My cancer journey

Strange Christmas gifts for me

All I want for Christmas is 3 tattoos and a breast inflation. Apparently that’s what I’m getting.

Yesterday I had an appointment with my new Radiotherapy specialist at Ringwood Private. He was more rapid firing than my Dr at Maroondah but seemed very thorough and in a rush to commence the program. I begin radiotherapy on the 29th of December. I was hoping to have a break and begin late January but at least I will get through the treatment sooner this way and spend some time recovering before we go to Europe in May.

On Christmas Eve I have my last ‘breast inflation’ appointment at Maroondah where Dr Grim (not his real name) will advance on me with the largest syringe on the Earth and inject 75ml into the tissue expander. That will be my last one yay! Later in the day I go to Ringwood Private to have 3 tattoos and a CT scan to prepare for the radiotherapy. I hope the tattoos are something cute. I rather fancy an owl or something. So Christmas Eve will be spent in hospitals and not preparing for Christmas day at my place!! Oops. At least I’ll have tattoos.

While they are there I could get this tattoo on the back of my head. You like? My hair is still falling out so I’m not expecting long locks for Christmas at this stage.

The doctor decided that I need 33 treatments rather than the original 25 as I have had a big gap between surgery and radiotherapy and I am high risk of the cancer spreading to the chest cavity. So that’s every day except weekends for 6 weeks or so. Ho hum. What’s a few more weeks in the scheme of things?

Oncology nurses are angels

I can’t thank the staff in the breast clinic and the oncology nurses at Maroondah enough. Having chemotherapy is frightening for many people but they made something which can be fraught with fear and anxiety, a supportive and caring place to be. They are always concerned and kind but they are also fun and friendly. They go over and above their call of duty and run their little legs off all day supporting people who can be at many stages of grief or anxiety.

I’ve heard many cancer patients find it difficult to move from this supportive environment to ‘being alone’ and I can understand why.  Having had chemo for 8-9 months now they have become a part of the family. The staff walking the journey at your side is really important and stepping away from that can be a little daunting for the patient and their partner.

To top it off, the MOTH has teased the daylights out of them for the past 8 months. Perhaps he will finance their self esteem building sessions.

Feeling unravelled

Screenshot 17:12:2014 8:53 pm

Please don’t ask me what goes on in my brain. Col says my brain scares him. This week I did a series of 4 greyhounds who are looking rather ‘unravelled’. I sold 3 of them before they were finished. I can identify with them in that I am tired, I have various aches and pains but I’m still running towards the finish line. I am not skinny though!!! Stupid breast cancer chemo all has ‘weight gain’ as a side effect. Not to mention all the eating I’ve been doing but let’s blame the chemo.

Actually I think I am less tired but with all the Christmas celebrations I don’t feel it. This morning I actually did some RUNNING on the athletics track. It wasn’t much but enough to start getting my fitness back. Hopefully I’ll be able to get out of bed tomorrow without the resulting sore muscles.

I’ve been asked many times where people can see my artwork. At the risk of seeming self promotional…

Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/jennywoodart

Website http://jennywoodart.com/

‘The no chemo’ sleeping party

Here’s an update on chemo number 18…

I sat with 3 other women in the usual row outside the ‘chemo room’ at Maroondah this morning. It is our usual routine. The MOTH goes to get us coffee and I sit and wait for the room to open. The other women waiting were at various stages. One was there for the first time, looking rather nervous, one for her second and another for her 5th. ‘FIVE!!!?’ They remarked. ‘Wow’. I sat there sheepishly hoping they didn’t ask me how many I had had. Who wants to know my story when you are just about to embark on your first?

I remember that first day. I reassured the lady about to have her 1st and tried to look like I was having a ball.

I found my favourite chair and got my cannula put in and the blood test done. The simply adorable nurses in there lectured me about making sure I told the oncologist about my symptoms and we went over to the breast clinic and did just that. I had it all written down on my phone in a list just incase I had a vague attack.

He believes that the symptoms are all side effects and my body has finally decided to have a meltdown. He agreed that given the chemo has questionable benefits, it is not going to make any difference if I stop. Unlike the nurses, he wasn’t concerned about the symptoms being from other sources (let’s not go into explanations here). The nurses have known me for a while now and I appreciate their concern so much. I have promised them I will be careful and seek medical advice if I don’t improve. So if the sleepiness and muscle weakness get worse I will go into the emergency dept and get tests done. I believe I am going to get back to my old self now and that will be that. Watch out world… you have forgotten what I am really like.

Colin was celebrating. The nurses gave me hugs. The receptionist gave me a hug and one for the MOTH… with an insult thrown in as well. I felt so sleepy I just wanted to go home to bed. So I had 3 hours sleep and that was my celebration. My dog enjoyed my company:)

Now that I’m awake, I will say… HOORAY!!!! 

ANOTHER exciting thing is that I am going to go to Ringwood Private for my radio therapy instead of Box Hill. THAT will be awesome. 25 days of driving to Box Hill and finding a park wasn’t thrilling me.

Here is my last wonderful news. The radio therapy people are going to give me my first TATOO!! How good is that? I might take some design ideas in with me. Yes?

Re-assessing this chemo thing

Let me explain myself

At the risk of repeating myself… the type of breast cancer I have is called Triple negative. Triple Negative is seen in about 15% of all breast cancers. Triple Negative is a very aggressive cancer that tends to strike younger women, pre-menopause, especially among African-American women and women who have BRCA1 mutations. (Where do I fit in with that? I’ll go with the ‘younger women’ label ha ha). The tumor tends to be fast growing and is less likely to show up on an annual mammogram. TN is more likely to metastasis early on; has a high rate of recurrence in the first 2-3 years from diagnosis and has a poorer prognosis than other types of breast cancer due to lack of specific, targeted treatment for TNBC.

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Is that even possible?

So with that in mind… I don’t intent to ‘fight’ it, as it’s wasted energy. How do you ‘keep calm and fight’? How are you being positive if you’re fighting? That’s an oxymoron. I am peacefully believing I will be healed but also taking measures to appreciate what I have around me and live life to the max. This comes from being faced with life being frail.

People don’t like me (or anyone) to speak of death. It’s a forbidden word. It’s ‘negative’. Death doesn’t scare me. Being incapacitated does. Living a superficial life does. Living a life where I don’t take opportunities does. Living life with bitterness and hostility does. Is that morbid? Perhaps some would see it as so. If I don’t take a lesson from facing my mortality then what was the point of the journey? This year has taught me so many things but if I’d refused to think about the ‘negatives’ I would have learned nothing.

Sometimes fighting and denying stops you from growing. You don’t have to agree with me. It’s just how I feel. It’s not consuming me, I’m upbeat and joyful… so don’t worry about my mental state! As I said, I’m peacefully believing I will get through this… but not fighting. I want to spent quality time with those I’m blessed to have in my life.

The weight of a blog

I’ve had 28,121 hits on my blog. I know that a lot of my readers are friends and close family. They like to read about my progress so that we can chat about ‘ordinary things’ when we meet up instead of health issues. My blog also has readers who are just interested in my journey. This includes people with breast cancer. I have been contacted by 100s of people who have been reading this blog. 2 of them are people who didn’t have breast cancer but were diagnosed recently after reading my blog posts. Of course they didn’t catch it from my blog (!) but they both said that having read my journey they felt more prepared and ready for what was ahead of them.

Gee… sometimes I sit down to write a blog post and I find it difficult to find the words. With such a diverse audience, it’s tricky.  I want to be ‘positive’ but honest as well. I don’t want to worry my loved ones. I don’t want to frighten people who are having chemo etc. I don’t want to make cancer a scary thing. Writing can be a tough gig and today is no exception.

 My last chemo on Tuesday?

The last 2-3 weeks have been my most difficult. I’ve gone from running 15km a week and being very active to feeling extremely drowsy. My muscles have all become weak. Even getting dressed makes my arms go to jelly. My legs almost give away climbing my front stairs. I have restricted myself to 2 hours sleep in the afternoon but I could almost take to the bed all day. My left eye muscles keep twitching. My eye sight is fuzzy and so is my brain. Well that’s been pretty fuzzy for a while now he he.

I’ve had blood tests at my GP’s instigation and have slight anaemia but that doesn’t seem to be the issue. It could be many things, including peripheral neuropathy which is likely to get worse after the next chemo dose. Colin and I decided that if I got PN we would stop treatment as it can be permanent. Do I want to spend Christmas in bed or do I want to spend it with my loved ones? Hmmm. That’s not a hard decision for me.

Given that there is no evidence that this chemo is working any better than the other 2 lots will it make any difference?  Apparently this sucker is chemo resistant. I’ve had 17 chemo doses now and I’m tired of them. What a sook. I know I only have one left and I should just have it and get it over and done with but the last 4 doses were only suggested ‘because I’ve been tolerating chemo so well’. They were to clear lingering cancer cells from my blood that might plant elsewhere. The doctors at Maroondah had a forum about my ‘unusual case’ and half said I should have more chemo and the other half said that it probably wouldn’t make a difference. I agreed to have more because it hadn’t made me too sick. Now I’m not so sure.

Let’s see what the doctor says next Tuesday.  A nice break before I start 25 days of radiotherapy could be nice:) I’m blessed with amazing friends and family who will tell me to shut up when I need it. Perhaps they won’t understand this decision but it’s nothing to do with giving up. It’s to do with perspective and faith.

Ah Magoo you’ve done it again

Week two after chemo I’m usually starting to feel pretty good but this week I’m full of side effects. They aren’t new… Just lasting longer. Some say ‘it’s about time’ but I say BOO HISS.

  1. I have chemo brain galore and have messed up 2 events this week… one being a very important medical appointment. I was so cross with myself for missing it and now I have to wait 3 weeks for another appointment and that will be at Peter Mac.
  2. My muscles have gone into meltdown. They even go to jelly climbing the front steps at home.
  3. I want to go to sleep all day long. I have restricted myself to 2 hours in the afternoon.
  4. My vision has gone weird. I can’t see long or short distance very well and given that I usually have perfect long vision this feels pretty strange. I hope my artwork is as good as it looks through my eyes or I will be very embarrassed. I’ve turned into Mr Magoo.
  5. I’m seeing eye floaties. They are little black puffs of smoke that look so clear and real that I keep trying to catch them. My friends at the dinner table the other night were giving me strange looks. You would think they would be used to my oddness wouldn’t you? I thought it was a cobweb coming from the ceiling. Someone’s going to put me in a straight jacket.
  6. The muscle around my left eye twitches constantly.
  7. I still have a very strong metallic taste in my mouth and food isn’t as good as it looks or smells. Usually this goes by week 2.
  8. I feel cold constantly. That could be handy when the Summer arrives.

I went and did my Les Mills Body Balance class today for the first time in 2.5 months and made it through the hour session but it was disappointing. Tomorrow is my running day with my friends so let’s see how fast I can hobble!

Hopefully week 3 will give me a break from side effects. Then, on Dec the 9th,  I have MY LAST CHEMO. Providing I remember to go. Yippee.

The MOTH survives more injuries

Bargara beach

Chilling at Bargara beach

We are back from a wonderful 2 week holiday at Bargara in QLD. It was possibly the best holiday ever… mostly because we both needed it so badly. Having the beach 20 steps from the door at our resort and the golf course out the back suited us both fine. The MOTH came packed with his golf clubs with his bare essentials stashed amongst them. Who needs clothing in QLD? I was almost as bad as my case was filled with art supplies. I am a very light packer when I travel so we had one small suitcase between us and a set of golf clubs (plus 2 carry on bags).

Screenshot 19:11:2014 5:45 am 2Our friends Tony and Lorraine spent the first week with us and we took a day trip to Fraser Island and a few other wonderful and not so wonderful trips pioneered by our ‘tour guide’- The MOTH. It was lovely to spend time with them once again on our holiday and share hysterical laughter.

The MOTH and his injury collection

I totally forgot I was a cancer patient (well almost) and Maroondah hospital seemed so far away. I love the beach and ended up tanned and relaxed. Sigh.

Col feeding the exotic fish at the waterhole outside our resort.

Col feeding the exotic fish at the waterhole outside our resort.

THE MOTH… on the other hand… had injuries almost akin to his splinter episode.

  1. He played so much golf that he became very sore all over. At one point he climbed into a plane at the Hinkler museum and became wedged half way because his muscles wouldn’t do what they set out to do. He had a panicked expression on his face which I could do nothing about apart from laughing.
  2. He walked on hot concrete without his shoes on and got two 50c piece sized blisters on his heels. At one point he couldn’t walk and I had to stab the blister with a pair of nail scissors to drain it.
  3. He got badly blistered and painful calves from ‘golf’ sunburn.
  4. He was and still is, covered in sandfly bites.
  5. He got stung by a wasp on the hand and further up his arm while looking for a golf ball in a bush. This resulted in severe swelling and itching.

I considered calling 000 but I was too busy reading my kindle on the beach. Do the ambulance come for self inflicted wounds?

Art therapy

Prior to leaving I finished illustrating a childrens’ book for Jojo media (a book publisher) which was great to get behind me.

I managed to finish off 5 commission art jobs while on holiday and quite a few pieces of my own. This might sound like I was working but believe me… it’s quite the opposite! I go into some kind of trance when I’m doing my artwork and it’s the ultimate relaxation. One of the pieces I finished was inspired by a magical experience we had watching a massive turtle come up onto the beach and lay it’s eggs. I think it was up there with the most wonderful thing we’ve ever seen. It didn’t have cogs and wheels like my art piece but you know how my brain works. Colin thinks my brain is terrifying.

Medical news

My hair is falling out for the 3rd time. Just when it starts to get about 1 cm long or so I start another chemo round and off it goes again. Each time it grows back it’s a different colour. Unfortunately it’s white and snowy this time so I’m happy to wave it goodbye.

You’ll be pleased to know that I managed to run 2-4km on alternative days… often on the beach. I didn’t run very WELL because my fitness has gone downhill since surgery but it’s a start. At one point I was overtaken on the beach by a guy dragging a car tyre  along behind him. Maybe I need one of those. Apparently they make you run faster:)

Chemo day drawing

Chemo day drawing

Yesterday I returned to the chemo factory for another dose. I’m totally creating my own world. The doctor told me that they have me written down for 6 extra doses of chemo, rather than the 4 we agreed to because I am tolerating them so well. Colin and I both said ‘no’ in unison. The Dr agreed that there is no evidence it is doing any good and that it’s just to make sure. Enough is enough. Do I keep taking it until I’m not tolerating it anymore? I don’t know, but we have no way of measuring it now. Besides… I might be ‘tolerating it well’ but I do feel very unwell after it, of course. It’s not like I’m just shaking my head and carrying on! Given that the last two chemo drugs didn’t work it’s difficult to say if this one is. I’ve had radical surgery and … I have 25 days of radiotherapy after Christmas and the break in between will be much appreciated. 9 months of chemo is ENOUGH.

I also refused to take the Dexamethasone (cortisone) all together. Last time I took it the 2 days before chemo, during chemo but not the prescribed 4 days afterwards. This resulted in a significant reduction in stomach pain and nausea. I had a very nasty sore mouth and throat which resulted in lots of ulcers but that’s bearable. In fact I didn’t need to take any anti nausea at all, just the usual 3 Somac for the stomach pain. Isn’t the purpose of cortisone to reduce nausea? Strangely enough it is a side effect in itself, as well as burning pain in the stomach. So I didn’t take it before my chemo yesterday.

So… the doctor gave me a double dose of cortisone in my chemo infusion yesterday so that I wouldn’t have an allergic reaction. THAT’S WHY I’M WRITING THIS BLOG AT 5am!!! I even took a sleeping tablet. I’m like an Eveready battery advertisement. My brain has gone totally haywire. At least the sleeplessness is only for one night.

My sister and Dad came to visit me yesterday in the chemo factory… partly because Dad had an appointment at Maroondah and partly because it’s like a party in there and we all have a lovely chat. The nurses get involved in our banter. One nurse told Colin he is the King of Bull @#$% and the receptionist told him to ‘be quiet get out of the room’ (or something similar). He invites all of this so don’t feel sorry for him. Of course they were only kidding. I think he will miss stirring them all up when I finish.

One more chemo to go (9th of December) whoot!!!

On a sad note, two friends my age have died this week. One was a female fellow cancer sufferer who has been fighting fiercely along side me. My heart goes out to their families and friends, particularly their wifes/husbands and children. On that note… kiss your loved ones today and live your life with integrity. xx to you all from me.

Sharing my story

Screenshot 29:10:2014 7:01 pmWe are off to Bargara in QLD on Saturday. After having my 17th chemo treatment this week it could be precarious but I so love a challenge. Drugs and a vomit bag if I have to… but I’m going. So far the side effects have been pretty good but it’s always day 3 onwards that I struggle. Bring on the drugs.

I managed to find a doctor who said I could go in the pool as long as I kept my face out of it. He is my best friend and I didn’t have to pay him too much.

I’ll return to Melbourne in time for my next dose of chemo all lively and refreshed.

ALSO the MOTH has un characteristically agreed to booking flights for our Europe trip next year. There are some doctors under the belief I’m having another 6 months of chemo and some say 4 months. I’m going with 4. Then I should finish radiotherapy in March which will give me time to recover before we fly out in May. So it’s pretty risky given that I won’t get insured for travel with a pre-existing illness… but I’m going. Here is our vague itinerary which we will manage ourselves because we hate tours:

We are meeting up with lots of friends all over Europe…

1. Malta with Rosie (1 week)

2. Sicily (5 days)

3. Amalfi Coast Italy (5 days)

4. Rome (a couple of days… beautiful)

5. Cinque Terre with Tony and Lorraine (1 week)

6. Tuscany with 10 other friends (1 week)

Croatia self guided walking tour with Rosie (1.5 weeks)

Greek Islands (2 weeks)

We fly back  in late July.How does that sound? Sigh.

Sharing my story

It’s so exciting for me to be sharing my story with others. It gives my journey and struggles more purpose and a reason. Apparently it inspires others as well. This week I have had 2 people approach me who have been reading my blog for some time and have either been diagnosed for the first time or have had a reoccurrence of previous breast cancer. Both of them have expressed that they are coping better from reading my blog. While I don’t take the credit for that and my heart goes out to them, if this crappy year has helped even one person I’m very glad. Just remember that everybody is different and not too be hard on yourself if you’re not managing.

Last week I had the awesome experience of sharing my story with the entire Luther College school in Croydon where I have been Artist in Residence (without residing there) for the past few months.  It was lovely to be supported by my dear friend Lorraine who sat up the back and quietly cheered and laughed at my jokes. I told some funny stories and hoped to get a laugh but it was hard work with that age group. My favourite one was when my daughter glued false eye lashes to my wig. There was a murmur of laughter which was nice in a place where youth are uncertain whether to laugh or not.

I have had many students and teachers give feedback which was positive and I hope that they understood my message: ‘life throws you curlies but you have to learn to re-direct yourself and look for the gold’.

Medical hoo ha

Today I went to see the plastic surgeon, which wasn’t terribly pleasant given that I had chemo yesterday and wasn’t feeling the best. He added more saline to the tissue expander and told me that ‘somehow’ it has been dislodged. Oops. Could that have been my over enthusiastic return to Les Mills Body balance at gym last week? No matter. As long as it doesn’t drop down to my waist or something all will be well ha ha. Before you start picturing it in your mind it doesn’t actually look any different. OK?

My hair has just started falling out for the 3rd time now. The poor fuzz… just when it starts to assert itself it’s gone again. Sophie lopped it off so I wouldn’t have to take the shaver to the beach with me. Now I just need a hat.

Think of me at the beach for the next 2 weeks and I’ll think of you all here at work;)

My thoughts on ‘being positive’

I hesitate to write this post because I understand how difficult it is for people to find words for others who are suffering. There are websites with advice on ‘what to say to cancer victims’, with bullet points on what to say and what not to say. This makes any sentiments seem contrived in my opinion. I just appreciate any support and I am not that sensitive to be offended by words, although I have had some ‘interesting’ things said to me!

me

My new ‘hair’ *wink*

I’ve been so touched by kindness, especially from those who find it difficult to express themselves. Several men in my life, have emailed me with messages saying ‘I’m not good with words in these situations but I want you to know that I care and I’m following your blog”. Knowing that they find it difficult and yet still reach out and express it is so brave. Many others have found it so difficult they haven’t contacted me at all. In saying all of that, why would I now criticise people for making the effort?

‘Be positive’ is a common thing to say to people and of course it is well intended. If a person going through bad stuff is positive it makes others feel less awkward and it helps people to see their way through tough times. We all know about ‘the power of positive thinking’ but positive people still die and bad things still happen to them. It’s not in our own hands to be as positive as possible in order to have a life with no downsides.

Is it a healthy thing for people to say ‘be positive’ to those who are experiencing deep grief, depression or health issues? Robin Williams comes to mind as an example. From a child he recognised that being funny and upbeat won people over. It made people feel good. The response when you say ‘I feel ghastly and I don’t want to live’ is very different to the response when he covered it up and behaved in a way he wasn’t feeling. Can people just ‘be positive’ like that? Can you just flick a switch like that? I don’t actually know the answer.

We all have a ‘default setting’ and mine just happens to be ‘positive’. It’s just the way I was made. I take no credit for it. I don’t try hard or make an effort to change my thoughts. I don’t know what it’s like to be in a black pit. I embrace change and pioneer change myself. I love an adventure. If I was depressed and someone said to be positive would that work?

Anyone who knows me well knows that I defuse negative things in my life with humour (usually black) but I will also plunge into very confronting reality and express my frustrations and issues if that’s where I’m at. I don’t cover how I’m feeling intentionally by making myself feel something I don’t. Joy and peace is more desirable to me than happiness and positivity. I don’t chase happiness. I just feel happy because I am.

The MOTH (Man Of The House) has a different ‘default setting’ to me. We speak an entirely different language and yet we complement each other and have grown to be more like each other over the years. Here is an example of a conversation this week…

Me: Our garden is looking amazing considering you hacked it back to bare roots only 4 weeks ago. Have you seen all the flowers coming?

MOTH: No I can’t say I have

ME: Really?

MOTH: I have noticed all the weeds that are growing through the mulch. I’ve had to pull them out all week.

Me (incredulously): You noticed the weeds but not the flowers?

That makes me sound like an airy fairy hippy and him like a realist… but you get my drift don’t you? That is his default setting. He is aware of it and he tries very hard to ‘be positive’ but his real joy and happiness doesn’t come from ‘trying hard to be positive’.

Colin’s family of origin is entirely different to mine. Although his was comparatively lacking in drama such as my own, his father was a prison officer for 40 years. Surely you can imagine his childhood without me going to great lengths to describe it.  They both loved him but their parenting style was more traditional (for our generation) than mine.

mum and dad

Mum with our knight in shining armour

On the other hand, I didn’t have an ideal childhood by any means. Life has been tough in so many ways. I lost my Dad when he was 23 years old and my Mum when she was 54. My father was a teacher in the middle of nowhere, Pyramid Hill. My mother married him when she was 19, had me at 20 and was widowed at 21. This left her homeless, penniless and in deep grief. We moved around from family home to family home until our knight in shining armour (Dad) saved us and married my mother. Mum told me this story as a small child as though it was a fairy tale. One day she told me I was the child in the story and I thought it was wonderful. That is an example of her approach of creative parenting.

They then had another 3 children in as many years… 4 daughters in 5.5 years. My new Dad was and is such a wonderful man and has always treated me as his own. I loved and still love him very dearly.

I promise I grew out of my witchcraft costume.

I promise I grew out of my witchcraft costume.

My parents weren’t perfect by any means but we were not hit or smacked as children and mostly had to ‘discuss’ our actions and figure out how to be better people when we had acted inappropriately. I would have chosen a smack any day. Being responsible for your actions is really tough. I used to stand there thinking ‘just smack me and get it over with’.

Because of this, I grew up with the ability to articulate my feelings and answer for my behaviour. I had deep love and respect for my parents through thick and thin. It hurt me more if they said they were disappointed in me than if they had hit me. There were no cop outs or easy solutions. My recollections of my childhood are all good. I don’t have any/many bad memories and no bitterness. I inherited my mothers ‘Pollyanna’ approach to life. Admittedly, this often annoys my children and The MOTH as it did me with my own mother.  Seeing things from the other persons point of view isn’t always what you want to do when you feel angry or hurt!

Mum was my best and closest friend as well as a role model in my life. She was a beautiful Christian woman with a heart of gold, a funny and mischievous nature, a mountain of wisdom and a whole pile of flaws as well. I could carry on with the list of injustices life has thrown me, just like anyone can. I have known deep suffering. I have needed to grieve like anyone else and struggled at times to see the flowers in the garden.

So does ‘being positive’ make me a hero? No. I am just being who I am. I am a result of my own upbringing and watching how my parents approached bad things happening in their life. They disciplined me with love and Mum role modelled to me her way of dealing with stuff. She talked about things a lot with a smattering of black humour. Well… more than a smattering.  We often got the giggles at the most inappropriate times. Of course I recognise that this trait for seeing the silver lining could also be an inherited personality.

My joy comes from my ‘positive default self’ but also from my faith which gives me the peace and self worth that I need to battle on with things. I have a crystal clear purpose for my life and know that whatever happens to me I will be ok. I believe I have had more positives from this illness than badness. That’s a pretty huge statement to make isn’t it?

Screenshot 17:10:2014 9:37 amThat’s why chemo, chemo and more chemo… with a little surgery and radio therapy thrown in aren’t going to knock me flat. It’s got nothing to do with trying to be positive. I worry for others who have cancer and a tendency for depression. Putting on that smile to make others happy can be very tough.

In saying all of that, I DO appreciate your sentiments very much and I would hate it if you felt too afraid to speak now. Say what you like. It’s better than saying nothing. I won’t judge anyone who says ‘be positive’. I know it’s just a way of expressing feelings and besides, I already do feel positive… except when I feel like chucking up after chemo!

Feel free to leave a comment and tell me what you think. I’m no psychiatrist!

The Wood Hood eating plan

When The Moth and I got married, my mother was 39 years old. Yes 39. When I had Shannon she was 43 and by the time she got cancer and died at 54 she had 9 grandchildren (another 2 arrived later). I’m about to turn 54 so I have one question…. Where are my grandchildren????? I have a cupboard full of toys and a heart full of love just waiting for them. I can’t see any sign.

Mum with Shannon in 1984

Mum with Shannon in 1984

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not planning to go and meet my maker for another 30+ years but I’m feeling totally ripped off all the same. I used to talk about booties and teddy bears to my daughter in law but she took a firm hold of me one day and put me straight. You know how wicked I am. Do you think I should play the ‘but I’ve got cancer’ card? I know it didn’t work for the red Ferrari but maybe…

In the meantime, there is always my dog Marley who has his endearing side but I’ve yet to find it.

By the way… please hide this from Hannah and Shannon they will kill me!

Chemo news

I began my 3rd chemo drug combo last Wednesday which consists of Carboplatin and Taxotere. That’s 6 different chemo drugs now. 9 months of chemo in total (once I finish). It just goes to prove that I’m a tough old boot. Apparently my full treatment including radiotherapy will finish next April. Given I found the lump last January that’s 15 months I’ll never get back! Breast reconstruction will be next October but I’m not counting that because it isn’t officially ‘treatment’ for cancer.

10151282_861050327252093_4097626118249710676_nMy sister arrived late in the morning chatted to me during chemo which was nice for both me and for The Moth who went and did the grocery shopping instead. I’m sure the novelty has gone off sitting in Maroondah long ago! I was there for 6.5 hours so Margie made time go fast and I managed to draw my Christmas card with the cannula in my hand. Not with the precision I like but that ‘naive’ look can be cute:)

Prior to chemo, I had another 100ml in my breast tissue expander.  I have to say… that was REALLY painful. I’m not sure about having chemo and the expansion on the same day was a good thing. Between the nausea, stomach burn, insomnia from the cortisone and the pain from the expander I’ve had a restless time. Miraculously, I did manage to do some kind of ‘hobble/run/walk’ around the athletics track yesterday. I ate part of my breakfast too which was also a miracle.

I have to confess, I took the 4 prescribed Dexamethasone the day before chemo (and had a horrendous night sleep as a result) and again in the morning before, but I didn’t take it for the next 3 days as I should have. I don’t know what’s worse, the chemo side effects or the Dex side effects. Perhaps I’ll take it next time and see for myself. I’m creating my own world now that I am so ‘experienced’ ha ha.

Having chemo in Spring is so much nicer than it was in Winter. I can go and potter outside in the sunshine and tend to my little vege garden. I’ve always hated the cold but being unwell at the same time just added to the gloom. Hooray for the sunshine.

Screenshot 12:10:2014 11:36 am3 more chemo boosts to go (3 weekly). How many countdowns have I done now? I seem to spend my life counting down to things. My hair is about to fall out again for the 3rd time and that’s something I don’t like counting. Every time it starts to grow and I get EYELASHES, they are hit by another chemo boost. MOSTLY I’m counting down to having 2 weeks in QLD in November. We haven’t had a lot of success with holidays lately so I’m praying for this one to go forward without any hiccups! I have chemo 4 days prior to flying out so that will be ‘interesting’.

Before we go to QLD I have to finish illustrating a children’s book for a publisher and complete my Artist in Residence program at Luther College.  Phew. I thought being an artist was all about dancing amongst the daisies.

The menu at The Wood Hood

My appetite after having chemo is quite odd. Something akin to being pregnant but much worse. Even when I feel hungry, I don’t feel like anything in the cupboard. So here is the list of vaguely appealing food. You will notice that they are all CARBS and have no nutrition. So much for the healthy eating plan.

1. Fried rice from the Chinese shop 15 minutes away

2. Mixed Berry muffin from Muffin Break (with cream cheese)… also 15 minutes away

3. Macaroni with grated cheese and tomato sauce on top (an old family favourite)

4. Toast… but only as a last resort

5. Costco prawn dumplings (but I’m getting tired of them)

6. Apples from Costco. WOW vitamins.

Most of the time nothing other than these items will tempt me. Hopefully tomorrow I will pick up and then I’ll have 2 weeks of dumpling and carb free eating!

Love you lots!

Thanks to you all for your continued prayers. I know it’s been a long and boring rant but I really appreciate your cares and concerns. I feel bad that I haven’t individually thanked people for cards and kind messages but please know it gives me a great boost to have you cheering along side me.

Quick update of an exciting nature

The oncology appointment this morning resulted in clear results for cancer. Another huge relief! Now to kill off all the little suckers which are smaller than pea size and don’t show up on the tests. .. if in fact there are any! Chemo should knock them off and the 25 bouts of radiotherapy will knock off the localised areas from 20% risk to 5% risk of spread.

Hooray! I can have chemo tomorrow (!). Thanks to all the prayer warriors out there xx

Given that October is breast cancer awareness month, here’s my quirky new tshirt design…

http://www.redbubble.com/people/dishmoptop/works/12747063-breast-cancer-awareness

My breast cancer awareness design for breast cancer month.

My breast cancer awareness design for breast cancer month.