God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change

I call myself a spiritualist, not conforming to any religion as such. I am often approached by the most unlikely people to give me the most meaningful messages about faith, God and prayer. I often think about these messages that are given to me for a reason and I always stop to listen to what these people have to say. Usually car guards funny enough. All messages of having faith in Jesus or my pastor, to keep praying for total healing and that I will get through this.

I was even asked one day (by a car guard) if I was Jewish as I had a scarf on my head. When I said no I have cancer the guy practically held my hand all the way to my car giving me encouragement that Jesus and the Lord will make me better. I find this inspiring.

I wasn’t able to drive for 2 weeks after my op which was a bit of a challenge. I am so independent and so there was a wee lesson in this for me.

We went to have our follow-up appointment with Dr Reddy. He was very happy with the way I was healing and that no haematoma had developed. Haematoma is a collection of blood under the skin. If not monitored could get infected. He removed the stitches both under my arm and on the breast and removed the massive plasters and put on smaller ones.

When going through all of this it is immensely encouraging to get positive feed back from your doctors who become almost like god’s as you entrust them with your life and well-being. A little boost to move forward with the treatment.

The results came back from the lab regarding my tumour. Like I said 21 lymph nodes were removed out of 36 and 5 were found to be fybrotic which means the little red devils kick the diseases butt. My tumour was found to be DCIS (Ductal carcinoma in situ) which meant the little red devil worked its magic on the tumour itself as originally it was Invasive Ductal carcinoma. All very positive results. It still showed that I was ER+ and PR+ but the one little thing that had changed was HER2 – results I had received from my original biopsy was now HER2+.

HER2 is a growth promoting protein which is not great as it assists in cell growth which is not what we want when we have cancer cells growing in our bodies. It makes the cancer more aggressive. On the plus side there is a great targeted therapy that has been developed call Herceptin which is given once every 3 weeks for approximately a year. It is also administered through the port so I guess I will still be bionic woman for a little while longer.

I felt ok about this information in the doctors rooms but as my very imaginative brain got working I started to feel like I had been hit by a freight train. I felt very sorry for myself and was overwhelmed by the fact I would be visiting the oncology rooms for another year after all my chemo. Why did I have to go through this, why could I just not be told what I was originally told. I wanted to be finished with chemo, onco rooms, ports, needles and all of that when I had my last treatment. I had a good old cry.

I know that when I falter it has such an effect on my family. I watch how my children are affected, how my husband struggles and how it puts my sister into a spin. It’s really difficult to keep things under wraps, keep all the emotions at bay all the time and to constantly say “I’m doing ok” when in actual fact I’m not having a good day. This HER2+ thing had put me in a dark place and the looming cancer cloud had once again found residence over my life. I would need to discuss this further with Dr Narsai my oncologist to get more information regarding it.

I always feel uplifted and motivated after seeing Dr Narsai. He really has a wonderful bedside manner and really knows how to discuss things with me. He said he would need to motivate for the HER2+ treatment – Herceptin as each round costs………. wait for it, hope you are sitting down………. R24 000 a shot. Yup that’s correct R24 000 x 12 = R288 000.

So for this reason the medical aids (not my friends at the moment) are very reluctant to pay for it. What they require is more testing to be done on the tumour. I was quite shocked that they still had my tumour. I found out that they have a whole “storage” place where they keep everyone’s specimen’s. Can you actually believe it and its for this exact reason. So if further testing needs to be done they can do it. This takes 2 weeks for them to grow the cultures.

Dr Narsai then went on to say that we have had the best possible results we could have hoped for from the treatment I have had. I was over the moon to hear such wonderful news. Such encouragement to forge onward. There is a 4 week break between the op and the next chemo round which frustrated me a little but it was important in order to let me heal properly after my op.

Next round of chemo – Taxol is booked for the 20th April. I will be having 12 of those, 1 a week. 3 months of chemo oh my word. I really needed to get my head wrapped around that.

In true style we celebrated the forth coming chemo and results of my op with a little delicious golden bubbles with my wonderful friends.

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My hair had grown back beautifully with the 2 month break between the little red devils and taxol. It was so nice to finally have a little mop on my head. I packed away my scarves and gave back the wig my friend Clair had so kindly loaned to me and was ready to rock this new treatment.

The 4 weeks went by in a flash and I was sitting in the chair again getting the run down of side effects. Possible hair loss or thinning :(, possible nausea, fatigue, peripheral neuropathy (which is damage to the nerves causing weakness, numbness and pain) oh joy.

I was hooked up and ready to go for my first round. They also said that some people have a reaction to the drug so they would need to keep a close eye on me and run the drip slowly. I was given an antihistamine injection before hand and they give me steroids and anti nausea in the drips before the chemo.

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I don’t often get chatting to people in the chemo suite. Most people keep to themselves but I got chatting to an elderly couple. The husband George was having chemo and his wife was his chemo buddy. And ever since then he comes every second week, we keep each other entertained for the time we are there. I have also made friends with 2 elderly ladies, the one lady comes for chemo and her friend brings her along. They are a hoot and always keep me giggling. They too come every second week. It’s nice to see familiar faces when you go for treatment and special bonds are formed in these situations. There is a deeper understanding between the cancer fighters and the supporters. We kinda just get it, get the emotional upheaval, get the pain and suffering, get this very hard road we are walking.

I came across this website of a woman who had designed cards for cancer fighters. It really made me laugh as they are so true.

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Got a little side tracked there ha ha sorry. They say you get something called chemo brain which I didn’t believe was real. Well it is I promise you my brain does not function like it used to. Hey just another thing to add to the list of this delightful journey 🙂

So back to round 1 of my Taxol. The chemo bag was hung and started at a very low rate. I was chatting away to George’s wife when I suddenly I felt my heart starting to race and my face get hot. I called the chemo nurse who quickly gave me steroids into my drip. The doc came to check my chest and pulse but all seemed to have settled down quickly. It was actually quite a scary experience. It felt like I was having a heart attack not that I even know what that feels like but assumed would be like.

Oh great now I’m flipping allergic to the damn meds 😦 what now……..

I had to wait half an hour before I could continue with the chemo but when it started again everything seemed to be fine thank goodness. My first round of Taxol was complete and I was ready to go home.

I was told the side effects are more tolerable with this chemo but I had nothing to go on but what I experienced from the red devil so I was quite nervous about what was to come. What was fantastic is the antihistamines I was injected with made me so sleepy that I managed to have a 2 hour nap once I was home.

Now I can start ticking off these chemos and look forward to the end of this whole treatment. It seemed like a mountain I still had to climb but I was soldiering on.

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Never To Old To Have New Experiences :)

There is nothing better than that sleep during an op. I often wonder where you go. No dreams, no restlessness just a good old nap but it’s when you come around that is like a shock to the system. That calm serene place you were in, suddenly comes to a shocking end. I was out for almost 3 hours.

“MRS KING, MRS KING, M-R-S K-I-N-G, you need to wake up now, MRS KING” oh my word, where am I, what’s going on and why are you shouting at me I’m sleeping.                   

M-R-S     K-I-N-G      W-A-K-E      U-P” 

oh my word bright lights why are they shining bright lights into my eyes and why is everyone shouting at me to wake up. What’s going on. Through very blurred eyes I saw the anaesthetist standing over me on the one side and my surgeon on the other. oh yes my op I, have just had my op. Ok quickly, quickly someone pass me something Im going to be sick. quick, quick, quick.

I was wheeled back to my room in a daze, I possibly fell asleep again on the way up but was woken again by all the hustle and bustle in the room with all the nurses trying to sort out blood pressure, drips, blankets etc etc. In the haze I saw my husband standing by trying to calm me down as I was quite frantic again when I was in the room. I was confused, drowsy and so nauseous. I eventually did get sick and it made me feel so much better. I think almost 24 hours of not eating and quite a big dose of morphine and antithetic made me so sick.

I finally go to fall asleep again. All the nurses left and had done what they needed to do. Suddenly there was a loud noise in the room. oh my word Vince is still here. I opened my eyes to see my hubby still sitting there in the chair just watching me. He had hung out in the room while I was in theatre and stayed to make sure I was okay. It was 11:30 and I could see he was exhausted from the long day. I told him I was fine and he should go home and get some much needed sleep. I got a long kiss on the forehead and was told how proud he was of me. My heart soared with love and gratitude. And poof I was back in lala land and that is where I stayed for the rest of the night.

Some people say “oh at least you can have a good rest in hospital”. Well those people have probably never spent a night or more than 1 night in hospital. I have never felt so exhausted from lack of sleep as I did in hospital. The nurses have a job to do and at night that’s what they have to do.

So the next morning I heard the clank clank and squeak squeak of the coffee and tea trolley making its way down the passage from room to room. I slowly opened one eye so I could see if the sun was shining through the cracks of the double lined hospital curtains but it was still pitch black. I reached for my cell phone that was charging on the drip monitor. 4:15 REALLY!!!!!!! REALLY!!!!!!! 4:15am

A very loud squeak, squeak came into my room. “Good Morning mam” a very chripy voice asked. I have to take your blood pressure please. I gave my arm but continued to keep my eyes closed cause I thought I would try dose off again once she was done. When it was done I pulled the blanket over me and continued to doze. “Mam would you like a bed bath” mmmmmmmmm (and that moment there my friends should NEVER have happened NEVER!!!!!) Little nieve me didn’t really know what a bed bath entailed and my word did I have the shock of my life.

“Yes sure that would be wonderful” I actually can’t believe I had agreed to that. I was not sure what time Vince would be back to help me have a shower, so she can just help me wipe down my face, chest, arms and legs and at least I would be fresh. BEEEEEEEEP WRONG!!!

I got to wipe my face with a warm face cloth which was wonderful it made me feel like a new human being, I got to brush my teeth, and then she continued to wipe me down. She was getting lower towards my nether regions and I started to clear my throat. She handed me a clean wash cloth and said “You can clean that” pointing to my bikini area. Oh my word I have never in my life been so embarrassed. Really that could wait until my shower……..

Dignity – 0, bed bath – 1. Listen I have had 2 water births and there is absolutely no dignity in giving birth and many many gyane visits for my annual check up so I am so ok with things but this, this was taken to a whole new level. So as a good patient does I washed “THAT” and got over myself. I was then rolled onto my side which was incredibly difficult as I was starting to get a little sore around the op area and found it very difficult to sit up with out if feeling like I was going to open up again. I noticed 2 pipes coming out of the big bandages strapped to my side. I would have a proper look later but for now I wanted to get this damn bed bath over and done with.

The next minute the kind nurse decided while on my side that she would give my butt a wash. Well I never. I think the last time someone did that was my mother when I was 3 years old. My golly. I don’t think anything can quite top this. I was so relieved when it was all over. She was very sweet and very respectful but shoo this whole process was the last thing I ever expected. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER AGAIN!!!!!!

By this time it had started getting light and the tea and coffee trolley came clanking and squeaking into my room. I was so glad for a cup of coffee as I was so starving I didn’t know what to do with myself. It wasn’t the greatest coffee but I was so glad for it whether it was great or not. The morning ordeal had made me somewhat exhausted so I thought well nothing much to do, so I will have a little nap. Just as I was dozing off a nurse came in to give me pain meds which I was very relieved about, next was hand over from night staff to day staff and next was breakfast so that nap I was going to have did not happen.

I was able to have a look at the drains that were now coming out of my body. 2 bags, 1 for the armpit where they removed the lymph nodes and 1 for the breast where they removed the tumour. It was really gross, blood draining from those areas. I felt so sexy right now, long compression socks, hospital gown, drains, no hair and bandages and a thorough bed bath he he.

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 After a little walk around the ward and some really difficult physio I was seriously ready for a nap. I was shown some lymphatic drainage techniques for my left arm. With having my lymph nodes take out I run the risk of developing something called lymphedema. Lymphedema is when your hand and arm begins to swell. This happens because the major lymphatic system that sit in your arm pit is no longer there to take care of draining all toxins out of your arm. I had no idea how important this little disregarded system is. All our blood vessels run through this little bulbs that take out an infection, disease or toxins in your body.

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This I would have to do every day for the rest of my life, ho hum but I am so worried about getting a fat arm that since the day I was shown these techniques it has just become part of my morning routine just like brushing your teeth.

I was visited by my hubby and my sister that brought me a cappuccino yay!!!!!! So excited about that. I managed to get the hospital food down. It looked very pretty but the taste was, weeeelllllll you know.

Dr Reddy my surgeon popped in to see how things were going. Had a look at my drains. He was happy that the arm drain was draining well but was concerned that the breast drain was not draining as much as it should be. He did some suction thingy as there seemed to be a slight blockage and it started draining which I was very relieved about.

I felt so loved on Wednesday. I had my darling friends pop in the afternoon to spoil me with chocolates and beautiful flowers and kept me company and then in the evening I had more friends and family pop in with more treats and flowers. I truly am very blessed to have such special friends and family!!!! Thursday morning came around at 4:30am this time whoooo 15 minutes extra to sleep in after a very noisy night of someone typing what felt like right outside my room door by hey this wasn’t the Oyster Box Hotel 🙂

I was so excited to see my breakfast tray being delivered, eating at 8am in the morning is pretty late for me. I love my food. As I was about to eat my oats the nurse came and told me that I must only eat my oats and the doctor might was to take me back into theatre as he wasn’t happy with the rate at which the breast drain was draining. My heart plummeted to the floor. It had been such an emotional roller-coaster ride that I just burst into tears right in front of her. She must have thought I was pathetic but I didn’t care.

I called Vince, my hubby trying to explain between big loud sobs what was happening and in a heart beat he was by my bed side calming me down. Once I was calm I just resigned myself to the fact that I was definitely going back under and it would just been another long day of no food or water 😦

When Dr Reddy came in after lunch I was HANGRY. I told him that I was not happy about going under and only if he thought it was 100% necessary would I do it. He looked at the drains again and we calculated the total amount drained and he seem happy with what had happened. I was so excited I could eat lunch I almost kiss him ha ha.

Thursday evening my hubby brought my kids to see me. No children are allowed in the ward so I had to go sit in the waiting room. I was in quite a lot of pain that evening so sitting upright was difficult. My poor kids look on their faces when they saw me with 2 drains filled with blood was a sight but as kids do they asked so many questions and then was quite content with everything and after half an hour was bored and wanted to go home. I was given 2 very special cards, big kisses and off they went.

Friday morning arrived and I was offered another bed bath which I very swiftly declined. I waited for Vince to pop in and he helped me have a wash in the bathroom. Dr Reddy was there bright and early which was great cause I was really hoping to go home. He told me that they had taken 21 out of 36 lymph nodes out from under my arm. Non of them showed any sign of cancer. YAAAAAAAAY! There were 5 that were fybrotic which meant 5 were diseased but the red devils kick their butts and got rid of those nasties. So all the sickness, all that time in bed and the hair loss was worth it all.

That they managed to get a great clearance around the tumour. When you are able to have a lumpectomy they need to ensure when they remove the tumour that they get a 1cm clearance of healthy tissue around the diseased tissue to insure that there are no relapses because of diseased tissue being left behind. He was pleased with the operation over all and pleased with the drainage from the breast drain. He removed the under arm drain. By doing this they just pull the drain out of the hole that is made in your side. It wasn’t sore just a weird sensation but such a relief when that drain came out. The pipe was quite stiff. The breast drain he said he would like to leave in for the rest of the day and he would be back in the afternoon to check it all out. If he was happy he would send me home today if not 1 more night to make sure it drains properly.

Friday afternoon rolled around and I had had my fingers, toes, legs, eyes cross. Whatever I could cross I crossed. As he walked into my room I said if there is anyway I could go home this afternoon I would really love to take a shower and see my kids and get a damn good nights sleep. He had a look and said that I could go home. I was so happy to hear those words. Quickly called my hubby and as soon as he was done removing the drains and giving me instructions I hopped out of my bed packed my bags and waited for Vince to arrive to fetch me.

Happiest day of my life to be snuggled up on the couch with my girls, my Vinnie, blankets, take away and movies. What more could a girl ask for……….

Patient Frustration

Because the fear lurks in the background waiting for any opportunity to comsume you, the smallest thing can throw the positive vibe you are clinging to off the rails. There is something that I constantly need to remind myself……..

This is Candice’s journey, not someone else’s but mine. Each and everyone of us are are experiencing life from our own space. We are going through our own rocky roads and each and every person will deal with it differently. I constantly have to remind myself that what someone else is experiencing on their cancer journey is not my journey.

It’s such a delicate balancing act to be honest and I am hoping that one day when I am through all of this that, that big bad wolf of fear will leave me be to carry on my life in the “NEW” state of normality.

I really started to feel my normal self again once I had recovered from my last red devil and before I had my op. It was so nice to feel like that again. It was a little boost of “YOU’VE GOT THIS” I needed to carry on with this journey. A nice little break of the relentlessness of the treatment.

In celebration of my op going forward I was honoured to share a bottle of Moet with my friends Pauline and Ali. My first time drinking the delicious golden bubbles and it was divine. Its these little happy gatherings that make life somewhat normal. Its this normality that I so crave on my bad days!

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Cellphones these days have lovely little tinkling sounds you can select as an alarm sound. On my phone its called sea breeze which is a gentle ocean sound to wake one from their slumber. The morning of my op when that ocean sound started it felt like someone had set a bomb off next to my bed. I had been awake the whole night stressing about the impending op and had dosed off about 45 minutes before I was due to get up. My heart was racing.

Today’s procedure was a bit of a run around. I had to get to the hospital at 6:30am to book my bed, go back home and wait till 10am where I would have to have the wire inserted into my breast at Maxwell-Wedderburn, then proceed to the hospital and check myself in and my op was booked for 2pm.

Easy peasy huh????!!!!! Well obviously this was me we are talking about and I don’t know if the stars weren’t a lined that day but my heavens alive every step of the way had its obstacles which made this already walking time bomb stress even more.

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Started my day off with no coffee and no food, sooooo we were already on a bad footing. My hubby and I arrive at the hospital at sparrows to book the bed. I explained my story of the coming and going and I was politely told that there aren’t any beds. I had instant sense of humour failure. How was this possible? But the doctor said he would let the hospital know the situation. The tears started welling up in my eyes. I felt flooded by emotions. I had to have this op today. My head was prepared for what was to come and I really don’t want to delay this process any more.

The head admin lady was called and she could see that my eyes were brimming with tears. I was quickly calmed down and told that they will take my name and as soon as someone gets discharged that bed would get booked for me. We left there and I felt happier that things were now in place for later on that day.

Back home by 7:30am and had to wait around until 10am. I paced up and down my passage way as sitting around for 2 hours was going to kill me. I should have just taken something to take the edge off. It was the cricket world cup semi final which sort of distracted me while I lay on the couch and did some deep breathing to help control the anxiety that was slowly taking over.

10am came and I was back in my beautiful designer hospital gown ready and waiting to have the wire inserted into my breast. The lovely ladies there allowed Vince to come into the ultrasound room with me but gave him strict instructions that their concern was me and if he fainted he would be would be on his own :). The doctor came in and gave me local in my breast and then was kindly showing me all the lovely instruments that would be used to insert my wire. I gave a grim smile and continued to look at the corner of the ceiling. Dr Happy as I will refer to him kept on wanting to show me how the needle was going into the tumour and where the marker was and look how its going in blah blah blah blah please stop I’m going to pass out :0

The wire was coiled onto my breast and taped up. They allowed me to keep the gown on as I wasn’t allowed to move around much. So walking out of the medical centre I obviously got the weirdest looks.  Quite used to weird looks at this point in my treatment so it didn’t bother me.

Onwards we went to the hospital. Arriving in grand style in my designer blue hospital gown, I went straight to the reception to be taken up to my room. But of course as this day started so it will continue. Again there was no bed. It was 11:30 and my op was booked for 2pm they better sort out a bed for me.  I was told I had to wait until a bed became available and then I would be taken up. I obviously couldn’t have anything to drink or eat and my poor husband had not eaten anything since first thing this morning. We had the cricket to keep us entertained and as it turns out it was quite a nail biter so it kept me quite occupied. Vince grabbed some chips and a cool drink and snacked away next to me not sure if he quite realized that I was temped to grabbed the food out of his hand and running away, hiding in a corner somewhere stuffing my starving face. The time ticked on and it was 1pm. I started getting very anxious sitting around. My op was at 2pm surely they had to have made some arrangements so I could get prepared for the op. Eventually just after 1pm I was called and told that they had a bed.

We were taken to surgical ward 2 but as we walked through the doors we were shooed away by the nurses as the room had not been cleaned yet. OMW seriously SERIOUSLY!!!!!!!!! With not a word I sulked out of the ward like a scolded child. I felt very frustrated, hungry, thirsty and flipping anxious. And this was not helping.

We were finally called about 20 mins later and the only thing that made the loooooooong wait worth it was the fact that the only room that was available was a private ward. Wahoooooo. I was over the moon. Right lets get this show on the road, get me dripped, medicated, changed and ready for my op already.

The nurse came in to take all my information, did my blood pressure, did the drip which I was more than happy to have at this point as it meant I would finally be getting ready to have my op. “So Mrs King we are doing a some big medical term (Lumpectomy) at 4pm. HOLD THE PHONE JUST HOLD THE PHONE NO NO NO YOU ARE WRONG. I said with a very assertive tone that she knew I was not prepared to wait another 2 and a half hours. “No no you are wrong Dr Reddy booked me for 2pm”. With a smug look on her face she showed me his letter to the hospital instructing them in big bold letters that my op would be at 4pm. I felt my heart sink. Another 2 and a half hours of waiting, of anxiety, of being hungry, of being thirsty, of being scared shitless. But what could I do. And so we sat in the room watching TV, waiting AND waiting A-N-D waiting just a little bit more. Thank goodness with it being a private ward Vince was allowed to hang with me for the day. At least I had someone to moan with about this ridiculous situation.

IMG-20150324-WA0024 Ready and waiting

At 3:30 a nurse walked in with my theatre gear and my heart stepped it up a few beats. RIGHT finally its time. The time has come, its happening. 15 minutes later Dr Reddy walks in. “How are you Mrs King?” I’m fine just lets get this op done and dusted. ” Well look here Mrs King there has been a delay on the slates this afternoon, there has been 2 emergencies which has delayed all the booked procedures so your op will only be around 6pm today”

Although I couldn’t feel the way I felt really as it was emergencies but I wad serious sense of humour failure. I was so upset that I had to wait yet again before I could have this op. I was not impressed and once everyone had left the room I burst into tears. I curled up into a ball and tried to sleep away the time. Vince went to get something to eat downstairs while we waited. 6pm came and went and there was no sign of this op happening. As I was starting to think that this op was not going to happen today 2 surgical nurses walked into my ward. I almost jumped off the bed to hug them. For that moment my anxiety dissapeared and I was filled with such joy. Vince gave me a big kiss and said he would be waiting for me when I came back from my op and off I went.

20150324_182141_resized Its go time

Once I was wheeled into the theatre waiting area the anxiety had crept itself back into my space. My heart was racing at 1000km an hour. The anaesthetist came to meet me. He was such a divine doctor and really tried to make me feel relaxed. Because it was closer to 7pm it was quiet with only the lonely waiting to have an op. Not too many nurses around, no hustle and bustle like you normally find which was just perfect for me.

I was wheeled into the operating room and loaded onto the skinny bed. All the nurses were divine and chatting to me and telling me stories just completely relaxing my nerves. An oxygen mask was put over my mouth and I was told to breath slowly and that was the last thing I remembered.

The 1 and only operation that I have had in my life is when I had an emergency appendix op. It was stressful and hectic and manic. Nothing compared to what happened that night.

After this op I was essentially half way through my treatment process. I still had to have some chemo and finish it off with radiation. I was half way, half way……………… shoowe I was doing it, we were plodding along. This mountain that seems impossible to climb, this marathon that seemed impossible to to finish, the end/finish line was coming into view. I could do this, I was doing this.

 I AM A WARRIOR

I AM STRONG

I AM A FIGHTER

I WILL DO THIS