Practicing Patience

Treatment is like a steam train. Departing station: Cancer. Final destination: Cancer-free. It splutters along, stopping at a variety of stops along the way: surgery, chemo, genetic testing, radiation and more surgery. The journey and order of stations is different for everyone. Unfortunately there is no express service available for this journey. I’ve experienced a few delays along the way, stopped at a few extra stops than first planned, and now it seems the final destination is a little further away, again. My genetic testing always threatened to slow the train. And it has.

This Friday I was booked to receive my results. Let me emphasise “was booked”… until they called to advise there was a delay examining my bloods. The driver’s put down his shovel and stopped loading the coal. We’ve come to a stop… again. Mid-station. The follow on affects of this delay are disastrous; I now have to forgo my plans of flying to Israel for my girlfriend wedding in April. Sigh. It was always going to be tight with all the previous delays, but it’s officially no longer an option. Deep breath’s; bigger picture. Time to muster up some patience.

My woes don’t stop there. This past weekend I was due to go to Melbourne for a post-chemo celebratory getaway. I patiently waited the recommended three weeks after my last round. I had an extra week up my sleeve while waiting for my genetic results, and deciding on the next stage of treatment. So, I planned a sneaky trip to catch up with lots of loved ones. Yet, just when I thought I would be getting back on the bike, into the gym, out for a run and a trip to Melbourne, the universe not so discreetly decided…not yet. I caught the horrid cold that’s circulating. Although, the blame may not lie with the universe, it may have been my own undoing.

Doctor: “… and you’ve been so good not being in large crowds.”

Me: “I know… I don’t know where I caught it.”

I chose not to tell her I’d been in the ‘Loose Yourself’ section at the Eminem concert days earlier. Shhh.

Ok. No more negatives. It’s ok to recognise the negatives. Acknowledge them, and then move on.

The positive I can get out of this is I have another week to recover from the cold and get in some physical activity. Movement with the body is medicine for the mind.

To all my friends that have a ‘Rochelle gets genetic results’ reminder in their phone for Friday, reset it to next Thursday.

That’s all folks…


Tune In…

For anyone who is planning a relaxing Saturday at home, tune in and watch “Shades of Pink”. It’s on this Saturday, 1st March, 3pm on Channel 10 (Australia). Melissa, a Qantas work friend was also diagnosed at young age. She was 28.

Melissa has always been available to me to answer questions and she shared her journey with me as soon as she heard I was diagnosed. Melissa did it a lot tougher than myself; her cancer was more aggressive and so was her treatment.

Melissa also took something positive out her diagnosis. With a love of races from a young age, and having made her own fascinators in the past, she enrolled in a Millinery course which she completed during treatment. She is now fully qualified. Check out her Facebook page:

Watch as she bravely shares her story.

The Bucket List

Bucket list



1. -
A numbers of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime.

The movie, The Bucket List, was on TV not long ago. As I watched I realised there was a flaw in the whole process of having a bucket list – Morgan Freeman’s character was writing his bucket list with only month’s left to live. Are we the same? Is it only when you know your time on earth is ending that you really sit down and think about all the things you would really love to do, places you would love to see or things you want to achieve (or overcome)? By then, it’s usually too late.

I started thinking (not because I feel my time is ending) why not put pen to paper earlier. Like, NOW! Having a bucket list is almost as crucial as setting life goals. If you don’t know where you want to go, how can you formulate a plan to get there?

Having worked for Qantas for seven years I’ve been extremely lucky and been blessed with a handful of amazing travel experiences; safari in South Africa, Bollywood in Mumbai, cycling along Venice Beach in LA… just to name a few. Having discounted travel meant ventures such as flying to Copenhagen for lunch a relatively normal thing to do. (It was to go to Noma – the number one restaurant in the world!) I will admit I sometimes took things for granted. After living the life of an earthling the past six months, I definitely have a fresh perspective on things.

Thinking of all the places I’ve travelled to, I sat down and thought: Would they have been on my bucket list, if I had one?

Now, I appreciate people may feel having a bucket list is pointless. I can hear your thoughts already. “I would never be able to afford any of these things I want to do, so why bother.” Usually a bucket lists consists of travel, like mine but why not dream a little? Why not create a vision to aspire towards? I’m only 32; I have MANY years ahead of me to work, save and possibly achieve some of these dreams. You can never predict what can happen in life; someone may surprise you with a gift that enables you to cross just one thing off… but if you don’t know what those things are, how will you know when the opportunity arises?

Your bucket list doesn’t have to include travel. Maybe you love the outdoors and you have always dreamt of riding a horse? Perhaps milking a cow? You may be laughing right now but I can guarantee people go through life dreaming about riding a horse but never do anything about it. Put it out to universe. Talk about it with people.

Something on your list could be for the sense of achievement. I have a fear of heights – yes I know I work in the sky, it’s different. For me, skydiving is on the list not because I think it will be amazing and fun, I want to be able to say, “I hate heights but I jumped out of a plane!” Maybe you have a fear of snakes and holding a snake would be an achievement for you. Write it down, save for a trip to the Zoo! The options are endless. Be selfish, it’s all about you.

Writing a list is also a great way of appreciating the things you have done. Life is always going to test you; there will always be rough patches. When faced with a rough patch, it’s all too common to forget the good times. Why not make a list of everything you have done, cross them off then continue with your bucket list.

So, here is mine: some basic, some far-fetched.

  • Spend a week learning to ski in Europe
  • Learn to surf (sharks scare me)
  • Learn to scuba dive (again, sharks scare me)
  • Climb a mountain
  • Go to Machu Picchu
  • Skydive
  • Complete an Ironman event (I’ll start with a half then reassess)
  • Go to Finland! I’m half Finnish and I’ve never been.
  • Go to the Opera
  • Sail a leg in the Clipper Race Around the World
  • Go to Ayers Rock and Kakadu

I can’t say if my list is complete. I may add to it as life progresses…but it’s a start. Why not take some time and write your own list, or if you have one, set some goals to get you closer to ticking some things off. Don’t leave it until it’s too late…

March 9. It’s time for another run.

Ipswich and Brisbane kiddies it’s time for another 5km run. Mater chicks in pink and Mater Foundation have supported me through my treatment so it’s time to give back.

parkrun has a team organised which I will be joining. Come join me.


Below is a beautiful video showing another inspiring woman. “Stay positive, absolutely stay positive, don’t give up hope.” She is living as a stage 4 terminal breast cancer patient. A beautiful video to watch. Cancer touches all of us.

A Dedication

Today I am saddened to hear news an old work friend has lost her battle with cancer. This is why it was so hard for me to write my blog ‘Silver Linings’, because I know people who are fighting their own cancer battles with a more real, confronting prognosis.

Tansy added me on Facebook back in November, and an email followed shortly after. She had learnt through Facebook about my diagnosis and wanted to share her story with me. She had been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer a year ago. She had already been through MANY rounds chemo and some radiation. “Still fighting though,” she said. She reached out to me as she thought it would help having someone to talk to who was going through similar treatment and offered herself to me for the same reasons – if I needed to talk at any time, she was there for me. She had heard about my blog and asked if I could send her the details.

I’m so glad she messaged me and I hope my words gave her some comfort or positivity through her battle. It is always hard for me when I know someone’s prognosis is a lot worse than mine. She informed me that her prognosis wasn’t so good, “my cancer had spread to the liver and a few other little spots but I still have a positive attitude as I believe it’s 80% attitude and 20% meds.” My blogs are so positive because I feel good about winning the battle  – I’m not sure how I would be if it wasn’t, you can never know. I was glad to know she was still remaining positive.

Tansy shared her chemo experience with me. She too had reacted to one of the drugs and was reliant on phenergen – something I could definitely relate to. She did a tough battle with chemo – mine was over in six rounds; six rounds was just the start for her.

“You keep in touch too, and it’s been great being able to share this with you. I haven’t really told many people except family and close friends. Just kept a low profile. Take care lovely and speak again soon. Xx” This was the last message I ever received from her and I regret not taking the time to check up on her progress.

My thoughts are with her family and friends. I hope they don’t mind me sharing her words and the details of her battle (if any family member or friend sees this and wants me to take it down or edit I would without hesitation). It saddens me deeply and I hope I have done her justice with this dedication. She was a beautiful person, always friendly and cheerful. Tansy Cartwright, may you rest in peace.

Dot Com

Most friends know technology and I don’t mix. And when I say “technology”, I’m not just referring to computers, it took me about 30 min’s to work out how to use a new food processor the other day. Anything with a power cord is my enemy. If something is going to go wrong, or not work, then it’s bound to happen to me – yes I managed to buy a new software download from Apple Australia using my Apple UK ID…of course I did that.

It would be easy for me to use this as an excuse and avoid technology as much as possible. However, sometimes in life we need to dive head first into things that make us uncomfortable. When I started my blog I chose tumblr, as it seemed fairly foolproof. It was easy to navigate and has done its job, until lately. For the past few weeks it’s become problematic; it won’t let me upload photos where I desire or format properly – first world problems, I know… So I needed to find a solution. I had the idea a while ago to transfer my blog to an actual website. Me, starting a website, now that’s crazy talk. Thanks to my new duties as event director for Ipswich parkrun I was introduced to wordpress. Although it seemed quite daunting at first it turns out its not – it’s just a fancier tumblr. A friend offered to show me how to start a wordpress website (thanks, Barb) but as I had some spare time the past few days (read: procrastinating on uni work) I thought I would put my nerd hat on and see if I could figure it out myself. And I did *golf claps*.

If you know anyone that has set up their own website, they may agree that the hardest part is registering your own .com. What was I going to call it? Would the name be available? I decided on a list of options for the website although a big, red, cross came up each time I entered the details. Hmm. I didn’t want to use my name – just didn’t sit well for me. I always had the idea swimming around in my head about my treatment being a “cancer triathlon”. A triathlon consists of three elements: swim, bike and run. My proposed treatment also consisted of three elements: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The only thing is if the genetic results come back positive and I choose surgery over radiation it would then be: surgery, chemotherapy, surgery – which is more like a duathlon (run, bike, run)… but let’s not get too stuck on the details, you get the gist. Cancer interrupted my life just as I found my passion for training and racing triathlons and I know triathlons will be apart of my life post treatment, and for years to come. I remember looking at the results of one race and seeing ladies in the age group of 40-45 ahead of me. That will be me. Whooping young girls in the future. So, I typed in the words “” and was greeted with a big, green tick! And so it was written…

In true Rochelle fashion I registered my .com website and set to work transferring my blogs (over 50!). What. A. Job! I also had to edit the date stamp to reflect the journey in true form.

There is another reason I’m happy with my choice of website name. On so many occasions I personally typed into Google “cancer + triathlons + exercise + ironman”. I was searching for reassurances from other ‘fit’ people who were suddenly faced with a cancer diagnosis (I wrote about this in my “I’m 32 not 50” blog). If by chance, someone in the future does the same Google search and my blog pops up, maybe I’ll be able to give him or her the hope, reassurance and comfort to know they will be OK.

So ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, here I am.

Better stop procrastinating on my uni work…

Silver Linings

I have been extremely torn over the following blog. Why? Because I want to portray the positive changes that have occurred in my life since my diagnosis, yet I don’t want to give a round of applause to cancer; it’s definitely not deserving of it. It takes lives, too many lives. It deserves all the nasty attention it receives, but – and it’s a pretty big ‘BUT’ – for those who are able to fight the battle, and win, cancer can change you. It’s changed me for the better. So let me tackle this a different way. I won’t ‘thank’ cancer; I’ll merely share the ‘silver linings’ that have come from it.

First a story, you all know I like a story…

After surgery and before chemo, I stumbled upon Lance Armstrong’s Autobiography: It’s not about the bike. It was on sale for $2… I wonder why. I mentioned to a few people that I was reading this book, “Why? He’s just declared to the world that he used performance-enhancing drugs and stripped of all his titles! He’s a cheat!” True, yet I had my reasons. I was intrigued to read about how he dealt with his cancer battle. How did a professional athlete deal with chemotherapy? Was he told to sit around and do nothing? Did he listen? It was exactly what I needed to read as I anticipated the start of my own chemo journey.

There was something I read that really stuck with me. He mentions a letter he received from a fan after announcing to the world his diagnosis with testicular cancer. The fan writes, “You don’t know it yet, but we’re the lucky ones.” How can someone be lucky to have cancer? This statement resonated with Lance through his battle. He saw the positive changes he had made in his life: his added appreciation for life; family; friends, and his added desire to never give up during the tough times. He did a tougher battle through surgery and chemotherapy than I could imagine. I wasn’t wheeled into the operating theatre having odds stacked against me. I was having a ‘smallish’ lump removed and a few lymph nodes. Not once did I feel, or have I felt my life threatened. I can’t begin to think how hard chemotherapy was back in the 90s! He did it tough. It changed him. And in a roundabout kind of way, he was thankful to cancer (it’s so hard writing that).

So what silver linings has cancer brought upon my life? Here are a few…

Cancer brought me back to Australia.
There are many good friends on the other side of the world that would disagree that this is a silver lining (I miss you, too) but my family and friends in Australia do.

Cancer forced me to adopt a shaved head.
For my entire adult life, my hair has been the vain of my existence. I can’t emphasis that enough. I could never successfully style it – I constantly battled with straightening irons and curling devices. And don’t even get me started about being blonde and trying to get the colour right… every six weeks. I now know I actually suit short hair. People sympathised for me when I lost my hair (for me, not with me, I was not sad). I tried to explain that I was not only OK about it but I thoroughly enjoyed it. No hair, in summer – perfect if you ask me… By the end of treatment I didn’t even worry about wearing scarves when out and about. The most interesting comment I received was at the check out in Woolworths.
Her: “Excuse me, I don’t want to seem rude, but don’t people stare at you, because of your hair?”
Me: “I don’t really notice, and it’s too hot to care.”

Cancer has given me time to do more and give more to the community.
There is something very special about being able to give up your spare time for the benefit of others. From giving up my spare time – I’ve had a lot of it – I’ve met many amazing people since moving back to Ipswich. I’ve had time to volunteer at some events that have really touched my heart. For me, establishing a parkrun in Ipswich was a very big silver lining!

Cancer has changed my direction in life.
Although I was diagnosed just as I was about to start my dream job – working on Private Jets – the dream job was only to be short-lived. I knew deep down that I wanted to walk about from the life of flying in the near future. I will return to the skies on a part-time basis and have faith that other opportunities will appear when the time is right. Having not flown for over six months has really opened up to my eyes to life on the ground.

Cancer has given me a reason to write.
I was daunted when a friend suggested I start a blog to keep everyone informed throughout treatment. Did I expect it to unearth a passion for writing? Absolutely not! For the past 13 weeks I’ve been studying a small unit through University – Creative and Professional Writing. I’m not sure where the path will lead, but it has been extremely rewarding. It’s also kept chemo brain at bay… a little… I think…

Cancer has strengthened the bonds with the amazing people in my life.
I have felt so blessed by the outreach of support from so many people. It’s really hard to put into words how grateful I really am. And it’s not only been from my close circle of friends, but also friends who have been distant in my life for many years. I received so many emails and messages from people saying they had been following my blog and I have been in their thoughts.

Cancer has given me time for my family.
For the past eleven years I have lived interstate and abroad. Moving back home at thirty-two wasn’t a setback after all; it was a blessing in disguise. You’ll hear no complaints from me regarding this (maybe from them…).

Cancer has given me time to cook.
This may seem like an odd thing to be thankful for, but I lost my confidence cooking a long time ago. Working as Airline Crew, I was either eating room service or socialising on my days off. Now I can make a Pho from scratch and fresh pasta. I still can’t make rice… in a rice cooker… baby steps.

Cancer has enriched my life with knowledge.
It is amazing how much you learn when going through treatment. You are bombarded with so much information. I spent a lot of time on the Internet researching each drug I was dealing with… and I’ve tried a few! I know there are people who chose not to absorb the information. I was like that at first. When asked what type of cancer I had (apart from the obvious) I didn’t remember. Did I really need to know all the details? I realised I did and started to pay more attention after that. I remember chatting to a girl and her mother in the waiting room of the oncology ward; her mum was asking how my treatment was going. It was never an easy question to answer since I’ve had so many changes to my treatment. I asked her what type of chemotherapy she was having. Her reply, “I don’t know, it doesn’t matter, I have to have it anyway.” Everyone is different and I respect that.

Treatment is far from over. There are still challenges ahead… but the end is near.

There may be some people that find it hard to read this and understand where I’m coming from. It’s a very sensitive topic to talk about in a positive manner. Cancer affects so many people in so many ways. I’ve met people who are also going through treatment for breast cancer yet their outcome will be very different from mine. I feel utmost sadness and empathy for anyone who has lost a love one due to cancer. But for me, I’ll take the silver linings…