Janine and Pete’s most excellent adventure

Wow it’s been a LONG time since I sat down to write a new blog post of my own! No excuse really as Pete and I have just come back from the most amazing holiday adventure!

And although it’s only been a recent development, this particular adventure had its beginning in a much earlier time, BC in fact!

I know I have mentioned it many times before, but it still amazes me just how many incredible people have come into our lives along this unexpected journey of ours.

I met Jen about 2 years ago as a client in my life BC. She herself was a breast cancer survivor of 10+ years, and right from day 1, it was impossible not to like her. Despite her scary cancer history it quickly became apparent that this lady was no victim. She was immensely positive about her experience and her compassion, strength and sense of humour was staggering considering all she had been through.

I remember her coming in for an appointment with me in August 2013 and we chatted about her upcoming holiday to their flat in Malaysia. She was so excited to be getting away for a few weeks and she promised to tell me all about her trip when she got home.

Bizarrely a week or so later I got my diagnosis, and the first person I wanted to call for reassurance and a measure of calm after the initial first days mental chaos was Jen.

I was at home recovering from surgery and feeling rather bleak about starting chemo and about the road ahead when she came to see me. She had heard about my diagnosis from a mutual friend and arrived on my door step with a big smile, a much needed hug, gifts galore and calm and practical advice. Again I remember thinking at the time that THIS was the kind of woman I wanted to be 10 years on. It was probably the first time that I even dared think that I perhaps had that kind of future. I decided there and then that I didn’t want to be a victim and I certainly didn’t want to turn into an embittered casualty of this disease. Both were looming rather largely on my horizon at that point….

And so began an unexpected friendship. Jen and her husband’s support have been invaluable to both Pete and I over the last 18 months. So much so that cancer hardly features in our conversations anymore!

So a few months back, while having tea with Jen she announced that they would love it if Pete and I would use their flat in Penang for a holiday. She thought that we could use a serious change of scenery.
Yip you heard right – PENANG!

Pete and I were stunned and seriously overcome with excitement. So much so that flights were booked and dates were settled (before they could change their minds!); and on Friday 24th of April we flew out of PMB heading for a brand new adventure.

Our first stop was Singapore and I was lucky enough to meet up with an “old” school friend – Ellen, you certainly are NOT old! 🙂 – who I have not seen in 20 something years (we stopped counting at 20, because the reality was exactly how long it was became far too scary to contemplate!).

It was fantastic to have our own local guide taking us around, often on paths less traveled by the average tourists. Not that we didn’t try do ALL the touristy things possible in the few days we were there. We found ourselves awed and often overwhelmed by what we saw! Country-mice-visiting-the-big-city comes to mind!

We then headed over to Penang a short plane ride from Singapore and began the next leg of our great adventure. We managed to find our way around the island via public transport – and when I say “we” I obviously mean Pete. My sense of direction has certainly not improved with age or treatments!

There was just so much to see and Jen had given us a long list of recommended sights. We climbed 513 steps to a temple, took a funicular ride up to the highest point on the island, we climbed up mountains (ok so maybe it was only 1200m) to a lighthouse, we took a boat to a fabulous bay, we found ourselves touring around spice gardens and mansions, we searched streets and alley ways with our map on a virtual treasure hunt of incredible street art, we swam, we walked and BOY did we walk!

And while doing all of this, on a very different level, we healed.

18 months of fear, loss, pain, sickness, anxiety, treatments and new normals have certainly taken their toll and left some deep scars.

But having the time to reconnect, thousands of miles away from home, cancer centres and reality for a few weeks was exactly what we didn’t even know we needed.

It made me realise exactly how small our world had become and in turn how disconnected we had become from life in general. To suddenly be exposed again to how much world there is out there to explore and just how much living there is left to be done, was an epiphany of immense proportions.

To float in the ocean, to get lost (admit it Pete, it did happen once or twice :)), eat local food in strange places, to explore phenomenal sites on days where the humidity was so high that sweat literally poured like rivers down our arms, was cleansing on so many levels.

Although I have to just add that the humidity was not particularly kind to me and my chemo curls – Pete often had to smooth down some serious wayward locks while trying hard (and sometimes not THAT hard!) to laugh before we could take selfies!

So to J and M, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for such a generous and amazing opportunity, you not only gave us a trip of a lifetime and an amazing adventure but also back something of ourselves we hadn’t even known we had lost.

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
― Jack Kerouac

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.’
I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

“Love, like everything else in life, should be a discovery, an adventure, and like most adventures, you don’t know you’re having one until you’re right in the middle of it.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri

“Travel does not exist without home….If we never return to the place we started, we would just be wandering, lost. Home is a reflecting surface, a place to measure our growth and enrich us after being infused with the outside world.”
― Josh Gates

“May your adventures bring you closer together, even as they take you far away from home.”
― Trenton Lee Stewart

Singapore 3

Ellen and I at Raffles

Ellen and I at Raffles

Singapore2

Singapore

Super Trees at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

View from our hotel

View from our hotel

Penang1

Penang2

Penang4

Penang5

Penang3

Street Art in George Town, Penang

Penang6

Kek Lok Si

― Trenton Lee Stewart

A Long Dog Short Story

My famous sausages!!! Love them to bits!  Our story was published on a LongDogGifts website

Long Dog's photo.

I have to share this wonderful & heartwarming story from one of Long Dogs clients.

Frank & Noodle – two very special little dogs

We are the proud and very lucky parents of two sausages, Frank (tan) and Noodle (black and slightly resembling a pork sausage – mostly due to her love of avos and food in general).

Frank had a back op in 2013, fortunately I was working from home at the time and able to take care of him. My life revolved around his rehab and consisted in keeping him strictly contained, only letting him out for ablution purposes. And when I say “letting him out” I use that term rather loosely, the actual reality was having to attach a harness around his tummy and legs so we could literally hold his back legs while he walked on his front legs. With lots of patience, an excellent doggie physio and daily stringently prescribed exercises, he slowly started getting control over his hind quarters. It was often exhausting and frustrating work for us both!

But when I got sick later that year and began the long process of recovering from surgeries, chemo and radiation – Frank more than returned the favour, he and Noodle were my constant and vigilant companions through some pretty dark times. So I know exactly how special these little creatures are!

I am very pleased to say that Frank and I are both doing really well.

A New Normal for Fynn

An update from Fynn’s Mom today:

Exactly one year ago today, 12/05/2014, Fynn had his first of 30 radiation treatments to his brain. The first treatment, post tumour resection, to fight Medulloblastoma. In the ensuing year he has endured countless procedures and poisons, countless assaults on his little body, countless insults to his little self.

Today, 12/05/2015, the treatment is called off. Enough. His body has taken all it can.

Although not altogether unexpected, it is still a shock, still a new normal, still something to get used to. I imagine most of our supporters are cheering as you read this. I speak for myself, Sandra, when I write this. I want to be elated that the chemo is over, BUT I just cannot bring myself to be. Actually, as the day has progressed I have felt more shrunken. (Oh please, grammar Gods, forgive me!) For us this is the beginning of another beast, another waiting game, another mental torment. Up till this point, we have been under the care of 3B, the oncology ward. Shortly we will be pushed out into the real world to fend for ourselves. That is terrifying. Only people who have walked this path can appreciate this. Please, lovely friends, don’t take that as criticism, we could not have survived this journey without the immense support we have received. For us there is always going to be the possibility of relapse, of secondary tumours, of late-effects from chemotherapy to worry about, never mind the ongoing physical rehabilitation that our Fynn faces.

His hair will grow back, he will get rosy cheeked, he will put on weight, but he will NEVER be that boy I took to the ED back in 2014, he just will not have the same potential again.

Once again, no need to comment. Once again, thank you for loving us, warts and all. xx

Onwards and upwards. Today he asked and we could not say no to maccers, chicken nuggets. Sadly he seemed to enjoy them!

Fynn Mac