Sunday, December 12, 2010


So here we are again!

I'll start by saying that treatment is going well. I finished Chemo in October, and am currently undergoing Radiation Therapy. That will continue until mid January. I have no reason to suspect that the treatment will not be successful, though obviously I will have to be vigilant for the rest of my life.

I don't miss the illness caused by the Chemo, and so far my main side-effects from the R.T, are tiredness, insomnia, and some soreness. Given I am  only one third the way through, I have been warned to expect an increase in these side-effects during the course of the treatment.

I've had a couple of minor setbacks during my treatment. I ended up in hospital at one stage with an infection which the Doctors wanted to treat with I.V. antibiotics. Unfortunately, this proved difficult, as my veins had pretty much broken down, and after a couple of days, and some VERY nasty failed attempts at cannulation, I ended up back on tablets.

This also caused the Docs to recommend that I have a line inserted into my upper arm to receive my remaining chemo. A total pain, as I actually only had one treatment left. However, I went along with it, only to find it caused even more dramas. First, the dressing they applied to hold the cannula in place burned me so badly, it actually cut the skin. I still have the scars some two months down the track. Then a couple of weeks after chemo finished, and the line was removed, I had an infection, as well as a DVT at the site. Treatment was twice daily injections of Clexane, and I don't care what anyone says, that shit HURTS. Monster Yuppy to the rescue again.

This complication caused additional drama. As mentioned elsewhere, my best friend shouted me a trip to Melbourne for J's birthday. Mum went BALLISTIC!!!! She cried, and screamed, and told me I was taking a foolish risk by flying with a blood clot. She even went on the internet to find research to back up her argument. It didn't matter how much I assured her that I wouldn't do ANYTHING my Doctors might consider even the slightest bit risky, she raged at my selfishness, my lack of consideration for her and for The Brat.

 As it turned out, I had an appointment to return to my Oncologist, as I had been quite unwell with the Clexane, and my GP suspected that I may need a change in medication. (This was in addition to the lumps and bruises that prevented me from sleeping, or even climbing stairs without considerable pain). My Oncologist was a little surprised by the side-efffects I was experiencing. Even though they are listed on the medication information sheet, they are relatively unusual. Anyway, she ordered another ultrasound, to check the status of the blood clot. She also assured me (as did my GP when I spoke to him later), that a blood clot only increased the risk when flying, if it was situated in my leg. The fact that it was in my arm meant I could fly without any worries.

Anyhoo, the upshot of the ultrasound was that the clot was gone. It was small to start with, and the 3 or so weeks I had persisted with the injections had dissolved it. YAY!!! No more needles, and the added bonus that Mum would be reassured that it was safe to fly... you would think! So I flew to Melbourne at the end of that week, (without Mum's blessing), and had a ball. No regrets!

The day after I returned, was the first of thirty Radiation Therapy treatments. Due to public holidays I will be finishing these in the middle of January. I had previously had 4 tattoos, on and around my breast, and the techs spent a fair bit of time working out how I would need to be positioned to receive the radiation in the correct spots. Suffice to say, it involves gladwrap slings, and lots of tape...

As I mentioned earlier, so far not too bad. Apart from tiredness and insomnia, I have some pain and minor burning on the skin. I have been warned that this will worsen, so I am prepared. I have also dropped back to 4 days a week at work, hoping this will help lessen the tiredness. It was a good call, and my sisters, who pushed me to make this decision, are helping me out a little financially, as I am trying to build up enough leave for a short break at the end of my treatment.

Emotionally, I seem to be having a few more bad days than previously. You would think that with the light at the end of the tunnel I would be less inclined to meltdowns. I personally think it's just the result of a long 7 months of treatment and chaos, and I am simply tired. It will settle once the treatment and associated side-effects are over. Then I can relax, have a break, and start looking seriously at jobs in Melbourne. Early research looks quite promising for admin jobs in my preferred salary range, so we shall see.

It's likely that this will be the last update before the end of treatment, with the madness of Christmas approaching. So thanks to you all for your love, support and encouragement. I know that I am lucky, as I have wonderful, supportive friends and family, as well as a very treatable cancer, and a very positive prognosis.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

WOW! It HAS been a while....

So now I am halfway through my chemo, by this time next week I will be two thirds of the way through. (Trust me it helps to think that way)!

I am mostly doing okay. The week after chemo is "unpleasant" to say the least. My Doctors were a bit baffled as to why I am suffering so much from nausea, when they give me enough anti-nausea meds to fell an elephant... until they found out that during my pregnancy with The Brat, I was actually hospitalised with Morning Sickness. Apparently that's an indication that I am pre-disposed to nausea, so they add a little something extra to my prescription each session. Monster Yuppy has been incredibly generous, with advice and time and some magic cream to take away the pain of the needles. Many thanks! I have also had some luck with something a little "less prescribed" shall we say. Thank you my friends, you know who you are....

After the first week my main difficulty is with tiredness. I'm struggling a little bit at work, but given I am now out of accrued leave, I don't have a lot of choice. I still need to work. Some days the boss is fantastic, other days not so much. I am trying to ignore the less fantastic days. I have found that if I let things get to me, a meltdown is inevitable and invariably unpleasant, so I try not to stress. Having The Brat out of work for a while has added to the stress, but thankfully that situation is now resolved.

I also get terribly hot.... gently perspiring buckets, regardless of the actual ambient temperature. Annoying, but not fatal, though now Spring has sprung I am dreading the inevitable warmer temperatures. My skin is also suffering, the slightest bump results in bruising or blood blisters, and a minor burn takes weeks and weeks to heal. I have  still got a mark on my forearm from the tape used after a pre-chemo blood test nearly six weeks ago, as well as a bruise from the actual treatment around the same time. And rashes....

The week before chemo is better, I feel almost normal, though still tire easily. And I eat! My weight goes up and down, some weeks I can barely eat, the week before chemo I shove everything that's not nailed down, into my mouth at every opportunity. Ain't side effects fun? : )

I am making an effort not to hide away (tempting as it is), but still try to get out and see friends, even if it's just for a quick coffee. My new look is a hit, and I LOVE seeing the looks on people's faces when they see me as a blonde for the first time. Even my sister did a double-take when she saw me earlier this week! The wig can get uncomfortable, but I went shopping with Mum and my sister on Friday night, and we have added some scarves and turbans and little bits and pieces to my repertoire, and today I will take them to Mum's and practice tying scarves and experimenting with different looks.

All in all I'm doing okay. I have my moments obviously, and if you follow me on twitter you're more likely to know when those moments occur. I do a little bit of whinging over there, and I thank you my friends for putting up with it! I still check in to the blogs I follow, but mostly just lurk. Sometimes it's an effort even to comment. I apologise for that, but know that I'm still around...

I WILL try to be a bit more diligent about updating at both of my blogs, but no promises. As always, thanks for your love and support!

Monday, June 28, 2010


As promised I phoned the Hospital this morning to let them know that I was unhappy with the schedule change for my first Chemo session.

The young lady on the phone advised that the appointment had been changed because the Doc would be away. I explained that I was aware of that, the Doc had mentioned it, but we agreed that her lovely assistant would be capable of handling the procedure. This caused some confusion, as it turns out, my appointment had been logged as an appointment to meet the Doctor, rather than Chemo. She assured me that as it was a Chemo appointment, should be okay, and she would call back to confirm after she spoke to the Doc. At about 11:30 I got the call, and confirmation that Chemo would begin as originally scheduled on July 8th.

On the one hand I was annoyed that I had made myself sick with stress all weekend over a simple clerical error, on the other hand, we all make mistakes, I'm not immune myself, and it's better than the Doc just deciding to push me out a week without any discussion.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Got home yesterday to find a letter from The Mater.

My first Chemo has been rescheduled to a week later. They invite me to give them a call if the new date doesn't suit me.

Too right I will be giving them a call. I have just spent a week and a half organising the rest of my life around the 8th of July. I could have had this 1st session this week, but put it off so that Mum and Dad could have their planned holiday. I REALLY didn't want them to give that up, Mum and the kids especially have really been looking forward to it, and no way was I going to break their hearts.

Apart from that, I really want this to start, so it can finish and I can get on with the rest of my life...

I don't think some of the people I've talked to about it get it! It isn't JUST a week, it's ANOTHER WHOLE week.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I've Been Slack....

Okay it's well past time for an update. Apologies for my slackness, between staying at Mum's through the weekend, Doctors appointments and Nanna Naps, it's been hard to find the motivation....

Anyhoo, the news so far is good. My meeting with the Surgeon on Wednesday confirmed that the 4 lymph nodes collected during surgery were clear of any evidence of spread. They retrieved a 2.5cm tumour with clear margins and no additional surgery required. One of my bandages is completely off and the scar is very neat and clean. Pain is not too bad, though with my back and neck issues I am having a fair bit of referred pain in the right arm. My Back Doctor, along with some Valium, is taking care of that

Wednesday also involved meeting with the Breast Care Nurse, two Medical Oncologists (Chemo), the Radiation Oncologist (Radiotherapy), and a Cancer Care Specialist Nurse. Lots of information (again), more appointments, as far away as October, and more tests before further treatment starts.

So far I have in my calendar the following:

24/06 - Back Doctor
30/06 - Echocardiogram
08/07 - Chemotherapy (to be repeated every 21 days for a total of 6 treatments
19/07 - Look Good Feel Better program, makeup, turbans, scarves etc., to help you look and feel your best during and after Chemo.
12/10 - Appt with Radiation Oncologist to discuss timimg of Radiation Therapy

I also have to have a blood test just before each chemo session, and I have to decide whether or not I'd like to participate in a trial using acupuncture in conjunction with chemo, to see if it helps with nausea. I'm keen, but it involves extra hospital visits, so I haven't quite decided on that one. Apparently I also have "Chemo Brain" to look forward to. That means that instead of a half hour frantic searching for my car keys every morning, it will be more like an hour... basically I'm fkd!

Plenty of support and assistance along the way.... I have already received a free bra, specifically designed for post surgery.... ugly as sin, but blissfully comfortable. There is a package on it's way containing a voucher for wig purchase, a turban, turban making patterns, scarf tying instructions and other little goodies. The Look Good Feel Better Program will help me make the most of makeup, skin care etc., with heaps of free goodies thrown in. Apparently they will select makeups based on my colouring, skin tones and preferences (supplied via questionnaire), show me how best to use them to disguise the ravages of Chemo, then hand them over. Could be several hundred dollars worth of Estee Lauder, Clinique, and/or other expensive brands.

Meanwhile I return to work on Monday, with time off for various appointments until the first Chemo session on Thursday the 8th. On the 25th of June my parents take off for a week to 10 days on holidays in Northern NSW with my sister, her partner and the grandkids. On the 30th of June my man will arrive from Melbourne and leaves the day I start Chemo. Speaking of my sister, she had her Mammogram on Wednesday, and received a callback today for Ultrasound, which she will have on Monday. We are hopeful that they are being extra cautious due to my diagnosis, and that she will be fine. We are staying very calm.

That's probably about it for now. If any more news comes to hand I will check in. Again, if I have a particularly bad or especially good day, I will certainly try to check in and share, I suspect there will be more of those days once treatment begins in earnest.

As always, thanks for your messages of support and love.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Preliminary Report

Staying at Mum's for a couple of days, so just a quick check-in....

Saw the surgeon again this morning, he removed the lump with good margins, as well as 4 lymph nodes. At this stage, the lymph nodes don't show any signs of spread, however there are more test results to come. We will know for sure tomorrow.

Provided there are no nasty surprises tomorrow, next step is a meeting on Wednesday with my full medical team including radiation and medical oncologists, surgeon and breast care nurse.

A little tired and sore still, but not too bad, will check in again over the next day or so. Thanks for all the thoughts and messages of support.

Love you all.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Surgery Tuesday. Lumpectomy. As long as they get a big enough clear margin, that will be it for surgery. If not, may need a slightly less intense surgery the following Tuesday, I will know that by Thursday. If a third or subsequent surgery is called for, I wll need to make some decisions.

The Wednesday a week after the first (hopefully only) surgery, I will know what type of cancer I have and what stage it is. This will determine the rest of the treatment protocol, but chemo and radiation both still look likely.

That's about it. Finished the day off with a flu shot and another minor procedure, so pretty stuffed at the moment. Will check in again later. Very happy that things are starting to move....


So as today has drawn ever closer, the nerves have built up quite a head of steam. To the point that I am out of bed more than an hour before I need to be, I feel a bit like a kid on her first day of school, alternately sick to my stomach and giddy with anticipation.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad today is finally here, I suspect the answers will start flowing from here on in, hopefully I can keep up with the questions. The younger of my 2 Melbourne sisters flew in last night, she and Mum will be with me throughout today, and I have a debrief with my GP late this afternoon. I will have my trusty Breast Cancer bible with me, so between us we should be right.

Wish me luck folks, I will be back with deatils as soon as I can.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Wow! What a week!

I have been posting little bits of information at various places, (thanks Catty and Madam M for allowing me to hijack your places), but haven't blogged at my own place yet. I'm a bit reluctant, as I don't want this cancer to define me, I still want my blog to be about my life, my friends, family and experiences, and I don't want the cancer to take over. On the other hand I DO want to be able to keep you informed, and maybe vent a little. Solution: TWO blogs.

This is where I will report in: tests, doctors, laughter, tears, frustrations and triumphs. Today will be a timeline of events over the last 8 days since my diagnosis, most subsequent posts will be short updates on daily occurrences and just generally how I'm travelling. Hopefully it won't just turn into a dirge, but frankly if that happens so be it. The rest of my life will continue to be chronicled at my number one. Drop in here if you want to, or not. Your call!

I should go back to the beginning:

Saturday 15th of May: right in the middle of Havock weekend, routine mammogram at Breastscreen QLD QE2 Hospital facility. In and out in 15 minutes, and off to lunch at The Morrison Hotel.

Thursday 20th of May: Phone call from Kim at BSQ around 10 am. Based on mammograms they wanted to do more tests, ultrasound, possibly biopsy. Now on a side note, I had previously had a biopsy (fine needle aspiration) on a lump in my left breast, through a different provider. The pathology on that occasion was normal, so while I was a little nervous, not overly concerned. Arranged to front up at 9 am Friday and took the morning off work.

Friday 21st of May: Arrived at QE2, gowned up, and had a second mammogram in short order. Next an interview with Doctor Kate. That is when my world fell apart. She showed me the film that had caused them to recall me. I thought it was pretty obvious the area of concern. Then she put up an old film, and it was GLARINGLY obvious. The difference in the two pictures was remarkable. Kate was amazingly up front. She told me straight out that the strong belief is that this is a cancer. She explained the procedures that were to follow, (ultrasound, likely core biopsy, even got me to sign a consent form for the biopsy in order to save time later), gave me a physical exam, and sent me off to have a smoke and make some calls while I waited from them to be ready for me in ultrasound. So I called Mum, told her what was going on, and headed back into the room I fondly refer to as the torture chamber. At some point in proceedings Kim, the nurse who had phoned me on Thursday, joined us. She took me in and introduced me to Chris, who would be doing my ultrasound, and settled me in. My God! The ultrasound took FOREVER. and I was FREEZING! Now from minute one, these ladies were entirely open and honest with me. They showed me on the scans and screens what they were looking at, and what was concerning. They had a bit of a chat about the technique they should/would use to perform the biopsy. There are two techniques, each with pros and cons.

Chris went off to find Dr Kate, while Kim kept me company, gave me a blanket and chatted. Kate and Chris returned, and set up to perform the core biopsy. They decided to do an ultrasound biopsy, as the ultrasound would help Kate guide the needle to the area of concern. Sorry, but it FKN HURT! They loaded me up with local anaesthetic, but apparently the breast tissue they had to get through is very tough, (I found out later they had bent a needle trying to get through it), and by the time they retrieved the 3rd core, I was feeling EVERY SINGLE movement of the needle. NOT fun! After  the biopsy, they let me get dressed, and head back outside for a few minutes with an icepack. They asked me to stick around for a little while so they could make sure I was okay. I called Mum again, and arranged for her to ring my boss and let him know that I wouldn't be at work this afternoon, and why. After that I headed back to the waiting room to wait for permission to leave. Kim made me a VERY CRAP coffee and that's when the waterworks hit. One of the other nurses took me into a private room to cry it out. She came and sat with me, provided tissues, and reiterated the strong belief that what we were dealing with is indeed cancer.

That was pretty much it for Friday, they told me that they expected the biopsy results to confirm the cancer diagnosis, the results would be available next Wednesday, and I should come back Wednesday afternoon, bring someone with me, and we would then discuss what would happen next. In short, I have cancer in my right breast. I sat in the car, and called Mum again, assured her I was fine to drive and would be at her place shortly. I also rang my best friend, assured her that I was fine to drive and would talk to her soon. Then I rang my boss, assured him that I would see him Monday at work, and drove to Mum's. Meanwhile, Mum had been in touch with my sisters and brother, but I still needed to tell The Brat. He wasn't working so my brother went and collected him from home, to bring him back to Mum's. While we waited I phoned my GP. His reaction was CLASSIC. "Well that's a bit of a bummer". Through tears of laughter I told him he was the master of the understatement. He told me he hasn't lost a breast cancer patient in ten years and he wasn't letting me spoil his record. He asked me to ring the surgery (I got him on his mobile while he was attending a conference), and organise an appointment for as soon as possible after the results came in.

Then it was time to tell The Brat. I was calm, so he took it calmly. I knew we would have questions and tears down the track, but so far so good. I left him at Mum's to play Wii, and headed off for some alone time, and maybe a nap. Of course there was no way a nap was going to happen, so I used a little time to let some other important people know what was going on. That includes YOU GUYS, my blog and twiiter friends, and I am grateful for your messages of support and offers of help. I also phoned my man's sister, so she could be prepared if he didn't take it well, then I bit the bullet and called my man. The LAST thing I wanted to do was tell him this kind of news over the phone, when he is SO far away. You know about the ups and downs we've had in our relationship, and I was very nervous about how he would react to the news. Let me tell you folks, he was BRILLIANT. He was still at work when I called, and he headed straight to the office to check how much leave he had available and tell the bosses wife that he would be heading up to see me.

Given that this post is in danger of becoming a novel, I'll cut the rest of the weekend short. Phone calls, followed by phone calls, and yet more phone calls. We did have an interesting Saturday night, when The Brat wrote himself off on vodka, and I had to collect him from a mates place. The vodka was the catalyst for his emotions, fears and questions to come tumbling out, and I spent an uncomfortable hour on the cold bathroom floor, talking and crying and laughing with him. It helped us both I think. One other conversation worth mentioning was with my man. I told him I'd just got him back after so many years, he wasn't getting rid of me that easily, and I had no intention of going anywhere. He responded that he had no intention of LETTING me go anywhere. He had talked to his sister, who will coincidentally be here this weekend, and they had decided that she and I would discuss the best time for him to be here, just let him know and he'd be on a plane.

Monday 24th of May: back at work more of the same, telling a few more people, discussing possible scenarios for time off work that sort of thing.

Tuesday 25th of May: Another call from Kim at QE2. Results are in, they're negative, we don't believe it, come back for another biopsy. When I arrived, Kim showed me the test results, and explained that they indicate they had biopsied the dense breast tissue around the lump. Apparently I am the personification of the phrase "tough titties", and bent or otherwise the needle didn't seem to have penetrated that tissue to get to the actual lump. So this time we did the biopsy with me pinned to the mammogram machine. Uncomfortable yes, but this time they used extra local, and I didn't feel a thing. This is when the uncertainty set in, and drove me a little nuts. Previously, I hadn't felt anxious about the wait for results. Now, even though Kate explained that even if this result was negative, she would be recommending surgery, it bothered me that maybe another negative result would slow down the process, kick me back on the surgery waiting list, and leave me with no real answers for a longer period of time, while this thing (whatever it is) sits inside me, doing God know what sort of damage. They marked this test URGENT, hoping that they would still have the results tomorrow, but it was an anxious wait to see if they would come back in time for me to attend my appointment on Wednesday.

Wednesday 26th of May: Finally about 1 pm got the call that results are in, head down to the hospital, and bring someone with me. Mum and I set off, and weren't kept waiting too long, for the results to be confirmed as positive. I was okay, the uncertainty was gone. I knew what I was dealing with, and between them Kate and Kim explained the next steps in the process. They handed over my scans, a letter for my doctor including pathology results and ultrasound report, and a letter to me confirming my diagnosis, and advising me of my appointment time at The Mater on Thursday the 3rd of June. Also got a kit and information about support services for breast cancer sufferers. It's a lot of information, and I am still wading through it, writing down questions as they occur to me, and trying to take it all in. I feel like I'm back at Uni, with the volume of material I need to get through.

Thursday the 27th of May: Appointment at lunch time with my GP. We went through the results, and the processes. A lot more of the same but from his perspective, how he and his staff can help me along the way. Questions about whether or not I should have Fluvax, whether or not we should remove my IUD, and blood tests to just check on my general health are all in order. He wrote to my surgeon to pose these questions, the surgeon after all is the expert, spoke to Kate on the phone while I was with him, and sent me off for blood tests without even offering me a slice of pizza, which his staff were scoffing in the waiting room during their lunchtime staff meeting. I've been attending the same practice for nearly 20 years, some of these guys know more about me that my own Mum, and they will all be invaluable support during whatever comes next.

Friday the 28th of May: OMG a bad day! No particular reason, just woke up feeling BLEEAGH! I know that I have to expect this, but I'd had a week of coping pretty well, some tears sure, but not the floods I was experiencing Friday. So it was a bit of a shock to the system. I called my Mum and my best friend, they love me and want to help, but I think when this happens, it's pretty much up to me. Then I got a call from a client, whose wife has had two battles with breast cancer, and has just passed 4 years cancer free. He was brilliant, talked to me for ages, and offered all the support he and his wife could offer. Told me to call them at home if I needed to talk at any time, not bad for a client I have probably met once, and don't remember. I should point out that I haven't told too many clients yet, though my boss and I have discussed it, and given the upcoming upheaval in the office, most will know at some point anyway. Also, many of our clients are older and have had their own battles with cancer and other serious illness. So I am gradually telling them, starting with the clients I have got to know reasonably well over the last 21 months, but this one was just an accident of timing I think. Whatever it was, it helped. I was in a much better place after I spoke to him, and actually managed to be productive for the afternoon.

Saturday 29th of May: Today. I have been tossing up about blogging my journey, but I don't want to turn off any of my regular readers who don't want this in their lives right now. Hence this new site. If you come here you will know what to expect, and I won't be upset or offended if you choose not to. This is mainly for me anyway. An opportunity to express my emotions and describe my travels.