Monthly Archives: July 2016

Crack

I’ve been warned, several times and by several people, about the emotional toll treatment etc. can have.  And it wasn’t until today that I think I finally cracked. To say it’s been a tough year this year would be an absolute understatement.  Not only for me, but for my family as well.  There are lots of things that have happened whilst I’ve been on my own cancer/ treatment path that I don’t write about because as much as they are part of my story and my life, they’re not things that are mine to share.  I allude to them sometimes, but for the most part, I write about myself (so narcissistic!).  And in writing about myself, I get lots of encouraging, supportive and wonderful comments from friends and readers.  The most common comment among them all is, ‘you’re so strong’.

Usually I am pretty strong and I do have an incredible resilience, something which I am grateful that my years as a lawyer helped me develop.  But today I was not strong.  Today I don’t feel emotionally or physically strong.  In fact, for the first time in six months I feel depleted.  Fatigued.  Zapped.  And for the first time in six months I uttered those words that I promised myself I would never utter ‘f*ck cancer’.  I have always hated those words – they have such a negative connotation which doesn’t match my ordinarily positive outlook on things.  But, there you have it.

It’s now evening as I write this.  And I realise that tomorrow really is another day and the sun will rise again (even if the weather forecast is for rain, I’m sure the sun will come out for a brief play!).  And then I remember that I am grateful, because I had today and I have a tomorrow.  And in the end, that’s pretty good.

Have a lovely Sunday tomorrow.

Krissy xx

PS – if you made it to the end of that post, well done.  Not my most uplifting effort, but a side of things that is real and worthy of discussion nonetheless.  It isn’t all roses everyday and that’s ok.

 

Au revoir chemo

As I sit on the couch watching Masterchef, I am feeling slightly sick and I have some shooting pains panging through my legs and arms.  But, don’t let any of that worry you (or me) because I have now had my sixth and final round of chemo… and that is definitely cause for celebration.  Although my celebrations are a little different these days (far less champagne than I used to guzzle!), the end of chemo is definitely a milestone I’ll remember.  After all, chemo has such a drastic effect on your life (even if only for a short time), it’s difficult to forget.

I’ve been thinking about all the things I’ve learned from diagnosis to now, and they are many and varied.  Here are the things the things that I can’t stop thinking about:

  1. Without the support, love and prayers of my family, friends and work colleagues, I’m not sure the last six months would have been as bearable/ possible as they have been.  I feel more grateful for all the people in my life than I really ever have before.
  2. While it’s been important for me to learn to rely on other people to help me get through tough days, in the end, when the going gets really tough, it’s just up to me.  I have to put one foot in front of the other and propel myself forward (or at least out of bed and onto the couch!).
  3. Diet, exercise, moisturising, oral mouth cares and hand sanitising are so important to get through chemo.  No word of a lie – without cooking, walks, vitamin e cream, oral 7 rinses and my dettol hand sanitiser, I don’t think I could have done it.  Clearly I’ve also become a little OCD…
  4. Stop sweating the small stuff and be more patient.  The former me was so impatient and everything got on my nerves.  I’d like to think that I’m a little less nuts these days, although only my family can answer that…
  5. Get the right team helping you.  I am so comfortable with all my doctors and my physio and that has made my treatment so much easier.  I picked my team of people and am glad to have each of them helping me. 
  6. Sometimes you need the music, sometimes you need the lyrics.  It’s a funny thing, but very true.  Some days I just want the music to wash over me and some days, the lyrics are so important.  You will probably judge me, but have you listened to the lyrics of Delta’s new album?  Lyrics to connect with.
  7. Nature can recharge your batteries like nothing else.  A brisk walk on the coast always leaves me feeling better.  If you can swing a sunset walk, notice the birds and take in a spectacular sunset, so much the better.
  8. Without faith there is no hope.  

With the end of chemo comes a short reprieve before I embark on my next round of treatment, radiotherapy.  To get ready for radiotherapy, I met with my radiation oncologist and had a planning session for my treatment on Friday.   And, I got my very first ink!  Three little (blink and you’ll miss them) dots to allow me to be accurately lined up for each round of radiotherapy.  It’s just three little black dots, but those three black dots are more permanent markers (in addition to my bajilion scars) of my treatment.  I don’t mind at all though, because hopefully these three little dots help to stop any recurrence of the breast cancer returning in my chest wall.  Well, I can only hope and pray.

In the next month, I’m hoping that some of my energy returns and that some of my ‘chemo brain’ fades away.  Oh, and that my hair starts to grow back… Other than that, once my taste buds return and I feel like healthy food again, I’ll try and get back in the kitchen.  Until then, I’ll just eat another slice of toast… and leave you with this little video I put together of the last six or so months in pictures.

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​Hoping everyone enjoyed a restful weekend.  Have a wonderful week.

Krissy xx

Looking good and feeling better

Before you question just how vain I really am, the title of this blog is inspired by the Look Good Feel Better workshop which I attended this week.  And, although last week was a chemo week for me, I have actually managed to fit lots of things in to the last little while.  So many people frequently ask me how I manage to fill my days now that I’m not working. The truth is, it’s easy.  Here’s a snapshot (in pictures and words) of things I’ve done over the last week or so:

  • attended an informative seminar run by Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) about breast cancer treatment and living with breast cancer;
  • had chemo number 5;
  • got stranded on a sandbank on a boat with family visiting from Melbourne (we were on our way to Freo, so we had to get off said boat and drive to Freo instead!);
  • attended a thermomix party/ demonstration;
  • attended the Look Good Feel Better workshop run by LGFB (a wonderful workshop which equips women with tools to make themselves look good/ normal during treatment and therefore feel good – pretty much run on the generosity of donations from cosmetics companies);
  • had dinner at a friends;
  • was put through my paces (seriously, thanks Petrina) at pilates and realised that my body is ever so slowly getting stronger;
  • spoke to a genetic counsellor and got my genetic testing underway;
  • walking, walking, walking and of course, cooking (hello chocolate birthday cupcakes);
  • met with my plastic surgeon to talk reconstruction and timing.

Of course, there are a number of mundane things that I do to occupy my time – groceries, house work, sleep.  I’ve ditched netflix lately in favour of Masterchef and Offspring (is anyone else excited that the Proudmans are back?) and I’ve taken to reading cookbooks instead of actual literature.  So you see, there’s really no shortage of things to do.  And I am always on the go, except for the weekend immediately after chemo when I am pretty much comatose on the couch or in bed.

The interesting thing about the last week is that I am pretty much five months since diagnosis and nearly through the chemo fun.  A milestone in my mind.  I can’t wait to see the back of chemo and as milestones go, that’s the one I want to celebrate most.  But as with any milestone, my mind starts to turn to what is next.  The planner in me needs to know that the coming months will hold and how they will look.  Unpredictable, without question.  But I’m trying to get organised so that I can facilitate a return to work at the end of the year.

A big part of navigating that course for me is figuring out the timing for my next round of surgeries. I know that a prophylactic right breast mastectomy and full reconstruction is going to take a few rounds of operations, but I wanted to be more across the detail so I booked on in to see plastic surgeon Dr Mark Lee. He comes highly recommended by many women who have had reconstructive surgery, and with good reason. He is a pioneer of what’s called a scarless lat dorsi reconstruction. And I have to say, when I pitched up at Dr Lee’s rooms, that is exactly the kind of reconstruction I thought I’d have. But, 45 minutes and a good chat later, I’ve come away with other options to consider. Who knew that you could reconstruct breasts using fat and muscle from you bottom or thighs? Clearly one look at me and Dr Lee knew that those would be good options.   I’m not that into the idea of using muscle and fat from my bottom (although there is plenty of it!) because I don’t like the idea of damaging nerve endings in that area. But, the idea of using part of my (sizeable) thighs to get some breasts is something to think about. There are benefits, I’m told, in having a tissue only reconstruction after radiation. Sometimes implants don’t take well under radiated skin, there can be infection etc. I also quite like the idea of not having any foreign material in my body. The downside to turning your thighs into boobs (what’s called a ‘tug flap’ reconstruction) is that it would require two pretty lengthy surgeries with long (six week) recoveries after each. I haven’t yet decided what I’ll do, but I know I have to wait a minimum of four to six months after radiation before my skin will be sufficiently healed to start the reconstruction process.  And I have to say, the idea of new boobs and thinner thighs is certainly appealing!

So after meeting with Dr Lee, what I know is that although my formal treatment should be finished by late September/ early October, a large part of 2017 will also be taken up with surgeries and hospital visits. The never ending merry go round that is cancer treatment will continue to spin for quite some time… Between the end of radiation and the surgeries though, it’ll be back to work. Where I will attempt to turn ‘chemo brain’ off and ‘lawyer brain’ on.

Until then, I’m going to enjoy the sunshine on this beautiful day.  Enjoy the weekend, and, if you’re in Australia, don’t forget to exercise your constitutional right to vote tomorrow.

Krissy xx