Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Looking good

I went out to lunch on Sunday with Mom, Dad and Elizabeth.  Our local sports club has a special - a $3 steak and $1 for sides such as chips and salad - you only need to buy a drink as well.

So for around $10 we can get a delicious meal and have someone else cook it and clean up afterward.
I decided to dress up for the occasion.  Don't think  I did too bad a job.

All scrubbed up and ready to go out. With my beautiful flowers

My hair won't lie down - so I figured I would just style it up and crazy

Matthew was taking my photos for me, and decided we needed a selfie

Memory retention

I have been spending the last couple of days trying to find out how to transfer all my old Sony analog video tapes to a digital format on my computer and finally onto DVD.  The reason is that I have over 50 little tapes of beautiful memories - that we can no longer see.

All these little tapes contain gems of memories captured during the children's early childhood.  And I want to watch these again.

I have been so diligent capturing photographs, but the beauty of the video needs to be treasured as well.

With the help of Matthew I think we might have found the solution - a converter. But, we need the old camera to work and it is a bit stuck.  So with some research and some prayers - I hope that I can fix this problem. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Family Love

A little skip back in time.  On one of my moments out of hospital in the last six weeks - I was blessed to have all my children around me.  My beautiful 'other son' Patrick - came over to see me.  It was so nice to have them all around. I love my children.
A hug from my Patrick - I am still wearing a hospital wrist band

Patrick, Elizabeth and Sarah.

Patrick, Elizabeth and Matthew.

Learning to carve

After almost 6 weeks in hospital on and off  - I am finally home.  During my time in hospital - I have had lots of time to think and contemplate life. I realised that I have filled my life with a lot of "I should" instead of "I want".  By that I mean that I have lost sight of the fact that life is to be filled with things that make you joyful and fulfilled.  The stuff we have to do, will get done, but I am going to enjoy each day. Who knows how many any of us have.

So this morning I went down to spend some time with my wonderful Dad.  He is one of the most knowledgeable and talented people I have ever met.  My Dad can do anything.  He has built a sailing yacht with his father when he was a young man. He has built a three-story brick garage, with my Mum as his apprentice. He has given us magnificent bookcases and can fix anything.  He is just filled with knowledge and I don't want to lose any of it.

Also, in recent years he has begun to carve.  His carvings are magnificent.  During my illness, he gave me a 'comfort bird' - it is a little bird that sits in your hand and comforts you in times of stress. From the moment he gave me mine - I wanted to carve one of my own. So today I dressed up warmly and headed down to his workshop for my first lesson.

The Workshop

A finished bird, the blank and the knife
It was a daunting prospect to be given the blank that Dad had cut out on the bandsaw.  First thing I learnt was to find the middle of the blank and to draw a line through the mid-point on every facet. How smart?  This way you will keep your carving balanced.  So your best friend is your pencil and then your knife - or as Dad put it - second is the Band-Aid box - for your bleeding fingers.  Luckily today I had no cuts. 
I am so happy and peaceful
My hands carving my very first wooden bird
Dad and I smiling - showing off my/our work.
The wood chips show how much has been taken off to reveal the bird inside.
My Dad's amazing hands
A wonderful morning.

Measuring and marking with pencil.


Working Girl

Elizabeth has been studying for the past 5 years - she has loved every minute of her Bachelor of Arts and graduated with Academic Honours.  Since November last year she tried to get a supervisor for her Masters - but with no success.

The frustration of not earning money really began to affect her, so she decided to do a medical receptionist course on top of her degree. This was a hands on and practical course.  As she finished the course, she began handing out resumes.  She dropped one in at our local doctor and then our dentist. The dentist was looking for new staff, so offered her an interview, then a training day and finally acceptance and now she is on three months probation. 

The best part of the job is that it is just 6-10 mins up the road and the pay is not too bad to start.  Her hours are quite long at the moment, with late evenings, but we have a working girl.

Well done Elizabeth - we are so proud of you.

Hair today - Curls tomorrow

Ever since my hair has grown back - I have battled to do anything with it.
It has decided to have a life and curl of its own.

So here are some photos of me with curls and untidy hair.

I have washed and brushed this mop

Back of head - curls, curls, curls

Top of head

Still smiling!

Still Living and loving life.

Along with all my medical issues life has continued.

While in hospital - I managed to get a "Day Pass" - I said it was Parole.  It meant that I could come home and spend the day with the family and also attend Sarah's play on Friday 7th.  Sarah had been given the lead role in her drama class's production of "STREUTH".  The play was a spoof - a play within a play and Sarah had the role of The Inspector.  After weeks of practicing she was fantastic.  I was quite tired by the time the evening came, but nothing was going to stop me attending my Sarah's big night.

Ivan - holding a very tired Me as we head off to Sarah's concert

Waiting with Elizabeth during the interval - surrounded by Angel Orbs of protection

The Inspector - The Star

I popped up on stage with Sarah to have a photo

A couple of days later - Sarah had a fancy-dress party at Drama to celebrate the end of the play and she chose to dress up as a 'Weeping Angel' from the TV - Dr Who.  I got to see the photos - she was terrifying.  Thanks Matthew, Elizabeth and Granny for helping Sarah create such a great costume.

Scary Sarah

Matt helping Sarah with the body paint

The myth is that they can't move as long as you are looking at them

If you look away they will move and touch you and send you back in time - feeding on your energy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Time to rest on my journey

Can you believe it, but I have just come home today after having to rush back in to hospital - not many hours after my last post.

Unfortunately, there was a bowel blockage and I ended up with a nasal-gastric tube, as well as very strong pain killers.  Under the care of my surgeon, oncologist and palliative care doctor I have been able to get back on my feet.

The last week has been fairly serious, with bladder spasms and issues with my colon.  Pain management has also been on top of the list and I have been blessed with some caring people and some amazing drugs.

The news is a little scary.

I have numerous tumours in the peritoneum. Some are really small, but there are a few 'walnut' size tumours embedded in the scar tissue.

The plan is for the next 4-6 weeks to rest, recover, build my strength. Then I will be undergoing major surgery.  It involves opening up the abdomen and removing as much scar tissue and as many tumours as possible and then heating a chemotherapy liquid up to 40 degrees and bathing the internal abdomen in the fluid. This is risky as the liquid cannot go over 42 degrees or drop below 38 degrees to be effective. Hopefully, after this 6-8 hour surgery I will have conquered most of the cancer and can begin living the rest of my life.

It will be a long recovery period of 2 weeks in hospital and around 6 weeks at home.

But, as we have discovered over the past few weeks - I am running out of options with this cancer. There are many chemotherapy options and trials, but given my propensity for rejection of them and the side-effects that I struggle with, I am hoping that this one is the big gun with the best option.

Lots of praying ahead of us, but day by day is the best way to do it.

I just wanted to share my journey, as long as it may be.

Monday, June 9, 2014

A longer journey.

I have been in hospital since my last post.  The pain battle has been ongoing - some definite progress has been made, which is wonderful. But ... the drugs are very strong, which means I cannot drive and am very groggy most of the time.

I was under the care of the most amazing people and blessed beyond belief in their care of me.

On Saturday 8th - I had a small laparoscopic surgery to see what is causing all the pain.  It turned out that there are a few adhesions as expected, but unfortunately it also found more tumours in the upper peritoneum as well as the area identified by the scan - the lower peritoneum. 

I was discharged from hospital, Sunday lunchtime and tomorrow will contact the surgeon for an appointment as soon as possible to discuss my situation.  It is very scary as the cancer seems to be well spread.  Emotionally I am at a low point, but will pick myself up and start all over again.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

More Valleys than Hills

It has been a few days since I last wrote. Unfortunately this is because I am back in hospital. I have already been in for a week attempting to gain some control of my pain issues. Lots of drugs later, and it is certainly much easier.

Unfortunately, I reacted very badly to my first dose of chemo and with my own oncologist away I have been under the care of another doctor.  Adam Stirling is just wonderful. He is such a good listener, so that is helping. The 'pain' doctor - Dr Maureen Mitchell is also special - she spent over 90 mins with me on her first assessment.

A brief summary is that my bowels are not working properly and the scans are not showing enough detail to explain the pain and the non-functioning bowel. I am sooooooooooo  frustrated.

The surgeon Dr Brian Mead has been in twice - we are keen for him to do some laproscopic  investigation, but having taken the Avastin a chemo drug, I can't have surgery, as the cells won't heal easily and it is difficult to stop the bleeding.  He wants to wait six weeks, but I want it done now. So we will have to wait and see.  More waiting.

Will write a bit more when I am not so groggy.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Day Two

Yesterday I went and had my first IV treatment for this next cycle of chemotherapy. The treatment is in two parts - the first part is called Avastin - a biological protein destroyer - that targets the proteins on the cancer cells and the second part a traditional chemo drug - Xeloda.

It is daunting to face a box of 120 tablets, knowing I will be taking 6 tablets a day for at least the next 6 months.  My head went into immediate rebellion - with I can't/won't/don't want to.  Then I just popped the 3 tablets and swallowed them.

My oncologist has increased my pain medication 'again' and is hoping that at last I will finally get some form of relief. If this doesn't work - then I am headed for hospital to be treated by the palliative pain management team - who have great success with cancer pain. The tumours are in such an awkward place in the peritoneum and seem to be pressing on nerves and the colon.

I will be very relieved if we can get the pain under control, I can and have coped with almost everything else, but the pain is debilitating and exhausting.

Day Two of the next path of my journey.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

It isn't gone!

I wasn't 100% happy with the oncologist's interpretation of the PET/CT scan results on Thursday 8th. My pain levels and my own feelings told me that there was something more going on.

Mother's Day - Sunday 11th - Started with some beautiful gifts from my children and a family visit to church in the morning.

Matthew bought me a beautiful bunch of fresh flowers

Sarah gave me two great movies to watch

And Elizabeth gave me a locket filled with charms.
The day however, ended horribly. The pain I have been experiencing for the past 5-6 weeks hit a high and Ivan took me into hospital. A couple of doses of morphine later - I was admitted to the ward. Between Monday and Wednesday afternoon - I didn't eat a thing - the colonoscopy prep - made me so sick, but finally I had the colonoscopy on Wednesday afternoon. 

The results - numerous small tumours on the outside of the lower bowel, constricting and narrowing the passage - the inside of the colon is clear - but it appears that the peritoneum has a mass of very small tumours a number of which are clearly cancerous. 

Not a very good week.  I stayed in hospital until Friday attempting to find a pain and food management schedule that will work and begin chemotherapy again this coming Thursday 22nd May, 2014.

As my oncologist explained: It is now a long term management plan. There is no end goal to the chemo regimen, but rather a plan to keep the cancer small and controllable.
My plan - live life day by day and keep up my JOY

Friday, May 9, 2014


My PET/CT scan has come back clear.  After a week of delays and issues with the radioactive dye - I finally had my scans yesterday and today had a meeting with my oncologist. It was such a relief to hear that there are no active tumours. My blood-test cancer markers have risen slightly since the end of my last treatment, but are still well within the 'normal' range.

As my cancer has metastasized - it will be an ongoing matter of monitoring for the rest of my life. So the next step is to have another blood test in 6 weeks. For now I don't have to have any more treatment - either chemotherapy or other options.

In 6 weeks we will have another discussion - wherein we may begin a regimen of biological/chemotherapy maintenance, which will ensure that any cellular cancer cannot develop into tumours.

It is a very strange feeling - relief, excitement and thanks to God - for the great news. But, also the feeling that I need to find a way to live, live not only scan to scan, blood test to blood test, but to live the rest of my life.

I am planning to seek some professional help with this issue, as I have felt 'sick' for the past two years and I don't plan to live the next 30 or so, with the issue - that I am a cancer victim.

But..... for tonight I am celebrating.  NO CANCER!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Day out at the Dam!

Our friend Chevy is visiting for a few days business with Ivan, but it has been lovely having him stay at our house for the weekend.

We took a drive up to Fernvale for lunch and then went on Wivenhoe Dam. The last time I was up there was in 2011 just before our major floods. It was great to see how well the area has recovered. We have had our first cold snap of winter this weekend - it was cool and breezy - but beautiful.

The girls had fun skimming stones with Chevy.

Night at the Ballet

Elizabeth and I had a wonderful night out last night.  We have season tickets to the Queensland Ballet and last night's performance was Coppelia. Not only did we attend the ballet, but we also decided to treat ourselves to a night in the city.

Elizabeth in our lovely room

Our apartments

South Bank - bubbling with activity

My beautiful Elizabeth

Brisbane River

Riverside Walk

We found a great studio apartment within walking distance of South Bank and QPAC and arrived just after 2pm for check-in.  A clean place, comfy bed and pillows was just delightful. 

We then spent the afternoon down at the river.  It was really special as there was a Festival to celebrate Budda's birthday and we enjoyed dancing, performances by martial arts groups, jugglers and music. Followed by an early dinner.

Elizabeth - photosynthesising

Enjoying the markets

A toast to Elizabeth and a great weekend.

We took a selfie with our ballet tickets.

A windy walk back to the apartment to change for the ballet was delightful.

The ballet was stunning. Professional and delightful, not only well danced, but brilliantly acted and performed. 

Thank you my darling girl for a wonderful evening out.