Mother’s Day 2016

Mother’s Day yesterday, was a bit different to last year.  2015 I was right in the thick of Chemo, and it’s side effects which were not very nice.  This year is different.  Chemo seems a life time ago.  My hair and nails have grown back, and we have owner built our house since October and moved in back in March.  IMG_3584Here I am with new great baby grandson Lucas, and my hair.  He is just the most darling little boy and number two grandy for Allan and I.  We are so proud of Bianca and Daniel they have taken to parenthood like ducks to water.

The hair is very soft and I am planning to have a trim and foils done this week.  They recommend you wait six months before colouring as it is so fragile, it could snap off, not for health reasons, for the few people who have said ‘ooh are you allowed to have it coloured yet’.  My nails are long and normal, and apart from some tiredness still, I feel good.  It turns out my Thyroid is not functioning properly, and my iron stores were low, so this is the cause of the tiredness.  Thyroid, can be from poor nutrition, which could be the case, since I have lost fifteen kilos since finishing Chemo, and really just because I hardly ate, which is not the best diet.

IMG_3659Meal prep for Mother’s Day.  The Muffins are vegan, sweet potato and coconut milk from ‘Hell yeah it’s vegan’ site.  We have some vegans in our family now, so I made chick pea curry for them, and lamb for the carnivores.  These muffins are so moist and delicious and I posted them last year on my blog.  Even if you are not vegan once you try them, you will more than likely make them again and again.

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I felt so spoilt, as I am sure many of you other Mums were by your families.  Beautiful flowers and cosy PJ’S and Boot slippers.  I have always told my kids, don’t buy me slippers, I hate them.  But, this year, I changed my mind, being in the new house with concrete floors, till the garden is done, it is freezing, so I was very excited to have slippers for Mother’s Day.  It is Daughter-in-Law Lesa’s birthday today so we will see Troy’s family tonight.  It is also the anniversary of my Mum passing away twenty two years ago the day after Mother’s day that year.  I can’t believe it has been that long; The time has gone fast.

I always feel for the girls who are dealing with the struggle to get pregnant and those that have lost children or estranged from them at this time of the year.  Last year I mentioned Mother Teresa who never gave birth herself but, was a mother to thousands, so don’t undervalue the impact you can have on others.  One beautiful lady Rose, who turned eighty while we knew her, and had been a spinster all her life, yet, she took it on herself to encourage Allan.  She would always praise him up after he had played his guitar or led the worship at our Church. His Mum while we love her dearly, had never been that encourager, so it was like God put Rose in his life, to be a surrogate Mum and take up the mothering slack.

 

IMG_3661I had a wedding on Saturday afternoon at King’s Park.  This is the view from the Jarrah Pavillion near the War Memorial.  What a beautiful City we live in, and it is such a wonderful view.  It was freezing cold and windy, but, at least it didn’t rain on them during the festivities.  I always like to arrive early in case the traffic is bad on the freeway, so I sat in the car park with my little flask of coffee, and one of the delicious muffins and read my book.  Delightful!

What They Don’t Tell You

In the interest of full disclosure, I thought I would talk about some of the side effects to Chemo. None of these are life threatening or anything you wouldn’t be able to cope with unless it went on and on, never the less they are enough to make your life a bit miserable while they invade your normally healthy life.  I have talked to other patients receiving treatment and they say the same thing.  No one tells you about this stuff, and no one talks about it because it is embarrassing.  You get a quick run down of side effects as a list when you begin this journey so I thought I would share some of my experience.  Right, first week after Docetaxel, feeling weird from all the Dexamethasone you take to stop side effects, then you can be plagued with Diarrhoea which because the Chemo attacks the skin in every area of your body, resulting in an upset Digestive tract, causing inflammation and as your blood count drops over the first seven days, you can end up with bad mouth ulcers and thrush in your mouth which goes right through you, even though you diligently brush your teeth and gargle with special mouth wash.  The side line of this is that you can’t taste your food, which could be seen as a bonus as it is good for your figure.  If you happen to be unfortunate and have haemorrhoids this unrelenting Diarrhoea can have grown men crying.  This week also can have some days of quite bad bone pain, although mine was hardly anything this last round as I had a Philgrastim injection to stimulate my white blood cell production, so things didn’t get as gruesome. The next week things improve a little as your blood count starts to pick back up, and you start to taste things again, although you are generally too tired to make any food, which could still be seen as a bonus and good for the figure. Third week arrives and you start to have a bit more energy, but I always get watery eyes, so even though I head out with my makeup on, all my eye liner and shadow is usually gone in half an hour. This isn’t as much of a problem for the guys. Docetaxel also causes tingling and numbness in the ends of your fingers and toes, as well as this the skin peels off your hands and feet, and a few of my nails are lifting up.  Some people have their nails come right off. During all this discomfort you can’t lose sight of the bigger picture, while this Chemo is attacking all these good fast multiplying cells, if there is even one or two undetected Cancer cells floating around my body, they will be getting thumped as well, and the good thing is nails, and hair etc all grow back, but Cancer cells can’t regenerate themselves, so they are gone for good and that is the whole objective of this unpleasant but necessary exercise.

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Anyway, this week I feel quite well so went shopping at Booragoon with Hayley today and got a few birthday presents.  We live on quite a tight budget, which I manage to stay on track with generally in most areas.  I produce very frugal budget meals, and pay all our utilities fortnightly which means we are often in credit when things like the power bill arrive, but, when it comes to presents, my budget always blows out.  With Easter, Christmas and birthdays for four adult children and their partners, (I don’t buy easter eggs for adults) thirteen grandchildren and one great-grandchild I find it hard to pull this area in.  I love buying them presents and find it hard to stop.  Unless I start making them all cookies I don’t see it changing.  Unfortunately, we do live in a very materialistic society. I remember reading books like those written by Laura Ingalls, where she tells of a time where her older sister had a doll, but Laura had to be happy with a corn cob doll until the day that she final got a real doll of her own.  Children would be thrilled to have an orange to eat all to them self tucked into their Christmas stocking.  I can only imagine what a modern-day child would tell Father Christmas to do with his orange if they found one underneath the Christmas Tree instead of the X Box or Wii they were expecting.  There must be a compromise.  I am taking a while to change what I expect of myself now we are on a lower-income as a mostly retired couple, compared to what we used to do when we were high flyers years ago and bought our teenage boys $200 sneakers and designer T Shirts.  Mind you we got a bit fed up with that and started giving them a clothing allowance to manage as they saw fit.  This brought about instant changes to their label choices, suddenly Mambo T Shirts were off the list and they were buying five dollar specials.  Another thing I started doing around the same time was giving each child an allowance at things like the local Show Grounds so they had to pick carefully whether they would blow it on rides or show bags, instead of treating Mum like an ATM.  It is much easier to keep a reign on things with just two of us in the house, who are not fussy eaters or needing money for School excursions, I just need to buckle down on gifts.

Fun in Paris

Fun in Paris

A couple of years back we tightened our belts while we saved up to go on a World Trip.  Take away coffees were a thing of the past and take away food was not in the equation, if we headed off anywhere we would always bring something to eat with us.  Stopping spending doesn’t happen overnight, it requires a complete change of mindset, consequently, when we were on our overseas trip I found tipping a pain.  I kept thinking, I went without takeaway coffees to save up for this trip, and now I am giving at least $5 dollars away over and over to anyone who does anything vaguely helpful.  We Aussies are notoriously bad tippers, in spite of this I did find It was easy to do sometimes when the service was really good, but, it was hard to come to terms with when it wasn’t.

Off for my final Chemo round on Friday, Hooray!!

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Chemo Round Five

We waved goodbye to our Sydney darlings on Thursday afternoon, the time went so quickly.  Beau kept yelling out ‘goodbye my cousins’ it was so cute.

IMG_2672No time for being sad though as I had to get ready for chemo the next day.  For the first time in weeks I felt well and like doing housework, I am wondering though if that is a ‘Freudian thing’ you know oh darn it I feel like working but I can’t now I have to go to Chemo.

Me with my Chemo nurse Emma

Me with my Chemo nurse Emma

Because I had such a bad reaction last time they gave me a Filgrastim injection to bring home which I have to give myself tonight.  This is what I had in hospital to stimulate the bone marrow to make white blood cells.  So hopefully my blood count won’t drop so low and I won’t have quite such bad side effects. They started my Docetaxel IV and within a couple of minutes I came over all hot.  So everything was turned off, and they gave me Phenergan and some more Cortisone and called the Doctor. He said this often happened on round two of this stuff.  So they waited a while then started it up again more slowly.  Everything went well then and we actually got out of their by two thirty instead of five thirty last time. Even with two weeks of painful mouth ulcers and hardly eating my weight still goes up.  I am assured it is because of the cortisone etc.  Hopefully I will get a handle on in when this is all over after my last round of Chemo in three weeks.

This is how I am planning to look later

This is how I am planning to look later

I may not end up skinny if I keep eating ice-cream, but this one was free after the last one had a winning stick.  Does anyone else find silver ice-cream weird.  I ate it anyway, and now I have another winning stick.  Mr Streets isn’t helping my hopes for looking slim.  I guess I could give it to someone else.  But, I am not that unselfish.

Weird Silver Icecream

Weird Silver Icecream

One of the gross things that happened is the skin peeled off my feet and hands.  I felt like a leper and thought it might be wise to wear latex gloves when cooking.  I didn’t want the family wondering why  I was putting bamboo shoots into all their food. yukky!

Had a lovely day resting up, and pottering around cleaning up the kitchen and getting things back to normal.  Hope you all have a great weekend.

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Too Hot to Drink

Like many of my generation, it came as a shock when we began to have to wash our rubbish.  I have always had a jar fetish anyway, and couldn’t bear to throw out any jar that was an interesting shape.  Eventually, at clear out time, a whole draw full of various unused glass containers would be ditched.  Now, with the recycling surge, I put a lot more of them to use in the pantry and fridge.  My sister gave me two varieties of jam from Margaret River.  We enjoyed the contents and since I liked the shape of the jars, decided to remove the labels.  After a week of soaking, those babies were not budging.  I ended up having to laboriously peel bits off then attack them with detergent and a curly girl, and finally they ended up sparkling like new.  But, give a girl a break, I am just feeling back to almost normal since my first Chemo round a week ago, so not wanting to waste too much energy on my first housework day my Sanguine side which thinks life is too short nearly threw them in the recycling, but, my Choleric side which says ‘never give up, never surrender’, wouldn’t quit, with the end result being clean shiny jars, ready for reuse.  In hindsight, we could have had a weekend away, with the monetary value of the woman hours I put into cleaning them, and I can’t help thinking manufacturers, could use better stickers.  I can’t be the only one who is fed up with trying to get labels off new plastic containers, and seeing the sticky goop their three years later, or buying someone a book as a gift and having to give it to them with a grubby residue mark where the price was. That’s my rant for the day, so back to Chemo Side Effects.

IMG_2418FullSizeRender-2FullSizeRenderOver the weekend, I purchased some over the counter medication for the indigestion I was experiencing.  These helped a little, except, yesterday, I set out and made some mild chicken soup, thinking that would be a very indigestion free food.  Turns out that even though I have always had a cast iron gullet in the past, and have always drunk boiling hot cups of tea and sipped on piping hot soups.  This is not how it will be during Chemo.  Previously, I explained the chemicals attack fast growing cells which skin and hence the digestive tract are made of.  Obviously, your food passage can get quite tender and sensitive and didn’t appreciate my home-made scalding onslaught.  It objected, quite strenuously in a very painful manner, to the point that I rang my Doctor who had a script for a stronger medicine faxed through to our Chemist, and Allan good man that he is rushed off to get them for me.  They seem to have done the trick, although I am planning to be a bit more careful about the temperature of my food, and make sure I chew everything well, and don’t eat large amounts. It has been a couple of days and has  now settled down.  Compared to what I have heard, my side effects are nothing, so I really can’t complain, so far I am having a good run. Thanks everyone, keep up the good wishes and prayers, they are very appreciated.

IMG_2414Chicken Soup Recipe at my other blog ‘Evie Down Under’

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Relaxing while I can

I don’t like to complain, and you health buffs that scoff down your gallons of water each day without a problem will laugh, but I am sick of drinking water.  I am supposed to have 2-3 litres a day, and I feel like I am sloshing around.  I know it is good for me, and when having Chemo it is crucial to drink plenty to flush the toxins through.  Of course, what goes in, must come out, hence the 10 to 15 trips to the loo the other night.  Lack of sleep can make a person grumpy, luckily I can operate on a small amount of sleep, without getting too feral, as long as it doesn’t go on and on.  For the last day or so I  have been getting terrible indigestion, which means sadly for my craving driven hearty meals of late, I will have to cut down to very small meals. Apparently, heartburn and indigestion are often a side effect of some Chemo Therapy drugs, and as I have been doing really well compared to many others I hear about, I can’t complain.  I may even lose some weight.  That would be awesome.

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I sat by the indoor pool on Friday, relaxing and reading my book, while Hayley gave Beau swimming lessons.  I did rally myself from time to time to take a photo of the little man.  A person could get used to this leisurely pace, making long phone calls, texting friends, writing which is my passion, I never seemed to make time for. If there is a good time to have this happen, at least we are semi-retired with just the two of us here in a big house.  I feel for cancer patients with young children having to go through treatment, with babies climbing over them and nappies to change.  Not everyone has such a wonderful support network around them.  I feel very blessed.  However, life doesn’t seem to let you off for long.  I have several weddings coming up, for those of you who don’t know, I am a Marriage Celebrant, so am trying to juggle weddings in with Chemo Therapy, so that I don’t do something Chemo crazy and spoil their day. Hopefully, my wig from America will arrive before my hair all falls out.  If not, I wonder how a turban or big hat on the celebrant will go down with my couples.  I could end up on funniest home videos, if my wig flies off during a ceremony down by the windy beach.

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Chemo Day One

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Like everything in life, the leading up to it is often worse than the thing itself.  Chemo was painless.  They arrive with a big tray of stuff, all suited up with gloves to push all these files of chemicals into you, anti-nausea medication, followed by the ‘Red Devil’ Epirubicin, and two others for my cocktail.  Allan was there stroking my leg, I think it hurt him more than me.  They were flat-out at Medical Oncology yesterday as they are moving to Fiona Stanley Hospital in a few days and trying to get everyone through, so I didn’t see my own doctor.  The older doctor who saw me before Chemo, said ‘with what they are giving you, I would be surprised if you didn’t get side effects’  I thought you don’t know how many people are praying for me or sending good wishes buddy, I will be fine.  There are some side effects that are normal because of how the chemo works, it kills off cells that are fast multiplying like cancer cells and along with that, healthy cells that are fast growing like hair, nails, skin.  This can all affect your mouth and digestive tract because it has, you guessed it, skin.  Therefore, as the Chemo works more bits and pieces may develop.  On about the tenth day blood counts are low and can make you tired.  The good news is when treatment is over, all the good cells like hair regenerate and everything comes back (lovely curly locks this time thank you) bad news for the cancer cells though, they can’t regenerate.  This sums up the theory behind the drastic chemical attack on the bodies of Chemo patients.

My tray of goodies

My tray of goodies

I left my shoe in this picture, because shortly after it broke and I had to walk around with one shoe on and one shoe off, I only bought it last week in my shoe haul.  They are closing down so I can’t even take it back!

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 On the way home I suddenly felt the craving for Scotch finger Shortbread biscuits and jelly lollies, the brochures had said to eat healthy, but, my nurse said to listen to your body (I think she meant if I needed to lay down) anyway, I decided to take her advice and we stopped on the way home, to get a thermometer so I can take my temperature all the time, and while Allan did that I got my supplies of bikkies and killer python snakes.  Hayley was in the shop doing her thing for Coca-Cola, so I had a little visit with her.  By this time I was starting to feel a little woozy, and even though we had home-made biscuits in the pantry I will blame my crazy need for shop bought sugar on being off my nut on drugs.

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Still, I have pulled up quite well, I just felt like I had a weird flu last night, so slept quite a bit.  Even though I probably wouldn’t  go off shopping today, I am not non-compos. If I want to play the glad game I have gotten cancer at a good place in time, years ago people had to mortgage their homes to have Chemo treatments especially for targeted therapies. Chemo sessions come in at about $3000 a pop, so with targeted therapy Herceptin for example, every three weeks for a year – $60,000.  They gave me a pill before we began (I don’t know what it was, presumably to help with side effects) and the nurse said, you just swallowed $400.  We were given sandwiches and cups of tea or coffee with biscuits.  Although, the lovely tea lady kept missing me with the biscuits, which is why I think my craving started, it took me back to a happy time when I was having babies, and the hospital staff would wake you up with a cuppa and cookies at 5am ready for your first breast feed.  They have stopped this since then to save money.  Which will presumably prevent some Mum from going on a happy memory driven biscuit haul later in life if she is going through Chemo and save her body which is already, trying to cope with all that poison to process from a pile of sugar added to the mix.  Presumably that’s why I have a headache this morning.   Will keep you posted.  My thanks and Love to you all, for the prayer and good wishes.