Friday, June 15 2018
Today has been a massive day, I have been running around from appointment to appointment between the cancer centre getting my port flushed and bloods checked to getting my long overdue hearing check done. As part of my promise to spend time this year doing things for self care and prioritising me, this appointment was on the list.
I felt rather relieved to have finally had the appointment, moreso for what came next.....
I knew I had hearing loss in my left ear and knew it for a while, part of putting off the appointment to getting them was out of fear for the cost. Ever since I was 18 (2009) when I had the cysts on my brain I noticed hearing loss then, something to do with the pressure in my head, which has only gotten worse over time. Then when I had chemo I noticed with most things about my health, that it deteriorated more, so I feel for my neighbours as the TV is always so loud but I also feel for those I have hurt because they felt I ignored them or the conversation or that I was rude because I sat in silence.
But today I went and had my test and found out that I was eligible for free government subsidised hearing aids that I needed to pay $45 a year for batteries and servicing.
So today I got fitted and chose the colour and style, then in a fortnight I will get them as they have to be ordered - they will be fitted and I will be shown how to do it myself and then I have them for a fortnight to test run and make sure they will do what I need them to do.
If after a fortnight I am happy with them I accept them and they are mine.
It was a little overwhelming being told that I am eligible for hearing aids, not from a vanity perspective or worried for my looks, but because I can finally hear again and not miss out on conversations or pretend I understand and can follow along.
It gets so exhausting if I go to a family function or a social outing, even just a dinner date with Russ, if there is too much noise I can't hear and it gets tiring trying to focus as well as focus on not being in pain, and I tend to just sit there not saying much and can be labelled as rude, but it is just so so hard.
So I almost cried when I learned that I could be hearing in a matter of a fortnight.
I am hopeful and excited, I have needed this for so long.
I am not upset or worried, I am just grateful for our health system and that there is subsidised hearing aids that don't do fancy things but do just what I need and that is okay, would have loved to have gotten purple but Russ found a colour that would blend in with my ear and hair so won't stand out too much.
So I am okay, I am just grateful for all the new possibilities coming my way.
I learned years ago to never take hearing for granted and have been grateful I still had hearing but was just hard to hear in one ear.
So if ever you felt I was ignoring you or being rude, I most likely just couldn't hear you.
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.
Monday, February 12 2018
Please Note: All views in this blog are my own (and I don't claim to speak for or on behalf of anyone other than myself)... also, spoiler alert if you haven't yet watched episode 14 of the Good Doctor. I am just sharing my dismay at how something that saved my life was shown so negatively inflicting a stigma that so many fight to erase.
I have finally got around to catching up on the most recent episode of The Good Doctor, which I was rather enjoying up until this week.
Let me start by sharing (an ironic) quote from the episode:
The irony is that they could have shown more compassion surrounding how they approached the idea and livelihood with an ostomy.
Just an idea?
Myself and so many in the community work tirelessly to try and help people understand a life isn’t over with an Ostomy and comments on tonight’s show sets our work back 10 steps... arrogance isn’t helping anyone.
Here are what other ostomates and advocates said about the episode too:
No You Cantcer @NoYouCantcer
Here are some ostomates who inspire me and others:
But then there are other ostomates who have regained their lives and done things they never would have imagined, because of their ostomy and because they had the surgery, that in their cases were life-changing as much as it were life-saving.
I will introduce you to Zoey Wright, Laura Zapulla aka @stoma_licious, Sam Abarca aka @Aussie_Ostomate, Gaylyn Henderson aka @Gutlessandglamorous, Blake Beckford and Dana Marie. You may have heard of these guys before or seen them on instagram, you may remember Laura and Sam from my 20 Aussie Ostomates on Instagram post.
While these are just 6 ostomates, there are so many others out there showing life with an ostomy can still be lived and loved, but also that this can be a second chance many didn't have.
I am sharing these 6 ostomates because they have inspired me and I know they will inspire you too!
✰Introducing Zoey Wright @zoeywrightx - Pro Fitness Model:
✰Introducing Laura Zapulla @stomalicious - Ostomy travel blogger:
✰Introducing Sam Abarca @aussie_ostomate - RN with an ostomy and training to be a STN too:
✰Introducing Gaylyn Henderson founder of @gutlessandglamorous - helping to inspire the beauty in all of us:
"Anything that has the power to save a life can be nothing but beautiful!"
For over a decade Gaylyn adapted her life around her pain, her health issues caused from her IBD and struggling to find normalcy. It affected her emotional health too. It was then when she had her total colectomy and became an ostomate that she regained her love of life again. She often has spoken out about the stigma attached to having an ostomy that was the reason she held off for so long. Determined to change this for others, she founded the Gutless and Glamorous foundation with aims at helping to inspire and improve the lives of people with chronic illness and pays special attention to those with an ostomy or need to undergo life altering surgeries. She said (in an interview with BlackDoctor) her ostomy "saved my life and I want to highlight that those living with one can be both #GutlessandGlamorous. It is my goal to help erase the stigma." I think she has done an incredible job and believe she deserves a huge applause for all her tireless work from advocacy, support, education and fundraising for a cure. The world is a better place because of people like Gaylyn. Find her on: Instagram Facebook Twitter Blog
✰Introducing Blake Beckford @Blake_Beckford - Model, Body Builder and advocate:
✰Introducing Dana Marie Arnold @lovedanamarie - country music singer/songwriter, recently married:
I have talked before about how my ostomy gave me my life back and how it saved my life, my ostomy is the reason I get to cherish the gift of each day I wake up, my ostomy isn't perfect and is complicated but it gives me life and that is precious. In the future I hope that there is more acceptance for life-altering and life-saving surgeries like an ostomy and that it is more accepted.
This is why I started my blog 5 years ago, so that I can share life with an ostomy and hope to inspire others to live their best lives. I am so grateful now that there are so many wonderful ostomy advocates and bloggers on social media.
My wish is that in 10 years there won't be a stigma for ostomy life, that ostomy life will be accepted and not made to feel embarrassed for pooping different... I have seen how much the landscape has changed in 5 years and it gives me hope for future ostomates and the next generation of ostomates that they will feel love and acceptance and never have to feel ashamed for something out of their control anyway.
As I say all the time, I'd rather an ostomy in tow than a tag on my toe, ostomy life has been a rollercoaster ride for me, but it has also gifted me the joy of living too - so I will always be grateful for that.
Friday, February 09 2018
I have had the pleasure of connecting with some incredible ostomates over the years, even had the chance to interview and chat with them for my magazine, which is always a great privilege. Some have even become great friends too.
Last year I was honoured when Krystal Miller, who is an Aussie ostomate/advocate/IBD warrior and blogger more famously and belovedly known as Bag Lady Mama online, allowed me to interview her for my magazine. She was the cover ostomate for issue 2 and allowed me to get down and deep with my readers, and had a no filter no question off limits type interview.
Ostomyconnection.com reached out after the issue went live and asked us if we wouldn't mind if the interview was republished and edited to suit the readership and the site.
So last month I opened up my inbox to see the latest interview went live on their site. I was so excited to see how many were sharing the article around social media and how many loved the interview.
As a writer, or maybe it is just me, I tend to doubt myself A LOT - I mean constantly - so I always worry that people won't like what I have written or that it wouldn't be read/enjoyed.
I saw within a couple of days there'd been something like 888 shares, this gave me this huge smile and sense of "maybe I am doing something right after all" but to know so many liked it really made me so proud. I think I used the term 'proud as punch' on twitter, but I honestly am.
Of course I know my interview wouldn't have been what it was if it weren't for my wonderful interviewee, Krystal.
If you want to read the interview on OstomyConnection the link is here.
5 years ago I took a chance on myself and started writing about life with an ostomy, and I am just so grateful to the opportunities and people I have met along the way.
P.S I have another interview/article on another Aussie ostomate, Laura Zapulla who blogs at stomalicious, talking about how she has inspired and shown ostomates that you can have bag will travel and that having an ostomy doesn't stop you from living the life you are able to. She recently moved abroad which is a lifelong dream. So I am excited to share that interview soon. Laura has shared articles for me in my magazine about travel with an ostomy too.
Wednesday, February 07 2018
CONTENT WARNING: DISCUSSES DEATH READ AT OWN RISK
What a massive couple of weeks it has been, if you were following along on social media you may have seen my posts from hospital updating on what was going on.
Australia Day, is often a day spent with family and friends remembering or celebrating what it is to be an Australian, I know the day has conflicted meanings and celebrations for everyone, but Jan 26th 2018 will be a day that I remember just how close I came to those pearly gates and how bloody grateful I am to live to see another day.
So this is what had unfolded:
On Tuesday Jan 23rd, I was brushing my teeth around 4pm when I had a really sudden sharp pain around my right kidney area and shot down my leg and my leg felt like it were about to snap. I hopped, literally, to bed and got comfortable and had a nap. I woke around 10pm and struggled to get up out of bed and then also get to the toilet.
The next day the pain in my right leg was a lot worse, I couldn't weight-bear and relied on Russ to help me move from bed to toilet back to bed. I was crying in agony.
Thursday morning I woke and trying to get to the toilet I was screaming in pain. Russ was heading to work and I called Palliative care who told me to call an ambulance. So Russ left for work and I went in the ambo to the hospital. I had fentanyl up the nose a couple of times and barely took the edge off, no amount of morphine was helping either. Russ went to work but by 10am he was at the hospital as he was upset and wanted to be with me. It was a comfort him being there as I was in agony and I was so scared. The pain was horrendous.
I was admitted to hospital.
The next bit is where things got dicey....
So overnight my heart rate went sky high, talking 144bpm (normal for me is 90-100). My o2 dropped too.
They monitored me but by next morning things weren't any better.
I remember friends messaging me around 10am and I replied back, I thought I made sense but it was all drivvle and nonsense but it looked fine to me, so I didn't think anything of it.
That was all I recall, I don't recall much after that point.
Apparantly, from the pieces I managed to compile in the days to follow, was that I was passing in and out of consciousness. I went into a deep sleep and they struggled to wake me.
I kept coming too during the "resus" which may have been around 3pm and saw bunch of folk standing around my bed, some were pushing IV drips in, someone pressed the big emergency button, remember my bed being wheeled to another room where doctors were talking to me. I was upset and frustrated as no one was telling me what was happening, turns out they were but I was passing out by the time I asked my question and them telling me what was happening.
I wasn't sure where I was and my speech was slurred.
They rushed me up to CT and did a full body scan, thinking I was having a stroke or heart attack. I am on clexane injections due to previous blood clots in my lungs, but also because the tumour in my abdomen has blocked off the major arterial blood supply to my small bowel and stomach and they were worried that maybe there were a clot in my small bowel (one of the forecasted ways I could die)...
So I was upset and asked them to call Russ, he arrived sometime after they called him (he was on his way to me anyway) and I calmed down a bit when I recognised one of the voices of one of my doctors off my palliative care team, it was just scary being unconscious and not being able to see who or what was being done to you and remembering I didn't quite know what was happening.
I did also keep telling them "I'm not ready to die today" and "ignore my DNR". I was adamant that NOW was not my time and I was crying saying "but I am not ready" and "I need to write my goodbye letters".
I was just so worried that I was dying alone and it was my fear.
So fast forward to post event, I was so hazy and tired. My body hurt from the siezures and all the medications, I was having trouble reading (still am) but also what I was speaking wasn't what my mind thought I was trying to say, even typing for a few days after were a struggle.
I am still so tired and exhausted, I am trying to rest, but it really has been such a difficult couple of weeks.
They don't know what happened, they think it were an infection, my leg is still giving me grief but I was just so terrified.
Had I stayed home and tried to "tough it out" at home like I usually do, things would be very different and I could have very well died in my sleep during the day alone.... which is one of my fears, is dying alone. Russ has a fear of coming home from work and finding me, he gets worried when he calls me as he leaves work (even before all this happened) that he never knows what is awaiting him at home... poor guy! This latest event hasn't helped his fears though.
But it made me realise a few things...
1. I am not ready, I still feel like I have so much left to do, including putting pen to paper and penning those difficult goodbye letters to my loved ones.
2. I have a newfound appreciation for every good moment of the day and just how grateful I am to be alive
and 3. That Russ has even more grey hairs now than he did a fortnight ago, but that I saw just how much me being sick has taken a toll on him.
But jokes aside, I honestly always thought that when it were my time to go that I would know that it was time and that I would feel this sense of calm and readiness, as if I felt accomplished and happy. Now, I worry that maybe there isn't ever really going to be a universal sign or feeling of totality and that maybe you won't know.
It has made me even more determined now to try and get my affairs in order and try and be the best version of me I could be.
So I am home now, pain meds have had a total overhaul, back to weekly palliative care visits and here's hoping there are a few more chapters left of my story.
They pumped me with so much fluid during the resus that my stomach swelled up really badly, so much that I thought it would just split open, so took duiretics to help shift the water and my stomach is resembling it's usual self but still sore. Even around my stoma was swollen from fluid.
It has been a difficult week adjusting to being back home, I am still feeling weak and tired, my brain still feels sluggish and I am just taking my time to rest and actually listening to my body for once. I am not going to push myself anymore and after starting off 2018 on a rough patch I hope theres a few good months ahead.
Thank you to all the love, messages, comments checking in on me, it is a comfort knowing so many care.
You're stuck with me for a little longer still, well I hope anyway!
Friday, January 19 2018
I had wanted to write about this topic so many times last year, but each time I feared if I did it could somehow come across that I am some angry hermit who doesn't like visitors.
I don't claim to talk on behalf of all the people who are chronically or terminally sick, I simply am sharing mine (and my husband's) views of how we feel when you have surprise visits. Sometimes surprise or short noticed visits are difficult and stressful, you mightn't realise but there are reasons that make surprise visits difficult.
It could be very easy for you and your loved one who is sick to know how you can better support them and what things or actions don't help them. Finding how they feel about their needs or issues and how you can better help could be a starting point so you both can understand.
It is hard when you're chronically (and also in my case) terminally sick and trying to navigate the waters of keeping up appearances, being social and people visiting often surprised and unnanounced. I know people care and they decide as a last minute thing that they wanted to visit me for the day but don't bother telling me as "it is fun to surprise you" thinking it will make me feel great about myself having visitors, but they don't realise surprise visits cause me a lot of stress and anxiety which I explain below.
Don't get me wrong, I like when people visit but only if 2 conditions are met:
There were a few times over the past couple of years when people had surprised visited me and despite continually asking for no surprise visits, they still happened.
Family and friends were outside waiting and were upset and bothered when I didn't answer the door, because I was asleep and had my phone turned off so I could sleep.
I NEED notice when it comes to having visitors for a few reasons.
#1. I sleep a lot:
#2. My stoma leaks a lot:
#3. I often sleep starkers:
#4. I am often in pain and bedridden:
On days when I am bedridden I would love visits, providing you are understanding that I am in bed and you can sit in my room chatting with me. But don't expect me to get up and entertain you, defeats the point of being in bed resting. Don't ask "when are you getting up" or "why aren't you getting up" because it makes me want to kick you up the butt if I could because I don't need to justify myself to anyone.
#5. I can't just simply duck out to the shops:
If you arrive and we don't know in advance, even if you tell me in the morning, if Russ has already left for work it is too late. I don't have a car and can't drive much anymore, so if you surprised me it would mean I wouldn't have milk or cake or anything and would be a terrible host (again) and I would be feeling so anxious all day if you arrived worried that am I going to hear about this from others about how I am a horrible host... I don't mind if you do turn up unnanouced, just don't be upset if I don't have milk or coffee and can't get to the shops.
#6. I need a chance to cancel:
#7. Our house mightn't be visitor friendly:
I could go on about scenarios, there is so many more.
But I do love a visit, just prefer at least a couple of days notice at the very least to make sure the house is ready or that if you're staying the guest rooms are ready. You can visit, please just understand that turning up and surprising me isn't what works best for us.
I know it is hard to understand, but please do reconsider and try to give us as much notice for when you want to visit. I want to have a nice visit with you but I don't want either of us to feel uncomfortable.
If you do decide to that day or morning to visit, please give me as much notice as you can. If you arrived in Coffs at 9am but aren't visiting until 4pm Don't wait until 3pm to call me! Tell me first thing so I can have time to assess if I am up for a visit or under what terms. If you don't hear back from me or Russ before 4 hours before you're planning on visiting then it might not be the best day. If you don't hear from me, try Russ.
But if Russ says "today isn't the best day she isn't well" please respect his call.
Don't continue to turn up and then be upset if you're outside waiting for me for a while and I am asleep and don't know you're there until an hour after you've sat out there waiting. If you haven't heard a conifrmation at least 4 hours before arriving on if I am aware you're coming or if it is the right time, than maybe it isn't the most apporpriate time for a visit.
Again, none of this is said to upset anyone, I want visitors I really do - I just don't do well with surprise visits. My health IS declining and I am spending more time in bed, so surprise visits really aren't ideal for us anymore. #sorrynotsorry
As I said, ask your loved one how you can support them and what they need from you, in my case try to avoid surprise or unnanounced visits.
Friday, January 12 2018
I know I have chirped on and on (and on) about how we are struggling financially and that I am concerned about when I die and if Russ can manage it on his own. I know you're probably sick of hearing me go on about it, but it honestly is so stressful.
It is hard being on one income, I know it is overwhelming for Russ too.
So last week we got a letter from our bank informing me that as of today (the 12th) our mortgage will be going up $500 a month.
This really scares me.
Not only do I not know where I am going to pluck that extra $500 from this month considering we are already halfway through the month, but that I really am so stressed and upset.
Yes, I acknowledge my priviledge in that we have our own mortgage, but even when we were renting things were hard and the rent assistance really made the world of difference when it came to our budget. But it doesn't mean that things instantly became easier when we got out mortgage. I didn't realise how much harder it was to have your own place.
I see how worried Russ is over this and I know he is on the fritz of losing it as it was before this letter, now he is just even more stressed. I feel so guilty, I know it isn't my fault and that I couldn't help getting sick but it is my age old issue with that I should have gotten life insurance earlier or made more of an effort to do extra super contributions when I worked as it would mean I have more than $3000 in super.... which I am still fighting to get out mind you.
That is a fight for another day.
Yesterday I got a copy of Barefoot investor in the mail (thanks to a beautiful friend buying and sending me this copy) and started reading it, I have heard everyone rave about it and how effective it truly is, so it gives me hope for the first time that maybe I can get things under control this year.
It is one of my goals to get things neater for Russ, I don't know how much time I have and I think it will just be a massive peace of mind to know it is under control.
We have our mortgage, debts, car loan plus our other bills. So I try each year to review things to see if there is savings to be found, so I am hopeful that this book will help me even more.
Plus, it is one of my goals to read more too, so this is already tackling my goals for the year.... maybe this year is getting off to a stressful start but it might be turning around? Always hopeful that things will get better, surely they have to?
A friend has put me in touch with a broker and hoping we can find a new bank with a better rate and can consolidate our debt which will mean freeing up a lot of weekly expenditure and might mean we can afford to start saving.
So tell me, have you read the book? Did it help you? What was the biggest take away you had from it?
I will let you know when I have finished reading it and what progress I make.... until then, wish me luck!
We also got Solar Panels on recently, they had a 5 year interest free offer, so we are really hoping that on our next bill we can see a difference, otherwise I am going to be rather upset. Russ assures me we will be better off and that it will improve the value of our home too. Do you have solar panels and do you see a difference? Next bill is March, so will let you know if there were savings to be had.
As always, thank you for listening and wish me luck as I tackle this mammoth task!
What goals are you hoping to tackle this year?
Friday, January 12 2018
I was scrolling through my Facebook 'on this day' memories when a post from this day, 5 years ago, came up.
The post was:
You see, I had a pretty MASSIVE and life changing decision that needed to be made.
I was told not long before Xmas 2012, that I had early signs of bowel cancer and that I needed to have a surgery called a total colectomy with a permanent (end) ileostomy created.
I was so scared, I was so alone and I didn't know of ANY other people with an ileostomy let alone a young person with one.
I was 21, why should I have known anyone, afterall I was ignorant and thought just older people lived with stoma bags, it was hard to fathom a young person living with one.
I ignorantly made this association as I presumed that people had a stoma at the end of their life and that their lives are essentially over.
So when I was told that I would be needing one at 21, for the rest of my life, I was really freaking out.
I tried to search for blogs about young people with an ostomy and couldn't find anyone. Social media wasn't what it is today, there was Instagram but it hadn't taken off, but there was still so much stigma around living with an ostomy and the social stigma too for that matter, that not many were sharing their lives publicly.
The media wasn't helping much when it came to sharing stories about people with a stoma either. They published such negative, fear mongering articles that had people, like me, perceiving it as death sentance or that it was THE worst thing imaginable.
But my surgeon said this to me :
I met with my stoma nurse, counsellors and surgeon a couple of times to help me process the surgery. I hadn't told any of my friends or family, I didn't know how to bring it up, I knew they would have questions that I wasn't ready to answer, but I was worried about being judged.... so I decided to wait until I had to tell them, which was the week before surgery. I had so much to process as it was I just didn't need anyone else weighing in, they were pissed understandably, but they were also upset that I was trying to process such a huge thing on my own.
I had told Russ though and he had been coming to my appointments with me, as it was impacting him too. At the time I gave him the option to leave me, told him that I wouldn't hold it against him if he did as it wasn't what he signed up for, he told me to stop being ridiculous and it would take a lot more than that to stop loving me.
I couldn't have gotten through all of this and life to come, without Russ though.
He came to my appointments and asked my surgeons or stoma nurse questions, he even asked if when they teach me how to look after my stoma that they show him too so that he knew how to help. I think it was at that point I fell even more in love with him, which I didn't think was possible.
Russ said to me that it was my decision to have the surgery or not, but if it meant that this could be helping me to live as long as I could that he would appreciate me having the surgery.
So 5 years on, this is a letter I wished I could tell my scared 21-year-old self, I don't even recognise that part of me anymore I feel like this was a massive turning point in my life and I grew up A LOT in the years to follow.
Letter To My 21-Year-Old Self:
I know you have a lot that you’re dealing with right now and I know that you’re doing the best that you can under the circumstances. You are facing a life-defining decision right now, I can tell you this because I have watched you live through this.
Yes it changed your life but it saved it too.
Do you know how much pain you’re in right now and every time you go to the toilet? You probably won’t believe me when I say this, but you won’t be in agony multiple times a day. You won't even be needing to spend most of your day on the toilet either.
Do you know how you don’t leave the house, go out for dinner or stay over at someone’s house unless you know that a toilet is accessible and close by? Well, you won’t have to worry as much. You won’t be needing to quickly dash to the toilet every time you eat.
Do you know how you lost your enjoyment of food because of the above comments? You will find you can eat all your favourite and missed foods, given there are things you can’t eat anymore, but you will find you will learn to love and appreciate food again.
I won’t lie, there will be some pretty difficult times ahead, not only will surgery and the recovery be long and hard but it will be painful.
You will adapt to stoma life, but it will take time, so be patient with the process.
There will be times where shit literally will happen, it is to be expected, but trust me - you will get used to it. You will sometimes wake covered in shit, so just remember to empty your bag throughout the night and also invest in waterproof mattress protectors.
Sometimes leaks happen, it isn’t your fault, but always carry a spare set of supplies everywhere you go just in case. There will be a time where you’ll be caught out, it will be embarrassing and it will serve as a learning curve.
I know you’re apprehensive right now about surgery, but your stoma will serve to give you extra time… everyday is a gift and not a given right, learn to appreciate each day you wake up and all of the moments you have.
You don’t need to worry about Russ or your marriage, he will be there for you every step of the way. He will surprise you at how calm and collected he is even when you’re flustered and freaking out and covered in shit, even if it is in the middle of the night. He won’t mind helping with your bag changes or leaks, you just have to ask him.
He loves you for you and your stoma will soon be a part of you.
You will lose friends, because they don’t understand - it will hurt but don’t dwell too much on those who aren’t there for you and appreciate and be grateful to those who are. You will make some great friendships over the coming years too, you'll find people who embrace you for the wonderful person you are and won't be worried that you have a stoma.
Just remember what dad used to say to you and find comfort in his words offered.
The next 5 years will be incredibly tough and this is just the start of the rollercoaster ride known as life, this will be the first of many primary cancer diagnosis’ and the start of many surgeries.
Know your limits but also recognise when you need to ask for help too. Put your stoicism aside and ask people to help you, most are wanting to help they just are waiting for you to ask.
There’ll be times where you easily wished you could pick up the phone and call dad, but there’ll be times where you will draw from his presence and he will be there to guide you. I am sure he will be proud of you.
Learn to pick your battles, know that some just aren’t worth the stress. You will come to learn to try and let everything go, everyone will always be having their own opinion or force their mindset onto you. Just stay true to yourself. Know your worth. Know that you aren’t what they think of you.
It will be hard on your mental health throughout times over these next 5 years, there will be times where you spiral and it is important to always recognise when you need help. Find what drives your creativity, focus on writing or creating, find ways to give yourself purpose in your day.
You are about to start a blog, you are worried about putting all this out there publicly and worried about how other’s perceive you. But by doing this you are going to be helping so many, you will help save lives, you will help nurses in how they help support young people with a stoma, you’ll be nominated for awards, you will even start your own magazine for young people with a stoma and will even help others to feel less alone.
You’ll start your blog because you’re finding as a 21-year-old female that there isn’t much info out there at the moment when it comes to young people with a stoma and a blog, you don’t know what life will be like going forward, but you will feel that if you share it as you go that maybe you’ll help others who are feeling alone or worried too. You will meet other young ostomates too.
You’ll even be invited to speak about your time as a young ostomate.
But you will also get to do some fun stuff too, like catch the train to Adelaide, go to P!nk’s 2013 concert, Meet the Dixie Chicks and see them in concert in 2017, finally get to experience and see Darling Harbour, Go to Melbourne and accidentally stumble across the Offspring hospital, go swimming and do water aerobics, and do some bucket listing too. You'll finally get a tattoo too!
You and Russ will realise your house dreams in 2015 and will build a house, you’ll also have a very adorable and fun kitten who will make your days fun and full of love.
Then in 2016 you’ll need surgery to remove one of your tumours which will mean losing your stoma, your stoma will now be retracted and sit under your skin. It will leak a lot, it will be hard at times to lose all hope knowing the good stoma you had prior, but you will get through it. You will get used to daily leaks and waking up with a leak, it will affect your mood and what you do but you’ll be relatively okay.
In 2016 you will also enter palliative care, they will offer you a wheelchair - don’t decline out of pride or feeling like you aren’t worthy of it. You will learn to love your wheelchair and embrace it, just like you have your stoma.
So while you have a huge decision to make right now, I can tell you this now that you will be better off having the surgery. You will be okay, your marriage will be fine, you will love life and not fear it.
Don’t fear asking your stoma nurse for help, even if you feel it is a silly question, she will be one of your greatest supports. She has probably heard it all, you really couldn't do this without her....
But you have got this, your life will be changed but you will cope and adapt.... just breathe!
Write that bucket list now, start to see and do as much as you can and don’t keep saying there’ll be plenty of time, go travel when you’re able to and take lots of photos and always tell those you hold dear you love them and appreciate them.
P.S I just wanted to say thank you to each and every person who reads my posts, comments on social media or on here or has emailed me over these 5 years supporting my blog. Cannot believe it is 5 years later already!
Thursday, December 14 2017
If you have just read part 1, You will have learned: how heat can affect those who are vulnerable or sick or with an ostomy; what are the different heat related illnesses to look out for; what are the symptoms of the heat illnesses; and lastly, how/what to do under each situation.
NB: It is important to remember that this is just an informative guide only and I am not a nurse or doctor, and any individual circumstances or advisement is based on each person's own circumstances. If you have questions to follow it up with your team.
So in this Part 2, I will be sharing tips to help you be more prepared for the weekend
But just in case you haven't read part 1 yet, basically here in Australia we are preparing for an extreme heat wave which will occur over the weekend and most of Australia will be experiencing temps of 35'c-45'c+.
I have an ostomy, ileostomy to be exact, I also have other chronic co-morbid health issues/illnesses and take various medications which put me at higher risk of sun related illnesses.
I started writing this post a couple of years ago but never finished it in time for it to be relevant, so I am finishing it ahead of this weekend, I only hope it might help someone to be more informed of their own circumstances and to know what to do.
Also keep in mind anyone you know who might be at a higher risk of suffering with the heat, it could be a neighbour who is elderly and lives alone, or it could be checking in on a friend, just to make sure they are doing okay - as the heat can affect many in different ways.
Part 2: Being prepared and tips to surviving the heatwave
I thought it might just be helpful to share different tips to help you get through the heatwave, if you have your own be sure to comment.
Tip #1: Never leave kids or pets alone in a car
Even on a "cool day" this is a no-no. While the temp outside might only be 25'c the temps inside that car can be 55-70'c! It can rise 40 degrees hotter than the outside temperature, so imagine how hot it would be on a day during a heatwave.... scary to think. The damage it can do is increase a child's body temperature, which could lead to brain damage... not to mention what it does to pets too.
I have seen videos and experiements where a chef has cooked a lamb while inside a car, to a vet documenting what it is like in a car. I do not suggest trying it out yourself, there are plenty of videos and information out on the interwebs about the consequences to leaving pets or kids in cars, which can be deadly.
A child left in a parked car under those conditions for even a few minutes can very quickly become distressed, dehydrated and can die from organ failure. If you see anything, you need to act quickly. If you wait, it can be too late.
What to do if you see a child or pet in the car?
You don't have to be an NRMA member to call for roadside assistance if it is in less urgent circumstances. Because of the grave danger involved, the NRMA drops everything to respond immediately to calls where a child is locked in a car.
For pets: Visit Just 6 minutes, a site by the RSPCA which outlines that it takes only 6 minutes of a dog left in a car to die. Here is a factsheet of pet first aid if you can rescue the pet from the car and can wait until the owner arrives. Call 000 immediately and ask what you're legalities are if you can smash the window. But some states you can receive a $200k fine and imprisonment for leaving a pet in the car.
Tip #2: Have plenty of water
You should drink two to three litres of water a day even if you don't feel thirsty.
Tip #3: Have electrolyte replacement on hand
Also important if you don't have an ostomy but have gastro or vomiting bugs during a heatwave too. Hydrolyte is an electrolyte drink which also comes in the form of icypoles too and can be found from most supermarkets or chemists.
Tip #4: Stay cool
If you are outdoors try and find a nice shaded tree and be sure to keep hydrated.
You could also use one of those battery operated hand held mist fans Kmart have them for $5-$10, or a spray bottle with water in it to help.
A cool tip, get it (lol) I have one of my heatpacks in a zip lock bag and in my freezer. This turns into a cold pack and means I have a cool option too. I get my heatpack/cold packs from Chatterbox City.
Tip #5: Keep plenty of drinks in the fridge prepared
Tip #6: Have ice packs or blocks in the freezer
Tip #7: Keep blinds drawn
Tip #8: Wear light summery clothing
Tip #9: Be sun smart and sun safe
Tip #10: Reapply sunscreen often
Tip #11: Don't lie in the sun exposed
Tip #12: in case of a blackout
Tip #13: Open the house at night or evening if a cool change is forecast
Tip #14: Pets or wildlife
Fill a kids clam pool sand pit thing with water and put in the shade and let your dog cool down when he needs to.
Tip #15: Keep your body cool but not freezing
Tip #16: Check in on those at risk
Tip #17: Watermelon
Tip #18: Foods
Tip #19: Wearing a stoma cover
Tip #20: Mashmallows
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I hope that you have found these 2 posts helpful on how to prepare for a heatwave with an ostomy, I know they have been long posts but there was a lot of information I needed to share with you. These posts do not replace the information of that of your nurse or doctors, it is a guide to help inform you of the risks and tips on getting through the heatwave safely.
Please be sure to seek medical attention if you require it and don't delay, heat related illnesses are deadly serious.
More Links through my research:
If you have another tip, be sure to let me know in the comments below. To read part 1, click here
Thursday, December 14 2017
NB: I am not a doctor or nurse, I am sharing information through my own experiences and also that of various credible sites online. The heat and how it may affect you can differ based on personal health issues, so please do speak to a professional regarding how to be safe in Summer based on your own needs. I am sharing the advice I have found and learned in the hopes it may help you to have a better awareness of how to prepare and endure the heatwave.
Here in Australia, we are 14 days into our Summer. We had a fairly non-existent Winter where we live near in northern NSW, and it honestly felt like a mild Summer. I don't recall having to wear a jumper at all and some nights we needed the air conditioning on. But temps were always around 30'c, it was so dry and warm that our grass and plants were rather dead looking - thankfully, after a lot of water and work, the lawn and garden are thriving.
But it did make me worry about the sort of heats and Summer to prepare for, and if going off the predictions for this weekend - I had a right to worry.
So this weekend, particularly Sunday and Monday, most of Australia will be experiencing temperatures ranging between 35'c to over 45'c, we are told this could be the first of many extreme heatwaves we'll need to prepare for this Summer.
..... 14 days in to December, this is going to be a long hot Summer!
Part 1: Knowing your risk and what to do
I know you're probably thinking, "big deal just go to the beach, no biggie" - well it actually is a big deal, especially to those vulnerable in the community which includes:
During heatwaves you can be at risk of heat related illnesses such as heat stroke, dehydration, overheating or hyperthermia, heat cramps. Heat can also worsen health conditions too. During this time the extreme heatwaves can attribute to bushfires or power outages (blackouts) too, so it is important to be prepared.
Summer and heat realated health issues and illnesses need to be taken seriously as it can lead to deaths, heart attacks, strokes and more.
How does having an ostomy put me at risk during a heatwave?
Then add in sweating and extreme heat to the mix and you're more susceptible to becoming dehydrated and suffering due to the heat. Aside from drinking plenty of fluids, also drink electrolyte drinks such as sports drinks or even icypoles filled with all of your delicious minerals and vitamins. Be sure to ask your stoma nurse or dietician what else you can do to help.
With the dehydration issues aside (I will share signs to look out for below) heat can also affect your stoma, such as: by your bag not adhering to your skin properly, using tapes/boomerangs these can help to secure your bags; you might get a heat rash, I know in Summer I get a heat rash where my bag sits against my stomach, I find wearing stoma covers helps with the irritation; Your output might be more watery due to dehydration, so have some marshmallows or gastro stop/immodium to thicken your output. Just remember your spare stoma kit and supplies if you do go out, just incase you happen to have a leak.
It is important to also keep in mind (during the heatwave) that if you are outdoors, doing any strenuous activities such as sports or gardening with an ostomy, you are at risk of heat cramps too. I will explain more about heat cramps below, but essentially due to excessive sweating the body loses water and salts (electrolytes) and when the salts in the muscles get really low these cause cramps. If your electrolyte levels are at risk of being low consider avoiding activities that might put you at risk of heat cramps, at least until you are rehydrated and the weather is as normal as it will be during Summer.
So what is dehydration and what are the signs to look out for?
NSW health says the symptoms/signs of dehydration to look out for are:
So what should you do if you or a loved one are dehydrated? NSW health offers this advice:
So what are heat cramps and what are the signs to look out for?
NSW health says the symptoms/signs to look out for are:
So what should you do if you or a loved one are suffering with heat cramps? NSW health offers this advice:
So what is heat exhaustion and what are the signs to look out for?
NSW health says the symptoms/signs to look out for are:
What to do -FIRST AID- according to NSW health:
So what is heat stroke and what are the signs to look out for?
NSW health says the symptoms/signs to look out for are:
What to do -FIRST AID- according to NSW health:
I know that this is a long and comprehensive guide on the signs and symptoms pertaining to heat related illnesses and what to do in terms of First Aid, in the next post (part 2) I will talk about being prepared and tips for enduring the heatwave.
Again, I am no health professional, I have only done 2 years of Nursing, but I just wanted to put as much information out there from reliable sources to help you be more informed when it comes to the heat and Summer... especially with an ostomy or any health issue, which can make your risk heightened. Please seek medical attention and don't delay, also remember to slip slop slap!
Please be safe and be mindful of how your medications can affect you with the heat, speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you are worried.
Friday, September 22 2017
WARNING: This post discusses death, dying, suicide, euthanasia and could provide a trigger. Continue to read at your own risk. Opinions discussed are of my own and I have no paid or unpaid political affiliation with Dying with Dignity NSW, nor have I been asked to write on this topic. This is purely something that I feel deeply about and it is a topic I have been wanting to write for a long time. These are my views so please be respectful
I am not one to usually talk politics with you, but this is something that is quite personal for me and something I have had discussions with Russ at length about. It is a topic that is misunderstood or misrepresented in the media, in order to create fear and hate and divide people. This is more than just a topic for me, it is something I think about daily, and that is that I deserve to die with dignity and compassion.
This week (on the 21st of September) in NSW legislative parliament, a bill was presented to the NSW upper house called the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017. This bill was created to help terminally ill adults to die on their own terms with compassion, respect and dignity.
There has been many heated debates referring this to "euthanasia" which is misleading a lot of people, politicians included, by the myths and fear mongering tactics employed by those who are so loud in their opposition of this Act. According to "Assisted Dying: Setting the record straight" an e-Book written By NSW Dying with Dignity, euthanasia is referred to as "life ending medication administered by a doctor". Under the proposed bill in NSW, a person who is at least 25 years of age, of sound mind, who is living with a terminal condition and is estimated to be in the last 12 months of their life based on the opinion of several medical experts, and is Experiencing severe pain, suffering or physical incapacity to an extent deemed unacceptable to the patient, can SELF-administer a lethal substance to end their lives and if they are unable to they can nominate a doctor or loved one to help them.
There is a need for this, a need for a law that protects and has the interests of those (like myself) who are dying from cancer or other terminal illnesses to die with compassion on our own terms when we deem the pain and suffering to be too much AND give us dignity in our deaths.
I have read reports of persons ending their own lives under horrific circumstances as they can't face this anymore. I know there have been times I have considered this, not out of depression but merely out of desperation. How can I go on knowing that the pain and my quality of life will only get worse - I didn't have any hope for the life I could still live as it is so hard... then add the feelings of guilt knowing you are hurting those you love and the FOMO (fear of missing out) on life and it can be too hard to bear. So YES, I can empathise with how someone can choose this.
Then referring to the above comment can lead to families suffering after witnessing a loved one's traumatic or "bad" death. By choosing this law families could ensure they get to say goodbye, a person could feel at peace themselves knowing they have no unfinished business, a dying person and their loved ones could make a beautiful moment or ceremony or way to commemmorate a life before it was over and it could help them to have control over their deaths and give everyone a better experience of the death.... I am not saying the loss of a loved one is easy by any means, but it could help give comfort to KNOW that they were not in pain, they were happy and they were surrounded by love.
I know my biggest fears are dying in pain and dying alone.
It scares me everyday.
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I remember back to my first university lecture on Ethics and the law when I was studying Nursing and the topic came up on Euthanasia. The whole room was literally divided and there were many debates, we even had to do an assignment on the topic. I got a High Destinction, but it was such a hard topic. I know then my heart was divided, I was being told that "NO, it is illegal" but my heart felt that morally it was unfair that someone should die in pain.
This lecture was before dad's cancer and many years before my own, but regardless of my own experiences of mortality, I do still believe that there can be dignity and compassion and respect in dying.
Because there are so many myths out there, I want to try and dispell some, to help show this bill won't affect anyone other than those who are terminally ill and living in their last 12 year of their lives.
Firstly, I am not saying my life or those with terminal cancer isn't worth living or anything like that, I believe in living life to the full and strongly belief life doesn't have to stop being lived. I plan on squeezing the most out of my life, and it is something I try to do everyday, but I know there will come a point where I am too sick and I am just simply existing and suffering in pain and only then is that when I want to say "hey let's do this". If this bill was already law (and it is something I have discussed at length with Russ) we would wait until we knew there wasn't much of my life left.
Truth be told, I have been told that my death is likely to be extremely painful and that pain meds won't help me... My pain levels now are barely managed and I am on high dosages already, knowing my pain is going to be tenfold compared to what it is now scares the crap out of me... I would much rather die happy and at peace... wouldn't you?
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Myth: This will hurt those who are vulnerable within the community.
Did you know? That under this bill you can change your mind at any time too. You won't be forced to proceed if you no longer wish to. It will always come down to your choice, afterall it is the point of all of this which is to give you a choice in how you die if you're palliative and 12 months or less to live.
Myth: Assisted dying is suicide, legalising it will ruin society as a whole
Myth: A doctor can kill any patient and can cover it up by saying it was an assisted death
Myth: Doctors don't know when you'll die, only GOD knows, no one can know these things so don't listen to a doctor they are wrong all the bloody time
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I could go on about all of this for a long time, but you can view these myths and more in the "Assisted Dying: Setting the record straight" an e-Book written By NSW Dying with Dignity, to learn more about how this law WILL ONLY AFFECT those who need it.
I know it is a heated debate, I know some oppose it under religious beliefs, but do have a read up of just how important and life changing this could be to someone like myself - a young person dying from cancer.
Dying at 26 sucks enough as it is, it is painful, it is scary and most of all I have no control or relief. I know at some point in the next 6-12 months things will get a lot worse and more painful and I just wish that this was available if I felt it was too painful. Just to know there is an option to give me control in the end would give me hope that I won't be in pain forever and I could be at peace in the end.
I know I would only do this IF or WHEN the pain got too much, I would try and hold out as long as I could before.
Please visit Dying With Dignity NSW to learn more or to follow the progress/updates of the legistlature or to read other people's stories on the bill.
Regardless of your personal stance on the issue, do consider reading up on the benefits this could help to people like myself dying from cancer. It might not be something that will be able to assist me through my death unless it is passed within the next 6-12 months, but it is something that could at least help those in the future to have dignity in their death.
P.S If you feel that this bill should be passed please consider writing a letter to your local MP to voice your concerns and to help get this bill passed. Click here to find out how you can help!
Sunday, March 05 2017
It is my birthday in 5 days and I am struggling with it, this is the first birthday in 5 years I have wanted to celebrate it. I am having a birthday of my dreams with items on my bucket list e.g enjoy a cocktail again, have a high tea for my birthday, do a flower crown workshop. It was meant to be a surprise vow renewal, but Russ shut that idea down quick smart.... he still claims to hope I will somehow miraculously make it to our 10 year in 2020.
I know it sounds weird that this is the first birthday in 5 years that I have wanted to celebrate, even though that has its own rollercoaster of emotions to accompany it.
This birthday is my 26th birthday but it is also very, very likely to be my last.
For the latter reason, I tried to put aside my issues and feelings to try and have the best birthday I possibly could not only for myself as I feel I need to be shown I am loved and that I matter lately (that is a whole story for another time) but I also knew that THIS was important for my family and friends.
I was told last month that "I don't understand what the issue is with your birthday, you are the only one feeling this way".
It kind of made me feel a little angry that my feelings weren't valid and that I should just suck it up, but this isn't that easy.
You see my birthday was always something I shared with my dad and we would always do a combined birthday, my birthday was the 10th and his the 11th. It was always precious moments I shared with him.
Why I find my birthday hard ☟☟☟☟
It was March 10th, 2012 when he actually started dying. He was terminal with cancer, but that day - my birthday - was the day he started his dying process.
It was also my 21st birthday.
I had this whole day planned, spent over $3000 on it and family were travelling all over for the day mostly because it was my birthday but a big part of it was they knew it very well would be the last time they would see my dad. I knew that, they knew that, he knew that.
So that morning I arrived at 7am to my dad's house to be greeted by my nan who said "He doesn't want you to know this, but he probably won't make it through the day". I went in to see my dad and to sit with him. He looked at me and said "you f$cking know don't you?" and he started yelling at me. I knew this was because he was frustrated, he felt like he had lost his independance and the one request he had to everyone was to not ruin my birthday by telling me, he was so selfish that he wanted his daughter to have a great 21st birthday, but he was angry.
I was so upset I jumped back in the car and drove back home to drive back ready for the party. It was a 3-4 hour round trip and I used the excuse I forgot my outfit (which I did). I drove the whole way crying, shaking and at one point pulling over because I was having an anxiety attack and couldn't see. I wasn't alone, I had Russ with me who was talking reason to me.
I had to get all my tears out before I returned to see him again, he got angry if people cried and gave him pity so you had to hold it in or if you felt you couldn't he didn't want you visiting.
So I got back to his place, I was eager to cancel the party because I wanted to stay with him and do something different.... but he wouldn't let me. He didn't want me to miss out on my birthday and he tried his best to get there but sadly he couldn't.
I understood but boy it hurt.
I got to my party and felt so guilty, I felt like I was the worst person in the world and that everyone would be judging me for being there instead of with him. I made an appearance and snuck outside and just cried for ages. My best friend came looking for me, she had a drink in her hand and she told me to take my time. I had a couple of drinks of liquid courage and went back in to face everyone.
I had a few more drinks and started to loosen up, I started to dance and had fun, I was surprised the DJ knew all the songs to play and I was having such a good time.
Then it hit me, I felt the guilt again and then I started crying all over again.
Midnight came and the venue needed to close and I headed to dad's where I was meant to spend the night but knowing he needed his rest my friend let Russ and I stay there. He was waiting up for me and gave me my present, it was this beautiful silver heart bookmark engraved for my birthday.
He proceeded to tell me that he was texting the DJ all night the songs and he was telling my dad how I was, he knew already that I disappeared early in the night and was pretty upset but I tried my best to have a good night.
Next day was his birthday and we sang happy birthday via webcam as his room was too small with all the hospital equipment to fit over 20 of us. He managed to get out of bed that day and walk around with assistance, and I thought maybe he wasn't dying afterall.
Later that night it was only Russ, my brother, dads partner and I that were there when his breathing slowed right down that I thought it would stop and he was losing consciousness. We called the ambulance and I thought he was going to die. He held my hand and talked to me. He told me he was sorry and that he was proud of me.
When the ambulance officers came they told us to make ourselves familiar with his end of life wishes and to have the plan at hand, knowing when the time comes we weren't to do anything as he was DNR.
The next day I was having severe endometriosis pain and realised I had no pain meds with me and needed to drive home, as Russ didn't drive I had no way of getting back to dads so went home to rest. I got the call to say the doctor had been and they said he might have a day or a few days but definitely need to get everyone to say their goodbyes.
He died overnight, getting the call at 4am and jumped straight in the car and drove down.
He had always said he wanted to make it to at least see his oldest turn 21.
Why I struggled since to want a birthday ☟☟☟☟
But each year since, I would get rather depressed leading up to it. I had a lot of guilt and I felt traumatised from the events around my 21st birthday and that my birthday never felt the same, I felt like I was missing a piece of me.
So I decided not to celebrate my birthday and would use this time to go away with Russ somewhere that I could just escape everything and everyone, I know it is selfish but I really can't cope with the overwhelm of feelings. But it is also because I just can't cope with this feelings, so I avoid them, I am in denial that I need to.
Fast forward to this year, after the suggestion of family they felt that I needed to do this for them, so I have been trying a lot to make this a memorable time for them and hopefully myself, but it is hard when everytime I feel a little excited I then feel this massive overwhelm of guilt and I start vomiting. I can't help but hate myself for trying to want a good time when these feelings keep coming back.
I know no one understands why this time of year isn't easy for me, but it is so hard... it is hard to not feel survivors guilt or that I shouldn't be happy so close to his days.
I am trying my best but I am also struggling.
So I am stressed, I have $800 worth of things needing to be paid for before Friday. I applied weeks ago for a special terminal illness grant to be approved as a dying wish and still haven't heard back even though Russ has sent numerous emails. All the vendors demanding their monies and I am so upset that it won't be the perfect day I dreamed of. I have the cake $200, food at the venue $240 or $6/head and the flower crown workshops of $400 ($20/head). I know guests are paying for their own cocktail high tea in lieu of gifts ($35/head) as there was no way I could afford that too.
Didn't help that last week my cake maker pulled out and had to find a new one, which I am loving the cake.
I just worry I won't have enough time to wrangle money together if they don't let me know ASAP an outcome, I need to have time to either find things to sell or convince Russ to use one of the credit cards which means also getting the bank's approval as it will affect the outcome of our homeloan review in the coming months.
Besides, Tuesday I have an MRI and that has me rather anxious and worried.... just keep asking them to keep the results until after my birthday...
I just want to try and have one LAST memorable, uneventful, drama free birthday! Is it too much to ask of? BUT wish me luck, please, that the rest of this week goes smoothly!
So if you have heard me talk about why I am struggling leading up to my birthday, this might explain it all! But it is a comfort knowing that I will see him soon, life hasn't been the same since.
I miss dad so much ❤
p.s pretty keen for my first drink in 5 years, just hoping it doesn't trigger a pancreatitis attack or interfere too much with my medications... drink of choice is a fruit tingle
Friday, August 05 2016
One of the hardest parts about being terminal and knowing your life will be short lived, is knowing just how much you will be missing out.
There will be plenty of birthdays, milestones, graduations, weddings and babies no doubt...
But it has really been upsetting me lately knowing that I will be missing so much, and that is hard to deal with.
I also know that if I leave Russell up to the task of buying special gifts for after I am gone, I know not only can he not choose a good present but he is never organised enough to make sure a present is arrived in time.
Heck, I start Xmas shopping around April/May each year (yes I already have presents organised already).
But part of me feels that I should be organised now and start buying gifts and getting cards together for their birthdays, future babies and weddings... but will that be creepy? Like will they be creeped out that I am giving gifts beyond my grave?
Hardest thing is I can't find like a 'etiquette to dying' handbook to tell me what I am meant to do and organise before I die... so I am kinda just winging it. (trust me I have looked... wait maybe that is my e-course or e-book idea?)
I wish everyday that I wasn't dying or that I can continue to grow old with my husband... I wish I wasn't given this shortened life sentence and that I could find a fairy godmother to grant me 3 wishes with one being 'to be cured'... but that only happens in fairytales and I am no Cinderella.
I really want to be here for Russell's 40th in 4 years, but I threw him a pretty cool 35th party (but I didn't tell him it was because I might not get to throw him a 40th). The party was under the disguise of 'half way to retirement' party.... but he had fun and his friends all had fun too. It was a themed party and everyone was to dress up as something they wanted to be when they grew up.
Was a lot of fun, and he asks me if I will throw him another party and I just reply "We'll see" and put on a smile and hold back the tears. I am considering a housewarming party, but we'll see.
Like I know I am not ready to fall off the perch just yet, and I hope I at least have another year or two but I am the sort of person that needs to be prepared and needs to be organised.
But tell me, if you got a gift or a card from a loved one beyond their grave, would you be creeped out?
I ask (if you feel inclined to) that if my blog or my writing has helped you or made a difference in your life, please consider treating me to lunch or a mango smoothie by clicking through to my paypal.me account.
I am mostly housebound so being able to go out for a nice treat would really help make my day that little bit brighter. Would also help me to feel appreciated too.
Wednesday, July 13 2016
[this post may contain spoilers, proceed at own risk]
I was watching Winners and Losers last night (the second episode of what will be the final season) and I felt rather annoyed by a particular conversation that seemed to have been missed on the show.
Jenny found out that she was pregnant (was a surprise/shock) and that she later learnt that it was ectopic.
But there should have been a conversation with Jenny and her husband about their options they have for planning or 'safer planning' for a family when she carries a genetic cancer gene mutation.
We learnt earlier in the series that her mum and sister both had breast cancer, then Jenny discovered that she too had the gene and she opted for the double masectomy... I always thought the writers did so well in those episodes that followed her diagnosis and surgery and that Melissa Burgland conveyed the emotion really well, I especially felt that I could relate.
But I felt really disappointed watching it last night that there was nothing mentioned about speaking with a genetic counsellor regarding family planning or anything.
I just know with my genetic cancer gene mutation that I had to consult with so many doctors and specialists BEFORE we were to start trying for a family, and to really know our options and risks going forward. Options for us included IVF where there is a test that can be performed on the embryos to see if they have the gene mutation.
I just know for me, a big responsibilty I felt was that I didn't want to be careless and knowingly pass on this gene knowing what my family (dad and sister) along with myself have gone through, and there would be that stress and worry of not knowing if they inherited the disease until they were at an age to be allowed to be tested... I am not judging those who have the disease and have children knowing the risk of passing it on, but I just know for me I would find it too hard and stressful knowing that I had options available to me.
I just think that the writers should have added in a discussion of some sorts and work with reputable sources to encourage awareness and to talk with someone (either her partner/family/specialists) about the risks or safer family planning.
I know it is just a show and it is fiction, but they did their research in the doctor prescribing a single dose of methtrexate to treat the ectopic pregnancy, but surely they could have done research about family planning when you have a known cancer causing genetic mutation... and that is where I felt the show really let me down.
It would have been nice to watch the show, and watch how the conversation would go and know somehow that I wasn't alone in my conversations with my husband/family/specialists about planning for a family with this disease.
Will be curious how the story pans out... but given it is the final season we may never know if the gene stopped with her or if she passed it on to her future offspring.
Speaking of offspring, I am LOVING this season!