Sunday, 13 November 2011


relaxing on the lounge!  She knows she isn't allowed up there!
            meet CHINO...

waiting to be fed.....

playing with Andy's shoe (but don't tell anyone)...

....and socks...


chill out mode with favourite toy

You may wonder why. So do I. You may ask what breed she is. So do I. Iwanted to call her "MIXUP" because that's what she is, but the boys wouldn't let me. We know she has Cocker Spanial (mother) and Labrador/Heeler (father), but I'm not convinced there isn't some Dalmation in there!

Did you notice how dogs (or this one anyway) doesn't have a red eye effect, but a green eye effect? Jimmi explained it well, but I can't remember the explaination. Also getting rid of red eye effect doesn't work on green eyes! We tried! Chino's eyes are not green, they are brown.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


Exciting day today.... I bought myself some new breasts!
They come with a 2 year warranty!

Bet yours don't!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Hair returns...

So now my hair has started growing back, which is good as the weather is getting warmer and the wig becoming quite uncomfortabe. But, not only is the hair on my head growing, but it is everywhere else too.

My days of the brazilian are done. Slowly but surely my eyebrows are returning to where they should be. Even my eyelashes are on the way back. I noticed the latter last week when I was lying down for the final radiotherapy session and my glasses must have slipped back as my eyelashes brushed against the glass. A very exciting moment!

However, not so exciting is the return of those chin hairs! Wouldn't you think all those chemicals and the radioactivity would have permanently removed the unwanted? Aren't these things closely aligned with cancer cells? Shouldn't they be? Alas, no. Not only chin hair, but full facial hair! A Downey kind of stuff -a bit like a baby has all over its body. I was speaking to MynewbestfriendLee   and she assured me it was "normal" and under no circumstances am I to wax it! Apparently it will just go away (yeah, right)! So now I am feeling that I am helping to prove Darwin's theory of Evolution. It just looks like I haven't evolved quite as far as others!

Speaking of chin hairs, have you noticed that there appears to be a direct correlation between the growth of these and the occurrence of diminishing eyesight? So we don't even notice the chin hairs until we move out of denial about our eyesight (these new light bulbs aren't as bright as the old ones, are they?!) and get glasses! At which point you realise you have been walking around looking like this for months, and then wonder if anyone else has noticed, because you sure didn't! Just another one of life's little jokes!

Well, must away and do some shaving, (the hair on my legs, that never actually went away, just slowed a bit, is now back with a vengeance) waxing (but not the face!) and general depilatory methods to do my utmost to diprove Darwin's theory of evolution! Or at least to demonstrate that I have evolved. Truly I have!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Who stole my hair?

Because it suits me, I often do night duty at work. Because of the nights it falls (weekends) I am often working with Colleen, a regular night dutyer for the past 25+years. Throughout this year she has been "keeping an eye on me" to make sure I don't fall  in a heap at work. If someone (ie a patient) has a cough or sniffle I am banned from entering the room. Consequently, there have been a few shifts over the months where Colleen has ended up with more than the 50% workload. Thank you Colleen!

Also at work, it seems there is a fault in the airconditioning, as at various times of the night (and indeed day) it becomes realy hot and I feel all sweaty, and red in the face and generally flushed. It's not just me who has noticed this, as there are other colleagues (similar age) who have also noticed this air conditioning malfunction. Maybe one of us should report it! When it gets hot like this, one of the best ways to cool down is to remove my wig - always helps.

Working at the computer one night, the air conditioning started playing up again. So, without even thinking, I took off my hair and threw it nonchalently onto the desk. When I got up to do some real work an hour later, I couldn't find my wig!

"Where's my hair? What did I do with it?" (Due to my scrambled brain of late, I always question myself first). This questioning quickly moved to "Who stole my hair?" Everyone pleaded innocence and then I remembered that Colleen had been in for a few hours but had then gone home. SHE HAD STOLEN MY HAIR! Now I just had to find it....

Could rule out 3 rooms (infections, coughs etc) so that just left 10 to check. Susan suggested I try Room 4. "But there isn't anyone in room 4" says I. 

Of course! Room 4! We had been doing Basic Life Support drills.

I walked in and thought I'd died! But then I realised, it wasn't me, just my hair!

What Colleen doesn't realise, is that one day my brain will return,and I will be able to think of a good payback. She doesn't know how, or when, or what.  (Neither do I actually). So she'll just have to sweat on it for a bit longer!!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


Mammograms  (x2) - check.
Ultrasounds (x3) - check.
X-rays (x6) - check.
Biopsies (x2) - check.
Surgery (x3) - check.
Chemotherapy (x16) - check.
Radiotherapy (x25) - check.

Now what am I going to do????

Maybe a holiday!?

Rowing the Brisbane River

A few weeks ago we were afforded a window of opportunity to go up to Brisbane to visit Rob. The window involved leaving after Dan & I finished work, (about 8am Saturday morning) and getting back Sunday evening for work/school Monday. So that's what we did!

                                                                                       Beautiful day by the Brisbane river.
Dan shottied the drivers seat, (still working towards the 120 hours he needs to go for his licence), Andy the navigator's, which left Jimmi and I to the back for a sleep. All went well until our lunch stop in Ballina. I bought some drinks then dropped them all over the shopping centre floor! Yes, they were in glass bottles. Yes, they smashed everywhere. I guess the lesson here is don't carry glass around busy shopping centres when you haven't slept for 24 hours! I left the boys to supervise the cleanup while I went back to the car to put the other stuff I'd bought away and on opening the boot realized my bag, that I had packed for the weekend, was not there! Nope. It was still in my bedroom, all packed ready to go but it didn't make it to the car!  So, a quick trip back to the shop for knickers and toothbrush. As we were staying with Judi, I figured she'd take care of anything else I needed!

Mid afternoon arrived at Judi's where we met up with Rob and various other family members for a barbeque - including Seamus who had just returned from an 18 month stint in Ireland. Great to catch up with everyone. Dan opted to stay at college with Robert that night - thought he'd suss out the scene!

                                              Disembarking at the end of the race.

Sunday we went to watch Rob in a rowing competition. That was the real reason we went up. He has joined a rowing team from his college and the inter college races were on. It was a beautiful day and we had a very relaxing time watching the rowing and the antics of the Uni students! Not a lot has changed over the years!

Followed this with a quick trip into the city to get Jimmi a saxophone and then the drive home. Dan got some more driving hours, and Andy a speeding fine! Very nice weekend,-  a bit rushed, but good to know it is doable.

                                                           Jimmi & his Sax

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

20% + down

So, this week sees the commencement of Radiotherapy. And already I am 20% done on my total requirements! That didn't take long, did it?

What is planned is about 25 "hits" of the radioactive isotopes attacking my chest wall. Actually I just made up that bit about the isotopes, but it is definitely some kind of radioactivity bombarding my body, because after the radiographers set me up, they hurriedly retreat from the room whilst I lie there getting the full effects of whatever it is from which they have run! But I have faith and confidence that it is all for a good cause and it will work!

Actually it is a very quick and painless procedure (so far) which involves me lying still with hands above my head so all the attack zones are exposed. The most time consuming part of the procedure is getting me in the exact position (using my tattoos as guide points) to effectively target all areas. This takes about 10 mins. They then leave the room to zap me and while they are out of the room I have to make sure I don't move even a millimetre! (or who knows where those radio isotopes will end up). Thankfully it only takes a couple of minutes, as it seems that everytime they leave the room I get itchy everywhere and/or need to cough!  Once zapped I am now free to go about my life until the next day when it all starts again!

Another week has passed since I started this post, so now I have completed 9 of my 25 allocated sessions - you can work out the percentage. I had Friday off so the machine could be serviced - have to keep it in peak condition. Slight tenderness of the skin, a few aches and pains, but otherwise all is well.
Until next time.......

Saturday, 3 September 2011


What a week!
Monday: Packing day
Tuesday: Chemotherapy Day. Last day of chemo (after 6 months) so the plan was to go out to a nice lunch with Elizabeth and Chris. Worst day of Chemo we've had! Instead of taking 2.5hrs, it took 4 hours! There went our lunch plans! However, besides the delay (the unit was busy, no problems with me) it was nice to finish chemo and get the PICC line out.
Wednesday: Moving Day (see previous posts)
Thursday:  Unpacking day  (Ditto)
Friday: Get the boys to school and go to the airport with my sisters to go to Sydney! YAA! We deserve this one!
So we had a weekend in Sydney - mainly to see Mary Poppins Live on Stage.

We had planned on going on a jet boat ride on the harbour as well, but given that I was the healthiest one there, we decided to pass on that little adventure! Yes, Annemaree was coughing like an old consumptive and Judi was madly taking echinecea, Vitamin B, garlic and other life saving therapies to ward off the lurgie (which worked for the weekend at least). So Elizabeth and I quickly claimed our room and forbade them from coming near.

View from our appartment

We stayed at the World Trade Centre (I think) which was very central to everything. We could walk in to town (which we did), walk to Darling Harbour (which we didn't) and, of course, walk to the theatre (which we did)! We were also on the 76th floor, so everytime we went up to the room our ears popped! Also I noticed that if I went too close to the w2indow a definite case of vertigo happened! However, it was all worth it.

The show on Saturday was FANTASTIC!  The sets were amazing. The acting and dancing great. Songs great. In short I'd recommend all of you go and see it if you can. It is travelling to Brisbane early next year, so book your tickets!

View albumView album
View albumView albumready for the show

Besides the show we had a good time wandering the shops of Sydney town. Actually didn't buy a lot - although Judi & I did get an iPad each (thank you Elizabeth), but had a good time wandering. Also enjoyed dining out, and buying food to eat in. Finished the weekend by spending a few hours in the Qantas lounge whilst waiting for our plane home. For details of how this came about see this blog site.
For those of you who don't know, this is a fun blog written by my niece Bridie Jabour.

All in all another great weekend with my sisters and a very fitting end to the chemotherapy regime - and the moving! Next year we will be heading north to the Sunshine coast!

Somehow I mucked up the photos, but you get the idea!

Things go missing

Amazing how the best plans and organisation can still yield so many problems....

Moving Week..My main memory of that week of moving is of me calling out "Has anyone seen....?"Amazing! In my oh so organised way, I'd pick up something essential, such as keys or cutlery, put them somewhere safely, and then they would just disappear! At least we were able to find most of the essentials in the next couple of days after our move, however the cutlery was missing for a while...nothing wrong with fingers - we found they worked fine! Eventually the cutlery surfaced. I had put it, wrapped in a pillow case, safely into the wok - just couldn't remember where I'd safely put it. Of course when I found it I remembered that was where I'd put it!

The best thing I lost were the keys! I am talking a huge key ring containing 12 keys and a remote control for the garage. Yep! I took them off the hall stand and put them somewhere safe so they wouldn't be lost in the move! For the next 10 days I searched high and low. Asked everyone to look. Phoned everyone in Grafton for ideas. Lost sleep. Had friends from work praying to St Jude (hope for the hopeless), St Anthony (he finds things) and one particular woman who insisted on bypassing all the saints and going straight to the top! All to no avail. Remember, these keys are to a rental property and we have to hand them back! Eventually, two days before D-day, I went and lamented my story to the estate agent, (played the cancer "chemo wrecks brain" card) who very kindly gave me their keys so I could go and get them copied so I would have something to give her on handover day! All went according to plan. I handed her the copied keys (and the originals) on the appointed day. Now I could sleep again, as I was sure the lost keys would resurface now I'd paid for a new set!

Next day the real estate agent called to say "Found your keys"! Yep! They were exactly where I'd safely put them. On the ledge in the built in wardrobe in the bedroom! Now why didn't I think of that??

Friday, 2 September 2011

Boxes, Books, Moving & Chemo...

It seems there isn't enough stress in my life so, I know, let's move house. Wait! Let's get evicted from our rental so we have a tight time frame within which to find a house and move into it! We can do this!

So begins the packing. I'll start with the easy stuff and get the books packed. Three weeks later, with moving date fast approaching, we are still packing books and we've run out of boxes! "We don't need these Dr Zeus books any more do we guys? We could give them to Sienna or Isabelle." (nieces). "Are you kidding?" says Rob (18yr old uni student) "I just read that one last week! We can't get rid of them. And we have to keep that picture book". "And those ones too" chime in brothers. At this stage I am wondering why I ever encouraged my children to read! I encouraged them to cook too, but there aren't many pots and pans to pack! So, We continue finding more boxes to pack more books that we can't live without.

Remember that while we are looking, negotiating (don't you love banks? And real estate agents?), packing and moving, I am still having my weekly sessions of chemotherapy. I had been warned the effects were cumulative, and let me tell you they were cumulating! The worst of course were the tiredness and the fuzzy brain! I could not remember what had been organized or packed or where. And regular naps were necessary or I just fell down (or at least felt I would). Thank goodness Andy organized removalists and co-ordinated times etc. I just needed regular reminders of what I was doing and when!

The Moving day arrived, and once again I am forever grateful to family members, as Andy could not get the day off. Not only did Dan have the day off school, but also Chris (my brother) and Brad (my nephew) arrived to help sort me out - complete with extra packing boxes! (Yes! You will get them back Chris, as soon as I unpack them!). Everything went relatively smoothly.

Dan had the day off school because he had not even started packing up his room! I'm not sure if he was in denial about the move (he did like being able to walk to the beach) or if his social calendar had just been too full to factor in packing! However, he was a great help (once he packed up his room) with packing up the rest of the downstairs area. Ably supervised by Chris. By lunch time he was rather regretting not going to school! I think Jimmi was the smart one for taking the "I Have to go to school. Something is due and I have to hand it in" option. Having never insisted on going to school to hand something in before, I didn't like to discourage him! 

Chris & Brad arrived at the same time as the removalists - complete with a cup of coffee for me and some direction! From there we were on a roll - at least they were, I was just confused by it all. However, it all came together. We had fish & chips for lunch (between loads) and had finished with the removalists by mid afternoon. Chris & Brad put together the beds for us but unfortunately in the move we lost a couple of support legs for the main bed! Andy & I spent the first night sleeping on the floor! It had been a while since that last happened.

Next day Chris returned, this time with Elizabeth, and we unpacked and organised some stuff. I think he wanted his boxes back, but he is still waiting. Andy had the day off work so went to the other house to finish sorting and to bring back the "little stuff" the removalists didn't bring. It took quite a few loads to bring the "Little Stuff"!

So, we have moved. We are still surrounded by boxes as we work out what should go where, but we are in - and off the floor. Next time (God forbid there ever be a next time) we will have more boxes, less books and no chemotherapy! The combination just doesn't work - unless, of course you have the assistance of all those nearest and dearest!

Saturday, 20 August 2011


Some people have on their "bucket list" the getting of a tattoo. Well, that is something that was never on my list (although I did at one stage in my life contemplate a black swan on my left inner ankle) but I now have a tattoo! Three, in fact!
For those of you who are fans of "Friends" (the TV sit-com), there is an episode where Phoebe & Rachel get tattoos. In it, Phoebe's tattoo is described as "Earth viewed from space". Well that is what all my tattoos are like! I am wandering around with three earths as viewed from space on my upper body! I guess that could be one for each of my children! I'm sure they would appreciate that I have a permanent drawing of them on my body! "Rob, as viewed from the airplane". "Dan as viewed from the mountain top". "Jim as viewed from the hot air balloon". Possibilities are endless!
The whole procedure (of getting the tattoos) was quite painless, although a bit long as they worked out the exact position for the markings to go. The purpose of them is to use as targets for the up and coming radiotherapy I am to have. It is these areas that will be zapped in the hope that whatever cancer cells have survived the onslaught of chemotherapy will not survie the onslaught of radiotherapy! I have been assured that I will not be radioactive or glow in the dark. Very disappointing for my boys! But that's ok because I carry their images (as viewed from...) all over my chest!

Friday, 29 July 2011

An Ode to Support

A couple of weeks ago it seems all the planets and stars aligned with the result being my support team were out en masse! Yes, Judi came down from Brisbane, Annemaree & Andrew had the day off, so decided to come along  and of course Elizabeth never misses a session ( except when it floods), and neither does Chris, who brings her down each week. However he did decide to bow out of this one to let the others have a turn!  In the meantime, my boys were at home (on holidays)  and had offered to come along. I assured them I would be ok but they could meet us for lunch. 

First thing I noticed when my siblings arrived was how much the younger ones aspire to look like me! Yes! Judi arrived with cropped, spikey burgundy hairstyle and Andrew had a recently shaved, but growing back "pepper-and-salt" style! Although mine is more "salt-and-pepper", I was still, indeed, flattered! What a role model am I!!

As I knew all these people were coming, I commandeered Elizabeth to be on morning tea duty. Not just for us, but for the staff at the clinic, who I thought might pass out when they saw us all filing through the doors! However, they were very tolerant (especially when they got a yummy morning tea) and patient with us throughout the treatment. One of them was convinced Judi & I were twins - nice for me, not so for Judi!

It was also on this day that I had 2 appointments with doctors - the medical oncologist and the radiologist. The support team drew straws to accompany me to these (Andrew willingly stepped down on both occasions!) which was good as I needed someone  to remember what was said to me! After appointments, treatments and a good few laughs we went out to lunch,where, of course, we were
joined by my three sons.

Of course it is not just this day that support is out in force, it is ongoing. Not only from family, but also friends near and far. It amazes me how people seem to know when I need a lift. On a down day, I answer a knock at the door to find a bunch of flowers has been delivered. Or a telephone call to go out for coffee. Or I go to the mailbox and find  friends have sent a voucher for a local day spa, or pizza money. One group of friends has sent me a voucher for an adventure weekend. That will be used in October when all the treatment is over and it's my birthday. I have been looking forward to that for months! Another friend drops something in the mail for me every couple of weeks - a book, a scarf, a game etc. I don't know how she does it, but it always seems to arrive when I need a lift! Cards arrive from not only my friends, but friends of my siblings as well. There are some great people in the world. Thank you to one and all. It really is appreciated.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Holidays & Other Hair Issues

 It's just past holiday time. Rob is home from uni. Dan had a week off skiing, but is now home after having a wonderful time and desperate to go back. Yet another sport for Dan! Jimmi has been home the whole time. He doesn't venture far these days, which suits me. Also he's had a week sick - the dreaded man-cold. Not sure that they have consented to me writing about them, but I'll carry on regardless! I'm getting a bit sick of writing about me.

Rob is home from uni for a few weeks . It's great to have him home. He's great at running around after his brothers for me! First noticeable thing about him was his hair -or rather, lack thereof. It is the shortest I have seen it since he was about 4 when his father took him for a haircut and he came home with a No. 2 - last time his father ever took him for a haircut! Unfortunately he doesn't have the right shaped head to sport a shaved look (unlike his mother and brother). This time, as he had been told a few times that his head resembled a mop, he decided to get a cut before coming home. Apparently went in for a trim. Came out with much more and definitely no curls! He is still beautiful (spoken like a true mother)!

Whilst we're on hair issues ( I seem to be obsessed these days) I'll tell you about Jimmi's. For a long time he has been wanting white hair (like Grandma's). So, after he checked at school that it would be ok, I eventually relented and off he went to get his hair whitened! Unfortunately, because it is so dark, it didn't quite go the colour he wanted (white), but after 3 &1/2 hours at the hairdresser, multiple applications of bleach and toner and many $$$ he emerged with blonde hair (rather like it was when he was 3) and was pretty happy! Although we spent the next few days thinking some stranger had moved in, we are all used to it now and we all like it.



Not much change to Dan's hair. Not quite long enough for the annual dreads to have formed, but long enough for the flyaway curls. Andy's hair is as smooth and cool as ever. Mine is growing back (already!) and is definitely more salt than pepper. However, we'll deal with that when the time is right. Might go burgundy!

The beginning of the holidays Jimmi had his birthday. This involved a group of his friends coming for a sleepover which included a fire on the beach. While here, they formed a band!!!
The Band

The rest of the holidays have sailed by with various trips to the beach, lots of soccer and even more of DVD/ TV viewing and computer stuff.Two of the three boys are re-reading the complete Harry Potter series! Rob's under pressure to finish them before uni starts back, but is confident he can achieve this goal.

Despite the extra meal planning, (actually they do their own - I only do dinner), cleaning (I don't do that either) and washing (team effort), I do enjoy the holidays surrounded by my strapping young men!

Thursday, 21 July 2011


When I first met her, I had no idea who Lee was or how she would come to be such a significant part of my life in so short a time.

I first met her when I was recalled to have the repeat mammogram, which was the same day I had the ultrasound and needle biopsy.Lee took me to her office, introduced herself, gave me an ice pack (thank you Lee!) and proceeded to chat to me about breast cancer and give me information about doctors (surgeons) available in the area that I might like to see. I was very polite and listened and asked questions whilst all the time my mind was thinking "Why is she telling me this stuff? I just have fibrous breasts"! Ah! The beauty of ignorance! I distinctly remember during this chat I asked Lee "Who would you go to?". I later found out that she was a breast cancer survivor - TWICE! Ah! Ignorance!

A couple of weeks later I was in Sydney for a work conference when Lee phoned, just to see how I was going. As I was still firmly in denial I assured her I was fine, but had made an appointment with a surgeon, whom, co-incidentally she worked with. Another couple of weeks and again she phoned for a chat. At this stage I began to realise she was going to stick by me regardless of my denial! At least until the results came back confirming my fibrous breasts!

So, the results came back and, lo and behold, I did not have fibrous breasts at all! I had cancerous breasts - at least one, anyway. Again, there was Lee to give support and copious bits of paper containing all kinds of interesting facts and figures. These were duly filed (by me) into a cupboard until my head could deal with it all - after Christmas, sometime I thought.

On holiday in Sydney and thoughts  of the upcoming surgery were constantly bombarding my mind. So, whilst wandering around Darling Harbour, I phoned Lee to talk through a few issues (as you do). She answered and chatted to me! Bear in mind, this was New Year week! Was she on holidays? I don't know, and selfishlly didn't even ask! It's all about me, you know! But she did answer my queries and reassure me that my decision making was OK.

After the mastectomy, again Lee was there to chat and give more printed matter to both Andy & me. This time I read some and left some obviously lying around for the boys to pick up and peruse. None of them did! The "Teenage boys & cancer" books etc are still exactly where I left them, except now with a not unreasonable layer of dust! Boys deal with things in their own way.

Then I found out I needed to go back for "re-excision". So, at 2am one morning I decided I'd have the other breast off as well. How to contact my surgeon? It was only 3 days until my surgery and I wouldn't be seeing my surgeon again until surgery day. Then it came to me! Lee! She'll sort it for me! However, you'll be pleased to know (and so will she be) that I didn't phone her then, but rather waited until about 9am to talk through my feelings with her. I think it was about at this point that Lee became "MynewbestfriendLee"!

After surgery (No.3) she was there again. She gave me some breasts! Multi-functional breasts! When I am not wearing them, I can use them as a teaching tool for breast feeding demonstrations!

A selection of my new breasts!
Can even mix and match them!

She organised the physiotherapist to see me. She even selected my wig for me! "I know just the one for you" she said. And she was right! Main comment since I have had my new hair style is that I should have gone burgundy with spikes years ago! However, although the wig was ordered, my hair started to fall out before the selected wig had arrived. Again, a quick phonecall to MynewbestfriendLee and problem solved! We met in the wig room in her lunch time (don't know if she ate that day) and spent the time trying on various wigs. I came away with the initial selection. We both agreed it was the best for me.

Now it is 8 months since our initial contact, and still she is my resource person. I need a PICC line put in - I'll just have a chat to MynewbestfriendLee about that. I am due to start radiotherapy soon, just have to see the radiologist first. I'll  definitely need to have a quick chat to MynewbestfrienndLee about it all.

No matter when I call, she always answers or gets back to me as soon as she can. And I am sure I am not her only client, or that she treats me any differently to all the others. I now understand why Jane McGrath wanted everyone diagnosed with breast cancer to have access to a breast care nurse. Because everyone needs a NewbestfriendLee!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Another week...Another adventure

This will have to go down as one of my not better weeks!

In a positive frame of mind, I went off for my regular chemo session. Elizabeth had even made the staff (and us) some morning tea. However, after 1 1/2 hours, 8 attempts by 4 different staff members (all experienced) and still no sign of a viable vein, the mission was aborted! I threatened to take back the carrot cake from the staff, but figured they'd been almost a stressed and traumatised as me! Not a good start to their day either, especially as I was their first client for the day!  So, the end result, no chemotherapy this week. Instead I had to have a PICC line put in on Friday. That's a Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter.

The actual procedure was very quick (10 mins), once
we got through the waiting time (1 hour) and prep time (20 mins). The most painful part was the local anaesthetic - wouldn't you think they would have done something about that by now? I remember local anaesthetic being painful 45 years ago! (Good heavens! Am I revealing my age??).

Of course the most upsetting part of all this is that it puts my treatment back a week. This of course means that our planned weekend in Sydney (to see Mary Poppins) is now only 3 days after my final chemo session instead of 10 days! However, we will still be going and I WILL STAY AWAKE! (Did I mention "drop dead tired " is the main side effect I am experiencing?). It also means Radiotherapy will be put back a week, but I'll worry about that when the time comes (after our weekend in Sydney).

So now, for the next 6 weeks, I will be walking around with this foreign body in my poor battered, scarred body! On the bright side, treatment should be a bit faster as they don't have to hunt for veins any more. There it is, on tap!

Friday, 17 June 2011

In the beginning..

A lot of people ask me if I found the cancer or was it discovered on routine mammogram. The short answer to this is neither. It was found only after surgery and the subsequent pathology.

Because I have always (well, almost - especially since children & breast feeding) had lumpy, painful (particularly at ovulation) breasts, I started taking myself off for mammograms from the time I was 40. Just every 2-3 years. From the beginning, the results were always "fibrous tissue seen". Prior to leaving Perth (Dec 2007) I had an ultrasound, with the result "fibrous tissue evident. Suggest mammogram." So, a couple of months after arriving here I had a mammogram. Result..."fibrous tissue seen. Suggest ultrasound." At this point I put it on the backburner! Possibly not the best decision I have ever made!

Fast forward to October 2010 and I organise my bi-annual check. You know, bloods, BP, glucose and of course mammogram, particularly as there had been some change in my breast shape over the previous months. All the results were good except I was recalled for a repeat mammogram (often happens in peri-menopausal years) as there was "fibrous tissue seen. Inconclusive result". So, back I went and had a repeat mammogram, an ultrasound and a needle biopsy (bloody painful!). All these results came back inconclusive! In fact, the needle biopsy actually said "No malignancy seen". I later found out that my breast was so fibrous the needle bent! However, the ultrasonographer was not happy and pushed me to investigate further. So, it was off to the surgeon to have an 'Open Biopsy' (or partial lumpectomy) to find out definitively what was going on. It was at this stage that the cancer cells were identified.

It was three days before Christmas,when I got the results and still I wasn't too worried. I figured if it was that hard to find then it must be well confined so I would just get my breast off (it had served me well) and continue on with my life. Sugery was booked for 13/01/2011 (after the christmas break) which was ages away, so I just got on with enjoying Christmas and the holiday we had planned for Sydney. Of course I told work (as I had to be taken off the roster that was already out) and we planned and had a great night out to farewell my Left Breast.

It was also during this period that my Dad died peacefull in his sleep. So, with Christmas, the funeral and the Sydney trip, the time passed quite quickly. But also very slowly - I had visions of this thing growing in my body! But at least I had to think of other things so it wasn't quite as all consuming as it could have been. I remeber it was a very weird time. I even said to someone that time seemed to take on a very strange feel. Almost surreal in that it went so fast and yet dragged by. Very weird.

After surgery it was just a matter of waiting for the pathology results, although, as the surgeon thought my lymph glands "looked suspicious", he had done a Level 2 clearance (that's about as clear as they go). A very good decision on his part as the pathology results revealed. In the meantime I had told the boys to straighten me up if I started leaning to port (or is it starboard?) which they duly did.

However the pathology was not as positive as we had hoped. As I had suggested the possibility of reconstruction, the Dr had left some breast tissue  inferiorly (the lump was on the supeior aspect) but when path came back there was not a big enough "margin" so I had to go back to surgery for a re-excision. Also, a lot (almost 50%) of lymph nodes contained cancer cells (something we didn't expect, as there was no indication on u/s). So, given that I had to go back to theatre anyway, and the Ca was so well concealed, I decided to have the other breast off at the same time.  I figured I did not want to go through all this treatment just to have it return in the other breast in a couple of years time. So now I am flat chested and just have to decide what size I will be...?A, ?DD or somewhere in between. Andy just never knows who (or what) will greet him at the door! In fact, there was an occasion when he didn't recognise me in the shopping centre! (I was wearing breasts and hair, which I don't often do at home)!

The final pathology results after this subsequent operation were all good. I then  met with the medical oncologist. Initially Andy & I found her rather distant, but since then I have got used to her way and am very happy with her and the treatment regime which includes seeing her before each session of chemo to make sure I am OK with side effects and to work out what she can do to lessen them. Anyway, we worked out a plan of action (or rather she told me what I am doing with my life for the subsequent 6 months).  I had a session one day every 3 weeks for 4 sessions -drugs ussed were Doxorubicon and Cyclophosphamide . This took me to Easter when I rewarded myself, and my family, with a trip to NZ for a couple of weeks.  I then started the next round which is weekly for 12 weeks (Paclitaxel). I am now half way through that lot.

I'll have a three week break between chemotherapy finishing and radiotherapy starting during which time I am going to Sydney with my sisters to see Mary Poppins live on stage! Another reward! More on that later....

Monday, 13 June 2011

Going it alone

Well this week I had to go to chemotherapy all by myself! Yes, my trusty companions (sisters & brothers) were stranded in Grafton unable to get to me because of the water on the roads due to the continuous rain we have had over the long weekend! So, not only do I have to go it alone at chemo, but I also have to cook dinner tonight! Elizabeth always brings a meal with her on chemo day so I don't have to think about dinner. Tonight I have to not only think, but also prepare! It's all too much! But soldier on I shall!!

Now that I have the sympathy of all I'll tell you the good stuff. They found a functioning vein 1st go and blood results were good. So it was all on for the chemo. Had my Sudoku puzzles from the weekend papers, a crappy magazine I picked up in the waiting room and my phone. Have been playing "Words with Friends" (a kind of scrabble) which Bridie(my neice) put me on to. It is great! Love Scrabble! So I sent a text to Bridie to keep me occupied while I had chemo. She very kindly obliged (I whopped her) even though she was supposed to be at work. So,between Sudoku and Scrabble the time went quite quickly (The magazine was just too crappy!). However, it is much more fun having my sisters there for a chat and a laugh. So the roads had better clear before next Tuesday!

Also, there were no volunteers this week! They must have been flooded out too. Usually there is a volunteer person who gets us drinks (water, tea,coffee) and biscuits (hospital issue, low sugar ones - good for diabetics) with monotonous regularity. However, this week they were absent, and there was noone I could send out to the coffee shop! Made myself a cuppa on the way back from the toilet, but it just wasn't the same! Had a biscuit too, but there just wasn't enough sugar in it!

After chemo we (ie. siblings & I) usually go out to lunch. That's 2 meals I don't have to worry about on chemo day. Today I just came home and found something in the fridge to have for lunch all by myself.

Nope! Just not the same going it alone. But good to know I can do it if I must!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Boys....Ya gotta love 'em! and Hair Stuff!

It was somewhere between surgery and starting other treatment. ie I had lost my breasts but not my hair. All the literature we'd been given I left lying around the place so the boys could pick it up and thumb through it when they felt ready. After a couple of weeks I had observed that nothing had been lifted, thumbed through or in fact even glanced at (to my knowledge) so it was time to take matters into my own hands. Only 2 of the 3 were there at the time (holidays, very hard to get them all together in one place). It went like this...
Me: "So guys, is there anything you want to ask about what will be happening to me in the next few months? With regard the cancer?'
Boys: Both looked at me questionally.  They then looked at each other confusedly. Then both turned to me and, at the same time, said "Well, haven't you had it done already?"
At this point I decided to leave it them to handle in their way! It's probably better than mine anyway!

About 10 days after my first lot of chemotherapy I noticed my hair thinning. The next day lots came out in the shower as I was washing it. After the shower I walked out and, distressed, said to Dan (lying around reading) "My hair is falling out!"
Dan: "Humph. That's OK. So is Dad's and Rob's"
I guess that put it in perspective (at least mine will come back) and destressed me!

We were in New Zealand and it was cold - much colder than I'd experienced here. I woke up one morning and said,
Me: "Boy it's cold! My head was freezing last night!"
Andy: "And you want sympathy from me???"
At this point I figured I was barking up the wrong tree!

One day I swept the kitchen floor and discovered, besides all the crumbs etc, a pile of hair. My hair! At this stage I thought I'd better get my head shaved or else face the O,H&S tribunal!

Saturday morning, decided it was time to have my head shaved. So, wig in hand, I went down to do the deed - walked in a brunette with lighter stripes, 15 minutes later walked out a ranga (well, 'burgundy') with spikes! At home Dan and his friends (which included a couple of girls) wandered in from the beach. Dan asked what I'd been doing all morning (so observant, boys) so I told Him I'd been to the hirdresser for a "cut & colour".
"Looks great" says 16 year old girl.
"Isn't it a wig?" says 16 year old Dan.
"DAN!! That's awful" says 16 year old girls.
"Oh!" says Dan, Sheepishly, "Well isn't it?"
"Does it look like a wig?" says me.
"NOooo" scream 16 year old girls (as only girls can) " It looks fantastic"
"OK then" says me.
Take that Dan!

Watching a show on TV that had a segment about the "Look Good, Feel Great" workshops. A number of women were expressing their distress at hair loss and body image issues etc. Jimmi turns to me and says, "Were you that upset when you lost your hair?"
Me: "No, I don't think so. I knew it was going to happen and I went and had my head shaved. Only thing is, it happened a bit sooner than I thought. Why? Did it upset you?"
Jimmi: "No. Not as much as your eyebrows."
Interesting, I now draw eyebrows on most days!

So, no hair on my head, no eyebrows, no eylashes, sporting a Brazilian (for the first time in my life) and STILL I have to shave my legs! And STILL the hairs on my arm get ripped out every week as they take out the IV canula! GO FIGURE!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

New treatment

So, Back from NZ, back to work and ready to start the next 12 weeks of treatment! Amazing how quickly holidays are forgotten!

A week after getting back I started on the next regime which is only one drug, but I am to have it weekly for 12weeks - and then I will reward myself with another little treat! So far the sessions have been fine. In fact, after the first lot I couldn't believe how well I felt. I actually had some energy for the first time in months. In fact, I had so much energy I mopped the kitchen floor! Now that I've written that I realise how sad it really is! Especially as I was so thrilled, at the time, to have identified the need AND had the energy to act on it! You'd think I could have found something a bit more exciting to have done with this new-found energy.

Downside of this treatment is that it, apparently, has a cumulative effect. I guess that means that in 9-10 weeks time I might not feel so well (and the kitchen floor might not be so clean). However, I'll just take each day as it comes. The other downside is that I have to have bloods and IV line weekly, and my veins aren't what they used to be. The last couple of weeks they have needed multiple attempts to find a reasonable vein, and as I can only use one arm, I'm not holding a lot of hope that it will last. However, as I have said before, "I'll just take each day as it comes". Really not much else I can do. Worst case scenario is that I will need a PICC line (Google it), which is much better than a Porta Cath (Google it), I think.

Last week Katrina, a friend from Perth, came over for a visit. It was great to have her here. She came to the treatment session with me, met my Dr and offered all kinds of support and humour as they had multiple attempts at finding a vein and then dripping the stuff into it. We then went out to a well deserved lunch. Actually, we had a number of well deserved lunches... and breakfasts... and wine too now I come to think of it! Particularly enjoyed the wine as I haven't been enjoying it over the past months. See, I told you this new drug is much better!

As well as eating amd drinking, we also had a couple of tourist ventures. We really lucked in with the weather and had a day going to Bellingen and Dorrigo - up in the hills. We had lots of exercise walking native tracks through rainforest, saw some great waterfalls and had a good nosy around the quaint shops. Great day. Great company. Katrina was particularly impressed when we went to the Yacht club for lunch as she had to become a temporary member! Quite delighted at being a member of a yacht club, if only for 2 hours! These city people are so easy to impress!

Wednesday now (Happy Winter) and things are going well after my 4th lot of this regime. 1/3 of the way through already - it certainly makes things go fast this weekly business! This week they got the IV line in 1st go and it stayed good for the duration! We decided to try without the anti emetic, Kytril, which has side effects of its own (namely diarrhoea - too much information?) and a reduced dose of the dexamethasone which causes insomnia and floor mopping. So far it's been good. A little bit of nausea 1st night (but nothing a stemitil didn't fix), and a late night (as I was up chatting to Bridie, my neice) so I slept when I went to bed. All is good.

No photos this post as Katrina has lost her camera card! Do you believe it?? When she finds it and sends me the copies I will do my bit! Great being able to blame someone else for stuff!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Half way through...

Well, I have completed 3 months of chemotherapy! Only 3 months to go! What better way to celebrate the half way mark than with a family trip to New Zealand?? So, that's what we did.

Boys with the snow man they didn't make!

Prior to the last lot of chemo, I started taking Ginger a few days early to make sure I had good cover for the flight to NZ, and the car trip to Brisbane. However, after diligently taking the tablets for a couple of days, I noticed I felt nauseated. "Strange", thinks I, "haven't had chemo for a few weeks. I should not be feeling nauseated". And then it dawned on me! The nausea was caused by the Ginger I was taking to prevent the nausea! From this I realised that the nausea I have had for the past months would probably have been better had I not taken Ginger! I'm sure I'm not usually this slow! Definitely chemo brain set in.

So, off to New Zealand we went  -without ginger. As soon as I finished my chemo I got in the car and we drove to Brisbane. Met Robert at Judi's place where we had a wonderful evening with Judi & Linda as well as a visit from Bridie & Anna. Early rise the next morning for our flight to NZ.

"Play the Cancer card" has been the catch phrase around here for the past few months, so we tried it at the airport. As we went to book in, Andy walked up beside me and said to the booking in person, as he lifted my hat off "If anyone deserves an upgrade, this lady does". "Yes she does" replies the man, "but there is only one class on this flight, I'm sorry". So, that didn't work. However, I did notice on the plane that there appeared to be a lot more leg room in the seats up the front! However, as I have short legs, it doesn't matter.

Getting through customs was a bit of a laugh as they asked me to take my cap off to make sure I was the person on the passport photo. I was wearing a " NERVER GIVE UP" cap Judi gave me not long after I was diagnosed. Given that my passport is 9&1/2 years old, and taken at a time when I had hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, I think they just took a quick glance and rushed me on through!

Once in New Zealand we had a wonderful time. I was well enough to do most things, but if I got too tired (my main side effect) I just had a day off. We caught up with lots of family and did lots of fun stuff with them. It was great for the boys (and us) to get to know their Kiwi cousins a bit better. The first 6 days we spent in Wellington going to various family functions and visiting sights like Te Papa museaum, cable car, botanic gardens etc. Val came along with us on these excursions, although a bit more frail than she was, (to be expected - she's 82 now) she is still amazingly fit and outpaced the boys by the end of the day! We then left Wellington and headed north.

 On the mountainside with the snow

We had a day on Mt Ruapehu, where there had been a snow fall just a few days previously. So the boys had a great time playing in the snow, throwing snowballs, making snow angels, sliding down the mountain and claiming someone else's snowman as their own! Dan & Jimmi had never seen snow before, so that day was a highlight for them. When we came down from the mountain there was a hot thermal pool place not far from where we were staying so we went there for a lovely soak. I found it great for my shoulder movements/exercises! At Taupo we went on a jetboat ride to the Huka Falls. Great fun even though my hat flew off (thank goodness I wasn't wearing my hair!), which seemed to upset the driver more than it did me. Dan came to the rescue and gave me his beanie which stayed on. Interesting that the guy didn't offer Andy a headcover! Yes. A bald woman definitely is a bit confronting for a lot of people!

 Relaxing in the hot thermal pool

Up to Rotorua for Easter with extended family where we stayed at a great place where we could have a decent easter egg hunt! At least it got my boys out of bed! In Rotorua we saw the steaming hot pools, bubbling mud pools and went lugeing, which was great fun. Unfortunately, due to time and weather constraints, we were not able to go Zorbing, however it is always good to leave something for next time. My boys went White Water Rafting - quite an adventure. As I couldn't go ( due to not having the strength to paddle in Left shoulder) I booked them a Grade 5 venture that included a trip down a 7 metre (21 feet) waterfall/rapid. I figured if they were going to do it they might as well go for broke! You'll be pleased to know that, despite all the cursing they did at me, they survived the venture and all stayed in the raft. People in the other raft on the same venture fell out! The end result is they all loved it, forgave me for trying to kill them and want to go again  - Andy wants a 3 day trip!

From there it was an overnight stay in Auckland and then up to Whangerai and the Bay of Islands. I had never been up there before so it was great to see. It really is a beautiful area - but isn't that true of all NZ? Beautiful scene around every corner!

So, that's my half way reward! We had lots of fish & chips, paua fritters, hokey pokey icecream, sally lunds and other NZ specialties. We had lots of family, friends, sights and adventures.

  The hat that flew off!

Arrived back with a few days to spare before the next lot of chemo starts... will keep you posted. Will also post a few photos when I work out how to do it...

Well! Look at that! I worked it out! Sometimes I amaze myself!