breast cancer

Skin check app warning

Yes I know… using a smart phone app to check a mole on your skin sounds like a stupid thing to do but…

A: I’ve been battling breast cancer and it’s hard to focus on the little things when you’re batting a ‘big’ (pardon the pun) thing. So many little medical issues become insignificant and getting MORE tests is so exasperating.

B: My GP recommended I do this as it is a ‘really good way to track them yourself’.

Skincheck apps have become very popular for checking moles etc for malignancy. I have very olive skin but even so I have a lot of moles and have had a lot removed. The MOTH was told by a mole checker recently that he had ‘too many’ to check and yet he is a prime candidate having been burnt so many times as a youth with his fair skin.

When I asked my GP about this mole 12 months ago he said it looked ok and to check it with this app. I was undergoing breast cancer treatment at the time so he was hesitant to put me through more and in hindsight it DID look ok at the time. It looked NOTHING like the melanoma my Dad had so I must admit I wasn’t too concerned. Dad’s was very small and jet black. Mine was like a small Sultana bran flake… but not as yummy.

So when I checked the mole on my arm using the app recently it was classified as ‘low risk’. I checked it twice but only saved one of the photos. Well that gave me peace of mind for a while anyhow. Let’s get this breast reconstruction surgery out of the way.

While waiting to go into surgery to have my breast reconstruction, an enthusiastic student plastic surgeon saw it on my arm and said ‘I don’t like the look of that’. THANK YOU to her diligence because otherwise I would still be floating around with it on my arm.

I received an apology from the company and have told them that I was wanting to warn them and give them feedback so that they can tweak their app. I am sure they have peoples health in their best interest but even so… WARNING WILL ROBINSON don’t rely on them!

Now I have had a failed breast screen check and a failed melanoma check. How cool am I? I just keep bouncing back and ducking and weaving. I’m living life fearlessly in faith with a sprinkle of caution.

Here is their response…

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Update on fatigue

This is a quick update to let you know my test results…

My tests were all clear (yay!) My heart is functioning at 98% of the normal range. (yay) My upper abdominal innards are all excitingly healthy (liver, pancreas, gallbladder, kidneys etc) and my lung is pumping oxygen like a little trouper. Now we have the ‘well what is going on then?’ question. So I see the oncologist on the 23rd Nov and she will do tumour marker tests to see if there are signs of tumour growth (blood test) but I’m sure there is nothing sneaky going on. That’s my final word over my body.

If that’s all clear I’ll try looking at diet etc but I mainly eat Paleo so it’s not like my diet is BAD. It may be that I have a sensitivity. I don’t know. I’m grasping at straws. Sleeping 12 out of 24 hours is just plain annoying.

My GP said my fatigue is too chronic for it to be something minor like ‘over doing it’ or ‘diet’, given that he has checked thyroid, iron etc.

… back to getting the house ready for ‘open for inspection’ today. Stay tuned and thanks for your lovely comments I’m sure it’s all sounding quite boring by now and I’m blessed to have such lovely people sticking around to hear my sagas!

 

The medical maniac is back

People have been asking me why my blog updates have disappeared. To be honest… it’s because I’ve been in ‘limbo land’. Have you ever been in that position where you know things ‘aren’t right’ but you haven’t got a diagnosis and you don’t want to seem paranoid or like a hypochondriac? No? Well apparently that’s just me ha ha.

Screenshot 1:11:2015 9:06 amI’ve had increasing fatigue for the past 2 months which has now got me asleep for 12 out of 24 hours. I’m also breathless and giddy at times. I KNOW… I over do it and I have the house on the market and so forth but guess what? I’ve always over done it and I’ve never lacked energy in my life. Right now my fatigue is worse than when I was on chemo. 3 months ago I was walking 40+ km a day in the heat all over Europe!

So I have dragged my reluctant self to the GP and he has done a series of blood tests. Then he heard ‘something in my lungs’ so I had a chest X-ray which is clear (YAY!). However… my liver function isn’t so good and my ECG wasn’t good either.

In the past I’ve had excellent heart test results so you might think that strange but I was told that because of my breast cancer being on the left side, the radiotherapy can damage the heart. So that’s a possibility but who knows.

Next week I have a liver CT scan and a heart stress test. Sigh. I’m sure you all know the feeling… part of me wants to find out what it is out of a need to know what’s going on but also I don’t want to seem a fraud. How silly! The other part wants it to be NOTHING. If it’s nothing why am I so sleepy and giddy? Maybe it’s love. The MOTH is pretty cute;)

I feel embarrassed to be such a medical maniac so I’ve only told my closest friends and family because they can face palm and roll their eyes at me and I can just tell them to ‘get over their bad selves’.

So… if you were wondering where my blog had gone… it went into the land of question marks. Nothing to report but hopefully I’ll know something by the end of next week. Otherwise, back to the oncologist to get more tests. Boo

On a happy note… my hair is like a giant curly frizz ball. At least I have hair and if I can con my hairdresser into straightening it I look quite ‘normal’. PLUS… I am waiting to have my breast reconstruction done. They will build me a new one out of my stomach and ‘fix’ the other one to match. I’ll be frolicking on the beach in my bikini in no time.

Oh and I can’t miss a chance to show you our house on the market. We have worked so hard to get it looking presentable. I’ve set my art room up as an ‘open studio’ and got commission jobs from yesterdays open for inspection. Ha ha. I’m a marketing queen.  http://www.realestate.com.au/property-house-vic-warranwood-121100646

Relay for life

It’s been a while and I’ve neglected the blog a little. To begin with, I’ve had a nasty hip problem keeping me awake at night. I don’t want to go on about aches and pains but I understand how concerning it is when a ‘new pain’ starts up and all the tests have to begin again. Over the past 3 weeks I’ve had bone scans, CT scans and many trips to the doctors. Monday I’m off to have an ultrasound. My GP is very sure that the left hip is bursitis and that is treatable with a shot of steroids. YAY! I’ve got bursitis! How exciting. Better than the alternative.

However… I also have a 4mm ‘spot’ on my right hip. This isn’t concerning me but I have to have another CT scan at the end of May to see if it’s grown. I can’t have an MRI because I have metal in the breast tissue expander. So on the 26th of May I find out the results. THIS IS THE DAY WE FLY TO EUROPE FOR 8 WEEKS. Doh! Seriously, I am not going to worry about every little ache and pain… or spot for the next 10 years.

Relay for life

Tonight I’m sharing my story to 2000ish people at the Greensborough ‘Relay for life’. It’s my 2nd public speaking engagement and not the last as I have another booking in May. My story seems so boring and not unusual as cancer touches so many. Hopefully I will be able to inspire people and help them to see that the big ‘C’ word can be life changing in a positive way.

I’ll upload my speil for you to read some day!

Dishmoptop makes a comeback!

Hey I have a hairy head coming! My head is the only place it’s growing so I’m guessing the Nioxin hair booster is doing it’s trick. I still have no eyebrows but I’ll continue to draw them on (badly) as before. The hair on my head is WHITE and the texture of cotton wool. I might end up with a white ‘fro’ at this rate as my hair was already curly and most people get curly hair after chemo. At some point I’ll shed the wigs (which confuse people enough as it is) to my new hair. I’ll be glad for the cool air.

Just to give you an idea, I look like this except my hair is only about 5mm long:

Radiotherapy is going as good as expected.My friend Jan, who works at Pharmore in Croydon is my helpful expert on products. She is trained up on ‘Moo Goo‘ so I’ve been using it to prevent burns and to stop my skin from shrinking. It’s a fantastic product and it’s AUSTRALIAN. It was originally used on cow udders. I’ll leave the irony with you to figure out. The nurse at radiology was very happy with me using it as I can’t use anything with perfume, alcohol etc in it and I need to apply it 3 times per day. I’ve mostly had 8.15am daily appointments which is just what I wanted so I’m doing a happy dance about that.

Last week I had a burst of extraordinary energy. It was like I’d been drinking Redbull or something. I cleaned out cupboards, re-arranged furniture and began illustrating 3 children’s books at the same time.

Now the fatigue from radiotherapy is beginning to hit and I’m back to wanting sleep. At least I had a week of being my old ‘propeller head’ self. I suspect the MOTH is a little relieved because my energy usually involves work for him he he.

 

Squeaky bits

Thank God for wigs

Thank God for wigs!

The MOTH told me that if he bought a boat he would name it after me: ‘Gone with the wind’. I’m not sure which part of me he was referring to but I think he meant the departure of ‘leftie’.

Speaking of ‘gone with the wind’, my hair is refusing to grow back. The first two types of chemo I had it started growing back prolifically after 4 weeks. Now 6 weeks after Carboplatin and Taxotere my hair is STILL FALLING OUT! Well I did the stupid thing and checked Google. There is a group of angry women out there who were not told that Taxotere can cause permanent hair loss. Some people found it was very slow and took years to get a light crop of hair. Others have permanent hair loss.

Screenshot 29:12:2014 4:05 pmOf course, life is more important than hair but sometimes it doesn’t help women to re-gain their self esteem and get back to normality. The hair I have left has gone white and like cotton wool. It’s sparse and like I said, still falling out.

I REFUSE to believe that my hair won’t grow back. It’s usually like a blackberry bush. Strong and prolific. I’m hitting it with $140 worth of Nioxin hair booster which I put on in the shower. Then when I rinse it off it washes all over me so I hope I don’t end up like a gorilla!

Squeaky bits

Since my tissue expander is now dislodged and no longer attached to my muscles I can move it around. OK. Don’t think about that too much. The weird thing now is that It SQUEAKS!

My dear friend Gail gave me a loving big hug yesterday and I got the giggles because it squeaked.  I had to demonstrate it to her to explain why I was laughing. She is very impressed. I think she wants one too.

Sigh. How am supposed to soar like an eagle?

Radiotherapy starts tomorrow at 3.30pm. I hope my bits don’t squeak. It would almost be as embarrassing as last week when I went there and discovered the glitter from my Christmas table cloth had fallen into my bra. The radiotherapy guy didn’t mention it and so neither did I.

Whoever thought cancer could be so amusing?

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

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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…

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Website http://jennywoodart.com/