art

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.

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A tough decision… but who needs breasts?

556963777To follow on from last weeks post… I have more news but it’s still filled with ‘ifs and maybes’. That uncertainty which I know and hate.

To help with uncertainty I’ve made a decision for myself. After a long hard think about it and discussions with the family… I’ve decided to have a mastectomy (left breast) next Wednesday regardless of the ‘new lump’ cancer status. That was a pretty hard decision to make but once I made it I felt relieved. Who wants to live the rest of their life with lumpy boobs and potential tumours that grow with the speed of light? I’ve had up to 15 cysts in each breast from the age of 17 which makes self-lump detection impossible. The breast screen didn’t pick up the tumour last October and it grew rapidly over 3 months to golf ball size. How could I ever relax?

The ‘new’ lump is growing dramatically and feels very much like the ‘old’ one. Hard, irregular, immobile and sore. The old tumour is also growing. There is a race going on and I feel like a lump factory! The surgeon is pretty certain that the new lump is malignant and she would be doing a mastectomy anyhow if that’s the case.

Here are the bullet points again:

  • I will have a full reconstruction during the surgery providing the tumours aren’t bigger than 5cm and haven’t spread into the chest wall. If this is the case, I will need radiotherapy and they will put a balloon (!) in there to hold the space and the reconstruction will be done after treatment finishes. Colin said he is going to chase me around with a pin.
  • I probably won’t have my current chemo again but may need to go back on the old one (TBC)
  • I may need all of the lymph nodes removed because they look ‘suspicious’ but they will test them while I’m under anaesthetic and decide then
  • Surgery is next Wednesday the 10th of Sep but I have no notification yet so I don’t know times. I’m not even really certain which hospital I will be in
  • I need to see a plastic surgeon but I have no notification yet so I don’t know times (!)
  • It’s all being done in such a rush the doctors are in a spin. They had a meeting yesterday to discuss my situation which they said is very complex. Well yeah… I am not a simple person. Even my breasts are complicated ha ha.
  • I don’t have to have the core biopsies tomorrow. YAY!!!!!! I have a very busy weekend so I can party on.

I feel peaceful and happy with my decision. Many of my friends have offered to donate their breasts as they feel they are too well endowed. I have such generous friends. I wonder what they would do if I said ‘yes please’ with a serious face. I may take all donations and make a collage out of them. Ew!!

I don’t know how they will do the reconstruction but I’ll find out soon. I hope they collect bits of fat from hips, thighs and buttocks. The balloon sounds interesting but I’m worried about what colour it is. You know how important that is to me.

Arty news

Luther College artist in residence project. 'Noahs ark'

Luther College artist in residence project. ‘Noahs ark’

Last week I was approached by a book publisher to illustrate a children’s book. I’ve now signed the contract so that means I’d better do it!!

I’ve got my Artist in Residence position at Luther College with my artwork to complete, classes to teach and I have several commissioned jobs waiting to be done.

Like so often in life, a door closed and another one has opened. I think I’m officially an artist. Wow that sounds weird. I don’t even think my art is good but I enjoy doing it and others seem to like it. I have sold more than 60 pieces of artwork since March this year along with products and prints. I have to pinch myself sometimes. I’m loving the expression and creativity it releases in me without the need for concentration or stress. It’s just as well because concentration really isn’t happening in this little brain lately. At least I have a break from chemo and will be able to construct a sentence without the need for charades when I can’t find the words.

I’ve been sharing my story with the kids at Luther College and how getting cancer has opened a whole new world for me and that with bad things there is always good if you look for them. To prove it, I’ve told them how I can draw my eyebrows on differently every day and wear different wigs. They give me that ‘gee you’re a weird person’ look that teenagers do.

I’ve had so many opportunities and wonderful experiences as a result of spending time on my art that I can only see it as a blessing. I am SO not returning to my previous work. I now declare that my geek days are over:)

If I get more details about my surgery I’ll post them before next week, especially if I find out the balloon colour as I know you’re all dying to know.

Purple would be nice yes?

The hairy nose enterprise

Hooray I’ve finished cycle 3 of the Paclitaxel chemo. One more cycle (4 weeks) to go and I switch to the AC chemo for another 4 rounds. Everyone tells me that will knock me around more but I have my fingers in my ears. La la la.
So far no nausea and other than two tooth fillings (one root canal) done without anaesthetic, I’ve been feeling pretty good. I have the odd Nanna nap, although now that I have a new bed I’m getting a much better night sleep. Boo to the latex one!

Food tastes weird for a couple of nights after chemo. Everything I eat on chemo night puts me off it forever. I will never face Taco Bill or Parmas again.

I’ve got the chemo routine down pat now. Each week I manage to get the canula put in my left arm so that I can draw pictures. The veins in my right one are much better and the nurses look at them longingly. I’m pushing my luck as far as I can.  Here’s a picture of my routine. It’s enough to make you jealous isn’t it? You can’t see my Kindle but that’s my standby when I’m not chatting to the lovely people in the turban factory.

10462762_796431093714017_4199334505988352035_n

I’m off to spend a week in a timeshare resort with the MOTH, given that I have next week ‘off’ chemo. It’s right next to a golf course so I can’t imagine what he will do with his time. As well as that, we are planning a trip OS next year and that is giving me a good goal to head towards. The MOTH and I plan to do an unguided trip to Europe (again) and meet up with a group of our good friends in Tuscany, Italy for a week. It’s such an exciting thought I can’t wait.

Being the creative soul that I am, I’ve made an invention. Having no nose hairs in my nostrils means that they run without warning at 1000kph. As well as this, I have no filter for bugs or pollens which I have always been sensitive to. So I’ve invented a nostril wig for chemo patients. I might cut up one of my wigs and create little mini ones. Do you think it will take off?

I pinched this illustration from my children's book... 'Maggie Magee and the giant sneeze'

I pinched this illustration from my children’s book… ‘Maggie Magee and the giant sneeze’

On a final note… One of Colin’s work crew wrapped up a “Ferrari’ (in Christmas wrapping paper) for me because he said Colin would never buy me one. If you read my first couple of blog posts, written when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer that will make sense. Actually it’s a yellow Lamborghini but who’s complaining?

Breast cancer post #4

Woo hoo I’ve finally found some information on the clinical trial I’ll be taking part in that isn’t written in gobbleldy gook!

If you’re interested, have a read. It’s actually quite ground breaking treatment for a type of cancer which previously had little hope. The article is referring to the ‘guinea pig’ phase, which is different to what I am doing as I am on a trial phase. The trial phase is the last step before they implement this strategy as a standard treatment for people with Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC). http://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/20101005-3

This article on Triple Negative breast cancer is also informative but written in plain speak: http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/diagnosis/trip_neg/behavior

I begin treatment on Tuesday the April 1st (April Fools day), providing all the tests are done and the paperwork sorted in Italy (!) by then. In the meantime I’ll be doing more tests. Yay! Not. So I will be put into a randomized group and get one of two Nab-paclitaxel type drugs. So group A uses one Nab-paclitaxel drug and group B uses the other. I will know which group I’m in but I can’t choose. Then after that treatment I will begin standard chemo treatment and then surgery and radio therapy.

Sounds like a plan?

Keeping positive

People keep telling me to keep positive but how am I supposed to do that when I have Triple Negative breast cancer? That means I need to be triple positive just to be neutral so that’s a lot to ask LOL.

Actually… I am feeling ridiculously positive. Not that I’m in denial, it’s just that I have absolutely no doubt I’m going to kick it. That could be the power of prayer and being surrounded by such amazing friends and family and whatever other reasons we can come up with but it just isn’t in my radar not to kick it.

My Mum was my age when she got cancer (53) and died at 54 a few months later, so that’s a bit scary but I will not let that take over me.

It might be called Triple Negative but I’m feeling triple positive.

Screenshot 19:03:14 9:51 PM-2

I finished this artwork yesterday. It was started in the middle of the night about 5 days ago and reflected how I felt at the time. The dead of night does that to you. Although it isn’t a reflection of where I’m at right now, it does highlight that first couple of days where I wanted to curl up in a ball. When I look at it now I remember the feeling but it isn’t something I can identify with (today).

I’m sure that as I go along I’ll meet an array of different feelings. Maybe my positive hype will wane a little when I’m in the middle of Winter (urgh), chemo and the long haul is still ahead.

My brain is already in a kind of fog. It feels like the world is rushing by me and I’m here in my foggy place. To top it off I have to come off HRT which is a bit nasty and bound to make the fog worse. Has anyone got an anti fog machine?

Todays funny MOTH story

Sorry MOTH… but you do keep me (and everyone) entertained. As a typical MFB firefighter, he is used to getting a ribbing. It’s all part of the culture. So I’m sure he can take it and he knows I love him dearly. Now on with the story…

You know he doesn’t like sitting still right? Well hospital appointments are our new worst nightmare. I’m about to make him an activity pack for our waiting times. Colouring books, pencils, snacks and Valium. Oops… sorry I didn’t mean Valium that just slipped in there.

This week, he was sitting on a bench seat in the radiology waiting room and a woman came up to him and said ‘could you please sit still as your jiggling is making it hard for me to send a text message’. 

Some people just need a perfect world LOL.

Breast cancer post #2

I’ve had a very busy and social weekend with my wonderful family and friends. It can be exhausting to experience the emotion of others when my own emotions are soaring in different directions but I am finding the courage to do that and it’s getting easier by the day.

People have been very supportive AND practical which is a huge relief to me. Paul,  from Forest Edge Stone, for example, has extended my art exhibition to May 1st (3 extra weeks) for no charge so I don’t have to worry about it. You can find out more about that here. What a man!

It’s odd but I feel surprised by people being emotional. It’s not that I’m not touched (afterwards) it’s just that it confuses me for the first few seconds. I automatically think ‘I wonder why she is upset’. So in true Bredle family (mothers side) style, I’m breaking the ice with humour. It shocks people sometimes but if I can make people laugh I feel happy and so do they. I’m also perfectly comfortable to speak openly about the ‘other feelings’ so it’s not that I’m in denial. Mostly I feel quite enveloped in a calmness and peace, mixed with a positive and fighting spirit and I am touched by the empathy others feel comfortable to show. No behaviour is wrong or right. Feelings are feelings. I have found enough grace to understand that how people react (or don’t react) isn’t always an indicator of how they feel.

So as well as catching up with loved ones… I’ve discovered that there are now half a dozen ex/current Swinburne staff with breast cancer, diagnosed in the last month or so and many who have had it in the past 2 years. I could make comment on that but let’s leave it alone:) I’m catching up with a couple of them for coffee next week so we can support each other.

1901973_753528051337655_193389831_nIn the quiet moments I’ve included a tad of artwork. I began drawing again at 1am Saturday night when I couldn’t sleep. One of them was very bleak and I’m going to ‘bin it’ and others were introspective. The plan is to ‘half complete’ a pile of drawings and finish them off while I’m on the chemo drip.

This one (above) is probably expressing more than my words can say but even though it is ‘sad’ looking, the wings are a symbol of ‘hope’. They are also breast cancer ribbons which are a bit cliche but… meh!

Warning: my humour can be black

So my new plead with the MOTH (Man Of The House) is ‘If you loved me… I’ve got cancer you know’.  So far I’ve asked for a Ferrari, a house down the beach and I asked him to shave his head when I do mine. He was shocked at first but now he is responding with ‘I don’t love you that much’.

Last night we were having dinner with a bunch of my wonderful friends and I extended it to request many things on behalf of others. ‘Colin, if you loved me you would buy Janet a house, Gail an iPad etc etc.’

Anyone who wants to get in on the act can slip me a commission of 25%. Now that I’ve got no job I’m becoming entrepreneurial.

French Lentils have the power

The things I love to eat (apparently)…

Broccoli, Walnuts, Beans, Garlic, Mushrooms, Broccoli sprouts, Pomegranates, Lentils, Blueberries, Spinach, Eggs, Salmon, Rye bread (whole rye flour), Sweet potato (all yellow veges and fruits), Kohlrabi, Whole grains, Flaxseed

No high fat dairy or processed meat

Keep off the processed food

NO SUGAR

LOW CAEBS

I figured if I looked up power food for fighting cancer and stick to a diet (loosely) I will have some kind of control over my body. So I printed out the list above. The MOTH has been very diligent and wanting to do the right thing by me (apart from the Ferrari) and went on a hunt to buy everything on the list. Some of those things were pretty challenging but he also managed to make the ‘normal’ things more difficult. He couldn’t just buy lentils from the supermarket. He had to buy FRENCH LENTILS from the health food shop. They are sure to work better. So we had very posh FRENCH LENTIL BURGERS for tea. Voila!

I wondered why Rye bread always has wheat flour in it so I decided to make my own ‘cardboard-tasting-solid-as-a-brick’ loaf. It didn’t rise at all and it made me gag to eat it. All is good. WIth my french lentils and my cardboard brick Rye loaf I can conquer all.

Tests and stuff

Today I have a Gated Heart Pool Scan and a full body CT scan. The heart one is to check if it will stand up to one of the chemo drugs which they use in the trial and the CT scan is to check for cancer locations in soft tissue. I had the bone scan last Friday and we should get the results when I see the oncologist tomorrow.

I have to have a biopsy next Friday so they can tag the tumour. Perhaps they want to track where I am so I can’t run away (microchip). Then I have to sort out wigs, bras and where and when I will start chemo. I’m happy to be doing the trial (see blog post #1) as it means I will be closely monitored. Shrinking the tumour before removing it just makes sense. So let’s hope and pray that I will be a suitable candidate.

I’m so blessed to have Colin, my kids and their partners and a huge network of family and friends who are all with me on the journey. If I don’t respond to your messages or have that promised coffee it’s not that I don’t appreciate you.

The purpose of this blog is to inspire others and not to get pity. I hope that regardless of tomorrows results I can do that in some way. If not, just let me make you laugh so we can all feel OK about it. Maybe some days I won’t be laughing and you can pay me back;)

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Jenny Wood breast cancer

A good life is when you assume nothing, do more, need less, smile often, dream big, laugh a lot and realise how blessed you are.