Wednesday, 21 September 2011

3 down, 3 to go!

Thank you for all of the lovely comments we have received following the last blog update - written by my amazing husband.  The reaction we received from everyone was lovely and I personally think he did a fantastic job expressing his feelings and point of view. Oh, and he had me in tears from the second paragraph!

This week just gone I achieved a huge milestone - the half way mark of my chemotherapy treatment and what a relief!  I can ever so slightly see that light at the end of the tunnel now.  Unfortunately I have felt quite poorly the last few days with fatigue, aches and pains, headaches and some nausea so I have been resting where I can as I find the more physical activities I do, the more unwell I feel.  Once again our wonderful parents had the girls for us over the "chemo" weekend so I could rest - we are very very lucky.  My sister joined me for my last chemo session and it was really nice to share the experience with her.  We had a great time chatting together without the kids interrupting us!

Well it has been exactly 27 days since I shaved my head and I am really missing my hair (sorry, I know I must sound like a broken down record!)  To get me through this period of baldness, I keep having to remind myself about the pros of having no hair (can be ready to go out in 5 mins!, don't need to spend hours at the hairdressers, save money on hair products, save time on washing my hair, etc) but I wish so much I still had my hair.  Although the girls are used to my 'new' look, Jasmine still says every day that she wishes I had long hair again and at times she becomes quite upset about it.  When I am at home I don't wear my head scarves but as soon as I leave the house, I pop one on.  I already find that people tend to stare when I wear a scarf so I can imagine it would be 100 times worse if I went out with nothing on my head!  Not to mention, it can get bloody cold on top and I find I am freezing at night!  I am already dreaming of the day my hair starts to grow back..... it can't come quick enough! Thankfully, I haven't lost my eyebrows or eyelashes yet, however I have been advised that I will likely lose them towards the very end of my chemo treatment which honestly feels like rubbing salt into the wound if you ask me :(

A few days prior to my 3rd chemo session I was able to attend my first support group through Breast Cancer Care WA (The Young and the Breastless) and I found it very helpful.  I met some lovely ladies who have already travelled this same journey and they were able to answer my many questions regarding gene testing, reconstructive surgery, diets, radiation, etc.  I was the youngest there (most in their early 40's) and they had all finished their treatment but I am looking forward to returning next month to chat with my new friends.  I just found it very reassuring to speak with these ladies as they know how I am feeling and what I am going through.  Of course it is one group that I wish I never had to join.

In early September Ryan's company sponsored the Youth Focus Gala Ball (supporting youth suicide prevention) held at Burswood.  In return he was given a table for 10 guests to attend the evening.  He decided to ask friends to join us and we had a lovely time!  As I am sure you can imagine, I was very nervous about what I was going to wear (especially as the dress code was black tie) but I was able to find a suitable bra (!), ball gown and head scarf for the event - you will see the pic attached below.  In fact I was approached early in the evening by a woman mistakingly asking if I was the model at the photo shoot for the Leukaemia Foundation the previous day...... my scarf really is a give away!

Gosh it has been a busy few weeks!  I also attended the Look Good, Feel Better workshop at St John of God Hospital, Subiaco.  It is a program run through the Cancer Council of WA and helps women manage the appearance related side effects from chemotherapy and radiotherapy.  They showed us make up techniques and there was a brief opportunity to experiment with wigs and scarves, etc.  It was pretty fun and I was chosen as the make up model which was kind of nice (and I walked away with a bag full of beauty products!)  My lovely friend Mel came to support me and we enjoyed a nice lunch in the sun afterwards.

I had a sad night a couple of weeks ago - I think everything just hit me again!  To cheer me up, Ryan thought it would be nice if we started to plan a family holiday for when my treatment is all finished.  I think this was a great idea as it gives me something to look forward to and we are calling it our "cancer free holiday".  After much deliberation we have decided to travel back to one of our favourite holiday spots - Bali, in June next year and I am so excited!  We have experienced some wonderful holidays over there and what makes it more exciting and special is that my parents, my sister Lizzy and her family and Ryan's family are all going to come with us.  Bring on 2012!!!

Youth Focus Gala Ball 2011 - Pre Dinner Drinks
Burswood Entertainment Complex

Sunday, 11 September 2011

In sickness and in health. Written by: Ryan Taylor

Feelings! Men don't talk about their feelings! We drill holes in stuff, dig bloody big holes in the ground, fix broken down cars and have sheds full of power tools! Pffft, feelings.

When Em asked me to write an entry on her blog from a blokes perspective about having a wife battling breast cancer, I was a little apprehensive. Writing about it means I have to come clean with her about what I really think and how I really feel. Not sure I am comfortable doing that but we'll see how we go.

Why don't I start at the beginning. The 16th of June 2011 was a date that I will remember forever. I was at work and on my mobile when I could see Emma trying to ring through. At first I ignored it, thinking I would simply call her back when I finished this call but then I saw her try calling through again. It was then that I remembered she was getting her pathology results from the lump she had found a few days earlier. I suddenly had a very bad feeling this was not going to be good news. I cut the call short and phoned Emma back straight away. Just as I suspected, it was bad news. Malignant breast carcinoma! Em was understandably distraught and I did my best to console her over the phone before telling her I would leave work immediately and come straight home.

When we finally met with the surgeon for the first time, after what felt like the longest weekend of our lives, it all started to hit home. They'd actually found four separate lumps (turned out to be three after the surgery) and he advised that mastectomy was the only option available. I remember looking at Em when he said that word; mastectomy. I was surprised at how well she seemed to take it. I don't remember her tearing up at that point but rather asking several more questions. It was not until he advised her she'd need to undergo 4-5 months of chemo. That's when the tears started to flow. Something about that word; chemo. The Doctor handed Emma his tissue box, strategically placed on the corner of his desk and I remember thinking geez, he must go through a lot of those!

Suddenly, I'm a damn breast cancer expert! I'm using medical terminology, some of which I'd never heard of before. HER2 negative, ERPR positive, DCIS, BRCA2 gene, lumpectomy, mastectomy, mammogram, FNA, core biopsy, axillary clearance, chemotherapy, radiation, the list goes on. In addition, I'm being told not to drink the water out of our taps. Not to eat the meat in the supermarket. Or the fruit, or the vegies. We need to switch to a fully organic diet. Why didn't I know about this before this breast cancer news and why isn't everyone worrying about this stuff? 

So what do I tell my girls when they ask what's wrong with Mummy? Do they understand? Do they really know what their Mum is going through? What do I say to Jazzy when she says one of her little pre-school friends said she doesn't like her Mums hair? How do I help my wife, the woman I love, the mother of my children? I'm not a doctor! What the hell do I say when she tells me she had a dream about dying again last night? When she says she feels like a ticking time-bomb? When she cries, out of the blue, just sitting on the couch watching tv or doing the dishes? When she tells me she's petrified this cancer will come back, and she doesn't want to miss out on seeing our girls grow up? Watch them get married and have children of their own. To tell you the truth, I've been making it all up as I go. Absolutely winging it! I really don't know if the answers I have provided were right or wrong, but ultimately, I have just tried to keep as calm, realistic and positive as I possibly can.

So back to my feelings. Of course all blokes have them. But in this particular case, just how much should I share with you? Before writing this paragraph, I wrestled with my thoughts of what might come of it if I was to write about the reality of this disease potentially getting the better of Emma one day. Finally, I asked her what she would like me to do and she answered with a rather matter-of-fact kind of response, that all I'd be doing is being realistic and that I should write about it.

I have really only thought about the possibility of Em not beating this cancer once. We were in the surgeons office after her second round of surgery and he was giving us the 'stats'. Em was given only a 35% chance of surviving this cancer if she chose to do nothing further, after her two lots of surgery. For me, that was a significant moment. My thoughts immediately turned to my two little girls. What the hell am I going to do if Em is not around anymore? How will I raise them on my own? How will I work? Pay the bills? Teach them to be good, kind and considerate young girls? Talk to them about 'girlie' stuff when they become teenagers? STOP! That sort of thinking doesn't help anyone! I don't think like that anymore. It is all positive now and I love her so much that nothing I picture in my future doesn't include her in it!

As horrible as it sounds, I just keep thinking that we are still better off than many others out there in the world. Some people don't have the opportunity to 'cheat' death. When their number is up, they could be hit by a car tomorrow. I feel like we're actually very lucky to have been given an opportunity, by the powers that be, to fight this cancer. We know where we stand and what we have to do to beat it.

To those of you who know Emma well, you'll agree with me when I say that Em is one of the kindest, happiest, most caring and thoughtful people you're likely to ever meet in your lives. The world would most certainly NOT be a better place without her in it! She is always smiling and has an infectious, bubbly personality that I have always admired about her. I just wish I could protect her from this and make it all go away. That's what this all comes down to. As her husband, I feel the overwhelming need to 'protect' her and I struggle with the realisation that much of this fight is Emma's and Emma's alone.

We don't sweat the small stuff anymore. We enjoy spending family time together. Every now and then, when our girls are playing together or being extra-specially cute, Em and I often look at each other and, almost like we can read each others minds, we just have that overwhelming love that any parent has for their children. Those are the moments that I cherish most. They are family moments. Mum and Dad moments that I want to continue to have for many, many years to come. With Emma, by my side.

As Emma has mentioned several times already in her blogs, the support from our family and friends has been unbelievable. From our parents, Em's sister Liz and family (Liz shaved her head with Em - what an absolute bloody legend!), our close circle of friends, Emma's work colleagues and the Pre-Primary School Mums (and Dads) who have all played a part, in numerous ways, to help us deal with this situation. Not to mention the fundraising on her behalf by Organic Home with the "Think Pink for Emma" candles and also Birdy, Goona and Benny and their "Shave for Em" evening. People have just been amazing! How are we ever going to be able to repay them?

If I can offer any advice to those reading this right now, it would simply be to 'stop and smell the roses' people. Don't worry about what you don't have, enjoy what you do have.

Love you babe!