An Exquisite Surprise

An Exquisite Surprise

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

A few years ago, as a full-time stay-at-home mum of three, I felt myself hit a bit of a snag. In the depths of my psyche somewhere, was a small, but very persistent nagging feeling…a sense of inadequacy. While I relished the chance I had to be at home with my kids, I felt myself floundering a little; sort of failing to thrive.

I became keenly aware of the fact that while I spent every day teaching my kids new things, giving them new experiences and encouraging them to explore and try out new stuff, I had stopped doing so myself.

I couldn’t remember the last time I had learnt a new skill, or emboldened myself to step out of my comfort zone, so that year I made it a goal of mine to do both, and within weeks I had started a creative writing class and signed up for an eight-week painting course.

Straight away, I felt inspired and energised! The injection of creative pursuits into each week was like a burst of freshness into my life. I instantly felt happier, more fulfilled and stimulated in a way that I had not experienced in so long.

While the writing course finished up after a term, my foray into painting continued. I loved learning new skills, began experimenting with various techniques and found that painting was a good way to escape life’s routine and surrender to pure creativity. Under the tutelage of local Fitzroy artist, Adriane Strampp, and alongside other fun, creative, like-minded people I began to love painting.

This year, painting has fallen by the wayside and I am missing it desperately. I have dabbled a little on my own at home, but it’s the sense of community and painting alongside others that I have really missed.

Today, as I arrived home from hospital, a parcel was waiting for me on my doorstep. Now, I don’t know about you, but my heart skips a beat when I get anything in the mail that doesn’t resemble an electricity bill, let alone a package! It was enough to make me grin from ear to ear and instantly make my day infinitely better.

Inside was the most exquisite gift, something that bought tears of joy to my eyes as soon as I opened it:

A book titled ‘Paintings For Kate’. A collection of works painted for me by the thoughtful and insanely talented people from my painting class.

PFB

The first page, reads:

‘The paintings in this book have been painted for you Kate, by the students of Painting for Beginners to express their care, support and friendship, knowing that Cape Liptrap holds a special place in your heart, and in the hope that this book will transport you there when you need a break. It has been a pleasure for us to work on this project, keeping you close in our minds and hearts, and in anticipation of your return. This book comes with much love and best wishes from all at Painting for Beginners, wishing you a speedy recovery.”

Beyond that are pages and pages of the most beautiful paintings I have ever seen. Not only beautiful because they are painted by incredibly dedicated, talented people, but so beautiful to me because of what they portray and what they represent. I am continually left astounded by the love and support thrust in my direction this year and to all my painting friends – let me tell you, I will treasure this beautiful book for the rest of my days. My family will adore flicking through its pages time and time again. Already, my children are delighting in your paintings of their favourite places!

What a wonderful gift you have given us! Thank you all, so, so much. I can’t wait to come back to paint with you all soon!

Kate x

For those who would like to look at the stunning paintings and the clever artists behind them, click on the link below:

PaintingsforKate

I Got Ink! Four New Tatts and A Rad Holiday

I Got Ink! Four New Tatts and A Rad Holiday

I have just spent two blissful weeks away from Cancerland. Away from sterile hospital corridors and acrid smelling chemo chairs. Away from blood tests, cell counts and horrible side effects.

Away from being sick. Away from Oncology everything.

Leaving Cancerland has been the best.

Two Wednesdays ago, straight after yet another infusion of Herceptin and Perjeta, we hightailed it to the airport, hopped on a plane and flew far away from cold, old Melbourne. And, despite my concerns, neither my bionic boobs nor my husband’s new metal shoulder set off the airport security either – phew!

For a whole, delicious week on the Gold Coast, we did nothing but bask in the glorious Queensland sunshine (Winter up there is 23 degrees, Melburnians!), play countless games of ‘Uno’ and ‘Pick-Up Sticks’ with our children, and order BIG at the hotel buffet. We rode on rollercoasters, lounged by the pool, read books and had deep, soaking bubble baths.

We even did this:

dolphin

Yep. *Insert big fat sigh of content here*

How great are holidays!

I must say that this one was extra special. The last six months have been completely ruled by my treatment regime and we haven’t had the chance to get away together. The emotional toll on us as a family has been high, too. There have been lots of tears, and many times where Jay and I have been too drained and distraught to pick ourselves up cheerily and be proper parents. Thanks to the warmth and love of wonderful friends and family, we have somehow managed to keep an even keel through the darkness, even if perhaps a little wonkily at times.

We had all but resigned ourselves to a year spent pretty much house-bound, when at my very last chemo appointment we discovered something shiny: a surprising two-week break in my treatment schedule before the onslaught of radiotherapy. My husband booked us a mini-break then and there just in case my doctors changed their minds!

And that week away was EXACTLY what the five of us needed: time to switch off, slow down, and just hang out. Time to swim away entire days, order room service midnight feasts, cackle uncontrollably on rollercoasters together and eat fairy floss for lunch.

It was a time for pure release.

bubble bath family holidays flume ride turtles

Our holiday helped me reset my sails, and prepare for the next step in my treatment arsenal: radiotherapy. Since coming home, I’ve had to snap back into Cancerland pretty quickly.

The first appointment for Radiotherapy (affectionately called ‘rads’ by those in the know), was to front up for a CT scan, measurements, and – wait for it – TATTOOING!

Yuh huh. Never thought I’d be the type to get any ink done, myself, but after my first rads appointment, I emerged sporting four brand new tatts!

These small, freckle-sized tattoos are placed in specific spots on my chest and side to help the radiologists line up the machine precisely each time I go in for treatment. They ensure that the radiation is delivered to the exact spots in my chest and armpit where cancerous cells were discovered six months ago, to ensure it zaps them away for good.

tattoo

For the next six weeks, I will head into the radiation oncology area of the Epworth hospital every day. Treatment itself takes about twenty minutes, but the set-up can be painstakingly slow and uncomfortable. The technicians are fastidious with their work. They measure everything carefully, to the millimetre, making sure I’m in the exact same position every day. They line up my tattoos with funky red lasers and fuss around until they’re all completely satisfied.

So far, I’ve had three doses. Besides a lot of buzzing, beeping and whirring, I feel nothing at the time of treatment. As I progress, I will probably see the area of my right breast and underarm become inflamed (a bit like sunburn). It may blister and peel, but should heal up quickly once treatment finishes.

The scary side of radiation is the list of potential long-term side effects it brings with it. The radiotherapy treatment for cancer involves doses that are thousands of times higher than the radiation you receive from your average xray. Due to that radiation exposure, I will have an increased likelihood of lymphoedema in my right arm, a greater chance of developing leukaemia or a second cancer sometime in my future, and the chance of some scarring to part of my lung. While it’s hard not to get bogged down in scary stats like these, I’m focusing on the here and now, and ensuring we do everything to kill every last Breast Cancer cell in my body.

Here’s to fewer cancer cells, and many, many more holidays!

Kate x

Kid Stuff

Kid Stuff

Children are pretty perceptive little things, with in-built radars constantly tuned in to the goings on around them. Even slight deviations away from their usual experience of the world are enough to pique their curiosity.

So it was last year on the day of my cancer diagnosis, that without a word of explanation, each of my children knew ‘something was up’.

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A Few Of My Favourite Things

A Few Of My Favourite Things

Things can get a bit rough at times. Not just for me, for all of us.

What brings you happiness when the world rears its ugly side?

Being sick and going through chemotherapy treatment is tough, but whenever I’m feeling low, I channel my inner Julie Andrews and think of all my favourite things. Here is a little snapshot I want to share with you of some of the things that have brought me joy these past few weeks; little things that keep me smiling and feeling thankful every day…

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Not sinking, Swimming.

Not sinking, Swimming.

If I had to think of a metaphor for the way I feel most days, it would be treading water: trying to keep my head above the water line, struggling to keep carrying on as normal, while my legs make frantic circles below, unseen. Most of the time I manage to do this, but the unseen struggle continues. On the outside I can seem strong, upbeat and at times even funny, but inside, I am riding daily waves of turmoil. Still, I am swimming, not sinking.

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Merry (shitty) Christmas!

Merry (shitty) Christmas!

The festive season has been really hard this year.

In fact it’s sucked big ones.

I am usually the biggest kid on the street at Christmas time. I love everything about it: the lights, the food, the times spent celebrating with precious family and friends. Heck, I even bake gingerbread for neighbours and take the kids on long detours in the car to see as many decorated houses as possible. I revel in the excitement as Christmas Day draws near and get a total kick out of playing Santa. Really. I’m like the quintessential Christmas cliché!

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