“The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness” Sakyong Mipham

I have started trying to practice more Mindfulness and like to stop and take a few minutes when I’m out for my walks.  “According to scientists, on average our mind is wandering almost half of our waking hours.  We are constantly thinking about events that happened in the past, or might happen in the future, rather than attending to what’s happening now”.  “One Second Ahead – Enhance your performance at work with mindfulness” Rasmus Hougaard.

We are constantly on the go, Mindfulness is about taking some time out to observe our thinking, emotions and behaviours.  People who are “too busy” to practice Mindfulness are more than likely the ones who would benefit most from it.  Taking time to pause, helps us become more aware of what drives our behaviours and how we manage stress.  Research has shown that this makes us more effective, creative and less stressed.

You don’t have to go into a deep state of meditation to practice Mindfulness, it can be as simple as being present and in the moment, having awareness of your surroundings, your thoughts and your emotions.  I’m so lucky to be surrounded by amazing views on my walks but you can be mindful anywhere – even doing the ironing!!

A mindfulness exercise I particularly like due to its simplicity and ease to use anytime, anywhere is the “Take 3 exercise”: Notice 3 things you see, 3 things you hear, 3 things you feel, then 2 things you see, 2 things you feel, 2 things you feel and finally, 1 thing you see, 1 thing you hear and 1 thing you feel.  I love pausing and taking time to do this exercise at different times during the day.

Battle of the Grey: Root Touch ups

Pre-treatment I relied on L’Oréal’s “Magic Retouch Hairspray” to get me from one hair appointment to the next, however I always found it messy to apply and difficult to control where the spray went.  I didn’t like that the lack of control over the spray with my scalp often ending up covered with dye which I had to tackle with a baby wipe afterwards.  I also found it left a “sticky” feeling in my hair.  Once I started treatment I wanted to minimise any possible irritation to the scalp so even though the L’Oréal spray is approved by the cold cap company I opted for one of the “eye shadow” root touch ups instead.  Up until recently I used John Frieda’s “Root Blur” which I got in Boots. I found this did a good job and liked that it was so much easier to apply to specific areas and didn’t leave the same sticky feeling the spray did.  I ran out of this recently so purchased “Color WOW root cover up” which at about €36 is definitely more expensive but it has excellent reviews and was recommended to me (there is information online of Irish stockist or it can be ordered online).   I did find this really good, however in fairness to the product by the time I bought it my greys had gone way beyond the normal root regrowth stage and it was becoming a big job to try and cover them all.

Color WOW root cover up

I still use WOW for areas around my face and specific areas needing a touch up but for the crown of my head I have gone full circle and am back to L’Oréal’s Magic Retouch Hairspray.  I have found this covers the longer greys better on the crown of my head better and as I’m now clipping the front of my hair back for my “comb over” the things that annoyed me about it before (dying of the scalp and stickiness) are not as much of an issue.

L’Oreal Magic Retouch

The Final Countdown

As I now only have one chemo session left I think it’s time for another song – this time I’m humming the chorus to Europe’s “The Final Countdown”!!

“It’s the final countdown, do-do do doo, do-do do dooo, do-do doo the final countdown…….”

We played this song on our wedding day just before I walked down the aisle – it was the song to warn Adrian I had arrived and if he wanted to leg it this was his last chance (lol)!!  I wasn’t to know at the time that a year and a half later it would have a completely different meaning for me, but yet again it’s marking a good milestone, my next chemo session will be my last one (hopefully for good).

I’m not done yet, my cancer battle is nowhere near over but I’ve been so blessed with how the last few months have gone. Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of days that it’s been a struggle and it’s been so tempting to stay snuggled up in bed, especially the first week after treatment when everything takes a little extra effort but I have to say (I don’t want to jinx myself before the last session) but I really haven’t found it as bad as I expected.  I’ve been so lucky that all my side effects have been minor complaints, I know not everyone is as lucky and there are so many brave women and men out there fighting a much tougher battle every day and I respect them so much.  I nearly feel like a fraud who doesn’t deserve all the amazing support and praise I have received.

Trying to keep myself busy and getting out of the house has really helped me.  I love meeting friends for coffee (or Prosecco!!) and catching up with the gossip, I’m just a nightmare at making plans but when someone else gives me the nudge I’m always glad.  We had a lovely time with friends last weekend  where 6 kids played happily together, I got cuddles from a gorgeous 4 month old and 6 adults had a lovely relaxing evening catching up (thanks Brian for the yummy dinner!)

Mum was up for a night for my “slow weekend” (the 1st one after chemo) again this time round.  We managed a bite to eat and the cinema on Sat evening and met with my brother and his partner for brunch on Sunday, followed by an obligatory walk on the pier and Teddies Ice-cream (I’ve never eaten so much ice-cream in my life!).

I’m torn at the moment between on one hand trying to enjoy and make the most of the little moments and treat myself when I’m feeling well on the other hand trying to be healthy and eat well.  The weekends mum is up definitely don’t bode well for the healthy option – mum is a believer in enjoying life and that definitely includes eating plenty of chocolate!!! She is a feeder – picture Fr Teds Mrs Doyle pushing chocolate and deserts instead of cups of tea – “go on, go on, go on”.  And there’s not a pick on her! My sister and myself used to think we were safe because it was in the genes, then realised, no, she’s just a crazy woman who never stops and is always on the go and we love her for it.  If I have her zest for life in another 30 years I’ll be a happy woman!!!!

It’s been a busy time for parties, unfortunately Alec has been the one doing the partying not us! He had 4 invites for one weekend two weeks ago! As there’s only a year and a half between Aaron and himself it’s a tough one trying to explain to Aaron why Alec is going to all these parties but he isn’t going to any so Aaron any myself have started going on dates together while Alec heads to the parties with daddy.

We still get the initial tears but thankfully they’ve changed to laughter and we’ve had some great fun together.  It’s actually been lovely to spend some one on one time together and I’m looking forward to some dates with Alec when Aaron starts hitting the party scene!


We finished off the weekend with some baking on Sunday nothing too exciting – as I’m trying to be someway good so we made some protein balls I saw on Instagram @rejuenatinghealthwithnicole. I also tried a couple of recipes from Roz Purcell’s book “Half Hour Hero” (with 450g of chocolate in one of the recipes I don’t think it can pass as one of my healthy choices even if the chocolate was dark chocolate and had an Avocado in it!) The boys had some good fun making them and sampling the ingredients though!

To anyone struggling through this my biggest piece of advice is to exercise – that doesn’t mean hit the gym for a workout or run 10K, it means just do whatever little you can manage.  Getting out of the house can sometimes be the hardest part.  For me it’s about knowing the difference between challenging myself in a healthy way without over doing it and trying not to use my treatment as an excuse to sit about on days I’m just feeling a little sluggish and lazy. I always feel so much better after getting out for a walk and fresh air (even if it’s a slow, short walk) and never regret getting out of the house once I’ve made the effort.

I had my first experience of Acupuncture two weeks ago.  For someone who is not a fan of needles I was surprisingly excited about the session and hadn’t even considered the fact that I was now voluntarily about to have a number of needles stuck in me for relaxation! The needles are obviously a lot thinner than the ones I’ve become accustomed to recently – more like pins really. I did feel the needles going in (as you would expect!) but it was more a pin prick than anything else and there was no pain once inserted.

My main aim for the session was to help with my sleep (or lack of). I had two needles inserted in my ankles, two just below the knees and two in each wrist.  Again I hadn’t considered the logistics of the needle placement – all my jeans are skinny jeans but luckily I was wearing an ever so slightly looser pair so just about managed to yank them up to my knees (with a little difficulty) – I was a bit paranoid how the blood circulation (or lack of) around the knees might affect the session, lol!  After the needles were in place I was left to relax to some soothing music for about half an hour or so.

I’m still struggling with my sleep, it had improved a bit but the last few nights haven’t been great again – I’m putting this down to the pre and post treatment steroids and two little boys awake with dodgy stomachs for now.  I was told one session wouldn’t be enough so I’ve scheduled another session for next week, I’ve also gotten a bit better with my Mindspace App and will hopefully continue to see improvement.  Magnesium is good for sleep and some good natural sources I would have in my diet are avocado, spinach, dark chocolate and almonds.  I also just bought a Magnesium supplement for an extra boost of it for now.

I’m due back in for my 2nd emBrowdery session next week.  My eyebrows have faded as expected but so far are lasting better than I thought they would after the 1st session.  At the moment they look a lot more natural when I have no makeup on but I need to top them up when I have my makeup on so I’ll be interested to see the difference after the 2nd session.  This is where I need to be a bit more certain about the colour and shape I want.  The picture below shows the comparison with one eyebrow untouched and the other filled in a bit.

I can’t believe it’s been 3 months since I have dyed my hair so at the moment between my bald patches and all the grey I am all set for a great Halloween look!!!! I’ve mentioned some of the root touch up products in previous posts but have included some photos in an updated post in the beauty section Battle of the Greys: Root Touch ups.

I came across a quote from C.S. Lewis last week that I love.  It really encapsulates how I like to at least try and view life and deal with what it throws at me. It also echoes a lot of the positive psychology I studied in my college course.

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

I know it’s easier said than done and is not for everyone, in particular when dealing with something like cancer because unfortunately not everyone is fortunate to have the control to change the ending. But I do believe that for those things that are beyond our control the one thing we can decide is the attitude with how we deal with them. For me this is more how I like to lead my life in general, for all the other crap life throws at you, because unfortunately cancer doesn’t make you immune from day to day challenges and obviously there are plenty of people facing daily challenges and struggles without a cancer diagnosis. For me it’s about trying to accept what is beyond my control and focus my energy on the things I can control or influence and searching for the positive, opportunity or lesson in every circumstance.

Our mind has a vast potential to be high performing, happy and kind, even in stressful situations.  My physical health is largely in the hands of doctors, however I have control over how much I exercise, what I eat and my emotional, mental and spiritual health. I’m reading more on the benefits of Mindfulness at the moment and trying to incorporate it into my day as much as I can.  I’ve written a bit more about it with a simple exercise I like to use in a Mindfulness blog in the Health and Wellbeing Category.  I like to remind myself of the ancient proverb “’Mind your thoughts, as they become words; Mind your words, as they become actions, Mind your actions, as they become habits; Mind your habits, as they shape your life”

Or as the very wise bear, Winnie the Pooh said:

“When life throws you a rainy day, play in the puddles”

“There is something you must always remember.  You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and stronger than you think.”

Four down, two to go!

I’m now 3 days post my 4th chemo session.  My consultant has warned me that these next few sessions might hit me a little harder so I might need to take it easy.  As after my other sessions I am feeling lethargic and dehydrated with a constant hungry but slight queasy feeling at the moment (dangerous junk food territory!).  Everything takes a little extra effort but beside that it’s all good so far and I’m taking each day as it comes and continuing as normal as possible.  The few weeks since my last session have flown by. The bone pain and bad nausea stayed away again which was great, so really trying to get rid of a head cold was my biggest complaint.   It feels like it’s been a busy few weeks and luckily I’ve been feeling well enough to keep active and do the things I want to do although I haven’t been planning any big party nights out!!

Alec’s first day of school went really well.  I had a little nausea on the morning and wasn’t feeling 100% but it was nothing that effected the excitement of the morning so I was delighted that both Adrian and myself were able to bring him to school and collect him.  We all did really well and there were no tears (Adrian and myself were very proud of ourselves!) My little boy seems to have grown up so much in just a week (he told me when I picked him up from school that he was a big boy now and didn’t need to hold my hand anymore!!) Emmmm, excuse me Mr! It is way too soon for that carry on!!! So I told him he still had to hold my hand because Mammy still needs him to mind her!! He thankfully obliged – for now!

Adrian took the boys up north for the weekend to Grandad Martins so they headed off for their boys weekend in the afternoon after Alec finished his 1st day in school.  It was a bit hectic getting them all sorted and out the door and I was wrecked after the excitement of the morning so part of me was glad to see them go so I could sit down and relax for a little but I also knew I was going to miss the little blighters – mammy time is always so bitter sweet and tinged with a little guilt!!  Mum came up to keep me company for the weekend just incase I got too lonely.

We had a lovely relaxing weekend and it was just what the doctor ordered! The weather was on our sides and we did lots of reading in the garden and a couple of walks.  I was glad that I was feeling well enough to go out for a bite to eat on Saturday evening (followed by Teddies Ice-cream and walk on Dun Laoghaire Pier afterwards).  We managed Fish and Chips and more Ice-cream on the Pier the following day before mum headed home. Thanks Mum!

My brother had his birthday 2 weeks ago (I’d slag him over his age only he’s a year and a half younger than me, so he’s still only a young one, lol).  We all headed down home to Thurles for it.  We just stayed in and had a lovely meal and a few drinks.  It was the first time in a while that we had all been home together so it was lovely but I did feel tired after it.

I hit a bit of a brick wall last Friday.  Adrian and I had been shopping getting some clothes for the boys.  We grabbed a sandwich in a cafe for lunch and Adrian asked if I was ok because I seemed tired.  I felt fine and thought he was over reacting – all I had done was sit back and relax in my seat.  As we sat there though I did start to feel a little off (a slight queasiness and tired).  This took me by surprise because week 3 is supposed to be my good week when I’m feeling back to normal but in hindsight I might have overdone it a bit in an attempt to fit as much in as I could in while I was feeling well.

I had been due to attend my friends Hen party at the weekend.  I had been really hopeful that I’d be able to make it when I realised the date fell at the end of my 3rd week and I knew I should be feeling fine but after the few quiet drinks at home the previous week for my brothers birthday I knew that even if I was sensible and took it easy it would still take it out of me.  On a weekend when I was due to be hydrating before my next session a hen party probably wasn’t the most sensible option (especially with that mad party crowd!!).  I hated missing the fun and not being there to help Jo celebrate, especially when I won’t make the big day because of how my treatment dates fall but I’m sure we’ll use it as an excuse to get together to celebrate again soon!!  It helped a little to know I had made the right decision when the tiredness kicked in on Friday evening but it’s still crap knowing I missed a great weekend!

The tiredness on Friday probably wasn’t helped by the fact that Aaron (our youngest) had an unsettled few nights last week.  Adrian was up with him but I’m such a light sleeper, so that coupled by my own sleep issues meant my sleep was very broken.  Probably spurred on by the lack of sleep but last week was one of those testing ones all parents experience from time to time!  Let’s just say we might need to replace the bottom step on our stairs soon if it continues to get this much use! By Saturday morning, if I wasn’t trying to be so careful to hang onto my hair I definitely would have been pulling a few more out and I’d say Adrian gained a few more grey hairs – it was lining up to be one of those days where you wonder if it would be totally unacceptable to open a bottle of wine at 10am!!! (We didn’t of course!!!)

So it was perfect timing for my brother and his partner to offer to take the boys for a night!  The boys had a fun packed 24 hours with their Uncle and Auntie,  Mammy and Daddy managed a wild night out (Early bird, 2 drinks and tucked up on the couch by 8pm!!!).

The next day, feeling slightly more refreshed, we were ready to pick up our “angels” and enjoy hugs and kisses after missing the little monsters!!The picture below shows them having great fun having a formula one race courtesy of YouTube POV (Point of View) and some very creative props!! Thank you Uncle Mikey and Auntie Leanne!!!!

Exercise is really important to me at the moment, especially when the first two weeks after treatment feel like that hungry stage of coming around from a hangover when all you want is to stuff your face with comfort and junk food!!!! I’ve managed to keep up my walks.  The running has unfortunately taken a back seat for now but I think that’s more in my head as I had let it slip before my diagnosis and haven’t been able to motivate myself to get back into it properly at the moment.  In the meantime I’ve been doing loads of hills and steps to get the heart rate going! I’ve also started Yoga and Pilates in my local gym and really enjoying both.

My sleep still isn’t great, it has generally improved a little, although last night was one of my worst nights in a while.  I bought a new herbal tea which was recommended by one of the Oncology nurses “Niks Tea, Irish Brew: Bedtime Kiss”, drank that, put the phone away, went to bed early, read for a while and did my Headspace sleep mindfulness but I could just feel the restlessness brewing and knew it wasn’t going to be a good night.

Being honest though I haven’t been great at keeping up my Headspace sleep mindfulness practice but have set it as one of my goals for the next few weeks to try and dedicate some time to it.  I had another App recommendation to me “Insight Timer”.  Unlike Headspace which has a monthly fee, Insight Timer has no charge and is the number 1 free meditation with 10,000 meditations from top British meditation teachers.  I haven’t used it yet but think it’s definitely worth a try.   I am also planning on giving acupuncture a try and have scheduled an appointment through Purple House Cancer support centre in Bray for a few weeks’ time.  Fingers crossed for some more zzzzzs.

I have already said I want to take any positives I can from this experience – one very superficial one for me is that I have finally treated myself to a new set of eyebrows!!! Due to over plucking over the years my eyebrows are a far cry from the bushy brows I sported when I was 15 so I’ve wanted to get Microblading (a form of semi-permanent tattooing) done for a good while to save 10- 15mins every time I do my makeup but with crèche fees and a mortgage it was a luxury I couldn’t really justify.  So, once I was diagnosed and found out I would need Chemotherapy I decided sod it -I deserved it and was going to get it done.

I’ve mentioned in one of my earlier posts how besides a couple of tears after my biopsy I really haven’t gotten upset over my diagnosis.  I did however ball my eyes out when I found out I had left it too late to get Microblading done on my eyebrows.  Tell me I have cancer – no problem (well not quite, but I was prepared for and accepted my diagnosis), tell me I can’t get my eyebrows done – I have an emotional meltdown!!, it just hadn’t dawned on me that it wouldn’t be an option.  As it turns out Microblading breaks the skin and cannot be done if you are about to start treatment in the following 5 weeks due to a slower ability to heal & an increased risk of infection.

I did however recently find out about emBrowdery which is a less invasive option which does not break the skin and can be done during treatment (with a letter from your consultant) – so light at the end of the tunnel, I now have an option which will help me maintain the illusion of my eyebrows when I lose them due to the chemotherapy.  The following link is to a blog with more information on both and my experience with my first emBrowdery session: “Microblading and emBrowdery“.

I’m missing a lot in work at the moment so have been trying to do what I can to keep myself challenged while I’m off, so in the last week I have attended a my 3rd day on an Emotional Intelligence course, a Masterclass on Resilience and I have been able to link into a Leadership Masterclass in work via live streaming. I got my college results & was delighted with them so am now a qualified Personal, Leadership and Executive coach (if anyone would like some coaching!!).

I have decided to delve a bit deeper into the wellbeing side of things and am planning on doing a Diploma in Mental Health and Wellbeing Coaching while I am off.  I’ve just finished reading an inspirational book by Andrea Hayes http://www.andreahayes.ie/ about her battle with chronic pain and her wellness and daily management of her illness.  I am about start another book of hers “My life Goals Journal” which is filled with practical wellness strategies to help you identify your goals from journaling, diet, exercise, mindfulness and sleep.  The book provides space for monthly journaling and helpful exercises and some great inspirational quotes to help keep you motivated along the way! Some good ones for anyone who is struggling or having a crap day:

“I don’t have to take this day all at once, one breath at a time, one moment at a time, one minute at a time”

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step” (Martin Luther King, Jr)

“A problem shared is a problem halved”

“Turn your wounds into wisdom.  You don’t become what you want, you become what you believe” (Oprah)

“If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it” (Muhammad Ali)

Microblading and emBrowdery


Microblading is a semi-permanent tattooing technique that creates hair like strokes to fill in sparse or thinning brows. Microblading can also be referred to as Phi Brows or eyebrow embroidery (not to be confused with emBrowdery below!).  Microblading, unlike tattooing, is not in the deep layer of the skin, but more on the surface.   It aims to give you an effortless full brow by creating natural looking strokes much like original hairs.  Using a microblade, the colour is implanted into the superficial dermis of your skin.  The microblade has a row of tiny blades enabling the specialist to make bespoke, detailed hair strokes that look like normal eyebrow hairs.   An anaesthetic is applied before and during the treatment to decrease any pain or discomfort.

The first session will take about 2 hours and consultants will spend time discussion the shape and colour you would like.  Your average person will need about two sessions – one first session, and then a top up four weeks later.  The top up session will be shorter and take about 1 hour.  The pigment will fade after the 1st session so this second session is used to add further strokes and add a darker pigment if required.

Microblading lasts between 12 -18 months but this will depend on your skin type.  People with slightly more oily skin tend to last around 12 months before needing a top up, but those with normal skin can last up to 18 months.  Your brows will eventually fade away if you don’t continue with top ups and salons I have been in contact with would recommend a top up every 12 months for best results.

I would say the number one thing to do if you’re thinking of getting Microblading done is to do your research and be sure to choose somewhere reputable that you can trust.  When I was doing my research I came across @Julie Davis Permanent Eyebrows Wicklow who is based in Studio LR, Kilcoole. Julie’s clients before and after pictures on her Facebook page look amazing and the reviews are excellent, plus with the added bonus that her rates were slightly cheaper than a couple of other places I had checked out.  For these reasons I had chosen Julie Davis Permanent Eyebrows Wicklow to get my eyebrows done – that is until I discovered I had left it too close to my treatment.  I was ragging I didn’t call and get them done sooner but no point dwelling on that now! Julie is trained in CIDESCO level skin care, has been a tutor of Anatomy and Physiology of skin for 14 years and holds qualifications in skin and diseases and disorders so health and safety comes first for her. Julie was great and sent me on some detailed information on the reason you shouldn’t get Microblading done during Chemo, although as she explains herself, this will vary from one salon to another, see below:

“Regarding Microblading for Cancer patients, there is very little regulation in Ireland, so no hard fast rules.  Training courses in Ireland are mainly in-house accredited, with no examining body overseeing course content, training and assessment. Therefore, many of the SPMU (Semi Permanent Makeup Artists) in Ireland lack in a deep understanding of the skin and it’s healing. Every SPMU artist will have their own view on working with clients prior to and during Chemotherapy.  

I would never take the risk of causing trauma or scarring to the skin during Microblading, or heighten the risk of infection.  This is why personally, I would never Microblade the skin within 5 weeks of Chemo and for 6 months after.  The skin is constantly regenerating itself, and regeneration of the outer layer (the Epidermis) takes approximately 4 weeks.  So when the skin is cut with a Microblade, or anything else, it can take a full 4 weeks before it is healed.  As we age, the process of regeneration slows down, so healing can take 5 – 6 weeks.  (That’s why the best thing you can do for aged skin is to exfoliate, to encourage the renewal process to speed up, bringing fresh new skin to the surface!)

It’s not only our skin that’s constantly regenerating itself, our whole body is. All of our cells in our body are constantly dividing, to make new cells, and the older ones are then destroyed.  Sometimes during cell division, the cells mutate. It’s normally not an issue, as the body can recognise it, and kill of the mutated cells. But sometimes, the body doesn’t notice the mutations, or does notice, but can’t do anything about it.  In this case, the mutated cells are free to rapidly divide and multiply, and this is what we call ‘Cancer’.

Chemotherapy is introduced to attack these fast growing cells.  Unfortunately, Chemo doesn’t differentiate between our ‘bad’ fast growing cells, and our ‘good’ fast growing cells – ie our skin, hair and nails.  So it attacks these too.  The result is that our hair can fall out, our nails become weak and our skin regenerates a lot more slowly, it’s protective barrier has broken down and is more open to infection.

 As our skin regenerates more slowly during this time, any wounds will take longer to heal.  This, along with the reduction in our White Blood Cells, can leave the area open to infection, and slower healing.  The available WBC (white blood cells) of the body are needed elsewhere for healing during this time.

After Chemotherapy, it takes a long time for the skin to return to it’s original state.  I don’t recommend Microblading for up to 6 months after Chemo”.  



I contacted Up to My Eyes in Greystones, Co Wicklow 2 weeks ago to check their policy in relation to Microblading during chemotherapy and it was only then that I discovered they offer alternative option – emBrowdery which is suitable to have done during chemotherapy.

emBrowdery was introduced to Ireland in 2013 by Up To My Eyes.  Like Microblading, emBrowdery aims to create realistic hairs in your brows to create the perfect shape for your face. However, there is no cutting of the skin with Embrowdery.  It is based on the fact that when you pluck or thread your eyebrows you create tiny holes in the skin but there is no scaring or scabbing so it is the most natural form – hence why it is safe to do during treatment. emBrowdery is a method whereby fine strokes are penetrated into the skin for a hair-like finish. The appearance is natural, subtle and blends with or without hair along the brow bone.

EmBrowdery technicians use a manual hand tool and a set of several fine needles to dip into a pigment and then apply to the skin.  The tool is lightly placed on the surface of the skin and gently moved forward and up to flow pigment into the skin. Individual hairs are drawn on.  The colour only penetrates the very top layer of the epidermis.  The procedure is virtually painless and is more like plucking or threading. The side effects are just a little redness around the area which fades after a few hours.

Within a week of your first treatment the colour will fade significantly and over the next four weeks it can continue to fade as much as 30-50%.  This is because the pigment is being “carried” by your body from the top layer to the bottom layer of your epidermis.  This means you have the option to adapt your shape and colour in between sessions.

After a month the second phase of emBrowdery is carried out, the colour will fade again after his session but to a much lesser degree.  Another month later the final session is carried out.  At this stage your eyebrows become semi-permanent. I was advised my eyebrows should last 12 months but this will vary between clients due to differences in skin types for some they may only last 6 months.  This is a risk I’m willing to take at the moment but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for 12 months and I always have the option to change to Microblading for my top ups further down the line.

My emBrowdery experience (so far!)

Cringing over these up close photos!!

My eyebrows without makeup prior to emBrowdery

It’s only been a day since my appointment so this is just the starting point but I will do a post update after each session to show the progress and final results!!  Jurgita looked after me yesterday and I have to say she was just lovely, so nice and professional and really took time and care when doing my eyebrows.  There is a consultation beforehand which takes up to an hour and then the emBrowdery itself takes about another hour.  Mine ended up taking about 90minutes, but it was nice to know Jurgita was taking the time needed rather than rushing and trying to fit it into to a time slot.  It wasn’t a painful process – a bit of stinging at the most.  There is a little after care for the next few days but nothing major – I need to avoid getting water on my eyebrows and have a cream to rub into them 3-4 times a day for the next 5 days. I am happy with the results, I do think the hair strokes look natural and considering how little was there beforehand I think it’s amazing that I now have full brows.

My eyebrows just after emBrowdery

I’m still trying to decide whether I will change the shape a bit or not but the beauty is that I have the option to do that if I want.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had eyebrows without my makeup on so it looked very strange when I took my makeup off last night so that will take a bit of getting used to.  It has definitely cut down on my makeup application time though which is always a bonus! Fingers crossed for a happy final result!!

Round 3 – Half way there!

As a Bon Jovi fan I couldn’t let this milestone pass without a bit of “Living on a Prayer” so here it goes, feel free to sing along!!

“Wo-oo, we’re half way there

Wo-oo, livin’ on a prayer

Take my hand and we’ll make it I swear

Wo-oo, livin’ on a prayer”

So, the run up to round 3 was pretty good.  The bone pain didn’t intensify to the same extent after round 2 as the 1st round and I didn’t need to take my anti-nausea tablets.  I didn’t get away scot free though, I did end up needing that medication for the…ahem “blockage” spotted in the scan. Realising 3 days in I had accidently been taking triple the dose of said medication resulted in an interesting few days!!! I also got a tickly cough this time round, which really kicked off at night and kept me awake which wasn’t fun but it thankfully eased off after a week.  I’m a very light sleeper, I suffered badly from insomnia with both my pregnancies and could count on both hands the number of nights my 3 and 4 year olds have both slept through the night so I am no stranger to a bad night’s sleep and feeling tired but I’m really struggling with it at the moment.  I’ve downloaded the “Mindspace” app which was recommended by my consultant.  I’m hoping practicing some mindfulness to help me get into a better headspace and starting a better bedtime routine will help ease me into a better sleeping pattern.

I felt like I had more energy this time round which I was very grateful for because we had 3 lots of visitors from Ballymena, Thurles and Manchester.  It only took the Ballymena and Thurles gangs 9 years to come visit us (the things you have to do to get visitors eh?!) but I’ve slagged them enough about that already so will just say how lovely it was to see them! Our Manchester visitors also stayed with us last year so they are off the hook. Their visit coincided with Adrian’s birthday so we headed out for pizza with all the kids and back home for a few drinks and lovely catch up.  It’s such a simple thing (and one I would have previously taken for granted) but it was great to feel well enough to enjoy fun times with special friends, no matter how simple they are (the moments not the friends! lol!)

I had an eventful day last Friday.  I was due in to have bloods taken (which needs to be done before each session) but was also scheduled for a full body bone scan (to check up on a “probably benign” pelvic abnormality spotted in my previous CT scan).  This scan was a Radionuclide Imagining (RNI) scan which involved being injected with a radioactive “tracer” which travels to part of the body requiring examination so this required inserting a catheter into my arm to administer the injection.  My veins decided not to co-operate on the day and it took the nursing staff 8 attempts inserting the catheter before they found a vein they were happy with (I have some lovely bruises along my arm, wrist and hand to prove it) but to my mortification, while they were doing this I ended up fainting!! Even though I’m still not a fan, I’m well used to being prodded and poked with needles at this stage so for that reason I’m blaming the fainting on tiredness (nothing to do with the fact that Adrian was away on a work night the night before so I was home alone with the boys!!) and dehydration and absolutely nothing to do with me wussing out!!!

To avoid exposing the boys to unnecessary radiation I was advised to stay a meter away from them for 24 hours.  I had an RNI in May before my lumpectomy so should have expected this but because that injection was more localised to my right side, at the time I was just advised not to sit too close to them and no cuddles on the right hand side.  It hadn’t dawned on me that as this scan was a full body scan I would need to keep more of a distance (it might have helped if I had read the leaflet they gave me properly!)  Unfortunately the west wing of our house is currently being renovated (!!!!) so avoiding the boys in the house wasn’t really an option.  I am lucky though to have my aunt (my fairy godmother) living close by so I made the most of the situation and stayed with her for the night where we had a lovely evening and enjoyed a takeaway, some wine and a lie in (every cloud!!)


While I’ve continued to lose my hair, the rate and extent of the loss has slowed down.  However, I am getting closer to the stage where I will no longer get away without a wig or hat.  For now I am still getting away with my version of a comb-over (clipping the front of my hair back to give me a little more coverage at the back of my head) but I am very conscious of it especially on windy days.  I discovered on my 3rd session on Monday that the reason for my balding at the back is because there is a bulge with the fit of the cold cap – I am using the small size but unfortunately there is even more bulging with the extra small cap so all we could do this time round to try and avoid further loss was try and tighten the small cap as much possible. This is just the luck of the draw, I’ve seen many women in there who have had more sessions than me and still have a full head of hair so the cold cap is definitely still worth a try for anyone who has the option.  For me, I’ve had extra time with a “full-ish” head of hair and I can still stick on my baseball cap and no one is any the wiser so I’m grateful for that.


The irony hasn’t been lost on me that I’m desperately trying to hang on to some of my hair while willing and even rejoicing the loss of hair elsewhere on the body or the fact that I’m a far cry from lounging by the pool in my bikini the one time no pre-holiday waxing would be required!

I went to a “Look good feel better” workshop last week which was run in the hospital. It’s a free course, facilitated by experienced beauty advisers.  The course gives hints and tips on makeup during treatment and we were also shown some wigs, hair pieces and hat/scarf options. This is a fantastic resource to help women feel a bit more like themselves as they deal with the changes the treatment is having on their skin/hair and general appearance.  Being totally honest, if you are into makeup you might not learn a lot you didn’t already know but coming from a training background I know that the greatest benefit participants often gain from courses is the opportunity to hear about and learn from the experiences of the others in the room.  This definitely made the workshop worthwhile for me, it was so lovely to meet some other women going through similar experiences and sharing hints and tips with each other.  We were also given a lovely gift bag of goodies (below) which was a great bonus.  The Look Good Feel Better website provides more information about the workshops and a list of hospitals where they are run across the country.

I’m currently three days post my 3rd chemo session, and the cough has returned stronger and as annoying, accompanied this time round by a lovely head cold.  It’s a big week in our household with Alec starting school tomorrow so for now I’m just keeping an eye on my temperature and hoping I’m feeling fit and well enough to be able to enjoy being a proud mammy (and an emotional mess on the day!!)

Sabina O’Neill’s story

Sabina O’Neill is also an ex Aer Lingus Cabin crew member, however our paths never crossed in the air as Sabina was Shannon based while I was Dublin based.  Sabina came across my blog through a mutual friend and has kindly agreed to share her incredibly brave story and some hints and tips based on her experience.  I am in awe of her courage, thank you for sharing it with us Sabina!


I was first diagnosed with cancer at 16 years of age a rare tumour called “Soft tissue Ewing’s sarcoma”. I had numerous surgeries and 8 months of extremely strong chemotherapy.  I went into remission in May of 1991 but unfortunately the cancer came back a year later.  I then had more surgery and 6 weeks of radium.

My 3rd cancer diagnosis was in July of 2016 when I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.  I had a full mastectomy and full auxiliary clearance.  I then went onto have 6 rounds of TC chemotherapy and 25 sessions of radium. My tumour was 1.6 cm with a lot of DCIS throughout the breast and hormone positive her2 negative.

A year later I started bleeding and found out through hormonal blood tests that my E2 was extremely high and that my ovaries would have to be removed.  I had an Oopherectomy in April of this year.  I am now waiting for my breast reconstruction which is due to take place in September.


  • Take all medication when instructed to do so, do not wait for symptoms to present themselves.
  • An electric blanket for bone pain especially when taking the NULASTA INJECTIONS.
  • If your mind starts to wander to a dark place which it will watch a funny movie or read a book.
  • Rest and sleep when you can.
  • During chemo eat whatever you can when you can.
  • If you choose to wear a wig (which I did for 18 months) buy a good one that will last.  Monofilament top with lace front are so realistic that you would never know it was a wig. If you hold a medical card there is a 500 Euro grant for one.
  • Put make up on every day because if you look good you will feel good.
  • If you go into menopause and are suffering from the dreaded hot flushes there is a drug called effexor which reduces them by 80%.
  • Research and have confidence about your decisions regarding your treatment.
  • And most of all live for each day and try not to worry.  I have beaten this disease 3 times and I am still here.


Cold Cap: Suitable products

I’ve had some questions in relation to the cold cap and what products you can / can’t use so I brought a few products in with me this time to see what was ok to use.  One of the nurses has recently been to a Paxman conference (the cold cap supplier) so she was able to give me up to date info on what is and isn’t allowed.  Basically, if you’re looking at products you need to try to avoid:

  • Parabens
  • Alcohol
  • Sulphates
  • Perfumes

Coconut oil is the best thing to use if your scalp is getting dry/ irritated.  Just melt down the solid form you get in the health food store.  Put it in your hair before you plan to wash it and rinse out with two gentle washes in tepid water to remove the oil.

You can wash your hair 2-3 times a week but for those in between days Batiste dry shampoo is ok to use.

It’s ok to use a little conditioner (I thought this was a no no).

I brought in two root touch up products and both are good to use:

  • L’Oréal Magic Retouch
  • John Freida Root Blur

The leave in conditioner I was hoping to use was given the seal of approval.  It’s MooGoo Protein shot and can be used in your hair when it’s wet or dry so should help anyone trying to battle the frizz without styling products.

Ding Ding, Round 2!

I started to feel back to myself my 3rd week after my 1st chemo session, my energy levels were up, my appetite was back to normal (after seesawing from no real appetite to wanting to eat everything in sight) and I even managed a run (just one but hoping to do more this time round).  So I was back on track just in time to start all over again – and so the merry-go-round begins.

The night before my 2nd Chemo session I had my last night of college which involved a practical exam, coaching someone and giving feedback on camera – a very successful way to distract me from the following day!

My 2nd session was pretty uneventful.  The nurses were amazing again and the morning went smoothly.  I brought along a bag of products to see which were suitable when using the cold cap and have details of the ones that got the seal of approval in a new “Cold Cap – suitable products” blog in the beauty section.

I’m still waiting to see how successful the cold cap is for me.  Without it I would have lost all my hair at this stage which hasn’t happened but I have had a lot of thinning in the last week.  It’s hard when your hair starts coming out in chunks, I always said if I was losing it I would shave it but with the cold cap I don’t know how much I’m going to continue to lose so for now I’m hanging in there.

At the moment my hair is very thin and straggly and in the last 3 days a lovely bald patch is starting to appear on the crown of my head (still covered by some strands of hair for now but if I continue to lose it at the same rate I have been they won’t last long).    The picture above show’s one day’s hair loss.

I’m really starting to hate combing my hair, spending at least 5 minutes afterwards trying to pick all the hairs off my shoulders and back, not to mention the floor, sink etc.  But I know I’m one of the lucky ones who has been given the option of the cold cap and for now anyway I can still go out without a hat, scarf or wig (just about).  Worst case scenario it won’t be successful but I’ll have gained an extra couple of weeks with my hair or I might get away with still having enough to go wig-less and wear a baseball cap for day to day (I have my wig on standby just in case).

Adrian gave me the injection for my white blood cells this time round – he did well in fairness to him but letting me know “It’s OK, I know what I’m doing, I’ve seen Pulp Fiction” as he held the needle in his hand probably wasn’t his best comedic timing -Funny man!! (OK I did laugh a little)

I was a bit more floored the day after my session this time round but I think it was more down to a very bad night’s sleep the night before.  I was better on day 2 and went to a friends for a lovely BBQ (the boys were well entertained which meant a lovely relaxing evening for mammy!).  I feel like I’m nesting at the moment and yesterday I tackled the boy’s clothes – how can you get rid of over 5 bin bags of clothes and still have no room to put stuff?! It was a job I’ve been putting off for a while and felt very therapeutic to get it done – now for the rest of the house, but not this week!

My symptoms so far have been pretty similar to the last session, the grogginess has set in and I can feel the bone pain creeping in right on cue but the added benefit this time round is I know what to do once the pain intensifies.  Just to ensure I don’t get too cocky about knowing it all after only one session I’ve had an extra side effect thrown at me this time round.

Now this is where I really start to challenge my reasoning around doing a blog, I have said from the outset that I will be as open and honest as possible in my blog but when it comes to certain things it’s hard to know what is helpful and what is just down right embarrassing!!!

But hey, no one said cancer was pretty and neither are its side effects (and I know I’m only at the start of learning how true that is) so you’ll be glad to read that I have decided to compromise and keep this very high level …. Some lovely side effects associated with chemo are diarrhea and constipation, the later in my case.  The good news is the amazing staff in St Vincent’s Private spotted this in a scan long before I had symptoms so I was well prepared with yet more drugs to take when I needed them.

After my 1st chemo session the boys went on their holidays to Cork to my brother and sister in Laws.  This time round a nice evening walk or relaxing on the couch has been replaced by refereeing very competitive hurling matches, trying to console a 3 year old having a melt down because he can’t go to his “work party” at 8.30 on a Sunday night and trying to avoid sneezes and snotty noses (after a good run they’ve typically both come down with colds this week!) I invested in a Moo Goo hand sanitizer today which is alcohol free so gentle on little hands!

As I sit here typing this my two boys are sitting on the floor playing a football board game (one in his Tipp jersey, the other supporting Antrim) and listening to their banter is all the motivation I need (until the fighting starts!!!).

I’m now on day 25 of my chemo journey.  I’m pumping my body with what seems like an endless list of drugs to help combat the effects of the treatment.  It’s a pain but I’m very grateful for those drugs.   A quote I have to admit stealing from “First Dates” but love comes to mind “Any day you can get out of bed and pull up your own knickers is a good day”

So today was a good day!

Post Chemo – my first 10 days

Day 1 Girls day out

I had arranged a girls day with mum and Maria (my sister) before I knew my chemo start date, it was supposed to be an excuse to get dolled up and drink lots of prosecco before I started my treatment. As with the best made plans it didn’t work out that way – after weeks of waiting my 1st chemo session ended up being the day before our day out. Chemo session or not I still wanted my girl’s day so we went ahead with our plans.

This was my first test without my hairdryer and surprisingly it actually wasn’t too bad! (Don’t worry, my trusty hairdryer hasn’t been totally abandoned – I still use it to give my clothes a quick “iron” – I hate ironing!) I have to admit I cheated a little and put a little bit of leave in conditioner into the ends to try and tame the frizz. The conditioner I used was from the Moo Goo, an Australian company who pride themselves on their natural products.

I haven’t used it since as I want to check with the nurses on my next visit to ensure using it isn’t putting extra pressure on the roots of my hair so will do a blog on it once I find out – (I just saw on their website they also do a gradual tanning cream which I am really interested in checking out!)

We had a lovely day shopping, some lunch in the sunshine (I had my factor 50 and sun hat on), we looked at a wig I was thinking of getting (more on that in my wig blog coming soon) and my sister and myself went for dinner and a cocktail later – so it is fair to say that day 1 post chemo was a good one.

Day 2 – Injection time

Day 2 started with an injection. This is self-administered within 48 hours of each chemo session to increase the white blood cells. A nurse normally contacts you to arrange a time to call to your home to show you what to do the 1st time round but you’re on your own from there. I didn’t hear from the nurse but luckily my mum was there (she used be a nurse) so stepped in.

I’m not a fan of needles and was expecting an epipen type needle (i.e. no needle in sight) so when I took the lid off and saw a nice long needle it took me off guard and I had a bit of an “oh sh*t” moment! The injection itself was fine, I just don’t like the idea of them. Adrian has said he’ll do it next time so I’m hoping he’s not going to take advantage of the opportunity to use it as revenge for any times I’ve been a moody cow (very very rare occurrence!)

The injection can cause bone pain so the nurses told me to take Nuerofen plus an hour beforehand and for a few days after to help with the pain.

My brother and sister in law took the two boys down to Cork for a little holiday for the week which was a godsend in the first week. They had a ball and we had some time to just see how I’d get on without those few “mad hours” in the evening from dinner to bedtime!

Day 3 – “I’m fine”

Monday started well, I went for a lovely walk up around Killiney Hill for nearly 2 hours. I just love it up there and find it a great place for a bit of exercise and also for some head space, just relaxing enjoying the view. Later that evening I started to feel really irritable and tired. I really hated that feeling. I was disappointed that I was feeling tired already – I thought I’d be fine for another few days, in hindsight I probably over did it a bit in the first few days.

Adrian wanted to do what he could to be there for me and help me, but when you’re feeling tired having to reassure someone you are “fine” every few minutes can be exhausting. It’s so important to remember that this is hard on those around us aswell, they can feel so helpless. This was a learning curve for both of us. We agreed that Adrian didn’t need to check on me every minute but I would be honest with him and let him know when I wasn’t feeling well.

Day 5 – Them bones, them bones

Up until Wednesday night I had felt fine bar feeling tired and drained with a few pains and aches (more like a stiffness). On Wednesday night I started getting stronger pains in my lower back. When I got into bed these really started to feel like a gripping pulsing pain. It was a strange sensation – the pain was concentrated in my lower back but pulsing through my body. It gave me a flash back to labour pains.

The pains surprised me – I was expecting bone pain on Sunday and Monday after the injection so by Wednesday I thought I had gotten away with it. Adrian rang the hospital just to double check this was normal and expected which put me more at ease. I had taken neurofen plus and was told to take paracetamol with it. The painkillers did the job and the pain died down after 15minutes. I took them twice on Thursday (morning and night) but haven’t needed them since.

Day 6 “Hello Nausea”

On the morning of day 6 I went for a lovely walk and felt good but as the day went on I started to feel tired and in the evening nausea set in for the first time. I had been given tablets in the hospital to take if I needed so I took one and waited for relief which didn’t come. Instead of getting ready for college I ended up on the bathroom floor, head over the toilet bowl cursing the nursing staff (sorry I take it back!!).

Now this is a position I have been familiar with in the past (from the days I had a social life and both my pregnancies) but they had promised me in the hospital that I wouldn’t end up here. I managed to get myself to college and felt ok for the rest of the night. I have since learned that the anti-nausea tablets work best when taken to prevent the nauseous feeling rather than to stop it after it’s kicked in so I have been taking 1-2 a day since with no nausea.

From day 7 onwards the bone pain and nausea were gone and I have felt fine except for the fatigue. All in all I have to say it went better than I expected. I know a lot worse has yet to come and each round will be tougher as my body and immune system are already weaker but I have also already learned things that will help me next time and I’m sure I will continue to figure it out and muddle through!

One down, five to go!!!