Well what can i say , 2020 has been a absolute shitstorm of a year that i think we will all remember for so many reasons. We have all endured so so much this past 12 months, you may have been sick with covid19, home schooled in lockdown and had to face financial uncertainty. Some people loved lockdown ( i know i did) others hated it but we all got on with it and did as we were told to save the ones we love and help the NHS.

I have started this blog post and deleted it so many times in the past 12 months, just really not knowing how to start or how to make this a positive upbeat blog when the reality was a bit different for me.

Today seemed like a poignant day to sit down and reflect my last 12 months, well here goes i can finally put this out there to anyone who takes the time to read this.

On the 21st Oct 2019 i was told I had Cancer, I sat with my husband in a room filled medical professionals with concerned faces and listened whilst they told me I had Squamous Cell Carcinoma! A form of skin cancer incase you don’t know. Lots of people suffer from Squamous Cell but generally its related to UV sun damage. Mine wasn’t UV related which apparently makes it even more aggressive. My cancer started as a tiny spot like a grain of sand then a year later it was 4cm .

As If that wasn’t bad enough they also told me it had infected the lymph nodes in my groin which made the cancer a whole lot worse. I have to admit all I heard was cancer and I broke down right there and then, no brave face actually nothing brave at all. I cried out that I actually couldn’t have Cancer because I have kids ( why I thought that made a difference to cancer I don’t know). I was not prepared to be told I had cancer at all.

I was transferred from dermatology to gynecology at this point due to the area infected.

What happens now?…….

After that initial diagnosis appointment the worst moment was telling my kids and my family. It broke my heart and still does if I think too hard about it. I decided from the start to be as open and honest about my diagnosis as I could be without terrifying them. You can imagine how it went , they are old enough (13-15 then) to know that Cancer is a killer and immediately wanted reassurance I wasn’t going to die!

The next week was a whirlwind week of prebooked appointments, meet the surgeon, MRI, CT Scan and PET Scan to try to determine just how far it had spread, my head was spinning with all the new information. Apparently, my cancer is Rare, I had one of the 5 gynecological cancers us ladies can suffer with. It took way too long to get diagnosed , a consultant gynecologist told me just 3 months before it was “nothing sinister” I can still hear him say those words to me and can’t help feel bitter towards him for dismissing me and not even sending me for a biopsy.

My surgeon at Poole general hospital is truly the most amazing woman, to whom I owe my life I’m sure, sounds melodramatic but I believe she really did save my life. She moved fast made sure I was moved to the top of the list, speed was important to stop the spread of the disease, less than a month after diagnosis I had surgery.

Surgery, wasn’t fun but necessary, I also had 3 cancerous lymph nodes removed which proved more problematic to heal than the cancer site. I was told the infection risk was 50% due to where the cancer was, that scared me almost as much as the cancer. Sepsis wasn’t something I wanted on top of cancer.

All in all it took 3 months to heal, we had some dark days but overall it was ok and whist it did get infected it was managed before it got worse.

So January 2020 I started daily radiotherapy and weekly chemotherapy, 25 sessions of radio and 5 Chemo to treat any stray cells intent on spreading the cancer. The staff in both departments are amazing, kind and reassuring making the treatment seem less awful.

I was wiped out by the treatment , some days I just wanted to stay in bed but i didn’t , I got up did the school run and even managed to work a little. It felt important to me try to keep things as normal as i could, and keep my business going. I love being a photographer, I did miss working so much after surgery. No, i didn’t lose my hair…not all chemo treatment causes hair loss.

I have the most amazing friends supporting me and massive thank you to my family for helping. Special thanks to my dear friend Jacky for the constant help, the special body cream to stop the radiation burns, lifts to hospital , sitting with me during chemo and just generally making life bearable. Oh and Mark Bennett lunches 🙂

So a year on, I have the all clear ! I don’t think it gets better than that, 3 monthly appointments to keep a check on me but i’ll take that! No sign of cancer so I’m getting on with living life ,watching my kids grow and trying to put the whole thing to the back of my mind.

I’d like to thank the NHS staff for just being amazing ! Please if you have ANY lump bumps aches and pains don’t leave them, get it checked out and if you aren’t happy with the first diagnosis then seek another opinion to double check. I’m here today because I did!

Love to all

Karen x

PS It’s really hard to be upbeat about Cancer but I do try, If anyone wants to chat to me please just drop me a line. 🙂