Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The swing of things

I'm five weeks post-surgery today. This is a good thing as Oprah would say.

My recovery is coming along swimmingly. I seem to be text-book compliant in terms of my physical state. Pain reducing but not altogether fantastic. I keep it at bay during daylight hours using Panadol Osteo but as the afternoon progresses it all seems to catch up on me and I'm scoffing codeine before bed to ensure my sleep is undisturbed.

To distract myself I've been undertaking some "recovery-friendly" creative pursuits. My little Portulaca friend is an example of the sort of gardening I can manage.

This little beauty was inspired by something on Pinterest where they utilised Grape Vines....not living in or near a vineyard meant I resorted to stripping some vines off our Star Jasmine outside the back door....a ball I found in the garden was used as my base and whilst watching a bit of trashy "Real Housewives of Melbourne" (God save me now) I wound and tied and wound and tied until I had this rustic work of art! I've attached a string of solar powered fairy lights but I'm not loving the effect....stay tuned, I have my thinking cap on and it will be finessed!

Prior to the BC diagnosis I was in the process of launching a new business. It's clearly not happened but I've had loads of time to develop my business plan and I'm now in the early stages of getting it off the ground. Watch this space!

I'm still doing my best to spend at least a little while each day here. Some days are harder than others to put my feet up.

Oh and we had a wedding anniversary to celebrate on Saturday. Seventeen years! Can you believe it!! As you can see, age doesn't weary the silliness of Saint Mike:)

That's pretty much all I have to report. Note the distinct lack of talk re my mental state? Did I mention my physical recovery is going well? We won't discuss my fragile mental state. It's all good, time is a great healer as they say.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


I'm supposed to be resting and recuperating. I'm trying to sit still but I'm really useless at it. 

Instead I'm pottering about the house finding little jobs to do. One of them involves a minor bit of potting (nothing heavy is allowed).

I commandeered this ladder ages ago during a council clean up. Saint Mike isn't a fan but I love it's rustic charm.

It's been repurposed for now as a pot plant holder. The bottom three white plants are the grape dip trays I finished last year but all the other little beauties are things I've potted up from cuttings some pre-surgery. Some post-op.

These tea cups were lovely but they're just not practical. Hence I decided they'd look cute as a receptacle for succulents. 

Now it's just a case of making sure the possum doesn't climb my ladder and have a naughty nibble!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Home sweet home

Late this afternoon my surgeon popped his smiling face in my door. A few minutes later he uttered the words I'd been waiting to hear. I was free to go home!

The final drain was removed and I left hospital clutching my overflowing bag of medications. Let's just say if there's a sudden shortage of endone on the lower north shore swing by my place for a fix!!!

A certain ruby-hued cavoodle was positively beside herself when I arrived home. She exhausted herself completely in her enthusiasm.

My KATs were equally thrilled and Saint Mike was a walking sigh of relief. We are fortunate to once again have my big sister her to help nurse us all (she arrived last night) so it's been lovely to have her once again doing her best to cajole us all in the right direction - be it dinner, homework, shower or bed!
Anyone who reads this blog that knows her IRL (in real life) will know that cajoling is not a habit normally associated with her...she's usually more steamroller than powderpuff. So watching her gently persuading the KATs really speaks to how much she loves them and me:)

Friday, March 7, 2014

The tastiest cherry

As I have processed down the corridor where all doors lead to breast cancer treatment I commandeered a saying from one of my favourite shows, VEEP.

If you haven't seen it, you are missing out. Then again you might watch a few minutes of it and decide that I'm the one missing out....on a few brain cells! It's about a female US Vice President and her minute by minute struggles with the Washington political machine. It is expletive-laden quick-fire dialogue and not for the faint-hearted.

One of Selena's funniest sayings comes when she's briefed on yet another crap situation coming her way and she announces "Well, isn't that just another cherry on my turd cake!!!" Insert a few F-bombs and you have the expression that I am now renowned for in the house of KATcapers!

My latest cherry was my double mastectomy with TRAM flap reconstruction. I had determined that this was the surgery that would give me the outcome I wanted - remove the remaining DCIS in left boobie, reduce chance of cancer recurring in this boob and the other boob was going to be dragged along for the ride just in case leftie got lonely!! Seriously, I don't ever want to face breast cancer again so removing and reconstructing both breasts was the risk-minimization strategy that ticked all the boxes for me.

Surgery was Feb 26th. I was beside myself with terror in the days and weeks preceding.

Surgery length was roughly 12 hours. I was at the hospital at 6am and apparently was in ICU by 9pm Wednesday night. I remained there heavily medicated until Saturday when I was transferred to the ward.

My second stint in ICU was more painful but less dramatic than the December visit. I wasn't conscious for mush of it and the KATs didn't come in to visit....it just would have been too upsetting!

I came down to the ward with 6 drains slowly ridding my body of the fluid from surgery. I was a human octopus with said drains needing to be "milked" each few hours and every 24hrs measured...each drain needs to be under 30ml before it can be removed. These drains are uncomfortable and painful when they're accidentally tugged on. Worse still, I had one in my groin that was touching a nerve and I was in agony each time the nursing staff tried to move me...grim!

During my ICU stint I had required another blood transfusion and my blood pressure had once again been cause for concern. Checks of my new breasts' blood supply were done on a 30min schedule so what sleep I could manage was in those increments! By Saturday the "flap" checks were being done 4 hourly. Leaving ICU also meant leaving behind my PCA machine which was my push-button method of getting a fast dose of pain relief. Once in the ward I went to a combination of slow release narcotic and more instant endone with a chaser of paracetamol....the pain relief version of a pat on the head!

It's been a ride that's for sure! My body is still reeling from the shock imposed on it and emotionally I am up one minute and then crashing down the next. Unfortunately what was to be a 7 night hospital stay has become 11 nights due to fluid still draining and a requirement for some additional surgery on the following Wednesday to deal with an area on the left breast flap where the skin wasn't going to survive. To the naked eye it looked just like an area of bruising, but in actuality it was dying tissue.

So here I lie typing away on Saturday night hoping that tomorrow will be the day I can go home to my gorgeous girls. They have been so brave and I want them to be able to commence the new school week with their mum finally back home...cross fingers!

It will be a long recovery (6 weeks not driving and apparently 12 weeks before I get my strength back). I can't sit up without rolling over and aside from scars and inflammation and new boobs I have a scar that extends from my rear pelvic bone all the way around the front to the other side and back to above my butt! It's a whopper! 

As with every other step in this process we have been overwhelmed by the love and support of our family and friends near and far. We are being supported every step of the way and for that I am extremely grateful.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Channeling Sigourney

I'm off to hospital next Wednesday. Bright and early. 

It's all been a bit much and I want to go to sleep now and wake up in 8 weeks so I can avoid what's coming. Clearly that's not going to be happening.

Instead I'm continuing to focus on my word for 2014 - GRIT!

As if the universe knows that I need some Alien-butt-kicking mojo at my disposal my hair has reached the point of re-sprouting where I'm giving Sigourney Weaver a run for her money. For the record, it feels like velvet:) Soft and baby fresh!! Won't talk about the colour looking dish-water brown/grey!!!

Watch out world! My ball-breaking head and I are mean business!!!!!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Our word for 2014

This is our word for 2014. It's applies to all of us in some way or another. 

For me it describes what's been required since the dreaded "C" word was first uttered six months ago. Craptastic chemo took so much out of me that I am still trying to restock but in reality it feels like I'm in the eye of the storm as my surgery is being planned and I know that will take its own toll on my already ravaged body.

We often use the word resilience in our family. It's an important trait that we want the KATs to develop (and they are). But I also love the word Grit because it feels more "active" to me....being resilient can sometimes seems a bit reactive...this situation or this person is being shitty and I need to bounce back etcetera etcetera. Grit on the other hand is about not just bouncing back but getting stronger as a result.

Active versus passive. Does that make sense?

Friday, January 3, 2014

A sting in the tail

So no sooner had I logged my Christmas Day post than the fist of two ill-fitting shoes fell.

First I got the news on Boxing Day that my Neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) were at an all-time low and this would explain my particularly low energy levels.

 In actual fact I had awoken on Boxing Day feeling like I had the worst hangover in history and yet I was quite certain that no alcohol had passed my lips. Unless some nurse overimbued with festive spirit had tipped some into my canula it was not a hangover making me feel so craptastic!

As the day wore on the second shoe dropped. My blood pressure proceeded to dive and by the evening it was clear that my low neutrophils had make me easy pickings for an infection. Cue nasty chest cough. 

 I spent Friday morning huddled under multiple thin hospital blankets. Blood tests confirmed my white blood cells were continuing their descent and my blood pressure was giving a convincing impression that my heart was anywhere but beating enthusiastically in my chest cavity. Oh and the cough was worse.

Just after lunch the nurse appeared to check my "obs" and calmly squeezed my forearm before preparing me for what was to come next. It was time to call in the cavalry. Cue the ICU doctor.

What ensued over the next 12 hours will be forever etched in my mind. I didn't have the benefit of being unconscious so the only part that isn't imprinted on my brain is the view of the corridor, lift and the general ICU area as they wheeled me there. For some reason I had my eyes closed. Oh that would probably be because I was in such a weakened state I could barely keep my eyes open so squeezing them shut was far less taxing.

It wasn't until 48 hrs later that I worked out that the entire ICU wasn't made up of individual rooms full of medical equipment and state of the art monitors....and a bathroom of my own. Why my view out the door was of a storage shelf and the doctors and nurses had what looked like a card table set up in my doorway. 

Hmmnnn that would be because I was in the isolation room! One of only two such rooms in ICU. They had to be perched right outside my room because the nurses station was 20 metres away and I was requiring constant attention!

Just a tip. If you do happen to have the misfortune of ending up in ICU pray you are unconscious. Putting in an arterial line fricking hurts. Like buggery!!!! What is an arterial line you ask? It's a nasty long needle about 10cm long that needs to inserted into your radial artery at your wrist. Yes very unpleasant! Requires sutures to keep it in that were bloody painful in the meaty part of my palm for the time it was in. Thankfully I was pretty drugged up so this wasn't a big issue. Getting them removed was a different matter!

Attached to an arterial line (helps them accurately monitor your vitals) and with sticky bits all over my chest for other measurements I looked like Pinocchio.

Sorry for the pathetic photo...this was taken when the emergency had passed (24hrs in) and I was able to smile despite how truly horrid the situation had become.

Preceding this shot was the initial hours of desperately low blood pressure where they were pumping me full of fluid and seeing if my BP would rise and if my kidneys were going to keep functioning. They also got me onto antibiotics quick smart and the middle of the night heralded the arrival of my long lost friend N.A.U.S.E.A. with her close friend Vomiting! My lovely ICU nurse assured me that these two were welcome party arrivals as it was "all sputum....no stomach acids" which was apparently! Mind you it didn't feel so great to me to be covered in vomit and wires and it occurring to me that this might actually be what it feels like before you die.

ICU is a stripped back environment and there was nothing soft-focus about it. Lying in the half-light of monitors that are actually attached to you and reflecting my real precarious state and not some sound effect on a TV drama was distressing it say the least.

Fast forward it the following day and whilst my white blood cells were refusing the advice to surface, Agent-Orange like antibiotics had held infection at bay and with the amount of fluids they'd pumped into me I could have served as a tug boat for the Titanic!!!

It took another day before I was shipped back to my room on the ward and it took 13 long days before I was able to make my escape from the hospital.

This is my selfie when I got the news that my Neutrophils had passed the no-go zone

Just over an hour later my break-out crew arrived to extricate me from the clutches of the ward

Home. Happy. Healthy (as healthy as I can be at this juncture!).

With my family and very grateful to be here despite the sting in craptastic chemo's tail!

The top photo is the lovely nurse who saw me off to ICU and serendipitously was my discharge nurse today! What a lovely coincidence. So very nice to have her there to see me go home smiling.

New Year's Day for 2014 for us is officially today- Jan 3. Bring on 2014!!!!!

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