January the 18th was an awesome day for so many reasons. Twelve months on (and ten months of breast cancer treatment between), I went back and completed my second sprint distance triathlon. The first was done a week after diagnosis and marked the beginnings of me entering the fray of the disease blog genre when I published this post.
Three hundred and sixty five days ago I was filled with the terror of cancer and what was to lay ahead for me. When I made my way into the river for the triathlon start, all of the cancer related anxiety disappeared. I checked out of Cancerland and tuned into the sights and sounds around me in the immediate moment. It was sunset, there were hundreds of heads and arms thrashing about ahead of me so I waited at the back of the swim pack to compose myself. There were large rivergums on the banks and the sun dappled through their branches, there were sulphur crested cockatoos and galahs screeching at each from the treetops. Through my goggles I could just make out the Port of Echuca Wharf in the distance.
I recall the exhilaration of commencing movement through the tea coloured water, of seeing air bubbles emerge from my mouth, stick to my face and be pushed away with the momentum of swimming. Of seeing arms and legs thrashing and churning through the water. The thrill of turning the large meander bend in the river and swimming within metres of paddles steamers. Of being pushed along by the current of the ancient river towards something great. The sensation of fine river sediments squishing between toes as I stood to make my way up the hill to the bike transition. I was alive and the Dread Dragon from the previous week had finally taken a nap and didn’t return for a couple of days. My family and friends were there to encourage and support me. I wondered if I would ever do anything like it ever again. I would have to wait a long time to see.
Two days later, the Dread Dragon returned and breathed fireballs at everything that mattered to me in my life. Struggling to sleep and eat from the fear of the unknown, the long road ahead of cancer treatment ate away at me. Mr Cool took me off to my local hospital, anorexic from my short dalliance with the anti-depressant medication my doctor had tried to help me with a week earlier, nauseated and with heart palpitations from the sheer anxiety and terror of being a newbie to the world of cancer. The waiting for results had began.
After finishing ten months of treatment and giving my radiation burns time to heal I decided to return to this event. In November, once treatment was complete, I took off like a rocket and tried to train as I once had, six times a week. But it was too soon and too much for my chemo and surgically depleted hemoglobin. I was falling into bed at 7:30pm and was unable to wake in the mornings. So I dropped the training back to three sessions a week and that seemed to be enough to help lift my treatment fatigue. I almost gave up on the idea of returning to the same triathlon. For weeks it just seemed unachievable and unrealistic.
But in mid December I decided to have another go at reaching the goal and I started training more frequently again. I wasn’t waiting any longer. My goal was just to go back and finish it again, 700 metres swim, 20 km’s on the bike and a 5 km run and feel comfortable in myself through the process.
I’m glad I didn’t give up on this idea. I’m glad I didn’t wait.
This time, there was much less fear about doing the actual triathlon even though I had a lot less fitness. Having completed it before helped, but there was something about what I have been through in 2013 has made me a bit tougher with respect to challenges. A bit more of a go getter. Some people suggested I should wait. Wait till my body had recovered more. But there is no time to waste. Why should I wait to be ready to exercise? To train? What was I supposed to wait for? What was I fearful of? Getting better? Getting past cancer? Getting on with living?
I’ve put off many things in my life thinking there would be a more appropriate time down the track to start working towards something. I’ve made loads of excuses. I sat and waited. The years rolled on by, and I was still waiting. But I’ve learnt this year that the best time to start is NOW. Not when I think I look more respectable in lycra or am fitter, or have faster times or feel more comfortable while running. But to just jump in and have a go. Just drop the fears and the inhibitions that hold us back. I’m not going to be the Mum who sits on the side of the pool anymore and watches my kids. I am what I am. In all of my puffy, wobbly, bald, post treatment glory.
While waiting in a pre race toilet queue, I got talking to a lady who asked me if I had done the race before. My thin short hair still screams cancer to some people and after she glanced up at my scalp she paused uncomfortably. I told her my story and she proceeded to show me her open heart surgery scar from ten months earlier. Surgeons removed what was thought to be cancer on her aortic valve. And there we were waiting in a pre race toilet queue about to do a sprint distance triathlon. Both of us with an appreciation for our lives and making the most of things. Waiting for the loo. But not waiting for the things that were important to us.
Then, while waiting on the grass for the pre race briefing, I spotted a couple walking past the park. They had waited for the right moment to approach me. I bawled like a baby on recognising high school friends Mel from the Blog I GOT THE GOOD CANCER and ‘Bevan Lemon’ that drove a 700km round trip to surprise me. This gesture mean’t so much to me and I will be forever be grateful to them for doing that. Even more incredible was that Mel had just finished 6 months of chemo and here she was, in the northern part of the state on a 39 degree day cheering me on (and she still has better head coverage than me!) and all while waiting to see if her cancer was in remission or not.
When Mr Cool and I went to leave our children with their grandparents to walk to the start of the swim, my oldest son got upset. This was partly because he saw my reaction to Mel and Bevan’s arrival. But it was also about him remembering the details of this previous year vividly.
He remembers the state his Mum was in last time I did a triathlon and it was when his life changed immeasurably. Shortly after that triathlon his Mum went away to hospital many times, she came home with hard breasts with scars and spent long durations in bed and there was a bag of blood attached to her and she kept going back to hospital all the time to see doctors. She couldn’t hug him like she used to because she was in too much pain and she couldn’t lift her arm anymore. Then her hair all fell out and she was too sick to care for him and his brother, and people kept arriving at his home with meals and cards and flowers. He had waited a long time for “his” Mum to be “his” Mum again. And now we were back in the place where in his mind, it all began.
After reassuring him that everything was okay and that I was very happy and excited, he agreed to cheer for us and I gave him our camera and asked him to take some photos. He played with his brother and they watched and waited for their parents to come into view as the race progressed.
With all of the excitement of surprises from sneaky friends and unsettled kids, Mr Cool and I hurriedly made our way to the start and while walking with a friend the tears started flowing at the feeling of being back here. I had waited a long time to get back here, to this moment.
We were late getting to the start line and it was like a comedy of errors with Mr Cool and I trying to get our wetsuits on as the starter called five minutes and a few hundred people gathered in the water below us.
Still conscious of my post chemo Harold Bishop hairdo, (a character from the Australian TV Soap Neighbours) and the complexities of easing the new hot flush me into tight lycra and a wetsuit that fitted me much better pre treatment, I got a quick kiss from Mr Cool and ran down and jumped into the river at the back of the pack and immediately started the swim.
I’m not a fan of menopausal hot flushes underneath a winter wetsuit and swim cap. Half way along I had to stop to tug on the neck of my wetsuit to let some cool water in. Then I resumed swimming. When I reached the river exit I fell over getting out of the water. I was then unable to get the wetsuit down over my much broader chest and my arms were much more tired from the swim this year. I walked through transition and wasted 5 minutes just trying to work out how I would GET THE DAMN WETSUIT OFF! Riding a bike in a wetsuit? Now there would be a challenge. But I took my time and as the transition area emptied itself I was able to pry the wetsuit off my elbows and make my way out onto the bike course.
On the bike the wind picked up and I was at the very back of the bike field pushing on my own through the wind. Despite there being very hot and windy conditions, I rode the 20km’s with a big wide smile. As I pedalled along I reflected on what had occurred in 2013. My body felt more tired with each lap but I felt comfortable, and I was okay with being last. I was just thankful to be there, and so grateful to all of the people that supported us in 2013.
Then out of nowhere a woman rode up along side me. After some chatting about the heat and the wind and some introductions, it turned out it was her very first triathlon. She was intending to enter the event as a team, and wait till later on to enter as an individual. Down the track when she would have developed more fitness and discovered if she in fact liked triathlon or not. But when she went to sign up she discovered her ‘”friend” had already entered her as an individual to complete the whole thing. So on just 18 days of training she turned up and completed the race. What a legend! And that made two of us who were not waiting.
My incredible partner raced the swim and bike legs in the lead pack and then chose to stop and wait forty eight minutes for me at the start of his run leg to run alongside and finish with me. In his mind, I would not come last, as he would cross the line after me.
Yesterday, I surprised even myself. My second sprint distance triathlon achieved, twenty minutes slower than last year and my proudest achievement yet. But most importantly I was again reminded of what an amazing network of friends and family I have around me and in choosing to do this triathlon, I was able to give my sons the image of me running across the finish line, ecstatic and with their Dad in tow. I’m glad they didn’t have to wait a second longer to experience this.
Now if only I didn’t have to wait for some more hair!
A faux pas is a socially awkward or tactless act, especially one that violates accepted social norms, standard customs, or the rules of etiquette.
For example, at a crowded school fair, it’s not appropriate to verbalise in front of adults or children that the fundraising cupcakes look like a breast.
Oh dear! It might just be time for a holiday to Titz, Germany, or Mammari, Cyprus or Booby’s Bay, England. Errrr, perhaps just a visit to my psychologist to sit in the
boob I mean blue, BLUE chair would suffice.
And don’t even say anything about the position of the smartie!
My breast surgeon breezes out of the consult room and calls another patient in. Through all the heads in the waiting room she finds me and waves, and there is even a smile. She is obviously glad to see me again. You can call me delusional but I speak the truth. This is my second visit to her in the last 2 weeks after my second mastectomy and immediate recon with tissue expander. It’s breast inspection day and there will even be a saline fill from my bearded plastic surgeon after our consult.
In the 8 seconds she appears outside the consult door with patient file in hand, I drink in as many details as I can. Her hair is lightly tussled. She is dressed in a black tailored jacket with a very short cream frill layered skirt with black sash trim. There are those impressively elegant legs that are finished off with canary yellow stilettos with silver toe plate detail. Spring is here. Gone are the black tights and designer boots of winter. Simultaneously, the track below begins to play in my head like we are in a movie scene. Press play, go on, do it now. Okay, you can pause that at any time.
After a short wait I am called. As I walk through the door I nervously blurt out how fabulous she looks. I am greeted and inspected with the usual efficiency. The operated breast looks good just 16 days post surgery. She snips a stitch that hasn’t broken down. She has taken the cancer, 22 lymph nodes and 2 breasts. Her job is mostly done with the exception of a visit in 6 months and then annual reviews for the next 5 years. Simple.
Next my bearded plastic surgeon enters the room wearing a hospital fundraising, cancer charity, cycling jersey over his usual business attire. As he steps towards me his mobile phone rings with the opening chords of a “bad to the bone” ringtone. Mr Cool and I break out in laughter. He inspects his handy work looking at both tissue expanders that have been inserted six months apart. They are considerably different in size but he isn’t worried.
The exchange surgery next year may include using 2 different sized silicone implants to get visual symmetry. He is happy that the nipple looks like it will survive, making the same comment as the breast surgeon minutes prior. I hadn’t even given that a thought this time. As it blackened from the trauma of the mastectomy and was at risk of infection I just assumed it would be safe like the last time. Then he asks me if I would like a fill inserted into the new tissue expander which is noticeably smaller than the one done back in February. I nervously giggle and nod for I am about to get ‘a bigger one’.
He leaves the room and returns with a 1 litre bag of saline and an enormous syringe and needle. He asks me to lay down on the hospital bed bare chested. He uses the magnetic port finder to locate the port, marks a spot with purple texta on my chest which is still tender from last fortnight’s mastectomy and recon surgery. He then inserts the enormous needle on saline into my breast, piercing through the skin into the port. I don’t feel a thing and he proceeds to fill the expander. First 20, 40 and then 60mls and I begin to feel tightening and constriction in the pectoral muscle across my chest and just under my armpit. I wonder if I can breathe. So I take some breaths to test the vice grip that is tightening around my rib cage.
He says “Make sure you tell me when you are uncomfortable. I don’t want you to be a hero.” I nod conservatively. The sensation of filling fools me into thinking it is possible my chin might just hit my breast when I nod. Lying on the hospital bed I’m not sure what I can tolerate so I laugh. He keeps filling to 80 mls, and I exhale and say… “Yes, yes I think that is enough for now!”
As the pressure mounts it’s like a tightening in the pectoral muscle accompanied with knife pain extending round under my armpit into my back. Very, very painful. He backs off and takes out 10mls and there is instant relief. The volume of two teaspoons. Together we then decide to take out another 10mls which is more tolerable. When he withdraws the needle it feels like I am a rubber mannequin. The body isn’t mine. The needle catches and as it withdraws the expander holds onto the needle tightly, vibrating and pulling.
He has inserted just 60mls in total, the equivalent of 2 shot glasses or 3 tablespoons, depending on if you are a bartender or a baker. I think of those women who have fill after fill of half a litre in each expander and greater. And those women who go through this process for cosmetic reasons. Cancer brought me to this point so I feel a little differently. I am left with 144mls in my first expander from February and today I lay with 280mls in my right expander. Interestingly, the February breast is much bigger. He assures me the mathematics is not important. The final exchange will work out the symmetry.
After the procedure, I need help getting up off the bed and look at my chest in the mirror. The breasts now look quite even. Mr Cool helps me with dressing as my arm and chest are not sure how or if they should be moved. We very slowly walk out of the hospital as I experiment with new strategies for breathing. We dawdle to one of our favourite city lunch spots. On the way Mr Cool and I debate about who my plastic surgeon was speaking to when he answered his bad to the bone ringing mobile. I envisaged him talking to his daughter about his grandchild going to sleep. Mr Cool felt it was a patient going to sleep in surgery. It doesn’t matter who is right. We are hungry and I don’t know if I can even lift or move in particular ways or even eat with the sensation of just 60mls. I wonder how on earth I will make the 150km journey of bumpy roads home? For now, the breathing, is okay though. And I intend to return post radiotherapy for another very small fill in late October.
There has been 2 and a half weeks of post surgical pain and recovery. There has been a very conscious attempt not to get addicted to serious pain analgesics. There has been careful management of an Exudrain surgical drain which I am now free from. There have been daily nurse visits to my home, and persistent post chemo and surgical drug induced digestive woes. I have been fortunate enough to have had some wonderful visitors in my home including my mother and sister in law. They are now gone and life is moving forward.
Very soon I will post the retrospective blogs I wrote in the last three weeks. While high on Endone and OxyContin and suffering the after effects of five months of chemo, surgery and the dizziness of low haemoglobin, I lost my blog voice and could not concentrate for any length of time. But I am back with a clear mind. So stay tuned.
Well, this is kind of what happened this morning, except there was no shoe on the wall and obviously I don’t have a cute Meg Ryan type hairdo at the moment. And there is no way I could sleep with a humongous soft pillow like that as my neck wouldn’t cope with it. And there are portraits on our wall but not of doctors, sailors and scoutmasters. And we don’t own a straw broom or a cat.
But at that precise moment in the hallway, my shiny, dry, calloused, slippery, Taxotere soled feet slid from underneath me and I crashed down like a sack of spuds, landing heavily on my skull, neck and spine and split my head open (this turned out to be more of an oozing graze). This would not have happened if I was wearing my gold sequinned slippers.
For a moment I layed on the cold, hardwood timber floors evaluating my situation. I called out to my kids and Mr Two came to investigate and then ran off to get Mr Five yelling “Mummy’s fallen. Mummy’s fallen!” From the other side of the house they then got into a tug-o-war over some Schleich farm animal toys and forgot about me. (Note to self: enrol children in First Aid course, teach children principles of empathy and merits of sharing).
As I stared at the dusty skirting boards a small spider came out to greet me, but it wasn’t expecting to see Gulliver’s Travels happening in the hallway, so it hastily turned around and scurried back into its home. Boy I have really let the housework slip this year. Those skirting boards are filthy!
Thankfully, the kids returned and Mr Five brought me the telephone and I was able to call my awesome Mother in-law and Mr Cool at work for some assistance. And with perfect timing a friend from running club arrived with a freshly home cooked meal for my family and although shocked by my gorgeous appearance she looked after me until the others arrived.
I have a good supply of Endone and the GP kindly offered me more. So it’s all good, I’m just a little sore and bruised. Yet I can’t help but laugh at what chemotherapy has transformed me into in five months… a completely bald, arthritic, ninety five year old falls risk, complete with dirty skirting boards.
I have been in bed since Friday letting my last chemo take hold, perhaps I should have stayed in bed an extra day? Anyhow, chemo is done now and I intend on having the last defiant word.
Incidentally, last Wednesday was also wacky. I had a full bone scan to see if I had bone mets in my spine after weeks of worsening spinal pain. Results were negative. Yes they were! But I do happen to have a
shit load alot of arthritis instead and the Taxotere has made symptoms flare. Amazing that a diagnosis for arthritis could fill me with such joyous relief! So I am again winning! And most wonderfully in all of this, after today’s fall, that arthritic pain shouldn’t be so noticeable anymore. Well played Lisey! Well played!
In short, for those blog readers that are time poor… On Wacky Wednesday there was a huge wacky of my cancer free backy along with a smacky to my cranium.
I went to my final round of chemo today. I wanted to mark the occasion by skipping into oncology, laughing with the nurses as we clanked our cosmopolitain cocktails and reflected on the joyous chemo socks and inspiration from Betsy, while eating canapes, and handing out gifts of gratitude to any chemo nurse that had stuck a needle in me. You know, really celebrate this chemo finale in style.
But reality had me hobbling into the chemo chair like a 98 year old with arthritis or whatever it is in my spine and pelvis, carrying an extra 7 kilos on my frame since this chemo lark began back in March, wearing a cardigan that had remnants of last night’s soup spilled down the front (this being a genetic trait), and sitting in miserable pain till my girlfriend Endone came and took a little while to cheer me up. I was then able to joke with the nurses and Mr Cool who came to every chemo infusion appointment and busily worked away on his work phone. Bless his little 4Shaw cycling cotton socks!
The last few days have seen me uncontrollably and embarrassingly cry as I laid on the chiropractic table and today on arrival at Oncology the nurses asked me if it was okay to have a trainee nurse insert the canula in my arm. I am in such a fragile state with the ongoing spinal pain I have been having that I burst into tears in the hallway and couldn’t speak. I’m all for on the job training, but I just couldn’t deal with anything new or extra today, no pleasant introductions with (probably highly competent but not chancing it) new trainee nurses, no fumbling around with needles for the fragile lady. Just give me my usual engaging and no bullshit nurse who can bullseye that vein like a sniper every time and will probably read this blog tonight lol.
Of course the tears and the miserable face prompted a flurry of movement from all concerned and staff hurriedly raced off to arrange pain meds and a scan and get the chemo started. We again went though the reasons why I really should have an MRI but can’t because of the magnetic port on the tissue expander in my chest. Ironically, the magnet helps plastic surgeons find the spot to inject fills into the expander. Since I was never filled, I didn’t even need one with a port but there you go. So, a full bone scan was booked in for the morning.
I am convinced that the Taxotere (Docetaxel) drug has made arthritic issues in my spine worse. Either that or it’s bone mets. I didn’t do anything to my spine to exacerbate any spinal troubles. There has been no heavy lifting of camping packs, no gardening, no running, no hours of vacuuming, no cartwheels or pole dancing (I promise!) But for 14 days the pain has been chronic and worsening.
Perhaps it’s just very bad timing and it is totally unrelated to chemo or cancer. Perhaps my body is just so low it cannot deal with the increasing toxicity and the immunity depreciating nature of chemo. I would be very, very unlucky to have stage four disease in the form of bone mets while on chemo. But at least the scan can reassure me as I really am a “cancerchondriac” on panicked high alert for symptoms. I’m not dealing well with pain that stays around for as long as it has and gets more intense. I gave birth to two children with no pain meds and I normally am an under reporter of pain. But this is really wearing me down physically and emotionally. So the grand and joyous “Chemo Finale Festival” had to take a bit of a backseat.
Today’s soup at Restaurant PHOR (That stands for Public Hospital Oncology Restaurant) wasn’t roasted butternut pumpkin with garam masala, or lentil with coriander and vermicelli, or a fine miso. No it wasn’t. Today’s flavour was gravy. Gravy soup. I think the chef got his saucepans a little mixed up. Aww who am I kidding? It’s not as if I have any taste buds left that haven’t been napalmed by chemo anyway! Luckily, the hospital sucks as a restaurant, but gets a chef’s hat for chemo care.
The highlight of today in finishing this FEC – D chemo regimen that started way back in March was using my gorgeous teal knit blanket and my gold sequined slippers that some incredible women at kinder gave me on the last day of term. I had saved them to mark this momentous occasion. The last chemo infusion.
So to the “Kinder Cast” I say a huge thank you! To Bilby, to Suzie Q, to Ned Kelly, to Dasher, to Austin Powers, to The Commander, to The Prince, to The Fair Ring, to Courageous C, and all the rest, I’m really saddened that my son is moving on from kinder at the end of the year. It has been an incredible privilege and fortune to have met some really wonderful ladies and families this year at the same time that this bizarre situation began. I would have been lost without their support. The well wishes, the play dates, the kinder pick ups when I was too unwell to kinder mingle as I love, the soup, the kale, the happy eggs, the local apples, the Good Loaf sourdough, the family fights over who gets the last of Suzie Q’s honey soy chicken and scalloped potatoes, the fresh play dough for the kids on a rainy day from the Bilby’s, the frequent arrival of delicious home cooked meals and all the hugs… and all of this is just from the “Kinder Cast”. But there have been several more production casts at work that I need to express gratitude too. Some day, in some way. Gosh our community is awesome!
Of course, I need to ride the next three weeks as this last dose works its magic. So I’ll be expecting to lay low for the next weeks till this stuff starts getting out of my system and I begin to recover in time for the big surgery in mid August. There is likely to be some 6pm bed times this week for me, not my kids. Bring on the next phase.
Can’t wait for my 8am full bone scan in the morn to see what is going on with them bones, them bones, them bones…
Luckily this ‘scanxiety’ wont last long. Normally the time waiting between scans and results is the worst. But this time the awesome nurse practitioner says results will be available pretty quick. Which is surprising as I heard on the grape vine he has a moderate addiction to Candy Crush. So I’m surprised he even has the time to see me. I’m so lucky!
Thanks to everyone who got me through this phase. Love you all and mean it. Really!
To celebrate the phenomenal response to The Shittytittie Chemo Cuts Reveal Challenge, for the finale, here is a little video recap of the cuts… enjoy.
For all the details of the challenge click here. You can also use the category menu at right of this blog to see all of the “Shittytittie Chemo Cuts Reveal Challenge” blog posts in the series.
Since it’s beginning, I have had 103 marvellous people contact me about the positive changes they are making to their lives, large and small, to live better and create a great legacy for their families, friends or communities. For every ten people, I revealed a new haircut! So with eleven haircuts in the series think of that as one bonus. Ha!
I was motivated by the loss of a beautiful past student of mine who was taken far too soon in his life and combined with my reflection of my own mortality this year with my breast cancer diagnosis, I decided to do something productive with an impending shitty situation. So I created the Shittytittie Chemo Cuts Reveal Challenge back in April. The response to this has been overwhelming and they just keep coming in…
For weeks now I have wanted to join your Chemo Cut Challenge. What could I do? I was going to explain the ride created for school funds and all the cash we raised…. Well that turned out to be a little less worthy of “running marathons” and even just “not buying any new clothes for a year”.
Lately I have had a massive change in my depressive anxiety journey that I could bore you for hours with.
What I will tell you is that this massive change of lens is because I know you. I walk more often than not now, I even jog a little. I park further away and run a little more with the kids and just stop and watch that movie they need me to be there for. I finally had a family holiday after eight years!!! These changes were spurred by your situation, if you weren’t feeling sorry for yourself how dare I.
I have had an excellent psychologist for a while now, but somehow your attitude, wit and especially your challenge just won’t leave me. These small changes have lead to massive changes for the better in my relationship, my children’s happiness and my business.
Thank you Miss J! This is what I’m talking about! Yeah!
Here are the final cuts, number 10 and 11… the Hare Krishna and the G. I. Jane Baldy.
What was interesting throughout this process was that I was able to take control of it and have fun. The first time I saw my complete head shaved I actually liked what I saw. I could not stop staring at myself in the mirror clippers in hand, with family watching and children taking pictures on iPhones.
I never experienced the trauma of chunks of hair in the shower or on the pillow which you often hear about with people undergoing chemo. Of course, it took a few more weeks for my head to lose the mousey brown stubble from the final shave and although I am two thirds through chemo my scalp has started sprouting tiny grey fluffy hairs. Of course, I am looking forward to when chemo finally finishes at it begins to grown back. I am also looking forward to some great styles courtesy of Punk Chick next year and continuing to rectify my abysmal hairdresser visit life tally.
Heartfelt thanks to Punk Chick, JRF, Mr D, and my awesome family for helping me make the transition to chemo induced hair loss a positive experience. Oh and I forgot the echidna. How could I forget the echidna! Thank you to everyone that shared their personal challenge with me, and thanks to everyone who commented or donated.
As I move forward through this cancer treatment I will hold the inspirational contributions to this challenge and all of the support that I recieved very close to my heart. In the deep dark glum moments, when I feel like I can’t be bothered anymore, I will come back to this challenge and think about the wonderful atmosphere of positivity and change that was achieved here. It was truly inspirational!
Don’t stop wanting the best from yourself. There are no quick fixes with anything, only our positive attitudes and habit forming behaviours that make the difference. From little things, big things grow.
So if you are unhappy with aspects of your life, then address them.
Be the person you deserve to be.
Life is too short to stress.
Live in the moment.
Contribute to your community.
Appreciate your natural environment.
Treat yourself with respect.
Value and appreciate your health.
Love your friends and family.
These organisation’s are very dear to my heart at present because they do some awesome things.
Bendigo Health Foundation Click to DONATE
Last week, I received the terribly sad news that one of my gorgeous, energetic students I taught back in 2003 and 2004 was killed when he had a motorcycle accident on an alpine rode. My heart sank. It was a road I drove him and his classmates on for several school camps. He sat up the front of the bus and talked to me as we went up the mountain. I may have had a small part in introducing him to the same mountains that one day would take his life, and I wasn’t able to go to his memorial service because I was having oncology appointments at my local hospital.
I remember him as a gentle giant. He wasn’t tall in stature, but there were some giant like qualities to him. His amazing smile could light and supply a power station. There was always an air of cheekiness in his interaction with me. I remember the time I had the privilege as his teacher of sharing a canoe with him on an Outdoor Education trip. His broad shoulders powered the boat so well I only occasionally had to steer from the stern. We spent the bulk of the afternoon floating down the mighty Murray River through the ancient Rivergum forest past kingfishers, telling lame jokes and counting fish that jumped in the tea coloured water. We peered with amusement into the different campsites we sighted around each meandering bend. Late in the day as the sun was getting low, he spent a whole hour educating me about the finer points of the game of cricket which he was deeply passionate about (which I have always secretly loathed). He has been the only person to ever give me any sort of appreciation for why Shane Warne the Australian cricketer was a genius of the game, and I was a convert. My heart goes out to his family and friends. Rest in Peace BW.
This has reinforced in me this idea of living your best life and thinking about what kind of legacy you want to create for yourself. What would be the lasting impressions of you in the minds and memories of others? My own brush with cancer and mortality this year has made this even more important to me. If I am not here tomorrow, or in five years, how would I like to be remembered? Remembered by my loved ones? My children? My community? What exactly would my legacy be?
So it occurred to me to put this “inevitable chemo cancer hair loss process” to good use and have some fun with it. Why not notch up a few new hairstyles while I’m at it? The idea sprang to mind to have multiple haircuts in one session, have a laugh and take some piccies before moving onto the next creation. The final hair style will probably only be attached to my head for a matter of days anyway. But it is about taking control of it myself. Not letting chemo and cancer dictate it’s effects to me. My hair will get shorter on my own terms. Quite empowering really!
First impressions, beauty, fashion and the like have always been fleetingly superficial to me. For the bulk of my life I have shimmied around with long, bottle blonde hair and this hair monotony has occurred out of a superficial idea of who I thought I was based on my appearance. Then through the laziness of not really caring about how I looked, many, many years passed by and I had largely carried the same hairstyle for 30 years. The hairdressing tally stood at 7 visits in 38 years, with home cuts being done in front of the mirror by “Mwah” with the bluntest scissors in the house and dyes done with a 10 dollar supermarket job!
In 1997 a fit mountain bike rider who I will refer to as Punk Chick, caught my eye in a cafe I used to be a waitress at. At the time it was the cool place to drink coffee in my town. There was something about Punk Chick that was magnetic. She invited me to a women’s riding group, but being busy, I never made it happen. Eleven years passed, and we discovered through Facebook that we both had our first children weeks apart; two little boys. And although we still didn’t catch up, we made plans as recently as November of last year to start riding our road bikes together after Christmas. Unfortunately we still haven’t done that, because I found a cancerous lump in my breast and it has taken up a lot of my time since. But it will happen!
Coincidentally though, I bumped into her at my local pool in my ‘crisis time’ at diagnosis back in January. She got out of the pool and walked over to me and we embraced. The embrace was long. She had read about my breast cancer diagnosis on Facebook. She then revealed to me that 20 years earlier, as a young, mowhawked, punk, university student she was diagnosed with Lymphoma. In the prime of her life, and struck down with cancer. My jaw hit the deck of the pool. After explaining that the chemotherapy she experienced from the early 1990’s nearly killed her, she got through it and she went into remission. At the pool she told me that her oncologist has recently said that there is no way they would give present cancer patients the same brutal regime. In the early 1990’s there wasn’t the anti-nausea drugs available that we fortunately have today. Then, after a year in remission with the world at her feet, her cancer returned. This is the stuff that builds the strongest of characters and teaches the lesson about living your best life. And that is exactly what she has done for twenty years. At the pool that day and through my tears, there standing before me was a beautiful, vivacious, healthy and inspiring woman and wise soul who overcame cancer twice at a time when most university students are worried about what beer to drink and which clubs to join. And to think, I almost connected with her all those years ago in the late 1990’s.
I chose her to be my “chemo cut” hairdresser because I couldn’t think of a better person, a better woman to share such an experience with. The fact she was a hairdresser was a bonus. The planet’s aligned and she was available to spend half a day with myself and my bestie JRF to transform me through a series of haircuts in the magic window just before my hair would start falling out. These haircuts were over as quick as they were created and the final haircut will fall out within the week and I will be bald and without hair for much of the year. But this is all temporary and superficial in the scheme of things. My hair, does not define me.
It is the lasting impressions that really matter. Our legacies.
Last year, I found myself on a transformative path. After 19 years of not putting myself first, I decided to start walking 6 days a week. After a month I was jogging. I was inspired by an amazing array of women I had chance encounters with. I was also inspired by the fit, healthy people at my local running club. I embarrassingly joined as nearly the slowest runner. I had spent years watching Mr Cool from the sidelines and loitering around the cakes on the afternoon tea table. It took a lot of courage to take that first step. But I jumped in and joined the running club, to run of all ghastly things. It was bloody hard! But in the next eight months I ran 1500 kms and competed a half marathon. I raised money for a cancer charity. I connected with many wonderful people. I lost 18kgs. I had grand plans for athletic feats in 2013. Then I discovered a lump in my breast and here I am… in the best physical and emotional place of my adult life to deal with cancer.
So here is my challenge to you.
What could you do for yourself to make your life better or richer or more meaningful than it already is? What could you do for others? How can you extend yourself to make a difference? What can you do for your community? What could you do for your environment? Think about one of these questions and jump into action. You will reap benefits that you can’t yet imagine. You get back in spades what you put in to making your own life rich. I have only recently learnt this lesson. In the last several years I really embraced aspects of my community, sporting clubs, mothers groups, online community and this has enriched my life in ways I would never have thought. My community has blown me away with their love and support in this time, by delivering food, minding our children, getting a gardener for us, pampering me in a girly way. We are seriously indebted. But our community would not have been activated in our lives unless we were willing participants in it.
So, slow down, look after yourself, stop worrying about the things that don’t matter, love your life and if you don’t then change the aspects of it that can be changed. Think about it in terms of contributing to your legacy. If you weren’t here tomorrow how would you be remembered? What would be the qualities that people remember of you? What would your children remember? Really think about what you could do to improve your life and “Just Do It” take that first step!
Suggestions to make a difference to your life and leave a more positive lasting impression could include but are not limited to…
- Donating to or supporting a charity of your choice.
- Contributing to a community group in your locale though volunteering your time in some way.
- Committing to making healthy changes in your life through nutrition and exercise because YOU ARE absolutely WORTH IT! We all only have one life and we will all be dead for a very long time!
- Get into slow juicing or raw foods and buy organic where possible because they all rock! Get rid of the processed stuff.
- Commit to moving your body more. Seats are the worst thing ever invented. Stand up and move for an hour or more a day. I started with very poor fitness and chronic back troubles and headaches after years of inactivity and I used Runkeeper on my iPhone to track my walks. This was very motivating for me.
- Reacquaint yourself with the things that you love but may have lost along the way such as music, dancing, art or sport. I loved all of these things when I was younger but lost them through the seriousness of adult life. They have been slowly coming back to me in recent years and I love it!
- Spend time with elderly neighbours or relatives and listen to their life stories.
- Ring your family and arrange a nice family gathering or dinner and tell them you love and appreciate them.
- Join an environmental group and make a difference to your local environment.
- If you have young children, stop and play with them. Try and be in their world each day even if just for an hour. You can’t get these years back.
- Start planning or saving for that destination you’ve always wanted to visit or trip you’ve dreamed of taking but keep putting off. Make it happen!
- Most importantly to me… If you are due for an annual health check up, or if something has been troubling you for a while and you just haven’t gotten around to it, please make that doctors appointment and sort it out. Early detection save lives.
If you are inspired in some way by this, then take a leap and when you have made that first step to make your life better is some teeny tiny or humongous way, or thought about how to build on your legacy, come back and tell me in the comments section or if you want some privacy then email me the details.
When at least 10 different people share their inspiration or progress I will reveal the next haircut in the “ShittyTittie Chemo Cuts Series”.
There were 8 cuts in four hours or a year of haircuts in one afternoon. We created eight characters to reveal and we had an absolute blast doing it. Who knew chemotherapy and impending hair loss could be so positive and exciting!
Please join my “Shittytittie Chemo Cuts Reveal Challenge“. Because you know you’re worth it!
♥ Love ♥
♥ Lisey ♥
These organisation’s are very dear to my heart at present because they do some awesome things.
Bendigo Health Foundation Click to DONATE