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.

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.

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This is an expander.

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

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Expander. Skin. Needle. Job done.

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

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

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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.

 

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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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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A WOD for Rocky

As you know, A Rack for Rocky started a few weeks ago. Today was the main day to WOD for Rocky. I know it may sound like a whole lot of CrossFit mumbo-jumbo, but it’s a pretty special gesture.

I’m a little disappointed I didn’t complete the WOD myself, but it was a tough one, and I had the 15 km row looming over my head. The decision was made that I would row instead, and I am thankful to those who talked some sense into me.

The WOD chosen (or created?) for today was ‘Nutter’. Are they trying to tell me something?

10 Handstand Push-ups

15 Deadlifts

20 Pull-ups

25 Box Jumps

50 Pull-ups

100 Wall Balls

200 Double Unders

400 meter run with 20 kg plate (or 15 kg for the girls)

A few comments were made that they would rather do Nutter than row 15 km. I was starting to think the same.

The rower was set. The timer beeped. There was no turning back…

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I positioned my rower so I could watch everyone doing his or her WOD, which made the first 5 km fly by without much thought. Instead of focusing on myself, I was watching the effort everyone else was putting in. It’s quite humbling and inspiring to step back and watch. I was trying not to focus on the clock, but then everyone started to finish… reality set in that I still had a long way to go…

10 km done. Right, just the normal challenge left to go. (If I tell myself it’s that easy, surely it would be…)

As I inched towards the last 5 km I decided to tick off one of the other three challenges – WOD in your undies. So off came the top. There was no way I was going to row with just undies, so taking the top half off seemed a reasonable trade. I am the last person who would normally do such a thing, but hey, the girls only have another few days left. It was my last chance to show them off.

After the WOD three others – Carmen, Darren and Nathan – completed ANOTHER challenge. CFWF breeds some pretty tough cookies. I was exhausted watching them. Mitch also completed his 2oo burpees next to me while I kept rowing. All of this activity around me distracted me from pain that was beginning to surface in my back, neck, groin, heel and thighs…pretty much everywhere.

Also, for those who don’t know (and there is probably a lot of you who wouldn’t), our coach at CrossFit Western Front, Brandon is currently in the USA competing at the CrossFit Games. It’s a pretty big deal! A screen has been set up so we can watch the action live at the box. Unfortunately for me (and those cheering me on), I didn’t time things very well and was still rowing when he took the stage for his heat. I was grinding away on the rower while he was toughing it out with the world’s best CrossFitters. I think I had it easy.

After 1 hr and 20-something minutes of rowing, I was finished.

This fundraiser is quite daunting for me, in a good way. There are a lot of new (and old) CrossFitters at the box that probably don’t know me, or know me well. I find it pretty amazing how much everyone has embraced this challenge.

I’ve been trying to keep track of everyone who has completed a challenge; it could qualify as a full-time job!

There a lot of people to thank (and I will be thanking for a very long time!).

Firstly, a massive thanks to everyone who has been involved in the logistics of this fundraiser! Lizzy, Brandon, Alex and Kate. Without the support of the owners and coaches at CFWF, this wouldn’t have be possible.

Secondly, to everyone who has performed a burpee, rowed or been brave and bared more than normal.

In no particular order, here are the names of the legends who have been involved thus far…

Paige – 2oo burpees, Alyce – 5 km row, Sara – WODed in her undies, Tenaya – 200 burpees,  Olivia – 200 burpees, Russell (and his boys) – 200 burpees, Gavin – WODed in his undies, Alicia – 200 burpees, Bodie – 201 burpees, Jodie – 5 km row, Kelly – 200 burpees, Killah – 5 km row, Angie – 200 burpees, Darren – WODed in his undies (let’s clarify – a G-string and bra!), Tim – WODed in his undies, Gina – 5 km row, Liz and Simon – 200 burpees each, Christina – WODed in her undies, Sam – 5 km row, Kirah – 200 burpees, Brad M – 200 burpees in his undies, undies that matched his shoes I should add! Shaun – 200 burpees, Nathan – 5 km row, Trent – 5 km row, Dan – 200 burpees in his undies, Kate – 5 km row, Dane – 200 burpees in his undies, Gail – 200 burpees, Cheryl – 5 km row, Jake – WODed in his undies, Brett – 200 burpees, Clint – 200 burpees in his undies, Dan M – 200 burpees, Andy – 200 burpees, Kayla – WODed in her undies, Stacey – 5 km row, Steph – 5 km row, Brad H – 5 km row, Tiff – 200 burpees, Louise – 5 km row, Tui – 5 km row, Mavis – 5 km row, Charlie – 200 burpees, Jessica – 200 burpees, Christine – 200 burpees, Kaylene – 200 burpees, Rachael – 5 km row, Wendy – 5 km row, Rachael – 5 km row, Moana – 5 km row, Carmen – 5 km row, Mitch – 2o0 burpees, Brayden – 5 km row, Renea – 5 km row, Ben – 5 km row, Paul – 200 burpees, Wendy – 5 km row, Amy – 200 burpees, Casey 400 burpees, James (El Phantasmo) 5 km row, Karla – 5 km row, Wendy – 5 km row.

And David – I haven’t forgotten about you. David had to work and wasn’t able to complete his dare within the 48 hour period.

I hope I haven’t left anyone out. More names will be added as the fundraiser continues…

Next on the list for me are 200 burpees. I want to complete all three challenges; it’s a small gesture to show how much I appreciate how involved everyone has been in this challenge and fundraiser.

UPDATED: 27 July. The cost of surgery has been covered.