When I was informed that I required chemotherapy I had to sign multiple forms to confirm that I understand the side effects of going ahead with the therapy. To be honest, when presented with the forms I took the view that I was signing to stand a chance of living a long life and the possible long term consequences were invariably horrid but better than death hence I signed the dotted line willingly. A few weeks ago I mentioned to my haematology consultation that I feared I was suffering one of those side effects and questioned if I should visit my GP. As always the staff at Barts were worth their weight in gold and took my remarks very seriously. I believe I have started the menopause which is a few of years earlier than mother nature would have planned. What originally alerted me to this potential development was a rapid sensation of my upper body, in particular my face, feeling very flushed. Ciclosporine can be a cause of flushes however due to the fact I’ve not had a natural monthly in a long time (during treatment they were prevented with a mini pill due to fluctuating platelet levels) I suspect I’ve entered the menopause or it’s starting.

 It’s natural for women to gradually lose bone density from around the age of 35, after menopause bone loss speeds up. I had the bone density scan today and the radiologist confirmed that I have osteopenia (bone density which is lower than normal but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis), he stated it was his belief that I would be put on require supplements based on what he saw today. I’m not entirely sure if it’s the endocrinologist or the haematologist who will make the decision or maybe even another ologist I’ve not as yet has the pleasure of meeting. I see an endocrinologist (hormones) in a couple of months and they will decide whether HRT (hormone replacement treatment) is required, if I am menopausal HRT can help reduce a woman’s risk of developing osteoporosis and as I already have a low bone density I suspect it will be advised. I’m not entirely surprised by the news my bone density is low, there are a number of contributing factors chemotherapy being a significant one, having a family history of osteoporosis, a diet low in calcium or vitamin D, being thin, smoking and being inactive. I don’t smoke, I’m certainly not inactive and I’ve not been ‘thin’ since I was eight but I am probably guilty of all the other elements. It’s obviously disappointing to hear as I do try to consume milk, although I loathe it and all my adult life I have exercised in a way which should have helped bone density however at least the problem has been identified and the bone loss will be slowed down enough so I can still hit the ski slopes when I’m 60.

 Naturally, I’m not wildly impressed  at the idea of going into the menopause and all the delights its brings with it. Just as I’m regaining ownership of my body, my body commences a rather unpleasant process which can go on for a long period of time and I have little or no control over. That said I take the view that it’s a small price to pay for being in remission and having a new immune system curtsey of my donor. Throughout my treatment I often found that I was in awe of the resilience of the human body when bombarded with toxins, the pressures of extreme stress and even more recently excessive physical activity (3 Peaks). This recent turn of events demonstrates to me just how heavy-duty chemotherapy is, although I feel very well within myself it’s clear that my body was battered in many ways by chemotherapy. This also emphasises the fact that cancer doesn’t stop causing havoc in your life just because you are in remission.

 I’m pleased to report that everyone has fully recovered from the Three Peaks Challenge, I’m still awaiting confirmation for the final total. I’m rather surprised to find myself and my fellow walkers keenly discussing a walking challenge for next year! We are most likely going to organise it ourselves and this time it will be driven by pleasure and fitness incentives rather than to raise money. I’m really pleased how the challenge has lit a fire in many of us to become fitter, to fight of the flab and aging process when the original motive was simply to raise money with the added benefit of catching up with each other. What started out with a single good intension appears to have had positive impacts on the vast majority of the group which seemingly go beyond the short term. The way in which everyone embraced the challenge, gave their all and are now keen to still go walking as a method of staying fit has really inspired me. It demonstrates how many ripples are actions can create, if each of us tried a little harder each day to behave in a kinder and more selfless manner, the world would be much nicer place.

 I may decide later in 2017 to embark on another charity challenge but until then I have an awful lot of personal challenges to concentrate on, starting with my return to work. I have resumed work part time whilst I wean off the cyclosporine. The risk of GvHD increases each week as I wean off therefore working up to full time is going to require honest judgement on my behalf, caution and patience. It would be lovely to be bringing home a full time salary nevertheless I don’t want to commit to my employer, only to let them down due to medical woes and I also don’t wish to push myself taking into account my infantile immune system. Attempting to merge back into the world of work whilst keeping my promise to myself to ensure my life maintains an equilibrium, isn’t easy. My illness has shown me that I need to have more balance in my life, prior to becoming ill nearly every hour of my day was filled with activity. It’s tough not to fall into the bad habit of being a busy bee especially after fifteen months of life on hold and with a head full of plans, at the same time it is critical to take time to stop and smell the roses.

Maybe not smelling roses but enjoying a few bubbles out with friends and no turban!