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.

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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

 

 

 

 

Tamoxifen

Lets talk about this new drug that I started taking 8 days ago.

Tamoxifen.

This drug is designed to blog the hormone, estrogen, which is what caused the breast cancer in the first place apparently.

I’ll start with the conversation with my amazing (and a little bit spunky) Dr Sid Selva.

He started the discussion with the fact that I’ll be taking it for ten years. Then he bored me with the details of what it does and how it may prevent further cancer blah blah blah. Then, he got to the side effects.

Now, anyone who has persisted in reading my blogs will know that I don’t use the term ‘side effects’ and instead call them feelings. Well, these are side effects.

When he started listing these side effects, I thought to myself…

“If this was a game show, I’d be the bloody champion because I already have all of these side effects without even taking the drug…. go me!!”

So, I started telling Dr Selva what I already had, and that I was way ahead of the Tamoxifen side effects. Here are the ones I have already….

  •  Weight Gain
  •  Irritability
  •  Reduced Sex Drive
  •  Hot flashes
  •  Anxiety
  •  Confusion
  •  Sweating
  •  Absent Periods (Yippeeeeeee)
  • Hair Loss or Thinning Hair
  • Inability to keep or get an erection (I put this in because it was on the fact sheet LOL

So, as you can see, I have quite the list already and I hadn’t even started the drug yet.

Now, for the interesting thing he said…

  •  Dry Vagina

What?

I said to the doctor (because when I think things they often shoot out of my mouth without any filter),

“is my vagina supposed to be like a dogs nose?”

Dr Selva, who I have never seen flustered or lost for words just sat there and looked at me with the biggest eyeballs I had ever seen. Ooops, wrong question perhaps?

I was getting worried internally thinking, OMG, I have had a problem with my vagina since forever because it is never ‘damp’ or ‘wet’ constantly. Maybe that is what those little panty liner things are for that I keep seeing advertised and never understood. Why has no one ever told me I should have a wet vagina?

Thankfully, Dr Selva explained the term ‘dry vagina’ refers to not being able to moisten during intercourse. OMG, how embarrassing! I could feel my entire face and body turning a lovely shade of beetroot!

We moved on pretty quickly after this topic.

Right, next we will look at what happened when I actually purchased my tamoxifen.

There is a lovely young fellow at the local pharmacy who covers for Mary on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It was him that I saw to get this medication and he asked if it was my first time using it. I stated it was and that I would be on it for ten years and he says….

“Did the doctor discuss pregnancy and tamoxifen with you?”

Oh man, this happens to me waaaay to often, I really need to lose weight so I said, that isn’t an issue as there will be no more pregnancies for me. I stated I was too old for that. Usually I let the person know that I am just fat and not pregnant but I didn’t want to fluster my already flustered pharmacist so I left it at that.

So, I have now been on this medication for eight days and OMG, the side effects are INCREDIBLE. Well, there are a couple that aren’t but seriously, the main side effects are awesome.

I have always been a sleeper. I could easily sleep 12 to 16 hours if I wanted and often, I did want! Now, I am awake before 6am and I mean, really awake. I am ready to roll.

The energy I have is also incredible. Yesterday, I was up at 5:50am, had some coffees, played some computer games and out of no where, I decided to take Brady to the beach. I live in the Adelaide Hills so it isn’t a five minute drive to the beach but off we went. I forgot to put a bra on, lost a shoe at the beach (it is still there at Aldinga Beach South Australia somewhere. I left it’s partner on the picnic bench so if someone finds one shoe, they can go on a hunt for the other hehe) but, Brady and I had the best time. We walked and walked and he chased the tennis ball in and out of the water.

I am also feeling incredibly happy and social so I popped into the future in laws house on the way home, had a cuppa, chat, play with the dogs and off I went again.

Once home, I had my breakfast, vacuumed the floors, mopped the floors, cleaned the main bathroom and toilet, cleaned kitchen, roasted tomatoes in preparation to make passata (tomato sauce for pasta) and also cooked dinner!

  1.  I don’t wash floors (Sam does it)
  2.  Rarely do I cook dinner (Sam usually does it)
  3.  Once in over a year have I cleaned the main bathroom (Sam does it)
  4.  I have never made a home made tomato sauce
  5.  I am usually exhausted after only one of the above activities

So, all week I have risen from bed on or before 6am naturally except on Wednesday. I did wake before 6am but that was due to a horrible headache. Yes, this is another side effect from the Tamoxifen as well as incredible joint and bone pain. I am taking panadol for this but a lady on the Adelaide Breast Cancer Friendship Group site recommended I take Theracucumin with a pinch of black pepper for the pain. I will be hunting this down today because I do not fancy taking panadol every four hours for the next ten years.

Boy, that was quite a long post! Sorry if I have bored you but this is how much energy I have. Even my fingers are going crazy with energy that I just keep typing LOL.

I shall leave you now with another acklompishment for the week. Managing to get both dogs to sleep on their beds at the same time in the same room. They usually sleep on the sofa (before being found out and shooed off) or the carpet. Finally, they are on their beds.

From Cambodia and Queensland to Adelaide

I woke feeling like absolute and utter crap this morning. I didn’t have a great night sleep as was suffering stomach cramps, nausea and headaches. The sleep I did have didn’t make me feel any better but then the day took a turn for the better.

When I finally got out of bed at 2:30pm (yes, in the afternoon) I woke to a beautifully smelling and looking home. Thanks to Spanna (my cleaner) and my amazing family for providing her to me. I had sent her a text advising her of my feelings for the day but advised I was medicated enough that I probably (and didn’t) hear her. She just left the master bedroom and ensuite alone as requested.

When I did get up and rugged up I went to check the letterbox as I had a heads up from friend, Ali, that there might be something special from my wonderful postie today. I dont think he came to my door today though because I am often woken up by the door bell so I braved the weather and not only was there 1 parcel but 2!

Parcel number 1 was from Ali, Paul and Jy and wow, these beautiful squares are amazing. They came all the way from Cambodia on their recent trip and there had been some research by them before they set off to their destination. Check out the organisation here – http://daughtersofcambodia.org/ – Daughters of Cambodia is a faith-based group of non profit social enterprises operating in Phnom Penh with the sole purpose of offering a new life of freedom to victims of sex-trafficking and sex-exploitation in Cambodia. I thank you Ali, Paul and Jy for thinking of me on your journey and for doing good in the world xx

Here are the gorgeous squares

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My second gift was from a wonderful friend who now resides in Queensland.  We’ve become such close friends over the years and couldn’t be more different than each other. We refer to one another as ‘foooool’, say is sloooowly and you have it. Long story but anyway, we are both avid readers and if we aren’t talking about books, we are talking about our fur babies. She is a reasonably new adoptive mum to a three legged cat called Destan and a beautiful fluffy rag doll Aberdeen. In her packet of gifts was a lovely card, a book that I can’t wait to read and three lovely squares. I was very surprised to hear she had enlisted the help of her mum. If you know the foool I am talking about, Chantelle, she can do ANYTHING! I must say, her mum is a wonderful knitter. Her squares are all different and all beautiful. It is so difficult to photograph the knitting in these squares but the one on the end with the two blue lines on the edge, is almost like silk, it is so beautiful to touch.

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So my day has gone from waking up in the morning feeling absolutely and utterly rotten to waking again in the afternoon to a haul of goodies from amazing people, a super clean house provided by a cleaner hired by my family and my wonderful man walking through the door. It never ceases to amaze to me know the people who have me in their thoughts.

Tonight, I still have this darn headache but the chemo flu never eventuated so there is something to be happy about. Next spa session is next Thursday which is awesome because for some reason yesterday, I thought my next chemo was meant to be today 🙂

Just a quick note on my eyebrows, rightie has almost gone completely and leftie is hanging in there. Like seriously? Could you both just go at the same time please?

Shopping List for Cancer

I thought that having cancer I could leave everything up to the doctors and nurses to deal with but there were quite a few things I needed and I thought, why not make a cancer shopping list? It might help someone who has been recently diagnosed with Breast Cancer because it is all such a whirlwind and there are many things the doctors dont tell you and why should they? They are there to save your life, not ensure your hair looks nice or advise you of your stinky armpits which will become an issue.

The first thing you are going to need is a coat hanger made for jeans/pants. You know the ones with the clips on them? Get a couple because I have found this the absolute best way to store all of your ultrasounds and X-Rays. See picture 🙂

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Next, cut your hair. I know I know, you want to keep your hair as long as you can in case or when you lose it through chemo. I didn’t have beautiful hair but it was long and often tied back in a pony tail but Dr Hands (Sam) advised me that after surgery, I probably wouldn’t be able to lift my left arm to be able to put it up in this pony tail. It would also be harder to wash and hair like mine (thin, knotty, dull) needs to be dried with a blow dryer each and every time it is washed so again, a hard job. My amazing and wonderful friend Nicole gave me an awesome bob cut just below my ears and it has been so much easier to handle and it looks really nice! Consider cutting your hair.

Headband. If you decide your hair is too amazing to cut, grab a headband or something similar. If you are anything like me, you will sweat after the surgery thanks to anesthetic and that makes ones hair greasy and disgusting. At least with a headband (or a hat) you will look half respectable.

Dry Shampoo is something I discovered after surgery because who knew you could only wash the bottom half of yourself? There was to be no water above the waist (no, I didn’t use the blow dryer and dry shampoo ‘down there’) but seriously, that is one useless way to shower. Consider buying those wet toilet paper things that are like baby wipes because they seriously do keep you clean and fresh. Washing from the waist down is a time consuming bullshit waste of time so don’t bother. Use the baby wipes instead. And I wasn’t aloud to shower in too hot a water because the steam could affect the dressing so, sponge baths and dry shampoo was the answer. And seriously, that dry shampoo stuff really does work!

Pajamas. And lots of them. Spend a little money on them too because if you are anything like me, you’ll be in hospital for five days and laying about in the same PJ’s is no fun. I was so fortunate to have the most amazing work people who all chipped in and bought me an amazing bag full of goodies and one of those parcels was a lovely pair of pj’s from Sussan. Ensure the top is loose though because a lot of doctors and nurses are always looking down your top and up your top. No good if you have a tight fitting top on.

Body lotion. Not only does this moisturise the very dry skin you will probably get from the anesthetic and hospital stay, it also fragrances the room. Remember my fart issue? Just in case no one sends you flowers, you will need something to scent the room to cover the fart and any body odour that arises and trust me, it arises. If you have lymph nodes removed as well as your breast, you will find it near impossible to clean under that arm because it is sort of numb but also incredibly difficult to lift.

Slippers. I kid you not, get them! My cousin bought me a care package full of lots of different things and one of them was a pair of slippers. They were gorgeous and they were slip on slippers. I loved them the moment she bought them for me but in all honesty, I didn’t think I would use them often. Turns out, I never took the bloody things off except to sleep. They had little rubber things on the bottom which were perfect when I needed to use the bathroom. You will more than likely have to wear these amazing knee length white stockings after surgery which will assist in preventing blood clots and you are not aloud to get up and about without shoes or slippers because you could slip and break your neck. No use getting cancer cut out if you are going to break your neck because you knee length white stockings are slippery. I wore these gorgeous slippers everywhere. I woke one night when the nurse was about to take my midnight blood pressure and noticed she was pointing her torch to the ground, I asked what she was doing and blow me down, she was looking for the brand of my slippers because she loved them so much. OK ok, I’ll photograph them before I post this so you can see them. They’re gorgeous. My cousin even thought ahead to ensure she got ones you could ‘slip on’ because, having a boobectimy and lymph nodes removed, she seemed to know I wouldn’t be able to reach down to pull the back of slippers up. You will also be taken for either more x-rays or a heart gate blood pool thing and you don’t want to be going barefoot because the machines needed have to be kept cold so take your slippers. Even the staff wear coats and some even have scarves on because it is so cold down there!

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You will notice I have taken a photo of my slippers with my gorgeous Groodle Brady Bailey-Wilkinson. He is a part of my chemo ‘shopping list’. Brady gets very long fur (see previous post of him at the beach, yes, that is the same dog) and I just knew that going through chemo, possible nausea, tiredness etc, I needed to have him shaved so he is clean, smells nice, un-matted and as I’ll be home, he wont be cold because he’ll be snuggled up with me. But seriously, how gorgeous are these slippers Tam bought me?

Positive Stuff. I am not religious. I don’t have a god as such but I often have a wee chat with the universe and I also sometimes make deals with the universe but I did have a few special things I needed to make me feel good, to give me the positive power I needed to get through each day in hospital. 3 specially chosen crystals were sent to me from my cousin Kelly (and her sister Sherri) from Bryon Bay to assist with the healing, good thoughts and feelings and were in a lovely silky bag. They came with me. I bought a pink bulldog ornament which, when I saw it, I knew that was my ‘fighter’ within. He came with me too. There was a magnet photo of that boy of mine Brady that Sam had snuck into my suitcase. A photo of Sam and I.

Roll On Deodorant. In all honesty, I was not comfortable using spray deodorant because of the ‘wound’ and such and I wish I had thought to take a roll on.

A Positive Outlook. What I absolutely love about having cancer in 2015 is knowing that my Mr Kollias (surgeon) has spent years of his youth, dollars yet unearnt and now his life, learning how to save my life. Yes, there are a lot of people in Mr Kollias’ life but on the 20th of April, 2015, he was there, in his scrubs, to save my life. He took it upon himself to dedicate his life to saving men and women from breast cancer. Yes, he has a side love of creating lovely breasts for cancer and non cancer people but on that night, at 7pm, he was there to save me. Mr Kollias told me on our first meeting that there were going to be many people in my life to help me through this journey, nurses, oncologists, ultrasound and xray experts but he, MY Mr Kollias was going to be the Captain of the ship. I almost fell in love with this man. I have one man just that one bit above Mr Kollias and that is Dr Hands. My man Sam. The man who took the lump in my boob seriously. The man who made me promise to have it checked. The man who spent every available moment by my side in hospital. The man who has spent all available moments to boss me around, make sure I am not doing too much, to make sure I have had my pain medications. The love of my life. So, in short, trust your surgeon, oncologist and nurses. If you dont, get new ones. These people, especially your surgeon and oncologist are going to be your best friends for many years to come. If you are not comfortable with either or any of these people, speak to your GP and get someone new. I am incredibly lucky to have had a GP who, in my opinion, gave me the best of the best.

What you wont need –

Food. Not sure about public hospitals but if you go private, they feed you every three hours. I have Aisle 3 in my room and barely any of it was needed except for the gluten free lollies (thanks Tam) and the lactose free milk. Everything else came home with me.

Towels. They have so many of these that it is ridiculous.

Pillows. They have improved and are very comfortable. In my opinion anyway 🙂

Dressing Gown. Mine stayed in the closet. It wasn’t needed. If I was wheeled anywhere such as further x-rays and such, I was given a gorgeous warm blanket. No gown needed.

Make-Up. Nope, didn’t even look at it. Geez, my boob is missing and in some bin somewhere. Why did I think make-up was necessary.

Alcohol. I bloody couldn’t believe it but at St Andrews Hospital, there are beverage choices at dinner time being beer, white wine, red wine but no bubbly. That is ok, I ordered some beer for Sam because I wasn’t game enough for the alcohol so soon after surgery. But just know, it is there as an option.

So, that is the whole Breast Cancer Pre Surgery shopping list. Next on my list over the next couple of weeks will be my Pre Chemo Shopping list. As you can see, I have had Brady’s fur cut within an inch of his life the poor lad. Normally we wouldn’t even consider a hair cut for him because being out in the Adelaide Hills through winter is not the time for my dog to be bald but pft, if I am going to be bald then so can he. And as I said previously, I’ll be home for at least six months so both he and Kelly (you’ll meet her later) will spend more time inside with me instead of outside. We stretched every budget imaginable to have a pergola built before winter so the dogs would have a place to reside through winter while Dr Hands and I are at work but it seems that it wasn’t overly necessary. I’ll be here with them. They’ll be sleeping at my feet, on my lap, on one of the sofas enjoying the lovely wood fire while I go through and recover from chemotherapy. Thankfully the paving we were concerned about where the money was coming from can now wait due to me being home. Brady is such a lovely sharing dog that he likes to being half of the mud from the backyard into the house with him. Me being home means he can ‘duck out’ for a quick piddle and poop and be right back inside with minimal mud/dirt/

If any Breast Cancer peeps know of something I may have missed from the shopping list, let us know! I am only knew at this cancer bizzo. It hasn’t even been a month since diagnosis and already, I am a boob down, 9 lymph nodes gone, five days in hospital, calling in sick for the next six months for chemo etc….