Regret?

Something I need to address, is the feeling of regret…

I often look back on the fall of 2016 and wonder if I’ve opened a can of worms or embarked on a rollercoaster (all feelings I’ve mentioned before, depending on how I’m feeling that day, both mentally and physically).

Sometimes I will joke with friends if I have an AMAZING plate of food in front of me, by saying something silly like how “I wish I still had a stomach”, which usually makes said group of friends feel uncomfortable… I wish they didn’t feel that way. After all, it’s only my dark and daft humour. I definitely don’t “wish” that… After all, I know I made the right decision.

Something I found difficult was what was said to me around Christmas time. Someone that I have a close relationship with saw me, and after a few drinks, got chatting with me about how much weight I had lost (at that point I was at my lowest weight at around 49/50kg after my second surgery). They confided in me that they had noticed, and then proceeded to ask me if “I had regretted” having my stomach removed. I was shocked. I didn’t regret it, and it’s still something that I don’t. At the end of the day, I was the one that opened “pandora’s box” by opting for genetic testing, and thus found out I had cancer upon the first screening… (This is why it annoys me that my medical notes have now been changed to “Prophylactic Gastrectomy”. There was nothing “Prophylactic” about it… The cancer was already there and I had surgery sooner rather than later because of this.)

I was naive to think that it would be all smooth sailing, and that I wouldn’t lose so much god damn weight, but the cancer was already there. Should I have ignored it and carried on as normal? One thing that I’ve learnt over time is that cancer does not discriminate. Regardless of your diet, lifestyle and age; the big C does not give a shit. I figured that out soon enough in our family, and after joining the CDH1 Facebook group, I found out even more so how ruthless it is… This group has helped me in so many ways, in ways that I can not begin to explain. The members have become an extended family to me; people across the pond in so many different countries that I feel connected to because we all discuss the elephant in the room, and how it’s affected our lives… Through this group, I’ve discovered that this pesky mutation and cancer has taken people much younger than me… So whilst I’ve never regretted having my stomach removed, I want to express the fact that I never did, and never will. Yes, there’s been obstacles and hiccups along the way, but nobody ever said it would be easy. I’ve had the most central part of my being removed; my storage tank, the thing that gives me fuel. But this very thing, would have killed me if I were to leave it be.

So no. I have NO regrets…

Late Dumping Syndrome

Back in March, I wrote a post about Dumping Syndrome

Signs and symptoms of dumping syndrome generally occur right after eating, especially after a meal rich in table sugar (sucrose) or fruit sugar (fructose). Signs and symptoms might include:

Nausea, Vomiting, Abdominal cramps, Diarrhoea, Flushing, Dizziness, lightheadedness, Rapid heart rate

If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s also Late Dumping Syndrome!

Late dumping syndrome starts one to three hours after you eat a high-sugar meal. The signs and symptoms develop that long after you eat because your body releases large amounts of insulin to absorb the sugars entering your small intestine. The result is low blood sugar. Signs and symptoms of late dumping syndrome can include:

Sweating, Flushing, Dizziness, lightheadedness, Weakness, Rapid heart rate

(https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dumping-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20371915)

About last night…

After putting up the Christmas tree and beginning to get into the festive spirit, I decided to make B and I some “gløgg”. I had bought the bottle from IKEA the previous week and was already a little weary of the high sugar content after analysing the label, but figured I would be okay if I had a small cup and drank it very slowly. Oh, how I was wrong…

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The Culprit – 100ml: 79kcal and 19g of sugar

Over an hour later, as I was getting into bed, I started to feel clammy and warm. Next, came the dizziness, confusion, shakiness and heart palpitations. I immediately grabbed the squeezable honey; my “go to” item, to help raise my blood sugar as quickly as possible. For the next 30 minutes or so, I squeezed small amounts into my mouth and waited for the symptoms to fade away.

🍯🍯🍯

My first episode, around a year ago was frightening. I’d never experienced anything like it before and wasn’t even sure what was going on! I cried, and to this day I can’t explain why. I wasn’t sad, my head just felt completely jumbled up. It was a bizarre experience and I couldn’t really speak or do anything. Luckily, we figured that it was a drop in blood sugar and squeezable honey came to the rescue.

I have to be careful not to overdo it with the honey though, because on one occasion, I accidentally gave myself (early) Dumping Syndrome (after a Late Dumping episode) from consuming far too much! 🙈 Sometimes, you just can’t win!

Trust Your Gut

On Monday 22nd October, I awoke to pain in my abdomen in the lower left side, a pain that I’d never felt before. It was in a specific area and felt tender to touch. In the early hours of that morning, I had wolfed down half a Big Mac (a stupid thing to do when you no longer have a stomach), so my initial thought was that there was something “stuck”; an obstruction. I figured I would just stick to liquids that day, but even drinking was causing pain. So I made my way to the emergency room…

I explained my situation to the Doctor that examined me, and he too suggested that it could be an obstruction – a partial one since I was still able to drink fluids and use the bathroom. I was referred to emergency room at the main hospital for further investigation.

After waiting some time, I was examined by two different Doctors that asked a lot of questions regarding my medical history. Despite me explaining that the pain got worse shortly after drinking and that I didn’t think it was a stricture (the pain happened 5 minutes or so after drinking, which I figured meant it was slightly further down than the anastomosis – where the oesophagus and small intestine is joined together), the Doctor said he wanted a second opinion from a Gynaecologist.

At this point it was after midnight and I had been at the hospital over 9 hours. I hadn’t eaten anything for almost 24 hours – I was exhausted.

I sat down with the Gynaecologist and explained the type of pain I was having and pointed to the area that was tender. Immediately she said that the pain was too high to be anything gynaecological related, but that she would examine me anyway to rule this out.

Everything was normal as expected, so I was referred back to Akuttmottak and was admitted. The return journey was much more exciting! The transporter walked us both to the basement and we got onto a golf cart!  She drove us through the underground tunnel that connects both Haukeland Hospital and “Kvinneklinikken” (I had no idea these two buildings were connected).

Nothing much happened over the next few days. The pain was still there, I felt nauseous constantly and I struggled to eat and drink. On Thursday, I was sent for an X-ray with contrast.

After drinking copious amounts of barium liquid and laying in various positions, the radiographer could see that everything was moving through my intestines normally and that there was nothing stuck. He explained that the part of intestine that was causing pain had quite a few twists and turns. Since I was able to eat a bit more than previous days and was feeling a little better, I got discharged the following day. At this point, the surgeon (that had operated on me last year) suggested the pain could have been a number of things. That it may have been something that was stuck, and had since passed, that it could be bacteria from food (without stomach acid, it’s easier to get sick from food), or it could be adhesions and scar tissue from the first surgery – something I’d never heard of before.

Over the weekend, still in pain, I stuck to a soft diet but tried to consume as many calories as possible since I’d lost weight that week. As the days went on, the pain became excruciating. Shortly after eating, I would be laid down on my side, crying in agony. I took painkillers, but nothing seemed to help. On Wednesday 31st (5 days after being discharged and my 10th day in pain), I saw my Doctor, who referred me straight back to Akuttmottak.

That night, I was referred for an ultrasound. Apart from a few small gallstones in my gallbladder, nothing else was found and the cause of the pain was still not diagnosed. The next step was a CT scan.

Two days later, a few hours after I’d had the CT scan, I was told that I had high ileus and suspected adhesions. At this point, they couldn’t rule out a hernia, and that the only way to diagnose and hopefully fix the problem was through surgery. Since my last surgery was open, this one had to be open too as it would be too risky to do it laparoscopically. From that moment, I had to begin fasting and prepare for surgery. After the surgeon left, I sobbed uncontrollably. Although I was relieved that I finally had a diagnosis, I was devastated to hear that I had to go through another major surgery.

On Sunday evening, still on the waiting list for surgery, I was allowed to go home for the night. Although I still couldn’t eat much without being in a lot of pain, it was nice to relax at home and get a proper nights sleep.

After shortly arriving back at the hospital on Monday morning (my 15th day of pain), I was told that I was going down for surgery. I quickly texted B and my mum, packed away my things and down I went.

Upon arrival, I spoke with the anaesthesiologist and discovered that the surgeon was one of the three that had performed my Total Gastrectomy last year. This was a relief to me, as I felt safer knowing that it was someone who knew how everything looked inside!

A couple of hours later, I was woken up and moved to the recovery ward where I spent quite a few hours. Despite them giving me anti-nausea medication prior to surgery, I was dry-heaving constantly. They gave me various drugs over the space of a few hours, and nothing seemed to be working. Since water was making the problem worse, they gave me an ice lolly, which seemed to settle things… It was probably the best ice lolly that I had ever tasted!

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A few hours after Surgery

That evening, the surgeon came to speak to me and explained that the surgery had been a success and that they had found adhesions. Basically, it had formed a string that had wrapped around part of my small intestine – this explained the pain shortly after eating, the tender and swollen area of my abdomen and why food was coming back up. Luckily, there had been no permanent damage to that part of my small intestine. After the surgery, I was allowed to eat normally again and noticed very quickly that the surgery had fixed the issue since I no longer had pain after eating and drinking.

The pain from the incision however, was very difficult to cope with this time. The epidural wasn’t working well and the pain medication wasn’t helping. After trying different regimens, they gave me morphine, which helped a lot.

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Scar Update (Left before surgery, Right after surgery)

So now I’m going through the recovery stage again… Lifting restrictions for 6 weeks and no exercise – only walking. Although the problem was fixed, abdominal surgery (whether it be laparoscopic or open) carries a risk of developing adhesions so they could form again. But I have to remain positive and hope that they don’t. 😇 🍀

 

1 Year Stomachless

It’s crazy to think that this time last year, I was laying in the operating room having my stomach removed. The past 12 months have flown by so quickly – it feels like it was only a few months ago since I was in hospital.

It’s been a challenging 12 months – both physically and mentally. I felt somewhat prepared, but in hindsight, nothing can truly prepare you for such a life changing procedure.

Recovery
In Recovery (26.09.2017)

In the recovery ward, not long after being awoken from the procedure, I told B that I was glad that I’d done it – and that still stands. I’ve never felt an ounce of regret, after all, I’m cancer free. But there are times that I wish that I still had my stomach, and moments where I miss that “rumbly tumbly” feeling (since I never feel hungry anymore), but I guess this is normal.

Despite gaining 9kg prior to surgery, I’ve gone on to lose 23kg; both body fat and muscle. Prior to surgery, I was fit, healthy, strong, and had a bucket load of energy. Now, I feel like a completely different person and it’s taken me some time to accept that it’s still going to be a long road ahead, “a marathon, not a sprint”, as B often says to me.

During my recovery, people have told me not to lose any more weight, which is difficult for me to hear since it’s easier said than done and I’m trying hard not to. I know it’s not meant maliciously, but it still hurts. There’s been days that I’ve stepped onto the scales and bawled my eyes out after seeing a lower number glaring back at me. Prior to my knowledge of having the CDH1 mutation, I was striving to lose a couple of pounds through diet and exercise, and had even tried things like “Slim Fast” shakes! Fast forward to a couple of years later, and I’m adding butter and cream to my morning coffee! It’s funny how things change…

I’ve also had people tell me that I look well, especially those that haven’t seen me for some time, and of course this is a positive boost. But a lot of the time, how I look on the outside, doesn’t reflect how I’m feeling on the inside. People assume that I’m well and fine, but I’m just not there yet. If I plan a full day out now, I need the following day to recover (sometimes two days). Some days I need to take a long afternoon nap, because I get lethargic easily and can’t focus on what I’m supposed to be doing.

This year, I’ve been away 3 times: spent a weekend in Poland, 2 weeks on Fjørtoft and 3 weeks in England. During my visit to Fjørtoft, I ended up being admitted to hospital because a viral infection had spread down my oesophagus, making it difficult to eat, and in England, I was very sick for 9 days and struggled with malabsorption as a consequence. This is just a crappy reminder that I’m nowhere near where I want to be just yet, physically.

Mentally, I’m also not where I want to be. Prior to surgery I had a few counselling sessions to help me deal with the whole situation and prepare me for such a big surgery. Back then, my anxiety stemmed from the procedure itself and anticipating being under sedation for so long. In hindsight, I was probably afraid of dying. In the months that followed, I felt better – I was alive and recovering well. What I hadn’t prepared myself for was my “new normal” after surgery, and the other tests that I would have to go through – Breast Cancer screening, the other side to the CDH1 coin for us ladies. Despite holding off for a while and trying to figure things out on my own, I decided it was time to go back to counselling.

Anyhow, despite a few hiccups and bumps along the way, I’m proud of reaching this milestone. I’m aware it’s still a long road ahead (much longer than I initially anticipated), but milestones should be celebrated! So tonight, I’m going to drink a glass of bubbly, and take my stomach Plusheez out for a beautiful Italian meal! (and B of course!)

1year
1 Year on (26.09.2018)

bmd

10 Month Update…

On Thursday 26th July, 3 days into my vacation on Fjørtoft and exactly 10 months since my TG, I was admitted to Ålesund Sjukehus, after going to the Emergency Room.

I was only one day into my vacation when I woke up with swollen tonsils and had difficulty swallowing. This got progressively worse over the next two days, making it difficult to both eat and drink, and to even swallow my own saliva. It’s been 10 months since my surgery and I am STILL losing a lot of weight (25kg lost), so being unable to eat or drink properly is a huge problem for me. I held out as long as I could, taking ibuprofen in hope that it would help reduce the swelling, but nothing helped.

We called the emergency room, explained the situation to them and was told to come in.

 

(First, we had to take the ferry to Brattvåg and drive from there)

The Legevakt was much smaller than the one in Bergen, and there was only a couple of people waiting to be seen, so I was seen by a Doctor very quickly. He checked me over and explained that my tonsils weren’t big enough to be causing an obstruction, and referred me to the hospital as the symptoms I was describing were similar to that of a stricture.

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Upon arrival, I had a blood test that revealed elevated leukocytes and CRP levels – indicating a sign of infection. After a long wait in the triage area, a Doctor came to see me and explained that since I didn’t have a fever, but had swollen tonsils and had had a cough and cold for a couple of weeks, that it was most likely a viral infection in my throat that had spread down into my oesophagus.

Around midnight, I was taken for a chest x-ray, and then taken to the ward to get some sleep.

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View from the Hospital

The following morning, I met with a surgeon that performed an upper endoscopy. There were no signs of a stricture, but my oesophagus was covered in white spots. They took a few biopsies and explained to me that it was likely a viral infection that had spread from my throat. They also told me that they would write to my GP in Bergen to be referred for a CT scan since I was still losing a lot of weight.

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Bjørnar reading my last rites 😀

After waiting an hour for the local anaesthesia to wear off in the back of my throat, I was allowed to try and eat something. I started off with tomato soup, then a banana. Both went down fine with little pain. After eating lunch, I was discharged and could return back to Fjørtoft to enjoy the rest of the sunshine.

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The closest I can get to horse without having an allergic reaction!

After a lot of rest, fluids and paracetamol, my throat is feeling much better and I can eat “normally” once again. However, in the past two weeks I have lost 2kg, and have had two episodes of hypoglycaemia – caused by late dumping syndrome. I’m less than 2kg away from being classed as underweight, and have been referred for emergency help at the hospital regarding my weight loss and diet.

So despite me looking well on the outside and being told by others that I look well, inside is a struggle. I feel physically drained very often, I get nauseous and uncomfortably full very easily, and feel that I look too skinny and bony.

Hopefully, I can enjoy the rest of my time here on Fjørtoft and gain back some of the weight that I have lost… 🤞

 

Checking the Tatas – Part Two!

Read Checking the Tatas – Part One!

Before leaving the hospital after the biopsy was taken, I was told that I would receive the results within 1-2 weeks. On the 18th May, I was informed that the small lesion was a fibroadenoma (as they had suspected), but that there were ALH cells present also (atypical lobular hyperplasia). I was therefore referred to a surgeon to discuss next steps.

On the 29th May, Bjørnar and I met with a breast surgeon. He explained that because of my increased risk of developing lobular breast cancer, combined with the finding of atypical cells, they wanted to remove the fibroadenoma along with some of the surrounding tissue. He explained the procedure to me and told me that it would be done using local anaesthesia. He also set me up for the procedure the following week.

A couple of days later, I received a phone call from the hospital asking if they could use a new method during the procedure. The difference would be that they would use a small piece of steed called a “Magseed” instead of a thin wire, to mark the lesion for the surgeon. I did a little bit of research and confirmed that this was ok to use. They said the only difference was that there would be more people in the room since it was a new method. 🙈

07th June

The first thing they needed to do was to implant the Magseed into the lesion. Since it wasn’t palpable, the Doctor used ultrasound to find the lump. Before making the incision, they used local anaesthesia and then implanted the Magseed. Luckily, I didn’t feel a thing!

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Waiting for Surgery…

After waiting some time, I was called into the operating room and was prepped for surgery. Since they were going to use an electrical knife, they attached an earthing cable to my arm. Then, using a metal detector-type device, they located the Magseed, but explained that the lesion was very deep and close to the muscle. Usually, they like to make the incision around the areola for cosmetic purposes, but explained that this would be difficult for them due to its location. Therefore, the incision would need to be further up. I said that was fine (hell, I have a large scar on my abdomen anyway, one more isn’t going to bother me). Then, they put a sheet in front of me so that I would be unable to see the procedure taking place.

Early on, I began to feel extremely dizzy and shaky. The nurse felt my head and said that I was quite warm, so they tipped the table backwards slightly, and placed a cold, damp flannel on my forehead. On a few occasions, they had to administer more local anaesthesia because I started to feel some pain – this happened as they cut deeper. Throughout, it was strange seeing smoke and smelling burning flesh, but I tried not to think about it too much!

Overall, the procedure took around an hour. Before leaving the room, I noticed a specimen jar on the table that contained the lesion. It was the size of a grape!

07.06.18
Taken before the local anaesthesia wore off!

Since I don’t know much about atypical lobular hyperplasia, I reached out to No Stomach For Cancer, to ask if there was a connection to the CDH1 mutation. They forwarded my question to a member of their Scientific Advisory Council for insight, and below is their response:

“Lobular hyperplasia has a link to Lobular Breast Cancer and CDH1. Women with CDH1 pathogenic variants have ~40 % cumulative risk of developing LBC by the age of 80. In summary lobular hyperplasia is the intermediate lesion in the progression from a normal breast lobule and an invasive lobular carcinoma. Please see below a figure demonstrating the proposed progression of Lobular tumours.”

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Of course, hearing this made me feel quite uneasy. But knowing that I will be having annual ultrasounds, mammograms and MRI scans due to having the CDH1 mutation, helps to make me feel more at ease.

Results

On the 4th July, I received a phone call from the surgeon, informing me that the tissue was benign. This was a HUGE relief for me as the waiting period was the hardest… I’m just glad knowing that I will be monitored annually to keep an eye on things, and hope that the ALH cells don’t progress to anything more in years to come. 🤞

Pain in the…

About last night…

At 22:15, I had some mild deep abdominal pain (right side under my ribs). Initially, it felt like sore muscles but I couldn’t sit comfortably anymore so I got up to get ready for bed. In less than five minutes, the pain went from 0-100 and it felt like I had been winded; kicked both in the ribs and my back (but only on my right side). I was writhing about on the bed in pain – unable to breathe, or talk. I’ve honestly never experienced pain like it.

B called the hospital, and I took 10mg of morphine so that I was able to get up and walk outside for a taxi (I still have some tablets left over from my surgery). Luckily, the morphine really took the edge off!

A surgeon came to examine me and suspected it was a gallbladder attack. Gallstones are common in gastrectomy patients due to rapid weight loss. They gave me 2 shots of Buscopan (one in each ass cheek) to help stop the spasming in my gallbladder. They explained that stopping the spasming may help the gallstone pass through the bile duct.

Resting bitch face + Pain + 10mg Morphine 🙈

I feel like this may only be a temporary solution 😕 I guess time will tell.

Next Steps – Checking the Tatas!

In January, I began my next stage of cancer screening. Since I’m at an increased risk of developing lobular breast cancer (thanks to this pesky CDH1 mutation), I have been advised to have both annual mammograms and MRI scans from the age of 30. When I met with my gastro surgeon back in November, he decided to send the referral sooner.

In females with a known CDH1 gene mutation, the risk for developing lobular breast cancer by age 80 has been estimated at 42%. In the general population, lobular breast cancer occurs much less frequently than ductal breast cancer. However, lobular carcinoma is the type of breast cancer that can be associated with CDH1 mutations, and it may be difficult to diagnose (much like hereditary diffuse gastric cancer). The same type of cancer cells, called signet ring cells, can be found in both lobular breast cancer and diffuse gastric cancer.

https://www.nostomachforcancer.org/about/hereditary-diffuse-gastric-cancer/lobular-breast-cancer

Initially, I was sent for a mammogram and ultrasound. I was a little bit apprehensive prior to the appointment. Partly because I had others telling me that the mammogram was painful, but also because I wasn’t looking forward to getting my baps out in front of a total stranger (or three)! 🤦

Anyhow, the mammogram itself wasn’t bad at all – uncomfortable but bearable. It took a little bit of time for the Nurse to position each one into place on the plate (if done incorrectly, the scan picture isn’t good enough and has to be repeated), but the scanning part was over very quickly. I did however, experience some sharp pain in my left breast for some time afterwards, but this was only temporary.

During the ultrasound , they came across a small lump in my left breast (probably the cause of the pain after the mammogram). They explained that these are usually benign and commonly found in women my age. Instead of jumping the gun and doing a biopsy, they referred me for an MRI to get a more detailed scan.

2.5 months later (after I got tired of waiting and decided to email the hospital to chase up my referral), I received a letter from the Radiology department with my appointment date… Friday 13th 😨

mri

I guess the build up to the appointment was worse than the actual appointment itself. I’d had an MRI many years ago, so I knew what to expect regarding the awfully loud sounds. But my episode of anxiety during my CT scan last year (thanks to claustrophobia and the burning sensation from the contrast) made me nervous. I also had the added stress of having to lay on my stomach for 30 minutes (what if I get bile reflux or my breakfast decides to creep back up?) I was even (irrationally) worried incase a metal object had been accidentally left inside of me during surgery, and would be ripped out during the scan! 🙈 Anxiety is a bitch like that… You get all kinds of irrational thoughts running through your head.

Anyway, the scan itself was fine. My boobs were placed into individual slots and my face into a hole so that I could watch TV – “Poirot” of all things, with Norwegian subtitles. At least it gave me something to focus on! I was even given headphones so that I could listen to the radio, but the sounds of the machine drowned everything out. Instead, I just tried to imagine the weird sounds were some techno bangers and had myself a mini rave!

I received a call 4 days later to inform me that they hadn’t found anything of concern from the MRI, but that they wanted to take some biopsies from the lump that they initially found in January.

On Monday, I went to the hospital for my appointment. Before the procedure, the Doctor explained to me what they were going to do and gave me two shots of local anaesthesia. The first needle stung quite a bit, but it got to work fairly quickly so I didn’t feel the second one, along with the incision they made. Luckily, I didn’t feel the biopsy needle either. I was however, feeling really dizzy and thought I was going to pass out at one point. Not sure if it was caused by anxiety, the local anaesthesia or a combination of the two. After the first biopsy, I looked down and it was a bloodbath! My chest was covered in blood, which only made me feel worse. So for the remainder of my time there, I just made sure to focus on the ceiling. They checked the sample and decided to take a second biopsy just to be sure.

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Luckily, the bruising and pain afterwards was very minimal. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I’d seen others with MASSIVE bruises after their biopsies! So now I play the waiting game, one I’ll never get good at and just hope that all is normal and that this is the last of invasive tests for 2018. 🤞🍀

TG Recovery – 6 Month Update

Has it really been six months already?!

Food

One of the biggest things that I was surprised to discover, is the variety of foods that I can consume. Eating is different now (I have to take my time, take care to chew and eat smaller portions) but I’m not living off soups like I thought I would be! My favourite investment is a cast iron casserole dish. I’ve been using it to cook a lot of delicious meals for Bjørnar and myself. Things like stews and casseroles are fab, as the meat becomes nice and tender. Dumping syndrome is a bitch (since I wrote about this recently, I won’t go into too much detail) but I feel lucky that I can still eat chocolate. I still have to be careful not to overdo it though!

Hunger

Ahh yes… The “rumbly tumbly”. I never realised how much I would miss this feeling! It’s strange not feeling hungry anymore. It’s surprisingly easy to go without food when there’s no nagging reminder telling you that it’s time to eat.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve started to feel a new type of hunger! I can only describe it as en empty sensation inside – in the area where my oesophagus was connected to my small intestine. It could be psychological/phantom hunger, but I’m welcoming it with open arms and hoping it’s here to stay!

Weight Loss

This was inevitable and something I felt somewhat prepared for. I fattened myself up good and proper before surgery – I actually gained 9kg! 🙈

However, the weight loss has wreaked havoc with my emotions. There are times that I feel defeated when I step onto the scales and see that the number has fallen yet again. It’s a bit crap when your skinny jeans have become baggy jeans, and your engagement ring is too large to wear… I have an app on my phone that reminds me to eat every 2 hours (6 times a day) and I was also using myFitnessPal to track my calorie intake, but found it all overwhelming. So for now, I’m just focusing on my eating routine by following the schedule. I will focus on the calorie counting once I have the regularity in check.

19kg loss since 26.09.17

Hair Loss

As soon as I hit the 2 month mark, I suddenly experienced a LOT of hair loss. This went on continuously for 3 months. I would often cry as I removed the huge clump of hair from my brush every day. Since it was the most noticeable around my hairline, I cut in a fringe to help disguise it.

B12 and Iron

I already knew that my body would no longer be able to absorb B12 from food and supplements, but I was not expecting my values to drop so suddenly. My values went from the upper end of the scale to the lower end in the space of 3 months. My cognitive function felt massively reduced. I was misplacing things, becoming increasingly forgetful and finding it difficult to do work. I was given weekly B12 shots for 4 weeks, and felt a huge improvement just after the first.

As for my iron, I’ve been taking Floradix daily (that I started in the weeks leading up to my surgery), so I was surprised to see that the value had dropped so drastically. After doing a bit of research, I found out that iron is absorbed in the duodenum and since food and supplements no longer pass directly through mine, my body has difficulty absorbing it.

Gym/Exercise

I’ve only been to the gym three times during my recovery. I still don’t feel well enough to be at the gym alone yet, as I get dizzy very easily. I’m hoping to get back into a routine so that I can build up my strength and increase my muscle mass, as I have lost a lot since surgery.

One of the things I find difficult since surgery, is my intake of protein. I have tried various different protein shakes, but I haven’t found one yet that doesn’t cause me any problems.

Scar Update

(Left: 6 Weeks | Centre: 3 Months | Right: 6 Months)

My scar is looking good! The redness has faded a lot, but the top part is still a nuisance. If I wear a bra, it gets irritated and becomes more swollen and itchy. I tried silicone gel and silicone sheets to help flatten it, but neither worked. I keep applying Bio Oil and hope that in time, the top part will flatten out without intervention.

For the most part, recovery has gone better than I had expected. It hasn’t been a walk in the park, some days are truly difficult and sometimes my emotions get the better of me. Even though I often feel ill after eating breakfast, and struggle with episodes of hypoglycaemia and dumping, I’ve never felt an ounce of regret. ❤

Dumping Syndrome

Most mornings, I start my day with a coffee followed by a smoothie. My usual favourite consists of 1 banana, a handful of strawberries, almond milk and a few generous dollops of coconut milk (the thick stuff from a can).

It’s my favourite because not only does it taste delicious, it is also lactose free (that’s a whole new issue altogether now), contains a decent amount of calories and goes down a treat!

However, I’ve recently started to feel a bit funny after drinking my smoothie. Breakfast has been followed with a side order of heart palpitations and dizziness.

It would pass after a short while, so I persevered. After all, I don’t have many breakfast options these days and smoothies are my “go to”.

But today was a different story altogether. Shortly after the palpitations, came the most painful cramping sensations (think menstrual cramps but in your intestines). It felt like my innards were on fire whilst being repeatedly squeezed. The pain not subsiding, I crushed up half a morphine tablet in my mouth, washed it down with some juice, curled up in a ball and waited for the pain to drift away.

The joys of dumping syndrome…

Signs and symptoms of dumping syndrome generally occur right after eating, especially after a meal rich in table sugar (sucrose) or fruit sugar (fructose). Signs and symptoms might include:

Nausea, Vomiting, Abdominal cramps, Diarrhea, Flushing, Dizziness, lightheadedness, Rapid heart rate

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dumping-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20371915

It’s certainly not the first time I’ve experienced dumping. A few times I’ve overdone it with the cookies or a dessert (although it doesn’t take much to overdo it) 🙈 but the frustrating thing with this episode is that I’ve been drinking the same smoothie for a while now with no problems, up until this past week.

Days like today remind me that my body is unpredictable…

So I guess it’s back to the drawing board for breakfast ideas!

18 Kilos Later

On the morning of the 26th September, before heading to the hospital, I stepped onto the scales to find out what I weighed. The number glaring back at me was 76.8kg – the heaviest I had ever been.

Fast forward to today: 20 weeks later and I’m now 58.8kg…

For a long time, my weight was 67kg. I ate well, worked out 4 to 5 times a week and enjoyed the odd treat here and there. But like most women, I wanted to lose a few pounds. In fact, my goal weight was 62kg. However, no matter what I did, I couldn’t get the number any lower.

If only I could go back in time and say to myself, “be careful what you wish for”…

I step onto the scale weekly, sometimes fortnightly, and log both my weight and calorie intake in MyFitnessPal.

After surpassing 62kg, each time I logged my weight, the app would congratulate me with a colourful confetti filled screen; a harsh reminder as to how quickly and easily the weight was slipping away.

In recent weeks, I felt like I was doing well – eating regularly and exceeding my daily calorie intake. So naturally, I was disappointed to find that yet again, the number had continued to fall.

Winter has made it easy to hide my weight loss (even from myself) under big cosy jumpers. That was until today.

I decided to try on my bikinis to see how much my body had changed. First, I tried on a top. My boobs (that now resemble two half-deflated old party balloons) could barely hold the bandeau up. Then, I tried on the bottoms. My once peachy, round derrière, was no longer. The bottoms were hanging off me! I took a long hard look in the mirror, and that’s when it really hit me.

In all honesty, it made me feel like shit. 👎

I texted B and he was quick to reply, reminding me that “this is not a sprint, it is a marathon, and to get to where you want to be, it will take time and dedication”.

He’s totally right. ❤

For a long time, all I wanted was to lose weight, and now I would do anything to stop and start gaining. It’s funny how quickly our priorities and focuses can change – whilst still putting pressure on yourself.

I need to remind myself that it hasn’t even been 6 months yet, and my body is still adjusting.

All I can do for now is to keep doing what I’m doing, eat a little bit more, try to increase my protein intake and start exercising regularly. I might not be able to do much about the chest area, but I can aim for an ass that will turn heads again! 😜

 

One Month Update

Weight lost from the 26.09 – 26.10 = 7.7kg 

My new plumbing! Before and After

Gastrectomy-Before-and-After

Photo taken from: https://www.nostomachforcancer.org/

It’s been one month since my surgery and I’ve experienced a few hiccups along the way. I anticipated problems from my new “plumbing” but not the issues I’ve encountered…

  1. Problems with my incision
  2. Debilitating back pain

1. A few days after writing my last blog post, I ended up at the legevakt (E.R) and hospital for over 8 hours… I had been experiencing some stinging pain from my incision and couldn’t physically see what was going on since it was still covered with a steri-strip that I was told not to remove. Since it was a Sunday, we called the legevakt, and they told us to come in.

When I had my surgery, they gave me intradermal stitches and no staples – so I did not need to have anything removed. 

After a long wait, I was seen by a Doctor that examined the area. He could see that there was an opening in two different areas (at the top and above my belly button). After cleaning up the area, he called the hospital and spoke to one of the Surgeons. He wanted to see the incision, so off I went, freshly bandaged up to the hospital.

He thoroughly checked the openings and explained that they were superficial, so only the top layers were open. He explained that this was normal and often seen in young, active patients. He scrubbed the areas to make them bleed more before closing the areas with steri-strips, and was told to continue doing this over the next week if I saw any blood or leakage on the bandage. But since I’m a wimp when it comes to pain and blood, Nurse B watched the Surgeon so that he could be responsible for this task!

After being checked over by my Doctor a week later, the two areas were still slightly open but said that it was looking good and prescribed me some antibiotic cream to apply a few times a day. Luckily, this did the trick and healed the two problem areas nicely! 🙂 Hurray! I was so relieved! I was initially told that if it didn’t close up on it’s own, they would have to stitch up the two areas, which would mean cutting deeper and into the scar tissue. Ouch!

 

 

2. My other gripe has been back pain. I knew I would have some pain after surgery since I have degenerative discs in my lower spine, but this has been a nightmare. My back was bad to begin with, most likely caused by a combination of things; the epidural, lack of mobility and my back muscles overcompensating for my core. In the first few weeks, I would wake up multiple times in the middle of night with agonising pain and tense, solid back muscles. Then, after not being able to shave for a few weeks, I stupidly decided to shave my legs in the shower… What a huge mistake that was. After standing in multiple flamingo-like bent-legged poses, I had well and truly screwed up my back. Now, I can barely sit down (if I do, I can’t walk properly afterwards and I get pain radiating down my left leg) – so I’ve been spending most of my time propped up in bed or laying down.

I’m just hoping that I’m able to go and see my chiropractor soon as the problem is not resolving on it’s own.

Food-wise I’ve been trying all sorts of things! Pasta with tuna mayo, cheese on toast, jacket potato with homemade chilli, pizza… The list is endless! When my mum came to visit, we even went out for pizza on her last night, and I managed to eat half of a kids pizza! (It took me about an hour to do so, but that’s fine!)

My first outing since my surgery!

Up until the weekend, I had a great appetite and would crave almost anything. But now, even typing the above makes me nauseous. I’m not really sure what’s changed and I’m struggling to overcome it at the moment as the nausea makes it difficult for me to eat or want to eat. I’ve found that chewing peppermint gum relieves the nausea, but only temporarily. I’m just hoping I can overcome this hurdle and find some solutions to this so that I can get my appetite back. 

 

Kissing my Stomach Goodbye

On the 26th September, I kissed goodbye to my stomach. Why? Well, to cut a long story short, I inherited a mutation in the CDH1 gene – which means I have an increased chance of developing diffuse gastric cancer and lobular breast cancer. After a routine gastroscopy in April revealed one of the biopsies to show cancer, I made the decision to have a total gastrectomy. Below are extracts from my diary that I wrote during my stay in hospital.

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Stomach Plush – Bought from Plusheez

 

26.09.17 Day of Surgery – Tuesday

Today is the day. Something I’ve been building towards for the past 4 months, ever since I got that phone call on the 18th May. Currently sitting in hospital in pjs and a dressing gown, trying to keep as cosy and warm as possible. B is sitting here beside me, usually sleeping as he’s shattered. We were here 8.5 hours yesterday for my pre-op so we were both exhausted! Luckily they gave me a sleeping pill to knock me out last night. Starting to get a bit nervous now. Just trying not to think about it all as I keep visualising myself in the operating room and it freaks me out a bit. It’s a long road ahead, but I have to do this. The alternative would or could be much worse…

27.09.17 Day 1 – Wednesday

dav

So yesterday went well. The level of care here has been fantastic so far. The surgery took longer than the expected 3-4 hours. I was under anaesthesia for 9 hours! This is because they sent some tissue to pathology for testing to see if there was any gastric mucosa left behind where they made the join of the oesophagus to the small intestine. It turned out that there was, so they cut more tissue away and made a new join. When the surgeons told me this today, I thanked them massively as having stomach mucosa left behind had been my biggest worry. They allowed B to come and see me in the recovery ward at around 10pm last night. They said I would be incoherent and wouldn’t remember anything, but I was fine! Even the nurses were shocked! When they awoke me from surgery, I even asked them what time it was and was surprised at realising that I had been asleep for 9 hours!

Today I am allowed to drink 300ml of water, but it’s a struggle. When I take a sip, it feels like it gets trapped in my throat and chest, so I sucked on ice cubes instead. Unfortunately, that’s now causing the same issue. I managed to get up onto my feet with the help of the nurses, so that’s something at least! Baby steps – one day at a time. I will try again tomorrow. Apparently I look well and have no fever, so that’s a good start.

28.09.17 Day 2 – Thursday

selfp

So today, the physiotherapist got me up and walking down the corridor and back! My main struggle is the air that’s trapped in my body. A lot of it is in my chest and some further down. The pain is horrific! Turns out it’s from the CO2 that was pumped into me during surgery. They said most of it will be absorbed by the body and muscles over the next few days. B came to visit again today, it’s really great having him here. I haven’t done much at all today apart from rest but surprisingly, it hasn’t been boring. I just need to remember that my body needs time for everything to heal, so rest is very important. I also managed to drink half a glass of saft! Small victories!

 

29.09.17 Day 3 – Friday

Last night wasn’t so good. I think I called for the nurse 3 times because of the pain caused by the trapped CO2. Today was okay, I walked three times with the IV stand (no longer need the zimmer frame thing!) and I can even walk without it whilst someone else pushes it along for me! The only downside is that it’s pushing around all the air inside me when I walk. I’ve cried twice today from the pain because it’s so bad and now it’s pushing against my incision where my stitches are. If I didn’t have to deal with this, I feel it would be plainer sailing! Gianni stopped by today with Bjørnar, and brought me a beautiful potted plant. It was nice having extra visitors. It was also nice being able to catch up with him, as I havn’t seen him for a couple of months. B has been wonderful though, attending to some nurse type things whilst I’m in here, what a saint.

30.09.17 Day 4 – Saturday

Last night also wasn’t good. I called for the nurse 4 times because of the pain caused by the air. Each time, they increased my epidural and I would fall asleep only to wake again an hour later in agony. On the fourth call, they gave me morphine and I slept for 3 hours until the nurses came in at 7am.

Today has been a struggle. My epidural was removed, as well as my catheter. The pain has been the same as last night. Over the course of the day, they managed to get the pain under control by giving me morphine. BK and Anne Marthe came to visit in the afternoon, which was lovely 🙂 They brought me a beautiful bouquet of purple flowers. Weirdly enough I felt a bit guilty because I was very drugged up and still in a lot of pain, so I wasn’t much fun to be around!

01.10.17 Day 5 – Sunday

Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 17.15.27Today has been a much better day! The pain has been managed throughout the night, which meant I got a lot of sleep and some during the day too. I also drank 1.5 cups of tea, 1 cup of lemon water and a bit of saft. So I feel like I’ve managed to get a lot down today. It’s also been nice having more visitors as Linda came to spend the afternoon with me. She brought me a lovely pink lotus flower friendship bracelet, that she also has in blue. Very thoughtful ❤ B also came to visit later in the day and he’s just getting ready to leave. Later, I’ll give my mum a call and maybe try to read my book. It’s so difficult though as my eyes keep rolling around in the back of my head as I feel tired all of the time.

02.10.17 Day 6 – Monday

Today has been an interesting one. I was sent for a chest x-ray at 9pm last night. (I’ve been wheezing a little bit when I breathe in and out.) Turns out, I have a bit of fluid on my lungs. No infection though, so I have to be mindful to take deep breaths and be up and about more. B and his mum came to visit me in the afternoon. It was lovely having her here as I didn’t know she was going to be in town until I was in hospital. She brought me a beautiful bowl of flowers, which one of the nurses commented on saying how pretty it was.

Today I’ve started to eat a few things. I say eat, but it’s still liquids. First off, I tried a chicken stock cube in hot water (too salty as I used the whole cube in a small amount of water – silly me), then i had 3/4 of a high calorie berry protein shake and a bit of fiskesuppe. My appetite seems to have changed though. I absolutely loved fiskesuppe before, but once it was in front of me, the smell made me feel nauseous. I tried a couple of spoonfuls and couldn’t have any more. Today I’ve been walking up and down the stairwell! Managed to do it three times as they suggested. At the moment, I have a lot of strength as I’m given saline and glucose via IV. Tomorrow they’re planning on removing my drainage tube. That’s the source of a lot of my pain, so hopefully once that’s out, things will get a little easier.

03.10.17 Day 7 – Tuesday

edfToday they removed my drain! At first, the nurse removed the bandage, and then the stitches. She gave me morphine and suggested I walked around for 10 minutes to loosen the drain. I’m squeamish with needles and stuff like that, so it grossed me out to look down and see a tube sticking out of my abdomen! It was a bit painful as I was walking around and I started to get dizzy just before she came back into the room. It was painful when she pulled it out! I yelled out that loud, I’m sure the whole ward could hear me! I still have a lot of discomfort in the area, but it’s no surprise really as it was through my muscle.

It’s now 9:30pm and someone has been wheeled into my room 😦 Boo! I had it so good! I was initially sharing a room with somebody until Friday, so it was nice having a space to myself for a few days. Never mind, I should only be here for another few nights.

04.10.17 Day 8 – Wednesday

edfToday I’m going home! They said I could stay another night if I didn’t feel safe leaving today, but I feel ready. I still have some discomfort, but I’m coping well without morphine.

I’m still trying to eat as often as possible. I got a bit dizzy in the pharmacy earlier, and figured it was my blood sugar level. So I had a teeny bit of honey once I got home, which seemed to help. I even tried a mashed up poached egg in the evening! It’s nice to be home and trying different foods and being back with B ❤

 

 

I just want to say a huge thank you to the wonderful Nurses, Doctors and Surgeons at Haukeland that looked after me during my stay, thanks for the lovely messages of support and kind words from my family and friends, thanks to my wonderful visitors that came to see me in hospital, which made my time spent there much more pleasant… and the biggest thank you of all to Nurse B ❤

Not sure how I could have gone through this without him.

 

A Year of Knowing

One year ago today, (gosh that went quick) I opened a can of worms / was the day I embarked upon this journey / was the day I stepped onto this crazy rollercoaster ride…

Today I’m feeling positive – but realistic (hence me describing it as a crazy rollercoaster ride) On my down days, I tend to think that I’ve opened a can of worms! I’m only human!

Basically, I sent an email to the genetics department here in Bergen, asking for more information as to how I would go about having a test done to find out if I carried the CDH1 mutation that runs in my family.

After getting the relevant information from the Doctors in England, I took this information to my “fastlege” (Doctor) in Bergen the following week, and requested a referral to the genetics department.

01.08.16 – Contacted the genetics department

08.08.16 – Referral from my Doctor

04.10.16 – Appointment with a genetics counsellor – Blood test sample taken

08.11.16 – Results from blood test – CDH1 mutation detected

30.12.16 – Meeting with genetics counsellor to discuss next steps (opted for screening)

18.04.17 – First endoscopy with multiple biopsies taken from stomach

10.05.17 – Meeting with surgeon to discuss option of having a Total Gastrectomy in the next few years

18.05.17 – Results from biopsies – Signet ring cell carcinoma detected in one of the samples taken. Decision made to have TG this year

14.06.17 – Second meeting with the surgeon to discuss the TG

21.06.17 – PET/CT scan (awaiting results)

 

As it currently stands, I am still scheduled to have my TG on the 26th September. I haven’t received the results from my PET/CT scan so I can only hope that no news is good news…

 

 

 

June 21st – The Longest Day (in more ways than one)

June 21st: The Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the longest day of the year

For me: My first PET/CT scan, which felt like the longest day of the year!

So, before I get the final go ahead for my surgery in September, my surgeon decided to refer me for a PET/CT scan to stage the cancer.

🤞 Fingers crossed that it’s just localised and I won’t need chemo 🤞

After fasting all morning and drinking copious amounts of water, I headed to the hospital for my appointment.

On arrival, Bjørnar and I sat and waited until my name was called. We were then shown to a room, I changed into some hospital clothing, laid down on the bed, answered a few medical questions and had my blood sugar level checked. Then I waited for the Doctor to come and put a cannula in my arm.

This was not a pleasant experience 😥 I have thin, deep veins that are difficult to find. Every time I have a blood test, a long time is spent trying to locate a vein. Usually, the Nurse/Doctor has a few attempts and I end up resembling a pin cushion. Today was no exception… They even used a special gadget to look for veins in my arm!

AV300-Vein-Viewing-System

Image taken from: http://techpp.com/2012/03/26/top-medical-gadgets/

After 5 attempts in the back of my hands (which resulted in a few painful, little bruises), an Anaesthesiologist was asked to come and find a vein. Luckily, his first attempt was successful! After he left, the Doctor returned with a large robot-looking machine, connected it to the cannula in my hand and in went the radioactive tracer. Bjørnar left the room at this point to get some food since I had to rest and relax for the first 30 minutes (apparently even reading can affect where the tracer ends up in the body). For the first few minutes, knowing that what had been injected into me was radioactive, my heart started pounding and I began to feel anxious. Since I couldn’t feel anything physically different in my body, this helped me to slowly calm down.

After 75 minutes or so, a Nurse came to tell me that they were ready to do the scan and I followed her to the room. After laying down on the scanner bed, I was told that they would be injecting me with the contrast dye for the CT part of the scan. They explained that I would feel some discomfort in the area where it was injected, and since the cannula was in my hand (usually they put it in the forearm) they would reduce the pressure. After placing my hands above my head, I was moved through the machine.

Immediately, I got very anxious and felt claustrophobic! With my heart pounding in my chest, I asked them to take me back out. A few moments later, I said I would try again and tried to keep it together. Once I was through to the other side of the machine, they injected the contrast dye into the cannula. Now this hurt A LOT! My hand was burning and it was very painful. They tried to relieve the pressure, which helped a little, but then my heart began to pound in my chest and I felt like I couldn’t breathe! I told them it felt like somebody was sitting on my chest. They asked me if it was anxiety and I said that it was nothing like what I had felt before. I tried to focus on my breathing – taking deep breaths in through my nose and slowly out through my mouth. After a while, the pain subsided and the pounding started to lessen.

I’m not sure how long the scan took, but I can assure you, it felt like a lifetime… I had an MRI scan around 8 years ago, and laying in a claustrophobic tube is no fun. Especially when you have to be in there a while! Back then, I managed to control my nerves, so I definitely feel that my anxiety has worsened since then.

From this experience, I have realised that my anxiety is worse than I thought. I feel like I wasted four months being on anti-depressants as this only helped the situation temporarily. Without the medication, the issue is still there and I need to get my mental state into better shape before my surgery in order to aid my recovery.

I just want to end by saying that I really do have the best fiancé ❤ Bjørnar has been so supportive throughout all of this. Yesterday, after knocking one of my bruises on my hand, I burst into tears, and he gave me the biggest hug. It was painful, but I was also feeling emotionally overwhelmed and it all came pouring out. On our way home, he treat us to sushi and some Yorkshire Ales, and then he spent the whole evening chilling with me.

 

Happy Pills – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

So here it is, my very LONG, open and honest blog post about my 104 interesting days on Escitalopram (aka Lexapro/Cipralex)

💊 💊 💊

Timeline

  • 7th February – 10mg
  • 23rd February – 20mg
  • 16th March – 10mg
  • 20th April – First appointment with Psychologist
  • 11th May – 5mg
  • 21st May – Last 5mg pill

 

Mental health is still a topic that is often kept in the dark. Even myself is guilty of this. In the past, I have been diagnosed with both depression and anxiety. I have had counselling, and have also taken alternative antidepressants such as 5-HTP and St. Johns Wort – all of which was without the knowledge of my family and friends.

The genetic result that I received in November, ignited my anxiety. Over the Christmas period, I experienced episodes of high blood pressure and on some occasions, panic attacks. These would go on for 30 minutes or so as they continuously flared back up, thus resulting in me taking Valium to calm myself down.

Over the years, I’ve done my own research into antidepressants and their side-effects and was strongly against taking them myself. But in February, after experiencing more panic attacks relating to my ongoing health issue (I also took 5-HTP during this period and it wasn’t helping), I went to my Doctor and asked for antidepressants, because I felt that I couldn’t manage this on my own. At the same time, I was also referred to a Clinical Psychologist.

7th February – Diary Extract (10mg)  How it affected my emotions

Today I went to the doctors and took my first antidepressant. After struggling (but managing) for over 10 years, I finally caved. The anxiety has gotten the better of me, thus in turn making my depression bad. At the moment, I’m a mess. This new revelation of me having this crappy gene mutation, has been a tough pill to swallow. I thought I was coping well, but as usual, I was downplaying it and fooling myself. Last week was hell. I barely left the house. Hell, I barely even got dressed or left the bed. That’s when I really knew I had to seek help and sort it out because I wasn’t able to sort it myself. I’m feeling a lot of mixed emotions. I’m nervous and anxious to be taking this medication, as it’s something I wanted to avoid. I’m sad because I feel defeated, that I could no longer help or control myself mentally… But I also feel proud, for making the appointment, going there and explaining myself so well that I got the outcome that I had hoped for.

At 00:30, I came home and wrote in my diary after being out with a group of people. I didn’t drink alcohol as I wasn’t sure how it would affect me. But I left early as I was feeling very uncomfortable in this social situation.

I feel that the medication has affected me already. Today I felt mellow, but not like I do with Valium, just calm and level with a bit of a fuzzy head… Tonight, I left early since I could feel my anxiety bubbling to the surface. As I walked home, I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. Here I am feeling sad – but level, with no tears.

21st February – Diary Extract (10mg) Feeling mentally drained and demotivated

Today I feel rubbish. My 13th day on Lexapro and my head is a mess. No motivation. No real desire to eat. I feel hungry – but I feel like I’ve lost all motivation completely. It’s been difficult to go to the gym as my head has felt cloudy and my focus has been off. I’m so tired all the time, I just want to rest. I’m tired, but I can’t nap and it’s mentally draining. I don’t have an appointment yet to see a Psychologist – I almost can’t be bothered going to see one anymore. My health anxiety has subsided for now, but today I feel as though it (Lexapro) may not be worth it. I know I need to stick it out for a few more weeks at least.

23rd February

I had a follow up appointment with my Doctor and mentioned that it had curbed my health anxiety. I also spoke about the crippling exhaustion and tiredness that I had been experiencing, along with my lack of motivation to do anything. The Doctor did not believe that this was related to the medication, and advised me to increase the dosage to 20mg.

19th April – Diary Extract

So a lot has happened since I last wrote in here. The side-effects were awful at 20mg. I was spaced out like a zombie, had no energy whatsoever and couldn’t focus or do anything at the gym. So after two weeks, I tapered back down to 10mg. I still have tiresome days.

During my time on 20mg, my behaviour was strange. B would find me sitting and staring into space. When I did this, I wasn’t day-dreaming – I was simply staring into the abyss. Looking back at this time, I said “the lights were on but nobody was home”. This is not something I would ever want to experience again…

During my sessions with a Psychologist, I mentioned the tiredness, exhaustion and inability to do the things that I once enjoyed – eg, go to the gym, cook, hang out with friends… I also made it clear that I wanted to stop taking the antidepressants because I felt that they were suppressing my emotions. I hadn’t cried properly in months and I just felt constantly flat. The Psychologist explained that the anxiety, depression and sadness that I had been experiencing prior to me taking the medication was a natural human response to something real that I was going through. It made a lot of sense. I wasn’t feeling depressed for no reason, and the panic attacks weren’t random either. I was genuinely upset and scared of what I had recently found out, and hadn’t had enough time to process it all.

I wad advised not to quit taking the tablets cold-turkey, so on the 11th May, I began cutting my pills in half and took 5mg daily. Slowly but surely, I felt that I had a bit more energy and was returning to my normal self .

On the 21st May, I took my last 5mg dose of Lexapro.

I mentioned at the start of this post that I was well aware of the side-effects of antidepressants (not so much the tiredness part though – I should have NEVER increased my dosage to 20mg), but I was not well-informed or clued up about the withdrawals. A lot of that, was naivety on my part since 5-HTP and St. Johns Wort never gave me any. A quick google search led me to many posts on forums about “brain zaps” and “brain shivers”, and how many people resorted back to antidepressants because of the withdrawals.

The first week was awful. I felt generally dizzy (as though I had lost my sense of balance) and my brain felt fuzzy. Whenever I moved my head from side to side, I would feel a strange zappy feeling in my brain. Sometimes, the shock sensation would radiate down my arm. Despite this, I persevered. I took a 100mg dose of  5-HTP twice a day, and magnesium before bed in hope that this would help.

I’m almost 2 weeks “clean” and can honestly say, never again. I still get the strange zappy feelings now and then, but they’re nowhere near as intense as they initially were. My emotions have returned (I actually cried the other day, and it felt so good to let it all out!) and my motivation is back! Once again, I enjoy going to the gym and cooking. 🙂

Perhaps all I needed was time. Maybe the antidepressants were good for short-term use in my case, whilst I got my head around all of this.

Right now I feel positive, even though I’m having my stomach removed in a few months time since one of my biopsies showed cancer (and this is me talking without the Lexapro in my system!) My plan is to make the most out of the next few months,make lots of plans, enjoy myself and eat/drink whatever I want, whenever I want! ❤

Disclaimer: As the author of this blog, I have based my writings upon my own experiences regarding the topics covered in my post. However, I am not a medical doctor, nurse or otherwise formally qualified in this subject matter. The information contained in this blog is not intended to be construed in any manner as medical advice.

 

 

 

The Dreaded Phone Call

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Still feeling a little bit blurry headed after the 17th May Celebrations in Norway the day before (which, by the way was fab!) I struggled to comprehend the news that I had just received on the phone. The surgeon, that I had met with just a week earlier, had just called to let me know the results of my gastroscopy. All biopsies, apart from one, had come back normal. The news I didn’t want to hear was that one of them was showing signet ring cell carcinoma. Fuck.

The strangest thing is that I remained calm as he spoke to me; I didn’t even cry for a while afterwards. I simply couldn’t. I felt numb and confused. The surgeon suggested that I talk over the news with my family, and advised me to call him again as soon as possible to schedule my total gastrectomy (sooner than I had hoped to do so). This could mean no summer trip to England, no Engagement party with my family and friends, and no trip to Amsterdam. For now, all (fun) future plans are on hold.

So what did I do? Well, after breaking the news to B and my family, I poured myself a very generous glass of wine, ate a large slice of cake (leftovers from the 17th) and had a good, long chinwag with one of my close friends. ❤

It’s been a few days since I received the news and there’s still a few unanswered questions that I need the answers to. Does this mean I have to have chemo? How soon should I have the surgery? What if it’s already spread and they can’t find this out just yet?

Perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise that they found something. Now I know I have to have the surgery. I just don’t like having my life dictated by this. It’s only been six months since I found out that I had inherited the genetic mutation, and now I have to deal with this new piece of information. It really hasn’t been enough time for me to get my head around all of this, but with each day that goes by, I feel a little bit more prepared and accepting of the situation.

 

 

 

It will never be the perfect time…

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Today I cried; something I’ve struggled to do for the past few months thanks to the antidepressants I’m taking. I’ve always been skeptical of taking such a thing, but over Christmas, my anxiety was getting progressively worse as I struggled to come to terms with the fact that I was walking around with a potentially ticking time bomb. I felt like I had no other alternative than to try the medication, and to be honest, it has helped. My health anxiety is under control and I feel a lot more calmer, but of course not everything is peachy… I’m unable to express my true emotions. Instead, they stay bottled up inside of me and I am unable to release them.

That was of course, until today…

I guess I thought that I would feel a lot more prepared for surgery after meeting with the surgeon, but if anything, I feel just as worried, afraid and sad about the whole situation as I was before. Perhaps I should have gone to my appointment with no expectations.

I know there will never really be a good time to have a total gastrectomy, but after doing a lot of thinking, I decided that I should do it early next year. He asked me why I wanted to wait until then, so I told him the truth. It’s because I’m not mentally ready right now and still need time to prepare for such a life changing event. Besides, we want to get married in 2019, and I don’t want this decision looming over me for years to come.

So, my goals over the next few months are to wean off these “emotion suppressive” antidepressants, continue seeing a counsellor to help me overcome my health anxiety and get both my body and mind as ready as it possibly can be to say goodbye to my stomach in Spring 2018…

Deep throating a hose pipe…

Don’t worry, this isn’t an erotic blog post! I’m simply referring to what took place yesterday morning; my first Gastroscopy.

Since I received my genetic test results in November, I have a mutation in the CDH1 gene, which can lead to Diffuse Gastric Cancer, I have been anticipating this procedure ever since. Mainly because I just didn’t know what to expect – I knew it would take at least 30 minutes and that they would be taking 30 biopsies from my stomach, but partly because I retch when I brush my back teeth sometimes… So how was I ever going to manage swallowing a long endoscope?!

The waiting area was a long corridor lined with seats that were filled with people. Therefore, we were sat quite far away from the doorway where the Doctors came out one by one and called out a name.

When I was called out, the fact that it felt like I was walking down an awkward catwalk runway with everybody gazing at me only added to my anxiety.

After first introductions with my doctors, I preceded to tell each and every one of them that I was anxious and nervous. They all reassured me that it would be fine, that I would be sedated, and Dr. Trond told me that he was going to give me some of the “good stuff”!

After spraying some anaesthetic at the back of my throat and fitting a mouthguard, they asked me to lay on my side and administered the anaesthetic. They then placed the endoscope into my mouth and told me to swallow. (You’d think that Medical Science had advanced far enough to make an endoscope as thin as spaghetti?! Nope…)

Despite them telling me that I probably wouldn’t remember the procedure, I remember the whole thing (albeit some parts hazier than others). For the first part of the procedure, I was laid observing the whole thing on the screen as they explored the lining of my stomach and took multiple biopsies. After a while, I think the throat spray anaesthetic had worn off as I started retching repeatedly! They told me to take some deep breaths and administered more anaesthesia into my hand.

Towards the end of the procedure, I began retching again; this time more violently. I was struggling to control it and my mouth began to fill with bile and blood (gross, I know). Again, I was told to take deep breaths, but it took me a while to stop it from happening. It’s not easy with a mouthful of liquid, a mouthguard on and a tube down your throat!

After the procedure, they took me to a room to recover for an hour before discharging me. Dr. Trond came to see how I was doing and was surprised at how perky and normal I was, considering the amount of sedation I had been given (apparently it was a lot)!

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(Even in the hospital, I can still manage to get comfy and snug in a blanket!)

Since the gastroscopy isn’t a reliable screening method for this type of gastric cancer, I have been advised to have a total Gastrectomy in the near future. Next month I will be meeting with a surgeon here in Bergen to discuss this further so that I can make a more informed decision on what to do next. 🙂

Special shout out to B for making me lots of soup over the past two days and looking after me ❤ He’s the best

CDH1 Positive

It’s been 24 hours since I discovered that I have a mutation in the CDH1 gene, and what an emotional 24 hours it’s been. As soon as I read the words “The CDH1-mutation has been detected in your blood sample”, I broke down and sobbed uncontrollably.

I know a lot of people won’t understand and some may say it’s nothing to worry about – but when it hasn’t even been a week since my uncle’s funeral, the news hits even harder.

Everybody hates the C word (I’m referring to the six letter one), known as the “K-ord” in Norway. People don’t want to talk about it and I bet almost everyone has been or will be touched by it in some way during their lifetime. After the third person in my family was diagnosed with stomach cancer, doctors soon found a link and realised that a mutation of the CDH1 gene was to blame.

I didn’t know what my odds were of having the mutation since my dad hadn’t had the test done, so in August, I took it upon myself to see my doctor in Norway and was referred to the genetics department in Bergen.

5 weeks ago, I was sitting anxiously in the waiting room with Bjørnar at the side of me. We were both invited into a room with two Doctors, where we sat and talked at length about stomach cancer, genetics and the tests I could have done if the result were to come back positive. I was also told that I was the first potential case in Norway with the CDH1 mutation, so they were very excited to be meeting with me!

They told me that I would receive the results in 4-6 weeks and during this time, my family insisted the test would come back negative. I on the other hand, did try to mentally prepare myself as much as possible for the latter. After all, I knew I could potentially be opening up a can of worms!

So since I’m back in England now until late December, my next appointment isn’t until January where I will be having genetic counselling and discussing what to do next… Annual gastroscopies or to have a total gastrectomy?!

On the plus side, since I’m the first case in Norway, I can be their guinea pig! 😀

(I’ll be keeping my readers updated with my healthcare journey in Norway not only to help raise awareness, but also for my own sanity. After all, I think if I bottled it up and kept it in the dark, it would eat me up alive!)