Chapter. Closed.

When I was a young child my mother, sister and I were travelling to New Zealand to visit family. One of the flight attendants asked if I would like to offer sweets to the passengers. From that moment I knew that when I was older I wanted to be a flight attendant.

After many years of trying (Virgin didn’t think I was good enough. Silly Virgin…) I finally landed my dream job. That was nearly ten years ago.

My final days with Qantas didn’t end as I had imagined. Due to illness I didn’t have an official last flight. I missed out on a final silent review, a chance to sit in the Flight Deck on last time, to get a standard photo with the captain’s hat on and the obligatory A380 “stair shot”.

But my memories of flying weren’t reliant on that final flight; my memories were built during the last nine-and-a-bit years.

I couldn’t possibly name every person that has touch my life in a special way since I started with Qantas. But there are a few people that played a major role in many of my experiences.

On day one of training I met the most amazing lady – Lucy Goulding. We car pooled to training, studied together and she still remains an amazing friend to this day.

Graduation Class

And then there were my Bellevue Hill/Double Bay posse: Bec #1, Bec #2 and Sarah. See there is one problem with flying, if you don’t have flying friends and all your other friends work 9-5, it’s a very lonely world.

These girls were always there for midday, midweek coffee dates. Bec #1 was my soft sand run buddy and we would always plan to have tea and toast after, but we never actually drank tea…I still never worked out why we called it tea and toast.

Bec #1 and I cruising Dallas

And finally a shout out to Hatice, Eli, Caroline, Baxy, and Bobby.

I am forever grateful to Baxy, who put a roof over my head when I moved back to Sydney to fly long haul, with a weeks notice. Thank you to Caroline and Bobby for being my fellow London wanderers. And Eli, it all started when I text you your name while trying to save your number. There have been so many funny moments flying together – the swizzle sticks incident will never be forgotten. And Hatice, so many great days solving world problems on the rocks of Clovelly.

I couldn’t tell you how many flights I’ve flown, or how many hotels I’ve stayed in. But there were some special trips that I’ll always remember.

From Safari in South Africa…

Safari in Johannesburg Horse Riding Safari

…to cruising the Rhein in Germany…

Cruising the River with Dizey

… even getting sunburnt cycling along Venice Beach and Santa Monica.

Bike rides along Santa Monica and Venice Beach

I saw big bridges…

Big Bridges...

…and Great Walls

...and Great Walls

But there was also serious training involved. Like learning to evacuate from crew rest.

But nothing compares to the time spent with friends at 40,000ft.

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So although I may have to Photoshop my face into some “final flights” I am not upset that the universe dealt me those cards.

Goodbye, Fuchsia… it’s been a blast.

The Exchange

You know the feeling when you plan something months (or years) in advance, and as it starts approaching, and becoming a reality, you become impatient and restless and just want it NOW. The lead up to a holiday or the last week of work (especially if you’ve resigned) always feels drawn-out and painful?

I’m currently overwhelmed by impatience and restlessness, as my exchange surgery is booked and is less than four weeks away. After a few date changes — due to clashes with my surgeon’s schedule and my racing schedule — March 17 was confirmed.

Before I am wheeled into the operating theatre I have one last race to compete in: Mooloolaba Triathlon. I’m very fortunate to have a surgeon who understand what is important to me and has supported my wish to train and race over the past few months.

So what does the last step in this long-winded journey entail? The hard-as-rocks-ain’t-moving-for-nothing temporary tissue expanders are removed and my (hopefully) softer, permanent implants are inserted. I wouldn’t call the surgery ‘major’ but an overnight stay in hospital and six weeks off work (and training) will follow.

And I ask myself (or to be more precise, my other half asks me…) How does someone who trains most days manage with no training for six weeks? Simple: Accept and enjoy it. Will I miss watching the sun rise on my long runs (the most magical time of day) — yes; will I miss my early morning rides with the girls — most definitely; will I miss jumping in the water and staring at a black line in the pool — not so much… This is not because I dislike swim squad, I’m secretly happy to be taking time out now as we bridge between the summer ‘cold-water’ pool training to winter ‘heated pool’ training.  By the time I return to training I’ll be in the steamy-bath water.

There is always a silver lining to be found.

3 weeks + 5 days: I’m ready.

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…

 

day six: two steps forward, one step back

I’m starting to think I need to do my daily blog at the end of the day, not at the beginning… but hey, since when have I ever done things the easy way..

Before I can even think about today, I need to talk about yesterday. Because yesterday was a big day!

It was a crackin’ start to the day. As you know, my pathology results came back clear. I successfully dried my own back after showering – baby steps towards independence. I had two drains removed – I didn’t feel a thing, phew. I had a few hours’ freedom from my IV pole – oh the freedom! I was put in a neck to hip compression stocking – instant six-pack! I had some very special visitors. And, it was Mother’s birthday. *Takes a breath*

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, let me tell you…

It was lunchtime, which meant I was due for my next round of antibiotics, which in-turn meant it was time for a new cannula. I knew my freedom from the IV pole had a limited timeframe, but I was a little sad for it to be ending. Was it too late to run and hide from the nurses? For me, having a cannula put in is the most unpleasant thing, ever. Six-months-on from chemo and it still causes me grief. The psychological damage caused by too many failed attempts, and the sensation of the drug entering the bloodstream, is something that is yet to be forgotten. A visitor had just arrived prior to the nurse wheeling in her big metal trolley full of paraphernalia. I had no choice but to suck it up and put on my invisible big-girl-panties.

The second cannula went in with ease, the antibiotics infused, but shortly after trouble started to brew. It started to feel ‘uncomfortable’. Then it became difficult to do anything with that arm – pushing my IV pole caused instant pain. There’s a difference between ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘painful’, and I knew I was surpassing the latter. I called the nurse and she confirmed what deep down I already know. The cannula had ‘blown’ and would have to come out.

Since I’m only expected to be in hospital until tomorrow, the nurse rang Dr O, explained the failed second cannula and asked if I could be switched to oral antibiotics. I crossed everything in hope for her to say the magic word – Yes. It wasn’t to be. *Sigh*. I understood her reasons, if I get an infection the expanders will have to come out and months will be added to this process. And we don’t want that! But it meant another cannula. *Deeper sigh*

I should have been relieved, the third cannula went in with ease, but I wasn’t. To ensure they didn’t miss again, Dr O ordered them to put it in my elbow – possibly the most uncomfortable and awkward position possible. Everything suddenly became difficult again. Now, I know you all think I’m eternally positive, but I had a moment. A BIG MOMENT. A moment where I may have shed a tear (read: I cried)… because of a silly needle in my arm. I nearly gave up doing my double laps around the ward because it was too difficult to push the IV pole. But then I reminded myself that giving up is not an option! So I forced myself around for a second lap (with a ‘my world is ending’ look on my face). The mood quickly passed when another friend arrived for a visit and the olds arrived with dinner and cake for Mother’s birthday.

That was yesterday. Today is a new day.

This morning I am starting my day with an accepting mind. I am accepting that my independence is going to be challenged, again. I am accepting that the nurse will have to shower me, again… and dry my back, again. I’m even taking deep breaths with every letter I punch on my keyboard with my right hand, because I am unable to type with my left.

On a brighter note, I’m excited (and hopeful) to be going home tomorrow. I have been completely spoilt with visitors, gifts, and flowers, but there are two others in my life that haven’t been able to visit. These two have been by my side since I moved home, and by my side with each phase of treatment. To mark day six in hospital, I am dedicating my blog to my two furry friends. To Jack and Lulu. I’m not sure how I’ll stop them from jumping all over me when I get home, but I can’t wait to see them.

 

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Don’t come any closer, she’s resting.

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You rest. I’ll keep watch.

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Whatchareadin’

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You need me to get anything?

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We’ll make sure you don’t fall off the couch.

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I’ll just stay here incase you need something.