Leaving the Waiting Room

patienceI’ve realised over the past month that I’ve been spending a lot of my time waiting. Waiting for what? Waiting to be told I was well. Waiting for my lymphoedema to heal. Waiting to get the inspiration to start a new business. Waiting for my husband to agree with my aspirations, whatever they may be. Waiting to lose weight.

I wasn’t aware of it until I felt a kick start happen a month ago. What caused it?

I went to have my annual mammogram and ultrasound at The Mater at 7.00am on a Monday morning. There were few cars on the road, only one person in the waiting room and the radiology staff still not there when I arrived. I was feeling anxious, particularly after having to walk by the ward where I recovered from surgery and seeing Chemo Cottage through the Waiting Room window. The last two years came flashing back.

I felt great in myself – fit and well. I still had the odd twinge occurring in my breast, side, shoulder and arm. There was a small doubt. “Would I be clear?” I was called, changed down and went straight in for the mammogram. It was quick and painless. “I’ll just check there’s nothing more”, said the radiographer. I then stood topless, waiting to hear whether I was clear to go on for the ultrasound. “Yes!” “Hooray”, I quietly cheered.

I then put on a gown and waited in a cubicle for the sonographer to be ready. The early hour meant it was a short wait. Next thing I was having warm gel spread on my chest and the ultrasound gun run over my breast and up under my arm pit. “It all looks good”, I heard. “I’ll just check with the Doctor”. I had a contemplative five minutes on the bed whilst I cleaned up and waited for the news. “All clear, you can get dressed and go.” I walked out elated, feeling proud.

IMG_1225I drove home, met up with my husband and then hit the road with him to drive to Mooloolaba, towing our sports boat behind ‘the ute’. We were competing in the National Sports Boats Regatta. How my ability has shifted in the last 18 months – from where I found it difficult to get my balance on the boat post chemo to being an integral part of the crew handling any role I needed to take on during the regatta. It’s the third regatta I’ve competed in in the last 12 months.

I returned to meet with my surgeon. It was the two-year check up. “You’ve heard the good news”, he said. “Any concerns?” “Just my lymphoedema.” He offered the suggestion of considering a lymph node transplant. It’s not that bad and I’m aiming for it to clear naturally with the daytime compression sleeve and night-time Caresia sleeve. So I declined to explore this option. “See you in 12 months.” We shared holiday stories and I left.

The good news didn’t stop there. My integrated doctor had recommended I have another CTC (circulating tumour cell) test mid year. When I went to get the results from him, the reading was down a whole 100 points from 250 to 150. We were both so thrilled he shook my hand. He offered to step up the supplement treatment with some Chinese herbs. I declined, “I want to keep doing what I’m doing. I believe it’s working”. He took me off the liver healing supplements and kept me on the bone density and hormone related supplements. I felt I’d had another win. “Two years down, three to go,” he said – a salient reminder that I can’t be complaisant.

I bounced out of the surgery and greeted my husband with a smile from ear to ear.

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Pilates Reformer

I resolved to keep up my regime of daily meditation, a brisk morning walk interspersed with yoga and pilates, daily juicing, organic food, no dairy, home cooking, healthy eating and plenty of sleep.

Amongst the rounds of appointments I still need to have, I had a six-week check up with my lymphoedema physiotherapist. “What’s the LDX (fluid) reading?” “11.4”, she said, “you’re down 3 points.” A miracle! The sleeves and weekly lymphatic drainage massage were working.

My prescription of PATIENCE during chemo looks like it’s paying off. I could feel the weight of being constantly concerned about my health and healing lifting. I felt I could ‘Leave the Waiting Room’ and start living my life more fully. I felt inspired to start working and contributing to others.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks. I’ve been working on a Wellness Project, facilitating workshops which teach people how to eat and live well. The first one will be in November this year.

All this good news gave me the impetus to talk with my husband about some other business ideas we have. We’ve started to progress them. I’m really excited about my life and am relieved that I’ve STOPPED WAITING!

 

Feeling Whole Again

IMG_1094Earlier this year I got a strong sensation that I needed/wanted to go and spend two weeks hanging out with my sister who is two years younger than I am. She has lived in Europe for 36 years and now splits her time between bustling, vibrant London and relaxing, charming Sicily. I missed her from the day she left Australia and I never really got over her not being nearby. We had shared a bedroom from when she was born until we both left home at the ages of 22 and 20. I got married and she went overseas to model.

I had a yearning, which wouldn’t go away, to have some sister time doing the things we love to do together – chatting, gallery hopping, indulging in great fresh food, hanging out, bike riding and doing a touch of shopping. And that’s exactly what we did for two whole weeks.

IMG_1061London was warm, sunny and inviting. We saw a fantastic exhibition, Classic Italian Fashion 1950-2014, at the Victoria and Albert Museum. From 1980-89 my sister had modeled on the Fashion Runways in Milan and Rome for most of the designers exhibited. How wonderful it was to hear her stories and walk down memory lane with her.

It was an emotional challenge undertaking the trip. In my heart I knew it was something I needed to do. Perhaps it was part of me getting my old life back, reconnecting with the things I love to do and had denied myself for some years with the busy life and responsibilities I had taken on. My husband wasn’t keen for me to go and didn’t understand my need. So I think part of me was in a state of denial, so much so that I didn’t read my itinerary or ticket properly and missed my flight out of Australia – a major inconvenience as all flights from Sydney to Hong Kong were full and I didn’t know when I was going to get on a flight. I decided to wait at the airport in the hope that someone wouldn’t turn up, like I hadn’t, and I would get on the next flight and I did. That wasn’t the end of it. When I missed my first flight, the airline (as they all do) cancelled all of my flights to and from Europe. I had to set about reinstating them, not without some difficulty. It was a salient lesson to me to pay more attention. Or was it a symptom of my occasionally occurring cognitive impairment, post chemotherapy? No matter what caused the mistake, it wasn’t the way I’d planned to start my special holiday.

IMG_1039I filled my creative soul in London. I visited Kew Gardens and indulged in the grandeur of it’s size and the plethora of English and exotic plants. Each morning started with a walk in beautiful Battersea Park taking in its magnificent trees laden with bright new growth. Meditation and yoga were still key. I found a fabulous yoga studio, Triyoga, which I visited every second day.

IMG_3314We walked and walked and walked through Chelsea, Knightsbridge, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Oxford Street, the City, Soho and much more. Our excursions included visits to commercial galleries to see the latest artists and art lectures with artists. With each day I felt more and more enlivened by the gardens, the people, the cityscape, the art and the history. I finished my stay in London with a visit to Tate Modern and the Saatchi Gallery, two favourites. My cup was full to overflowing.

IMG_1120Then we got up at the ‘crack of dawn’ and caught a flight to Palermo. My sister and her partner had finished their dream home in Sicily last year. I was keen to see it – a restored old country house – and its beautiful garden. I wasn’t disappointed. Her partner is a landscape gardener who specialises in old trees. My sister’s impeccable taste was evident everywhere – in the finishes, the furniture and the artwork. And, of course, the garden was exquisite – full of dry climate plants of all ages. I was in heaven and felt fully nurtured from the moment I arrived. I wandered the garden each day with my camera capturing all the different plants it housed.

As my holiday progressed, I could feel my old self stirring, renewing and returning. The feeling of being whole again, in touch with my past, connecting with what was dear to me, having time out and communing with nature.

We visited beautiful old cathedrals in Mon Reale and Erice, the seaside village of Cerfalu, the boulevards of Palermo, historic paved streets of Trapani, the Florio in Marsala and cycled around the peaceful island of Favingana visiting its azure beaches and hidden ruins. All good for the soul. I felt part of my sister’s life, even though it was for a short time.

 

Now I’m back home and into a busy schedule of planning a new business, having treatments for my lymphoedema, sailing, walking and tending my own garden. How easy it all is and feels. I really do feel whole again.

To top it all off, I had my two-year breast screen – mammogram and ultrasound – and check up with my breast surgeon this week and I’m all clear – cancer free. Being true to myself, following my intuition and living my dreams is paying off. How blessed I am.