Pay It Forward

Blessed. Lucky. Spoilt. Just three words to describe how I feel when I think about the support that I received when I voiced that I needed to have my surgery through the private system. I didn’t ask for help (because I had already been helped in so many ways) but friends – old and new – surprised me with secret fundraisers that, in the end, covered the cost of surgery.

Now I want to pay forward the kindness and generosity that I received. I want to share about another fundraiser that is currently taking place that is dear to my heart. I want to help in more ways than just giving a financial amount; I want to spread the word so more people can help.

The Fundraiser: The Baby Smith Dream.

Before I tell you about The Baby Smith Dream, I need to introduce you to the person who is doing the fundraising and tell you what she is doing. My amazing friend, Meg is walking from Brisbane to Ipswich! That’s FOURTY-TWO KILOMETRES! Meg has no experience in this, she isn’t a closet marathon walker, but she had a calling in her heart to do something ‘big’. And I personally think this is BIG.

I have known Meg since I was a child. She’s the unofficial third daughter in my family. She lived down the road from us and we spent our teenage years together – especially summer holidays (we have a pool). We spent hours creating fun for ourselves. My contact with Meg after I moved away was limited to Facebook, but when I return last year, it was as if I had never been gone. She has been there for me throughout my whole treatment with many trips to our favourite coffee spot.

So why is Meg walking? (I should add here that Meg has a walking partner, her cousin Maddy)

Friends of Meg – Kylie and Jo – are hoping to have one last chance of growing their family through IVF. They are already loving parents to a little girl and hope to provide Olivia with a brother or sister. After many failed attempts with IVF, and many thousands spent, time and finances are getting in the way of fulfilling their dream. There is no more time to be wasted; it’s time to take action now.

I know first-hand how hard the IVF journey is, and I only did part of the process, and without any additional emotional pressure. With every injection I thought of all the women out there that have much more on the line. It has stayed with me always and left a mark on my heart. My heart sinks each time I hear of someone going through this journey.

The Baby Smith Dream has created a blog where you can read about their story and updates on Meg and Maddy’s training. The big day is approaching, November 2.

If you want to help and read more about Kylie and Jo, and their journey, go to http://thebabysmithdream.wordpress.com

When I was supported with the cost of surgery, I was supported without having to ask.

It takes a whole lot of bravery to ask for help. I am proud of Kylie, Jo and Meg for all asking for help. Our giving nature, as a society, has been put to the test recently with the viral campaigns such as the Ice Bucket Challenge. Let’s continue to stretch ourselves to help those that are real in our lives.

Please share this on your social media and help me, help them.

 

 

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A little word beginning with: R

Re… Re… Remission.

There has always been one question that causes me to pause. Not because the question upsets or concerns me, but because I have never known the answer. (Google hasn’t been much help for this one.) The question is:”Are you cancer free?”

It’s a hard one to answer because every cancer patient’s situation is different. Some patients say they are cancer free from their first check-up post treatment. Others mark it from their final round of chemo; radiation; or surgery.

So when am I worthy of the nickname: NED (No Evidence of Disease)?

My theory is this: If I had chemo and double mastectomy for ‘preventative’ purposes, haven’t I been cancer free from when the lump was removed last year? My medical team are yet to mentioned the word ‘remission’, so I’ve always assumed it hasn’t applied to me yet.

To understand my mindset, here’s a recap of the past year (for those who missed the start of the journey).

September 2, 2013. Surgery #1: Lumpectomy and Sentinel Node Biopsy. The cancerous lump was removed, along with three lymph nodes to test and determine if any cells had escaped. (They hadn’t! Phew.)

September 6, 2013. Surgery #2: Re-excision. When they remove a mass there needs to be a clear margin of healthy, cancer-free tissue surrounding the cancerous mass. The pathology report showed the lump was bigger than they thought and they didn’t have a clear margin, so they needed to take out more tissue. The clear margin was achieved after the second surgery.

October 11, 2013. IVF: Extraction of eggs. Sort of a surgery but not. Let’s not count it as an official surgery.

October 16, 2013, First round of chemo: The moment we realised I was allergic to chemotherapy drugs. Oh joy.

January 31, 2014, Last round of chemo: Finally…

July 31, 2014, Surgery #3: Double mastectomy with reconstruction. All tissue removed was clear; no cancer cells identified.

And we’re not at the end yet! In the future I will need a fourth surgery to insert the implants; a fifth surgery to re-create nipples, and tattooing to make them look real.

The next stages of the reconstruction process may not be completed until 2015 or 2016!

So, do I really have to wait another year, or more, to celebrate being in remission, or NED?

Knowing my treatment is still ongoing, all preventative, when would be my “end of treatment, I am now cancer-free date be?”

It shouldn’t be after my double mastectomy – that was preventative, nor should it be after I finished chemo – that was preventative too. When was I truly cancer free? When was there no evidence of any cancer cells in my body.

That, my friends, was after my re-excision. That was September 6, 2013. That was a year ago today.

Without wanting to get too carried away and excited about this, I thought I would put the question to my oncologist, Dr Oliveira (I had a follow-up appointment with her last week). After a long-winded explanation about not being labelled ‘cured’ for another 15 years, so said she was happy to say I’m in ‘remission’. I then asked when my remission technically started. I told her my theory, and she agreed with it. I have been in remission for a year!

I’m yet to meet with my surgeon and ask if he agrees with my theory – he probably won’t. I’m sure he’ll have his own theory about my remission date.

So I’m throwing caution to the wind and marking today as my one-year remission anniversary. (Maybe NED should be my nickname instead of Rocky… not sure it has the same ring to it). Only 14 more years until I’m cured (apparently).

So pop some bubbles, grab a beer or go hard with a Whiskey. I’ve got a hot brunch date and a glass of bubbles with my name on it.

Bottoms up. Salud. Prost. Kippis. לחיים. Gesondheid. Salute. Na zdravi. Şerefe. Terviseks.

 

 

 

What goes up, well, may stay up.

what_goes_up_must_come_down_by_xxmeganmavelousxx-d4eajjh

When Isaac Newton said: “What goes up must come down” he definitely didn’t have any knowledge on breast reconstruction. Especially reconstruction using tissue expanders. They’re up and they are staying up.

The word ‘bolt-ons’ is often used to describe implants. I’m not sure what a normal breast enlargement is like, as it’s slightly different, but the nickname definitely applies to expanders. They feel like they are, quite literally, bolted on. No movement. Hard as metal. I need to start handing out waivers before people hug me: Hugging may result in bruised or broken ribs. The owner takes no responsibility for such outcomes. The owner being me. The bruised or broken ribs, you.

Each week I have been visiting my plastic surgeon to have a ‘fill’. The expander is a large, deflated implant with a one-way valve. They stick a needle into the valve to inject the saline. Obviously they have to be very careful with this step, if they miss the valve there is the possibility of piercing the expander. The valve is magnetic, so to find where it is she hovers another magnet over my skin. (I must remember not to get too close to anything magnetic…) I tend to look away as the needle goes in. Even though I can’t feel it – there are limited, if any, nerves in this area – having a large needle coming towards you is never pleasant.

Here’s some pictures that may help explain it better.

tissue-expanders

This is an expander.

Disposable-Syringe-50ml-

This is a smaller version of the needle she uses. Yes, it’s bigger!

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Expander. Skin. Needle. Job done.

It has been a slow and gradual increase, thank goodness! I’ve heard many stories of women getting 100+ mls added with each expansion. No wonder they are in pain! I’ve been getting 60 mls and have been comfortable and pain free. Thanks Dr O!

It’s hard to get a clear picture of what the foobs will eventually look like. The expanders need to make room for the implants so they are slightly larger and wider, which results in them looking ‘square’. At the moment mine are flat on top and they creep around under my armpit. That’s just how mine have been filling, and it’s very normal. It was a little strange at first as my arms would rub against the sides when I walked. To avoid my arms coming into contact with my side-boob resulted in me walking like a cowboy, arms out wide, ready to draw my pistol.

cowboy

At today’s appointment I asked Dr O what she thought, about my size. I’ve made it very clear, I don’t want to be as big as I was. Big boobs and triathlons just don’t mix! She said “we’re close” and next week may be my last expansion. We just need a little more room at the front.

I should have been happy hearing the expansion process is nearly over, but I wasn’t. Thursday has become my favourite day of the week. Not because I gain a little more cleavage – I’m not too bothered about the foobs – but it has become a social day for me. I catch the train to the ‘big smoke’ and squeeze in a breakfast or lunch date around my appointment. Little-Miss-Independent-Rochelle, roaming the city, eating and drinking. Today Dr O apologised for the appointment, thinking it was an inconvenience for me. I explained it was the complete opposite, as I had lunch plans and a date with two hot chicks and a Lobster roll. No apology necessary!

Since the expansion is nearly over, I thought I might be able to squeeze in the next surgery before triathlon season starts. She explained that she likes to wait at least six weeks after the last expansion before going ahead with the exchange operation. Well, that rules it out. I’ll be keeping these expanders in until March next year.

Before leaving I cheekily mentioned to Dr O that next week is my six-week mark. Soooooooo can I swim, run and cycle? Can I? Can I? Expecting to get her blessing I was sorely disappointed. As next week is my last expansion, she’s asked if I can wait another two weeks. TWO WEEKS. Patience, Rochelle… Patience *sigh*. She knows best…

Sorry runners, and googles, and bike.