Big wheel keep on turnin’

I’ve been quiet on here recently as I’ve been waiting for events to happen then I can tell you about them.

 

First off. On the 1st of May I was just on my way out and the post man dropped the post through my front door. I mediately checked the pose, there it was;

 

(Miss Ashleigh Maggie Rimmer and in the top right hand corner, St James Leeds)

 

I instantly knew it was my clinic appointment, (gosh they come around so quick. 3 whole months have passed already) I dropped all my bags at the front door and sat on the floor, I immediately opened it. I couldn’t stand the suspense any longer.

 

Thursday 23rd May 15:30pm Haematology outpatients clinic.

 

(All that went through my mind was 15:30pm again!! Why is my appointment always so late in the afternoon, so therefore I have to wait around all day)

 

Then reality hit…

 

This is my life forever? Constant check ups. Constant worry, then I would question myself. “I don’t think I can do this?”, “I cant go back to that dark place, my life could be taken away from me again”.. dramatic I know but at the time I couldn’t stop these thoughts.

I don’t know if any of my readers saw the post I shared on Facebook, a piece wrote by a lady for her friend, it explained the constant fear, worry and anxiety that someone who has had a cancer diagnosis goes through every day. From the minute they wake up – to the minute they drift off to sleep. extract.png

People often think once an individual is in remission they are ok. As physically you begin to start to look and feel healthy again but not mentally. Every day is a constant battle and I for one am not afraid to admit that. You learn to put on that brave face every morning. Which let me tell you takes strength but its ok not to be ok at some point it catches up with you and results in a mini break down which I’ve experienced first-hand, especially at night when everyone is asleep and I’m struggling to drift off.

My counsellor helps me a lot with this though. I still attend my sessions but I’ve been moved to monthly sessions now which I’m slowly getting used to. But with my first check up approaching these thoughts are classed as ‘normal’, if you can call it that haha!

 

Anyway enough of the negative. On a more positive note I went to visit my special little lady, my Grandma Vina. Having not seen her in a year due to me not being able to go into the care home because of my immune system, I was so excited (but nervous at the same time) to see her.

 

Her not recognising me was my biggest fear.

 

However this wasn’t the case at all. after I’d found my lady balls and stopped crying due to how much she had changed, I started chatting to my Grandma my Mum left us to have some 1:1 time for 5 minutes and I asked her “ do you recognise me Grandma?” to which she replied “yes I do, its Ashleigh” well that was it I was off again, crying like a baby, (I wondered why she was looking at me funny). We have never told my Grandma that I’ve been poorly due to her dementia, we didn’t want to upset her and we had fear that it might be the one thing she remembers and constantly get upset every day. So as a family we decided it was best to just try and carry on like things were normal. Which worked fine.

I absolutely LOVE being able to go and see her again and I definitely ensure it is a weekly thing. Seeing a smile on her face when I walk in makes me smile.

 

 

Fast forward a few weeks and it was..

 

Wednesday the 22nd of May the night before my clinic appointment approached. I was so nervous, I felt sick, I couldn’t sleep. Everyone was asleep in the house and I remember tossing and turning. So I got my phone out. The last time I remember looking at the clock it was 1am.. great. I don’t think I’d ever felt this nervous before; but then I remember the last appointment when I was told my good news I was physically close to being sick I was that nervous.

There was a lot riding on this appointment though. (In fact every appointment there is). The pressure is sometimes unbearable.

 

The car journey to the appointment is the worst. You could cut the tension with a knife, with being so late in the afternoon I have a constant knot in my stomach and its not a short journey either. I was also panicking at the fact this time I had to have a needle, as pepper the picc was no more. Would you believe I’m still petrified of these??

On arriving I always go up to my ward J94 for my bloods taking, I find it much more relaxing. It was so nice to catch up with everyone. In a weird way I had missed them. My specialist nurse had a massive surprise for me….she was pregnant and expecting a girl!! I was so happy for her, I will honestly miss her so much when she is on maternity leave for a full year! (this is when the panic set in a full year without her, what will I do at appointments haha) she has honestly been amazing and without her I definitely would have crumbled.

I braved it! 3 bottles of blood later and I was running down to clinic as they were waiting for me I couldn’t believe it. Normally I’m still waiting to be seen 30minutes after my appointment time. I couldn’t wait to see my favourite consultant, I hadn’t seen her since before my last PET scan and when I received the remission news as she was on holiday. So I had everything crossed that she could continue to give me good news today.

 

“Ashleigh Rimmer please”

 

Those dreaded words.

 

I walked into the consultation room and she was amazed it was me. “you’re a total different person from when you started this journey, you look amazing” she’s so kind and as much as I loved the compliment I just wanted her to tell me my blood results and get this over with.

 

“Your platelets have completely come back to normal and all your other counts are still normal, in fact perfect”. The knot in my stomach instantly went away.sign.png

 

I’m due to go back in another 3 months for another routine check-up. Before this I will have one final CT scan to check up on the old lung. These results I will get at my next check-up.

So all that’s left for me to do now, is keep doing what I’m doing, carry on living life to the full and get work and university rung so I can get my start date to return.

 

Hallelujah, I’m getting there…. Slowly

 

Lots of love Ashleigh Maggie xoxo

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“ Time to hang up the dancing shoes and return to my slippers”

What a crazy three weeks- I’ve eaten out, I’ve partied like you wouldn’t believe, I’ve got a tattoo, I went to the first ever Cancer Chicks X Trekstock event, had return to work meetings and most importantly started planning a fundraiser for charities now close to my heart. Lastly on a one negative note, experienced my first cold after being poorly which sent my anxiety through the roof, but I’ll touch on that a little later. me.png

The celebrations have been mental but- oh so enjoyable. I remember all them months ago I would sit on my bed watching Instagram or Snap Chat stories (yes sad I know, but what do you do when you have no life?) watching my friends live like normal 22 year olds without a care in the world, how I wished It was me. It used to send me over the edge to the point I wouldn’t look at my phone on a weekend. I couldn’t deal with the fact the choice of whether I wanted to go out or not was taken away from me. But then just like that; I’m back there joining them. I often get comments said to me, “I’m sat in watching your stories now” to which I reply, “I’m making up for lost time”. But now I’ve decided to hang up the dancing shoes and return to my slippers. Saving for a house is back in full swing (even though it never really stopped, but we are now on a mission) and I need to concentrate on getting my strength back up properly so I’m ready for my next challenge.. work. Yes you read that correctly, WORK!

 

I’ve kept in touch with work the whole way through my diagnosis. I’ve been extremely lucky that my place has been put on hold for me at University so I can return to my studies and continue training to be a; Trainee Nurse Associate a role I have always aspired to do. I’m hoping to get one of my first 3 monthly check up’s out of the way which will be around May time, then return to work in June. This will officially be a year after I went off poorly (all being well). So as you know me I’m completely over the top, maybe too organised and a tiny bit OCD I take after my Dad, so I’ve been out and bought;

  • A new lunchbox
  • A water bottle which you can also defuse fruit in the middle
  • A mug for my Green Tea
  • My favourite multi way pen
  • Mini notebooks for my memory (chemo brain is a thing people let me tell you that!)
  • And finally a new Fob watch as my old one has broken probably because it has been out of use for so long.
  • I’ve got a brand new uniform for my role (as I picked it up at my first ever CT Scan before I got my diagnosis).

So I am officially ready for my start date!

 

 

I’m starting with 10 hours for the first week and these hours increase each week. No two shifts will be together so I can recover from my first shift before my next and no nights for three months, as Nurses know these completely mess up your sleeping and eating pattern up.

I am excited to get back to work but I’m not going to lie I am very anxious. Can you blame me? I’m going back to work in a Hospital where I’ve spent the last 7 months of my life and where I was told the devastating news. Some call me crazy, they are probably right. But it’s what I love to do. I’ve started going back into work to see my colleagues old and new and having a brew with them, this is so lovely to do as each time I go I feel it gets a little easier. Oh how I have missed their faces.

Within these crazy three weeks I also got the chance to finally meet some of my fellow “Cancer Chicks” at the first ever Cancer Chicks X Trekstock event. This was so amazing. Girls I have been speaking to for months I finally got to hug and share our stories and experiences in more detail. The whole night I didn’t stop smiling, I took my Mum, we drank cocktails (Mum’s were non-alcoholic as she was my driver haha!), got glitter put on our faces, was styled with clothes by stylists and got to chat all night. It truly was the greatest night and such a success. We came away with brand new clothes, bags, Bare Minerals lipsticks and gloss and sample perfumes all funded to the charities Cancer Chicks and Trekstock.

 

06/03/2019-I got a tattoo. Since being poorly I gained the nickname “Warrior” especially from my Mum. My Brother (Lewis) drew the tattoo for me. I wanted it personal and to mean something to me. So I got WARRIOR on my wrist but the “O” is a green cancer ribbon for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. I absolutely love it 💚. Every time I look at my wrist it’s a reminder of what I’ve been through and continue to go through and reminds me of how far I’ve come and that anything is possible.

 

On another positive note, I am now planning my fundraiser to raise as much money as I can to repay Ward J94 @ Leeds St James’s for their services and saving my life and also Lymphoma Action so they continue researching and ever evolving treatment. The night features £5 per person on the door, a raffle with some amazing prizes all gifted from businesses, an auction with some special prizes, a DJ, dancing and lots of drinking raising a glass to a good cause and most importantly celebrating.

Now for the only negative note as I’m always honest with my readers. This dreaded cold. I’ve been sneezing a million times a day, blown my nose a thousand times and not to forget I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve taken my temperature, the anxiety is too much. This is the first little bug I have had since finishing treatment, but like people say it’s my bodies way of showing me it’s becoming immune to a bug. However try telling someone that when their anxiety level is off the scale, haha!

However I am getting there and I think I’ve dealt with it quite well surprisingly, with the help from Olbas Oil and Green Tea with Honey and Lemon to boost my immune system.  Now I know why you have to be so careful during chemo, this would have floored me if I was still on treatment… seriously.

So that’s my crazy life summed up in a blog post for you.

Thank you to everybody I have celebrated with (you know who you are) you’ve honestly put the biggest smile on my face. The biggest of celebrations is yet to come though at my fundraiser and I cannot wait.

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CHEERS!!

Lots of Love, Ashleigh Maggie xoxo

Did somebody say R.E.M.I.S.S.I.O.N?!

Well where do I start?

A lot has happened since I last wrote to you, I actually can’t even think straight when I think about what I have done/achieved over the last few months. My life has literally been crazy!

I finally got the results I was waiting for after my biopsy and to say I was nervous was an understatement. It was the 03.01.2019. I was praying for good news, you know the saying ‘new year, new start’ as cliché as it sounds this is what I most praying for. We got to St James’s and I remember walking up to J94 (Youth Cancer Ward) to have my bloods taken before my clinic appointment (this is the normal routine), whilst I was having my bloods taken tears were streaming down my face. I remember the Nurse asked me ‘’what’s wrong’’ and I replied ‘’I’m just so nervous for these results, these determined whether I have more treatment or not’’ she hugged me tightly whilst I sobbed with fear. After 5 minutes I brushed myself off because I didn’t want my Mum, Dad and Connor to see me crying (I’m not strong all the time, but I think its normal to break down now and again…. I’ve been told anyway).

The waiting room was soooooo busy. You can’t even imagine it. Your sat there around 50+ people (just on that day and that afternoon) I always sit there nervously thinking all the what IF’s because as soon as I’m in that waiting room positive thoughts go straight out of my head! Literally. I always know when it’s my turn as my lovely Specialist Nurse has to get extra chairs for the consultation room due to the fact I always take my army with me unfortunately my brother Lewis couldn’t make the last two appointments due to work commitments, but he was always the first one I called straight after clinic to inform him on the results.

‘’Ashleigh Rimmer please’’

These words will forever haunt me. We sat down with my consultant and the first question which Is always asked Is ‘so how have you been?’ every time I start crying straight away I am possibly the most anxious person in the world now, I can’t deal with sitting around I just want to know my results straight away. It was good news; ‘’we have found no Lymphoma in your biopsy sample’’ I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t speak I just cried and cried. This was only the beginning of the good news though, my consultant proceeded to say to me I can go and eat what I want WHEN I WANT, it was music to my ears. HELLO JADE PALACE, HELLO PRAWNS!!

Usually I would go to my clinic appointments every 3 weeks but due to the good news my consultant didn’t want to see me for 8 weeks but within that 8 weeks at 6 weeks I had to have another PET scan to double check everything and to make sure there was no new growth. So this is why you’ve seen me out partying, living my best life, because I had 8 weeks of freedom! You feel like you’ve just been set free, finished school again for the school holidays or let out of prison. Not that I’ve ever been in prison but I can imagine this is what it feels like haha.

During this time as you all probably noticed I got to do an amazing article for Burnley Express. I me and my Brother Lewis met with John Deehan who works for the paper and shared my story with him because I want to try and get as much awareness as I can out there. So if you read it online or bought a paper thank you so much I REALLY APPRECIATE IT!!! Look Mum, that’s me on the front of the paper again haha! I still can’t quite believe I made the front page.

 

However them 8 weeks were over in a flash. I actually forgot all about the ‘cancer’ the ‘appointments’, I felt so well, so healthy but the nightmare suddenly became a reality again!

I had my PET scan on the 15.02.2019 then two weeks later I was back to Leeds for my results 28.02.2019. I thought I was nervous before but on this day I experienced a whole new ‘nervous’ I had finally got a bit of my life back, a new life and I became to realise that it could all be taken away from me again. This I couldn’t deal with.

That wasn’t the case because at 15:30pm on 28.02.2019 I got told the words I have been longing to here for 7 months ‘’it’s good news you are in remission’’. I couldn’t believe it.

I finally got to ring that BELL!! The sweet, sweet sound of the bell was amazing and so emotional. I only just held it together.bell.png

Pepper the Picc Line was removed, which I’m shocked as I weirdly miss it. What I don’t miss though is hanging my arm out of the bath or putting a protector on when I had a shower, I am now back in full swing singing in the shower or dunking in the bath. Its literally amazing.picc line last pic.png

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I am seriously on cloud nine at the moment. The celebrations have been mental and I haven’t had a chance to sit down and process what has happened until this very moment writing my blog. I’m in remission, I did it, I beat cancer. My recovery Is still long but I will continue to focus and take each day as it comes. Slowly but surely I will get there. I’ve got so many exciting new chapters to come; going back to work and just genuinely living life to the full.

A very important message; I am going to be doing more fundraising and the blogs will definitely be continuing; they don’t only help me but they help other people and that was my aim. Thank you again for the continued support none of it has gone unnoticed it’s what keeps me fighting.

 

 

What A Nightmare!!

There has been many of nights I’ve laid in bed crying myself to sleep wishing I just had my normal life back. Everything seemed to be falling apart even more than they already had and I couldn’t get my head around the fact I needed surgery.

The morning of the biopsy arrived Wednesday 19th December; YEP just before Christmas, GREAT! I had to be at Leeds St James for 7am!! This resulted in us having to get up at 5am and start travelling to the hospital at 05:40am. What an early start.

We arrived at the hospital and there was so many people I remember turning to my Mum and saying; ‘all these people are having surgery?’ I’d never seen anything like it because I had never had an operation in my life. We walked onto the Pre Assessment ward and I got told to wait in the pre waiting area. I instantly knew this was the area where they leave you ALL day because your last on the list. Absolutely brilliant for my anxiety levels.

An hour or so later still shaking like a brick the Anaesthetist called me. I immediately started to cry (yep I know, like a baby and I don’t care, I was petrified), he was lovely he asked me what I was so scared of, and I replied ‘being put to sleep, what if I wake up? What if I don’t?’ to which he explained he did this everyday and he would be with me through the whole operation keeping a very close eye on me.. so basically he knows what he’s doing, it still didn’t relax me though! After the chat I got sent back to the dreaded room where everyone was sat in silence and it was roasting.

A few minutes later the Registrar came in to see me and drew a massive arrow on my left side, I guess just in case they forgot which side… Jesus Christ! He told me I could be waiting a while as I was last on the list. That was until about half an hour later I got called, my Surgeon had bumped me up to second as he knew how anxious I was, and would probably end up leaving if I had to wait until the afternoon, that gave me enough time to talk myself out of it haha! arrow.png

I got taken into a cubicle where I had to put a gown on and ted stockings, sexy! The next 30minutes seems a blur to me and the next thing I noticed I was on the trolley in the anaesthetic room, my Mum was with me of course, they allowed her because I was so nervous. I was given a drug to relax me but to be honest it made me feel extremely sick and dizzy I felt really drunk, I kept saying to my Mum, the Nurses and Surgeon I can see three of you, the next drug was to put me to sleep GA they hadn’t even put it all in and I was already asleep, my Mum said I had the last word though. I wanted to have a nice dream so I told them all I was going to the Maldives but it didn’t happen I was gutted when I woke up!

I was over an hour in Theatre because unfortunately they couldn’t get a sample via bronchoscopy so they had to cut me at my left side just below my arm pit, take away some of my ribs to gain the best sample they could, ‘the hot spot’ they called it. I was happy about this when I came round because I definitely (hopefully) wont be doing this again in a rush.all my attachments.png

After coming round at 13:00pm and finally arriving on the ward getting to see my Mum and Dad at 19:35pm (yes you read that correctly, 6.5hours in recovery, nothing was wrong with me ‘apparently my bed wasn’t ready’, my ass! But in all honesty I think they forgot about me) I was led on trolley for this many hours, my bottom was killing me and I was only given 2 glasses of water. Drifting in and out of sleep I began to notice the time was getting later and later each time I woke up, so I demanded to ring my Mum. I didn’t have a clue what was going on. Bless them both they were sat on the ward in the freezing cold waiting room complaining every half an hour because I hadn’t arrived yet. Three Rimmer’s all complaining, I feel sorry for the staff now!

That night I got into my bed feeling like I’d had the most hectic day but I’d been asleep for most of it! I was happy away with my morphine button which I didn’t really press because I think I was still high as a kite. Next thing I was wakened for observations this was when I had spiked a temperature, so the doctor came in to check my bloods to see if I had an infection or was just due to the fact I had just had an operation. As he left the room I went to the toilet and in front of me was a mirror I noticed that my left breast was swollen up right up to my chin (honestly) and it was solid. I immediately called the doctor back in, the Surgical Registrar came in to have a look at me, I had air under my skin; Surgical Emphysema– the more technical term. Basically this happened to me because my lung cavity is damaged from all the chemo, so I don’t heal like a normal individual would, I take a little bit longer and where they had gained the biopsy sample from my lung air was leaking out when it was contracting (when I breathe) to the rest of my body. I was warned about this risk in my consultation but I was that mortified I had to be put to sleep I didn’t really think of anything else.

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Morphine Button 

The next morning I can only explain I looked like a moon head. I screamed the nurse came running into my room, ‘my face, my face’ I screamed. I was huge, think of the scene on Willy Wonker- Violet Beauregarde (when she blows up)  I was like that but just my chest, back, neck and face, ( I’m not even over exaggerating) I looked the double of my Dad but times him by two haha! My observations on the other hand were fine so they tend to ‘watch and wait’ with Surgical Emphysema to see if the body begins to absorb the air itself, if not a blowhole is inserted ( I turned to my Mum and started crying because I only thought whales had blowholes) a blowhole is where they make a cut on your chest, quite deep and insert a sponge which attaches to a machine then the air is sucked out that way.violet.png

They again allowed my Mum to stay with me because I had my own room she came on straight away, I rang her in the morning crying saying ‘I’m fat, I’m fat’ she had to ring the ward because I wasn’t making sense at all. I was so relived when she arrived everything seems to go wrong when I’m left on my own!mumma.png

 

By 18:30pm I started not being able to swallow, I couldn’t eat and it was becoming difficult to keep my fluids up. I pressed the nurse call bell and demanded a blow hole instantly I was getting bigger and bigger, also tighter and tighter, my voice had completely changed (I sounded like a chipmunk being strangled). The blowhole was inserted and my god it was painful. I think I nearly broke my Mums hand and don’t think the Surgeon appreciated my singing throughout, I sounded like a cat being strangled.

The blowhole was changed twice in hospital, they have to keep changing it to make sure it is clean and so your skin doesn’t start to heal over it. The pain is unbelievable, they didn’t numb it and it’s not exactly normal pulling a sponge out of somebody’s chest over and over again.
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I finally got to go home for Christmas on Sunday 23rd December but my handbag ( the air machine) had to come with me. I was also in so much pain (it was the worst thing I have ever encountered) but I was just so thankful I was home. You do miss your home comforts.

Thursday 27th December we had to return to Leeds for the blowhole changing again. I was so scared I couldn’t prepare myself for it. I had to have an x-ray before to make sure the air was going down. After the x-ray the Surgical Registrar came to see me because he said it looked to have worsened on the x-ray, I was so confused because my face, neck and back had completely come down but however my right breast was still swollen (I looked like I’d had a botched boob job). Once he looked at me clinically, had a feel of the air, the sponge was taken out he said my body should absorb the rest and the wound was nice and healthy so needed to be stitched now.

JEEZ!

Nobody prepares you for stitches, they numbed it but my god I could still feel it. Even when they are taken out don’t listen to people if they say they don’t hurt, they lie😉

So now I have two wounds for the price of one. Which are both healing nicely. I’m still in a little discomfort but I need to remember I’ve not long had the procedures done so I need to cut myself some slack. But what a nightmare!!

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At home with the Blowhole 

Lots of Love Ashleigh Maggie xxx

 

 

 

 

 

A bump in the road and scanxiety!!

For months now I’ve been thinking what I could write about next?

Having finish my 6/6 cycles of chemo and the last one completely taking it out of me proving it was ONE of the worst ones yet, my blog got pushed to the back of my mind. 

I think I found this one so horrific because it was my Aunty’s wedding the weekend before, where I had the best time ever! But jumping straight into chemo Monday (tired from the wedding after dancing my lil ass off) chemo completely wiped me out. B2C88F48-9F1D-46D8-B88E-2524F3154F56.jpeg

Then the post arrived Wednesday morning 2 days post chemo. And there it was my dreaded letter for my PET scan. This scan was to determine if i needed more chemo/ different chemo and stem cell transplant or if the cancer was only active in one area I could be treated with radiotherapy or finally if the cancer had gone. The minute I opened the letter, my body went into anxiety mode… scanxiety actually. 

So not only was I now beyond tired, I was now in fear, and the scan wasn’t until the 10th of December. I knew already these next few weeks were going to be horrific. That they were. 

My cough came back worse than ever, I have struggled massively with phelegm as I had a build up in my left lung but it was unable to move due to the tumour but this time it decided to move and cause me havoc!! (Sorry I know that’s disgusting but I promised I would always be honest, I actually found out at my surgical consultation it was dead tumour.. MING) due to my anxiety, I wasn’t sleeping and I just didn’t want to go out anywhere or socialise with anyone; because I knew the question ‘when is your next scan’ or ‘what’s happening next’ would come up and I couldn’t deal with the constant reminder. I even stopped going on my phone so nobody contacted me (now that’s a biggy, it works tho). I didn’t tell many people this time to stop the messages before hand, on the day of my scan and results day. As much as I appreciate the messages of support my poor lil head couldn’t deal with everything at once and decided this was the best for me. So if you didn’t get told or I ignored your message, I do apologise but you will understand if you ever experience scanxiety yourself. 

The day of the PET Scan arrived and I was shaking like a brick, I’m not sure if it was down the the fact I had to eat before 6am or the fact I was bricking it… probably both. My Mum comes with me every time I don’t think I’d go through with it if she wasn’t there. She always sits in the room with me whilst I have the cannula, because yes believe it or not I’m still petrified of needles. I’ve got used to Pepper the Picc Line which is no pain at all. (This time it was put through my picc, I  was so happy) 

After the injection Mum has to go to another waiting room because for the next hour I start to become ‘radioactive’ and for 8 hours after, which we can never understand because I’m round her then anyway!!  I asked if I was glowing the first time to which they replied no! I was disappointed. Once the hour is up they take you through to the scanning room. This is it. This machine will tell me what’s going on in my weird body. I lay flat with my arms above my head, fingers crossed, praying for it to be good results. 

The PET Scan is pretty much like a CT scan (if you have ever experienced one) however your whole body goes through it extremely slowly and your face is nearly touching the machine, there is plenty of times I’ve wanted to shout out; ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!!’ Haha I wish. 

After about 20/30minutes the Scan is finished and your on your way. FOOOOOD! 

To take my mind off the results in 3 days I went to my mums best friends house (Janes) to keep her company after having a recent operation herself and also to see my bestfriend Emily. We did art crafts, ate Christmas food and decorated the Christmas tree it was perfect. That was until Wednesday came around I was about to set off and my phone started to ring. It was the hospital. Asking if I could come to an appointment on Friday at 11pm to see the surgeon. I instantly went into panic mode, “I think you’ve got the wrong person I’m not having surgery” “is it Ashleigh Rimmer?” “Yes”  “I haven’t had my results yet I know nothing about surgery” to which she replied “I’ll ring you back” then the panic attack started and my Mum instantly came home.

Thank god for my Nurse Specialist who found out the information for me.. BUT I ended up knowing half of my results over the phone due to the mistake the booking office lady made. After my 6 R-CHOP chemos I was left with a ring which they wasn’t sure if it was inflammation or still cancerous….. biopsy it was no messing about now. I calmed knowing it was only a biopsy as id had one before… that was until Friday when me and my dad went to see the surgeon…GENERAL ANAESTHETIC that’s all I’m going to say.  

Thursday came around and my consultant moved my appointment from 15:45pm to 13:00pm because she knew my anxiety would be through the roof. She explained everything clearly too me and was so apologetic, the lady who rang me was suppose to tell her the appointment time not ring me.. oh well! Basically this biopsy needed to be done to determine the next step. If I am left and no more treatment or stem cell transplant..queue the panic attack, all I remember hearing was “Ashleigh breathe”, but I couldn’t. I was petrified. The big C was really starting to test me. 

Friday me and my Dad went to speak to the surgeon he was really nice but I honestly couldn’t stop crying because I had to be put to sleep for the procedure. After being a Cadet Nurse at college I did a placement in theatres.. let’s just say I wish I didn’t then I wouldn’t know as much as I know. My Dad was so supportive and the day was sooooo long I was seriously fed up. But it didn’t stop us smiling until I got home and instantly cried when I saw Connor and my Mum. I felt like I taken 10 massive steps back. 

However it could be a hell of a lot worse! 

To be continued….. I’ve just a small hurdle to get over…. hello biopsy arrrghh. 

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Life is so different now

12 hour shifts, day shifts, night shifts, endless hours on the laptop when I got home. This was my life. I loved it. Now I sit staring at the same 4 walls day in day out wishing I could be normal again. night shift.png

As many of you know I’ve always worked in the Health Care Profession. Visiting houses (district care), working in a Care Home, then finally I got a job at Airedale General Hospital where I was a Band 2-HCSW (Health Care Support Worker) on the Acute Admissions Unit, it was hectic but I wouldn’t have changed my job for the world.

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This is my Grandma Lingard who I would often visit whilst doing my district care rounds!

After applying for University straight away after leaving college I applied straight for Midwifery, I unfortunately didn’t make it. But back then as a young 17 nearly 18 year old General Nursing didn’t appeal to me. I wanted to specialise straight away and after missing out on the 18 month top up course to specialise as a Midwife I didn’t fancy going to University for 7 years instead of 4 years and 5 months, so I decided to take a year out which I guess turned into 3.. nearly 4 now. I kick myself because I would have been qualified now.

I thought my chances of becoming a Nurse were over until 30th April 2018.

I applied for the Band 4 – Trainee Nurse Associate role where you attend University one day a week and the rest is practical. Working on a base ward and attending 3 week block placements 3 times a year.. may I add still getting paid, winner. I loved it, I moved from the Acute Assessment Unit, to work on a Female Surgical Ward, completely different but I was starting to really take to the ward and enjoyed doing something that was a challenge. That was of course until May came around and I fell ill and unfortunately I had to stop going to work due to me having no energy and basically going back and forth to the hospital for test every day. Never In a million years did I think I’d be off for this long, it’s been 6 months?! And I’ve still a long way to go.

Life is so different now…

Cancer changes the simplest things, things you wouldn’t even think would have to change. Certain foods can you believe it?! I remember being handed a booklet when I first got my diagnosis and thinking ‘how in the world does what I eat affect my body?’ You’d be surprised. Here are few foods I’m banned from eating for example; shell fish and I LOVE prawns, runny eggs (god I miss boiled runny eggs and toast), simple sausage rolls from Oddies, I’m not allowed any form of food from the deli counter, everything must be vacuumed packed. It’s quite depressing really. And the cravings are insane. I don’t think I’ve stopped eating humus? Who even craves humus.

Warmed up food is a no go!! My poor mum has to cook every meal we have from fresh and by god she is doing a great job. She’d give Gordon Ramsey a run for his money in the kitchen, I’ll tell you that now.

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Home made!

I came to the realisation it’s like a pregnancy diet after speaking to my good friend Chrystal as she was pregnant at the time. I think we moaned for a good hour over the fact we both couldn’t eat prawns, we adore love them.

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Me, Chrystal and Bump!

Although the thing that was significantly different was I don’t have the joys of the baby at the end. I guess I’ll be left with the constant worry, has my cancer come back? Will it come back? But I’ll cross that bridge when it comes to it. I’ve a great counsellor to help me deal with these issues.

Weekends have also changed. I’ve notice that me and Connor used to eat out.. ALOT. Once that’s taken away from you, you begin to notice. I’m not allowed in busy places due to infection risk. And it’s not worth the risk eating takeaways and meals out at the minute. You never know what’s going on in that kitchen, is your food freshly made? Or just warmed up? Has the cook preparing your food just sneezed or been to the toilet and not washed their hands… EW. The thought of it now makes me sick. How times have changed!

However Fish and Chips is the one and only takeaway I am allowed, can I get a WOOP WOOP?! How kind are they letting you have one takeaway?! This is only because it is cooked from fresh in front of you, that is once you tell them you’re on chemotherapy. Although I don’t think I’ll eat another Fish and Chips after this, they say chemotherapy can make you hate certain foods once you’ve finished and trust me, I’ve eaten a lot of Fish and Chips!

As I’ve previously mentioned I’ve always been a skinny one. But before I fell ill I managed to get my weight to 8.5 stone which for me was a lot and I actually looked a ‘healthy weight’. I dropped to below 7.5 stone when I was admitted to St James Hospital. It was very noticeable. Losing this much weight I had to change my clothing style which has also probably affected me the most. Now I’ve learnt to deal with it but at first every time I got dressed up to go to out I had a meltdown, I didn’t look like me at all. I couldn’t stand it. I felt thin, I looked Ill and instantly just wanted to put my pjs back on, sit in a dark room just so I didn’t have to go out and socialise with people because I didn’t feel like me. This is when I would have a hard word with myself, ‘why are you letting it win I would question myself?’ So to cheer myself up, I online shopped like you wouldn’t believe. I had a million spare coat-hangers and they needed filling and I guess it made me feel better. Win, win really.

On a more positive note I do go out and do things now but obviously they are limited. I tend to go to Asda and Next that’s a big and exciting day for me on my better weeks. I practically live in my Grandads recliner chair on a day to day basis (he used to be very protective over it but now he calls it my chair), I go up to my Grandma and Grandads nearly every day of the week for a change of 4 walls and happily sit and watch my Grandma all day, she cleans, she irons, she cooks, she just doesn’t stop… I could do with some of her energy.

I’ve just recently celebrated my 22nd birthday, it was very different this year BUT I still had a party, boy do the Rimmer’s know how to party, and it was so special, a week of celebrations with the people I love the most. Everyone who attended had to be 100% fitness no cold or sniffles. All my closest family and friends were there. I had my make-up done and for one night I felt like the old Ashleigh was back. It was quite overwhelming. It made me realise how a life threatening illness has shown the strengths of some of my friendships and the support from my family, friends, everyone in fact is phenomenal.. it’s what keeps me fighting.

You learn to live with cancer, yes your life changes dramatically but you learn to deal with it, it’s only for a period of time (people keep reminding me). Hopefully soon I’ll be back to eating at my favourite restaurant-Jade Palace, ordering a take away (me and Connor have made a promise though only one a week) and eating countless sausage rolls from any deli counter I can find. Doing normal things with friends like a 22 year old should and most importantly getting back to doing my training and helping poorly people back to their baseline which I love to do. And will probably now love more than ever, having been on the receiving end for quite some time.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t take life for granted. Everyone moans about going to work every day, the boring routine and simple things in life, but honestly when that’s taken away from you. You miss the normality more than ever.

 Live life to the full. I know I do now.

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Christmas Day 2017!

 

A Brothers Perspective

“Don’t worry, I am going to kick it’s ass”

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Me and Lewis, My 21st 2017

Those were the first words my sister said to me after her diagnosis.

Let’s rewind a couple of weeks. As some of you may know, my job requires me to work unsociable hours (to say the least)! Meaning time spent with my family is limited, we often pass like ships in the night and this would be considered normal for us.

What wasn’t normal, was the amount of times I would get home and my sister had been or was in hospital. I often wondered whether it was the hypochondriac in her taking over, but the more and more she went the more concerned I became, as did everyone else.

I managed to visit Ashleigh on a Saturday where she was filling me in with all of the ‘scary’ illnesses they had thrown at her so far. The optimist in you always deflects the possibility of such illnesses becoming a reality of course, and I would often find myself telling Ashleigh – “not to worry, you will be fine”, even though every time I spoke those words I believed it that little bit less myself.

Another week and a few days went by, and still Ashleigh remained in hospital and then it came. Friday 20th July, when fortunately, I was working from home. I can remember it so clearly, I was typing away and thinking – I would literally rather do anything rather than this Premier League Report right now……… Be careful what you wish for!

My phone started to ring, it was Dom, quite strange considering although we had been best mates for over 10 years, we very rarely call each other.

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Just a standard Sunday night out down Burnley, Me, Lewis and Dom

Dom: You need to ring my mum now!

Me: Why? What for?

Dom: I don’t know, just do it!

And so, I did just that…

Tavia (Dom’s Mum): Lewis, its Ashleigh, she’s got cancer.

There is nothing in the world that can prepare you for those words, I was in utter shock. The next hour is a blur to me, still to this day. I got in the car and set off driving home, not sure what to expect, I didn’t even know if anyone was there? Quick stop off on the way to throw up, again probably the shock and there I was, at home on my own pacing up and down the bottom floor, just waiting for the rest of my family to return home.

I would be lying if I didn’t think about the worst, it’s natural to do so. But the next words I was to hear changed my outlook on the situation completely and impacted me more than I could ever imagine:

“Don’t worry, I am going to kick it’s ass” – as we both stood there holding each other not wanting to let go.

Yes, that was my wonderfully brave, strong, amazing sister. I won’t give her too much credit, she did have a mini breakdown ten minutes later, but I suppose we can let her off considering?

Seeing all the sadness that followed that day, the family members upset on the phone, the friends breaking down in front of Ashleigh and my Mum and Dad in pieces, brings me to the reason why I asked Ashleigh if I could write a piece for her fantastic blog.

Receiving the news, you have cancer is bad enough, and like I myself have confessed, makes you think about the worst (if you let yourself). Something that I hated seeing Ashleigh go through, would be people visiting getting upset and break down in front of her, which if you are reading this and thinking ‘I did that’, don’t worry you weren’t the only one! Every time this happened, it got the cogs turning around in Ashleigh’s head.

Why is everyone so upset?

Is the situation that bad?

Maybe the worst is actually coming?

That day I made a promise to myself, I would never let my sister see me upset, I would only let her see me in a positive outlook, as that person that she can talk to and know that when I say “everything will be fine” I mean it, and I think she appreciates that.

Therefore, my first piece of advice to anyone going through a similar situation is; you must be the one that is positive and provide that little bit of normality in a life that is no longer normal, and that person will appreciate that and you more than anything.

Be the one that she/he wants to pick up the phone and text when their down, or call you when its all got too much for them, although on that point, Ashleigh once did call me and when I answered her first words were: ‘thank god for that, I am having a break down and you’re the third person I have called and first to answer’! Hopefully I was promoted after this incident! 

Just to mention, I am not saying that it is all sunshine and rainbows by any stretch of the imagination. For the first week admittedly when all my family were asleep, I would even wait for Katie to fall asleep before I would let all my emotions loose and cry myself to sleep. It is ok not to be ok – but at the right time, and in front of the right people.

 

Maintaining this outlook on an awful situation takes a lot of strength, but you owe it to that person to show it as it is nowhere near as tough as the battle they are currently fighting. Prepare for the unexpected, the random phone calls, the outbursts, the arguments – you are going to face it all, but if you can be one of the people who they turn to in their time of need, you know you are doing it right.

The past few months (as strange as it sounds) have seemed normal, apart from Ashleigh now having less hair than me and yes that is tough considering my extremely fast receding hair line! We laugh, we joke, we do things that normal families do, and we are getting through this, together.

Before I finish, I would just like to speak about the other day, Ashleigh’s ‘half way point’ consultation, where we found out how her body had reacted to chemotherapy so far, it was tense to say the least (as you’d imagine). We all marched into the consultation room as the hospital staff followed us with spare chairs thinking ‘what the hell is going on’ – I almost felt like saying ‘sorry, we come as a team!’ and the moment that followed I will never forget, a feeling I don’t think I have ever experienced.

The nurse began to explain the news that Ashleigh’s Lymphoma Cancer was shrinking and that was it, I was off! I stuck by my guns and said I wouldn’t let her see me cry, therefore I tried and tried to hold back the tears, of absolute joy I may add!

I was doing so well until we were sat waiting outside Marks & Spencer’s with Ashleigh inside collecting her prescription and I burst out into tears and with my mum stood next to me asking what was wrong, I simply just said ‘I am just so happy, its great isn’t it!’ and of course as mothers do she asked me if I wanted a hug – come on, I’m 26 and in public, who wants a hug off your mum? So, I kindly declined her offer to save myself the embarrassment!

And here we are, Ashleigh is doing great, and importantly her support network are there for her every step of the way. Whether it’s a friend bringing round frozen donuts, or a boyfriend sleeping on an air bed every night, or a Mum who goes to work late every morning to make her daughter breakfast to start the day right, or even a sister-in-law that conquers her fear of needles to have the flu jab – everyone is there every step of the way and everyone is positive. Which is what that little warrior needs and deserves right now.

 

Keep on fighting our kid, we are all so proud and we love you more than ever!