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.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

What is this?

This afternoon, I felt out of sorts. When the family sat down to eat lunch, I decided to pass. I had no appetite at all. In fact, the very thought of food made me scrunch up my face in disgust. I opted for an afternoon nap but then, was persuaded by the husband to watch a movie. We relaxed in bed and watched a mildly humourous "comedy". The horizontal position was probably what fooled me into thinking that I was ok.

We were going to friends for dinner. So after the movie, I quickly got the children ready. That's when I got the head spins.

I have inherited unusually low blood pressure. So, for this reason, it really doesn't take much for me to feel light headed. I put it down to that. But, as we drove the half hour to our friends' place, I slunk in the passenger seat feeling weak and dizzy. What was going on? I wasn't reliving chemo side effects. It wasn't that bad. How bad was chemo? Honestly? I do not remember. It was too late to cancel and turn around now. When we arrived, I was still not myself. I plopped down on their couch and kept a low profile. It seemed that any movement sent me into a spin. I resigned to lying down. When I was in that position, I was fine. I was still able to be sociable. By the end of the evening (typical), I began to feel better. Then, when I walked out of our garage and into our dark house, I was back to normal. I don't know what that was all about.

So, what was it? Chemo dregs having fun? Surely, I am over that? My only signs of having had chemo are my patchy cheeks (they are clearing), hot flushes, weird coloured nails, odd shaped nails and the lack of hair.

I am very excited to report though, that my hair is growing!! (Totally deserves a double exclamation mark.) In fact, for the last few days, I am really struggling to wear head gear. I am just too hot. And, it's not the hot flushes. I reckon it's the hair saying, "We're back! We can do the job! You don't need the fake stuff!" I will wait until there is more coverage before a go out in public without a wig or scarf. Just when I was getting used to having no hair... Liar! I never got used to that. Grow, grow, grow!

Day six of my Whole30 saw this:

Breakfast: Leftover kangaroo rissoles on salad with mayo

Lunch: Felt too sick to eat :(

Snack: Protein shake (the husband convinced me to have this).

Dinner: Salmon and chicken on salad with sweet potato (at friends' place)

Snack: Nuts (thank you IGA for being open at 11pm). I actually purchased salted nuts; we always opt for the natural ones. I was really craving the salt though.

I don't think I have been doing rads long enough to be able to be relieved that I didn't have to go in for an appointment today. I'm sure as the weeks roll on, I will love the idea of not having to drive into the hospital for that burn session. So close to week two of rads. Nearly half way (sort of).

Friday, 26 August 2011

Rads: End of Week 1

I have finished one week of rads. It has gone so quick. Another five weeks to go. I definitely feel as though that is not a big ask. There is no evidence on my right side, as yet, that I am undergoing rad treatment. I have explained to my children that they need to be gentle with me, in anticipation of some discomfort in the coming weeks. So far, I'm good.

I woke up feeling tired, even though I had eight hours sleep. It doesn't seem as though that is going to be enough. The other thing though, is that I have not done any exercise this week. I know that that is not good. I friend, not knowing that I was keen as to do something active, volunteered to come around to do a workout and lunch with me. How cool is that? We did a great workout. Then, we ate lunch together. As I knew I would, I felt much better. Still tired of course. But, the fatigue didn't get worse as the afternoon went on.

The fatigue is not the same as that of the chemo. The chemo fatigue was heavy, coupled with not feeling well. It was like my whole body, from top to bottom, was tired. The fatigue I am experiencing now is the same that I would have if I had had a really interrupted night's sleep. I'm not sure if that correctly delineates the two. It'll do for now.

Rad appointments can be given anytime between 7am through to 9pm. Patients are given the opportunity to request a three-hour, preferred window. The most convenient time for us, which is also the least busy (I'm told) is the evening. So, tonight's appointment was late. We had a great run to the hospital, were seen to straight away and then a another great run home. No traffic, no waiting (no knitting). I must be in the DNA-damaging room for a total of five minutes. That's it. The long ride there and back is crazy considering it's for such a short appointment.

I have finished day five of my 30-day challenge. I feel as though I am doing well. Child number two has had a cold and even though I picked up a mild sore throat, I have been eating well enough for my body to fight off any further progression of the bug. Pow! Here is what today looked like:

Breakfast: Omelette with avocado and tomato as a side

Lunch: Roast Chicken, sweet potato fries and roast tomato on salad

Dinner: Kangaroo steak and rissoles on salad with mayo (so hungry I forgot to take a picture!)

Notes on this week: I am very much surprised at how fast this rad week has gone; as yet, the rad appointments are not annoying; I'm experiencing some fatigue but nothing too severe; I have managed to stay clear of any "naughty" cravings - I've fought them off with satiating protein meals.

Time to watch the next instalment of my favourite show. Adios!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Radiation Therapy 4 of 30

No sooner had I began using deodorant, in both arms, I have been told to stop. During the rads the only permitted product, to be used on the burn zone, is aqueous cream. So, it's back to one arm deodorising.

I think the fatigue has hit already. I had initially put it down to the weather but, today was another slow day. I did all the things I wanted to it's just that my energy was not where it should be. I feel a little silly admitting this. Maybe I'm tired because I was told that rads bring on fatigue. My understanding was that the fatigue comes close to the end; that it's cumulative. I don't know. Either way, I had a nap this afternoon. Tonight will not be a late one. I need to stay on top of it. Well, that's what the husband tells me.

The loss of energy is totally disempowering! I really liked (more like loved) being independent. I would never have wanted to be in a position where I would be so needy for help. For now, the days of doing everything on my own, because I am (or so I reckoned) superwoman, are gone. Will they come back? I'm sure they will, but I won't be as forceful about preserving my independence. It's actually not a bad thing; accepting other people's help. And, it doesn't reflect badly on me. I know that now. Is it fair to say that my so-called "independence" may have actually been hiding a truck load of pride? I won't be offended if the answer is yes.

Anyway, when I dropped my appointment book in at the rads desk, this evening, I was greeted by name. How good is that? I had knit three stitches when I was called in for the daily blast. It's funny...Obviously, I have to get undressed, top half only. And, when I walk to the machine (like five steps) I use a pillowcase to cover myself. As soon as I lie down the pillowcase is moved to cover my left breast. So much covering and uncovering goes on it's ridiculous. But, so considerate too. Isn't it about making it as easy on the patient as possible? Making them as comfortable as possible? I really do not believe that the staff at the hospital, when I consider all departments that I have ever had anything to do with there, could be any better. Our government really needs to be more generous with our nurses and doctors. They deserve it!

Day four of rads also marks day four of Whole30. Here's what came out of my kitchen:

Breakfast: Caesar salad

Lunch: Last night's leftovers and a muffin

Snack: Sweet potato pancakes on lettuce

Dinner: Tuna (with olive oil, no sugar) on spinach leaves, and a muffin.

Thursday night is typically our BBQ night. And, we have also made it our roo night. Roo, as in kangaroo. Yep, we eat kangaroo once a week. We try our best to track down grassfed meat. It's not easy. So, we figure that if we can guarantee a couple of meals a week that are grassfed (roo), we are better for it. Roo tomorrow.

I'm off to bed. I need eight hours sleep.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Radiation Therapy 3 of 30

I really believed that today I would be able to talk food. I was even trying out titles in my head earlier this afternoon. As it turns out, I do have something to report on radiation, so the other stuff will wait another day.

Today began as normal as any other. I have to admit though, that I did think of the Tough Bald Chicks a lot; some were having chemo for the last time, yesterday. I was reminded of the pain in my arm on the trip home, I remembered the lovely staff in daycare and I also remembered the anguish of the husband as he braced for absent-me. So, while I was happy to be past that, I knew that there were others in that position. I wish them a speedy recovery and am very excited for them to have beaten chemo.

I felt pretty lazy today. I'd like to blame that on the weather; cold and windy.

Anyway, I had a late afternoon physio appointment prior to my rads. As I have come to expect of all the staff now, the physio was so kind. I discussed, with her, the concerns I had regarding my swollen arm. She measured strategic points of both of my arms and saw a significant difference. This difference warranted weekly appointments and a sleeve and a glove. It's "prophylactic" she told me. Even though I only had four lymph nodes removed, even though I had exercised and even though I had incurred no injury (even that as small as an insect bite) to my arm, the physio was concerned that my arm was moving towards symptoms of lymphedema. And, it is likely to get worse during radiation. I will certainly look the patient with this grande bandage-type accessory. Fortunately, perhaps, for me, there was a mix up and I will not receive my cool fashion item until Monday. So, I have a weekend of freedom before I don the all-day wear. Yes, it wasn't news that I wanted to hear. But, it's no big deal really.

After the physio, I went straight through to my rads. I didn't have to wait today. I was seen to straight away. I only got one stitch in. I was looking forward to doing a little knitting. Oh well, I have 27 more chances at that... When I get into the teens I think I'll be pretty excited. Come on thirty treatments, I want to celebrate the end of this chapter.

It's the third day of my Whole30. I was really hungry this afternoon; before my physio/rads appointment. So, I made an extra meal. But, I really haven't had any cravings yet for the off-limits foods. That's real good. Having meals that fill me up are the key, I reckon, to keeping to the regime. Anyway, this was my food journey (yum!):

Breakfast: Peach and Pecan Scramble

Lunch: Leftover rissoles, salad, eggs and mayo

Extra meal: Fried chicken and tomatoes

Snack: A few almonds

Dinner: Meatballs in bolognaise with broc

Snack: Coconut bark

I learnt two things today, at the hospital. A study is currently being conducted on the benefits of doing weighted exercise while undergoing treatment for breast cancer. The study is leaning towards the result that doing weighted exercise is not a bad thing. The second new piece of information, I gained today, was that patients who experience fatigue are actually encouraged to walk. These two things are now a justification for me to keep exercising. Yeah, yeah, I won't push it but...I will exercise (even if it's light) in order to fight off the fatigue (and because I want to *folds arms and stomps feet*).

I forgot to mention, in Monday's post, a little moment in child one's Spanish class. At the beginning of the lesson, the teacher asked the children what they were doing after class. It was soon my child's turn to answer. Here is how it went:

Teacher: And what are you doing after class?
Child #1: Going to the hospital.
Teacher: Do you know someone who is sick?
Child #1: Yes. Mum. She is having radiation. She has had chemo.

I felt really sad at that. I don't know why though. I questioned the husband, perhaps he could explain why I just had such a pain in my heart. There is understanding there, we had wanted that. But, why did I feel upset about it? I don't know. Anyway, the hope is that in a year or two, child number one will simply remember spending lots of time with friends and family. And not, the occasional visit to the hospital and certainly not the week we got the diagnosis.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Radiation Therapy 2 of 30

There is so much that I didn't get out last time I checked in. Things like, the waiting room, the staff, the tingling and some stupid thoughts of mine.

So, when a patient enters the Radiation Department they are required to hand over their appointment book to the staff and walk around to the waiting room. This wing of the hospital is all new. It's flash as. In the waiting room, patients may sit and stare at each other, chat with their BYO support person, read magazines (supplied), wash their hands with disinfectant as often as they like or knit (knitting needles and wool supplied).

My time in the waiting room allowed me to see other cancer patients undergoing treatment. This is always a great way to get some perspective on my own "troubles". There sat a man whose lips were blistered. The skin around his lips, and particularly on one side of his face, was red raw. There is no way that man is able to talk, eat, swallow, or even smile without some severe pain. I can definitely be grateful that treatment, for me, will not be debilitating. Tonight, I knit as I waited to be called in for my rads. The nurse informed me that once sufficient knitting had occurred that she sews all the pieces together. The final product is then donated to St Vincent de Paul. I felt happy to be contributing to the knitting box.

The department is so well run. Everything seems to have been considered. Tonight, the husband was able to come into the room where the rads are delivered. The radiographer explained how the laser worked and was prepared to answer any questions we threw at her. What a fortunate little Aussie I am to be receiving such top treatment!

Yesterday, when I returned home from my first treatment, I was sure that I could feel a tingling sensation in my right breast. I am told that it is not until week two of treatment that the effects are seen and felt. Is it all in my head? Am I an attention seeker? Who knows. Actually, the doctor probably could answer those questions. But, there is no way I am willing to ask. If it is in my head, I will feel pretty silly. The doctor will think I am an attention seeker. Don't want that.

As I held onto the bars (hands above head) and the laser positioned itself, for the first time, I was having reservations about doing this to my body. Would you like your breast tissue burnt? Yes, please. What was I thinking? Shall we strap you down? No thanks, I'll willingly sit still for it to happen. Is this the right thing to do? Anyway, the fact remains that as I received my treatment (although not so much today) I was wondering whether I really wanted to be burnt. Too late. I've received it. It is burning the cancer. Move on. But...

I have now completed Day 2 of my Whole30. So, the rules are, for thirty-days, no sugar, gluten, legumes, dairy or grains. This basically means nothing processed. We've been doing this as a family for eight months. We are loving the results and intend to maintain this way of eating for the rest of our lives. Here's what the family (including two children) ate today:

Breakfast: Pancakes

Snack: Coconut Bark

Lunch: Omelette

Dinner: Rissoles and veggies

I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I don't mind having to drive to the hospital. It's too early to be complaining about the half hour trip. And, since the rads aren't going to be too different, (I don't think), from day to day, I might actually get to share about other stuff: the novel I am in the process of writing, being a paleo family, how I ate away cancer and raising children. See ya!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Radiation Therapy 1 of 30

We (the husband is doing it too) decided to kick off the diet with an IF (intermittent fast). That meant, no breakfast this morning. So, with an empty belly, I took child number one to their Spanish lesson.

By the time we came home, I was pretty hungry. We had a salmon and egg salad, and a muffin for dessert. Once lunch was out of the way, both children were ready for their nap. While they slept, I quickly cleaned up the house. Then, before I had a chance to think about it, we were leaving for the hospital. Today was my first radiation therapy appointment.

A friend joined me on this trip. Her role was babysitter as well as moral support. I was so distracted by our conversation, that I really didn't have a chance to panic. Thanks! Our wait was longer than I imagined but, once I was seen to it all went so quick.

While I was in the waiting room, the chair that I was to sit in was set up according to the measurements gained from the planning meeting. Moments later, I was called in and directed to lie in the chair. Three people moved about me, calling out numbers (measurements) and moving the sheet underneath me (putting me in the correct position). Soon it was clear that I was in place; a machine began to move around me. I was reassured that the movement was just to make sure that my body was not going to obstruct it in any way. I wasn't. All three people left the dimly lit room (it was a stark contrast to the blasting white lights in the waiting room) and I tried to relax myself as a familiar track played softly. Talk about attention to detail. Music was playing, just for me! I know the song but can't remember the name. It had the words, "writings on the wall". But that's not the name of it. (I have tried to google it but I can't think of any other words that will direct me to the song.) Anyway, I heard that song in its entirety and the beginning of a second. That was all the time I spent in there. It wouldn't even have been ten minutes. Before long I was getting dressed, fixing up my wig and walking out of there. One down! Twenty-nine to go...

The first three rads will last that "long". That's because I had to have an x-ray first. The x-ray is double checked with the planning appointment scan. It's obviously pretty important for all the measurements to be correct (within five millimetres is acceptable I was told). This way, the therapists can be sure that they are burning the same area. Thereafter, an x-ray will only be done once a week. So, on Thursday and Friday I can look forward to an even shorter appointment.

Between now and the next appointment, I am required to apply aqueous cream three times (but not less than an hour before the next dose). Rads dry out the skin, so this is to counteract that.

Tomorrow, my appointment is in the evening (the ideal for us). On Wednesday, I am scheduled to see a physio. How good is that?

My twelve week chemo treatment is now officially over. The only thing that I can complain about, with regard to that, is my itchy head. I think the little bit of hair that I have is getting tired of being hidden beneath the wigs.

I made it through Day 1 of my Whole30. I didn't have any cravings for anything and was happy that I was able to sustain the IF. Here are my meals:

Breakfast: IF
Lunch: Salmon and Egg Salad, and a muffin
Dinner: Red Curry (Chicken) and sweet potato fries on lettuce

It's hard to believe that I am to head back up to the hospital tomorrow. I have a parking permit this time so I will only be charged $2. I am certainly not worried about tomorrow. The veil has been lifted from the unknown.


'Twas the night before radiation...

I was feeling nervous about rads. Now, it seems, that the nervousness has disappeared. This is me. I won't be nervous now until I see the sign directing me to my appointment. Then, well, I will probably want to cry. Not out of being upset but, because I will be scared; of the unknown of course.

For the next six weeks, weights are out. I would like to think that I will still have the energy to do exercise though. Sigh.

I'm excited to be starting my Whole30 ( tomorrow. I am very much looking forward to it. While on chemo, I cheated and had gluten-free biscuits and ice-cream. So, I definitely feel that I need to dedicate a month to eating clean. After the thirty days, I will be keen to just keep going on the paleo regime, with the addition of the occasional bacon, sausages and dark chocolate. To farewell old habits I had Mark Sisson's Dark Chocolate Coconut Mousse tonight ( Yum.

I have used my homemade laundry powder (recipe below). The clothes seemed to be clean when I took them out of the machine. Unfortunately, all of my clothes are still on the line because of the rain. Hopefully, I will be able to bring the washing in tomorrow and really examine the results. In the next batch I will definitely seek out a fragrance to add to the powder. I am on my way to a chemical-free home!

And so, the last leg of my journey begins.

4 cups borax
2 cups soap flakes (or 2 cups grated soap)
2 cups washing soda
2 cups baking soda
(essential oil optional)
Mix well.
Keep in an airtight container.
Use 1/8 cup per full load.

Friday, 19 August 2011


It was a scary drive on the highway (too many trucks) this morning. But, it was very much worth it. I met with the Tough Bald Chicks; Breast Cancer Support Group. I had shared (yep, totally in past tense now) my chemo sessions with these women. It was their smiling faces, words of encouragement and tales of their experiences that spurred me on. They didn't take away the pain, but it most definitely made cancer worth it. Seriously. So much has come out of having breast cancer that the husband and I would not have it any other way. In fact, I do feel ok about me having cancer now. Me. Cancer. It's fine for those words to be in the same sentence.

I wear more make up than I would like to now. So, as I zoomed through the shopping centre with child number one in tow, I was very careful about dabbing both my eyes. Yeah. Both eyes are watering now. If I have to use two hands for anything, I have to move my head in a way that prevents the tear from falling where it shouldn't. Gross. I know. Who wants eye juice? Child number one copped a drop. My hands were too busy buckling the child restraint... I was reassured, today, when I looked around the table of women to see that others shared my watery side effect. How weird is that? It's the chemo that does it. It's obviously very common but, certainly not recorded on the sheet of side effects that I received all those months ago. I continue to dab.

Fatigue, I despise you. I certainly sense that that is leaving my building. Woohoo! Unfortunately, rad fatigue may be entering through the same door. That's a blow. Totally. I do not like being tired. I have been trying to turn a deaf ear to the duration of rad fatigue but, I may as well face it. It is likely to last up to twelve months! Hearing that really gets my back up. It makes me want to resist the fatigue. Like, (tough voice) these rads aren't gonna make me tired. I don't even think I ever got into a fighting stance with the cancer like I do with regard to fatigue. Last night, I did a metcon session. Building that muscle seems to be the best thing that I can do to prepare for the rads (and fatigue). And, of course, it's something that I enjoyed.

The photo in today's blog is more about recording the physical changes that occurred during the cancer treatment. I did take one of me smiling but I didn't like it. Who does like pictures of themselves? This photo gives the impression that I am miserable, which is very far from the truth. It's there for the future. In a year or so I will put my hair behind my ears to have a better look at this photo of me; back when I had breast cancer. I will laugh at my bald head, comment on how thin my eyebrows got, have a whinge about my leaking eyes and try to explain how lots of good things can come from bad situations.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

I'm Not Crying

I really had believed that my watering eye was done with. It's not! Now, I have two watery eyes. Neither is sore or itchy. Although, by the end of the day, they are usually puffy from being wiped at. Since Tuesday, I have found that the fatigue has not been as intense by the afternoon. That, my friends, is something to be so excited about!

Other great news includes: I have lifted my self-imposed ban on deodorant (feel free to stand on my right side now); the sparse hair on my head, that never fell out, is now lying down and not sticking up; the children and I did a one hour walk to the shops; and I made the best Paleo Fried Chicken ever (

I participated in one workout this week. It was a twelve minute AMRAP that included five ground to overheads, seven box jumps and nine air squats. My weight was the lightest in the group at 25kgs. I am very much looking forward to radiation being finished so that I can really focus on lifting more weight.

The right arm has been swollen for days. There is no pain and my arm is not heavy. It's just puffy. I am assuming that that will hang around for a good few months yet. My arm is actually still numb in places. I was told, after surgery, that that numbness may last up to twelve months. In some cases, the numbness stays. I have definitely noticed a dwindling in the numbness so, I am going for the box that says, "It will not last forever". Lock it in, please.

Ok, here's a confession. I have been looking at homemade laundry detergents. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I came across a site that said that one should not put anything on one's skin (it's an organ) that could not be eaten. I could understand where he was coming from. But, I really don't like the idea of putting something edible in the washing machine. How would it clean? So, my compromise is to make my own. I have a recipe, but have not been able to find one of the ingredients. I am going to hit a local hardware store. If I can get that ingredient, I will make the laundry detergent and report on its effectiveness. Oh, how cancer has changed me...

Breast cancer has really made me grasp just how fragile I am. I never wanted to be the damsel in distress. I certainly never wanted to be making my own laundry detergent. Well, perhaps I shouldn't get ahead of myself. I hope to get the missing ingredient today and then...wash the clothes tomorrow. Yes, I am a weirdo and proud to share how you too can become one. Why not join me?

Monday, 15 August 2011

Healthy As A Horse

As I drove child number one to their Spanish lesson, this morning, I was really amazed at how much my health had improved within a week.

Before the same drive, only seven days before, I remember saying to my eldest that I wasn't feeling well and would appreciate if all conversation carried on without me. When I got to the class, I was weak. I told one of the parents, who so kindly offered to make a few purchases for me (I always drop into the supermarket, during the lesson). I declined the offer. Instead, I sat for a while and then pulled myself up to go to the supermarket. I keep telling me myself that it's ok to push through the fatigue. For me, it's important. Of course, everyone is different. And yes, there are times when pushing yourself is a really stupid idea. That day it wasn't. It was the last day that I would venture outside. I did a quick grocery shop and returned in time to greet child number one at the conclusion of the lesson.

Anyway, there I was, a week later. The radio was loud and I was excited that every song that came on the radio was a favourite.

The day that followed was fairly action-packed; I participated in the children's games. Of course, when late afternoon hit, so did the fatigue. I may have overdone it. The day had started so wonderfully. I had more than enough energy to last the whole day...or so I thought. Oh well.

I am very excited, in hindsight, about the exuberance I began the day with. Quite soon it will be the norm. And, the afternoon low will also be smacked into history.

Imagine how energetic I will be next week. And, maybe, it will last all day.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Healthy Days

I'm feeling good. I'm healthy. And, the best part of it is knowing that chemo is not lurking around the next corner.

My twelve week cycle will be officially over Tuesday week. But, in my mind it's already done. I get so excited when I think about the fact that I have come to the end of chemo! It's amazing! While I made it through the low immune period unscathed, I have a strange itch on my chemo arm; where the chemo was received there is a tiny rash. It's terribly itchy. If the itch doesn't go away in the next couple of days, I will make a phone call. That's all, in terms of side effects.

The fatigue seems to have lifted. I have had a pretty busy weekend and it didn't take too much out of me. We had friends over on Friday night and watched a movie together. Then, we had an early start Saturday morning; doing crossfit. I did the Barbara workout (20 pull ups, 30 push ups, 40 sit ups and 50 squats - x5) in just under an hour. It's not the greatest time, but I absolutely enjoyed participating. Saturday night we watched the next episode of our favourite television show and then a movie. On Sunday, I watched others fish, went to the circus, did the grocery shopping (in person), cleaned the house and then had friends over in the evening. This is likely to be the biggest weekend I have had in three months!

Wearing a wig out in the sun, today, was not a good idea. As soon as I got to the car, I wrenched it from my head. It was gross to wipe so much sweat from my head. Yuk! I am so thankful that my chemo was received, and therefore my hair loss, in the cold months. Just as the weather is heating up, my hair is due to begin its return and I won't have to endure wearing a wig. Very good.

I have decided to begin my Whole30 the same day that I begin radiation. While we do eat paleo already, doing the Whole30 will mean that for 30 days I will not have bacon, sausages or dark chocolate (our only deviation). It won't be too different to how we currently eat. I will be eating completing clean. It will be a detox. I will document my meals and rad (cool word for radiation therapy) progress too. Right, I'm excited about that.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Cut, Poison and Burn

I didn't have the best of sleeps, last night. It was broken. The night sweats are annoying!

This time of year, I am usually in my warmest pyjamas, tucked under a doona; keeping to the warm parts of the bed. These sweats however, have driven me to wear summer pyjamas and swishing around searching for cold spots in the bed. I don't know how long the sweats last, but they certainly don't stick around. Soon enough, my nude head becomes aware of the cold pillow and I'm back to feeling the real temperature around me. This goes on all night. Hot. Cold. Hot. Cold. Sometimes, I get so hot that I can actually wipe sweat away!

Low immunity leaves tomorrow. In its bag he will pack away (forever!) my three purple, cannula bruises, an itchy needle site (where the chemo was eventually intravenously received), a twitchy, watering eye and cheek patches. Once he departs the white blood cell count will be looking good. I can interact with large groups of humans again. Yay!

Since the radiation "tattoos", I have to admit, that I have seriously been thinking about getting a tattoo (that I actually want, not four silly dots). I've always been anti-tattoos, for myself, because of its permanency. But, I don't know...I think I want one... So, I'm thinking just a small ribbon on my left wrist (not allowed anything on the right side because of the removed lymph nodes). It may just me being in a celebratory mood. Time will tell. Maybe this little thing will turn into nothing...

Today, I read an excerpt from an article that got me real excited. It basically explained that having greater muscle mass means that the body is able to withstand trauma (like cancer) better. This is awesome news! My body is less likely to see cancer return if I aim to build muscle as part of my exercise. Secondly, and more importantly for now, is the implication for burn patients.

On August 22, I will begin my radiation therapy. As a burns patient, my body will need more protein to heal itself. So, if my body doesn't have enough, it will draw from my muscle mass. This is the incentive I need to really hit the weights (I won't do anything crazy) in the lead up to that first appointment. During radiation, weights are not allowed. As with the nutrition, there is so much to be gained in knowing that there is something that I can do to make the radiation ride a little smoother.

I've been cut and poisoned. I'm ready for the burn!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Last Effects

It is with great joy that I endure the last side effects of chemo. Of course, the fatigue made its appearance.

The last three mornings, I have risen from bed feeling light. That's the best way for me to describe the fatigue. But, it was only when the fatigue lifted, somewhat, that I came to be able to explain it in such terms. Fatigue is heavy. It weighs you down. It anchors you emotionally, physically and mentally. When I'm in that place, I am unable to comprehend how everyone around me is able to make plans, fulfil them and then have energy to spare. The thought of making up my bed just doesn't register. It's registering now though. I did my best house clean up today. I feels great to be back!

No more hair has fallen out. Aside from some fine hair poking up, I am completely bald. It must be quite a sight when the husband rolls over, in the middle of the night, and sees a bald woman (beanie off because of one of the many night sweats - they continue!) next to him. My hair will begin to grow back soon. I looked longingly at hair-photos (of me) today. I'm definitely ready for hair. Research tells me that the paleo way encourages fast hair growth. I'm going to eat my hair back (another paragraph ending in this word...can it continue?).

My hands are looking so old these days. The chemo really dries out the skin. And, both my hands and feet are not their usual colour. Even my nails look strange. I wonder when the circulation will improve enough for the youthful, healthy colour to come back?

What else to report? The twin patches, on my cheeks, have not become red. And so, they have not spread any further than what they did in the last cycle. It's too late for them to do so now. Good. What I have noticed though, is that the discolouration is retreating. To even toned skin, let me welcome you back.

A strange side effect that has carried over from the last cycle is my forever twitching eye. For two weeks, my eye has twitched. Not consistently. Randomly. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. That same eye has watered too, in the same way; just when it feels like it (usually when I don't have a tissue to dab at it). Now, that same eye has a sty. I believe it represents the stress that my body has been under over the last couple of months. None of these problems have been painful though. Annoying? Very! Another thing. While lying next to child one, I noticed something that I was missing. White eyes! Check out a child's eyes. The sclera (thanks Google) is so white. My sclera is not looking (pun unintended) good these days. I'm told that this shows that the liver is under fire. I have some wonderful bags under my eyes too. But really, do you think I care, now? No way. I'll get my good health back.

Yes, I think it is a fair call to say that I am through the worst. Chemo has no power over me. I will now concentrate on smashing these side effects with good nutrition, sufficient rest and (I can't wait to start back again) exercise.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

A Thought

In some ways, I think we have asked too much of child one and two. On occasion, I have turned to the husband to say that I just feel so sorry for them. They haven't rejected their funny looking bald mother. They haven't resisted helping their dad who has been doing his best to run the house. And, they haven't, not once, said that they want to get off the cancer train. They have just kept going along in their little routine (which hasn't changed too much) day after day.

But, what is it that we ask of children during times like this? We ask them to develop and practice patience, kindness, forgiveness, selflessness, compassion, discipline and obedience (can't think of any more). Is that too much to ask of anyone? Even a child? No way.

I'm not going to feel sorry for my children anymore. This is good. What wonderful life lessons they have been learning.

Just a thought.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Game Over, Man

From one extreme to the other. That's me. Remember my moods yesterday? Well, today I wasn't so highly strung.

This morning, I opened my eyes hesitantly. I am always cautious in the mornings after chemo. Until the last of the low immune days have passed, any strange side effects may show up. I had to admit though, I felt better than yesterday. And, if my memory served me well, better than this time in my last chemo cycle.

Our family spent a great amount of time in the backyard. While I still took on the watching role, I felt good. The fatigue was there but not pressing enough for me to have a morning nap. I ate. Then, it was time for the children to have their afternoon nap. By that time, I was tired!

I put my head down to sleep. Not for long. I was struck with the notion that chemo was over. It was like a switch was flicked. Literally, within milliseconds, I was too excited to sleep. I shed a tear (of joy). It was over. The dreaded chemo sentence was over. Chemo was done. I didn't have to do it again. I repeat, it was over! There was no way I could sleep now!

But, I was still tired. I got back under the blankets and forced my eyes shut. The birds were singing in the trees. Did they always do that? Yes, of course. Today, they seemed happier than ever before. This is so lame and definitely cliche but it was like I hadn't heard them before. Actually, let's face it, if the neighbours had to begin playing the Red Hot Chilli Peppers' songs in succession (this has been done before) it is likely I would have enjoyed that too. The fact is, chemo was history. What seemed enormously impossible, to even grasp in my mind, was now just a small sentence in my history. I did chemo. I survived. (Two sentences actually).

My high didn't last all that long. By the evening, I was constipated (great!) and fatigued. I drank a "lemon" flavoured medicine and went to bed.

I was another day further away from chemo.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Pon De Replay

Today I have been tired, grumpy, irritable, short-tempered, uninterested, moody, impatient, slow, angry, tense, on edge. Do I really need to say more?

To my dearest family, sorry. It's strange to hear myself acting out this way. I don't want to be like this, but I literally cannot help it. The best thing for me to do is stay in bed. So, that is what I have done. It has been boring. I absolutely cannot wait until my body has fought this chemo sufficiently back that I can enjoy things again. At the moment, very little is motivating me, even just to smile. That's bad isn't it. This is why it's good for me to type. Man, I have lots to be smiling about!! Ahhh. I have to be careful what I type! I have refrained from deleting that (every part of me wants to) but I want to be honest.

I need to listen to some music. *music on* Oh yeah! Music is so powerful.

My greatest fear now, is that I pick up a bug. I shared this with the husband and he told me not to worry. I totally get stressed about stupid stuff. I just don't want any needles. I'm done with that!

Anyway, if fatigue and moodiness is my worst side effect today then I am doing well. Tomorrow will only be better. The chemo is now officially out of my system!

What follows now are a selection of songs that, I believe, will always bring me back to this particular time in my life.

Out Came The Sunshine Soundtrack

Track 1: "What happened to us?" Jessica Mauboy Ft Jay Sean
On the way to have my fine needle aspiration (back in March) this song was playing in the car. I love my music loud so I turned it up. I pretended I was Jess and sang my heart out. Then, when the fine needle was moving about, in my breast, I was singing the song in my head as a distraction. The song has a real catchy piano riff and I was replying that too.
Then, yesterday, when I was listening to this song it took on a new meaning. I thought that I was untouchable. I had assumed that this and that would never happen to me. But look, breast cancer happened...I shed a tear while listening to this upbeat song. Hormonal perhaps?

Track 2: "Need You Here" Hillsong
Track 3: "Lead Me To The Cross" Hillsong
There have been times where nothing makes me feel ok. It's at those times that no one and no medication helps. As much as there are people around to support me, there is always that moment where the battle is mine alone. That's when music has been the greatest escape. These two songs have provided that escape.

Track 4: "Break Your Heart" Taio Cruz
Track 5: "Dynamite" Taio Cruz
While doing chemo I have felt good. It's comparative though isn't it? When I am back to my usual 100% self I will have a boundless amount of energy. I won't know myself! I can now understand why cancer patients have a new outlook on life. So, when I felt as well as one can feel on chemo I have spent a great deal of time twirling and jumping (that's how child one and two insist I dance) to these two tracks.

Track 6: "A.N.G.E.L." Natasha Bedingfield
I had had a bad day. The chemo had made me grumpy and I was just over it all. I wanted to sleep. I was sitting at the table, contemplating how I was going to move from there to my room. It seemed too far to walk. And there standing in the passage, each with a balloon, stood my two precious children. The husband insisted on putting on some music, much to my dissatisfaction. Soon, this track was playing loud throughout the house. At that moment, my two children began to dance around the room, their balloons bobbing about above their heads. It was a most sweet moment. And, I was glad the husband went against my wishes.

Track 7: "Pocketful Of Sunshine" Natasha Bedingfield
This is just another song that our family have enjoyed dancing around to.

Track 8: "Incy Wincy Spider" Kate Toms
This well-known nursery rhyme was the inspiration for the title of my blog. It was a favourite for child number one and now child number two always reaches for this story. Kate Toms extends it so beautifully to tell a story of a spider who does not let a rainy day put him off from climbing back to where he belongs.

My soundtrack is still short a few songs. I would feel pretty ripped off if a soundtrack that I had purchased only had eight tracks. But, I still have radiation to go yet. That last third of the journey will, I'm sure, introduce more songs to the soundtrack.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Cytotoxic Mumma

I had a most interrupted sleep last night. The night sweats woke me so often. My beanie was on for an hour and then it and the blanket were thrown off. How many times this went on, I do not know. Either way, too many times, for my liking. The last couple of weeks, I think I managed to sleep through the dance. But now, with the chemo affecting my sleep, I was up non-stop. That, together with the fatigue, made for one tired mumma, this morning.

My taste buds have been lying to me again. Food and drink that I should have enjoyed were gross. As always, I get the need for sustenance, so I forced the food down, together with my last day of chemo drugs! Much of the day was spent sleeping (and battling the hot and cold changes of course!).

The husband has fulfilled his vow to the tea. In sickness, he has helped me. What a treasure! His being at home today (and tomorrow) has been the best. He has run the house and allowed me the chance to simply rest, rest, rest.

At lunch, I was motivated enough to make a Decadent Fruit Dip from the Everyday Paleo website. It was great to be able to taste the strawberries and apple that I dipped. I don't know enough of the workings of taste buds to understand why some tastes remain and why others become so skewed. But there you go, I could taste the fruit and the dip. It was yum!

When I awoke from my afternoon nap, I desperately wanted to listen to music. Music has always been an escape for me. Whether it is me playing (not much time for it these days though) or listening. But what should I listen to? Then I thought of our Australia girl, Jess Mauboy. I searched youtube for, "What happened to us?" and played it over and over, real loud. It was then that I was reminded that this was the song I sang as I distracted myself in that very first invasive test; the fine needle aspiration, all those months ago.

Next post, I am going to reveal my Breast Cancer Soundtrack; the songs that I have listened to, on this journey. I got real excited, this afternoon, as I jotted down the songs that distracted me, gave me inspiration and the ones that helped me celebrate the little things.

The power of music. It can sooth the savage...chemo.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Goodbye and Hello

Goodbye tastebuds and appetite. Hello fatigue.

When I sat at the table to have my breakfast, this morning, I was shocked that I was experiencing side effects so soon. I guess the upside is that I can get them over and done with. I could have been eating anything. The pumpkin soup had no flavour that's for sure. I forced it down. Then I had a cup of rooibos tea with five prunes (you know what that's for). It too did nothing for me. I have a strong feeling that my love for prunes will never return. Prior to cancer I loved prunes. Now, it will probably always bring back the memories of breast cancer. Who would want that? Prunes are a small price to pay to forget.

Last night, I came home to a beautiful, cooked meal with a treat too. While I was so excited about chemo being over I just couldn't show it physically. I felt absolutely exhausted! Was it the long day, with little sleep the night before? The stress of the cannula not going in until the sixth go? Or was it simply the finality of chemo; like the end of a marathon where athletes just drop to the ground? I got through the nine weeks, just. I wish I could have been more exuberant. I reckon the husband expected me to be a lot happier. But I was happy. It was just not bubbling to the surface.

Anyway, back to Day 1. It's was frustrating to think that yesterday I felt so good and then today I wake up unwell. Last time though. I was on my own with the children today. I managed the breakfast and clean up well. Then, when lunch came I got through that (I only managed to eat sliced apple with salt), hung washing, brought in washing, walked to the letterbox in a most embarrassing get-up, helped the children water all the plants with a tiny watering can (many trips to the tap of course) and watched them play for a bit. A huge day.

This afternoon I received a wonderful package from "The Pink Pamper Packs". The generosity that our family has experienced through this time has been so overwhelming! There may be more tears over that than the actual cancer. Good tears though. Thanks to so many people who have helped in different ways!

I have taken my anti-nausea and vomiting meds as prescribed. I have had two naps today. A dear friend gave me my neulasta needle, at 6.45pm. Yes, I cringed like the big baby that I am. Child number one held my hand and watched the needle go in. How did someone so brave come from me? I am very keen for a sound sleep tonight. But, as much as I want to hop into bed right now, I don't want to be up when the rest of the house is sleeping. So, I will busy myself, gently, with a few things before I hit the sack for the third time today.

I waited all day for this day to be over. I know that sounds negative, but it's how I felt. I just want to get through all of this stuff as quickly as possible. Last round I was "better" by Monday morning (Day 6). I don't mind being better before then!

Look at that chair. Never again will I have to sit there. If I wasn't feeling too fatigued I would love to do a happy dance. That will have to wait. It is coming. It's on the inside for now.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Chemo Lounge: Round 4 of 4

I struggled to fall asleep last night. And then, when I awoke at 5.30am to take my meds (steroid tablets) I couldn't get back to sleep. I put it down to being just plain excited about my last chemo. As it turned out, my chemo buddies who had also taken their meds, had difficulty sleeping. The restless night is actually a result of the pre-chemo medication. Anyway, it sounds far better to say that I was excited. I do have to say that I felt like a child who was going to Dreamworld, or something. I was so excited. Have I already said that? When I rolled over in bed, trying to fall asleep, I was smiling. Truly.

Today, I carpooled with my breast cancer buddy. We shared our ups and downs of chemo; we didn't dare mention the word, "cannula".

It seems that my cannula will only ever go in on the third go. So, in a way, I was prepared for it to take that many tries. Although, I did wish that I would get it on the first. Yesterday, I had noticed that some of my veins had darkened in colour. This, the nurses told me, is a result of the toxic drugs that I have allowed to be fed through my veins. The damage meant that only certain veins were able to take the cannula. While the second nurse was able to get the cannula in the vein, the vein was just not holding up. Due to the nature of the drugs, the nurses have to be sure that the cannula is at no risk of coming out or leaking. So, the third nurse had a go. This made five attempts. My arm was so sore. Yes, I know I am a big baby, but it really did hurt! My hopes of chemo being all over today, August 2, quickly came crashing to the ground. I only had one arm (can't use the right arm, breast cancer side, because of the removal of lymph nodes) and all the veins had been used. Fortunately, the oncologist consultant gave the approval for the cannula to be inserted above my elbow (on the inside). But would it go in? Yes. It was in. Success. If I cried it would have been out of relief. I didn't though.

The veins were given a rinse, anti-nausea and vomiting meds, taxotere, another rinse, (nearly there!) cyclophosphamide and then the final rinse. It was over!

My arm is sore, as it always is after chemo. But, I have reached the end. When I was first told of my chemo regime, I couldn't even think further than the day I was on. Now, it's over. It has gone fast. Although, I have to admit, it wasn't the horror movie that I imagined it would be on the onset. The oncologist was right. Chemo has changed a great deal; even just in five years there have been many improvements. There are very beautiful (inside and out) people who have cancer. And, I am so glad I met them. I look forward to continuing to share this journey with them. And then, life after. The tough chicks. Is that our official name yet?

The plan now is to drink loads of water to flush this poison out, start the mouth rinses, rest lots and take the side effects with a smile because I will look at them briefly before they leave my life forever. I picture myself as Adam Sandler this week.

Do you remember Sandler's movie, "Happy Gilmore"? There is a scene where he stands in front of an automated baseball machine. With his chest out he faces the balls. They hit his chest with great force. That's me. I'm looking at the side effects in the eye. They can come at me, they can do what they like, but I'll take it. I'm a tough chick.

Peace out!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Chemo, It Wasn't Nice Knowing You

A GP told me today that 90-95% of breast cancer patients have no family history. How is it that I am nearly two thirds of the way through treatment and did not get that message? There must be so many women (and men) who believe themselves to be safe. It's worrying to think that this disease can simply pop up anywhere, anytime.

Well, tomorrow is my last chemo. I have been drinking many cups of water and have been spending far too much time in the "ladies". It's vein pumping time!

As for side effects, I am pleased to report that my two little toes seem to be through their dark days. There is no pain there at all now. The sensation in my fingernails and toenails has also disappeared. So, for this round, I have kept all twenty nails. Win. I have had lots of wins in my third round of chemo. I am prepared for an even better fight with my final chemo. Seriously, if I experience a bad run, I will be totally shocked. My expectations are high. And, usually I would want to be keeping the worst case scenario at the forefront of my mind, but that has been tossed out the window. Bring it on. Actually, I am especially wanting my adrenalin to be so high that I won't find the cannula insertion so scary. I never want to do a cannula again, after tomorrow!

My eye is still tearing. Throughout my Unbearable workout tonight (21-15-9: bear complex and crossfit pushups), I had a steady flow of tears from my left eye. My face still has a patch for each cheek (a great look thanks, Mr Chemo). But, my sore wrist seems to have subsided. Another win.

More positives include, the fact that I am feeling more comfortable with a wig. I still worry that it may reveal my non-existent side burns or slide a little to show my hair line, but I'm not as paranoid.

I've had my steroids today (chemo prep med), and will go some more early tomorrow morning. My nurse is booked in to give me the neulasta needle 24 hours after chemo. I have cleaned the house and cooked up a storm. The babysitter is ready and my mum is my chemo buddy for the last round. All I need to do is pack my bag: blood form, ID book, list of questions, gluten free treat for the two-hour chemo treatment, a bottle of water, purse, phone, lipgloss (I've got to look good for the photo upload!).

Mr Chemo, I don't mean to be a user but once you have killed all my cells (and ultimately the cancerous ones), for the last time, I don't think it's a good idea for us to see each other ever again. It's not's me. Actually, just bugger off!