Friday, May 8, 2015


It's been a while since I last posted. I've slowly been recovering my strength and energy and finding out who Stacy really is after this last eventful year. There's a funny thing that happens at the end of your treatment - you expect to be relieved... you expect to be excited about the future... instead the impact of what's happened over the last year hits you hard (like a cement truck)! I've spent the last year just getting on with everything I had to do... diagnosis, surgery, surgery, chemo, chemo, chemo, chicken pox, neutropenic fevers, cancelled chemo, long time feeling awful, radiation, radiation, radiation, radiation, hormone therapy... and now at the end of it all the impact of everything that has happened, that I've been through, has hit. It's a time for reflection, grief, celebration, apprehension and excitement. Now it's all over I'm facing joining the real world. That's a bit scary. I haven't engaged with the real world for such a long time!!

When I first wrote about this journey I've been on I shared this song oceans. Over the past year I've been taken further and deeper than I ever imagined, onto wild and stormy seas where a few times I feared for my life. As I've reflected on this I've been overwhelmed with gratitude. I look back and see ALL the people who played a part in my treatment and recovery. I keep telling everyone that it takes a village to get you through and I wouldn't have made it without your input, support, love and encouragement. You anchored me so I wouldn't blow away in the storm. So I got this tattoo!

A reminder of all I've been through 
and all of you who anchored me through it!

You got me through and I just want to say thank you...

Thank you to all the people who showed their love, encouragement and support by sending me cards and messages, by getting in touch on Facebook, for passing messages for me onto my family and friends when I was too sick to get them in person. Every single word boosted my spirits and reminded me that no matter what I was facing there were so many people wanting the best for me. That helped!!

Thank you to all the people who prayed for me and sent me healing, good vibes and thoughts. I faced some pretty dark times when my fears and the physical trauma just about overwhelmed me. They didn't because of you.

Thank you to all the people who sent me flowers. Flowers make me happy and no matter how bad I was feeling when I saw them I always smiled (even when the chemo nausea was too bad to enjoy their scent!).

Thank you to all the people who made meals and baked treats for me. You showed your love for me through your thoughtful, delicious meals. You nourished my body and my soul.

Thank you to all the people who gave me gifts, sent me surprise parcels and left gifts on my doorstep (often anonymously). They always came just at the right time. Your kindness and thoughtfulness touched me deeply.

Thank you to all the people who visited me. I wasn't the best company but you came anyway. That means a lot!

Thank you to all the people who came and put in the hard yards sanding, plastering and painting so Holly had a lovely room to come home to (and I now have a completed nursery for my grandbaby!). Your practical help has made a huge difference to how my home looks and feels.

Thank you to all the people who drove me to appointments and treatments. Your love and support on those journeys made it so much easier to face what was ahead.

Thank you to all the medical professionals involved in my surgery, treatments and care. Our NZ healthcare system is beyond amazing. I have met the most wonderful, supportive, caring medical professionals. The oncology field takes a special kind of person - you have your wins but many losses. I owe them my life!

Thank you to the staff and volunteers at Dove House, the Cancer Society and The NZ Breast Cancer Foundation. Your ongoing support through and after treatment have helped me to keep going and make some sense of everything that I've experienced.

A very special thank you to my dear friends who were part of my post-chemo care team. You provided great comfort, lots of love and laughs when I needed it the most.

An endless, bottomless thank you to my wonderful family for your care, patience, support, long-suffering and love...
Beth and Mikey - you constantly dropped everything to come and care for me. You gave me comfort whenever I needed it and you made my dark places light.
Holly - you made it from the other side of the world (twice) to care for me with that special "Holly" kind of love that only you can bring.
Karen and Mere - who were there with me through all the highs and lows, constantly sitting by my bedside when, as Mere said, "I was one breath away from intensive care" and putting up with my blunt, confused, feverish outbursts!
My brothers and sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews - for bringing your special brand of encouragement, love and laughs.
I can never repay you all! I am so grateful. Thank you!!

Thank you to God who continues to make me feel beloved and gives me the strength to keep walking together through whatever life brings.

And just a little update on life in the real world. I got this little bundle of joy three months ago. Billie Jean McIvor - a great source of delight and laughter. I've started back at school part-time in a new role training as a Reading Recovery teacher. It's so nice to be back working with my friends and the children at school. And in about a week we welcome my grand-daughter into this world. So all in all, life is good and I'm thankful!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

yay for holidays

Early in 2014 (before I was diagnosed with breast cancer) Beth, Mikey, Holly and I planned and booked a December holiday in Melbourne. We wanted to spend Christmas together as it was the tenth anniversary of John's death on Christmas Eve. We love Melbourne and thought it would be a great place to be together to remember, celebrate and toast the best husband, father and man that we've known.

John Russell McIvor
Kind, loving, generous, supportive, honest, 
funny with a wicked sense of humour, 
a great friend and all-round good guy!

So even though I was still not feeling 100% and was wondering if I was exchanging a couch in Auckland for a couch in Melbourne, we stuck to our plan. As a precautionary measure, I did pack a variety of (legal) drugs into my suitcase just in case my health went south! Beth, Mikey and I only had a few hours flying while Holly completed a 30+ hour flying marathon to get there from London! But we all made it! We had the loveliest Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It was profoundly moving to share our special memories and what John still means to us individually and as a family. The past ten years have gone by very quickly and excruciatingly slowly all at the same time. It seems like such a long time ago and just yesterday that John left us. We are always holding him close in our hearts.

Our annual Christmas hat photo!

It's amazing what a holiday can do! It was great to be somewhere interesting and different. It was nice to be out and about - exploring, shopping, eating delicious food, laughing and generally having fun with my favourite people. I managed to do way more than I thought could and came back home with a real boost to my spirits. This has stayed with me and has enabled me to face the next phase of my treatments with a much more positive frame of mind.

Enjoying summer fun times with ice creams!  

I have started hormone-blocking therapy and radiation therapy. The hormone-blocking is in the form of a daily tablet that I'll take for the next five years. Radiation is five days a week for four weeks, with the weekends off. Both therapies have side effects but these are very manageable in comparison to my experience with chemotherapy. And nothing beats the boost of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, knowing that it's all coming to an end very soon. Yay!

Christmas Hat photo credit: Thomas Finn Stewart

Monday, December 1, 2014


Well it's been a long, slow, hard journey of recovery since being discharged from hospital. After initially feeling much better being home (I think that was more psychological than physical) life settled into days of constant stomach pain, nausea and severe headaches. Resting, sleeping and endless, daytime TV were all I could manage! Things started to look up when my oncologist prescribed me some medication to deal with the stomach pain, nausea and headaches. He pointed out that I had been seriously ill and it would take time for my body to recover. He also said that I won first prize for the worst outcome for chemo out of all the patients that they've treated at Auckland Hospital this year. That in his 20 years of public and private practice he's only had one other person develop chicken pox. I am truly special!

With all this resting I've had plenty of time to reflect on life and where I'm at. So when I saw Annie Lennox on TV the other night, something about her got me thinking... She was talking about turning 60 at the end of the year, which surprised me as she hasn't seemed to age over the years. As she talked about her music and the inspiration for her latest album, she sparkled. That energy and sparkle made her seem ageless. Then I had a revelation - I had lost my sparkle! That everything I've been through this year had sucked it out of me. When I thought about it, I hadn't smiled in a very, long time and that the relentlessness of feeling so ill had worn me down to just existing. That is not like me at all. I normally try to look for the best, the happy, the joy in life and laugh heartily and loud. It has been hard to feel so low when I know that my mental wellbeing and a positive, hopeful attitude play an important role in fighting cancer alongside the treatments and therapies.

A dash of gold, glittery sparkle!

It's just as well that I have the best cheerleaders in my family and friends. They keep telling me that I'm doing so well. That I've come so far. Their love and support mean even more to me when I've been finding it so tough. I've also been given some breathing space to let the medication work, to rest up and feel better. Hormone therapy has been postponed for now and radiation therapy is now scheduled for January so I can be well enough to deal with it.

She's definitely got sparkle!

I still have a long way to go and more treatments to face but I'm starting to feel a bit better. I'm focussing on the long term picture and getting my sparkle back!

Gold sparkles - - the image kid has it!
Astral Double collage by Eugenia Loli. Find more of her artworks here.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

sometimes birthdays aren't easy

Yesterday was my birthday and I have to admit that it took a lot to find the heart and energy to celebrate it. I recently spent ten days in hospital dealing with serious side effects from Round 3 of chemotherapy. My white blood cell count fell really low and I developed a condition called neutropenia. Due to this low blood cell count the chicken pox virus I had as a child was also reactivated. Without white blood cells to fight it, it returned with a vengeance. Apparently this is a rare complication so it made me very ill, with rolling fevers of up to 39.9 degrees. I was in and out of consciousness continually, with mild hallucinations. Apparently I told Mere I didn't like the landscape of Rangitoto in my room because it had goblins in it. When I woke up, she said she couldn't see them. I looked really hard and couldn't see them either! My family are now regaling me with all the funny, bizarre conversations I had with them.

At one point, when they finally worked out what the spots were, I was woken up by four oncologists in full masks, gowns and gloves peering at me over the bed. I had lost all sense of reality and thought I was in a scene from the movie Contagion. It turns out I was highly contagious so they wanted to move me out of the Oncology ward as soon as possible. I was a risk to all the other patients there with low blood cell counts. So they whisked me up to a pressurised room in the Infectious Diseases ward. Everyone who treated me from then on were fully masked, gowned and gloved.

It wasn't this bad but I was hazy with sleep and fevers.
I was actually taken to the Infectious Diseases ward on a bed!

I had severe nausea and headaches and to be honest, it felt like one endless nightmare. My family took turns sitting with me during the day, which helped to separate the days from the nights. I saw at least twelve Oncologists, checking in and monitoring my condition. One thing they all agreed on was that I should not have any more chemotherapy, that the risk to my life and health was too great if I continued. I started to recover very slowly. I was so desperate to be well enough to leave. They set me the goal of eating, drinking and taking my medication in tablet form rather than needing a drip. Yay! I got there but I was still very ill when I got home. Beth and Mike were champions making sure I was well fed and looked after. I felt very loved. It was good to be home.

So even though right now I am physically at the lowest point of this breast cancer journey, feeling completely broken in my body... I can appreciate the love and support of my lovely family and friends... I can hold onto the hope of future health and wellness... I can remind myself that I don't have to do anymore chemo! Yay! That is such a relief... I can be thankful for my birthday and making it this far... I can remember and celebrate that I am beloved by so many.

I had the loveliest birthday in the end. I found flowers, treats and surprises on my doorstep. My phone and Facebook overflowed with wonderful birthday messages. I had cake with the family and a delicious dinner made by Beth and Mike. I feel so loved and blessed. Thank you!

This is not my current birthday.
I thought we'd all enjoy a flashback 
to my very, happy 50th birthday!

Biohazard suit image from Resident Evil, Sony Films
50th birthday photo credit: Rachel King

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

pink star walk

Well, the third round of chemo is done. Only one more to go!! Yay!! It was touch and go to as to whether it would be postponed due to a very low white blood cell count. After several blood tests, with the last one an hour before chemo was due to start, I was given the thumbs up. That was such a relief as I just want to keep moving forward on schedule without any more surprises. The actual chemo went well but I am way more nauseous this time. I know I can keep doing this with a good supply of anti-nausea meds, lots of rest and the continued support of my very lovely family and friends.

This is Pink October - Breast Cancer Awareness month. Did you know that every day 7 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in New Zealand? Every day!! That is a heartbreaking statistic. Two of my dearest friends - both young women, are now walking their own breast cancer journey since I was diagnosed. It feels like an epidemic. The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation are at the forefront of research, communication, information and practical support for women, men and their families going through diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer. The work they do is wide reaching and key for reducing the incidence rate, early detection, effective treatments and lowering the death rate from breast cancer. You never know when you will need them...

This is me last year.
Still smiling with just a few kilometers to go!
Almost a year ago I was a Golden Charity runner fundraising for the New Zealand Breast Foundation in the Auckland Half Marathon. I did it for my sister Karen, in honour of her courageous journey with breast cancer. I started training at the beginning of the year, running 1.5 km and sounding like I could die imminently! After 11 months of training I completed the beautiful 21.09 km course, including running over the spectacular Auckland Harbour Bridge, in a reasonable time. Even with a serious knee injury! I was elated. It was my biggest, physical challenge since having babies!! I fully intended to do it again this year. But this year I've had a different sort of marathon to complete - my very own breast cancer journey. Life is full of the unexpected!!

This is me now.
Feeling a little bit droopy after chemo. 

So not as smiley as when this photo was taken!
In Pink October there are many breast cancer related activities to help raise awareness and funds for ongoing treatment and support. Several of my lovely friends - Helen, Alex and Estelle are doing the Estée Lauder Companies Pink Star Walk at the Auckland Domain this Saturday October the 11th. I am feeling incredibly overwhelmed and touched as they do this to encourage me and cheer me on. They really need your support in the way of donations to reach their fundraising goal of $600 dollars. If every person reading this blog donated $5 that would help them to reach that goal. You can check out what they are doing and how to make a donation here.

Thank you for your ongoing messages of love and support. They make a huge difference to me and my family. Love you all so much!! xox

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Home. I've been thinking about what that word means. Yesterday we said goodbye to Holly. Luckily it's only a little goodbye as we'll see each other in Melbourne for Christmas. Not long to wait! I'm so glad we have that to look forward to... something to hold on to as I negotiate the post chemo nausea fog. Luckily it is starting to lift and life feels a bit sunnier again.

Love these guys!!

Anyway... Home...

Holly lives in London. It's her home. She came home to look after me. New Zealand is our home. I love flying home. I always get a thrill when the plane dips low over the waters of the Manukau with Auckland laid out before me. That says home to me.

Sitting in the sun at St Heliers beach watching the waves and Rangitoto says home to me.
Misty days at Huia says home to me.
The dawn service at the War Memorial Museum says home to me.
The National Anthem anywhere says home to me.
Auckland City sparkling in the sun when you drive over the Harbour Bridge says home to me.
Tuis singing in the bush says home to me.
Marmite on Vogels toast says home to me.
That snuggled up in bed feeling, listening to the rain says home to me.
The smell of fresh baking in the oven says home to me.
Summer barbeques and dinner on the deck says home to me.
Talking endlessly with friends says home to me.
Watching good movies on the couch with Beth, Mike and Holly (when she's here) says home to me.
Laughing loud with my sisters over a coffee or a glass of wine says home to me... we can pretty much laugh loud over anything!

Home - it's a mixture of place, people and feelings. Any one of these... anytime, anywhere can give you that feeling of home. What says home for you?

For me, home is these people. This crazy, funny, loud, generous, larger than life, do anything for you, love you with all their heart bunch of people... my family says home to me. Even in the midst of the toughest, hardest, saddest days they give me that "home" feeling.

Just a note: The guy at the beginning is JP from Photobooth and Moustaches and not a new addition to our family! All images were taken in their vintage photobooth.
The track is Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Saturday, September 20, 2014

family, friends and a photobooth

I've been lying in bed and listening to the rain. I know so many people are keen for the promise of the warmth and sunshine of spring but being wrapped up warm in my comfy bed listening to the rain brings back wonderful, childhood memories. The feeling of being cocooned, cozy and safe in bed with the rain drumming on the roof. I'm holding on to those feelings after a pretty full on week.

Nothing says cozy like my ruby red slippers.
There's definitely no place like home!

My pre-chemo oncology consultation was a pretty long, drawn out discussion with two of my oncologists. We went over exactly what happened during and after my first chemo round. You take it seriously when your chief oncologist starts to say that we'll try this round and then consider whether we'll stop it or carry on. That the benefit of treating my breast cancer cannot outweigh the risk to my life and longterm health. I was very grateful to have my sister Karen with me. She joined in the discussion and planning as a medical professional informed by her personal experience as a breast cancer patient. Her input was valued and key to the planning for this round. Changes were made with my chemo drugs and the follow up regime of meds for managing my nausea at home (hopefully without the dibilitating headaches). So far so good.

Karen picked me up for chemo in good time. I was a mixed bag of emotions - anxious, fearful, worried... I was very afraid of what might happen. I know many people were holding me up in prayer and sending me all the healing and love vibes they could. That gave me the courage to face whatever this day would bring. The staff were were very kind and thorough in getting me ready for chemo. They knew exactly what had happened before and did not want me to have a second bad experience. Karen was amazing - she set up my tray with a table cloth, she made me ginger tea in real cups, she rubbed my arm while the line went in (I have had some trouble with these resulting in massive bruising), she rubbed my back through waves of nausea and hot flushes. She was the best support person/ nurse/ sister ever! Holly arrived part way through and that was such a treat. Her smile and rainbow hair light up the room. My chemo nurse was wonderful and attentive. When it was all done, she gave me a big hug as I left for the day. 

All and all I'm incredibly lucky with how it's gone so far. The second round of chemo went as smoothly as could be expected. This new regime causes more nausea so I am being very careful to manage it well at home. I don't want to end up back on the Oncology ward on a drip. I have been wonderfully supported by the love, care and visits from my gorgeous family and an army of friends supplying the most delicious meals. The kindness, thoughtfulness and care in preparing these meals has made the nausea so much easier to bear.

 Everything comes wrapped in love. 
The best medicine!

With all the ups and downs, backwards and forwards, "cha cha" of this cancer journey, life can be tough for not just me but my family. They are trying to negotiate this journey for themselves alongside me. The overwhelming feelings, the helplessness, the emotional, psychological and physical toll has impacted us all in unique ways. We try to deal with them the best we can but to say it's hard is an absolute understatement. So on the Saturday before this chemo round we planned a family dinner. A time where we could enjoy being together, belly laugh, talk loud and let our hair down - some more literally than others! It was definitely a fun, crazy, celebration of love and all of the good things that make life worth living. 

I'll leave you with some photobooth snaps from the night. They tell it all... 
Doin' the cha cha our way!!

We even managed to include
Esther and Ben who are 
living far away in NYC.
My baldy 
buddy Josiah!


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