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!