I have always wanted to cycle the coast to coast. Whitehaven to Sunderland, 146 miles with some serious hills, but, like most ideas after a few glasses of wine on a weekend, it was one of those ideas that we had always ‘parked’. Until now that is.
My name is Louise Brownley, I work for Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service and have done since 2006.
In 2016 aged 45 I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. My treatment was for a cure; so three surgeries later (with only one of these planned, because I seem to attract drama), six rounds of chemo-therapy and 25 sessions of radiotherapy behind me, I began the journey of recovery – both physically and mentally.
I don’t think anything prepares you for the journey of Chemotherapy. I have honestly never felt so ill in my entire life, its toxic stuff. I had to have the dose lowered on quite a few occasions for my body to cope with it. All the drugs you take; anti-sickness pills, drugs to combat the side effects of the drugs you take initially, taste changes, and smell……. I swear I could have become a detection dog my sense of smell was heightened so much – I could smell perfume on someone three miles away, and don’t even start me on the bad smells!
I lost all my hair within 3 weeks of my first cycle, I don’t care how tough you are, as a woman losing your hair is like losing your identity; no eyebrows, eyelashes and a hat of some description worn all through the summer inside and out, is quite a self-conscious act. Although no one cares, no one stares, but in your head, you stand out like a beacon of sickliness!
A sense of humour got me through a year of treatment, I found an inner strength I never knew I possessed, regular contact from family, friends and colleagues I could not have managed without. You complain about the daily grind of work, but my work family at Notts Fire and Rescue were my sanctuary. White Watch Mansfield win the ingenuity prize when it comes to making cards on Moon Pig!! Each card they send leaves me with a wobbly bottom lip, just the thought that goes into them, and the timely arrival, on which always seems to be a low day.
I was adamant going forward I would change how I viewed life, I vowed not to buy any more clothes, always saving them for best, but those ‘Best’ days to wear them never seem to come. I found I had way too many coats and scarves, along with the habit of always looking way into the future and planning, clearly not living in the now!
My husband who has been my rock and seen me through all this frightening journey bought me (as a get well present) a Kitchen Aid food mixer…. Not sure what message that was to assist me with?
Crazily, getting back to work was something I enjoyed. I am very fortunate to work for such a supportive and understanding organisation.
So nearly a year in remission and I still had quite a few aches and pains, predominantly in my chest, hence I was referred for a full body bone scan. This returned as secondary breast cancer, which was now in my sternum. Several scans later to rule out tumor’s elsewhere, and a bone biopsy (which true to my drama-attracting-form was like a scene from Greys Anatomy!!) It’s true, Surgeons do forget you are there… wide awake…. and listening to every word!!
I’m still so tired and hurting from the last round of cancer, I felt like “Seriously…. You have to be kidding”. I felt cheated that like so many lucky ones I haven’t had even a few years of remission and freedom before it comes back, or even never returns!
I know in this world there are far worse off than me and my situation, but yes, I am angry and frightened.
I mean, at some point I am going to die of Cancer.
I don’t care if people tell me ‘none of us ever know our last date on this planet’, they haven’t had an oncologist tell them statistically they have 5-10 years survival rate. My inner clock feels like it’s now ticking downwards very loudly. I am 46, I have still so much I want to do.
Even with a terminal/incurable disease my oncologist said that I should be more than ok to cycle the coast to coast.
And here we are. I am blessed to have some seriously amazing people in my life that are helping make this happen. The majority of us are emergency service personnel including our Chief Mr. John Buckley, (not sure if he really wanted to cycle it with us, but he ended up being volunteered by proxy), thank you John.
Our training journey from now until the 1st of July 2019 will be documented via video, social media and blog. With sessions alongside colleagues within Notts Fire and Rescue Service, hopefully in what will turn into an entertaining format that helps raise money for the charities we are supporting.
Cancer Research: – Without which I wouldn’t have the drugs available to me that provide the quality of life I am hoping for. Drugs which can support my bones, so they don’t break, and keep this little pocket of cancer cells in my sternum where they are and not spread anywhere else in my body for a long, long time.
I feel passionately about the work and research provided by this amazing charity, because through it, each year new drugs with amazing results are being released; this must mean that all those people before me who have died from this sh@**y disease won’t have died in vain, we are learning so much more about cancer than ever before.
But it all comes down to money. So, we want to raise A LOT….
Fire Fighters Charity: – From the beginning supporting bereaved families of firefighters killed during the Blitz, to a modern day service that provides life enhancing health and wellbeing support to the whole fire community, a charity proud to support our everyday firefighting heroes.