Tag Archives: cancer

The anxiety of moving forward

2015 was, among other things, the year of the house hunt for me.  I had been diligently saving my hard earned lawyer pennies and looking for the perfect house to buy.  I had very specific requirements, for example, I wanted an old house which had:

  • wooden floor boards throughout;
  • high ceilings, preferably with some decorative detail;
  • at least two decent sized bedrooms with another room for a study;
  • a kitchen sink under a window (who likes to stare at a wall when they’re washing the dishes?);
  • good bones that could be spruced up, without any real structural renovations required; and
  • the right price tag, within 8km of the city.

I really wanted to buy in Wembley, but after months of searching and finding nothing in my price range, I gave up.  In fact, after about six months of endless scrolling through realestate.com I gave up altogether.   Then one day, after a scrolling hiatus of a few months, I was eating lunch at my desk at work when I jumped online just to have a look and see what was around.  Encouraged by an ultrasound of my (then) suspect lump which (allegedly) revealed I only had a cyst, I thought it was the right time to see what was out there.

Much to my surprise, there was a perfect little house, in Wembley.  BUT, the price was definitely not right.  About $80,000 more than what I was looking to spend.  Still, buoyed by the fact that the house had failed to sell at auction, something told me that I needed to see this house.  It was OFI the next evening.  I had a mediation the day of the OFI and around 4.30pm I was getting a bit antsy.  I told the partner that I really needed the mediation to wrap up because I had to go and see a house that evening.  He was most confused, largely because I never left work early but also because although I had been talking about buying a house for many months, I had never attended a home open during the week.

But, attend I did.  I loved it.  It needed some serious TLC and a whole new kitchen and bathroom, but that wouldn’t stop me.  I flew to Melbourne the next morning for an awards evening for work and on my return on Sunday, I made an offer.  I made that offer in November 2015.  The settlement of the house occurred in late January 2016.  And then I was diagnosed.  All my plans to renovate and move into said little house flew out the window.  The house got a bit of a facelift and then was to be rented.  Luckily, it rented easily and I am grateful that I have good tenants who love living in my house.

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Here’s the thing.  I was supposed to live there.  As much as I love my Mum and my sister, it was time to move out.  Well, here we are 16 months after diagnosis.  I’m still living at home and my little house is still rented.

So many things, including my income, have changed since I bought the house, but I still want to renovate and live there.  I made the decision that if my tenants were taking a holiday any time this year, I’d tackle the bathroom as a first small step toward realising that goal.  Planning the renovation required me, however, to go back to the house and measure the (little) bathroom and (even littler) powder room.  Well, cue the anxiety.  The thought of living there or renovating can sometimes overwhelm me.  I can’t even explain it.  But the house represents so much of what was lost in the midst of treatment and recovery and it also scares me a little to do anything with it, given the timing of events last year.  I don’t like to think of the what-if’s, but sometimes its inevitable that they creep into my thoughts.

But, there’s a little quote that always sticks in my mind, ‘forward is forward no matter the speed’.  So today, I’m going tile shopping.  The bathroom reno is happening in September.  Time to start moving forward.

Krissy xx

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.

 

The excitement of turning the corner

After a round of chemo, I am always waiting to ‘turn the corner’.

I didn’t quite know when that would be this round because docetaxel had such different side effects to FEC.  Tuesday was the day though.  After having to cancel all my long weekend plans (another long weekend lost to chemo) and spending the best part of Saturday, Sunday and Monday resting/ comatose on the couch with aching bones, I woke up on Tuesday feeling so much better.  I managed to leave the house for the first time and get back into the kitchen, which is always a sure fire sign that I’m feeling better.

Once I’ve turned the corner, there are still things that linger to remind me that I’ve just had a fair dose of toxic chemicals injected into me.  This time around those reminders are things like a super dry mouth and throat, terribly interrupted sleep at night, the ever persistent hot flushes (particularly at night), super dry skin and some general tiredness and crankiness.  Definitely no picnic, but tolerable.  I have little things I do to help overcome all the problems of chemo, but I rarely share tips, so I thought I’d give you a few:

  • to fix a dry mouth – I brush my teeth at least three times a day and rinse with Oral 7, which was recommended by my dentist;
  • to try and get a better nights sleep – I try and exercise, mostly just a walk, most days to make myself physically tired and having a herbal tea before bed is always a good idea;
  • to combat the hot flushes – well to be honest not much helps, but layering and taking vitamin e supplements goes some way to making things cooler;
  • to keep dry skin at bay – moisturise, moisturise, moisturise using a heavy, scent free moisturiser like a vitamin e cream available at pharmacies;
  • to feel less nauseous – the only thing that really works for me is carbohydrates like toast and hot chips (I often compare myself to a pregnant woman that is having cravings!); and
  • to fix everything else – just walk and keep on walking! It’s good for bones, general fitness and to help with the ever dreaded nausea and fatigue.

For me, in addition to all the little things I do, a big part of feeling ‘normal’ is making my face and head look ‘normal’.  People are always absolutely gob smacked when they meet me to find out that I’m currently having treatment.  People often tell me that I don’t look sick at all.  And while that really is quite the compliment, there’s a lot that goes in to looking ‘normal’ everyday.

First of all, I’m lucky to have a fabulous wig.  It fools so many who think I’ve just had a nice blow dry.  The wig is a big part of looking normal.  But when I’m not in my wig, I usually wear a yankees cap (to compliment my ‘activewear’ look) or one of a number of turbans/ beanies I’ve collected.  Here’s me from no make-up no hair to ‘normal’.

And, here I am in a selection of other ‘looks’.

With the head covered, lets talk about make up.  For me, my hourglass eyebrow pencil is the ultimate in face pick me ups.  My eyebrows are not all lost, but I have far, far less eyebrows than before.  The hourglass eye pencil fills in my brows and frames my face.  It even fooled my surgeon who told me I could have a job as a makeup artist in my next life.  Unlikely, but thanks Corinne.  Add eyeliner, powder, bronzer and blush and I go from pale to golden glow in no time.  Here are some of the products I love to use.

Finally, a big part of turning the corner is the ability to get back to exercising.  I know I bang on about its benefits quite a bit, but if you watched that episode of Catalyst which explored the current trial being conducted in Perth into how targeted exercise can help fight cancer, you would understand.  Didn’t see that episode?  You can watch it here.  Anyway, after my last blog post one of my cousins suggested I see an exercise physiologist.  So, off I went to the Functional Rehabilitation Clinic in Shenton Park.  I’d like to tell you that the exercise physiologist told me something I didn’t already know, but it was more a confirmation of what I already know.  Weight bearing exercise is best, particularly walking.  Things like netball and basketball are good too.  After a quick chat we got stuck in to some exercise – mostly legs for the first session, but I’m back on Tuesday so I’ll be sure to share any other pearls of wisdom with you all.  I’m going to build a program of targeted exercises to add to my walking.  Should be fun.

Somehow it’s Friday again, so wishing everyone a fab weekend.

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.

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.

 

 

The frustration of the unpredicatable

One of the many breast care nurses that have so kindly contacted me in the past few weeks told me that I shouldn’t get hung up on my treatment dates because they will inevitably change.  My initial thought was, ‘whatever’, I’ll just focus on getting started.  Well, I should have listened because not even one round of chemo in and the breast care nurse can claim a victory.  She was entirely correct.

I turned up for my first session of chemotherapy so ready to begin.  Except that my veins didn’t quite want to come to the party.  Four different nurses tried to find a vein to canulate me so that they’d be able to pump the chemo through.  Four different nurses failed.  After the fourth attempt, I was somewhat distressed, ok, I cried.  My mother, who had taken me to the appointment, ran off to fetch my oncologist.  I think my crying made everyone uncomfortable – including the other patients having chemo.  Did you know, they just administer chemo in one big room?  So, for the first time, I really got to see what it looks like to be deep in the middle of chemo.  Sallow faced, weakened and skinny, bald people everywhere.  And, everyone in the room was on average 20 or 30 years older than me.  Confronting, at best.

But anyway, back to the story.  After a quick discussion with my oncologist, we decided that if every attempt to canulate me was going to result in multiple uncomfortable attempts, it would be better (and I suspect much more efficient for the nurses) for me to get a port put in.  The port will sit just under my skin near my collarbone.  The nurses will be able to access it much easier than trying to find a vein in my arm, so that’s good news.  The bad news is that a port means another general anaesthetic and hospital visit this coming Wednesday.  Chemo will then start on Friday.  So while the week was incredibly frustrating, the silver linings are that I have enjoyed another week of feeling well and I’ll still have my hair for my cousins wedding which is coming up in early April …

I think I’ve written before that both chemo and radiotherapy are like getting extra insurance.  Whilst technically all my cancer has been removed, thank you Corinne, there could be a rogue cell hidden somewhere just waiting to grow.  My radiation oncologist tells me that often breast cancer can recur locally or it can return as lung cancer, bone cancer or liver cancer.  Not pleasant.  So, the aim of the chemo is to kill the rogue cells that may be lurking.  And the aim of the radiotherapy is to kill anything that may be left in my chest well with an aim of stopping a local recurrence.

I guess ultimately, the surgeries, the chemo, the radiotherapy, the healthier eating etc. is all to try and ensure I enjoy a long and healthy life.  Yesterday I went for a walk along the spectacular WA coast line.  One of my favourite walks in Perth is along West Coast drive between Trigg and Waterman.  Just hilly enough to feel it and with a spectacular vista.  As I was walking past Mettams Pool, I spotted a woman heading in to the ocean for a dip who must have been easily pushing 90.  How wonderful, was all I could think.  What a blessing to be healthy enough at that age to still enjoy a swim in the ocean.  That, my friends, must be the aim.  Did you know the life expectancy of a 32 year old woman in Australia is 90?  I’d like to get there, and go swimming in the ocean like the lady I saw at Mettams Pool… plus do all the other things in between that I haven’t yet had time for.

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Swim time at Mettams Pool.

Oh, and finally to end on a positive note, they say that before you start chemo you should do something really fun.  Well, lucky me, my fabulous friend Amy invited me to attend the first diner en blenc in Perth.  What an amazing evening.  A pop up ‘picnic’ with 1500 people all dressed in white at Elizabeth Quay.  It was a breathtaking sight and a marvellous event – we had a great time!

Wishing everyone celebrating Easter this weekend a very happy and blessed Easter.  Enjoy time hanging out with your family and friends.  And raise a toast to your health.

Krissy xx