Sherry’s Diary

Breast Cancer: Affecting one million women a year

Sherry, from the UK, was told in May 2004 that she had advanced breast cancer and could not expect to live more than three months.

Sept 23rd, 2004

"I'm fine again now - I have been so well lately and very positive but had an appointment to see oncologist who said I mustn't lose touch with reality and, in cases like mine, miracles don't happen.  Knocked me for six, although he didn't tell me anything I didn't already know - I couldn't understand why I reacted so badly.   

Having thought it through though, when he first told me the prognosis I was terribly ill and had been for three months and I really didn't care whether I lived or died.  Of course now I feel so well and certainly look 100 times better than I did, the last thing on my
mind is dying - hence the shock - but back to normal again now."

October 1st, 2004

“Have just returned from three very selfish and self indulgent days at a health spa.  I have been several times before and have always enjoyed it from a purely cosmetic and vanity angle - an exercise in pampered leisure - but this time it was different. 
 It made me realise that I have probably never been truly stressed and under pressure in my life until now.  The few days by myself in a calm and relaxed atmosphere were wonderful. The head and body massages were heavenly !!  Also, much to my shock and horror, it was lovely to be touched - since my relationship broke up and I now live alone, I have no-one to massage my aching back and neck or rub my feet;  I had given up on men but maybe I should reconsider my decision - they do have their uses! The water treatments were also great - to be immersed in a seaweed bath, (which looked and smelt disgusting), was wonderful. Relaxing at the time and invigorating afterwards. I also tried a type of mediation and relaxation therapy which I will pursue further. I felt like I was transported to another planet and afterwards had an overwhelming feeling of peace and tranquility.  A truly delightful experience.”

October 3rd 2004

“Have taken great delight this weekend in planting my winter flowering plants and bulbs, something I didn't think I'd be here to do.  The changes of the seasons are something I've never really thought deeply about before, but this time I'm very aware it's the end of the summer - for me, a life changing summer. Accordingly to the medical profession I shouldn't be here now let alone planning a winter garden.  I have been totally excessive and put in hundreds of bulbs; the display will be spectacular and I intend to be here to see it.”

October 4th 2004

“Have just received wonderful news from my Oncologist - my tumour marker blood test results are down again this month.  I feel so excited I want to tell everyone.  Recently I have felt so much better and very happy, probably happier than I've been for 2 years, which given the circumstances may seem strange but I feel I have an inner strength.  I know it can't last but I now live for today, yesterday has gone and tomorrow hasn't come, so today suits me just fine.”

October 28th 2004

Had a very interesting experience at the hairdressers recently.  Due to the medication (and probably a certain amount of stress) I am very aware that my hair is not in the best condition and it doesn't matter how much I try, I can't change it.  I'm very happy to be alive with bad hair!

Me:  My hair is in poor condition, I need a really good cut please.
Hairdresser:  Your hair is very dry and split - do you use a conditioner? Do you live locally?  It's nice round here.
Me:  Yes
Hairdresser:  You should really have it cut more often, you haven't had a cut since May. Are you married, what does your husband do?
Me:  No
Hairdresser: We sell some really good products to help condition hair, have you got any children?
Me:  Yes
Hairdresser:  I think you should have more than a few inches cut off, are you having a day off work?
Me:  No I don't work. Cut off whatever you feel is best.
Hairdresser:  Vitamins help with dry, thin hair, you should try some. Have you been on holiday, we went to Disneyworld and I'm really excited because we’re going to the Dominican next year. I wonder why your hair is so broken and dry, you should try some of our products. Do you blow dry it? Disneyworld was great.

By this time I was getting irate and in an effort to stop her wittering:-

Me: I've got cancer,  I'm on medication that's why my hair is bad.
Hairdresser:  Oh, I've got Irritable Bowel Syndrome and I'm on medication. Are you going on holiday next year, maybe you should go to Disney world. It's great. Have you got any pets?
Me: Uuuugh !!!

November 18th 2004

Have been very busy recently - have had a new kitchen. I've lived in this old cottage for 5 years and have put up with the most basic and tumbledown kitchen all that time and decided on the spur of the moment 10 days ago that I wanted a new one -  right now ! The builder has been great and it looks wonderful. I am so pleased.  My father is busy decorating it now and it's all very exciting,  my friends are beginning to believe I really have lost my marbles now.  The mess has been dreadful but everyone has helped and the whole project has given me a purpose and now a great sense of achievement.  Great therapy - better than all the conselling in the world.
Am still very well and responding to the Zoladex, last tumour marker blood test reduced by another 30 points.  It's slowing down a bit now - to start with it was coming down by over 100 points each month - but I suppose it's all relative.  In June it was nearly 900 and now it's 441 so I am very happy.  Next test on the 28th November so it will be very interesting. Secretly I'm actually dreading it because I don't want to be disappointed or get depressed about the whole thing again.  I don't want to cry because then everyone feels sorry for me and I hate that.  I currently have faith in every religion that exists and lots of  hope and loads of things I want to do and most of the time I'm very happy, probably happier than I have been for 3 or 4 years which, given the circumstances, may sound strange but it's true.

My relationship with my son has improved tremendously now he can see I'm being so pro-active and planning several months ahead with enthusiasm.  I know we still have a major problem in that he really can't handle the fact I have terminal cancer but I've decided to just go with flow for the time being. He has arranged for me to spend Christmas with him, his girlfriend and her parents in Norfolk and I am really looking forward it.  It will be a major change from our usual Christmas which I think is a good thing.

November 30th, 2004

Fantastic news yesterday so have a major hangover this morning - not very sensible but seemed a necessity to celebrate to excess.  Monthly test results were amazing, now down to 246.  Biggest leap so far.  Oncologist is clearly amazed at the response to the Zoladex and is now arranging new imaging tests to determine the extent of the shrinkage of the cancer.  It seems surgery may now possibly be an option but I'm not sure I want to go down that route - I have a consultation with the Oncologist in a few weeks time so will find out more. 

Looking forward to Christmas with great excitement now and will be so glad to see the back of 2004.  Everyone with cancer knows that life can be really shit and the slightest change in one's condition (whether it's up or down) can be mind blowing.  I feel I have been clawing my way out of a big black pit and now I can see some sunshine - it may only be temporary because with cancer things can change so rapidly - but it's a great feeling and I shall make the most of it.

December 23rd, 2004

Had more test results on 22nd December - tumour marker test now down to 122 - which is amazing and a wonderful Christmas present.  Oncologist very pleased and has arranged a new CT scan for mid January to get a better picture of the situation.  I get the impression he is very puzzled and doesn't usually use Zoladex to treat secondary cancers - I would be interested to hear from anyone on the matter. Am now busy preparing to spend Christmas with my son and his girlfriend in Norfolk and looking forward to the end of 2004. 

January 3rd, 2005

Had good Christmas in Norfolk and built many bridges with my son.  In fact, I'm going to London later this week to spend a few days with him, unheard of a few months ago, so I'm very happy about the situation now. CT scans and tests on 19th January.

January 21st, 2005

Blood tests back yesterday - down again to 111.  I was obviously very pleased but GP put usual dampener onthings.  He said not to read too much into the test results and the small drop from 122 to 111 was "insignificant". He thought it might not go any lower and I should prepare myself for an increase next month.  Although I've asked many times about the purpose of the test I still don't fully understand what it's telling us; as far as I'm concerned if the reading is going down the cancer must be slowing down, may be even receding.

I was so cross I got on my bicycle and free wheeled down a very long and steep hill. I don't think I've ever been so fast - it was very windy but a wonderful feeling. Only trouble was I had to walk back up to get home, it took me ages and I was so shattered I had to go to bed for a couple of hours. Bloody doctors!

Had CT scans on Wednesday but haven't had any results yet.  Oncologist will phone me next week once he has "had an opportunity" to look at the scans. So I just have to wait, thing is I want to know NOW.  I do so try to be 101% positive but sometimes it's so hard and I can see why some people just give up. It seems it's easier to die of cancer than to live with it.

February 9th, 2005

Still nothing to report ref. scans 2/3 weeks ago.  Have left 3 messages for oncologist to phone or write to me with results but so far nothing! Spoke to my GP about it to see if he'd heard but he hasn't received anything either. I have an appointment with Gastro. Onc. on 16th February so hopefully I will learn more then. Patience is not one of my virtues and I'm very angry that no one has bothered to contact me.

February 18th, 2005

Good news and bad news.  Had appointment with onclogist on Wednesday and CT scan results showed thickening of the stomach wall as before but can't show whether cells are active or not.  Waste of time really, so now he is arranging for me to have a PET scan within the next few weeks which will give us a better idea of what's happening - can't understand why he didn't do a PET instead of CT - but as we know the medical profession is a law unto itself. PET is abbreviation of POSITRON EMISSION TOMOGRAPHY and is fairly new and very expensive.  It shows how body tissues are working and not just what they look like.  It shows the difference between the fibrous scar tissue left by inactive cancer cells which have been killed off by treatment and active cancer tissue.  He thinks because my tumour marker test has been steadily decreasing every month, and as I can now eat and drink normally and am generally very well, that the cancer is receeding.  However that was Wednesday. 

Thursday brought the news that my latest blood test has increased, from 111 to 126, and I am just devastated.  I have always been aware that because the cancer was advanced and aggressive that once the Zoladex became inneffective the whole thing would flare up again and very quickly, but I didn't expect it so soon, and was totally unprepared for the shock.  I may be panicking unnecessarily as it is only a small rise but I feel completely deflated.  I think I have been living on such a high over the last 10 months because every month brought such good results, and now this setback seems like a certain death sentence.  Have wallowed in self pity all day today but will pull myself together - new resolution for tomorrow  is " must try harder !"

If you’d like to discuss any of these issues with Sherry, you can contact her via:

Coping with the bureaucratic benefits system in the UK


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