41. Rebuilding

OK, so some of you know already, but before I finished treatment last year, I signed up for a 10k. It might not sounds like much, especially given that I’ve run plenty of these before. But I haven’t publicised that I’m doing this because, in all truth, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it.

A friend recently posted about how tough it is rebuilding after radio- and chemotherapy, and she’s right. However strong you appear on the outside, your body’s taken a beating and isn’t as strong as it was. Chemo is poison, radiation is toxic, surgery is traumatic, and that’s just the physical stuff – the mental impact is a whole different kind of beating.

So for me, this time, running a 10k isn’t just about putting one foot in front of the other, having the stamina or the strength. It’s about belief – and in complete contrast to the belief I had during treatment, until recently I didn’t know if I’d be able to do it. I just didn’t want to run. I still don’t! Every time I go out, I’m scared to death of having to stop half way round. I’m worried I won’t be able to do it, which seems stupid to me, because I know I’ve done it before! But my body’s been through quite a bit since then.

Last week, the friend I was planning to run with had to drop out through injury. And it made me realise that, although she’s not able to do this now, I am. I’ve got a great trainer helping me get my strength back physically, my distance is up to 8k, I have two weeks left to make up the difference, and I owe it to myself not to let this beat me. For God’s sake Rebecca; it’s a flipping 10k, not a marathon!

So I’m doing it. There, I’ve said it, no more hiding, I’m committed now!

Deep down, I’m doing this one for me. To prove to myself that I can do it. But if anyone wants to support me, it’ll make a huge difference 🙂

  • If you are in London on Sunday 4th February, come and shout at me (and the other crazy people who think a Winter Run is a good idea! – Lucy, Nia, Adrian…) I’ll post pictures on the day, but will probably be spottable in my signature pink Nike socks!
  • If you’re not in London, cheer me on via Facebook (I’ll track the run on my Nike Run Club app, so when anyone ‘likes’ the post, it’ll send cheers and applause into my headphones!)
  • Or if you have any pennies to spare, sponsor me, and help fund more of the groundbreaking research which saved my life last year… details here: http://www.justgiving.com/boxysboobjob.

In advance, thank you – you guys rock xx

PS – if anyone wants to actually run it with me, let me know as Claire’s place it up for grabs!

39. It’s the final countdown!

39. It’s the final countdown!

10 months ago today, on Friday September 18th, I was in the shower getting ready for a night out in Hamburg, when I found a lump in my left breast.

I saw my GP at 8am on the Monday morning and was in hospital three days later. I had a consultation and was then sent upstairs for a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. By the time I was back downstairs with the consultant, she had most of the results and told me it was highly likely I had breast cancer. I was in and out of the hospital in 90 minutes. That was my Thursday.

The next day, I went back to the UK for a wedding and caught up with a heap of friends, all saying ‘Haven’t seen you in ages! How are you? How’s Amsterdam?!‘ totally unaware of what was about to drop. I spent that weekend getting my head around it all, before returning to Amsterdam to have it confirmed that I had a triple negative tumour in my left breast.

Monday September 26th – that was diagnosis day.

On that day, I asked a lot of questions. Can I still work? Can I still travel? What treatment do I need? How long will is last? Will I be hospitalised? Do I have to go back to the UK? Ultimately, what I was getting at was ‘if I give this thing every ounce of strength, focus, and determination I have, how long do I need to put my life on hold?

I was told treatment would last 9-10 months.

I started treatment five weeks later (delayed two weeks at my request, so I could finish my F1 season in style at the US GP in Austin, Texas!) and had my first chemotherapy session on Monday October 31st.

Since then, I’ve had two rounds of chemotherapy, lumpectomy surgery, removal of six lymph nodes, and I’m now having daily radiotherapy.

My final treatment is scheduled for Wednesday July 26th 2017 – exactly 10 months since I was diagnosed; but 8 months, 4 weeks, 2 days after I started treatment.

We’re finishing 5 days ahead of plan – Boom!

In many ways, it’s been a life-changing journey. But all I can think of is getting back to normal. I will need to take tablets every day for the next five years, and have regular check-ups for the next ten years. But aside from that, there’s no reason why I can’t lead a normal life.

The tumour is gone. It hadn’t attached itself to the tissue around it. And the scar on my left breast is neat, tidy and will be my reminder of this great battle.

My lymph nodes were clear, confirming that the cancer hadn’t spread beyond my breast. The wound under my left arm is healing and is now giving me a focus for my training – to regain full movement in my left shoulder/chest and rebalance the strength across both shoulders.

The likelihood of my cancer coming back is 10-15%. But if 1 in 3 people will get it at some point in their lives, then Joe Public has a 33% chance, so I’m no worse off than anyone else reading this blog!

So on that note, I’m now just focusing on the next eight days, six treatments, then taking a long weekend to go to my first F1 race of the season – my ‘comeback’ race, perfectly timed!

And on Tuesday August 1st, life begins again… Bring. it. On.




38. Phase 3 – getting geeky about radiotherapy

38. Phase 3 – getting geeky about radiotherapy

By now, most people will probably have got used to me sharing the detail, bearing all, and going geeky on the science behind all this! Well last week, I had a meeting with the Radiologist and she gave me a little more insight into what they’re doing to me in phase 3.

Because the area to be radiated (the radiation ‘field’) is in my left breast (directly in front of my heart), we use a technique called ‘breath hold’ – this literally means I hold my breath during radiation, so my lungs expand and push my heart back away from the radiation ‘field’. In the clip below, the Radiologist explains how this works, using the scans they took of my chest…

In my last post, I included a couple of photos of the treatment room, where I lie down on a bed, with my arms above my head, while the machine moves around me and zaps my chest from various angles. The graphic below shows the various angles from which I am treated. In each image, the radiation field is in between the parallel lines. As the graphics build up, the intensity of radiation builds in the specific area where my tumour was located. So you can clearly see how targeted this treatment is (in comparison to chemo, which went around my whole body).


During each zap, the noise the machine makes is defined by the shape of the radiation field. This isn’t just a straight beam, it is shaped by many individual plates which come into the radiation field – a bit like the gadget you put your hand into to make an imprint…


Before each scan, these metal plates move until they outline the required shape, and the radiation is then beamed through that shape to radiate the precise area in my breast.


I find this stuff super interesting, and it really helps me understand what the machine is doing while I’m lying there. It all takes less that 3 minutes and I don’t feel a thing!

In the same way that we have to protect my heart during radiation, with other forms of cancer, they also have to take specific precautions to protect other major organs. In this case, I feel lucky my tumour was in an area which is easy to get at, as the precautionary measures are pretty simple – just hold your breath.

But I still feel like James Bond every time I lie on the machine 🙂