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Val Armstrong's Breast Cancer Diary

Val Armstrong
Val Armstrong
BBC Radio Cumbria

On 7 July I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time.

This is a record of my time between finishing work on 1 August 2010… 'til my return at some point in the future …

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Val's cat Sandy in his 'healthier days'.
Val's cat Sandy in his 'healthier days'.

I can't even start to explain how awful today has been. I had to call the vet to come to put my old cat to sleep.

He didn't seem to fully recover after being sedated for his grooming treatment on Thursday. Today he was unsettled, crying a lot and at times losing his balance. He was also trying to climb behind furniture and get under kitchen cupboards. Was he finding somewhere to lay down to die? Was he ready to go? I'll never know. What I do know is that as a pet owner you have to help them and be their voice where necessary.

Mum and I were both in agreement that the vet had to be called. We had time to say goodbye to the old fella and I was able to stroke and comfort him as the injection set him off on his journey at 6.45pm. He died peacefully and with dignity. He was in the comfort of his own home surrounded by people who loved him and had cared for him for the past 16 years. He had been destined to be put to sleep when he was only two years old, but we'd given him a home to allow him to live a long, active and happy life. I can't help wondering if I called the vet to late, or indeed too early. Did he have more life to live, or had he reached his natural end? Again I'll never know.

We took him to a pet cremation place south of Carlisle where he was cremated this evening. He was still lying in his bed with his blanket around him, looking peaceful and at rest. In my head he's now climbing trees again and chasing flies and re-living his youth. Goodbye Sandy. Rest In Peace.

I've doubled up on my sleeping tablets tonight (don't worry I am allowed) to see if I can get some rest after what's been a traumatic day.

Sunday, 10 July

I've felt very empty all day. Have kept re-living the events of last evening. I've keep seeing my little cat laying on the carpet in front of me. I've kept imagining his limp little body in my arms as he began his long sleep. Such a little tiny body belonging to what was once a strapping big cat. So many tears have been shed.

As a result I've had no appetite today.

My hips have also been sore following the positions I was having to sit and lay in to see to his needs yesterday. I've taken extra painkillers to kill the hip pain but nothing can heal the pain I'm feeling in my heart for the poor little creature.

Monday, 11 July

Even though my left hip was unbearably sore today I had to drive. Normally I wouldn't have attempted to drive when in so much pain, but today I had a job to do. I had to collect Sandy's ashes from the pet cremation service.

Val's kept Sandy's ashes in an urn.
Val's kept Sandy's ashes in an urn.

It was lovely bringing him back home where he belonged and where he'd not wandered far from over the last few years of his life. We sat his ashes under a bunch of flowers.

Some people might think this is extreme behaviour, after all he was only a cat. Well to us he was a member of the family, he'd been with us for sixteen years - longer than some marriages last and we loved him.

Tuesday 12 July

Well, well, well - Would you believe it - my menstrual cycle reappeared today. This is the first time I've menstruated since the beginning of October. I called the consultant oncology nurse at the hospital to make sure this was normal. She assured me it was absolutely normal.

She was also able to give me the results of my recent blood test. If you remember I was being tested to see if I was pre or post menopausal, the test was being carried out to see if my drugs could be changed to try to decrease my hot flushes. She confirmed that I was definitely still pre-menopausal, which means I'll have to stay on Tamoxifen for the time being.

Wednesday, 13 July

I've been back to the hospital today to pick up my remaining size '8' prosthesis. I was given one last week - but as there wasn't a second one in the cupboard we had to order one. Well it arrived today. I've tried them both in my mastectomy bra and if I say so myself - they look rather good. In fact if I hadn't told you that I'd had a double mastectomy you'd never know by looking at the shape they form under my blouse. Well done to whoever made them….!

Thursday, 14 July

One of my brothers and his future wife brought me and Mum a huge rose bush today to plant in memory of our old cat Sandy. It's called 'Celebration' and has a beautiful yellow flower. We both love roses, they're relatively easy to look after too. Luckily they planted it up for me too, as I wouldn't have been able to lift the pot, and if I had been able to I'd have probably ended up dropping it with my peripheral neuropathy. It's been put in a giant pot in the front garden where everyone can see it and share it. What a lovely thoughtful thing to do.

Friday, 15 July

Val looking 'au naturel', with no make-up, eczema and feeling cold!
Val looking 'au naturel', with no make-up, eczema and feeling cold!

Talk about being spaced out today. I've hardly been able to string three words together. I didn't shower until 1pm and couldn't be bothered putting on any make-up either which is unusual. And typical, visitors never stopped arriving, they all saw me looking my worst! The last time this had happened was a few weeks ago - again I hadn't bothered putting on any make-up as I was too groggy and I had a bad flare up of eczema on my face and again the world and his wife turned up to see us. That day, like today, I felt cold from the moment I got up to the moment I went to bed. I took a photo of me on that day without the make-up and sitting trying to stay warm with the hood up and my face on fire with eczema….. Not the most flattering picture I've every had taken but it shows me 'au naturel' and looking at my worst - I don't mind sharing it with you.

Radio presenter's cancer battle
27 Oct 10 |  Cumbria
Presenter's breast cancer battle
17 Aug 10 |  TV & Radio

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