29 April 2010


Wednesday afternoon we met with my surgeon and got the histology on the cancer.

Turns out I had 5 (!) tumors inside my breast, with the largest measuring in at 55mm! To put it in comparison that's larger than a golf ball. Scarily it means that the time between my ultrasound, which only picked up 2 lumps, to my surgery 3 more tumors had developed. And that was only 3 weeks.
This makes the cancer a grade 3, and with 4 lymph nodes out of 19 affected by the cancer this has definitely put me in the category of needing radiation treatment. This is needed because chemotherapy works well where there is a blood supply but with scar tissue etc in the way from surgery the best option is to have radiation to the chest wall and armpit area.

I am also HER2 positive which means I will receive a years treatment of Herceptin. Never have I been more grateful for those women who marched to Wellington and demanded the funding from the government, and to John Key who listened, else I would be wondering how to raise $100,000 to get the full year treatment.
If you are interested in what this means, watch this video.

I am to receive 18 weeks treatment of chemotherapy, starting in roughly 2 to 3 weeks time. This is fast as I already received my portacath, as well as my scars healing well. 
And its also because we are going for a cure and I'm at the top of the list of priorities 
(or at least that's what my mum says!).

Bring it on!

27 April 2010

10 Days after Surgery

Today I had my last drain out. Freedom!!!!!
This gives me so much more movement - I had a bad habit of forgetting them and getting up and then they'd fall off the bed/couch and pull.
OWW that hurts.

I would have included a picture to give you an idea of the grossness of tubes coming out of me, but that would be mean. Even I had problems seeing them.

So with those out I can probably finally wear a bra and use my special friend here;

a nice soft boobie. 

When my scars are more healed I can go and get a proper prosthetic breast and a couple of bras, thanks to the Government they contribute $600 towards these. I also got my wig form today so now I can go hair shopping. Sounds like fun. I plan to take a whole entourage of people just for kicks. I can work it.

Tomorrow I have my post surgery meeting with my surgeon. He will tell us the info on the cancer as it would have all been to the pathologists by now and tested. Then on Thursday we're meeting with the oncologist from Auckland Hospital to find out the course of treatment I'm having.
It's all moving ahead so quick. 
Which is good.

19 April 2010


Well I got home properly yesterday after two rather miserable nights at North Shore Hospital. I expected to go home on Saturday but they still wanted to monitor my blood pressure and portacath. I was let out for the afternoon if I returned by 6pm as I told them in tears it was my wedding anniversary. So I got to go home to my own bed for a few hours, and very reluctantly I returned back to hospital. So, as you can imagine, yesterday I was itching to get home, and kept nagging the nurses for an answer. I was so ready to be broken out of there I had already rung mum and Owen to come and get me. I would have left regardless as I was so sick of no sleep. Not a good place to get sleep!

But the surgery went well, they got the main tumors out, along with a lot of lymph nodes, which have been sent to the pathologists for testing. We are hoping for some clear ones, as we are already pretty sure some of them were cancerous. In 10 days time we are meeting with the surgeon, my breast nurse Janice and an oncologist from Auckland Hospital to find out the nature of the cancer and where we go with drugs and chemo treatment etc.

The whole surgery thing was pretty new for me, having only ever had epidurals when Madeline and Johnny were born via emergency c-section. Coming around after a general anesthetic has been horrible, lots of woozy dizziness and nausea. There's been a little bit of pain but I am trying to stay on top of it with some drugs. I also had a portacath installed in my neck while I was being operated on. This is to help the chemotherapy drugs get into my body a lot easier than if they were being inserted via veins in my hand. This is also uncomfortable and tender as it heals. I also have two drains coming out of my chest with fluid which I have to carry around classily in a bum bag. So yeah I don't look real pretty. Although Owen says I am as beautiful as ever. Awww.

One of the most lovely things about the hospital stay was the chance to get to know two of my roommates. All three of us had come out of surgery on Friday and were all getting over them that night making a bit of a fuss and not sleeping so well. When the curtains were drawn back on Saturday morning we had a real meet and greet and a wonderful time together. In particular, Debbie who had just had her final surgery for breast reconstruction and was at the complete different end to my life. Her diagnosis had been back in 2008 and now she was on the road to recovery and normality. She was a huge inspiration, especially because she was so bright and bubbly and happy. She left in high spirits, proud of her new bust, and handing me her card anytime I had questions.
My other room mate was Lena, from Iraq, who was recovering from a gall bladder operation. She struck me as a beautiful courageous woman who had been through much in her life already and this surgery was nothing in comparison. Guessing from all her visitors she is a very loved woman. She really encouraged me and made me feel like God was really there looking after me. I was so blessed to be with them both, and almost had a sense of sadness when we went our separate ways.

So how am I feeling?
I feel sadness, for the body that I won't be for a long time. I know its only on the outside and people won't be able to tell once I have my special prosthesis etc but I know and I grieve for the cleavage I had. I really do. I had always been quite proud of them really.
I am tired.
Sore at times.
Frustrated that I have no energy.
Sad that my children are looking at me quite worried, especially Johnny who is too little to explain it all to. A little frightened at the prospect of going through more exhausting procedures but I don't think about that too much.
Loved.Very very loved.

Owen and I on our wedding day 11 years ago. Wow what a wonderful decision that was!! And see those awesome people in the background? Az, Becs, Alex, Lynne, Jamie, Amy, Nicole - I still love you guys!!

13 April 2010

Being dealt the arsecard

I have this really lovely breast nurse, who is kind of like my person I go to with all my questions and worries, and who also has the misfortune of telling me any bad news. She was the one who rang to tell me my CT scan was clear (and that was awesome).

Today though, she had to tell me my MRI threw up a can of worms. In some ways it has answered my questions from my previous post. And that news is that my lump is bigger than they originally thought. A lot bigger. Too big in fact to have a reconstruction straight away as I will most certainly be having radiation. And radiation can completely balls up an implant and make it look like a hard ball of boob growing out of your shoulder as it tends to shrink the skin and make the silicone hard. Two words. NOT COOL. And as my sister-in-law Monica says, BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU :(

WOW. Okay. Now a rethink. First a really really good cry and a bit of anguish at knowing I'll be completely breastless (in one breast) for at least 6 months. Oh the vanity! And also knowing that I'll be getting radiation treatment after I've finished chemotherapy is just another part to add to the process. But we must must must get this cancer out. Its my first priority. And I'll grieve my beautiful cleavage but move past this terrible disease and become stronger. And at the end of it all I'll get my cleavage back. And maybe it will be better?

What would I do without these little guys? So awesome!

And this guy...who I could NEVER do without. Alex I know you're loving this photo right now.


Even a weed can look pretty. This is my hated Oxalis weed flower.

Well I had the MRI yesterday. Felt like I was trapped in a bomb shelter without being able to move, (not that I've ever been unfortunate enough to be in a bomb shelter, but I was imagining that's what it sounds like!) except in a bomb shelter you probably don't get headphones right?
Glad that's over. 
Now another wait while my breast team look at 800 photographs of my right breast.
I don't envy their job.

I'm having a bit of a dilemma, which hopefully the results of the MRI will clear up. Or not.
I am just thinking about the fact that I've got this cancer at all, and what has caused it. And I'm worried that if I have the mastectomy, the chemo and everything and that finishes only to find a lump later down the track in my other breast, the whole drama begins again. I'm thinking of saving myself the stress of spending forever wondering if I'm gonna have it all come back and just get both breasts removed??? Ahhhhhh decisions. Today is one of those days I want to just curl up in bed and stay in there. But I can't. I've got a pedicure booked (to cheer me up), Johnny to take to daycare and a pre-op appointment with my surgeon this afternoon. I can ask him all my burning questions...like can you remove the other one too??

On a good note, I finally did some baking during the weekend. My amazing friend Sandra sent some decorating stuff over for the girls to make some beautiful cupcakes.

So we made these together and Madeline learned some piping skills.

Was so much fun for all of us, especially the eating part.

07 April 2010

Some Good News

Well I had my CT scan yesterday. 
It was an interesting one as I had no idea it involved an IV lure so I had a wee panic and a cry to the nurse. Felt really pathetic and useless and I always cry when I feel like I'm at the mercy of a system I don't understand. Naturally I then LOVE the nurses when they have a chat and are kind. It truly does make all the difference, and so far my experience with the staff at North Shore Hospital have been just wonderful.

When the scan was over Owen and I headed into Takapuna for breakfast (I had to go nil by mouth from 6.40am onwards and it was now 10am) and a walk on the beach to just collect our thoughts and talk some more and then it was a matter of waiting until today for the results.

My breast nurse rang me this afternoon at 12.30pm to confirm there are no secondaries, that means there are no extra lumps, bumps or dodgy cancer cells in my body apart from the existing tumors of course. This is good...no, GREAT news. This means I can have my mastectomy, my chemo treatment and then we can beat this. It means that I can stop imagining my body being riddled with cancer and don't jump on every ache and pain like its a death sentence. I can fight this and win it.

I am still daily encouraged by all the amazing support I have, including you Sandra for making my day, and Ruth for your support in being around today. You are amazing...

06 April 2010


In the past I have been known to keep a journal. Usually a collection of grumblings and musings and its always been a way for me to express myself (whether it was interesting for anyone else to read is another matter).
Yesterday I was going through my bookshelf looking for something decent to read, when one of these journals fell out and I decided to flip through it and read (and laugh at my silliness). One entry that I made back in June 2008 particularly struck me though and I thought it was interesting in a strange kind of way (apart from the silly stuff):

Tuesday 3rd June, 2008

Well the toe was never broken*, but in my defense it was badly bruised and I limped for 1/2 a day. Madeline thought it was a chance to have a day off school! Nice try. As for my hand I went to see Dr Jenny and she said I had a cyst. She has referred me to NSH to see the hand surgeon. Wonder how long that will take with their waiting list...I will probably be 40 by then. So I put funeral arrangements on hold. Haha.
In all seriousness though the topic we covered in Crosstalk today really left some food for thought. The topic was Faith Facing Death & Suffering. It left everyone thinking a little more about the process of dying, kinda depressing when you think too hard about it but the more I think about death, particularly my own I'm not afraid. Its just inevitable and I know where I am going I have faith in that for sure. More, the fear is in the unknown. How? What will happen to my family? Will my kids cope without me? That sort of thing.
It also brought to mind how I used to think when I was younger in regards to suffering. I always equated the words suffering to something drastic like torture. So when Paul tells us in the Bible that suffering is part of our faith I was terrified he meant that. As I get older I realise suffering has many different forms, and as we experience suffering we grow in character.
Looking back it is not as scary as I had imagined it to be.

* My previous days post had been mostly self absorbed as I almost broke a toe running to rescue Johnny from one of the daily death defying feats he likes to enact.

05 April 2010

Friendship and family

In times of crisis I don't know how some people cope without the support of their family and friends to lean upon. I know for me it has been invaluable.

Yesterday we went to church with some close friends and mum and dad, and later in the afternoon celebrated Easter with Owen's family. To know they are all ready for hugs and support at times when it will be most needed is one of the greatest comforts. To me, it highlights the importance of forgiveness and the ability to see past people's mistakes, because when the going really does get tough, sometimes those people can be your greatest allies. This weekend is all about celebrating new life and new beginnings, putting the past behind us and seeing that the people we have been blessed with in our life are true gifts.

Since Friday that tight knot of tension in my stomach had eased off considerably with all the distractions of family life and the tireless work that Owen has been doing to distract and relax me (3 course breakfasts!). However, I woke up this morning feeling so tense and that knot has tightened again. Tomorrow is the CT scan, and the nerves I think stem from the fact that apart from having my babies, I've never been to hospital. Ever. So all this is so new and frightening. After the CT scan is the waiting for the results, another nervous wait until we hear on Wednesday. This will be one of those times where getting through each hour is the focus.

I've received email after email and message after message of support again I just want to say thank you to each and every person. I just realise how much I love all the people that have come into my life. If I was to reply to you all it would take me all day, so just take this as a huge thank you and message of appreciation.

03 April 2010

3 days in....

and its been the easiest so far. If it can be easy.

Spending yesterday and today with Owen and the kids has been the best thing. I've kinda lived in a little bubble and just keep putting the impending out of my mind as best as possible.
The support from Owen is incredible. Hugs, kisses, baths, endless cups of tea, massages (no not like that.. :) ) and just anything to take my mind off the CT scan on Tuesday. I can almost forget sometimes that our life has taken a crazy turn. Then I catch myself in the mirror looking at my reflection and realise that I'm going to be different. Forever changed. I'm losing a piece of me, and eventually I'm going to lose my hair. Then the panic rises in my throat and I push it away by trying to focus on what we are doing right now. 
Which DVD shall we watch kids? 
Who wants to go for a walk? 
Must keep busy....

02 April 2010


So life has taken an unexpected and quite frankly an unwanted turn.

At the beginning of this year I felt a lump in my left breast which was small, it was so small it felt pretty insignificant. I assumed it could be breast tissue, and after having babies nothing is the same and all sorts of changes happen to our boobs. So I left it, but made sure to keep checking it. A few weeks later I noticed the lump had grown slightly, so immediately I rang my doctor to get it checked. My doctor is such a wonderful woman she did a check, and given my age just gave me a referral to North Shore Hospital for an ultrasound just to be sure, although we thought it was probably just a cyst or a benign lump.
So off we trotted to the hospital last Tuesday for a routine check. However the ultrasound showed up another lump, both of which concerned the doctor enough to take a biopsy from both of them. That worried me, but not seriously enough as I was so sure that given my age (30), my lack of family history with any breast cancer, the fact I had children early and breastfed them all put me in a non risk category for breast cancer.

However, on Wednesday Owen and I arrived at the hospital for our 2.30 appointment to be told life from now on is not going to be normal. The surgeon sat down and in a no holds barred, no easy way to put it told us straight the two lumps were cancer.
Cancer? No they must have it wrong.
And there's more. "Because there are two lumps we must do a full mastectomy". Oh great, now I lose a boob, as saggy as it is I don't really want to lose it now.
No choice.

The rest of the afternoon was a blur. Information, appointments, support team, pamphlets, blood tests and the whole time I was wondering how I was going to tell everyone. How was I going to tell my fabulous beautiful mum who is an awesome oncology nurse herself and now her own daughter is sick with the disease that she has spent years helping people cope with. What about my dad? My brothers who aren't in the country and will be so devastated, my gorgeous girlfriends and sisters in law...the list went on.
Somehow we got through that day, and in telling family and friends we have found the support so invaluable to be able to get through this.

Everyone has been so keen to know what is happening and we won't always have the energy to answer all your questions so what better way to use a blog than to give that information to you here.

So here's the plan so far.

  • This Tuesday the 6th is my CT scan in the morning to find out whether the cancer has spread to other areas. We are seriously praying it has not.
  • On Monday 12th I then have a MRI for my right breast, just to make sure there is nothing on that side before we go into surgery.
  • On Friday the 16th or the 30th I will be having my mastectomy and possibly a reconstruction at the same time. There are a few things hinging on those decisions and we are going to cross those bridges when we come to them. And that is a philosophy that both Owen and I are having. One day at a time and one hurdle at a time.

Thank you to everyone for your support. I have not been able to reply to everyone's emails and messages but we have read every single one and laughed and cried together.

With our faith in an awesome and loving God who can work miracles we are going into territory we've never been before and its scary but we will get through.

All my love,