October - Early December 2005

(Don't forget you can click on most of the following photos to see them bigger)

Our bathroom project - Stage one (upstairs) all complete!
Well after 5 years, and all the preparations and everything going on in our lives at the mo, it was hard to believe this project was ever going to happen! As soon as the upper rooms were ripped out we really got excited! Progress seemed slow at first as the plumbing and wiring were all reworked but once the new gib finally got up it already started looking fab!

We only had two dramas, both near the beginning. Just after our builder had applied the waterproofing coat over the majority of the room he found out that council had just withdrawn approval of that particular brand (and others) so everything stopped until he got written authorisation for him to use it. Also, shortly before this, when the whole room was gutted and no longer useable, the supplier of our bath called to tell us that the newest batch of baths just delivered (of which ours was one) were faulty and unusable. As the whole design of the room was built around this bath, it was quite a disaster! We started ringing around showrooms seeing if they had an existing one we could buy off the floor (nope all gone!). Meanwhile we shot around trying to find a replacement bath, found an OK-ish substitute (that was fatter and shorter but even more expensive). At this point I discussed with the supplier how important this style was to us and she said they was nothing left in New Zealand - and that the next batch due early January 2006 may also be faulty! We were discussing the alternative bath and I mentioned that we were reluctant to pay even more, given my cancer treatment was such an unexpected additional expense. She said she'd call me back, and within about an hour, she'd found us a bath (the model we wanted!) that was sitting in storage (supposedly on hold for someone else?!) A bonus for having the big C it would seem... oh well, gotta get a positive from it every now and again eh ;o)

The rest of the construction went without a hitch, thanks to our great all-rounder builder (John Faulkner - who specialises in complete bathroom fit-outs). He does pretty much everything himself (only bringing in plumbers and electricians to finish and approve what he has set up). John's very thorough and does a top job, as you can see below :o)

So here are our upstairs bathrooms, before and after!!!

Upstairs bathroom before

Upstairs bathroom after

Upstairs WC before

Upstairs WC after

We're all sharing the new upstairs bathroom at the moment, however once downstairs is completed this will be the girls' bathroom. We're really happy with everything we chose, the bath is a great shape and size (works really well as a shower too). And we certainly picked the right shower rose - wide, fine and strong, lovely! Pretty much everything in all our bathrooms (even the tiles) changed at least 3 times before finally deciding what we wanted - so we really appreciate what we've ended up with! The girls love it and particularly like having a basin each!

Now we're approaching the halfway mark with our bathrooms downstairs - I certainly celebrated the day our ghastly "beam me up Scottie" shower was demolished! The two rooms are now one, new wall and doorway in, plumbing and electric wiring in, and the gib has just gone up... waterproofing and tiling next, still a fair way to go (will it be completed by Christmas is the million dollar question!?!) Anyway, it's looking good and should be the most amazing transformation, and we'll show that off next update ;o)

Our downstairs bathrooms on day two of demolition!

I'm already halfway through my chemo!

We knew that my hair would fall out fast, so just before my first treatment we cut my hair way back to a short back and sides do similar to what I wore in my early twenties! It looked surprisingly good and I may well go back to that when my hair grows back ;o) [Fortunately for me, it didn't really start to fall out until after my second cycle.]

First chemo treatment:
     I learned the first time round (the hard way!) to take ALL the anti-nausea drugs I was prescribed - clearly I need them all! There are three different lots of meds all attacking the nausea from different directions and if taken regularly when instructed certainly do the trick! I still feel pretty tired and off-colour in the first week, but it's better than throwing up all the time, and once I come off the meds I feel much better!
Flat ginger ale is a good final tonic - amazing how that works!
     Halfway through that first 3 week period I went
to a great course called "Look Good, Feel Better". This is an internationally run course started in the USA and I can't speak highly enough of it. Check out what they do at http://www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org/. About 25 women including myself attended (most of who had already lost all their hair - mine was still fine for the time being). I was the youngest there and most of the women looked quite unsure and nervous at the beginning (one was even crying!?). We were were each given a complete range of makeup (including toners, cleansers, the works, great brands including Lancome etc) all products were coordinated to work with our own particular colouring. We were then walked through step by step how to prepare and apply each layer and finally the wig company presented what they have - using me as the model! By the end everyone looked fabulous and was smiling from ear to ear! I signed on to help out in future when I've completed my own treatment as I thought it was such a wonderful thing! If anyone has training in makeup I urge you to donate an occasional few hours of your time to this great cause in your local area (contact your local Cancer Society to find out more). They do need extra help!
     Immediately after that course, I went and got my free breast prosthesis which I am very happy with - the foam pad I'd been using till then (while my scar healed) was losing it big time and travelling up my chest - not a good look ;o) My prosthesis fits inside a special bra and feels just like the real thing (both in weight and texture) - I even let people feel it! Once its on I usually forget its there (except on hotter days!).

Second chemo treatment:
     My next treatment was delayed two days as my blood count hadn't recovered sufficiently in time (I have one blood test every week). While I was nervous about being sick again it was better going in knowing exactly what to expect. The treatment takes about 2.5 hours, by IV. Here's hoping my veins hold out, as I can only have them on my left side now that I've had all the nodes on my right removed. It means the poisonous chemo drugs keep being injected through one of just a few veins (blood tests all come from the left side now too).
The treatment went much better this time around, the extra anti-nausea drugs worked a treat.
     Its actually pretty sociable in the ward. Each time I've met women my age and we have a good chat and laugh and exchange stories and advice (I was mostly receiving the advice at this stage but now I am starting to help the newbies!)
On this occasion I met 2 ladies who had both already done the tummy muscles breast reconstruction that I was expecting to do later - and they managed to put me right off that idea! The operation is a major one that leaves you permanently numb across the tummy (being now numb under my right arm, I'd rather keep my senses elsewhere!).

     By this stage my hair was pouring out of me - it was nice knowing I had a good wig waiting for me! I had the big head-shave on 14 October, and cried a little bit when they started shaving, but my friend Lissa was with me and gave me a cuddle, then I was fine - The girls think I look a lot like my brother Richard (with makeup ;o) with the hair off! Sadly, in hindsight, I shouldn't have shaved the head. My scalp was very sensitive beforehand as the hair fell out and afterwards the hairs that were left felt like knives when I lay down at night etc. So I attacked my head with parcel tape - pulling out all the loose hairs I could (glad no one was watching that show!!!). That felt better, but if I ever have to do this again in the future, I won't be head shaving!!!
     I have the wig on now - everyone who knows me says it looks great, and strangers don't take a second look at all, so I'm reassured that it looks good and natural. Its not particularly comfortable on my sensitive scalp so I alternate with scarves. The girls have accepted the wig well, which is a relief as Emily kept saying "Take it off!" whenever I put it on in the past, but when I came home with it properly on she just said "Nice new haircut mummy!". Lydia asked to see what I look like with my wig off, which I finally gave in to the following morning (to which she advised me that she prefers me with the hair on - ha ha, no kidding!). Brent still hasn't seen me bald and I'm planning on keeping it that way! Have lots of scarves, sleeping and shower hats etc to keep me looking decent at all times!

Here I am, halfway through my chemotherapy treatment, in full disguise!

Third chemo treatment:
     My next treatment was delayed till the following Monday as my blood count hadn't recovered sufficiently again (
     This third cycle was unfortunately not a good one...
Emily brought home a bad poo bug (presumably from creche) which I of course caught and got a temp etc, then she got a cold (which I got too) then Lydia got severe ear infections after she caught the cold too - the girls recovered well - I didn't! I was on watch and antibiotics over the weekend as we knew my blood levels were on the way down - had to take my temp every few hours). The cold continued on in amplified form for the next 10 days and I had to keep the girls home from Kindy all next week so they don't bring home any other bugs to share with me! Those were not the best of times!!!
     The highlight just before all this was Guy Faulkes, which we enjoyed with a group of our friends at Lissa's house. Lydia
got into it this year for the first time and loved the sparklers etc, however Emily really took fright again and stayed indoors! This was my first year not setting them off (I'm a big pyromaniac at heart ;o) and have to say it just wasn't the same! I was wearing my (synthetic) wig and was wary that I could spontaneously combust - next time I'll wear a scarf!!! Still it was great to get out and have a fun night!

Fourth chemo treatment:
     My next treatment was delayed till the Wednesday as my blood count hadn't recovered sufficiently again (
no surprise really after previous delays etc). So far so good - that pic of me above was taken 4 days after treatment. This was my last dose of the AC - next time I'm onto a new recipe called Taxotere (the expensive one!). Apparently the nausea won't be so bad, but the bloods are worse (which probably means I'll be even more tired, over the school holidays, yikes! One good thing is that my hair is expected to grow back during this next stage of treatment - I'm certainly looking forward to that!

I sometimes joke that with all my gear off now I look like something out of a Freddy Kruger movie - Big scar where my breast used to be, totally bald, eyebrows and lashes fading, pale skin, the list goes on - but at least I got a free brazilian out of all this! But as soon as I start putting on the layers I feel human and go out with my head held high ;o) I've got this routine now where, if I'm feeling great I go out all dolled up, if I feel awful I go out plain with a scarf, so people leave me alone (and maybe give me the last spot in the lift etc ;o) Ha ha! Seems to work pretty well!

I'm now starting to consider my options with that big scar of mine. We initially decided I'd maybe reconstruct after all this however I'm concerned that one implant will look wonky as I age, lose/gain weight etc. I'm now thinking if I do do that later on I'll remove the other breast at the same time (= matching pair, and remove worry of more BC turning up later, having to do more chemo etc). Never thought I'd consider that! Still thinking - lots of time till that decision can be made ;o)

This whole thing has been a strange and in some ways enlightening experience. There are times when I actually forget what I'm going through, its only when others ask me about it that I remember! The support and help I have received has been wonderful. I realise how lucky I am, both to have this support, and to be able to afford to do myself up nicely, and have all the treatment options available to me. Many others don't and I think of them often and am trying to make some changes on their behalf. I've written into a magazine already (the letter was printed almost verbatim the following week - and we've just seen evidence that this has caused some waves with our Health insurer!). After I complete this treatment I am planning to do more, (targeting the government if possible). I'm just dancing on the high road as best I can at the moment and being very open about the whole thing with whoever I talk to.


Our beautiful girls!

The last few months have been pretty strange for the girls. They are currently in daycare most mornings, then we all have a rest, and our Nanny (Megan) now comes most afternoons for a couple of hours (I've been trying to take things easy to improve my blood count etc!). This means they don't get to see very much of me - which is a BIG change from before all this happened! While they are still well behaved and happy, a few behavioural problems appear to be emerging. Lydia is getting more emotional and a little insecure at Kindy. Emily has started biting Lydia at home and is getting a bit clingy with Mum again. I'm planning on spending more time with them whenever I can to try and get things back on track and will be talking with Kindy and Creche to see what else can be done.

But as you can see from the pic on left (taken the same day as the others) when they're happy they can be a real team, and just lovely together! Lydia loves her new bedroom (even though decoratively it is far from complete!) and Emily has settled into Lydia's old room very well. The upstairs level now belongs to them and they love playing up there now which is great. The Christmas countdown is on now, and they are both very excited about it! They will be well rewarded for being such good girls through all of this.



Ah well, that's all from us for now. Another wierd few months!

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year! Hope you all have a good one!