Six Times a Charm!

Everything eventually heals. Our bodies repair themselves, our wounds heal. Our hearts heal, and even our souls find a way to heal themselves too.

Two weeks in hospital

As I lay in my hospital bed, I wept with the burning pains that pulsed through my chest and body. It felt as if a dagger had been set ablaze, and was cutting through my sternum. I couldn’t breathe. I was put on oxygen – my thoughts were a blur and my mind a mess. I was on a self-press fentanyl drip; as well on a dozen other antibiotics and other post-surgical drugs.How long would this last? I was in a complete vegetative state for a full 3 days after the operation. The agony left me paralyzed.

I was left, once again completely reliant on my friends and the hospital staff to do EVERYTHING for me! It was hard having to reply on others to get me through, but they did!! My amazing support network here in Korea really came through for me. They came to visit me daily and brought with them food, such love and all the encouragement I needed to fight through the toughest parts of the healing process. I am truly indebted to each and every one of them. The love, respect and honor and gratitude for them all – I can never truly express.

However, the body is a fucking amazing thing, and after the 4th full day had passed, I had regained my strength and was able to get up (extremely slowly and cautiously, like a freaking 100 year old women) and take a few small, wobbly steps unaided! On the 5th day, my catheter was removed and I was now able muster the energy to walk a few steps, to and from the bathroom. Then after day 8, I was able to walk around the entire ward. This I tell you, felt AMAZING!! From day 10 they began the slow removal of my over 100 stitches. Then on day 15 I went home.

The real world, My biggest test

Surviving outside of the hospital, has generally been my biggest downfall. It’s usually just days after I am released that I end up back in the hospital. So this time, to ensure I would NEVER have to go back in again for another freaking boob op, I insisted on staying in the hospital until I was truly ready to be released. This meant, that when I eventually “broke free” I could and would thrive (which I have done!!)

The first two weeks after getting out of the hospital, I frequently went in for checkups with my plastics team. They had to still remove tons of stitches, and replace the bandages. However,they were so thrilled with my progress and recovery. I was truly thriving! They gave me some exercises to do to help strengthen the muscles in my back, as they now have to work extra hard as one of the main back muscles, the latissimus dorsi, has been removed. These simple exercises should help to relive some of the suffering of back and neck pains.

Being hospital Free

Since the middle of June, I have been hospital free!! Its been fucking wonderful! I am no longer a hostage to Breast Cancer and, my own body. I am healthy and my mind and body are strong. I have completely healed from this major surgery and wear my scars as badges of honor. I have successfully managed to finally put this all behind me and move forward with the INCREDIBLE life, I know lays before me.

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Tits Enough Now … Really!

My 6th major surgery in just over a year. My body has been through the ringer, I am covered with scars that tell a story of hope. However, at times I didn’t have any myself.

My emergency surgery was done on April 26th. It was a short operation, lasting only 45 minutes. I was yet again awake for this surgery; given only local anesthetic injections around the breast area. This meant I was once again TRAUMATIZED by the whole experience. I felt them yanking out the implant from my breast pocket. My screams pierced the silence of the operating room,and my tears cascaded down my cheeks.

However, the surgery was a success! They had removed the immediate threat to my health. We could begin moving forward.

Everyday for a week after the surgery, I had to return to the hospital to get my wound surgically cleaned. This meant that I had to go into theater daily (It was a living hell). However,after just 4 days of this intensive treatment, paired with a vast amount of oral medication; my surgical team were able to rid me of my deathly infection. It was now time to start preparing me for my next MASSIVE surgery that was to take place on the 7th of May.

SURGERY NO.6

Hours of research, and about a million questions asked and answered (by my incredible plastic surgery team) I truly believed that I had all the knowledge needed for what lay ahead. My sixth surgery in just over a year. WRONG!! I was so grossly wrong! Knowledge, in this case was NOT power. I was so unprepared for the onslaught my body was to once again go through. No amount of preparation would be sufficient. Latissimus Dorsi Flap Reconsuruction Surgery is FUCKING BRUTAL!

May 6th I had the surgery mapped out on my body in permanent marker. This was terrifying! The area that they would be operating on was huge! I was then admitted into hospital. Once admitted, I had to have a platelet transfusion in preparation for the operation the following day. I had to have 3 pints of platelets transfused, as my blood tests had shown that my blood wasn’t clotting well. The infusion of platelets ensured that I wouldn’t loose too much blood during surgery.

May 7th, surgery day. I was wheeled down at 7:30 am to the operating theater. Thankfully, by my side was my amazing boyfriend Zak (he is a flippen champ and deserves a medal for sticking with me through this all!!) and my wonderful friend Katelyn. The surgery was a grueling 8 hours long with another hour in post-op-recovery.

post op

Waking up was excruciating! My entire body felt like it was on fire, I was unable to breathe. My pain was at least a solid 100 on a 1-10 scale. I begged for help, for drugs to make the pain decrease. I sobbed as my body’s senses were overwhelmed with what it has just gone through.

Not again, I thought. Please, I can not go through this agony again!

I was wheeled up to my ward and transferred into my bed. This is always the most debilitating part of the surgical procedure. Again, Zak and Katelyn were by my side, advocating for me. they insisted on stronger pain meds and had to shout at the staff to do their jobs, and treat me with care. Then due to the pain I vomited. I was placed on oxygen as I was struggling to breathe. And after what felt like an eternity, I was given more medicine to try and control the pain. After that, I drifted in and out of consciousness.

This was just the beginning, it was now time to start recovering.

Recovering or Regressing?

I have tried writing this post for almost 2 and a half months now. But each time I sat down to write and record what was happening, a fucking new set of recovery hurdles was placed in my way. New things problems were constantly develpoing with my healing process. Which has seriously made me question. Did I ever recover, or have I just regressed?

Lets re-wind to January 29th of this year.

It was a massive roller coaster of emotions finding out I was CANCER FUCKING FREE, ( fuck yes!!) and then checking into hospital 30 minutes later, to have my 4th major surgery to ‘complete’ the new me and begin on the suposed healing jounrey. All of this to just make me “whole” again (or as whole as you can physically be after cancer has ravaged your body). It’s been far too much to face (to be completely honest) surgeries, treatments and physical traumas – But I was ready for it all to end. The follwing day was meant to be my FINAL SURGERY!!

What I had to Have Done

I went in thinking that I was only going to be getting my right breast implant replaced with a permanent implant and that was it. Well …. as per ‘the shit show that has been my life’ – this was only really the beginning of what I was in store for. I had my left breast adjusted to look as fancy as my new right breast would. As well as getting my cervix corterized to remove any precancerous cells that wanted to rear their ugly, unwelcomed heads.

The operation was a success on all accounts, and both my gynecologist and plastics teams were very happy with how well the surgery had gone.

Just a few short days after the surgery

Hospital stays

I had very limited time off of work to have this operation done. So was only in hospital for a very short 4 night stay. I then sadly had to go right back into working and life again. This definitely was the WORST possible thing for me. It dramatically declined my healing journey.

Returning to work just 5 days after my operation, (with a drain still inserted into my right breast) meant that my body wasn’t given enough time to fully recover. This is the conundrum of living abroad and relying on their health care system. You have to work to have the health care and pay for the endless hospital visits. However, you need time off of work to recover and heal – so that you can work , and work well. Its a vicious circle I’ve been trapped in since starting this journey.

Recovery: Part 1

This recovery has been fucking horrendous!! I Throughout the month of February, I truly believed I was not going to make it. I believed that my body was no longer able to fight. I thought that this really was the end. The short recovery time I had after the operation lead to some serious infections (life threatening!) And lots of agony, daily hospital visits, pain and tears.

I was working a full time job, then going to the hospital for a minimum of 3 hours a day. In hospital I wold see the plastics team, they would change my dressings, check my drain and then send me off to get multiple IV’s. This was all due to the infections I was battling.

The reason I was struggling with these infections was due to a few factors. The first being that my body still has fucking chemo poisons in it (they can stay in your body for up to a year after your final treatment). The second being that my skin is extremely weak after radiation treatments. And the third, and most powerful reason (I feel) is I still had my drain in (which makes it easy for bacteria to enter your system).

They eventually removed the drain after 3 weeks, only to reinserted it back into me TWICE (they oh-so-causally did this via a mini-op in the doctors rooms. NOT FUN!!) But by mid March the drain drama was over . It was finally removed (for good) and I thought that was it. Now all I would have to do is wait for my stiches to heal, and boooooooom, all would be done. I would be healed …
WRONG!

Recovery: part 2

With my skin having been sliced and diced (more times than I can now count at this stage), as well as being weakened from radiation; my stiches were not healing! Instead of contracting and pulling my skin closed to heal, they were doing the oposite. Yes, that neans they were expanding. This meant that no matter how much time I was willing to let them try and heal naturally’, there was just no hope that this would happen.

So, it was back to making fucking massive decisions about my health and how my plastics team were going to handle this stumbling block – all roads leading back to yet another surgery. I consulted my incredible oncologist and she agreed,surgery was going to be the only way to get this mess sorted once and for all.

Thus surgical strategies and options were discussed at length, and I was advised that a tissue flap surgery was the BEST option for me. This was all set up and supposed to take place on April 30th, when literally out of nowhere … things went south VERY FAST!

emergency!!

Within a day of booking my surgery and finally feeling at peace with it (by at peace, I mean crying rivers, not being able to eat and extremely nauseous) my now partially exposed implant had gotten infected and started to poison my system.

I left work feeling dreadful, and took myself to hospital. Once I got there, I was placed in an isolation tent. Loads of tests were being run on me. My fever was at 39.7. I had a red, burning rash over my right breast and spreading, and I was weak. Not to mention I was scared, alone and very confused.

I was to find out later, that a measles outbreak has happened in Korea and they thought I might have it – hence the isolation.

The isolation tent I was in

I was then told I had to have an emergency surgery to remove my implant. This would stop the spreading of infection throughout my body. My incredible friend Katelyn, drove up from her city to be with me as I went in for my 5th major operation on my right breast. The ginormous surgery is still to come. But for now I have to rest, recover. I am not strong enough, or physically well enough to endure it. So we will wait about a week and go from there.

My fight has gone, I am loosing hope. I feel as if each time I enter the surgical unit I loose a piece of my soul, and I am not sure how much more of it I can really endure.

CANCER FREE!

There is no terror in the BANG, only the anticipation of it – Alfred Hitchcock

I think the hardest part about living with any form of decease (that you have fought so hard to rid yourself of), is the anticipation that is laying dormant, waiting to resurface and consume you once again. This is so very real for me, as I have been told that I will not be in remission for the next 5 years (I know, that is a flipen lifetime!!) So, as I prepared to go in for another full day of testing – I was a nervous wreck. I was filled with anxiety and the fear of the unknown. My mind was a buzz with all the “What If’s…” Sleep was not my friend, and when I did manage to get some; my nightmares were flooded with memories of my original diagnosis that haunt me still.

Testing

I had a full day of testing in Cha hospital ( really, my second home, NO jokes!), on Thursday, January 24., it was extremely emotionally and physically draining. The tests where done to ensure that all the cancerous cells were killed off in my treatment over 2018. They were also conducted to ensure I would be able to undergo surgery on February 1st, if I was indeed cancer free and healthy enough to do so.

I had to have two blood tests, a urine test, an ECG, a CT scan of both my chest and abdomen, a bone scan, a full chest sonogram and an X-ray. This meant lots of prodding around searching for my invisible veins (which are basically nonexistent after all my chemo). Most of the nurses were able to get the needles in, in one go. However, the very thick  needles  for  the  CT and Bone sans were a killer.

The Waiting

This is definitely the hardest part. Our minds are mazes filled with doom and gloom. Our imaginations take us down the worst roads and ensure we  lay awake at night tormenting ourselves. It doesn’t get easier, anticipating the worst.

A week in normal time generally flies by, but when you are waiting for possibly the most daunting or wonderful news of your life; each minute of that week fees like an eternity.

The results

On January 31st, 2019. Exactly one year, one month and 5 days since my original diagnosis. I received the most incredible results to date. The four little words of these results were ” You are Cancer free!” 


These four words, have  forever  changed  my  life  in  the  best ,  most  wonderful direction!! These simple words, lifted my spirits and sent me soaring with happiness. These words proved my fight was done. I had conquered breast cancer. My struggle, pain and all the surgeries and time spent in hospital weren’t in vain. I had completed it, I had survived it!!!

I sat in Dr Lee’s rooms and exhaled, letting go of so much I had been holding in. I breathed in a new found hope and joy, and exhaled all that shit I had been holding in. I sat there a new person. One who could look at my future and smile, for it was certain. It was my new lease on life, I was allowed to fully live again.

Cancer was no longer my capture, I was free!!!
I am now filled with unadulterated joy. I am completely and incandescently happy 

Next Steps

There hasn’t been a celebration or this fucking fabulous news yet … as I had to be checked into hospital right after receiving this news (how typical, cancer still trying to ruin me, even when I’m so down with it!!) for my final op (fingers crossed, this will be the very last one).

 

Tis the Season For Reflection and Resolutions

I know that it is necessary to let things go now, to move forward, Simply for the reason that they are too heavy to bring with me.

What a year 2018 was! My life was shaken and forever altered. I have been irreversibly changed (physically and mentally) over the course of a year. 2018 was most definitely one of the worst years of my life. However, in so many aspects it was a year that made me a better human. I have grown, flourished and truly loved parts of the fucking awful year that 2018 was.  So here is a recap of what went down, and how I managed to overcome what was thrown my way. As well as some of the resolutions I have going forward into 2019!!

Where It Began

On the 9th of December 2018, it marked a year of finding the tumor in my right breast.  Then, on the 26th of December I was given the WORST NEWS OF MY LIFE!! I was diagnosed with stage 2B Breast Cancer. How crazy!! I really can not believe what a year is was and how much I went through.

Yet, in 2018 on the 9th of December, a year later; I had completed all my treatments and was able to be a healthier and happier person. I celebrated this victory with Zak by my side. Then on the 26th of December, I was able to sip on cocktails, Lay on the beach and celebrate life in Nusa Lembongan (an island off the coast of Bali) with my brother.

These two days in December will always pack a rather dramatic punch for me, thus one of my resolutions for 2019 and the years to come – is to ensure that on those days, I am surrounded by people I love, celebrating the life I am able to live!

My Surgeries

In 2018 I had 3 major surgeries. The first two were lengthy, very dramatic ones. The first being my double mastectomy, with a full reconstruction. The second one was to remove more cancer they had found, and the third was to replace a faulty temporary implant with another temporary implant. All these came with their own complications, healing times and of course mental and physical strain.

However, the surgeries have left me a much healthier version of myself, than I was a year ago. They have rid me of the cancerous tumors that were in my right breast and lymph nodes.they were shit, painful and caused me endless amounts of stress and anxiety – yet through it all, I now have some pretty darn-near perfect boobies. So my resolution for 2019 is to remember that each battle we face comes with a reward at the end of it.

Treatments

Due to the severity of my cancer, its location, my family history with the decease (my incredible mom passed away of the same decease) , as well as my age and ethnicity – I had to have both chemotherapy (8 sessions) and radiation (25 sessions) to kick this beast to the curb (fingers crossed, for FOREVER!!!)

Both sets of treatments were awful. Chemo, very nearly killed me. It had me in the hospital on an almost daily basis as my body just couldn’t fight it! It destroyed my body and soul. It was the worst kind of torture. Each day while that poison pulsed through my veins was a day I had to physically fight to survive. I think the most traumatic part of it all was loosing my hair. Feeling and looking like an alien broke me.

Radiation was a bitch too! Way less tough on my body than chemo was, but still fucking rough. I got radiation sickness, my skin got 3rd degree burns and I was tired ALL of the time. I think think this form of treatment is difficult as it’s an everyday chore.

Radiation complete. Hair growing back.
Time to celebrate

My resolution to come out this, is patience. For through pain and suffering there comes healing. This resolution is probably the hardest for me as I am not a very patient person.

Looking forward

2019 can only be a better year!! I know it will too have its own set of trails, challenges and stresses – BUT after all the hell I lived through in 2018. It can surely only be a fucking fabulous year!! There is a lot I still have to go through with regards to fighting my decease, but my success rate for winning is 100% thus far. So, I need to remember that and keep pushing on!!

Next week, I will have my 3-month-post-treatment full body checkup (a mouthful, I KNOW!)  To ensure that my right breast (and the rest of my body) have no trace signs of cancer cells. If there are no signs of any cancerous cells in breast, or they haven’t started to grow in any other part of my body (Please all heavenly beings nooooo!!!) I will then have another surgery on February 1st, to remove my temporary implant and replace it with a permanent one.

“Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it.” – Joyce Meyer

Lessons Radiation Taught Me

Radiation was a rather long journey which I had to go through. even though, when compared with chemotherapy it was a much shorter part of my healing journey. The reason I think this felt so long and drawn out’ was mainly due to it being a daily chore. However, Through this process – I have again grown in strength and character. I have learned so much about myself, the medical field and my body. 

So here are five of the lessons that this treatment has given me.  The lessons that I will keep with me, the ones that have impacted my life.  The lessons, that not only helped me get through it, but that made me realize that I AM ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY! 
“The beautiful thing about learning, is that no one can take it away from you” 

Lesson 1: Pain Comes in Many Forms

Pain is not always physical. Yes, most of the pain I had from this course of treatment was physical pain. However, I too suffered mentally. Mentally it was a drain on my spirit. I hated that I was a slave to my 5:20 pm hospital visits. I hated that I was unwell for the last two months for my life. I really hated how time almost stood still as I was constantly tired, sore and had an achy  body! This all sucked and weighed me down.

Yet, when we suffer both mentally and physically we do grow.   We learn new ways to cope, we learn strategies that work best for us. That help us to seek the joy in the small things. The pain reminds us to not take life, our health and happiness for granted. Pain has really been my biggest teacher.

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Lesson 2: Patience

The age-old-Phrase ‘good things come to those who wait’ is probably the WORST phrase any person going through a difficult time, an illness or even someone working towards something could possibly ever hear. It is a phrase which I detest!!! It honestly riles every fiber within me … Yet, it is so darn true. Good things do come, they have come (about fucking time they showed up!) and this is only because… I waited.

The 23 treatments I had to have seemed never ending. They dragged on, especially as I had to push pause on them pretty often, making the treatment a whopping 8 weeks long!!  But, now they are finished and I am in the clear for the moment, which is flippen fantastic.  So, having patience was a key element to my treatment journey

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Lesson 3: Realizations and Resilience 

Again throughout this treatment, my body didn’t react very well (Cancer you are a beast out to destroy!!)  Firstly, I got radiation sickness – where I was so sick, nauseous and vomiting after every session. Then, my skin was so badly burnt from the radiation that I had to pause on treatments for a week. Lastly, I was so fatigued, fed-up and over it!! However, I had to push through and persevere. I had to just wait it out and love myself when my body was harboring some VERY  REAL hatred on itself.  

Thus, once again I had to learn about being resilient. I had to recover quickly and push on even when times where tough. I had to realize, that only once I had knocked these 23 grueling 15 minute a day sessions (sometimes they where longer) out the way, so that I would be closer to my goal winch is of a complete recovery!! For tough times do not last forever, but tough, strong and independent women do!!

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Lesson 4: Gratitude 

I sometimes feel that such a simple word can’t fully express the feelings of my heart. For saying that I am ‘filled with gratitude’ for the life I am still able to be  living; is the understatement of the year!! Throughout this treatment I have once again been reminded of how fortunate I am for the amazing team of people I have in my life, by my side. 

My boyfriend and friends have just been amazing. Zak has come to almost every treatment with me, he has held my hand, cooked me dinner and rubbed cream on my burnt skin.  He has loved me, cared for me and made me feel beautiful when I truly felt like a grotesque human..  My friends have sent me messages, laughed with me and sipped on gin and tonics (or champagne) in the good and bad times. I am forever thankful for their love , comfort and support through it all!!

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Lesson 5:  Trust the Experts

We would all like to believe that we know what is best, BUT WE DO NOT!! (and neither does a google search on your health!) We have to learn to relinquish control, and trust in those who know what they are doing. Since my diagnosis on December 26th 2017, I really have a new found respect, appreciation and love for those in the medical field. 

For they have been my g0-to people. They have loved me and walked alongside me through this journey. They have sat patiently while I have asked countless questions. They have given me a squeeze when words fail them and have listened to me. But above all else, they have been the ones who helped me heal. They have taken their time to ensure I will LIVE AN ABUNDANT LIFE. 

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Radiation, I’m SO Done With You!

‘Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument, in the field of thinking about suffering – and I have to argue; that even in its basic simplicity, this is so applicable to me. This year has been such a journey of literally every and all the emotions. I have had some serious lows and then some absolutely epic highs.  And I really believe that I was able to appreciate the highs so much more; due to the deathly lows I had to fight my way through.

At long last, (a full 8 weeks to be exact) I have eventually finished with my daily visits to the hospital – to receive radiation! I am currently done with this treatment. The big white and yellow machine that shot radioactive rays into my skin, will no longer be a part of my daily routine. It will no longer cause me pain and suffering. It will no longer be the demon I reported to daily. It is done. I am FINISHED!

So, what’s next for me?

Living, #mybestlife – which means I shall live fully and abundantly!! I have an entire month off from the daily hospital visits, a full 30 days where I do NOT have to visit the hospital. I have time for me, time for some seriously self love and care. I am so thrilled. I literally want stand on a rooftop and scream at cancer. I want to yell “I DID THIS! “YOU HAVEN’T BEATEN ME, BROKEN ME OR ROBBED ME OF MY LIFE!! I’M STILL HERE STANDING!!

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After the month is up,I will head to the hospital again for more tests. These tests will be run to see that both the chemo and radiation have done there job and killed off these awful cancer cells.  If the tests come back clear I will (CELEBRATE!!) then be able to move forward and book my next surgery for February of  2019.  The surgery will consist of two parts. The first part will be to remove the temporary implant and replace it with a permanent one; the second part will be to remove my chemo-port which is above my left breast.  

“Character can not be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller