What is immunotherapy?

I am often asked the question ‘will you lose your hair?’ People automatically think of chemotherapy when I say I’m having cancer treatment. When I tell them I’m receiving immunotherapy it starts a whole new discussion. So I decided to try and write an educational poem to describe what it is. I wanted to keep it short and not too technical. I hope this helps people to understand what immunotherapy does.

Cycle 5 complete….

May 13th 2020 I completed cycle 5 of my immunotherapy. I was happily informed by my oncologist that we are now quarter way through the treatment. After cycle 6 I will have scans to see if everything is ok. Today was also a special day for me. On May 13th 2019 I lost a very special lady, my lovely nan. It’s been one year since her passing. It was weird but I felt her presence more than ever today. She was with me, holding my hand. I wasn’t afraid and it was the first time during treatment that I didn’t cry. Here is a poem I wrote.

Cycle 5

A trend of two halves

Moving to Hong Kong almost 13 years ago I remember looking for self tan. I was baffled. I couldn’t find any. I went to all the same cosmetic companies I knew sold the products from back home in the UK but I couldn’t believe that instead of self tanning products they sold skin whitening products. I soon learned that the trend was the reverse here. People would envy my pale complexion. I was laughed at when I asked for self tan. Why would I want to have darker skin? They were also baffled.

I wrote this poem when reflecting on the different trends. Why can’t we just be happy in the skin that we were given?

A trend of two halves.

The thoughts of a mum

When you are told you have cancer you immediately ask yourself, will I die? Before I was staged, all I could think of was my girls and what would happen if they lost me. The thought of it would make me feel anxious. I couldn’t even look at them without thinking ‘what if I can’t see you grow up?’

Nothing in life is guaranteed, but for the time being I feel that I could happily stay at stage 3. I’m hoping my immunotherapy will keep this monster at bay and that once treatment finishes we can go back to some normality. But really truthfully thinking about it, I will always be checking and worrying if this will return. I have hundreds of moles on my body. It’s scary. So with this in mind you can’t really blame me for thinking the way I do at times. This is a poem I wrote at a time that I was fearful for the future. Xx

The virus….

I’m sure you are all feeling the same. Social isolation; not being able to see friends and family, stuck at home. It sucks. It’s sucks that I had to break the news to my 6 and almost 8 year old that they won’t get to go to England this summer; the highlight of their year. It’s sucks that I won’t get to hug my mum and dad, something I need right now. Everything about it’s sucks. I understand why it has to happen but there are so many consequences of social isolation. I recently learned that in the UK the NHS are having to stop cancer treatments in certain areas, it’s become a bit of a postcode lottery. This is unacceptable and shocking. It makes me really appreciate the care I have out here in Hong Kong.

This is a poem I wrote about the current situation regarding covid-19.

The virus.

Treatment

Immunotherapy is the treatment I am currently on. Described as a wonder drug, I am hoping it does wonderful things for me! Immunotherapy is different to chemotherapy as it doesn’t attack your good cells as well as the bad cells. Instead it teaches your immune system to seek out the cancer cells only and kill them. Clever eh! When I first started treatment so many people were asking if I would lose my hair. Thankfully on this drug I won’t. So far there haven’t been many side effects which is great. This poem is one that I wrote during my last treatment, it was a tough one. You will understand once you read the poem.

Treatment day
Cycle 3 complete!

The scars

Currently recovering from surgery number four I am swollen from my hip to my knee. I have no feeling in my groin or my thigh. I covered in dressings from my hip to the groin. Over the last four months my body has changed. I’ve had chunks cut away from me. Nipples removed, navel reconstructed and mole after mole removed. Sometimes I can’t bear to look at myself in the mirror. This poem is all about the scars and procedures. I’ve included some photos of my scars too!

The drain in my pelvis

Please don’t go Mummy

Leaving the house last week to go to hospital was traumatic for me. My 6 year old daughter was holding on to me sobbing, begging me not to go. It was just horrible. It really affected me. It made more nervous for surgery, in my head I was thinking ‘will I wake up, what happens if I don’t?’ To see her so upset was just heartbreaking. I decided to write a poem about this experience and try to allow you all to understand the impact this has not only on me but my family.

How did this happen?

This is a poem I wrote when I was reflecting on diagnosis. I remember telling people and they were quickly to dismiss it, whereas I was terrified of what was to come. Little did I know.

There is that burning question ‘why me?’ when something like this occurs. Thinking back to when I was 16 years old and using tanning beds made me wonder whether this was the origin. I had burned badly during some sessions yet I would go back on them desperate to have a tan. Can you believe these tanning beds are still being used in the UK??? And despite the warnings people still use them. It baffles me. So here is my poem that I put together when reflecting on the beginning…the true beginning.

My journey begins….

Christmas Eve 2019 wasn’t like our normal traditional Christmas Eve. My children and I attended what I thought would be a quick dermatologist appointment at the Gleneagles Hospital in Hong Kong. My husband was at work but he planned on meeting us for lunch. However this didn’t happen. I just remember hearing the word ‘melanoma’. It was too much information for me to process, especially as my 6 & 7 year old daughters were in the room with me. I just remember crying and being told that I needed to see a plastic surgeon that day. That was our Christmas Eve and the beginning of a turbulent journey that I am currently in the middle of.

It’s been exactly four months since my diagnosis and I’ve had four surgeries and four cycles of immunotherapy. Crazy. My body has been torn apart and chunks taken away. The emotional turmoil has taken its toll and I am physically drained. During my fourth cycle of immunotherapy I had a complete breakdown. It was tough. The worst in fact. It was then that I decided to write. What came out was poetry, it was finally good to be expressing myself freely. So I decided to share my poems in the hope that they will help others who also find themselves on a similar journey. I hope you enjoy my poetry and I hope they give you an insight into my life that I am currently living. xx