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.