Shovel List

Jul 14, 2017

In Marian Keyes' book, The Mystery of Mercy Close, we meet the main character, Helen Walsh.

I’ve recently listened to this book which I borrowed as a digital download from the library for free. Clever stuff, but I digress…

Helen has a “Shovel List”.

“A shovel..?”

“No, a shovel list. It’s more of a conceptual thing. It’s a list of all the people and things I hate so much I want to hit them in the face with a shovel.” [^fn]

I’ve had a similar list for a while, but since reading the book I have been inspired to give it the name ‘The Shovel List’. A small part of it is as follows:

  • Wine being referred as “Vino”.
  • Calling someone “Hun”.
  • The word “Bliss”.
  • The phrase “I can’t believe it’s been insert time period since insert event”. E.g. “I can’t believe it’s been 11 years since I was in labour with Imy! Where did the time go!?”

(I may have mentioned these peeves before in a previous blog post, but I can’t find it. If I find it, I’ll add the link here.)

However, I’m going to break my rule and say “I can’t believe it’s been a month since my last blog post”. In that blog post, I was saying how we didn’t have a set plan in place for the next part of treatment and that we’d just have to wait and see, and it was business as usual until then including the bairns birthday party, Imy’s 11th birthday and Ross’s 40th birthday. Great fun on all fronts.

Muddy Birthday Party Fun Ross is 40

New Treatment Regime

The treatment regime is changing by adding Perjeta (Pertuzumab – HER2 targeted) alongside the 3 weekly Herceptin (Trastuzumab - HER2 targeted) and Zoledronic acid (bone strengthener). This combination will be ongoing until it doesn't or stops working. In addition, I'm having a course of up to 7 sessions of chemotherapy (Paclitaxel ), which I'll receive weekly.
My first Perjeta was on Tuesday 27th June, with the chemo starting the day after. There’s been one Perjeta and three chemo sessions since, and so far, things are going to plan, with only minor side effects in the form of an upset stomach and an increase in fatigue levels.
Thankfully, and helpfully, my Dad came down to stay for the first week so he could take some of the weight by the kids to and from school and feeding us all. Grandma Julie came down this week for my third chemo session to help out in the same way. (In fact she's just gone home :-( ). It was one less thing for Ross and myself to worry about. Thank you both for coming and helping, it really does take the pressure off Ross, who is working full-time and accompanying me to my appointments, and stops me from "sweating the small stuff".

Going, Going, Going...

Since Monday, my hair has started falling out. It started slowly, but it's now coming out in handfuls. I washed my hair on Wednesday, and I couldn't believe (Shovel List) how much came out whilst washing, brushing and drying.

Goodbye Hair

I have a lot of hair, so despite there being hair shed all over the house, there's still quite a lot on my head. I'm having to wear a hat for bed as I've woken up with so much hair on my pillow I made me quite upset. The hair is collateral damage. Another local Mum, Donna, who also has Stage 4 Cancer and looking at yet another lot of chemo and hair loss says, when it comes to the choice of Hair or Death, it's a no brainer. (Check out her blog here: It's All Gone Tit's Off. She's amazing.)
After seeing how much hair had come out on Wednesday, and after it had been recommended, I went to see Cancer Hair Care in Stevenage to seek their advice. Having such a marvelous resource so close, I'm annoyed with myself that I hadn't gone when I had chemo previously!

My visit was very successful and I came away with a lot of information. From looking after my hair as it falls out, how to care for my scalp, recommendations for scalp/hair products, a couple of head coverings, and best of all, a new wig that actually suited me!

I'd bought a wig off the Internet in 2014, but it didn't look right, so I didn't wear it. I took it with me to see if they could do anything with it, as amongst everything else they do, they work with the hair salon next door to offer a cutting service. The lady was very honest with me and told me that my wig was never going to look right: it was too heavy, too shiny and too big for my head as I have no forehead. Not to be defeated, she disappeared for a few minutes before reappearing with a wig which was very similar to a previous hairstyle I've had. Win! A few adjustments to the fringe and I now have a wig that I can wear should I go somewhere where I think a wig would be more appropriate than a hat or scarf.

The services I received were for a nominal donation. Considering how much wigs can cost, it has saved a lot of money, but it's not about the money, it's about how they treated me with dignity and respect from the moment I stepped into the room. All the ladies who were working for the charity had all lost their hair through chemo, so they knew how I was feeling. They were so knowledgeable and empathetic.

To anyone who is local to Stevenage and faces losing their hair, I wholeheartedly recommend them. Not only can you pop into their studio, but they run sessions at Barnet Hospital, Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield, Lister Hospital in Stevenage and the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Essex.
And to everyone else, if you see a charity box for them, stick a bit of spare change in it.