365 Days

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of my journey with Cancer. 1st December 2014 is the day I heard the shocking news that would change my life forever. Life would never be the same from that day going forward.

Almost to the day a year later I was given the all clear. My CT scan was all clear, my tumour markers were within the correct range and I had a good feel up by the doctor and he was happy with those results.

You don’t realize the weight of something you have been carrying until that weight has been lifted. To know that the treatment had worked and I kicked cancers butt.

Sitting here and remembering, going back to each step and remembering the feelings and emotions that consumed us at that time. It’s hard not to look back at this time last year and think OMW life changed forever never to go back to the way things were. Life will be different. Different from what it was and different from the rest of my family and friends.

Yes this whole year has made me think long and hard about my future, about life and about people. This journey has humbled me and made me realize how precious life is but really realize. When you are staring a disease like cancer in the face whole heaps of beliefs and thought patterns shift in such a dramatic way. Not only has this changed for me but has impacted my husband, children, family and friends. I think everyone connected to me has had a shift in some way.

Music has been something that has kept me strong. From the morning after I found out I had cancer to yesterday there are a few songs that have been my anthems. Either being played loud in our home or loud in my car. It was something that help us through it all. So I would like to share these songs with you:

Christmas this year is going to be wonderful and I really couldn’t have asked for such a blessed time. Last year was the first Christmas without my mom and I had had my first round of chemo by Christmas day. I get to truly celebrate this special day this year and so will my family.

I am eternally grateful to so many people of this journey of mine. My husband Vince who never for one moment let his fears show. For being my absolute rock through each and every step of the way. My children Keira and Maria for being the bravest little girls and just giving me unconditional love. My incredible sister Carly who not only was morning my mother but the fear she too carried that something would happen to her sister. Carly has been an unwavering pillar of strength. My family and their love and support throughout the whole year.

Alison my bestest friend for not running a mile but for being there for me even when I was at my lowest moments, for being my voice of reason and even though she were going through her own stuff she was at my side. Paulini my other bestest friend and we sometimes call her liiiiiiìiiiiiiiiiver just the love and support each and every day.

And all my friends who have given me all the encouragement through this most difficult journey.

I have had amazing doctors and nurses and I have come out on top.

What I want to say to anyone staring down the barrel of cancer treatment is yes it’s not an easy road and you are challenged on so many levels but you can get through it. With a positive mind, love, and support it can be done. Put your head down and take 1 obstacle at a time and you will conquer it.

My challenge moving forward what I have realized is to make sure I allow myself to feel the pain, sadness, and fear but not let all these emotions consume me. To live life to its absolutely fullest and love everyone unconditionally.

So on that note I have decided to end this blog on this 1 year anniversary.

It’s been one hell of a year but I have done it. I kicked cancers butt. Need to make sure I continue on my meds and that I have my regular check ups and I know I will live a healthy life.

Here’s to life and here’s to unconditional love.

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And Life Continues…….

The morning of the 5th Annual Breast Cancer Fundraiser arrived and my nerves were through the roof. I had no idea when I walked through the door that I would be talking to so many ladies. 220 of them to be exact.

I was flanked by my husband and 2 of my very good friends Ali and Pauline. It was such a beautiful setting and the room was done up beautifully too. The lady that ran the event told me I would be speaking first and I was quite relieved about that.

When my name was called I felt my heart skip a beat. I stood at the podium and began to talk. I lost my place a few times but once I was over that things seems to flow a little better. I am not one to just stand up and talk on a whim so I had a speech prepared. I was relieved that my little jokes I made were laughed at and when it was all done I was happy that I had taken the leap of faith and done something like this. Completely out of my comfort zone.

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I was happy to share my story with as many people as possible and even if it impacts 1 person I will be happy. Creating awareness is so important to me now. If I had been a little more vigilant, if I had done the self breast examinations or insisted on the ultrasound I wanted when I was 30 perhaps things could have been a little different.

I suppose as cancer survivors there’s always those IF moments. Stages where we question if we had done things differently or found it earlier or or or the list can go on.

Just before I did my talk my Brave and beautiful photo’s were put up on the Pink Phoenix Cancer Foundation’s website and facebook:  http://www.pinkphoenix.co.za/pages/11953/candice-king

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Now that my main treatment is behind me there are days that I don’t think about the BIG C which is always nice for a change. But then I have an injection I have to have every month and the reality of the situation comes crashing down again.

I have had 2 zoladex injections so far not as bad as I was told but I did lather my stomach with loads of emla cream (this is a cream that numbs the skin). First time in my life I am happy about having a flabby stomach because on both occasions the onco nurse has said that its good I have a fat stomach. Nothing like a little honesty 🙂

Ive been on my tamoxifen for 2 months as well and so far I seem to be doing ok. I get the most awful hot flushes and can’t seem to keep myself out of the fridge which I suppose it not all that bad just got to keep exercising.

We leave for our overseas holiday in a months time. 3 weeks in Europe and I cannot wait. It has been something we booked in January and its been that something that I have kept my eye on while going through all the horrible treatment. The light at the end of the tunnel. I do believe you need something like that.

Life has pretty much picked up where it was left off and so its great to have that normality back and great to have days where I’m not consumed by the Cancer thing. I do hope that one day I will have more non thinking cancer days than thinking ones. I have my first 3 month check up at the end of November which I am a little anxious for. I am also having a CT scan so I can be 100% sure that I am all good. Given the thumbs up. All of this is nerve wrecking but I know in my heart I am healed.

Dedicated to my Mom

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9th November 2014 is when the woman who meant so much to me took her last breath. So I have dedicated this blog to her. This amazing woman I got to call my mother.

My mother was one of a kind. She was bold, loud and boy when she walked into a room she commanded it and drew attention like nobody else I knew.

It was my mom and I from when I was very young a whole 18 months. We lived with my grandparents.

My mom was a rep for Matchbox toys and so when it came time for road trips I was taken along. Her and I roadtripping. She would sneak me into her hotel room and we would order room service. I don’t remember much of this time as I was young but she often told me about these times. There is a picture of me with curlers in my hair having a wee on the side of the road next to her blue car. Its such a cute picture.

My mom was the adventurous type and so decided that she needed a change and moved down to Amanzimtoti in Durban with my Aunt Nadine. So it was just the 3 of us jolling in Durban for a year or so. I’m sure that must have been such an adventure.

My mom met my step dad and I instantly fell in love with this man. He was a gentle giant and took me right under his wing like I was his own. The 3 of us spent a whole heap of time together and eventually moved into a flat in Winsor Park Johannesburg. I remember over running the bath and all the water flowing down the stairs in our flat and my mom not making a big fuss over it just laughed and we had to soak up the water with towels. We did so many things, saw so many things together. People couldn’t believe I wasn’t my step fathers child because he treated me so well.

We finally moved to a small holding in Midrand where I spent most of my childhood. It’s where my mom and dad got married, it’s where my baby sister was born, its were I learnt so much from my mom.

Not only was she an incredible mother but she was a free spirit. She really did live life to the fullest. She taught me about spirituality, I was taken to meditation circles, healing circles, church, Buddhist retreat centers, spiritual fairs where I had my aura drawn. We used to draw animal cards and angel cards.

We would have parties at our home and the music and dancing would go on till 3am the following morning. Who would be the last one dancing it would be my party animal mother.

Christmas time was a for everyone. We had both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, cousins. It was a day of being spoilt and a day that started early and finished off late with music and dancing.

My mother was the most giving person I know. She would do anything for anybody. She had the greatest compassion and greatest understanding of all things great and godly.

Not only did she have a big spirit she was the most beautiful woman I know. She had the thickest blonde hair, striking blue eyes and the biggest friendliest smile I have seen. She was always beautifully dressed.

The 4 of us moved to Durban and life turned and became a struggle financially. She did her very best to keep us a float and she did a great job. Yes even in those difficult years the brightness that my mother walked around with never dulled no matter how tough things were. She was one incredible person.

My sister and I yet again exposed to all different walks of life going to Hindu temples, mosques, healing and meditation circles.  We really learnt so much.

Life was not kind to my mom despite all the effort she put in. She had a laugh that would make someone else laugh. And she still managed to keep her sense of humour and if she found something funny oh boy she would giggle for hours over it. I remember watching Hangover with her and we laughed till our bellies ached and the tears rolled down our cheeks. And I think I laughed more at her laughing than at the movie.

The year before my mom got sick she would often complain that there felt like a truck was sitting on her chest. She got chest infection after chest infect towards the end of the year. My sister and I forced her to have a chest x-ray and that is when life took an unexpected turn.

Not for one moment did I ever think that I would lose my mom. In some sort of denial you believe that people will live forever. That they will never die. I wasn’t ready for my mom to go. I needed her more than ever this year. I had to do this year which was the hardest for me without the one person I so needed the most my mommy.

In true style when she shared her health news after having her biopsy she called a big family meeting and told everyone she had stage 3 lung cancer. My family almost recoiled into themselves. Some expressing their disbelief by asking how true the results were, some running out the room. I just sat there feeling numb. I had a feeling, I knew something wasn’t right before she even told us. I kicked into survival mode not allowing myself to fully absorb the severity of what we just heard.

the 7 months that followed were so difficult and she fought with all she had in her.

She certainly chose a day to leave this earth. Sunday during the day. She had my whole family with her when she passed on a beautiful summers day. I was holding her hand when she took her last breath. It was a beautiful passing. She looked so beautiful, calm and serene.

Today my heart aches just as much maybe even more than it did the day she left us. I long for our coffee dates, long chats even our arguments, I long for her Facebook message of “Hi Apple, love you, let’s do coffee”, I long for just 1 more hug, just 1 more moment with her just to tell her I love her.

Miss you mother dearest darling. You were my best friend, you were my everything.

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My Day In The Sun

The cancer journey has certainly opened up some doors for me, some new experiences and put me in touch with people I would never have come across. After my op in March I met the founder of an organisation called Pink Phoenix cancer foundation (http://www.pinkphoenix.co.za)  This meeting was by chance but through this meeting I have done some amazing things since finishing treatment.

I was invited to be part of a fund-raiser called Wacky and Wonderful which was launched last week https://youtu.be/Uty8y_Ry2aQ   or http://www.pinkphoenix.co.za/pages/11937/niselle-naidoo

The funds that are being raised are for an inspirational 20 year old girl Niselle who has been fighting for her life for the last 4 years. She needs a bone marrow transplant and has finally found a match in the UK. In most cases like these the medical aids are not forth coming with funds and so by doing this wacky and wonderful photo shoot Pink Phoenix cancer foundation hopes to assist Niselle in raising funds.

I had the honour of meeting her and her amazing parents and she is one amazing young lady. She was an inspiration to me.

I was then asked if I would be a guest speaker at a fund-raising event for Pink Phoenix at the end of October. When I got the email my heart skipped a beat. Me + public speaking = disaster. My matric oral was a mess and there was no way I could stand in front of a whole lot of people and talk. But then I gave it some more thought. This wasn’t an oral or a speech about something arbitrary. It was an opportunity to share my story, my journey with cancer. And something that is close to my heart is the fact that I can create awareness around breast cancer. That is why I started this blog and shared it with as many people as possible. So I said yes.

As my mom would say (often) do what scares you. ha ha well mom I’m doing it, I’m doing something that scares the living daylights out of me. Hope you are proud. I know she would have been. She would have dressed in her pink from head to toe and whooop whooped in the back ground.

After I met Sharon from Pink Phoenix she asked if I would like to be apart of their ambassadors: Brave and Beautiful. I felt so honoured and as soon as I was finished with my treatment I was booked for my photo shoot.

I had to be styled the day before in Carol Clark dresses. That was so much fun. I was brought dress upon dress upon dress. Sort of like a Hollywood move star 🙂 . The outfits were beautiful and I felt beautiful.

Being so exposed and bear while going through treatment you don’t feel beautiful or don’t feel like a woman. You are at your rawest. This morning of fun made me feel special, sexy and feminine.

The photo shoot morning arrived and Sharon took one look at my face and said “are you ok you look nervous” and I was. I haven’t done anything like this before. Ok well maybe when I was 9 years old but that doesn’t count. I got to work with an amazing photographer: Sean Baker and had my makeup done by Nixon make up artist Jules. All these wonderful and professional people were there for me that day. I hope that doesn’t sound vein as it’s not meant to be but I truly did feel like Royalty. I had 4 different dresses in 4 different scenes with 4 different make up styles. It was such a fun day. I must say though my muscles were kinda stiff from standing in all sorts of positions during the morning.

Over and above the shoot I get to share my story in a nutshell. When I sat down to write it, it felt awkward. I battled to find the words I wanted to say. Revisiting those first few days I got quite emotional. That feeling when you first hear your diagnoses, the fear, the tears and the great big unknown cancer world.

I sent that draft through but wasn’t happy with it. It wasn’t until I started writing my “speech” for the fund-raiser that I realized my ambassadors story was not the right one. I tweaked my speech and sent that one through. It flowed more perhaps because I was a little more out of the woods and my head was clearer and I was in a better emotional space.

Over and above all of these amazing things happening I went to Cape Town with 2 of my very best friends Ali and Pauline. A girls weekend in the Mother City. I think the mountain shuddered at the thought ha ha. We had such an incredible weekend. Eating, drinking, sleeping, laughing, crying. And we just recharged our batteries. Each and every one of us have had a tough 2 years. So this holiday was just what the doctor ordered.

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So next week is the fund-raising event where I will be guest speaker. I have bought a new pretty dress and hope that my speech will run smoothly. I am nervous and excited all at the same time.

I will keep you posted to how it all went!

Sending loving and healing vibes too all my dearest soul sisters and loving vibes to the rest of you. Hope you all have a wonderful happy day 🙂

CRAZY LITTLE THINGS

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And there it is friends. I had to document this day. The day I finally got to wash my armpit after 6 weeks ha ha. Again so much excitement in my house. It was a family affair. Husband taking pictures, children standing over the shower watching me shower with comments of how I won’t smell like bad dog breath anymore and how I can give them cuddles without them blocking their noses, my sister checking in on me how it feels to get wet again. Yes, yes I know all a little weird but for those of you who know, you will get me 🙂

I stood under that shower for 20 mins enjoying the feeling of water washing over me. It was the best shower I had, had in my whole life. The small things in life we take for granted. Being able to stand under a shower with fresh cleaning running warm water. I have savored my showers ever since.

Every week at school my daughter Maria (6) has to write and share her weekend news. On the Monday following my shower; we were leaving school and she said “Mommy guess what I wrote for my weekend news?” So I thought we had started mini lifesavers that Sunday, so perhaps that is what she shared. Oh no not my little comedian of a child. She thought it was a great idea to share with the whole class and her teacher:

My mommy got to wash her boobie

Oh my hat I felt my cheeks got instantly hot and thought what on earth those children must be thinking and what the teacher must have thought about this being the most exciting news to share with everyone. But that is my Maria for you.

And so life has continued as normal. I’m back at work a few days a week, back to running around like mom’s taxi in the afternoon. Doing normal things that I was doing before. I also feel like there is this expectation of ok right thats it you are done with your treatment, you not sick anymore lets move along now.

I wont lie I still take strain and feel tired by mid day and could easily take a nap. I have to keep reminding myself of what my body has been through and how I need to take it easy, ease myself back into the normal routine of life but then there is the flip side that life has been in limbo for the last 10 months and I am chomping at the bit to get all the things I had been thinking about doing while lying sick in bed, I can do them now. I need to find a balance to it all.

The next 2 years is critical in my healing process. No more stressing, eating healthy, exercising and most importantly living in my truth.

All along I have been concerned about get Lympodema. Lymphedema is a disease process of the lymphatic system where abnormal accumulation of protein and water develop the interstitial tissue spaces of the body. Basically a swelling in the limbs, face or body. Because I had 21 lymph nodes taken out of my armpit this was very likely to happen.

I noticed the other morning while getting dressed that my arm looked a little bigger than the other, not hugely so but fatter. My sweet husband Vince said that because I had put on a little weight it was likely to look like that. But I knew that it was Lymphodema. So now I am walking around with a compression sock on my arm and verrrry verrrrry preeeeetty one. It even has a lace finish at the top. I’m not that fazed about it yet as it’s not really that bad just got to keep doing my drainage and exercises to keep it at bay.

There is an american company that does a tattooed looking arm sock. www.lymphedivas.com.  I think this is such a unique idea and really adds something fun to having to wear this all day.  
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I often wonder if I will find things to write about but this journey has brought me to some interesting cross roads and I have met some really wonderful people so I am sure there will be many stories to share still.

Looking forward to this new chapter.

FAITH, LOVE & HOPE

And so I’m 34, I kissed that 33 year good bye and sent it off on its merry way. Goodbye I’m glad to see the back of you. Its the start of my new chapter, this new beginning. The green shoot breaking through the burnt crisp felt. Here I am the new me, the same but slightly altered, slightly different and somewhat damaged but here I am ready to tackle this new life.

My birthday came and went quite uneventfully but I got to spend the weekend with my person, my Vinnie away in the bush just him and I and a group of our closest mates. We both really needed it after the year we had endured. We had the best time, laughing our hearts out, just relaxing; cuddling on a sunlounger enjoying the afternoon sun with an ice cold beer in our hands – this was the life. If this was a glimps of my new life I could quite comfortably get used to this. Watching the sunrise over Lake St Lucia and on that very same day watching the sun set and being grateful to be able to enjoy natures beauty.

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Coming home after the weekend feeling refreshed and super excited about my last radiation and the fact that I could stand under a shower for as long as possible letting the water wash over me was the most exciting thing in my life right now. The small things ha ha.

The energy and excitement in my house on the morning of my last radiation was something else. I think Vince was the most excited. He has been giving me a count down on his fingers for the last 5 days. My kids were even doing last radiation happy dances. I felt like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders. There was such a euphoric energy around that morning.

The funny thing was I had felt so emotional over it all. I think while you are in the depths of turmoil you are merely trying to survive each day’s trouble. Taking 1 day at a time but when you start seeing the light of day, looking back those heavy emotions come flooding back.  My goodness if I look at what I have been through, what I have faced and how on earth did I actually manage to get through it all has amazed me. Yes I was strong and yes I was a warrior but there were definately days that I felt defeated, felt like I just couldn’t anymore. The thought of facing another chemo, just the thought alone would put me into a spin. And so I am facing these emotions now.

The morning of my radiation I gave Vince a hug and thanked him for his unconditional love and support. He never faultered in front of me. He was my rock, never ending smiling face and encouragement, he is my person. I thanked and hugged Carly my sister for her unconditional love, for the way she stepped up to fill the roll as “mother” when I was sick in bed, for never missing 1 single appointment or treatment. I hugged each of my girls for their unconditional love and for being the bravest little girls through this all.

And I am sending out hugs through the wifi airwaves too all my family near and far for their love and support. More hugs to my bestie Alison, forrest without you keeping me sane I actually don’t know!!! Hugs to Pauline for the love and Moet ;). Hugs to each and everyone of my friends for the meals cooked, the visits, the messages of encouragement and of course unconditional love. Man oh man how does a person do it on their own because without all these special people in my life this road would have been so much more difficult to walk. I love you all and thank you from the deepest part of my fragile heart ❤

And so back to radiation……….. I got undressed and lay down on the radiation table for the very last time. The machine did its usual clicking and whirring and buzzing and boom it was over. IT WAS ALL OVER. How did I feel? I actually wasn’t sure to be honest. Over the moon it was over yet scared that I needed to carry on with life. Also the security blanket of seeing my oncologist every week wouldn’t be there. I only see him again in 6 weeks. What on earth was I going to do till then? Yes and so my overthinking brain did what it does best………..

These are the beautiful people that have seen me through the last 10 months of treatment. They were there as well when my mom was sick so I have gotten to know them better over the last year. The oncology nurses: Rene (right of me), Babitha (left of me), Linda (missing). The pharmacist who mixed up my cocktails: Jenny (far left), and last but not least Candice (far right) the lady that did my bloods every week. And then the radiation team: Esmaree (left), Kevashnie (right), Nigel (missing). These are my people that I have become very attached too. I have gotten to know them on a personal level, they are like my family. Thank you to them too for all the tenderness and care they showed throughout my treatment as well as my mom’s.

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I made myself a little collage of the last 10 months of each treatment and its damn scary what I have put my body through. The fact we have to make ourselves sick to make us better but I would do it again if it means saving my life

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I started this journey scared out of my wits and slowly through the processes have become calmer and calmer about the whole situation. I read something that another woman with cancer wrote and I found that is really resonated with me. It perfectly describes what I feel:

Greek philosophers called ataraxia, a suspended kind of calm in which you can find a surprising strength.

So I sat at my computer for a long while not really knowing what to write about this last little leg of my journey but here I am 1000 words down and I suppose once I got started there was no stopping me.

Can’t wait for that damn shower…………

TATAS

I have become quite comfortable discussing my boobs (tatas), demonstrating over my shirt where they are radiating and how large my boob is. I do this so unconsciously because I have had so many doctors having a look, I have had to have them exposed during radiation and examined every week and by examined I mean poked and prodded; that they have really become something I am not shy about.

I don’t really realize this when I am talking to people and I can almost see them dart their eyes about the room as they are too embarrassed to look. ha ha sorry about that friends but all dignity was lost on my very first  biopsy.

I have a week left of radiation and when I look back at everything I have been through. Everything I have managed to survive I can’t actually believe it. When I was at the starting block of this very long and scary obstacle race I didn’t know how on earth I would get through it all but I have. I’ve done it. I’m on the flip side and more than anything ready to start living my life again.

As I have said before I often wonder how I will be but as I sit here typing this I know I am going to be great. I know I will be strong and will start living my life the way I am supposed to.

CAN WE JUST TAKE A MOMENT AND CHEERS TO THAT!!!!!!

CHEERS TO LIFE! CHEERS TO GRATITUDE, CHEERS TO LOVE! CHEERS TO LIVING FOR THE MOMENT! CHEERS FOR APPRECIATION!

So radiation has been going so well. Not so much of a walk in the park as I thought. My poor little tata is big and red and angry and oh so damn itchy. The worst part is you cant really get your nails in there and give it a good scratch. You run the risk of infection and skin break down. Oh yes lovely hey. I often joke that I am walking lob sided cause the one boob is bigger than the other. Actually a size I wouldn’t mind keeping if I could have both that way 🙂 wishful thinking. (without the big, angry, itch skin of course)

The doctor has been happy with everything and so the count down is on friends. 7 more treatments to go and I will kiss this cancer goodbye. Thanks for coming, thanks for the lessons, thanks for making me start appreciating more, thanks for teaching me to forgive, to let go anger but I am done with you and your lessons.

I held a tea for my Soul Sister support group. We hadn’t all met each other and it was so nice to put a face to a name. It was such a lovely morning. Great to discuss treatments, scans, cancers and how we all get through each day. We are uplifting, inspiriting and a bunch of beautiful woman.

My poor husband has got 5 years of grumpy menopausal wife at the age of 33. Shame poor man has to deal with a menopausal wife twice in his life. Because my cancer was ER+ and PR+ (estrogen & progesteron positive) I will have to go onto hormone therapy.

2 aspects of this: Zoladex injection for 2 years. What this does is stop the ovaries from producing estrogen basically putting me into a clinical menopause. This delightful process has side effects like hot flushes, weight gain, mood instability. Yay what fun!!! And then I will be on Tamoxifen for 5 years which is an antagonist of the estrogen receptor in breast tissue. This also has side affects of weight gain, mood instability, nausea. Oh great so I get a double wammy of menopausal side affect. Watch out here comes godzilla

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I get to celebrate my 34th birthday in a couple of days. I don’t know if its a getting older thing or a combination of the absolutely crap year I have had and the fact that it would be the first birthday without my mom but I haven’t been as excited. I love birthday and love celebrating them. We don’t just celebrate the day in my house its a whole weekend. Its not quite going to be the same without my mom phoning me and singing happy birthday over the phone and then there would have been a definite coffee date during the course of the day and flower, mother darling always bought me flowers. But we shall see on the day how it all goes for now I am bidding farewell to my 33rd year as it was the crappiest year ever: loosing my mom and being diagnosed just 3 weeks after tops my list of worst years EVER.

The thought of being over and done with all this treatment is exciting and scary all in the same breath but I’m not quite done as I will be on the endocrine therapy for 5 years but I suppose that it is easily managed in comparison the the aggressive treatment I have had.

So I am going to plan a BIG end of treatment party I think. For me it will be a fantastic way to send off the big C, celebrate my tatas (boobs) and a great way to celebrate the start of my new life. So party planning I shall begin 😉