Pink Hair-raising moments

Well it’s been quite a while since my last post, and much has happened! I got my CT scan results; I have been doing some breast cancer awareness education at some hospitals in our area; Pete and I hosted a tea party to raise funds for Reach for Recovery; and I dyed my hair pink…….yip you heard me….I dyed my very precious hair, PINK!

One of our local hair salons was conducting a charity drive for Breast Cancer awareness, so I thought I would go along and show my support by having a pink streak or two put in my hair. So when I arrived for my appointment the conversation with the hairstylist went something like this…
HAIRSTYLIST: “Hello, what can we do for you today?”
ME: “I would really like to have a few pink streaks put in my hair please”.
HAIRSTYLIST: “That’s wonderful, you know we are charging half our usual price for pink colour foils in October, and the money is donated to a breast cancer awareness project 🙂  Because your hair is quite dark (notice he said dark and NOT short!) the colour may not be as noticeable, unless of course you want us to peroxide your hair first?”
ME: UMMM no thank you, (as I could just imagine my poor fragile hair being singed with peroxide!) a few subtle pink streaks would be perfect for me”.
HAIRDRESSER: “I have an idea, why don’t we just dye your whole head of hair pink so you will be able to notice it a bit more.”
ME: (Conservative to the end, and very particular about my precious, precious hair) “Yes, let’s do that.. “

I saw Kirsten this weekend, and she ain’t too thrilled about the pink –neither one of us are exactly sure how she’ going to get it out!

Oh Well…..
The Tea Party we hosted this weekend was fabulous! We had such amazing support and managed to raise a really decent amount of money! *** I would like to take a quick commercial break to thank everyone who made the day such a success – so much so that I think it may become an annual event in the Elliott social calendar! Fortunately even the weather played along!

RFR2

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Furthermore I ate far too many yummy things and will be avoiding Megan for a while longer!

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In my last post I mentioned how I was waiting to have the CT (CAT) scan.

Well, the CT scan is really not a bad experience – all things considered, and as scans go…….Other than drinking the orange dye – cup by sickly sweet cup over the space of an hour; AND having further dye administered via a catheter in my arm (yes they managed to find a vein * happy dance*) which made me feel all warm and fuzzy as though I had peed in my pants: No joke – thank goodness they warned me or I may have been plotting my route home via the adult nappy store…..the scan was pretty quick and innocuous for something that’s sole purpose was to check if the cancer had come back…..

Fortunately I didn’t have to wait too long for the verdict……I got the call later that afternoon from the Dent Doctor….. And despite the fact that I had tried really hard to be positive and blasé about that darn scan – I cannot even begin to explain that millisecond of pure unadulterated terror when his name popped up on my phone! I certainly can’t describe the intense, bone weary relief as he said the words “Janine, it’s clear”……. If I had not been at the Spur that moment, with a table full of little people watching me, I think I might actually have cried.

“I would wear pink because I knew my future was anything but rosy. I would accessorize myself to the hilt, and I would wear flirty shoes because my world needed more beauty to counter all the ugliness in it. I would wear pink because I hated gray, I didn’t deserve white, and I was sick of black.” – Karen Marie Moning

“People usually associate the colour pink with weakness and naiveté; but I associate this colour with the most beautiful parts of the day— dawn and dusk! And in my searching through mystical writings, I have found that pink is actually related to the utmost levels of the Tree of Life. I’ve also seen it in pictures of the sky surrounding the most magnificent Aurora Borealis! So pink is strong and wonderful.” C. JoyBell C

“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.” Audrey Hepburn

Happy Birthdays….

My blog officially turned 1 year old this week!

Not sure if that’s something that gets celebrated in the Blogsphere or wherever, but I believe it definitely deserves a mention!

So on that celebratory note, I thought I would give a bit of a history lesson of how it all began……*as I put on my very best teacher’s voice and straighten my glasses*

Once upon a time there was a little pink notebook…..

"THE Pink notebook

“THE Pink notebook

Seriously, there really was! Pete came home from work one day, just before my surgery, with two blank notebooks, one for himself and one for me… He wanted us to be able to “tell” each other how we were feeling while negotiating our way along the very slippery path we found ourselves hurtling down. Especially on the very slippery days when words were impossible to speak out aloud. We both shared a love of quotes, so it was also meant as a place where we could write those down too when we found just the right one we wanted to share; or when even the written words failed.

Card

I started the blog to make sure I stuck to that promise.

I found writing things in that little pink book was all good and well, but it was easy to manipulate, easy to not have to formulate clear thoughts and extremely easy to find excuses NOT to write stuff down!

So many things were happening to us on a daily basis which we found overwhelming, frightening, confusing and often really very funny. Writing these experiences down helped me take all the noisy chaos in my head, un-scramble it and then put it back together again in some “sensible” form or another It also made me accountable for my feelings and how those feelings affected those around me. And no matter the situation there was always an observation, a lesson or some kind of humourous story which I felt compelled to share without necessarily frightening anyone by picking up the phone and saying “you know a funny thing happened to me on the way to the cancer centre this morning…….”

I remember waking up that morning in the beginning of October just knowing that I wanted to write a blog. The thought seemed to come from no-where in particular – I certainly had never followed a blog or even read a real blog. I most certainly had no idea of even where or how to begin! Thank goodness for Google! I did some very quick research and was amazed to find that there was more than one blog platform (who would have thought!!!)! I finally settled on a site and went about setting it up all on my own – even Pete was impressed – although he did have to tweek some of the actual settings a little (a lot) for me.

My very first blog post was originally adapted from a rambled entry written in my little pink book on Pete’s birthday, one year ago.

And the rest, as they say, is blog history!

It has helped keep me sane and grounded. Made sure I didn’t stick my head too firmly in the sand or wallow in self pity for too long, it has kept me sane and allowed me to work through all sorts of decisions and turmoil and has kept me sane. Did I mention that it has kept me sane?

And it has done exactly what my little pink book set out to do: kept the lines of often difficult communication, wide open.

I love the quotes I get from friends and total strangers, words of encouragement and a sense of real pride and often total bewilderment when I bump into someone who says “ I read your blog and …………”

What I have loved the most is being able to write my posts in less than ideal situations: as I lay in bed recovering from surgery or the after effects of chemo, or sitting with drips in my arm on lazy boy chairs or whilst waiting for doctors or results or appointments with the radiation ray gun machine………

And for days like today where I find myself sitting drinking my bottle of orange dye nervously awaiting to go in for my annual CT scan….

CT Juice

Slippery quote

“My blog is a collection of answers people don’t want to hear to questions they didn’t ask.”
Sebastyne Young

“Writing is the only way I have to explain my own life to myself.”
Pat Conroy

Phone calls

So this week I got the phone call to attend my very first hospital visit as a trainee Breast Cancer Support volunteer!

At this stage I have to shadow another volunteer until I am properly trained and confident enough to visit patients on my own.

THEY call it the buddy system: someone for me to observe and learn from. I’m calling it having a “handler”: someone to prevent me from immediately launching into the full, uncut run down of my own experiences, and frightening the patients!

My handler is a breast cancer survivor of 21 years – you cannot imagine how reassuring that is for a patient to hear.

Although it was only her second day post mastectomy, our patient had already been told that she would need to undergo chemo and radiation once she was sufficiently healed. Understandably she was still coming to terms with that….

My handler mentioned to her that I had recently completed both these treatments and that if she had any questions for me, she was free to ask.

**As I sat there nodding and smiling***

Hang on, WHAT?

I was expected to give input, like as in right now?

They were prepared to unleash the untrained beast?

What if I said the wrong thing and put this poor woman into a downward spiral; after all I may not be the best person to ask – I was initially so conflicted about all the treatments, especially chemo!

What if she asked me how I felt about having the treatment?

Or heaven forbid: How I had come to terms with it?

EISH! How could I not have thought about this earlier? What could or should I say?

I wasn’t sure that giving her the full story was appropriate: the tantrums, the tears, the constant lists of mental pros and cons?

I know I started sweating! Not sure if it was due to the fear of saying the wrong thing, stage fright with both of them looking directly at me, or just a hot flush…

I was practically in 100% meltdown mode when she asked me how I had felt about losing my hair.

Strangely enough, THAT I felt pretty comfortable talking about…

You will be pleased to know that the rest of the visit went well and my handler did not have to physically restrain me at any stage 🙂

But it really got me thinking about how and when my attitude towards the chemotherapy actually HAD changed. The memories of my Mom undergoing chemo were less than comforting, and I remembered writing those posts a year ago, so filled with trepidation, hopelessness and real dread…

So today I went back and re-read the post I wrote on my very first day of chemo – it seemed as though it was written by another, calmer, accepting version of me – so what had exactly changed in those few days?

Well, there were the phone calls…

The phone calls from Pete’s uncle who himself was undergoing chemo at the time and who had recently lost his wife to cancer.

He called to give me some pointers and to let me know what to expect when I arrived at my local Chemo Suite. He was open and honest but reassuring as he talked me through the process.

He gave me practical advice on what foods to avoid before and after chemo, what I should drink and what to pack for my chemo days.

We chatted about the people he met at the Cancer centre, the staff and the care. It was like having someone on the inside, someone who actually understood the foreign land I was about to enter. His voice was measured and calm and in turn the chaos and turmoil in my mind seemed to slowly quieten down.

So when I stepped into that room on that first day of chemo, instead of feeling totally overwhelmed, I was resigned, composed and prepared….

Over the next few months he would call to see how I was coping and would willingly answer all sorts of questions I had about ports etc. In talking to him I could get 2 perspectives on things: what it was like to be the person battling with cancer and what it was like having to watch someone they loved battle the disease. He always maintained that was definitely harder to be on the other side and that I also needed to be mindful of what Pete may be feeling. It was great advice…

Last week when Pete and I flew back from Cape Town we stopped off to say Hi, and although he was not in a great place with his own health, he was far more interested in telling us how thrilled he was that I was now Cancer free; AND hearing all about OUR holiday! I will never forget what he said about how great it was that we were taking time out to travel and how important it was to always do the things we wanted to do NOW and not to put them off for a later day that may never come…

So this morning we got another kind of phone call………

RIP Ken, and Thank You, you will never be forgotten.

phone1

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone” Pablo Picasso

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” J.RR Tolkien

“Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, “It might have been.” Kurt Vonnegut

“To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” J.K Rowling