breast

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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The circus they call ‘home’

Here I am mostly intact. We have moved in with Sophie and Jarrod in Glen Waverley and our dogs only fight every 3.5 seconds now so things are improving. It’s like a circus here but we don’t have to buy tickets so that makes it kind of cool.

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We have successfully settled our sold house and our purchased house at Safety Beach is ready to be demolished. We are hoping to have a little holiday in it before that happens but that depends…

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I hesitate to tell you what’s going on medically because I don’t want my breast cancer followers to lose hope for breast reconstruction. However, here is the long and short of it…

diep flap

New flat belly complete with belly button repositioning. Sutures keep going around the corner!

Here I am with a stomach wound which looks like someone took to my waist with a can opener, various scars from the tape (everywhere), bruising from various injections and lines, a right breast which has had a reduction and looking pretty fine, a left breast which is ‘mostly’ fine BUT part of the DIEP flap reconstruction has lost circulation and ‘died’. So I have a black hole the size of two 50c pieces on the inner part of my left ‘breast’. It is a big bad angry looking mamma. No photos provided. I don’t want to scare you.

10155433_10153574376714506_2489141779332434782_nOh… not to mention a 7cm scar on my arm from the incidental melanoma. 

What now? They decided that this section of the flap is definitely ‘dead’ on Monday so I need to go back into surgery to have ‘something’ done about it. The melanoma also needs to have more taken from it so they will do both at once. The surgeon will decide when and what tomorrow morning (Wednesday 23rd March 2016).

I’m off all pain killers now so I should be heading onward and upward… if only I didn’t have to go back in and get it done again. I appreciate  your prayers and concerns. Soon this will be over and we can just stop and watch the dog circus while sipping camomile tea and wondering where on Earth all those things we packed into storage for 12 months are. My car will be released from it’s holding bay where The MOTH put it so I can’t drive. Meanie. 

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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

Don’t call me sweety

10997206_10152768772784506_432502217_nI’ve decided to shun the wig. It was like wearing a woolly hat on those hot days and I almost drowned in my own perspiration. Maybe I’ll wear one on special occassions. So far two people (men) have said ‘Why aren’t you wearing your wig?’. The women all call me ‘sweety’ and pat me sympathetically on the hand. It’s quite funny to see the reactions of people I know. My Dad didn’t recognise me! The best of all was my friends son (who I have known since he was a child) who said ‘wow, I love the way you’ve cut your hair’. I was cheerfully dancing at that comment because he didn’t realize I had chemo hair. He may be a hippy but he made my day. Actually, I have to confess I’d always wanted to cut my hair really short (being an ex hippy myself) but I was worried that it would look bad and I would regret it and cry into my pillow for 100 years. So I’m trying to embrace it and so far so good. Just don’t call me sweety and pat me on the hand or I’ll have to show you just how sweet I am and get violent ha ha.

Mammagard

I’ve been struggling with nasty hip pain over the last 2 weeks. They tell breast cancer patients to get all new pain checked out but I have arthritis so I’d be wearing a track to the hospital if I did that. This is new hip pain is on the left side which is new, so I went to have a bone scan this week. I’m getting very little sleep from the pain. Arggh. I was all excited about bouncing around like a rabbit from here on. The problem with it is that I can’t get a massage or go to my usual chiropractor because laying on my stomach is uncomfortable with the breast tissue expander. My friend has invested in an Australian made product called ‘Mammagard‘ and I had the honour of meeting the ‘inventor’ who is an osteopath. He is selling his kits like hot cakes in the US and I feel privileged to have the use of one. I got to sleep on my stomach last night and that was awesome! So I’m hoping to get a massage and treated by my chiro/myotherapist next week. He said I can use it for my Body Balance class also but I’m not sure if I’m that co-ordinated. Soon I’ll be bouncing around like a rabbit for sure:) http://mammagard.com/

If you find laying flat uncomfortable for whatever reason (breast related) let your Physio/chiro etc know about it because they can buy a kit.

Burns

I know I’m starting to sound like a walking advertisement for products but I swear it’s just that I feel so enthusiastic when I find something great. Do you know my radiotherapy burns went from horrid, purple, infected and very very painful to remarkable healing almost overnight. I’ve been piling on the Moo Goo (also an Australian product) and it’s beginning to look better than my other skin! I told the plastic surgeon yesterday and he could hardly believe me when I said what a state I was in just 2 weeks ago. He said he would have cried if he saw it. They are very sensitive these plastic surgeons. BTW he told me I have not got enough stomach (still) to do a TRAM flap so he might have to use butt or thigh tissue. I am devastated. I’ll leave it to you to decide if I’m kidding or not.

I can have cancer and still be joyful

Happy new year to you all! 2014 was full of joy and also full of unexpected journeys. It’s brought me to write my thoughts about happiness. Don’t feel that I am lecturing you… I’m just sharing my thoughts for the new year.

People seem obsessed with finding happiness. If only I had… if I wasn’t with… if that person would leave me alone… if I had a different job… then I would be happy. I don’t chase happiness.

Happiness is always momentary. I am happy when I’m eating my favourite meal. Beginning a friendship or relationship with someone new can bring happiness. Seeing a pretty butterfly or flower will do the same trick. The problem with happiness is that it’s transitory. Joy, however, is deep within your soul. You can be full of joy and yet still grieve or feel sad whereas you can’t share these feelings with happiness.

By chasing happiness we are always looking for a 5 minute ‘fix’. Ultimately in the end we will return to our original feeling… unsatisfied.

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The choices we make in order to find happiness often alter our long term happy feelings. Examples:

1. I’ve been ‘happily’ married to the MOTH for almost 35 years. This is not because we are perfect or even ‘right’ for each other. It’s because we are committed to making our marriage work. We are not compatible nor do we share the same interests or even the same values (originally). We are not always happy with each other. As well as that:

  • I detest sport- He loves it
  • I am impulsive- he is cautious
  • I love possibilities- he loves to know what’s happening or going to happen
  • My mother was a lay preacher- his father was a tough prison officer (our family values are different)

I could go on and on but I don’t want to air our dirty laundry here ha ha. The bottom line is, we could easily say tough times have destroyed us but instead they have strengthened us. If we decided we weren’t happy everytime we had tough experiences we wouldn’t be here today. Seeking happiness and ‘getting rid of negatives’ isn’t a long term answer.

Happiness amongst the rubble

Happiness amongst the rubble- Blake and Shannon

2. We restored 2 very old houses while rearing 3 young children. When I say ‘we’, I mean ‘we’!! We lived in 100% shambles for the entire time we lived in them, up until the time we put them on the market. After we sold each of them we purchased houses significantly cheaper than the one we sold. So we left our ‘beautifully restored house and went to another ‘renovators delight’ and began again. We paid our house loan off by the time I was 30 years old and have never borrowed ANY money since. The fact that we are financially comfortable is not because we are ‘lucky’. It’s because we have battled for it. Our happiness hasn’t come from having more, it’s come from doing without. Living in houses which are in a constant state of renovation is tricky. We had 3 children sleeping in the loungeroom for 5 years, for example. Not to mention the ‘no bathroom for 6 months etc. Up until recently we drove old bomb cars. Remember the MOTH’s beloved Camry? In fact, we only had one car for the first 10 years of marriage.

Even now, we may be seen to be jetsetting around the place having a wonderful time, but we make the following allowances:

  • No private health insurance (hospital)
  • No pay TV
  • No excessive use of heating and cooling
  • I dye my own hair (when I have it!!!)

These choices altered our long term happiness and also gave us many adventures and happy memories.

3. The most famous question of all. How do you find time for art? Answer: I make it. I worked fulltime, went to gym at 6.30am on my way to work, reared my 3 lovely children and studied for 8 qualifications for 20 years and still found time for creativity. How? I don’t watch television and I don’t iron. These are my priorities. They probably won’t be yours but don’t spend your life saying ‘I don’t have time for…’ or ‘If I had time I would be happy’. You will find time for anything if it’s what you really want.

I won’t bore you with the long list because I know you get the point and I don’t want it to seem I am making a judgement on others. That’s not my intent.

So what is the point of all of this prattle?

It’s now 1 year since I found that dreaded golf ball sized breast lump. If I was just chasing happiness in 2014 and it was based on being healthy and getting healed I would now be a very unhappy person. Do you know what? I’ve never felt so full of joy. Life is never the same after you have cancer.  You find happiness rising from things you never did before. You overlook the faults of others. You see life through different lenses. 2 of my friends have taken up motorbike riding after having breast cancer. Woo hoo!

It’s true, I’ve been blessed in many ways but I’ve also battled through a lot of tough stuff in 2014. To be happy it would have been easier for me to stop running 15kms per week and give up. I could have sat on the couch and gone to bed very easily. What was I trying to prove? Well I was trying to prove that by sticking with something you reap the benefits. It didn’t make me happy exercising while I was sick but it certainly improved my health and mental state. My doctor called me ‘superwoman’ many times.  After 9 months of chemo I was feeling pretty OK! So I don’t seek happiness. I have joy and that is what keeps me afloat. The happiness comes from appreciating what I’ve already got and by persistence in building good foundations.

That’s my little rant over for today so that should make you all happy LOL.

Medical hoo ha

I’ve finished 3 of my 33 radiotherapy treatments. It’s a little solitary, compared to chemotherapy. Even the radiologist runs out the room to get out of the radiation. It takes 30 minutes for the treatment (not including the time it takes to get changed into a magnificent gown and back again) and car parking is easy so I drive myself. Because of my tissue expander it is a little more complex and I end up with beautiful drawings all over my chest with a marker pen. They match the tattoos very nicely. I’m sure it is going to be a piece of cake compared to chemo and surgery.

Soon I will be able to microwave my own food. I’ll just pop it in my mouth and ‘voila’! Anyone for reheated lasagne?

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.