Late December 2005 - Early March 2006

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

Richard and Michelle's Wedding Day
     On the 17th January we all flew down to Palmerston North in preparation for the wedding that weekend. All my aunties and uncles flew in as well, and we all stayed at the same motel (Colonial Court Motel) in neighbouring units. It was a fantastic setup, we got to meet up in each other's rooms and have a nice chat, go out together for meals etc. Directly across the road from us was the most amazing playground that we've ever seen (and we've seen a few!) which included in-ground trampolines, a huge flying fox, scenic railway and so much more - our girls were in heaven!

     We were particularly excited about the wedding, as Lydia was flowergirl! We'd arranged for Emily to have a matching dress too (so she didn't feel left out). Lydia was very excited and dying to get all dressed up. Once they were dressed, I put coloured ribbons in the girls hair (to match the bridesmaids) and sprayed some silvery sparkles through their hair. They looked fab! We went outside and there was Richard all ready to go and not looking too nervous! We took some pics and then he was off. We followed a short while later.

Lydia strikes a pose

     The wedding was held in the stunning gardens of Massey University. The weather was perfect and Michelle arrived shortly after the planned arrival time of 3pm. Lydia met her and the other bridesmaids at the car, and walked down first with perfect decorum alongside Michelle's sister, Karen. We were so proud of Lydia, as she stood still beside Karen and sweetly smiled through the whole service! I read a poem during the ceremony. The whole service was beautiful and very heartfelt and moving, a few tears were shed! The newly married couple looked so happy and seemed to be enjoying the day immensely, as were we all!

     Later, after the formal photos, there was a lovely reception in Massey's Whererata rooms. Fabulous food and service and some fun speeches. Richard and Michelle showed off a lot of practice with their first dance, to the Dirty Dancing tune "I've had the time of my life" (Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes), then we all joined in to dance the rest of the night away!

The stunning gardens where the wedding took place

Lydia welcomes Michelle to her wedding!

Richard and Michelle exchanging their vows

Our latest boating adventure

     In early February we finally got to spend another few days on board Brent's parents' flash boat Auric (we've only been on it once before!). We went over to the Coromandel with them and Noleine's sister Dulcie. The weather was fabulous but sadly the fish stayed away, despite several fishing attempts over the long weekend!

    The highlight for us was seeing how much Lydia's swimming and water confidence have improved over the past few months (Brent has spent a lot of time with her recently in the parent's swimming pool ;o). Lydia was dead keen to swim off the back of the boat (i.e. in deep water). She had her lifejacket on, of course, which made it very different to swimming without one in a shallow swimming pool! She had a great time and it thrilled us to bits that she plucked up the courage AND loved it so much!

     The girls behaved themselves very well on the boat, particularly Emily (who was far from good last time!). They loved their bunk beds and Emily happily took her day sleeps there as well (being air conditioned inside certainly helped!). We had a fabulous weekend and hope to get to do it again sometime soon!

Lydia tries fishing while keeping her feet cool at the same time!

Emily preferred to take a bath in the fishing tub!

Brent and Lydia ready to take the plunge!

Lydia swimming in the sea by herself!


Our bathroom project - Stage Two finally complete!
     Having successfully completed the upstairs bathrooms we were more confident going into the downstairs project, happy that we loved the tiles and paint colours that were to also be used downstairs, etc. We were very keen for the work to start!

     This renovation involved the merging of two bathrooms into one (by removing one non-supporting wall, closing off a small hallway that led to the old rooms, and putting a new doorway through another wall - here again is the old plan and the new plan). The contents of these old rooms had been thoroughly worn out and were eagerly demolished (I asked to shatter the old shower personally!). This bathroom doubles as the main bathroom for visitors and as our ensuite (linked through our walk-in-wardrobe to our master bedroom). We elected to have a huge double shower for ourselves and a separate WC (both of these screened by a wall of glass) and two matching his 'n hers vanities with recessed mirror cabinets above. Other features include under-floor heating, designer heated towel rails and "soft-close" ceramic WC seats and lids. New windows were also installed (note main window in before and after pics!), plus a tiled "floating wall" between the shower and WC that we designed ourselves including glass side panels to allow more natural light into the shower area.

The main bathroom before!

     John Faulkner (our Bathroom Specialist) did a fantastic job again - it was a big undertaking, all plumbing and wiring were completely reworked, walls were all way out of square, lintels had to be put in a few places and the shower ventilation was a particularly complicated setup (thanks to our floor joists running the wrong way). He was determined to complete the job before Christmas for us, often working late (a few times till 8.30pm!) to do so. In the end he did complete it right on Christmas Eve, with the exception of the glass wall (which a specialised glass company were producing, but fell back on production). Sadly, the glass company really mucked us around, made measuring and cutting mistakes etc. The first pieces weren't installed until after mid February and will be finally completed hopefully mid-late next week! Three months to cut and install the wall of glass - not acceptable!!!

     It was frustrating to be so close to finished, but not being able to use the shower, for months. Of course it was well worth the wait, which has really been 5 years! The hassle has been so worthwhile, we just love our new bathrooms and we still smile every time we step into them! Lots of ooh-ahhh's from our visitors too! So here are the final pics - which can't quite capture the fabulousness of it as you walk in! The light that streams in through the new large frosted window is just amazing, making the whole room very light and breezy ;o)

Bye bye "Beam me up Scottie" shower!

The only thing that stayed the same was the door into our walk-in-wardrobe!

The WC end of our new "wall of glass"

Our lovely roomy double shower!

Bye bye chemo!

Oh boy, what a non-fun time I've had with this second type of chemo. I was ignorantly expecting it to be easier - it was not!

First Taxotere treatment:
     Was just a few days after Christmas
. I went in, full of beans, blood count fully recovered after the extra week's grace due to the holidays. I had read up on the side effects, rejoicing in the fact that nausea was not so severe, but noticed "muscular aches and pains" and "fluid retention", and enquired about those, believing I would probably get them. I was told that Panadols should cover the pain and not to worry about the fluid retention. I was given a dose of 160mg. The first few days I felt pretty energised and OK (thanks to the steroids I was taking to counter the swelling). However, on about day four, I came down with an almighty crash. Emotions surged, the muscular pains became unbearable, I became very tired as my bloods plummeted, my veins all started bulging and aching - I felt incredibly bad! It didn't occur to me to call the oncologists and see if I could get any other pain relief etc. I wasn't sure that I could handle going through another three treatments like that! To compound matters, EVERYONE was away on holiday, so there was just Brent to help look after the girls. For some reason this was the time the girls decided to keep having bad accidents, gashing their lips and knees open time after time. I hate to think what our neighbours thought was going on!

     The one positive thing that appeared during this cycle was new hairs on my head!!! That was truly exciting, only a few mm long, but hey, its gotta start regrowing somehow! At the same time my fingernails became extremely sore, heralding that they may fall out (another charming possible side-effect of Taxotere!).

     Somehow we made it to the end, and I called the oncologist requesting that my next dose be AFTER Richard and Michelles wedding, rather than the scheduled few days before. She asked why, and I complained about how awful it all was and I didn't want to feel that bad at the wedding. She said "Oh, well you should have called we would have given you Voltaren and Tramadol to cover that pain" - Aaargh! The beauty of hindsight! The other issue I raised was my swelling which was suddenly getting out of control (my stomach was like an old waterbed!) - they called me in and were concerned and sent me off for ultrasound scans around my pelvic areas. So, another $200 later the scans showed no inner problems, that the swelling was just water retention (as I had believed it was all along!) and I was prescribed diuretics. I managed to get a fair bit of the swelling down before the wedding, but sadly not enough to fit back into the outfit I'd bought specially for the occasion! (Thankfully Brent's mum loaned me a lovely outfit to wear!).

Second Taxotere treatment:
     I was very very nervous and worried going into this treatment - the first time since the very first chemo that I went in truly concerned about what lay ahead. They reduced my dose to 120mg because of all the previous problems. I was then worried that this reduced dose would be too weak to fight the big C, but I was assured they wouldn't bother giving me anything if they didn't believe it was enough to do the trick
. Well, unless I've just forgotten, this treatment was a "doddle" - piece of cake (well, relatively speaking anyway). I thought maybe because everyone was back helping out with the kids, and because I had the extra pain relief, diuretics etc, it was just an illusion that I felt so much better. In hindsight though, it was just the low dosage, a bit too low perhaps...

Shown on right: Here I am, all dolled up at the wedding, a few days before my second treatment!

Third Taxotere treatment:
     No delays this time, bloods well recovered. I asked the oncologist to consider upping the dose a bit (not all the way!) as it has been a bit TOO easy the last time. She laughed and said "OK Dr Tyler". She did however up the dose to 140mg, I was happy with that. To be honest, I felt almost as bad as I did the first time, even with all the meds, but I had lots of opportunities to rest, which made it more bearable. Unbearable zone now confirmed as days 4 through 8 after chemo with another rough spot around days 10-12! That said, there was a hangover throughout by this stage (chemobrain feels like being permanently drunk all the time, eyesight keeps worsening dramatically thanks to fluid retention in the eye, hot flashes from the chemo-induced menopause...). I was getting excited knowing there was just one treatment to go!

Fourth Taxotere treatment:
     Only just had it at time of writing - felt much better going into this knowing it was my last! The girls came in with me and hung a balloon on my drip! I brought in a box of chocolates for everyone in the ward to celebrate (not many were eaten though!). As you can see in this pic, my fluid retention is getting a bit much again, and will probably worsen this time as I was given another 140mg. Hopefully my body will bounce back to normal a bit after this is over, I'm also planning on attending a special gym class after this, specifically for women recovering from breast cancer chemotherapy, and the course is free! This last round is setting itself to be worse than the first even, but I don't care now - each day down is one less to go! Fingers crossed, wish me luck!

Here I am undergoing my final chemotherapy treatment!


Dealing with chemotherapy.
     As I've mentioned before, I have chosen to deal with this episode positively, with an outer happiness and optimism. It does help me feel a little better to approach it this way, and it helps our children believe that everything will be OK. The downside of this is that everyone else thinks you're fine and don't need help. A big thank you to the wonderful few that did (particularly Michelle and Helen from my coffee group who brought us meals after every treatment - so wonderful and generous ;o) The past 6 months have been a weird time during which friends have become strangers, and strangers have become friends! [The Trade Me Messageboard Community has kept me in virtual company, one of them even visited me (and fellow cancer fighters have helped me immensely)! It's been great and has become a bit of an addiction which I'll shake off sometime later!]

     I am not allowed to spend much time in sun throughout the 6 month summer chemo period, and I have lacked my usual boundless energy throughout this time (thanks to flailing blood count etc). Even when I feel somewhat better in the third weeks, I have been so uncomfortable in the heat with the wig/headgear and fake plastic breast stuck to my front, that I still pay the nanny to come and take the girls out to the park/beach some afternoons. The walls have really closed in, spending so much time at home, thank goodness the house is so lovely now! We've taken advantage of me being stuck at home to get tradesmen in, both for the bathroom project and other small projects that an aging house requires. Having the tradesmen coming through has also helped maintain human contact during the day.

     At this point I'd just like to say, that if you ever have another dear friend/acquaintance that has to go through chemotherapy, please remember to visit them throughout that time - just because they don't go out, doesn't mean they don't want the company ;o)

But anyway, the worst is most definately over! There is great fun ahead of us in March, as both girls celebrate their birthdays, Lydia starts school, and we're attending a much-awaited U2 concert (I managed to secure us some fantastic seats!)!

WOOHOO! That's all for now till next update!

Until then, for some fun, here's a cute on-line video I came across and found cute and amusing (Its an animated Cancer slideshow, runs for a few minutes but is cute due to the animation and very faulty English!).  I am in the "dangerous step" and "that is the fact!"!