Thursday, January 30, 2014

Health update

Day Three:

Pump is out and poison has stopped.  Nausea is under control with some strong drugs, which leave me very groggy and sleepy, but all in all it is not too bad.

The good news is that my blood counts are excellent. My oncologist is very pleased at how well they have picked up again this cycle.

Need to keep an eye on the diarrhea - recent very black stools, may indicate an upper stomach slow bleed, so if it occurs again I will have to have an endoscopy to check the upper linings of my stomach. It might however, have been the delicious and rather large portions of dark, chocolate mud cake I consumed over my 50th birthday - lets hope.

Still I am under great care and feel safe.

After my next treatment ( 1/2 way through) I will have a full PET scan to get and idea of any nasties lurking - hopefully none.

Tomorrow is another full rest day and then the recovery begins for the next cycle.

So here is the health update for this fortnight.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Australia Day

 Our local neighbourhood was decorated with lovely Australian Flags to celebrated Australia Day.

20 years ago today we became Australian Citizens.  We had moved just two years previously - leaving South Africa for the unknown land.  I had no idea where I would live or even how I would cope in my new country. I was leaving my family, who I was very close to, and tackling a new world, with my little 2 year old and my husband.

But... I knew that it was the right move.  Within 2 years we had the privilege of becoming Citizens on Australia Day, at a full ceremony in City Hall.  It was very special and to this day I treasure my Citizenship of the 'lucky country'.

As a treat - Mum, Dad, Elizabeth and I went to our local sports club for a yummy lunch and then I came home and did what all 'good' housewives do - I did the ironing. 

In need of some fresh air and rejuvenation of my soul - I went for another walk this evening.  Yesterday, Ivan and I took a walk and for the first time in months - held hands and talked and walked. The breeze was beautiful, sunset lovely and our time together enriching.
Tonight, I needed another walk and Sarah came with me - this time I took my camera.  This is my favourite photo of the walk.  Our shadows on the grass - me on the left and Sarah on the right.

A perfect end to a Perfect Day

Although I didn't have Ivan with me for most of my birthday, he arrived back from his trip to spend the evening with me.  Of course, I had been totally spoilt by his gift of my new show cabinet (which arrived a couple of days before) - but he had a few extra special little gifts.

My new cabinet filled with my special treasures.

 Sharing a little smile.
 One of my favourite TV series - Grand Designs now has an Australian versions.
 And a great CD - the highlights of Euroivison
 And I was well enough to celebrate with just a little glass of red wine - a fine French Bordeaux.
Thank you to all my family and friends for all the wishes and messages, for the gifts and cards.  I had a wonderful 50th birthday.

Friday, January 24, 2014

50 ... Foxy ... Fabulous and with a Future!

Today I am 50!

At my 40th birthday I wrote that I was Fat, Fabulous and 40!  I wasn't sure how I felt about myself - it was a decade that I thought I was prepared for, but found myself floundering through my forties.  It was a time of change, a time of learning who I was - some things were daunting and almost soul-destroying, but I discovered that I could survive.  And then ... just when I had a handle on being Me and being happy with myself the big "C" arrived on the scene.  I got Cancer or should I say Cancer got Me. 

Today I am 1/2 century old - almost an antique, but definitely a collector's model.  Where my life is headed I just don't know, but I do know that I am going to begin my next 1/2 century looking forward and living each day to the full.

Here is how my birthday has panned out so far.....

Yesterday and this morning I had some Me time to work on my writing.  I printed out all my beautiful poems, and short stories. I realised in the past 5 years or so I have written over 150 pieces of work, as well as two novels and the beginnings of a book on parenting.  I am a prolific writer.

My poems and short stories.
This morning Sarah, Elizabeth and I had a meeting with Sarah's school to discuss her school program. It was just wonderful to have a meeting with an amazing educator who has arranged for Sarah to complete her 2 year final years over a 3 year program.  With care and love - Westside Christian College is nurturing Sarah through her education - so instead of dropping out of school this year, she is taking on an extra year and planning to achieve an amazing result.

Sarah and I having a special laugh

Elizabeth giving me a cuddle

My beautiful daughters
After our meeting we picked up some groceries and drove home to a wonderful surprise - the family had decorated the front of the house and inside to give me a birthday party to remember.  Given that I had no idea how well I would be feeling today - I had not planned to celebrate - but my special family had other ideas and here is the result.

My kids - Patrick (my other son), Elizabeth, Matthew and Sarah.

 The front garden covered in ribbons - I guess someone special lives here.

 My Daddy and I sharing a giggle and laugh together - note the red wig (in case I didn't have any hair)
 Yup!  I am 50!
 The house all decorated.
 Swallowing the cake - or blowing out the candle
 Love the hat, the wig and the smile
 Sarah and Me
 Elizabeth and Me
 Matthew and Me
 And my cheeky Patrick and Me
 Look at all my gifts
 And of course ... my amazing show cabinet from Ivan

Totally spoilt - I still had the joy of lunch with Mum, Dad, Elizabeth and Patrick.  Sarah and Matthew hate eating out and so today - although it was my special day - I chose to do something different.  I didn't insist they come out with me, in fact I insisted they didn't.  I am of course a little sad, that it wasn't there thing, but I focussed on what I wanted and went with the flow.

So the next step in my lovely day was lunch.

 My amazing beautiful Mum and Me - I love you Mum. Thank you for carrying me for nine months and nurturing me for 50 years.

 Mum, Dad and I - Dad looking serious - of course and Elizabeth smiling in the background.
 My Daddy and Me.
 Patrick and Elizabeth sharing a lovely lunch at the RSL Club
 Elizabeth and Granny
 A couple of family photos
So as my day begins to draw to a close, I wait for Ivan to return from his business trip.  This morning I woke to an email and a phone call.  It has been hard for him.  Work is so demanding and in supporting him - we have slowly realised that it has begun to rule our lives - this realisation has been good - because now we can change things.  Yes... he needs to work, but he needs to work to live ... not live to work.  So we will be re-thinking our focus. 

My 50th year is one that will hold challenges I know. But ... I also know that I am a very blessed and lucky woman.  I have parents who love me and are still with me. I have 3 beautiful biological children and 1 special adopted son; all of whom I am so proud.  And most of all I have a man who I have shared 25 years with, 25 amazing years ... and I love him more now than I did 25 years ago.

I know my health is under threat ... but on this day - I am alive ... I am happy and I am 50!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Hair today ... Gone Tomorrow

Last time I had my chemotherapy regime - my hair thinned slightly, but I hardly lost any of it.  I felt almost guilty - that I wasn't really a 'cancer sufferer' - I mean I coped well, didn't lose my hair etc.

Crazy I know!

This time however, it is different!

One of the drugs causes severe hair thinning - note I said thinning not loss. I have always had really thick, luxurious hair and to stand in the shower and find piles of it on the floor is quite daunting. Also, when I wake up in the morning and smooth my pillows, I feel like a bear wakening from hibernation - my pillow is covered in hair.

The last couple of days I have had a sore head - it is tender.  Causes:  Sunburn, combing, washing and just having a very bare head. Then yesterday, out at the shops, I caught my reflection and there was a lady with very thin hair covering her head, looking back at me.

So today - I took the big step.  I dug out my supply of scarves and turbans.  I found some pretty earrings and went out feeling so much better.

Here are a couple of photos:

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Visit to the park

Last weekend, Ivan and I had a lovely breakfast together with friends Donna and Graham.  We met up at Queen's Park in Ipswich and then had a little walk around our local wildlife sanctuary.

 This little Swamp Wallaby was enjoying the cool shade, while this amazing black swan had a dip in the pond.

 I love the local reptiles and these water dragons enjoy the sun and a bit of cool shade when it gets too hot.

 In the trees above the sanctuary are a colony of endangered bats.  Our heat wave last week - +45 degrees centigrade, caused total devastation.  These tiny little vulnerable animals were wiped out with over 1200 bats dying in just 24 hours.   As these are amazing little fruit bats and a colony of brown bats - it was sad to talk to the local wildlife volunteers who spent the weekend clearing the sanctuary and finding volunteers to try and save some of the babies.

 Extreme summer temperatures in Australia are not only causing problems for people, but fires and heat are even affecting the local indigenous animals.

And of course the day wouldn't have been perfect without a photo of the boys - Ivan and Graham.

Medical update and a bit of a pity party

Treatment number four has been a rough one.  Unfortunately, due to a mix-up - one of my pre-med anti-nausea drugs was missed.  This meant that the nausea and vomiting set in really quickly and rather vigorously.  Tuesday evening was pretty rough and by Wednesday morning I was back at the clinic.

My lovely nurse Lauren arranged for 2 litres of saline and 4 separate anti-nausea meds.  I spent the next 2 hours sleeping - being rehydrated. It wasn't a good day.

It is now Saturday and I have managed to get up for a few hours this morning, but the fatigue, nausea, diarrhoea and general feeling of un-wellness has left me feeling a little low.

Chemotherapy is a tough journey and although I know that every side-effect is having a devastating effect on the cancer itself, there are times when I really just want to stop.  One of the hardest side-effects is something fairly silly.  It has affected my sense of smell.  My whole body smells toxic to me - no-one else can really smell the changes, but I feel as though I am actually rotting.  Sorry everyone, not a great subject, but really want to keep this year's posts honest - for myself.

My wonderful children changed all my bed linen for me last night and I am showering and washing regularly, but I really wish I could get away from the odour.

I guess it is only day 4 of my 14 day cycle and by tomorrow - I will once more be on the mend. A little more positive, upbeat and healing.  Until then - adieu!

Cat company

My last post was all about the cats keeping me company, but at the time, I was struggling to post photos, so here are one of each of them.  The first is Mr Greyson - Elizabeth's beautiful cat.
 Then we have Miss Mae, Sarah's kitten
 And finally, my Cleopatra - she is such a shy, sweet girl, but loves my company.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Pet Power

The last couple of days I have had the joy and company of our three cats and our parrot.  Now these cats are not all mine - Cleo the Persian cross - was Sarah's kitten, but her snooty nature and the fact that she adopted me - means she is kind of mine. Although her loyalties are often divided and she has adopted Matthew and his room as her sanctuary. 

Greyson is Elizabeth's cat - he adopted her He is a Manx cross - short tale and long back legs.  In our local Pets and Produce, he just pushed himself against the cage about a year ago and she fell in love.  But, I have been visited by him and he has spent some time with me as well - yesterday.

Now, we also have Mae - this is Sarah's kitten - chosen, and owned. She is a Bengal cross and wasn't very friendly, but since being de-sexed just before Christmas we have noticed a huge personality change and she is lovely. 

So with these descriptions in mind I share that yesterday I had time with each of them on my desk.

Frustrations are that I cannot load photos today - so will try tomorrow.  But here are the words.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Second week of January 2014

It has been a busy New Year.  Tuesday - December 31st saw me have my 3rd chemo treatment and as such I saw in the New Year in a 'drug-induced' haze - the anti-nausea drugs work fantastically, but they make me groggy and incoherent, still it is worth it.

Not an elegant photo - but one worthwhile putting in my blog - because it is how I spend the two days of chemotherapy - attached to a yucky pump - asleep, writing, or reading.
Thursday - January  2nd, I got rid the pump - thank goodness, but it still takes about a week to get over the effects. I try really hard to get back up and about on the Friday and Saturday, but I have discovered that it is really only by the Monday that I am beginning to feel good again.

This week, we had our niece Alana and our nephew Dean come up from Canberra to spend some time with us.  They arrived on Saturday evening 4th.  Sunday we all went to see the Disney animated movie Frozen - a wonderful, uplifting movie. Tuesday 7th, it was a family treat - 10 of us (including Granny and Grandad - off to the movies to see The Hobbit - Desolation of Smaug  - another great movie. 

We have enjoyed some beautiful weather and a chance to swim together, play games, watch some TV shows and share lots of talking and laughter.
Sarah and Elizabeth enjoying the pool

What a smile!

Cool Dean - relaxing

Alana - totally relaxed
 And the best of all was watching Sarah have fun with her big cousin - playing with the ball around the pool.

Today I have cleaned my house - I have treated myself to a new vacuum cleaner, mine was only 10 years old, but it has been overworked over the past years, cleaning up renovation dust.  My new cleaner is fantastic, it has power, gadgets and I love the fact that I enjoyed the 2 hour chore of cleaning house.  It was a blessing in so many ways.
The first is that I have a house to clean. The second is that I have people and pets in my life that have made a mess in it worth cleaning. The third is that I can afford a wonderful new cleaner with which to clean my house and the fourth is that today I have the energy to clean - I am well enough. 
My life is blessed and I am going to count every blessing, big and small.