Tuesday, 27 December 2011

A gluten-free Christmas

This time last year we had one foot in the paleo camp and another in the we-eat-anything camp. We indulged in donuts and then vowed that we wouldn't do that again until Christmas 2011. Well, that lasted until the weekend of our fifth wedding anniversary (mid Feb 2011). We had spent a night at the Treasury Casino and found it necessary to walk to the Krispy Kreme three times! Yes, I'd say we had an addiction. The third time we were there the worker gave us a free coffee. Anyway, we made a another vow not do those gluten-filled treats until Christmas 2011.

We have come a long way. The thought of eating donuts now is far too distressing. So, our off-roading this Christmas has been limited to indulgences of sugar, dairy and products that are gluten-free.

On Christmas eve we visited the husband's parents. There we found a full box of chocolates. Wow! The allure of dairy milk was so great. Since paleo, I have stopped eating chocolate. Let's face it, 85% chocolate just doesn't have it. We ate, we enjoyed and then we stopped. That was the beginning of our food mis-adventure.

Christmas day saw us moving from house to house. For breakfast we enjoyed a cooked meal with friends. We were very good.

Lunch was with my mum. She was very accommodating of our family's food needs and went gluten-free for us. This meant that we could have the pudding. Yum! Back in the day, gluten-free products were so second rate. It seems, though that the gluten-free scene is much improved these days. Apart from the pudding being crumbly, it seriously did not lack in taste. I also enjoyed some ice-cream for dessert. Yes, it tasted just as good as I remembered. I ate in moderation and I felt absolutely ok with my less than strict food choices for lunch.

When dinner came around, with the husband's family, I think I had become more conscious of the fact that I wasn't likely to be enjoying such treats for a while. So, I scooped up a handful of chocolates, ate gluten-free pudding with brandy custard and then had a few more scoops of chocolate. Of course, I ate a pretty awesome Christmas meal.

The following day began very well. It was back to good eating. But then, we thought that it was absolutely appropriate to do ice-cream. We stopped at Baskin and Robbins in the evening. Our hand was forced there unfortunately; they were doing a deal. A double scooper earned a free kids ice-cream. Pomegranate and rum raisin for me thanks. Totally enjoyed it! Then, just before we settled in to watch a movie I enjoyed my last treat. A cup of rooibos with a gluten-free mince pie. That was that.

Today is my first paleo day. My deprived life begins. Nah, seriously, it's pretty easy. If I thought not wanting cancer was good motivation for doing this then actually getting cancer (and not wanting it to return) is a sure way to keep me on the right eating track.

I'll have one more bender new year's eve and then I'm going to kick off 2012 doing Whole30. We have some more recipes in our repertoire so I hope to share them too.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

I found a lump today

I have a sore lump in my right arm pit. I had noticed it a few days ago, but I really thought nothing of it. It was only yesterday though, that I realised that the lump could possibly be sinister. So, I decided to make a doctor's appointment. Of course, I googled my symptoms. My five minute search came up with nothing particularly interesting. I already understood that it could be a sign of cancer in the lymph node, but the pain also lead me to believe that it could be an infected lymph node. And then, there was also the chance that it was simply some fluid building up; the heat had certainly brought on a heavy work load for my lymph nodes to cope with.

My GP was not in. But, I secured an appointment with another doctor that I believed would provide good care. He made the usual comment about me being so young to have such a diagnosis, pushed way too hard on the sensitive lump and then decided to refer me to have an ultrasound.

As I drove home, I was thinking about all the stuff that I had decided to do in order to prevent any likely return of cancer. Was it all in vain? Is it really possible to keep this disease from visiting again? If this was cancer, would I continue the lifestyle changes that our family had made? The answer was yes. As if cutting out anything that is unnatural could be a bad thing. So, with that decided, I waited until 9am (the doctor's appointment was at 7am) until I could enquire about a time for my ultrasound.

I rang a few places to make an appointment. I was trying to get in as soon as possible. How lucky was I to get one on the same day at 11.30am? Very. My two cutie pies accompanied me and were quite amused by the whole experience. I was encouraged when the sonographer commented that the ultrasound was showing a build up of fluid. While I was the one who walked out of there with that cold, slimy gel (I thought I had wiped it all off) clinging to my shirt, it was child one and two who got the stickers! They were impressed. But, it was two hours before I would hear what I wanted to hear from the doctor.

Would you believe that child number two (23 months) called out, "Coffee" when they saw a Merlo Coffee sign? I took that as an indication that I needed to have a coffee. After that, the three of us went to the library. We read a funny book, written by a South African (Niki Daly). I found the book so hilarious. It so succinctly captured the South African culture and it even included some funny slang words. Then, it was time to take a slow walk back to the car and get to the second doctor's appointment for the day. I was totally over it all, already.

We waited a half an hour to see the doctor. The appointment only lasted two minutes. As soon as I sat down in the chair the doctor, swung his hands into a clap and, said, "Good news! It's nothing!" I reckon he was as concerned as I was as to what that lump could very well have been. That was it. My little scare was over.

The doctor recommended that I have a break from exercise for a bit, at least to give the lymphatic system a chance to resolve the extra fluid build up. He also said that I needed to give weight training a rest too. Of my own, I have decided to wear the compression stuff in the mornings, just as a precaution.

I was given a script for some antibiotics and next week I will have another appointment to check the lump. But, while it is still tender, I was very happy to hear that it's not one-of-those lumps!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Year That Was

On this day last year, I celebrated my big 3-0. The husband arranged for another two families to join us at Royal Pines Resort for the weekend. Although it rained for most of the weekend, we had a good time. But, I would never have imagined what was in store for me.

In January we did our first, Whole30. We loved it. We became paleo/primal.

February marked our five year anniversary. So, for the first time ever, the husband and I went away, for the night without child one and two, to the Treasury. We had loads of fun. It was such a treat! Any fears I had of being 30 and "so old" were quickly squashed when I was asked for my I.D. as I entered the casino. Bam!

March was the month that I found the lump. It was also the month that I threw my first children's party (for child number one) and it was heaps of fun. I look forward to doing more of them.

You'd think that April 4 would be the day that my world fell apart. Yes, that date is permanently etched in my mind. But, my world didn't fall apart. It certainly changed a great deal. My house was still standing when I returned home from the doctor, my friends and family still loved me and I still woke and went to sleep (although a little less some nights). Life went on. The hospital became my second home as I was there for every test imaginable. Before the month came to a close, the tumour was out.

In May, I celebrated that the cancer hadn't spread. On May 30, I had my first chemo. That was scary.

June, July and August are like a bad dream now. I actually struggle to comprehend what really happened. I'm like a woman who has given birth. I've seen the baby (in my case, good health) and now I can't remember the birth pains (chemo side effects). I am not joking.

By September, I was a week into radiation. That was so easy! I couldn't believe how good I was feeling. And, what was more amazing was that I was getting better and better. I really didn't realise how ill the chemo drugs had actually made me.

When my final radiation came, I was overjoyed. The finish line had always seemed so far away. I was there. It was over. The husband organised a surprise party and I was already able to go public without headgear. Oh yeah. It felt wonderful to be healthy.

In November, I had this urge to shop. It was a strange feeling. Up and until then I hadn't even noticed how I was never interested in going to the shops, walking around and looking at clothes for myself. It really was like I was becoming me again. Does that make sense? For so long, I had been a shell of who I was. I didn't even know it at the time. I couldn't believe that I was still climbing the mountain of good health. Every time I thought I had reached the highest point, I would still find myself feeling even better a week later. I now understand why cancer survivors become so...triumphant? I've experienced the two extremes. Being so so sick just makes healthy absolutely amazing!

Just days before my 31st birthday I lost my big toe nail. Totally gross, I know. And, certainly a topic that would usually make me feel weak. It happened though. Losing fingernails and toe nails are one of the side effects of chemo and I really had imagined that I was well and truly past any of those. Well, my left big toe is without a brightly coloured nail. Great. Around the same time, as the toe nail incident, it occurred to me that I would be returning to work with the short hair do... I must admit that I freaked out a bit. I don't know why, really. Either I just hadn't thought about it or for some reason I had this notion that returning to work would also mean me being all back to "normal". Let's face it, I have a new normal now. And, I've seen some pretty cool, short hairstyles lately so I may try out some on my way to a shoulder length style...

I received a gift each day in the post, for the week of my birthday. Thanks husband. I then had a surprise birthday party with family and friends. That was really cool. Mum even made me a paleo fruit cake (I love fruit cake!). I'll have to post the recipe because it was beautiful!

I don't know what this next year will bring. What challenges will I face? Will I experience failure? Success? I know for sure, like so many have tried to teach me before this year, that I can enjoy every moment. Too much time is carelessly wasted on unnecessary upsets.

It's a little early for a new year resolution, I know, but it's more like a goal for this next year of my life. Here it is: I want to laugh through 2012.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Cardi Kid

Today, child number two had a heart check up. Since the operation, performed more than a year ago, there are two concerns: the leaky valve and the duct that should be closed.

Child number one was very excited about this appointment. Aside from being the only one in the immediate family who has had no emergency medical attention (and we hope to keep it that way) and doesn't get that hospitals aren't cool, all that child was focused on was the playground. It it pretty cool. Built all along the wall is a play centre. It includes televisions, video games, blocks, trolleys and loads of toys that I really have no idea what to call. The fact is, the waiting children are kept occupied. And, we all know that sometimes the wait at the hospital can be pretty long. Today was different though. We were seen by a nurse within five minutes; that included a weigh-in, height check and a pulse reading. Child number two sat so seriously during each. Pretty proud parent.

A half an hour after the appointment time, we were called into the Doctor's office. A testament to the public health system is that child number two always sees the same doctor. It's great. He listened to the little heart and then sent us in to have an echogram (I think that's what it is called).

For twenty minutes child number two was like a statue. The cold, jelly substance that was rubbed all over the chest, helping to grab images from all directions of that beautiful heart, didn't seem to have any affect on child number two. Pretty proud parent.

Soon, it was over. The dim lighting, in the room, had made me so sleepy. Of course, as soon as the doctor was ready to talk I was all ears. Child number two was doing very well.

As a result of the operation, child number two sustained a leaky valve. The leak could certainly get worse or the valve could have stopped growing because of the interference. None of this is true for our bundle of cute. The leak is still mild.

The duct is still open. This tiny space should have closed, but it hasn't. The doctor is not sure why it hasn't. At the moment, it is too small for any intervention. Should the duct open up further a very simple procedure can be carried out whereby the duct is simply plugged up. Nothing to be concerned with now, though. With good news, there is no need for another heart check for two years. Yeah! What wonderful news. It was, at that moment, that I felt myself let out a sigh of relief. I didn't think I was worried...I must have been.

Anyway, the doctor agreed that it was "overkill" to see him privately in a year's time. He believes the two year wait is ideal. In fact, he said that if he noticed anything change in a year that he would leave it a further year before he would intervene. Sweet. So, there is no need to worry.

The doctor then went on a rant about dental care. Until child number two had the operation, I never knew of the connection between dental care and heart disease. Should child number two have any dental work, the procedure will be coupled with antibiotics. The operation made this the case. So, another reason to keep to the sugar-free terms of the paleo way.

There were high fives all around. And, in the past it would have been an occasion for a Happy Meal on the way home. We don't do that anymore. Yes, we totally deprive our children of that. We did give them both (child number one was well-behaved too) lots of cuddles and kisses.

Pretty proud parent!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Training Day

The plan had always been to toilet train child number two when they were eighteen months. That's the age when child number one was trained. So, as someone who needs to have rules, that was that. Cancer threw a spanner in the works though. I was absolutely uninterested in doing an intensive potty training session. Child number two is now a big 22 months and the peeping nappy was calling for "potty training" too often. Would you believe that child number one was trained in a day? No kidding. I used the "Toilet Training in Less Than a Day" book's method and was totally amazed that I had success the second time round. Yep, child number two is now potty trained. Here's how it all happened...

I gathered what I would need: plenty of drinks, yellow coloured water, treats, training pants, toilet paper, plastic bag, towel, doll, potty and mobile phone (timer). I had to add to my list later, paper and pen. With child number one out of the house, my youngest and I could focus on the task at hand. We began at ten in the morning and I knew that I was likely to only be wrapping (or should I say wiping up?) at one in the afternoon. It's gruelling, absolutely tedious but it really does double up as a great bonding activity. Let's face it, how often do any of our children get our uninterrupted attention for three hours straight?

I role played the doll having drinks and needing to go to the toilet. What do we do? Go to the toilet. What does dolly have to do? Take off her undies. Look! Dolly did a pee (yellow water was squirted into the potty by me) on the potty! These questions and responses are severely reduced here. You can imagine how many times this would have been repeated... Anyway, dolly is rewarded with a treat which child number two got to eat because, well, dolls can't really eat, of course. We went over this scenario three times. Then I, in my most enthusiastic voice, invited child number two to have a go.

Child number two drank as much as they wanted. We would be needing that bladder full in order to have many opportunities for potty time. I asked child number two, constantly, to check whether their undies were "wet" or "dry". I kept the timer going and encouraged a seat on the potty every two minutes. Eventually, (this takes a great deal of patience, there's no way I could have done this while I was on steroids!!) child number two peed (I have never, ever written that word, I don't think) on the potty. There was much celebration. A treat was given. I clapped. Even dolly got a lolly. But, she refused, so child number two got two treats.

That is, essentially, it. Lots of drinks, lots of talking (all centred on peeing, drinking and being dry) and lots of playing. As you can well imagine, there were accidents. So, as much as I was rinsing out the potty I was also having to replace the training pants with a clean, dry pair. That's ok, as they were opportunities of explaining what not to do.

The first time I did this, I carried out the whole session in the kitchen. This time, I knew that that was likely to be far too confining for child number two. Child number two's training occurred outside. This was definitely optimum. It allowed a little more room for child number two to run about while we waited for the timer to alert us when it was time to sit on the potty.

The real test came during the nap, following the toilet training. I will admit that, I was nervous. Was child number two going to be wet or dry? Well, child number two was put to bed for a nap at one. The toilet training meant that the morning nap was missed so I was pretty confident that it was going to be a longer nap than usual. Was that going to complicate things?

When child number two awoke, at four-thirty, I ran into the room. The nappy was dry! I carried my little treasure to the toilet where I heard the gentle sound of a pee hitting the toilet bowl. I was ecstatic! Second time around, with a different child (totally different personality from the first) and the results were the same.

Today, the day after training, I have some further good news to report. After an eleven hour sleep, last night, child number two had a nappy that was only a tiny (incy, wincy) bit wet. This has never happened before. You know what children's nappies look like in the morning...bulging, in need of a change... Clearly, the toilet training has, somehow, taught child number two some bladder control.

It's amazing. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone ready to potty train. The method was modified for babies back in the 1970s, after it was proven to help children with a handicap. There's nothing magical about it. But, it works.

And, a couple of bonuses from the process are: bonded with child number two and child number two has grown in self-confidence (seriously!).

Unpaid plug for the book...check it out here.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


I spent too many hours sitting today. My total contact time would have been lucky to have been more than 20 minutes! It was my end-of-treatment reviews. And, it felt strange to be back in amongst the breast clinic patients.

The husband and the two children came along. So, as I stood in line, waiting to speak with the ever so helpful receptionist, I saw a familiar face. It was wonderful to catch up with one of the TBCs. (And, a little while later, I caught up with another). It felt strange (not that I'm complaining) to not be nervous. I was just going to be chatting with the doctors and there was no bad news. Right? Of course, there is no way I am anticipating any bad news!

I sat. I squirmed. I talked. One complaint though; the hospital has been pretty close to perfect. Child number two decided to complicate things with an ill timed nappy fill. I picked up the tiny, smelly child and headed for the toilets. I was happy-as when I discovered the absense of a nappy-change table. The second toilets were lacking too! I returned to the waiting room to collect the pram. (We brought the pram along reluctantly, but now I was so thankful that we did.) I wheeled the pram into the disabled toilets and proceded to do the nappy change; all the while anticipating my name being called. My name wasn't called. It was eventually though.

The physio was the first to call me in. She is the best! I really do feel as though I am the only person she sees. Anyway, my measures are the same. For this summer, at least, I am to wear the glove and the sleeve during exercise. Hey, that's not too bad. Totally manageable. Actually, she went on to say that very new research is showing (although not conclusive) that individuals who are fit and healthy before breast cancer treatment and who return to that straight after treatment are less likely to develop lymphedema. That's some motivation, right there, to keep up the good nutrition and exercise.

Next, I was called in to see the radiation doctor. I remembered this one..he liked to refer to the operation site as "boob". It is just so awkward. Is it unprofessional? I don't know. Either way, I felt pretty uncomfortable. That was doubled when he asked me to take my top off. In the past, the curtain was drawn and I would undress before the doctor would inspect. Now...he wanted me to undress right there and then. Look, I know he's not weird. It's just that there is so much fuss about a women's dignity etc that it was quite...I know I'm using this word an awful lot...uncomfortable. Lovely doctor of course. And, very kind. He explained everything in a way that made sense. Just...well, it's a very tiny complaint.

I was back in the waiting room. And, no, I didn't sit in the same seat. There were many ladies, sitting with their support person, and they were moving in and out of appointments, changing seats as much as I was.

I met with the chemo doctor after a while. I had nothing to report on the tamoxifen's side effects. My neutrophil levels were at 1.9 (should be at 2). And, I was yet to hear of my vitamin D levels. Essentially, all was well. I could have told her that. I feel well. I questioned whether I was to have a gene test. To which she replied that it was likely that I would in the new year. Within minutes, I was walking out of that appointment.

Another wait and then I met with the last doctor for the day. A member from the surgical team called me in. She didn't look at my scars (Mr "Boob" did that already) and she just asked a handful of questions. That was it. If it wasn't so-not-the-right-thing-to-do I would have run out of there. I was glad that it was finished. Such relief.

I felt sorry for the people who would be staying the night. But, I sure was happy to be going home.

Thursday, 10 November 2011


Well, I can't believe how good I have been feeling. I know, I never wanted to talk breast cancer again, but I just can't help myself. Actually, I was doing very well to forget about it all, until I went to Ella Bache to have a massage.

Prior to this appointment I had found myself doing, very normal, things that had not taken my interest only weeks before. Like, ironing. Yeah, I know it's weird that I like ironing. In the afternoons, when the children are napping, I usually don't mind putting on a movie and ironing clothes. The chemo really put an end to that. And, it also halted my desire to simply walk around in the shops. I have now recovered well enough for my brain to actually put such thoughts into my head. It's weird. Anyway, I'm just feeling better and better, still.

So, the massage. I had received a $100 gift voucher to be spent at Ella Bache from The Pink Pamper Pack ladies. I was, of course, looking forward to the appointment. As it turned out though, cancer patients are not permitted such luxury. The massaging actually stimulates the lymphatic system, something which is to be avoided at this time. Apparently, should there be any cancer cells floating around, the lymphatic system can be compromised. So, the massage did not go ahead. I am allowed to return for a massage in twelve months, or sooner should I present a medical certificate.

I wasn't interested in waiting twelve months to be pampered. So, I decided to go with an all-inclusive pedicure. It's a safer option. The appointment has been made. And, I will definitely enjoy it.

Monday, 31 October 2011

On fruit, vomit and beginnings

Child number one brought in a decent harvest this morning. While our lettuces have now "gone to seed" (?) our tomatoes are starting to change colour. It is so exciting to be able to reap some tasty rewards. All of that winding, unwinding, dragging and hosing has paid off. But there's more. Our sad and sorry looking blueberry plant gave us a small berry too. Really, that plant looks far too ill to be giving up anything. There are hardly any leaves and the plant itself just looks so fragile. There are many more berries about to change to that beautiful purple. I suppose child number one gets to taste the first fruit...

Last night, child number two was not in the mood for sleeping. There was a little cough there, but the husband and I put it down to some naughty behaviour. Oops. Good thing we were having a laugh about it during the night and not getting cross because, as it turns out, viral bronchilitus was the real cause. This morning, that tiny stomach was showing the tell-tale signs of the illness. We were out of honey and panadol. So, I needed to make a dash to the shops. Do you reckon you could guess what happened as I was walking through the shops holding child number two, my purse under my arm, my keys hooked on a finger and my phone in one hand and a glass bottle of honey in the other hand? No, I didn't drop the honey jar. Far worse. Child number two, who had been limp, resting on my shoulder, suddenly pulled away from me. Her body moved like a caterpillar. Something was coming up. Banana spew spilled down my top. My lack of hands and my unwillingless to have to call for the clean-up brigade led me to the only option I had. I pulled my elbows to my sides and made a temporary vomit pocket for the next two heaves that followed. I allowed child number two to return to my shoulder. My shirt, of course, was wet. But, it was the warmth that was gross. I made it through the check out and quickly returned to my car. I couldn't wait to change.

I am so excited for child number one to be starting school in 2012. The uniforms have been purchased and you know I've emailed all the family with the pictures. Anyway, having heard many a parents' cry, I imagine the lunchbox preparation is going to be one of the initial challenges. What do I put in the lunchbox? Let's be real, what can I put in the lunchbox that is grain-free, gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy-free? This weekend I started thinking this through. We are so committed to this paleo thing that we don't want to lose to the lunchbox. So, I have come up with a few ideas. I have no problem supplying paleo sweets. I have no problem packing in some fruit. But, the big lunch meal will be the challenge. Anyway, I'm going to start practising. So, hopefully, by the time school starts I'll be a little ahead.

Speaking about beginnings, here is a conversation I had today. I thought it was funny. Child number one is four years old.

Child #1: I'm still at the beginning, because I'm not at seven or eight.
Me: What are you talking about?
Child #1: Well, 1, 2, 3, 4 are at the beginning.
Me: Yeah...
Child #1: Well, that means I'm at the beginning of my life.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

I'm A Survivor

I was so glad that I made the last minute change. The plan was that child one and two spend some time with their aunt and uncle. That would then free the husband and I to go out to dinner. Just the two of us. We were going to our favourite Thai restaurant (best paleo choice) and it was only up the road. So, what was the change? I changed from jeans and a t-shirt to a dress. I'm very glad I did. I don't do headgear, so my head was bear. Honestly, I'm not feeling too feminine these days. I do feel pretty damn tough though!

Anyway, as we drove to the venue, I decided on the prawn dish. The husband said that I should try something different but, I had already set my heart on it. I didn't think anything of him making such a comment. No idea. For a Sunday night, the restaurant sure sounded busy. Still no idea. I had imagined that we would be the only ones eating in. Could I be so stupid? And then, I saw a familiar face. The mother. Then another. Whoa! A crowd!

The sneaky buggers had organised a surprise dinner! Yes, I was totally surprised. Yes, I had a tear (or two) and yes, I was completely overwhelmed. We had a great night. A buffet dinner (no prawns, but that's ok).

I reckon its been long enough now to see tamoxifen's effect on me. I don't feel any different. And, the husband agreed too, that the drug hasn't altered my moods. That is a real positive.

I've noticed that most of the numbness in my right armpit has lifted. Cool.

I am now exercising every day. Just like I was before all this stuff happened. I'm normal again.

So, I'll have to talk about something else now that the "journey" is over. But wait. I think I would actually like to call the last few months my Breast Cancer Adventure. Journey just sounds so long and boring. Adventure more correctly describes the last few months: full of excitement, doing things for the first time, not knowing what was ahead, intense, emotional, crazy times.

Take that, stupid breast cancer. I'm a survivor.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

My long, short hair

When I shaved my head, during chemo, I couldn't believe how short my hair was. I ran my hands through my hair non-stop. Now, I'm sure my hair is shorter, but I'm doing the same thing. Except it's because I can't believe how long it is. Perspective changes everything. I've gone from no hair to some hair and, it's a celebration.

I was thinking today how ridiculous it is. Many people have told me that my hair is so long. Let's face it, it's short as. But, yeah, I think it's long too. Sad.

Yesterday, I went into the fruit shop without headgear. Today, I wasn't feeling as confident and put something on my head when I went for a walk (my lame excuse was that my head might get sunburnt). Either way, this weekend, I'm doing it. I'm ditching the scarves. I'm ditching the wigs (they're gross anyway, they look like animals). I'm done.

I couldn't put off taking tamoxifen any later. I was absolutely fine (in a way) about taking the meds after I spoke with the chemo doctor. Then, when I went to the pharmacy, they gave me a booklet all about the drug. It freaked me out! When I took the tablet this morning, I waited for something to happen. Nothing. Good. Here's to nothing for the next five years.

Today felt like a Friday. I just felt really relaxed. Seriously, I am still getting better day by day. It's amazing. *Sings Rihanna's "Cheers"*

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Same Journey, Different Drug

Of course, I was nervous about going in for my new drug. It's not about the drug though. I was anxious about giving blood. The last time I received needles it brought on some unwanted (but needed) side effects. What's worse though, is that I know that my veins have hardened (I still have bruises too). What was this going to mean? Would the nurse need to try a few times to get the blood? Was it going to hurt?

Sore. No. Yep. I looked away. Standard procedure. And, I totally expected to have worked myself up for nothing. Today, it wasn't. (TBCs, skip to the next paragraph, you don't want to know this). That was the first removal of blood that hurt. I felt the needle go in, stay there and I even felt the steel (not sure what needles are made out of, but it felt like steel) slide out, just before the nurse pushed on the small ball of cotton. I flinched. I think I even made a I'm-in-pain sound. In fact, as the blood went into the tube, I heard a slurping noise. The nurse made some comment about it being like sand. I'm not sure what that meant. The point is though, the hardened veins made for a sore withdrawal of blood.

I went for a walk, to kill the 90 minutes before my next appointment. When it was time, I took a leisurely walk through the very busy hospital. I was well. I certainly didn't feel as though I needed to be there. (Self high-five!)

Unlike previous appointments, I wasn't greeted by my smiling breast cancer buddies. There was a new crowd. I really didn't belong here anymore. I recognised a lady that I had shared radiation appointments with and we chatted until she was called in. Who would have thought, a year ago, that I would find tamoxifen, changes in cancer drugs and hair growth such stimulating conversation?

I wasn't with the chemo doctor for long. Tamoxifen is my new drug of choice. It's a chemo drug. The worst it can do is increase the chance of deep vein thrombosis by 2%. Secondary to that, is that it can bring on menopause. Too late. I'm already in that state. Although, my hot flushes seem to be less these last few days. And, honestly, there is more to enjoy about being in this state than not (you know what I'm talking about ladies!). Having said that, as a young woman, it's pretty likely that I'll come out of the menopause cupboard, even while on tamoxifen.

I felt very happy as I left the hospital today. There just have been so many moments of celebration. And, strangely enough, it seemed like today was one of those moments. The radio was loud, my scarf was off and I was the happiest driver on the road.

When I got home, I was really tired. Sorry about that family. That high just couldn't hold out for that long. But, I had some paleo ice-cream waiting for me. That was a great surprise. For real! Yeah, I know what you're thinking. What cave family would have access to an ice cream maker? Well, it doesn't matter. It's more of a cheat for child one and two. But this afternoon, the husband and I had some too.

Strawberry Ice Cream:

Tomorrow, I'll start tamoxifen. I'll then have five weeks until I see the chemo doctor again, to report, hopefully nothing, about the drug's effect on me. I wish I knew right now, how my body was going to react. But, we all love a good surprise...don't we?

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Radiation Therapy 30 of 30

My cancer journey has come to an end. I have some loose ends to tie, like meeting with a few doctors, but really, it's over. I don't believe it's hit me yet. I'm sure the realisation will settle in when I don't have to rush to get the children fed and ready for bed (tomorrow), before we leave them with the babysitter, for radiation (I had requested evening appointments).

I had so many unanswered questions when I stepped into the world of breast cancer. I'll have a go at answering them.

I am not really sure that I want to go on the journey and well, if this is a journey what is my destination?
Easy. I want to arrive at a place of good health. It is in this place that I will be able enjoy my life with the husband, to see my children grow up, and to not take anything for granted. I have also come to understand that I am not in control. This is not a place that I would have liked to have visited at anytime. I'm here now though. And, it's ok.

What stations will I stop at?
I guess this is really referring to moments that I will not forget.
  • Breast checks (far too many)
  • Freaking out thinking that one of the machines was going to crush me (bone scan)
  • Anxiety attack just before the CT Scan (in a busy waiting room)
  • Fighting back nerves before the lumpectomy
  • The two ladies I chatted with in Ward 4D (wish I exchanged contact details with them)
  • The sensation of the (grooved) drain being pulled out of my breast
  • Feeling very down after the lumpectomy
  • Absolute relief when I was told of my results (celebrated with gluten-filled donuts)
  • Having a gluten-party (will never do that again)
  • Crushing fear
  • Anxiety attack in the chemo chair
  • The number of times my veins "wiggled" away from the chemo cannula
  • Hair loss hurt
  • Beautiful ladies I met
  • My children holding balloons
  • Bad fashion walk to the letterbox (all I could manage)
  • Sick children
  • So much generosity from family and friends
  • The comfort of music
  • God's faithfulness
  • Scarves, hats, wigs, hoods
  • Hot flushes (still getting these)
  • Great doctors, nurses, receptionists
  • Fear of the radiation machine
  • Music and dim lighting during radiation
Will there be some pleasant stops?
Truly, there has been so much good from this experience. I have new friends, I can now better understand the needs of someone else going through this, I learnt more about myself (have changed thinking on quite a few topics), received some free life lessons and I got to spend loads of time with child one and two.

How many people will want to travel with me?
The husband and I were absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of support we received. And, it never stopped. Both our workplaces have been wonderful. Our family and friends did so much for us. Not once did we ever feel like we were doing any of this on our own. The internet allowed me to keep in contact with the TBCs and when sleepless nights became the norm it was great to be able to get on line and have a chat about side effects. Then, when I got some embarrassing side effects, I was able to share those with other chemo patients and have a good laugh about them.

And, of course, do I get to decide not to go on this journey?
From Day 1, the husband said that we would beat this. While I didn't get to choose my journey, I did get to choose my treatment. I got to choose my attitude. I got to choose life.

I'm thankful to be past this. The whole experience can be put into one sentence now; I had breast cancer at the age of 30 and I'm healthy now. Me. Cancer. I won.

Next week, I will visit the chemo doctors to receive my tablets. These tablets will keep the oestrogen levels down (my cancer was hormone receptive). And, I will be on them for five years.

But for now, I'm rejoicing in good health (it's so underrated!).

Monday, 3 October 2011

Radiation Therapy 29 of 30

I don't know how to start this blog. I tried explaining how I had initially found the breast cancer treatment so overwhelming. I then pathetically attempted to liken myself to have been on the breast cancer train (that is was slowing down at a station - totally way too corny anyway). And, when I started explaining my lack of side effects, I just felt like I was going no where. Where am I going? I can answer that one.

Tomorrow, I go to the Radiation Department to receive my final burn. Before I leave, I will be given a certificate of completion (true!) and I reckon my smile will be so big that I will have to run out of those doors sideways (my smile will be too big, of course).

I never tried to work out my end date. It was simply too overwhelming. But, I'm here. And, as one would expect, as I look back on my journey, it has gone by quickly. I am relatively unscathed, too. As I type, I enjoy running my hands over (not through yet) my head of very soft hair. On my chest, is skin a little darker in a particular area. My two scars are now two dark lines; not their former pale pink. On the inside, I feel confident that I won't be doing this again, excited that it's over and eager for next week when I know I'll feel even better than I do now.

Thank God, it's over!

Friday, 30 September 2011

End of Week 6

Another burn session completed.

Seven black dots around my lumpectomy scar are the only evidence that I have received the second phase of rad treatment. I've had such a smooth run that I feel guilty to wish for this last treatment to be without any nasty burns. I will, nonetheless. Throughout, I have been most concerned about keeping my skin moisturised. And, for this reason, I have knocked back a few opportunities to swim. Give me a few weeks. I can't wait to get in the water and let my skin dry out, or whatever it wants.

Today, I read over a handful of my earlier blogs. Those experiences seem like so long ago. And, I suppose it has been a long journey. From March of this year, I have heard far too much about breast cancer. I guess I can expect that to continue. Only now, it will be about how I don't have it. Do you think I'm smiling as I type this?

As the husband and I drove to the hospital, this evening, we (seriously) were discussing how this has been, surprisingly, a great year. Yeah, yeah, there have been some lows. But, overall it's been pretty amazing! That probably makes my life before April 4 sound awful. It wasn't. Truly. Anyway, who would want to give cancer the satisfaction of ruining more than a few cells. Not me.

Yesterday, I saw my physio for the last time. That's sad. Look at my word choice. I actually refer to her as "my physio". I know I have mentioned this so many times, but the staff have just been so incredible. So supportive, professional, diligent, attentive, encouraging, sincere, patient, generous... At any other time I would have looked upon the sign "Enter as strangers, leave as friends," in the radiation department, as corny. But, that really sums up what the staff desire in their work place. The men and women remember what was spoken about the day before, they are interested in my family and have shared my excitement in coming to the end of my treatment. It's strange. How do I explain to the radiation doctor, the physio and radiation therapists and the receptionists, who have shown nothing but kindness, that I never want to see them again? That's not being ungrateful is it?

I am going to start lifting weights tomorrow. I am so keen to do a workout. I feel totally ready for it.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Radiation Therapy 26 of 30

I couldn't see the speckled ceiling tonight.

My radiation treatment is different now. For the last 25 treatments the machine, which has a circular face, would aim for an identified square around my right breast. Now though, the treatment is to focus on the cavity; this is where the cancerous tumour was removed. I'm told, that it's the final "mop up". Should the surgeon not have removed enough tissue, should the chemo not have killed off all cancer then these final burn sessions should do the trick. Attached to the circular face of the machine is an applicator. The applicator stretches from the face of the machine to within centimetres of the cavity. The treatment is only superficial. So there is no risk of the radiation damaging organs, even though it is administered front-on.

While the therapists lined me up (the measurements will be recorded and my last four appointments will be a lot quicker), I noticed my name on a metal plate. At the point closest to my cavity was a small plate. It had an oval-like shape cut out. I questioned the nurse to which she replied that the plate was especially made for my five treatments. It directed the laser to the exact measurements of the cavity. Wow! I felt pretty special. That small plate is very expensive. And then, at the end of it all, it will be melted down and used to create another for a future patient.

Of course, I asked the lady whether this would be painful. It's not. Now, the dark square would heal. It is only the cavity that will continue to burn. Enough about cavities...

As the machine "beeped" (this is what it does when the laser is on) I counted slowly to 25. That was it. I heard footsteps and then I was told to relax my arms. The whole appointment took 15 minutes. It was a good thing too, because I had the husband and the two children waiting for me.

I am still sporting some crazy looking fingernails. And, I am so surprised that I am still having hot flushes. It's really annoying. I still get the night sweats too. I'll have to check with the chemo doctors (next month) to ask how long all this menopause stuff is going to hang around.

I'm feeling pretty good. I'm probably a lot more tired than I'd like to admit though. Even though I'm not having naps, or feeling particularly sleepy, I am definitely not as motivated as I would usually be. That's ok, I suppose.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Radiation Therapy 25 of 30

I was on my back. My upper arms were held in place by arms rests. Both hands clutched a bar each, above my head. I looked up. It would have been nice to stare at a beach scene or a colourful garden (like dentists often have). Instead, my view was the same as that of a school classroom's ceiling. You know, the off-white rectangles with a scattering of tiny black dots. The two radiation therapists alternated between talk of measurements and general chit-chat. I smiled. I was pretending to be interested in what they had to say. I tried desperately to block out Savage Garden's overplayed "The animal song" (hang on, I would do that anywhere...). The fact is, I had just been told some exciting news and I wanted to shout it out.

Today, was the last of my current radiation treatment. My last five days of treatment will focus on burning the cavity. I know I'm not finished, but man, I was so excited!

When I returned to the car, I cried as I tried to explain to the husband the change in treatment. He totally did not get the tears. They were tears of joy. And, probably also of relief. I don't know what I'm going to be like on Tuesday, of next week.

Actually, there was more good news. Tuesday was confirmed as my date of completion. I had this feeling that I might receive another day off; delaying my finish. Not so.

During chemo, the husband and I spent quite a bit of time brainstorming ways of celebrating. Now that we are days away from hitting our final destination, we have no idea what we are going to do. Either way, I am going to find it very difficult to be still during that last radiation treatment.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

End of Week 5

Last weekend, my right, upper arm had felt swollen and heavy. I wasn't sure what caused it. This weekend, I have the same feeling in my arm. I know what it is now. The rads. It's nothing too serious. And, I know that it will go away.

The hair on my head is growing! Actually, my scalp doesn't look so fair anymore. It's nearly the same colour as my face. It's sad. It won't get to see the sun again. Too bad! Bring on the full head of hair. I now have enough hair on my legs to wax! I have never, ever looked so forward to removing leg hair as I am right now.

Today, I was carrying child number two (this one gets babied too much!) and running, when child number one stopped to ask, "Mum, aren't you tired?". Child number one was so used to me declining to do stuff because I was tired that it had become a habit to ask such a question. I was so proud to respond that I wasn't tired, that chemo was over and that I won't be so tired again. Bam! Take that chemo. Take that rads!

I did some exercise yesterday. It was just a twelve minute AMRAP of 10 sit-ups, 10 air squats and 10 box jumps. I was very slow. At one point I felt sick. Anyway, that little workout has given me the kick-start to get back into the exercise. For a good while now, I have been trying to do a pull up. We have bars at the back and I decided that every time I went to the backyard I would just try. Surely, by trying so often, eventually I would have the strength to be able to do one... Yes. Success at last. For the first time, I did an unassisted pull up. I was so thrilled. I have since been able to do another. It's probably taken a good few months to get that one. This week, I really want to start focussing on doing two. The doctor had actually told me not to do them but, hey, if it makes you feel good...

I'll be seeing the doctor tomorrow. I'll have nothing to report. I'll be smiling.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Radiation Therapy 22 of 30

I am so excited to only be having eight more radiation appointments!

Today, I met with the physio. The swelling in my hand is only minor now. For that reason, I don't need to wear the glove. However, I am planning to do some exercise this weekend (it's been a while) so it will be interesting to note whether the swelling returns. I also learned that chemo can stay in your system for 12 months! I thought that I was rid of chemo. But, it seems it's still around for a while longer. I suppose that explains why some people experience tiredness for 12 months after treatment.

I am feeling better everyday. My hair is growing! Surely, within a month I will be able to toss out the scarves and wigs. Actually, I'm getting used to being the bald ol' git. I don't like it. But, it's not so strange to see myself without hair.

I thought I was past chemo side effects but some are still hanging around. I had a heavy upper arm on the weekend. And that is likely to be from chemo. My nails are more white than they should be. The skin on my feet is peeling again. And, the skin under my nails is weird.

Radiation however, has not got a hold on me! While I haven't been interested in exercise (so maybe I am tired), I haven't felt fatigued. There is a dark square around my right breast. It's not red though! No burn. Woohoo!

With my energy returning, I have been back in the kitchen inventing some paleo recipes. I made this yummy orange cake. And, with oranges so cheap I've gone a little crazy with this one. It's gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free.

On the way to the hospital, this afternoon, I was thinking about how I'll feel once I have finished the radiation. Even now, when I type that, I get this feeling inside like I just want to burst. Burst with excitement. CAN'T WAIT!

Friday, 16 September 2011

End of Week 4

I had such a good laugh yesterday. It was one of those laughs where you really need three mouths because you can't get it out of the one. I was telling the husband about how earlier in the day, I was pulled over by the police for a random breath test. Even before he greeted me he had a real good look inside my car. At the time, I thought it was very thorough of him to do that. And then, as I told the story, it struck me, I must have looked so suspicious with my wig. He must have assumed that I had robbed a bank and was still wearing my disguise! Well, it was so funny at the time. One of my wigs is actually losing hair! I hope it holds out until I can go without it.

Overall, I have had a great week. Some days I feel so tired that I desperately need an afternoon nap. Other days, I am able to power through. I try to do as much as I can in the morning because it really isn't until the children have their nap that I am able to gage whether I will need to join them.

We love loud music. We make a list of our favourite songs and then dance. It's so much fun. It wasn't long ago, when the very thought of standing up and moving would make me feel dizzy and reaching for the nearest "bed". Now, it's something I can totally bring back.

My nails have actually continued to lift from the nail bed. I don't think the nails will fall off completely; it's just not a good look. That with the Michael Jackson glove...

At my physio appointment, this week, my measurements were taken again. This week, my hand and arm showed no sign of further swelling. So, until I see the physio, I only have to wear the glove for half the day. I actually feel pretty confident that I could go without the glove and not have swelling.

My burn sessions have been going very well. For the most part, I am seen to straight away. On other occasions, I actually haven't worried about the wait because it's a chance for me to chat (no kissing) with other cancer patients or their support person. It's so interesting to hear other people's stories. Again, the whole idea of what seems to be a great deal of the population getting cancer, seems to baffle others too. One lady shared how three people in her immediate family were all diagnosed with lung cancer. And, there didn't seem to be any particular connection. It certainly is strange that so many are suffering in the hands of this disease.

I didn't have rads today. I don't know why, but I was given the day off. As if I was complaining...

Monday, 12 September 2011

Radiation Therapy 15 of 30

Pins and needles, the dark square, normal hands, no more peeling and drying my hair. But where to start first, the fatigue.

It was only yesterday that I remarked here, and to the husband, that I think I am not so tired. I spoke too soon. After a morning out, I was absolutely exhausted. I invited child number one to share the bed with me and we slept all afternoon. Child number two is far too exciteable so didn't get an invitation. I slept soundly. I slept well. And, when I awoke I felt alert enough to handle the rest of the afternoon and evening.

So, for quite a while now, I get pins and needles in my fourth and fifth digits of my right hand. It's not because they are getting squashed as I sleep. In fact, I have noticed the oddness of this sensation because they were not in a position where the blood circulation was cut off. I spoke to the doctor about it and she suggested three reasons: 1) swelling is pushing on a nerve 2) chemo has affected a nerve or 3) I received nerve damage during the surgery. It's not that I'm worried. We just get told all the time that we must report anything. The pins and needles go away just like any other, with a bit of movement. At this stage, I am just to monitor it to see if it worsens. I'm thinking it's something to do with the chemo. I don't think I had it after surgery.

My dark square (I am still amazed at the straight lines), I am told, is going to get very dark. It's not red. I am so grateful for that.

Just this morning, in the shower, I noticed that my hands were't looking so weird. Since chemo, the palms of my hands were a different colour. Nothing drastic. Subtle. I've had these hands for long enough to notice the change in hue. It seems though, that my hands have returned to their normal colour. As for my feet...

My feet, which were peeling and also a different colour, seem to be getting back to normal as well.

(I am certainly painting a picture of someone who is quite strange. Dark squares, inhuman coloured hands and feet, peeling skin...)

While there were changes in my body and emotions one thing for sure has not changed, and that is my attitude towards having hair. I have not, in the least, accepted this bald state. While I don't look as strange (to myself), I desperately want hair coverage on my cold head. It's very funny actually, that most mornings I shock myself because I run my hands through my hair to discover there is none; when doing sit-ups in the dirt one session, I thought to myself, I don't mind if my hair gets dirt in it; other times, I catch my reflection and see someone who looks like me with a turban on. I have never got used to being without hair on my head. For the last month, I have had a little smile to myself every time I dry myself. I would always dry my head last because it would leave the towel with too many pieces of hair to count scattered all over, rendering the towel unusable. Even today, I was overjoyed to be able to dry my head first. Cool.

I actually created some new paleo recipes last week but was so not-in-the-mood to write that I haven't been able to post them. I'll have to get back into the swing of things.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Rads: End of Week 3

Rads are going by very quickly. I can't believe that I am now halfway!

The third week is meant to be when the skin starts to turn red. For me, this has not happened. While I have felt that the area under my arm is sensitive, it's not red. Funnily enough, I have noticed a dark square around my right breast. The square's corners actually each meet at a tattoo. It's a credit to the accuracy of the machine. I am going to make the assumption that the later I begin to turn red, the less likely I am going to experience a severe burn.

I wasn't nervous this last week, at all. I have not been questioning whether I am doing the right thing. I'm not even scared about the machine malfunctioning, and burning a hole through my chest. What does worry me though, is my body odour.

When I receive the radiation, I hold onto bars above my head. This means that my undeodorised arm is exposed. While I can deodorise under one arm, I can't do the other. It's not good. Even a shower before treatment, is just not enough. It's a concern. When I took child number two to a trial Spanish lesson, I kept my arms at my side for fear of becoming the stinky parent. I'm not convinced that that tactic worked. Next time I go to that lesson, I am going to put on loads of perfume and hopefully I will be able to redeem myself.

This last week, I met with my physio. I was so excited when she measured my arm (at various points) to discover that all my figures had improved. This strange looking glove was doing its job. In fact, my hand (where the majority of the swelling was occurring) had reduced by one centimetre after wearing the glove for one week! The lovely physio is unable to explain why I am experiencing such swelling. She went onto explain that perhaps it is simply how my body has reacted to the surgery and chemo. Should I not have exercised, it is her assumption that, the swelling may have been worse. So, I have been wearing the glove happily, knowing that it certainly produces results. I am regularly able to see my bones and veins in my hand now. That pleases me. What a bizarre achievement...

As I enter the fourth week of treatment, I am beginning to think about my follow up appointment. This is booked for four weeks after radiation. It is when I meet with the surgeon for him to check for the presence of cancer. His response, I'm sure, will not be to provide me with a guarantee of being cancer-free. It is more likely to be about statistics. But, I think I am likely to get more nervous about that day, as it approaches.

My food choices are going very well. I am starting to feel as though I am getting on top of the fatigue. Maybe, I am getting used to living with the fatigue? Imagine being normal? I'm going to feel indestructible!

Anyway, I am feeling confident that this is going to be a good week.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Rads: End of Week 2

I had a needle in my head today. No jokes. For real.

Even when I had hair, I always used to lean into the mirror to check out a mole right on my hairline. Then, when my hair fell out, I got a clear view of the funny shaped mole. I also noticed lots of other moles on my shiny head. I decided that it was a great opportunity to have the moles checked. The doctor's appointment was booked. And, I also had a second question; a little something that came to my attention the evening before.

I was directed to the doctor's room, on the left at the end of the hall. There was no need to be nervous. They just check moles with a special magnifying glass. Right? Well, the mole on my hairline, of course, looked a little strange. So the doctor turned on his computer to have a closer look. It looked gross. I could clearly see the brown splash-of-a-mole and the hair surrounding it. A quick glance from the doctor was all the time he needed to decide upon giving me a biopsy. He was just going to scrape a little off. No. When he said the anaesthetic would sting a little my hands reached up to cover my face. I don't know why. It was just my reaction. My hands continued to hover around my face, as I imagined this doctor wielding a huge needle aimed at my head. I apologised for my fragile state and agreed to have it done there and then. But before we went to the room, where this procedure would be carried out, I needed to ask one question.

Last night, I accidentally found a lump in one of the veins of my left arm (the chemo arm). I had no idea what it was. For that reason, I wasn't worried about it. As it turned out, it is nothing to worry about. While it is a clot, it is in a surface vein and is likely to have been caused by the chemo drugs. It will not swim to my heart and cause my death. In fact, at some point, it will resolve itself. No more to be said. Now there was nothing holding me back from the biopsy. And, the needle.

I let my shoes slip to the floor as I nervously lowered myself on the operating table. The doctor busied himself around me for too long. I just wanted it to be over. Soon, he was there, leaning over my head. I felt the needle sting, maybe three times. Then it was over. Needles are rarely as bad as I imagine. I could feel him doing something to the mole. Putting in needles? Yeah, right. He had me totally fooled. He kept me in the dark. He had actually shaved the mole off! I couldn't believe it. I sat up to see my mole floating in a specimen jar! He gave me a ridiculous dressing for the surgery and then I was sitting up. I walked out of the room, that day, a little less than me. I have been assured that my hair follicles were not damaged (that hair will grow there), that the results will be in on Monday, and that all the other moles on my head are nothing to worry about. Good.

Radiation was pretty uneventful (just what I needed after my last visit there). I couldn't stop smiling though, when I was told that my machine is due for a service tomorrow. This means that I will not have radiation! Yeah. A friday all to myself.

Here's another day of Whole30:

Breakfast: Peach and pecan scramble

Lunch: Bolognaise with broccoli and avocado

Snack: Handful of almonds

Dinner: Bolognaise on broccoli

Snack: Banana pancakes

Good night!

Radiation Therapy 8 of 30

I didn't feel so tired today. The weather was good enough to be outdoors so, getting out in the sun certainly helped with the energy levels.

We have started our own veggie patch. It has capsicum, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, beetroot, limes and blueberries. We have been watering the seedlings and enthusiastically monitoring their growth. Today, we harvested our first leaves of lettuce. We ate them at lunch. It was so wonderful for child one to pick the leaves, wash and then eat them. Now, if the strawberry can ripen without being snatched by a nocturnal animal...

I had a good day today. And then, in the evening, I had two crazy incidents. One involves a lady in the waiting room and another has to do with the radiation machine. Both awkward moments.

But before I get onto those stories, I need to declare some of my fears. And, guess what, I only get these fears at night. It's when I am alone with my thoughts, when no one can see my fear and when my imagination has the most control. I have had these thoughts before but, it was only last night that I made a mental decision to record them. If you thought I was brave, you are sadly mistaken. It's not that I pretend that I am, it's just that, more often than not, the moments of fear are always when no one is around, at night. (I know I have watched too much Spongebob when a phrase that I write sounds like the little yellow guys voice, in my head, and not my own; "At night". Anyone seen that episode?)

Anyway, my fears. I really feel as though I am not myself. I am not calm, I seem to have less patience and obviously the energy is not at all what it was. This really frightens me. After radiation, I will commence a five year treatment of tamoxifen. I am concerned that I won't feel like me. What if I continue to be agitated, grumpy, impatient, depleted of energy. It really concerns me. Of course, it's better to experience that than for the cancer to spread and die. I totally get that. But...Well, let's just get it out there that I do worry unnecessarily. What's the point in worrying. I have to take it. And, when I do I will do my best to do my research to discover what I can do to make the ride smoother. Not sure if I've convinced myself...

The radiation ride has been pretty smooth. I spoke with the nurse, tonight, about getting red. She said that, in the third week I will notice redness. If I am lucky, that will be the extent of my burn. Then, the skin will settle and return to some-kind of normal four weeks after my final treatment. I was glad to have that conversation. I'll be on the lookout next week.

Moments later, an older woman entered the waiting area. She told me her cancer story. Lucky for her, she was actually in for her last radiation and so, her cancer treatment was over. I felt so excited for her. When I came out of the radiation room (there's something to tell about that in a moment) I wanted to wish her well. I walked up to her, just a tiny detour on my way out. I wished her all the best and then there was that awkward moment. I wanted to just hold her hand but then the next thing I kissed her on the cheek. Ahhhh! What? How did that happen? It was so awkward. She leant towards me. I looked around. I went to hold her hand. She turned to the side. It was just majorly bizarre. Anyway, the husband (mine that is) made a comment because it must have looked even more awkward than it felt. For both parties? I'm not sure. But certainly for me. I felt so embarrassed. And then, as I walked out of the hospital, down to the car park, I couldn't stop thinking about the situation. How stupid. Why am I labouring over this? For goodness sakes, I kissed a woman who just went through a very scary breast cancer journey. Does it matter if we had an awkward kiss. It wasn't on the lips... I kissed a lady who had finished her cancer journey. That could never be an awkward thing. Right?

Well, the other incident occurred during the burn. To do the radiation thing the machine shoots from two angles. So, it starts on my right side. Then, the machine moves around me to position itself to burn me from the left side. Well, tonight, the machine stopped half way through! I was so scared. My heart was racing. My breath picked up pace. I wanted to scream. But who would hear me? Then the machine moved. But not completely to the other side. Should the machine mulfunciton and burn me right at that moment it would go straight through my heart. Nooooo! I waved at the camera, for a millisecond, just when the machine moved again. I kept still and allowed the machine to do its work. When the ladies returned (there are always two radiation therapists in the room), I felt so stupid. I went on to explain my fear. Guess what? She said that she saw my legs flinch and my tiny wave. I felt so exposed. Anyway, little did I know that there was another silly encounter just metres away on my way out.

The joys of being human, Oh, and here was my menu:

Breakfast: 2 fried eggs with salad

Lunch: Red curry beef mince balls with salad and a muffin

Dinner: Red curry mince balls with veggies

Snack: Muffin

All in all, a good day. I hate to get repetitive. I promise not to sign off everyday like this; but, another one down.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Radiation Therapy 7 of 30

Another rad completed.

That drive, the burn and then the drive home, at this point, is easy as. I still have not felt or seen any evidence that I am receiving the treatment. I wonder when I will? If I can remember, I will ask that question tomorrow evening.

I was so tired today. I was trying not to fall asleep before lunch! Anyway, I got in a good nap this afternoon. I fell asleep straight away. When I awoke, I had no feeling in my little finger. I had been wearing my glove. But, I know that I cannot blame it solely on the glove. This has happened before. I will continue to wear the glove, but I will certainly question the doctor and physio about this recurring incident.

When I was getting ready this morning, I noticed that the skin on my belly was all flaky. It's not dry. But, the skin is definitely peeling! I am now connecting the two. The skin peeling on my feet and the skin (although much finer) peeling on my belly must have something to do with the chemo. One of the side effects of chemo is that it makes your skin dry. I wonder how long it takes the body to fully recover from chemo?

Here's the menu for today:

Breakfast: Pancakes with berries
Snack: Banana
Lunch: Red chicken curry, sweet potato fries and broccoli
Dinner: Fried chicken and veggies

I'm off to have a rooibos. Bye!

Monday, 29 August 2011

Radiation Therapy 6 of 30

Today, I had an appointment with the doctor and the physio, before rads. And, because of those first two appointments, I had to go in during the day. To make things more interesting, I had child one and child two with me. Don't worry. I was totally prepared with colouring-in books and plenty of food. Of course, I didn't leave home without giving them a talking to about their behaviour.

I should have known that the day would not go as smoothly as I so desperately wanted. We began with seeing the doctor. I was so excited (sarcasm) when the doctor said that, I needed to have an ultrasound to check for a clot in my right arm. This was the result of my appointment with the physio. Great. I made my way to that department with the referral in my hand. It was a semi-urgent matter, the doctor said, so I was going to be seen to straight away. I looked down at both of my children, knowing that their jar of good behaviour was full; knowing however that it can all be poured out too early. I needed their cooperation. Was I asking too much? I feared that perhaps I was. My shoulders slumped when I was told that I would have to wait a half an hour for the ultrasound. For an adult, that is no big deal. An adult with two children...that was a different matter. I fought off the stress that I could feel was moving up into my neck. I decided that we would go outside and have a play on the grass.

What a wonderful idea that was. The three of us had a ball. It ended too quickly. Next thing, the we were back in the waiting room. We waited. And waited. And waited. A half an hour later (just breathe), I was called in (breathe) for the ultrasound. Child number one looked after child number two, as I endured the cold jelly on my neck and all the way down my arm. Fortunately, the ultrasound revealed what was expected. No clot. Good. I returned to the doctor.

I met with the doctor. Then, I met with the physio. I collected my glove but, not the sleeve. Apparently, my arm is too small for the sleeve to be effective. I left with the glove and a sheet explaining how it was to be cleaned. I was then off to have my rads.

A nurse (how wonderful is this?) sat with child one and two when it was my turn to go in. Nothing new happened in the dimly lit room with soft music playing. The radiographers measured, burned and then escorted me out of the room. Done. Another one down.

Tomorrow, my appointment is at a more suitable time and so, the children will not accompany me. At least now they know where I'm going each day...And, they weren't such bad company :)

As for the food, this is what I did on day 8 of my Whole30:

Breakfast: Peach and pecan scramble

Lunch: Tuna and egg salad

Dinner: Mint Pesto Chicken Stir-fry (Doesn't look great but it is so yummy!)

Snack: Date cookies

I'm so tired after this big day! It will be an early one for me.

Sunday, 28 August 2011


I just realised that it has been a couple of days since my eyes were watering. It's safe now, I'm sure, to say that the drip has definitely been switched off. And then, just when I thought there wasn't going to be any more new side effects, along came this strange one.

If I had experienced this before, I know that I wouldn't blame it on chemo. Especially, when it's just so...weird. Could chemo do this? There are no photos for this one because it involves feet. Who wants to see a picture of someone's foot? Ok, please don't answer that. I was removing nail polish when the scale of destruction was revealed. Actually, I had noticed that my feet, in particular, the skin on my toes was peeling away. But, it's way more than it should. I seem to be shedding the skin from my toes. The process is well and truly on the way. Enough on feet. Speaking about strange though...

I thought it might be worth sharing how our family came to adopt such a restricted diet - paleo. Months on, we are now finding this new way of approaching food is actually developing creativity. And, it doesn't seem so restrictive anymore.

There are actually a number of factors that led to this dramatic change in diet. Child number two, according to our plans, was the last one. So, I always had in my mind that I would really focus on getting fit and losing some kilos after the birth (mums, you can relate to the enormity of that task). Then, to our horror child number two was diagnosed with pulmonary stenosis (a blockage in the pulmonary valve). It was a very scary time for us; we had to decide whether we would go ahead with open-heart surgery or cardiac catheterisation. We decided on the latter option and within weeks our two-month old was home and recovering well. But, what concerned us was the fact child number two would need antibiotics if they ever required dental work. Can you believe that something as simple as dental work could actually give a "cardiac-kid" heart disease? This made us so conscious of giving out sugary treats; which were pretty common in our diet. How do you tell a child that they can't have sugar? Is it possible? We started eating a few vegetarian meals a week, did some exercise and cut down on the "bad" foods. We weren't satisfied with our progress. It was then that we came across this particular diet. We did enough research to arrive at the decision that this was for us. The bonus was, of course, that this way of eating has been linked to preventing cancer.

I got on the bandwagon too late it seemed. The doctor told me that my cancer would have been growing from August 2010. By the time I got the diagnosis though, our family was fit and healthy. We had coupled the paleo diet with exercise and were so surprised at how good we felt. There's a lot of cooking now but, it makes sense to cut out all of the stuff in food that actually isn't food. I am totally motivated too though, because I want my body to be able to fight off any abnormal cells next time they start multiplying.

Whole30, Day 7:

Breakfast: Hot Nutty Cereal

Snack: Nuts

Lunch: Chilli and garlic prawns on spinach leaves

Dinner: Beef chilli on lettuce with guacamole

Snack: Pancakes with berries

I have allowed the doctors to treat me with their medicines. In fact, after radiation I will begin a five year hormone treatment. Watching what I eat and electing to cut down on the use of chemicals, where possible, is how I wish to continue the fight. Before my diagnosis, it had always bugged me that so many people were getting cancer. Could it be what we eat? Could it be the chemicals? I have no idea. But, I'm enjoying my food journey and I'm finding it interesting to discover how many people are opting for the organic/natural/chemical free way of life.