Saturday, August 30, 2014

a side of daffodils

It turns out that I can pretty much have adventures wherever I am. I don't need to look for them. They just seem to find me...

On the morning of my first chemo round I nervously approached the Oncology Day Stay Unit. The staff were so lovely. They are very welcoming, trying to put you at ease, especially when it's your first time. You can tell the newbies - we still have our hair! I was set up in my comfortable lazyboy chair. Beth and I were greeted by the other patients and their support people. Everyone is so friendly. There is a real sense of camaraderie and support, that we're all in this together. Finally I was settled in and the morning was progressing well. Beth wandered up to the cafe to get me some treats and everything seemed to be going to plan. I was feeling way more relaxed. This was not as bad as I thought it would be... 

Apparently about 5% of people are hypersensitive to the chemo drugs. It turns out that I am one of them! After a while the sensitivity kicked in followed by an allergic reaction to the drug they used to manage it. I felt like I was going to black out. My usually low blood pressure and steady heart rate shot up. I was so shaky with the shock. Suddenly it was how many medical professionals can you get in one room? 

So while the other patients are sitting peacefully receiving their chemo and chatting quietly with their support people, I'm all sobbing and fainty with 25 medical staff around me! Not the day Beth and I had envisioned!! Eventually everything calmed down and I resumed chemo with the second drug, which proved to be absolutely uneventful. Whew! Our lovely friend Zoe had arrived at the height of the madness with a beautiful corsage for our chemo date. Finally I was able to put on my corsage and enjoy the fine company of Zoe and Beth.

It was a long day. You know you've stayed too long at the party when they start stacking the furniture and mopping the floors around you! We gathered up our things. Beth went to get the car and I made my way to the door. The Cancer Society had left bunches of daffodils there for people to take home. So when Beth came back to get me, she found a shaky lady by the door holding a bunch of daffodils in one hand and a bright yellow Cancer Society balloon in the other! 

The perfect ending I think... Round One of chemo with a side of daffodils.

Daffodils in Wellington for Daffodil Day.
Please support the Cancer Society here.
They give us all hope!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

place to be

This song has been resonating with me lately... 

When I was younger, younger than before
I never saw the truth hanging from the door
And now I'm older see it face to face
And now I'm older gotta get up clean the place.

And I was green, greener than the hill

Where the flowers grew and the sun shone still
Now I'm darker than the deepest sea
Just hand me down, give me a place to be.

And I was strong, strong in the sun

I thought I'd see when day is done
Now I'm weaker than the palest blue
Oh, so weak in this need for you.

Chemo starts tomorrow. 

So I find myself...
darker than the deepest sea,
weaker than the palest blue,
looking for a place to be
and in need of you.

I am seeking God's embrace.

A lovely friend sent this verse from Psalm 94 to me.
When I said "My foot is slipping," your unfailing love Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Just breathe...

Monday, August 18, 2014

the cha cha

The last few days have been a rollercoaster of emotions. In the weekend I got the heartbreaking news of a helicopter crash in Wanaka that killed this lovely, generous, funny man who had a zest for life, his family, his friends and his faith. He was on a weekend away with good mates, several of them were also injured in the crash. The impact of this shockwave is resonating through the St Paul's community.

Jerome Box
A man who lived life to the full.

John was Jerome's quantity surveyor for many years. I can just see them sitting down so many times to discuss life, families and faith, not just the work at hand. I can see Jerome's wry smile, hear his chuckle and listen to him share his unique take on life. My heart is aching for his wife Adelle and their gorgeous children... and the other injured and their families. It's shocking when the tragedies of the national news actually rock you and the world of people you hold dear.

Then I had my Medical Oncology appointment. All throughout my diagnosis and treatments every medical professional has told me that I don't need chemotherapy. That for the grade and stage of my breast cancer, surgery and radiation therapy will be enough to effectively treat it. That I will need hormone therapy to suppress the estrogen that feeds the cancer cells (in the form of a daily tablet) but no chemo. I thought the appointment would be straightforward. "Here are your results, here's the prescription for your hormone tablets, good luck with radiation therapy next week..." I became suspicious when the oncologist said I'm going to discuss your options for treatment. It turns out that the pathology from the surgery shows that my tumour is Grade 2 and not Grade 1, so now chemotherapy is part of the treatment to improve my chances that the cancer won't come back. Usually in journeying situations an upgrade is much appreciated. Who doesn't want to fly business class or have a better hotel room with a lake view? On the breast cancer journey an upgrade doesn't have the same desired effect!

I just didn't think I would have to walk this road and now it's right there. Chemo starts in two weeks. So in preparation I got my nails done, shared a bottle of bubbles with my long-suffering, very supportive sisters and made an appointment with my lovely hairdresser Alice Tucker for a last cut, colour and style before it all goes.

My dear friend Em (who is on her own breast cancer journey) shared this picture with me after we talked about the difficult, discouraging forwards/backwards nature of our journeys so far.

So here I am doing the cha cha, trying to keep a lightness in my step, with a heavy heart and tears streaming down my cheeks.  The great thing is I am not dancing alone, you are all here with me. So grab the ones you love, who are precious to you and let's dance!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Yesterday I had the planning and set up appointment for radiation therapy. It involved a CT scan in the position that you receive the radiation treatment and the application of permanent tattoo dots onto your skin. These dots enable the machines to line up perfectly each session. You spend a lot of time physically exposed while three people move you and your breasts around - taking measurements, drawing on you and taking photos. Everything is recorded in detail so the delivery of radiation is perfectly placed - quickly and efficiently. I'm so grateful for their thoroughness as I want every opportunity that I can get to make sure this cancer doesn't come back.

The radiation therapists were lovely. They were kind, reassuring and very professional. Despite this care, I have been left with a feeling of vulnerability and exposure that goes way beyond skin deep. I've been thinking about why I feel this way. With a diagnosis of any kind you feel that the power to have control in your life is taken away. Suddenly you are being swept along into surgery and treatments, results and consultations, medical data and statistics. It overwhelms you emotionally, mentally and physically. I'm also a pretty private person and up until recently only a very few, select people have been lucky enough to see my breasts. Now so many people have seen (and examined) my breasts that I have lost count!

It got me thinking about a summer I spent as a teenager at Muriwai Beach. It was all fun and games until I was picked up and dumped by a wave. As I dazedly came up out of the wave, I belatedly realised that the turbulence had caused my bikini to rearrange itself and I was... ahem... exposed to an appreciative audience of surfers waiting for a wave! Ooops! 

Beautiful Muriwai Beach 
Those waves look deceptively calm from a distance.

So whilst wanting to engage fully in every aspect of treatment that gives me a better chance long term, it is much like my teenage experience of being unexpectedly dumped on Muriwai Beach... I am feeling shaken, vulnerable and exposed.

This sign was not around when I was a teenager.
That is me being thrown around by the wave. 

And to those lucky surfers I just want to say, "You're welcome!"


Related Posts with Thumbnails