Home and Drainless

YAY! They didn’t keep me in the hospital.

Turns out there was some kind of malfunction of the drain so they removed it. Definitely not sorry to see that gone but it has been replaced with a plastic bag type thing that sticks to the hole in my skin and collects the blood and puss stuff in the bag. Kind of like a colostomy bag.

When we got home from the hospital I was absolutely exhausted and slept the entire afternoon away and woke feeling sore but happy to be waking in my own bed.

So I happily sit here medicated with minimal pain, drainless, Kath and Kim on the TV, dogs quietly sleeping…. Life is good.

I did have a chat to the gorgeous breast care nurse at St Andrews about my pain medication issues and thankfully, there was finally someone on my side and who understood exactly what the hell was going on with me.

Oh and guess what private health insurance entitles you too? A first class, front of the non existent line in the emergency ward. There was not one person waiting in the emergency section of the hospital and was seem almost immediately by the nurse and then doctor. I was given a warmed gown and blanket to put on while I waited the whole eight minutes for the doctor.

So, today I shall not complain about what I do not get from private health insurance but stay tuned for that rant… its coming J

Update on pain, it is still there and still extreme but pain killers are taking the edge off and stop my blubbering.

To anyone who thinks doctors are not entirely truthful as to how long it takes to recover from surgery, I say, listen to them.

My surgeon told me I would need six weeks recovery from this surgery which I thought was preposterous and told my boss as much. I said that I would be happy to take two weeks to recover from surgery and then work from home for the remaining four weeks. Baaaahahahahah what a silly little twit I was.

I will be making the phone call to my boss tomorrow to explain that the surgeon may have had a point in advising I would need 6 weeks to recover from surgery. I just know from previous surgeries that the recovery time was ‘kind of ‘ correct but I could have easily worked from home, just not travelled to work and dealt with walking, pushing and pulling of doors etc.

This time, totally different story.

Pain is still high. Emotions are crazy. Sleeping more than I am being awake etc.

My advice to anyone planning on having this surgery, believe your surgeon when they tell you the recovery time. You will need this time not only to manage the pain but to rest your body. It is also incredible as to how often you use your stomach muscles. Spitting out toothpaste is absolutely excruciating.

I am slightly frightened of sleeping tonight with this stick on bag. I am a bit of a toss and turner during my sleep and dread the thought of accidentally rolling onto my left side and popping my puss and blood filled plastic bag. Gross huh?

Draining the Drain

When you have certain types of surgery, you have drains inserted into the surgical site to drain away the yucky fluid that builds up in said site in the hope to avoid infection.

I had three drains after my tram flap surgery and was lucky enough to have two removed before I went home because they’d stopped draining. One was left in which is on my left side in my lower abdomen.

Well, this drain has been working its little drainface off until yesterday.

Sam has to change the drain bottle when it gets to 300ml and has done this quite a few times since I have been home but after yesterdays drain bottle change, we noticed there wasn’t anything draining. I looked at the drain site where it goes into my body and I can see the stitch that is meant to be inside my body holding the drain in place. Thankfully the drain tube does go a fair way into the body so I knew, ok Sam assured me, that it wasn’t going to come out but, it seems there is a problem.

I have sprung a leak.

ysBydO2Fsb-9

There is yucky fluid all over my side. I woke up in a swamp of fluid. A ghetto of goop. Just disgusting sticky puss looking stuff.

What this means is that I not only have to go to the emergency ward at St Andrews but, I have to wash my hair in the sink and the body parts that don’t have bandages on them. Make myself look and smell human again. I have to find clothes that don’t restrict the surgical sites and pack a bag in case they keep me in.

No, I don’t think they’ll keep me in for the drain issue but perhaps for the pain issue.

Geez I was a mess last night. Like seriously, a blubbering girly snotty redfaced mess.

oh and do you know what I absolutely hate about being a blubbering girly sook? My voice. When I try to speak it is the dumbest sound you have ever heard. All high pitched and gaspy and damn well embarrassing. Not to mention my face as well while we are discussing it. Big red bulbous nose, red cheeks etc. Not a pretty little tear stained face with gentle sobs like the movies.

crygirl1

Sam picked up the script from the chemist that my surgeon had organised for me but, I was too frightened to take them in case I ran out again but the pain was excruciating by this time. My last lot of pain killers had been taken in the morning and it was now after 5pm and I could barely breath let alone do anything else.

So, I did it. I took two tablets and then cried and cried and cried. I cried because of the pain, I cried because of how difficult it was to obtain the pain killers, more tears because of the pain, tears because Sam has to put up with me, tears because chickens are being sold for $3 per kilo at Aldi and I think they are selling those beautiful birds for too cheap (it might be here that the pain killers had started to kick in).

As you can see, it is quite the roller coaster of emotions at the moment but I recall from my mastectomy days when the pain was almost as intolerable, my surgeon considered popping me back into hospital. I do not partially love the idea but I hate the pain that I have too. I also recall that I didn’t become a pain killer addict and I got through it as I will this time too.

So, for the moment, I will sit and enjoy my cup of coffee and try not to think of how cheap chicken is in the supermarket and how they deserve more as do the chicken farmers, but only the free range chicken farmers because we all hate the cage chicken farmers  and take a few pain killers.

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Talk soon xx

The Pain of obtaining Pain Relief

How does someone become a prescription drug addict? I can’t even get a prescription without a lecture that goes on for so long and I feel like I am asking for a kilo of methamphetamine instead of some painkillers.

Pain relief

It is so very frustrating to be told constantly when in hospital to mention to a nurse when in pain and don’t try to be strong or to push through the pain. But, when you do that, you get a ‘look’ from a nurse, a few questions as to if the pain really is as bad as I think, lectures on addiction, constipation etc.

Now that I am home recovering from surgery, I get the ‘look’ and lecture from the local doctor who has told me she will not be looking to fill my request for this particular pain relief (oxycodone aka endone) should I require any more and will look at an alternative.

Lets get something straight. I have had a huge flap of skin taken from my stomach and placed onto my chest. A big blob of fat, muscle and blood vessels were then placed with this flap to create a new breast. The skin on my stomach was then streeeeeeetched to cover the big space now created by the missing flap and all sewn together.

Yes, I do think I am in enough pain to justify some hard-core pain killers thanks.

I know it has been a week and a half since my surgery but for goodness sake, I didn’t have my tonsils removed. I had some pretty major surgery that I think justifies the need to take these painkillers.

I know there are many people who have become addicts of these painkillers and I know they are very addictive (if you can actually get a script) but I really feel that there are times when the medical profession has to step out of their ‘all fit in one box’ mindset and realize there are some people in genuine pain. There are some people that really need these pain killers.

Why do I have to be made to feel like a criminal or drug addict when requesting a script for some pain relief? I have a drain sticking out of me, can’t walk straight for very long, can’t sit or stand for long periods of time. I think it is pretty obvious that pain relief is required.

Anyhoo, that is my rant for that situation.

I am expecting some backlash from this blog because yes, there is a terrible epidemic of prescription drug addicts and they purchase these on the black market or doctor shop etc but, my point is, not everyone is doing that. Some people are in genuine pain. I think anyone who has suffered serious pain will totally understand where I am coming from.

Thankfully I have a gorgeous cleavage to look down upon to make me happy for a moment and to remind me that this was my decision to have the surgery. I do tell myself to ‘suck it up’ about twenty times a day but in between these times, I’d like some pain relief thanks.

No, it isn’t time to see my new boob, maybe next blog 😉

i have boobies

My Dirty Little Secret

Hi There.

Sorry for not dropping in earlier but I didn’t know how to discuss what happened to me on the night of my arterial ligation surgery which prevented my Tram Flap Breast Reconstruction occurring on the 22nd of July.

Here is how it played out.

I was laying in the little room you are put into before you are taken into the surgery room. My anaesthetist Dr Christopher Higham from Stace Aesthetics popped over to say hi and to run through his spiel. He is really lovely and we chattered for a while and everything was going just peachy until he went to walk away and asked me a question over his shoulder on his way out.

The question was actually more like a statement:

Oh Amanda, you don’t smoke do you?

I just looked at him. I didn’t answer straight away and he then turned to face me head on and we were eyeballing each other when I squeaked out a ‘yes’.

scandal

Didn’t the world just stop everything in that instant! It honestly felt like the nurses stopped their pottering, the noise of the phones and chatter was suddenly gone and Dr Chris Higham was suddenly almost nose to nose with me and said these few words.

You stop smoking NOW Amanda. Now.

Turns out that for the reconstructive surgery I was due to have two weeks after this arterial ligation, has a 12% success rate on smokers and my surgeon Mr Jim Kollias will not operate on a smoker.

Once Dr Higham had finished telling me off, Mr Kollias then popped in and gave me his opinion on all this too and by now, I was quite emotional as you can well imagine.

Thankfully the ligation surgery proceeded and I was back with my husband in no time. I did have to stay in hospital one night, which was fine enough.

Pain wise it was up there and it took a little longer for the pain to reduce than I had expected but it was bearable pain.

Mr Kollias came to see me before I was discharged and stated he will not do my reconstruction until I had been a non smoker for at least six weeks. I was shattered. I felt so ashamed of myself. I hadn’t been happy to have taken up smoking AFTER my cancer treatment when I had been a non smoker for so many years and now I was ashamed and sad and really quite embarrassed.

I am pleased to announce that I have not had a cigarette since that conversation with my doctors.

Mr Kollias rescheduled my surgery for the 3rd of August, 2017.

The reasons for not operating on a smoker for this type of surgery is due to the little blood vessels that get moved from your stomach to the chest area will usually die in a smoker because there isn’t enough oxygen getting through. Dr Higham said to see a ‘dead’ reconstructive breast was awful but also, the time and energy spent reconstructing was an absolute waste. This also includes the use of nicotine replacement therapy, that isn’t allowed either. Due to the microsurgery that is preformed in the Tram Flap Reconstruction, your body needs all of the oxygen it can get and nicotine takes that away from you.

So, it was an instant quit. No cutting down, no weaning, no nicotine replacement therapy. No smokes.

It occurred to me that I had two choices. I could smoke OR I could have a reconstruction. I couldn’t not have both.

Thankfully I had been reading Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking a few weeks leading up to surgery so I was one step ahead. I quit using this book more than five years ago when I smoked around 50 cigarettes a day!

allen carr

I did join a quit smoking facebook page as well for the extra support as was feeling quite emotional having taken up smoking more so that quitting (at the time) and decided to use the facebook page as a bit of a sounding board. There is always that one person isn’t there that has to be mean or negative.

One of the ladies responded to my facebook statement about my surgeon refusing to operate on my until I had been a non smoker for six weeks and promised I would never smoke again about how she had plastic surgery implants and there was no a problem being a smoker and proceeded to tell me my surgeon was ‘full of shit’. Wow. Ok, way to go lady, thanks! I replied politely and mentioned breast implants are a totally different kettle of fish compared to tram flap surgery but thanked her for her comment all the same.

Anyhoo, there you have it. My dirty little secret is now out.

I wasn’t actually going to write anything about this because of being so ashamed but then I though, what if someone else genuinely doesn’t know about the dangers of smoking leading up to, and after the tram flap surgery? My surgeon didn’t even know I was a smoker (obviously) because he had asked if I was a smoker when he first met me two years ago. Why would he ask a non smoking cancer patient if they had taken up smoking? There would be no reason for him to do this. Yes, I did write I was a smoker on the admission forms for the hospital so I am not really sure who actually reads these but that is not the point. The point is, be 100% honest with your surgeon because you could be wasting their time, your time, money, etc.

You may have noticed the date of this publication and realized that I have now had my surgery. You are right! I did have the surgery but I’ll tell you about that another time real soon.

Hello Titty

 

The New Boob – Part 1

Please be advised I have permission from my husband to post the photo at the end of the post of my ‘war zone’ post breast removal – pre boob reconstruction site.  🙂

 

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Here is a photo of my gorgeous daughter who never fails to make me smile whether I am in her presence or simply just thinking about her….. so, lets start my New Boob blog part 1

Right, this is the start of a multi part series on my new boob.

My aim is to cover a few things.

  1. Why do I want to reconstruct my breast?
  2. Why don’t I want to reconstruct my breast?
  3. What does the ‘bomb site’ look like right now?
  4. How is it going to be reconstructed?
  5. The high price of private health insurance in Australia. Are you totally covered?
  6. The physical, mental and financial pain
  7. Working for an understanding company
  8. The support from co-workers
  9. Some other ramblings in my head

It has been over two years since I lost my left breast to stage three breast cancer. Now, it is time for a new and improved model to move on in.

There will be no technical terms going on in this post, or even future posts because seriously, who can remember all this mumbo jumbo the surgeons and doctors and anaesthetists use so I shall be me and use normal words and terms.

Thankfully, I was strong enough to lose the weight required by Mr Kollias who so delicately demanded I lose (You are too fat, I can’t work with this (as he grabs my stomach and wobbles it up and down and round and round) he says to me on a few occasions). Thankfully I have no feelings and his words have no emotional effect on me. This is one thing I really do like about my surgeon. The actual thing about him finding it difficult to work on me wasn’t so much about me being fat but that I was ‘solid fat’ and not ‘floppy fat’. It is easier and tidier to work with floppy fat as opposed to solid fat.

I initially really struggled with making the decision to have my breast reconstruction because, get this, I didn’t want to lose my new body. The flat left side where my cancerous breast used to live suddenly became a really important part of me. The scar and little plump fake cleavage is something that I have actually grown to love. I don’t love having to wear a prosthetic everyday in my bra as it can get quite warm and cumbersome and now that my body has changed, the prosthetic breast (called Dolly) and the right saggy baggy boobie just don’t match. No one else can tell and I know this but I can tell and it looks bloody stupid but, it is me. The new and improved me. So, why do I need to change it?

Anyhoo, I really wasn’t sure I wanted to put myself through more surgery, pain, financial strain (I am going to get to this bit a little later) and the time off work.

My new husband, the man who has seen me through all of this breast cancer bizzo, had a serious talk with me (that is a very rare thing in my household) about having this surgery. He said, and he is right, that it would be a very beneficial thing for me to do for my mental state. He sees how uncomfortable I am if he walks in on me in the shower, when I get up in the morning (yep, am a nudie rudie sleeper), and when I am braless.

Usually, I don’t give a hoot what people think about me, of my dress sense (or lack there off), the car I drive, what my hair looks like and even some of the things that come out of my mouth. It has surprised me that I am still, after two years, uncomfortable being naked in front of the man who has been with me through thick and thin, good times and bad, in sickness and in health – o hang on, this isn’t my wedding blog hehe. But you see where I am going with this don’t you?

I really had a long think about what he had to say (again, a rare thing in this household hehe) and he is right (I know! Strange hey?). I do need to do this for me and my mental health. I know I am not going to be looking like I was before and that is definitely not what I am after. My goal here is not to replace what was taken from me.

What I am after is a feeling of balance (hehe) and comfort. The new breast is going to be built from the fat from my stomach. There will be no implants or expanders because I feel I have more than enough recourses in my body to create what I need here.

Before anyone gets on their moral high horse and decides to have a go at me about the implant/expander thing… I have absolutely no issues with either of them at all. In fact, pre-cancer life, I had considered having implants to give my girls the much needed lift they required, so shut up and get back in your box! There is nothing to get all huffy about.

Anyway, back to what I was saying, the fat is coming from my stomach to build my new left boob. This occurs on the 22nd of June.

Before that, I am into surgery for my Mr Kollias to clamp two arteries in my groin in preparation for the big kahuna surgery. This is what I am actually most worried about. Cutting open my groin on either side to clamp arteries and stitching me back up scares the bajeebus out of me. How painful does that sound? Anyone who has had severe period pain will be nodding their head right now. So, that is a five to six day recovery apparently. This will only be day surgery though which is a nice thought.

The next surgery, the big bazooka boob surgery, will be the 22nd of June. This is where the fat from my stomach will some how be schimmied up to my chest and a new boob will appear. I get a tummy tuck “Thrown in as a bonus in the deal” and a wiz bang new belly button.

Oh the haters are hating right now!

Enter – Lucky you have no feelings Mrs Wilkinson – because, as Mr Kollias examined me a few weeks ago, he confirmed my fat stomach was floppy enough to do the surgery with, my two year cancer check was clear, my lymphedema was being managed but, there was a problem with Miss Right Boob.

‘Oh, we can’t leave the right breast like THAT!’ where his words, ‘Oh, I’ll have to do something here’ he says has he flattens the breast, pulls at the skin, shakes his head. I really do wish to remind him sometimes that I am laying here WITH this breast attached to me! Sometimes I wonder if he forgets there is a person attached to the breasts he works on. Thankfully he and I have been friends since day two of cancer (just over two years now) so I can take his chatter.

That means, rightie is getting a make over too. She will be plumped up and made a little younger and prettier again. Another little bonus of this whole cancer crap I guess.

Here is the potentially uncomfortable image that may offend some viewers. This is my ‘love’. My part of the body I have grown to love and cherish, hide and feel ashamed off. This is the ‘war zone’ where the potential killer lay waiting to do its job before it was destroyed by the Army consisting of many people but the man out front was Mr Kollias, he was at the front line, taking out the bad guys and saving my life.

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I shall finish this part 1 segment of ‘my new boob’ with the following

  1. A tummy tuck is NOT A GREAT BONUS (I had cancer you idiot, the only bonus is life!)
  2. Having a minimum of six weeks recovery will NOT be a welcome break from work you fool! (I had almost a year off work trying to beat this bitch called cancer!)
  3. Income insurance will NOT keep our mortgage, bills, hospitalization, medicines, animal food, people food, general living expenses covered
  4. Having perky breasts is also NOT A BONUS. I would take my pre cancer life back any day thank you (dickhead!)
  5. No, having a ‘boob job’ or ‘reconstruction’ does not make it all worth it.
  6. Private Health Insurance will NOT cover the costs of this (further information on this will be covered in Part 2)

 

Interesting Information

The following information is taken from the website www.breastcancer.org

Once you take tissue from a donor site on the body, such as the belly, it can’t be used again for breast reconstruction. So if you’re thinking about prophylactic removal and reconstruction of the other breast, you might want to make that decision before you decide on reconstruction. If you have TRAM flap reconstruction on one breast and then later need reconstruction on your other breast, tissue for the second, later reconstruction will have to come from your buttocks, inner thighs, or back. Or you can have reconstruction with an implant.

Because skin, fat, muscle, and blood vessels are moved from the belly to the chest, having a TRAM flap means your belly will be flatter and tighter — as if you had a tummy tuck. Still, a TRAM flap does leave a long horizontal scar — from hipbone to hipbone — about one-third of the way between the top of your pubic hair and your navel. In most cases, the scar is below your bikini line. After the skin and fat are removed from your belly, your surgeon may place an artificial mesh material to cover the area where the muscle was removed and then close the abdomen. If mesh is used, it stays there permanently. Your navel is then brought back out through a separate incision and reshaped.

The Wonderful Year of 2016

2016

This blog was inspired by a post I saw on Facebook by a fellow called Matt Strange. I have attached it to the bottom of this page for you to read through if you are interested. The language is a little ‘in your face’ but if you can deal with that, his message is so strong and true (In My Opinion).

Apparently 2016 was a terrible year. It was full of death and illness and war and destruction and so on. Well, I am not buying that. I think 2016 was a great year and I plan to focus on the great things that happened instead of dwelling on the bad. Why is it that we have to look at the bad things and focus on them so much? Why can’t we look at the amazing things that happened and focus on them too? Make the good things the conversation we start with instead of the bad?  I am not saying that the bad things that happened should be brushed under the carpet but, why should these things ‘ruin’ a whole year? Yes, we need to learn new ways of doing things, change ideas and prevent situations and hopefully one day, LEARN to do things better in this amazing world of ours but, there are good things to look at too.

We aren’t on this planet for long and I feel that each and every day, good and bad, should be treasured and not brushed away or wished it over. So many people, and yes, I have been guilty of this too, wish for Monday to be Friday, October to be January, the year to just be over…… Why? Why can’t we all embrace the moment we are in? Why are we all wishing our lives away waiting for what is coming next? Why are we wanting Summer when it is Winter? Why can’t we enjoy Monday like we do Friday? Why can’t mid week before pay day baked beans on toast be just as delicious as pay day steak and vegetables? Is the middle of the year really worth wishing away as we try to hurry Christmas holidays along?

Well, I am grateful for 2016 and for everything that it has given me.

Here is my ‘short’ gratitude list……..

  • I had cancer. Why would I be grateful for this? Because I don’t have it now and because I have been shown that health and happiness, friends and family, good times and bad are all so important. I can now show empathy and understanding to people who are not doing so well health wise whereas before, I thought I understood but I had no idea at all. I can also now provide support, information and compassion to those fighting cancer or those who have someone they know dealing with it.
  • My mental health took a tumble. Yep, I am indeed grateful for this because it has made me realise that I can fall apart when times aren’t so good. It doesn’t mean that times will always be bad because I have been shown from counselling, friends and family, work colleagues, my doctor and medication that there is help and a way up and out of despair. My breakdown showed me that sometimes I do need to slow down, listen to my thoughts but not take them all too seriously, enjoy the simple things in life.
  • I have a job but more than that, I have a job that I love. In this day and age, work can be hard to come by for many people and I am incredibly fortunate to have a job that pays well, is interesting, has a good management group and one that I enjoy coming to each and every day. Having had so much time off this year (and last) to fight the cancer demon and to heal the broken ankle, it increased my love for my job. I have always enjoyed my job but not being able to do it for many months on end, not having a sense of purpose each day, missing the fortnightly income, it made coming back to work so much more important for me.
  • Friends and Family and Dogs and Chickens. This all speaks for itself but I will point out, I love that I have been able to see people a little differently this year. It has become clearer to me to see people who genuinely want to be a part of my life and those that don’t. The ease of removing some people from my circle, from my friendship, has been a very simple task and one that has been quite fulfilling and at the end of the day, easy. How lovely it is to have honest, loving, caring and friendly people in my life and not battle with the unease of having to stay ‘friends’ with a person/people who really have no interest or kindness in their heart for you at all.
  • Our Volunteer and Accident & Emergency Services. Australia has had many floods, fires, storms and accidents over the year of 2016 and each time, we have a bundle of amazing, generous people who head out to fix things up. These people miss important events in their own lives to make our lives that little bit easier. Weather they’re cleaning up storm damage, assisting someone involved in a car accident, fighting the dreadful fires, they’re not doing it for themselves. They’re doing it for all of us. When you see a police car driving down the road, instead of frowning at the possibility of getting a speeding ticket or a fine for an unregistered vehicle, remember, they’re often the first people on the scene in a fatal car accident. These police men and women have one of the toughest jobs I can imagine. Not knowing what each day will bring. They are not only there to give you a ticket but they’re also there to save your life. They will be there for us. The traffic jam you are stuck in making you late for a dinner date could well be because of a paramedic trying to save someone’s life who has been hit by a car. When you have no power to your home, there is a group of people working on that right at that very moment and on top of that, have you thought about how many people live without electricity each and every day of their lives? You have to detour on your way to work because the road is closed….. There are a group of people, out in that storm chopping up and removing a fallen tree from the road. These people, each and every one of them are amazing.
  • Our Beautiful Home. Having lived in so very many different houses, units and locations in my life, having a place to call our own has been sensational. I know how incredibly lucky we are to still have this home in our lives after the reduced income and financial setbacks faced over the last 18 months. More than that, our home is a place that has been filled with friends and family celebrating various moments and to hear the laughter filling the space is something I treasure and hope to have for many years to come.
  • Kindness. I have seen so many acts of kindness this year and often, it takes my breath away to see what people will do for others knowing they won’t be rewarded by being featured in an article in the newspaper, a headline on the news, a cheque or medal…… they are doing kind and thoughtful things simply because they can. I am lucky enough to work in the city of Adelaide and whilst I see many people screw their noses up at the homeless asking for money or cigarettes, I also see people giving them a sandwich, a $10.00 note, a kind word or even a smile. I have seen companies provide the less fortunate items in need, people raising money for families/people/animals in need. Not everyone has a lot to give but it is so nice to see people giving something, even if it is just a simple smile. Having been on the receiving end of such kindness over the years, I know how helpful and appreciated these acts are.
  • My Mum. Of course, all of my family and friends are important to me but something that really stood out this year is that I have my mum in my life. Each day we email each other to say good morning and discuss the traffic into work, what was on television the night before, our plans for the weekend and where we should go for dinner on our fortnightly dinner dates. Not everyone has this amazing opportunity that I have.
  • Sam. You all know why.
  • To live in Australia. A land of extreme temperatures, kind people, amazing landscapes and wildlife. A country of opportunity, freedom, fun and beauty. Yes, we still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding and acceptance in some areas but as a whole, what a wonderful country to be living in.

Well, that was my year in a brief summary on my soap box. Obviously, there were so many other incredible things to be grateful for but I would be here for days and months and by the time I finished, it may be the end of 2017 and I for one am not going to miss a single moment of each wonderful day I am still alive on this earth.

Here is the inspiration for my blog. I have left it as is without removing the language which some of you may find offensive and I am also not going to fix up those spelling errors. (I shall avert my eyes to them J

I wish everyone an amazing end to an amazing year. No, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing but for me, I have loved my 2016. I do hope you can find some good in your 2016 and I hope everyone has a wonderful, enchanting, fun, loved up 2017.

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Matt Strange

Right, Fuck it, I’m done with ‘OMG 2016 was terrible’, here’s some fucking awesome things that happened, you’re welcome, Merry fucking Christmas

There’s an Ebola Vaccine now
Child Mortality – Down across the globe
+9% survival rate in pacreatic cancer sufferers
Gene responsible for ALS found
Volunteers in India planted 50 Million trees in 24 hours
Suicide rates down globally
The Ozone layer is repairing itself
The Rabbinical assembly issued a resolution affirming the rights of trans and non conforming individuals
MIND CONTROLLED ROBOT ARMS
Leo got dat oscar
Wild tigers numbers up FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 100 YEARS
Giant Pandas – No longer endangered
A solar powered plane did a fucking world trip
Global Malaria down by 60%
Measels ERADICATED from the Americas
93% of the world’s children learned to read and write – the highest percentage IN HUMAN HISTORY
China plans to be completely renewable by 2020 and has a global plan for by 2050
Huge global push in renewable energy
Norway committed 0 deforestation, 0
Every major grocer and fast food chain in the U.S pledged to use cage free eggs only by 2025
Manatees – No longer endangered
Wild Wolves – Back in Europe
Wild Salmon spawning in the Connecticut river for the first time since the American revolution
Columbian white tailed deer – no longer endangered
Green Sea Turtles – NO LONGER FUCKING ENDANGERED
Sea World no longer breeding captive killer whales
Humpback Whales – NO LONGER ENDANGERED
Global aid – up by 7%
Americas most generous year EVER in charity and aid
China’s most generous year EVER in charity and aid at $15 goddamn Billion

Yes, some famous fucking people you liked died, and you know what – more of them are gonna go too

but take some time to look at the fucking good and beauty in this world, good shit is happening, learn it, support it, be part of it.

Merry fucking Christmas

 

The Britney Effect

Remember this?

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Britney Spears Shaving Head during Breakdown

 

Well, didn’t I laugh and judge and gossip about it. Although, I did admit, and still do, that she rocks the shaved head but I am honest in saying I was one of the many who judged this poor girl. I had no idea that something can happen in your life, in your brain, to create such a self destructive act, a cry for help.

Until now.

Everyone, including myself, thought that my life was just plodding along fine and dandy. What could be wrong now that I was now a ‘cancer survivor’, I wasn’t having any further cancer treatment. I had hair again, hair I could even style. Surgery was on the cards for a new boob, weight was being lost….. wedding plans were happening.

Now……… well,  here I am after MY Britney Breakdown.

 

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Photograph courtesy of Dora Stergiou – November  2016

It turns out that PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a real thing following cancer treatment. PTSD symptoms are different for each person and apparently, they usually develop within three months of a traumatic event but can also occur several months, even years later. For me, it was six months following the end of the cancer treatment. One would expect, after that amount of time, me to be happy ‘its over’ and on the road to ‘getting back to normal’ now that I don’t have to have any further cancer treatment. These expectations are not the case. Here is how it all unfolded…..

MEDICATIONS

  • Aropax (Anti-Depressant and Anti-Anxiety Medication) 60mg
  • Tamoxifen (a synthetic drug used to treat breast cancer)  20mg
  • Avymys (works to decrease inflammation caused by allergy) 55 micrograms
  • Fish Oil (Helps to maintain strong bones)  1000mg
  • Duromine (Appetite Suppressant) 30 mg
  • Panadene Forte (Pain Killers)
    • Paracetamol 500 mg
    • Codeine phosphate 30 mg
  • Telfast (relieve the symptoms of hayfever) 180mg
  • Vitamin D Liquid (Strengthen Bones) 1000IU
  • Caltrate Calcium (Strengthen Bones)

 

Expectations (Beyond the normal day to day ones)

  • Lose a lot of weight in preparation for surgery – Breast Surgeon
  • Increase heart rate for a mininum of 30 days to prevent cancer returning – Oncologist
  • Stop smoking to prevent cancer coming back or developing a new one – Everyone (I did this one!)
  • Reduce or stop drinking alcohol to prevent cancer coming back – A lot of people
  • Reduce or stop sugar to prevent cancer coming back and to assist in losing weight – Some People
  • Continue to be strong – Me
  • Move on from cancer – Many people and myself
  • Stop talking about cancer – A few people
  • Have life return to pre cancer normal – A lot of people/myself

 

Upcoming Events Needing Thought and Action

  • Christmas gift buying
  • Surgery
  • Wedding

 

It seems I wasn’t coping with post cancer as well as I thought I was. I saw myself as a cancer patient, not a cancer survivor. I think I still do as a matter of fact but anyway, I was on a path of self destruction. Drinking too much, taking all of the above medication, I took up smoking (as previously discussed) and I wonder, did I do all of this to block out the self chatter in my head or to gain the attention some people feel I was seeking? I don’t know that answer but hopefully in time, I will find out.

The Day of my Britney Effect

I had a cold. No big deal right but it seems that it actually was a big deal. On top of all of the medications listed above, I was now about to add in 10 mls of cough medicine which would turn out to be the straw that broke the camels back (I am the camel).

My memory is vivid when I recall taking the small amount of medicine and within about 10 minutes or so, I became obsessed, almost manic in my thoughts. All I could think about was getting home from work, enjoying some sparkling wine (I had booked the following day off from work for some R&R) and not having to go to bed early. I knew I was meeting up with a lovely friend Nicole who was going to give my lovely locks a trim and then catching up with my 30+ year friend Tracey for a long overdue lunch.

I was only successful in one of my thoughts becoming an action and that was buying a bottle of my favourite Jacobs Creek Trilogy sparkling wine on the way home from work. I must say, that bottle disappeared real bloody quick and before I knew it, I was off to the bottleshop for another bottle.

This is where things get a little hazy. I vaguely remember saying goodnight to Sam when he went to bed. I vaguely remember playing some of my favourite games on facebook but then my memory is blank.

Before I know it, I am waking the next day and my hair is gone. I feel sick to my stomach and wonder what on earth happened. Where is my hair!? Somewhere deep in my brain I know it was myself that had cut it but why? How much did I cut.

Yep, all of it. Looking in the mirror when I got up was like a punch to the stomach. I could barely breathe, my hair had been cut in a drunken, manic manner. Some cuts were to the scalp and cuts were not so short and left tufts sticking out.

Me at the Lobethal Hair Studio 28/10/2016 - Thank you Lisa Grapentin for 'fixing it up' best you could. Sorry for the constant stream of tears....

Me at the Lobethal Hair Studio 28/10/2016 – Thank you Lisa Grapentin for ‘fixing it up’ best you could. Sorry for the constant stream of tears…. thank you for your amazing words of wisdom

 

Enter tears.

These tears continued for two days! TWO DAYS! I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t eat, decisions were impossible…..I couldn’t cope. And it really wasn’t even about the hair to be honest. I was so lost, confused.

I hit rock bottom.

I was suddenly aware that life wasn’t what I thought it would be after cancer. In fact, it was so much harder coping with life after cancer than it was during cancer. Do you think that is weird?

During cancer my life was taken care of by everyone but me.

  • GP – Tells me I have cancer and proceeds to book me in to see a surgeon immediately
  • Surgeon – Tells me he is the captain of the ship and it is his job to save my life. Then provides me with an Oncologist for the next step
  • Sam – Takes on all responsibilities of getting me too and from all appointments, provides my medications, fluids, foods, hugs and kisses. Cleans house, ensures I shower, sleep, wake, rest, laugh, changes linen on regular basis….
  • Mum – delivers flowers to my house weekly upon her visits
  • Nurses – Provide all of the compassion, caring and patience needed during hospital stays, chemotherapy treatments, radiation treatments, scans, blood tests,
  • Oncologist – Prepares a schedule of chemotherapy treatments, blood tests, herceptin treatments and provides me with a Radiologist
  • Radiologist – Schedules all of my radiation treatments, sees me on a weekly basis to check my radiation wounds, provide input on creams and treatments for healing
  • Radiographers – Tell me where and how to lay on the bed in preparation for treatment, count down via speakers for holding my breath when the radiation occurs, help me off the bed and have lovely chats with me about my dogs and life
  • Friends and Family – These amazing people do all of the visiting me, calling and texting and emailing me to check up to see I am doing ok, to fill me in on their lives, to make me smile and fill my house with flowers and cards and gifts
  • Private Health Insurance – Pays many of the bills received from having this disease
  • Income Insurance – Pays me 75% of my wage each month
  • The Bank – reduces the mortgage payments to assist in our treatment costs

 

After cancer – Where is everyone?

  • I was hugged and waved goodbye by the beautiful and amazing nurses at oncology on my last day of Herceptin
  • Hair grows back and I no longer look ill therefore, am expected to get on with life as normal
  • Normal doesn’t come along as easy as I thought
  • Banks and other billing companies are no longer so accommodating if bills are late due to ongoing financial burdens because, cancer treatment has finished
  • There are no more cards and flowers
  • No more nurses to make you smile and compare stories of the weekends with
  • There is nothing very interesting to talk about anymore
  • Fatigue and vagueness are still in my life
  • Surgeon is no longer so cuddly and caring but is now demanding and stern
  • I’m not skinny from cancer treatment like those in movies and TV shows
  • I am not needed by the cancer community anymore
  • People aren’t contacting me about their friends or family who have been diagnosed with this illness for me to help them, to talk to them, provide advice and friendship…..

Step 1 – Phone the Cancer Council day Friday 28/10/2016, 1 day after beginning of break down, and receive emergency counselling over the phone and book a face to face session. Confirm there is no risk of self harm and be unable to manage any part of a conversation without crying. Find out about PTSD, Survivor Guilt, Fear of Further Cancer, Loss of Identity…….. there are so many issues, mental heath problems, that can occur after cancer treatment has finished. It isn’t always easy to become a cancer survivor and ‘just get on with things’.

Step 2 – Phone Lisa at the Lobethal Hair Studio to fix the mess and destruction on my head. Find it impossible to stop crying the whole time I’m there. Listen to words of wisdom and good advice. Having someone who knows me so well that knows, it isn’t really about the hair……….. it is more than that.

Step 3 – Attend GP for further emergency assistance. GP proceeds to take away ALL medications and alcohol except 20mg of Tamoxifen (1 tablet for assistance in preventing further cancer) each night and 10mg of Lexipro (Anti Anxiety Medication) each  morning. If I develop a headache at anytime, I am to take nothing stronger than panadol. GP books fortnightly catch ups but advises me to attend the surgery anytime between appointments if I fall apart or it gets too much again. The reason for the alcohol being stopped is because now I have no more hair, what happens if I ‘blackout’ again? I have no more hair to chop off and next time could be a lot more dangerous eg: getting in to a car, walking the streets (there are a few lakes and dams around Meadows) etc….

So, it has now been two weeks since this ‘all went down’. Some days I cruise through and other days, I am fighting to swim against my current of tears…… Nothing sets me off into the spiral of sadness and it is hard to find something to drag me out of it, try as I might.

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I am thankful for some incredibly amazing people who have made it their priority to ensure I know they’re there for me. I want to thank

  • my amazing managers for letting me blubber my way through some attempt at explaining what was wrong with me,
  • for my Bulldog Veronica for fielding all queries about me, shuffling people away from me, standing up for me, protecting me,
  • Vanessa who sends the loveliest words which are so genuine and kind, caring and thoughtful,
  • TK for becoming my ‘stalker’ by sending texts filled with ridiculous world laws, funny photos of her little man Zander, memes of feelings, all while struggling with her own illness and sadness’
  • Tamara, my amazing friend and cousin who has been there before, during and after all of the cancer bizzo sending me her ‘minimum of three things to be grateful/thankful for’ each day and for accepting mine.
  • My Mum for bringing flowers and smiles yet again for this new event in her eldest daughters life.
  • My incredible in laws to be for their hugs and understanding in a certain matter (they know what I am talking about) and for their constant undying love for me
  • John and Clare Mannion for listening and offering lovely words
  • My work colleagues for putting up with me shuffling around from floor to floor to hide from the world for a while
  • The Cancer Council of South Australia on Greenhill Road
  • My friends and family who have, and are, allowing me to cancel all dinner, party and catch up confirmations to deal with this issue
  • That incredible, amazing, loving, supportive, cuddly, funny, compassionate man of mine Sam. Yes, he was angry initially not knowing what on earth was going on with me and thinking  I’d gone on a bender looking for attention. That thought didn’t last long, he realised pretty quickly there was more to it. Sam was there for me taking me to the GP for emergency help and also joined me for counselling at the Cancer Council.

 

I will leave you with some bullshit comments that some people felt the need to say (weather to me or someone else)

  • What on earth did you do to your beautiful hair? It was looking really good! It really was so lovely and curly (my note: it was not curly ok!?) and so pretty. Why would you get rid of that?
    • My side note on this comment – This comment was made to my face by someone who is an associate, not a friend, not a family member but they felt they had the right and need to tell me that my hair looked terrible. I wonder, how would they feel if someone went to them and told them their recent hair cut looked terrible and why didn’t they just leave their hair as it was?
  • She is obviously just wanting more attention
    • My side note on this comment – Um, really? Thanks! I think most people would understand it goes a little deeper than this
  • Why on earth would she have ‘issues’? Isn’t her cancer finished? What is her problem now?
    • My side note on this comment – Firstly, cancer doesn’t FINISH. Secondly, unless you have had such a horrible, emotional, physical event such as this, do not assume you know what it is like ‘once the cancer has finished’ as you put it

The comments I LOVED and heard from a few people were

  • I’m not sure why you cut your hair but I LOVE IT! It really suits you
    • This comment was awesome because I didn’t have to explain why I cut my hair, I wasn’t made to feel ugly, stupid, crazy or weird.
  • I don’t meant to overstep any boundaries but I want to ask because I’m worried…. you don’t have cancer again/you haven’t started chemo again have you?
    • These questions were honest, real, true and there was no other meaning to them other than what was said.

To be continued ………………………..

brit