Currently living in Hong Kong, I am originally from Liverpool, UK. In December 2019 my world was turned upside down when I found out I had Melanoma. It wasn't until after my 40th birthday in January 2020 that I discovered the melanoma had got into my lymph nodes putting me at stage 3. This blog was set up to document my journey. It is an honest and open account of everything we are going through as a family. We are currently taking one day at a time and trying to keep things as normal as possible. xx
Well it’s been quite a while since my last post. So much has happened in my personal life; we bought our forever home in Scotland and I took a well earned sabbatical last year to go and spend time there with my family to heal. Of course, in my 8 months there I had a scare, and my oncologist in Scotland suspected the melanoma had managed to get in my liver. It wasn’t until I returned to Hong Kong that it was confirmed to be benign. It was a really worrying time and my stress levels were through the roof. Since then I’ve returned to work, life has been great. Until recently. I noticed a new growth on my forehead, it was getting bigger and bigger. I had my dermatologist take a look and he removed it there and then. Turns out to be a Squamous Cell Carcinoma. While all this was happening, a lump appeared at the top of my thigh. One morning I woke up and it was black. I sent a photo straight away to my oncologist who told me I needed to see my surgeon asap. Of course, he was worried and suspected it was melanoma. So a few weeks ago I underwent surgery number 5! They removed the lump in my thigh and also the SCC on my forehead.
To say I was terrified is quite an understatement. More so because I thought melanoma was going to ruin another Christmas. It was Christmas Eve 2019 that I discovered I had melanoma; but was totally unaware of the journey I was about to embark. The wait was agonising and I couldn’t help but think ‘what if’.
A few days ago I received a call from my surgeon. The anxiety that travels through your body as you see that call come through. The hesitation, the fast beat of your heart, the deep breaths….it’s the worst few seconds you can imagine. However it was good news. The lump in my leg was a deep abscess. My PER scan had also come back clear. Thank god. The instant relief I felt was like a huge huge weight had been lifted. I could relax, my children’s Christmas hadn’t been ruined. I can focus on my future again. I think a lot of people don’t realise how serious Melanoma is. But I feel it’s a life sentence, like I’m a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. Not sure when it will ever raise its ugly head again. But I have to focus on the positives and the present. And right now, we are all clear. So I will take that as a win.
Ever since my journey began, there has been a constant support from back in the UK. I was first introduced to Diane Cannon by a mutual friend here in Hong Kong (what are the chances of that??!) Diane works for Melanoma UK and lives in my home city of Liverpool. This woman has been a pillar of support for me. Never meeting her, she would send me video messages giving me lots of advice and would often point me in the right direction. She even offered to support my mum and dad who are going through all this without me by their side. Diane is a wonderful human and her work for Melanoma UK shows just how passionate she is about raising awareness about this awful illness.
Through my blog; and especially my poems, I have managed to reach a wider audience. I have spoken to several newspapers and magazines across the world to try and raise awareness about the dangers of the sun and being sun safe. I’m currently working with my school here in Hong Kong to make them a sun safe school. It’s my mission to now educate the new generation of youngsters about being safe in the sun. I want people to understand that applying sunscreen is just as important as brushing your teeth.
Back in April Diane messaged me to say that Melanoma UK would like me to be one of the new ambassadors. I was honoured to be given this role. We had a video call with each other explaining the role and it was the first time I got to actually talk with her ‘face to face’. Of course I accepted the invitation and now I will do my best to raise awareness whenever I can. My first mission is to make my current school a sun safe school. I’m also trying to work with the Hong Kong government to see if we can put out warnings on all of the government run beaches here. it might be a long process but I will do my best. As I said in one of my previous posts, every cloud has a silver lining. I feel that having melanoma has opened up a whole new world for me and I’m determined to turn it into a positive experience.
Last week I had my PET-CT scan to check that the immunotherapy had done it’s job. My body came back clear. Therefore I’m officially NED! I can’t explain the feeling I had. It was more overwhelming than my last treatment day. I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I could finally breathe out a sigh of relief. I know I’m not out of the woods yet, melanoma is sneaky. It can lead you into false security; I’m fully aware of that. But for now I will happily take this news.
Not only did I breathe a sigh of relief, so did my children. My girls are 7 and 8 years old. I’ve never had a discussion with them about ‘cancer’ but they are aware of ‘melanoma’ and that mummy needed some surgery and medicine to make this go away. Telling my children that I didn’t need to go to hospital no more was wonderful. My eldest gave me the most loving hug. I can’t even imagine what she has been going through over the last year. We considered counselling for her, but we decided against it. I wonder how much this has affected her emotionally and psychologically. I’m hoping one day she can look back on this blog and really truly understand the extent of this disease. I never ever want my girls to have to go through this. It’s my job now to educate them and protect them from this awful disease. They need to understand how important it is to protect your skin from the sun. I’m currently trying to educate them that sunblock is just as important as cleaning their teeth everyday. I’m also educating them to know their skin. Look for changes. The earlier these changes are detected, the more options are available. It’s also important for YOU to know your skin too. Please don’t neglect your skin, get those skin checks!!!!!
Finally, a few weeks ago (just after my last treatment) I gathered a small group of amazing women here in Hong Kong who have supported myself and my family throughout this journey. It was my opportunity to celebrate THEM and thank them for their amazing support. We had the most wonderful brunch. Here are a few photos from the event. Xx
I never thought I would see this day. On Friday 12th March I had my last infusion. I didn’t really sleep the night before, something was clearly on my mind. I was welcomed to two beautiful messages on my phone in the morning; one from my parents and one from a work colleague. So I began my day in tears. I pretty much spent most of the day in tears. It was a bag of mixed emotions. Happy, sad, scared, anxious….I think I must have experienced every emotion.
It was a bizarre day. I expected to feel elated. But actually, I felt like my security blanket was being ripped away from me. I knew that every 3 weeks I was getting thorough checks and having a medicine injected into my veins that was killing any cancer cells in my body. What if some have been left behind? What if something else starts to grow?? These thought will forever be with me now. But for now I have to focus on the future and focus on getting back the strength so that I can fight on if anything was to ever come back.
So what next? The next 5 years are important. I will undergo regular surveillance checks (every three month) to make sure that all is ok. Then when my oncologist feels confident, we can move to every 6 months.
In this post I have included a video of my journey to document the last 15 years. The song I chose to use in the video is ‘Let it Be’ by the Beatles. It had to be a Beatles song, and Let it Be is a song that I feel sums up my journey. I have no control over what happens, I just have to let it be.
This won’t be my last post….this blog has been a lifeline for me. But this is the end of a chapter. A chapter of my life that has changed me…for the best. Everything happens for a reason. And I honestly believe that I was assigned this mountain to prove it can be moved. Xxxxx
Over the past few weeks I have undergone a few tests. The first was a mole biopsy. My dermatologist spotted a mole on my back that had changed since August. So he thought it was best for it to come off. The results came back all negative which was brilliant. Then my oncologist recommended that we had a MRI on my brain. Melanoma is known to spread to the brain, and my last MRI had been June so we’re were over due one. Again, these results came back clear…which is amazing.
Yesterday I underwent treatment number 16 out of 18. It went well without a hitch, so I’m confident that the light at the end of the tunnel is fast approaching. Fingers crossed.
Ok, so I’m over a week late with this. Happy New Year! As with everyone else, I reflected back on 2020 quite a lot. It was hard not to be bitter and not focus on the negatives…even my 8 year daughter cried when watching a recap of the year on tv. It was a horrible year in so many ways. But I have to take the positives. I can’t waste my energy focusing on the negatives. So I took the positives and poured my energy into those. I’m grateful to be here. Alive. Thanks to modern medicine. Thanks to the amazing team I have behind me at the Gleneagles. Thanks to my family and friends. Without them, I’m not sure how I would have gotten through 2020. Now we have to face 2021 and the unknown. I’m hopeful for this year. I have to be. I’m hopeful my treatment will come to an end and that the melanoma doesn’t raise it’s nasty head. I’m hopeful for travel. I need to see my family….I think we are all desperate for that. So let’s just try to focus on those positives…even if they are small. Xx
A few weeks ago I had my routine PET scan. It showed some activity in my right breast which needed to be investigated. So I had a mammogram and a core needle biopsy to rule out any satellite tumors. Thankfully everything came back benign.
Yesterday saw me have cycle 14 out of 18. It went smoothly. During my treatment I was looking at my Timehop and it bought up lots of photos from 1 year ago. We went on a trip of a lifetime. We had planned to take the girls to northern Finland (Lapland region) to see Santa and hopefully see the Northern Lights. The trip was the BEST trip we have ever done. I have never cried whenever I’ve left a vacation before, but this time it was different. The whole trip was so magical. When we landed back in Hong Kong we were totally in the Christmas spirit; super excited for Christmas. Unfortunately on Christmas Eve I was told I had cancer. I did my best to make it an amazing Christmas for my girls, but for me, it was torture. I just can’t believe it’s almost been a year. In true me style, I wrote a poem about this time last year. I’m really hoping we can have a much happier Christmas this year despite Eve that’s going on. I would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and let’s have hope that 2021 is a much better year for us all. Xx
Yesterday I completed cycle 12. During my examination my oncologist felt a lump in my neck. We’ve also been watching a small lump in my abdomen, so it was decided to bring forward my PET scan. I will have that tomorrow. Other than that, my infusion was well tolerated. Whilst there, I was thinking a lot about the situation the world is currently in. The UK are about to go on its second lockdown. It’s quite unbelievable. We were hoping to be going home to the UK for Christmas to spend time with our families; obviously that can’t happen now. Not seeing my family is something I’m struggling with. Badly. I think even moreso than my cancer. I wrote this poem to try to put into writing how I’m feeling. Enjoy. X
Friday I attended the hospital for cycle 11. I was feeling a little apprehensive after the trauma of last time, however it was a really positive experience. Bloods were all good, no vein issues and the chemo suite was nice and quiet. It gave me the opportunity to reflect. I was thinking how I haven’t seen my close friends for over a year now. I’m so thankful that my parents came over in January this year as I really don’t know when I will next see them. It’s something I’m really struggling with. I was hoping to go home for Christmas, but that won’t happen now. I decided to write a short poem about it. Hope you enjoy. X
I turned up to the hospital exhausted today. This week I’ve done a couple of early morning workouts followed by full days of teaching. It’s been nice to get into a routine again, it occupies my mind and enables me to sometimes forget about everything else that’s going on.
Today started off really positive, until the nurse tried to insert the cannula into my hand. For some reason my hand completely swelled and bruised. It was really painful. Of course there were tears and moments of anxiety. After a bit of a break we tried again with success. During my treatment I began to reflect on my journey. I was looking back through my blog; and it really hit me how much I have been through. I used to struggle with people calling me ‘amazing’ or ‘incredible’ but today it really hit me that actually I am incredible…this body of mine is bloody incredible. And it’s refusing to give up this fight!
Yesterday was cycle 9 which means I’m officially half way through my treatment. I’m not going to lie, the first half has been traumatic. However I feel I’m now in a much better place, I’m no longer anxious and scared when I attend my appointments. Instead I’m just focusing on that finish line. I’m hoping and praying that once I pass that finish line I can finally travel to see my family and friends back in England. So many positive things to focus on now…let’s hope the second half of my treatment is less traumatic than the first half.
As the new academic year starts for me tomorrow, I have been feeling apprehensive. A new class of year 1 students and teaching online. In Hong Kong we started teaching online back in February. Just when I was in the midst of my surgeries. I was actually in a dark place but I kept going. I don’t know how I did it. But I did. The last few weeks I have had a dark cloud hanging over me. The thought of going back online bought back all the trauma I’ve been through over the past 6 months. Also the possibility that I may need more surgery depending on my recent biopsy results. Today I got those results and they were clear. It feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I can go into this new academic year with a clear head and focus on my job. This may be a little premature, and I hope I’m not jinxing myself; but there is a possibility that my body could actually be cancer free right now. How awesome is that? On that positive note…good luck to all the teachers going back to school in the next week or so….we’ve totally got this! 💪🏻
They say that dogs can sense when we are down, when we are happy…even when we are not very well. Ever since I was diagnosed with cancer in December 2019 I’ve seen a change in my dogs behaviour. They have become my guardians. I am unable to move without them by my side. I go to the bathroom and all three will be waiting for me outside the door. I honestly believe they know I have an illness and they are comforting me through it all, even at my lowest points. Animals are just the best. Do you believe they can sense this too?
It was that time…skin check. Because of everything that’s happened I will now have three month skin checks…but will conduct my own skin check mostly everyday. It was decided that I needed to have some kind of mapping as my skin has too many moles. During my check two moles on my back were identified as suspicious, so we decided to take one off and watch the other. I had it removed yesterday and now I wait for the biopsy results. I’m feeling positive. On another note, today was cycle 8 of 18! Nearly half way there…and there were NO tears! Bonus. 😊
Yesterday it was time for my biopsy results. I was mentally preparing myself for the worst, let’s be honest, I haven’t really had any good news during this journey. So I was ready. I wasn’t sure how I was going to react but I was in fight mode. Walking into my oncologists office I felt sick, I thought I was going to pass out. As soon as I looked up he met me with a lovely big smile. I knew instantly it was going to be good news. I had got used to ‘the face’. It was indeed good news. The biopsy revealed there were no cancer cells even though the PET scan had revealed it was a hot spot. So officially at the moment I’m NED (no evidence of disease) but as we all know with melanoma, it can be hiding and just not big enough to reveal itself. So I’m trying not to celebrate too much yet. I’m only on cycle 7 out of 18 treatments. Nearly half way there!!!!!!
On Timehop the photo popped up. 10 years ago. 10 years ago I had bragged to the world that I was stupid enough to burn my skin to a crisp. But I justified it with a good day out on a boat. Reading this back mad me angry and my immediate thought was…what a fool. It got me thinking. If I could give advice to myself 10 years earlier, what would that be? It’s all in my poem. X
Yesterday I got my PET scan results. Not as clear as I had hoped. Basically there is a hot spot in my right axilla. This needs investigating. So next week I will go for another needle biopsy. I’m just so over this. It’s totally relentless. I haven’t had a break for seven months. I just want the old Adele back I miss her. Surely I can catch that break soon?? Reflecting on everything I think I need to speak to a professional. I need to look after my mental health. It will help me come to terms with all of the emotional turmoil I’ve been carrying. Here is a poem I wrote about my experience.
Last week I went for my 7th cycle of immunotherapy. However we had to postpone it as my white blood cell count was quite low. My oncologist also found a lump in my thigh which he wanted to investigate. That has since been declared benign thank god! However today was PET scan time. It’s always an anxious time getting the scan and waiting for the results. I get my results tomorrow…fingers crossed all is ok! X
I’m still here….7 days on. I was moved out of ICU and now in a normal room. Monday was a HUGE challenge for me. One of the antibiotics that they had been injecting me with was extremely irritating my veins. Every time the nurse walked in with the syringe I would almost have a panic attack. The pain was excruciating. So on Monday all I could focus on was the clock. Counting-down and dreading the next injection. I was a mess. I couldn’t stop crying with anxiety. I couldn’t speak to anyone, I shut down. I hit the lowest point I have hit since all of this began.
On Monday evening it was decided to look for another site for the cannula. My right arm is out of bounds, so only my left arm to work with…then the mention of my leg. I freaked out. Anyway, a lovely nurse was able to calm me down and we managed to find a new site higher up my arm. That was 4 days ago and so far so good!!! Here is a poem a wrote about the experience.
Yesterday morning I woke up at 5am in the worst pain. My body shivered, every joint ached, head pounded and my heart was pumping fast. I stumbled to the bathroom to find myself lying on the freezing cold tiles. If I stood up I knew I would be sick. hours later I was the same, only this time vomiting. My heart rate wouldn’t go below 100. I noticed a rash on my leg. I called the dr and he told me to get to the hospital. By the time I got there I had a high fever. I had to wait to be seen in a consultant room as the staff were afraid I had covid-19. It turns out I was very sick. Cellulitis had progressed to sepsis. I’m still in hospital now and will likely be here for another 5-6 days.