I just want to share with everyone that today was my last day of intensive chemotherapy! I am finished the major part of my treatment and I don’t really know how to feel. This morning I received my last two injections of Pegaspergase into my thighs – I am very glad I don’t have to go through that again! It has been my life for the past year, this treatment fought my disease until I went into remission and has continuously kept everything at bay. It feels quite daunting going into the next chapter without intensive treatment, but I am so proud of myself for getting through the last 9 months relatively smooth sailing. Here’s to the next two years of maintenance therapy, and zero relapse!!!
Thank you to my army of supporters who have sent me beautiful messages and have had me in their thoughts this year, I couldn’t have got through it without you. I love the love treatment!
Last Wednesday I completed my radiation treatment! I have reached my first major milestone, finally something officially ticked off the list! At first I found it a bit freaky, but it was over in literally five minutes, and when the radiographers left the room I made them chat to me through the speaker so I didn’t feel alone in the room. The mask I had to wear was fixed to the table so I wouldn’t move and that felt a little claustrophobic, but I shut my eyes and went to my happy place and all was fine. During the treatment I would hear the machine move around my head and blast the radiation. Although radiation waves are invisible like x-ray waves, with my eyes closed I saw bright neon purple light coming at me from the direction of the machine. I was told that this was the radiation hitting my optic nerve. I also smelled a funny metallic smell while receiving treatment – people who have experienced radiation will know what I’m talking about! I am so glad that phase of treatment is over, and I have my mask incase I want to transform it into a work of art, a mold for mums pottery or for just general day time casual wear.
Since the completion of my radiation I have done lots of lovely things. The weekend before last, about 10 Devonport families went out west to Whatipu for the weekend. It was so stormy! But that added to the atmosphere of the wild, windy west. We stayed in an old homestead with dinky little old fashioned rooms and a common room where all 32 of us played various games of snooker, 500 and Balderdash. While some people set out for a five hour trek up in the Waitakeries and some went for a smaller walk up to the trig point, my sisters, Laura, and Emma kindly accompanied me on the the easy (for them) walk to the beach and to the rocks. The winds were up to 100km apparently! I have never felt so close to being blown away.
Another exciting thing was that Sam flew up from Dunedin and took me to One Direction with her! I have to admit, I have been 75% converted into a ‘Directioner’. Being surrounded by thousands of 15 year olds screaming for Harry Styles was rather painful but lets be honest, it is much more realistic that Harry would go for someone his own age (or slightly older) aka moi. I did enjoy it however, it was entertaining watching the boys run around the stage playing jokes on each other and generally having a great time. Niall is my fave.
Then last weekend, Leisha, Issie and Holly flew up from Wellington to see Beyonce. We booked our tickets in June and finally the time arrived! Six of us were meant to be in general admission, which I was a bit worried about being in such close proximity to the general public who could have who knows what for me to catch with minimal immunity. So Laura and Michael worked their magic and emailed Vector Arena letting them know my condition, and we ended up with seats and a perfect view only 10 metres away! Beyonce was incredible! It was far from your bog standard concert, it was a show – a spectacle. The all-female band, the black bootilicious back up singers and her dancers were all out of this world. The lighting and costume changes were all so slick, the show was very polished and professional. Beyonce is a superhuman, the most beautiful person in the world. Not only does she sing perfectly live, her dancing was phenomenal. I left the concert just wanting to hang out with her and be her friend!
I started my last lot of chemotherapy treatment Monday-week ago. For this last month, I have to have treatment on day 1 (Monday), day 2, day 11 (tomorrow), day 21 and 22. Then I’m done on November the 5th! I can’t believe the major part of my journey is almost over. I keep thinking back to the day that my GP told me I had ‘leukaemic cells’ and being in complete shock and feeling utterly scared. I remember initially telling people that “I have cancer” and the overwhelming support we received, being showered in thoughtful gifts and being delivered dinners. So many people offered love, prayers and thoughts to me and for that I am truly grateful. I would like to say thank you so much to everyone who have kept me in their thoughts, because it is all of that love treatment that has got me and my family through this year! I feel very lucky to have a supportive family and lots of amazing people in my life.
Love you all!
I know I am uninspired for ideas on my blog when ‘write blog’ keeps on getting lower on my to do list and things like ‘get pin number on debit card’ (which I only use for internet shopping, no pin needed) get higher. This post is seriously overdue and has been niggling at me! It doesn’t seem to be until I end up in hospital (which is where I am now) with a neutropenic fever that I pull my socks up and actually write a post! I arrived back on ward 62 on Thursday afternoon after a lovely, busy, independent day. In the morning, I went to Dove House and received a surprisingly relaxing facial after hearing New Zealand had not quite won the America’s Cup. I then had a cuppa with Gran and checked my temperature, which was on the high side – 37.7. Knowing that as soon as it hits 38 degrees I had to go into hospital, I spent lunch at the Calder’s willing it down. Unfortunately when I got home my temp was up to 38.4 so straight in I went. I was extremely frustrated because I had so many exciting plans this weekend including a few special 21st parties and meeting our soon-to-be new 4 week old Spoodle puppy! I have been so well lately, and it just had to be this weekend that my temperature spikes…it’s funny how that happens. In the end my health is my number one priority…and it’s not long till I won’t have to worry about having low white cell counts, being prone to infection and inevitably catching something that will land me in hospital!
The lady who gave me the facial pampering at Dove House talked to me about the importance of using high SPF sun block (at least 50-70) on my face and scalp when sitting in the sun. Thinning of the skin is a side effect of chemotherapy so I have to be extra careful in the sun. I learned my lesson the other day when Amelia, Aimee and I were sitting outside Zest soaking up the beautiful day and my newly re-bald head got sizzled! I felt like the guy off the movie Goldmember when it started peeling…gross. The facial I had was the most amazing thing! I have mentioned Dove House on the blog before, but if you haven’t heard of it, it is an organization that offers holistic alternative therapies to those with life threatening diseases – for absolutely nothing! I go every so often when I feel I need a bit of pampering or some relaxation, and that facial certainly made me relax!
It is very exciting, because last Friday I reached the end of my set chemotherapy protocol! I only have the extra chemo injections, and what ever else Dr. Hawkins has up his sleeve left – for added insurance if you like! My radiation treatment starts on Monday for 8 days in a row apart from the weekend. The idea of radiation really daunts me – mainly because of the fear of the unknown. A lovely person from the community came over for a cuppa the other night, however, and we chatted all about their experience with radiation and many other related matters. It helped me a lot and I thoroughly enjoyed it, it also made me feel more prepared as the only exposure I’ve had to radiation is seeing it on Breaking Bad, which freaked me out!
Last week I had a mask made for the radiation therapy. The mask stops you from moving while receiving the treatment and is necessary because the radiation needs to be targeting the same exact points every time in order to be successful without exception. It is essentially a piece of plastic molded to the shape of your face with little holes for breathing. Wearing it isn’t bad but when they bolt it to the table to make your head unmovable, it does feel a little claustrophobic. I will write a separate post after I have been through the treatment explaining all the little details!
Mum and I have been addicted to the TV series Breaking Bad. It is so intense! I find myself thinking about it when I’m not watching it. When I re-shaved my head (which I did 2-ish weeks ago because my hair was falling out again) I started joking that I now look like Walter White haha! The only thing is though, when Walt goes through chemotherapy in season one, (don’t worry this isn’t giving anything away to those who are yet to watch!) it made me feel quite sick watching those different coloured toxic chemicals dripping into him. Watching him have the side effect of nausea made me feel a bit grotty too…it was a bit close to the bone and a wee bit too soon I think! I highly recommend this series though, it is gripping and will have you hooked.
Another exciting thing that recently happened was Issie coming to visit last weekend! It was her 5th time coming up to Auckland from Wellington to visit me this year – what a special friend she is! The family, Gran, Issie and Evie went up to Algies Bay for a relaxing but torrential (weathered) visit. Feasting on waffles and bacon at Matakana markets, walks at Tawharanui and Scandrett regional parks, visiting Brick Bay Sculpture Park & Winery and loads of card playing, reading and snuggling up were all accomplished. Another memorable weekend with some of the special people in my life at Algies Bay, thank you so much to Tracy for lending us your place again!
I have already been making a big song and dance about it but…IT’S MY BIRTHDAY IN A MONTH!!!!!!!! I have allowed myself to be extra excited because we will be celebrating two awesome milestones – me turning twenty one and the end of my major treatment! The planning and organizing for the event have begun and I have been looking through old photos – and, if I don’t say so myself, I was a bit of a cutie!
I hope you are all happy and well!
I absolutely love food, and am trying to be as healthy as I can at the moment, getting as many leafy greens and foods containing high amounts of electrolytes in my body as possible. I am also very keen on going to cafes, its an activity I do very well! Last week Mum and I met two very special people, Marianne and Faith, at Ponsonby’s new organic cafe, that is also gluten, dairy, sugar and guilt free! Little Bird has such a lovely, homey feel with potted herbs and plants everywhere, fitting in with their natural, eco image. What I find so awesome about the place, is that it is built on the principals of a healthy diet, and a well life. They believe that food should not only taste amazing, it should make you feel amazing too and raw foods naturally provide an abundance of nutrients that will make every cell in your body sparkle. What makes Little Bird Unbakery ten times more awesome, is that they sprout and activate their own nuts and seeds. This not only increases their nutritional content, it also makes every bit of that goodness more bio-available to your body.
Between us, we ordered the Tom Kah Coconut Herb Broth (with kelp noodles), the taco plate with black beans and dirty rice and the Bird Bowl (four salads including quinoa, wild rice and millet pilaf with delicious avocado and homemade hummus). Each was so tasty with so much crunch! We also ordered a very healthy sounding smoothie – The Berry Antioxidiser (blackcurrant, banana, acai, honey, vanilla and almond milk) which was a tasty balance between sweet and tangy.
Although I haven’t tried any sweet treats, Little Bird is famous for it’s raw, low GI, soy, gluten and dairy-free cheesecake. Raspberry and cacao non-cheese cheesecake sounds pretty yummy to me, I will be all over that next time I go!
I know I seem to be giving every place I visit full marks, but The Little Bird Unbakery really does deserve a 10/10. If you are a coffee connoisseur however you may be apprehensive because they only serve Kokako cold brew coffee and herbal coffee. But I am not, so this isn’t relevant to the squeaky clean 10 I’m giving them!
I hope you get a chance to visit this lovely place sometime in the near future, and enjoy it as much as I did!
“Happy are they who take life day by day, complain very little, and are thankful for the little things in life”. I learned the real meaning of appreciating the little things in life – in the bodily function sense – the other day. Without going into too many gory details, I’ll tell you how.
Last Wednesday night, I had such excruciating lower back pain that I knew we needed to get to ED ASAP. When we arrived I was quickly put on morphine and tramadol to ease my discomfort, but the stabbing feeling did not disappear. Many sleepless nights ensued. My stomach grew so swollen that by the end of it you’d be forgiven for thinking I was 6 months pregnant. When the doctors couldn’t get to the bottom of it, I had to have an x-ray and a CT scan, and was examined by several surgical teams only to be told that my system was blocked from the top of my tummy to the very end of my bowel…for lack of a better word, I was severely constipated. To cut a long story short, I ended up staying 5 days in hospital pumped up on obscene amounts of laxatives. It was a very (excuse the pun) ‘shitty’ situation! The doctors told me that my stint in hospital was thanks to a drug called Vincristine (a drug as evil as it sounds), which I have recently had three lots of. Other inconvenient side effects have included hair loss, muscle and joint pain, changes in vision, swelling of the face, weakness, sleeplessness and unsteady walking. You could say that this is the worst I have felt thus far on my journey.
Since I got out of hospital, I have been spending a lot of time on the couch resting and watching TV. I have started watching the series ‘Breaking Bad’…macabre but very good! I am also (ashamedly) addicted to ‘The Block NZ’ hehe. On Wednesday night, following a day of rest, I was finally well enough to go out for dinner at the Blue Breeze Inn with Leisha and Kirsty, who are up from Welly. It was the highlight of my week. I seriously recommend this modern-Chinese-fusion cuisine (that’s what the waiter called it). Everyone must try the steamed bun of Peking Pork Belly and pickled cucumber – 8 whole dollars of crispy mouthwatering goodness. Overall the experience was a 10/10 (for both the food and the loos).
I have also been doing ‘mountain meditation’, to help keep my hauora strong. Hauora is a Maori philosophy of health and well being that includes mental and emotional well being, self esteem, confidence and spiritual well being. With all the physical rubbish I have been going through, mountain meditation has kept me head strong. Meditation is a relaxed state of heightened awareness, it is not a zoned out state. Meditators do experience thoughts passing through the mind like fluffy clouds passing through the sky, but they do not follow, nor attempt to forcefully drive any arising thoughts from their minds. ‘Mountain meditation’ specifically is visualising yourself as a strong, majestic mountain that has stood unmoving and solid for thousands of years. The weather has always been in a state of flux around you. The views change from blue-sky views to mighty banks of storm clouds, dispensing heavy downpours, to sleet and snow. Yet, you have stood firm and immovable. The winds of change that have whirled for centuries around you just pass you by. I find myself connecting to this symbolism. Just like changes in weather, the emotions, activities and situations that whirl around us in our every day lives shouldn’t get the better of us. It makes me feel grounded and unaffected by the bad weather in my life.
On Monday I start my second to last month of major treatment! So close! I’ll be having my radiation therapy, and a concoction of other chemo drugs. I just have to keep on keeping on, it is all for the greater good in the end. I hope everyone is well!
Since I was about 14 years old, I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to sing and perform with the local Devonport band, The Wonderfish Collective. Nick Edgar, the front man/organiser of the group invited me back again to perform again this year at the Victoria Theatre, which was held last weekend. Although I have been skeptical about singing on stage so soon again after this year of chemotherapy meddling with my muscles and therefore my singing voice, I was so proud to be able to stand up there and do my very best. George and I performed ‘Wade in the Water’ by Eva Cassidy and ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ by Bonnie Raitt. I felt so lucky, fortunate and such a sense of accomplishment to be up on stage again! Nick let me pick the wonderful charity to receive the proceedings – which all went to The Blood and Leukemia Foundation NZ. We will be performing again at Galatos in the city on the 6th of September, you can purchase tickets on Eventfinder.
Apart from practicing with George for the concert, I have been paying regular visits to the hospital for chemotherapy which has knocked me around a wee bit. The steroids have made me look like a wee but of a chipmunk and I am quite neutropenic (no immunity) again so have had to be extra careful with hygiene etc, however this changes frequently. For example I have had bad bone aches over the past few days, which is my bone marrow working extra hard at producing white blood cells for my immunity. All that yucky stuff is passing though and I am just trying to get on with regular things! I am still the biggest cafe-hopper you will ever meet…which brings me to my latest idea! Seeing as one of my favorite things to do is meet lovely people and eat naughty savory treats with them at cafes, I thought I would write about it.
Little & Friday and ‘The Brioche’
Being a self-proclaimed original customer of Little & Friday, living round the corner, and a loyal savory brioche eater, it seems only natural to begin to boast about this yummy treat. These pesto, feta, sun-dried tomato and spinach filled goodies are made from scratch and use an abundance of fresh, free-range and organic produce. Best tasted fresh and warmed out of the oven, the savory brioche will hit that spot that wanted comforting on a rainy winters day. With the winning flavor combination and melting buttery texture, I definitely give this treat a (slightly biased) 5/5!
Although I am not a sweet treats connoisseur, Little and Friday is famous for its cream donuts which must be tried at some point! Filled with vanilla custard cream and jam…need I say more? Easy 5/5. Definitely one of my favorite places to visit!
If you want to have more of a look at this wonderful place, or visit it yourself check out their website: http://www.littleandfriday.com/home/
I hope everyone is enjoying their month-of-August’s and are doing lots of lovely things!