Monthly Archives: April 2016

12 months

It’s Orthodox holy week, which caused me to think about where I was and what I was doing this time last year and how much has changed in the last 12 months.

This time last year, I was in Bali.  Having dinners and drinks at places like Sardine, Motel Mexicola and the Rock Bar (all of which, I highly recommend if you happen to be visiting the balmy island).  Bali was a much needed break last year.  I was exhausted – work had been super busy.  There was an injunction which took up my March long weekend and many weeknights thereafter and we were running against a deadline to have witness statements completed on another matter.  Long nights, dinners at work (no more Matsuri!), weekend coffees at my desk.  Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy my job, but when there’s a tight deadline or something urgent crops up, it can be full on.  Anyway, four days in Bali was a very welcome break and much needed before I flew home only to fly out again…

After being back at work for two days, it was off to Brisbane for the weekend for work.  I was lucky enough to take that trip with one of the loveliest lawyers in our team, so while the weekend was enjoyable and we had two good days of work, it did mean that I missed Orthodox Easter at home with my family.   One of just the many things work has caused me to miss over the years.

You see, being a lawyer is an exceptionally selfish job.  Because, the job generally will always come first.  Clients are demanding, and rightly so.  They hand their problems over to us and look to us to help find a way forward and bring issues and problems to a resolution.  Time is money and our time can be expensive.  I always wanted to do great work and, for the the majority of my career, I have been very fortunate to work on interesting, stimulating and challenging projects and disputes.  All of that though meant that I prioritised work ahead of everything else (family, friends, health etc) for years.   Why?  Well, firstly, because clients deserve great service.  But also because of the elusive carrot that is dangled in front of you – promotion.  First, promotion to senior associate.  Next, partnership.  It all sounds a bit like the Rhianna song, Work.

And work I did.  But 12 months on, I am in an entirely different place.  And, while I am actually looking forward to resuming my working life (once my brain switches back on – post ‘chemo brain’, which incidentally, is a thing), if this 12 months has taught me something it is that while I have always tried to ensure those more junior to me have some semblance of work life balance, I didn’t really ever have it.  I either lived my life working or on holiday.  In the last three months, however, the scales have been tipped firmly in favour of the ‘life’ part of work life balance.  And what I have found is that balance is not to be scoffed at.  There really is something to be said for having time to exercise, shop, get to the doctor, cook well (not throw a few bits together), see friends and most importantly, relax.  All things I used to cram in to whatever spare time I had.

I think the realisation for me is that it is going to be extremely important to me to have some better balance when things go back to ‘normal’.  I don’t yet know how I’m going to navigate the return to to work or anything else post treatment, but what I do know is that I will be making time for life and trying to stress less.  I want to make time for my family and friends and importantly, for myself.  Sometimes when the universe smacks you over the head, you just have to listen.  You know?

To all my Orthodox readers, may you have a blessed Easter.  Kali anastasi.

Krissy xx

The picture of perfection

Last night I went out for a gentle walk after chemo round 2.  It was a coolish evening and the sun was just setting.  I’m lucky to live in a neighbourhood where there are lots of little parks and many tall and established trees.  It’s also relatively close to the coast, so glimpses of the sunset through the trees are particularly pretty.  I was enjoying my stroll, particularly because after chemo round 1 I was comatose and couldn’t take myself off the couch, let alone get out for a walk!  Then, I walked past what struck me as a picture of perfection.

Picture this:  young beautiful mother, two beautiful little kids (somewhere between 2 and 6 – it was hard to tell without appearing like a stalker) and a golden retriever all playing out the front of a gorgeous new house.  Gardner doing some gardening.  As I walked past the ‘picture of perfection’, three things struck me.  Firstly, did the family know how blessed they are?  How lucky?  Secondly, you never actually know what’s behind a picture, so perhaps not everything was as picture perfect as it seemed to me in that moment.  But then again, I hoped that it was.  Thirdly, I had this overwhelming sense of grief, for myself.  [Warning, this next part is a little self indulgent and you’re very welcome not to indulge me and stop reading.]  You see, it’s unlikely that that picture will ever be my picture of perfection.  I am already not ‘young’ and the chances of me creating a life that looks like that one in the next five years are pretty slim.  In fact, I doubt there will be any level of ‘perfection’ as I navigate the road ahead.  Another six months of treatment, at least two more surgeries and years of tamoxifin. Plus figuring out how to return to normal life, including work, post treatment. I will attempt it all with a smile, but I won’t/can’t promise any more.

Now, I must confess that chemo makes me extremely emotional (does it do that to anyone else?!) so in a week I probably won’t even think twice when I walk past a ‘picture of perfection’.  But then again, I try to remind myself that in fact, every day is a blessing and we should be thankful for each day, perfect or not.  Breathe, enjoy a sunrise (rare for me these days), take a walk, have a coffee with a friend, lunch outside, cook something different.  Enjoy all the moments and forget about perfection.  At least for a little while.

Happy Thursday folks.

Krissy xx

* I know that the feature image has nothing much to do with the story – but to me the coast is so calming and we are fortunate in Western Australia to have such a fantastic stretch of coast line.  This is somewhere between Trigg and Waterman, taken by yours truly.

Losing my hair, not my marbles…

I waIMG_1383s told by my oncologist that 14 days after my first chemo treatment I would lose my hair.  Pfft, I thought.  Sure enough though, on day 14, the hair started falling.  Not how I imagined it would fall out, nor how I’ve seen it happen in the movies.  It started just as single strands, then more and more strands as I washed my hair and brushed my hair.  Thankfully, I didn’t lose my hair in massive clumps.  But, by yesterday, day three, I could just run my hands through my hair and pull out handfuls of hair.  Kind of weird, I admit.  It brought a whole new meaning to ‘pulling out my hair’!

Wiping out my investment

Lots of people told me that I would find losing my hair confronting.  And, to some extent, they were right.  I mean, I have invested thousands of dollars in my hair over the years.  A natural brunette, I have preferred being a bottle blonde for longer than I care to remember.  Foiled blonde (this must look natural!) hair is expensive.  Very expensive.  Six weekly trips to the hairdresser, hair products, treatments, blow-dries, up-dos.  My hair has for so long been my go to styling accessory.  What would I do without it?  Turns out, I would be just fine.

Getting prepared

I have been preparing to lose my hair since February when I visited the Cancer Council’s wig service.  You see, losing your hair when you have the type of chemo I’m having is a certainty.  As you’ll know by now, I like a bit of warning.  And so, for me, because I knew it was coming, losing my hair hasn’t been so bad.  And, of course, in my typical way, after three days and countless handfuls and brush-fuls of hair, I took back control and shaved my head.

Snip snip

To be fair, I didn’t shave my head myself.  Many years ago, almost nine to the day in fact, a very lovely hairdresser, Tamzin Mulder, did our hair for my sister’s wedding.  Many weddings and events later, we have gotten to know Tamzin well over the years.  Tamzin’s up-dos and make-up are always amazing (seriously, you’ll never look better!).  Now, back to the story.  Tamzin, very kindly, offered to help me choose a wig, shave my head and cut my wig.  I had hit the hair jackpot.  What a blessing to have had Tamzin help me – I was so comfortable and at ease with the whole process and it was actually pretty good fun.  My sisters joined me for the ceremonial head shave.  Thalia even tried her hand at cutting and shaving.  Not as easy as it looks…

Tips and tricks

Lots of people recently have told me that I ‘look good’.  Not my words, but I’ll take them.  And, at the same time, I’ll let you in on a few secrets.

Firstly, I drink far less alcohol and far more green/ beetrooty juice these days.  I also eat much less processed stuff and less meat.   I suspect that’s helping my skin.

Secondly, I took myself to Mecca and purchased a whole lot of Bare Minerals make-up and an Hourglass eye pencil.  I have also started using bronzer, vigilantly.  Invest in cosmetics – your face is particularly important when you have no hair on your head and you’re feeling rubbish.

Thirdly, I found a good wig and have acquired a bunch of turbans, beanies etc.  I found my very real looking wig at a great store on Hay Street in Subiaco.  It’s called Cheveux on Hay  Karen will make you feel welcome and will instantly know the right wig for you.  Trust her, she’s awesome. I can’t recommend Cheveux on Hay enough.

Finally, the big chop will be so much easier if you have someone you know and trust helping you through.  Ladies, if you’re in Perth and looking for someone to help with your hair (loss) and wig cutting, Tamzin is happy to help and I can highly recommend her.*

Until next time, enjoy your Sunday.

Krissy xx

* If you’d like Tamzin’s details, let me know and I can provide them!

 

 

No FECing around

So it turns out that for me, FEC, the particular chemo I’m having, resulted in four days of unpleasantness.  The anti-nausea meds made me a bit ‘cray cray’ and the steroids made me super puffy.  For about three days after having chemo, I was so nauseous, I couldn’t sleep, my heart felt like it was fluttering in my chest, my face puffed up like a blowfish, I was agitated and I was angry.  Angry about everything.  Mostly taking out said anger on my mother and sister (sorry ladies).  So irrational, but I guess that’s the way it goes.  The difficult thing about my first round of chemo is just that.  It was the first round and I had no idea what to expect, nor what was ‘normal’.  Turns out, it’s all very normal… so why don’t they just warn you?!

I’ve been thinking about that for the last few days.  Once I knew all of the lovely little reactions that I had were mostly to the anti-nausea meds and were side effects that I should have expected, I felt a lot more at ease.  I am someone who very much likes to be well informed (and forewarned!).  Not having the information about what precisely was going to happen to me wasn’t ideal.  I’d much have preferred to know what was coming.  But then again, everyone reacts differently and there was no way to know how I personally would react to all the drugs.  Safe to say, once the nausea subsided and I began sleeping, I happily resumed my life.  I knew I had turned a corner when I felt like baking last Tuesday.  Back in the kitchen and back to normality.

I feel lucky that it only took me four days to get back to feeling good because I had a family wedding in Dunsborough over the weekend and it was so lovely to be able to attend the wedding feeling well, with all my hair.

For the whole weekend, I felt grateful.  For so many things.  Grateful for my family and for being able to celebrate the wedding of such a gorgeous and fun couple.  Grateful that I was feeling well.  Grateful that I was in Dunsborough – such a beautiful holiday spot that we are lucky to have just a short drive from Perth.  Grateful that my chemo cycle is 21 days which gives me the ability to recover fully and have good days and normalcy in-between it all.

Grateful is something I didn’t feel that often before cancer.  Not that I wasn’t grateful for my life, of course I was.  But I just never really thought about what a blessing it actually is to be healthy, have the ability to work and earn a living and just to live.  These days, I count my blessings every day and I try to remember not to sweat the small stuff.  Enjoying the moments is what it’s all about.  There are crap days, to be sure.  But the better days far outweigh the crap days and for that I am most certainly grateful.  Whether it’s having lunch with a friend, cooking dinner for the family, walking on the beach, a trip down south or attending a wedding, I’m learning to just try and enjoy it all.  And not to sweat the small stuff.  It’s definitely not my strong suit not to sweat the small stuff, but I’m learning.  Perspective, it can do amazing things.

By the time of my next post, my oncologist tells me my hair will have fallen out.  So far, I still have a full head of hair, although my eyebrows and eyelashes have started falling out. I had a small freak out about that on the weekend.  Stay tuned for my reaction to losing my hair…and pictures of my bald head.

Enjoy the week – and all the good moments in it!

Krissy xx Continue reading

Round 1 – getting the chemo party started

Firstly, I hope everyone enjoyed a lovely long Easter weekend last weekend.  It was certainly nice to have another weekend feeling well and getting out and about before a pretty busy week.  I had a few coast walks, which was lovely.  I attended an Easter brunch with girlfriends and I whipped up some refined sugar, white flour and dairy free blueberry pancakes (just whizz up one egg, one banana, half a cup of almond milk and then beat in about 3/4 a cup of buckwheat flour before frying in coconut oil and adding blueberries).  Finally, a quick trip out to the Swan Valley to cap off the weekend.

This week for me was another big week of medical treatment.  Funny how nothing happens for so long and then all of a sudden, you’re back in the swing of hospital visits, anaesthetics and drugs…

Wednesday was the day to get my port put in.  Dr Hooi Nguyen, a lovely surgeon whoIMG_2723.JPG inserted my port, said it was a good idea to get the port put in at the beginning of the chemo rounds as my veins will pretty much be shot to shi* soon enough anyway.  My anethestist, whose name currently escapes me, was a lovely Irish man who wanted me ‘as hot as the bahamas’ to ensure he could canulate me easily for the surgery (see pic on the left).  So, five blankets later, looking ‘hot’, I was canulated no problem and sent away with the fairies so that Dr Nguyen could put my port in.  A few short hours later I was home, with a port on the right side of my chest, just under my collarbone.  Somewhat uncomfortable, but I’m told that will settle.

 

 

Thursday was the big day for round 1 of chemo.  This was all much less traumatic than last week – my port was pre-needled so it was just an unclick of the needle then in with the anti-nausea meds, steroids and FEC.  FEC is a combination of three drugs:

  • 5 fluorouracil (also known as 5FU);
  • epirubicin; and
  • cyclophosphamide.

Particularly potent I’m told, so I had to chew ice and eat an icy pole to keep the drugs from heading straight to the ‘soft’ parts of my tissue in my mouth.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the chemo.  The actual process of injecting the chemo wasn’t bad at all.  I ate some lunch and chatted to the lovely Croatian lady who was sitting next to me.  She’s 74 and has pancreatic cancer, but was in particularly good spirits.  A very strong and stoic woman with broken English that she told me I had not trouble understanding because I was not an ‘Australiani’… in the end, all Europeans can understand each other and I was grateful for the chatter which saw the three and a half hours fly by.

At the end my chemo, I had a zoladex injection (the injection to ‘turn my ovaries off’).  A little less pleasant than the chemo, it was injected into my stomach.  It’s actually a pretty big needle, but still wasn’t as stingy as that pesky injection I had to have before my mastectomy to find my sentinal node.  So far, so good.

I wasn’t sure quite how long the drugs would all take to settle in.  Alas, not long.  We left the hospital and headed to the Re Store (an excellent Italian deli) for some provisions.  By the end of the Re Store visit I was a bit knackered and promptly came home to sleep, for the entire afternoon.  Symptom 1 – tired!  I also asked my Mum to make me a Greek chicken soup, avgolemono, for dinner.  Symptom 2 – change in taste buds.  No to the soup, but yes to some chicken.  Symptom 3 – nausea.  It’s not so bad that I can’t eat (trust me, not much stops me from eating!), but it is bad enough that I have had a few little rests today.  Happily though, I haven’t needed to sleep today, just rest.  Hooray.  I did manage to get out to the Post Office to pick up some online shopping and go to the supermarket.  Bumped into my Aunty and my cousin and that was about as much excitement as I could handle for the day…

So, here we are.  One chemo down, five to go.  Bring it. I’m ready to go, tired, nauseas, changed taste buds and all. Oh, and symptom 4, puffiness. The steroids and I don’t play so nicely together.  But who know how that’ll pan out over the next four months.

I haven’t managed a walk yet, but that’s on the list for tomorrow, as well as a podiatrist appointment and afternoon work get together.  Wish me luck – I’m being ambitious, as always!

Much love to everyone – have a great weekend.  Enjoy the sunshine and do something fun.

Krissy xx

PS -savour the snaps of me looking so glam at my first chemo session.  I suspect this is about the last of my glamorous snaps in a while..!

PPS – don’t be a sadist, like I was today.  As if it wasn’t enough that I started chemo yesterday, I decided to watch, ‘Miss You Already’.  A movie with Toni Collette (Millie) and Drew Barrymore (Jess).  It was actually a really good film, but Millie had triple negative breast cancer and ended up dying of metastatic brain tumours.  Probably a bit much for today.  I’d recommend some lighter viewing for the weekend – but when you’re up for a good tear jerker, download it and have a watch.  If nothing else, you’ll be inspired to order yourself a pair of Louboutins! Promise.