breast cancer

Sixty Four

When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine, birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I’d been out ’til quarter to three, would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?

You’ll be older too
Ah
And, if you say the word, I could stay with you

I could be handy, mending a fuse, when your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside, Sunday mornings, go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds, who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage
In the Isle of Wight if it’s not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Ah
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck, and Dave

Send me a postcard, drop me a line, stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say, yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form, mine forever more
Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I’m sixty-four?

“When I’m Sixty-Four” by the Beatles, written by Paul McCartney (credited to Lennon–McCartney) Released in 1967 on their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. 

Dear Lise, Happy 64th Birthday! Your best foe, Breast Cancer. xxx
breast cancer · crossword · depression · depression procession · oncologist · zolodex

Celebrate Good Times… C’mon!

Zolodex Injection... fit for a horse.
Zolodex Injection… fit for a horse.
This month, after pelvic surgery, I was put into menopause via a big arsed Zolodex injection and my pelvic pain of 14 months has now ceased. I could hug my oncologist and gynaecologist but that might not be appropriate.

Equally riveting, just this week I was officially diagnosed with clinical depression, so it’s been quite productive. It’s taken a lot for me to finally get here. But I have arrived. Woo hoo!

Remember back in the day of junior school when the most difficult thing you had to deal with was when some pre-pubescent, pimply kid, you were crushing on actually liked your friend instead of you? Or your socks didn’t quite match your 1980’s flouro jumper?  Remember the joy you felt when you danced to “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang? Remember when the cool teachers gave you wordfinds or crosswords at the end of the day instead of work? I loved that shit!

So to celebrate these momentous achievements, here’s a crossword I made.  Enjoy!
Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 10.22.20 pmScreen Shot 2015-06-01 at 10.22.48 pm

**Click on the crossword images to print. Answers can be published if anyone on this earth actually wants them.  You’re welcome! 

breast cancer

The Newness of Askewness

Yesterday was the day for awards. First the news of my win in Blog of The Year on The Indie Chicks site. Hooray!  Then my very talented friend Marina who I have written about previously in the post “This is Us, This is Me” received some awesome news.

Marina received four awards in the NSW/ACT AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photography) Awards, in both landscape and portrait categories. Marina was also a finalist in the “Emerging” photographer category at the awards.  Such incredible achievements for someone who took up photography as a way of expressing herself after her experience with moving through the other side of brutal breast cancer treatment. But took it up she did with passion and complete gusto! 

One of the portraits Marina submitted was from our photographic session last year. I flew to Canberra and she hilariously set up a studio in her children’s play room, borrowed some lighting and bang bang! Here we are.

The print was titled “Moe” in reference to the combination of unique hairstyles of The Three Stooges. It represents my disappointment at my hairs failure to return and frustration at looking this way despite being 15 months post chemo. Incidentally, the image makes my hair look much thicker and darker than it actually is, even now, 22 months after chemo, I am without eyebrows and thick enough hair create any hairstyle.

The judges are presented with each image and given a few moments to score it.  There is no title, no story and no details about the photographer.  Just the image itself.  They review over a thousand images and assess them on content, impact, and professional quality.  The judging was live streamed here. 

Incredibly, this is how Marina’s image spoke to them. Click to listen.  The transcript is below.

________________________________________________________________________________

Transcript – Judging of Marina’s Image 

David:  Thank you judges. Print scores Silver Award, 82, congratulations!

David:  Now Hilary is on 87 and has elected to challenge.  Hilary, you are working with, ah, 78, 84, 82 and 80. Please Hilary, share your thoughts. 

Hilary :  Um Initially I sort of struggled with the skin tone of her face, um, but it’s such a striking portrait and her intense gaze it really sort of got me in. I read this as she has had chemotherapy and she has lost her hair and her hair is grown back. And I read the fact that possibly radiotherapy and often with people, I’m interpreting this myself, with radiation therapy you can get radiation burns, so maybe she has had radiation on her head, who knows, but I just think that there is a story in those eyes, a story in her face, the hair, the fact that it is presented with such a direct gaze, and a very simple background, black top, you know, it’s an extremely simple direct portrait. Strong, but sad.

David:   Hmm, Jacqui Dean I’d like to hear from you please there at 78 please.

Jacqui:  I’d put it into professional practice, um you know, we are looking at all the prints and I see that story immediately, but um, there’s just something, ah, it’s slightly lopsided, and her necklace isn’t square on and it’s such a square on sort of picture facing us like this. I feel that everything should be straight, and she’s just going slightly down and I don’t like where it is cropped either. I would like to have seen more of her rather than cropping it there. But you know, I’m listening.

David:  Um okay, Paul

Paul:  Yeah actually Jacqui they’re all the points that pulled this up high for me. I felt like there is this askew intensity about this. It’s a very well crafted image so to me that spells a deliberateness to where it’s cropped, there is an extra tension in that cut at the bottom where I wouldn’t actually put it. There is an askewness to, to the shoulders and, and the leaning over of this necklace, there’s something is just slightly off.  One of the eyes is slightly wider than the other which with that level of intensity I find quite, um,  quite full-on actually to experience. And you know with elements of story you can read in I’m actually coming up with Hilary into distinction.  It’s a beautiful, beautiful print.

David:  Thank you Paul.  Can we go back to Hilary please. Hilary your right of reply.

Hilary:  Um yeah, no I agree with what Paul has said, I think that the fact that she has gone through obviously some sort of trauma, um you know, things aren’t symmetrical, but they are not even, whatever, so hence I think that makes it a stronger portrait.

David:  So Hilary, you are asking your judges to go to… silver distinction. Yeah, there we are. Okay so, Hillary’s score of 87 is locked in. Would the other four judges please re-score.

David:  And you get your wish, 85, silver with distinction.

<Applause>

I think the judges are absolutely spot on with their interpretation, despite having no background context accompanying the image.

Nothing about breast cancer or any cancer is symmetrical. Nothing about it sits right.  It’s awry.  It’s to be scorned, held in contempt.  It’s intense.  It’s painful. It’s unfair.  It’s ugly.  Breast cancer is not pink and pretty which seems to be the tack of most fundraising organisations.

Cancer cropped me in places that I didn’t want to be.  My hair and eyebrows were permanently destroyed by chemo.  There is an unspoken tension in my body language, my position. A crookedness. I cringe.

This tension carries on even in people who are “cured”.   Behind the smiling faces of “survivors”, is this “askewness” that one of the judges refers to.  This new, wonky, awry, self. This “out of line’ new normal that those diagnosed and treated for cancer have to endure. And this can take some time to right itself, even in the best of us.

Congratulations Marina on having the standard of your images and talent recognised. I can’t wait to see what you capture going forward! Thank you for asking me to be one of your subjects. x

“Moe” by Marina McDonald, http://www.vertigovision.com.au
breast cancer · breast cancer blog · breast cancer blogger

BADASS Me!

It’s very late on Monday night here in Australia and I’m sitting on the couch watching crapola free to air TV. I’m still wearing the shirt I slept in last night. I can’t help myself, it’s comfortable and I’ve kinda given up caring about what I look like since so much about my appearance is now out of my control thanks to the after effects of successful (touch wood) cancer treatment.

Don’t judge. I have accessorised my shirt with soup from dinner, or was that last nights meal?  Mr Cool assures me this is a family trait, after he has observed my brother and mother spill food on themselves many, many times. And yet he still married me.

So here I am, sitting on the couch looking splendid, and out of nowhere bang bang!  News hits the Twitterverse.  My blog has been crowned the “Badass Blog of the Year” by the rocking women empowerment site “The Indie Chicks” from New York.

In the early moments of learning this news, imagine George Costanza, jumping off the sofa, spilling his bowl of cereal everywhere, glasses falling off his face and fist pumping. That just about captures the events from my lounge room perfectly.

I have already received my esteemed “Badass Blog of the Year” badge. I’m so gonna photocopy it and pin it to everything, my blog, my fridge, my car windscreen. Hell, my kid can even take it for show and tell if he wants.

Thank you so much to The Indie Chicks.  I’ve spent loads of my life being called a “Fatass”. I’m so, so thrilled and humbled that I can now add “Badass” to my CV as well. I’m just beaming with pride!

Thank you to all my incredible readers and friends who voted for me in spite of me spamming your newsfeeds.  And thank you to my kick arse girlfriend Fi who nominated me without my consent. I’ll speak to you later young lady!

When I learned last week that Shittytittiebangbang was a finalist for “Blog of the Year” in The Indie Chicks’ Badass Blog Awards, I was humbled but a tad confused. A blog about me and my up and down foray through breast cancer. Totes Badass. Really!!?

Winning has been totally unexpected, but I’ll take it. I’ll take this award for all of my sisters around the world who have been dealt the shitty hand of this prick of a disease. There are far too many of us! Everyone knows the biggest “Badass” of all is cancer.

Shittytittiebangbang
Shittytittiebangbang “winner of “Badass Blog of the Year 2015” on The Indie Chicks
breast cancer

Wonky Donkey

I am counting my lucky stars. Really I am.  For although I have misplaced and deformed nipples from breast cancer interventions (written previously about here… Nipple Ripples) I am lucky. 

In that post, I went to the trouble of drawing an annotated diagram as to the degree of nipple wonkiness which I was having to face.

Unfortunately, despite being two and a half years past diagnosis, I am still stuck at Diagram B.
Unfortunately, despite being two and a half years post diagnosis, I am still stuck at Diagram B. But I am cancer free!
Then another time, obsessed by my lack of symmetry and by the cancer trauma that I had endured, I photographed a wonky cup cake at a school fair because it reminded me of my chest.

This post was so offensive to a person that they complained to the head of the hospital where I was being treated, who rang me and asked for my blog to be censored.

What was I thinking writing truthfully about events that occurred as a breast cancer patient, writing purely from my heart and conveying my own warped, personal narrative with a dash of cinematic lilt? Crazy right!? Some people take themselves far too seriously.  They really do!

Anyway, I digress.

20130908-205857.jpg
The offensive cup cake that no-one  wanted to be associated with.  (In my blog)
My point here, despite my wonky arsed (8 o’clock and 2 o’clock facing) nipples, despite my you-know-those-plastic-Ikea-bowls-people-feed-their-children-with tissue expander boobs, despite my stunning transformation into George Costanza with permanently thinned and balding hair, despite the humongous weight gain I have experienced since two mastectomies, four surgeries, chemo, rads and Tamoxifen, despite the recent battles with severe mood swings and my cry me a river sessions as I enter chemically induced menopause from my newly acquired Zolodex monthly injections, despite all of this I am LUCKY!!!

How? I hear you ask?

I am lucky because (as well the obvious win of presently being cancer free), my partner, my love, my husband, the man of my life, the father of my children, is nothing like the man mentioned below.

I was astonished last month when I read in the news a story that came out of Canberra. The title… “I wouldn’t have married her if I’d known she had deformed nipples’: ex-husband”.  You can see the article here. 

I read all sorts of classy stuff. It’s true.

So, a pair of deformed nipples single-handedly doomed a marriage and ended one husbands affection for his wife.  Apparently, he IS A DICKHEAD! had been unhappily married to her since 1975 but had stayed with her for the sake of the children, despite living as man and wife through to the late 2000’s. The excuse “I wouldn’t have married her if I’d known she had deformed nipples” was used by the man seeking to reduce the amount owed to his wife in divorce proceedings in Canberra.

He said that.

In a Court of Law.

What a repulsively stupid, wonky donkey he is!

Disclaimer
*Apologies to any donkeys that take offence. I love donkeys.  I really do. 

breast cancer · FEC -D

Chemo Brain Cake

I made a birthday cake this weekend and I’m chuffed. Because although it’s something I’ve been doing for years, these days completing such a task it’s quite the feat.

Pre cancer,  the task of deciding what to cook, shopping for the ingredients, following the recipe, and being able to read my oven and decide how to decorate it would just happen in a “click-of-the-fingers” kind of fashion.

Post chemotherapy, not so much.

So WTF has happened to my brain?

According to a study published in the journal Clinical Neurophysiology and summarised here, when some individuals undergo chemotherapy, they notice changes in their memory, concentration and the way they think.  Scientists had previously found evidence of Chemo Brain by looking at scans of the brain. In this recent study, researchers have finally been able to demonstrate that “CB” is in fact GENUINE and not “Complete Bullshit”.  Through a series of EEG tests that detects electrical activity in the brain, they monitored the brain activity of breast cancer patients while they completed a series of tasks. They discovered that the breast cancer survivors were “less likely to maintain sustained attention” compared to healthy individuals—this was true even up to three years after treatment.

It’s another example of how the effects of cancer treatment persist long after it’s over and these effects can really impact a person’s life.

God help you if you suffered from a big dose of baby brain and then had the misfortune of chemo brain as well!

So dear friends and family. It’s not that I am hard of hearing or not listening when you tell me something. It’s not that I am sleep deprived. It’s not that I am drunk. It’s not that I am not organised.  It is through having had an intense course of chemo, that my brain tends to “chronically wander” rather than engaging when it should.  This explains why post treatment, unless I write things down and keep tasks as simple as possible I get into trouble.

Take for example this cake I baked.  I wrote three versions of the same list and went to the shops. I left the lists at home.  Without a shopping list I am completely lost.  But even with a list of just a few items, I have forgotten the layout of the supermarket so I have to go up and down every aisle in case I miss something.  The process of shopping takes twice as long as it used to.  All those bright lights and signs at the supermarket. Too many decisions and distractions.

When I’m just about to complete the “list”, the friendly green grocer says something that reminds me that I have left some oranges simmering in a deep pot on the stove at home.

THE STOVE IS ON! SHIT!!! THE STOVE IS ON!!!!

So I hastily make my way home to see if my house is still intact.  Pleased with myself that the fire brigade hasn’t visited my street this morning, I commence the process of making a Chemo Brain Cake which involves reading every sentence of the recipe a thousand times.  Just one simple step looks a bit like this…

____________________________

<Get’s out all ingredients so that they are ready to go>

Mix eggs and sugar until well combined.

How many eggs?  Six eggs. Oh yeah. <Put’s eggs into bowl>

Okay, what am I mixing with the eggs?

Sugar

How much sugar.  Oh yeah 250grams of sugar?

Did I put the oven on already?

Yes the oven is on.

Right what am I doing?

Righto. Eggs, and what?

Sugar.

Okay eggs and sugar beaten together.

Okay now what?

_____________________________

This goes on and on until I slowly edge my way through. But get there I somehow do.

Thanks to my awesome friends for their recipe suggestion advice and help with this cake. I finally got there in the end, my house did not burn down, my kids were not left at the supermarket and the cake was thoroughly enjoyed at a special family occasion.

And for the record, my friend said…”OMG, that was the very BEST cake I’ve ever eaten!”

Chuffed. I. am.

“Chemo Brain” Flourless Orange Cake for Nanna with pistachios, raspberries and candied orange.
The cake recipe can be found at http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/orange-and-almond-cake?cid=trending.

breast cancer

GoPrOvary

Today is the day I get my GoPro on. Think of this pleasant scenario… camera mounted at the end of a selfie stick capturing some youthful, sun-drenched, white teethed, twenty somethings while they satisfy their hedonist little hearts doing some ultimate outdoor experience.

Sure, I’m not a twenty something and my teeth are not white.  But today, I would still love to be doing a spot of GoPro’ing in Norway…

Picture: Tomasz Furmanek/Mercury Press
Picture: Tomasz Furmanek/Mercury Press

Or a GoPro sesh while launching myself off this cliff here..

IMG_5328
This isn’t me, I don’t have this much hair.

Unfortunately I won’t be filmed jumping around with reckless abandon today.  For today is the day my pelvis gets an inspection with a one of the earliest versions of a GoPro stick, aka laparoscopic procedure.

After 14 months of pelvic symptoms, five dildo cams, (the GoPro Vag version) and countless consults with my oncologist, an oncological gyne and a gyne/obstetrician, in a few moments the experts are going IN to diagnose what is going on inside my mutant pelvis.

It is hoped this will explain why I have been miserable with pain since I ingested 623 Tamoxifen tablets between ending my active treatment and today.  This GoPro procedure might result in coming out of surgery with an ovary or two less, amongst other things.

Anyone who thinks that the fortunate cancer patients who get to remission should be walking around peachy creamy all the time is naive.  Most of us are the walking wounded. Some are better at hiding it than me,  hiding the burden that living each day with the fear of recurrence or metastasis brings. Grappling with very real post treatment side effects.  For the legacy of cancer manifests in quite a deteriorating quality of life, even when you are deemed ‘healthy’.  This is particularly common for younger women who are treated for breast cancer.  It is hard, the comparison of the old life with the new. And sadly, we are expected to be grateful for the second chance we have been given.  But it ain’t that easy.

I’m so blasé towards this surgery that I’ve come to the big smoke on my own. In part to shield my partner and kids from another surgery. When you’ve had multiple major surgeries to remove cancer and body parts, every other non cancer related surgery seems like a walk in the park.

So at this moment,  I’m just waiting for my bowel prep and my visit with the anesthetist so we can get this expertly conducted GoPrOvary procedure started.  I hope they get some good diagnostic footage. It could make some excellent YouTube viewing.

The GoPrOvary Building
The GoPrOvary Building