September Trash…

It’s ok, I’ve put the misery in a box for now… this post is all about inane girly related stuff instead. How would you like to see my trash? These are the things of note that I used up in the month of September. Apologies for the quality of the photo’s – I had to take a half day off work last week to rest as I have been absolutely exhausted and I took these just before literally keeling over and falling asleep in the middle of the day. I think it shows!! I never sleep during the day – I was a tad tired…

First up is the hair stuff:

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‘Fast’ Shampoo –
My mum got me this after I finished chemo – it is supposed to make your hair grow quicker. I’ve used up the shampoo but still have the conditioner on the go. To be honest I have no idea if it has made my hair grow quicker or not as this is all I had been using after chemo. My hair has always grown pretty quickly so the jury is out on how much impact this has had – but it is fine as a shampoo regardless. Not sure it’s worth the hefty price tag – apparently there is a shampoo bar from Lush called ‘New’ which is a bit cheaper and I’m told it is effective. Maybe I’ll give that a try next.

TRESemme 2 in 1 Shampoo –
Gonna be honest – this bottle is humungous and I’ve had it for AGES. Since before chemo when all I was allowed to use was Simple brand hair stuff. Again it was fine – good value but I wouldn’t rave about it. To be fair, I am yet to find a shampoo that I would rave about! I’m quite relieved it’s finally used up and I can move onto something new.

Hair Dye Conditioners (Nice n Easy & Garnier Nutrisse) –
I seem to be perpetually dyeing my hair these days. I prefer the Garnier dye to the Nice n Easy – leaves my hair feeling nicer and covered all the whiteness better.

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TRESemme Heat protect spray –
Had this for an age too. In fact I probably got it with the shampoo. It’s the best heat defence spray I’ve used in that it does actually seem to make a difference. You don’t feel you’re just putting it on because you feel you should like with other ones I’ve tried. Would re-purchase.

Moving onto body related stuff:

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Boots Extracts Cocoa Body Wash –
LOVE this stuff. It smells divine – as do all the other ‘flavours’ in this range. I will be going to boots to get some more Extracts products this week I like it so much!

Soap and Glory Flake Away –
As body scrubs go, this was just fine. It is pretty effective but doesn’t smell as nice as the ‘Breakfast Scrub’ from the same brand and isn’t moisturising like some others I’ve tried. I liked it, but I’m not sure it’s worth the price tag to be honest.

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Champneys Citrus Glow Body Scrub –
This was a bit odd. I thought I liked it because it felt really moisturising – but then I realised that it felt like that because it was leaving a sort of slimy film on my legs. It smelt pretty good and exfoliated well – but the slimy film was a no-go for me. Would not re-purchase.

Nivea Double Effect Anti-perspirant –
Liked this. Did the job and smelt nice. Not much more to say really!

Vaseline Active Fresh Anti-perspirant (compressed) –
I got this and basically the same thing from Sure to carry around in my bag. As I am such a sweaty mess with my hot flushes it’s nice to have some back-up and because they’re compressed they’re a good size for toting around. This one was a bit crap though. It seemed to run out really quickly – and it’s not like I was using it as my every day deodorant. The Sure one is still going strong so I think I’ll steer clear of Vaseline deodorant from now on. It smelt ok and it did work to be fair.

…and that’s the lot. I’ve also used various run of the mill body washes but nothing worth a mention. The Boots Extracts stuff is definitely my favourite. I wish they did shampoo and conditioner – then my hair could smell delightful too!!


This is not a positive post…

… feel free to stop reading now if you want no part of my misery.

I just need to vent about how much I hate being me.

I hate my body – it is diseased and wants to kill me.
I hate tamoxifen – hot flushes mean I can’t sleep and look like a bright red sweating pig most of the time.
I hate my hair – I look like a twat.
I hate my genes – I don’t want to have my ovaries removed.
I hate chemotherapy – it has fucked over my already worthless piece of shit body.
I hate my brain – it constantly thinks about death.
I hate my eyelashes – they have stopped growing at approximately 4mm long.
I hate my toenails – they are brown and ridged and fucked by taxotere. Just fall off already if you’re going to for fucks sake.
I hate all my ‘treat’ment – no sign that I’m still fertile… I don’t suppose I am.
I hate my genes again – I’m worthless as a potential mother anyway.
I hate my emotions – all this hate makes it difficult to enjoy anything.

Not sure what I did to deserve such a shit life.
Not sure why so many other people get nice, normal happy lives with families where everyone isn’t either diseased, dead, or just miserable – and stuff like having kids is a realistic plan. Where they don’t have to pretend at being happy because that’s really the only option left.

Yes, I am feeling sorry for myself.

I was on a training course today and there was talk of what your ‘five year plan’ is. You know things aren’t going well when your first and only thought is ‘to try to still be alive’.

I think that is enough venting for today. I hope tomorrow is a better day. No reason to believe it will be.


Squish and stuff

After yesterdays muffin not-a-total-failure I have been inspired to get a bit more creative with the veg box ingredients again. If you have been reading for a while you’ll know that I used to do a veg box round up each week. I stopped these because we stopped getting the veg box half way through my chemo – I had oral thrush for about three months and that puts a severe downer on your eating habits. I can’t tell you how crap oral thrush makes your life. I also had sod all energy to cook by that point!!

We started up the veg boxes after my surgery though and we’ve been pretty good at using all the stuff up – but in all honesty I’ve not been very inventive or put much effort into the cooking! So today I decided to put a teeny bit more effort in and did a stuffed butternut squash. The last stuffed squash I did was a bit too sweet – if I remember rightly it involved cinnamon and various veggies. It was nice – but I remember thinking something salty would work better with the sweetness of the squash. So this time I opted for pancetta, feta and red onion as the filling.

Before we get to the filling though I had to prepare the squash itself… to do this:

Cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits. Score the flesh with a knife and put a bit of butter, squashed garlic clove and sprig of rosemary in the hole where the seeds were in each half. Whack that in the oven for 50 minutes at about 180 degrees and it’s ready.

While it is cooking fry your pancetta and onion and set to one side. Cube however much feta you want to add and have that ready too.

Once the squash is done you need to scoop out the flesh without damaging the skin. I’d suggest just using a spoon – I started with a knife but inevitably ended up stabbing a hole through the skin. Once you’ve got the flesh scooped out into a bowl, squish it with a fork, add the pancetta, feta and onion and mix together. Spoon it back into the squash skin cases and sprinkle a bit more feta over the top. Pop it back in the oven  for 15 minutes. While that’s cooking knock up a quick salad and / or any other sides you think would go well – add your squash once it’s done and this is what it should look like:

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NOM NOM NOM!!!

This was good – much nicer than the previous effort and I can’t imagine it is particularly bad for you. Ok, there is bacon and cheese, but the rest is veggie based. You could do this with just feta or just pancetta / lardons – I think it would work equally well and if the squash was smaller it would make a good side dish.

Pretty pleased with today’s veg box effort – we’ll be having that again!


Define ‘muffinpan’?

The veg box and ‘The Great British Bake Off’ have inspired me to have a crack at baking. The veg box because they sent a whole punnet of redcurrants – and what the hell else are you gonna do with redcurrants? Make jam? No.

I love TGBBO though – along with everyone else in the UK it seems! I think it is fair to say I’m not much of a baker myself, but I’d like to be – and I love watching the contestants. When we move to our new house with our much improved kitchen I have great plans for baking and cooking in general. For now, I’m stuck with a bit of a crap tiny kitchen and limited tools!! With that being said… I tried to make redcurrant muffins…

It all started with a trip to Asda and a root through the cupboards and I was able to assemble this collection of provisions:

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Which once I’d weighed it all out and measured etc became this:

60g unsalted butter
175g plain white flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
120g caster sugar
1 large egg
120ml milk
125g fresh redcurrants

My recipe instructions were:

Preheat oven to 180°C. Butter a 12 cup muffin pan. Melt butter; set aside to cool. Sift flour into a medium mixing bowl, add baking powder, salt and all the sugar apart from 2 tbsp – reserve this to sprinkle over the muffin tops before cooking. In a small mixing bowl beat egg enough to combine yolk and white. Whisk in milk and melted butter. Add to flour mixture; stir quickly and lightly just until flour is almost dampened. Gently fold in redcurrants; be careful not burst too many of them. Spoon batter into prepared muffinpan cups, filling each slightly more than half full. Sprinkle reserved sugar over batter in each cup. Bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.

My first little bump in the baking road was realising we don’t own a sieve for sieving flour… so I just skipped that and moved straight on to mixing everything together. This was after spending quite some time picking redcurrants off their stems – fiddly little buggers they are! I was also a bit unsure about my ‘muffinpan’ – I have two things that may or may not be ‘muffinpans’. One has 6 cups, one has 12. I went with the 12 cup one which I am now fairly confident wasn’t the right choice!! I don’t know what it is for – but it’s definitely isn’t muffins.

I’m getting ahead of myself though… once I’d mixed it all together and decanted into the not-a-muffinpan they looked like this:

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My other clue to this not being the right type of pan was that I had quite a bit left over. Waste not want not though – so I bunged it into some paper cupcake cases that I found in the cupboard. At this point I should of sprinkled sugar over them – but I forgot. So that didn’t happen until they had been in the oven for about 5 minutes which was obviously a bit late! I left them in for 20 minutes and this was the result:

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Not entirely muffin shaped!! Not sure all that sugar should be there either.

I mangled them a bit getting them out of the pan too – but it was all good as I went to work with the squirty frosting on a few for our dessert this evening – tasty and covers the mangeledness. Winner!

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…and I bunged the rest in a box for another day:

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We’ve actually just eaten the ones with frosting and while they look a bit crap, they taste yummy!!

Baking effort #1 not a total success… but not a horrible failure either. I think I could get quite into this baking malarkey…


Spoil Yourself…

I’ve realised something about myself and I am doing my best to rectify it…

When I have nice things – like beauty products or clothes – I tend to hoard them rather than use them. Not kidding –  I have a whole bathroom full of fancy moisturiser and wotnot that I have not been using for ages. It is like I’m saving it all so it won’t run out – but that pretty much defeats the purpose of having it! I’m as bad with clothes – save the nicest things for special occasions which means they don’t get a whole lot of use. I have started to wear makeup again (it was all a bit pointless when I was bald with not brows / lashes and had my steroid moon face) – but I tend to stick to the same items and have lots of products stashed in draws not being used.

So I am making a concerted effort to start using this stuff. I’m also making a concerted effort to treat myself in small ways. For instance – there is a shower cream from Boots that I really like – but it costs £4.50. I know that isn’t a lot compared to more luxury brands – but traditionally I’ve just got whatever is on offer in Asda for £1 – so £4.50 seems a little extravagant! I like it though – so I went and got some last week and I’ve been very much enjoying using it!!

Basically I want to stop the habit of always getting the ‘good value’ offer and if I know I like something a little more expensive then I think I deserve to have it. Not that I’ll be needing any moisturiser or body scrub any time soon – I need to work my way through the mountain of gifts I’ve received and never opened first!! I believe what I’m doing in that respect is “shopping my stash” – and I’ve already discovered a couple of favourites 🙂

On that note – I thought it might be fun to name a few of my favourites periodically… stuff I’ve been using for a whole and keep repurchasing, or new things I’ve found that I love. So here’s the first instalment – and I encourage anyone reading this to treat themselves to something lovely tomorrow. It doesn’t have to be super expensive or extravagant – maybe one of these:

1. Boots Extracts body wash and body butter… they smell lush. Currently I’m using the Almond body wash and the Cocoa body butter. I’m actually sniffing my arm now and I can still smell the cocoa body butter I put on after my shower earlier. It also absorbs quickly and leaves my skin feeling lovely and smooth. I think I will have to get the full range of cocoa butter items once I’ve finished with what I have. This is a new find and I think it is definitely going to be a long term favourite. They do this little selection box which I like the sound of: http://www.boots.com/en/Boots-Extracts-Cocoa-Butter-Selection-Box_1251486/

 

2. Benefit “Hooked on Carmella” perfume. This one is an established favourite… smells sort of floral and vanilla (can you tell I like sweet scents?). Everyone comments on this (in a good way!) when I wear it. Several of the men I work with have asked what it is so they can get it for their wives as gifts… I think that is a good sign!  http://www.boots.com/en/Benefit-Hooked-on-Carmella-Eau-de-Toilette-30ml_1104360/

 

3. This is in no way a high end item – but it has been doing good things for my hair for a while now. Was using it before chemo and it really helped keep my very thick hair under control. Now I’m spraying it on liberally to try to get my chemo ravaged hair back into some kind of good condition. It is cheap and cheerful – but it really works. Boots Coconut & Almond leave in conditioner: http://www.boots.com/en/Boots-Ingredients-Coconut-Almond-Leave-In-Conditioner-150ml_863451/

 

4. Soap & Glory Breakfast Scrub… it’s another sweet smelling tub of loveliness. Oats and Shea Butter and Sugar. To be honest it smells so good I want to eat it! I’m actually using up a different Soap & Glory scrub (FLake Away) at the moment. It does the job pretty well but I don’t like the smell as much. They do have another one called Sugar Crush which sounds like it might but up my street! So far though. Breakfast Scrub is my favourite. Smells fabulous, exfoliates well but is also very moisturising. I’m looking forward to using up all my other scrubs so I can go get this again asap! http://www.boots.com/en/Soap-Glory-The-Breakfast-Scrub™-Body-Exfoliator-300ml_1114195/

 

So they’re the four things that immediately sprang to mind – apparently I have a bit of a penchant for sweet things! I do actually have a Debenhams gift card that my workmates got me when I was off work for surgery. I might go and have a sniff of the perfumes tomorrow as I fancy trying something new. I’ll report back if I find anything I love…


The Muse…

For some reason I have not been that into my photography recently. I’m not sure why. To be honest I struggle to settle on anything currently (reading is proving particularly tricky) BUT, yesterday Albie inspired me to break out the camera again. He’s just so damn cute!!  Thanks for being my therapy kitten Albs – I enjoyed picturing you 🙂

I have to manually focus the lens I was using which is more difficult that it sounds – so I was quite pleased with these…

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He’s changed so much since he first arrived – and I think he’s growing into a very handsome little man!!


Moving On… Moving Out?

It is hard to believe that I am nearing the end of my ‘active treatment’ for cancer. It’s been front and centre for almost a year now. It was 15th August 2012 that I went to the first clinic and had my core biopsy taken – I would have gone to the GP a week or so before that. I wish I could say it’s gone quickly – but I would be lying!!

I will probably write another post about how I’ve got on these past few months post surgery and how the whole ‘expanding’ of the foobs has been – all you really need to know though is that I have one more expansion to go, then a 3 month wait until my fifth (and hopefully last!) surgery to swap the expander implants for silicone. After that it is Tamoxifen hormone tablets for however long I end up taking them. There is of course the BRCA2 / Ovarian cancer risk issue to contend with – probably meaning the removal of my ovaries at some point – but that should not be for a few years so I’ve decided to ignore it for now. So I’m almost done with the whirlwind of the really intensive treatment. To be honest I’m not bothered at all about the next surgery either. After chemo and the mastectomy I think it would take quite a lot to phase me!

After a year of wishing for a bit of normality though, turns out ‘normality’ isn’t all that easy to get back to. I’ve been back at work a couple of weeks (4 day weeks as a phased return) and I am definitely feeling much better physically. Still tired all the time – but my breathlessness, weak limbs and water retention have finally gone so that’s awesome. Physically, I am better than I have been in a long time. The issue is more psychological I think.

While you’re having all the treatment – especially chemotherapy – it takes basically all of your energy to deal with it. Obviously it is emotional too – but you’re sort of stuck in a fog of going to the hospital, feeling like shit and being variously prodded and poked. It is only now that I think I’ve been fully hit by everything that has happened over the last year… which is ironic really as now is the time everyone thinks you should be joyful that the really crap treatment is done. I don’t think my psychological state is as bad as some people experience. It’s not like I’m feeling terribly miserable all the time – I know some people do actually become really depressed. I do have the ongoing BRCA2 shite to deal with and that obviously upsets me – but I think that would be considered understandable. It is more that I will be doing something ‘normal’ – like the food shopping – and I’ll suddenly look at the people around me a think “I’ve had cancer and chemo and my boobs chopped off… I had a tube sticking out of my arm for five months and before that I had IVF… and you have NO IDEA what I’ve been through” and it just doesn’t seem right.

It happens a lot at work… I’ll be in a meeting or whatever and be sat there wondering how much people know. Do they know I’ve got foobs? I have only told a very select group of people so the majority shouldn’t. I know they are smaller now but I’m not sure it’s that obvious. I know I looked like death warmed up for a long time so I’m sure they clocked that – but do they REALLY understand how difficult it was to work through chemo? Of course they don’t… why should they… but my brain can’t seem to cope with the fact I’ve dealt with it all and now I’m supposed to just carry on like it hasn’t happened. Not that I want to wallow and be ‘cancer girl’ – but it is difficult to just brush it off!

I’m not sure I’m explaining myself very well here… let’s just say I’m finding it challenging to just ‘move on’. The other thing that I don’t think people appreciate is that chemotherapy can take a year or more to get out of your system, you’re hair tends to grow back differently (and it takes fecking ages to grow back at all), I have whole new body parts to get used to (which are not currently comfortable at all), tamoxifen has its own side effects (hello menopausal crap), the fertility issue does not go away, nor does the possibility of secondary spread and death. When people say about ‘getting back to normal’ the honest response is that is never going to happen. I am never going to be the person I was before I had cancer. I need to find a different normal and that in itself is frustrating… and not as easy as you would expect.

One thing I have definitely struggled with is planning things. We have talked about going on holiday to Florida next year – which I would love to do – but then I worry that I won’t get travel insurance and the cancer will spread and I will be ill again etc etc. It’s like I’d be tempting fate to book anything. Everything has been so dominated but bastard cancer for so long now (what with my dad and sister too) that it seems foolish to think we could do something nice without it being ruined. Clearly you can’t live like that – just waiting for horrible things to happen – but that is how I feel. Which makes what we’ve just done seem utterly utterly ridiculous. We’ve put an offer in on a house.

We had just started looking for our first house when I was diagnosed last year so it’s not a new idea… but it all did happen rather suddenly. It is exciting and scary all at the same time. I keep telling myself I’m sure most first time buyers feel the same though! I am worried that I can’t get any life insurance and what would happen if become ill or die… but the alternative is to just do nothing for ever which is not an option. Especially if we are ever lucky enough to be able to try for a baby. It is a two bedroom end terrace with a conservatory and lovely garden. We’re still at the stage of getting a mortgage agreed and survey being done so obviously it’s early days – but I’m trying to think positive and not get stressed about what may or may not happen. The plan is that moving out will help with this moving on lark…

 


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