Tuesday, June 13 2017
“Life is 10% of what happens to us and 90% how we react to it”
Facebook memories can sometimes be a double edged sword. On one side it shows you the silly and mundane status updates that have you questioning what on earth you were thinking way back when. Then there are the moments that your life changed in an instant in what feels like a lifetime ago, but was in fact a year to date. It has the power of instilling those emotions you felt at that time and can feel like a sharp stab at one’s own heart.
Sometimes it can be bittersweet and reminds me of the little ‘wins’ in life: like the time my husband got his P’s after 20 years as a learner driver and I felt immense pride for him but cried tears of relief that I now can take a step back and not be the sole driver; or that time that I drove a 4 hour round trip to spend Good Friday with my family (having had chemo the day prior) and felt so sick, but I was able to hold my nephew for the first time since his birth and he smiled and laughed with me and in that moment I felt an overwhelming sense of love and happiness, as if all is right in the world, for that boy has the most infectious smile that makes you feel so happy.
1 year = 12 months = 365 days = too many minutes and seconds to be happy
Today’s memory however, was that it was 12 months to the day that I was told chemotherapy was stopped, that I had exhausted all other options and was admitted to hospital under palliative care… I was given 12 months to live.
I remember that day clearly, I had turned up to my chemo appointment thinking it was a normal chemo day. I drove myself to the hospital and had expected to drive myself home; instead I called hubby and told him I needed him.
I remember feeling so terrified, I was scared now having been given a timeframe and I didn’t know what to make of any of it. What if I did life wrong, what or how was the best way to spend each minute of the day, was there even a right way? I didn't know what to do, I just knew I wasn't done trying just yet.
But amongst all the fear felt, I also felt so much guilt. I felt that I had failed my husband, my family, my friends and myself.
Most of all I wasn’t ready for the end.
I remember crying so much that day just being held and consoled by my husband, we cried together and despite no words being spoken we knew what the other was feeling.
So I started writing my bucket list and planning how I wanted to spend the next year, particularly, my final moments. I began organising my funeral and how I wanted my life to be celebrated. I tried to include my loved ones in organising/talking about my funeral and joining me on bucketlist experiences in the hopes that it helped them somehow.
But one thing I knew for sure, was that I was determined to spend the next year living life as fiercely and to the fullest as possible.
Choosing my legacy and how I want people to think of me:
I wanted people to remember me not for the hardships I faced but for how I chose to face life, I wanted people to not pity me but to think “hey that is one strong, badass and positive chick”. I didn’t want the next 12 months of health issues/decline and struggles to define me, I was determined to try and help others.
I feel like the last 12 months have been incredibly exhausting, I feel like not only have I struggled with daily challenges but that I also have lived the most I possibly could have too.
In the face of adversity and a time I should have been selfishly focusing on myself, I started a magazine for other young people with a stoma that has been well received all round but also what I hope will be my legacy.
But my determination to try and help others didn’t end there:
I have tried to empower people to make better choices through learning from my mistakes, I have tried to challenge people to think about how they talk to or treat someone who is chronically or terminally unwell, I have tried to help others feel less alone in sharing my story openly and I have tried to encourage others to live their life as they see fit.
The last couple of weeks I have been struggling with depression and felt myself in a downward spiral. I have been told I am dying too slowly, that I am a burden on Russ, that I am a fraud because I am not on my deathbed now; all in a matter of weeks.
I am feeling a lot of self loathing (and as a failure) as I had hoped a year on our finances would be in a better state, that things would be less messy and more manageable for Russ to takeover. Yet, despite all the frugal efforts made, I still don’t feel things are better 12 months on. I had also hoped to be prepared enough and finish my funeral preparations by now too.... but things need a lot more working done. I also hoped to have saved/paid off my funeral too (I don’t know who I was kidding).
I just regret not having life insurance so much, it could have made life a heck of a lot easier.
So please if you can learn anything from this story is to never just take one opinion/advice from a person who is “an authorised representative”, to always get another opinion.
I HAD life insurance and when I stopped working I was told that my life insurance would be void if I had no EMPLOYER contributions made, that I couldn’t just make them (the contributions) myself. My insurance lapsed as a result. I later spoke to them again (6 or so months later) only to be told that the information I was told was incorrect and I could have made contributions all along and I would still now be covered or be receiving the benefits owed to me.
That one person who incorrectly advised my rights has caused so much stress and inconvenience to my life and while I have been told that person no longer works there I have been left to live with this mistake $600,000 poorer… I didn’t question the advice as it had come from someone at the company, that I assumed them to be right.
If only someone had of told me to get a second opinion.
Same went for my thyroid cancer, a respected endocrinologist told me there was nothing wrong with my thyroid and a week later I was in Sydney having thyroid biopsies done as it was actually cancerous, sadly in “the sticks” there isn’t always a second opinion you can get but I am lucky that I sought one in Sydney. Or that time I was told I was diabetic from a Doctor without any testing being done and started medication, it didn’t feel right and made me sick, I saw a different doctor a month later and was diagnosed with anaemia not diabetes.
Moral to the story, if it doesn’t sound/feel right always get a second opinion.
Your best teacher is your last mistake
Though all of these moments impacted on my life, I learned valuable lessons about myself or others around me.
If you do happen to make a mistake along the way just learn from it, don’t be too hard on yourself and be forgiving - you wouldn’t really be living if you didn’t make mistakes. Just learn from them and make yourself more informed for next time.
So here is to time and life, may we all take everyday as it comes and try to stop every now and then to take it all in, or smell the roses as some say. Life is so precious and I am just grateful to still be here 12 months on and living by my promise of trying to help others. So learn from my life if not for helping yourself, help someone you know.
Time and life is something that can go by so quickly and before long it is a year or 5 years later, so it is important that you make the most out of it. To be cliche and all, it really can be taken away at any time. I know I am cherishing everyday I have; as I know age, time and life are all a privilege.
“Life always offers you a second chance… it is called Tomorrow!”
Thursday, October 08 2015
October over the recent years has become known as the 'pink month' a month dedicated to the sole purpose of raising awareness of breast cancer but also to encourage women young and old to take charge of their health and become more breast aware.
It wasn't until a breast cancer scare earlier this year that I realised I needed to be more aware of my breasts (even though they're so in my face I can't not know they're there) but more be more aware of the changes and dangers going on inside.
In February I had my routine pet scan which my thyroid, breast and stomach lit up on the screen. I was told that there is something suspicious going on in my breast (left) and that I needed to have it checked out.
The following week I was admitted into hospital to undergo a bunch of routine investigations into my breast, thyroid and armpit. First I had the ultrasounds done on my thyroid and breast and stomach, which were followed by fine needle biopsies done of my thyroid, stomach and breast.
The breast biopsies were inconclusive, so I was scheduled for core needle biopsies, a mammogram, another biopsy this time putting in metal clips as identifying markers, another mammogram, then a CT scan a few days later.
Thankfully my breast wasn't cancerous and I am monitoring it every few months for changes, and while I am lucky that the changes going on in my breast were detected early, there are thousands of Australian women who aren't as lucky.
Did you know that in Australia 1 in 8 women will have breast cancer by the age of 85? Breast cancer is up there with bowel cancer as the leading cause of death among women (according to the ABS).
So I am wanting to raise awareness of breast cancer this month and also as a unique way of celebrating 200 likes on Facebook (thank you all for the support), I decided I would set a little challenge!
If you head over to my facebook page by clicking here, you will find an album of 10 FREE fb awareness covers for you to download, save and upload, these you can see below.
But there is a catch....
As I have created these awareness covers for you to use for FREE, I ask that you join me on a challenge I have set for this month...
#1. I ask that you become more breast aware this month by giving yourself a thorough check of your breast and armpits for any lumps of noticable changes. If you're eligible to visit the breast van for screening, look into making your appointment. You can also speak with your GP about having a breast aware check done.
So... will you join me this month towards being more breast aware?
Not sure what involves a breast mammogram, biopsy or breast ultrasound? Stay tuned for these posts coming soon!
Tuesday, March 03 2015
Back on the 3rd of Feb, I had to head back down to Sydney for my next PET Scan (click here to read what to expect when you need a PET scan) and the scan showed that there was activity on my thyroid and in my breast/armpit (which is new) but it also showed there were new tumours just under my scar from my ileostomy, and some under my ileostomy as well as the larger mass was now compressing my Kidney.
My doctor saw me after my scan, had said he wanted me back in Sydney on the 9th to be admitted into hospital so they could undergo further tests and start treatment for whatever these tumours were (they were still speculating about what it could be). At this consult I was only told about the breast and the tumour blocking my kidney (I didn't know of the additional stomach tumours or activity in my thyroid).
So first came a team of Endocrinologists, who wanted to chat about my history and asked me about my thyroid and if I had noticed any changes. I mentioned to them that my neck at times feels a bit bumpy and sometimes it feels like I have trouble swallowing or that I can feel like something is pressing on my neck and I am choking.
I told them about my entire medical history and weight issues, and how I have seen some endocrinologists before who seemed more interested in taking my money then actually helping figure out what was wrong.
They told me that my thyroid showed up on my PET scan as an area of interest and that I would be going the following day for an ultrasound of my neck.
I had the ultrasound, and a couple more doctors came in and then they left and were chatting, and came back and told me that they can see a lot of nodules on my thyroid and that there are some enlarged lymph nodes. A doctor confirmed later that day that I have a multi nodular goitre.
They told me "it is probably nothing to worry about but we will do a biopsy to be safe".
The biopsy was the following day and was done in a special room where there was a CT, ultrasound machines as well as a lot of surgical gear. I had a FNA (fine needle aspiration biopsy).
I had to lay flat on the bed with my head tilted back so my entire neck was exposed. The Doctors then re-did an ultrasound to confirm that the lymph nodes and nodules they saw were the ones they needed to biopsy (there was 2 of main concern). They confirmed the lymph nodes were the correct ones and the biopsy proceedure started.
As they were biopsying each side I had to turn my head as far as I could.
They then applied the local anesthetic, which hurt a lot. It is a pretty sensitive and uncomfortable area.
Then they did the biopsies. They had to do several attempts at each of the two lymph nodes to make sure they had the best samples. There was also a cytologist there to confirm the quality of the samples under microscope.
Although they had numbed the area it still hurt and also was uncomfortable. Everytime they penetrated the lymph node and jiggled the needle about it was sending a shooting pain up my jaw, into my ear and into my head. It was like it was hitting a nerve. It was horrible. But as soon as they removed the needle, this went away.
After the Biopsy
After the biopsy was done, I was brought back up to my room and as my neck was so sore I asked for some ice packs to place on my neck. During the night my neck got a bit swollen and irritated, so I had some panadol and applied more ice.
My neck only hurt for a day or two afterwards and I just applied ice the entire time. The ice helped with inflammation and also to relieve the area of pain.
I felt as though I had been attacked by a lymph node sucking vampire!
The Results and What's Next
My results were back the following day (I just had gotten back from my breast biopsy) and was told that it was positive for Papillary Thyroid Cancer related to my FAP and I was just in so much shock I couldn't stop crying.
The doctor sat with me as I called my husband to tell him the news, and she told me that this is the best cancer to have out of all of them it is the most curable when caught early, and she started telling me about the surgery and what it will involve.
I know I shouldn't have been so shocked as when I was diagnosed back in 2010 with FAP I was told then that in a timeline of cancers it would go colorectal and then some people get thyroid, pancreatic and so on. I just always hoped that I was one of the luckier ones with FAP that just needed the total colectomy and that was it.
I am due to have my entire thyroid removed on the 30th of April, then I come back for the radiation weekend about 4-6 weeks after to kill any remaining thyroid tissue.
Stay tuned for what to expect with a breast biopsy and also a stomach biopsy.
I have been given some really useful guides by my doctors about the upcoming surgery and thyroid cancer which most can be found online from the cancer council's website, Another resource I read was or a really informative guide I found useful from Genzyme Australiasia.