Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas

To family and friends - Merry Christmas.

It is December 23rd and I have a short time to sit and ponder a post for December.

2013 has been a year of challenges.  I must admit that on January 1st, I did not anticipate sitting here just before Christmas, once more facing the battle of Cancer.  For me, Cancer was going to be this one-off 'thing' that happened.  I was going to conquer it, yes, suffer the ills of the chemotherapy, but then go on to bigger and better things.  But... as we all know Man proposes and God disposes. 

This year started off very sadly. In January our dear friend Jared left us.  We will always remember that day when we heard the news and wondered how we would face the next day and the next. Our friends Julie, Chevy and Jacob are still healing and our prayers continue to be with them.  To lose a young beautiful man like Jared makes no sense.

We also were very sad to lose Ivan's Dad this year.  A couple of  years of struggling with his health had reduced his strength. It was a scary moment, when Ivan was told that he had just weeks with us. With the blessing of modern travel, Ivan managed a last few days with Dad and so when he passed away, Ivan had the memories of those few lucid days.  Over 500 people attended Dad's funeral - a mark of a great, well-liked Man.  We still miss you Dad.

February, Elizabeth celebrated her 23rd birthday and in March Sarah turned 15 and Matthew 19. Elizabeth began her Honours in English Literature and Matthew ventured into the world of university. March, also saw Sarah have her wisdom teeth out - ouch - but a good recovery.

Oh yes - and I got GOUT!  No I was not drinking too much - it was the bloody chemo!
Ready for Wisdom Teeth surgery

Sarah also joined the Ipswich Young Theatricals - and blossomed as a Drama student and participant - even performing on stage and winning a bursary to attend the Ipswich Master Classes in Drama.

In April, Ian, Wendy, Michelle and Laura-Ashley visited from South Africa.  It was a very special celebration with Mum and Dad achieving 50 years of married bliss.  To share with the whole family made it very special.

May, saw me finish my treatment - it was a special day to take that last tablet. I was now cancer-free and ready to take on the world.

Sarah, had more health challenges, with further ingrown toe-nail surgery in May - OUCH! 

Ivan and I managed a great weekend away to celebrate the end of my treatment and a few days relaxing in Mt Tamborine was just what the doctor ordered.
Sarah and Hazel sharing a cuddle

In June, we added another member to the family - Hazel - a green-cheeked Conya Parrot.  Sarah our eternal animal lover had conned us into another family member. 

Sarah's struggles with school continued during 2013 and finally we made the decision to move her to a new school.  A difficult transition but the support of Westside Christian College has seen a more settled and happier young lady.

In July I signed up for a couple of university courses and continued working on the editing of my second novel.  Excited about university for myself - "Jane Austen - English Literature and Screenwriting" - life was busy. It was also however, at this time that we found out that Matthew wasn't coping too well with life and university and his decision to take six months off, was a bit of a blow.  But... with hindsight and a lot of support we found the year progressing well.

August - another big milestone - Dad turned 75!

Another family member joined - Little Miss Mae - Sarah's kitten.  A little Bengal X - she is both a joy and a mischief.  Now the owner of 3 dogs, 3 cats, fish and a bird - we were a little overwhelmed.

September brought a few more changes to the family dynamic.  We had to put our little Max to sleep.  A very small breed, he was suffering with severe leg/hip problems and even with surgery it was unlikely he would ever recover.   So Dad and I took him to the vet. This was devastating to all. 

Ivan and I managed another weekend away, this time to celebrate being together for 25 years. Secrets on the Lake at Montville was heaven and a time of relaxation and celebration. My best friend for 25 years - my husband and my love.

In September, we also 'adopted' another child - well sort of.  Matt's friend Patrick found himself in very difficult family circumstances and so we offered him a home for the next 12 months.  It was a time of adjustment and settling in, but as I have always called him my 'other son' - it was good to be able to help him out and welcome him into our home.

And then OCTOBER!  I have decided to cancel October! It was just 1 year and 3 days from my initial diagnosis when once more I found myself facing a diagnosis of CANCER!  With just 5 months clear - my colon cancer had metastasised and a 10cm x 5cm tumour had grown on my right ovary.  Shock, disbelief and surgery!  I was once more facing chemotherapy and cancer.

October, was supposed to be a great month.  I had the JOY of having my second novel published. But... with my diagnosis, I found everything else taking a back seat. Determined however, to finish my university courses, I wrote my final essays and submitted them.  Elizabeth, pushed really hard with her supervisors and submitted her thesis.  So many successes overshadowed by this bloody disease.

We did sneak in attendance at Elizabeth's friend - Cassie's Princess bridal shower and wedding in October/November and with Chemotherapy looming ----- pulled off the miracle of the century.

Our planned January Disneyland trip was cancelled - but with luck, fate and lots of effort - we managed to switch the whole trip to November.  Who would have thought it even feasible to get six people tickets using frequent flyer points at short notice. 

Although, I had just had surgery and was pretty run down - the idea of a week in Disneyland was perfect.  We had the most amazing trip - with everything going to plan.   Hundreds of photos, so many great memories and a week with the family finished off November.

Of course, the month couldn't have passed by without some sort of drama - Hazel - Sarah's little parrot - flew away.  A few days of searching, heartbreak and such sadness was unbearable and then the miracle occurred.  Hazel had been found by a neighbour - we got her back. 

Mum, celebrated her 70th birthday with a night in the city and Ivan celebrated his 54th birthday.
My novel arrived at last.

 December has been both a challenge and a joy.  The joy was being well enough to celebrate and attend Elizabeth's second graduation - She now holds an Honours Degree in English Literature as well as her BA.  We are so proud of you Elizabeth.

So as the year closes - I have now had two rounds of chemotherapy.  The first one was very rough, with me ending up in hospital for 3 days on a drip.  The second has been easier, but taken me far longer to recover from - a full seven days.  This time around, I am also losing my hair!  It doesn't seem that big a deal and I am hoping that as the hair disappears, so do those pesky cancer cells. 

Christmas is now just 2 days away - the house is decorated, the gifts wrapped and Ivan is finishing up his last few hours of work.

2013 - has been a year of ups and downs.  Where the balance sheets sits, I have not quite decided.  But... I do know that I am alive, I have an amazing family, beautiful friends, loved ones and my health. Yes... I do have that - I am alive.

2014 is a new journey....  and one I will tackle again each and every day.

To everyone - A very Merry Christmas. May your Christmas Day be filled with the love of our Lord and may your memories of this year be poignant, sad, sweet and beautiful - for live is worth living.


And so from Mrs Claus and Me - Merry Christmas and a very safe, healthy and Happy New Year.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Home Safe from Surgery

My surgery went well.  I had an amazing doctor. He looked at my two keloid scars (from my previous portocath insertions) and suggested that he attempt to recut at least one of them and try to fix up the discomfit that they are causing me.

I am bruised and tender, but the mechanism is safely in, ready for my first treatment on Wednesday.

Once more thank you my darling Elizabeth for driving me to the hospital, sitting around waiting for me and taking care of me post-op.  You are very special and I love you.

My many friends, those locally and those around the world have sent me through the most supportive and wonderful messages and I really appreciate their love and prayers.

My journey ahead is daunting. I am really scared this time. I dread the six months of illness, the nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, exhaustion and all the demons that chemotherapy bring.  I am also scared that once more this insidious disease will go into hiding again and that the poisons I will be taking, will do nothing to eradicate it. I know that this is my best chance, but I feel so well and healthy - and now I will once again feel sick.

But.... I guess there is only each day to consider, each day to face and to fight the best I can.  And leave the rest up to God.

Christmas Tree. Oh Christmas Tree.

December 1st - Although we only arrived home on November 30th and were all a little tired from the jet lag, we decided to tidy the house and put up the tree.  It is great to have decorations up and enjoy the magic of the season.

With everyone up early and working hard on chores, we managed to get the tree and some decorations up early in the day.

Putting up the tree

I think this one goes here

Patrick and Sarah deciding where the branches fit.

Sarah looking stunning in her new top

The kids are never too old for a chocolate Christmas Advent calendar

Ivan putting the Angel on the tree

And there she is - all dressed up for Christmas

A salute from the Nutcrackers.

The time is here!

It is December 2nd and the time has arrived to begin my battle once more. But..... before I do all that I thought I would share my wonderful time in Disneyland.

We have had the most amazing trip.  We had the best flight over, with 3 seats between 2 of us in each row and lots of sleep.  The hotel turned out to be perfect and the 5 days in Disneyland magical.  Not only did we have all of that, but we also managed to catch up with our dear friend Julie Veloo for a whole day and also spent two days shopping.  A whirlwind trip that felt like a month rather than just 8 days. 

Julie and I playing 'pat-a-cake' and posing in our winter Mickey ears and gloves.  It was great to share a day of memories and laughter.

It rained in California - just for one day - but really?

We met Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney

And of course Santa

Rode in Fast Cars on the new "Radiator Springs - Racing cars"

Made the kids blush in front of the Disneyland Castle

Met Christmas Mickey Mouse

Had a Christmas sleigh ride photo

Caught up with Mickey again

And finally were magically hugged by Sorcerer Mickey Mouse


Monday, November 18, 2013

Disneyland Here We Come!

We are all packed and ready to leave.  Have completed all the chores, tidied the house, prepared the outside and now just need to have a relaxing day tomorrow, before our flight out on Wednesday.

It has been a hectic and traumatic few weeks.  But . . .  the Gods (my God) has been looking after us.  We managed to change our Frequent Flyer tickets from January to November, our hotel room as well and everything has just fallen into place.  With the help of the kids, we have all worked really hard and are looking forward to our trip.

We have never been in Disneyland during the Christmas season.  All our previous visits have been in January, after all the Christmas decorations have been removed, so it is going to be a very special treat.

Roll on the next 11 days.  And then I can tackle anything that is placed before me.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


November has been a really busy month.

First of all medically my cancer diagnosis and surgery really knocked me both physically and emotionally.  Trying to rationalise a return of my cancer so quickly has not been possible, and I have discovered the only solution to be 'not to think about it.'  Yup, I am an ostrich!

I did have some good news in that my gastroenterologist discovered and helped manage/cure my diarrhoea with a cholesterol lowering powder - so not only will I not be so 'shitty' but my heart will be happy.
My supply of gastro-stop and Questran
Then at the beginning of the month Elizabeth and I had the fun of attending Elizabeth's friend Cassie's wedding.  It was just a week or so after my surgery, but I was well enough and had a great time.

Beverly, Cassie, Tom & Elizabeth

The month has also been really busy with me organising our trip to Disneyland. It has been a miracle as we have been able to transfer frequent flyer point tickets from January to November, get the hotel that we wanted and organise passports and visas. So leaving on November 20th and returning on November 30th - 10 days of wonderful memories.

Then disaster struck.

Sunday 10th - Sarah's little bird Hazel (a green-cheeked Conya) flew away.  Sarah was so devastated and for two days she was in total mourning. And then ... yesterday Tuesday a neighbour stopped by Mom who was putting flyers in all the post boxes and asked if we had lost a bird.  They had found Hazel, and fallen in love with her. They had been taking care of her, waiting to see if anyone had lost her. 

It is you?  You are safe home.

The smile and cuddle says it all.

A very pretty girl.
 And to end this post it is birthday month in our house.

Mom (Dorothy) turns 70 on November 17th, but as we have given her a couple of nights in the city we celebrated early.  Dad has bought Mom concert tickets for the night of the 16th and we thought we would shout them 2 nights in a nice hotel. So we had some cake and gave her, her gifts while we were all together.  A very Happy Birthday Mom.

Making a wish and ready to blow

Don't lose your teeth Mom!

Yummy Pavlova and lots of gifts.

So with Ivan's birthday still to celebrate on the 16th and our trip to Disneyland - November is a much better month than October. So I think we will keep November in our calendar.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Disneyland Here We Come!

Disneyland - January 2012

It is official we are heading back to Disneyland - we have managed to change our January tickets to November 20th - November 28th.   A week of magic, healing and fun.

I just can't wait.

Then on December 2nd, I will be in hospital for the insertion of my portocath (again) and on Wednesday December 4th the chemotherapy begins.  Every 2 weeks for the next 6 months.

But..........  I will have so many happy memories to keep my spirits up.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

General News

First of all the medical update:

Healing is fantastic - tummy feels quite normal.  Yesterday had colonoscopy and gascoscopy - both showed nothing abnormal - great news. Am seeing gastroenterologist today to check up on biopsies and have a general discussion about tummy health.. So hopefully will get some answers.

Next bit of exciting news is that my book cover proof has arrived for my second novel.

I love it - it has the same theme as book one - with just a few dramatic changes.
So hoping it looks good on a shelf together.

Working on the final proof copy - allowed 25 changes to mistakes - found a couple. So frustrating, as I have edited and re-edited this book hundreds of times.  Sending it off to the publisher by the end of the week.

Other news is that I am hoping to take a week away with the family to head to Disneyland before I begin my chemotherapy treatment.  It is a chaotic and crazy idea as we will need to organise it all to leave on November 18th and return on November 25th.  But...... if I can pull it off, I think it will be the best medicine in the world ....... a chance to recharge batteries and energy levels and just have a fantastic time.  Was supposed to go in January for my 50th birthday, but who cares when I begin celebrating.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Day Five and recovering

I love modern medicine and surgery techniques.  Just five days out and I have the waterproof dressings off from my tummy.  Small little steri-strips hold my cuts together and I am up and about.  A little swollen and tender but feeling so good.

I have had a good week, been sensible resting and taking it easy.  Have been up every day for an hour or so, but mostly have rested in bed, watching TV and reading  -  aah the life of the patient.

Yesterday I had exciting news: The cover and text of my second book arrived. It is everything I hoped for and in fact even more.  It is seriously beautiful and enhances and follows the theme of the first cover.  So the next day or so, will see me working on the final read through - yes, there are still corrections - wow - how can I have missed some simple things - even after all these read-throughs. Then it is off to the printer. Yippeeeeee!!

Monday I will be seeing Dr Vasey, my oncologist for a long discussion.  I have a long list of questions, including alternative therapies, options etc. And, of course, a prognosis for the future - two cancers in one year is more than acceptable.

The weeks ahead are going to be challenging, but I feel a little more optimistic that I can deal with it all. 

Am planning to spend November writing another 50 000 words on my 4th novel, completing my Jane Austen assignment (yuck) and preparing for Christmas.  Life is wonderful, I am alive, loved and relatively healthy.  So let's live.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Princesses and good news

On Monday as I was in surgery, we were celebrating Elizabeth handing in her Honours thesis.  A year of sharing her amazing journey into the fairy tale world of beauty - resulted in a 15 000 word thesis titled:  "From Once Upon a Time to Happily Ever after--Images of fairytale beauty".  I am so proud of her and know that on December 11th at 2pm, we will once more celebrate with her as she accepts her graduation certificate.

Saturday 19th, had seen Sarah, Elizabeth and I - take the joy of being a Princess one step further.  Elizabeth's school friend had a bridal shower in the theme of Disney Princesses and we all got dressed up to help her celebrate.

Here are some special photos of us all:

Sarah - Cinderella, Elizabeth - Snow White and Me - Sleeping Beauty

Snow White - sleeping or dead?

Twirling in my full skirt

A modern Cinderella, sunglasses and all.

Elizabeth, with Cassie (the bride) and Sarah

All the Princesses at the Bridal shower

Two sleeping beauties - the Mum's (Cassie's Mum - Leanne Reck)

And the best one of all - A Beauty with brains - Elizabeth with her thesis.