Why is your mum so fat? Out of the mouths of babes and all that, but why, in this age of moral responsibility, is Fat Shaming still acceptable?

A Weighty Issue.

‘Why is your mum so fat?’

 

Out of the mouths of babes… I’d nipped into school to drop off PJ’s forgotten sun hat, and came across him and the rest of his class headed out to PE. Putting it on his head, I leaned down for a quick kiss and was given the cold shoulder. ‘He’s 6 years old,’ I thought, ‘Too big for mummy PDAs.’ It was heading back to the car that I heard those words.

 

‘Why is your mum so fat?’

 

Anyone who regularly spends time in the company of 6 year olds will know – they have no filter! Much like Roy Walker, a child of infant school age is hard wired to ‘Say What You See.’ From that perspective, PJ’s little friend was absolutely right, I am ‘so fat.’ It was an observation with no basis in malice, but not one I’ve been able to forget since.

 

At a time in his life when he is already struggling to cope with all of the things that make him ‘different’ to his peers, is my dress size yet another issue for PJ to fret about? It breaks my heart to think about it.

 

Why Is Your Mum So Fat? A weighty issue by Lady Sketch - Life After Lymphoma.

 

At this point in time, I am the biggest I’ve ever been. I know these posts of mine are pretty frank, but even I am not prepared to tell you how much I weigh at present. I’ll leave it to your imaginations to quantify exactly what ‘so fat’ is.

 

Fat Shaming

 

Having hovered around the size 16/18 mark the majority of my life, I’m no stranger to society’s attitude to the overweight. But we are now living in an age where people are being held to account for their prejudices. The gender pay gap will soon be a thing of the past, it’s an empowering time for the LGBT community, addiction is recognised as a disease, and I for one am delighted that my niece will grow up in a world where it is not ok for women to be groped. So what about Fat Shaming? When does that become unacceptable?

 

Looking for something a little more light hearted? Have a read of my 32 cheeky cornish patron saints you never knew existed… 😉

 

One look at the role models our children are presented with on a daily basis and it’s not so hard to see this is deeply ingrained. Sophie Dahl, a plus sized model from my youth has long since shrunk to miniscule proportions. Dawn French, Adele, Sam Smith, Jennifer Hudson… they all come from a long line of celebrities who’ve slimmed down since taking the spotlight. Whilst I applaud them for taking steps towards a healthier life, each time I see another ‘new and improved’ skinny celeb, I die a little bit inside. Apart from the lovely Tess Munster, where are all of the curvaceous body ambassadors? Where are the people we look to, who can demonstrate that there are far worse things to be in life than ‘so fat?’

 

Yes, we want to teach our kids how to eat sensibly and make healthy choices. We want them to grow up with un-furred arteries and internal organs devoid of visceral fat. But also, don’t we want them to grow up understanding that people (including mums) come in all shapes and sizes? That although desireable, a thigh gap really isn’t the be all and end all of life?

 

Is ‘So Fat’ The Worst Thing To Be?

 

I’m acutely aware that weight is an emotive subject to be blogging about. Defending the overweight is practically unthinkable, what with the exorbitant cost to the NHS each year of obesity related illness, and the government’s tireless campaign to get kids more active. I get it, being fat is far from ideal, but, to quote JK Rowling: ‘Is being fat the worst thing a person can be?’

 

Why Is Your Mum So Fat? A Weighty Issue... Lady Sketch: Life After Lymphoma

 

I’ve given this a lot of thought lately, and always come up with a resounding ‘no,’ but I find myself in the minority with this opinion. So what is it that makes society hate fat people so much?

 

I believe it is because we have our weakness out there on display. An alcoholic can recycle their empties with the world at large being none the wiser –  us fatties however, are doomed to display our transgressions on our bodies. Like a coat of shame, we wear each late night snack and every extra piece of cake. We are easy to judge and feel superior to, because there’s no hiding our lack of self control.

 

Why is your mum so fat?

 

I had an answer. I wanted to say:

 

‘PJ’s mum is so fat because she had cancer twice and came within a whisker of dying, was left with a body that doesn’t work too well and complex PTSD. She’s so fat because they medicated her for her crippling anxiety, with something hideous that ballooned her up 4 bastard stone.

She’s so fat because the cancer knackered her balance and her mobility, and plunged her into the menopause a decade early, meaning she’s finding it nearly impossible to shift the excess weight. She’s so fat because she was just getting back on her feet when some twat smashed into her car and crushed her knee against the dashboard.

PJ’s mum is a f*cking survivor, a tigress who never gave up fighting, and earned each and every one of her stripes. PJ’s mum is much more than just ‘so fat.’

 

Click HERE to read about Lymphoma and thE one where they told me I was going to die.

 

Of course I didn’t say it. I kept on walking, feeling that little bit worse about myself – not because of the innocent words of a 6 year old boy, but because of the society he lives in, whose values are reflected in what he says.

 

Don’t Be Too Quick To Judge

 

And life goes on.

 

As I decline invitations because I’m terrified people will think me greedy if they see me eat; or because I’ve read the latest tweet doing the rounds where disgruntled of Derby had her night at the cinema ruined by overspill from the fatso in the neighbouring chair. As I refuse to renew my passport, worrying I’d be castigated for needing an extender for the aeroplane seat belt, or, horror of horrors, required to buy an extra seat. As I contemplate having to start walking with a stick (the falling over shows no sign of improvement!) I know there will be many who judge me, who decide it is my weight that disables me and that I’ve brought it all on myself.

 

I would say to them, as I say to you. Don’t be too quick to judge. Everyone comes with a history. And for each person like me, who manages to shoehorn into every conversation the fact that medication has caused my recent weight gain, as if by absolving myself of responsibility I am somehow more validated, that my fatness is more acceptable; there are a million others who say nothing, and keep walking, feeling that little bit worse about themselves.

 

This post is dedicated to all of the luscious and liberated lard arses out there. Long may we be the ones people seek out for the best cuddles!

 

Why Is Your Mum So Fat - A Weighty Issue by Lady Sketch

 

Not your average lymphoma blog! A witty, irreverent and brutally honest look at life with and after stage 4B non hodgkins lymphoma.

Lady Sketch Chemo Diaries: The One With The Chemo Hair Loss.

Chemo Hair Loss - This Is My No Hair Day Hoody by Lady Sketch

‘This Is My No Hair Day,’ Pop Art Hoody, now available to buy from the Lady Sketch shop.

 

 

‘Another visit from CZ the lymphoma nurse today – such a lovely lady.  Apparently with this particular chemo hair loss is inevitable within about three weeks. I’ve laughed about how it’s in terrible condition anyway and joked to Al about wigs and bandannas but in truth I have no idea how I will cope with this massive test of my femininity…’  Wenna’s Diary Extract, 18th Jan 2012.

 

Chemo Hair Loss - Life After Lymphoma Blog by Lady Sketch

Pre – Chemo Hair Loss

 

Before losing my hair to chemo I was exactly the same as any other woman the world over – my relationship with my hair had been nothing if not complex over the years. I’d started life with white blonde baby hair, a colour I spent much of my teens attempting to replicate without much success.

 

Before no hair day, my locks were my crowning glory, such a big part of my personality and how I chose to express myself. How I fitted in.

 

My hair has gone from bobbed to shoulder length, to closely cropped and grown out until it hung halfway down my back. I scrunched it with mousse and a diffuser in the 80s, scrunchied and wrapped it with thread in the 90’s and nearly cooked it in the noughties with my GHD straighteners.

 

I’ve been every shade of red from vibrant postbox to deep beetroot, had unfortunate beige and brown stripes like a tabby cat and suffered my way through a truly cringeworthy 6 months in my early teens, when my fringe took it upon itself to go curly, but the rest didn’t follow suit.

It wasn’t until my 20s that I accepted a few inescapable truths, the main being that it doesn’t matter how long you leave the f*cking bleach on, you will never look like the woman on the box. At this point I stopped trying and learned that, when it comes to being blonde, you have to put your hair in the hands of the professionals. Fortuitously, it was also around this time that I made the acquaintance of my friend H, when we were doing an evening course in Counselling at Truro College. By ‘we’ I refer to H (stylist turned finance), myself (lost in the world) and my roots (long and dark) which H informed me, ‘actually made her fingers twitch.’

 

This was the start of a long friendship between the two of us, born out of evenings eating pasta & pesto with my hair in foils, watching Mistresses boxsets and playing with Al. H became my stylist of choice and worked her magic on my tresses for many years to come.

 

My hair was where I found my beauty and thus my confidence. Long, blonde, shiny and thick. Yes I’m a bit of a fatty knacker and can’t wear the things I’d like, but at least my hair is good, I’d tell myself.  At least I still draw admiring glances despite the size of my arse. At least I have something people can compliment.

 

‘You hide behind your hair,’ Mum used to tell me. And she was absolutely right. In a society where image is everything and our young women are bombarded by skinny role models and the implicit understanding that if you dare to be overweight, you are in fact a second class citizen, undeserving of love, respect or decent clothes; yes I did find reason to take refuge behind the blonde curtain.

 

But oh the grief I’ve given my hair… the times I cursed it for not doing what I wanted, the torture by hairdryer and highlighter cap, the strenuous efforts to make the curly straight, and vice versa. The times I loudly bemoaned my bad hair days, never thinking that one day it might not be there for me to hide behind. That one day, and many days after that would be, in fact, a no hair day. That I would experience chemo hair loss.

 

chemo hair loss - Life After Lymphoma Blog by Lady Sketch.

Mum washing and plaiting my hair in hospital, something she hadn’t done since I was little. This photo is particularly poignant for me, as it was taken the day before my diagnosis.

 

You can read more about my diagnosis of Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in my post ‘The One Where They Said I was Going To Die,’ HERE.

 

Preparing For Chemo Hair Loss

 

Chemo hair loss doesn’t happen overnight. For me, it was finding increasing amounts in the plughole and on my pillow each day. The run up to no hair day was seeing Dad try to hide his shock at the clumps on my shoulders after our lunchtime out, and watching Sketch make light of  following me around the house with the vacuum cleaner. And then, on one memorable night, it was sitting in my bath towel and sobbing in Sketch’s arms, as swathes of it cascaded down my back.

 

Wenna – 3 Feb 2012 at 17:49 – Via Facebook

Just back from hospital to spend 3 precious days with my little family before going back in for more chemo… Hair now coming out in handfuls, time to go hat shopping 🙂

9 Likes   36 Comments

Chemo Hair Loss - Life After Lymphoma Blog by Lady Sketch

Explaining my diagnosis to Al, and what was coming next…

 

‘Hair started coming out in properly large handfuls last night which caused me great upset, hidden behind a matter of fact FB update. We all knew it was going to happen, but somehow this doesn’t make the experience any easier. The chemo has turned it all dry and crispy, and three nights in hospital have given me a couple of large tangles – no idea how to deal, since putting the brush through just pulls more out. Sat on the bed and had a good cry plus big cuddle from Sketch who suggested I text H. Was pretty sure that it being the week end she would have made plans, but bless her heart she text straight back and said of course she would come.

It’s a strange sensation, chemo hair loss. It doesn’t hurt as such, but my whole scalp is tingling and stinging, the way it does when you take your hair down after having it in a tight pony tail all day. Am going to have to wash it before H comes, but still too afraid to tackle the tangles. She says we can cut around them…’ Wenna’s Diary Extract, 4th Feb 2012

 

Approaching Chemo Hair Loss - Life After Lymphoma Blog by Lady Sketch

My Interim Bob Which Lasted About 5 Days…

 

 

Approaching Chemo Hair Loss - Life After Lymphoma Blog by Lady Sketch

 

True to her word, H arrived the next day with her magic scissors and cut my hair in to a bob. Obviously this was only ever going to be a temporary measure, but approaching chemo hair loss in stages felt easier somehow. It also gave us the opportunity to get dressed up and take my hair out for one last family lunch. I look back now and smile at the reverence with which we treated the situation, in stark contrast to subsequent occasions, when chemo denuding my scalp became just another day in the life of lymphoma.

 

Taking Charge Of Chemo Hair Loss

 

It was a week later that it occurred to me exactly how to turn the situation to my advantage. As anyone in the position will tell you, there is nothing quite so dis-empowering as severe illness. Especially cancer. There are just so many unknowns, so I decided that going bald was not going to be one of them. I refused to become the chemo version of the guy who clings to his last remaining hairs in order to comb them over the bald spot. Cancer may well have been robbing me of my hair, but was I going to sit around waiting for that to happen? Was I f*ck!

 

Chemo Hair Loss - Taking Charge of the Baldness! Life After Lymphoma Blog By Lady Sketch

Chemo Hair Loss – Taking Charge of the Baldness!

 

‘It was only ever going to be H who shaved it off. Quite simply, I couldn’t imagine anyone else being there at such an occasion. I asked her to clipper it straight up the middle so I couldn’t back out halfway through. She did me proud, in quiet dignity. There were nearly tears when H pointed out there was over 7 years worth of friendship on that head, but I kept smiling which kept H smiling too. My head feels so light. ‘  Wenna’s Diary Extract, 10th feb 2012.

 

Text to Dad from Sketch. Fri 10th Feb 2012, 14:45 pm

‘Wenna has just had her hair shaved and is still smiling! She’s an amazing person, so strong and in control.’

 

Text to Dad from Wenna. Sat 11th Feb 2012, 8:45 am

‘Al a bit tearful over Disco* but mostly concerned that he never has to see my bald head. PJ resolutely refuses to smile at me unless my scalp is covered, so have taken to wearing my new woolly hat at all times, even in bed. Good job it doesn’t itch, as for the sake of family harmony it looks like being quite a permanent fixture! X’

*They say it never rains but it pours – Disco, the beautiful but brainless family cat had departed this life after drinking anti-freeze that same day.

 

Getting Used To No Hair Day

 

The first time you lose your hair to chemo is a big deal. It’s like a slap in the face at what is already the worst time of your life. It’s a stark and relentlessly visual reminder of what lies beneath.

 

My second experience of chemo hair loss was far less emotional. Just another check in on the road already travelled. So by the third time? I was fed up with the sting in my scalp wherever it touched the pillow and took matters, quite literally into my own hands.

 

‘It was a bizarre scene that played out in the mirror. Me, with a no nonsense expression, grimly determined to stop my head from hurting as I yanked out chunk after chunk of my own hair in the bathroom. The relief was instant and my scalp is much smoother for not using the clippers. Nurse C remarked upon how brave I am, but I genuinely don’t see it that way. Ripping my hair out is simply one more on the list of necessary evils… ‘  Wenna’s Diary Extract, 8th July 2013.

 

Styling Out chemo hair loss

 

I ended up wasting a lot of money on wigs I so rarely wore. Yes, there were occasions when it was nice to have hair, but the scalp itch and hot flushes just weren’t worth the bother. There was also the fact that however I styled it, my hair pieces always ended up at a ‘jaunty’ (read bizarre) angle, not to mention the ever present threat of an errant gust of wind…

 

Allow me to demonstrate exactly what I was up against, via the following photo. Pre no hair day (and steroid moon face) I wouldn’t even have countenanced showing such a hideous photo, but cancer is funny like that. Face up to your own mortality and, trust me, the size of that face (and it’s surrounding features) become pretty much irrelevant…

 

Lady Sketch Chemo Diaries - Chemo Hair Loss

In my head: Debbie Harry
In reality: Ursula The Sea Witch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was Big Sis who came to my rescue by introducing me to some beautiful cotton tubular hats from Seasalt which could be knotted at the end (ideal for when I was shedding) or left open to give the bonce an airing, in an unobtrusive fashion. I was also given a fabulous wide brimmed purple hat by BC which was perfect for hiding under. Sadly it disappeared one day, never to be seen again. I like to think of that hat as the littlest hobo of millinery, imagining it to have moved on to somebody else’s bald head, in their hour of need.

 

I have a very clear memory of walking through a crowd one day (it had to be so very public of course) rocking the purple hat of dreams. The afore mentioned gust of wind whipped the hat off my naked scalp and exposed my ‘shining dome of glory’ to the world. There was an audible gasp from my family and nobody really knew what to do. In that moment I’m not sure I did either. So what else was there to do really, but fall back on the old adage: ‘if in doubt, style it out.’ I believe I laughed. It was fake at first, but soon became genuine, helped along by my eldest galavanting up the road after the hat which stayed tantalisingly out of his grasp. Sometimes the universe takes it upon itself to rip the piss out of you, and you just have to go with the flow.

 

 

Chemo hair Loss: No Hair Don't Care White T Shirt Designed By Lady Sketch

Style Out Your chemo hair loss With A Lady Sketch T Shirt Available To Buy HERE.

And so ends the story of the no hair day. It grew back and fell out and grew back and fell out and grew back. And I spent a good fornight masquerading as a dandelion clock… but that is another post for another day.

 

In the meantime, please do check out my other new ranges of products in my shop HERE.

 

How have you coped with chemo hair loss? Perhaps no hair day is fast approaching and you have a few nifty tricks in hand. Maybe you are styling it out as I write. Whatever your story I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a message in the comments below.

 

This post is dedicated to all of the bald bonces out there – brave, beautiful and batlling. To quote my Dad, via the immortal words of Sir Winston Churchill ‘Keep Buggering On!’

Lady Sketch Chemo Diaries The One Where They Said I Was Going To Die... Part 1. The One Where They Said I Was Going To Die Part 1

Lady Sketch Chemo Diaries – The One Where They Said I was Going To Die… Part 1.

Lady Sketch Chemo Diaries The One Where They Said I Was Going To Die... Part 1. The One Where They Said I Was Going To Die Part 1

‘An Ellie Goulding song plays on the radio with a beautiful melody which stops me in my tracks. Ellie sings ‘It’s OK to be afraid.’ This reduces me to tears. Sketch puts his arms around me and we cry together for a while. We feel like she is singing directly to us. It’s OK to be afraid because it is and we are. Sketch says he is afraid of me dying. For once I cannot find the words to reassure him…’  Wenna’s Diary Extract, 5th March 2013.

 

i’m a mixed media, chalkboard and mural artist, based in north cornwall.

(Portfolio available to view HERE…)

I am also the author of Straight talking blog ‘Life after lymphoma – an irreverent look at remission and commissions.’

For more about Lady Sketch, have a read of my other posts HERE.

Lady Sketch Chemo Diaries The One Where They Said I Was Going To Die... Part 1

 

 

Falling Out Of Remission

December 2012 saw me 4 months in remission from Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The boys and I were spending a quiet Christmas in Bude with my parents. Sketch and I had parted company that summer and I was balancing my broken heart with trying to ‘get the show back on the road,’ for the boys AND consider my next move. Now the lymphoma was over and done with I was planning to go back to work and pondering a house move as a fresh start for all of us.

You can read about my Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis HERE

It was Boxing Day when I noticed the tip of my thumb had gone numb. I put it down to the thumb ring I was wearing at the time and duly removed it.

Wenna – 3 Jan 2013 at 09:11 – Via Facebook

Seen this and quite liked the format…

10 things I thought I’d never do in 2012

  1. Lived in a different place to my children for weeks at a time.
  2. Wore an engagement ring.
  3. Considered and accepted that death may well be just around the corner.
  4. Had my head shaved.
  5. Dealt with vomit without panicking for 10 day stretches at a time.
  6. Punched someone in the face and didn’t regret it.
  7. Removed my engagement ring.
  8. Weaned myself down from 169 mg of Morphine a day to none.
  9. Became a single mother again.
  10. KICKED CANCER IN THE ARSE!!!

10 things I intend to do in 2013:

  1. Tell my children how loved and appreciated they are EVERY day.
  2. Get on the road.
  3. Write my book.
  4. Relocate.
  5. Teach PJ how to walk and talk.
  6. Show Al how to see the good in the bad.
  7. Move on from the past.
  8. Eat well and grow strong.
  9. Get another tattoo.
  10. LIVE!!!

36 Likes   24 Comments

 

Wenna – 9 Jan 2013 at 10:35 – Via Facebook

And the big house clear out continues…been reduced to tears this morn going through all of the get well cards you lovely people sent to me last year. A timely reminder of how much worse things could be!

9 Likes   5 Comments

The best laid plans and all that… fate clearly had other ideas however. By the time I saw Dr K (my consultant) for a scheduled appointment in January, my hand, arm and shoulder were numb and growing weaker by the day. I was sent for an emergency MRI that afternoon with results due a week later.

An Uncomfortable Meeting

My next meeting with Dr K proved to be an uncomfortable one. They had found ‘white matter’ inside my spine and had no clue what it was. I pushed every which way for answers, but he was unable to give them. Could it be lymphoma returning? It could be anything. I needed another CT and another MRI scan plus an appointment with neurology.

I thanked Dr K for being honest in the face of my incessant questioning. He held my gaze and gently informed me he would ALWAYS be completely honest and open with me. There was the sense that he was genuinely perplexed, and we all came away feeling nervous.

Later that day it occurred to me that, in the numerous meetings I’d had with Dr K, I’d never once seen him look as uncomfortable as he did that day. A cold shiver accompanied this thought.

Wenna – 16 Jan 2013 at 18:14 – Via Facebook

Survived 45 mins in the MRI scanner today, after TWO sedatives… Good job I always carry them in my handbag! Pretty battered now mind…

0 Likes   8 Comments

 

Wenna – 21 Jan 2013 at 21:48 – Via Facebook

Pain-free but slightly dopey. Tramadol 🙂

11 Likes   4 Comments

 

Wenna – 31 Jan 2013 at 16:31 – Via Facebook

Completely fecked off to be back in hospital and away from my boys. Awaiting an MRI to confirm diagnosis. Fingers still firmly crossed, but the overriding feeling seems to be ‘here we go again…’ Apparently someone forgot to tell 2013 it was supposed to be our year 🙁

4 Likes  58 Comments

 

‘After a week of anti-viral drugs which have made me horrendously sick, viral inflammation is ruled out. A letter arrives to say MRI will take place in a fortnight, but there is no way I can wait that long the rate at which my leg is weakening.

There are disagreements between Haematology and Neurology. Nobody really seems to know what is happening to me. Dr K says I need to be admitted to get the MRI done more quickly. If this is what needs to happen then so be it.

At this point it’s dawning on me: this is serious. I’m ill again.’  Wenna’s Diary Extract, 31st Jan 2013.

 

Lady Sketch Back In Hospital

Nervously Awaiting My Second MRI.

 

Hiding In The Hospital

By January 2013, Sketch and I had rarely spoken since the summer. As with a lot of break ups, things were less than amicable and feelings were running high. He had moved out of Truro and was seeing the boys sporadically.

I contacted him over Facebook to tell him I was awaiting another diagnosis and I was pretty sure it would be shit news. I wasn’t sure what reaction to expect given how the land lay between us, and was amazed by his response. He was gutted and instantly pledged his support.

Early Saturday morning Sketch rocked up on the ward, my MRI having taken place the day before. By then I knew we were headed into another shit storm. That morning they had stopped the anti-viral medication and put me on to steroids, which we’d been told would be counter-productive if it was a neurological issue. All signs were pointing towards lymphoma.

 

‘Dr P is on the prowl and I feel a sense of foreboding. Somehow he is always on shift when there is bad news to be delivered. I desperately want just 1 more day in ignorance, so Sketch puts his last pound into a wheelchair and takes me off the ward. We spend the day hiding out in the bowels of the hospital where only the porters go.

Sketch and I discuss our childrens’ future, reaffirming the plans we had for their upbringing. There are tears between us and Sketch tells me he is utterly terrified of losing his best friend. We return to the ward to find out that Dr P has been 3 times before going home for the night. There is a bed for me on Lowen. This is the cancer ward, which can mean only one thing.

Sketch moves me and my belongings down there, just as he did the first time. we find it an emotional process, knowing tomorrow will bring bad news. Sketch says he is here for me, if I want him. I find that I do. He is the only other person with first hand knowledge of exactly what lies ahead of us. Much as I hate to rely on him after everything that’s gone on, I need him.’ Wenna’s Diary Extract, 2nd Feb 2013.

 

No Point Of Reference

Sunday brought 2 visitors which was a happy distraction, until Dr P arrived. They were politely dispatched to the day room whilst the news was delivered.

The lymphoma was indeed back, this time inside my spinal cord, which is actually so bloody rare that they had no point of reference. It had also metastasized back to my liver. I had a 20% chance of survival this time.

Dr P filled me in on my treatment options. At that time, they were radiotherapy, which might turn me into a vegetable, or chemotherapy which might paralyze me. The tumour had migrated to the cervical spinal cord, a bit too near the brain stem for our liking. Radiotherapy that close to the important bits would likely drop my IQ and alter my personality beyond all recognition. So what about chemo? Well that would be administered via a port that would need to be installed into my spine at Derriford Hospital. I didn’t need him to impress upon me how dangerous that procedure would be.

Dr P also offered me the option to do nothing, meaning I would die at some point over the next 8 weeks. It wouldn’t be a case of 2 months then slipping peacefully away, he explained gently. There would be a rapid loss of mobility, speech and eventually, vital function as the lymphoma overwhelmed my internal organs. I would end my days paralysed, incontinent and being fed through a tube, potentially with the brain still in good working order. A prisoner in my failing body, not what you might call a desirable outcome.

 

‘The family muster at my bedside and it is all horrific. The first time I’ve ever seen Mum fall apart. There is frequent sobbing and so much fear. I have basically been delivered a death sentence, or so it feels. I ask Dr P what he would do in my position. His reply? ‘I would do nothing.’

A consultant at the top of his game would rather die than face the prospect of the treatment options I have available to me. But he doesn’t have kids. And I do. I refuse to give up on them, and tell him that doing nothing is not an option for me.’ Wenna’s Diary Extract, 3rd Feb 2013.

Much ADO About Chicken

The practicalities of daily life interrupted our misery and brought some much needed comic relief via Mum: ‘What the f*ck am I supposed to do about the f*cking chicken?!’

It transpired that Mum had been in the middle of preparing a sunday roast for the family including my boys, in Bude. When the news hit they had left for Truro immediately, complete with half cooked chicken on board. This caused much consternation and mirth, bordering on hysteria – a welcome opportunity to focus our thoughts elsewhere. The family left to collect the boys from my brother-in-law and finish off the roast in my oven.

I had contacted Sketch who arrived as they were leaving. TS clasped his hand on the way out and implored Sketch to ‘do his best for me.’ I relayed  Dr P’s news, and we cried together.

 

‘I’m acutely aware that as soon as Sketch leaves, I will be alone for the first time today, facing the harsh reality that I’m expected to die soon. Sketch clearly knows this too, and there are tears before he goes. He cuddles me and promises to return soon, before going to meet his taxi home.

5 minutes later I’m sitting alone and terrified on my bed, when the curtain moves. Sketch pops his head around and tearfully tells me that he cannot bear to leave me tonight. This is exactly what I need to hear. He lies on the bed next to me and we cry at the unfairness of the situation. The next few hours are passed looking at old photos on our phones and reminiscing. Happy, distracting memories of our time together. I drift off into an uneasy sleep shortly before sunrise. When I wake a couple of hours later Sketch is still there. He hasn’t let go of my hand all night and I realise, in a moment of absolute clarity, that I’m still in love with him.’ Wenna’s Diary Extract, 3rd Feb 2013.

 

Why Shouldn’t I Be In The 10%…?

The next day brought Dr K and CZ (my chemo nurse) to my bedside. We discussed treatment options which were more viable, after the horrible options of the previous day. Dr K proposed 17 days of radiotherapy which would neither drop my IQ nor turn me into a vegetable. This would be followed by high dose chemotherapy delivered through another line in my chest. No spinal ports required for which I remain eternally grateful.

They stressed that the doubling up of the chemo would be completely f*cking hideous, but necessary, as the tumours had to be clobbered hard. Dr K described the situation as ‘potentially catastrophic.’ The concept of quality time was discussed, and we agreed that if treatment wasn’t working, I would need to be told sooner rather than later.

This was the day that my odds of surviving plummeted to a measly 10%. You wouldn’t bet your life savings on it, yet my life was, quite literally, in their hands.

And so I agreed to the treatment regime. Dr K and CZ exchanged a knowing look. ‘We knew you would,’ they smiled.

‘If the time I have left cannot be prolonged by chemo, then I will want to stop the treatment. I will need to make the most of what time I have left with my boys and my family.

It is agreed they will scan reasonably early to assess this. Dr K is a humanitarian – he understands what is at stake here. Terrifyingly low chance of beating this, but must remember that somebody has got to be in the 10% and why shouldn’t it be me? It’s not like this treatment is being offered to me out of the goodness of their hearts. They clearly believe there is a possibility of it working otherwise, right about now I’d be on my way home with steroids, pain relief and their best wishes…’ Wenna’s Diary Extract, 3rd Feb 2013.’

 

Lady Sketch Falling Out Of Remission

At Home Waiting For Radiotherapy.

 

Preparing For The Worst While Hoping For The Best

And so shortly afterwards I was sent home, with steroids and pain relief, but also with a week’s grace before the 17 consecutive days of radiotherapy were due to commence. My situation was so shitty and it was then that Dad bought me my first leather bound journal.

‘You need to write. Letters to your boys, your happiest memories, a record of what is going on, anything… Just write now, while your brain is in full working order…’

And write I did.

“…God, this is such an odd situation to be in. Sometimes I can sit here with complete clarity and know that I’m going to die soon. It’s like I can accept this info with no panic or fear, and just know that it will happen. Other days I am literally paralyzed with terror.  What will it be like to just not be here anymore? How can I even begin to get my head around that concept…?

Mostly I firmly believe myself to be in the 10%, and am positive that the worst will not happen. But it is a conscious effort to stay in that place, especially while preparing for the end of my life just in case… each minute is a balancing act.” Wenna’s Diary Extract, 5th Feb 2013.

 

By this point I was using Facebook as a mini- blog. It was a pretty effective way of keeping everybody updated with the latest goings on, reaching out for support and getting things off my chest.

Wenna – 5 Feb 2013 at 15:30 – Via Facebook

Well I got my tattoo wish for 2013 anyway…nothing fancy, just 2 little dots on my back for the radiotherapy boffins to aim at when we commence the deep & crispy treatment next week. Might ask for aioli on the side. Yum! 😉

11 Likes   4 Comments

 

Wenna – 6 Feb 2013 at 23:30 – Via Facebook

What’s on my mind you ask FB? Finding out my cancer is back, the prognosis is shit & I’m praying for a frickin’ miracle…

2 Likes   2 Comments

 

Wenna – 10 Feb 2013 at 14:30 – Via Facebook

You guys are amazing. Thank you so much for all the lovely messages and supportive words. It all means the world to me and my somewhat bemused by facebook parents who are now beginning to see it’s not always the work of the devil!! Happy Sunday To You All xxx

43 Likes   14 Comments

 

Extract from a letter to one of my best friends, to be given to them if the worst happened. (A bit dramatic in places but to be fair, I was hopped up on steroids and contemplating my own mortality!)

‘…As you know, we are in the 10% and I fully plan to be reading this letter with you in years to come, brushing it off as a near miss and getting on with life. But just in case it all does go tits up, I want you to know how much I adore you. I really do! Your sense of humour, the way you pick yourself up & dust yourself down, how kind and sweet you are to other people… I also love the fact that you’ve achieved that major thing I’ve thus far never quite managed – being a real, responsible grown up with a proper job and stuff!

I don’t know the rules from hereon in. I really wish I did. I don’t know if this treatment will work, but I DO know that you all have my word I will fight with everything I have. If I get the choice, I’m really not going anywhere. There will never come a time when I choose to give up, because I want to finish the job I started when I had my babies.

If I lose the battle, it’s someone or something else’s decision, not mine. Please make sure my boys know that I would never have given up on them. Ever. How could I ever leave them by choice?

As for what comes afterwards, I don’t know the rules there either. I don’t know if I’m allowed back to visit or watch you all. I promise not to turn up unannounced and scare the shit out of you, ok?!

If you ever want to find me, I’ll be at Droppy Nose Point on Bryher, or back in Stratton, checking in on my boys. You can also catch me on that bench just past Sainsburys that looks out over Truro and the cathedral. It’s the best view in town, and you know how Wenny likes the best!!

Take good care of you my dear friend. Trust in RCH, the haematology team, Sketch and the higher power of your choice, to take good care of me.

‘I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.’ 

Wenna xxx’

 

Lady Sketch Keeping Up Appearances.

A Quick Pedi Before Radiotherapy Started 😉

I’d love to hear your experiences of the Big Bad C – survivors, sufferers, friends, family – drop me a comment below. I will reply.

If my big old argument with lymphoma has caught your interest, why not give me a cheeky follow? I don’t harangue you with boring nonsense and spam mail makes me swear even more than I do already… your email address is safe with me!

Don’t forget to have a nosey at the rest of my blog HERE. It’s not all depressing I promise 🙂 Or if you’ve heard enough about being ill, check out my PORTFOLIO to see what I’ve been doing with my second remission.

 

 

Surviving Lymphoma

Surviving Recurrent Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, A Stem Cell Transplant and A Life Reboot.

Surviving Lymphoma

i’m a mixed media, chalkboard and mural artist, based in north cornwall.

(Portfolio available to view HERE…)

I am also the author of Straight talking blog ‘Life after lymphoma – an irreverent look at remission and commissions.’

For more about Lady Sketch, have a read of my other posts HERE.

 

How It All Kicked Off…

Christmas 2011, and we were sitting for a family photo, our youngest child a matter of days old in my arms. Within a few days I was crammed into an MRI machine, awaiting staging for Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and facing up to the prospect of a pretty hairy trip down Shit Creek.

 

Lady Sketch Life After Lymphoma Blog. Hand Painted Shit Creek Survivor Sign #LSKLettering

Personal Disaster Can Give The Best Inspiration…

 

Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

It was stage 4B Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. Whilst there is no stage 5, we were told it was eminently curable and treatable, but to expect a rough ride. Hmmm. This turned out to be the biggest understatement since Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon described the sinking of the RMS Titanic as ‘rather a serious evening, you know…’ but for now I’m hanging on to my gory stories of chemo horror & unimaginable beastliness for another day 👌

Lady Sketch and Baby, With No Hair, During Chemotherapy.

Halfway through chemo the first time around.

After six months of intensive chemotherapy and in grateful remission, I bounced back quickly and cracked on with life. We consigned the Lymphoma to the shitty annals of history and it didn’t enter my head that it might come back. So when my left arm went numb another six months later I visited my doctor fully expecting it to be a trapped nerve.

Get Your Ducks In A Row

This time the news was fairly horrific with Lymphoma growing and metastasising all over the shop and a twenty percent chance of survival. This swiftly plummeted to ten percent once we knew exactly what we were up against. I was told ‘There is great potential for catastrophe, you need to get your ducks in a row.’

Evidently someone had forgotten to tell 2013 that it was going to be our year… This time it was much worse because Lymphoma were growing inside my spinal column amongst other places and causing havoc within the central nervous system. In short, the walking gear was packing up and I was in shit order.

This time we started with Radiotherapy. It seems like the kinder alternative (much less vomit and you get to sleep in your own bed) – it’s not! Being strapped face down to a table, in a mask moulded to your skull, is not fun for the claustrophobic.

Within forty eight hours my walking gear really did pack up, with bladder reliability shortly behind it. The lowest point of that period was being pushed everywhere in a wheelchair with rustling tenna-lady knickers and steroid moon-face. It would have been around this time that Mister Sketch and I invented a rather non PC game, ‘Who is worse off than you right now,’ which diffused many tense moments and made us laugh in the midst of misery.

It Gets Worse…

Three weeks of radiotherapy was followed by more chemo and the few ups and numerous downs this entails. Chemo-puke-chemo-puke-home-puke-infection-hospital-recover-chemo-puke… and so the cycle continued.

Then came the news that treatment wasn’t working and they believed my Lymphoma to be chemo resistant.

It was a devastating blow to say the least. There had been talk of getting me into remission just for long enough to have a stem cell transplant. My own previously harvested stem cells were ready and waiting to be defrosted, but now I wasn’t a suitable candidate. So I went home  on the Friday and planned my funeral. I wrote letters to my boys for the future, tried to put my affairs in order and cried a lot. I believe there was also swearing.

Come Monday, my consultant had returned from an overseas course, with news of a new, experimental treatment. It involved using conventional oncology within haematology (basically using Cancer drugs to treat Lymphoma, which is actually a blood cancer). Did I want to give it a try?

Obviously I said yes and embarked upon what may well have been the oddest few weeks of my life. The drugs made me feel like the top of my head was melting. Any social activity was abandoned while my brain checked out and I wandered the house dazed and confused…

Lady Sketch With An Anti Cancer Message Writing On Her Bald Head In The Middle of Chemotherapy for Non Hodgkins Lymphoma

Bald Bonce

LYmphoma to Stem Cell Transplant

But it did the trick. Come September, Mr Sketch and I were headed over the bridge to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth for my Stem Cell Transplant, with strict instructions to return me to the correct side of the bridge should all go tits up. There was a high chance I wouldn’t survive treatment and I wanted to make bloody sure I was back in Cornwall if the worst happened.

It didn’t however, and within seven days I was transferred back to the Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske for six weeks in isolation. Again we were warned to expect the worst. It certainly wasn’t pleasant, but I beat another set of odds and was discharged early, home in time for Halloween with my kids ❤

Remission

As I write, I am pleased to say that October 2017 marks my fourth year in remission. I’m left with mobility & mental health issues and, not gonna lie, life really is hard. BUT, it’s my life, I fought bloody hard for it and it’s pretty sweet.

I’m still making sense of it all and adjusting my compass so I can navigate this new and unforseen bend in the road. Because that is all it is really.

Life has a habit of flinging us around sharp corners and down steep drops, but like my dad says, once you’ve slipped down as many snakes as I have, sooner or later life will provide you with a ladder.

You can read more about life after Lymphoma HERE.

Why not give me a cheeky follow for an irreverent look at life in remission… there may be swearing…

 

 

 

Lady Sketch Life After Lymphoma

Life After Lymphoma Is My Ultimate Work In Progress.

My life after Lymphoma is a work in progress. Like unfinished projects and half forgotten ideas, waiting for motivation or inspiration and in need of a fresh approach. 

Life after Lymphoma really is bloody hard… but it beats the shit out of the alternative, right?
Yup. And for each of us that survives there are countless others lost along the way. It IS important to remember how f*cking lucky we are ☘☘☘ but it’s also cool to admit that life after Lymphoma is anything but straightforward.

Life After Lymphoma

For me, life after Lymphoma is not the calm after the storm. It isn’t as simple as picking up the threads and cracking on where I left off. Life after Lymphoma may well be exactly as I left it, but I am very much not.
Life after Lymphoma is a complicated old business. It was gathering my component parts, assessing the damage and jamming the pieces together again as quickly, but not necessarily accurately, as possible. It is an acceptance of new limitations and unlearning things previously taken for granted.

Life after Lymphoma has been perceiving every ache, pain, lump and bump with the utmost trepidation. It is an emotional circus, balancing euphoric excitement at planning for an unexpected future, with the relentless, damaging whispers of survivor guilt.

Life after Lymphoma is a trip. It’s sweet and hard-won and unpredictable and exciting and terrifying. It is unknowable.

Lady Sketch and Baby, Life After Lymphoma Is My Ultimate Work In Progress Cancer Blog

In hospital awaiting treatment.

 

Remission

I went into my first remission in June 2012, six months after a diagnosis of stage 4B Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. I was one of the lucky few who manage to bounce back relatively easily after treatment. Sure, I had the energy of a supercentenarian and an immune system barely in the black, but the transition could have been much worse. Maybe I was too complacent, but in my head, the Lymphoma was consigned to the past. I had all kinds of shit to be cracking on with. It didn’t occur to me that Lymphoma might have other ideas. 

Lady Sketch - Life After Lymphoma Is My Ultimate Work In Progress. Cancer Blog

Me In Remission, Being Blissfully Unaware…

I came out of remission six months later when the Lymphoma re-invaded, mob handed and hell bent on mass destruction. Within a few short weeks I was in a wheelchair, with a complete loss of independence and 10% survival odds. How to rock my regrowth and shifting the steroid weight suddenly plummeted to the bottom of my worry list.

Stem Cell Transplant

It was only after the Stem Cell Transplant in September 2013 that we were able to fully assess and process the fallout from life’s latest barrage of bitch slaps.

Read more about the diagnosis and treatment HERE.

First came the mobility. Tumours growing inside my spine had knackered various nerves and processes integral to walking. This meant the legs that had supported me unfailingly (give or take the odd boozy mishap) since 1979, were now somewhat compromised. In fact, my whole left side had proven itself fit for light duties only, and seemed to be pushing for early retirement. Would this improve with time and determination? There was no way of knowing, but in all honesty I was so f*cking relieved to still have my head above ground that I didn’t stress massively.

Then came the menopause. Fifteen to eighteen years early. No need to dwell, but suffice to say, it’s waaay worse than just contemplating the end of your baby making days.

Lady Sketch - Life After Lymphoma Is My Ultimate Work In Progress, Cancer Blog

Between Chemos, at home with my fam-a-lam ❤

Hidden Damage

Next arrived a brand new catalogue of concerns. The hidden obstacles; equally as debilitating but minus the outward symptoms. Nothing that could be zapped with radiation or shrunk into oblivion with cytotoxic chemicals – The Head Stuff.

A simmering soup of anxiety, memory loss, flashbacks, catastrophising and much irrational flapping about the children. Henny-Penny has my respect, it is supremely stressful waiting for your own personal sky to fall in. For the first time in my life I encountered something I couldn’t talk about. This was a foreign concept to a chatty-arse like me and therefore even more unsettling.

So I dealt with it in time honoured tradition. I threw a birthday party, got pissed with my mates and re-launched into the party lifestyle. It helped that 2015 was a warm summer and we spent long hours in the garden entertaining while I worked on the mural.

OK, I’ll be honest, I may well have done a bit of a Solange in my efforts to ‘drink it away,’ but as we all know, booze is not the answer to life’s problems (although it does impart a certain rosy hue) and a year later nothing had changed except the size of my jeans.

Lady Sketch - Life After Lymphoma is my ultimate work in progress. Cancer Blog

 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

It took me two and a half years to ask for help. And it wasn’t until I did ask for help that I realised exactly how much I had needed it. That was in 2016 when I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and shit finally started to fall into place.

It is now the beginning of 2017. I’d love to tell you that everything is back to normal, but that would be a big old fib. Continue reading