The Reality of Getting Ill After Cancer

Cancer & Me

What do you do, when your favourite place is also your absolute worst?  When I remember having cancer I am always in one of two places.  One (as you would expect) is the hospital, the other is in bed at home.  Both were accompanied by dark emotions of fear, anxiety and discomfort — physical and mental.

Although it was more comfortable being in bed at home, it was also scarier.  The security of having medical staff, diagnostic tools and the (seriously good) painkillers nearby would be stripped away and I would feel so much more vulnerable.  I couldn’t press a little buzzer and say to someone within a matter of moments; Is this normal?  Should I be concerned?  I think something is wrong.  I had to determine those things on my own and would be constantly double guessing my own judgement.

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If you follow me on social media, you will probably know that over the last few months I have had a number of bladder infections, kidney infections and Sepsis.  The most recent being last week when I ended up in A&E — again!  Each time these illness’ have seriously knocked me for six and I have ended up back in bed for days whilst the medication does its thing. Immediately I am thrown back into a very strange headspace.

I don’t worry about it being cancer or anything like that, but being back in bed is still very triggering for me.  Those feelings of fear, anxiety and discomfort come back.  The vulnerability of taking responsibility for whether I am OK or not and the constant double guessing of myself, overwhelms me.  The ability to see an infection as just an illness being easily treated is lost as I fall headfirst down the emotional rabbit hole.

Being in bed whilst sick gets me so upset and tearful, even though logically I know I am being ridiculous.  I know I haven’t got cancer.  I know once the antibiotics kick-in I’ll be fine.  I know that unlike before, I’m not going to be stuck in bed for months on end with a complete lack of control over myself and my health.  Even so, it still triggers all of these negative emotions and connotations.

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There is a reason for this.  It is caused by the way our brains hold onto emotional memories and create shortcuts.  Once the brain associates a ‘thing’ with an ’emotion’ — in my case, being in bed sick = fear, vulnerability and very long-term, severe illness — the brain will quickly recall that emotional memory when in a similar situation.*

As horrible as my sickness recalls are, they are nowhere near as bad as they used to be.  I’m getting better at saying to myself – this is just an emotional memory, it’s not what’s happening now, but it’s not a flawless system.  Sometimes I’m so in the depth of despair, I’m not able to remind myself, but I do try and I am getting better.  Plus, as I continue to get ill and recover, my brain will start to create new shortcuts and I will have a different set of memory recalls.  It will just take time.

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I think this story serves as a reminder that cancer isn’t over and done with as soon as the doctor says, you’re all clear.  As with anything, it takes time for the emotional fall-out to settle, for your emotional resilience to build back up and for your brain to create new shortcuts.  It is also a great reminder that it is not a straight upward line from feeling shite to feeling fine all the time.  Like life, there are up’s and down’s, followed by one step forward then ten steps back, followed by a few stumbles along the way.

So if, like me, you are feeling all the things right now, logical and completely illogical, just know that you’re not alone – I’m right there with you!

Stay healthy!
Nx

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About Nicola
Nicola is the author of ‘The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer’ part memoir, part guide for people going through, or supporting someone going through cancer.  Nicola has also published creative fiction and non-fiction, and copyedits and writes for others.   Nicola also runs online  Writing Workshops throughout the year, sharing her love of reading and writing with everyone!

*You can read more about emotional memory here…

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Creative Writing, Poetry

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Stars don’t die quietly

they scream light into the blazing sky

with Ares’ sword pointed towards themselves

 

spitting and burning the

truth

they splatter blinding supernovas

into the black padding of the night

 

dying stars don’t wink at the moon but take

pride in their indifference to

Death

and their

Love of the withering

light that burns them up from the inside

constellations of dust and

dents that hold the everlasting dark

 

until they do no more and

_

 

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Come with me to Los Angeles!

Cancer & Me, Writing & Blogging

Virtual Book Tour Love

Gosh I wish I really could feel that LA heat BUT let’s Virtually head over there and visit Esme Winterflood at her LA Lash Studio on Venice Beach.

Esme is sharing her excerpt from The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer where she gives all the tips and tricks for lashes when you are going through chemotherapy.

So head over and visit Esme Winterflood here

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We still have loads more to come with our Virtual Book Tour so make sure that you sign up here to stay up to date with everything that’s going on and remember to pass it on! xx

Did you see the previous Virtual Book Tour stops?

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Guest post ‘Managing Employees Returning from Critical Illness’
Read all about it here!

 
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The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer was Nicola Jane’s first ‘Book of the Month’
Read all about it here!

Still to come…

I will be meeting some fabulous women over the coming weeks so stay tuned and pass it on to anyone else who might be interested!

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What’s On Your 2017 Anti-Bucket List?

Any Human Heart, The Anti-Bucket List

If you haUnknown.jpegve been following me for a while you will probably be aware of my Anti-Bucket Lists.  If you haven’t or need reminding you can read all about it here but basically, when I was having treatment for advanced Colorectal Cancer I decided that when I got better I would flip the traditional ‘things-to-do-before-I-die-Bucket-List’ idea and came up with ‘The Anti-Bucket List’… these are things I am going to do because I’M ALIVE!

I think Anti-Bucket lists are different to New Years Resolutions because resolutions are more goals of the year like losing 3 stone (obviously this is on my list) or drink Green Juice everyday (also on my list), whereas the Anti-Bucket list are things I want to do and experience this year.

I think especially after or during something like cancer, it can be especially good to have one of two things to focus on that aren’t illness related.

A couple I have are…

  1. Take the children to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the West End
  2. Visit Harry Potter World at Letchworth Studios (this has been on there for a while, I really hope that this year will be the year!)
  3. Visit somewhere new – This has been on my list the last few years but I think this will remain on my list forever…

So what are you putting on your list?  What are you going to enjoy doing this year to celebrate being alive?  Whatever they are I hope you have fun doing them and send you lots of love for 2017!

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You can also follow me on Facebook Instagram and Twitter. Come and say hi, I would love to hear from you!

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5 TOP TIPS FOR CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR WITH CANCER

Cancer & Me, Family Matters

images-1Going through Christmas and New Year when you have cancer can be a strange thing. It becomes more poignant, more emotional, more lovely, more sad, more everything… I know from first hand that heightened emotions that come from big occasions and family get-together can therefore become a little stressful and require a lot more planning. That’s why I wrote about attending any big occasion in my book, but with Christmas tomorrow (how is it here already) I thought I would share a couple of Top Tips that I found made Christmas easier…

1. THINK THE DAY THROUGH

In your mind, walk through the day so you can get your head around how the day is expected to play out. For example if you are visiting your parents for the day it may be something like:

  • It’s a two-hour drive there and I will need to take painkillers during that time so I must have some water and fruit with me in the car
  • I’ll wear something comfy in the car and change into my outfit when I get there so I need to pack my outfit
  • We aren’t eating until 4pm but I will need a snack to take medication with at lunchtime so I will take some nuts for then
  • I need to change plasters at 2pm but we will be having a pre-lunch walk then so I need to make sure I do it before we leave for our walk and take plasters with me.
  • So on…

Doing this should help take out the element of surprise and make it less nerve-racking.

FABULOUS TIP – I find it easy to remember to take medication when I am at home but when I come out of my normal routine I easily forget. Set a reminder on your phone to make sure you don’t lose track of what you need to be taking and when. 

2. YOUR HANDBAG

This will be your home away from home whilst at an event, but to save you walking around with a bag that is gong to break your shoulder, I would go for the cute little bag that holds your phone and the bits that you would normally take out with you and then a second bag for medical supplies, change of outfit, whatever it may be, that you can leave in the car / under the table for if and when you need it.

FABULOUS TIP – Take double the number of the essentials you need. If you know you will need two painkillers during the time period, take four. That way if you get caught in traffic or end up staying later than planned or anything like that, you know you’re covered. 

3. YOUR OUTFIT

If you need to change bandages or plasters, make sure they are easily accessible in what you are wearing – or that you will be able to go somewhere and change when needed.

Have your outfit completely ready to go before-hand and that means everything – tights, fascinator, coat, underwear, wig, scarf, literally the whole outfit from top to bottom, including everything that you need in your handbag. Will save you panicking on the day because you can’t find the right denier tights.

4. KNOW WHEN TO LEAVE

Don’t feel like you have to be the last one to leave. Do as much as you can and when you start to feel like it is enough, tell your host that you are starting to feel unwell and have to leave.

I found tiredness would creep up on me and suddenly I would be beyond exhausted. Once I was at that point of exhaustion, I would be knocked out for the next few days and the pain would then be difficult to stay on top of, so it was always best for me to leave before that point.

5. LET IT GO

Having said that, we all need a blow out every now and then – especially when going through something like cancer, so don’t feel bad if you do get caught up in the moment and spend the next few days paying for it, just enjoy yourself, you definitely deserve it!

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Summer Reception with Bowel Cancer UK

Cancer & Me, Uncategorized

Fun, emotional, heartbreaking and inspiring – just your standard Thursday night!

I was so excited a few weeks ago to receive an invitation to Bowel Cancer UK’s Summer Reception and the event was finally held on Thursday evening. Held at the Royal College of General Practitioners on an amazing roof-terrace in London there was a mixture of researchers, medical practitioners, supporters, writers, survivors, I’m sure many more interesting people and my husband and I.

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I must admit to not knowing what to expect but it was wonderful, interesting but also emotional. Speaking with other people who have, like me, been directly effected by Bowel Cancer and people who work tirelessly improving everything from patients survival rates and quality of life to government policy and social awareness – and basically STOP Bowel Cancer, it brought a number of experiences back to life.

My highlight was listening to speeches from both a research scientist and Deborah Alsina who gave us a flavour of what is going on behind the scene at Bowel Cancer UK…

Bowel Cancer UK export the need for research with their Gaps Analysis Project. It is not just one disease but could be as many as 7 or 8.

Money from Bowel Cancer UK bring the best in the UK to fight this particular cancer and designing new approaches such as personalised medicine.

Exciting science that can have a real impact. Understanding the illness is key to improving the outcome for patients.

As amazing as everything they are doing is, it also reminds you just how much still needs to be done.

Bowel Cancer remains the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK. However if you are diagnosed early – within Stage 1 – your chances of survival are 90% that’s why ongoing research, developments and symptoms awareness (so you can get an early diagnosis) are so vital.

Then great news is that you can now become a Friend of Bowel Cancer UK to ensure this work continues.  Sign up here and you can give a couple of quid a month and continue the fantastic work Bowel Cancer UK do.  I’m so grateful.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  I genuienyly love to hear from you so pop over and say hi!

Buy your copy of The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer here

Sun, Sand & Septicaemia! (part one)

Cancer & Me, Health & Beauty, What's Happening?

Well that was NOT part of the plan when my family and I decided to go on a dream family holiday to Mauritius!

My husband and I worked, saved and planned for months. We were so excited to finally be going and once there, it was as close to paradise as I could have hoped. We were all having the perfect time – until…

A few days in I started to feel unwell.  There was a medical centre on site and a nurse gave me some rehydration sachets.  I did keep saying that it felt more like a bladder infection but it was considered dehydration.  I know that with a colostomy dehydration is an extreme issue, so I was furious with myself that I had become dehydrated.  But the sachets didn’t help, in fact when I tried to drink one, I instantly threw it back up again – sexy!

Back to the medical center where it was agreed – it was a bladder and possibly now a kidney infection as well but not to worry, oral antibiotics and you should feel better in a day or two.  Sorted.

Not so.  By the next day I was convulsing, vomiting and had a temperature of 40c.  The medical team sent me straight to hospital.  I can’t lie, the journey to hospital was petrifying. It was an hour and a half away. I had to go by taxi on my own because it was too far for an ambulance to come and Husband had to stay with the kids. I had no idea what to expect when I got there – a posh private clinic, or like something off an episode of panorama.  The hospital was fine, basic, but fine and the staff were really wonderful.

Arriving at hospital I was delirious and writhing in pain. The doctors wouldn’t give me any medication until they ran tests, sorted my insurance and had my passport so the next hour was pretty awful and involved a lot of tears as I played the worlds smallest violin to myself.

Quick side note: I couldn’t be admitted until my insurance was sorted and they took my passport as a guarantee of payment which I didn’t have with me, the nurse seemed to think  couldn’t be admitted (more crying/violin playing) until thankfully someone was able to come and help me be admitted without my passport.  There was security on all the doors so no one can leave and they only removed the drip and cannula once the bill has been paid.  I understand why, but I really was reminded how lucky I am to live in a country with a National Health Service.  It might not be perfect but at least you never have to fear being turned away from a hospital like I nearly was, or worry about paying the bill – that truly is amazing.  But anyway – back to the story…

I was diagnosed with a chronic bladder, kidney and blood infections – septicaemia.  It was the septicaemia that was causing the convulsing and fitting.  I had non-stop drips running for three days with antibiotics, liquid and painkillers.  Honestly I can’t explain how ill I was.

The only other time I have felt that bad was when I was having chemo and a junior doctor gave me the wrong amount of morphine and I overdosed.

Because the hospital was so far from the hotel, it wasn’t easy for my family to visit so I spent most of the three days I was in there contemplating being severely ill again. Obviously it’s not like my cancer was back but being hooked up to machines day and night, having numerous scans and tests – it all felt far too familiar and took me back to an emotionally dark place.

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Getting to sit and watch the sunset

As there was a medical centre at my hotel, my consultant (after quite a lot of negotiation) agreed to let me convalesce in the hotel with the medical team supporting me.  I couldn’t get out of bed and was on a lot of medication but who cares… I was back and with my family for the last few days of holiday.

The day I was released I saw a blog post from Consciously Healthy which seemed to sum up just how I was feeling.  The author Emma was reflecting on how after a long recovery, she stopped giving her mind, body and soul the attention it deserved, till eventually her body gave-way again.  This was exactly how  felt.  I know I didn’t have cancer again and my life is full of people and things that I love, but slowly my life had returned to crazy busy with little down time and having septicaemia made me realise it was time to have a little rethink!

I will be writing more about how and ‘if’ the rethink happened in a few days so check back or sign up for part 2…

Are there any times in your life when you have had a rethink?  Or any tips for anyone else having a rethink?  Please leave a comment and share you stories with us.

Come join me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

With love XX

©

The Bourne Diagnosis – Nicola B & the Big C

Cancer & Me

I posted this article 2 years ago today and it is still one of my most read… My experience getting diagnosed with colorectal cancer and beyond…

Nicola Bourne

I knew that I had cancer.  I had a strong inner feeling and I knew.  I was experiencing textbook symptoms and had a basic knowledge based on a strong family history – my mother, Grandmother and Great-Grandfather all died from Bowel Cancer at ‘young’ ages.  Even so, getting diagnosed was not as easy as it should have been.

I had been getting rectal bleeding on and off, probably since 2006.  Over the years I had visited various GPs but they always said the same, that I was too young to have  Bowel Cancer, it was probably a small internal cut and if the bleeding went,  there was nothing to worry about.  The bleeding would stop so as far as the GPs were concerned, that was that.  I now know that the bleeding was probably polyps in the colon, which can bleed intermittently and it is these polyps that grow into cancerous…

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1st Birthday of The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer

Cancer & Me, Writing & Blogging

I cannot believe that my book was published a year ago today!  Happy Birthday to my book!  The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer was a labour of love and nothing compares to the getting wonderful, heartfelt messages from ladies who have been touched or helped in some way by reading it.  I have written honestly about the parts of writing a book about cancer which can be difficult in an earlier blog post but those emails and messages I get from people – knowing that I have been able to use my love of writing and turn something so negative into something positive is, quite simply, amazing.

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Over the last year I have posted a few blog posts on writing and why I wrote The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer, I think my favourite is What Do You Wish You Had Done?  It is something I try to keep in my mind, what do I wish I had done and what do I still want to do.  It can be so easy to fall into a routine and stop pushing yourself but this post reminds me that no one else is going to make amazing things in my life happen.

And I think we should all ideally not wait for a near death experience to push us into action.  We owe it to our future selves to create the life we want.

It never ceases to amaze me, just how many people are effected by cancer; how it comes round and round, time and time again, yet I also know that if I had my cancer ten-years ago, I would not have survived.  Now I am 3 years into remission and it is only getting better.  More and more of us are surviving even extreme cancer diagnosis’ and I love that my words can help others who are going through similar experiences.

Publishing this book was one of my proudest moments, along with this blog and I really want to send a heartfelt thanks to all of you who have read, commented, reviewed, been involved, anything… Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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To anyone who had or had cancer I just want to say… You are so strong, especially on the day’s that you don’t think that you are, the days that you want to give up, those are the days when you are actually the strongest because you keep going.  You are going to do things you only dreamt of before.  You are going to be even more amazing because at one point you were stripped of all and (if not now, in time) you will rebuild.  Give yourself time and be kind to yourself and let the magic of life unfold.

Happy Birthday book x

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I genuinely love to hear from you so come and say hi! Nx

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What it’s Really Like to Write a Book about Cancer

Cancer & Me, Writing & Blogging

It wasn’t easy writing a book about one of the worst experiences I’ve had to encounter. I remember when writing the section about chemotherapy, I swear I could feel the cannula in my hand and the chemo seeping up my arm. Similarly when writing about the emotional side of cancer, reliving the rollercoaster once again and remembering points I was so low I wanted to give up, I came away from my computer crying.

Read the rest of the article on Medium

This weekend ‘The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer’ is only 99p on Kindle

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