Monday, 6 January 2014

What a year!

Happy New Year to you all!  I hope the festive season has been kind to you and you've enjoyed lots of happy and fun times with family and friends.  I'm sure I'm not alone in finding that Christmas approaches with increasing speed each year.  It sure does provide an opportunity for reflection on the past 12 months and to start thinking about the next. I've also been thinking long and hard about my next blog entry. I can't believe it has been 10 months since my last update. My apologies for the delay!

As previously noted, I underwent bi-lateral breast reconstructive surgery in March last year.  It was a slow and steady recovery but I was just relieved to have this operation behind me. Tissue expanders were implanted under my muscle during the procedure and inflated every couple of weeks using injections of saline. It was an uncomfortable procedure (not so much the injections) but rather the tightness where the chest wall was being stretched - as per the below diagram. The feeling is best described as a really bad headache but on your chest.  Painkillers were helpful!

I had this done on both sides simultaneously!

In mid July it was time for the expanders to be removed and the permanent implants to be their replacement.  This was a definite 'walk in the park' compared to all of my other surgeries and I was only in hospital overnight!  Unfortunately it still involved 2 drains (uugghh!) but they were removed before I headed home which was a relief.  I am extremely happy with the result although will be having some minor corrective surgery in early February.

In addition to my surgeries last year, I was also very busy travelling, fundraising, working, volunteering and being a mum and wife! In June, I flew to Karratha and surprised my sister Lizzy for her birthday.  Lizzy and her family relocated up north in early 2013 and I really miss them. It was a fantastic few days spent with them all.

In mid June, Ryan and I hosted the inaugural Bubbles and Boobs Afternoon High Tea with my good friends, Lee and Damo from Chica Catering and Katey and Wayne from The Beach Shack.  It was an amazing afternoon and I am ecstatic to report that we raised over $14,000 for Breast Cancer Care WA!!  A fabulous effort by everyone involved and an afternoon I will treasure for a long time.

Em speaking at the Bubbles and Boobs Afternoon High Tea

In August, I was very fortunate to be chosen to represent WA at the BCNA (Breast Cancer Network Australia) National Summit in Sydney. The Summit focused on support groups and I was there on behalf of the young women's support group here in Perth (The Young and the Breastless!).  I was privileged to listen to some wonderful speakers; Prof Kerryn Phelps, Raelene Boyle and Sally Obermeder and met many other wonderful survivors from around the country.  It was a great few days! Following this I flew to Melbourne to spend the weekend with some friends.  Although it was a fleeting visit I managed to fit lots in with a fun night spent in the live audience at 'Before the Game' AFL TV show (and meeting Dave Hughes and Fitzy in the Green Room afterwards - thanks Jayne and Jay!) and I also got a spot of shopping in after a yummy breakfast with my friend Kristy.

Bali was on the agenda for September and it couldn't have come at a better time.  The previous months were extremely busy so I was really looking forward to spending some down time chilling by the pool, dining at the various restaurants around Seminyak and of course doing some more shopping! Some lovely friends joined us (thanks for being my shopping buddy Lou!) and we had a fantastic time with them - it might become an annual thing!

Pre diner drink at KuDeTa

Another highlight of 2013 was being part of the crowd to welcome former AFL player Shane Crawford into Perth after completing the 'Tour de Crawf - ride to the other side' venture. Shane pledged to raise $1 million for BCNA by riding his bike from Melbourne to Perth in just 22 days (he smashed this figure by raising over $1.3 million!) It was a fantastic experience and whilst I wasn't able to meet Shane personally on the night, I received the below message from him just a few weeks later, courtesy of my friends, Jayne and Jay!!

Closer to home some wonderful friends have achieved some amazing feats to raise money to find a cure!  My lovely friend Jane walked from Albany to Perth (a staggering 450km!) and raised close to $50,000 for Cure Cancer Australia - fantastic effort! Another couple of friends, Nicola and Deb walked from Mandurah to Perth and raised money for Breast Cancer Care WA. Well done!

As far as treatment is concerned, I am still very closely monitored by my medical team at The Mount Hospital.  I continue to have my 12 weekly check ups with my surgeons and oncologist with my big scans done every 12 months (usually around my birthday in July).  I am still part of the D-Care trial which involves having the Denosumab/placebo drug injected in my stomach at the 12 weekly appointments.

I also continue to provide peer support to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients (especially younger ones) and am very involved in my young women's support group. I don't cry very often any more as I am too busy enjoying my hectic life but I must admit I did find myself fighting back the tears when I was watching the cricket yesterday. The SCG turned pink in support of the McGrath Foundation and it was a stark reminder of the many people and families that are affected by this disease. Jane McGrath was only 42 when she passed away (after being diagnosed at the age of 31).

All in all, 2013 was a fantastic year for me and my family and I hope 2014 is just as good!