Enjoying the Family

It is so good to be feeling more like my old self this week, and be able to enjoy my family being here on holiday.  We took the kids down to the foreshore in Mandurah.  They had a ball on the train.

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The train stopped so everyone could enjoy the field of poppies created by the community for the 100 year anniversary of the ANZAC’s.  All beautifully handmade poppies, they were amazing.

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I finally got into some baking and made the famous condensed milk cookies, Beat 500 grms of butter, with 1 cup of sugar till fluffy, add 1 tin condensed milk, and then 5 cups S/R flour.  Roll heaped teaspoons and bake.  I poke a dent in the top and add jam to make jam drops, also choc chips to some.  This recipe makes about 100 odd biscuits so quite economical.

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I have been blown away by friends and families generosity over this journey through Breast Cancer surgery and follow-up Chemo treatment.  Even at Christmas our friend Janice sent me home with a huge pile of home made Rocky Road to help feed my hoard.  Ben’s Mum made a delicious cake and slice when Sarah and Jarrad were arriving as she knew I wasn’t well.  I have been given so many gifts and flowers I feel very spoilt and loved.  I showed you all the pack Hayley put together from Sarah and her when I was starting Chemo, and while I was in hospital last week Hayley who has a thriving hand poured Candle business Sweet Esscentials (check it out on Facebook) cancelled her market stall and came to visit me instead.  At least she got to spend some sister time with Sarah, and of course they came bearing gifts as usual.  Gorgeous orange Roses, new nail polish to paint my nails and cheer me up and of course a takeaway coffee.

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Troy and Lesa brought great grand baby Amaya to see me.  Scott, Dani and Hannah were all sick so couldn’t come near me.  Sarah and Jarrad flew to the Pastors Conference on the Gold Coast, so on Monday Hayley and Beau came to see me and once again brought me a coffee and one of my favourite Country magazines that is three in one. Such a lovely family.

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I was feeling so sick, but looking at some lovely home decor, started me looking forward to decorating our new home, which we are hoping to start in July once I have finished with Radiation and Chemo.

I was in bed after getting home on Monday night not even thinking about what take away meal Allan would have to get for dinner, when Hayley came with a delicious meal of Gnocchi and cheesy Italian bread, as well as dessert.  What a blessing!

It is awful that when your blood count is low, the little people are the ones that have the most germs so are to be avoided.  Well that is not going to happen, seeing grandkids is what cheers Grandmothers up and makes life worth living, so my white blood cells will just need to behave.

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Neutropenia What?

Well I waved goodbye to the family as they headed off to the other Nanna and Grandad for a couple of days.  I felt dreadful so I headed off to bed for the afternoon. I had picked up a cold from one of the grandies and was starting to feel quite sick. By the time Allan came home from the Darts at 5pm my temperature had climbed to 39 degrees.

IMG_2649We are given a card when we start Chemo to say that we are a Febrile Neutropenia Risk, and that if our temperature reaches 38 degrees then to go straight to the hospital. So off we went to Peel Campus at Mandurah.  I plonked my card down in front of the Triage Nurse and she said ‘well that is a get into hospital free card’ and straight away got me a mask to protect me from germs and they took me straight through to the emergency ward.  Neutropenia is when your white blood cell count drops below 2.00 normal people range between 4.3 and 10.9 but, your body can’t find infection when it is under too so you are Neutropenic.  My count was 0.02 so nearly 0.00 which can be quite dangerous.  I was taken to a private ward after having a chest X-ray and some blood tests and there I stayed for two days being attended by gowned up nurses and doctors with masks on their faces.  Some one should have explained to the cleaning lady that it wasn’t me that was contagious, but, the gowns were to protect me from their germs.  She came in with a baby wipe thing and scurried around quickly, wiping down a few surfaces and was gone in a flash, I am sure she was scared she would catch something.

My room was called the Cove ward and I was told not to go out because of germs in the corridors.  It was lovely on the second day when my blood count was up to 1.6 the staff all started coming in without masks and gowns, so it was nice to finally meet them and see their faces.

I had a lovely view from my hospital bed

I had a lovely view from my hospital bed

My mouth started to feel a little better, so I started to enjoy my food at last.  Then the lady organising the food menu’s came along and pooped my party.  No sorry, you can’t have the cheese and crackers or the fruit salad.  Nutropenic patients have to stick with the cooked food, no salad, fresh fruit etc in case they have any bacteria on them.  This was good to know for my next round, although you can eat these things at home because you can make sure they are washed thoroughly.

Over the first 24 hours I had three Filgrastim injections in my stomach (this stimulates your bone marrow to make more white blood cells) and iv drips with antibiotics.  On Monday night they let me go home with oral antibiotics, with instructions to come back if my temperature spiked again.

Basically, I slept from Saturday afternoon till Wednesday afternoon, so if I am not beautiful now, no amount of sleep will help.  I was just starting to think I would never feel well again when last night I came good.  It is almost like something lifts off you and you feel normal again.

Sarah and Jarrad have gone to a pastors conference on the Gold Coast till Friday, and originally Jarrad’s Mum Sharon was going to stay here with me and the kiddies to help me look after them.  Unfortunately, not everything goes to plan and Sharon was left looking after them at her place.  I thought at least she had Jarrad’s Dad to help but, he meanwhile, had come down with the cold.  Anyway, Sharon is bringing them down today and staying overnight, so we will finally be able to have some fun, on this holiday.

Chemo Sucks

Hi Everyone, sorry this has been a over a week coming.  This last round of Chemo hit with a-vengeance.  I had two not bad days then I started having bad bone pain which laid me up over last weekend.  I had mostly prepared everything for Sarah and Jarrad arriving with their family on Monday night, so managed to potter and do the last few things.  Dragged myself up and went to an all day professional development day for Celebrants that we have to do each year or get struck off.  Came home had a lay down, then headed to the airport to pick up the family.  That was lovely we haven’t seen them since November and all of the grandkids had grown like beans.

One happy Grandad,

One happy Grandad,

The big reunion was very exciting.  Hayley who works for Coca Cola, also appreciated the advert for Coke Life which just launched this week in the background.

The timing sucks, with the Docetaxel they gave me, your blood count drops sooner at around 4 days, so tiredness sets in as well as mouth ulcers, sore fingers and toes as your nails get attacked, and the sole of my feet are sore.  So much for holidays, I usually love cooking and spoiling everyone and I am laid out like a potato on the couch most of the time.  The other night I was in bed and could smell the delicious burritos, Sarah was making for dinner.  It was a completely foreign experience for me, but, something I just have to expect for a while to come.  The good thing about it is I can hardly eat cause my mouth is so sore, so I should lose some weight.

I felt a bit better yesterday, and Sarah and I headed off to the Breast Surgeon for my three month follow up appointment, then did a bit of shopping and met Hayley for lunch as she was working at Mandurah Forum.   The Doctor was happy with everything, but, said I will probably feel tired for months after my treatment ends, and especially during Radiation which I start on 15th June.  So Happy Days!

Meanwhile, it is lovely having the family all here in Western Australia.  Beau absolutely loves Halle and has been coming here to play most days and going home exhausted.  Troy came with his tribe on Thursday and the cousins had a wonderful time catching up.

Saturday lunch time, the family headed off to the other Nanna and Grandads and I headed off to bed, and then to the hospital with severe Neutropenia, but I will tell you all about that tomorrow.

Organic and the Budget

This looks better when it is bubbling and hot

This looks better when it is bubbling and hot

I’ve decided that going completely Organic is not economically suited to our pensioner budget, so we will change some of the things were we can and not worry about the rest. Since we don’t eat that much meat, I have decided to only buy grass-fed beef with no added hormones etc and free range chicken.  We will just eat less and it all balances out.  Last night I made two Cottage Pies with my $8.60 500 gram pack of beef mince loaded with vegetables and topped with potato and sweet potato mash, one to eat after being at Chemo Treatment all afternoon and another to freeze for later.  This followed the  vegetarian meal the night before made with a $1.00 can of lentils and cooked with sweet potato, potato, broccoli, corn, carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaf, oregano, and vegetable chicken style stock it was delicious.  We are not vegetarian, but thoroughly enjoy veggo meals in between our meat dishes.  This made the budget for three nights protein $3.20 per meal, very frugal in my book.  I will be buying organic tinned lentils and chick peas once I run out of my stock here, but they are only $1.70 a can so still great value for a meal of chick pea curry with brown rice, yum!

Getting the Dormitories ready for the families arrival

Getting the Dormitories ready for the families arrival

Meanwhile, This round of Chemo (Docetaxel) apparently causes bone pain which kicked in last night. Probably moving furniture and boxes etc, preparing for the family coming on Monday didn’t help, but, it is pretty annoying, to be experiencing bad leg pain, and I have stuff I want to do.  Anyway, there is no option but to rest up and hope it goes away quickly.

Yummmm

Yummmm

We had a great Easter Sunday.  Sixteen of the our children and their darling little offspring were here for dinner.  There are a few that were missing, the five from Sydney, Our oldest granddaughter, her partner Kyle and baby Amaya, and Bianca, once they all get licenses and cars our numbers at family gatherings will increase back to the 25 or so we used to have.  The more the merrier I say, and after demolishing a big pot of fettucini, and Hayley’s beautiful baked cheese cake they were all about to leave as the kids were getting tired, when Troy bless him said hey we can’t leave mum with all these dishes, and he washed the pots and pans that wouldn’t fit in the dishwasher before they left.

Amaya enjoying her chips

Amaya enjoying her chips

We will be having a big family dinner while all the siblings are here in Western Australia, so that should be lovely.  Mum’s always get excited to have all their family together.

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Chemo Round Four

IMG_20150408_142708 Chemo round four today, so I am past the half way mark, two more to go.  This round was only one bag of Docetaxel so thought we would be out of the hospital pretty quickly. Wrong!  You do get used to waiting and don’t get annoyed, I chuckle when I hear people say at the blood place ‘but I have an appointment at 10’oclock and my request form says urgent’  What they don’t realise is that everyone in the place has an appointment for the same time and theirs is urgent as well because all the doctors want their blood results ready for when they meet with them in half and hours time.  We learn to take our books, and tablets etc to keep ourselves entertained.  I did get called in for my one o’clock appointment at 2.15 but was glad because we made friends with some ladies while we waited.  One of them was dealing with bone cancer and is considered terminal, they give her treatment everyday for two weeks by tablet at home and the she comes in for Chemo to the Cancer ward to have a drip.  My Oncologist was telling me last month that the reason the ward is so full all the time is because people like my new friend are having much more hopeful treatment and their lives can be extended for years.  The tragedy in all this is that she was screened every six months after her first breast cancer treatment and went in to see her Medical oncologist expecting a five-year all clear handshake, and he said,’ sit down, I’m sorry but you have another lump and it has spread to your lymph nodes already’. She had been having screenings every six months and had previously had an aggressive breast cancer, so clearly six monthly is too long.

I didn’t notice my lump till about September, and as I have said before from the time I was biopsied on the 30th November, till my surgery one month later on the 30th December my cancer had grown from 3cm to 5.5 cm.  When I first saw my Medical Oncologist he said I would be screened every 4 months, then recently when I mentioned it he said 6 months.  They are very busy and see hundreds on people in a day, so you have to be your own health carer and ask the questions pertaining to your life and well-being. I know in my life God puts people in my path for a reason, and talking with those ladies has cemented the resolve I had to make sure I have screenings every 4 months for years to come.  Breast Cancer like other cancers has no age barrier, one of my friends was diagnosed just a few months before me and she was 86.  Like they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Allan like all the other chemo companions sits in a small hard chair for hours while we are there, we are going to put a suggestion in the box that visitors get a recliner rocker as well

Allan like all the other chemo companions sits in a small hard chair for hours while we are there, we are going to put a suggestion in the box that visitors get a recliner rocker as well


The reason there is so much waiting, is because in the Chemo Treatment Ward things don’t always run to schedule, and once you are in there, they take their time with each one of you, there is no feeling of being on a production line.  By the time I was set up and my cannula in place it was about 3pm, then some Saline is flushed through the line.  I had taken two Dexamethasone tablets the night before and two at breakfast, so they gave me two more and waited for half an hour for those to take effect before starting my Docetaxel.  They are very thorough with each patient, checking who you are and that they have the right bag of goodies for you.  Docetaxel causes lists of side effects and patients can have an allergic reaction when it is being administered, hence all the tablets before hand.  As usual I had no reaction.  I have a very strong constitution and heaps of people praying for me and thinking of me, all of which I am sure helps a lot.  This lot of chemo can make you more tired as your blood count gets very low quicker during day 4-7 than with the previous lot which is day 10-14 and can continue for some time till your red cells start to pick up.

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When we were chatting in the waiting room, I couldn’t help laughing when the lady who has the bone cancer, was telling us that after her double mastectomy they were going to dinner, she asked her friend if she could borrow her bed socks that she knew were in her overnight bag ready for their overnight stay at the hotel.  These were shoved down her jumper to fill the empty spaces.  Later that night after dinner, she wondered why a gentleman at the table was looking at her funny, and when she glanced down, the socks had worked their way up to nearly her shoulders.  It reminded me of a Doris Day movie I love ‘On Moonlight Bay’  Doris is going on her first date dressed like a girl, she is usually in baseball clothes; Her mother trying to amp up her appeal to the boy across the road the lovely Gordon McRae, shoves two powder puffs down Doris’ top;  During the bouncy dancing, first one then the second powder puff bounces out onto the floor.  Poor Margorie (Doris) is mortified and runs off to the Ladies room, leaving Bill (Gordon) wondering what is going on until a fellow dancer hands him a powder puff and says ‘excuse me but I think your girl just dropped this’.

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Easter Weekend

Well I have just a couple of days to get the house ready for our oldest daughter Sarah, her husband Jarrad and three of our grandchildren arriving for three weeks holiday. I have Chemo on Wednesday, and since this lot is meant to make me more tired than previously, I need to be ready before hand so I can give myself some days to recuperate if I do get some side effects.

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I haven’t been doing much, so haven’t a lot to tell you. I did go off shopping after a couple of days lying around as I needed to get some gifts, for birthdays in my life. Allan bought me a lovely Gold pendant, my anniversary present in advance, while I was in the jewellers getting something for someone else. With thirteen grandchildren, one great grandchild and various children and partners, the present shopping takes a lot of time and energy. Some of the children are at that age where they just want money, so that is easy, but, usually I am thinking about someones present most weeks. This year for easter I decided to just do chocolate for those that don’t have an income, so Casey down basically, which cut the shopping load a little.

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They say ‘Insanity, is doing the same thing you have always done, the same way you have always done it and expecting a different result’ so with this in mind, and having had a large Cancerous Breast Tumour removed, I figured I would like to change some things I have been doing to my body, that may make it less susceptible to having a cancer come back. They say people with higher vitamin D levels, have less chance of a cancer returning, also exercise is important. Being overweight is another one, although I have seen lots of skinny people at the chemo ward. I know, I know, Ive got too much time to research things now, so I am constantly on another band wagon. The medical people when suggesting life style changes for breast cancer patients, do tend to say organic food is better . I would think so too since meats are full of antibiotics and hormones, many of our crops are sprayed with Glyphosates which the United Nations National Agency for Research in Cancer declared could be carcinogenic to Humans, yet it is used everywhere.

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Meanwhile every year on 2nd April, it is World Autism Awareness Day.  Our little grandson Jonas donned his Batman suit for the walkathon to celebrate the day at the Aspect School for Autism Spectrum he attends.  He is such a beautiful boy, and we are so blessed to have him in our lives. I can’t wait to see them next week, when they arrive for their holiday.

Easter Sunday will be busy but fun, I am off to Church in the morning and then we have kids and grandkids coming for dinner.  Have a great weekend.

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