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Feeling Ostomistic
Monday, October 15 2018

I posted on social media the other night (well, last Thursday) a teasing photo of a delcicious hearty stew I had brewing in the Slow Cooker, it sparked so many asking for the recipe, so here is the stew recipe and story behind it.

Please note: I have not been paid by any of the companies I mention when it comes to ingredients I use, you can always opt for your own preferred company of choice, but this is my stew and how I have made it for over a decade.

Story behind the Stew:

I first learned about this stew when I was staying over at a friends house in year 12 and we went to spend the day at her Grandmother's house and she said "girls since you're leaving home soon I better share an easy stew recipe". So we cooked it and she talked us through it and she gave me a copy, I started experimenting making the stew and adding in different ingredients and was determined to make it my own.

It is one of those stews that are perfect for wintery cold nights or if it is raining outside and will be rainy days ahead it is nice to just pop the stew on to cook in the slow cooker and wait for it to cook, meanwhile enjoying the smells as they fill your house for the next 8 hours.

I also find that we can get a few days worth of meals out of this, we put as much as we can into chinese containers and pop them in the fridge and freezer, but one chinese container is one bowl full for one person.

But don't ask me the calorie intake, I have no idea but it is just delicious, and Russ loves it too! You'll want seconds it is so good!

You will need:
 Ingredients, see below
A slow cooker
Knife
Measuring cup
Big ladle or soup stirring spoon

Ingredients: (I get all my ingredients from my local Woolworths)

1 x large bbq chicken [ or you can cook your own chicken, ] for time management and ease I use a BBQ chicken (it is the most costly component), sometimes you can find cold chickens which is just as good to use and cheaper too
2 x cans of Campbells Canned Soup Cream Of Chicken & Corn 420g
OR 1 x can of the previous with 1 x can of Campbell's Canned Soup Cream Of Chicken 420g
2 x cans of hearty or chunky vegetable soup (select brand is fine, sometimes i get one cheaper brand and one of the campbells range)
1 x Continental Cup A Soup Creamy Garden Vegetable 2 Pack 2pk 70g (use 1 pack and keep one aside for next time)
1 x Continental Cup A Soup Creamy Chicken & Corn With Croutons 2 pack (use 1 pack and keep one aside for next time)
1/3 a bag of San Remo Shells Small Pasta No 28 500g
1 x cup of water, cold is fine
1/4 a bag of Woolworths Carrots Peas & Corn 1kg
2 or 3 carrots (depending on size) chopped in chunky pieces roughly 1cm in width (skin left on)
4 or 5 white spud potatoes (with skin left on) chopped in halves or quarters depending on size
1 or 2 sweet potato (depending on size) chopped in maybe 2cm pieces then chopped again into halves or quarters depending on size of piece
You can add in broccoli or cauliflower, sometimes I will add in fresh pieces or I will use a winter vegetable pack of frozen chunky vegetables

*

I think that is all the ingredients, now for the making of it

Steps:

Step 1. Locate your slow cooker and plug in to power, add 1 cup of water and turn to high

Step 2. Wash your fresh vegetables like sweet potato, carrot, potatoes just wash but keep skin on (when it is ready the skin just easily fall off), if you're adding in fresh brocolli or brocollini or cauliflower wash these too.

Step 3. Add in the cans of Campbell's condensed cream of chicken and corn or cream of chick soup cans into the slow cooker.

Step 4. Add in the canned vegetables.

Step 5. Add in the Continental cup a soup creamy garden vegetable and creamy chicken and corn with croutons sachets.

Step 6. Mix all the soup together

Step 7. Next add in the BBQ chicken by tearing off small bite size pieces but not adding in the skin, bones or stuffing

Step 8. Mix the chicken and soup mixes together

Step 9. Add in the shell pasta and mix it all together, add more if you think it needs more, but not too much more.

Step 10. Add in the pieces of cut chunky fresh carrots, sweet potato and potato. Stir it all together.

Step 11. Add in the frozen vegetables and stir it all together.

Step 12. Leave on high for 2 hours, check roughly hourly and stir, it can be messy as it will rise and thicken as it cooks.

Step 13. After 2 hours turn to low for 6-8 hours and check hourly and stir

Step 14. Leave it on low for another couple of hours if you think it needs longer.

IF DISCARDING STEP 14, turn it off and serve.

Step 15. ENJOY your delicious thick stew

* We love to buy the packs of dinner rolls from the woolworths bakery and pop in the oven so they are hot and fresh for when we serve up our dinner, we cut them along the tops and we stuff spoonfulls of stew in there and then eat it like that. We also use bread not toasted but buttered to scoop up the soup and it just is delicious.

Step 16. Fill up containers, we use takeaway chinese containers and pack these to the brim and pop 3/4 in the fridge and 1/4 in the freezer. We find with the 2 of us we can eat this for lunch and dinner for a few days using the fridge containers, often Russ goes back for a second bowl.

My observations:

I have made this when I have had my kid siblings come and stay over the years or my MIL and they have loved the stew. It is so easy to make and all the effort is in the preparation and the slow cooker does the hard part. I would cook this if it were cold and miserable weather, or if it is raining, nothing says snug as a bug as a hearty winter stew whilist nestled under blankets enjoying a movie.

We made this Thursday night, and I say we as I sat and supervised Russ and told him what to do as I wasn't up for standing in the kitchen for even half an hour or less (pain). But Russ loves when "we" make stuff together, he loves learning how to cook some of my meals that he loves.

We started cooking this at 7pm Thursday night and was cooking when we went to bed, and the aroma wafting through the house had my tummy rumbling all night. We would check it every hour and then we turned it off and put it in chinese containers and went back to bed. So it was exciting to wake Friday and have stew for lunch, and dinner and we still have a couple of bowls left.

But I have to be careful with my stoma, luckily all the veggies and chicken break down so soft they just fall apart and then i try to take the skin off to avoid a blockage, but as I have had so much and it has caused my output to be rather thick and caused a blockage, so just keep that in mind if you're an ostomate prone to blockages that it does make things thick.... but it is so delicious!

Our Slow Cooker:

This is an adorable story, we got our slow cooker the first Christmas we were together (2009). We spent Xmas Eve with Russ' family who were up from Melbourne as we planned on spending the next day with my dad and family. So we unwrapped our gifts and our joint gift from Russ' family was a George Foreman slow cooker. I was so excited as I had been saying to Russ I wished we had one as I was missing being able to cook my stew. 

So the next day we went to Xmas at my dad's and he handed us a joint Xmas present which was a slow cooker! we laughed as what are the odds of getting 2 slow cookers! I was really appreciative and thanked my dad but Russ' mum made a comment how she beat them to it and we had one already, so dad took it back to the store as it was unopened ( we already opened the one the night before as I was keen to make pinterest desserts) and he bought us something else. 

I remember one Xmas dad wanted an electric sander so he bought one for mum so she could use it, and that same Xmas mum bought dad an electric sander so she could use it. It still makes me smile even though I was 10, it made me laugh that Xmas with the slow cooker remembering the electric sander gifts.

So we have been enjoying our slow cooker for quite some years now, I used to use it more when I could easily jump in the car and go get groceries and was more independant, but I am wanting to make slow cooked lamb shanks for Russ next winter.... but I have been trying to convince my nan to get a slow cooker as she would love it, pop the meal on in the morning and smell it cook all day. 

Tell me, what is the favourite slow cooker recipe of yours? Mine is definitely my hearty stew.

If you do manage to make this please let me know how you went!

 

Posted by: Talya AT 06:44 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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.

Posted by: Talya AT 11:47 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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:
 "WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following program may contain images and voices of deceased persons.” (ABC) This source also explains the cultural signifigance and meaning behind this practice too. 

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:
Writing letters to my loved ones;
♕ Leaving behind memory boxes;
♕ Doing special things such as the photoshoot with my sisters as they wanted a letter and nice photos of us sisters together;
♕ trying to tidy up our finances so Russ can manage on his own and with ease;
♕ Planning my own funeral so that others could focus on their grief;
♕ or even in leaving gifts behind for future milestones I will have missed.

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:
I remember tears felt for my nephew's first birthday as I was surprised I was still there to see him celebrate (was 6 months since entering palliative care), but the thought of him growing up not knowing me or knowing how much he meant to me does still upset me. For his first birthday I named a star after him, for his second birthday I got a bunch of kids books and wrote a heap of heartfelt inspirational messages inside each one, that I hope will help motivate and inspire him in the years to come.

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:
- Not inviting me to something because it was easier to exclude me than to try and accommodate me;
the list could go on but I would be here for days if I listed the experiences faced, and you'd be horrified if you knew some of the truth too.

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.

Posted by: Talya AT 02:25 am   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  Email
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.


My Interview with Krystal on Ostomyconnection.com

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.

If you want to read the original interview or to read issue 2 of the ostomistic life magazine the link is here.

You can also find Krystal aka Bag Lady Mama online via:
Instagram @bagladymama
Facebook @bagladymama
Twitter @bagladymama
Or her site/blog

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. 

Posted by: Talya AT 11:03 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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:
#1. I have notice and #2. Providing I am feeling up for it.

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:
I'm not lazy, I am sometimes tired of having to explain and justify my pain or tiredness, but there are days if not weeks or months where I am asleep and resting. I turn my phone off on my bad days or when I have had very little sleep and need un disturbed sleep. So telling me the day before gives me notice for then being able to make sure I am up and ready if I am ready.

#2. My stoma leaks a lot:
My stoma leaks a lot, 95% of the time when I wake I am dealing with leaks. It is really stressful when woken and knowing people are outside knocking and waiting/expecting me. It is something that makes me anxious when I do realise people are waiting for me, as if I am home alone I have to try and deal with a leaking stoma whilist trying to get to the front door quickly (often I miss the postie or courier and have to drive to Coffs to get my parcel). It is also why I get upset when Palliative care would randomly rock up without telling me and then were cranky when I wasn't home to answer the door when I was, I was just in bed asleep... so when my stoma leaks it can take me time to get ready. It means needing to get dressed and cleaned up and clean my linens if needed. It is something that I can need time to be ready, and knowing someone is outside waiting for ages makes me feel more flustered.

#3. I often sleep starkers:
Because my stoma leaks a lot, it is just easier to sleep with either no clothes on or just undies and no PJ pants. Sometimes I wear a top sometimes just undies and no top... so it is less laundry to wash because guaranteed my stoma leaks often in the middle of the night or when I wake and it is hard to have to strip down while trying to do a bag change - all while magically avoiding making a mess! If it is just going to be me home it is best if I know if anyone is coming so that I can have notice and get a chance to get ready. When you surprise rock up it can be hard as my clean clothes could be in the laundry (in the dryer) and I have to try and get through the house with just a dressing gown on and hope if you're outside waiting that you don't catch my streak through the house to get my clothes.... so I need notice if you plan on coming for obvious reasons.

#4. I am often in pain and bedridden:
When Russ leaves for work of a morning he shuts and locks the door as he walks out. So sometimes if I know someone is coming to visit I would ask him to leave the door unlocked and shut. If this is a day when I am barely able to get out of bed it can be stressful knowing someone will arrive and I can't exactly get up to open the door. I was criticised last year (well, 2016 too) when I wasn't much of a host and "don't make people feel comfortable or welcome" because I can't be a host. I think it is hard for people to understand that it is painful and difficult to stand and walk let alone be a hostess. If you come and visit, please have zero expectations of what I am meant to do... don't expect me to go above and beyond to impress you. I am not being rude, you might think I am, but if you wanted a cuppa help yourself. 

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 just surprise visit me and I don't know you're coming, you very well could be having a cuppa without milk. Some days Russ will make his coffee for the day in his thermos and takes it to work, it is a guzzler for milk. So its very likely that he uses the last of his milk as he leaves for work knowing full well that he has to buy milk when he finishes work in the evening.

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:
I always will try and attend something regardless, but there are times when I am in too much pain or phsyically unable to attend. Giving me warning and time in advance of a visit gives me the chance to cancel within reason. If I had notice I could tell you ahead of time to not waste your petrol in coming up if I wasn't up for the visit, I would hate you to be disappointed with your visit or feel like I wasted your time. If you surprise visit me I can't give you the chance to avoid being disappointed with me.

#7. Our house mightn't be visitor friendly:
The entire household chores and running falls mostly on Russ' shoulders. He also works full time. He has a roster system of how he does the house, one day he does the rubbish and kitty litter (and every second day) and some days he would do the bathrooms or vacuum. If you surprise visit us, we will feel embarassed because the kitty litter might be due to be done that day or the rubbish. It can be hard when you surprise visit that I am anxious if you are judging us the entire visit and will go off and tell others about how we live, which has happened, and makes us less inclined to invite you back. 

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.

Posted by: Talya AT 10:19 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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.

Argh.

That is a fight for another day.

My Solution:

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.


So many have raved about the books!

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?

 

Posted by: Talya AT 07:35 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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 :
"while this will change your life, it will also save it."

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.


21-year-old me

Letter To My 21-Year-Old Self:

Talya,

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.

Love,
your older and somewhat wiser self

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!

 

 

Posted by: Talya AT 06:47 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, January 12 2018

NB: This post contains talk about poop

You always remember your first time doing a milestone. Well today I am celebrating the first time I showered without my bag on and boy I felt like a rockstar afterwards as though doing something mundane but great.... If you know what I mean.

There have been times where I have had a really bad bag leak, I'm not talking about a little seepage from under the wafer, I am talking a leak of cataclysmic proportions like a volcanic erruption or a poosplosion (the latter is real, trust me). My clothes, my linen and my mattress protector needed to be washed and soaked with napisan.

Then there was me, not only were the clothes I was wearing drenched, but so was I.

You know when you go to the beach once but for the next month you find sand everywhere and it gets into every nook and cranny? Well, that is how it is for me when I have a bag leak of epic proportions, except switch out sand for poo and you've got yourself a winner.

So in times of a cataclysmic bag leak it is best to just get in the shower and be hosed off and clean up the mess later.

I have always been hesitant though at jumping into the shower without a bag on, normally I would clean my self up the best that I could while sitting on the toilet and once a new bag is on I would then jump into the shower. Which often meant changing my bag afterwards.

I know what you're thinking, but WHHHHHHYYYYYY?

Well, it was simple....

I was scared.

I have never, in 5 years, showered without a bag on. 

I know many do and many have many times, but I was always hesitant.

One of my fears, with my first stoma (May 2013-feb 2016), was because essentially your bowel is stitched to the outside of your abdomen I was worried about the run off from my shower gel or shampoo/conditioner would affect my stoma or cause irritations that might leave me presenting to the emergency department explaining my issue and people think I am silly for not knowing better. It really used to play on my mind.

So I never did try with my old stoma.

Then this new stoma (feb 2016 to now) is a total pain in the ass, it is retracted and sits under my skin, essentially I poop out of a belly button looking hole. So because of this I was always worried that the run off or chemicals would get inside into my small bowel and cause issues, because, well, soap and shampoo/conditioner shouldn't naturally be in your small bowel... so I worried it was just a recipe for disaster.

But with both stomas I was also worried about the mess side of things, like what if it were active during my shower, what if it were active while I was drying myself and would have to shower again and the circle would go on, and on, and on. I also can't bend over or get down to clean, so I was worried about leaving another chore for Russ to do, so I feel enough a burden when my bag leaks this badly and he has to help clean me up.

So back to my story.

I was in bed asleep all day and woke around 6pm to find my bag leaked, I called for Russ to help me as it was too much for me to manage to clean on my own.

Each time it is this bad he always says "just jump in the shower and hose it off", but every time I say "uhh, no it's okay I will figure it out".

Except yesterday I really had no energy and said "what the heck".

I took my bag off and disposed of it, that way I could clean my stomach better and easier.

I had my first shower without my bag on, it was nice to have water running directly on my belly as opposed to wet towelling and washers. It was nice. I have a handheld shower head which has different notches you can turn it to for different settings, so I put on the more gentle of the settings and didn't hurt.

I was worried about the repurcussions of an active stoma.... but to my surprise there wasn't any disasters. My stoma had probably expelled everything it had stored in there (daily I have bowel blockages due to tumour issues) so sometimes it works all of a sudden and leads to poosplosions like this.


Me post shower, feeling like a freaking rockstar!

Now I know next time when I should just jump in the shower and hose off that it will be okay, that I won't die because my soap chemicals burned an ulcer through my small bowel or that showering with my bag off won't damage my skin if anything it helped it.

Thankfully it isn't everyday that I wake up with a leak like this, some days it is more managable, but it is uncommon to have a day where I don't wake with a leak. There have been a couple of times when a leak like this happened during the day when I was out (once at a wedding and once at a restaurant), so in those moments I can't just hose myself off. 

Have you tried showering without your bag? Were there worries you had too?

I know my worries might have seemed over the top, but I live with bad anxiety and that anxiety rules a large part of my life and very quickly my mind can esculate a situation.

I am used to bag leaks now, but it took a while to not be flustered. At first I would cry every time my stoma leaked and I would be so flustured and overwhelmed, so much that my husband would step in and help me. He always was the calm one. I used to play songs or music when I did a bag change to help distract me. When I got my new stoma and it leaked almost hourly I basically had an ipad set up and would watch something funny to distract me, the steps involved in doing a bag change took almost an hour each time and it just helped the time to pass by being distracted.

Now when it leaks, I am just so focussed on getting a bag back on as quick as I can because sometimes it can take a long time to stop being active long enough to whack the bag on.

If you have a frequent leaking stoma, welcome to the club.

But be sure to see your stoma nurse about why you have a leak and what you can do to prevent it, I know not all leaks can be prevented but sometimes there could be a new or better product for you to try.

With my first stoma I was have regular leaks every few days, I realised that my output was getting under my base plate, so my STN gave me rings/seals to try and it really helped improve the longevity of my bags and I was able to go 7-10 days between changes and my skin was still good... I do miss my old stoma, and it is important to note what worked for me in that situation might not work the same for you.

Of course there isn't anything to be done about this current stoma, and it could be the same for you, but sometimes your nurse or surgeon can help.

Posted by: Talya AT 03:40 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, January 08 2018

I know there has been a lot of posts around social media this past week (well, more so New Years Day) about the whole 'non resolutions' or how people were dropping the making resolutions as they either never stick or it makes people feel overwhelmed and anxious. This has something to do with the pressure placed on how it is a "new year new me" and that you internalise this pressure for the need to change yourself.... so it gets pretty depressing when it is the end of the year and you are yet to do one thing you set out to do.

amiright?


This was a snapshot of my best memories of 2017 - read my year in review post here

Well, I know for me I get horribly depressed each December when I realise that none of my unrealistic/unattainable goals weren't met, and I feel like a bit of a failure and get pretty hard on myself.

So this year I plan on doing something a little different... I give up on each year setting myself the task of finding that million dollar idea (maybe if I don't try so hard I will find it), or to feel bad that I didn't finish my uni degree, or that I haven't got a hot bod (#sorrynotsorry).

I am choosing 18 ACHIEVABLE things I want to accomplish in 2018.

#1. Self Care:
This is something I have been gradually introducing into my life since being sick, which feels like forever, but gradually over these 5 years I have been trying to focus more on putting my own needs first and focus on me more. So in preparation of this I have been reading "The Self-Care Project" written by Jayne Hardy who is the founder and CEO of The Blurt Foundation. I love the self care subscription boxes they offer through The Blurt Foundation and was how I first learned about their company when I was researching "pick me up gifts" for issue 1 of The Ostomistic Life.

I purchased the ebook version off Amazon and by a quarter of the way into the book I was astonished, I could have sworn it was me who had written this book as it was just so incredibly relatable. It definitely has me hooked! 

Self care isn't necassarily just candle lit bubble baths with a glass of bubbly and reading a book, it can be a whole range of things. It could be doing things that make you happy, here is a post I wrote back in 2016 about 5 things to do each to add happiness or meaning to my day. You could choose to meditate or do yoga, could do a course or learn a new skill, could do something on your bucket list, could volunteer, do a random act of kindness, buy yourself flowers, get pampered, get your hair done or watch a movie or show. 

#2. To read more:
I used to be a bit of a book worm back in the day, I often would be found skipping classes just to read books in the quad. I used to be able to read so quick and loved binge-reading a series. I felt so proud when my sister loved reading as much as I used to and had quite the impressive collection.

So I have been so focussed on micro managing every part of my day/life that I would say I was too busy to read or I didn't have the time, but I vow this year to make time to read more. Whether it be the ebooks I have stored on my ipad or tablet, or going old fashioned and reading the amassed pile of books I have acculumated over the past few years. So starting with reading "The Self-care project" I am setting myself the challenge of either reading 1 book a month or 18 books this year.

Let's do this!


Just some of the books sitting on my bedside on my "to read list" (pic from Jan last year)

#3. To say No more:
I am a people pleaser, I am notorious for putting the needs of others before myself and sacrificing myself in the process. I am struggling to recognise myself and part of the reason behind doing this self care and focussing on myself is to help me try and find or recognise myself again... so part of my self care is saying no to things that will cause me stress or anxiety or bring me misery and saying yes more to things that will bring me joy. Will see how I go, because it will be one of my biggest challenges yet.

In saying this though, there will be times where I say no simply because I am physically unable to do something due to pain or health, so I am sure this will cause more stress as some might think my health is an excuse? As I said, a challenge... but I am not putting my health at risk for a ridiculous deadline anymore.

#4. Reducing waste:
I watched the ABC series "War on Waste" (also on ABC iView) and it left me feeling sad and concerned for the world in 50 years. I have seen those dystopian movies and TV shows such as 100, Travellers, The Handmaid's Tale and the like, where the world decades or hundreds of years from now is in absolute ruin due to us humans, so watching this TV series about the impact we have on the environment definitely stops you in your tracks and makes you realise the need for change.

One of my favourite quotes from Gandhi is "Be the change you wish to see in the world". Change is hard and takes patience and a lot of baby steps, but you can't expect the world to be better or changed if you don't play a part yourself. 

So I have ordered some produce reusable bags from my Sister-In Law's business which will mean no longer using single use plastic bags for produce. We also plan on using environment friendly bags in replace of plastic bags and I hope to get a compost happening too.... as I said it will be hard, but I do hope it will help the environment.

I feel guilty sometimes being an ostomate, because my base plate and bags aren't biodegradable (that I'm aware of) so even if I used bio degradable garbage bags and buried it, it still wouldn't break down and would be just the same as putting it in the bin. So I hate having a bag that leaks multiple times a day as it means a lot of ostomy products are used and thrown away, and I feel guilty that I am impacting the environment.... but it can't be helped.

So if I can make changes in other areas of my life, it hopefully makes up for it somehow?

#5. See the snow:
I went to the snow years ago and loved skiing even though I was incredibly unco and fell over far too many times because I couldn't work out how to stop quickly enough... honestly, the stories are hilarious. It was the end of September and there was hardly any snow. But something I have always dreamed of was to see the snow, like think snow failing white Christmas.

I had always hoped to get to the US or Canada and see this in person myself, but while that dream won't happen, I am happy to settle for somewhere in Australia where it snows, there is a romantic log cabin with a fire and somewhere Russ and I can unwind and relax.

I have heard him say almost daily the past month that he truly wants to experience this with me. Watching all the romantic Christmas movies helped I think, but it has had him rather upset realising too all the things he wants to experience with me but not sure if we will.

It is hard sometimes trying to squeeze 80 years of experiences into as much time as we have left.

If you have suggestions, do let me know, I can't fly so anywhere that is easily train accessible or short driving trips in NSW will be best.

#6. Learn something new:
I am still undecided on what that NEW thing is yet to be, whether it is learn a craft or skill, or more complex like learn something I have thought about for a while like learning to feel confident again, learn how to be fashionable, learn how to edit videos, learn how to podcast or learn an instrument or learn to surf. HA okay, so the latter won't happen, but you get the drift.

I am doing a course right now cert 4 in screen and media and learning at the moment how to write children's stories.

#7. Write that damn book:
I have said for as long as I can remember that I wanted to write a book, I often thought about writing a children's book which who knows could happen if I can manage to do well in my course. I'll see where my writing takes me.

#8. Write a blog post a week:
This suggestion actually came from my wonderful GP last year, he told me to write more often and if not daily to write weekly. I guess this will be post #1 for the year? If you have a question or topic you want covered do reach out and let me know.

#9. Write a journal:
It has been a while since I have written a daily journal, but my GP thinks writing daily could be good. But I never really do ANYTHING lately that is worth jotting down. But it is 8 days in to this year I have already failed at this, I was given a diary for Xmas but Russ doesn't know where it is. I know I haven't done anything too exciting yet, but my GP thinks it could be beneficial.

All of these writing cues would be kind of life self care I guess, since it is cathartic and all.

#10. Regularly meet with a counsellor:
I have spoken openly on social media and on here about my mental health issues but in case you forgot I have depression, high functioning anxiety, borderline personality disorder, self diagnosed Excoriation Disorder and I think that mostly covers it. Anyway, I have been naughty and haven't seen anyone in a while and I know I need to. I have bottled so much up that I don't know how to contain it anymore and I have complex issues I am trying to work through and it is a little overwhelming at times. I don't feel like a repeat of my breakdown in June, it took months to recover.... I just need to make time and prioritise my mental health. Russ' roster has been changing and been hard to plan ahead of time for appointments, so I am really hoping this year to try harder to prioritise this.

I guess this would come under self care and taking time for my needs too.


My swimmers kindly gifted from Yours Clothing - LOVE them

#11. Go Swimming:
I haven't been to the beach in years, I know it sounds strange since I live minutes from some of the most beautiful beaches in Australia, but it is hard when the beaches require long walks and not very accessible. It is something I miss and haven't been swimming in years, so I am hoping now that there is an accessible ramp installed at Back Creek South West Rocks that swimming could happen. I got gifted this beautiful pair of swimmers back in July that I am yet to wear swimming, so between trying to find a day where my pain is managable, where my stoma is behaving, that it lines up on a day Russ has off or that the weather was good has been tricky. Since it is school holidays everywhere is probably packed anyway, so I might wait until it is over. I don't want to spoil my first swim in years by my anxiety and fear over if I am being judged or laughed at. I am determined to make it happen - stay tuned!

Don't worry I plan on being sun safe and have my SPF50+ rashie from SunSoaked and my Sunbella parasol to help me too.

#12. Go Glamping:
I have wanted to go glamping for years, Russ loves camping but with my health issues I prefer the glamping idea. For 5 years I have had this on my bucket list, every year I say "this is the year" but something always comes up or we can't afford it. There is this place not far from here that do beach tents, it is at Red Rock (one of my fave spots) so I'd like to manage a couple of days away in March for our birthdays - since I was in hospital for Russ' I really wanted to make up for it this year. So maybe this could be when I manage my much awaited swim.

#13. Have a holiday:
This could be the past 2 cues, but it has been a while since we have had a proper holiday where the one thing on our to do list is to relax. Our last proper holiday was March 2015, was just after being in hospital for months and learning of a couple of new cancer diagnosis and I booked this place in Kingcliff for a week. I have always wanted to go back, they had the most wonderful pool and it was so relaxing. I really would like to do something this year, Russ needs a holiday.

#14. Explore the Coast:
For years we have said we wanted to see more of the coast. If only Russ could legally tow a caravan a friend offered up their brand new luxe caravan and land rover anytime we wanted it. Russ is only on his green provisionals so will be another 18 months before he can drive it, but it definitely would help make our bucket listing adventures more affordable. But until then, we hope to do day trips exploring different parts of the coast such as seeing the Jacaranda festival in Grafton, visiting Yamba and Maclean, Visiting Wooli, Laurieten and Bonny Hills, go on the ferry at Port Macquarie, Visit Foster and Tuncurry, go on a picnic to Yarrahappini and so forth.

We still have bucket listing adventures for Brisbane, Sydney, Newcastle and beyond. I am just wanting to see so much!

I am just really hoping to see/experience new places this year.


Red Rock, NSW - where we had our wedding anniversary - a favourite place of mine

#15. Renew our vows:
I really wanted to do this for our 7th wedding anniversary last year, but spent the next few months in bed with pain and didn't manage to find time to do what I had hoped... I had this epic idea I wanted to do, so I do hope to do it in pieces throughout this year and reveal my big plan.

I had always said when we get to 10 years we would renew somewhere fun and overseas, but not sure that dream of international travel is managable or if I could make it to our 10 wedding anniversary.

#16. Get back on our feet financially:
It has been really hard to feel like we aren't drowning at times in our finances. Our bank is the worst, you may recall how they no longer are letting me do my own banking because I have cancer and they believe I no longer am of sound mind - all because I asked for the 1.5% less advertised rate... so because I knew it would save us money doing so they then questioned my judgement... so I am not allowed to do my own banking unless a lawyer is present. I can't afford a lawyer so I am backed into a corner and feel trapped. It has been many months of stress and worry.

We tried to apply to several other banks who all declined us because we didn't have savings (everything went into our house) and so we had hoped to even consolidate everything into one loan to make repayments easier and more affordable but were declined. Despite having equity in the property. It is hard to have savings when every cent is going into the house, our debt, living expenses, medical expenses and the list goes on.

I am just hoping this year we have better luck and if we can't at least consolidate everything that we can find a new bank for our home loan. I just want out of their grip, just like Britain wanted out of the EU. If we can get a new bank and debt consolidation everything will be more easier, we might even afford a mini holiday.

Part of this is finding a new bank too. I just want and need everything to be tidied up and managable ready for Russ to take over when I die.

#17. See a waterfall:
I have long dreamed of seeing a waterfall. We hope to get out to Dorrigo. I know there is a beautiful one in Woolgoolga but the wheelchair isn't designed for offroad 4x4.

#18. Try to get my pain under control:

I spent the better part of last year struggling with my pain. I know my doctors are doing their best to manage it, but it really is hard and affects so many aspects of my life. It is debilitating, exhausting, it makes me frustrated and irritable, it messes with my mental health and it just sucks. It is hard to manage getting out of bed most days let alone manage an hour of getting out and about. I missed out on a lot last year and I don't want to miss out on life this year because of pain.

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I know it was a long post, but I thought 18 made sense since you know it is 2018 and all. I feel good that it is all written down but now overwhelmed, which is ironic, but I will do seperate posts throughout the year both here and on social media documenting how I go... it means I can hold myself accountable now since I have told you all about this.

My list honestly could have continued such as "yet to finish unpacking", "yet to manage that room makeover" and so on. I just decided to choose things that will either improve my life, bring me joy or are somewhat achievable for this year.... and if I win the lotto that is a bonus!

Russ asked me what I have been writing/working on the past couple of days, he then rattled off a list of 18 things he *felt* I should do instead which all involved him and were very much Russ focussed or specific. I laughed and said, your list kind of defeats the purpose of several things on my list like taking time for me and saying no and putting me first.

To be fair, his list was most of what I do anyway which was:
1. give Russ head scratches
2. Give him foot rubs and massages
3. Run a bubble bath for Russ
4. To go fishing
5. To go camping
6. To get roof racks and go canoeing
and so on..... but I was kind of proud that he is taking initiative when it comes to his own self care and recognising what he needs to do for his own mental health too.


One of the best moments of last year, my first tattoo drawn by Jubly-Umph

Here's hoping 2018 is a good year and that I can do some of these things if not all. Despite spending over 80% of the year in bed last year, the times I did bucket list stuff or was out and about are some of my most cherished memories looking back, those memories I remember on my bad days.

I wish you a HNY2018 and wishing you health, love, success, happiness and clarity this year.

Thank you for reading, feel free to share something you hope to do this year in the comments below:

Posted by: Talya AT 11:23 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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+.


Image from Higgins Storm Chasing, providing a visual of just how much of Australia is to be affected

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.

To read part 1, click here:

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
I know this hopefully is common knowledge, but you'd be surprised how many times I have been at the shops and found pets or kids sitting in the car while their parents or owners shopped. Even with the windows down or leaving the car running with the air conditioning going, the car is still going to be hot.

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?
The NRMA advises: You must make a judgment call as to whether it is a life and death situation and you would need to break a window yourself and call an ambulance, or whether you should call 000 and ask for police, who will get there as urgently as they can (and will break the window themselves) and they will call an ambulance.

If the child is clearly distressed, do not wait for help. Instead, break a window and remove the child from the vehicle until help arrives. If you break a window, and the child is simply asleep and it turns out not to be an emergency, it is possible that you could be required to pay for the window.

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
Water is important for helping you to stay rehydrated, make sure you have plenty to drink. Consider taking a bottle of water to someone who is experiencing homlessness, they might not have adequate access to water, it might not be a lot but it is a nice gesuture to look out for someone who is at high risk of heat related illnesses.

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
If you're like me and have an ostomy and need to replenish lost electrolytes, make sure you have enough to get you through the weekend. I try and have a 1L bottle of sports drinks, I get the powder and mix in the water, and have a few of these made up in my fridge ready. You can consult with your Nurse or dietician over what is the best option for you to replace your lost electrolytes. Due to having no large bowel I am at risk of dehydration, which is worse in Summer and extreme heat. Salts and minerals are vital for your body's functionality.

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
This is important, especially if you struggle with body regulation, you need to find somewhere cool. Air conditioned is preferable, if your home isn't air conditioned maybe ask a neighbour or friend if you could join them, otherwise hit the shops and enjoy their air condiitioning too. If you don't have air conditioning find somewhere cool in your house and put on a fan. You could go to the library, cinema, art galleries, cafes too.

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
Fill as many bottles as possible and put in the fridge, some could be cordials or soft drinks, but limit the alcohol. Plenty of cool drinks will help keep you cool

Tip #6: Have ice packs or blocks in the freezer
Firstly, ice blocks or icypoles are a great way to keeping cool and hydrated in Summer. You could also freeze water bottles so they last cooler for longer, if you are going to the beach. Ice packs are good to keep on hand in case of first aid and if you need to aid in cooling someone down. See part 1 for how this works.

Tip #7: Keep blinds drawn
This will help keep your house cooler, even if you have air conditioning going, keeping the blinds drawn will help your system to not have to work overtime too. But if you don't have air conditioning it will still help if you have a fan too.

Tip #8: Wear light summery clothing
Avoid wearing lots of layers and wear something light and breathable, this will not only help in keeping your body cool but will aid in your body trying to regulate it's temperature. Avoid wearing dark or black coloured clothing. Clothing light in colour reflects the light better.

Tip #9: Be sun smart and sun safe
Slip, slop, slap. Sunscreen, a hat, sunnies and a shirt are not only safe ways of being out in the sun but also help in preventing melanoma. If you must be out in the sun keep out of the sun as much as possible - during a heatwave you should be minimising your sun exposure. Seek out shade.

Tip #10: Reapply sunscreen often
Even if it is overcast, you can still get burnt and when you're swimming sunscreen washes or rubs off after time, so everytime you come out of the water or as often as indicated on the bottle: reapply. Also if you do happen to get burnt, have some cooling after sun gel in the fridge to help your skin cool down, aloe vera fresh from the garden helps too.

Tip #11: Don't lie in the sun exposed
If you're planning on laying on the beach and reading a book, chances are you could fall asleep and get sun stroke. A heatwave isn't the right time to do this, seek out shelter or shade or plan your trip to the beach on a day where the weather isn't as hot.

Tip #12: in case of a blackout
It is important having items such as a torch, a battery operated fan, extra batteries, bottled water and first aid kit on hand in case of a power outage. Also, wrap medications that need to be refrigerated (such as insulin pens) in foil or place in an heat repellent container with some ice in case of power failure.

Tip #13: Open the house at night or evening if a cool change is forecast
This is self explanatory, but this might help to keep the house cool of a night or the next day if air gets circulating around, remember to draw the blinds early in the morning to keep the heat out and the cool in.

Tip #14: Pets or wildlife
Pets can be particularly vulnerable to the heat. Make sure they have shade and plenty of cool water to last the day. If you live near the bush, consider leaving a bowl or bucket of water out for any Koalas, kangaroos, dogs or cats or other animals that might want water.

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
It is important to remember that while you want to cool your body down that you aren't changing your temperature too quickly or suddenly. You could go swimming or lay in a bath if you run the cool water before the hot to cool down. You could set the sprinkler up or a water slide, brings back good memories being a kid and having a tarp and sprinkler on the yard and having a good old time. Just remember to be sun smart too!

Tip #16: Check in on those at risk
Keep a close eye on those most at risk, like the sick, the elderly and the young (a full list of vulnerable at risk perspns is in part 1). Do this at an arranged time at least twice a day. The heat affects everyone differently and adversely, be sure to make sure they have plenty to eat.

Tip #17: Watermelon
Would it be an Aussie summer without watermelon? I love watermelon, it is full of water plus it is a good source of electrolytes too! Make it fun by using cookie cutters to make fun shapes too. If you get sick of water, maybe have some watermelon to help replenish you. Your body will thank you too, it is oozing with benefits too. 

Tip #18: Foods
Enjoy delicious salads and cold meats for dinner, while a hot meal is delicious, it will only make you sweat and feel hot cooking away in the kitchen. But with the heatwave foods like strawberries, cucumbers, watermelons, celery, tomatoes and broccoli and lettuce contain water, which can be benefitial towards your water intake.

Tip #19: Wearing a stoma cover
I get rashes on my stomach under where my bag sits against my skin, especially when it is hot. I found last year if I wore an ostomy pouch bag cover it helped to relieve the rash as it wasn't plastic on my skin and it worked as a barrier between my skin and bag. If you find you get rashes too maybe speak to your nurse as she might have some bag covers or be able to point you in the right direction to where online you can find them. I had a friend make me some. Theres heaps of options if you google too.


My cover a friend made for me

Tip #20: Mashmallows
I find when I am dehydrated or in Summer my output is more watery. It is hard sometimes to keep my hydration up when this happens, but I have some marshmallows and immodium to help thicken my output. Sometimes a watery output is a sign of a blockage too, be mindful of this as you may need medical attention.

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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:
- On how medication/heat affects you:
- Heat related illnesses and what to do: NSW health
- SES heatwave fact sheet
- SES heatwave tips
- ABC heatwave tips
- Know your risk
- Heat and children: NSW health
- Cancer Council Australia slip slop slap seek
- Just 6 minutes pet first aid
- NRMA children in a hot car

If you have another tip, be sure to let me know in the comments below. To read part 1, click here

Posted by: Talya AT 10:15 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, November 27 2017

I am feeling a mix of emotions right now, I am feeling so relieved that the magazine is finally ready to be published and shared with the world... but that part terrifies me!

I feel guilty for the delay, health issues happened, but I still worked hard when I could manage to get the issue out.

I also feel mega proud right now!

I hope you enjoy this issue, there is some great content in there and work for issue 3 is underway (summer/xmas/holidays issue) so if you have any content you want to contribute get in touch asap, or keep an eye on the facebook page too.

If you're a business and wanting to advertise - we offer affordable advertising options and also offer affordable graphic design too. I am also open to collaborations, just get in touch.

I am really hoping you love this issue, there are 2 giveaways too.

In this issue I launch my NEW Stoma Diary, this is an ebook that you can download for FREE  and print or edit via your computer or tablet. It is aimed at helping NEW ostomates navigate the first 6-8 weeks post op and as they approach surgery. I have had my own stoma nurse look over it and she excitedly shared it with her colleagues too.

So sit back with a cuppa and have a flip through.

I have tried to get more male relatable content out there but struggling to get the guys to contribute, anyone that knows me knows I am stubborn and persistent and I endeavour to have more male content in here, I am trying my best so please don't be disheartened.

Finally, If anyone is wanting to join the team on a voluntary position I would love some social media help and develop a content strategy etc, I recently posted about this on the magazine facebook page too.

Anyway, have a wonderful night and I will anxiously await your feedback.

Posted by: Talya AT 12:02 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, November 11 2017

Sometimes we think that society has advanced, but then there are times that remind you that the world around us is a cruel, judgemental place filled with so much hate and anger.

I think it is time that people stopped shaming people with disabilities, especially those with "invisible" disabilities. Unfortunately not all disabilities are visible and we should be open minded and not fast to judge and be cruel.

I saw several posts online today about how a young student had flyers and posters stuck all over her car calling her lazy for parking in a disabled parking space, or that she isn't actually disabled.

This girl is undergoing treatment for cancer including radiation, but these vigilantes shamed her and made her feel guilty about her situation.

As a young female who has cancer, I know how hard it were having chemotherapy and struggling with energy to go to the shops and do mundane things like going to the bathroom. 

Due to my tumours, one is the size of a watermelon and is attached to my stomach, small bowel, both kidneys, my ribs, my liver and presses on my back, and also compresses the nerves and blood supply to my stomach, bowel and my legs too.

I have a disabled parking permit because I am unable to walk more than a few metres at the time before needing to sit and rest as the pain is too much and the pressure along with the numb legs isn't pleasant.

So I have a wheelchair and I am not ashamed of it.

My wheelchair has given my life and ability to enjoy and love life back.

But people, even family, recently said that they thought I had a wheelchair because I am lazy.

Yes I am overweight, but that isn't why I need a wheelchair.

I need a wheelchair because I have a watermelon fucking sized tumour slowly killing me through strangulation.

But hey I am just lazy arent I?

I know this issue of disability shaming is happening all too often, just people think they see something they need to be somewhat of a hero and stand up for "what's right", which they feel is belittling someone to feel less than about having a disability because it isn't a perceived acceptable disability.

But not all disabilities are visible.

AND a disability isn't just someone using a wheelchair.

If you look up the term of disability it is: a physical or mental condition that limits a person's movements, senses, or activities. It doesn't say it is limiting to those in a wheelchair.

You don't know what is going on inside another person's body, you don't know the struggles that person is facing, you don't know the shit they have had to put up with that day already due to their disability.

So before you think you HAVE to say something, remember the acronym THINK:
T - Is it true?
H - Is it hurtful?
I - Is it inspiring?
N - Is it Necessary?
K - Is it Kind?

It might feel like your responsibility to call out every person you think is abusing the system, I get it, but while it helps you and your ego to feel better, you are destroying someone else's life just to make yourself feel better. Probably think you're helping to defend people, but you are just making people with an invisible disability to shy back further into their corner feeling shame for not being as able bodied as you.

In your actions just stop and think.... is this necessary? What will it achieve?

But you want to know what my doctor says to me everytime I break down crying in his office over someone disability shaming me?

He says: "Talya, if I didn't think you deserved it I wouldn't have signed off on it.... fuck the haters", so you can see why I love my GP so much as he has my back. A doctor wouldn't just hand out a permit if you didn't deserve it.

Yes, there are people who abuse the system, but it isn't your place to think you are calling someone out.

One incident last year: Russ and I were in the car and parking in the CBD, some lady stopped and argued with us for 20 minutes over if we could park there all because my husband had P plates on his car she wouldn't believe that the permit was ours because we were young. Young people have disabilities too and they come in all shapes and sizes. 

Next time you want to shame someone, stop and think first.

If you feel you MUST do something to make yourself feel better, go and donate to charity or do something selfless for someone else. Making others feel good is a much better feeling than making yourself feel good for putting someone down.

There is so much anger and pain in the world already, let's not add to it hey.... be more kind to others.

The world needs more love and they say if we want to create change to start at home first.

Posted by: Talya AT 07:20 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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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But at the end of the day it comes down to the fact that I want to and believe that I should have the ability to die with dignity.

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.
I know there are a lot of arguments against in the community as it could hurt those who are vulnerable such as the elderly or those with a disability, those who are of low socio economic status or even those with mental health issues.
Fact: To be considered under this bill you HAVE to meet criteria including being in the last 12 months of your life and living with a terminal illness, be confirmed to be eligible by not 1, not 2 but 3 different medical professionals including your GP, specialist and a psycologist.
Fact: YOU CANNOT JUST REQUEST IT if you do not meet the criteria

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
Fact: People who are dying and want to control the manner and timing of their death are not suicidal. I know I am not suicidal but I am going to die, I just want to die on my own terms and have control. 
Fact: Having a choice is empowerment, having dignity is empowering.

Myth: A doctor can kill any patient and can cover it up by saying it was an assisted death
Fact: Only a patient will be administering the medication and would have met strong criteria as well as having 3 medical practitioners sign off, it isn't something that can instantly be done.
Fact: as this is patient administered it removes the need for a doctor to assist, therefore they are not going against their hippocratic oath of 'thou shall do no harm'. Again, it is not causing harm it is offering dignity.

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
Fact: You can look at a patient's scans and assess an esitmated life expectancy, yes nothing is ever certain but doctors know what signs to look for in someone who has 12 months to live.

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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! 

Posted by: Talya AT 10:40 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, July 16 2017

I am going to set a scenario:

You have been called back to your doctor's office to review recent tests done and while you're waiting patiently (and anxiously I might add) to find out what has or is going on you can't help but hope that you will hear these three words "ALL SEEMS FINE". You try not to think about what you will do if that doesn't happen as you don't want to "rock the boat" or whatever the colloquial phrase is.

You know speaking of things you tell yourself, I was in hospital once with this lady who told me that she "willed herself to get cancer" and that it is possible that I did too... It is safe to say we were not on the best of terms and those 4 weeks of my life were horrible!

So back to that Doctors appointment...

The door opens, the receptionist calls your name and you walk in and take a seat. There isn't often time for small talk and the Doc gets straight to the point. "The results are in.... the test show you have [insert illness]....". By this point you may have zoned out completley (why you should always have backup) and gone into shock, it is naturally your bodys way of protecting you.

But you will leave and head home, all while you are wishing you knew what the doctor said.

Instead you turn to DR Google and start googling your disease and symptoms. You shouldn't have gone there, you have opened yourself right up to trouble and a vortex of stress/worry! Dr Google brings up all this images and medical reports that are so grim and scary and you feel yourself on the brink of a panic attack...

You compose yourself and stop for a moment...

You know NEED support but you don't know where to turn... so that is where this post will hopefully provide some insight.

Where to find support and information after a diagnosis

I know the above scenario might seem over the top or seem unlikely, but I can tell you that it was from my own personal experience on how I handled situations where I got bad news.

I learned Google was not my friend nor was Dr. Google, I found after the first few times that it really wasn't helping the situation aside from making the diagnosis a bit traumatic.

But here are ways to find support without causing yourself harm in the process:

#1. Speak or consult with a professional:
If you felt you missed what had been said in your initial appointment, consider making a second appointment and bring a support person with you - in case you zone out again and struggle to rememeber what was said. You could consider recording on your phone so you can take notes later, or you could even take a journal filled with questions to ask away and write it all down.

When I was told that I had bowel cancer it was during my lunch break at work and I had just quickly ducked off to get my colonoscopy results back, presuming it was going to be another "all good see you in 6 months" type of appointment I wasn't phased and didn't take anyone with me. I did zone completely out during the consult and returned to work barely holding it together. I didn't remember anything after the initial words were spoken.

So I booked another consult and took my husband with me this time as he was eager to hear the plan going forward, and to be honest so was I. He told me the game plan going forward, my hubby heard it all as I zoned out again, but he referred me to a stomal nurse. She became my biggest life-line these past 4 years and has helped me on so many occasions.

By being referred to a health specific nurse, she not only became an invaluable aid and support but also someone who really knew her stuff and you felt safe in her hands. She guided me through the surgery, what an ostomy is, how it works, what a stoma appliance looks like, how it will feel, how or what would change... she also told me the support that was available to my husband as well as there being a local support group too. 

You could even find value in speaking to a professional like a counsellor or social worker to help you process your diagnosis, help you to even find the support networks available (they might be inclined to search for you) and there might even be financial help available as well (that you otherwise wouldn't know to access).

It is important to really get a good grasp on what is available, so don't underestimate the support from the professionals.

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#2. Lived advice and experiences are very valuable and helpful:
If you want to learn first-hand experience, or if you want to know how life will be like for yourself or maybe a loved one, then lived advice is always going to be the best. Not only can you learn about how it is to have the disease and any issues pertaining to life, but you can also know how to tackle that issue head on. You might find that the lived experiences to help inspire you on your journey. 

One of the benefits of learning from lived experiences is that it can offer you a perspective or advice that a Doctor or health professional might not necessary know, and while a Doctor might know the text book side of things they might not be able to give you a total view of things. Still refer to your doctor for any health issues and management, but don't discount the account of a real person either.

How will you find these types of advice?
Through blogs of course! A lot of people at different stages of their illness, diagnosis or life decide to start a blog. Sometimes the blogger is even happy to answer questions or allow you to reach out. Search (on google) your illness followed by blog and it may show up with blog names. Otherwise, sometimes on official sites of a disease there are links called "resources" where bloggers might be listed. You can always search youtube as well for any vloggers (video bloggers) who might talk about their health issue or journey.

HOT TIP:
If you are on social media consider searching via the hashtag use too, to help you find and connect with people sharing their lives online. For me if I were wanting to search for someone with an ostomy to reach out and connect online I might try: #ostomy #ileostomy #stoma #youngostomate #nocolonstillrollin. I could always try disease specific # too like #_diseasename_ e.g #cancer #bowelcancer #fap #thyroidcancer #endometriosis.

Keep in mind:
Some bloggers, like myself, talk about life authentically and openly with a chronic illness and disease. We don't do this for sympathy or to look for attention by showing the bad parts of our life. I know for me personally, I would find more value in following and reading a blog that talked about the good and the bad as opposed to sugar coating everything - it wouldn't be of much help if my lived experiences were censored. Just keep in mind that it can be raw, it can be emotional, it can be confronting but it is real!

☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟

#3. Search on facebook for groups or support groups:
You would be surprised if there isn't a group out there for your illness or disease, with there being 1.94 billion users (according to Facebook's recent report), there would be someone out there with your disease looking to connect with others online. I thought when I was first diagnosed with FAP that there wouldn't be a support group, but even though it is a rare disease there are still plenty of people online looking for support.

You can also google "support groups for _INSERT DISEASE_" as there are some forums online and support websites dedicated to helping to support you during any stage of your illness.

I learned a lot from connecting with others in groups, especially about treatment options or stoma issues, so there is a lot of value in groups. 

HOT TIP:
If searching online don't limit your searches to a specific location or country, this will give you more chances for getting results. And don't be afraid to search on the 2nd and 3rd pages of google too.

Keep in mind:
With the group situation there are people in there from all stages of their illness or health journey, some might have more symptoms than others or might live with other co-morbid diseases. Some people posting could be posting about their current situation but that doesn't necessarily mean that it will be yours either, so don't let that scare you off from posting. Everyone is new to their diagnosis or reality at some point, so don't be afraid to ask for help or ask what other's stories are, just remember they won't all be the same story to tell.

Some members posting might be partners or parents of a person who is unwell, some groups only allow patient members to join others allow carers to join too. If you are a carer and if your daughter or son is in the same facebook group as you, be mindful of what you post ABOUT THEM, it is their story to tell afterall and you might disclose personal details that they hadn't told their best friends let alone strangers online, so be mindful of their privacy and respect what they have told you in confidence too.

One last thing I have to add is sometimes being a member of facebook or online groups can get a bit too much at times, I know when I am struggling myself I tend to either leave the groups or I turn off notifications so that I don't see posts on my feed, sometimes it gets too much dealing with your own health issues and being privvy to others' too.... it can feel like you just can't escape your disease, and sometimes you go to facebook to just escape life and it is hard when you are surrounded by your reality online too.

For me, I struggle a lot of times with my mortality and hearing/reading about a member of the group who passed away is really confronting. Friendships made online are real and just as much valid as real life friendships, so it can be hard at times when a friend passes away.

☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟

#4. Ask your Doctor, Nurse, Case worker, Counsellor or Social worker for local support:
Finding local support can sometimes be hard, not everyone likes to be social and meet face to face or you might find a lack of local resources or people with your illness if it is rare. Your Doctors, Nurses, case worker, counsellor or social worker might be privvy to other support networks that you aren't aware of. If there isn't anything specific relating to your illness, consider asking your doctor or nurse if they have any other patients looking for support, like a buddy program or start your own support group!

You could offer to write an open letter that your doctor or nurse could pass on to local patients who might benefit from some peer support, be sure to leave your contact details on the letter... You could help be the change that is needed locally! Imagine, if you are struggling and feeling alone the chances are others are too!

Otherwise you could consider making a flyer (canva is a great place to start and east to use) and you could advertise your new group in the paper, on noticeboards or even online in local groups!

The above suggestions are just a few ideas I have used on finding support after a new diagnosis, if you have any suggestions feel free to let me know in the comments below!

I know that a new diagnosis is hard and can come as a shock but googling your diagnosis or illness will only cause you more upset and harm you, these are ways I have found support after a new diagnosis that is not only positive and supporting but it is constructive as well.

Dr Google doesn't always have the right answers and can lead to damage or traumatising you, which isn't what you need when facing a new diagnosis.

Take a deep breath and big hugs, there is always support out there just waiting for you to find it. It might not always be an easy or quick overnight find, but be patience and perservere, someone out there at some point felt alone too.

Please be kind to yourself, this is a hard and stressful time. Take some time out for you and self care and try and do something that makes you happy or takes your mind off things.  Here are some things I do for me and to add happiness to my day

If you're in hospital and are looking for things to do to pass the time, I wrote an article in issue 1: of The Ostomistic Life (pages 34-36).

Posted by: Talya AT 12:46 am   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  Email
Thursday, July 06 2017
I know I am pretty slack when it comes to updating posts on my blog the last few months, I have been having fun microblogging over at Facebook and Instagram as it has been more convenient to do updates than to do a blog post due to my health (and sleeping 20 hours most days). If you're interested in knowing or understanding more about what goes into a single blog post and why it can take hours to do one post, the wonderful Micheala from Not Another Slippery Dip recently shared an insightful post which you can read by clicking here!

Sometimes ​the internet can be a beautiful and magical place,
I know I have seen the impact and difference that social media and the internet has made to my own life and those around me, but to see complete strangers come together on several occasions this past year to help us is truly heart warming. People whom I only know from their online presence and otherwise would not have met them, have became good friends to me and have helped to create what has been the most amazing 6 months filled with memories and moments I cherish and I hope that they will too for years to come..... this post is just one of those magical moments created!

Background:

So all the way back in March (I told you I've been slack with my posts) was Russ The Ostomistic Husband's 37th birthday! What eventuated from me feeling guilty that I had ruined his birthday actually became one of the most beautiful gestures I have seen from people from all over the world!

On that same day I was being admitted to hospital for a bit of a respite break and to get my pain under control, it had been weeks since I had felt some relief.

Russ had to work that day, so it was a pretty early start for both of us as we packed my bags and Russ got ready for work and dropped me off to the hospital before he headed to work. Thankfully, my room was ready and available (surprised as it was 7.30am) and he helped me to get settled before he left.

But I felt immense guilt, it was his birthday... his day to be spoiled and showered with love. After all he makes me feel loved everyday and especially made sure I knew how much I was loved by others with the gofundme page he set up for my garden, so I wanted him to know just how many people care about him too.  


Russ visiting me in hospital with our furbaby Dusty! High-5!

What came next:

After chatting with my friend Kylie from Kidgredients in the lead up to his birthday, she suggested putting a call out on social media and asking people to write "happy birthday Russ from __insert location here__" and then take a photo of that piece of paper with a little bit of the background.

I went out to dinner with Russ the night before I went into hospital as we both had a free steak from Hogs Breath as our birthday steaks (a part of the frequent diners club you get a steak during your birthday month), so while Russ was at the toilet I took the chance to write my birthday message on a napkin and ran outside to capture it. In the background above is the iconic whale fountain.

What came next from my post was unexepected!

I was blown away by the response and all the thought and love that was being sent my way.

I even felt like I had travelled the world in one whole day, and seeing all the locations - my heart was heavy with love and excitement knowing how happy this made me feel- I knew Russ would feel the same way!

So once all the images were received (there were hundreds!) I then sent them over to Kylie who then turned the collection of images into a video slideshow!!

You can see the video slideshow here!

Sadly, not all could be fitted on the slideshow and if yours didn't appear please don't fret as Russ sat there individually looking at them on my phone for the next hour, so it wasn't forgotten or unseen and he appreciated it so much.

So 5pm came around and shortly after Russ arrived at my hospital room. I then filmed him and his reaction on facebook live, which you can watch below.


Russ loved the beatiful gesture and seeing all the different locations

Russ' response:

Russ sat there re-watching the slideshow a few times and even sat there for a long time scrolling through all the photos. If you couldn't tell from the video above he was in tears. The love he felt and knowing that so many people cared enough to take time out of their busy lives to do this, really meant so much to him.

Russ is one of those amazing guys who does so much for others without hesitation or needing to be asked and he doesn't ask for anything in return. He is the most loving, caring, kind and compassionate person I know: and he deserves to be recognised and rewarded, even if it was just for one day - his birthday - it just meant so much to him.

It is hard most days just knowing how tiring it is for Russ to work full-time and be my carer too, as well as dealing with the rollercoaster ride that is my cancer journey. Some days he is surprisingly strong, but other days he struggles and looks exhausting... it is hard seeing how taxing all this is on him, so I just really wanted him to know how loved and special he is.

I am so grateful to Russ and for everything he does, he is one amazing guy!


Russ is known for his background antics in our photos - here he is licking my hair, don't ask!

Thank you:

I just wanted to say a special thank you again to everyone who made this happen and a special thanks to Kylie from Kidgredients for all the time and love she put into the slideshow for us. Kylie has some delicious recipes on her site, especially for kids and lunchbox foods, even delicious snacks that are easy to make. Be sure to pop by her site - you won't be disapointed!

Kylie, thank you again for this special memory Russ will never forget, and most of all thank you for being one heck of a wonderful woman and friend. You helped me to create something truly magical. 

 

Posted by: Talya AT 08:18 pm   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, June 13 2017

 

“Life is 10% of what happens to us and 90% how we react to it” 
- Dennis P. Kimbro

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.
"A mistake is doing something once, the second time it is considered a choice."

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.

Always remember:

“Life always offers you a second chance… it is called Tomorrow!”

Posted by: Talya AT 01:36 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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

Posted by: Talya AT 08:33 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, February 28 2017

"Nothing can dim the light that shines from within"
-Maya Angelou

I have heard this quote time and time again, often stopping to reflect on what it means for me. On days like today, where approximately 350 million people worldwide come together to shed the light on World Rare Diseases Day and helping to raise awareness of the different rare diseases by giving patients a voice to share their lived experiences.

For me, everyday is rare disease day and I am reminded of that several times a day.

But it is important for me that while I try my best to share my story to educate, empower and inspire others on their own journeys, that I know that all of this doesn't define me and I that I am not my disease(s).

I don't live with one rare disease but three, which have all attributed to different health issues mostly chronic, but these have helped to shape me into the person I am today.

One thing being rare has taught me is that I am resillient.

I live a life that is different to that of my peers, it has often felt lonely and isolated, but there have been times where it hasn't been. I know Facebook changed my life for the better, it helped me to find and connect with people online who understood... because of Facebook, I was no longer alone as I navigated my way forward.

However, being in online support groups can be rather destructive at times especially when you are struggling with your illness or your identity or if you are in a very vulnerable place yourself. Sometimes Facebook can be an escape and safe space for people whether it is sharing/venting with people who 'get it' or if you are wanting to share your story or progression of your disease; it can also be too confronting to some who are finding it difficult to come to terms with their own prognosis or are using Facebook as an escape from their reality and it can feel like your disease is everywhere you look.

For me, I have experienced the latter quite often and especially of late.

I log on to Facebook to just catch up on the happenings of family and friends, when I get a notification of someone posting in the group or see a post on my newsfeed; It is a post that someone from the group has died from the disease (that is going to be responsible for killing me too one day) and it got a little too real for me to handle because it wasn't the first post of that day and it wouldn't be the last.

Somedays when there are reminders of my reality when I am already in a vulnerable state is really hard to come to terms with.... I am not in denial that this disease will not kill me as I know it will, but when my resillience is low is when it feels like everywhere I look all I can see is reminders of the disease(s) and death.

It is moments like these where I remove the notifications of the group and hide them from my newsfeed, at least until I am in the mindspace where it isn't taking over my life - especially my online life - as I need to be able to feel safe. This is my way of self-care.

At times it is admitting that I need to feel safe from myself and the thoughts within.

But just because you are in these online groups of your own community, doesn't mean it has to rule over your life. You don't have to be in these groups to know everything to say to everyone, as there isn't always the right thing to say (and it can get exhausting REAL quick). It is okay to be the member who actively listens to people when they need to vent or you can be there to help celebrate their wins by simply liking their status to acknowledge it, knowing that one day it could be you who needs to talk and just have someone who gets it listen without necessarily saying anything.

It is up to you how you find value in support groups, remembering that you'll never truly be alone and that when you need help you have a village to help you can be a huge comfort on your journey with a rare disease.... I know it is for me.

Prior to 2010, I had never heard of FAP or that young people could get bowel cancer afterall my dad was only 39! My doctors had informed me that I was their only patient with FAP and only known case in the area (I later in 2016 learned that there were another family), but in my feelings of isolation and desperation for answers, I came across groups on Facebook where there were other members who either had FAP themselves or had a loved one living with it and joined. The group was all over the world and I spent time learning about others' epxperiences so that I had a better idea of how things would be or what to expect.

Then in 2012 my dad died, later that year I learned that I had early stages of bowel cancer and would need all of my bowel removed. I was told I needed a permanent ileostomy and found myself feeling alone again. I was given material about life with a stoma, but it all related to being over 50 which I as a 21-going-on-22-year-old could relate to.

So I started my blog to try and inspire other young people with a stoma through being ostomistic, a word I stumbled across one day when I tried to say optimistim with a stoma. I began writing blog posts about my journey, tips and tricks I had found, and also using my platform to try and empower others to make better decisions for their health through raising awareness.

I mostly assumed people were reading it as my stats told me so but ocassionally someone would comment or contact me to say thank you for helping them, which helped me to feel that all this was worth it and wasn't wasting my time.

Then one day it lead me to one of my best friends who I later realised I couldn't imagine life without her, probably one of the greatest things to come out of my blog journey.

I later had this idea to create an online magazine for young ostomates as a collaboration between other ostomy bloggers, ostomy businesses or ostomy professionals to help deliver content that is relatable for young ostomates to help them to navigate life with an ostomy. This officially launched earlier this month and has been well received worldwide!

But while my rare diseases have altered the life path that I had envisioned for myself, it sure has given me the empowerment to take back control of my life and to look for the opportunities in each day. I wouldn't have started my blog, an online magazine or aspiring to be a inspirational/motivational speaker.

By not letting my disease define me, I was able to find the real me... and I have learned to love myself and find self-worth which was something I never had before.

I am not my disease(s)

I am rare

I am me

and therefore I am unique!

p.s what is one thing you have learned as a result from your rare disease?

 

 

 

Posted by: Talya AT 09:39 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, September 05 2016

Russell, a.k.a The Ostomistic Husband, has a second blog post or an open letter that he wanted to share with you.

While you might have only said this to us once or twice, and you might not mean anything more than just a compliment, but you are more than likely not the first person that has made that comment to us today. Everyday we are faced with these comments and it is making Russ rather upset as he wonders what do people actually expect of him.

And worst, is that this is how society expects men to behave, that they can't commit and that they won't stick around when shit gets real. Russ is a modern man, and a man true to his word.

☟  ☟  ☟  ☟  ☟  ☟

My open letter to those who continually say "you're a good guy for sticking around" or those who continually say to Talya, “Russell is a good bloke for sticking with you through all this…”, I have the following to state:

I’m not sure how often you’ve heard that little gem, but I’d really like to open people’s eyes to how I feel when they say it without obviously thinking it through.

I’ve been with Talya for 7 years now, and she’s progressed through varying stages of unwell since I first met her; I proposed to her in her hospital bed while recovering from brain surgery (with a golden staph infection on her brain) for Christ’s sake.

I know I’m not going anywhere.

The thought that I could leave only occurs to me when you tell me I’m good for not leaving. Talya knows I’m not going anywhere (I tell her often enough), but she starts to wonder when she keeps hearing, “Russ is good for sticking around” which her inner voice relays as, “I’m a massive burden so why should Russ want to stay?”

Love:
Talya and I have a connection that may only come once in a lifetime.

Why would I want to give up on that just because Talya can’t go for a walk with me? We have access to a wheelchair now so we can still wander through the botanical gardens.

Why would I leave just because she can’t cook or clean? What is this, the 1950’s? Those are basic life skills everyone should learn, man or woman.

Why would I deny myself the true pleasure of simply seeing her smile when I come home from work? That is the highlight of my day. Every day.

Commitment:
I vowed to be there in sickness and in health. That was a promise I made in front of our friends and families, but more importantly, one that I made to her.

We are only as good as our word. I gave her mine, she gave me her heart.

Forever:
I have stuck around because she is worth every second I can give her. I will continue to be by her side until she becomes the angel she’s always been inside.

And you’re right, I am a good bloke......

Because I met her!

About the Author:

Russell, a husband in his mid 30's, is a computer salesman by day and a unicorn husband by night*. He enjoys long walks on the beach, playing Pokemon Go, he loves lamp, and he loves all things nerdy! He hopes through his writing and sharing of his experiences of having a young and terminally ill wife, might help other men to understand what not to say (to avoid getting yelled at) or how they can better support their loved one. If you want to connect with Russ (or send him topics/questions or areas of concern you have) send him an email via russell @ feelingostomistic.com.au. Russ really loves his wife and wants her to enjoy what remanining time she has, so he has asked for help to build her a garden escape and needs your help ---> click here to read more about the why behind the garden.

*He is the sort of husband that everyone wishes were real, but doesn't believe actually exists.

 

 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.

 

Posted by: Russell AT 07:26 am   |  Permalink   |  3 Comments  |  Email
Friday, August 26 2016

Today, and as it seems a lot lately, I am constantly met with doubt and disbelief when I share my story/prognosis or the fact that I am 25 and terminal with cancer. It almost always makes me feel like people assume that I am making it up.

For the past year my husband and I have been working on a new segment/section of my blog called 'The Ostomistic Husband' which will be posts and topics written by him and in the hopes of showing the perspective of how a spouse feels or views their loved one's illness. 

So, take it away Russ!

☟  ☟  ☟  ☟  ☟  ☟  

All too often I have Talya tell me how annoyed and upset she is because someone has just told her, “You can’t be dying. You don’t look like you’re dying of cancer so it mustn’t be that bad”.

I’m sure you have heard the same from someone you know with an illness; it seems to be all too common.

I myself believe I have a mild autism which makes me: crave routine; shy away from human interaction; find it difficult to create and nurture relationships as I don’t readily say what I feel inside; have processing issues regarding certain tactile sensations, etc.

These things are not visibly apparent and are not easily discernible even when you are interacting with me.

Why? Because I’ve spent a LOT of time learning how to go about my day, to fit in without drawing attention to myself unless I feel safe to do so. As such, it pains me to hear that Talya is being judged by her outward appearances and not by the effort she makes to display her frightening lifestyle in a manner palatable for those around her. She is always trying to alleviate others…

Fear.

I think that is probably the major force behind the “You don’t look like you’re dying of cancer so it mustn’t be that bad” line.

No-one wants to admit that a young person as outwardly vivacious and spirited as Talya could be dying inside, because that means that they too, may have something as monstrous within them (and not show any signs).

After all, they look fine. Don’t they?

Talya and I see this very differently.

She feels that people are constantly attacking her; sometimes bluntly and sometimes in a back-handed way.

I feel that people are constantly protecting themselves; outright denying the facts about her health (in fear for their own mortality) or suggesting that it can’t be as bad as all that (simply hoping that it could be true, were they in that position).

People don’t want to accept change, they are afraid of the unknown. I get that, more than most.

In the private studies I’ve made on human nature, and by simply watching people react to a situation then react to their own reaction, I believe that people are generally afraid inside (and what a perfect evolutionary trait in self-preservation that is). Some have learnt to deal with that most primal of instincts internally, while others still say, “You can’t be dying. You don’t look like you’re dying of cancer so it mustn’t be that bad”.

All in all, I feel for Talya a great deal in the aforesaid circumstances but I remind her that she is simply better at hiding her pain than some others are at dealing with their fear.

I say, “If they want to blurt out hurtful statements, without understanding what you are going through, to make themselves feel better, that’s on them, not you. But please, see it from their point of view too”.

No-one wants to live in fear.

 

About the Author:
Russell, a husband in his mid 30's, is a computer salesman by day and a unicorn husband by night*. He enjoys long walks on the beach, playing Pokemon Go, he loves lamp, and he loves all things nerdy! He hopes through his writing and sharing of his experiences of having a young and terminally ill wife, might help other men to understand what not to say (to avoid getting yelled at) or how they can better support their loved one. If you want to connect with Russ (or send him topics/questions or areas of concern you have) send him an email via russell @ feelingostomistic.com.au. Russ really loves his wife and wants her to enjoy what remanining time she has, so he has asked for help to build her a garden escape and needs your help ---> click here to read more about the why behind the garden.

*He is the sort of husband that everyone wishes were real, but doesn't believe actually exists.

 

 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.

 

Posted by: Russell AT 02:12 am   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
Monday, August 22 2016

NB: This post is purely satirical... proceed to read with sarcasm

Recently, I was called Gross.... I was asked "how can you live like that?"

Well, I can and I do, and it is pretty simple. I wake up, I live my life and do stuff through the day and then I sleep... and repeat! See, easy!

You see, my daily routine is somewhat similar to a 'normal bodied routine'... I say somewhat as it is slightly different as it involves me essentially shitting myself 24/7 (oh the horror) but I can point out many similarities to our daily routines...

A typical day of mine goes like this:

7-8am: I wake up in the morning, and one of the first things I do is go to the toilet. Nothing like that first pee in the morning, except I also have to empty my bag. Which is usually mostly air, as most people fart all night. I fart too, just you don't smell or hear mine as it is trapped in a stoma bag.

8.15: I am sure this is where you take your coffee, the one thing that you probably need to get you through the day? I consume something too, my medication (thyroxine, endone and folic acid), I need these to survive and can't live without.

8.20-8.30: Just as my husband is getting ready to leave for work I call him in for a quickie.... he quickly jabs me and he puts on his shoes and then is off on his merry way. Then he can rest easy all day knowing that he helped to keep me alive that day with my blood thinning injection.

9-11.59am: The elusive siesta... some might call it sleeping in, some might call it taking a nap. You probably prefer an afternoon nap, but I have mine in the morning so by lunch time I am wide awake.

12-1pm: I have lunch.. this may vary day to day from leftovers the night before to eating dry crackers. If I am feeling adventurous I might even go out for lunch.

1-5pm: I would call this my 'work time'. I only have a 4 hour work day and mostly my work involves writing a blog post, designing fun little pictures.. who am I kidding, I am on facebook and shopping.

5.30pm: My husband comes home and cooks dinner. Dinner is usually something fancy like bangers and mash. In our household we aren't atypical to the stereotypes of the roles of a 1950's housewife; my husband does the cooking, the cleaning and the bringing home of the bacon.

6pm: We have dinner, talk about our days (he acts like I actually did more than just sit on fb all day) and then we just watch netflix and chill

7pm: We have our showers, everyone needs to shower. I just happen to need to do a bag change afterwards.. No biggie. We all need to change our underwear everyday (and my stoma bag is the underwear of my stoma)

7.30pm: Husband goes to the study and does computer related stuff (as he hasn't just spent all day around computers) and I go to my office (the dining table) and belt out songs. This goes on until bedtime.

8PM: Husband comes to give me another quick prick for the day, ensuring that he has kept me alive for the night.

10pm: We head to bed and read. Well, he tries to read; I just try to have a chin wag and nag at him about what he didn't do or needs to do the next day.

Annnnnnnd then I go to sleep.... and get ready to repeat it all the next day!

So that is my typical day, but also throw in having to do a bag change whenever I just decide to shit myself (you know because I have control over that and all).

So I am sure there are many similarities to our day... we all eat, sleep and shit. I just do it a little differently to you, but doesn't make me gross. Who wants to be normal when you can just be unique?

Oh, and having a stoma isn't the worst thing in the world.... some people have a stoma as it was either that or death.

It can be rather convenient too!

Imagine you're standing in the long queue at Big W to do the no deposit toy laby, and all of a sudden you need to do a poo! Oh what are your options? Either leave your trolley unattended in queue while you run off and pray that no one steals your loot or your spot in the line, or you just stay and wait and have an accident? Well, for me I can just do a number 2 at any time of the day and it conveniently collects into a pouch (that doesn't smell I might add) and then as it is full I empty into the toilet. No more missing out on sales for me!

But tell me, aside from now pooing differently has your life changed too much with a stoma?

 

 

 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.

 

Posted by: Talya AT 07:05 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, July 11 2016

Canteen is an organisation (charity) that provides support and help to young people (like me) aged 12-24 to help them on their cancer journey. You might have heard about Canteen through their National Bandanna Day campaign that runs annually each October.

When I was younger I had a beautiful little sister who was fighting her own intense cancer battle, and canteen helped our family out with support and ever since then and after my sister's passing we continued to support Canteen through their National Bandanna Day, our way of saying "thanks for the support".

It wasn't until after my dad died in 2012, that we realised that Canteen was there to help us through our dad having cancer and then dying, we thought it was just for people who had cancer and didn't know we could join too.

It was a few days after my dad's passing and my siblings weren't coping, so I looked into signing us up and a short time later we went on a 'New Member's Camp' where we weren't the only new kids on the block.

What I didn't know at the time was that I had found a place where I belonged and could turn to when I needed support... I also didn't know just how much I would come to rely on Canteen.

After the camp I kept in contact with the staff at my local division and accessed the counselling support.

Late 2012, I was told that I had early signs of bowel cancer and that I required my bowel to be removed in the coming months. I turned to Canteen for help and support as I made the decision to have my bowel removed and live the rest of my life with a permanent ileostomy.

Because of my surgery I didn't go on any programs during 2013, mostly out of anxiety around living with a stoma but also I was in and out of hospital with pancreatitis that I just kept missing out, which again happened during most of 2014. I was going on an over 18's program but instead was in hospital the day before camp started.

During this hospital admission they did a scan and found there was a tumour, I then travelled backwards and forwards to Sydney for consults with specialists and having scans done.

Canteen were fantastic, the staff touched base with me each week and when they were in the local area they would invite me to coffee to see how I was going.

I decided to say thank you to Canteen for their support and organised a Halloween themed high tea fundraiser, which was an absolute blast and success raising $1200 for Canteen and is an afternoon that guests still talk about.

Then in early 2015 I had a PET scan and it showed my tumour had now doubled in size, I had a new tumour growing and that I also had thyroid cancer.

I turned to Canteen a lot during this year, and I was involved a lot as a camp leader or helping to plan different programs (even though I wasn't able to attend for health reasons). I offered up my graphic design services and would design different flyers and posters or invites for camps, I loved not only having something to do but to help in my own way of saying thanks for being there for me.

I actually just got home from an Over 18's program, and I am so glad that I went... During the past fortnight I was told my chemo was to be stopped and that there were no more treatment options going forward and that palliative care were called in to help manage my pain and symptoms and to help me feel more comfortable.

The past fortnight has been extremely tough to deal with, and I just really needed to escape and get away and just talk to people my own age with their own experiences... to talk with peers who 'get it'.

I had so much fun on the program, and despite being in a lot of pain I really enjoyed myself. The staff were amazing going above and beyond to help me, and the member's who attended were so kind and accepting.

To be honest, Canteen is the one place that I feel accepted and valued and not judged, and I think that is why Canteen works so well.... it is a safe place for you to explore your feelings and dealings with your cancer journey and you are surrounded by people who are as well. 

I honestly don't know how I would have gotten through and navigated the last few years without the support and help from Canteen, and for that I will always be thankful and appreciative of all the times that Canteen was there when I needed them.

I age out of Canteen this year, so that was my last camp. I still plan on keeping in contact with the staff and offerring my graphic design services. But I have made some amazing friendships through Canteen that I will continue to cherish and keep in contact with.

If you are a young person aged 12-24 in Australia, or know someone who is affected by cancer (whether it be themselves, their parent or sibling who was/is sick) please let them know about Canteen by clicking this link.

Posted by: Talya AT 03:45 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, July 05 2016

When it comes cancer and sharing your story/journey, there is always someone who either seems to know the cure for cancer or has some advice for you... commonly it is telling you what you're doing wrong and somehow making you feel that you are to blame for it (having cancer).

Quite often I am told if I don't eat sugar and avoid it then my cancer will stop growing and will go away.... or that if I wasn't fat then I wouldn't have cancer.

Another piece of 'advice' I got a couple of months back, was that if I LOVED my cancer unconditionally that it will be unwanted and will just go away.

Uh huh?

But what was rather upsetting recently was advice not given to me, but to my little 15 year old sister.

My sister has the same genetic cancer causing gene (FAP) that I have and that my dad had (that is killing me, and killed him)... so you can imagine how hard it would be at her age knowing she has a 100% chance of bowel cancer and has seen her dad and older sister sick from the disease.... it would be rather distressing not knowing if she too would experience what my dad and I experienced.

My sister went on a recent school camp and was asked to share her story in front of her peers, teachers and also to an audience of people attending at a church.

She gave her story and at the end a gentleman stood up claiming to be a doctor and told her "if you avoid red meat for the rest of your life you will never get bowel cancer".

My sister came home all excited and filled with hope. She said to me and my mum "guess what mummy, I am now a vegetarian as I was told by some doctor on camp that  IF I never eat red meat again I won't ever get bowel cancer and be cured".

My heart just sank and broke, here she was filled with hope all because someone told her advice that they shouldn't have... regardless of what you eat, if you have this gene you will get bowel cancer.

I had to fight hard to hold back my tears as I told her the reality... I watched that bubble literally burst and it broke my heart.

She had hope... but it wasn't the right advice to be given... he doesn't know our story, he doesn't know our gene and hadn't consulted with our many specialists who are specialists in the field for a reason.

All she could keep saying was "but he was a doctor".

But even doctors should know when to keep their opinion to themselves.

But bless her dear heart, she plans on studying hard to become a scientist to find the cure for cancer.

If you are talking to someone and you are about to give advice of the latest 'craze' going around, please refrain from offerring unwanted advice as the damage can be a lot to someone who is vulnerable, scared and is looking for hope.

Just look at the fall out from Belle Gibson telling people she cured herself of brain cancer, WHEN SHE NEVER HAD CANCER TO BEGIN WITH.

Just remember, words can cause damage... and starting or ending with 'Just sayin' doesn't make it any less of an insult or offence.

Posted by: Talya AT 05:01 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, May 20 2016

When I talk to a lot of my friends or peers who aren't sick I realise just how different our current life stages are.

I have some friends that are busy planning their weddings (which I am loving being involved as I just love LOVE and weddings and all things happy) but I am at the stage of my life where I am planning my funeral and my list of wishes I want to do before I kick the proverbial bucket... but just because I am planning my funeral doesn't mean I have given up or that I am not being optimistic or ostomistic I should say about my situation.

While I feel a little sad that this is my current reality, I am in no way giving up so please don't tell me that I am.

For me, planning my funeral and writing a bucket list or as I prefer to call it my 'happy list' I feel is somewhat empowering and it makes me feel I have control over my situation, and control is something that is often lacking when you are sick, especially terminal.

Why is it empowering you might ask? Well it is simple really... it means I have control like I said just before, but it also means that when the time comes my family and husband won't be left wondering what I wanted to have done.. and I have seen the arguments over funerals and who organised what or didn't organise and I want to spare my family that extra stress when they are grieving... albeit they will have to make arrangements and finalise the order of things like flowers and food as I don't know when I am going to die (and this is the hard part about planning your funeral). But I am planning on having everything written down and instructed and planned so all they need to do is make a couple of phone calls and order things... I want it to be simple for them and want them to feel stronger that they don't have to make these decisions.

One thing I am struggling with is having my family and friends involved in helping me plan my funeral.. which it will be more a party/memorial service as I plan on being cremated so there won't be a body. But, no one is wanting to help me and I understand it is hard for them but I just wished I could talk openly and be supported without feeling like I am upsetting them. And I don't want them to read this and feel obligated in anyway to talk with me or help me plan, it is just one of the hard things about my situation is that it is hard on those who love me.

I want a party like service where everyone is to wear colours, and I want to find bio-degradable balloons that I can have released, I want bright flowers, I just want it to be bright and bubbly like me and not dim and black and depressing because that isn't me.

I am working on a concept for my funeral called a 'waste free funeral' where things like flowers can be donated to nursing homes or people in hospital doing it tough to make their day brighter, or left over food to be given to homeless shelters or like the balloons I don't want them to impact on the environment. I want to have a great send off but I don't want to hurt the environment or others, so I want to give back where I can and this is my way of doing so.

But please, if I am wanting to talk to you about my funeral and I am all happy and chirpy please just think about what you're about to say as it hurts me when you say things like "well that is too depressing to talk about", or "why are you giving up" because I don't want to do this alone and I am not sad or hurting about this decision... as I keep saying it is making me feel empowered.

Posted by: Talya AT 07:39 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, April 10 2016

We know that chemo can be toxic to ourselves and we can get sick, but did you know that it can make those around us sick too if they are exposed.

Before I started chemo, I was invited to attend a chemo education session where I learnt things about treatment, nutrition and what it means to be cytotoxic.

When you have chemo you are considered 'cytotoxic' for the next 7-10 days. This means that your bodily fluids such as urine, tears, sweat, saliva, semen, poo and blood contains chemicals that can be toxic to others if they are exposed to it. They can be near you and not get sick, just as long as they don't come into contact with your bodily fluids.

So when you have chemo it is important that you be mindful of what you're doing to help protect those around you.

Here are 10 steps I take to ensuring the safety of others around me when I am cytotoxic

#1. Double flushing the toilet with the lid down
This helps to keep the toxic waste inside the toilet and avoid splashing. Double flushing also ensures that the toxic waste is removed from the toilet and is safe for the next person to use. Make sure you also wipe the toilet seat properly.

#2. Try and use one toilet for my use only
I know this one can be hard especially if you only have one toilet being used by all the members of your household, but I am lucky in my house that we have two toilets and I try and keep one toilet for my use only. This is just to minimise the risk of me being cytotoxic with my husband or guests visiting our house.

#3. Don't share drinks/cups
As saliva is one of the ways in which I am cytotoxic it is important for your own safety that you don't drink out of a bottle I have drank out of, or a cup. If you (like me) prefer to drink out of the bottle of milk or softdrink rather than in a glass simply mark that bottle with your name or just make sure others know not to drink that drink.

#4. Don't share food/utensils
This very much goes with #3, don't eat the food off my plate or use my utensils after I have used them. I have to keep reminding my husband to not eat my leftovers. I am getting more into the habit of having smaller meals and going back for more if I am hungry as opposed to food going to waste... but sometimes my eyes are just too big for my tummy!

#5. Use condoms if having sex even if it is just oral
Not only do you not want to get pregnant while undergoing chemo (I imagine it wouldn't be good for the baby), but it also isn't safe for your partner if you have unprotected sex.

#6. Double line your garbage bags when disposing your stoma bags
This is something that I was told to do by my stoma nurses which helps ensure the safety of those working in the garbage disposal industry in the event that the original bag you've disposed of your stoma bag in has broken down or torn open, that you aren't exposing workers or the environment to your toxic waste. To be safe I put my soiled stoma bag in a garbage bag and seal it then place it inside another garbage bag and seal that one.

#7. Make sure you have disposable gloves handy
If you are likely to have someone at home who would jump in willy nilly and help you clean up if you vomitted, had a bag leak or made a mess, it is important that you have gloves at the ready for them to wear to protect themselves. My husband bless his soul really is my night in shining armour, he sees that I am in trouble and his first instinct is to jump in and help me. But, I have to keep stopping him and reminding him to get gloves if he wants to help as I don't want to run the risk of making him sick. Also put the used gloves in a plastic bag and seal it before placing in the garbage bin.

#8. If you are holding a newborn
My brother (and his partner) recently had a beautiful little boy. Easter was approaching and I had started back on chemo and I knew I would be sad if I could see him but not get cuddles. So I asked the chemo nurses if it was okay for me to hold him and they said that it was providing I wasn't sweaty, I don't kiss him and my bag isn't leaking. Thankfully, I got a couple of cuddles in on Good Friday and I made sure that there was always something between my skin and the baby to be safe. 

#9. Wash soiled items seperately
When you do have a leak it is important that the clothes and linens are washed seperately to your normal (non-chemo person's) laundry. I find one wash cycle to be enough to clean the clothes, it is just more to protect other's clothes from being exposed to cytotoxic waste.

#10. Wash your hands and make sure others do too
Whenever you go to the toilet, do a bag change, deal with soiled linen or clothes or if you sneeze/cough always make sure you wash your hands. Not only is this good hygeine practice, but it helps eliminate the spread of germs and chemicals. Make sure others around you wash their hands too and if possible ask them to use hand sanitiser.

Posted by: Talya AT 09:50 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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~  Living with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis - Effects of FAP  ~

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Talya Goding - Feeling Ostomistic   talya@feelingostomistic.com.au  |  0447 426 860

Thank you for stopping by Feeling Ostomistic. It has taken a lot of courage to share my story and I ask that you show me and my site/blog respect and courtesy. Views expressed in this blog are my own and I am not a nurse or a doctor. If you need medical advice please seek your medical practitioner.

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