Clipped Wings

One must be careful to talk about wings on a breast cancer blog, as this usually refers to the person departing this earth. Before panic sets in, I can reassure you that nothing with my health has changed; I am healthy and continuing with my alias of NED (no evidence of disease).

The wings I am referring to are wings I gained nine years ago — my flying wings.

After returning to the skies post treatment I was met with such excitement and enthusiasm from my flying friends. They, as was I, were excited to have me back at work. Because returning back to flying signalled that life was returning to normal, right? Although I instantly realised (after one flight) that my life had formed a new ‘normal’. And flying wasn’t part of that new normal.

During the 14+ months of treatment I was introduced to a new way of living, a way of living I had given up in my early 20s. A day that consisted of meals at appropriate mealtimes and routine. And I loved it. To return flying and have my body forced into different time zones and eating patterns has been a challenge. A challenge I no longer feel I can continue with. A challenge that has become a struggle.

For me — this is such a very personal decision — I feel it affects my overall health and wellbeing, and I can’t force myself to put my body through those stresses anymore.

I have decided to make my health a priority and remove myself from this environment.

*Drumroll* So, yesterday, September 7, I handed in my official resignation from Qantas… after nearly ten years of service.

Giving up my wings is not a decision I’ve come to lightly. Even though I have struggled since returning to the skies post treatment, I have had many amazing experiencesthe experiences since joining as a young 26-year-old. And I there are many things that I am thankful for:

  • I am thankful that I was able to fulfil my dream job. From an early age I knew I wanted to be a flight attendant, and I achieved that. I have been proud each time I have worn the Qantas uniform.
  • I am thankful for the friendships formed from day one of training and at 40,000ft. It is strange but true that as crew we can meet someone at briefing for the first time, share our life story in the middle of the night whilst trying to avoid devouring the tray of cheese or bowl of chocolates, and form genuine, long-lasting friendships.
  • I am thankful for having nine years of Staff Travel. Having the means to travel at a heavily discounted rate opened my eyes (and passport) to world. I also know one very special friend that has staff travel to thank for her marriage and now children. Staff travel also taught me patience. There were times when it didn’t work — I spent 15 hours at Istanbul airport on standby — but those times were always outweighed with good (onboard upgrades to First Class).
  • I am thankful that Qantas provided the opportunity to move to London. Three years that shaped me to be the person I am today through travel experiences and friendships formed along the way. London will always have a piece of my heart.
  • I am thankful for meeting my partner on board (cliché, I know). A man who now stands beside me, understands what is important for me to live a fulfilling life, and supports me to make this life-changing decision.

As much as I am thankful for all these things, there are moments I will not miss. Like, the time I was so unbelievably tired and jet lagged that brain functionality was almost non-existent and I couldn’t work out why moisturiser wasn’t rubbing into my skin like normal, only to realise I was using conditioner…or standing around in a cold galley, so tired I could cry, waiting for my time off in the middle of the night…and the biggest thing I won’t miss is the gentle tap of the arm in crew rest when it’s time to wake up… I have three more of these taps left. And yes, I’m counting.

So….The million dollar question.

What next?

I’ve enrolled to become a full-time university student.

Through cancer I discovered writing — my happy place. It’s a place that challenges and frightens me yet rewards me in so many ways. I thrive on the moments when I’m staring at a blank screen and unsure where to start, but then a collection of words appears. And that collection of words is a part of me. A reflection from within. (Forgive the corniness).

They say you should do what you’re passionate about, so I’m being brave and following my passions and see where this passion can take me.

“OMG. They’re HOW big?”

When I first started having conversations with friends about my decision to have a double mastectomy and reconstruction with implants, the usual reaction was: Are you going to go Dolly Parton on us? Granted, most of these comments came from my male friends.

My answer was always simple: No! Large breasts are not conducive to an active lifestyle. Especially with triathlon. Of course, they may be slightly beneficial in the swim — added buoyancy — but they would definitely become problematic on the bike — surely they would interfere with my aerodynamic abilities? And the run… well implants are just unnecessary additional weight.

A week after surgery, once the drains had been removed, I was finally able to get a feel for the size (not by physically touching them, but by how my clothes fit over them). And I was worried. And there may have even been a few tears… Why? Because I was worried I was too big.

Large Breast..noooo

Am I the first person in the world to cry because my breasts were going to be too big after getting implants?

The sinking feeling of worry in the pit of my stomach was only amplified when I had to return to the specialty bra store for another post-operative bra, and I was measured for a D size. A D!

A little sparkle of hope shone through when the lady fitting the bra mentioned it would take 2-3 weeks for the swelling to completely subside. So fingers crossed this D is really a swollen C.

It’s amazing what can spark different emotions through this journey. For me, it’s usually in reverse of what would be expected. When I had the double mastectomy I was actually calm, happy and relieved; and now that I have had my final reconstruction I have been worried. I think most people would be excited about having their final implants.

With each day, and a little more reduction of swelling, I’m finally joining the “Excited About My Implants” club.

Standby for the next post where I’m worried and panicked that they’re too small…

And according to this assessment, I’m should definitely be a C; you know I don’t like to complain.

Bra Size Chart

The Luck Of The Irish

Today is St Patrick’s Day, and a bunch of four-leaf clovers would have been a welcomed gift for my family. And not because today was my surgery.

The early morning alarm went off and I woke to my usual pre-op thought:  reminding myself not to eat or drink anything! Whilst getting ready Mother received an unfortunate call — my grandma had suffered a second stroke (the first being earlier this week).

We have (or should I say Mother has) a tradition of ensuring I’m highly entertained on the car ride to hospital — musical mash-up singalongs at 5am are her favourite. But this morning there were no singalongs; we had our heads down on our phones researching flight options for her to make her way back to NZ to be with gran. It turned out that the best options was an 11:20 flight that morning, which meant that it would be a drop and run for me at the hospital; they would have to make the hour journey back home to quickly pack before another hour journey to the airport. A bigger and more stressful day for The Olds.

I know it was a hard decision to make, to not be there with me, but it was the right one. The saving grace was that Trevor was already there waiting at the hospital and happy to assume role of carer and entertainer. And he excelled at both roles.

Now this may sound strange, but I love getting changed into hospital robes. It does not bring about feelings of fear, but rather comfort. Because I know what will follow will be a benefit to my health. And  I also love the compression stockings and wrap-around leg massage device that helps with circulation. After Mooloolaba, they were both a welcome treat and I couldn’t get them on quick enough.

Without much waiting around — the joys of the private system — I was on the stretcher and getting my cannula in ready. Dr O’Mahoney was excited to hear reports of my race on the weekend, but also concerned about my readiness to operate due to the news of my grandma. I assured her I was ready.

And then it was time. Time to be put to sleep with classical music filling the operating theatre. My anaesthetist has good taste. I was about to ask him what he was playing but  1…2…3… and I was out.

The worst part of an operation for me is waking up in a groggy state. The nurse caring for me in the recovery ward aptly made a comment that it may have something to do with my ‘need to be in control’ nature. When treating my pain, which was sitting at an 8 out of 10,  I asked if I could have some pain medication that wouldn’t make me sleepy. I had the choice of sleepy meds or nauseating meds. I chose nauseating meds.

As usual, whenever waking up from an anaesthetic I seem to assume the role of a comedian. So when a nurse asked another nurse if she would like a cup of tea, I thought it was my place to butt in and say: “Yes, she’s been working hard.” Oh to be a fly on the wall in the recovery room.

With sheer determination and stubbornness I managed to snap out of my groggy state and was wheeled back to the ward by 12:30, much to the delight of John and Trevor who had been waiting patiently. In my room awaiting me were some beautiful flowers and an abundance of beautiful messages of well wishes – I felt very loved. Although my determination and stubbornness was short-lived and before long I was back dozing off.

The afternoon passed by hourly check-ups and half-finished conversations. Word spread that there was a triathlete in the ward, but only because my blood pressure was consistently low (which is common with fit people) not because I still had my race number on. I’ll take that.

After a few continuous mid-story naps John made his way home, after what had been a long and exhausting day for him. Trevor remained and assumed the role of bed controller/pillow adjuster/un-packer/water-glass filler/chicken cutter/toothpaste squeezer….And much more.

I thought the luck of the Irish had finally arrived when my night nurse came to introduce herself, who, in a strange twist of luck, is Irish. But even after a cocktail of sleep-inducing drugs I’m wide awake at 1am. Not so lucky.

To avoid going stir crazy staring at the ceiling, I decided to pull out my iPad and watch some previously downloaded Ted Talks.

And this is what I stumbled across: Debra Jarvis – Yes, I survived cancer. But that doesn’t define me.

A 16-minute brilliant speech. A speech that anyone that has experience any type of trauma in life — not just cancer — should listen to.

And here are two brilliant lines from her 16-minute speech…

“Only a small part of the cancer experience is about medicine. Most of it is about feelings and faith, and losing and finding your identity, and discovering strength and flexibility you didn’t even know you had. It’s about realising the most important things in life are not things at all, but relationships. And it’s about laughing in the face of uncertainty …”

Thank you Ted Talk.

Goodnight (hopefully).

A little bit about Triathlon. A little bit about Cancer.

Yesterday was Mooloolaba Triathlon, my first Olympic Distance triathlon (1500 swim/40km bike/10km run). I had always planned for it to be my last race of the season before I went under the knife for my final surgery. And as the timing turns out, that final surgery is tomorrow  — the last surgery in my cancer journey *jumps with joy*.

First things first: Mooloolaba.

Now you would think that someone who trains most days, every week, sometimes twice a day, would feel prepared. But for some reason, the past few weeks I have been filled with doubt. Had I done enough? Of course I’d done enough to finish the race…but I’m competitive (with myself), so ‘just’ finishing was never going to be enough. I want to finish with a good time. Had I dreamt all those 5am alarms for training… was I just delirious and sleep deprived, or was I fit and ready?

My main concern was my preparation for my bike leg. I hadn’t had much training on my new fancy-pants TT bike, would I even be able to ride it? Last week, leading up to Mooloolaba, my concerns were only amplified as news of a cyclone forming off the coast surfaced. I was already nervous about my biking abilities on the exposed highway as it was, so how would I manage with the additional extreme weather conditions. News didn’t improve and reports of rain and strong winds Friday night only fuelled my fears. All I could do was eat my bowl of pasta and try not to worry – surely it would pass by Sunday.

Saturday was compulsory bike check-in day. Trevor (MOH) and I made the one-hour drive from Brisbane, and as we approached the coast the trees told me what I already knew: it was windy. And the sea looked angry with waves crashing in all directions. My nerves were not being calmed. It was to be my first race using my fancy-pants TT bike, but with added gusts of wind, all I could picture was me being blown off the bike. Trevor assured me this would not happen…

After a good nights sleep and many carb-loaded meals, I woke up excited. Tri suit on, race number tattoos on…it was time to trek back to Mooloolaba. It wasn’t long until excitement turned to nerves and the conversation in the car started to drop off.

After a few detours due to road closures, we were parked and on our way to transition to get organised for the race.

Trevor, doing such a great job as support crew, found out some vital information for the race: the swim course had been changed due to the conditions! Although the water looked calm and flat (phew), there were strong currents further along the beach. So, to make it safe for the competitors, the 1500-meter swim was now a loop finishing near the start line, with an 800-meter beach run back to transition (instead of a 1500-meter swim along the beach).

I still struggle swimming; I’ve lost a lot of power due to my pectoral muscle being cut to house the expander. And unfortunately things may always be this way, as my implant will also take residence underneath my pectoral muscle. I’m confident, and hopeful that in time, I’ll regain the power required to be a front-of-the-pack swimmer, instead of a mid-pack-please-don’t-be-last swimmer…

 

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I made it out of the water in a surprising time of 28 minutes and jolted along the beach. Just as I approached the stairs to reach transition and to face the music of the bike leg, I heard the commentator over the loud-speaker say, “The winds are starting to pick up for those heading out on the bike.” Are you serious! Did he really have to say that!

Once on the bike all my concerns diminished. I felt like a pro powering along on my aero bars (although I’m nowhere near as fast as pro!). Forty kilometres of straight, flat, fast, smooth highway… and not much wind! Hallelujah. The course was a good test for my fancy-pants bike and the person atop of said bike. Although I may look at investing in a seat that is a bit more forgiving…

 

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Back of the bike and only a 10km run to finish off the day…only… Running, no worries…I got this. I soon found out that too much confidence is never a good thing. One kilometre into the run I was struck with stomach cramps — maybe I took carbo loading too far? Or maybe it was the hot, melted gel that was sitting in the sun during my bike leg that I consumed as I ran out of transition? Who knows. But it was not enjoyable. And the “why am I doing this” thought quickly entered my head.

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I had given myself a “comfortable” goal finish time of 3 hours, and with three kilometres left in the run I knew it was definitely within reach. So I reassessed my goal time. By how much could I get under 3 hours? I crossed the line after 2:53 of racing.

As I crossed the finish line, and finally made my way out of the recovery zone, I was greeted by Trevor, my number #1 support for the day, with additional recovery supplies of water, Gatorade and engery bars. He did well too.

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With my last race for the season over, and the number tattoo scrubbed off my arms and legs (they don’t come off easily!) I am now faced with the task of packing a bag for hospital tomorrow. I am by no means nervous or worried; I know I’m in good hands. Also, why do I need to worry when so many others are taking on that emotion for me.

I’ll be in hospital for up to a week, a little longer than I first thought. So it’s turned into a mini holiday at St Andrew’s. The best thing (for me) is one of my favourite Japanese restaurants is conveniently located around the corner from the hospital. I have already warned The Old’s and Trevor that there may be a few detours required prior to visiting. Seems reasonable?

Time to pack.

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.

Milestones

In life, there are a set of predetermined milestones we encounter (some of us more than others). Milestones that are recognised — and celebrated — by society. From your first birthday, through to reaching your teenage and adult years; graduating primary school, high school and university; becoming engaged, married and giving birth to your first child.

Then there are the milestones that you never expect to have paved into your life’s path: the hurdles thrown in life. Cancer treatment creates many milestones to reach, surpass, then celebrate.

I recently celebrated one more milestone in my recovery: I returned to the skies. After 15 months away from the world at 40,000 ft, I put on my wings and revisited my past life. To say I was nervous was an understatement; I felt like it was my first day in the sky, ever. But then I boarded the aircraft and it was as if I had never left (although the olive oil is in a different stowage now…)

The best part about returning to work was running into friends whom have been supportive from afar through my recovery. It was a reminder as to why I love the job — the friends you make flying make up for the jet lagged nights scrolling through 50 channels of infomercials in the US (party animal). As well as the friends who have known about my treatment, there were many familiar faces that were non-the-wiser to my past year, and just thought I was sporting a new hairstyle.

When anticipating my first flight back, I hoped I would have a friend onboard to ‘hold my hand’. And that I did. I was fortunate that the manager was an old friend. I was even luckier that he happened to be checking his bag in at the same time so I basically followed him to where I needed to go. Extreme holding of hand was required.

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With the last milestone for treatment — returning to work — I can put 2014 behind me. I look forward to swapping cancer milestones to life goals next year.

While setting my goals for next year I am affirming my two mantra’s to live by: To stay humble, and hopeful.

I am making these two things my focus for everything I do in 2015.

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Bring on 2015!

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.

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.

 

 

 

What goes up, well, may stay up.

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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!

images-2

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.