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!