Piia Pauliina
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    September 30th, 2009

    Again, I woke up feeling rough this morning, tired, run down, and weak.  I had booked myself into a gardening group at Maggie’s, and as I woke late, I was running very late.  Eventually, I made it to Maggie’s, and as always, started feeling better once I was there.  The gardening class was interesting, and therapeutic.  I know nothing about gardening, so everything Rosemary was teaching us was useful to me!  I learned about how to kill vine weevils using a biological ‘killer’, a non-chemical alternative.  We were also shown how to propagate pelargoniums.   We basically took cuttings out of the ‘mother’ plant, and replanted them with the idea we will make more of these peppermint-scented plants!  I have a pot with four potential pelargoniums at home; hopefully at least one of them will make it into a big plant.

    Afterwards, I had to travel to the hospital to pick up more anti-sickness medication that the medical team forgot prescribe to me on Monday.  By the time I got home, it was 5pm, and I was exhausted.  I am so sick of feeling this weak!  I have a moderately active day, and I end up feeling ill with a sore throat.  I do hope that I will not get horribly ill, and end up in a hospital.  I want to go out this Friday for Ali’s birthday drinks and for a little boogie.  It has been too long since I last danced!  I love dancing…

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    September 29th, 2009

    So, I had the 4th chemo yesterday.  It went very smoothly, not too much waiting around.  As per usual, the nurse gave me antihistamines and corticosteroids one hour before the treatment to prevent any bronchospasm caused by the Retuximab.  They completely knocked me out, and I was asleep during most of the chemo.  My friend Sarah came to see me and brought me a homemade ham sandwich, and some gossip magazines.  The sandwich was delicious!  The chemo finished at about 6pm, and before I knew it, I was on my way home with Ruth and Michael who came to pick me up.

    I asked my medical team about the length of my treatment, and as I expected, they cannot say for sure.  After the 6th cycle, they will send me for a PET scan, and if they think the cancer is still shrinking, they will continue with the chemo until there is no further shrinking.  And, I cannot fly until the treatment is completely finished.  There is a high risk of catching an infection and developing a blood clot due to being on an airplane.  It is too risky to fly, so I will wait for my holiday in Finland.

    Oh, I did get some good news; I no longer need to inject myself with the blood thinning medication.  After injecting myself every evening since June, this comes as a HUGE relief.  I hated doing that.

    I woke up feeling rough today, but I think the steroids are kicking in as I am beginning to feel a lot better.  I might even be able to get out of bed soon, and it is only 12.40pm!

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    September 27th, 2009

    It’s Sunday, and another chemo ahead tomorrow.  I have to say, the novelty of chemo has definitely worn out!  I’m almost dreading it tomorrow.  Mostly, because I have not been feeling great this week.  Normally, I have a good third week post chemo, when I feel ‘normal’ with normal energy levels.  It is a week when I almost forget that I have cancer.  Not this week though.  I have been feeling so low in energy, and generally a bit ill.  I’m highly disappointed, and slightly worried how I am going to feel after they have given me the ‘poisons’ tomorrow.

    Tomorrow, I am going to quiz my medical team about how many more cycles will I need.  I have not asked the question before, because I do realise it is difficult to say at the beginning of the treatment.  But, I would like to have an idea now.  I want to see light at the end of the tunnel, and I want to know when will I be able to fly again, as I miss Finland terribly.  I have been so homesick for Finland all week, and I cannot seem to be able to shake the feeling off no matter how much I try.  Also, I am sick of feeling sick.  I am grateful, that I have a cancer that is curable, providing I will go through the horrid chemo, but sometimes I wish the treatment was over and done with…

    On a positive note, we have had an Indian summer here in London, cloudless sky, sun shining and temperatures rising up to 21 degrees during the day.  I went to an picnic in the park yesterday, wearing a summer top, jeans and sandals!

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    September 25th, 2009

    I am so behind updating my blog.  The last three weeks have simply flown by.  I have not have had any infections, which is good; I have just been lacking energy.  I am not sure if this is due to the cumulative effect of chemo, or delayed reaction to the move, or maybe I am still recovering from the hike we did to raise money for the Maggie’s Centre in London exactly a week ago.  Could be all above.

    Suzie, Steph, Ali, Emma, Silvie and I walked 20 miles (32 kilometres to those who like me only understand the metric system) through London through the night.  This was a charity event to raise money towards the Maggie’s cancer care centre in London.  Those who have been following my blog will know that Maggie’s has given me amazing support since my diagnosis.  It has been a pleasure to raise money for such a good cause.  All cancer patients should have access to a place like the Maggie’s during their illness.  Our initial target was to raise £1,200, but thanks to all the marvellous generous people, we reached this target within two weeks, so our new target is £2,500.  We have raised £2,260 so far, and we have five weeks left to raise more money!

    The hike was fun but far tougher than any of us could have anticipated!  We all gathered by the City Hall where the starting point was at about 8pm last Friday.  Our scheduled starting time was at 10pm, so we had plenty of time to some of us get to know each other, as well as to get changed into our Night Hike T-shirts that were given to us free, and ‘style’ the T-shirts to suit our look!  Minna was there to support us and to take some group photos of the Team Piia, the name give to our team by Steph whos idea the hike was in the first place.  Earlier that evening I had picked up a wheelchair, which I had hired for the weekend for the hike.  20 miles is a long way to walk even without cancer, and we thought it would be a good idea to have the chair just in case I would get tired.  The most important thing for me was to finish the hike one way or the other!

    Team Piia and the wheelchair set off at 10pm.  Our first destination was the London Eye where we were treated to an exclusive night flight with our very own private capsule!  The view was breathtaking.  From there we had a three mile walk to the next stop, the Chanel 4 building.  We got there about midnight.  Outside the building, I bumped into Anna who works for the Maggie’s Centre in Glasgow as a Media Manager.  She is the one who organised the interview for the RIBA Sterling Prize with Kevin McCloud.  Anna was there to make a film of the hike with a cameraman, so we all ended up being filmed.

    After a very quick cup of tea and a couple of dark chocolate digestives, we continued our hike towards the Royal Geographical Society, which was another three miles away.  There we had a slightly longer break enjoying more tea and biscuits and a special performance from a string quartet.

    The Maggie’s Centre was the third stop at 8.8miles.  We arrived there about 2.45am.  After some green and white tea and some yummy flapjacks, Suzie and I had a neck/head/shoulder massage.  Ali had reiki.  I think we were the last group to leave the Maggie’s at about 4am.  After this, we practically did not see any other hikers as they had left way before us, so it was just us walking in London night.

    Our next destination was the Fulham Palace.  This was at the 10 miles mark, which meant we were half way through the journey!  There were no other hikers in the palace, just us and the volunteers.  At least they waited for us!

    From there we started our longest journey (4.9 miles) between the stops towards the Battersea Power Station.  This was without the doubt the hardest part of the hike.  We were all sleep deprived and alone walking this route without the support from the other hikers.  It felt like the whole London was asleep apart from us six girls trekking in empty Fulham streets, pushing along this wheelchair.  We must have been a sight!  This was the time I needed the wheelchair…

    We arrived at the Battersea Power station at about 6am.  It was still dark but soon the sun began to rise.  It was quite beautiful.  We were supposed to be served some sandwiches at this stop, but as we were the last ones to arrive, they had run out food by the time we got there.  At this point we knew we had done majority of the hike.  There was light at the end of the tunnel.  For some reason, I felt quite energised after this stop, and ready to continue our adventure towards the Horse Guards Parade.

    It was so nice to arrive in the familiar Westminster after trekking hours in the unknown Fulham streets…  We were greeted by some cheerful volunteers at the Horse Guards Parade, who treated us with some doughnuts and juice.  Also, naturally, we got some great pictures posing with the guard!

    At this point the hike was nearly done, and we were keen to finish it.  The Savoy Place was our final stop before the finishing line.  When we got there, they had closed the building from us.  This was highly disappointing as we were expecting to be served free Champagne at this stop!

    The last part of the journey was not pleasant.  The route took us via the not so nice side of the embankment (the north side, on the other side of the Tate Modern) where we had to go up and down through several sets of stairs with the wheelchair!  By the time we got to the Tower Bridge, we were extremely exhausted! The finish line was at the same place as we started, by the City Hall next to the Tower Bridge.  We finished at 9am, after trekking 11 hours!!  Crazy.  I have no idea how I did it, when lately I have not been able to walk even the smallest distances.  But, we did it!  My Team Piia was, and is amazing.

    I have attached some pictures of the hike, but if you would like to see the whole album, please see this link:

    http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=314892&id=825985304&l=ec5848cd4c

    Steph also filmed the hike by this camera that was given to us just for the night by this company called Leap Anywhere that promotes and recommends charity events and activities.  They edited our film, and posted it on their website.  You can see it via this link:

    http://www.leapanywhere.com/media/show/1411

    It is a short but sweet film.  They left out a lot of good footage, so I am going to learn how to use iMovie on my MacBook and I will edit us a longer film!  Watch this space.

    Team Piia minus Silvie

    Team Piia minus Silvie, and the Tower Bridge in the background. From left: Steph, Emma, me, Ali and Suzie.

    Emma and I warming up for the hike.

    Emma and I warming up for the hike.

    Team Piia ready to go!

    Team Piia ready to go!

    Team Piia in London night.

    Team Piia in the London night.

    View from London eye.

    View from the London eye.

    Suzie & I, and the Big Ben.

    Suzie & I, and the Big Ben.

    Anna from the Glasgow Maggie's and I.

    Anna from the Glasgow Maggie's and I.

    Ali and I outside the Channel 4 building.

    Ali and I outside the Channel 4 building.

    7 miles down...

    7 miles down...

    Emma and I, and the wheelchair.

    Emma and I, and the wheelchair.

    Team Piia outside the Battersea Power Station at about 6.30am.

    Team Piia outside the Battersea Power Station at about 6.30am.

    Suzie and I at the 15miles mark.

    Suzie and I at the 15miles mark.

    The Horse Guards Parade.

    The Horse Guards Parade.

    Team Piia with the Horse Guard.

    Team Piia with the Horse Guard at about 7.30 in the morning! From left: Ali, Silvie, Suzie, the Horse Guard, me, Steph and Emma.

    All those stairs at the last bit of the hike...  Argh.

    All those stairs at the last bit of the hike... Argh.

    I made it!!

    I made it!!

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    September 15th, 2009

    It is Tuesday, and I am feeling weaker by day.  The decreased sensation in my fingertips has got worse, and I have started to drop things.  Also, my eyelashes, and my eyebrows are thinning quite rapidly.  I believe, I am about to lose them as well.  But, on the positive note, I have not got an infection, and I am still at home, in my new lush ‘princess bed’!

    Steph got us a blender yesterday, and she shopped for some food for me on Sunday, so I was able to make myself a delicious and refreshing soya ice cream, wild berry, soya milkshake just now!  For some reason, I crave for ice cold things when I feel poorly.  I have been taking it mega easy today.  In fact, I am still in my pyjamas, even though it is nearly two in the afternoon.  Steph gave me a film to watch, the Princess Bride.  If you are ever ill in bed, I truly recommend this film!

    If all goes well, we should be getting internet at home tomorrow.  Then you should be getting much more regular blogs!

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    September 14th, 2009

    I am feeling weak.  Walking up and down stairs are a struggle again; I have no energy.  Thankfully, the bathroom is next to my bedroom in my new dream home!  The decrease sensation in my fingertips has got worse.  I can hardly feel them as type…  I was suppose to go to Maggie’s today, but I decided against it in the end.  I need to listen to my body, and my body is saying no.  At least, I am not feeling so bad I have to be in the hospital.  Hopefully, I will get to stay at home this week.

    So there seems to be a pattern arising from these cycles.  The first weak of chemo, I seem to be OK with steroids, then the second week is when I feel weak and poorly, and then hopefully I will be back to ‘normal’ on the third week.

    I am so pleased I felt strong enough to go to Flo and Danny’s Chinese Wedding Banquet in east London on Saturday.  I had never been to a Chinese wedding before.  We had what I believe a typical banquet of 10 courses.  We were served some very exotic looking dishes, including lobster, and pigeon!  Suzie and I however stuck to vegetarian options only, although we had a little bit of amazing steamed sea bass.  We were absolutely stuffed in the end!  It was lovely to see Flo, she looked so happy!

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    Suzie, me, Jenny my 'old boss', Tracy my old colleague, and Jenny's husband outside the Chinese restaurant.

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    Suzie, me and Flo.

    Suzie, me and Flo.

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    September 14th, 2009

    We have been busy bees fundraising for the Maggie’s Centre. On Friday 18th September 2009 Steph, Suzie, Emma, Ali, Silvie, and I will be taking part in the Maggie’s Night Hike, 20 miles through the night, starting at the London Eye and finishing off at Savoy Place at sunrise.  Lots of people, friends and family have been sponsoring us so generously; we have already reached our target and more, £1,715!  If you can, please sponsor us.  Here is the link http://www.justgiving.com/TeamPiia/.

    As some of you readers may know, Maggie’s been amazing support to me.  It is a place to turn to for help with any problems, small or large, associated with cancer. Under one roof you can access help with information, benefits advice, psychological support both individually and in groups, courses and stress reducing strategies. You don’t have to make an appointment, or be referred and everything they offer is free of charge!  It is my mini Finland haven.

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    September 8th, 2009

    I had my third chemo yesterday.  It took ‘only’ five hours, and started an hour earlier than last time, so I was finished by 7ish.  Steph came to the hospital with me.  I have to say, chemo is more fun when there is someone there to keep you company.  And, also to get you food if you get hungry!

    As per usual, I had the clinic appointment first, and the biggest news is the PET scan results!  My cancer has reduced significantly!!  When we were at, the Medical Day Unit, one of my doctors came and showed me the new picture.  I took a photo of the computer screen, please see below.  I was very pleased, at least I am not suffering for nothing; the chemo poisons are doing their job!

    After the clinic appointment, we had some time to kill, so Steph treated me for lunch in Pret.  It was so sweet of her (thank you Steph!)

    The actual chemo went well, no complications.  Motoko, my nurse was ever so efficient!  She also changed my PICC line with such speed and style.  I was impressed.  Steph and I killed the time reading the Ikea catalogue, and some other house design magazines, and planning the decorations of our new home.  After the busy weekend of packing, unpacking and moving, the chemo felt almost like a holiday!  Ruth came to pick us up from the hospital.  Again, it was amazing to get a lift home.  Thank you, Ruth!

    P.S. We took some detailed pics of the chemo, please see below.

    Steph in Pret.

    Steph in Pret.

    Me just before chemo.

    Me just before chemo.

    A pic of the computer screen showing my PET scan images, the new and the old.  The one of the left is the new one.  The very black areas are my heart and my bladder, but the darkened areas around the heart and my neck area are the cancer.  That has reduced significantly if you look at the new scan!

    A pic of the computer screen showing my PET scan images, the new and the old. The one of the left is the new one. The very black areas are my heart and my bladder, but the darkened areas around the heart and my neck area are the cancer. That has reduced significantly if you compare the new and the old pics!

    The first chemo drug, Rituximab.

    The first chemo drug, Rituximab.

    This chart shows the step-by-step plan of the 'speed' my drugs are going to be given

    This chart shows the step-by-step plan of the 'speed' my drugs are going to be given

    The Rituximab takes the longest, about 4 hours.  Plenty of time to study the IKEA catalogue.

    The Rituximab takes the longest, about 4 hours. Plenty of time to study the IKEA catalogue.

    Steph keeping me company.

    Steph keeping me company.

    The remaining three drugs the nurse, Motoko, needed to administer and keep an eye of.  These three drugs don't take long to infuse, about an hour or so.

    The remaining three drugs the nurse, Motoko, needed to administer and keep an eye of. These three drugs don't take long to infuse, about an hour or so. Here she is infusing the second drug: Vinblastin.

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    The red drug is called Doxurubicin.

    The red drug is called Doxurubicin.

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    My view as the Doxurubicin is being infused.

    My view as the Doxurubicin is being infused.

    The view from my chair.

    The view from my chair.

    The final drug: Cyclophosphamide.

    The final drug: Cyclophosphamide.

    There comes the 'poisons'...

    There comes the 'poisons'...

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    September 6th, 2009

    I have moved into our dream home!!  Suzie, Steph and I moved in properly on Saturday, however we already ‘camped’ in the house on Friday.  Steph had packed her new wigs, and we ended up having a bit of a wig party with Nicky who came to visit us (please see the pics).

    The move went well.  I managed to pack all my stuff pretty much by myself.  We had a lovely team of helpers: Ian, Ben, Simon, Shawn, obviously Suzie and Steph. And, Audrey came later on, and brought us some food and pressies!  Everyone was so amazing. It would not have been as much fun, and gone so smoothly without their help!  The biggest hitch was my bed did not fit through the staircase, so I had to say good bye to it.  It has got a new happy home at Mark’s who had only just moved into a big warehouse with no bed.  I have decided to get a new bed from IKEA, a white cast iron, ‘princess bed’

    Steph with her 'new hair' standing outside our kitchen.

    Steph with her 'new hair' standing outside our kitchen.

    My housemates having fun with their wigs!

    My housemates having fun with their wigs!

    Suzie, Nicky and Steph straight from Pantene advert!

    Suzie, Nicky and Steph straight from Pantene advert!

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    September 4th, 2009

    Again, apologies for the late update, I have either been busy with hospitals or packing.  I am finally moving in to our new home tomorrow!!

    So, I got to leave the hospital last week Thursday evening.  Minna and Keiran came to pick me up.  Keiran drove me to my place so that I could pick up few bits before going to Minna’s.  My plan was to stay at Minna’s a couple of nights until I felt strong enough to go home.  I have to say, at this point I was sick of living out of suitcase, and feeling so homeless.  When you are ill like me, the first thing you want to do, after days in a hospital is to go home, not to trek across London with your stuff…  Do not get me wrong, I enjoy staying at Minna’s, she is a fabulous hostess, I was just tired of feeling so rootless.

    The following morning after the hospital, I had the interview with Kevin McCloud at the Maggie’s.  Minna gave me a lovely Finnish dress to wear, it was perfect for the occasion, and it fit me perfectly unlike most of my clothes at present.  The film crew were ready for me pretty soon after I arrived at Maggie’s.  There were two cameramen, well one was a woman actually, so I should say camera people, one sound guy, the director and Kevin.  Initially, they were planning to interview three people who use the centre, but in the end the other two got cancelled, so it was just me!  I got on well with Kevin, he is so charming, and easy to talk to.  I had been worried I would feel intimidated by him, as I find him so intelligent, but no, he made me feel very comfortable.  The interview, or our chat, took about 30 minutes.  Afterwards, the director complimented that I was very natural, and he asked if I had been in TV before!  We will see how I come across on TV…