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.
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.
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…..
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
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.
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.
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.
Facebook kinda shits me here and there as to how commercial and whatnot it is but, there are times, when I get that ‘Facebook Memory’ as to what I posted a while ago and, this came up today. I remember so clearly this photo being taken and even though my gorgeous daughter was being silly, I still felt an amazing sense of pride for being her Mum. Nine years ago this photo was taken at my cousin Christine’s 40th Birthday party! OMG, that means my cousin Christine is going to be….. 50 oh so soon. Anyhoo, this photo of ‘the kid and I’ is very special to me. It is before I became a Coeliac and before I knew I had stage 3 breast cancer.
So, this was the week for me to meet with my surgeon to discuss the surgery I want/need early next year. The reason I would like this surgery early next year is because
I would like to be done with Breast Cancer
My wedding is in November 2017 and I would like 2 boobs for it
What does it matter? Just give me another boob please!
So, off to Mr Jim Kollias on Wednesday to discuss my upcoming surgery and to have my 6th monthly Breast Cancer check. Actually, from here on in, I am thinking I wont bother with writing breast cancer with capitals. I recall from school that capital letters were for proper words and those of being ‘important’. Well, you know what Oh Serious Breast Cancer? I have demoted you to lower case from now on!
Right, now we have that straight, let me continue…..
Mr Kollias has many names throughout South Australia and most of them good. Don’t get me wrong, I am going to BAG the SHIT out of him in this post but know this, he is the best in the business ok? Anyhoo… this is how it happened….
Into the lovely little office I went, went through the formalities of me looking great and me saying thank you blah blah and, off to the back room I go to rid myself of my tops and bras and sit on the bed to wait…
Now, keep in mind that Mr James Kollias, being the best in the Breast Cancer field in South Australia, keeps you protected, safe and bubble wrapped the entire time you are dealing with breast cancer. He will do everything humanly possible to rid your body of the cancer and make you feel A OK. You only have to do as you are told and he will make everything happen for you.
Once your breast cancer has been cut out, chemotherapied, radiologied, blitzed with drugs and sleep and some more drugs and more surgery, then comes along the true to life, the honest and IN YOUR FACE Mr Kollias.
There are no more warm snugly cuddly hugs of comfort, no more Mr Nice Guy.
He has always told us how it is when it came to my Stage 3 Breast Cancer but, I always felt safe and snuggly within his words. He was the Captain of our Ship. He would ensure everything happened correctly and his way. My only job on this ship was to follow his orders.
And I did feel all safe and snugly and protected and loved. Until NOW.
Now, I am FAT and ROUND!
On Wednesday the 5th of October 2015 (311 Days Since Mr Kollias and I met) I was meeting him again but this time to discuss my Reconstruction Left Breast Surgery.
I am requiring, wanting and possibly even needing a particular surgery called a TRAM Flap. TRAM stands for transverse rectus abdominis, a muscle in your lower abdomen between your waist and your pubic bone. A flap of this skin, fat, and all or part of the underlying rectus abdominus (“6-pack”) muscle are used to reconstruct the breast in a TRAM flap procedure.
While it’s the most popular flap reconstruction procedure, a TRAM flap isn’t for everyone. It’s not a good choice for:
thin women who don’t have enough extra belly tissue
women who already have had multiple abdominal surgeries
women who plan on getting pregnant
women who are concerned about losing strength in their lower abdomen
So, my big belly and myself are thinking, HOOK ME UP BIG BOY, because I am none of the above and more than that, HOOK ME UP TO THOSE SKINNY BITCHES THAT DON’T HAVE ENOUGH EXTRA BELLY TISSUE, I HAVE ENOUGH FOR EVERYBOOOOOODY.
Mr Kollias does not find this helpful OR amusing. Sometimes I wonder how Mr Kollias and I even get along!
Right, back to it….
I am now laying on the medical bed which is not comfortable nor relaxing and Mr Kollias starts the examination. I would have assumed he would have started with Ms Rightie, my lonely breast that stands alone… but no, he starts with my belly. He GRABS a big fist full of the belly area and wibbles and wobbles it up and down as though it isn’t actually attached to me (BUT IT IS) and says,
“Wow, this is very large. YOU are incredibly ROUND’. This is a lot of FAT”.
I kid you not!
I am laying on this bed, with my one amazing but sagging boobie and my big gutses hanging out, feeling oh so vulnerable while he, the amazing Mr K, proceeds to tell me how round and fat I am.
I KNOW I AM FAT FFS!
No, I do not say this out loud.
So, as I lay on that oh so uncomfortable bed, with my gutses hanging out, trying to think of something else, he, Mr Kollias, is grabbing handfulls of flab (yep, that’s my stomach) wibbling and wobbling up and down, still saying the words ROUND and FAT and I CAN’T WORK WITH THIS, I sink deeper and deeper into some daze like meditation.
Ok, I am no fool. I know I am fat. But for f*cks sake. Give me a break! I can’t use the ‘cancer card’ with Mr Kollias because he has been there with me from start til now. He is trying to tell me that
The more fat I have, the more likely I will be to get cancer, especially breast cancer, again
He can not operate on a fat person due to the risks involved
He can not operate on a fat person for a TRANS Flap thingy without putting them ‘at risk’
Right then, after four rounds of him grabbing my gutses, told I am ever so ROUND, and that he can’t operate the way I want without a risk, It is thankfully now time for me to dress and smash his face in.
Ok fine, I didn’t smash his face in but I really wanted too!
Anyhoo, I dressed and went back to his ‘meeting room’ and sat in front of him while he proceeded to tell me that he can not do the surgery I wanted because I was EVER SO ROUND.
Right, he says to me that in order to do the operation the he and I want to have done he wants me to lose 10 kilos by January 10th.
I’m not sure if you remember he wanted me to lose over 20 Kilos previously but I would be dead if I tried to do that so, we are negotiating now like a car buyer v’s a car salesman. Mr Kollias is the Salesman ok?
We go back and forth for a while and agree on a 7.5 Kilo weight loss for him to do the surgery. That means I have to be below 75 kilos by January 10th, 2017.
Oh so easy I hear you say. IT IS NOT EASY I SCREAM BACK AT YOU!
Ok fine, I’ll try to calm down but let me finish with the conversation with the ever so amazing Mr K.
I tell him that I tried to lose weight for him from our previous catch up which resulted in breaking two bones in my ankle.
He says, hmmm, that’s really just an excuse.
I say, well, I am a coealiac and don’t eat any junk food… and he just glares at me.
I then tell him I have lost 2 kilos recently and he says, two kilos is not a weight loss, it is a poo! and then proceeds to blow a raspberry at me!
Then, I tell him I have started taking duromine and he tells me that chemicals are NOT the answer.
Right about now I should be receiving a bloody award for ‘not murdering’ someone.
There are no awards coming my way, no cameras and bunches of flowers or miracle weight loss fairy dust, just Mr K looking at me.
So, I say to the ever so amazing Mr Kollias, “What do you suggest I do?” and his reply, (get ready to inhale a big disgusted gasp”
OMG, is that even legal? Are you aloud to say that to me?
Well, I think yes. BUT, the problem is, now that I am taking this Duromine (appetite suppressant which I think is broken) my meal sizes have reduced, I’m not snacking anywhere near as much as before blah blah blah….. and then I quietly, under my breath, say….. Do you think I should stop drinking alcohol?
Well, doesn’t that open the bloody flood gates?! Out it all comes from the Breast Cancer God of South Australia telling me if I stop drinking today, I’ll lose 3 Kilos in a week and then I’ll lose another 3 kilos in the next three weeks which is almost at my goal weight for the surgery!
He is looking at me like I am some very backward hick born child!
I haven’t even told him how much I drink (Thank Goodness!)
So, There we have it peeps.
As I sit here, looking at my lovely glass of sparkling wine, I know that it is one of the last as I HAVE TO LOSE THIS WEIGHT. Not just for Mr Kollias but for myself to have the surgery I want.
There is an alternative surgery involving using my back fat with expanders and then silicon blah blah but no, that isn’t what I want.
I want the stomach one, where there will be no artificial products in my body.
After all of the chemo and radiation, I am thinking I would like to repair my body with my body.
So, There we have it.
I have been angry, sad, angry again and everything in between since my appointment with Mr James Kollias on Wednesday but, at the end of the day, he is only doing what is best for me.
What really shits me through all of this is, I forgot to tell my amazing and incredible surgeon about the lump I was worried about! Thankfully he had done a thorough examination while I was there of good ol’ rightie and obviously didn’t find anything to be worried about.
Sorry it has been so long since my last post. Thank you for all of the ‘behind the scenes’ messages and in my face messages.
Love to you all. Stick with me. I am doing this ok? I am going to give it my all to lose that darn 7.5 kilos.
A thank you to the Encore Program for taking me in. I am going to fill you all in about this Encore Program from the YWCA soon. Hopefully, work works with me on this one 🙂
I don’t do shout out’s very often do I? I am going to today.
My shout outs are…
Veronica Stanbridge : for listening to me sook and cry and worry about the stupid lump that turned out to be nothing. I know how hard this is for you to relive this horrible disease after your amazing sister Maggie passed away from it. Veronica ‘Amazing’ Stanbridge is in the black 🙂
Mandy Azzam: Yep, I might know when you are not coping with things but you give it back knowing when I am not doing so well. I love that you leave me be until our lunch dates when I let it all out.
Tamara Martin: You always know when I’m having a bad day. Not through my actual voice but through the voice of our emails. Thankyou for knowing when I don’t want to talk but really want to talk. You know me too well.
Everyone in my life means so much to me. Please don’t be displeased to not find your name here but it is Friday night after a huge week at work and, it has been a tough week for me. Everyone who is in my life, with true honesty and love (eg: no backstabbing or bullshit) means so much to me.
Geez, wasn’t I the misery guts yesterday? I guess I had just gotten sick of myself but today is a whole new day and I’m feeling better.
I have even showered and put on proper clothes (no, this is not a regular occurrence), have emptied and refilled the dishwasher, said hello to Kelly but NOT Brady (we still aren’t talking to each other) and have caught up on all of my favourite blogs.
All that was needed to get me out of my funk was a few champagnes, a big whinge, chit chats and I’m back.
Therefore, my diagnosis for the not so great days, grab a bottle of bubbles, a neighbour and have a chat.
I’m leaving you with this photo I took of a donkey when visiting my sister and her family in Perth a few years ago. Everytime I see this photo, it makes me smile (and thank goodness I own and use a toothbrush!).
I am a man who believes romance should never die, movies make for a great night, custom suiting is a must and creating a legacy is one's purpose. A man who holds true to this understands the gentleman's lifestyle.
Setting the world straight by complaining about and making humorous remarks towards our problems while providing solutions we should all live by. Cus' we're just really pissed off about a lot of things.