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 (www.holistchic.com) 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.

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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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

thirty-three

A year ago today (yes it’s another one of those blogs), I put the olds on a tube and sent them back to Heathrow airport. They had taken a very large detour on their way to Canada, to be with me while I awaited my final diagnosis and proposed treatment plan. It was time for them to finally enjoy their holiday. And after being told that chemotherapy was ‘advisable’, it was time for me to start planning my return to Australia.

After a week of testing and doctors’ appointments, you could have assumed that hibernating was on the top of my to-do list. You would have assumed wrong. It was my birthday and there was no way cancer was going to stop me from celebrating.

The whole day was bittersweet. I received the usual onslaught of birthday love from around the world, but at that stage my diagnosis was still a secret. My stomach turned, just slightly, with every message of love and kind wishes; I would soon have to soon break the news to these special people.

I remember getting ready for my birthday dinner, curling my long, blonde locks. I stood in the mirror trying to picture myself bald. The idea still seemed so foreign, yet only eight weeks later I was. I then decided to wear an extremely revealing top, which for me, was very out of character. I joked that it may be the ‘girls’ last birthday, so why not show them off.

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Dinner was booked at Casa Negra, the sister restaurant to one of the best Mexican restaurants in London, and conveniently located walking distance from our house. There was no hesitation with ordering cocktails on arrival – it had been a big week, after all. I can neither confirm nor deny if more glasses of margaritas were consumed than plates of Mexican food. Was I drinking to forget about the cancer, or was I just celebrating my birthday? I personally thought it was the latter, my London family may have thought otherwise. The festivities continued from Casa Rosa to my favorite prohibition-style cocktail bar, also conveniently located walking distance from our house. More friends arrived and more cocktails were consumed. And although the cancer cloud loomed above my head, for that one night, life was still normal. Birthday – tick. Happy thirty-two!

Hello 2014. Hello 33.

Today I am not saying goodbye the olds; I am spending the whole day with them. I also have a date this afternoon with my plastic surgeon. It’s my first appointment to ‘pump-up-the-puppies’, or you could say, commence the expansion process… if you wish to be politically correct. The process of expansion is not a difficult one, but I’m suddenly entering the ‘unknown’ again. Some people find it extremely painful and uncomfortable, others have said a few Panadol is enough to keep the pain away. I’m hoping for the latter.

After my appointment with Dr O, the olds and I are heading out for dinner and drinks. There are no long, blonde locks to curl, and nothing to show in a revealing top. However, there will be good food, good company, and a glass of bubbles (or two). I will be a very satisfied birthday girl just the same.

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OK. Enough about my birthday! I want to briefly touch *chuckle* on something else. I want to quickly talk about how I’ve felt since surgery, about my new body. A few people have asked and are concerned about my mental wellbeing. How do I feel when I look in the mirror?  Well, I can assure you I have never been happier! Yes, happier! It may be hard to comprehend, how can a woman, who was a D/DD be happy about losing both breasts? I can appreciate that most women would’t be, but I really am enjoying being flat chested! And I’m not just saying that to ‘remain positive’.

My life with breasts consisted of ill-fitting clothes and painful shopping trips to the lingerie department. Now, I feel like I have a whole new wardrobe – I can wear things that I never felt comfortable wearing before. And I’m clearly not alone. I stumbled upon this blog in which the writer compiles a list of 12 reasons why she hates boobs. I agree with them all! It’s worth a read.

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http://imagininghappenings.wordpress.com/tag/ta-tas/

I feel more body confident than ever before. I think this stems from a sense of achievement I feel when I look in the mirror. With everything I have gone through, I am happy with the person I have become and that is all I see when I look at my scars and lack of nipples.

Looks like I’ll be changing my Bio on RSVP: Now searching for a non-boob man.

Just joking… I’m not on RSVP.

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day six: part two

Before I call it quits on day six and zone out to some TV that is sure to lower my intelligence – The Bachelor – I want to share a little story from today.

After my last blog, when I said I was going to tackle the day with an accepting mind, well, it didn’t last long. I was still feeling a little sorry for myself and my one-arm-bandit state.

I ordered my breakfast, did my double lap around the ward and waited patiently for my cereal and poached eggs, bacon and toast. I love breakfast – it’s my favourite meal of the day, so I was excited when my tray arrived. Excitement quickly diminished when I realised the additional challenges I was about to face to be able to enjoy this meal. Have you ever tried to open the plastic from a cereal packet with one hand? It’s not an easy task! But I soldiered on (complaining internally).

A few friends messaged to check I was OK after my last blog post – I was – and I replied saying, “This is only temporary, there are people who lose an arm permanently.” I wasn’t just saying that; the thought had been on my mind. There is no need for me to complain about being challenged for the next 24-48 hours. I had to keep reminding myself of this, and as I did my mood started to improve.

Then, by some divine intervention, I was flicking through the movie selection and listed was Soul Surfer – a true story about a young surfer, Bethany Hamilton, who loses her arm to a shark bite. Of course that movie happened to be in the random mix of films available, thanks Mater. It’s not a movie I would normally choose, but today it seemed appropriate. And it was exactly what I needed. Without too much of the ‘cheese’ factor, it serves up a big cup of faith, perseverance and belief for a total of 106 minutes.

You can rest assured I didn’t have an ill thought about my silly little cannula, in my silly little elbow, for the rest of the day.

It could always be worse…

 

It’s all in a date.

Being diagnosed with cancer is similar to starting a new relationship. From your first kiss, to your wedding anniversary, cancer treatment has its own special dates and milestones. And today, August 4, is a very significant one for me.

Twelve months ago, at 2pm, I strolled into the McMillian Cancer Centre, London. I entered my name and date-of-birth into a touch screen terminal next to the reception desk, and was directed to the second floor. I took a seat in the waiting room, pulled out my phone, and started to play backgammon – my standard ‘time-killer’. I had landed that morning from Dubai, and only managed a few hours’ sleep. In my bag were a book and some magazines, also to help pass time. But I was too tired to concentrate; I was struggling to stay awake!

After a short time, my name was called and I was ushered into a room for a consultation. Name? Age? Family history? … This was the start of the three questions I was to be asked many more times in the next 12 months. The doctor explained that the McMillian Cancer Centre is a one-stop-shop – you don’t leave until they have are able to give you a definite answer. You’ll either be told you have cancer, or you don’t. After a brief chat – and touch up of the lump in question – the nurse transferred me to an adjoining room.

The next step in this process was to perform an ultrasound. And again… name, age, and family history… My breast was prodded and poked by the magic wand. There was no question about a lump being present, especially once it flashed up on the black and white screen; there was a big round ball of white. ‘Let’s take a biopsy,’ the Sonographer said.

A fine needle aspiration was done to extract cells from the lump for testing. Having a long needle jabbed into your breast is not a pleasant thing; however, in hindsight, 12 months on, it was no big deal.

After the biopsy I was sent back to the waiting room. Two hours gone. Now I was really getting tired. I remember sitting in the waiting room, looking around at the other patients. I was wondering who there had cancer; who had been given the bad news. I wondered who was like me – just there to have a lump checked, that would surely be nothing. I felt sorry and was sad for those who were clearly distressed or upset. Poor them, I thought. They must have cancer.

The clock ticked over another 30 minutes before I was called back in to see the doctor. As I walked in I saw another nurse sitting to the side of the room. I instantly knew that there was something wrong. I sat down. To this day, I don’t remember what was said. Something like, ‘The biopsy showed abnormal cells… more testing….’ I burst into tears. I don’t know if it was because I was jet lagged, tired, or because I was in shock about the information I was being told. After some counseling from the breast care nurse, I was finally set free – so to say.

I was in a taxi on my way home and I was texting Thea, she and Nash had left that morning for a week in France. …Something about abnormal cells… I told her ‘So what does that mean?’ … I’m not really sure…

Did I have cancer? I didn’t know. Maybe I imagined it. I knew I was being booked in for more testing, so maybe abnormal doesn’t mean cancer, maybe it just meant they wanted to check again. I only told a handful of people about the testing and results. How could I tell people if I wasn’t sure myself? What if it wasn’t cancer, what if I misheard…

It was Friday afternoon and the breast care nurse wouldn’t be available until Monday, so I wouldn’t be able to ask any further questions until then. I arrived home, cried in the shower, put on my comfy clothes and poured myself a glass of red wine… and then another… and then another.

I went to bed with so many unanswered questions. I couldn’t imagine how my life was about to change, for better and for worse. Just like any relationship, after a year together, you grow and you learn. Not just about the other person, but yourself. By the 12 month mark, you should have worked out if you want to stay together or not. After a year with cancer, I have grown to be a better person. Cancer has taught me many things about myself, and life in general. But this is one relationship I do not wish to continue. Sorry Cancer, but I think it’s time for us to go our separate ways (soon).

 

 

 

Newsflash!

Stop the running.

Stop the burpees.

Stop the rowing.

AND stop the flashing of undergarments (well, only if you want to…)

The cost of surgery is covered!

I have crunched the numbers, and added the total raised from Thea’s Run for Boobs fundraiser, along with CrossFit Western Front’s Rack for Rocky fundraiser AND another generous donation. The result, the cost of surgery is covered!!!!

Although the cost is still only as a ‘quote’ because anaesthetic fees are only a ‘guesstimate’ until the procedure is performed, it shouldn’t vary too much.

I can’t begin to explain how much this has impacted my life. It means I can take the time to recover without any additional stresses. I have said all along that I have had an easy time through my cancer treatment as I have had limited additional stresses. This now ensures I can remain stress-free until the end of treatment.

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