It’s Finally Here: My Very Last Chemo!

It’s Finally Here: My Very Last Chemo!

It’s here. It’s finally here. Tomorrow I will have my very last chemo infusion.

jim carrey celebrate gif

Six months ago, sitting in my hospital room, boobless and sore, I was staring down the barrel of a long, gruelling chemotherapy regimen and wondering how on earth I would get through it all. Still dazed by my sudden swerve into Cancerland, and the speed at which my life had unravelled, all I could do was nod numbly as my Oncologist spoke about my proposed treatment and how it was necessary to poison my body in order to purge it of Cancer. Everything I heard and read left me distressed and scared.

It’s a strange process, Cancer treatment. You have to get sicker in order to get better. The day of my Breast Cancer diagnosis I had been for a long morning run, I had even been to see an Asthma specialist at the Epworth and passed his lung capacity test with flying colours. I was, in my mind, a picture of perfect health! Yet, just hours later I was back in the very same building with a referral to see a Breast Surgeon.

Since then, it’s been a long and difficult road. Chemotherapy is toxic, and it has ravaged my body with countless adverse effects: extreme nausea, vomiting, fatigue, muscle and bone aches, insomnia, a constantly dry mouth, changed taste sensations, mouth ulcers, nose bleeds, hair loss, constipation, diarrhoea, nerve damage, tender fingers and toe nails, dry eyes, watery eyes, weight-loss, night sweats, and a very low immunity. Quite a list, isn’t it? In fact, managing the emotional lead up to each infusion, and the physical fall-out that follows has almost felt like a full-time job. It has hijacked my life, taken over my thoughts, stolen my freedom.

chemo sucks chemo sucks 2

So you’d think that I’d be ecstatic to be emerging out the other side, right?


Well, yes and no. I kind of have mixed feelings.

From a physical viewpoint, I can’t wait to be rid of it! Each time I have gone in for chemo treatment, the smell of the place is so acrid it makes my stomach churn. I watch all the lovely oncology nurses gown up in their purple protective wear, pop on their goggles and gloves before handling the drug mixes and I wince at the fact that while they’re worried about a tiny spill of the stuff, the whole bag of cytotoxic splendour is being pumped through my poor body. The labels on each batch don’t make me feel that great either!

chemo sign

But as each infusion date has been gloriously crossed off my calendar, I count down the hours now, knowing the list of side effects above is mostly behind me. I have made it through the fog and am emerging out the other side, ready to reclaim my lost stamina and get this body of mine moving again. Hair has starting sprouting atop my head again, and although its downy soft, and pure white, it is a small sign that my body is on the mend. If you look hard at the picture below, you might just catch a glimpse of my new fuzz!

kate new hair 3

The flip side of chemo ending is purely an emotional one. Back in January I joked about planning a ‘remission soirée’ to celebrate finishing active treatment. I envisaged partying through to the wee hours with all my favourite people, rejoicing in the idea that I’d kicked cancer to the curb and could get on with my life.

I’ve since come to realise that finishing treatment can actually be a very anxious time for cancer patients. You see, even though chemotherapy is hideous to go through, the impact of its effect on your body, however debilitating, kind of feels good; as if the severity of my side effects is somehow a testament to the drugs’ efficacy. To be released from its guard is scary. Suddenly I am on my own again: Me versus Cancer.

It feels like I’m on the edge of a great precipice about to take a leap of faith, knowing full well there’s no safety net to catch me if I fall. Actually, I kind of feel like this guy, but way less prepared:

Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda walks the high wire from the U.S. side to the Canadian side over the Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario, June 15, 2012.   (Mark Blinch/Reuters)
Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda walks the high wire from the U.S. side to the Canadian side over the Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario, June 15, 2012. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Fortunately, I’m not completely on my own just yet. After tomorrow, I will continue to head in to the Hotel Epworth for tri-weekly infusions of my targeted therapies, Herceptin and Perjeta (aka the wonder drugs), in mid July I start 6 weeks of daily Radiotherapy, and soon enough I’ll be put on some sort of oral Hormone therapy too. So, for now, I am still in the soothing safety net of active treatment, but without the nasty side effects of chemo drugs. So I guess that is a GREAT BIG WIN, isn’t it?



In Search Of Zen: Living With Cancer-Induced Anxiety

In Search Of Zen: Living With Cancer-Induced Anxiety

Every one of us will feel stressed at times. Looming deadlines, financial pressures and the day-to-day demands of a busy modern life thrust various doses of stress upon us daily, but, built to withstand small amounts of pressure, we can generally make a few adjustments to compensate for the added strain and get on with it.

I have always been aware that chronic anxiety and depression are debilitating disorders affecting many, many people at various stages of life, yet until diagnosed with Breast Cancer late last year, I had never personally experienced the kind of deep-seated stress, anxiety or gut-wrenching fear that usually accompanies major trauma or a threat to one’s life. It leaves you gasping for air.

The shock of hearing I had cancer, having to quickly prepare for surgery and then line up for each chemotherapy treatment evoked feelings in me so intense I felt as though my brain had short-circuited somehow, that my responses to this new stress in my life were purely instinctive and I was powerless to control them. It has been the most mentally and physically exhausting experience of my life. At times I haven’t been able to eat, sleep or switch off the pain.

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Something For Kate

Something For Kate

I can’t wipe the smile off my dial.

There is extraordinary beauty in this world, and I have been reminded of it more than ever over the past six months. The kindness and generosity that has been thrust in my family’s direction as we navigate the challenges of my Breast Cancer diagnosis has left me feeling more loved than ever before and so, so grateful.

But let me just say that things cranked up a notch last week!

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The Joys of Parenting. (A Night Of Little Surprises)

The Joys of Parenting. (A Night Of Little Surprises)

It all started at the dinner table.

There we were, enjoying a surprisingly tranquil break in our Wednesday evening. Dinner was finished, our bellies were brimming and our two boys were sitting quietly, engrossed in some homework.

For anyone who knows our family closely, such serene scenes are few and far between. Boy, are we LOUD! We shout, we yell, we squeal, we stomp! Mornings are a manic flurry of “FIND YOUR SHOES!” and “FORGET THE iPAD, IT’S TIME TO GOOO!” (usually at about three minutes to nine!) Evenings too, are a finely-honed, hectic schedule of drop-offs, pick-ups, after-school activities, and then intense negotiations over computer time, school readers, and “Just-exactly-how-many-more-mouthful-do-I-have-to-eat-mum-until-I-get-dessert?!”

Even as I type this, my boys are in the bath together, giggling maniacally. From my spot on the couch I marvel at how quickly they seem to oscillate between squeals of pure joy one minute, to sudden screams of injustice the next. There are always the token laughs of mock horror too, after particularly large splashing sessions, usually followed with cheeky observances like, “Mum’s not going to be happy about that!” and more peals of laughter.

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Part 2: My Body’s Right Of Reply

Part 2: My Body’s Right Of Reply

My last blog post, ‘Breaking Up Is Hard To Do’, was pretty raw. It was difficult to write and took me a long time to post online. But I promised myself at the start of this journey that I was going to be honest about my struggles and share them openly without embarrassment. That’s easier said than done sometimes, but the response from everyone who reads my blog always amazes me.

Honesty breaks down barriers. When one person speaks from the heart, it gives others the opportunity and freedom to do so too, and what a better world it would be if we all dropped our guards once in a while and let our real selves out, insecurities and all. Everyday, there are people amongst us fighting unsaid battles, finding aspects of their lives troubling and feeling like they alone in their suffering.

I have been so touched to receive private messages from some of you who have openly shared your inner struggles. It is such a privilege to be able to support you, and I’m so glad my blog has helped in some little way.

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