Welcome to Cancerselfcare.com
I hope that you find something that is useful to you here.
There is information and support that I have gathered from my experiences and through reading and research to help manage the initial shock of a cancer diagnosis, cope with subsequent treatment and to maximise chances of full recovery.
I am also relying on you to help it grow and become even more useful by sharing some of your experiences, inspirations and letting me have any hints and tips to add. I hope that you might also want to use the discussion forum.
Who are we?
My name is Francesca Hannah and I decided to set this site up after I was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer in July 2004. My partner Mark Durband helps me with the computer know how and website design skills. We live in Stockport, England with my year old son, Jamie. My eldest son Daniel, who is lives nearby. Mark is a psychotherapist and also designs and maintains websites (see links to other sites page).
How I am now
November 2013 - Had more chemo starting December 2012 with carboplatin and gemcitabine which affected me very badly and I ended up in The Christie hospital after every session and even spent Xmas there (not good). I finished chemo in May 2013 and at least it shrank the tumours in my abdomen down a lot but the CA125 didn't quite go back to normal range - although almost. I soon recovered again although my white blood cells took 6 months to get back to normal range.
Unfortunately the cancer soon started to grow again and now my CA125 is pretty high at 829 and the tumours in my abdomen have been getting larger. I'm trying a ketogenic diet and some medicine from the USA called Protocell and if they don't work looks like more chemo after Xmas although I am dreading it.
I am feeling pretty well apart from a few twinges and have been really enjoying the summer with a cruise and lots of lovely birdwatching trips.
The most exciting news is that I am going to be a grandma for the first time at the end of March 2014 as my son's wife is having a baby girl!
March 2012 - Remission lasted for about 5 months and then the CA125 started creeping up. I was given Treosulfan tablets to try and hold it and they seemed to be slowing it down but after Xmas 2011 it went up more steeply and I stopped the tablets. I was pretty worried then as it hadn’t been a year since I finished the last chemo and I couldn’t face more. Anyway a scan result 2 weeks ago showed just 1 new nodule in my abdomen about the size of a penny, which was a relief as I’d imagined much worse. So we’re watching and waiting again and I’m doing all I can with nutrition, reiki, exercise, Essiac and more as I remain optimistic that somehow I’ll be cancer free. I am very fit and well generally and am running, swimming, going to yoga and tai chi and doing my best to enjoy life. I plan to raise funds for Beechwood cancer care centre in the BUPA Manchester 10k run in May and to go on another cruise - I went on my first ever cruise in November and loved it. So onward and upward and while I’m well life is for living!
May 2011 - I completed 6 sessions chemotherapy in February and am recovering now. It affected me more this time - not surprising as it was my 3rd round and my poor body had had enough assaults. Anyway I have hair and eyelashes again and my energy is better and my CA125 is still in the normal range which is a big relief. I seem to be left with recurrent cystitis which is a pain and if anyone has any advice on that I would appreciate it. I have survived, had some great times and been very happy at times between treatments now for almost 7 years. Here’s to the next 7!
November 2010 - Unfortunately my CA125 started to rise again in November 2009 and a CT scan showed multiple nodes in my abdomen in July 2010. So although I have been feeling very well and fit I have now started a new round of chemo with Taxol and Carboplatin this time. I have only had one session so far and not been too bad afterwards. I’ve just lost my hair now 2 weeks afterwards but have got 3 great wigs - one light brown, one very blonde and one bright red! So I can play with them depending on my mood. Cancer self care group has been meeting in Manchester the second Thursday of each month and we’ve had some interesting talks by different complementary therapists including topics of Shiatsu massage, Laughter yoga, 5 Rythms dancing, Healing Journey Programme and Music making. We hope to have more topics next year and hope that we attract more members. I still feel mainly optimistic much of the time although there are some dark times which are mainly those few days after chemo that I struggle to stay positive and calm. I am planning to have a lovely holiday somewhere exotic when I’ve finished this treatment as I think its important to have some treats to look forward to. In the meantime I will consider winter as a time to hibernate and to prepare for a new spring and adventures to come. May you be well and happy.
September 2009 - I finished my chemotherapy in June after having 5 sessions. The results were quite dramatic and my CA125 dropped to 15. The CT scan showed that the 2 lymphnodes concerned which were previously around 2cm had both shrunk to about 1cm. This could mean that the cancer has gone or that there is a little inflammation or dead cells left. So a very good result and since then I have been gradually easing back onto the Gerson diet. I am in fact doing a hybrid of the Gerson and Plaskett diet (both very similar). I feel pretty good and am also building up my fitness again. My friend Judy and I are planning to run the Healing Journey Programme (see www.healingjourney.org.uk) next year and are both very excited about that. We have also now made Cancer Self Care Support Group official by writing a constitution and setting up a bank account and we are about to embark on a support/therapy group for people with experiences of cancer which will be facilitated by a qualified therapist. So life is pretty good right now!
April 2009 - Although my CA 125 only rose slowly it did not actually stop and so reluctantly after nearly 6 months on the Gerson diet I decided to take the doctor’s advice to have more chemotherapy. This was a very hard decision for me but the thought of the cancer spreading if I did not take this approach outweighed my concern about the side effects of chemotherapy in the end. I have had 3 session now of Carboplatin and my CA 125 has dropped dramatically from 1165 to 46 after just 2 sessions. In fact unbeknown to me it had already fallen from 1165 to 1100 when I had my first session so maybe the diet was actually turning it anyway - now we will never know. I may just have 4 or 5 chemo sessions before returning to the Gerson diet I am not sure yet. The chemo does make me feel pretty wretched for at least 5 days after wards and my white cells have been badly affected this time so I have had to have injections to boost them up before having this last session of chemo. I am still managing to go riding and even running twice a week on the good weeks so I’m still pretty fit really. My aim is to finish chemo and do the full Gerson diet for at least 6 months and then a less rigorous version after that in the hope that my body will be strong enough to stop any cancer recurrence.
November 2008 - Good news on the CT scan and blood test results - one tumour has actually shrunk a bit and the other one has grown a smaller amount - they are both still around 2cm round. My CA 125 has gone up a bit but not as much as last time so i am optimistic that the Gerson diet is having an effect on the cancer. Also I feel really well and healthy on it although I do get tired if I do too much and am having to really accept limits in a way I have refused to in the past - not always easy! The other thing I’ve been doing lately with a friend called Judy who has had breast cancer is The Healing Journey. It is a programme used in Canada for cancer patients and it is designed to help people approach their cancer holistically focusing on body, mind and spirit. The great thing is that the workbook is free to download and has weekly sections with information on different topics, exercises and questions for discussion. Ideally you would attend weekly group meetings to do it with professional facilitators but as yet that is not available in the UK although it is being set up in London. The websites are on useful contacts list. If you want to know more see The Healing Journey Programme.
October 2008 - I am still feeling well and without symptoms but my CA125 has continued to rise and at last count about a month ago it was 723. A fairly recent CT scan showed that I had 2 small tumours about 2cm each. I have done a lot to maintain my health using diet and nutrition, exercise, reiki, acupuncture and mistletoe treatment. However four weeks ago I decided to step up my “wellness campaign” by embarking on the daunting project of the Gerson diet. This is something I have been considering for a year and has in fact influenced my diet and making of a few organic juices daily. It is a real lifestyle change and entails at least 10 fresh organic juices, 3 coffee enemas and a strict vegan diet with little protein or strong flavours and no salt. I have found it hard but it is getting easier as I get used to the routine and although I have been more tired generally I have felt quite healthy and very cleansed! Luckily I have also managed to speak to a woman who was very ill with recurring ovarian cancer and began the diet 12 years ago and amazingly is now well with a CA125 of 10! Very inspiring. I am going to do it till I get my next blood test and scan results mid november and take it from there. If there is no change then I wil probably opt for more chemo and continue the diet afterwards. If you are interested in finding out more there is a Gerson Support group (see useful contacts) in this country and a clinic in Mexico. I will keep you posted about my progress and all positive thoughts gratefully accepted.
April 2008 - I have had a year of good health. When I updated this in April 2007 I had had 8 sessions of radiotherapy which ended that february. Unfortunately my CA125 began to rise again fairly soon after my last entry in april 2007 and has been rising ever since and is currently around 430. A scan in october 2007 showed that I had a small nodule near my colon but as I have been so fit and well my consultant and I have decided to just monitor the situation for now. My last blood test result in april was very encouraging as although it had gone up it was much less that they expected it to have risen. This means that it is slow growing and I like to believe that all I have been doing with vitamins, nutrition, fresh juices, reiki, acupuncture, mistletoe, etc is beginning to take effect. Anyway I am due to have a CT scan in June and then we will be in a better position to know whether to start treatment again with chemo.
I am still enjoying life immensely and feeling well. I am running in the 10k Manchester Great Run again in May and am pleased to say I’ve raised over £1000 pounds for Macmillan Cancer Care. (all sponsors welcome - just email me)
April 2007 - I am pleased to say that my CA125 blood test results of 10th April showed that the treatment of 8 sessions of radiotherapy which ended in february has been successful and it has gone back to 24 from 835 pre-treatment. So as you can imagine I am delighted and mightily relieved as this shows that it has killed the small tumour that has been growing slowly in a lymphnode at the back of my abdomen since July 2006. Previous to that I was officially in remission for 15 months after finishing my chemotherapy just before Christmas 2004 and gradually recovering my energy and fitness over the year. Just after Easter 2005 I returned to work at a much reduced level and have enjoyed that very much. I have passed my final exams as a TSTA (teaching and supervising transactional analyst) and achieved a long time goal of going to Australia. The other lifetime dream that I am delighted to have achieved is having a horse on permanent loan at a local riding school for a year. So although I wish it could have happened some other way I can thank cancer for giving me a big push towards making my important dreams come true a lot sooner than they might have done.”
I had hospital check ups every 3 months (a CA 125 blood test and general discussion about my health) for the first year lengthening to a 6 month gap until my CA 125 began to climb and a scan showed a small swelling in my lymph node. So the news was good for 18 months and although I got anxious before each blood test and still went for counselling sometimes, I really did feel much better and generally very hopeful about the future. Obviously having to have more treatment has been very disappointing and distressing for me but I am comforted by the fact that the cancer seemed to be contained in one spot and not growing very fast. I feel that the hard work I have put into recovery and maintaining a healthy life style with the right balance between work, exercise, relaxation, nutrition, rest, etc. has helped me physically and mentally to stay strong and manage this often terrifying illness. Ironically I am fitter than I have been in years and am proud of my new found ability to run. Last year I ran the Cancer Race for Life 5k in Stockport and this May I intend to complete the 10k Manchester run. I hope to raise funds for Beechwood Cancer Care, a local charity that has helped me and many more cancer patients and their families enormously. So if you fancy sponsoring me I will be most grateful. Anyway enough about me - I will keep updating my health news to let you know how I go on and I am interested to hear from you about your health news.
Why set up a website?
After my initial shock and terror I started finding out as much as I could about cancer and various medical and complementary treatments including diets, nutrition, exercise, meditation, and basically everything I could to help myself get well again. I read books, asked questions of medical staff and began looking at websites. There are many wonderful sites around with an enormous amount of information and resources available.
However when I looked at some of them there almost always seemed to be some piece of information that left me feeling more scared than helped. I can understand people wanting to know statistics and drug research findings and a prognosis (of course if you’re anything like me you probably want someone to tell you that there’s 100% chance you’ll make a full recovery!) but whenever I found that kind of information it seemed pretty negative and I decided not to look anymore as I wanted to build up my hope and focus on full recovery rather than recurrence rates and percentage chances of recovery.
So that is what inspired me to set up my own website without any statistics or prognoses or hard information about cancer and drug or radiation treatments. There are plenty of sources to get that kind of information (see other sites).
Basically this is part of my recovery project and is something that I have put my heart into as well as my mind! I feel passionate about creating a space for sharing experiences, giving and getting support and information to empower us in the fight against cancer on the road towards health.
What will you find here?
What you will find here is information about resources, books, CDs and tapes, diet, nutrition, exercise and complementary therapies. I will include tips for minimising after effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy and I am relying on your contributions as well as mine.
This website is really about what I hope will help in a holistic way to maximise all our chances of a full recovery to complete health. I do not wish to deny any fears about cancer and the possibility of death. There can never be a guarantee that we can cure ourselves of cancer but we can give it our best shot and enjoy our lives as fully as possible in the process.
By emphasising positive attitudes, developing optimism, and maintaining hope we stand a better chance of getting well again and enjoying life in the process. So you will find information and tips for developing a healthy lifestyle that could help to boost your immune system, success stories and inspiration, a list of resources and a bookshop, plus a message board for you to post your own experiences and helpful hints.
We are all bound to feel vulnerable at times when we get a cancer diagnosis and it can be a real shock to the system, a trauma that affects us physically and emotionally. This site also includes some thoughts on our feelings and the losses that we have to deal with when we get cancer. There is also a message board that has a section available to ask for support.
Support and Mentoring
I do offer mentoring or coaching to help people manage the diagnosis, get through treatment as well as possible and to generally live fully and healthily as Lance Armstrong calls it “live strong”. This can be face to face, online or over the phone. There is a charge for this which we can discuss on initial contact. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please post your messages, information and anything that you consider supportive, useful, inspirational or a bit of fun in the spirit of hope of full recovery and enjoying life to the full. If you want to talk about your feelings and share vulnerabilities that is fine too.
We really do welcome your comments and suggestions both positive and any constructive criticism about the content, style or organisation of the website. Please contact me.