My Health Journey....

Saturday 15th November 2014

Earlier this year I was asked by the lovely Vanessa at Scrapbooking Memories Magazine if I would write about my Cancer Journey for it's upcoming Pink October issue.

I thought about it for a while then decided that the best way to get awareness and to make women stop ignoring the signs, was to do it ... put it in writing.


Now I know that I've kept the online diary of whats been going on but . .. putting it in print is a whole different ball game.

I had no idea that writing this article would open up a whole new can of worms for me ... some good and some bad.

I started writing this as the one year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis was coming around.

At first it didn't seem to be too much of a drama ... I got thru bigger hurdles ... but then I fell to pieces..... In a big way ... I dont need to go into details but lets just say if it wasn't for Trevor, Tatum and Ebony ... I would have totally lost the plot.

It wasn't pretty.
There was a lot of ugly crying...
There was a lot of anger....
There was a lot of confusion. ..

I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I stepped up and got help and I can happily say that now I'm cleared of PTSD and in a much better head space.

I have been having three monthly blood tests and check ups and so far so good ... but I'm not out of the woods just yet ...

It is certainly not easy to put it out there that I've been unwell and hard to talk about having PTSD but the reality is that it happened and it's been part of the journey.

I've changed a lot over the last twelve months and it's all for good.

I've not turned into one of those cancer survivors who now only eat vegan and meditate but I now realize who and what is really important in my life and I'm putting my energy into that.
I'm embracing this and I'm happy.

I hope that by writing this article for Scrapbooking Memories,  someone has taken themselves for a check up and stopped ignoring their body.

You only get one chance to live this life .... there are no do overs .....

Its that simple.




Wednesday May 14th 2014
112 days since my last chemo

So it has been quite a while since I have been in here with a health update.

My last treatment was at the end of January and now we are half way thru May - where on earth has the time gone?

I am feeling good.
I am finally at a stage where I feel good 85% of the time.
I still suffer from fatigue a little but no where near as much as I did over the last couple of months.

February and March were quite hard for me as I kinda had it in my head that now that the chemo was finished, I'd bounce back to normal straight away  .... but no ... I was still tired and lacking energy plus those damn dizzy spells were still hanging around.

Early February I went back to work for a few hours on a Monday - just to get me back in the door and also started back in the gym around the same time - just doing a little bit at a time - but at least I was there.

Early March ....  I had got much better - I even drove by myself to Port Lincoln to the scrapbooking retreat, set up a mini shop, worked for 3 days then drove home - in hindsight, I possibly should have got someone to drive with me but I did it and it felt good.

Throughout the last few months, I really have not allowed myself to think too much about Ovarian Cancer and what it meant to have it but I am now that it's all over and done with, I really do realise the severity of the Cancer and what could have happened.

I had a real light bulb moment back in April (HERE) after reading about the statistics ... I guess I just hadn't really stopped to take it all in.

This really changed me - I now have a definite clarity about what is important in my life....
I don't think I have turned into one of those "seen the light' sort of people but I have now learnt to say no, realised that the people who were there for me thru the whole cancer thing are my people and they love me.

 I have done a few things for myself in the last month....got a new tattoo (way to get everyone's opinions out in the open), jumped off a cliff in New Zealand, started having regular facials and I have slowed down. (well - kinda)

I am less stressed, happier in myself and in my marriage and I'm a much calmer person now.

Maybe this is because I have had so much time off or maybe it's the close call but either way ....
I'm here and I'm happy.
I'm over wondering what people think of me - If they don't like me then too bad - it's their loss.

I am now doing what makes me happy - making decisions that make our life awesome.

I'm embracing the change.

My hair has got much longer and is finally getting some thickness to it now.
Decided that seeing it was so short, I'd go blonde! Loving it!

My eyebrows are almost back to normal and my eyelashes are still quite short (thank god for eyelash extensions).
The weight gain the chemo drugs caused is slowly moving but not as fast as I'd like.
I think menopause has given me a thicker waist now which I guess I'll just have to deal with.
On the menopause front, the HRT is working a treat - other than the occasional hot flush or night sweat, I'm coping with it OK.

My first three month check went really well - Dr Miller was quite happy with my progress.
The next appointment in July is the one I might stress about a little - it's all about blood results and tumor markers but I'll worry about that later.
I have also been tested for the BRCA1 & BRCA2 gene and I'm clear - this is a relief.

So this is where I am at ...



 Feb 22 ... Tatum & I on way to Day on the Green
Tatum and I  ... March 9th at retreat
Gina, Celeste me and Nat ... March 10th at retreat
Selfie ... March 26
Selfie ... 4th April 
 5th April at Jo's 40th

 23rd April in New Zealand with Jess
 26th April in NZ at retreat

 
29th April Cliffhanger Bungy in Taupo

 1st May ...  New Zealand
My new bird .Creativity....freedom ...Blue for Ovarian Cancer
 10th May ... Saturday night at Trev's 40th
Thank you again for all the love, support and prayers
xxx
Natalie

Sunday, April 13, 2014


I had a weird light bulb moment this morning reading the paper ....

It sounds ridiculous but after reading the great article in the Sunday Mail in the Body+Soul liftout about Ovarian Cancer ... I realized what a rather big bullet I dodged .....

Why this didnt click to me sooner - I dont know ....
Monday 10th February

I am now nearly two and a half weeks out from treatment and feeling OK.

Can you believe that 2 days after my last chemo I lost all my eyelashes and my eyebrows!
SERIOUSLY!!!!

Two days!
There will be no photo showing you - lets just say that!

My hair is getting a little thicker - people have told me it looks longer.
I no longer wear my hat when I leave the house.

I'm still tired but no where near as much as I was.

Each day is better than the last.

Today I went back to work - managed half a day until the dizzy spells kicked in. 

Feeling OK!
xxxx

Wednesday 22nd January
18 of 18


Today was my last treatment of chemotherapy 

You simply cant understand how happy Trev, Jessica and I are to see this day come

We know it's not completely over yet ... I still have another week of this treatment taking it's toll then 4-6 weeks minimum before my body starts to heal and feel normal again.

I think I have been on the verge of bursting into tears all day - especially after some very beautiful text messages from my main girls Tatum, Lee & Wendy ... but I've held it together ...

Today I am done
Today I move forward
Today I am happy it's all over

A few photos from the last 6 hours ....


 





Thank you to everyone has sent me their love and support - means the world
xxxx

Natalie 

Saturday 18th January 2014
17 of 18 
Second to last treatment.
The last 8 days here have been hot - and by hot I mean five days over 40c
My body is not loving the hot weather at all
My eyebrows are all but gone now
My eyelashes are still there but I've lost over half.
I'm tired
I'm tired all the time
First thing in the morning - after 8 hours sleep - I look tired
Yesterday I had to go back into hospital for some more surgery.
Nothing major but another surgery I didn't want.
It went well - but today I feel like I have run a marathon.
Wednesday - Wednesday is my end date
The last one

I could just about cry.....
Friday 10th January 2014
16 of 18 
Having that blood transfusion made me feel like a million bucks!
It's like a giant Berocca for your body - I felt amazing.

Wednesday was treatment number 16 - the beginning of what we call round 6.
This was a double treatment.
Everything went smooth.

Saw Dr Miller as well today - the small 'procedure' I had on the 9th of December (bordering on too much information so I wont go into detail) hasn't worked and I need to go back in for Day Surgery on the 17th for a 'Spot Weld".
Don't need that at all but I guess it's the only option.

Chemo makes the body heal slower - paper cuts take forever to heal, mouth ulcers take forever to go away, bruises take longer to clear up, the cells are not repairing as quickly as they normally would, therefore, I still have a few complications internally from the hysterectomy.

My hair is getting longer but still very patchy.
My eyelashes are falling out - I have big gaps on my bottom lids.
I have had to resort to the eyebrow pencil to fill in the big gaps on my brows.

The weight gain is still happening.... grrr

But only two more to go now - 22nd of January is my finish date - all going to plan

xxxx
Sunday 5th January 2014
Blood Transfusion
So Trev and I arrived at Calvary for treatment 16 .... it was the start of a very long day.
Last post I mentioned I was tired .... that was an understatement.
We told Dr Michele how my week had been and he said it would more likely be my hemoglobin levels were low. Last week it was 93 and this week 95 - normally my hm levels are 136.

I had my blood tests at 9am.
Saw Dr Michele at about 10.15am.
By noon I was hooked up having a blood transfusion.
This is a long process. First bag of 230ml took 2 hours ... second bag took 2 hours..... 4 hours in total in the chair plus an hour waiting for the blood to be matched and bought up ... plus the tests and Dr appointment ... makes for a very long day.
But this will get me thru the last three treatments.
The dates have now been changed .... but I'm feeling much better for it.




Wednesday 1st January 2014
14 & 15 of 18 
The last two treatments have been pretty straight forward.
I can see the finishing line now.
 http://distilleryimage2.ak.instagram.com/901e42ec6e8d11e3924b12f247178dfa_8.jpg http://distilleryimage10.ak.instagram.com/fadfb4886e8511e3a3d112226e1e851a_8.jpg
I'm tired - really tired.
This week I spent Monday in bed. It was hard work getting thru the last week.
Christmas is over. Today I am exhausted.
My eyelashes are eyebrows are getting really thin now and so is my hair.
Still slowly putting on weight - all fluid. Makes me sad.
But I can see the end .....


Sunday 15 December 2013
11, 12 & 13 of 18 
So the last three weeks seemed to have disappeared.

Treatment 11 and 12 were single doses and pretty uneventful.

I went to Calvary by myself for both of them which is fine cause I quite enjoy my own company.
The girls there are simply wonderful and  at no point do I feel like I am alone or in need of company.

My veins are starting to put up a bit of a fight.
Treatment 12 we used my right arm as the puffy skin is becoming a problem.
I'm taking a lot longer to heal - the bruises are hanging  around for 2-3 weeks.



Treatment 13 - Friday just gone - was a double and Trev came with me for this one - we spent the first 45mins together before my mum joined us. Mum hasn't been able to make it to any of the other treatments due to work commitments but it was good for her to come and see what happens and what is involved in my treatment. Puts a bit of realism into it as well. Not that it hasn't been real - but you know what I mean... anyway...


The last half hour, this gorgeous girl, Tammy - drove 3 hours from Clare - just to hang out with me - made my day. Actually it's pretty overwhelming. Thank you sweet


What else has been happening ...
My hair is no longer falling out in big clumps.
It's thin but manageable

I see a lot of bad hair days in the future but I've got this bad boy to get me thru!
 
I've found a couple of new side effects this week.
I have lost sensation in my top lip. Some people loose feeling in their fingers and toes - I'm losing it in my top lip!
Also .. weepy eyes - really weepy eyes.
I wask up in the morning and my eyes are all clagged shut and gross. It's kinda like hayfever eyes.
Not pretty.

The fluid retention is still a big thing.
HATE IT.
My face shape has chamges, my body shape has changes - HATE IT.
I know it will all go back to normal in 6 weeks but does not make it any easier.
I'm even trying Lymphatic Draining massage to try and move it ....

Anyway ....

Five more treatments to go...
2 single doses over Christmas, 1 Double in the New Year then the last two mid January.

Bring on January 17th


Sunday 24th November 2013
10 of 18 
I'm not a total sad sack all the time.
I know all I have done is winge like a 5 year old on here.

I am extremely grateful for my health and especially for my family and friends.
I have an incredible amount of support.

Last Sunday morning, I held an Envy Jewelery fundraising champange brunch here at home.
Trev worked his arse off to get the house clean and tidy and ready for an open house.
I'm honestly not sure how many people came but there was also a lot that didn't turn up.
Anyway ... I'm still waiting to find out what the final figure was that raised by the lovely Sian donated 20% of her commission to OCRF Australia - and I am forever thankful for that.

                          My sister Lou, me, Jules & Mum                Me & the gorg Leanne

                                    Miss Jess & I                  Jules & I (I've seriously missed this girl in my life)

                                    Mr Trev & I                                          Mum, me and Jules

In other FREAKING AMAZING news, a wonderful customer from the shop, Sharon Sutherland and her craft group in Mount Gambier are sending me a donation of $500 to send to OCRF.
I have no words for how this makes me feel.

On the health side of things, I'm OK.
Still tired ... now realizing my thoughts that I'd be able to work a lot more is not gonna happen.
My hair is still thin but not falling out as much as it was,
Skin is still crap.
Zero concentration.

But I'm alive and doing better than some.
xxxxx 


Thursday 14th November 2013
This last week has been a bit crap.
Tomorrow is treatment number 9 of 18.
Half way.


These dizzy spells are a total pain in the arse.
Had my blood pressure checked and its normal - so what the hell?
I lay down and the room spins like I've drunk a bottle of vodka - I wish!
I find myself holding onto the kitchen bench or the table or leaning up against a wall more times during the day than I care to admit.
Will bring it up again with the Dr tomorrow.
Sleeping ok.
Tired though - most days by 4pm I feel like I have run the New York marathon.

Monday was a BIG day for me.
Spent the day in a workshop with a super celeb in the scrapbooking world - Heidi Swapp - this woman is my idol - I have always admired her and it was a HUGE deal having her come to Adelaide to teach.

It was a long day but after lunch - I kinda hit an emotional wall .... I had a meltdown ...

I spent most of the day watching people have their photo with her ...
Here was this person I worshipped ...  I desperately my photo with her  ...  but not like this ... not looking bloated, fat, semi bald ... not like me ..the tears started... I couldn't get out of there quick enough ... fuck - I'm crying now ... it's ridiculous ... I went outside ... called Trev who told me to lift my chin .... hold my head high and go back in there .... my sweet friend Mardi - who has traveled this path - she knew ... Mardi knew the right things to say ... Thankyou...

But it sucked ... really sucked ...
At the end of the day .. after everyone had gone and I was helping pack up, Heidi came up to me and gave me a huge hug, told me she had been following me on Instagram and knew my story ... wow... she lifted me high ... I needed to hear that ... Thank you Heidi for accepting me as I am ...
I know it's ridiculous but it was such a hard day.
Most of the 66 women who attended wanted to say hi and catch up but it was just too much for me
I'm sorry if I offended anyone - some days are just mentally too hard

 My super amazingly supportive friends ... Amanda, me, Meredith & Mardi

 
Heidi Swapp & I

Speaking of mentally .... this chemo brain is freaking awful ... it's getting worse.
I've now gone to forgetting the names of things ... forgetting people's names ... writing lists is the only thing getting me by.
Took me 2 hours to clean my kitchen Saturday cause I kept forgetting what I was doing.
It's worse at the end of the day.

Not loving it.

And I'm back in my fat jeans .....
Enough said....

Friday 8th November 2013
I've had a shitty week so far.

I've been tired .... nauseous.... grumpy ... it's been crap
The dizzy spells have been full on - scary in fact.
Took myself to my GP on Wednesday to have a chat.
I struggled to not burst into tears.
The fluid retention is something I have to just suck up and deal with.
The dizzy spells are because my blood pressure is low. :(

I've been forgetting things.... crappy memory... distracted ....
This morning I came across this on Facebook by a lovely woman.
Your life's wish
CHEMO BRAIN can have a profound effect on people going through chemotherapy. What is it? Well it's where your thoughts, words even short term memory go walkabout....always at the most inopportune times.

For me chemo would have me asking for 'a cup of hot brown stuff'(coffee). I would introduce good friends to each other and totally forget their names, friends I have had for years...couldn't remember their bloody names. I was unable to cook, read and sometimes holding conversations was difficult. I would start sentences and be unable to complete them, I would just forget the words I was searching for. If I was tired it would be worse and the conversation would sound like white noise, my eyes would glaze over as the fog descended. Those who understood knew to shut up or offer me a rest...then there were those who just thought I was rude.

I found it ver difficult finding the right words and would often revert to simple terms like 'that thingy', 'stuff', or 'kinda like' or even playing descriptive word guessing games. I found myself constantly apologising to people and shop assistants. Towards the end of chemo exhaustion, sleep deprivation and my crazy brain were a dangerous and concerning combination. I was known to pull my car over for a power nap or have a nap in undercover car parks because I was too exhausted to open my car door and walk...it would come on quite quickly.

Taking my mister to medical appointments was essential as I would sometimes forget (or not take in) information. My foggy head was constant but definitely at its worst towards the end of 6 months of chemo. Chemo has a cumulative effect...with each round you get tireder, sicker and have more side effects. It's not something I would instantly recognise but my mister, kids and friends could see it. When I 'really' recognised it was when I had finished chemo. It only took a few weeks for the fog to lift and and for energy to return. With every new thing I was able to accomplish it made me realise just how much chemo had taken from me. At the end of radiotherapy (32 daily sessions) I slumped agin, it felt like I had just done a round of chemo. The body is zapped and depleted and needs time to heal and repair.

Not all chemo drugs are the same. There are different drugs for different needs...even different ways to administer. If you have a friend, family member or work colleague going through chemo (or supporting someone) cut them some slack and understand that their body and mind is working harder than you could ever imagine. It's being broken down and racing to repair itself over and over...the side effects won't last forever so be patient. Tolerance, patience and understanding are what the chemo patient require...and a good sense of humour. Light n love xx

I can relate to this 100% - it makes sense on so many levels and she has described it perfectly.
This woman has incredible strength and bravery - https://www.facebook.com/Yourlifeswish?fref=ts

OK ... off to have treatment number 8....



Monday 24th October 2013
7 of 18 
Had a heavy double session on Friday.

Went ok - lovely nurse had trouble finding a vein in the back of my hand - hurt like a bitch!
 

I'm taking longer to heal from bruising now - I have a bruise on my arm from 3 weeks ago that shows no signs of fading, one from a fortnight ago and I'm just waiting for last weeks to come out now.

I've had a couple of days in at work over the last few days - worked all day Wednesday & Saturday - felt good to be busy and just be "Natalie May" for the day not "Natalie the Cancer Patient".
I know it sounds silly but it's an important part of the process for me.
I dont feel sick... I dont have cancer anymore ... but looking at me ... I'm looking like a cancer patient.

My hair is thinning more and more each day - I have a couple of really thin patches yet a few long bits still.
Hats are becoming the norm now as well as my wig which I wear to work.
 

I'm desperately HATING the weight gain.
I always had in my head that the treatment may lead me to loose some weight but it has been the complete opposite.
I have now put on 5kg in 7 weeks - NOT FREAKING HAPPY
It's water retention - which I have now discovered is a big side effect of the chemo. Awesome!
I have worked so hard in the gym in the last 18 months only to loose all my fitness after the surgery and now put this weight on with the treatment.
My body shape has changed - my face is round, my mid section is round - I HATE IT.
If one more person tells me I'll loose it after the treatment is over I'll scream - I know!!!!

But now - I'm not liking it at all.

I'm getting back into the gym a few days a week but still not strong enough to do many weights or even exercise for more that 40mins - I get tired really easy. 
   
But I'm there - I was wrapped last week when one of the trainers, Tracey, came up and told me how proud she was of me for being back in the gym.
Made my day to hear that.  

So that's where I'm at - bit crap at the moment but I'll get there.

  
Saturday 26th October 2013
5 & 6 of 18
It's been a pretty cruisy ten days.
Treatment 5 & 6 were both single treatments - only 2 hours in the chair.
I went by myself on the 18th and almost enjoyed the time sitting listening to music, reading trashy magazines.
Last week, Tatum joined me.  This girl has been my rock - I have no words to describe how much strength she gives me.
We held two Ovarian Cancer Fundraisers at work last week - both were great nights. I went to both but in hindsight probably should have skipped the Tuesday night as I was ridiculously tired.
On the hair front - it's thin .. really thin.
People keep telling me how short hair suits me but I'm still not loving it.
I'm wearing a cotton cap a lot ... or my fedora hat ... or my baseball cap ... I only really expose me head around the house.  I've worn my wig a little too.
Had my first day back at work on Wednesday - 4 hours was ample for me and I think I managed to choose the best possible day to go back too .. Jane as teaching her card class with 18 wonderful ladies who lifted my confidence, assured me I didnt look ridiculous and made me feel normal. Thank you girls.
Off to the surgeon on Monday for a check - been having some pretty awful pain over the last couple of days ... got told off for ignoring it so made an appt to see Dr Miller. Murphy's Law will tell me it's nothing and by Monday the pain will be totally gone!
Will keep you in the loop
XXX
Wednesday 16th October 2013
4 of 18
So far so good.
I know I have probably jinxed myself but oh well.
The 'double' chemo last Friday was fine. Tiring but fine....


Driving home we made the decision to cut my hair.
All day it had been coming out in long strands ..leaving a trail behind wherever I went.
Trev got the clippers out ... set up a chair outside and off we went ...
Felt awful cause I'm not sick .. doesn't feel like there is any reason to take it off ..... other than it's falling out...

 So now I have a number 3 all over ... its falling out really fast now .... but at least there is less of it to fall out ..
Saturday night was spent with friends... I started off wearing a hat but as the night went on, I loosened up and realised these people love me for me - not how I look ... logical but ...


So I'm soldiering on .... I'm tired but doing good
xxxx

Thursday 10th October 2013
3 of 18
I have spent the last 6 days waiting to feel unwell.
It hasn't really happened .. I'm not complaining.

The Look Good Feel Better workshop was great - but out of the 15 ladies in the room, I was the youngest - and I wasn't the only one who noticed ...

Thursday Mum & I went into the city to spend a little time hat & hair hunting ... very daunting but we got it done. Anna at Bonnie Wigs was just the most amazing help - I wasn't gonna go for the wig but seeing I spend a lot of time standing in front of groups of people teaching, I knew I wouldn't be comfortable - I want to turn off the treatment some days and walk out of the house without being a walking advert for cancer. I left there feeling much more comfortable within myself and happy with my decision.

Fridays session was a walk in the park - for lack of a better phrase.
Enjoyed my foot massage, chatted to that incredible husband of mine, had chemicals pumped into my body...
It was all good.


We came home, packed the car and headed up the river to spend the long weekend at Bow Hill.
This is my happy place - this is where I feel most at ease - this is where my best friend has her shack.
I love it here - Trevor is relaxed and happy - Jessica is getting vitamin D and playing with Miss Emily - everything about this place makes my heart explode with happiness....

The perfect place to relax.

 

Back to reality on Monday.... still feeling ok ....

Tuesday & Wednesday .... the hair is starting to go ... long strands falling out ... I seem to be leaving a trail of hair everywhere I go ... each time I run my fingers thru it - which I must stop doing out of habit - another few strands come out ... wont be long now ....

Tomorrow is my double chemo session - I'm a little worried about this one ... this is the Paclitaxel & Carboplation dose ... three hours in the chair ....


Tuesday 1st October 2013
2 of 18 
Again, last Friday's chemo went well.
No problems... incident free.
Went to Mum's on the way into Calvary to have the big chop!
We cut my hair off to my ears - very short but I like it - shame its gonna fall out cause I like this length.

Have been feeling really good over the last couple of days - tired but really good.
Little bit of nausea on Saturday night but other than that - uneventful.
My hair feels awful. I can tell it's dying... dry... feels like straw ... not healthy at all.
My skin is dry too... covering myself in moisturizer each day.
Today I'm off to the Look Good Feel Better workshop - looking forward to it!

Wednesday 25th September 2013
1 of 18
Last Friday's chemo went well.
Was up early with a really nervous tummy.
Dropped Jess at school and headed in.
We saw Dr Michele first, he filled me in on what was going to happen and what to expect in the coming week. I felt so much calmer after seeing him.
Although he did say that my hair will start to fall out within the next 3 weeks - I honestly didnt expect it to happen that soon.
Headed into to the Oncology Suite - about 20 chairs I think... find myself a set and meet Elna and Leah - gorgeous girls.
Needle in the top of my left forearm and off we go.
The next three hours went ok - a little bit of chest tightness than lasted about 3 minutes.
I was totally surprised when the lovely Karen came up to me offering a foot massage. What a treat. Calvary Hospital has a program called Restore especially for people in the Cancer wards and they offer free acupuncture, reflexology and massage. Massage was beautiful.


Leaving hospital I had a little bit of motion sickness but the rest of Friday went smooth.
Saturday - fine - best I've felt in weeks.
Sunday - nausea hit me all day - just feeling flat and ordinary.
Monday - tired tired tired

I have booked into the Look Good Feel Better workshop.
After sitting in the Oncology Suite, looking around at all the brave and beautiful women in various head wear, I decided I need to look into disguising my hair loss. I know its all part of the process and I've been told I should wear it with pride but I'm not sure I want to be labelled as a Cancer patient when I go buy a loaf of bread. No doubt my thoughts towards this will change over the coming months but this is where I'm at today.



Thursday 19th September 2013 
I've been umming and haaaing whether or not to put this online because it's so personal or leave it in my head where it's safe from the big bad world ... but I found this post extremely therapeutic to write so I'm going to do it anyway.
Thank you to Mardi for the push... xxxx


Tomorrow I start Chemo

To say that I'm scared is an understatement

I know people go thru this every day and everyone knows someone who has been thru it
.....but I'm going thru it ... it's happening to me ... tomorrow ... and I'm mildly starting to freak out.

I'm not scared of the chemo itself because I know this is that last step in this horrible journey that we have been going thru

But I am scared of the unknown

...I am a planner
...a list maker
...diary keeper
...deadline meeter
...organiser
... I am that person that can make a quick decision

....but tomorrow will change all that

I've read thru all the paperwork about Chemo and what it involves and what the side effects are and so on ... but what is scaring me is that I don't know how it will effect me.

Will I be sick, loose my hair, have crap skin, bad mouth issues, will my nails fall off, will I loose feeling in my fingertips????
My brain is going overtime thinking about all these things

I hate the thought of just having to wait and see

Everyone is quick to give you their thoughts on the process and tell you how their Aunty So&So didn't have any side effects or only lots a small amount of hair or when they went thru Chemo, they were sick as a dog one day & great the next ... I appreciate all the feedback & opinions but to be honest - none of it really helps.  No one can tell me how it will effect me.

"You'll be right - you're strong and healthy" ...  I have heard this nine million times but if I was healthy - I wouldn't be having Chemo in the first place.

I feel weak from 2 months of being in bed and not exercising
Weak from major abdominal surgery that feels like it's taking forever to heal
I'm tired and emotional from going thru Menopause at 38 years old

I'm not depressed .. don't get me wrong ... I'm just in a much different place than I was 3 months ago.

Call it realistic

Not knowing how exactly these Chemo drugs will work with my body is hard to understand ...
but ... I will be strong ... put on a brave face and get it done

I'll be damned if I am going thru all this again in 2 years time if the Cancer grows back on a different organ - no freaking way.
That wouldn't be fair on Trev & Jess or myself.

So there it is ....

Fingers crossed for tomorrow ... Friday September 20th 2013 ....


I think I'll put these blog posts in the above My Health Journey tab to keep it separate from my creative life.

Thanks for the love and support

Natalie
*************************

Wednesday Sept 4th - 2013
So what on earth has been going on?

I have heard this countless times over the last 7 weeks.
There has been a lot happening in the May house.

 
Time for an update to give you a little insight as to why I have been off work and where my future is going....

Before you read on, please know that I am putting this out there for a couple of reasons ...
I have gone from working and teaching 15 classes a month to nothing and I'm getting lots of emails and messages asking when I'm coming back….
and I'm having a lot of people contact me concerned about what is going on ....
I'm not after sympathy, pity or help but only support and understanding  .... that's all....
Grab yourself a cuppa and have a read ...... 
Early July I noticed some changes in my cycle that prompted me to go to see my GP.
My GP, Joanne did a few tests and sent me to have an Ultrasound as she thought something wasn't right either. 
The ultrasound showed a cyst around my left ovary and I was sent to see my Gyno, Dr Lane. 
During this time - about 10 days between GP & Dr Lane - my pain and discomfort had increased intensively and it was now that I had to drop a few classes. The discomfort had got too much.
 
At that appointment, Dr Lane discovered that I had an Ovarian Cyst - potentially an endometrioma - and it had to come out immediately.
Surgery was planned for 24 hours after seeing Dr Lane - a laparoscopy (It is an operation where a tiny telescope is inserted through a small incision in your naval to see the abdominal cavity and pelvis. More small incisions are necessary so that other instruments can be used to perform the procedure. The incisions are closed with a single stitch or closure tape.)
Trev took me into Ashford Hospital on the Saturday for surgery.  {Saturday 20/7/13}
Everything went well ... I had my left Ovary & Fallopian Tube removed as well as the cyst ... but Dr Lane told us after the surgery that it wasn't at all what he was expecting and that it was a Mucinous CystAdenoma.
It was over 10cm and 500grams in total and was sent off to pathology.
I spent 3 days in hospital then home to recover.
A couple of days later {Friday 26/7/13} we went back to see Dr Lane to have my stitches removed and to have check up - that day just went from great to awful in a space of 5 mins.
The pathology from the surgery had come back and it wasn't good ...
High Grade Cancer cells had been found in the cyst.
Our world just stopped.
I think I spent the rest of the appointment in a daze ... waiting for Dr Laneto say "but it's all going to be OK" or "just kidding" .... but he never did. 
I had Ovarian Cancer. 
That day I was then sent off for more blood tests and CT scans ....

On the following Wednesday {31/7/13}, we met with Dr Miller, a
GynaecologicalOncologist at North Adelaide Oncology.
He was amazing. Put our minds at ease straight away and confirmed there was no more Cancer found with the last scan results and the first surgery had possibly got it.... but .... I needed to have further surgery to make sure

As we had already booked a trip to Melbourne {9-14th August}, a Radical Abdominal Hysterectomy & Appendectomy was scheduled for the 15th of August - exactly 6 weeks from my first GP appointment.
((for information on what the procedure entails ..
look here}}

I had everything removed. Didn't tickle - let me clear that up.
I spent two days in ICU then a further 3 days in hospital.
I currently have an incision that goes from above my belly button straight down to my pubic bone.It's gonna be an awesome scar :)
The pathology came back clear from the surgery but last Thursday (29/7/13} we met with the team at North Adelaide Oncology to discuss the next step.

My next step is Chemotherapy.
I start on September 20th—18 weeks worth of treatment is ahead of us.

I am strong.

I have an amazing group of people surrounding me and holding me up with their love and energy … The love of my life Trevor, my beautiful Happydaks - Jessica, Tatum & Woody, Lee & Brad, Joanne, Wendy & Mark, Louise and of course my family… without them … we would be lost.
My wonderful boss, friend and mentor Jane, all the beautiful girls at Seriously Scrapbooking that have been covering my shifts, my regulars …. Thank you.
I’ll be easing back into work soon ...once I’ve started treatment but not sure how I’ll go. It's a case of wait and see.

So that’s where we are at … I have won this battle and everything from here on in is just preventative… just part of the process

But ...what I have learnt from the last 7 weeks is
….I have more people that care about me that I realise and I am very thankful for that
….Listen to your body … only you know what feels right ... DONT ignore the signs
….Nothing is more important that your health … YOU ONLY HAVE ONE CHANCE
Over the last 18 months, thanks to my amazing personal trainer, I have become fit and healthy and know my body inside and out. I am incredibly thankful to him at this stage in my recovery I can tell you! Contact Stefan at Goodlife Marion - tell him Nat sent you  (I can message you his number) xxx
So thankyou to everyone who has sent me flowers {there has been a lot}, sent cards and messages, cooked me meals and offered their help ... it has been wonderful.

Apparently age brings bravery I never knew I had ...
xxx
Natalie 

5 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you have booked into the Look Good Feel Better, I saw an advert on the tele the other day and thought of you... You always look fabulous to me, but the time ahead will be trying and I think to get some expert advice and to be with people in similar situations could be an advantage.. Always thinking of you, tears in my eyes and an ache in my heart... xxxx

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  2. So sorry to hear about your misencounter with ovarian cancer. Hopefully the chemo will eventually give you the 'All Clear'. Stay strong, your hair will grow back! Hugs!

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  3. Oh Nat, I know exactly how you feel. Have just got back from a five week cruise to Hawaii and South Pacific, great way to recover. If you need to chat Jane has my number. If you need hats wigs etc I have them too.
    My heart is feeling for you and as I read your blog I remembered oh so well. Same feelings that I had and you still have the same apprehension each time you go for chemo. Take care gorgeous girl, listen to your body and do what you feel like. Apricot nectar was great when everything tasted foul. Sue Hines breast cancer survivor xxxx

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  4. Hi Nat, I have just read your amazing story and I have to say what a brave and level headed woman you are. Such a wonderful thing to hear someone speak so honestly and openly about this journey. I wish you all the best for your journey and I am sure that with such a great outlook on it all your battle will be behind you soon. You truly are inspirational. All the best. Cheers Di. Xoxoxo

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  5. Hello from across the world... NY, NY! In Sept, 2013 I was diagnosed stage 3B ovarian cancer and on 25 Sept had the vertical incision, full hysterectomy and all that fun stuff! I have not healed. It is still a mess and I hate it but I know it's a long road ahead and that each step forward is one more towards being healthy again. My chemo starts, tentatively on 1st Nov (if my incision is not causing problems)
    Sharing our stories is how we help others. I don't know how helpful or communicative your healthcare providers have been but mine haven't communicated about 'what's to come' really at all.
    I am documenting each step of my personal journey (each of ours is quite different) with hope that it will help someone, sometime who is following in our footsteps. Thank YOU for documenting yours as well. We have some things in common (highly creative paper crafting/scrapbooking) and that's pretty amazing to me as well!!
    I wish you the best, always!
    Gabi

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Thanks so much for leaving me a comment! xxx