Steel Magnolias

It is hard to write about such a downer subject as breast cancer, when it is Christmas, unfortunately life doesn’t care what day it is.

After being diagnosed, I had a week to wait for my appointment with the Breast Surgeon. I used the time to do what every self respecting newly diagnosed patient does, and googled everything to do with my results. Words like grade 3 Invasive Aggressive Ductal Carcinoma, HER2 neu positive 1+ positive 2+,  It is important to avoid words like, death, died from, and could die. I only read things that were informative and didn’t start to go down a negative vein.  I have a strong faith in God’s purpose for my life and was quite aware that many people were praying for me.  It makes a difference, I think the reason why I was doing so well, was due to feeling upheld by prayer.  I was constantly reassuring, family and friends that I was ok, and comforting them, while they cried and tried to come to terms with my news.  We had the added pressure during the week I was being biopsied and scanned and waiting for results of my Mother in Law having a massive heart attack and being flown down from Geraldton.  The Doctors said she could go into Cardiac arrest at any moment and to expect the worst.  She is still in a bad way, but two weeks later continues to amaze the doctors.  My daughter who flew in to surprise me from Sydney, got to visit Granny, who laughed when Sarah said she was like the ever ready bunny in the Television commercial.  We were overwhelmed with text messages, day and night, seeing how grandma was, and then as the news leaked out about my breast cancer, how I was.    eating greens

As soon as you mention that you have something wrong with you, anything at all that is serious or trivial, well meaning friends and acquaintances, start giving you first, the She’ll be right Pep talks, and the what you should be eating to fix this talks, and the medical facts that they know about the disease (sometimes this is included with the She’ll be right Pep talks.) Because now you actually have this thing and have researched and spoken to doctors, you know they are usually only half informed and sometimes don’t know what they are talking about  You cringe inside as it is the same well meaning advice you have given other people over the years. It is very well intentioned generally by people who care about you, and often everyone is just trying to help find a solution for you,  it is part of them processing it all.  You meanwhile are still trying to take it all in and feel a little shell shocked.

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Since then I have been completely blown away with the love and good wishes from hundreds of people who are connected with our family through Church, Darts and Social Media.  It is overwhelming and very appreciated.  How blessed I am to have such beautiful friends.

Years ago when I was 42 I had a breast lump which turned out to be nothing (apparently only about 1 out of 20 ends up being of a concern), I remember thinking, well Im not getting my boob cut off I will just have to die. How things change.  I thank the high profile women who used their celebrity to make breast cancer less mysterious.  Women like Olivia Newton John, one of our beautiful women Pastors Darlene Zchech, actress Christina Applegate, well know E news presenter Guilliana Rancic and many more, women as young as 21 way through to 94 who have blazed the trail before me, selflessly sharing intimate things about their journey.  Reading their stories helps us see we are not alone and that if they can do it so can we.  The 94 year old lady I am talking about was in the hospital bed next my mum years ago.  I was chatting to her while mum was having something done, and she shared how she had a breast removed when she was younger, then at 81 they told her it was in her other one.  She said to them, ‘your not cutting anything else off me, its just too bad’.  Here she was still going at 94 having gone without any treatment.  I love it and love being a woman (even though being one increases chances of getting breast cancer).  We are Steel Magnolias!

Drive thru Hospitals

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I went to check in for next weeks lumpectomy at the hospitals pre admission.  The staff were all very nice as I did the rounds, filling in forms, getting blood tests, ECG’s, and check up with anaesthetist.  Everything was going swimmingly till I came back from blood tests and found the anaesthetist had been and gone and would be back in fifteen minutes.  One hour later he did in fact return and we had our pre op meeting.  While waiting I looked around at the crowd waiting, some for pre admission like me, but most were waiting with their bags to be called in for there surgery, totally cold turkey and no transition from walking in and being knocked out and cut up.  To add insult to the cattle awaiting slaughter atmosphere, there was a sign telling us that the waiting room was for patients, and that relatives should wait outside.  So not only are you to sit there wide awake nervously anticipating what was ahead, but now you can’t even have someone there to hold your hand.

On the day of your procedure, you sit with your gown on waiting to be called, then walk in to the operating theatre and hop up on the table.

To be honest it made me hanker for the good old days when you went in for surgery the night before, so they could give you a sleeping pill and make sure you had a good nights sleep, followed in the morning by some nice pre op relaxer which made you all dozy and you stopped being at all nervous about the procedure you would be having, and not notice that you were hungry from going without your morning coffee and breakfast, and at which point you wouldn’t care if they cut a limb off you were so chilled.

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While I personally wouldn’t want to go back to the ten day mandatory stay in hospital when you had a baby, we may be swinging too far the other way.  They have been doing a study on the concept of a Drive Thru ER at Stanford in the US. which may have its merits, you can at least watch the DVD player in the car, and bring the kids if you need to.  This is all to cut money and time of course, the population is exploding, hospital budgets get cut instead of increased, and I suppose from the patients point of view everyone is so busy they don’t want to interrupt their business with inconvenient hospital stays. They already have Drive thru Pharmacies, Drive Thru Funeral Viewings, so  I suppose before long with surgeries becoming more micro and less invasive, and recovery time being less, you may be able to pull up at the drive thru Hospital, duck in and have your appendix lasered out through a tiny hole, while hubby keeps the motor running and pop back a few minutes later with a couple of paracetamol to swallow on the trip home, without having missed much of the programme you were watching on telly before the pain struck.

The Day clinic is closed on the day of my surgery, they are just doing a few emergencies in the theatre, so I get to go to the Surgical ward.  I may even get a bed to wait in as I will be staying overnight, I will need it as I start the day off with an appointment at Royal Perth Hospital for a lymphoscintigraphy (radio active injection in the boob) at 8am, then off to Armadale hospital for 11.30 to get ready for my surgery booking at 1.00 pm. I will totally be ready for a nap by then, so just for old times sake, I would like to be plonked in a bed in a ward to wait.  One can only hope.

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Reason for the Season

Ya! only three more sleeps to Christmas.  I tried to play the gee I’ve been diagnosed with cancer card, but that didn’t work, everyone is coming to our house for Christmas and I am making most of the food.  Today I’m making Pavlova and Hayley will bring her amazing Black Forrest Trifle, the recipe is from her friend Mel, absolutely disgustingly rich and decadent (the trifle, not Mel).  What a lovely girl Hayley is, last Friday while stacking shelves with stock in a store down Mandurah way (she is a rep for Coca Cola) an elderly lady was asking her about flavoured pump bottles, which the store didn’t stock.  While they chatted Hayley found out that the ladies’ husband was going through chemotherapy and not doing well.  One of the only things he could taste and enjoy was the lemon pump.   After they parted Hayley felt very strongly to give the woman some money as it sound like she was doing it tough but, couldn’t find her in the car park when she looked.  Being resourceful Hayley asked on Facebook, if anyone knew a lady who had a husband seriously ill with cancer in the area where she had mentioned living.  The response was amazing,  someone replied that they had asked their neighbour with a very sick husband if she had spoken to a coca cola rep the day before and she said yes.  Several people gave money and Hayley went and bought all the stock of lemon Pumps she could find on the way and turned up at the couple’s home bearing her gifts.  She apologised for visiting without an invitation and explained how she had tracked her down.  It was a very teary exchange, as both were overwhelmed.  The lady with a stranger’s kindness, and Hayley with the joy of being able to bless someone else.  Kindness and giving for no personal gain always gives us an overwhelming sense of well-being.  I think that is why we are told it is more blessed to give than to receive.  There is nothing like it, and speaks to us of what Christmas is all about.

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Take a moment to breathe, during the preparations.  If you are getting cranky at the shops, work or with family, reassess your to do list, and cross some things off, it is not worth the grief.  No one really cares if the floor was just mopped, or if there are finger marks on the sliding door.  Once everyone starts spilling drinks and throwing wrapping paper around, your beautifully laid plans for a perfect Christmas will have to be re thought.  So remember that God’s love is the motivation behind us celebrating Christmas, so take a deep breath and relax, don’t sweat the small stuff

A lovely Surprise

It was really hard to say goodbye to Sarah, our oldest daughter who flew back to Sydney on Monday night after spending the week with us.  Her arrival had been such a great surprise.  I didn’t have a clue.  Allan even took a call and when I said ‘who was it’, he said ‘I don’t know’, and I still didn’t twig.

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It was 11 pm and I was looking up Dr Google about treatments with Herceptin and other target therapies for breast dance oops cancer.  Maybe I should leave the mistake, I would much rather dance than deal with cancer.  Anyway I decided that wasn’t sensible if I was expecting to have a good nights sleep, so changed to playing around with a WordPress Template for this blog, I didn’t notice that Allan was chatting to me about the template even though I was protesting that I needed to go to sleep.  I was wondering why he kept jumping up everytime there was a noise. I don’t know why I had no idea what was coming, but when my youngest daughter arrived at the door, I thought oh no what’s happened, then realized she had her sister Sarah with her. What a lovely surprise. It was torturing her to be in the Eastern States and not here to support me, and mainly she needed to give me a big hug.   Sarah and her husband Jarrad moved to a Church in Sydney last year to be the creative Pastors. It was very difficult for us all to part with them as we have always been very close, Spencer their youngest was born while they were living with us and building their new home a few years back.  A couple from the Church used their flyers to pay for her trip, and here she was, until Monday night.

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We had a great time, although I was busy trying to get meals frozen and the last of the shopping finished in case I needed to have surgery before Christmas.  We had some great laughs in amongst serious discussions. We have all been involved with organising Church women’s events over the years, often hosting breast cancer morning teas. Sarah was telling us that at their ‘Think Pink’ fund raiser they had different names for the tables,  ‘Simply the Breast’, ‘Keeping Abreast’, ‘The Breast is yet to come’, Freeze your under Abreast’, ‘ Hit me with your Breast Shot’, ‘It was the Breast of Times it was the Worst of Times’, ‘Breast Friends for ever’’, Breast Days Ahead’, You save the Breast till Last’. There were thirty tables, so it must have taxed their creative juices.

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It is so good to have a sense of Humour.  They say laughter is the best medicine.  I saw a documentary where they did laugh therapy sessions (I am not kidding, you can pay people to come to work and do workshops for your employees).  You just stand there in a group and laugh your head off -at nothing. Your body apparently doesn’t know the difference between the fake or the real thing,  I always said bodies were stupid.  I can’t imagine that pretending to laugh is quite the same as a real all out eye watering crack up, but I guess it is better than nothing, however, it is meant to give muscles a full on workout, releasing a surge of stress busting Endorphins. They also say that people who read fiction don’t get as depressed, apparently your brain doesn’t know the difference between a real vacation and the imaginary places you are reading about.  Don’t tell the travel agents I spread this as they will all be after me.  Does this means our brains are stupid too. No, it really shows how amazingly we are created, and that you don’t need to be able to afford expensive holidays, just a library card, and if no friends are not  around to make you laugh, you can hire a movie or use that library card again, or just laugh at nothing for no reason and you can still be just as healthy.  Like the proverb says, ‘ a merry heart does good like a medicine’  and way cheaper, also saves petrol not driving to the Chemist.

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Thanks for joining me, bless you heaps and have a great weekend.

Eek! You are Taking too Long

The report I picked up on Tuesday, after my biopsy, said that I had a large lump consistent with a malignancy, so I was kind of eased into the outcome. My doctor hugged me when I arrived and found it very hard to tell me I had an aggressive, invasive ductal carcinoma which was HER2 positive, in my breast. We made an appointment for 10 days time with a Breast Surgeon. It was all kind of surreal; you feel it is happening to someone else. I have always been energetic and healthy, and looked after everyone else. I don’t do dependent very well, and never ask for help. So I never thought anything like this would happen to me.

After ignoring the lump for several months, you now feel panicky, and like no one is going fast enough.  Ten days seems like too long, and meanwhile your imaginary symptoms are escalating.  You feel little stabs in arm pits, tingling across your breasts and every twinge convinces you that the tumour is spreading out of control.


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Climbed into bed exhausted after spending the whole day texting or calling the kids and family and friends, and constantly having to apologize for upsetting them, reassuring them that I would be ok, not to worry, everything would be fine. Sharon my son in laws mum is a nursing sister; she chatted to me for a while on the phone during the evening and told me to take something to help me sleep. I took a couple of cold and flu tablets I had (which I pop on long flights.  Please don’t call the pill police) I was freezing cold, when I got into bed, and my feet were cramping. I think I was in shock even though I seemed to be ok. Allan started massaging my feet in the dark to try to warm them up, then I felt socks being slipped onto my feet. I think they were the dirty socks he had just taken off, but it was a very sweet gesture, and I felt very loved. (After reading this he said in his defense, that he had only had them on to watch telly that night and he had turned them inside out for me)

Woke up to find the dog had pooped on the floor, and had poop all on her furry bum, since she had straight chicken for dinner, two nights running with all the drama, and the minute you change her food, it upsets her poop routine. Just what I felt like doing in my foggy haze of cancer diagnosis!.

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I felt grumpy.  Even though my dearly beloved, had been so generous with his socks the night before, i thought he should get up and let the dog out.  Once my feet hit the ground – Boom it was there again – I have been diagnosed with cancer, then sleep was out of the question.

Right there I thought, something needs to change, there is no way stinking cancer is going to take over my life.  I said to God, you need to give me something else to think about.  Straight away, I decided to write this blog, also I remembered I hadn’t reminded the ladies I connect up with for coffee at Church about the Breakfast on Saturday, so should text them.  They say if you are feeling down or depressed to take your mind of your own problems and do something like bake a cake for a neighbour.  I know you probably want to squash cake in my face.  But, in fact it worked, as soon as I got focused on what I would do once I was up and about, I went back to sleep.

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Christmas Lights Canal Cruise


Had a fabulous time with our daughter Hayley, Ben and our grandson Beau on Thursday night cruising the Christmas Lights on the Mandurah Canals.  It was extra special because Sarah was with us as well as Ben’s parents.  Sarah flew in from Sydney as a surprise.  The whole family has been thrown into a bit of state since my being diagnosed with breast cancer last week.  Sarah was tortured being so far away and not being able to be here for me, so a beautiful couple at their Church, paid for her to fly home.  Her mum-in-law an a wonderful friend, flew to Sydney to help look after their three active children.  How blessed am I.  The Christmas Cruise was brought forward as I was due to see the Surgeon the next day, and find out what surgery I could expect to  have and how quickly.

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We had a great night, but, I couldn’t help thinking about the previous year.  We always pull up at the pier to get fish and chips, which we did last Christmas on our cruise.  I am an absolute tea totaller and as it was a hot day, I had raided my husbands fridge and grabbed what I thought was two small bottles of lemon, lime and bitters, not a problem.  We just sat down at the outside tables to eat the delicious smelling fish and chips and I pulled out a drink and took a big swig.  My throat started to burn, my eyes watered up and the first thought that flashed through my mind, was that the lime was off.  The second thought registered that it wasn’t cool drink at all but alcoholic.  My husband by this time had realised what was happening and in between hysterical laughter, managed to splutter out a “where did you get those bottles from”.  “Out of your bar fridge of course”.  He continued to laugh some more, but finally cleared up the mystery.  Apparently the source of my burnt throat was due to the drink not being regular fizzy but in fact Grappa, that a mate of his at darts makes himself, and is probably about 100% proof.  Needless to say, I stayed out of the bar fridge, this time round.

Waiting for Biopsy Results

Calendar: Medical Exam Reminder/ Doctor Appointment

GET REGULAR MAMMOGRAMS.  During the waiting days, you realize you were ignoring the signs. I had a feeling I was due for a mammogram, they usually sent me a reminder every two years. So here is the first thing TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOURSELF Like most women time is a warp, we are busy with family, husbands, grandkids, life and the thought comes to us every now and then, but meanwhile another years goes by. Because I was waiting for a surgery to send a reminder, I never checked and as it turned out it had been six years since my last mammogram.  I had just reassured my daughter a few months back that I get checked every two years and that I was due now. (she was concerned because I had been using HRT patches for years and my mom had breast cancer in her early forties, as it turned out my tumor was not an Estrogen feeder, I had a niggling little guilt that I had bought this on my self by prolonged use of HRT; medical people recommend no longer than five years and I had been using hormone patches for twelve).



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The way to remember to get your scan is to make a day each year say, 1st April, when you change the smoke detector batteries, or when there is a Commonwealth or Olympic games.  If you need to be checked every two years, as soon as they start advertising the games (not the hunger games), you know it is time to make your appointment for a mammogram.    Darlene Zchech a well known singer and Pastor in the Christian world, who has just been going through her own breast cancer journey this past year, was saying at a women’s conference that she would go each year on Christmas eve to have her Scan, then go shopping, only last year, by the end of the day, she knew her Christmas wouldn’t be the same.

I know many women who are over 50 years of age, and have never had a mammogram. With all the information that is thrown at us you would think we would all be right onto it, but the fact is it is like watching ads for third world organizations, we turn off the telly and forget about it, out of sight out of mind. Unless we make a specific day and lock it in, it just doesn’t get done, because the truth is, we really think stuff like this happens to other women, and we never think it will happen to us.

Get a diary, and don’t forget to look at it from time to time!