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!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

just call me sinead

This journey is still proving itself to be a bit of a cha cha. Last weekend I found myself in hospital on the Oncology ward with a drip in my arm, an excruciating headache and nausea. It came on top of a traumatic chemo round, the allergic drug reaction and lots of adjusting and adding drugs to control my nausea. It was pretty awful. As I hadn't had dinner (due to being in A&E at dinner time) they couldn't give me anything stronger than panadol. At 2am with a drip inserted for hydration and my blood test results back they finally administered a much stronger drug. Yay! At least it took the edge off. 

The next day Mikey came to sit with me in hospital and Beth went to the airport to get Holly, who was arriving from London. I was so excited to see her but disappointed that it would be in the hospital. Not the homecoming I'd planned!! The doctors did their rounds and talked about all the factors that caused me to end up in hospital. They gave me a new regime of drugs and strict instructions on what to do to manage my nausea and headaches. They also said that since I was so sensible I could do it all at home. Yay! I was out of that hospital gown before you could say "Just relax while I insert this catheter!" (That did not happen to me but it did happen to the guy in the bed next to me.) Phew! Dodged that bullet! So the reunion happened at home and it has been the best thing having Holly here. Beth and Holly relaxed quickly into their routine of teasing me, face pats and "harden up" dialogue. Fun times!  

Mere gave me these "oops sorry you're in hospital" balloons to cheer me up.
She had wanted Disney Princess balloons but I am more than happy with the hearts!

This week I also attended a Look Good Feel Better workshop. They are an amazing charity that aim to put a smile on the face of every woman with cancer. That statement is so true. I was nervous about attending as I had still been feeling quite nauseous and unsteady. But they were so warm and friendly, they really put me at ease.  Each lady has a support person to help them with skincare and applying their make up. Mine gave me a divine facial. I must have looked pretty relaxed as the lady running the workshop said, "Well, Stacy has gone to sleep!" Either that or I had started to snore. I went in feeling below average and came out feeling revitialised and dare I say it - pretty! They do fulfil their brief "that with makeup, skincare, skills and positive attitude they can transform the look and outlook of NZ women with cancer." I left with a smile on my face and a bag full of make up tailored just for me! I felt so spoiled and incredibly lucky to be a part of it. They are such a worthwhile charity to support.

Check me out!
I think I look pretty damn good!!

Later that day, my hairdresser Alice, Beth and Holly joined me for the big moment... to shave off my hair. Hair loss is a side effect of the chemo that I'm having. They say it starts round Day 14 after your first dose. Mine hadn't really been doing much except for the usual handfuls that fall out on a regular basis. It's the anticipation and waiting for it to happen that can be distressing, then the actual clumps of hair on the pillow themselves. In an attempt to gain back some power in a situation where I've been pretty powerless, I decided where and when my hair would come off. At home with my lovely hairdresser and my beautiful girls, with laughs, teasing, love and moral support. Losing my hair has been quite a big thing for me, more than I had realised. For my whole life I've said something about who I am with my hair. To not be able to have it and to have to wear a wig have been big things for me to come to terms with and grieve over. You might think it's just hair but it's part of my identity. Choosing how my hair loss would happen has made that grieving easier. It actually turned out to be fun and there were no tears!! Yay! I was also very honoured that my nephew Josiah shaved his head to support me. So now we are baldy buddies!

The girls all think I look quite like Sinead O'Connor.
 So instead of inflicting my photo on you
I'll leave you with Sinead!


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