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