This is us. This is me.

Twenty three months ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Around the same time, 650kms away from me lived a woman roughly my age, married and raising two young children, who was also just diagnosed with breast cancer. We met in an online community for young women with cancer, a group that has connected me with women that will be lifelong friends.

Marina is one of them.

We had the same chemotherapy regimen and she would read my blog to see what laid ahead for her because I was a week further along.  Despite going through exactly what I was going through, incredibly, when I struggled to get out of bed, Marina posted to me little gift packages with the sweetest cards. When I started to burn from radiation, we texted photos of our chests to each other and she shared what she had learnt from treatment. When my hair never grew back, she sent me her beautiful silk hair scarves (pictured) that she wasn’t using anymore. Later on, she brought me her wig when she visited me in my hometown.

This is us in my home town.

This is us in my home town.

Despite us both having aggressive, nodal positive breast cancer, we are positive for still being here, and now inextricably linked by our shared experience and friendship. Marina is such a brave woman and she has taught me a lot about myself.

Earlier in the year, Marina jumped on an extraordinary opportunity to tell her story through Canon’s “Shine a Light” promotion. Several months after we had completed our treatment, the Australian journalist Lisa Wilkinson chose Marina as her subject to photograph as a symbol of what matters to her. Shining a light on breast cancer was what mattered to her, and she wanted to capture an image of an incredibly strong survivor.

In the video below, Marina articulates the message that people see her as she is now. She doesn’t want to shy away from how breast cancer and a double mastectomy has physically transformed her.  Here, Marina is coming out of the other side of her breast cancer.  As if to say, “this is me, I’m happy with who I am, take it or leave it”. Bravery in spades!

A month ago, I had the pleasure of flying to Marina’s city. She wanted to enter an image of me in the National Photographic Portrait Prize (2015) in Canberra because she finds my story compelling.

This year the competition received the biggest number of entries in its history. Sadly, Marina’s images didn’t make the top two percent of thousands of submissions and although disappointed she didn’t make the cut, we wait with anticipation to see the final images selected when it is exhibited next year.

What is clear though, is Marina’s passion for photography and her incredible talent for it will go far. Marina turned to photography earlier this year as a positive focus in her life after the horrors of last year, and she has achieved so much in such a short time.

What was of interest in my story to Marina, was the cruel irony in me creating the Shitty Tittie Chemo Cut Challenge which can be viewed here, virtually celebrating the loss of my hair to chemotherapy with such positivity.  

And yet here I am fifteen months later, overweight and menopausal, wearing my wedding ring on my necklace because It doesn’t fit my lymphedema swelling in my hand from surgery. I am still without eyebrows, and if you zoom in you can see the facial hair I have from the hair drugs I take.  Let us not forget that ghastly hair!

But it’s not about the hair to me.  It’s about the other things that it represents; the loss of health, youth, fertility, breast sensation, beauty, intimacy, womanliness, femininity.  I think Marina has captured the essence of all of that so well. It can be seen in the tension in my eyes and forehead, in the anger with the wig. She HAS really nailed it. My story.

So, this is me. Take it or leave it.

TAKE WHAT YOU WANT AND PAY FOR IT: Shitty Tittie Chemo Cuts #1

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Artist’s statement: The image title is derived from a Spanish proverb which is particularly pertinent to Lisa’s story. I met her in an online support community for young women with breast cancer. She had had long, thick, blonde hair for 37 years before chemotherapy commenced. Though grateful to be in remission, she has paid dearly; her hair and eyebrows have not regrown. Lisa’s suffering emerges from her desire for the return of her hair, not in the longing for her breasts that have been lost to cancer.

KEEP YOUR HAIR ON: Shitty Tittie Chemo Cuts #3

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Artist’s statement: I met Lisa in an online support community for young women with cancer. When she wept after being told the loss of her long, luscious blonde hair and her eyebrows after chemotherapy was permanent, her hair specialist suggested she should be grateful ‘for her children’s sake’. This image depicts Lisa’s deep anger at this lack of empathy and her dissatisfaction with the solutions suggested to her – wigs, hats and scarves do not console her for the loss of her femininity.


When I look at Marina’s images I get choked up in the same way Marina did when Lisa Wilkinson showed her her images for the first time. There is grief and loss captured here, but there is also acceptance of self.  

I can’t thank Marina enough for asking me to be involved in this project.

Thank you also to our gorgeous friend Candy for her assistance with the titles and words. I would never have reached that 100 word limit on my own!

Links


http://www.canon.com.au/en-AU/Personal/imageSpectrum/SHINE#/

http://www.portrait.gov.au/exhibitions/national-photographic-portrait-prize-2015


Chemoversary Edition

This week saw the passing of three hundred and sixty five days since I completed my Fec-D chemotherapy regimen.

Yes. It’s my “Chemoversary”!   And tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1999.

No, no, no, I won’t be doing that!   Instead, I will, on this splendid Sunday evening, present to you a bathroom selfie titled “Shitty Tittie Chemo Cut Thirteen – The Chemoversary Edition.”

With around 3-6% percent of women who have the drug Taxotere (Docetaxol) going on to have poor hair regrowth post chemo, and with doctors stumped about what the mechanism is that leads to thinning and baldness in some patients, I’m guessing this makes me pretty spesh and unique.

The illustrious “Chemoversary” bathroom selfie. Pensive. Nostalgic. Sometimes saddened but often amused (In a shaking my head in disbelief kind of way).

But there is more to life than having long, thick hair.

For example, wiping hairs out of your face on windy days is such a pain.  So is getting a long hair in your mouth while you are eating.  That stuff one can do without.   Who needs to waste time purchasing hair accessories?  Who really wants the risk of getting their hair caught in power tools?  That is dangerous!    Or braiding or platting hair.  Pffft!   Or tying it back with scrunchies. So 1980’s anyway. Those things are all so, so overrated!  And quite frankly, pony tails belong on ponies.  There I said it!

There is also much, much more to life than supporting the hair dressers of the good land in which you live. (Sorry Punk Chick – It was my dream to visit you every couple of months for a new do to make up for my abmissal hair dressing tally from the 1970’s to 2013). But in 369 days, and after a bit of fuzz trimming, this is where we are at. I ain’t going to be helping you pay your bills any time soon!

Thank you to all the people who felt sorry for me. It truly helps to know you hold some sort of nostalgia for my hair loss too.  Thank you also to the people who finally conceded defeat and stopped telling me it was early days and would grow back normally with more time.

To get a little nostalgic for my lost hair you can see what it started out like prior to chemo and finished up as in the video here… 

Huge thanks to my girlfriends Candy, Marina and Angie who sent me or offered to send me their wigs from across Australia.  An incredibly real version of Lady Diana and Ab Fab Patsy arrived at my front door via Australia Post.  I’ll share some pics of these at some stage.  I have embraced these wigs a few times in my own house with the blinds pulled down.  I even ventured out in public in the company of trusting girlfriends, when late one night we went out for dinner in town on one of the coldest and quietest nights of the week.  At this stage, they still feel a little like wearing a dead marsupial on my head.  But I might persist.  Might being the operative word.

For anyone who ever finds themselves in this situation of hair not returning properly post chemotherapy, there are women world-wide who will share their stories and offer support and advice. Click here to be taken to the resource “Ahead of Our Time” from a group called the Taxotears.  Permanant hair loss can be one of the hardest psychological issues to deal with post cancer treatment.

Thankfully, I’m getting to the stage where I’m starting not to care so much.  But it has taken many months to get here and I’m not shedding Taxotears anymore.


Chair Rhymes With Hair

“Wow, I can’t wait to see what your hair will grow back like” someone said. “I bet you it will be thick and curly. My girlfriend’s cousin had think curls.”

“My uncle’s wife had dark curly hair after her chemo” someone else said.

“A woman that comes to our craft group had cancer, and her hair regrew in so, so thick it was like wool!” Yes, that was said by someone too.

As well as about three thousand other examples of  post chemo hair growth observations, and about five thousand “Just wait and see, it will grow back soon I am sure of it!”

Six months after chemo, time would tell, by then most people have their hair back!

We rolled on through the loss of my hair in March 2013 from FEC -D chemotherapy, treated it like a celebration. A celebration to saying goodbye to cancer and moving on.  I created the Shitty Tittie Chemo Cut Reveal Challenge. Eleven different hairstyles with Punk Chick to make up for my abysmal life hairdressing tally before getting cancer at thirty seven. I even made a video. See…

The hair loss was easy to experience because it wasn’t permanent.   Seems now it is.  And that reality is now dawning on me.

In the months after the year of treatment finished I threw myself into triathlon, running, cancer fundraising, and walks. I was part of a team that raised nearly $71,000 for Peter Mac (which I will add a blog about shortly). I also walked in The Cancer Council’s Relay for Life, and ran in the Mothers Day Classic.  So it’s fair to say I’m totally pinked out for a while.

Fourteen months ago, I had long straight thick blonde hair, and pretty much for most of the thirty seven years prior to that.

Today, I don’t.  Today, I’m sitting in a hair loss clinic in the big smoke.

There are some white Eames replica style chairs in this second floor medical office and I am invited to sit by a doctor who clearly has never had any issue with hair loss.

The white chair beside me has one lone, thick, dark and very long hair on the chair. Just one.

We discuss my history of hair and the details of my treatment for breast cancer. What was the extent of my shedding prior to breast cancer?  Prior to chemo?  Was my shower plug hole filled with hair or just some strands? Parents, yes, they had excellent follicular coverage on their heads. Yes, my Grandparents all had thick hair, although my maternal grandmother’s hair was thin at 79.  Yes, my older brothers both now have receding hairlines and male patterned baldness.  So does my husband. (Just thought I’d put that in.  It really has no relevance!)

I am shown a picture that documents the degrees of shedding with varies sized hair clumps in each box of the table.  Mmmmm tasty!

“How is the hair on other parts of your body?” asked the hairy doctor.

“Well, eyebrows haven’t returned, eyelashes haven’t grown in. Leg hair and arm hair is okay, a bit thinner than before. Pubic hair is thinner.  Nose air, hasn’t returned.  I have a A LOT more facial hair now. You know those ones that grow a few inches in twenty four hours?  Yeah those.  And of course, my head has developed male patterned baldness or androgenic alopecia, which according to Google is hair loss that occurs due to an underlying susceptibility of hair follicles to shrink due to the role of androgens.

The hairy doctor taps away on a wonky keyboard entering all of this data into my electronic file. This incessant clunking of the iMac keyboard perched precariously on a mouse pad, half on and half off goes on forever.  Why not just stop and straighten it?

Then, out of nowhere,  tears begin to gush from my eyes.

The hairy doctor stands up from the white replica Eames chair, comes around to the front of the desk and takes my hand. I am told “Be happy for your children, be happy for your children.”

“It’s only hair”

But it’s not ONLY hair!

After a year and a half, this is the thing that gets to me.  It’s not the mastectomies, the ongoing pain, the weight gain, the menopausal symptoms, the loss of sexual function and intimacy, the ruptured tissue explander, the damaged lung, the supposedly benign lesions on my liver that will be watched.  The seeming ability to age twenty years in one.  It’s not even the cancer or the loss of my expectation of my healthy life and my healthy future.

This hair loss, my hair loss, ten months after finishing chemotherapy, is symbolic of all of these things.  Collectively.

So I compose myself and look sideways over at the artwork on the crisp white walls. There I find no distraction. For the artwork is an rather accurate representation and of my shiny thin scalp and my receding hairline.  Surely, all of the follicular themed artwork that adorns the walls of this practise is taking the mickey?  Lithographic prints of landscapes, detailing hills and depicting deforestation. Barren. Sparse.  Just like my post treatment head.

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Not a Italian streetscape oil painting or watercolour of sailing boats in sight. Artist, not known. My crying eyes could not read the name.

Halfway through the appointment I am asked to move and sit on the chair with the long solitary hair strand.

My head is photographed from different angles.  At the end of the consult I am sent to the blood collection room. My results will be discussed in a month. These tests are done to ascertain if there is any underlying cause of hair loss, not related to chemotherapy or genetics.

But the wobbly keyboard. The follicular styled artwork. The single hair on the chair.  The tears just keep flowing throughout the consult and I am offered a box of tissues to quell the year of tears and emotion.

The hairy doctor leaves the room and gets the Professor.  I’m a little too difficult to manage.  Minutes later, the face of hairy hope enters.

The Good Professor says that with some people, their hair never grows back post chemo, and they just don’t understand what the mechanisms of this are. It is really just luck of the draw.

“But there are many things we can do” he adds.

Medications can be taken long term, not to regrow the hair that has gone,  but to slow the rate of shedding going forward.   So let me get this straight!  These medications won’t work at regrowing hair on my head, but as a side effect, they will add it to my face and body.   Pleeeeaaaase no!

As for those expensive lotions and potions, useless too.

There are hair transplants.  At this point, the horror of the catchphrase of the “Advanced Hair, Yeah Yeah! Ashley and Martin television add flickers in my head.

There are wigs, so post consult and blood collection, I am shown a small wig display of cheap synthetic wigs as a starting point.

The wig room

The wig room

The wig option seems to be the most enticing now,  after I ridiculed the prospect of them last year at the LGFB workshop I went to and wrote about here. 

When I finally leave the consult room I notice the long, solitary hair is no longer on the white Eames chair. It must be stuck to my backside.

On the train I ask myself the question, WTF am I spending lots of money seeing a hair specialist to be told it’s only hair?  I thought a hair specialist would understand that it is not ONLY hair to their patients. I mull over the expensive treatment options. I am not sure how to proceed. Does it even matter anymore?

As my train leaves the city and stops at one of the last suburban stations, my face lights up when I see my friend boarding my carriage. I really, really needed to see him today.  He boards the train and fights off other passengers who want the seat next to me.  We embrace. We have a long chat as we travel to his home in the county. He makes me a delicious meal and we talk about hair,  chairs and being grateful.

I am cancer free at the moment, so why don’t I just focus on that? I should be grateful.

Just. Be. Grateful.

 


Big Smiles on the Winds

My recovery is going well.  Just three weeks post rads and the burns have completely healed with only a slight suntanned tinge to the area and some residual itchiness. The tissue expander is tender and there is some hyper sensitivity if I am brushed past.  This may always exist and I’m hoping I don’t develop capsular contracture of the tissue expander in future which sometimes happens from radiated implants. But so far it’s looking good.  I am scheduled to have an exchange surgery which will swap the expanders for silicone breast implants sometime in the next 18 months.

I am thrilled to be getting back to walking, riding my bike and running.  Well, if you can call jogging slower than what most people can walk, at least it is something.  It’s going to take some time to get any sort of fitness back. When I run it is hard.  It is uncomfortable. I want to stop, but once I start I won’t let myself walk.

It has been a lot harder that when I started 21 months ago on a serious fitness and health kick, (which led me to discovering cancer). I must have low haemoglobin from the blood loss from surgeries and chemotherapy. The last mastectomy in August resulted in quite a lot of blood loss, but not enough to have a transfusion. I could really do with some Lance Armstrong type blood doping now! What’s that eloquent quote? “All good things come to those who wait go out an f@*ken earn it!” So I’ll just have to take my time and keep chipping away till I see some improvements in my cardio fitness.

All of the expectations of returning to what I was twelve months ago aside, getting out again has helped immensely with energy levels and getting on with things. Big thanks to Catherine, Megsie and Mrs Kenny for being there on the occasions where I took my first steps on the exercise road as a “survivor of cancer” which is a very strange thing to refer to myself as.  I’ve been treated for cancer and now I am not being treated for cancer.  But I am here, and I am out moving, and breathing, and smelling the air, and taking it all in. There is a new appreciation for everything.

The only thing that is bothering me at the moment and believe me, there is a lot of things that could bother me when I reflect on the last 11 months, is that four months post chemo I still don’t have a thick layer of hair on my head and I seem to have developed some male patterned baldness.  You know when they say couples grow to look alike?  Well I think that is what is happening.  Mr Cool and I are morphing into the same man!  My hair is one inch long and it is terribly thin and you can see all of my scalp in daylight.  I’m hoping this will rectify itself in the coming months or I will forever be wearing scarves, wigs or opting to have a shaved head for the rest of my days.

Male patterned baldness… the new black!

Male patterned baldness on a woman… the new black!

I’m not sure how I feel about this given I had long straight hair for 38 years.  I never contemplated how long it would take to regrow hair. I had a lot of fun taking the hair off for the Shittytittie Chemo Cut Challenge. Some women never have proper hair again due to the chemo drugs, it is rare but it does happen and can be psychologically difficult to come to terms with. If I turn out to be one of them, if at least I am alive and that is what counts.

Last week a student I taught back in 2006 wrote me a letter after hearing of my circumstances this year. The news made him reminisce about his experiences in a Winter Alpine Environment subject I taught at university.  How amazing is it to receive a hand written letter in the mail from someone?  I can’t even remember the last time I received one.

He wrote…

“You’ll be glad to hear that my relationship with the mysterious and moody mountains still continues strongly and I have just completed two terms teaching at an alpine school.  Many of your alpine lessons have been passed onto my students too.  I have been teaching people how to paragluide and have taking tandem joy flights for a few years now.  Many of your weather lessons have helped build my meteorological knowledge up too and I fondly remember you saying “you should observe the weather in the mountains as often as you think about sex!”  Lets just say I read the weather quite well now!”

Ha ha! I can’t recall saying that, as I used to observe the weather in the mountains more than I thought about sex. But that’s just me!

He then went on writing his beautiful letter and extended an offer for me and my family to go for a fly around the mountains with him if the weather is good.  That offer might just be too good to refuse!

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Morning Flight. A student takes off on a morning flight.
Photo: Kieran Campbell Image from http://www.alpineparagliding.com

He was and is one of those free spirit and awesomely natured folk, with a depth to him and an understanding of how to really live. It’s no surprise to me that he now teaches outdoor education intermittently in the winter months so that he can spend the other half of the year taking paragliding joy flights in the mountains.  If ever there was an experience of living on the edge it must be soaring high above the Australian Alps!

The letter and the offer, just awesome!  And I promise to write back to you.  With a real pen and paper, and an envelope and a stamp and everything!

Big smiles to you too Wally, big smiles on the winds,

Marshy.


Shittytittie Chemo Cuts Ten & Eleven “The Finale”

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…

Lisey,

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.

Here we go!

Here we go!

A family affair!

A family affair!

The Hare Krishna Cut. Yes, Yes, Yes!

Going going...

Going going…

Gone!

Gone! 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.

Enjoy!

Love Lisey

x

Shittietittie Chemo Cuts

Shittietittie Chemo Cuts

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These organisation’s are very dear to my heart at present because they do some awesome things.

The Forgotten Cancers Project. Click to DONATE
http://www.forgottencancers.com.au/

Peter MaCallum Cancer Centre Click to DONATE
http://www.petermac.org/GetInvolved

Bendigo Health Foundation Click to DONATE
http://www.bendigohealth.org.au/howyoucanhelp/default.aspx

Pink HopeClick to DONATE
http://pinkhope.org.au/

Breast Cancer Network of Australia Click to DONATEhttp://www.bcna.org.au/


Shittytittie Chemo Cut Nine

It’s that time again folks!

I have been so inspired and thrilled by the responses to the Shittytittie Chemo Cut Reveal Challenge! Almost 90 different people have contacted me and made a commitment to themselves to live better lives, contribute more, treat themselves with more respect, embrace their community and environment. The inspirational list of things goes on and on! Yet it occurred to me that I hadn’t made my own personal commitment to the Challenge.

So I am going to share my challenge with you. It has been partly inspired by my friend Dawnybob’s ongoing achievements and commitments. I had actually given up on the idea of this. But after hearing of her goals and achievements the flame has once again been ignited through all of the uncertainty of future treatment. A little voice in my head says “but you can’t do that you’ve had cancer, and lymph node surgery, and one breast amputated and the other breast to be amputated and radiotherapy soon, and poison pumped through your veins, and years of crazy hormone drugs and blah blah blah…” And another voice is my head says “Just watch me!” So thank you Dawny for being awesome and sharing with me your challenges and bringing to the surface my competitive streak. Dawnybobs wrote…

I am doing my first open water triathlon on Sunday! (750m river swim, 25k bike, 5k run), then in June I am doing an Olympic distance triathlon (1500m lake swim, 42km bike, 10km run). This is all in the hope that I can do a Half Ironman triathlon (70.3) in August (1900m swim, 83km bike – 21km run). Not bad considering I couldn’t run a mile in Jan-March (with a dodgy knee). Lisey does this get us a new haircut? Oh and another change in my life is I am applying to join the fire service and I am halfway through a massage qualification! Phew I didn’t realise quite how many changes I am making! x

Dawnybobs is an amazing role model to her 3 young sons and what strikes me about her is since I have known her, her attitude has always been positive. She is such a ‘go getter’, having taken up running after having her children several years ago, she has now completed so many fun runs, half marathons and marathons it is ridiculously inspiring! Late last year, we joked about how we would do a Half Ironman triathlon together even though we live on opposite sides of the world. Plans changed for me a little this year. So these kinds of goals had been swept under a rug.

I have recently (and very publicly thanks to this blog) been wallowing through the murky waters of chemo and was in doubt about what my future holds. But I have set myself a goal and this has helped switch the light on. It has helped me see that this year is just a temporary blip in the scheme of things.

So once chemotherapy is done, and radiotherapy is done, and the scars from 4 surgeries in 2013 have healed, once I am understanding the side effects of tamoxifen and my potential early menopause at 38 years old, I will begin some serious training for my first Half Ironman Triathlon (also known as a 70.3 which refers to total the miles covered) 1.9km swim, 90kms on the bike and a 21.1km half marathon.

Yes, by spring 2014, I will be close to crossing the finish line in a Half Ironman Triathlon chute. I might even wear lycra. And I will do it with two fake breasts (or possibly none if the radiotherapy damages the plastic surgeon with the hairy face and tie’s handywork!). And in that finish chute, I might even stop to kiss Mr Cool and the kids. Unless I’m worried about getting across that line seconds away from ticking into a new hour. In that circumstance I might be compelled just run on by.

This seems like a ridiculous goal to have at the moment, with so much treatment ahead and unknowns. But life is pretty ridiculous isn’t it?

Since I am continuing to run (slowly) through chemo, I figure a fitness goal will help me immensely in both physical and mental respects. So what have I got to lose? I get such a lift after walking and running. It is so beneficial for fatigue management and mental health. I figure that integrating some swimming in the pool when the weather warms and I heal from radiotherapy will be great for my arms and lymph node surgery scaring issues. Plus I love riding my road bike and it’s something I can do right now.

The key will be having realistic expectations. Circumstances are different now and my body will have been through an incredible amount of changes this year. One step at a time!

It’s a long road ahead as I lose fitness, gain weight and suffer the effects of the chemo drugs and radiation, but I hope to heal and work at getting back to where I was pre diagnosis last December where I had done three triathlons and was absolutely loving the challenges and achievements I had set myself. What I accomplished last year was amazing and showed me that you can achieve anything if you set your mind to it. No one is permanently stuck in the same tracks. We can all head in new directions.

So that is the shining light ahead for me.

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Here we go! With the oldest child getting the iPhone camera ready in the background. With the youngest a bit unsure about why Mummy is posing in the mirror and holding that funny contraption thing to her head.

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Some loving help was required from Mr Cool to fix the mixed bits at the back.

On that note, here is Shittytittie Chemo Cut Nine.

The final cuts where done at home a few days after Punk Chick worked her magic. My hair started shedding on about day 14 after my first dose of FEC chemo. Hair from other parts of my body surprisingly went earlier as I embarrassingly blogged about here.

It was important for me to shave the hair before I started losing great volumes of it all over the house. In the days before we shaved it, there was hair dropping onto the kitchen benches, falling onto my dinner plate and getting stuck in my tooth brush. So it was definitely time to take control of it and have some fun.

It was also imperative for me to involve our young children in the final cuts and shave. They watched and took pictures as our good friend Mr D documented the whole thing on his camera. We laughed as the hair fell and there were some tears. It was a very emotional process but empowering as well.

Mr T has a bit more jewellery than me

Mr T has a bit more jewellery than me

Introducing to you Shittytittie Chemo Cut Nine – Mr T. Remember him from that 1980’s show “The A-team”? Incredibly, Mr T was treated for T-cell Lymphoma in the 1990’s. He said lots of crazy stuff back in his prime. But one of the most sensible things he ever said was…

“Everything started as a dream. You gotta have insight, know what you want. You gotta have a plan. Like I tell anybody, if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. I’ve been planning ever since I was a youngster. You’ve got to start from somewhere.”

And start from somewhere I will!

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I think I like it!

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My version of Mr T

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Please join the challenge! Only one haircut to go! Lets get to 100 peeps in the Shittytittie Chemo Cut Reveal Challenge!

Take it from me…

Mr.T
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These organisation’s are very dear to my heart at present because they do some awesome things.

The Forgotten Cancers Project. Click to DONATE
http://www.forgottencancers.com.au/

Peter MaCallum Cancer Centre Click to DONATE
http://www.petermac.org/GetInvolved

Bendigo Health Foundation Click to DONATE
http://www.bendigohealth.org.au/howyoucanhelp/default.aspx

Pink HopeClick to DONATE
http://pinkhope.org.au/

Breast Cancer Network of Australia Click to DONATEhttp://www.bcna.org.au/


Shittytittie Chemo Cut Six, Seven and Eight

Yes, you read the blog title correct… cut six, seven and eight! What an extravaganza!

Please excuse my tardiness. I’ve been busy holidaying interstate, running fun runs, cheering at awesome Ironman triathletes, playing with my beautiful kids and reflecting on my life as I explored and sat on stormy beaches and ran my toes through the sand, as well and being treated for breast cancer. All of this takes up a lot of time.

So in light of the fact my head is currently as bald as a babies bum as I am now officially over half way through chemo (yeah baby!), and in Southern Australia we are rapidly moving towards an Antarctic winter, I feel some urgency to reveal these cuts and get to representing the current me in blog land again.

I have not forgotten all of the responses that have been streaming in to me via text, email and the blog for the Shittytittie Chemo Cut Reveal Challenge. We have reached close to 70 contributions from people making positive changes to their lives from volunteering to mentor whole families of children, committing to sprint distance triathlons, beginning couch to 10km training programs, having mammograms, working on relationships and improving marriages, spending more time playing with children, booking overseas holidays, working on developing a more positive attitude to everyday life, going back to study for a new careers… the list goes on and on.

The response to the Shittytittie Chemo Cuts Reveal Challenge has been totally overwhelming to be honest. I never dreamed that such an idea would spring forth so much gooey goodness and inspirational change in people.

This week I received a wonderful message from a dear high school friend from 21 years ago which I just have to share.

Dear Lisey,

I have been reading your running experiences with interest – not long after our 20 year school reunion I started my ‘triathlon training’ for the end of the year (‘fun tri’ at the local club). Swimming and riding I can do (slowly!), but my running takes me back to laps of the school during PE, with merciless (moustached) Mr Mahony…

So I’m surprised to find I am getting to like it. Out of my driveway and turn right gives a great view to Mt Baw Baw if the day is clear. The down side is running past the neighbours – they insist on hanging the most recent fox they’ve shot on the barb wire fence, though at least the smell keeps my speed up!

I smiled on the weekend – opening some of the last boxes since we moved here (2 years ago!) I found a post card from you – in a box that has travelled with me to each of the 6 houses we’ve lived in the past 10 years. It was from Esperance, on your around Australia trip – was that the year after year 12? You were learning to surf… a skill you still have?

Thinking of you often, well done for the hard stuff you’ve already come through.
A xx

I have only run into this friend a handful of times in the 21 years that have passed since we finished high school. And that postcard was written and sent in the early months of 1994. Kept safe all these years in a box. And yet these words that have reached me this week from an old friend mean so much! To know that so many people are thinking of me and wishing me well on this journey is just wonderful.

So today filled with gratitude, I reveal three cuts which gets us closer to the business and bald end of things.

First we have the “Brad Pitt (in his smug Gwyneth days, not Jennifer Aniston or his latest one which I can’t remember her name but she carries the BRCA 1 gene and just had a preventative Breast Cancer double mastectomy, see her amazing story here) Haircut.

Then after some more snipping it was time for a little shampooing and rinsing. Oh glorious shampoo and rinse hands of Punk Chick! If only you had a spare set I could hang in my shower and use each day!

JRF was onto the broom and did a marvellous job of sweeping up the strands of hair into a growing pile. Such a jack of all trades he is! An extraordinary fellow, friend, photographer, music lover, spiritual guider, stylist and sweeper. Amongst many other attributes.

The hair pile grew impressively larger and larger

Nothing like a good wash at the hairdressers!

Nothing like a good wash at a great hairdressers!

For cut number seven we tried the “Rick Astley Never Gonna Give You Up” wet look, without much luck. Unfortunately ageing and chemotherapy have ruined such voluminous ambitions.

We tried the "Rick Aslety, never gonna give you up, wet wet wet look, without much luck. As ageing and chemotherapy have ruined such voluminous dreams.

The “Rick Astley never gonna give you up” pitiful wet look.

Then we had a bit of an interlude where JRF took some selfies while we undertook some drying and styling time.

My gorgeous friend Errol Flynn aka JRF

My gorgeous friend Errol Flynn aka JRF

Then some more snipping and styling for cut number eight which has been named the “Jamie Lee Curtis Midlife Crisis Pixie Cut”.

The Jamie Lee Curtis Midlife Crisis Pixie Cut

The Jamie Lee Curtis Midlife Crisis Pixie Cut

These cuts signalled a rest for the amazing scissor hands of Punk Chick. I made a promise that down the track when my hair regrows I will visit her regularly to rectify the previous 38 years of neglect. I am excited about my hairstyling future.

The wonderful Punk Chick

Many thanks to the wonderful Punk Chick

What gorgeous souls!

What gorgeous souls!

The remaining cuts occurred at my own home a few days later as my hair began to fall, where my husband and children got to utilise their shaving skills. So there are still three more to come!

For all the details of the challenge and how to participate 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 as they progress.

Who will be the next ten people to share their commitments to living a better life or making proactive steps towards creating a great legacy? YOU! Yes you! Please join the challenge! Lets get to 100 people!

There are still three more cuts to go!

Love from all of us,

Brad Pitt, Rick Astley and Jamie Lee Curtis
x x x

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____________________________________________
These organisation’s are very dear to my heart because they do some awesome things.

The Forgotten Cancers Project. Click to DONATE
http://www.forgottencancers.com.au/

Peter MaCallum Cancer Centre Click to DONATE
http://www.petermac.org/GetInvolved

Bendigo Health Foundation Click to DONATE
http://www.bendigohealth.org.au/howyoucanhelp/default.aspx

Pink Hope Click to DONATE
http://pinkhope.org.au/

Breast Cancer Network of Australia Click to DONATE http://www.bcna.org.au/