Friday, July 31, 2009

Spare a thought for the brain surgeons

"It's not rocket science" we say. "It doesn't take a brain surgeon to work that out". But sometimes it is, and it does. Birgit Djkstra, my fabulous surgeon, really earned her money on Tuesday. And the anaesthetist Tom Studholme was pretty cool too. He assured me he hadn't been drinking the night before, and promised to take good care of me. The odds that he would completely screw up and kill me are 1 in 100,000. We decided that Tuesday was not my day to die. And so it turned out.

Birgit could move into manufacturing if the surgeon's life gets boring. My chest (on the right) is absolutely beautiful. Imagine a perfectly smooth, perfectly flat, sheet of the finest linen. That's me. The left hand side is somewhat spoilt by a boob. It's inching its way around the corner towards my back like a small jelly edging towards the side of a plate. If my nipple was a headlight I'd not be getting a warrant of fitness - it's more interested in what's happening on the footpath than the road straight ahead of me. I much prefer the work of a master craftswoman. Birgit has visited every day at 7am to check my progress, an enchanting mix of efficiency and care.

Some people are called to do the things in life that require the utmost focus, and care; attention to detail where the margins for error are slim and the consequences of mistakes monumental. They train for thousands of hours and then dispense their wisdom and display their skill in the most trying of circumstances. In my view, every dollar is deserved.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Latest news from Hotel St. Georges

  1. Ouch
  2. I am blessed with fabulous friends and family who are showering me with love and gorgeous gifts. Very humbling. Merci.
  3. Ouch
  4. My anesthetist hasn’t tried ‘P’ but didn’t seem to mind me asking.
  5. I’m sure there is a consumer market for the automated padded electric blanket like inflatable leg warmers I’m wearing. Initially I thought they were to commemorate the moon landing but it turns out, that like everything else that hurts, smells rotten, or tastes awful, they are actually “good for me”.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


The things that have happened to me (or I have made happen) where insurance was very handy thank you very much:

1) House fire in Dunedin - flatmate (what a retard) left the embers from the fire in a plastic bag on the lounge floor. While we slept the house burned. Lives saved by the lounge door being shut. If door had been open, smoke would have likely killed us in our sleep. Insurance paid for my damaged household contents. Uninsured flatmate spent days cleaning layers of thick black soot off his dinner plates and wine glasses. Any spare time was spent saying sorry to me.

2) House flood in Sumner. I was pregnant with T in 2000 when the rains came down and floods went up. I sat on the steps of Roger and Lisa's house which we rented and watched the water pour in. Insurance paid for our damaged household contents.

3) T needed grommets. 6 month waiting list to go through the public system. Great if you're 63 and have already learned to speak, but at 3 it's kinda important to be able to hear. Thank you Mr. Sovereign.

4) House fire on the Esplanade - woman who lived there (what a retard) accidentally pulled the pantry roller door down onto the toaster and snuck off for an afternoon nap while the baby slept, and the other kid was chucked in front of the telly. Husband said he was at work, but probably shopping for new golf clothes at the time. Kitchen destroyed, dining room munted and smoke damage throughout the rest of the house. Insurance paid for our damaged contents. Nothing will repair damaged ego of otherwise competent woman who lived there and who spends any spare time saying sorry to the golfer.

Favourite memory of that day was C bowling up to the Fire Chief and saying 'excuse me, could one of your men take me in, I need my tennis racquet as I'm due on court at 3pm'. Fire Chief responded, 'is that you semi-clad wife and startled children wrapped in the emergency blankets sitting on the Eplanade wall?' C does rather prefer that his life goes according to plan.

"Did you fax me three weeks in advance of this date notifying me of your intention to burn our house down while you and the children were inside?"

5) Diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Insurance to ease the costs of care and enabling choice of best surgeon, oncologist etc...they are like tradies after all - good plumbers, bad plumbers. Who wants their breast remover to be the new boy having his first real life go at doing it all by himself?


The Lisp Party

I started to write a list of all the 'lasts' I had today. Last time P will snuggle on 'that' side with me in bed for ages, last time T and I will play tennis for a while...

Bloody depressing. Made me cry and I wasn't even listening to the crappy songs I usually rely on to access my waterworks.

So instead I started planning my disfigurement party - somewhere in between the bouts of chemo we'll have a party and everyone has to come with a disfiguring, or obvious affliction or ailment. With just one boob and no hair I'll be sorted but I might speak with a lisp the whole night just to make it more challenging.

Scars would be fun, crutches on the dancefloor compulsory, stammers for the speechmakers, and I do hope that more than one person brings Tourettes.

Perhaps you could all come as the worst thing that's ever happened to you: broken leg, chicken pox, herpes, heart attack, first marriage, etc...

At least one of my friends will be there as a haemorrhoid. See, cheered up already.

Best song title so far

Suggested by Jacinda Faloon-Cavander:

'Goodbye Booby Tuesday'


Chopping up the bits

My friend Monique Gale has rewritten the lyrics to that old 80's classic 'Putting on the Ritz'. Her version involves macabre surgeons 'chopping up the bits'. It's brilliant and it's got me thinking.

How much of me would they have to cut off before I wasn't me anymore? How much of your body could you afford to lose before your sense of self and identity was irrevocably changed? Remember the guys at school who complained if you tried to move their super-gelled hair? How would they go losing a leg?

I'm feeling pretty ok about losing a boob. But I do feel weird about saying goodbye to a part of my body that's been with me for a long time.

Functionally I'll eventually be completely restored; cosmetically I'll be scarred in the nude, but totally hot (as always:))with clothes on.

I aspire to the gallantry of Monty Python's Black Knight.

'Tis but a scratch'

Friday, July 24, 2009

The upside of chemo

Part 1

1. Free Brazillians

2. just the 1 so far.

My boring 'c' facts

For all you Grey's Anatomy wannabes:

I’ve got multi-focal invasive ductal carcinoma in my right breast. The span is 6 cm, and they’re not sure if there are actually two lumps - it might just be one larger one. No spread to the lymph nodes can be seen through imaging but we’re taking out about 20 lymph nodes as a precaution.

1 in 204 women under 40 get breast cancer – I’m not as spectacularly rare as I had hoped – and the survival rate for 5 years + with the information we currently have is 80-90%. Who’s going to bet against me?

I’m seeing an integrative medical expert alongside a traditional team of oncologist, surgeon etc. I’m currently on extra Zinc, high dose intravenous Vitamin C, and Repairase which will help healing after surgery. Yes, my wees are little rainbows. Glad you read this far?

Self-editing sucks

Cancer, from what I can tell so far, having had it for longer than I’ve known, does not make you stupid, or steal your sense of humour, or suddenly make you overly-sensitive. So, why, oh why is everyone so careful when they speak to me now? Stop it.

Self-editing sucks. You know I would have laughed at all your cancer jokes in the past, I’ll still laugh at them now. There’s no need to speak slower and louder – I understand English, just as well as I did before we all knew I was diseased.

One person, (o.t.c.c.l), suggested that I was using humour as a defense mechanism. ‘Piss off’ I said. The best way for each of us to confront our challenges is the best way we know how. And for me that will be laughing irreverently in the face of cancer, and finding the lighter side of every situation.

My new boob job

5 top things to say ....

When someone tells you they have cancer:

1) Shit

2) Bugger

3) Oh Saaaaaaaaach(only if that’s their name too)

4) Really?

5) The truth

I love it when people tell me their truth about cancer. It’s not depressing or upsetting to hear that someone’s Mum died of it, and I’m not reassured when I’m told of how many people have survived it. It’s a highly individual disease and the treatment affects everyone differently. My confidence comes from knowing myself so well, and feeling the love and support of people who are brave enough to share their truth.