Monday, October 15 2018
I posted on social media the other night (well, last Thursday) a teasing photo of a delcicious hearty stew I had brewing in the Slow Cooker, it sparked so many asking for the recipe, so here is the stew recipe and story behind it.
Please note: I have not been paid by any of the companies I mention when it comes to ingredients I use, you can always opt for your own preferred company of choice, but this is my stew and how I have made it for over a decade.
Story behind the Stew:
I first learned about this stew when I was staying over at a friends house in year 12 and we went to spend the day at her Grandmother's house and she said "girls since you're leaving home soon I better share an easy stew recipe". So we cooked it and she talked us through it and she gave me a copy, I started experimenting making the stew and adding in different ingredients and was determined to make it my own.
It is one of those stews that are perfect for wintery cold nights or if it is raining outside and will be rainy days ahead it is nice to just pop the stew on to cook in the slow cooker and wait for it to cook, meanwhile enjoying the smells as they fill your house for the next 8 hours.
I also find that we can get a few days worth of meals out of this, we put as much as we can into chinese containers and pop them in the fridge and freezer, but one chinese container is one bowl full for one person.
But don't ask me the calorie intake, I have no idea but it is just delicious, and Russ loves it too! You'll want seconds it is so good!
You will need:
Ingredients: (I get all my ingredients from my local Woolworths)
☞1 x large bbq chicken [ or you can cook your own chicken, ] for time management and ease I use a BBQ chicken (it is the most costly component), sometimes you can find cold chickens which is just as good to use and cheaper too
I think that is all the ingredients, now for the making of it
Step 1. Locate your slow cooker and plug in to power, add 1 cup of water and turn to high
Step 2. Wash your fresh vegetables like sweet potato, carrot, potatoes just wash but keep skin on (when it is ready the skin just easily fall off), if you're adding in fresh brocolli or brocollini or cauliflower wash these too.
Step 3. Add in the cans of Campbell's condensed cream of chicken and corn or cream of chick soup cans into the slow cooker.
Step 4. Add in the canned vegetables.
Step 5. Add in the Continental cup a soup creamy garden vegetable and creamy chicken and corn with croutons sachets.
Step 6. Mix all the soup together
Step 7. Next add in the BBQ chicken by tearing off small bite size pieces but not adding in the skin, bones or stuffing
Step 8. Mix the chicken and soup mixes together
Step 9. Add in the shell pasta and mix it all together, add more if you think it needs more, but not too much more.
Step 10. Add in the pieces of cut chunky fresh carrots, sweet potato and potato. Stir it all together.
Step 11. Add in the frozen vegetables and stir it all together.
Step 12. Leave on high for 2 hours, check roughly hourly and stir, it can be messy as it will rise and thicken as it cooks.
Step 13. After 2 hours turn to low for 6-8 hours and check hourly and stir
Step 14. Leave it on low for another couple of hours if you think it needs longer.
IF DISCARDING STEP 14, turn it off and serve.
Step 15. ENJOY your delicious thick stew
* We love to buy the packs of dinner rolls from the woolworths bakery and pop in the oven so they are hot and fresh for when we serve up our dinner, we cut them along the tops and we stuff spoonfulls of stew in there and then eat it like that. We also use bread not toasted but buttered to scoop up the soup and it just is delicious.
Step 16. Fill up containers, we use takeaway chinese containers and pack these to the brim and pop 3/4 in the fridge and 1/4 in the freezer. We find with the 2 of us we can eat this for lunch and dinner for a few days using the fridge containers, often Russ goes back for a second bowl.
I have made this when I have had my kid siblings come and stay over the years or my MIL and they have loved the stew. It is so easy to make and all the effort is in the preparation and the slow cooker does the hard part. I would cook this if it were cold and miserable weather, or if it is raining, nothing says snug as a bug as a hearty winter stew whilist nestled under blankets enjoying a movie.
We made this Thursday night, and I say we as I sat and supervised Russ and told him what to do as I wasn't up for standing in the kitchen for even half an hour or less (pain). But Russ loves when "we" make stuff together, he loves learning how to cook some of my meals that he loves.
We started cooking this at 7pm Thursday night and was cooking when we went to bed, and the aroma wafting through the house had my tummy rumbling all night. We would check it every hour and then we turned it off and put it in chinese containers and went back to bed. So it was exciting to wake Friday and have stew for lunch, and dinner and we still have a couple of bowls left.
But I have to be careful with my stoma, luckily all the veggies and chicken break down so soft they just fall apart and then i try to take the skin off to avoid a blockage, but as I have had so much and it has caused my output to be rather thick and caused a blockage, so just keep that in mind if you're an ostomate prone to blockages that it does make things thick.... but it is so delicious!
Our Slow Cooker:
This is an adorable story, we got our slow cooker the first Christmas we were together (2009). We spent Xmas Eve with Russ' family who were up from Melbourne as we planned on spending the next day with my dad and family. So we unwrapped our gifts and our joint gift from Russ' family was a George Foreman slow cooker. I was so excited as I had been saying to Russ I wished we had one as I was missing being able to cook my stew.
So the next day we went to Xmas at my dad's and he handed us a joint Xmas present which was a slow cooker! we laughed as what are the odds of getting 2 slow cookers! I was really appreciative and thanked my dad but Russ' mum made a comment how she beat them to it and we had one already, so dad took it back to the store as it was unopened ( we already opened the one the night before as I was keen to make pinterest desserts) and he bought us something else.
I remember one Xmas dad wanted an electric sander so he bought one for mum so she could use it, and that same Xmas mum bought dad an electric sander so she could use it. It still makes me smile even though I was 10, it made me laugh that Xmas with the slow cooker remembering the electric sander gifts.
So we have been enjoying our slow cooker for quite some years now, I used to use it more when I could easily jump in the car and go get groceries and was more independant, but I am wanting to make slow cooked lamb shanks for Russ next winter.... but I have been trying to convince my nan to get a slow cooker as she would love it, pop the meal on in the morning and smell it cook all day.
Tell me, what is the favourite slow cooker recipe of yours? Mine is definitely my hearty stew.
If you do manage to make this please let me know how you went!
Saturday, April 21 2018
Disclaimer: This blog post contains spoiler alerts for Irreplacable You and discusses themes around Anticipatory Grief and cancer.
I spend a lot of my time watching TV shows or movies online via netflix, that it is often the only way I can try to escape my surroundings or my reality faced. Sometimes you come across a doozy of a show that has you wondering how you could get back those wasted 90 minutes of your life; other times you stumble across the goods.... but then there are times where you start to really get into a show only to learn that it is actually about cancer, and when you're trying to escape your cancer riddled reality, often these shows just aren't what the Doctor ordered when he said to "Netflix and chill".
Sometimes it could be handy if a show came with a disclaimer/warning, similar to that of the warnings put in place in Australian media when warning that there may be footage/images/voice recordings of deceased Indigenous Australians which may cause distress for viewers:
With this in mind, there should be something similar to be considered when it comes to TV shows or movies that involve cancer, especially to the point that it may cause distress to viewers with The Australian Cancer Research Foundation stating that "most Australian's will be exposed to cancer at some stage in their life either personally or through family or friends" as sourced from "Cancer in Australia in 2017". When you consider that the Australian Cancer Council state that "1 in 2 Australian Men or Women will be diagnosed with cancer in their life before they are 85", that is a HUGE portion of the population that are exposed to cancer either inadvertly or advertly.....
So surely a duress warning is warranted after all, due to the amount of population exposed?
When a show ends up revolving around cancer or the premise of dying, it can be rather emotional watching it and if you're in a bad headspace mentally like I have been lately, you just end up bawling for hours on end and can sometimes lead to feeling in a funk for days if not weeks and can even unravel how well you are indeed coping with life.
Very rarely however, I can find myself actually learning something from one of these movies or shows; which is rather surprising and unexpected when it does happens. I recently and surprisingly learned that how I have been feeling in regards to my prognosis, actually had a name!
Anticipatory Grief: The grief you experience without realising there's a name for it!
I recently stumbled upon a Netflix Original Rom-Com (romantic comedy, how it is a comedy is beyond me) called Irreplacable You, which introduced to me the term Anticipatory grief. Once I heard it, that this phrase actually had a name for it, I felt somewhat calmer about all the shit I had going on in my mind and started to get some clarity within myself. Choosing to read on may contain in spoilers of the movie, so spoiler alert friends.
But knowing about anticipatory grief made me feel normal in what I have been spending so long trying to process.
Anticipatory Grief, as presented in the movie, was in the way that Abbi (the lead, the protagonist of the story) was so caught up on being worried about how her partner (and fiance) Sam would cope after her death, that she created an online dating profile with the aim of seeking out "the right woman" whom she could ensure would have Sam's best interest at heart and that he would be okay and taken care of. Abbi was so focussed on making sure that everything was ready and prepared for that she had hoped this would make her anticipated death easier on herself and those around her.
It had the reverse effect as it made Abbi so focussed on life of her loved one's after she was gone that she lost sight of the living and the being present in the now. She alienated herself and by pushing Sam into another woman's arms, she lost him too. They did eventually rekindle their relationship and the day their wedding was planned for, it became her funeral, as she had died in the days prior.
But it really made me look long and hard at my own life.
I didn't know that there was such a term as anticipatory grief, and I hadn't realised that I had been living and navigating through it.
But once I knew that there was a name for a lot of what I have been trying to do, for the sole reason that I had died, such as:
There have been other moments I experienced Anticipatory Grief without realising it:
I remember breaking down crying at my mum's wedding February 2017, like I mean full on hysterical tears. Everyone (all my siblings) were dancing and my mum came and sat with me and hugged me. She asked what was wrong: that was when the tears started and they wouldn't stop. I felt so guilty that I was ruining her special night with my sadness and grief, I was just so sad at the thought of all future family events and milestones I was going to miss, such as the wedding's of my siblings, and it all just got too much for me. I apologised afterwards and the following day, mum said it was okay and she acknowledged that it must be hard.
★But I didn't know then that it was anticipatory grief, it also wasn't the only occasion that has thrown me for six either:
There are so many other times too, poor Russ has had to deal with me and the various stages of my grief for so long. He sees it all and knows this stage is hard for me.... it is hard knowing that life will go on and that I will miss out on things, but I am also worried my life would have meant nothing or I would be easily forgotten, so I am trying to do memorable stuff and make a difference as I don't want to be forgotten... which is another form of anticipatory grief.
I often break down at the thought that Russ and I won't get to live out our dream of sitting on our back verandahs in our matching rocking chairs just laughing and chatting together, or we often find ourselves talking about our 10 year plan and what we will be doing without thinking and then it hits us and one of us is crying. I get upset at the thought of missing out on having a career, missing the wedding of my best friend and siblings too. I was fortunate to live to see one friend get married last November, a day I didn't think I would live to see, and we both hugged and cried so much that day she just kept saying how happy it made her that I could be there and the feeling was mutual, gah - I am crying now just remembering that powerful and emotional moment.
I must admit the thought of Russ moving on and finding love after I've gone has been on my mind a lot, but not to the extent (yet?) that I would actively seek out my replacement and set him up before I had died (like Abbi, in Irreplacable You); I know I tend to do things a little pre-emptively, but that (seeking out my own replacement) for me is a little too much. I had considered writing a letter to whomever came after me, but trying to put that pen to paper was just far too difficult everytime I have tried. What do I say or how do I begin, "so you're banging my husband and could give him a life I couldn't because my body was too stupid go ahead and have fun kids"... nah, it is too much. I want him to be happy and hope he isn't alone but at the same time I often cry at the thought that he will have a life I won't be a part of and I won't be here and it hurts thinking of him having a family and having a relationship with someone who is normal and can do normal things like walk or shower without assistance, and who isn't such a burden. I do worry about him though, if someone takes advantage of him when he is vulnerable (such as take our house from him) or his next partner doesn't understand Autism, how his mind works and just how patient you need to be at times; he says he probably won't try dating again.
Noticing anticipatory grief in those around me:
Now that I know that it (anticipatory grief) exists and it has a name, I have been noticing it more and more in my own everyday life and pracitices. I have also been noticing the anticipatory grief that others have in their interactions or behaviours towards me.
Ways or some examples have been:
Time for change, let's talk about Anticipatory Grief to Normalise it:
For so long I have felt guilty or ashamed for feeling grief or grieving over the loss of something due to being terminal, such as: the loss of friendships or social relationships; loss of my independence and being so reliant on Russ; loss of my ability to do normal everyday tasks such as dressing myself, showering, even walking; I know I felt grief over the loss of my bowel; grieving the loss of my connectedness to my community and feeling like I don't offer a valuable contribution to society; loss of career prospects; loss of being able to have a family and fertility.
I wished I knew then that anticipatory grief was normal and that it was what I have been feeling for all this time, it might have made accepting and acknowledging these feelings easier, rather than bottling them up because I felt like something was wrong with me for feeling how I did and feeling like it was all trivial, not realising this is a totally normal process and grief to experience.
Perhaps if people read more about anticipatory grief, they might then know to speak with a mental health professional to help work through their issues, like I currently am.
But most importantly there is nothing to feel ashamed of for feeling this grief or for grieving the life you're going to lose, it is only natural, but finding the right counsellor to help you through your issues is key. If you don't feel they are a right fit, try and search for someone who is.
Know you aren't alone and what you're feeling is completley valid, important and worthy of being acknowledged.
Sunday, February 04 2018
If you could see me right now, you'd see that I have THE biggest grin on my face. Imagine a Cheshire cat style grin....
Yes, it's that huge!
I recently got home after a short stint in hospital where on Australia Day I almost died, it has been a rather upsetting and hard fortnight but I am home now and recovering (and catching up on everything).
I am so grateful and acknowledge my own privilege in that I could come home this time, but also that I continue to live for another day.
I was so scared on that Friday as I wasn't ready to die, I had so much I still was yet to achieve and do and finalise. I was scared that I felt things weren't ready and my anxiety since has been sky high, understandably so, worried about when or how close the end actually is - which is looming everyday closer, it is terrifying.
I know I have so much I wanted to achieve and goals I had set both personally and for my blog, which brings us to today's post.
Back when I started my blog 5 years ago I said to myself:
So I remember a couple of weeks ago - before I suddenly got sick and went to hospital - I had looked at my site stats as I was updating my media kit for January. It was when I noticed that my blog views were sitting 15k shy of half a mill.
I said to Russ:
I am not writing this as an intended brag post or anything, and I know for some blogs 500k views is their monthly or yearly visit, but I am sharing this as I am feeling incredibly proud as punch right now.
5 years ago I was told I had early stage bowel cancer and was about to undergo surgery to remove my entire large bowel and live the rest of my life with a permanent ileostomy for the rest of my life.
I was scared
I was alone
But I took a leap of faith and courageously started my blog.
I was worried that people would not be kind or respectful, or that people would be judgemental and rude. I also worried that maybe what I am trying to share wouldn't be read by anyone and wouldn't be providing value or meaning.
I was full of self doubt.
It is quite vulnerable when you put yourself out there and you don't know how this all would work out and how well your blog would be received. Especially given that it is a difficult and personal experience that I was putting myself out there during what is a private time of mine and my husband's life, but I knew that if I shared this openly and what I learned along the way that it could actually be helping someone somewhere. I know it helped me immensely to share this, gave me a sense of purpose.
Back then there weren't many ostomy bloggers, social media (instagram more so) wasn't as huge nor were those publicly sharing life with an ostomy, and ostomy life and living with a bag was such a taboo subject. It felt rather lonely and isolating, felt kind of like it was a dirty little secret and I wanted to try and change that and help the next generation of young ostomates to embrace their lives and stoma.
I had hoped that I could be part of the movement of helping to normalise life with an ostomy and raise awareness of that life as a young person with a stoma is still able and that life won't end.
So with hesitation I hit publish on that first post and was surprised by what followed.
I was thanked for what I wrote, I found people who respected my writing and it has led to some amazing friendships and I found my tribe and community.
I felt valued, I found self worth and I found that there was a sense of magic in helping others to feel less alone as they navigated their ostomy life or dealing with new diagnosis and what comes next or even in finding themselves again.
I know it is scary and daunting sometimes, but I know how much better it is when you find someone who you can identify and relate to or read something that creates an 'ah ha' moment... I just hope that I have helped others.
My milestone, that I thought back 5 years ago was unrealistic and unattainable but I still held hope and believed in myself and backed myself. I learned a lot in that time not just about life but also about myself.
My blog wouldn't be what it is without you guys, my tribe and cheer squad
Of course me celebrating this moment would be worthless if it weren't for every single one of you who read my blog, support me and my writing and have helped me create a community.
Thank you so much for your support, respect and kindness over this time, but also for your friendship too. Thank you for embracing me and for letting me be myself and helping me at times on my quest to find/discover/remember myself and for reminding me when I had forgotten.
I want to thank you and show you how much I appreciate you.
I have been looking at ways to celebrate my 5 year blogaversary, reaching half a million views to my blog and being close to 1000 facebook likes. So I am thinking of fun ways to say thank you, so please stay tuned.
What an Ostomistically amazing time it is to be alive!
I am grateful so much for you all and if I have helped you in any way please comment below.
Monday, January 08 2018
I know there has been a lot of posts around social media this past week (well, more so New Years Day) about the whole 'non resolutions' or how people were dropping the making resolutions as they either never stick or it makes people feel overwhelmed and anxious. This has something to do with the pressure placed on how it is a "new year new me" and that you internalise this pressure for the need to change yourself.... so it gets pretty depressing when it is the end of the year and you are yet to do one thing you set out to do.
Well, I know for me I get horribly depressed each December when I realise that none of my unrealistic/unattainable goals weren't met, and I feel like a bit of a failure and get pretty hard on myself.
So this year I plan on doing something a little different... I give up on each year setting myself the task of finding that million dollar idea (maybe if I don't try so hard I will find it), or to feel bad that I didn't finish my uni degree, or that I haven't got a hot bod (#sorrynotsorry).
I am choosing 18 ACHIEVABLE things I want to accomplish in 2018.
#1. Self Care:
I purchased the ebook version off Amazon and by a quarter of the way into the book I was astonished, I could have sworn it was me who had written this book as it was just so incredibly relatable. It definitely has me hooked!
Self care isn't necassarily just candle lit bubble baths with a glass of bubbly and reading a book, it can be a whole range of things. It could be doing things that make you happy, here is a post I wrote back in 2016 about 5 things to do each to add happiness or meaning to my day. You could choose to meditate or do yoga, could do a course or learn a new skill, could do something on your bucket list, could volunteer, do a random act of kindness, buy yourself flowers, get pampered, get your hair done or watch a movie or show.
#2. To read more:
So I have been so focussed on micro managing every part of my day/life that I would say I was too busy to read or I didn't have the time, but I vow this year to make time to read more. Whether it be the ebooks I have stored on my ipad or tablet, or going old fashioned and reading the amassed pile of books I have acculumated over the past few years. So starting with reading "The Self-care project" I am setting myself the challenge of either reading 1 book a month or 18 books this year.
Let's do this!
#3. To say No more:
In saying this though, there will be times where I say no simply because I am physically unable to do something due to pain or health, so I am sure this will cause more stress as some might think my health is an excuse? As I said, a challenge... but I am not putting my health at risk for a ridiculous deadline anymore.
#4. Reducing waste:
One of my favourite quotes from Gandhi is "Be the change you wish to see in the world". Change is hard and takes patience and a lot of baby steps, but you can't expect the world to be better or changed if you don't play a part yourself.
So I have ordered some produce reusable bags from my Sister-In Law's business which will mean no longer using single use plastic bags for produce. We also plan on using environment friendly bags in replace of plastic bags and I hope to get a compost happening too.... as I said it will be hard, but I do hope it will help the environment.
I feel guilty sometimes being an ostomate, because my base plate and bags aren't biodegradable (that I'm aware of) so even if I used bio degradable garbage bags and buried it, it still wouldn't break down and would be just the same as putting it in the bin. So I hate having a bag that leaks multiple times a day as it means a lot of ostomy products are used and thrown away, and I feel guilty that I am impacting the environment.... but it can't be helped.
So if I can make changes in other areas of my life, it hopefully makes up for it somehow?
#5. See the snow:
I had always hoped to get to the US or Canada and see this in person myself, but while that dream won't happen, I am happy to settle for somewhere in Australia where it snows, there is a romantic log cabin with a fire and somewhere Russ and I can unwind and relax.
I have heard him say almost daily the past month that he truly wants to experience this with me. Watching all the romantic Christmas movies helped I think, but it has had him rather upset realising too all the things he wants to experience with me but not sure if we will.
It is hard sometimes trying to squeeze 80 years of experiences into as much time as we have left.
If you have suggestions, do let me know, I can't fly so anywhere that is easily train accessible or short driving trips in NSW will be best.
#6. Learn something new:
I am doing a course right now cert 4 in screen and media and learning at the moment how to write children's stories.
#7. Write that damn book:
#8. Write a blog post a week:
#9. Write a journal:
All of these writing cues would be kind of life self care I guess, since it is cathartic and all.
#10. Regularly meet with a counsellor:
I guess this would come under self care and taking time for my needs too.
#11. Go Swimming:
Don't worry I plan on being sun safe and have my SPF50+ rashie from SunSoaked and my Sunbella parasol to help me too.
#12. Go Glamping:
#13. Have a holiday:
#14. Explore the Coast:
We still have bucket listing adventures for Brisbane, Sydney, Newcastle and beyond. I am just wanting to see so much!
I am just really hoping to see/experience new places this year.
#15. Renew our vows:
I had always said when we get to 10 years we would renew somewhere fun and overseas, but not sure that dream of international travel is managable or if I could make it to our 10 wedding anniversary.
#16. Get back on our feet financially:
We tried to apply to several other banks who all declined us because we didn't have savings (everything went into our house) and so we had hoped to even consolidate everything into one loan to make repayments easier and more affordable but were declined. Despite having equity in the property. It is hard to have savings when every cent is going into the house, our debt, living expenses, medical expenses and the list goes on.
I am just hoping this year we have better luck and if we can't at least consolidate everything that we can find a new bank for our home loan. I just want out of their grip, just like Britain wanted out of the EU. If we can get a new bank and debt consolidation everything will be more easier, we might even afford a mini holiday.
Part of this is finding a new bank too. I just want and need everything to be tidied up and managable ready for Russ to take over when I die.
#17. See a waterfall:
#18. Try to get my pain under control:
I spent the better part of last year struggling with my pain. I know my doctors are doing their best to manage it, but it really is hard and affects so many aspects of my life. It is debilitating, exhausting, it makes me frustrated and irritable, it messes with my mental health and it just sucks. It is hard to manage getting out of bed most days let alone manage an hour of getting out and about. I missed out on a lot last year and I don't want to miss out on life this year because of pain.
☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟
I know it was a long post, but I thought 18 made sense since you know it is 2018 and all. I feel good that it is all written down but now overwhelmed, which is ironic, but I will do seperate posts throughout the year both here and on social media documenting how I go... it means I can hold myself accountable now since I have told you all about this.
My list honestly could have continued such as "yet to finish unpacking", "yet to manage that room makeover" and so on. I just decided to choose things that will either improve my life, bring me joy or are somewhat achievable for this year.... and if I win the lotto that is a bonus!
Russ asked me what I have been writing/working on the past couple of days, he then rattled off a list of 18 things he *felt* I should do instead which all involved him and were very much Russ focussed or specific. I laughed and said, your list kind of defeats the purpose of several things on my list like taking time for me and saying no and putting me first.
To be fair, his list was most of what I do anyway which was:
Here's hoping 2018 is a good year and that I can do some of these things if not all. Despite spending over 80% of the year in bed last year, the times I did bucket list stuff or was out and about are some of my most cherished memories looking back, those memories I remember on my bad days.
I wish you a HNY2018 and wishing you health, love, success, happiness and clarity this year.
Thank you for reading, feel free to share something you hope to do this year in the comments below:
Saturday, November 11 2017
CW: This post talks infertility, miscarriage and other heartbreak caused by having a faulty body
If you follow me on social media, no doubt you have met the gorgeous little furball Dusty who is a ragdoll x blue russian kitten. He has the most gorgeous blue eyes and has made every day over the past year filled with love, fun, adventure and cuddles.
Wait, 12 months on, is he still a kitten or is he a cat? I hate to think of him as a grown cat as he is wholeheartedly my little furbaby. I still like to think of him as this tiny little ball of fluff that relied on me.
Dusty has filled a void that I have had for far too long, and I know Russ will say the same.
Dusty is our baby, he is our child we never had and he is a spoiled little shit. I say that with lots of love. He has destroyed everything because he can, he makes a habit out of biting my ankles or backs of my knees, and he just throws tantrums if he doesn't get what he wants.... I love him, I do, but some days he can be a handful.
However, I know the huge benefit Dusty has had on my wellbeing, I believe he is a major part of why I am still here, he has filled our home and hearts with so much love, laughter, joy, and I know the last 12 months would have been a lot more lonlier and isolating if it weren't for him.
Our Hopes for a family:
Russ and I have always wanted children, even before our first date 8 years ago he said "I am looking to settle down, to have a family, to find the one person to spend the rest of my life with". At the time the then 18-year-old me was like "hmm ok we'll see" it wasn't in my life's plan to have kids until I was at least 24, married and had a career and house. But then once we got to know each other, he supported me through several brain surgeries a month after we started dating, I knew there was something special about Russ and when he proposed a couple of months later I said yes. I was excited for what the future had in store for us, it was my chance for a new beginning and hopefully a family.
We had one misscarriage in February Valentine's Day (was the day of our engagement party) and it was the only successful attempt. We were shattered. We were hopeful that we would be a family one day.
Later that year we got married (July), then sometime after the wedding we learned that my dad was terminal with bowel cancer at 39 years of age and that it were a rare hereditary form that it was high probability that I too shared this gene.
My doctors forewarned that I were likely to have cancer myself but wouldn't be until around 30 (boy they were wrong) and suggested we try and plan for a family right away and live our lives before surgery and cancer took over.
Our hopes and dreams as newlyweds of having the family we longed for were shattered now that we were gambling the life of a future child in our hands. We started meeting with geneticists, specialists, gynecologists, fertility specialists and counsellors to fully go over our options.
In 2012, 2 years after my diagnosis of FAP, I had investigative surgery of my pelvic area including my bladder and bowel.
I woke from surgery being told that I was in a medically induced menopause and that on top of the FAP I had severe stage 4 endometriosis and the chances of having a child with IVF was less than 1% and would be too costly.
So it was then that we put the plans of us having a family of our own to rest, we then said we would foster, adopt or get a kitten as Russ isn't a dog person.
In 2013, in the months that I were free of bowel cancer and rejoicing for my new lease on life after having surgery to have an ileostomy, we started training to be foster parents. In 2014, we learned of the new tumour where the bowel used to be and was told that I now couldn't be a foster parent until I had been 5 years cancer free and had a stable life - bringing a kid into a house with a sick parent could be traumatising for the child - so we said we would wait for that day to come.
Which brings us to 12 months ago:
We had moved into our own home, now as home owners we could have a kitten. We were scrolling through facebook one day when a lady posted a photo of Dusty and said he was available in 2 months time (late october). I quickly messaged expecting him to have been sold already, but to my surprise he hadn't found his forever home yet. Later that day Russ dropped by on his way home from work and paid for him and had his first cuddles with him.
Russ was completley smitten and in love.
It filled my heart with so much joy seeing the bond they've shared over the past year.
Dusty cuddles up to me a lot through the day and the night, but as soon as Russell's alarm goes off he shoots off the bed and meows all excitedly as he knows he is about to be fed. When Russ comes home Dusty runs to the door to greet him, Russ will pick him up for cuddles and often rolls around on the floor playing with him.
It is a comfort some days knowing that Russ will not come home to an empty house once I've died, that he will always come home to seomone who loves him and needs him and I think (hope) that Dusty will be a great comfort for Russ.
I know a cat isn't a child, but Dusty is our little baby. He is funny, mischeivious, smart, playful and loving.
Dusty is so clever! He plays fetch. He learned when he was really little that I spend a lot of time in bed when I have bad days, so he learned if he wanted someone to play with that he needs to play on the bed as I am laying down, and it has worked really well.
He at times has sensed when I am upset or anxious, he often checks on me during my bad days, he also sometimes wakes me up by poking me in the face with his fish-on-a-stick-toy, but he has made me feel full and loved. He is so protective of me it is adorable.
I now feel like we are a family and we have Dusty to thank for completing our lives.
I know I post a lot of Dusty posts on social media, but most days he is the best part of my day and I want to share that with the world.
I always had been told that pets are theraputic, but until this past year I wasn't a believer. I get asked why I haven't died yet and what has changed in the past year and my answer is Dusty.
Wednesday, October 04 2017
“Be the change you wish to see in the world”
We all know that at some point our lives will end, but what we do in our life and how we live could be a legacy that we are leaving that would continue to live on well after we have died.
It is hard at times knowing that my end is coming, given my terminal prognosis and that I am living with the knowledge that I could have 6-12months. I do know that a year ago I didn't think I would still be here, but I am. So I am making the most of every single day.
However, leaving a legacy is at the forefront of my mind.
Everyday I wonder: "will I be forgotten?"
I have so many thoughts racing through my mind every minute of the day, these are just some.
One thing that I worry though is if my life meant anything or if I mattered... it might sound like a strange thing to think about or it might sound like a self-centred narcissistic thing, but it is hard somedays wondering "why me?".
So leaving a legacy and living a life that I am truly proud of is something of importance to me
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One thing that I have known and believed since I was a teenager was that I had a purpose in life and that was: "to make a difference or to change one person's life", so I have tried to live life with this desire to help behind every action - including my blog and magazine.
I was pretty excited to have been asked by Share the Dignity to write about legacies and living a life with a purpose. This is a piece I offered up as a volunteer contribution (I was not paid or incentivised in any way), this is a charity I have been passionate about supporting for the last couple of years and one that I know how important/needed their work is.
If you would like to read my article click here. (Feel free to leave a comment if it has helped you or if you liked it)
Share the Dignity have their annual It's in the bag campaign coming up where people are asked to donate a handbag or backpack that is in good condition and fill it with items such as pads, tampons, toiletries and more. To learn more click here...
Being a Volunteer, despite being terminally ill:
Last year I did two backpacks for teenage girls and filled with items I had collected since the Xmas prior. To find out about how I put together 2 bags on a budget, click here.
I decided to sign up as a volunteer and collect the bags and deliver to the respective charities in the area. At one point I had over 300 handbags in my house. Two guest bedrooms were chock-a-block full of handbags and backpacks and there were a trail from the front door leading through the house!
It was an incredible experience and very overwhelming, only that I struggled with energy and pain and couldn't carry much so Russ stepped up for me and helped to deliver everything. Russ also helped me to check each bag for all the essentials and make sure that each bag had pads etc.
I was pretty proud of the work from our community.
Russ and I were delivering bags to a youth refuge and the owner/manager was in tears. One of the girls came out and helped Russ and I carry the bags and she said: " Thank you for doing this, you have no idea how much it means to me to know that strangers do care, that someone believes in me".
Another charity we were delivering to (was our 2nd delivery there that day as the car only fits so many bags) came running out of the charity as she had just received her bag and she hugged me and was crying and said "this were the best gift she had ever received".
I am so happy that an incredible organisation that is Share the Dignity exists, I wish I could have done more to help but I donate pads when I can to their April and August drives and the #itsinthebag. I love that Russ got involved and was a champ in helping me last year, sadly I am not in good enough health to volunteer for a second year but I am trying my best to get a bag together when I can.
I know there were times in my life where pads were a luxury and it meant going without food, it is no exaggeration at all, I am not ashamed of that point in my life I was simply trying my best, but do consider in your next grocery shop to grab a packet of pads/tampons and keep aside for the #itsinthebag campaign, even if you can't afford to do a bag but can donate pads that would be incredibly appreciated and it does make a difference.
If you were interested in volunteering for the it's in the bag campaigns click here, it truly was a hard yet rewarding experience. Or if you can't collect the bags consider offering your workplace as a collection point!
There are always opportunities all around us to help make a difference to someone else's life.
I know that even if you think it is a small act of kindness and that it wouldn't be noticed, it could in fact be a huge thing to that person and be the reason that hope is restored.
Wednesday, October 04 2017
In Early December 2015, I was 2 months into my chemo plan of weekly treatments and was rather unwell with the chemo side of things and was in hospital rather ill with an infected and dying tumour that saw me in hospital for the weeks and months to come.
It was around this time that I learned of the Share the Dignity #itsinthebag campaign, I think I saw it on TV or on Facebook, I tried to organise what I could for a bag. I didn't have much time or energy, so I did the best I could and sent Russ to the shops with a shopping list of things to get for the bag.
I wished I had of known earlier about the campaign and I would have been super organised, so I vowed the next year to start early and shop throughout the year when things were on sale and hoped to try and do at least 2 bags by being organised and nabbing great deals.
So the new year came and true to my word, I started getting organised.
To give and receive a #itsinthebag gift is something that can help improve the lives of a woman who is doing it tough. I have heard stories of how they got a handbag and it helped them to look and feel more confident/professional when going for jobs, I heard from teenagers who escaped a violent home situation and are in the foster care system and a new backpack is a luxury and having someone believe in helping them through school made them feel loved and worthy.... each of the women who receive a bag from you have their own incredible stories, and sometimes they need to be reminded of how incredible they are.
Some tips before you start your bag:
Here is how I managed to organise a bag on a budget!
Best of all I were able to organise not just 1 but 2 bags filled with items following these methods.
#1. Write it all down:
I know it might sound over the top to do things this way, but this is how I have organised present buying for years and it also means I am accountable for my purchases.
You would be surprised how many times I have purchased something more than once because I forgot about it.... even though it has been a year since my chemo finished I still have a rather frazzled brain, so lists and spreadsheets helps me to feel in control of my memory.
#2. Go through your own cupboards:
I found some hair dye boxes left over from when I dyed Russ' hair, some perfume sets I never used, some makeup that were unopened, spare toothbrushes and I also divided the contents of the container of cosmetics I received from BellaBox into two piles.
Having a chunk of things already meant I could save costs and could instead buy something else.
#3. Sales, Sales, Sales:
I start my Xmas shopping usually just after Xmas and take advantage of Boxing Day/Stocktake sales. I did this too when it came to my #itsinthebag planning and by having the best part of a year to shop and know what I was looking for, it helped me to nab some great buys at times.
I also take advantage of Click Frenzy deals, if you haven't heard of click frenzy it is this one day where sites offer crazy sales that are known for crashing the internet, it really is a clicking frenzy. I regularly scope out sites/stores like catch.com.au (formerly catch of the day), ozsale, kmart, reject shops as well as google.
I purchased a Roxy wallet that normally cost $20 for $5, so I grabbed 2. I found the eye masks (Kmart now have a range for $2) at Typo (with the help of a 50% off coupon) for $1.50, the beanie was from cotton on for 50c, as well as the notebooks. The backpacks were half price too. I got quality pretty design umbrellas on sale from Umbrellas & Parosols for around $6.95 on clearance too one was a leopard print.
Catch.com.au have 'club catch' where you receive shipping discounts as well as member only offers, sometimes there is ridiculously cheap priced offers but I find grocery store items like toiletries are really cheap to buy from here and are often a bulk buy too.
#4. Bulk buys and value for your dollar:
Say a pack of Pads were 1/2 price, it means if you purchased 2 packs that it would have cost the same as 1 pack would have, therefore doubling your price. Currently on Catch, they have a 6 pack of mesh bath sponges for $4.98 so 83c each.
Just keep an eye out in catologues or online for good special buys, there really is great value to be found if you shop around and compare.
#5. Afterpay makes bigger cost items more affordable:
I chose to organise my gifts for teenage girls, girls who are doing it tough. I knew a backpack would be great for school use as well as if they worked.
I took advantage of click frenzy sales half price or even less and grabbed 2 backpacks and put them on afterpay, which meant that I could break the repayments up over 8 weeks, which made it a little more affordable as well as not missing out on the sale.
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I really hope that these tips help you when it comes to organising your bag for the #itsinthebag campaign, just over a month before the collection period starts. Don't stress too much about how much or how little you put in, it isn't a competition and as long as you include the essentials such as Pads/Tampons, toiletries and the bag - then you are on your way to giving a woman the greatest gift this Xmas.
Last year my husband and I collected bags in our area and delivered to local charities who distributed them. This was such a rewarding experience and at one point there were over 300 bags sitting in my house!! The emotions felt when seeing each bag that had so lovingly been put together was truly incredible. I wrote about this experience here.
Everyone deserves some magic and kindness at Xmas.
Do you have friends who are doing a bag this year too? Why not arrange a date where they bring their bags and contents and you all sit around together and complete the bags. You could have wine and nibbles too, I am sure it would be a lovely and rewarding experience when shared with your best mates too!
Or if you can't put together a whole bag yourself, ask a friend if they wanted to do a bag with you and you could share the costs of creating it. She might even have a bag for you to use too! It is a perfect experience to share.
Sunday, August 13 2017
It is hard to believe that it is almost 12 months since we have moved into our new house!
I have been so busy trying to live and love life, plus enjoying the good days, that we haven't yet completed unpacking our house and we have so much left to do. This has had me feeling rather disappointed in myself as I was really hoping to have had the house set up and finished by now. So while we have nothing planned for the next few months, I really want to focus on finishing the unpacking and working on styling the house.
Having a beautifully styled house that I am proud of is one of the things I wanted to tick off my bucket list!
The first room I want to finish is our master suite (bedroom and ensuite). I spend so much time in my bed, bedroom and ensuite, that for me it is my most used/lived in space. I really wanted the room to make me feel happy, safe, comfortable, relaxed and proud; but more importantly, I want others visiting me to feel the same sense of comfort.
I had hoped by now to be able to have afforded a full room makeover, or to be on our feet financially for that matter. We have been adding pieces to the room as our budget has allowed us over the last year, but we still have a way to go. I love a good bargain and hunting for things
Russ thought it would be a good idea to perhaps write a blog post as a wishlist of what we want to achieve so that in a way we can hold ourselves accountable for ticking off this goal of finishing the house, and especially our room.
So, this is the accountability post for completing my master bedroom and my wish list for the tropical styled things I want in it.
I promise to do an 'after' or finished/completed type post, otherwise I will share the gradual progress on social media until then!
With spending so much of my time in bed, or unable to get out to shop in person, a lot of that time is spent just browsing sites to get a clearer picture of styling/product ideas. It is always nice when companies have a good online store with stock updates that are timely and reliable. If they have social media too you can see how other customers are using their products to style and get ideas from actual users of the products. I know I browse through Fantastic Furniture and Pillow Talk online all the time (as they are two stores close to where I live), always keeping an eye out for sales or new stock. I have a few other sites that I regularly do the rounds to check for the latest products, styling ideas or latest sales (I wish the reject shop had an online store), it really does help to pass the time when you are otherwise stuck in bed.
Another way to pass the time and find inspiration is Pinterest! I only hope I can create and style a Pinterest or Instagram worthy house on a budget!
I am hoping the quilt isn't the reason the styling of the room falls apart, so I am hoping I can make it work to pull it off! I really love this quilt especially as on the reverse side it has this nice aqua colour + it matches with my purple (fave colour) sheets, so not sure if I want to part with it. However, if necessary to better the room then I might, but it makes me feel so happy and that is my priority!
Were I to change quilt covers if I felt it (the above quilt) really wasn't a fit, I have found some others from Pillow Talk and Spotlight that I have pictured below. It is so hard to choose what one I like the most, so these are my top 10! Pics to the left are from Pillow talk and pics to the right are from spotlight respectively.
We purchased it back in 2012 from Beds R'Us and it was looking amazing until Dusty recently decided it was in fact his clawing post (I cried, it was heartbreaking to see/hear). I had thought about upgrading our bed but my heart is too set on it. It is a king size; it is leather which is easy to clean; it is white which means ANY quilt cover looks great and that it can be suited to any theme; it is the right height for me and doesn't hurt to get in and out of like our timber bed before; and besides, it looks so elegant too!
I know Russ has thought about upgrading our king bed maybe after I die, he feels it is too pretty for a guy and too hard to keep clean because it is white, not that he wants to remove my existence from our home- just he might feel like a change, who knows? If he/we did upgrade this is one that he has his heart set on.
Something to note is it is made from Acacia wood sourced from sustainably grown plantations (which is a tick from us as we try to be environmentally conscious), but the beauty of this timber is that it would beautifully match a tropical themed room! It is a bargain at $799 with 6 years warranty too (I think Russ is all for extending our warranties from his job as a salesman), as opposed to the $3500 we paid for our current bed, so if we/he upgraded it is a nice and affordable option indeed. Felt pretty solid too.
I have been wanting the TV set up in our room so that I could watch Netflix, a movie or catch up on missed TV shows. I'm not well enough to sit out of bed for long most days, so having the TV in the room would help. I am struggling typing or holding my phone and iPad the last few months, the nerve damage from chemo and the tumours are making it painful to touch things. I try to use my iPad but it is frustrating sometimes at how small the screen is or at the lack of sound (remembering I am deaf in one ear) so it makes sense to set up the TV where I can see it comfortably.
So Russ one afternoon last week told me to stay in the lounge room as he had a surprise planned... surprise (see picture below)! He had set the TV up on top of some cheap/flimsy bookshelf from the shed. Doofus! I loved the sentiment, but I am so worried as Dusty is a climber who likes jumping on shelves. But it has been great the past week enjoying TV from the comforts of my own bed!
We have been looking into options to put the TV on. It needs to be at a height of 900mm or higher due to laying in bed and not having a clear view if any lower.
So we have found two options: We thought that a chest of drawers would give the best height plus allow for additional storage. Russ wants the tall 4 drawer as it is 150mm taller than our current set up, but aesthetically I think the 6 draw would look and fit the space better - though it is 100mm less (but TV is awkwardly watchable). The two we like are in the Toronto range from Fantastic Furniture and there is only a $100 price difference. I can't decide, but once we do we will enquire into layby options to pay it off over a set period which makes it more affordable. I know $599 or $699 respectively might not seem like a lot - but it is for us when there isn't a lot in the bank.
We needed to get a cupboard for the hallway (can never have enough storage) and Super Amart had a 'buy one get 2nd item half price', so we only paid $225 for the armchair (it all went on our G.E. interest free card)! It is the 'James' and is the same as the lounges in the living room and it is wide enough so I can sit in it comfortably - if I want to sit and read, it has big arms and is really spacious. Russ often sits there reading a book while I am sleeping, especially on my bad days, so that he can watch over me and feel he is close by. Dusty also has claimed the chair as his, so just like every other part of the house this was business-as- usual.
The chair for us was a must have for the future too. There will come a point when I am declining in my health and I want people to visit me and be comfortable. Russ tells me that it is 'typical Talya behaviour - always thinking of others needs', but all I want is for people to want to visit. It is a fear that I will be dying and be alone and I don't want to die not knowing that I am loved. So this chair is important and it gets used often.
When we were in Fantastic Furniture recently I stumbled across this flamingo canvas artwork (below) that has all the colours of my quilt and is keeping in with the contemporary tropical theme, Russ really liked it too, so we are hoping to get it when we can afford it. It wasn't much, around $49 from memory.
I also enlisted the help of Foote and Flame to cut out some bamboo shapes of different tropical leaves so that I can hang these around my room and make an art piece from it. I also found some cheap tropical leaves in Kmart for $3 in various sizes and styles too. I know pillow talk have some too. I am hoping on the next day Russ has off to look at placement of the wooden and artificial leaves.
I know we are trying to fit a lot into such a small space and I do hope that in the end it all looks as homey and relaxing as it does in my head. I am hoping now that I have written this that it holds Russ and I accountable for getting our house sorted. I know 12 months ago I didn't think I would still be here today and I know the outlook isn't too great for the next year, but I just really want to feel calm knowing my house is in order.... literally and figuratively! I want to not feel anxious over if I have done enough or if people are judging me.
I am really wanting my room to be my tropical escape as I won't have the ability to travel there myself I want to bring it to me.
I am also not an interior designer or stylist, so I don't know if the mood board I have in my noggin' is going to work, I will just have to see won't I!
If you know of any tropical themed wares over the coming weeks and months feel free to let me know so I can check them out. I am really wanting to have my room finished by Christmas/New Year at the latest. Plenty of time I know, but if the last 12 months have taught me anything it is that Russ is a snail (when it comes to getting things done) and time certainly does flies by!
So tell me, do you have a themed/styled room or house? Which room of your house is your favourite?
Sunday, April 09 2017
One thing that I have noticed time and time again since I have been sick and spending a lot of time in bed, is that I often felt uninspired and unmotivated. I feel if I wake up happy or feeling somewhat inspired I usually have more energy to tackle the day.
It all started when I was having chemo, I was so sick from chemo that I spent almost 6 days out of 7 in bed and feeling like absolute shit house. My room didn't inspire me at all, I had a beautiful and comfy bed (a must when you're sick) but as we were renting hubby was reluctant to let me make the room my own. We knew we would eventually be moving house and it was just more things to have to move.
So in June I stopped treatment and entered palliative care.
A week or so later I went into pillow talk and my brief was "I need a quilt cover that will inspire me, motivate me but make me feel happy". I found the perfect quilt with the thanks to a sales assistant, who was undergoing chemo herself at the time and she really understood how important it was for me. I wrote away thanking her and Pillow talk HQ.
It has been 6 months now since we moved house and aside from the quilt and a print on the wall, it still felt like I was missing a little bit more. I had a bed side that felt so clinical and reminded me of being sick every time I woke up or rolled over, it was covered with needle bins from my clexane or boxes and sheets of tablets strewn over. It really reminded me every day that I was sick, and it had really gotten me into a funk of late.
So I had been planning a little bedside table makeover for a while, well had talked about it.
It is school holidays and 2 of my siblings (Macka 14, Carson 12) came up to help me do things around the house, so we decided now was the time to makeover my bedside table but also my bathroom vanity.
So I am sure it ended up being the most memorable house clean or bedroom makeover they've ever experienced!
We emptied all of the contents off my bedside table into a basket to go under the bedside table for ease of access, then we dusted it down and went about the house finding items I had been collecting or already had.
Some of the items had been found on clearance or at a cheap price.
So I found some books on the bookshelf that I got for Christmas and have been meaning to read, and from all the images I have seen of "pretty bedside table stylings" it usually has books stacked on. The marble canister is good for hiding things like remotes for the fan, tablet sheets or jewellery.
My brother said it had to have a necklace in there too.
So this is the after, and while I am no interior designer, I am feeling pretty proud of how this looks... and I don't feel like I am reminded of being sick everytime I roll over.
So now the memorable (and humiliating) part to the story....
The basket wasn't fitting in the cupboard when we knew it should and was as if something was blocking it. The door was closing but was still ajar.
My sister reaches behind the basket and pulls out a red dildo (I hadn't seen it in about 5 years and didn't care for it) so I had no idea that it was in there, so my face I assume was as red as the adult toy.
I still feel so embarrased, haven't felt so humiliated in a long time, but it will be memorable story to tell in many years time or after I am gone. I did try to say it wasn't mine, they laughed and said "what it is Russell's?" which had them even more confused when I said it wasn't... how embarrassing indeed!!
"Hey, remember that time at Talya's when we were cleaning her room and found a giant red dildo in her cupboard".
I can now pass on knowing at least I have left them with one solid and hilarious memory.
Note to self: KNOW where you have hidden such toys, preferably in a safe place no one will EVER find again.