Who am I?

My name is Rachel and I’m 37. I’m pretty much an ‘average Joe’ (sorry if I have offended any Joe’s I told you you had to be be careful when writing things down).¬†I am married to Ste partner of 14 years and fortunate enough to have two beautiful children D & A (one of each). I live in a smallish town in Lancashire called Darwen where generally people know your business. It’s not quite like Heartbeat however, where there’s only one doctor and policeman who also happen to be married to each other and are also brother and sister. Darwen doesn’t have the best reputation it is know for having many takeaways and hairdressers along the main road and very little in the way of promising hopes and dreams (it’s definitely on the up though I promise). However now more than ever this is a place that I hold very close to my heart. See I grew up in this town and have been lucky enough to have lots of family and friends here too. I have many fond memories from my childhood through to current day and I am also lucky enough to still have some friendships that still stand the test of time more than thirty years on.

I have one older bossy, but loving sibling S who is three years my senior, my gorgeous nephew L and a fantastic mum and dad who also live nearby. In addition to this I have multiple Aunties, Uncles, Cousins and 1/2 Cousins, friends old and new all whom make Darwen such a special place in my heart. Now Ste hasn’t always lived in Darwen nor did he probably ever put it down as his life long ambition to live here yet 14 years after a encounter of ‘fate’ on a holiday to Ibiza here he is and hopefully it is a place where he too now calls home with friends and family. Our other extended family reside in the more Southern parts of the UK where a jellied eels and a knees up are a regular event at the weekend. I am extremely lucky to have such a large family with three sisters, two brothers in law, mother and father in law and such loving and caring niece and nephews. All these people have been so supportive through many times in the past including more recently after my diagnosis.

I am a Quantity Surveyor/Cost Manager something I have done now for over 18 years. Was it what I set out to do in life? Definitely¬†not but it has got me where I am today and for that experience I am grateful for. I also have some great work friends and colleagues who have made this last few months a lot easier to deal with. In addition to work I also have a number of hobbies and interest some which I intend on sharing on this blog. I love exercise in particular lifting weights, going to the gym, boxing, I’m trying to love running, yoga and walking with my dog. In addition to exercise I have recently been getting into cooking and nutrition something which my husband says is getting pretty good. I love craft, making and designing things, being creative, photography, classic cars all of which I intend to spend more time on.

So I suppose in a nut shell that’s pretty much me. Am I perfect no, am I exciting no, but hopefully my words and experiences of an ‘average Joe’ who has been diagnosed with cancer are something which other ‘average Joe’s’ can relate to or find helpful in some way or form.

Loosing my blogging cherry and baring all

So to those of you that are actually reading this post “Hello” and “Welcome” this means that after a number of months of debate and procrastination I have actually decided to do what I set out to do just under 4 months ago whilst in hospital (we’ll get to that story another time) and write a blog. Today is the day I loose my blogging cherry and bare my inner most thoughts. This is an extremely daunting experience for me as generally I am a pretty private person.  Like most things in my life I have done zero preparation, zero research and my current plan of action is to just fly by the seat of my pants and hope that it will all come good in the end.

So here’s the deal I will attempt to keep you engaged for the duration of my posts in return for your honest and sometimes critical feedback and if you like what you read please let someone know. If I help just one person by starting this blog then in-spite of baring all my thoughts and personal experiences then it will have been a promise worthwhile keeping.

Why?

This is a good question if there is no purpose then why do anything at all or so you may think? Well as the website suggests (www.melanomaandme.co.uk) I like so many people these days have recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 Malignant Melanoma/Skin Cancer. Had I chosen a different web site address then maybe I could have kept you hooked and in suspense for a bit longer. A lesson to learn for future blogging sites maybe?

I was diagnosed 16th August 2017 and today is 12th January 2018. The past few months have been a mountain of highs and lows (some of which I will share with you within this blog). I think I and those that continue to surround themselves and support me have packed more emotions and experiences in the last 4 months than I have experienced in the last 4 years.

I was lucky enough to have been offered Immunotherapy treatment (I still struggle to spell this correctly don’t worry the actual medicine names are even harder to spell) and started my first cycle on 11th September 2017. Things seemed pretty well and physically wise I felt fine. Emotionally things have been difficult but I strangely found myself being the strong one supporting those closest to me who were finding the news difficult to deal with.

See early on in my diagnosis I had already decided that there was no point wasting energy trying to determine what had got me to this milestone in my life and what if I’d…., why and how etc. I had decided I was in this current situation by numerous events and reasons and the only way I can get out of it was by being as positive as I can be and by ensuring that I maximise every opportunity in my power to beat this disease. For me that is looking at my diet, exercise, health and well being, being positive and by using the love and support from friends, family and work colleagues (and hopefully you guys)  to supplement the medical support and treatment I am currently receiving. I aim to implement these elements into future posts.

The second round of treatment was on 11th October 2017. Again I had been feeling fine. I had a bit of a skin rash which meant that I had to postpone my treatment for one week and my liver function was increasing but other than that I was pretty good and keen to get the treatment done. About a week later things started to change slightly I had started to feel a strain on my stomach but I just put it down to the fact that I had been busy with work and lifting boxes about, as we were putting the house on the market so had to hide our worldly possessions (junk)!

Not long after this I had temperature spikes of 41 and fevers so I decided to call the chemo help line. I was asked to come to the blood clinic it was then I was admitted to hospital on the 20th October 17. My admission was only due to be a weekend stay however unfortunately this turned into one of the most memorable and dramatic three weeks of my life so far. (I will share more about my admission at a later date)

It was during this stay that I realised that I have the opportunity to help other people by my sharing my experiences. I made a number of promises and goals to myself during my stay in hospital and writing this blog is one of the first to come to fruition.

So again, get to the point Rachel, why write this blog?

  • To help individuals who have recently been diagnosed with skin cancer or any form of cancer by sharing the highs and lows that I have experienced in such as short time.
  • To help families and friends of cancer patients by sharing my thoughts and feelings including telling the news in the hope that they may be able to relate to and understand.
  • To avoid paying a hefty bill in counselling – yep that’s correct I suppose writing this blog is kind of selfish in a way. It gives me the chance to tell my story and experiences in life some people pay a fortune for this in one to one sessions. Hopefully my blogs won’t just be those associated with cancer but positive stories which will help in my journey to beat this disease.
  • To raise money for cancer charities in particular Rosemere Cancer Foundation where I have had much of my treatment and support from to date. I have incorporated a link to a just giving page for those of you that would like to donate. This money will help fund research and vitial medical equipment to help other individuals in the future.
  • To give people especially in the UK an understanding of Immunothearpy and what to maybe expect based on my experience. This is something I still find difficult now. There is very little information around about regarding Immunothearpy even the chemo ward doesn’t have an introduction video or booklet on the subject yet. The treatment I am currently on has only been approved in the UK for 12 months. I am extremely grateful as 12 months ago my options would have been limited. Therefore if I can help share my experience of some of the side effects then hopefully it may benefit another patient, doctor or researcher in the future.
  • To give myself and other people a better understanding of the causes of skin cancer and what we can do to protect the current and next generation.
  • To give myself and other people a better understanding of how our diets have a considerable effect on our health and foods which can help not only cancer but other critical diseases.
  • To show the powerful connection between our mind and body and how we think and feel can have a dramatic effect on our health.
  • To make people laugh without laughter life would be pretty dull and whether your laughing at me or with me your laughing which means job done.

 

My 1st Treatment – fighting fit

Exclusions and Caveats

Like all good deals you have to read the small print at the bottom! For ease of purpose this isn’t in too small print so you can read it but here’s my get out clauses;

  • I am not a medically qualified individual or claim to be. I barely know my fibia from my tibia. Anything medically related is based on my experiences only so please seek medical advice before attempting anything I may have written within this blog.
  • Likewise I am not an expert in health and wellbeing. Since being diagnosed I have an active interest in this subject and aim to learn more in the future. So for now any advice I’ll just leave it to the experts.
  • Until 4 months ago I had never been introduced to the not so elite club of cancer (I wouldn’t recommend it). Therefore there all my experiences are new but they are that, my experiences.
  • I do not aim to cause any negative emotions or offence from my blogs. Sometimes writing your thoughts is a dangerous game being that thoughts generally should be thoughts and not shared for people to find out what a real idiot you actually are. If I offend you in any of these blogs then I apologise in advance (sorry dad!)
  • I have never really read a blog before writing this. If I am doing something wrong I apologise hopefully I will learn along the way. I also aim to read other peoples blogs to improve in the future.
  • I certainly haven’t written a blog before or claim to be a writer of any sort, therefore if I make a grammar or spelling mistake then you’ll just have to deal with it. I recommend you getting a red permanent pen and highlighting the mistakes on your screen as you read.

So there’s the exclusions and what I hope to offer to you.

Thank you for reading and supporting me on this journey I wish you all love health and happiness

Rachel x x x