#makeupfreeselfie

So as it turns out, I couldn’t stay away. 

It has been two months since my last visit with George. Two months since entering remission, and two months of ‘normal’ life.

Sometimes a whole day will pass and I won’t think about cancer, and by sometimes I mean maybe once or twice. I will wake up feeling amazing, or come home from work after a great day but catch my reflection. I still look like this. I try not to dwell on it, my hair is growing at a rapid rate, my scars are healing and my port is gone (yeha!) Life is only getting better. Besides, even though it’s short and fuzzy, I’ll appreciate the hair I’ve got. I won’t be making that mistake twice.

I thought my blogging days were done, but a few weeks ago something made me mad. Ryan will tell you that this is nothing new and that someone breathing too loudly would make me mad, but the weird part about this one is that I didn’t know why. ‘Make up free selfies’ were showing up all over my Facebook feed, on the news (thanks Beyonce) and were the topic of conversation. At their mention I would roll my eyes, and if questioned, just stated that I don’t understand their benefit. 

I saw this article on Facebook a few times and skipped over it, until tonight when I just happened to read it. Read it then come back to the post.

http://m.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/theres-no-bravery-in-no-makeup-selfies-20140327-35lyx.html 

Did you read it? Good.

This is exactly why I hate these selfies. I still look in the mirror every day and don’t recognise myself, and I’m the lucky one. I may have mentioned before, (and if I haven’t I really should have,) that before I got sick, I wasn’t overly thrilled with my appearance; but and lets face it, how many of us will honestly put our hands up and say that they are? Adding chemo to the mix adds further insecurities. To look at these photos of women with beautiful hair, amazing skin, no steroid induced puff around their face and colour to their complexion that doesn’t resemble vanilla ice cream; thinking that they have been brave for posting a photo without makeup, a photo of them at their very worst possible appearance, well it hurts. I would have killed to look like that..

I know people’s hearts are in the right place. I know that people generally don’t set out to upset others, and most importantly I know that these selfies have helped give the Cancer Council a small cash injection. But we all know about cancer, hell you’d be hard to find a person that hasn’t been directly affected by it. Good intentions are wonderful, but I just think that they could maybe be executed in another way.

I’ll now step off my soap box and leave you with a photo I am yet to show anyone. In hindsight I’m bloody proud of that smile I was wearing on that day; and tomorrow I will wake up smiling, because I was lucky enough to get through it.

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Lessons Learned

“I’ll put you out of your misery, you’re in remission…” 

It has been a long six weeks since I last posted. Christmas was lovely, I have been away a lot and keeping myself busy and on the move. I have spent so long observing everybody else doing their usual thing, and it’s safe to say I have already made a permanent imprint on our couches, so I couldn’t do it any longer. I have so much to spill that this could sound like word vomit, so forgive me for my eagerness.

I had a very candid conversation with a friend a couple of days before Christmas. I told her that I don’t always want to be known as that girl that had cancer, and I just want to go back to being who I was on May 30, before knew I was sick. She said to me, ‘but you will never be that person again.’ It hit me like a truck. This whole time I’ve been so concerned with getting back to who I was, but the fact is that nothing can take this experience away. I have learnt so many things about my priorities, about the people around me and about myself. Let me list a few for you:

1 – No matter how far I move away from home, my family will always live in my pocket and that is not a bad thing.

2 – Good friends aren’t the ones that come rallying to you when times get tough, they’re not the ones that say all the right things and buy you gifts, they’re the ones that see and speak to you when life is boring and mundane, and the ones that you can fall asleep on. Always value the people that don’t care when you fall asleep on them. 

3 – Sometimes, despite how uncomfortable it makes you feel, you have to let people do what they need to do to deal with the situation. Everyone is different, some people pray, some people raise money, and some people call you six times a day just to see how you’re going. I wasn’t going through this alone, so if doing these things made those I care about feel better, then that’s ok too. 

4 – Stressing about the uncontrollable is a waste of time and energy. Just don’t do it.

5 – Endorphins are undervalued and you don’t know how great they are until you haven’t been for a run in seven months and you get cranky at the drop of a hat. 

In my last post I mentioned my friend who was about to embark on a similar experience as mine. If all I can do is reassure him that it is all going to be ok then all of this has been worth it. I’m not an inspiration, I’m not stronger than anyone else in my situation. I maintain that I was really lucky, not only was my cancer very treatable, but I was surrounded by people that cared about me. All I did was what I needed to do to be able to get through each treatment and onto the next, and then the next. Small victories always count.

When George gave me the news I thought I would be elated. I thought I would cry, scream, laugh – the whole mixed bag of emotions, but I didn’t feel like it. I was stunned, and I was scared. Yes it’s gone now, but what if it comes back? What if in a years time when I have my life under control again that something pops up? This experience will never leave me. My scars are permanent, as is my medical history. I’m going to have to remind myself everyday of point number four, and I hope that it’ll get easier to remember as time goes on. 

I started this blog because when I first got sick, I felt quite alone. All I wanted was for someone out there to find my experience helpful. I know that sometimes when I found it too hard to talk to those around me it was easier to blurt it out in a post. I have received a lot of support from those I know, reading about my new normal; and although I have responded to very few of your messages, I have read and appreciated every single one of them. I can’t thank you enough for your kindness and your encouragement. 

So in the words of the Von Trapp family, So long, Farewell… And as I enter remission and go back to normal life, who knows, I might pop up again.

Signing Off… For Now

So I started writing this post on Monday night, it is now Wednesday night. I’ll give finishing it a crack.

I love celebrations. I love giving gifts that people love, and even though I never need an excuse to catch up with my favourite people, it is nice to have one. December is full of celebrations. Yesterday I turned 24. I was in Melbourne and managed to fit in most of my favourite Melbourne activities. If I had of seen Collingwood win at the ‘G then that would have actually made it the best weekend ever; although I can let that slide being December and all. I finished of my birthday at the carols, waving fake candles with my fellow christmas nerd Rach and her family, Joel Carolyn, and Ryan – reluctantly.

The day before my birthday was six months since my official diagnosis. Looking back, it has flown by very quickly. It has been a series of peaks and troughs, of adjustment, and a period of time that has somewhat altered my perception. Not in the I’ve had a brush with death type of way, (becuase I haven’t) but I feel like my priorities are ordered a little differently. Who knows if it will last, in another six months I could be right back as the same person I was before this whole cancer thing. I have goals to stress less, and keep things in perspective. But only time will tell.

Tomorrow is my last treatment.  

Skip forward two days… are you there yet? I’m at Wednesday evening, you’re with me? Good.

So yesterday was my last treatment. Dad came to hospital with Mum and I, and it was a bit different with him there. I wasn’t allowed to stall, he kept me moving. “Quick, come on, what are you doing?” As I’ve mentioned before I hate walking into that room. I’m pretty much angry for five hours, and have my headphones in and don’t talk to anyone. Then as we walk out my spirits perk up. I felt like hot chips, so we went and got hot chips. I enjoyed them, no matter how bad they are for you.

Many of my friends have asked me how it feels to be finished, but to tell you the truth, it hasn’t really sunk in. My new normal is normal for me now, in that I don’t make plans for every second week, and have to factor in feeling tired and dizzy. It seems sureal that I won’t have to consider these things anymore.

A friend called me on Sunday. I must admit I haven’t been very good at seeing this friend very often over the last few years, but he remains, and always will be, a good friend. He told me he was undergoing the processes of tests and being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My heart sank. All I wanted to do was reach through the phone and give him the biggest hug. I didn’t know what to say, and the only words I could find to comfort him were, “This really sucks, but it’s ok.”

I still think that I am really lucky.

1 – My type of cancer is so treatable.

2 – I am surrounded by people that love and care about me

and 3 – I have been given the opportunities by these people to completely focus on getting better for the last six months.

I am grateful for this every day, and to my friend, and who ever else finds this blog relevant to them; the best thing you can do is surround yourself with great people. They will give you the permission to feel crap, they will lift you up when you need it, they will distract you when your mind is running through all the what ifs and what could bes, and finally they will stick by you and still be your friend when you gain 7kg, get a blokes haircut, and have issues controlling your digestive system.

My next appointments are on the 24th of January. I have scans, and then I am seeing George to discuss my outcomes. Again, I have six weeks. In the next six weeks I endevour to

-Celebrate christmas

-Say farewell to 2013 and welcome in 2014. It can only be a better year.

-Participate in Surf T’ Surf

-Enjoy my summer holidays between the river and the beach.

I don’t think I’ll have much to share with you between now and my scans, but I know I have one last post to write. You’ll just have to wait for that.

 

 

Midnight Rants

I’ve been waiting for this day to come, another day three where I felt good and could function as a fully fledged human again. And today I did! I went to work, ran some errands, had a good day. I also then came home and tucked myself into bed at the tired time of 7.15pm. It is now 11.32pm and I am wide awake. Welcome to my sleeping patterns.

I have never been good at sleeping, and I tend to roll with permanent black bags under my eyes, that even concealer can’t hide. I say thank god for glasses! When I was at uni, I used to thrive of six hours sleep. When I started working I needed a lot more, and could never get enough. Thanks cancer. These days, I have no rules, I sleep when I want. If that means during lunch time in the sick bay, then that is what it means. And I’ve done it. Along with this ‘bad at sleeping’ trait comes the inability to sleep in. If I had it my way, I’d roll with the sun, go to bed and get up at the same time everyday. But evey morning, no matter what time I got to sleep, I seem to meet 6am. I don’t hate it though, it is actually really good for sneaking in that one TV show a day, keeps me up to date.

So now that I have bored you with the intricate details of my sleeping habits, I want to show you something Ryan found. I found it just now as I was browsing facie, trying to get myself back to sleep. This is the cutest little kid, so many wise words! I love him, he is great. I have watched a lot of YouTube, and read many blogs during the past almost six months, and I would have to say that this is up there with my favs. So damn cute! He gives me the warm and fuzzys.

Stick out the three minutes, you’ll be glad you did.

Lipstick Lady

I did it! Today I was getting ready for school and I decided to ditch the scarf. I’ve been out and about a little bit without it, playing basketball and when I’ve been in Melbourne and Sydney, but I wasn’t confident enough to do it at school.

I’ve never been able to let go of losing my hair. I feel like hair, even short hair, is part of what makes you a woman. It’s no secret that my confidence disappeared the moment I lost it. It sounds vain and superficial when I write it, but the truth is I didn’t realise how important my long locks were to me, until I didn’t have them. Many of my friends have told me that I look fine, but looking fine and feeling good are two very different things.

I was explaining this to Yumi in Sydney last week, and being the wise friend that she is, she suggested that I invested in a new lipstick. A good one, that was fun and bright, and that made me feel feminine again. So I did. I tell you what, a new lipstick works wonders. They’re seriously magic. I might have short, thin hair; but with bright lippy on, at least I feel confident enough to embrace my current look.

So today I did it. I didn’t cover up; and now that I’ve done it, I can say it wasn’t that bad. I might even wear a bare head tomorrow.

PS If anyone ever needs a scarf, I have a pretty awesome collection.

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Negative Nancy

I have tried as much as possible to not be too negative about this experience, but I’m warning you, this post does not fit that ideal, so if this isn’t what you were after, stop reading now.

As the treatments continue, people have asked in passing “is it getting easier?’ As much as I would love to say “yes, I’m completely used to it,” it’s really not. If anything it is getting harder. It is the little things that get to me now, the sound of the drip, the smell of the alcohol wipes, even just parking at the hospital. I get that nauseas feeling, and get incredibly anxious about needles and the two litres of chemicals that get pumped into me over four hours. Five cycles later, (that is 10 treatments) I still can’t believe that this is my life.

I miss the daily grind, waking up every day and having a routine.

I miss doing whatever I feel like, and not having to consider what day I am in, and who will be around.

I miss teaching.

I miss doing my hair.

I miss feeling good about myself.

I am feeling very exposed at the moment, as I poor out my heart on the keyboard. This blog has played a huge role in getting me through this experience, and before I wrapped it all up, I wanted to be completely honest. This still sucks.

Yesterday George said to me to do as much as I can to turn this experience into a positive; and last week in Sydney I certainly did. It was the perfect change of scenary I needed. I got some sun, went to the beach, ate some amazing food and enjoyed a few pretty drinks. I fell for Sydney big time. Don’t get me wrong, it is a navagational nightmare, and those hills make jogging far less enjoyable than it normally is; but I’m a water girl, and as Kari says, Sydney is all about the water. It’s pretty hard to feel like crap when the sun is shining, and you can see the harbour. It’s actually beautiful. Not to mention the special people I was spending time with.

With one cycle to go I’m starting to ask questions about what comes next. So here is the run down, as far as I know:

  • I have two treatments left, one on the 26th of Nov, and the 10th of Dec.
  • I will have a PET and CT scans in mid January, to make sure the suckers are gone.
  • I’m going to Noosa for the Australia Day long weekend
  • My port will have to be flushed (read needles) every few weeks until it comes out which hopefully will be in the first half of 2014
  • I start back at work full time on Jan 28

I feel a bit unomfortbale with the negative vibes that come from this post, but fear not, the near future is looking exciting and there are only 26 days left. Look out!

 

Dee Why

I could come up with something really philosophical, that shows insight.. Or I could just show you the rocks at Dee Why beach and let them speak for themselves. How cool are they?!

As the countdown continues, post ideas are becoming more scarce. I feel this may be the beginning of the windup of My New Normal, not just yet, but soon.

Six Weeks

“Anticipating pain is like enduring it twice. Why not anticipate pleasure instead?” (Robin Hobb)

It seems a simple idea, to not dred the forthcoming days, and as I attempt to look past them and to what’s coming next, I think I am succeeding.

I can’t wait until tomorrow afternoon, it will mean I only have three treatments left. Three is so much less than four. Three treatments occur over six weeks. That is no time at all. In teacher terms, its just more than half a term, and terms somehow manage to always just disappear. Time flies when you’re having fun, however I also think that time flies when you are short of it -so I intend on keeping as busy as possible. You’ll see me visit some special people in Sydney, and climb the bridge if I don’t chicken out. I’ll be bopping around school, playing basketball, and attempting to finish off my Masters.

Dad’s voice sounds pretty strongly in my head “Aren’t you supposed to be resting?” but I see the next six weeks as preparing to go back to real life, warming up if you will. Considering this post, and maybe the few before it, it’s probably time to change the name of my blog. My New Normal was about adjusting, and getting through. However I’m not just getting through anymore. Technically, I no longer have cancer, and in 43 days I won’t be having chemo anymore either.

A bit of an update for you all, yesterday I had a lung function test. In these tests they put a massive peg on your nose, ask you to breath normally, then do a range of breathing combinations, breathing in, blowing out, holding your breath etc. I’ve had four now, and up until yesterday, hated them with a passion. I found them so hard, thanks to the fluid in my lungs, around my heart and the lovely lymphoma I had impacting on my wind pipe. But yesterday was so easy! The graph on my report shows a large improvement, that’s the only part I know how to read. It has been a while since I’ve had a good win, and even if it is against myself a few weeks ago, don’t even care, it feels good to kick my own butt.

My hair is growing back. I’m not sure if it will fall out again, and it is still very thin, so you still won’t catch me without my scarves for a while yet. Tomorrow I go from having four chemo drugs, down to three. I don’t think it will make my recovery any different, but we will wait and see.

43 days to go.

Talk Like That

Some things in life are just really nice to hear. Others not so much.

“Best case scenario, bad glandular fever, worst case leukemia.” Was not nice, but when walking into a class and hearing a kid ask “Do we have you?” Then hearing the cheer as you nod your head gives you warm and fuzzy feelings inside.

“Sometimes I forget you have cancer”  would have to be the best thing I’ve heard whilst being a cancer patient, however being reffered to “cancer patient” was not overly pleasent. It’s funny that even as I type the word, over and over again, I feel a bit sick. Its such a gross term, one that makes me think of old people and dying.. rather than myself four months ago. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. Even when I play my cancer card, it’s so weird.

Months ago, when I was talking about getting a wig, I said that I didn’t want to be known as the girl with cancer. My step dad said to me, “but you are, you have cancer.” It wasn’t nice to hear then, and it isn’t overly lovely to repeat. I was, and to a degree – still am, scared that my cancer was going to define me, and that I will always be that person. So I was somewhat relieved when one afternoon Maggie started telling me about how wonderful it would be to have someone wash and blowdry her hair right now.. and the look of shock and guilt on her face was funnier when I agreed with her. To her I wasn’t a “cancer patient” I was just her friend.

The better I feel, the more I am in denial about what’s occured for me this year. My new normal is becoming less new, and more ordinary, as I get to work more and more, and get back into sport and the things I used to enjoy. Even after treatment, it isn’t long again until I can go back to having fun with my friends and going to work. I promise I’ll never complain about a Monday ever again!

I like to surround myself with people who treat me like my new normal, is just regular. The best things to hear are not anything about being sick, having cancer, or getting treatment. It isn’t being told I’m brave, inspirational or that I have a good attitude; but it’s the common, even mundane conversations that I love, now that’s how to make a girl smile.

59 days to go.

 

Covergirl

This weekend, I became a real fully fledged adult, as I purchased my own copy of the Australian Women’s Weekly. Even as I type that I’m screwing up my nose. I would’ve thought that my subscription to Renegade’s Collective would have given me a fix for my addiction to quick easy reads; and I certaintly thought that I was at least 10 years off buying my own copy of the Women’s Weekly. However; when I saw the caption on the cover that mentioned “Brave Anna Bligh” I was already counting out the coins for the $6.95 magazine. I was in hospital when Anna Bligh’s cancer diagnosis became news headlines. She had Non – Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (or as Ryan calls it, the bad Hodgkin’s) and I was awaiting my disgnosis, trying to get my head around the differences between the different types of blood diseases, and the haunting reality of my own situation. To clarify, Non – Hodgkin’s is more common in older people, and is more complicated because there are a variety of types, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is usually more straight forward in treating, and has a higher success rate. (I think.. don’t quote me, trust Google in this instance.)

As I turned the pages of the magazine, there is Anna Bligh’s bald head, and I think she looks lovely. As it should, the interview focuses on her career, notably, the Queensland Floods. She of course talks about her cancer, but references it in regards to anything else she would do. I think I share a similar position. People have called me brave many times, and it has often sat uncomfortably. I’m not brave, I don’t have a choice. Brave people choose the scary option. If I had a choice, trust me, no nurse would be coming near me with a needle. What I did think was brave, and something I’m yet to do, was right there on the page, she was bald, with a smile.

I went dress shopping on Saturday, an activity which at the best of times is often quite damaging for ones self esteem; and not once could I look in the mirror and see myself. I saw an unfit person, with three bright scars, and an unevenly shaved head. It didn’t matter what the dress looked like, just the fact that this person was starring back at me was destructive enough. I really thought I didn’t care about what my new normality had done to the way I looked, and I suppose when the emphasis was all on the treatment and it working, I never even considered it. However, now that I know I am getting better, and I know I only have a few months to go; my reflection has become the new thing that keeps me up at night.

Mum has always been the world’s biggest fan of a positive mindset, and after a confronting day of shopping, I was in need of a hell of a readjustment. If worrying about the way I look is the worst it gets from here on in, I’ll take it. Everyone is self conscious about something, and in a way, it just makes me normal. Being concerned over my hair, or lack there of, is a blessing compared to what I was concerned about even a month ago. Tomorrow, I’m going to try and be brave and look in the mirror and smile, because soon I won’t have cancer anymore, and I am really, really lucky.

64 days to go.