bed expecting to drift into a blissful night of unconscious oblivion! Instead, however, I tossed and turned lying awake most of the night – arrrgggghhhhhh!!!!! I couldn’t believe I still didn’t manage to sleep and it really played with my head for a few days.  I had my first couch day since I started my treatment where I just lay around for the day and I hated the feeling so I decided to pick myself up, dust myself down and get myself going again.

Firstly – I decided to stop worrying about what “might happen” and focus on the present, I’ll deal with the rest if and when I need to.  Next, I decided now was the time to create new habits / routines for myself. Adrian started a new job this week (the boys and myself are very proud of him!).  It’s going to be a fun few weeks settling into a new routine but it’s a perfect time to create some new habits.  Getting into a new more structured routine could be exactly what I need and could end up being the best thing for a good night’s sleep so fingers crossed!

Exhausted or not we’ve still managed to fit a lot of fun into the last few weeks (especially the boys) thanks to my AMAZING friends and family! I am so grateful to everyone who has helped with the boys over the last few months.  Little breaks to recharge the batteries have been worth their weight in gold (for both myself and Adrian).

It seems so long ago now but the weekend after my 5th session the boys headed down to Tipp where Granny and Auntie Mia were on entertainment duty for the weekend! With a day of lashing rain on the Saturday this was no mean feat but they did an excellent job!!

Baking “Monster Cupcakes”

This allowed Mammy and daddy to have a much needed rest, a night at the cinema, a few nice walks and I even fit in a swim in the sea (after not being in the sea all summer, I wait until October to have a dip!!!)


The following weekend we all headed up north for Grandad Martins birthday party. Adrian and myself were shattered and with four of us in the one room neither of us managed much sleep but we had a nice forest walk on Saturday afternoon to blow the cobwebs away before the birthday celebrations.  We all went out for a lovely meal and had a great night.

McGarrys minus cousin Molly.
My two party animals had striped down to their vests by the time this was taken!

Weekend number 3 was the bank holiday and the last weekend before my final chemo session.  We had tickets for the Counting Crows and the boys headed back to down to Tipp to Granny and Grandads.  This meant Adrian and I had a night out without a 6am wakeup call and the boys had another fun filled weekend.


Mum and my fabulous cousin Mary brought the boys to the cinema and Marys gorgeous and talented daughter Katie kept them entertained for hours making loads of gorgeous arts and crafts.

The day after my last chemo session was Halloween, the boys were all “paparazzied” out after a weekend with their Grandad so I didn’t manage to get any decent photos but we had a fun night with a little trick or treating, fireworks and bonfire.

Thanks Katie Palmer for making my mask!!! xx

I’ve given up on clipping the front of my hair back to cover my bald patches.  With a little extra “shedding” each week I got to the stage about three weeks ago that I just didn’t feel comfortable my “comb over” was doing the trick so I ended up buying a hair piece (which was thankfully covered by my health insurance).  Rather than a full wig, this clips on to the crown of my head (like clip in hair extensions) and gives me the coverage I need.

I still feel strange wearing it and feel that it looks obvious and fake but it does the job and has definitely helped me feel more comfortable when out and about. Hopefully I will get more confident in it with time because I’ll be wearing it for a good while yet while my “new hair” grows in – it is great for covering the greys though!!!!

Wearing my new hair piece. Excuse the selfie posing!!

I still haven’t lost all my eyelashes but they have thinned a lot and the ones on my right eye are looking particularly patchy and hanging quiet low (like individual false lashes on their last legs).  I could still lose them even though I’ve finished my treatment so just playing a waiting game at the moment to see whether they hang in there or not.  I’ve stopped wearing mascara to try give them a break and have started using a recommended homemade remedy to help with re-growth (equal measures of aloe vera, vitamin E oil and castor oil) which I’ve been rubbing on the roots of my lashes.

People had said that the lack of lashes isn’t really noticeable once you wear eyeliner.  Now that I’m not wearing mascara you can’t really see my eyelashes but the eyeliner does create an illusion of lashes.  At the moment I’m using Maybelline Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner in black for just over my lash line.  I’ve also started using a black soft kohl pencil just below the lash line –you need to pull the lid up a little to fill this line in and it’s not for anyone squeamish about their eyes but I find it makes a big difference for filling in any gaps. I use a black or dark eyeshadow for the waterline on my lower lashes.

As part of my “taking back control of what I can” I’ve decided to set myself some challenges.  Number one on the list is to tackle my fear of heights.  I worked at 40,000 Ft for over 5 years and have jumped out of a plane but I actually have a really bad fear of heights.  It seems like such an irrational fear (ok not the jumping out of the plane piece) but I used to get freaked out on the stairs up to the attic.  I hate that my mind can have this control over me.  So, I decided I wanted to take back the control and face my fear head on.  My first challenge was the Pyramid steps on Killiney Hill.

View from the top of the Pyramid steps

For those who know the monument (picture at the top of the post) it’s not high at all, but my first time trying to stand on the top step was a shaky one with knees slightly bent and needing help up and down!! My fear kicks in when I have nothing to hold on to and with such a small circumference on the top it had me totally out of my comfort zone.  I’m glad to say I have now progressed to being able to go up and down unaided, doing 360 degree turns on the top and even standing on one foot (on a very windy day).  This would be a piece of cake to most people but to me it’s a little triumph and I’m now looking for my next challenge.  I’m planning on working my way up some abseiling and a zip line course (next year!).

So all in all it’s been a tiring couple of weeks but I’ve survived my chemo battle fairly unscathed and I’m now ready for my next battle.  Then it’s on to getting fitter and stronger and creating more challenges for myself!  For anyone who watched Britain’s “Stand up to Cancer” programme last week, it was a tough watch and it just made me realise how lucky I am.  I’m going to finish up with Liam Gallagher’s “eloquent” piece from the night:

“Screw you Cancer

Take your pain, take your suffering and do one!

This isn’t just some charity love in, it’s a fight

You’re fighting for your mum, your dad, your brothers, your sisters, your sons, your daughters, even your mates

You’re fighting for all of us

You don’t win a fight without throwing a few punches

This is the start

It’s payback time for all the pain so at one point soon we’ll look back and say we gave cancer a good kicking!”

Lesley Curry’s story

Lesley and her husband are both friends of my brother.  Lesley has just come out the other side of breast cancer treatment herself and has been in contact with me (all the way from New Zealand where they are currently living) since seeing the blog and has been a great support.

Lesley has shared her brave and heart-warming story and some great tips below.

My cancer was ER/PR + and HER2 negative.  I had 16 rounds of chemo but only completed 14 due to nerve damage and then 25 rounds of radiation.  I’m now on Tamoxifen (hormone inhibitor meds) for 10 years and it’s going ok.  It’s a long road but I’m glad I caught it when I did.  Even though it was tough there were a lot of positives from it.  It woke me up to what’s important in life – my husband Steve, my daughter and my family.  Not that I didn’t think that before but I did have a tendency to get wrapped up in work sometimes!  I also met some incredible people and have kept in touch with them – we all went though it together and got to know each other during our chemo sessions.

One of my chemo sessions fell on my daughter Eva’s first birthday.  Everyone in the chemo ward put their hair (and wigs) into Pigtails to honour the little birthday girl.  The nurses were incredible.

I found losing my hair really hard.  My hair was really long so first I cut it into a bob and then got it cut up super short.  I hated the short style though so that night I grabbed a bottle of bubbles, my mum, Steve and Eva and got Steve to shave my head.  We all cried and laughed but I felt much better afterwards and my wig sat better on my head.  All I can say is don’t feel bad for feeling bad about losing your hair.  It may seem small to other people in the grand scheme of things but it’s your identity at the end of the day and I think that’s why I struggled so much with it.

The first day I ventured out with my wig I went into a baby clothes shop where the girls knew me from being a regular.  One of the girls said “Oh your hair looks fab, did you just get it done?” I just said “erm yep” – then she asked for my hairdressers details!

Hints and Tips

I would recommend getting some nice photos taken before starting treatment.  We hired a local photographer to take some family pictures.  For me it was a good kick in the bum to get some nice pictures of us all that weren’t taken on a phone!

During my chemo sessions I found loose clothing that was loose enough to roll up my arm was best as my arm would swell with all the fluid and tight sleeved tops were really uncomfortable.  Shirts were great.  I used a little hot water bottle on my arm to keep warm.

I was allergic to the anti-nausea meds so struggled to keep even water down for my first four sessions, I found that a splash of Ribena helped!

The best product I’ve found is called “Colour Wow”.  It’s a mineral powder for brushing onto grey hairs but I use it on my brows.  It’s so much quicker and easier to use than pencil.  I use this every day to fill in the gaps – it comes in numerous different colours and you can get it online.

Invest in a decent eye pencil – if you end up with no brows you’ll need something to define them but the Wow is great for filling them in.  I found automatic pencils by Estée Lauder and Elizabeth Arden the best.