Team Ellie

Team Ellie

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Coming to terms with infertility. | LifeAfterCancer

My life was all planned out. My future ventures and aspirations were drawn into my brain like a map, with everything leading to the right place: first stop university, then my ambition to be a successful business woman, next finding my dream partner and home, and all these places led to the final destination of a family. Ever since I was young, I had always dreamt about being a mum, it seemed like the most magnificent job in the world. Unfortunately, not everything goes in the right direction...


My future life disposed right in front of me - in just a matter of seconds - like a map left out in the rain. The directions of my life became all muddled up, making my future destinations feel out of reach. Lost and disorientated, it felt like my life had been put on hold. I had no where to go. My life was frozen into the unknown.  

the beast that lurks in the dark and shields itself into the unknown, 
slowly torturing its unknowing victim, 
until the lights are on and all is known. 

At just 14 years old, I was told that the lump that was growing in my bottom, for the best part of 6 months, was cancer. It was the biggest shock of my life. All of the signs were there right in front of me, but I was still clueless none the less. Immediately, I began a harsh regime of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. My hair was stripped from my pores, agonising burns invaded my mouth, fatigue took over my whole body, and the nausea was nearly unbearable. Thinking about the future made me feel  numb, because I knew that the possibility of a future was slim. 18 months later, when I finally entered remission, I began to ask questions. My new lease of life made me feel ready to tackle anything, so it was time for me to ask the most important question of all - am I infertile?

I knew from the beginning that there was a slim chance of fertility. After all, my radiographers liked to explicitly tell me over and over again that the radiation would cause damage to my reproductive system, but it doesn't hurt to ask again - right? The conversation went like this:
"Out of a scale of 1 to 10, how fertile am I?" It felt like I couldn't get the words out of me quick enough. 
"Zero." My consultant blankly replies.

I wasn't upset, I think that time will come when I am older. For now, I am perfectly happy with the prospect of adopting, in a way it makes me feel better that I can give a child a home and love. Plus, my oncology ward was directly opposite a maternity unit, the frequent wails and screams of women in labour still haunt me to this day - it was enough to put anybody off for life! 

Coming to terms with infertility is tough, because it feels like a burden that you will carry with you for the rest of your life, but you have just got to learn to live with it. We are lucky that we are living in an era of medical revolutions; new fertility treatments are making way each day, it's just your turn to be brave and go for it. Don't let infertility hold you down, it doesn't make you any less of a woman, it is just what you had to do to survive. Stay strong and fight through the obstacles.

Just remember that life doesn't have to stick to one road, changing direction can be scary, but who says that going on a detour is all that bad? 

Ellie xxx

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Getting back to exercise | LifeAfterCancer

I think for a lot of people the main goal after cancer treatment is to get back into exercise - it sure was for me! 3 months into remission: I'm swimming, cycling and gradually getting back to PE. I do have to admit, it has been exhausting for me, but Im glad to be back into it. Exercise definitely isn't easy, but it is a good way to build your strength up after chemo. Here are my top tips:

1. Don't rush it!
You just beat cancer. You enter remission feeling invincible. Rightly so, but you do have to remember that your body has endured a damn hard battle, and it won't get back to normal as quickly as you'd like. About a week into remission I was off swimming and walking my dogs. Nothing would stop me. THEN-the tiredness well and truly hit! My body was worn down and so achy, it really wasn't pleasant at all. Please take this advice from someone who has already experienced it, because trust me you don't want to experience it yourself.

In the beginning, do exercise 2-3 times a week, and avoid vigorous exercise. Your muscles are going to have to take a bit of getting used to all the activity, so a lot of aching is expected. Even if the exercise is just walking the dog or taking the stairs - it all helps to improve your stamina and strength.

2. Swimming!
I highly recommend swimming as your first proper exercise to get back into. Exercise such as running can be very strenuous on your joints, whereas swimming has limited impact. This is particularly good for your body after treatment, because you can build your muscles without wrecking your joints! Don't go swimming if you're neutropenic or prone to infection. Also, if you have a Hickman line or a PICC line definitely don't go swimming until its out!

3. Eat healthily.
I don't know about you, but when I came out of cancer treatment I was extremely eager to get back to a healthy diet. So I made sure I ate 4 or 5 different fruits & veg each day, and I only had one sugary treat a day. And then a lost weight... With the increased amount of exercise I was doing, what I was eating really wasn't enough to sustain my weight, so I have had to have a drastic diet change. I have talked to my doctor and they have said that I need to eat 2000 calories a day to gain weight-especially if I'm doing exercise! Its been a challenge so far, as I have struggled with eating since being diagnosed, but I really hope the hard work pays off. The moral of the story is to be realistic and eat everything and anything to help keep your weight up. The super healthy diets are over rated anyways! (;

Exercise can really help your recovery time decrease. It has so many benefits, such as:

  • reduce fatigue
  • increase flexibility
  • strengthen your heart
  • help maintain a healthy weight
  • reduce anxiety and depression
  • strengthen muscles, bones and joints

Thank you for reading this blog, I really hope it helps you! If you have any questions then make sure to comment down below. 
Ellie xxxxx

Monday, 17 April 2017

What to expect from the first month of remission| LifeAfterCancer

1 month seems a long time, but in actual fact it really isn't. It surprised me how quickly I regained my strength and energy after just one month. It goes to show how much of a battering the body takes whilst on chemo drugs. Of course my energy is nowhere near perfect - it can take months and sometimes years for energy to come back fully, but for now it feels a lot better than it did when I was on treatment. You aren't going to be climbing mountains or running marathons anytime soon, but you will feel a new found energy that you didn't have before.

It is important to embrace that energy by getting back to work/school, exercise and hobbies. Although this is important please remember not to rush anything. When I have talked to other cancer patients, they have said how they didn't feel ready to get back to school, but they almost felt guilty if they didn't. This is completely understandable to feel. Remember that just because you are off of treatment that doesn't mean you have to revert back to everything you used to do before. Take your time and get back into those things when you are ready.

It can take a long time for your body to feel recovered after cancer treatment. After all it has been battered for the past however many months with toxic drugs. Keep this in mind, because you don't want to over do it. It is important that you let your body heal in remission, and it won't be able to heal properly if you are wearing it down. A big tip I suggest is to do a part time schedule at school/work until you feel strong enough to get back into it full time. Listen to your body and don't feel pressured by anyone else to do more than you can do.

Now for the medical side of things. You will still have hospital appointments to attend to, but no where near as many as in treatment. The doctors will want to check your blood once a month until your blood count has risen up. Now that you are off of treatment you can start reducing some of your medications, but make sure you check with your doctor first. Obviously the medical side of things is different for everyone, so don't take my word for it.

Congratulations on your first month in remission! Feel free to comment down below your experience so far or any questions you have. 
Lots of love,
Ellie xxx

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Bye cancer, hey remission! | LifeAfterCancer

When I got diagnosed with cancer my life was on the line and every day I feared that I was going to die. Since the day of my diagnosis, I have realised how precious life is, and that you have to live
every second because you never know when it could end. Now I am in remission I have a whole new gratitude and thrive for life. For 18 months I learnt how to live a "cancer life" and I embraced each day of it; but I never truly understood how different it was until I came into remission. I have currently been in remission for a little over 2 weeks and already I feel free, I feel happy and I feel unstoppable. I can't truly put into words how amazing it feels.

I am enjoying getting back to the normal things in life. I don't feel restricted with the mental and physical ties of chemotherapy - I feel like I can do anything! Remission has definitely taught me to take every chance whilst you have got it, I have definitely got a new enthusiasm for life. I am ecstatic that my energy is increasing so I can attend school a lot more, I absolutely love school, and it makes me happy that I can attend even more now. If you knew me before then you knew that I was super sporty, since remission I have started to go swimming, it is so fun and I am starting to get my passionate drive for sports that I had before. 

Although remission has been amazing, it has also been a roller coaster of emotions. For 18 months I felt safe with the security of chemotherapy, but now I almost feel like I am going into a battle with no armour. I try to remain positive and not think of relapse, but I find that it always crosses my mind one way or another. Little things like bloating or pain can trigger a whole flood of emotions for me, because I am scared to death of anything being a possibility of cancer. I try to be rational and think about it logically, but it is hard sometimes. In a few weeks time I have scans, at the moment I am not feeling too anxious, because in a way the hospital makes me feel safe and these scans will hopefully reassure me that everything is okay.

I know it has only been two weeks, but it has been absolutely fantastic! I am looking forward to seeing what the next few weeks brings. I think providing support and information to those in remission is as important as providing support to those in cancer treatment. This blog post is the first of a series called LifeAfterCancer. I want to do this series to voice my experience of remission, so I can give advice and support to those on the same journey as I.

My energy is getting better and better each day, I am truly loving life and I'm cherishing every moment of my normal life.
Love Ellie xxx

Sunday, 12 February 2017

How I am feeling about remission...

If you asked me a couple of weeks ago my feelings towards remission, I would have given you a very straight forward "Im not ready.". The thought of remission seemed very foreign to me. The last 18 months has been chemo after chemo, and it has become my normal life, so to comprehend a life without chemo was very hard for me. In a way, I was scared to think of that new chapter of my life, I was scared that I would forget the past 18 months of my life. Also, chemo has given me a suit of armour, I don't have to worry about relapse. However, remission is like going into a battle with no armour, and that is what fears me the most.

I'm not sure what changed my mind from then to now, but I can confidently say that I am more than ready for remission! I am ready to not feel tired all of the time, I am ready to not feel achy all over and I am ready to get back to a bit of normality. What excites me more than anything about remission is getting my energy back. I cant wait to get back into sports, I hope to start off by doing swimming and then do running again when my body has recovered. I am especially excited to get back into full time school, I love school and it is extremely frustrating for me that I don't have the energy to go in as much as I would like. With my aspirations of becoming a doctor, I need to get the best grades possible, so I can't wait to work my butt off in remission!

Of course, I still have my anxieties about remission. My biggest anxiety is relapse, I don't want cancer to stop my life again. I want to be able to live my life without any disruptions. I wish I could be certain that I won't relapse, but unfortunately no one knows. I just need to remember to live each day to the full and to not worry about tomorrow. One of the things that made me nervous about remission is that I thought no one would care about my blogs or videos anymore, but I realise that I have such a HUGE network of support that are always cheering me on, and I know you guys will stay by my side throughout.

Remission is going to be an eye-opening new chapter of my life. It will be interesting to see how I, the perfectly programmed cancer kid, adjusts to life as a normal kid. I don't think I will realise how different it feels until I am there. I hope to experience great memories and achieve all my ambitions. I am mostly scared that I will forget all I have learnt from my cancer journey, but I have realised that I haven't learnt from my cancer journey, I've grown. My cancer journey will always follow me wherever I go, and I know that I will never forget it, I just need to know that it is okay to move on.

Thank you for reading!
Love Ellie xxx

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

What is a Bone Marrow transplant? | In loving memory of Jay.

A bone marrow or stem cell transplant replaces damaged blood cells with healthy ones. This transplant can be the last chance of survival for people suffering with Leukaemia and lymphoma, like my good friend Jay. Jay had lymphoblastic lymphoma, and had a bone marrow transplant in July after undergoing an unsuccessful course of chemotherapy. The transplant was a success, buy Jay's health took a turn for the worst after contracting Influenza and microangiopathy, which was a complication caused by his bone marrow transplant. Jay sadly passed away on January 9th. The reason I am doing this blogpost is because I was good friends with Jay, and he always said that he wanted to create a blog to promote awareness of bone marrow transplants. Since Jay never got to fulfil that wish, I am going to try my best to do it for him.

Why are bone marrow transplants carried out?
Bone marrow transplants are used to treat conditions in which the bone marrow is damaged and unable to produce healthy cells.
Conditions that transplants can be used to treat:
  • Leukaemia and lymphoma - these are blood cancers.
  • Myeloma - cancer affecting blood cells called plasma
  • Severe aplastic anaemia (bone marrow failure)
  • Certain blood and immune disorders.
What does a bone marrow transplant involve?
A bone marrow transplant can involve taking healthy stem cells or bone marrow from another person, ideally a family member, but only 30% of cases have a well-matched family member. The cells have to be closely matched to the person receiving them to increase the chances of a successful transplant. This is called an allogenic transplant.
It's also possible to remove your own stem cells and transplant them later. This is called an autologous transplant.

A bone marrow transplant has five main stages:
  • Tests and examinations to assess your general health.
  • Harvesting - the process of obtaining the stem cells to be used in the transplant.
  • Conditioning - preparing your body for the transplant by using chemotherapy and sometimes radiotherapy, this is so the damaged stem cells are being killed off before the transplant.
  • Transplanting the stem cells.
  • Recovery.
Risks of a stem cell transplant
A bone marrow transplant is a very intensive procedure which requires one to two months in hospital, and the patient is open to many risks. These include:
  • Graft versus host disease - this occurs in allogenic transplants when the transplanted cells start to attack other cells in your body.
  • Reduced number of blood cells - this could lead to anaemia, excessive bleeding or bruising, and an increased risk of infection. 
  • Chemotherapy side effects - sickness, tiredness and infertility.

As you can figure from this blog, a bone marrow transplant is an extremely hard procedure, which no one should have to go through. What makes a bone marrow transplant even harder is the wait for a well-matched donor, it's not as easy as it seems. More people need to join the stem cell donor list so more people have the chance of a successful transplant. Register today, and save someone's life. With only 30% of cases able to get stem cells donated from a relative, they need your help.


Sunday, 1 January 2017

Goodbye 2016, hello 2017! | Collab with Evie

I am in disbelief that 2016 has come to an end; it only seems like yesterday that I was declared No Evidence of Disease at the start of the year. 2016 has been a fantastic year, despite still being in cancer treatment, I am able to do the most amazing things. Cancer is the worst thing that has happened to me, but I am glad that 2016 has reflected how I made my cancer a positive not a negative.

2016 had a tough beginning. Fighting both cancer and anxiety was the toughest part of my battle. I don't want to think of the panic attacks, and the fear, and the side effects from both chemotherapy & radiotherapy. I want to think of 2016 as a year of massive progress and accomplishment for me. Beating the anxiety was a massive step for me. Like cancer, I was determined to beat the anxiety, and that's exactly what I did. In March, I finished the gruelling 7 months of intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy, it was the hardest thing I have ever had to endure. It was physically and mentally draining, but I stayed strong and I showed cancer who's boss.
2016 has made me realise the important things in life. I really feel like I have learnt a lot about myself. I have learnt to embrace my cancer and love me for me! I don't hide. I show off my imperfections caused by my cancer with pride and strength. I have been able to embrace my cancer by uploading my first ever youtube video, which has now received over 100,000 views! For me this video was to help spread awareness and show everyone that I don't have to hide my cancer, instead I will show it off. My youtube channel has helped me receive a lot of publicity which is extremely important for me to spread childhood cancer awareness. I have worked with Sarcoma Uk, appeared on ITV news and on various news sites.
2016 has seen me progress as a person, because I am able to make my voice be heard. I have grown so much confidence and an attitude in which I don't take "No" for an answer. I have grown an extreme passion to help other children with cancer like me. 2016 has really shown me what I am truly capable of. I am capable of asking the public about childhood cancer, I am capable of spreading awareness via social media, and I've shown myself that I am capable of whatever I desire to do.

I want to thank all of you for your endless support and encouragements. I couldn't have made 2016 such an amazing year without all of you guys. I'm excited to see what 2017 has in store for me.
Lets cheers to a happy and healthy 2017!
Love Ellie and Evie!xxx
 Go checkout Evie's blog post here, Evie has just gone into remission from Hodgkins Lymphoma, she's had a tough year but she has been tougher!