Familiar visits

So today I found myself in a familiar place, doing familiar things with familiar people. You would think that all that familiar-ness would bring some sort of comfort, a sense of security even. But some days there are exceptions. And today highlighted one of those exceptions.

But hang on, I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. Today’s trip actually had its beginnings last week with the first of my six monthly visits with the Dent Doctor.

I have always thought that “a visit” is such an odd term to describe any sojourn to a doctor’s office. After all, “a visit” to me conjures up visions of tea and scones, chats about holidays, curve T.V’s (it’s a long story!) and having good laughs with familiar people in familiar settings. Bizarrely enough, that WAS a pretty good description of last week’s visit with the Dent doctor! Ok, so maybe it was a shared cup of hot chocolate with Pete in the waiting room, and maybe there were no actual scones and just maybe it included me having to removing my shirt at one point… But the rest was particularly spot on – including the discussion about the curve TV (long story!) 🙂

So how was I doing six months after my last visit to the Cancer centre?

Very well apparently!

My bloods looked good and nothing sinister appeared to be lurking anywhere obvious. And despite appearing to be particularly brave about this visit, the audible expelling of a breath I hadn’t even realised I had been holding, totally gave me away!

So with everything looking good on the surface the Dent Doctor wanted to make sure things were looking just as good on the inside too.

Which brings this particular story back to today… Sitting in a familiar place, seeing familiar faces and tasting the familiar flavour of the pre-CT-scan orange “jungle juice”.

What was also pretty familiar was the all too familiar dread of having to wait for results.

Familiar

I wanted to get that sense of peace and even boredom that comes with long familiarity. Debbie Reynolds
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”
― H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature

 

“I don’t desire a change of scenery or exotic experiences. My heart yearns for familiarity, stability, the comfort of home — and my sanity depends on it.”
― Dean Koontz

 

“The world doesn’t change in front of your eyes, it changes behind your back.”
― Terry Hayes, I Am Pilgrim

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Thigh rubs

So this morning I set off on my now VERY familiar walking trail, lamenting the whole way just how much I detest the way my thighs rub together when I move, and just how much I hate it that my tummy and bum jiggle with every step. Cursing my non-existent metabolism and just generally grumbling about all menopausal-body-related suckiness!!

I have been desperately trying to follow a healthy eating plan for two months (almost three!) now and all I seem to have lost in all that time is my will to live!

So there I was, me and my thighs, marching along and YIP – feeling pretty sorry for ourselves. Willing the fat to friction itself off to a timely death and drop from my legs with every step, actually picturing it sizzling behind me on the hot pavement – I’m all into visualisations at the moment! When about ¾ of the way home I saw an old gentleman walking very slowly towards me, back bowed and feet shuffling along the uneven concrete. I moved to the left to allow him to pass and traverse the path of least resistance (I tell you I know every nook and cranny of this route!). I smiled politely at him as I breezed past and almost stopped in my tracks when I heard his softly spoken words, they certainly shut up the self-loathing conversation going on in my head … “ah, to have those legs again, enjoy them my dear”.

So yes, THANK YOU Universe for the slap upside the head! #get over yourself # be grateful #enjoy every moment # rubbing thighs keep you warm in winter

Fat thighs

“If you had a person in your life treating you the way you treat yourself, you would have gotten rid of them a long time ago…” Cheri Huber,

 

“The way you think about yourself determines your reality. You are not being hurt by the way people think about you. Many of those people are a reflection of how you think about yourself.”
― Shannon L. Alder

 

“Fat’ is usually the first insult a girl throws at another girl when she wants to hurt her.

I mean, is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’? Not to me; but then, you might retort, what do I know about the pressure to be skinny? I’m not in the business of being judged on my looks, what with being a writer and earning my living by using my brain…

I went to the British Book Awards that evening. After the award ceremony I bumped into a woman I hadn’t seen for nearly three years. The first thing she said to me? ‘You’ve lost a lot of weight since the last time I saw you!’

‘Well,’ I said, slightly nonplussed, ‘the last time you saw me I’d just had a baby.’

What I felt like saying was, ‘I’ve produced my third child and my sixth novel since I last saw you. Aren’t either of those things more important, more interesting, than my size?’ But no – my waist looked smaller! Forget the kid and the book: finally, something to celebrate!

I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before ‘thin’. And frankly, I’d rather they didn’t give a gust of stinking chihuahua flatulence whether the woman standing next to them has fleshier knees than they do. Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons.”
― J.K. Rowling

Fix the patent law!

ABC - Advocates For Breast Cancer: South Africa

The Fix the Patent Laws coalition is releasing a short video and briefing paper which highlights how South Africa’s existing patent laws are a major barrier for thousands of breast cancer patients in getting a key cancer medicine called trastuzumab.

The short video includes powerful testimonies from three South African HER2 breast cancer patients – among them actress and breast cancer advocate, Lillian Dube, who has lent her support to Fix the Patent Laws.

Watch the VIDEO here:https://youtu.be/Vl5AJa7_pDY

The Fix the Patent Laws coalition is calling on the South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry to wrap up an arduous seven-year-long process to update South Africa’s patent laws and end abusive monopolistic practices that deny patients their right to health.

The Fix the Patent Laws coalition is made up of 18 patient groups representing people living with several diseases. The coalition, initiated by Doctors Without Borders and the…

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Fading Memories on New Year’s Eve

So a funny thing happens when you approach year three of being cancer free. Your memory starts to fade.

Now as Pete may tell you, my memory has been fading for a while now. And even I have to admit that some days the fading is more like sudden, unexpected Eskom induced load shedding as opposed to the slow gradual setting of the sun! But in this particular instance, it is rather the metaphorical aspect I am referring to.

Let me put it another way, as I am all about analogies at the moment!

Imagine your life as a car (you can insert any make and colour of vehicle you like) hurtling down the highway (your time on earth / or any other intergalactic world if you are a Star Wars fan!). You (Ego/Self), the slightly insecure but sensible kid, a tad more reckless since getting your license, but always still aware of possible dangers on the road, and the designated driver of three other family members inside your car.

Suddenly you hit a HUGE (and I’m talking Transkei sized) pot hole and your car veers across the road into oncoming traffic. Fortunately luck is on your side and you somehow narrowly manage to avoid a fatal accident. Shakily you pull your vehicle to a stop on the side of the road. Your Uncle, (Survival mode), the mechanic in the family, climbs out and frantically runs around changing tires, checking the chassis for damage, ensuring the sump is still intact and that all the important car pieces are where they should be. He patches up what he can and finally declares that you are all able to continue with your journey.

Warily you start to climb back in your vehicle, still feeling rather wobbly after that awfully scary experience. Only to discover that your Great Aunt (Fear), has decided to take the wheel. After all she scowls, how could ANYONE trust YOUR driving again? For the next few kilometres all you hear is how badly you have driven your whole life. How irresponsible and reckless you have been since you were a child and how lucky you all are to be alive, along with the not so subtle insinuation that perhaps YOU should not have been so lucky! You and the rest of the family have always been able to shut out most of her tirades with rolling eyes and conspiratorial winks at one another. But today her words actually seem to make a whole lot of sense! You find yourself agreeing with her, questioning your driving skills, your choice of destination, your lifelong bad luck, even your poor choice of vehicle – finally coming to the conclusion that you should never be allowed to sit in the driver’s seat ever again! You settle quietly into the passenger seat, figuratively licking your wounds and happy to relinquish control to this seemingly safe albeit extremely slow driver.

And so as your car starts to slowly clock up the kilometres, your Great Aunt’s continuous rantings do start to fade into the background. And finally after realising she has perhaps lost her audience and after totally exhausting herself with her rantings, she pulls over.

Older brother (Perspective), comes to the rescue (again!) and offers to drive. Now, you have secretly been jealous of your older brother, you know the one I mean, the one who always sees the positives in EVERYTHING. The one who always makes you feel inferior and who you have secretly tried to emulate unsuccessfully your whole life. Although you would never actually admit that to him – mostly because his upbeat personality can also be SO darn annoying! But funnily enough he doesn’t make you feel like a bad driver. He praises you for handling the incident as well as you did and emphasizes that things could have been worse. He reminds everyone just how fortunate they are to be driving around in such an amazing car, how good the road is and that although there will always be potholes, they are actually pretty rare in the sum total of the entire journey.

So while you listen to his calm voice of reason, you find that the memory of that frightening experience starts to fade with the passing kilometres and your confidence starts to grow along with them. You actually begin to consider all the positive things he has reminded you about, and you have to agree with him – things certainly could be worse! You start feeling a lot happier about your journey and even take time to look out your window appreciating the beauty of the scenery surrounding you, all the things you have missed whilst spending all those years in the driver’s seat.

When he finally pulls over citing sciatica issues, you realise that not only are you the only one left to drive (Great Aunt Fear is snoring softly in the back seat and Uncle Survival Mode although a fab mechanic is not a great long haul driver!), you actually WANT to drive. The horror of your experience has now become a positive reminder of what you have overcome and the journey you still have to complete, thanks to Old Brother Perspective. You take hold of the steering wheel tentatively at first, but then realise the only real alternative is to stay stuck on the side of the road indefinitely. So you indicate, carefully maneuvering into the traffic once again, but with Perspective thankfully right next to you and Fear still visible in the review mirror. I find that you change places with these family members every so often, but no-one lets Great Aunt drive for any length of time!

Oh yes, so what was I talking about again before that very long, seemingly insignificant story? Something about something fading?
Oh yes, memory fading 😉

So as I start heading towards year 3, I find that certain memories of the last few years have indeed started to fade. Some of them I am happy to be rid of!

But I caught myself this morning making resolutions for the coming new year mainly consisting of exercise goals and wondering how to successfully go about losing 15kgs! All important health considerations I concur, but REALLY??

So after catching up with some posts on a young blogger I follow who is fighting Hodgkin’s lymphoma and after reading words written by Fynn’s mom this morning.  I decided to let good old Big Brother take the wheel as 2015 comes to a close and share quotes from some real people giving great advice on perspective.

Wishing you all a healthy, happy and perspective filled 2016.

 

“So when you are sitting there, wondering how life could be so bad for you, please realize that it could always be worse. And as long as you are physically able to live, you always have a chance to turn things around. I would give anything for more time”. Mary Buell

 

“There are families that are enduring their first festive season missing a family member, families that have just had bad news, war and tragedy all around. I have no wish to be negative, but I want us to try and be gentle with others. It is the old story of getting in someone’s shoes etc.
Let’s all be extra mindful of what we have now and of how valuable our normal is. Normal really is invaluable.” Sandra (Fynn’s Mom)

New Year 3

Reflections on a Christmas Eve #2

And so Christmas Eve 2015 is upon us. And while doing some last minute and unexpected grocery shopping this morning (yip, I know – what WAS I thinking, right?!), I took a moment to observe my fellow shoppers going about their various retail pursuits.

I was immediately struck by the seemingly lack of Christmas Spirit happening around me! It appeared that most were either hurrying around totally unfocused, driving their trolleys like deliberate perpetrators of road rage, parking said trolley illegally or blocking up access to shelves; or wandering aimlessly with vacant eyes from one aisle to the next, getting in the way of the fore mentioned “Trolley Road Ragers”.

The one common factor linking both these groups I noted, was that no-one was buying the makings of tomorrows delicious Christmas lunches and / or eleventh hour beautifully wrapped gifts, presumably for their loved ones, with purpose and happy hearts. So what in fact, I found myself asking, was the point?

After collecting what I needed and negotiating my way through disgruntled shoppers at the tills, AND after witnessing a fight over my recently vacated parking spot, I was reminded of a very well-known quote. One I felt compelled to share as Pete and I watch the sun set on yet (gratefully) another Christmas Eve…

Grinch Christmas quote 2

Farming

So earlier this week I headed back up the hill to my plastic surgeon’s rooms to have number of stitches removed.

Ok, for fear of sounding a trifle over dramatic – I have to confess that there were in fact only two stitches in need of removal. But considering each one had to be removed from each of my thighs, by my reckoning, that should certainly be worthy of a better sounding story and count as more!

By now you would think that there would be very little that could make my toes curl, medically speaking of course. But somehow alongside my fairly “new” paranoia of needles is still my “old” squeamishness of stitches!

The fact that whole painless stitch removal process was over and done with before my toes could even contemplate curling, had more to do with the mad stitch removal skills of Sister Monica, than the pain killer I glugged down on my way up to the surgery! But “rather safe than look like a ninny”, I always say!

Dr B was very happy with the way things were healing, and with the overall appearance of my right radiated boob. She sent me off with the reassuring words that we could review the final aesthetic results in three months or so.

So what possibly could stitches in my thighs do with breast reconstruction you may ask? Well, even if you didn’t really ask, I will tell you. Cos I am proactive like that. 🙂

Ok so I should have perhaps mentioned earlier that this post comes with a TMI warning…. if you wouldn’t like to know about radiation fibrosis, man-made or rather woman-made nipples, fat harvesting and the like…stop reading NOW!

The whole nipple debate has been on my mind for quite a while. To do or not to do… has really always been the question. For many breast cancer survivors who have undergone breast reconstruction it is not necessary a given that they automatically choose to undergo nipple reconstruction as well. And there are many reasons for this, as I have discovered while talking to a few of them. For some it was the fear of the unknown, and what this permanent reality could and would look like. Some could not stomach the idea of another surgery and some couldn’t actually fathom the need for fake nipples. While some choose other less invasive options out there such as nipple and breast tattoos, some simply choose to remain nipple-less.

Radiated skin does not create the ideal environment for skin flaps to graft on to so Dr B wouldn’t consider starting the process until a year after I finished radiation. So although I have had a whole lot of time to think about it and after weighing up all sorts of pros and cons, I still hadn’t really come to an unequivocal conclusion about the nipple thing – was it necessary or in fact pointless 😉

I certainly had not been relishing the idea of another surgery! But like most things, time certainly helps cloud the memory. So a few months ago, on one particularly brave day, I made the decision to go and at least chat to her about the next possible chapter in my reconstruction process.  I knew I could trust her to give me a realistic view on the best options available to me.

My biggest concern was my radiated boob. With its misshapen, shrink wrapped appearance which I spent my life massaging away from my thyroid, were nipples even a smart option?! On a good boob day my bionic boobs kinda looked a little lopsided but on really bad boob days they looked severely wonky, even in clothes! I had asked myself on countless bad boob occasions while staring into my bathroom mirror – how on earth could I even consider planting permanent, raised bull’s eyes on them?

And this was the exact dilemma I presented to Dr B when I met up with her a few weeks ago in her office. I was pretty sure the radiated boob had become encapsulated (something I had been warned could happen) and my fear was that the only way to rectify this condition was for her to re-open open the scars, clean out the offending thickened tissue and replace the implant. In fact I was braced for her to say just that when she suggested a completely different option.

Fat injections.

Fat injections she explained could help soften the contracted tissue and possibly improve the blood supply acting somewhat like stem cells to help treat the radiation fibrosis. These incredible sounding fat cells would also add volume to parts of the bionic boob, giving it the similar rounded more natural look of my left boob compared to the sheared off cliff face appearance that the radiation had left it with.

The BEST part? The fat cells would come from my own body!

So with plenty of fat available to me I could even chose the part of my body the fat could be harvested from! After all, she smiled, there HAD to be some positives for us breast cancer ladies!

Finally, after initially being rejected by my medical aid, and after Dr B having to submit numerous motivational letters, graphic photos of my wonky boobs and with her even having to argue my case with their review board, we got the go-ahead. So two weeks ago I was booked into her new amazing Day Clinic and under an hour and a half of general anaesthetic , I had approximately 80mls of fat harvested from my thighs and injected into my boob.

So although there is still no talk of nipples for me just yet, already there has been a HUGE improvement to the overall look and feel of my radiated boob! And who knows what the future may bring – maybe a nipple or two?!

Day Hospital1

Day Hospital

I even got a gift!  FYI it’s not a cricket bat but can be used to keep a husband under control if he doesn’t bring you coffee and rusk in bed on it!

Fat cells 3

 

 

“Private victories precede public victories. You can’t invert that process any more than you can harvest a crop before you can plant it”. Stephen R. Covey
“Before the fruits of prosperity can come, the storms of life need to first bring the required rains of testing, which mixes with the seeds of wisdom to produce a mature harvest.” Lincoln Patz