Update

I will admit that this will be the most uninspiring or creative blog I have posted. But it’s necessary. An update is in order for those of you far away that I haven’t had a chance to talk to. So this is merely a simple update to let you know what’s happening in life and treatment. I think my University Professor would take back the Distinction he awarded me for the unit on Creative Writing if he was to read the following…

Firstly: Surgery. I have received the quote and crunched the numbers. It’s on the higher end of my budget but it’s manageable. It is all locked in for July 31st. I have over (just) eight weeks of freedom. Eight weeks to enjoy my mobility.

Secondly: Running and fitness. I’ve had a goal to take part in the Gold Coast Half Marathon for many years. I’ve heard it’s one of the best courses for your first HM – it’s flat, very flat. I actually registered about six years ago but it never eventuated. Since being back in Australia it’s been on my radar, although I thought there was zero chance of being able to participate this year. Since my last triathlon I haven’t committed to any events for the rest of the year as that date for surgery was still not confirmed – they could have turned around and booked it in with a few days’ notice. Those on my Facebook know I had a ‘light bulb’ moment when I realised the HM was before July 31st. It’s July 6th. Standby for another running story – sorry. I am also trying to maximise my time at CrossFit to ensure I am in the best possible shape before undergoing major surgery.

Thirdly: Hair. I had my first haircut the other day. Exciting. It was starting to resemble and Afro – a dark blonde Afro. My friend Meg did a great job of trimming the back and giving it some shape. I haven’t escaped the “chemo curl” and the hair definitely has a mind of its own in some places. I’m starting to master the art of using hair wax and my brushes have been dusted off and resumed their position in my bathroom draw.

Lastly: Study. It continues. I have enrolled in my next unit: Writing Magazine Features. I have also enrolled in Certificate in Professional Editing and Proofreading. The Certificate allows me to work at my own pace so I will be able to take on more study post-surgery when I will be house bound. The other unit is through university and structured over three months. My brain seems to be coping with the workload, for now.

I have mentally decided treatment has finished, but on paper it’s a different story. I know I have major surgery to come, but I feel healthy and strong (I’m slowly making gains to where I was before). I am continuing to remain calm and content with the journey. It’s taking longer than I expected, or hoped for. But I am still enjoying life in the meantime.

That’s a wrap.

 

 

 

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Starting with the letter: B

*** WARNING: The following blog contains a lot of words that make the male species squeamish. Men, continue at your own risk ***

Today I had my first appointment with a plastic surgeon to talk about one (or two) thing (s): my boobs, or breasts as corrected this morning by my male friend. He’s very old-fashioned.

After a short wait – the joy of private consultations – my name was called. A tall, impeccably dressed woman welcomed Mother and I. It was Dr O, as I’ll refer to her. We walked into the corner office of her top floor Wickham Terrace practice. The office had floor to ceiling glass windows with contemporary white furnishings. Well, she has good taste and is tidy. Surely that’s a good thing.

We reviewed my treatment history then got straight into the nitty-gritty. The boob questions started: to stay the same size, or not; to keep the nipple, or not; to rebuild and tattoo nipples, or not. My only request is that I’m not ‘high-beaming’ for the rest of my life. Most of these questions don’t have to be answered just yet. First things first, it’s all about the first surgery and inserting the tissue expander. To give you a very brief overview about how things work: they insert a tissue expander under your pectoral muscle. Once recovered from surgery they fill the expander with saline in small amounts over a period of weeks. Once you get to your desired size you have a second surgery to take the expander out and replace with the implants. Simple, no?

Dr O then asked the questions I get asked by everyone: And how are you feeling now, health-wise?

My standard response, “I did a triathlon last month and am back running 10km.” This is usually enough for people to understand that I’m feeling ok.

“So you’re doing better than some us,” she smiled. I’ll take that. Moving on…

The next step in working out my options for reconstruction is to have a look at what I already have. When you embark on the journey of treatment for breast cancer, taking your top off becomes normalised; the romance is gone. Dr O examined me in an adjoining room to her office; she asked if I was comfortable keeping the door open (for mum to see, not the whole waiting room). Bless. It was the first time my boobs, sorry breasts have been examined by look rather than feel. No poking or prodding for once. I’m not sure how often my female friends look closely at their breasts, but clearly I don’t look enough. I learnt a few things today. But I’ll keep things as PG rated as possible… for now.

I asked if she was comfortable performing this surgery on me, as a lot of hospitals are starting to steer clear of immediate reconstruction with tissue expanders. We talked about possible complications: infection (the implant will have to be removed), maintenance (the implants will have to be replaced in 10-15 years) and general recovery after surgery. She explained how my muscles will be affected and the changes to my abilities with swimming and cycling. Finally, a surgeon who gets what’s important to me and incorporates it into my recovery.

I had a play with a tissue expander and a few implants to get a feel for this foreign matter that will be living inside me.

As you know I’m pretty gung-ho. This is part of treatment; no need to think about things. I like her; I feel comfortable with her. What else do we need to discuss? Oh, the cost… the fun part. Her team is putting together a quote and confirming dates that align with my surgeon. Unfortunately she is away for a month over June / July – European summer holiday, perhaps? I’m jealous…

She has given me two possible dates: June 4 or July 30. June 4 would mean having the initial surgery and one fill, then waiting four weeks for her to come back from holidays to continue with the fills and exchange surgery. July 30 means I can continue with life as normal until then. The process will take nearly four months from bilateral mastectomy to exchange surgery and recovery. Looks like I won’t be finished in time for my birthday, the one-year mark since embarking on this journey. But I will have recovered in time for next years triathlon season. Win.

For peace of mind I have an appointment with a second plastic surgeon on Monday. I really like Dr O but it may not work out with the timing. Standby for more breast speak.

Why run when you can walk – courtesy of Medivizor

I can’t take credit for anything written below. The article is courtesy of Medivizor – a go-to website for anything medical. When you sign up you give your own personal diagnosis which helps them direct specific and helpful information to you.

I came across the following article. Running over walking. The benefits long-term… yee-hah…

For anyone newly diagnosed, sign up now: https://medivizor.com

To view the full article online: http://medivizor.com/blog/SampleLibrary/breast-cancer/why-run-when-you-can-walk/

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In a nutshell

This analysis examined whether post-diagnosis running and walking differ significantly in their association with breast cancer mortality.

Some background

Physical activity after the diagnosis of breast cancer has been shown to improve quality of life, physical strength, and significantly reduce symptoms of depression and fatigue associated with cancer diagnosis and treatment. A recent analysis has also demonstrated physical activity to be associated with delayed cancer progression and extended survival. In order to further understand the association between physical activity and cancer mortality, this analysis investigated whether running and walking differ in their effect on breast cancer outcome.

Methods & findings

This study analyzed the outcomes of 986 women previously diagnosed with breast cancer and participating in frequent physical activity since their diagnosis. 272 frequent runners and 714 frequent walkers were identified. The amount of daily physical activity performed, or energy expended, was expressed in MET-hours (metabolic equivalent of a task). One MET-hour is roughly equivalent to a one kilometer run.

During an average follow-up of 9 years, 46 cases of breast cancer mortality were recorded. Among all 986 women, the risk of breast cancer mortality was estimated to be decreased by 23.9% for patients active at least one MET-hour per day. Running was associated with significantly greater reductions in the risk of mortality than walking. Among often runners, the risk of breast cancer mortality was estimated to be decreased by 40.9% per each daily MET-hour of running. Breast cancer mortality was estimated to be reduced by 87.4% for patients participating in 1.8 to 3.6 MET-hours of daily running. Breast cancer mortality was estimated to be reduced by 95.4% for patients participating in more than 3.6 MET-hours of daily running. In contrast, among often walkers, only a non-significant decrease in the risk of breast cancer mortality was estimated for each MET-hour of daily walking.

The bottom line

This analysis concluded that post-diagnosis running is associated with increased cancer survival compared to walking.

The fine print

Although a statistically significant association was demonstrated between running and cancer survival, it may be assumed that women participating in frequent physical activity are inherently healthier. This in addition to the small number of breast cancer related mortalities analyzed may have significantly influenced results.