something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue

Before panic sets in, I should put you at ease by saying this is not a wedding post. REPEAT. This is not a wedding post. I’m just stealing the saying as inspiration for an update of some sort.

Something Old (continuity).

One definition of continuity is: A state of stability and absence of disruption. My life has definitely lacked continuity in the past twelve months. But a change is on the horizon and my previous life is about to merge back with my current life. I am resuming work in the skies.

From November 17, I am officially an active Flight Attendant again! I have been approved for 6 months part-time flying. Let me reiterate PART-TIME flying. I need to ease back into the world of flying and see if I cope after such a long break.

I will resume flying out of my old base – Sydney, which means commuting down from Ipswich. Before they let me take to the skies I need to complete a day’s refresher training… the exits are where? I’m excited to see all my flying friends; I’m not so excited about operating the longest-direct-flight-in-the-world from Dallas to Sydney.

I wonder if they will let me work in First Class again with my punk rock haircut.

Something New (optimism for the future)

I may have been quiet on CT, but I have been very vocally (in the written form) elsewhere. I am currently writing two articles a week for Holistchic ( and am putting together some articles for a new publication lili Life (love life live it). The content for the websites are polar opposites and they both challenge me in different ways… Long hours are spent on my MacBook.

I’m also still studying Editing and have completed a few other courses in the past few months. Now it’s time to start putting myself out there, pitching story ideas to magazines or publications and turning my ‘hobby’ into an income. Optimism… let’s go…

Something Borrowed (borrowed happiness)

So though I have not borrowed anything lately (apart from the parents’ car), I can write from here to eternity about happiness. Not borrowed happiness, however, created happiness. The best type of happiness.

Life has resumed to normal since surgery and I am back training and racing in my beloved sport: Triathlon. I eased back into things with an Enticer distance Tri and just yesterday competed my first Sprint distance… boy was that a wake-up call! But I loved it. And now I have reset my goals and it’s full steam ahead.

I know I am being hard on myself when I say I wasn’t happy with my time. In truth, it was only 2 mins slower than when I raced the same distance pre cancer. And I have to remind myself that I only had surgery 12 weeks ago, but I don’t like to be always in that mindset, reminding myself of where I have come etc.

Another race awaits next Sunday. Time to crack the whip on myself.

Something Blue

Ok. This one is a bit rogue and doesn’t really fit in with the traditional saying, which is about fidelity. I’m taking a psychological approach instead.

Blue is the colour of the mind and is essentially soothing. From a design perspective (although I am not a designer) light blue is used for heath, depth, stability and faith; dark blue for knowledge, power, trust and integrity.

Right now I looking through light-blue coloured glasses.

Last week, October 16 passed without a second thought, yet it should have been a date clear in my mind. It was the day I started chemotherapy last year. It was the day that so much was unknown for myself. So many questions were running through my mind: How would I feel? Would I be sick? Could I cope?

Last week, a year later, the focus was not on myself and my journey through chemo. The tables have turned and now the focus in on my father’s journey that is about to begin.

I’m taking off my patient hat and putting on my carer hat.

After nearly two weeks in hospital he is rocking the purple hospital gown, and he has worked out the difference between the dodgy plastic water the caterer brings vs the filtered iced water the nurse will bring. He will be fine. I have no doubt he will power on and handle all the challenges that go hand in hand with treatment, he is a Viking, after all.


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.




hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to the last chemo I go…

1. very enthusiastic and eager.

From the moment I woke up this morning, I was excited. Excited almost feels like an understatement… thrilled, exhilarated, elevated, animated or electrified would work, also… many words describe this feeling. Today trumps every birthday, Christmas or New Year’s I have ever celebrated – that’s a big call because my 30th birthday week in Malta was pretty amazing. Picture a five-year-old, in a candy store, eyes beaming wide, jumping up and down. That was me this morning.

There are no prizes for guessing why I have an extra spring in my step. The answer is fairly obvious to anyone who has been following this blog. For the benefit of anyone who has just stumbled upon my journey, here’s a hint: Today was my last round of chemo! *Fist pump*

You may think that is enough to celebrate, but for me, there’s more. I am excited, because I feel so damn good! I’ve made it through ‘one of the toughest times in my life’ fairly unscathed. How could I feel this good? Have they been giving me enough drugs? Both questions have crossed my mind a few times. Aren’t I supposed to be struggling to get out of bed? Struggling to walk to the letterbox? Instead, last week I managed three gym sessions and two runs. I definitely think that is something to celebrate.

Before you start to think I am in denial about the whole situation, of course I recognise that my body has been affected. My hair is gone, I’ve lost a lot of strength and stamina, and my brain has become a little. However, all these things are temporary (I’m not sure about the mushy brain; I am getting old). My hair will grow back – I already have a bit of fluff growing – and in time my strength and stamina will get back to where it was, and hopefully surpass it. So to me, ‘fairly unscathed’ is a fitting description.

The road still isn’t fully paved before me; radiation or surgery is yet to be decided. I feel that after I recover from this last round of chemo, I will be able to take my first steps forward. Even though I’ll still be ‘in treatment’ I won’t have as many restrictions in place. I can get back on the bike, literally (and eat sushi…oh sushi how I’ve missed you…).

Before I get carried away about the future, let’s stick with the present. Let me tell you about today. January 30.

I woke up to the sweet smell of a Persian Love Cake baking in the oven. Mother had forewarned the staff of the ‘farewell’ menu. I think they think we’re a bunch of crazies. Who has a ‘farewell’ menu for chemo? We do… Flowers were purchased and a Thank You card. Someone once said to me that your oncology ward – your doctor, nurses, administration staff, and other patients – become part of your extended family during treatment. At first I couldn’t understand this. You only see these people every three weeks, how could you become attached? My plan was to go in, sit in a chair, get the drugs and go home. What I had in mind and what actually happened were two very different things. The genuine care you receive is hard to put into words, and I’ve definitely made them work hard during my treatment (read: reaction #1, reaction #2 and reaction #3). So for that, we wanted to do everything possible to say “thank you” for caring for me, for us.

My appointment was a little later that usual at 11:20 which was lucky because I had very special invitation for the morning. Every Wednesday I have been going with my friend, Meg to watch her little boy at his swimming lessons. Unfortunately (for me) he started prep on Tuesday, so no more mid-week swimming dates. Meg asked if I would like to take him to school so he could show me his classroom and meet his friend. For someone that doesn’t have a child, but loves children, moments like these are very special. After the hive of activity during the school drop off we snuck in a quick coffee catch up before it was time to get ready to head to the hospital.

I wish I could say it was an easy day at the office; it wasn’t. It’s never a good start when you start vomiting before the drug infusion starts. It was purely from just thinking about chemo. The brain is a funny thing… And it didn’t stop there. The only relief was I knew this was the last time. I looked over at the machine and saw there was only 12 minutes remaining. It was a long 12 minutes. I was thinking I would rather be doing burpees non-stop for 12 minutes than sitting there, and I hate burpees! Then it beeped. It was over.

It was such an anti-climax when it was time to leave. It felt like I was just saying goodbye until next round, not forever. I do have to pop up tomorrow and next week for an injection, maybe that’s why. My time in the oncology ward isn’t finished forever, yet.

Here I am, back home in bed, making use of the bell.

We did it.


Three: It’s a magic number

This morning I woke up with a Jack Johnson song in my head: The 3 R’s. The opening line goes like this:

Three it’s a magic number
Yes it is, it’s a magic number

I don’t actually know the rest of the song, so all day I have been humming those two lines in my head. Why? Well, today was round three (officially / unofficially). I also squeezed in a 3 km run this morning and it’s exactly three months since my first round of chemo. I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to numbers, which is surprising as I’m rubbish at mathematics. As you know, seven is not a good number for me. Let’s see how three goes.

Mother decided to show off her new baking skills and whipped up some sticky cinnamon rolls for the nurses and other patients. There is always a selection of treats and snacks on offer provided by a patient. Well, the rolls were an absolute hit! One elderly Dutch lady came over when she found out mother had made them.

“Are you European?”

“No, I’m from New Zealand.”

“I haven’t had anything this good in thirty-two years.”

The lady went on, and on, and on about the rolls to every nurse. Well done, mother. Unfortunately for me, the new combination of drugs makes me feel nauseous instantly. The only thing I can stomach is fruit or dry biscuits. No sugar-laden rolls for me.

Mother was also given a gift today. She’d won a prize in the Christmas raffle. Could the day get any better! As usual, I reluctantly walked over the scales to weigh myself. I took off my shoes this time (every bit helps!). 66.9 Kg. Woohoo! I weigh less than before Christmas, the day IS getting better and better. Next stop: Dr Oliveira. What is usually a quick five-minute chat to check my WBC levels, turned out to be a very interesting meeting. We were discussing my final treatment and she asked if I wanted to continue to use Zoladex for the next two years – Zoladex is the injection that keeps me in menopause.

“Why,” I enquired.

Apparently it’s not recommended to have a child within two years of treatment. That’s the first I have heard of this (research to follow..). Not that I am planning on having a child right now, but I hadn’t considered that it’s not recommended.

“I guess I have two years to train and race Ironman instead,” I justified.

As it turns out, my doctor is currently training for Ironman! I wish I had know this three months ago. I informed her I was about to register for (half) Ironman 70.3 before I was diagnosed.

“There are still spots available for the 70.3 in Cairns,” she informed me.

“When is it?”


“June? That’s a bit soon, isn’t it?” I joked.

“Why not, you can train for it now.”

Did that really just happen? Did my oncologist just encourage me to train for Ironman. She agrees the more active you are, the easier treatment is, and the easier you recover.

“I love you.” Yes… I told my oncologist that I love her.

Now before everyone starts panicking that I am going to head out tomorrow and throw myself into a crazy training regime, relax. I know my limits. At the moment, I struggle running 5 km continuously. I’m not going to start training now for a half-marathon distance. I think I was destined to have her as my oncologist. The nurses, on the other hand, were a little stressed by her encouragement.

Next step: get set up in the chair. This morning I had my pick between chair 3 or 4. I decided to continue with my magic number of the day. Mother wasn’t impressed as chair 4 is ‘The Corner Suite’. I also realised that today is the 9th. 9 is divisible by 3. Sold.

I won’t lie, receiving the drugs is getting harder and harder. I knew it was going to be a tough day when I went TO the oncology ward feeling nauseous. I can no longer look at the bag of drugs, or watch them inject it through the IV. Thinking about chemotherapy, even the word, sends my gag reflexes into overdrive. I sat there patiently trying to think of anything but chemo. The lunch tray came around, no thanks! I stuck to my fruit and carrot sticks. Mother decided to try the sandwich and informed me it was tuna… TUNA *GAG*. I think it’s a bit mean of the hospital to send tuna sandwiches to the oncology ward. People already feel sick, don’t make it worse. The treatment passed without any hitches and I am back home resting in bed.

One more down…One to go.

could’a, should’a, would’a

I know a lot of people think I have positivity oozing through my veins – probably because I’ve told you I do. Today was a day I found hard to remain positive. The nasty soul-crushing thoughts worked their way from the back of my mind to the front. Why? Today should have been my last round of chemo. I am nearing three months of chemo; a timeframe I had accepted and was prepared for. The front of my mind has accepted the extra six weeks. The back of my mind spent all day invading the front, saying “should’a, could’a, would’a.” I think it’s normal, no need to send over a straightjacket.

Today’s appointment wasn’t until 10:00 am. The late start was perfect as I hadn’t finished packing – tomorrow we leave for eight nights on the Gold Coast! Whoop! I also had Uni work to finish (of course I decided to do online study during chemo, standard). It was a quietish morning at the oncology ward, after only a 20-minute wait, I was called to see Dr Oliveira. Nothing to report from me: I had a fairly easy last round with minimal side effects. Nothing to report from Dr O: I was fit to have chemo.

There is one thing I really don’t like about chemo day: weighing myself. With mother standing over my shoulder I watched the number creep up, and up, and up…  “The scales must be wrong,” I said to mother. I’ve put on 3 KG! I went back to the waiting room thinking of all the treats I’ve had over the past few weeks, trying to work out HOW I put on 3 kg’s… “I didn’t take my shoes off before stepping on the scales, that must be it!” Problem solved. Relax.

They were finally ready for me and I was called through to the ward. As I walked in, I saw the nurse setting up at chair seven. Really, SEVEN!! She quickly remembered (after I reminded her) that I am not allowed in chair seven. Eight was free, phew. As she was preparing my chart she asked my weight. “68,” I said reluctantly, informing her it was with shoes on. She laughed and pretended to write “with shoes on” on the chart. It’s the small things… Next step: cannula. I was unlucky and the cannula didn’t go in with the first attempt. It was the same vein that was also a failed attempt last round. We have decided to never attempt that vein, again. Good decision.

The pre-meds were delivered, and I have come to the conclusion that this is the part I hate most – feeling the drugs travelling through my body and the rush of the steroids. People pay big money for that kind of rush, I think… It’s a strange feeling (I should try harder to describe this, considering I’m doing a creative writing course!). After the pre-meds had settled into the system the nurse sat next to me and started administering the chemo drugs. The photo below is the Epirubicin – one of the three drugs I receive. I find it quite fascinating and sit there, eyes fixated on the colourful liquid entering my bloodstream. Time passes quickly as I jibber away, talking the nurses ear off. The last bag was attached and it looked like we would be out in record time.

The final piece of the puzzle was completed after I received my Zoladex injection – another four week holiday for the ovaries. After a round of “Merry Christmas” wishes in the ward, we departed. And we did in fact make it out in record time: four hours!

Back home at Casa Macrae and I’m prepared with a stash of anti-nausea drugs. I have a few new concoctions I can start taking today, if I start feeling a bit icky. My motto is: Why wait! Take them all now.

Normally, 24 hours after chemo is completed, I go back to the hospital for my Neulasta injection (WBC booster). I have decided this week to give the nurses a break and self-administer (read: more time on the Gold Coast). Just when I thought my days of jabbing my stomach were over…


… and the ugly

I really don’t like writing blogs of this nature. However, I did make a promise that I would document: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. So here it is.

As you all read, my oncologist warned that severe nausea was one of the main side effects with the new drug regime I’ve switched to. As much as I like to think that I will be the exception, I was reminded again that positive thinking can only gets you so far. I am not invincible. So, I am taking off my rose-coloured glasses and sharing the facts.

Two hours after arriving home from my first round of FEC, Thursday, the overwhelming nauseous feeling started taking over my body. I knew I had been giving anti-nausea medication as part of my pre-medication before treatment. But was I allowed to take more now? I wasn’t sure. Too bad, it was my only option to take control. I peeled myself off the white leather lounge and climbed the five stairs to my bedroom. Riffling through my bag of tricks (medicine), I found my saving grace: Maxolon. Pop and drop. I then fumbled through my bedside draws and located one of the many hospital grade sick bags that have sneakily made their way home with us – just in case. I lay down and was out for the count (4:30pm). I hadn’t planned on staying in bed, my phone was downstairs, and I had not way of trying to get John’s attention, to let him know I wasn’t planning on moving anytime soon. John was preparing dinner, yet the thought of food was so far banished from my mind. I was quite disappointed about this – John was preparing a tasty treat, requested by myself. How disappointing! Eating is my all-time-favourite pastime!

The next morning I woke feeling ‘slightly’ better. I managed a trip down to the kitchen for some dry toast (with butter) along with a fresh juice of apple, carrot and beetroot. All prepared by John. He’s off work on Carer’s Leave while mother is away – and doing a fab job! John mentioned that he was going to cook some eggs for breakfast – that was my queue to return upstairs. The thought of what smell may over-take the kitchen was enough to make my gag reflex’s go into overdrive. Off I shuffled, back up the stairs and back into bed. I stayed in bed until 10am! I’m still learning this is OK.

Later that day we had to stop by the hospital for my WBC booster injection. I do have the option of self-administering these at home. You would think that after all my IVF injections I would jump at the chance to avoid a trip to the hospital. No thanks. My days of self-adminstering needles into my belly are over, for now. Also, getting out of the house for 30 minutes is a bonus. Upon arrival, the nurses could tell that I wasn’t enjoying the new drugs.

“How are you feeling?” they asked.

“Urgh,” was all I could muster up.

In sympathetic tones they reminded me that there are other options; stronger anti-emetics are available. I’ve booked an appointment first thing Monday morning with my GP, just in case. Round one is always trial and error. I know this.

FEC chemotherapy was the kingpin of regimes over three years ago. Going back in time with an older drug regime definitely reiterates my feelings on the continuous advancements in medicine. TC is the new kid on the block. It is recommended these days as treatment is shorter and the side effects are more manageable. I didn’t suffer an ounce of nausea during my first round (the only round of TC I can make a comparison to). Unfortunately, my body was too sensitive to these drugs. I think I prefer a few days of feeling nauseous over another Taxol reaction. Any day!

I mentioned to John, in jest, that maybe I needed a bell, for the odd occasions that I may get stuck in the same situation as last night (deserted upstairs, in my bedroom, woe-is-me, woo-woo-woo). It couldn’t hurt, could it? On the way to the hospital we made a pitstop to Officeworks where I had seen one previously for sale. After a few jokes, and a few test dings in the store, it was purchased. Ding, Ding. I’m quite disappointed I haven’t had a chance to use it yet. I woke up even sprightlier today!

I know reading that I have not felt my best is hard for some, or most. Please no sympathy. It’s all part of the process and I am accepting of this. I can now add “severe nausea” and “loss of appetite” to my list of side effects I’ve endured.

“Have you lost your appetite?” asked a few friends after my first round of chemo.

“I wish,” I replied (thinking of my expanding waistline due to consuming too much cake).

One should never joke!


Breaking Bad and Chemotherapy

Lately, as you are all aware, I have lots of time on my hands. Usually I would be happy filling my days with lady-of-leisure activities, and I have been. However, I have imposed a new rule upon myself: one “outing” per day. For someone who can have back-to-back coffee dates and catch ups, this is a big change in my life. So how do I fill the extra hours spent at home?… Eating, writing, attacking 1000 piece-puzzles, cooking…and now indoor cycling, thanks to my indoor bike trainer that was kindly donated (you’re the best, Richard Leong).

Some people can happily watch DVD’s all day – I wish I was one of them. I seem to have an inability to watch a whole movie without falling asleep, or being distracted with my iPhone or laptop. Watching a movie during the day results in a 90% chance I will make it through to the closing credits, unfortunately movie nights for me are definitely a thing of the past. Especially during chemo where bedtime is sometimes 6:30pm. The majority of my friends will know that I am technically-inept. I know the basics around a computer, but when someone starts talking to me about ‘streaming’ or ‘downloads’, I am transported back to a 50s housewife with my cooking apron on (and a martini in hand), saying ‘Pardon, dear?’

Luckily with the technology advances today, there are companies that provide a service for the likes of myself. Meet my new friend: Quickflix. I now have a variety of shows and movies available at my touch of my fingertips. Unfortunately, I cannot speak highly of this company, their range is limited – did you notice I only said ‘friend’, not ‘best friend’. I do however have one thing to thank them for: Breaking Bad. I have heard friends talking about this show, my Facebook Newsfeed was inundated with messages about Hank when the show ended. Who was Hank? What is everyone on about? (yes it’s been around for 5 years! I tend to live under a rock when things are new and get involved just as the show finishes)

For those who have never seen Breaking Bad, or heard of it, here is a quick synopsis…

“Breaking Bad is an American crime drama television series set and produced in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Breaking Bad is the two-year-long story of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a struggling high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer at the beginning of the series. He turns to a life of crime, producing and selling methamphetamine, in order to secure his family’s financial future before he dies…”

Earlier this week my next instalment from Quckflix’s arrived: Breaking Bad, Season 2. (they only post DVD’s rather than stream the early episodes…punishment for living under a rock).  The oncology ward has DVD players available. Winning. There is something very comforting about watching someone else battle cancer, simultaneous to yourself (although there has been more references to “chemistry” than cancer in the past few episodes). I think it’s much like watching Air Crash Investigations while working as Airline Crew. Knowledge is power: the more you see and know, the more comfortable and in-control you feel about the situation…even if it is fiction. Even more so, watching shows that depict people receiving chemotherapy, I now know why people have such a bad image etched in their mind about this process. Hollywood does not paint a pretty picture. I know it’s true that chemotherapy CAN be as bad as depicted, but not always (always the glass-half-full for me). I still feel that physically, I am sailing through treatment – talk to me in 12 weeks and we can re-assess my view on this.

So why am I talking about a TV show on chemotherapy day?…Well, I have switched to a new drug that NOBODY has ever had a reaction to (well I’m not 100% sure about this, I haven’t done my usual research). Meaning: no pre-meds. Second meaning: No ‘battle of the eyelids’. Third meaning: DVD and relaxation was on the cards.

So, the Million Dollar Question…

No reaction. No drama (well, it took two attempts to get a cannula in, but that’s forgivable). *golf claps*

The new combination consists of three drugs: (F)fluorouracil, (E)epirubicin, and (C)cyclophosphamide. I’m hoping by week 12 I will be able to pronounce all the names, correctly! (F) and (E) are given manually by the nurse pushing them through the IV line. She wheeled up close next to me (lucky I don’t have personal space issues) and worked her way through five large syringes full of drugs. She kept asking “Are you OK? You look worried.” I had my serious face on, apparently. After all the hard labour by the nurse, she attached the final bag of drugs (C) to my IV. This would take an hour to run through. PERFECT! That’s one whole episode of Breaking Bad. DVD in. Earphones on. Relax.

After all the drugs had successfully made it through my bloodstream, I felt like a movie star having won an Oscar. The whole oncology department were thrilled for me. Congratulations were thrown around the room and I asked if I would get a gold star on my chart…or an upgrade to the corner suite.

Four hours later, I am back home. Job done.

*** Side note: Breaking Bad was filmed in 2008. I personally think the medical world has progressed by leaps and bounds in the past 5 years. Kudos to the anti-nausea drugs. I have been warned that the new drugs I will be receiving: FEC, may cause strong nauseating effects. ‘May’ is the key word here. It also, may not.

Back to the “Office”

As you are aware, I have been on a self-appointed chemo holiday. It has been challenging at times to explain to people: YES, I have started chemotherapy. NO, I am not suffering any side effects. I am not in denial…my body does not feel an ounce difference from my former healthy pre-cancer state.

The only time I was administered a full dose of both drugs was during my first round, way back on October 17. During the second round, only the “softer” of the two made it into my bloodstream, and the third attempt, well let’s be generous and say 5 drops of Taxol made it into my system. Extreme tiredness was the only side effect I experienced from round two (going to bed at 6:30pm would classify as extreme tiredness, right?).

So I’ve had 2 weeks up my sleeve before starting the new regime: FEC. I had two choices: be frustrated that chemo is delayed and I’m waiting around AGAIN for it to start (properly), or make use of feeling normal and healthy. Lock in option B, Eddy.

My “chemo holiday” has been like any other holiday I would like to have: carefree. I’ve enjoyed many lunches with friends visiting from interstate (perfect timing), I was able to dress up and attend a party that would have fallen during my low WBC days, and would have been too risky to attend, I ran two parkrun events, and spoilt myself with a few of my favourite things I had previously given up at the start of chemo (whiskey, wine, beer and black coffee). Shhhh…don’t tell mother.

I have a feeling Thursday may present a major case of Deja Vu…except I’ve actually experienced the event – it’s not my imagination. Thursday I start “Round One.”

Technically, this is my FOURTH round of chemo but I have decided to start from scratch. It’s a completely new drug – another four rounds, every three weeks. I feel fresh, so let’s start fresh.

As with most things in this journey, I try to find correlations between my treatment and things that may have occurred in my former healthy life. By doing this, it “normalises” even the unfortunate events.

So, I am choosing to think of the previous three rounds as training for the main event. If I had a triathlon in the near future, I would have trained for all three disciplines. My past three rounds were just that, training for FEC. Although, I think that if I was experiencing the same unsuccessful results from training for a race, that I’ve encountered during my rounds of chemo…I would probably cancel my event.

I’m more excited than nervous for Thursday.

Let’s crack on!

Reelin’ in the Years

I have spoken previously of the challenges a young BC patient faces compared to those of an “older” woman. Of course the journey is difficult at any age – there are both pros and cons to enduring this journey at a younger age, or older.

I want to shed some light on another taboo subject.  A subject so far from my mind at the tender age of 32 (is it a bit presumptuous to think that 32 is still a “tender” age?).

Today I want to talk about: Menopause. Menopause? Yes, menopause! It’s another unexpected experience thrown in front of you, when you are a young woman diagnosed with BC. The journey has taken me from: one minute pumping my body full of hormones to produce a good egg harvest to freeze, to secure my chances of having a family one day… to being jabbed with a needle to actively shut down my ovaries, and propel myself into menopause. My poor body doesn’t know its left, from its right at the moment.

Chemotherapy toxins can cause the onset of premature, or early menopause (for women under the age of 40 it’s called premature, for ages 40-45 it’s called early… over 45? you didn’t get a mention, sorry). The medical world suggests (I think research is still being conducted): if your ovaries are not “active” during chemotherapy, the chances of them being damaged during treatment, is reduced. So it can’t hurt to shut them down, right? Long Service Leave for the ovaries. Happy Holidays.

Meet, Zoladex.

What exactly does Zoladex do? The medical description, courtesy of webdoctor (it seems fairly accurate), is: “Zoladex is given to desensitise the pituitary gland and stop the natural production of FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) and LH (Luteinizing Hormone).” Too technical? To put it simply, it tells the brain to stop producing the hormone, that tells the ovaries to do their job.

Zoladex is an implant that is injected under the skin of your abdomen. It’s administered using a BIG-ASS-NEEDLE. Another needle in the stomach. Been there, done that, got the T-Shirt. “Would you like some numbing cream?” asked the nurse. “No, I’ll be fine. It’s just another day at the office.” I replied.

I’ve now had two Zoladex implants. The first was given on the same day as my first round of chemo…because having chemo for the first time wasn’t enough! I was too focused on what changes my body was experiencing from the chemotherapy, I didn’t stop to think if I was experiencing any side effects from the Zoladex. Last week I was given my second injection (they are administered every four weeks). A few days later, I was sitting on the couch, wondering why I was feeling so hot and bothered, in sporadic bursts. “Well, I don’t want to state the obvious, but you’re going through menopause,” mother reminded me. “Oh yeahhhhhhh.” Hello, Hot Flushes! (also referred to as Hot Flashes)

Hot flushes are a hard thing to explain. One minute you’re going about your business, the next, your core temperature rises and your body feels as though it’s being engulfed in flames. It’s not the most practical thing to manage during chemotherapy treatment, I have to monitor my temperature ensuring it doesn’t exceed 38 deg. At the moment, every five minutes, I am reaching for the thermometer to check it’s not time for another trip to the Emergency Ward.

This whole journey has become a giant learning curb. Experiencing hot flushes is just another slap across the face from reality (a very gentle slap). It’s a reminder that I am not invisible to the side effects of these drugs. I always do my research of the possible side effects, but I never actually consider that I will encounter them…strange, I know. I had the same realisation after my second round of chemo. “I don’t know why I’m so tired,” I grumbled to mother, my mouth fighting another yawn…after having slept 14 hours. I guess it’s the glass-half-full in me.

I like to think that I am fortunate. I get a preview of what is to come in life later down the track. I’m ahead of the game with girlfriends my age. I’ll be the calm, wise woman, giving advice on how to manage the hot flushes and night sweats.

But for now, all I know: it’s going to be a looooooong Queensland summer.

***Side note: For all the Qantas crew reading this…I think it’s fair to say: I am thermally challenged *takes jacket off*.


In the blink of an eye

In life, a week can feel like eternity, or it can feel as though you’ve blinked and missed it. For me, this week has been the latter. Given all the dramas from last week’s attempt at chemo, and the uncertaintity of what was to come, the days melted away before me.

As the morning light filtered through my bedroom blinds, and the kookaburras sung their morning chant, I realised, today was Thursday. Today was chemo day. This was definitely a week where I blinked and suddenly I was transported seven days further in the future.

I’ve had a challenging yet extremely satisfying week: a lovely visit from another interstate visitor (and another beautiful present), a lot of phone calls, emails and brain power getting parkrun moving forward, time spent perfecting my Pho recipe, and as most of you would have seen, I stumbled across a perfect ‘healthier’ treat to satisfy my chocolate and peanut butter addiction. A big shout out to Belle Gibson, and The Whole Pantry app for this treasure. There have already been discussions within the house about alternative filling options – raspberry filling is the next request.

For the first time, in a very long time, routine is present in my life. The new proposed regime means: every Tuesday I have a blood test, and every Thursday I have chemo. I am considering making Wednesday my ‘Ladies who Lunch’ day. For seven years working as cabin crew, the start of the working week could be Monday, but it’s most likely Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Can you see why I’m feeling extremely chuffed with my new schedule.

Let me rephrase: I WAS feeling extremely chuffed.

Today’s chemo was NOT a success, again. Instead I graduated: How to Fail Chemo 101. If there was an actual award, I’m sure I would have received a high distinction. Maybe my body is having “Chemo Envy.” It wants to try all the possible combinations.

I am not going to bore you with a minute-by-minute description of today’s events – it was no different to the other times. Actually I lie, it was worse. This time I was physically sick (I swear it was karma from my hips for eating hot chips for morning tea…).

Here is a summary: went to the hospital, saw my oncologist (she’s back from Paris), sat in the recliner chair (not seven), had cannula inserted (first attempt), watched the white liquid drop-by-drop move through the tube inching closer to my veins, blushed, passed out from Phenergan, talked about the alternative, then came home. Goodbye five hours of my life.

What now? The regime needs to change, again. Say hello to: FEC. It’s a combination of three drugs – the ‘C’ is the drug I have been receiving in my original TC combination. This was the sole drug that made it through my veins without throwing a hissy-fit last week, after I recovered from my T reaction.

This is an older style chemotherapy combination. It has the same effectiveness as my original prescribed TC combination. Dr Olivera informed me that people do not have allergic reactions to FEC – but she’s coming prepared incase I decide to be difficult again. FEC is usually administered every 3 weeks, for 6-8 rounds. Since I have already received some chemotherapy, she’s only prescribing 4 rounds. It does mean I go back to a 3 weekly cycle. Goodbye routine. Hello waiting around, again.

If you wonder how I am so relaxed and tolerant with all the changes, look no further.

Working for Qantas, crew are given a two-month roster – life is planned in 2 month increments. Even when you think you have outsmarted the roster gods, and operations, there still a chance things can change: erupting volcanos, airline strikes, standby days…all can alter and change your life. Getting in a huff gets you nowhere when things are out of your control. This is definitely out of my control.

At least I can be certain of one thing this year – I am guaranteed to be feeling like a five-year-old, opening perfectly wrapped presents, and counting down to midnight with family and friends this Christmas and New Year’s. Oh the luxury. (Sorry to all the crew out there yet to learn their fate for the festive season. I do empathise, really.)

My next chemo is booked for November 28th. I hardly had any drugs administered today, and last week I only received half – just the C. I am experiencing zero side effects and feeling like I could race a triathlon.

Mother suggested I go away next weekend. “Maybe you could go down to Melbourne for the weekend,” she said.

Do I need a hearing aid? Did those words actually come out of her mouth?

Before you start dialling DOCS and reporting her for bad parenting (can you still report a parent if their child is 32?), mother has asked my oncologist in the past if flying during chemo is allowed (we were supposed to go to NZ for Christmas this year). Obviously, if any new side effects make themselves present, I won’t be travelling. I’m not daft (as Kim Barnes would like to say). But kudos to mother for making the suggestion.

For now, I am back home. Back in the recliner chair, back at stage one. I feel as though this process hasn’t really started. Every speed bump and set-back is pushing my end date further and further into the future. How do I feel about this? So be it. Another six weeks now is nothing in the grand scheme of things.

I don’t mind if life keeps throwing me lemons. I like lemonade.