Update from Jess #1

This is the first update sent by email to family and friends on Thursday 25th of July, 2013.
I have a thing for posing on chairs in hospital gowns!

I have a thing for posing on chairs in hospital gowns!

Blue dye is injected into the edge of the areola under the skin and tracks through the lymph nodes up to the Sentinal nodes. It colours them so the surgeons know what to remove.

Blue dye is injected into the edge of the areola under the skin and tracks through the lymph nodes up to the Sentinal nodes. It colours them so the surgeons know what to remove.

This is me :) x

This is me 🙂 x

Hello wonderful people in my life…..

It has been 6 weeks since my Breast Cancer diagnosis.

To each and every one of you a massive thank you. All the texts, phone calls, messages, emails, cards, postcards, catch ups, care packages have all been amazing and are keeping me going. The support has been incredible and I can feel the good vibes, positive thoughts and love coming from all corners of the planet. I feel very blessed to have you all in my life.

To those of you that emailed that I have not yet replied to, apologies. I’m usually pretty good at responding and as I am sure you can understand life has been crazy busy the last few weeks. Please know that your messages are appreciated and mean the world to me and I will get back to you at some point soon.

Time has gone so fast I currently feel like my head is completely up my bum! I was busy before but now my schedule is out of control.

In the last month I have had internal scans, multiple blood tests (my veins in my arms are not happy!), injected myself with IVF drugs, had a marker clip inserted into my lump, had radioactive dye injected into my breast, had an echocardiogram to check my heart and had two surgery’s where I have had to go under general anesthetic – a sentinal node biopsy and egg extraction. All of this in between working, sight seeing and socilising makes for a very busy Jess.

So to update you all……

One of the biggest things for me in this whole process is conserving my fertility.
Unfortunately there is a 50/50 chance of loosing all fertility and this is for anyone who undergoes chemotherapy. On the positive side though there is a good chance that due to my age and healthy lifestyle this may not happen. In saying that I do want to have children at some point so want to protect my chances and in order to do that I have had to go through IVF treatment in order to stimulate my ovaries to produce more eggs to get them frozen. Injecting myself with the treatment drugs was not as bad as I expected (into my thighs and stomach) and I was not as loopy as I thought I would be either – there were a couple of “emo” moments but no tears so well chuffed with that effort! On Monday I had the eggs extracted. They managed to get 10, 8 of which were viable and will be frozen in case I need them at a later date. 5 were mature and 3 were immature which will mature once thawed. If I did need to use the eggs at a later date to create embryo’s then the chances of conceiving are not high (around 20%) but that is better than having no chance at all if I don’t do it and go into early menopause. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get more eggs but I am trying to think quality not quantity.

On the 11th of July I had a Sentinal Node Biopsy. This biopsy was to check that the cancer cells haven’t spread into the lymph nodes towards my armpit. I had to get a radioactive dye injected in to my breast (which hurt! and came with a really intense fast rush of heat – It’s really hot! It’s hot!) so they could track where the lymph nodes are. I had to lay in a scan machine and I was able to watch the dye moving from the injection site on the edge of my nipple up into to my sentinal node on a computer screen. Was pretty cool to watch.

I went into surgery and was injected with another dye which turned my breast blue. This dye goes through the lymph nodes and colours the sentinal nodes blue so the surgeons know what to take out. Yesterday I was told that one out of three of the sentinal nodes removed was infected. I kind of expected that the cancer may have spread. I think the important thing to stress here is that this will not change or effect my treatment plan. It will not be more intense than it is already going to be. The only thing is that when they go into remove the infected tissue around the plastic marker clip after the chemotherapy shrinks the lump down they will either remove the some lymph nodes at the same time or not depending on how I have responded. So it will be the one surgery in a few months time and something not to worry about until later. My breast will stay blue for up to 6 months. It has faded a bit but it’s still a nice shade of poweraid blue!

Last week I went and tried some wigs on. I also went and had a fringe cut into my hair figuring that that if I have to wear a wig then it would look better with a fringe. Amazingly the wigs are incredibly discreet and look so much like normal hair you can barely tell you are wearing one! I was flawed by how great they looked. I am going to cut my hair this week which I think is going to be hard as it’s going to make all of this a bit more real. I’m going back to a bob which suited me a couple of years back so shouldn’t be to traumatizing. With the wig I will go for will be a blonde bob and have a fringe cut into it.

I saw the Oncologist (Chemo Doctor) last week and I will be starting Chemotherapy this Friday – the 26th of July. Since we have discussed that Chemo Day will be on a Friday then that’s when I want to start it. It will be 8 rounds total (I think I had previously said 6) one round every three weeks. I have figured out all going well that my last session will be the 20th of December so hoping to get the bulk of the treatment wrapped up before Christmas. The day before I have Chemo I will need to have a blood test to check my white blood cell count has recovered if it’s low I have to wait for it to get back up before I go another round. After Chemotherapy is over I will have to have Radiation Therapy everyday for up to a month. It’s meant to be pretty quick session – only a few minutes and the side effects are nothing like Chemotherapy so that will be good and should kill off any remaining cells the chemo doesn’t get. That’s a wee bit down the line. I will start the drug Herceptin on my 4th round of Chemo and have recently discovered that it is now funded in New Zealand which is fantastic news for women at home living this. In New Zealand statistics show that only 1 in 4 women have the HER2 Positive strain of breast cancer that is able to be treated with this drug (which is meant to be one of the best). So only 25% of people can take it.

Check out the link to understand a bit more about the strain of cancer I have and about Herceptin:  http://www.herceptin.co.nz/

I’m going to cut my hair off so that it is not as bulky and I can try scalp cooling. I’ll have to wear a funny looking cap similar to a jockey’s helmet or large padded swimming cap that freezes the scalp and stops the Chemo going to the hair folicals. I have heard of some good results so I hope it works for me. Obviously it works for some people and not so well for others but i’ll give it a try. Because my hair is fine I should have a pretty good chance of it working if not I will try out the mullet, a mohawk then shave it off. Then i’ll have my wig so not to worry. Click on the link and check out this article so you can see how scalp cooling works.

I had a few dramas with travel insurance. I got an email from the travel insurance company after I had contacted them to cancel all my flights and tours that I had booked for Summer. I should currently be in Turkey with my lovely friend Kate. The email was blunt, full of lies (about payment requests from the UK) and assumptions about me, my support network here in the UK and how difficult things will be. Even my medical team at the hospital were stumped by the way another medical professional could be so inconsiderate. Basically without hearing my side of the story they advised I should return to New Zealand immediately and would be ceasing all cover relating to my current medical condition. I made a complaint and am currently waiting to get reimbursed for all my lost expenses. I have been told that I am covered in general when and if I travel until the end of March next year – just not for Cancer related stuff. Need to read my policy a bit more to figure out what I am entitled to. Annoying!In any case this travel insurance pulled up some other red flags. There was some concern over my visa status and what NHS funding I would be entitled to so that was looked into by the Overseas Visitor Manager at the Whittington Hospital where I am having treatment. Normally on the work visa I am on you have to be in the country for 1 year to receive full NHS funding. Luckily though the Department of Health states that if you have been in the UK less than 6 months (which I have) but have made an effort to make a life here and are “Settled and Ordinarily Resident” by paying tax, National Insurance and working then you are exempt from any charges. There is an agreement between New Zealand and the UK called the “Reciprocal Healthcare Agreement” that would cover and “life threatening and critical emergency care” so if I needed something fast then it would have been covered under this agreement. It’s these kind of situations that you find out a lot of things! Glad to know that everything is sorted.I went and spoke with the recruiter that got me the job at the school at which I will be teaching Art at come the beginning of September. They were incredibly supportive and want to help me do what I want to do in this situation – continue to work and lead life as normally as possible.
I ended up going to the school and had a meeting with the recruiter and the deputy headmaster last week. I informed them of my situation in which I was very up front and honest. I wanted them to know that I am taking things day by day and that I can’t predict how I will react to treatment. They too were extremely supportive and like the recruiter want to do what is best for me so very happy with the outcome of that situation. Looking forward to September.In September I have signed up to do a half marathon – don’t worry I will NOT be running! It is called Shine Walk for Cancer Research. It is a night walk around London and should be great fun. It is on Saturday the 28th of September. Those of you who are in London should sign up and come join (I need a group of people to potentially carry me across the finish line!).

Sign up by clicking this link! http://shine.cancerresearchuk.org/

It is 35GBP to participate. For those of you in NZ and other places around the globe please do donate it is a worthy cause and currently I am benefiting from it so would appreciate your input.

Here is the link so do please check out my profile: http://www.justgiving.com/wellerjess

Mum is coming over to London mid October for 4 weeks to look after me so that will be nice to have her here. Will be good to do some looking around London the UK while she is here too so that is something to look forward to. When Mum arrives I will be right in the middle of my treatment which is meant to be the toughest part of the process. Trying not to think to far ahead but glad she will be here.

So life of course has been pretty hectic. I had a photoshoot today to get some nice pictures of myself. Despite the fact I have been so busy I have still managed to do some work and still kept some tourist activity going. We made it to Wimbledon and were 8725 in the queue at 7am on the first Saturday that the tournament was running. We didn’t get in but made the most of a sunny day and had a 5 hour picnic in Wimbledon Park which was delightful. We sat there along with the thousands of others trying to get in to see the tennis. I’d recommend going to the Australian Open in Melbourne – no queues! After seeing no tennis we made it to Crystal Palace for the rest of the day so live music, good food and great company were amazing. Have been to Kew Gardens – the Royal Botanical Gardens which are massive and so stunning and we were able to hear Leona Lewis do her sound check for a concert the same evening, Greenwich to the Saturday markets, saw the Cutty Sark, The Royal Observatory and The National Maritime Museum. Had a day at Victoria Park which was fantastic – sunshine and a large dose of vitamin C, BBQ’s and a splash around under the worlds biggest sprinkler! Went to the V&A Museum for the second time to see a special viewing of the David Bowie exhibition which was awesome. Made it to the Isle of Wight this weekend gone. Was a stunning place. Fantastic sea views and great air conditioned buses! which we saw the Isle’s sights from. Made it to the West End show Book of Morman last week. Oh my goodness…..hilarious but soooo offensive. Worth a look for sure. The Lion King is on the cards for September.

I have had visit’s from some of my wonderful friends. Hollie, Mick, Sarah Jane, Kirsten, Carl, Marissa, and Andrew. Looking forward to seeing Elle and Rob, Gemma, Megan, Violet, Jason and Mira in the next few weeks.

Just want to share with you some of the lovely things people have said to me in their messages…..

“This is very serious. Drink Green Tea”
“Yes I got your email. I had to take a week off work to read it”
“You are honestly one of the most powerful (and the feistiest) women I know”
“You are my inspiration and I want to live my life right, starting now!”
“We are all cheering for you”
“What I can say is if anyone can beat this you can! & you will. I have faith”
“I have no doubt you are going to have many more amazing adventures too and that you will get through this, because I know one thing about Jess Weller: she is one tough cookie!”
“Your amazing!! You’ve been the strongest of us all”
“I know you will fight and kick ‘lumpy’ in the ass!!!” “You are one of the strongest (and stubbornest) people I have ever known and I absolutely have no doubt that you will get through this and be out the other side”
“I can only imagine home feels so far away right now but we are all behind you”

This is what makes life worth living – the love that I have in my life from all of you.
Being positive and optimistic has so far been easy. I’m not going to lie, I am not looking forward to treatment but needs must. Life is too precious to muck around. Glad I am dealing with this fast and getting it sorted.

I want to leave you this great quote that my lovely friend Ana sent to me…..

“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!” ― Dr. Seuss

Love you all, thank you so so much for all your kind words of love and support.
Chat soon.

Jess xxx

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