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.

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…………

GLIMMER OF NEW LIFE

Emotionally I have been strong for a little while. Which has been great not feeling like I have cried for every small little thing, feeling weak and helpless. It was great to feel somewhat normal but then my daughter Keira (9)  sang a song for me. She is part of the school play “The Little Mermaid” (one of my childhood favourites). She has an angelic voice which floated right over to my fragile heart and gave it a big old emotional grip.

In that very moment of listening to her sing the fear crept sneakily down my spine, cold moving slowly down my legs. The tears just started flowing and all those damn what if’s I managed to keep at bay for a while now started playing over and over in my head.

What if I didn’t get myself seen to when I did, what if I left it another year where would I be now, would I even see them finish school, would I get to see their plays, their sporting achievements, their start of high school, their decision on what subjects to take, boyfriends, heart-break, entering into womanhood, matric dance, matric finals, marriage, grandchildren. And even though I have caught this early will I get to see these things……….. around and around these thoughts went.

I know that all sounds crazy and yes I know I shouldn’t think like that but these are really fears and I wonder if once I am done and dusted with this part of life if I will still have these moments. These what if moments. Will they haunt me, hanging over my head, my own little personal thunder-cloud. What is my life going to be after breast cancer?

I know I am going to sound bias now as every mother does but my children are the most beautiful little souls inside and out, don’t you think 😉

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Radiation morning arrived and I was quite excited in some sort of strange way to get it all started. Most likely because it was the last haul. I was waiting outside the room when the door opened and another lady walked out looking very overwhelmed. The radiation people were saying “you see it wasn’t that bad, once we started again you were calmer”. A little anxiety crept in because I had been through this with my mom I kind knew what to expect. It was her first day too and so for the next 6 weeks I would have a radiation buddy, yay for me 🙂

I was lead into the room and told to take everything from my waist up off. At this point I am no stranger to bearing my tatas for all to see and so I striped down and walked over to the very hard looking bed. They have these extra’s that they add onto the bed to ensure you are in the correct position and my position for the next couple of weeks were hands above my head in a kind of stirrup, head turned to the right.

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Nigel entered the room (yes a man) and stood over my bare chest ensuring those alien green lasers lined up with my new tattoos. He moved my torso slightly and continued to call out some numbers pertaining to my position. Again I’m no stranger to having my bare chest showing but did feel a little awkward. I suppose he does this all day long and like a gynae doesn’t even notice (or so we hope ha ha)

I was fine up until that point but then everyone left the room and my heart started pounding and my breathing became quick and short and I started to feel all panicky. The machine started to whiiirrrrr and click and then a loud buzzing sound. I felt heat on my skin, then the machine started to move to the other side of my body and the same whiring and clicking happening and then more buzzing. I felt like I was in a sci-fi movie. And then it was all over, just like that, quick, quick.

Was that it, man oh man this was going to be easy peasy. No sitting in the chair for 4 hours, no nausea, no hair loss just a little suntan I can do this.

And so I suppose for the next 6 weeks life it going to be a little groundhog day. I can’t wash the area that is being radiated for the 6 weeks plus about a week to 10 days afterwards. Well this was going to be interesting. It is such an instinct to jump in the shower or put on roll on and body spray. All of that will have to be abandoned for the next 2 months of my life. Thank goodness it isn’t summer time and I could possibly get away without washing my 1 armpit without being detected from down the road ha ha.

I have made new friends at radiation and as it usually goes everyone keeps to themselves, generally looking at something on their phones or talking to the person that came with them. And as the time goes on you start asking basic questions or making a comment here or there and then suddenly you know each others intricate details of your lives, sharing stories about your treatment or having general chit-chat about the weekend or the weather or children or work. It’s like an instant connection just add cancer.

I continue to get inspired by my group of Soul Sisters all of them having breast cancer and all of them young. We help each other through our low moments and laugh with each other when something crazy happens with our treatment.  These ladies are truly phenomenal and I am so grateful to have them in my life.

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And so each and every one of us effect by this disease towards the end of our treatment definitely try to find our “new normal”. Picking up the pieces after the turmoil we have endured over the last couple of months or even boarding a year. Like the phoenix rising from the ashes we too shall rise in our newness to face the world with a different outlook, with new passion for life.