Saturday, 27 August 2011

Ring-a-ding-ding..... Round 2 done and dusted!

Well, it has been just over a week since Ryan shaved my head and I must say I am missing my hair :(  He initially gave me a # 1 cut (when it first started to fall out) however over the past few days I have noticed more and more bald patches - in fact there is hardly any hair left now.  My scarves have been getting a good work out lately which was nice for the first few days but now I wish I could just throw my hair up into a ponytail...... to do something as simple as this would make me so happy.  Poor Jasmine doesn't like my new 'do' and often says 'I wish you had long hair again Mummy'.  On the other hand Baylee says I have a beautiful head and loves to rub it!  My fingers and toes are crossed that I don't lose my eyelashes and eyebrows as well - I suppose time will tell.  One pleasure I am enjoying though is having the hot shower run over my head each morning ..... it is the most fantastic sensation!

Unfortunately I wasn't able to return to work between my 1st and 2nd Chemo treatments due to being so unwell (from side effects) followed by tonsillitis and a bad cold.  I miss all of my work friends and am really hoping I will be able to return for a few days over the next couple of weeks - I also think it will be a nice distraction for me.

There are times when I feel I can never escape the fact that I have breast cancer.  Obviously I can't run from it but everywhere I look something reminds me of what I am going through - whether it be all the drugs I have to take each day on the kitchen bench, the scarves I have in my bedroom, the many medical appointments in my diary or the hair I have lost in the bathroom.  Sometimes I wish I could just get up, walk away from it all and pretend it was all just a bad dream.

My 2nd Chemo treatment took place on Wed 24th August back at The Mount Hospital.  My lovely Dad came along to keep me company this time around (as Ryan had the flu) and we had a good time.  One of the ladies was undergoing her last Chemo treatment and to celebrate, her Mum and sister came in with scones, cupcakes, lollies for everyone - needless to say, Dad has put his hand up to accompany me to Chemo again - he was well fed!  I also got to meet a lovely new friend at Chemo (Jenny) who is unfortunately going through this battle / journey with me.  She is a gorgeous girl and we were able to have a good chat whilst having our treatment.  We are also in the same support group - The Young and the Breastless and I am looking forward to seeing her at the next meeting.  Would you believe, we have a mutual friend too - Perth is so small!

As I have said quite a number of times over the past couple of months we are continually blown away by everyone's love and support.  Last night was no exception!  Our wonderful friends Nath and Sacha invited a few of our friends to their place to 'Shave for Em' and to enjoy some yummy wood-fired pizzas.  A very big thank you to Nath, Benny, Goona and my hubby Ryan for joining me in my baldness and to Rockers for colouring her hair pink. You did a great job raising so much money for National Breast Cancer Foundation - can you believe they raised over $3,000!!!  It was a lovely night and although I was absolutely exhausted, at least the nausea was kept at bay with the stronger drugs I now have.  What a relief!  

Although I have been very tired and achy all day, it has been nice just relaxing and enjoying some fresh air and sunshine.  My parents had the girls overnight last night and Ryan's parents have the girls tonight.  So wonderful to have such fantastic support from our parents especially on the weekend following my treatments - it is hard going and not easy running around after them when I am feeling so exhausted. 

I hope you enjoy the below photos - including some from last night.

Just some of the many drugs I have to take whilst on Chemo

Our little Baylee wanting to be like Mummy

Brett and Ben (being shaved by Nath and Rockers)

Nath and Ryan (being shaved by Brett and Me!)

Group shot 1

Group Shot 2 (minus my scarf!)

Friday, 19 August 2011

Hair today, gone tomorrow :(

Since my last diary post I am happy to report that things have improved...  well kind of!  Unfortunately it took close to 9 days for me to start to feel better after my first Chemo treatment, which was a lot longer than I had expected.  I suppose it didn't help that I picked up tonsillitis from Baylee along the way - which has since progressed into a bad cold!  Seriously when it rains, it pours :( After seeing my Dr it was decided I needed to take a good dose of antibiotics in order to improve my health in time for my next Chemo treatment which is next Wed 24th Aug.

With the Chemo sickness behind me (for now!) I started to count down (or should I say, dread) the day when I would lose my hair.  It might sound vain but the thought of losing my hair really frightened me.  I have had long hair for as long as I can remember and I take a lot of pride in looking after it.  To some it may not seem like such a big deal, but to me it was.  In fact, the week leading up to day 17 (D Day, when I was told my hair would fall out) my dreams would always be about losing my hair!  Well I didn't have to wait long.  I had a shower late on Wed 17th Aug (day 14) and whilst washing my hair I could see it falling out :(  It had started and it was terrible!  I gently towel dried it after my shower and was very reluctant to brush it but knew it had to be done - I would just be kidding myself if I tried to hide it!  It was a very surreal moment and I called Ryan into the bathroom to show him what was happening - he couldn't believe the amount of hair that was sitting in our sink.  He often whinges about the odd strand (or 3) of hair I might leave in the bathroom sink but this was really going to shock him! It was all happening so quickly!  I had a good cry with him - losing my hair made everything seem real again :(  He suggested we shave it straight away but I wanted to wait.  The reason for this was that my beautiful sister Lizzy told me a couple of weeks earlier that she wanted to shave her head with me!!! Her way of showing her support for what I was dealing with. I honestly couldn't believe it and had a good cry when she told me - what an amazing thing to do! Anyway, we shaved our heads last night and had lots of laughs along the way. There were no tears (what a relief), I needed a good laugh.  I have posted some pics below of our 'before' and 'after' looks and I can honestly say I couldn't be prouder of my sister Lizzy.  She is so amazing and I love her very much :)  Such a special thing to do and I will be forever grateful for the sacrifice she has made to help and support me through my journey.  We also have some wonderful friends shaving their heads (and raising lots of money for charity) next Friday evening and I am really hoping I feel well enough to see it all happen in person!  I will post some pics of this night too on my next blog entry.  Again, I am blown away with everyone's support and generosity.

Lizzy also gave me a very special little book a couple of weeks ago called 'There's No Place Like Hope' and it is a wonderful read.  It has really helped me these past few weeks and I am often referring to it for various reasons.  I can relate to so much and I wanted to share a few things with you that stuck a chord with me - all relating to my hair (very relevant at this time):

'The fear of losing your hair, along with actually losing it, is truly worse than having it gone.  I would have never believed it, but it is true'

'The next person who carelessly says 'it's only hair' , ask them to share the experience of baldness with you!'

'Hair loss allows our illness to enter the room before our name.'

'When I lost my hair, my eyelashes and my eyebrows , I felt as if I was being erased'

Unfortunately my treatment won't be over when Chemo finishes.  I have to endure 5 weeks (5 times a week) of radiation therapy.  I met with my Radiographer during the week and she is lovely - phew :)  I was really hoping I wouldn't have to have this treatment but my medical team decided this was the best course of action.  I will definitely be taking their advice but it just means this will take me into 2012 - such a shame, I was hoping to start the new year a little differently!

We have also been receiving lots of delicious meals from our wonderful friends.  Thank you again for keeping us well fed and saving me the trouble of preparing and cooking a meal - we greatly appreciate all of your help!  Thankfully I haven't put on much weight since starting my Chemo.  My medical team advised that I should expect to put on a few kgs over the coming months.  I was quite shocked to hear this as I always thought you lost weight whilst on Chemo.  Apparently this isn't quite the case with the treatment I am on, primarily due to the steroid injection they give me to assist with nausea - it makes you very hungry!  

Well on that note I will sign off for now but at least I can be assured of no more bad hair days for a while ;)

BEFORE - Lizzy and I 

Me holding my pony tail - a little sad although quite liking my 'interim' do!

Stevie looking on as I show off my new 'do'!

Lizzy's turn - I got the honours of chopping off her pony tail!

Bye Bye Hair - Day 15 (Thursday 18th August 2011)

Lizzy and I showing off our new looks for the camera!

Getting used to wearing our scarves

Monday, 8 August 2011

"Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever"

Quote: Lance Armstrong.

I honestly don't think I could start this blog without describing Chemo.  We all hear things about this treatment and know of someone who has been through this terrible journey but I wanted to give some insight of my experience, thus far ... and let me say, it isn't pleasant :(

It has been exactly 5 days since I was injected with the three drugs that make up my particular Chemotherapy treatment.  The abbreviation is TAC and I will leave it at that - honestly there is no need to go into detail about the specific drugs themselves except to say you can't pronounce them and they are nasty.  

Ryan and I arrived at The Mount Hospital just after lunch last Wednesday.  My first appointment was with the Breast Cancer Clinic Trial Unit where they took my weight, blood pressure, pulse, etc.  I was offered a position on a new trial a few weeks ago and jumped at the chance.  In a nutshell, the worldwide study is trying to prove the link between seondary breast cancer and bone cancer.  In 85% of cases where there is a relapse of breast cancer, the cancer spreads to the bones.  The study I have joined requires me to take a Vitamin D & Calcium tablet every day (+ injection into stomach of trial drug directly after Chemo) as it is believed this will decrease the odds of the cancer going to the bones (God forbid it should ever come back).  The trial is a five year commitment but I feel it is very worthwhile and hope that a lot of good will come out of the findings.

My next appointment was with my oncologist, Prof Arlene Chan.  I was very happy to see her and she made me feel very at ease with the treatment I was about to undertake.  She answered my last minute questions and following this I made my way down to the Chemo day unit.  I was quite nervous but thankfully didn't have to wait long before we were ushered into a room full of leather recliner chairs.  There were approximately 15 chairs in the room but only 5 chairs were occupied.  Everyone seemed lovely and quite happy which surprised me.  In a way, I expected to walk in and want to burst into tears! The nurses were great and were very thorough describing the types of drugs they were injecting as well as describing the side effects each drug might give me in the coming days / weeks.  The whole procedure took over 3.5 hours as the drugs have to be administered via a saline solution - similar to diluting cordial with water I suppose.  We finished the session with an injection into my stomach which Ryan watched carefully as he had to do this the following day at home.  Thankfully I didn't have any immediate reactions (always a good start!) and was allowed to go home just after 6.00pm... what a day!!

I had a terrible sleep on Wednesday night, mostly due to Baylee being unwell.  Can you believe, she developed Tonsilitis!!  Just when I can't afford to get sick my little one becomes really unwell and is up several times a night - bugger :(  Thankfully Ryan took her off to see our Doctor the following morning for much needed antibiotics and I had a fairly good day.  Friday was also pretty good for most of the day and I was starting to think this was a breeze. Well, I spoke way to soon!!!

By Friday evening, I was starting to feel extremely nauseas and decided to go to bed early. Saturday morning arrived and I was feeling like death.  I honestly don't remember ever feeling so sick in all my life.  I couldn't move, in fact stayed in my pj's in bed past 11am (very unlike me!) and even when I got up Ryan had to help me to the bath as there was no way I could stand up in the shower.  I was so ill and felt so weak.  The thought of eating made me feel sick, yet the thought of not eating made me feel sick.  I was definitely feeling some of the numerous side effects of the chemo.  My teeth felt like they were going to fall out, my face was flushed and I was cold one minute and then burning up the next.  I felt incredibly tired and didn't know what to do.  Thankfully my beloved hair is still in tact although it is early days.  I have been told to expect to lose it come day 17/18 :(

Thankfully Jasmine had a sleep over at Nanna's house on Friday night and Mema and Pa's on Saturday so Ryan only had Baylee (who was still ill herself) and of course me to take care of.  He was amazing looking after me every step of the way and always making sure I was as comfortable as I could be.  Needless to say Saturday was a wipe out.  Unfortunately, Sunday was not much better.  In-fact, it was probably worse. I woke up at 3am feeling awful and ended up vomiting in the bathroom.  I couldn't sleep and the drugs didn't seem to be working too well.  Again spent most of Sunday either in bed or on the couch and remember having a cry to Ryan about how unfair this was and had a little "why me"moment.  It also dawned on me that unfortunately I will feel like this another 5 times before Christmas which I can honestly say I am dreading :(

Today was a definite improvement from the weekend although I have been battling nausea, tiredness,  aches / pains, chills and headaches for most of it.  I was supposed to meet with my support group today -  'The Young and the Breastless'!  Don't you just love the name :)  Unfortunately I didn't feel up to it and will instead go to the group meeting next month.

In the light of the terrible way I have been feeling these past couple of days, I can honestly say I couldn't have made it this far without my husband, my girls, my amazing Mum and Dad, Ryan's parents, Lizzy and her fam and all of my friends.  A highlight (amongst all the lows!) was the arrival of my Think Pink for Emma candles.  They are gorgeous and Ryan surprised me with the most beautiful milk bath surrounded by my Think Pink for Emma candles the night of my Chemo treatment and again the following night.  A special thanks must go to Ryan and my Mum & Dad; I haven't had to worry about a thing the past week.  Mum and I got to enjoy some yummy pumpkin soup today (thanks Lou!) and while Baylee was sleeping and I broke down and had a little cry with her.  At times it is just so hard to take everything in and I needed to let out some tears.

I must say, it is very hard to sit here and comprehend that in order to make myself better I have to put my body through this terrible treatment called Chemotherapy.  I just pray that the next few months absolutely fly by so I can enjoy the start of 2012 cancer free!

Chemo - Day One (Before)

Chemo - Day One (During) 

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

'Twas the night before Chemo

So after 3 weeks of recovering from my surgery, Chemo is well and truly on the doorstep!  It feels like I first met my Oncologist just a few days ago but in another sense it feels like I haven't seen her for months.  My wonderful family and friends have kept me very distracted over the past few weeks and there have been days where I haven't cried at all - phew, I can slow down on the purchasing of tissues!     

My rehabilitation is going well although my physiotherapist is a Nazi!  Don't get me wrong, she is very good but after my first appointment I was on painkillers and a heat pack for days!  She really does push me but I suppose in a way she has to.  I need to make sure I regain full use of my right arm especially as this is my 'preferred' arm.

I was very excited to return to work this week after several weeks break.  I honestly couldn't have been happier!  It was so wonderful to see all of my amazing work friends and they made it even more special by hosting an organic morning tea for me - we had popcorn, corn chips, guacamole, fruit and it was delicious!!  They have decided, however, that they don't like the word organic and will instead call it 'organza' - and I love it :)  I left just after lunch today and was a little sad.  At this stage I am not sure when I will be returning.  I haven't wanted to commit to a return date yet in case I am not well during Chemo.

Well this brings me back to tomorrow - my first session of Chemo.  I am full of emotion.  The over-riding feeling is one of unknown.  I wish I knew how I would be feeling this time tomorrow night or in a couple of days.  As I have been told time and time again, I should expect the worst and if I only have a couple of side effects, then I am doing well.  I think it is going to be difficult and maybe even confronting making my way into the Chemo day unit tomorrow.  Returning to the hospital will no doubt make it all hit home again so I should go and pack some tissues in my bag now whilst I remember :)

After reading all of my Chemo notes again, I think I am prepared as I can be.  I started taking my pre-meds tonight to help with any nausea.  This will also need to be taken tomorrow morning, tomorrow night and again the following day.  I also need to have an injection the day after Chemo to boost my immune system.  This will be done at The Mount on Thursday (one day after my first Chemo treatment) although my Mum has offered to do this for me going forward once she has seen the experts do it the first time around.  I am relieved about this as it will save me having to return back to The Mount again.  Poor Ryan's not too excited about sticking a needle in my tummy and I don't blame him. 

Once again, a very big thank you again to my special family and friends for their loving support.  I would also like to make special mention of Organic Home - can you believe the Think Pink for Emma candles have raised over $1000 in just a couple of days.  AMAZING!!!  

In finishing I wanted to share with you the very precious message my wonderful husband wrote on my 'Never, Never, Never Give Up' poster - it brings me to tears every time!

"To my beautiful wife Emma,

We have spoken many times of how lucky we are and often wondered if our bubble would one day burst.  If this is our challenge in life, our stumbling block, our burst bubble, then together we are most definitely up to the fight!

With the love and support of our family and friends there is no doubt in my mind that you will overcome this cancer with pure strength and determination.

We know there will be some difficult days ahead of you.  On those days when you are at your lowest, when you feel like it is all too hard, I want you to read these messages from your many friends and family and remember just how much we all love you.

Then I want you to think of our girls; Jasmine and Baylee.  Think of all the things we have to look forward too, watching them grow up.  Everything you do from this point on will be for them.  Our little family doesn't work without you babe!  Never, Never, Never Give Up!
Love always,