Monthly Archives: August 2016

Guest post || a sister’s perspective 

My name is Thalia Botsis and for those of you who don’t know me, I am Krissy’s younger sister. I have wanted to write a guest blog for quite some time, but have never known exactly what to say. As Daffodil Day approached, a day that not only raises funds but also awareness, I decided that now was the right time. 
It has been so great to see so many people share in Krissy’s journey. She gets so much strength and encouragement from all of your support and it means the world to our whole family. But, I wanted to write a little bit about all the things you don’t read about or see on this blog.
Firstly, you may have read that my sister is essentially going through menopause at 32 years of age due to the big C.  But, have you ever thought about what that means?  Probably not. It means hot flushes, so bad that you actually cant sleep through the night. So bad, that the pillow feels like it has been left in the sun on a 40 degree day. It means waking up in the morning with joints and bones so sore you can barely move. It means that you have to take calcium tablets every day (on top of an already impressive number of pills). It means that in a sea of changes, you have to battle yet another monumental one. So, that sucks. 
And then there are the stories. Everyone’s got one to tell. ‘My friend Bernie had breast cancer. Went away. Came back. Was everywhere’, ‘Oh my uncle Bob had cancer, drank only Broccoli juice and unicorn tears, he was in remission for 50 years, then it came back…’ ‘But you’ll be different!’ These stories, though well intentioned, are not helpful. They’re kind of like a punch to the gut, the type that winds you and takes your breath away, even if only for a moment. I’ve seen that first hand, I’ve felt it. Combine those with some pretty grim statistics and it can understandably get a gal down. So think before you speak, because what you might not realise is that my sister, at 32, is worried some days that she won’t make it to 40. That just like Bernie and uncle Bob’s cancer, hers will return with some sort of satanic like vengeance. 
On top of that, there are the people that cannot seem to fathom that life wont simply go back to normal after treatment. In fact, it will never be the same. Krissy will never be the same. Some priorities have to change, others I imagine she will simply want to change. For example, Krissy used to be the first to indulge in a sneaky post work wine with me. Gone are those days. Sure she might have a sip every so often. But, it doesn’t bring the same joy anymore. And, how could it? After all there is a direct link between alcohol and breast cancer. How could that not be in the back of your mind with every little sip? 
This year has coincidentally, also been an extraordinarily tough one for my whole family. So much has happened that you won’t read on this blog. At times it has felt relentless, like blow after blow after blow. Though, these are not my stories to tell. Nevertheless, it is important that you know that, because it makes this blog, my sisters attitude and her journey all the more incredible. 
My point is that if you met my sister, or you read this blog you wouldn’t know any of these things.  You wouldn’t know, because despite all of the above, she is eternally optimistic. She gets up everyday, no matter how much pain she is in and she lives her life. She laughs, she cooks, she cries, she walks (a lot). You would probably tell her you’re excited to catch up for a glass of champagne (or a whole bottle) when she puts all this behind her. And, you would have the best intentions in doing so. But, the thing is, this will never be behind her. Her treatment is ongoing, for the next 5-10 years. After that, regular check ups for life, like all cancer patients. So, like her, we all need to adjust. We need to remember everyone is fighting so many different battles, everyday, that we don’t see.
If I can leave you with one thing I have learnt this year, it is to remember that everyone is fighting battles we know nothing about. Sure, you all knew Krissy had cancer and was facing an uphill battle, but did you know everything written up above? If I was to hazard a guess, I would say the answer is no. With social media only providing a brief glimpse into our lives and more filters than you could count it’s easy to think things are going perfectly well in someone’s life, when that isn’t always the case. There is so much that happens in this world that is completely beyond our control. But, it is never beyond our control to be kind, to take time to listen and to help others, in whatever small way we can. Treat everyone you meet with kindness, you never know who needs it most. 

A numbers game

In the last few days I’ve stumbled across more than one insta/ facebook post in which cancer is described in numbers.  That got me thinking about my own numbers.  And there are lots of them.

1 – the day in February when I was diagnosed.

2 – superfluous ultrasounds after being paranoid about strange lumps found during self examinations.

3 – surgeries so far.  Mastectomy, axillary clearance and infuser port insertion. 2/3 to go, next year.

4 – hospital admissions (not counting appointments, chemotherapy and radiotherapy).

5 – zoladex injections down.  Only 54 to go.

6 -chemotherapy cycles , three each of FEC and docetaxel.

8 – radiotherapy sessions completed.

10 – ultrasounds / biopsies / scans.

12 – days in hospital.

17 – radiotherapy treatments to go and therefore days until my official treatment (minus the ongoing drugs) officially ends. Yay.

42 – the age I’ll be, God willing, when my ‘treatment’ ends.

199 – days since diagnosis/ days since I worked.

3652 – tamoxifen tablets to be taken over the next 10 years.

There are more numbers of course.  Dollars spent on medical treatment (many!), well wishes/ cards/ gifts/ kind gestures from friends and family, days spent feeling sick, days spent feeling well, walks gone on, hot flushes endured, meals cooked, coffees and juices drunk…

Looking at all the numbers, the most significant number to me is the 199.  199 days since my life changed.  Well, if not my life, at least my perspective on life.  And much of that change has come from having time to think, to breath, to live, to be.  In and amongst the treatment, there has been lots of time to think and reflect.  I don’t like to think that the choices I made in the years leading up to this year caused my cancer (simply too grim to think this could possibly be self inflicted), but I do like to think about why I got breast cancer and what I am supposed to learn from this massive roller coaster of a year.

As to the why, firstly, we can rule out genetic mutations.  My genetic testing all came back negative.  That leaves everything else to consider.  Years of working very hard, drinking a little too much, worrying about everyone and everything around me and trying to take care of everyone.  Does that all cause cancer?  Who knows.  Hopefully not, but who knows.

Which brings me to the lessons that I think I’m supposed to learn.  For me, one of the biggest lessons I think has been to be more grateful, a little more humble and a lot less negative/ angry/ stressed.  To have a little more peace in my heart.  I have also realised that being a lawyer had started to fundamentally change me.  I had moved so far away from all the things that were important to me and I had become so focussed on career progression and chasing the dollar dollar bills (as we jokingly refer to them, now, in our house).  And while those are still things are important to me (hello, we all need to make a living!), I’m going to have to marry work life with my life and not let my life become solely about work.  I’m going to have to continue to remember who I am and make time for things that are important to me including family, friends, church, sunshine, walks, etc.  Challenge accepted.

As for the numbers, that’s enough maths for me for one day.  The only numbers I’ll be counting are the number of hours of sleep I’m going to get tonight.  Eight, with any luck.

It’s Friday tomorrow and the weekend comes after Friday, so that is cause for celebration (not least because I get two days off radiation).  Bon weekend!

Krissy xx