To me breast cancer was never a pink ribbon

18 Oct

I never really paid attention to THE PINK RIBBON, that is until I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember so well feeling like THE PINK RIBBON didn’t represent me. And then feeling kind of guilty because, after all, I was now part of that group of women who under the umbrella of THE PINK RIBBON were breast cancer victims, breast cancer patients, breast cancer survivors…

To me, breast cancer was many things, but it definitely was not a pink ribbon. Breast cancer was an operation to remove my tumor. Breast cancer was tests to see if the bastard had metastised. Breast cancer was putting my life, as I knew it and planned it, on hold. Breast cancer was trying lots of different haircuts before shaving my hair. Breast cancer was doing 6 chemo sessions. Breast cancer was losing my hair. Breast cancer was feeling sick and nauseous. Breast cancer was vomiting. Breast cancer was wearing wigs. Breast cancer was going out on drunken London nights, and returning for a few hours to just being a 30 year old woman. Breast cancer was Sex and the City binges. Breast cancer was radiotherapy sessions. Breast cancer was hearing meaningless percentages about survival rates. Breast cancer was wondering if I was going to die. Breast cancer was wondering if I was gonna live. Breast cancer was thinking “Why me?”. Breast cancer was freezing embryos, with sperm bought in Denmark, in case my fertility was affected. Breast cancer was waiting for my hair to grow back once it was all over. Breast cancer was endless hospital visits, checks and tests for years. Breast cancer was a sigh of relief every time the results came back ok, clear, fine. 

Breast cancer was all of these things and more. But it was never a PINK RIBBON. And as time went on I started hearing critical public voices, that made me realise I was not alone in not feeling represented by THE PINK RIBBON. The sexualisation of it all, I mean, colon cancer is not as a attractive as breasts, right? The capitalisation of it all, with pink products (GHD hair straighteners, Vans trainers…you name it). Pinkwashing they call it. 

And while I understand some people find solace in THE PINK RIBBON, if we want to support breast cancer research we can directly donate to a charity, a foundation or a programme. We do not need to buy something pink. Because remember, breast cancer is not necessarily a PINK RIBBON. 

I’m back!

6 Apr

Well well, I cannot believe it has been nearly 2 years since I last wrote a post! where does time go?  So much has happened and so much has changed since May 2014 that my fingers cannot keep up with it! where to start?

Something happened not long after my past entry…I found out I was pregnant! my intention was always to share it with you, but life got so so so busy that I didn’t find the time. However, I did write a post for Breast Cancer Care which I was meant to re-post it here and I never did. I think that maybe deep down I needed a bit of a break from the blog. Maybe unconsciously I wanted to disassociate my pregnancy from my cancer. So here I am telling you that after having breast cancer I am now mum to a beautiful little girl called Lua. Here she is:



and here a family photo…


with my husband! yes because in these past two years not only I became a mother I also became a wife!


and last, but not least, in September I became a Doctor! so mother, wife and Doctor in two years! you will excuse my absence here now I suppose, as you can imagine I have been very very busy!

As I write this happy post the cancer fear lurks in the background.  I can’t help but feel this way from time to time, specially when I think that things are going well. I guess it is part the experience of having had cancer, even years later and after positive results the fear remains. Becoming a mother has in some ways made this fear a bit more present, a bit more intense and a bit more scary. I guess now I feel I have more to lose than ever.

It is my aim to write more regularly, to share with you my feelings in this new chapter in my life. Fingers crossed I can keep up with it!






5 years ago

6 May

On a day like this 5 years ago it was a Wednesday not a Tuesday. I was probably drinking coffee not an oat milk chai. I was living in London, not Barcelona. And I was going for an appointment at the hospital not to work, unlike today. 5 years ago, in a small room in hospital in East London, Ms. C broke the news that I had indeed breast cancer. I was there with Nick, my ex-boyfriend and Fausto, my best friend. The breast cancer nurse, whose name scapes me now, was present too.

A few months ago, I was going through papers and found the letter that Ms. C sent to my doctor, the general practitioner I went to first so she could have a look at THE lump. This is what she wrote…

“Dear Dr. D

I saw Ms Panades today after our brest multidisciplinary team meeting this morning.

Unfortunately I had to give her the bad news that the lump in the left breast is confirmed as breast cancer – C5 with malignant cells on cytology and core biposy grade III infiltrating ductal carcinoma- The axilla lymph node looked abnormal on ultrasound scan and the cytology report confirmed metastatic involvement (C5).

At the present moment the lump is about two-cm clinically and on ultrasonographic measurements. She is young with relatively dense breasts and we wait MRI scan for a more accurate measurement and to see whether any other focus elsewhere.

Because of the C5 grade in metastatic lymph node, I have arranged staging investigations – including bone scan and CT chest/abdomen – which will be done this coming Friday (8th= and Monday (11th). We will then re discuss staging investigation and MRI result in the next breast multidisciplinary team meeting (13th) and Ms P will be see in clinic that afternoon. Temporarily, we may be able to five her a space on out operative day 21st May.

Ms P asked that if it is only a two-cm grade III cancer with modal involvement what treatment? We would be able to offer breast conservation surgery with axillary clearance- As it is a grade II node positive cancer and she is relatively young chemo/radiotherapy would be required but we will await hormonal and Herceptin status o see whether she is suitable dor adkvant ormonal or Heceptin therapies. He wanted to discuss fertility issue so I will refer her to our gynecologist.

Ms P is still in a dilemma about what to do and whether to have the treatment in London or Barcelona. She has just split with her partner who she used to live with several years, her parents undergoing divorce with the house up for sale and, unfortunately, her grandmother has just passed away. Presently, her employer may not allow paid sick leave but she will sort this out and let us know o her social circumstances next week. On further questioning, shy says one of her aunts (?) likely womb cancer in her forties and her brother testicular cancer and treatment at the age of thirty-two. There is no breast cancer or definitive ovarian cancer otherwise.

Ms Panades is still relatively young and may think about genetic testing. However, at this current stage, there is too much on board for her and she want to concentrate on the cancer treatment first-

I will keep you informed of the outcome from our next MDM discussion and management.

Yours sincerely,

Ms C.”

I am happy that 5 years on I am still here to read this letter, to realise how much good has happened since then and to look forward to the time ahead of me.

Yours sincerely,

Ms Panades


Did I tell you..

30 Apr

The stories of Rosa and her lump *What life turns out to be when you have to pencil in breast cancer*

that I turned 35 last week? Yeay! The more time passes the more grateful I am for the things that I have. Like great friends…Image

A wonderful boyfriend


Lovely pets


And a head full of hair!


And to think that 5 years ago I was celebrating my 30th birthday with a lump on my left breast, not knowing, yet knowing that it was “possibly-most likely” cancer. 

Happy birthday to me! 35 and counting! 🙂



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Hair growth after chemo is 4 years old today!

13 Jan

On a day like this four years ago I started this blog, aptly titled hair growth after chemo. The aim was to document how hair grows after going bald from the side effects of chemotherapy. It was also a way for me to deal with the obsession that growing THE hair became once my treatment finished. So lets have a look at the pertinent before and after photos.

1 WEEK after chemo my hair looked like this:


4 YEARS after chemo my hair looks like this:


Not bad I would say!

Thinking about this post today has made me reflect on what has happened in the last 4 years since I finished treatment and tried to regain some control over my life. So I thought I would do a kind of “the last 4 years in numbers and pictures” type post.

In the past 4 years I have…

Moved cities once: from London to my home town, Barcelona.


Fallen in love once (maybe twice if we count aby 😉 )


Moved houses three times


Been on train rides


Adopted a muuuuch healthier lifestyle 


Done my third 10k run (half marathon next?)


Been to a music festival with lovely friends


Rescued two cats


Been busy writing 100,000 words for my PhD (nearly there!)


Had lots of fun with these two!


Been to the beach with my girlfriends countless amounts of times


My little brother and I have gone from looking like this…


to this… (quite an improvement on both sides, don’t you think?)Image

I have visited London, Morocco, Rio de Janeiro and SevilleImage

And I have had many medical tests, all with good results (fingers crossed)


And then there are those things that cannot be counted, the amount of times I have laughed, felt happy and on top of the world. And the times I have felt down, anxious and scared. Because the thing with life after cancer, as these photos show, is that you can enjoy it again. However, there is a dark side too, at least for me. The dark side is those times when I get scared that now I’m cancer free, it will come back to snatch it all. And the dark side is most felt when I hear of another life taken away by this illness: from loved ones, to people who have passed through my life, to those who I have only met virtually and those who I have actually never met. This post is dedicated to them. And to all of us who are still here, let’s (try) enjoy life while it is still in our hands. 


My (34th) birthday!

22 Apr

Last Friday was my 34th birthday. As years pass and I move further away from my diagnosis and closer to the 5 year post-breast cancer date, my birthday takes a whole new meaning. I am filled with happines, thrilled at the realisation that “hey, I am still here”! I feel I do not have the luxury of fearing getting old. After cancer my fear is NOT getting old. So I celebrated over four days. On thursday night my boyfriend Raoul took me to see a brilliant play. On friday I spent the morning with our dog Aby and went to the beach for a run. By lunchtime Raoul was back from work and we went to one of our favourite cafe for some coffee and bagels. I then had my first piece of birthday cake (out of 4 more that were to come).


Then in the evening a bunch of friends came over for “la fiesta del huevo frito” aka “the fried egg party”. We ate (eggs), we drank, we laughed.


The day after, my dad, his wife and my ´lil brother Adam came over for lunch. Raoul´s brother and nephews also came, over. Full house! isn´t Adam gorgeous?


On Sunday, Raoul and I did the “Cursa dels Bombers” which is catalan for the “Firefighters Race” an annual 10k run in the city of Barcelona. It was fun, despite struggling to finish it and injuring my foot (and just to clarify, no, he is not proposing!).


And then this morning at the office when I was fully absorved by my computer screen, my colleagues came in with flowers and cake and sang happy birthday (I took my birthday off work you see). Does this mean I have had a 5 day birthday?  I am one lucky girl, I mean *woman*.



The Good Life (nearly 3 years after chemo)

12 Dec

So three years ago, this is what I was blogging about: wigs,coping with losing my hair to chemo, celebrating that I just had my fifht round of treatment, my frustration at not being able to do chemo on time and my stay at the hospital due to being neutropenic. You can read it all here.

Three years on and my life (and hair after chemo!) looks quite different that it did then. For one I have moved back home to Barcelona, best decision ever. I have met a wonderful man and a great dog, who are now my family and who make me oh! so very happy. I have an exciting job. I am finishing my PhD. And I am hoping to have children in the future. In short: I like my life.

So while this is great and lovely, it is also terrifying. It appears sometimes that the happier I am the more fearful I become of my cancer coming back. For those who have had cancer, you know how much of a life changing experience it is. Emotionally it wrestles you to the ground, it makes you re-asses your values your priorities and it can often push you to the limit. It brings home how fragile life really is. It confronts you with death. From a practical point of view, don´t even get me started: hospital appointment after hospital appointment after…well you get the point.Your day to day life and routine may also significantly change, being absent from work, not being able to go to the gym or losing (some) of your social life. And the thing i that I love my life and I hate the idea that cancer may come back and take this away from me. Please cancer, stay away.

And this is what I have been up to since my last post in June and what my hair after chemo looks like, nearly 3 years on from treatment. This is why I am happy.

Raoul and I did the anual 10k run in our neighbourhood


My little brother (yes brother, not nephew) is growing up so fast. He is simply gorgeous.


I did the women´s race in Barcelona, along with my friend Vicky who makes the cutest plushies and many other things over at Anda Panda. Big fan of her work.


One of my best mates came to visit over from London. Friends are the best. Particularly Fausto.


Aby loves being on my lap. And I love her being on my lap. What you call a win-win situation.


And last but not least, the man and dog who help me through my darkest moments. Meet the family.


Three years on from cancer

8 Jun

May 6th was 3 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and you know what happened? I completely forgot about it! That day I was flying back from Rio de Janeiro, where I had been working for a week. Before my trip I realized that my flight back was on the day I was diagnosed, which made me think how life changes. Only three years ago I was in a hospital room being told I had cancer. Press the fast forward button and here I am, flying back from Rio and getting on with my life. Funnily enough last year I forgot too.  The strange thing is that I actually think about cancer every day. And my tearful moments often catch me by surprise: I can be running on the treadmill listening to Kanye West sing ”that that don´t kill me can only make me stronger” and then I am transported back to that hospital room, to the chemo suite, and I feel all chokep up. I have had many moments like that.

So, three years on from cancer and this is what my life and my hair post chemo look like:

Selling stuff in a second hand market. Ps. not that my hair is UP! those who have been bald, you know what I mean…


Flying to Rio…


Being in Rio…


Thinking (hard) about my phd


And having my face licked by my dog!


And all of this thanks to the two loves of my life: my boyfriend Raoul and our dog Aby. The two most gorgeous and fun creatures on this planet!


4 Jun

The Fuck Cancer facebook page was asking today on people´s first thoughts when they were diagnosed with cancer, which brought me to this post! it has rained so much since…

The stories of Rosa and her lump *What life turns out to be when you have to pencil in breast cancer*

I had to wait a couple of weeks for my results, which was fine with me, because I was going to be ok, right? I had just turned 30, so the possibility of BC seemed so small that I didn’t entertain it. My appointment was at 13:50 on a wednesday, and a few days before I got a message “This is the mammography department, you have an appointment qt 13:30 on wednesday”. “At half one? but in the letter it says at ten to two?” I thought to myself  “must be a mistake”. I forgot about it but the day before I thought that I’d better check what this time business was., so I rang the hospital/”Oh I have to come in for a mammography as well as for results??!?!?!?”. I then knew something wasn’t right.

In times like this google is your best friend, and your worst enemy as…

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From one week to two years after chemo

8 Apr

How do you go from here…


to here?


With a lot of patience and just as much humour!

ps. this post is 3 months overdue 😉