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  • All about Gertrude

    Gertrude is the name we decided to call my cancerous breast hence the title of this blog. Although I had to keep my breast through chemo and radiation due to the nature of IBC - once it 'blew up' it no longer looked like my breast and I couldn't wait to get rid of it. Calling it Gertrude was a way of seperating it from myself. This main page is where I write about the general goings on that relate to Gertrude, there is another page that are more a diary of treatments etc This blog is a public blog so although I am being very honest about my battle with Gertrude I have "changed names to protect the innocent" - because everyone can see it if you write comments on the blog pages please use the same abbreviations for other family member or friends that I do. Please feel free to ask questions if you want clarification because then other people who might have been wondering the same thing can read your question and our answers.
  • Abbreviations

    OH- Other Half (Hubby), OD- Oldest Daughter, MD- Middle Daugher, YD- Youngest Daughter, SB- soulja boi MD's fiance in the army (now ex fiance), OD's R OD's partner, BS- Breast surgeon whose initials just happen to be BS as well, BC- our GP (family doctor), Dr H- my medical oncologist, all other friends family etc will be referred to as initials etc
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  • SUSAN’S ARMY

    No Princess Alone button

A new year

Welcome to 2011!! It feel like I only just got used to it being 2010 and its over! LOL

Christmas was a little tiring with the associated chaos of having YD home for a few days and her suffering the effects of anticipation of a change in her residential services set -up.  She has made the decision to move in with young women more her own age,  which will be happening in a few days.  As much as it was her decision, because of her autistic tendencies it tends to upset her equilibrium more than usual, contemplating the changes this move will bring.  She also had to deal with the change at our house of MD being home – I dont think she has quite got her head around that it is not just for Christmas. 

MD as well has had issues settling at home after being away for 18 months and quite frankly OH and I are finding it quite a challenge after being empty-nesters for most of this year since OD left.  Nothing too horrendous –  just having to work out the kinks of all living together again.

Then there is my own emotional state to deal with – I get my latest scan results on the 12th (just before my next herceptin infusion) and while I am fairly sure they will remain clear there is that little voice at the back of my mind going “What if ….What if????”  This little voice is loudest when I am trying to get to sleep at night. Hopefully on the 12th I’ll be able to tell it to “Shut Up!!” until the next round of scanxiety hits.

I found out yesterday that another one of my IBC ‘sisters’ Susanna had lost her life – she had been dealing with IBC for 10 years and was a fighter right up til the end.  I didnt know her in person but had made friends with her from the IBC mailing list and facebook and we had had little fb chats.  I will miss her.

Yesterday was also my 48th birthday. (I was born just before midnight on New Years Eve so each New Year is literally my new year)  Originally I was going to lead this post with that fact LOL but decided it was a more fitting end to my post. With all the kids away for the night, OH and I just had a quiet celebration – we went and sat on the beach (Maraetai) and had fish and chips for tea and toasted my birthday and the New Year with a glass of wine.  We then went for a walk along the beach before it got dark.

 As I was saying to Bro yesterday and OH last night birthdays are more meaningful now.  3 years ago I had thought that reaching my 48th birthday was a foregone conclusion, 2 years ago I didn’t know whether I was even going to make my 47th.  So I am more grateful and thoughtful about reaching this birthday than I otherwise would be. 

So Happy New Year to everyone and I hope this new year brings everyone joy or at least peace in whatever their lives bring them

2 days til Christmas

The last 2 weeks has tore past full of both fun and hard work.

OH celebrated his 56th birthday and the family went out to one of the Mongolian BBQ all you can eat places – OH meal was free as he was the birthday boy.  Those of you that know OH know how skinny he is – so imagine our amusement, and in the case of OD’s R, astonishment at OH’s ability to go back for seconds, thirds, fourths, fifths and sixth helpings. LOL

On Sunday the 12th I had the extreme pleasure of meeting in person another IBC sister S from Australia,  and her husband J,  who had arrived on a cruise.  OH and I picked them up and took them winetasting in West Auckland and showed them the wild west coast beach of Muriwai (including Gannet Colony).  It was amazing just how much the 4 of us clicked and really enjoyed our time together – as I said to S part of it was not having to worry about the flow of conversation being interrupted by explanations of IBC or treatment.  IBC wasnt the only thing we talked about but as treatment and recovery has been a part of our lives for the past 2 years for me, 3 for S, when we are talking about our lives it does colour the decisions we’ve made and the things we have done lately and it was wonderful having a relaxed, ‘organic’ conversation that just flowed without interruption.  We had such a great time, I made the decision to drive and meet the ship the next day in Tauranga and show them some of that part of the country too.  All in all an amazing two days and I am so glad now that I can say S is one of my real-life friends.  Now just have to figure out when I can get to Melbourne for a visit. 🙂

MDs furniture finally arrived and she is vaguely set up in the garage as her ‘space’.  She has managed to get two parttime jobs and so I have spent a lot of time dog-sitting.  She is still struggling to figure out where to from here, as life has revolved around decisions involving her and SB as a couple for the past few years and although it was her decision to end it,  it has left her with some very openended questions about her life and what direction to take.

I have tried to do the usual springclean/tidyup we do getting the house  ready for visitors.  Some of it has just been shoved in the spare room for sorting when I have more time in January. 

In other big news YD is moving house again – her decision – to a house that will have housemates her own age in.  Atlthough she has got on well with her housemates they are all significantly older than her.  The residential service that she is in decided to change the houses around ( with the clients consent) to create two young adults houses – one young ladies, one young men so that they get to do things that are more what they want to do – dont see YD going out clubbing to 3am or anything though LOL.  I think this move will be good for her as in her old house she sort of went along with the majority rule of the other 3 housemates where as in this house she will have a more integral say in what happens.  It will also be a more physically active house which will be good for her.  This move is happening the first week after New Years.  So we are involved in the planning and execution of the move as well.  We are using the opportunity to go through her clothes and other stuff to see what needs to be moved to the new house and what needs to be stored/chucked. 

YD will be at our house from the 24th to 28th.

So as you can see life has been busy.   But I still feel more on top of things than I have in previous years.  I will wrap presents and do more tidying this morning and then this afternoon I will go up to the hospital for my herceptin infusion.  which just leaves fresh fruit and veg shopping and food prep for tomorrow (Christmas Eve).  I’ll do the shopping in the morning before picking up YD and then she can ‘help’ me in the afternoon.

Happy Christmas everyone

Christmas day will soon be here…

Somehow a couple of weeks ago when I wrote the last post –  thought I had all the time in the world to get organised for Christmas – I am organised mainly although OH took it upon himself to do some of the Christmas grocery shopping without consulting me and I dont have the heart to tell him he bought stuff we didn’t need, that I was thinking of a slightly different menu.  I was going to do the Christmas grocery shopping this week having got the christmas gift shopping out of the way. 

I cant help but think OHs shopping is indicative of the way the last two Christmas has gone.  Christmas 2008 (having been diagnosed and starting treatment in Aug 2008) ended up with me being admitted to the hospital on the 23rd and being allowed out for 4 hours on Christmas day to share Christmas lunch with my family in between intravenous antibiotics.  Christmas 2009 I had just started Vinorelbine (navelbine) as a chemo for my recurrence and we were unsure of the side effects so we stocked up in advance just in case I ended up back in hospital again.  OH took a very active role both years in the shopping and organising but somehow it has got to the point where I almost feel sidelined this year.  I wanted to do the shopping and preparation my way, as this year I go into the Christmas season only on herceptin as maintenance chemo and am feeling much better than 2008/2009, and he has taken it out of my hands.  I know I shouldn’t whinge because he is trying to be a thoughtful and caring hubby and I do appreciate it but at the same time I feel like my ideas for this Christmas are redundant.  I admit I was doing things at a much slower pace than he was but he is working this week and I am not – I still have a whole week in which to grocery shop.

Its funny but until I started writing this post I didnt realise just how upset about it I was.  I just rung OH at work to tell him that.  He realises he has probably taken over a little bit more than he needed to this year.  We have both resolved to communicate a little more about it next year LOL.

This was written on Monday but not posted until today (Thursday) as I got sidetracked with Christmas preparations

back to normality?

While I was away I got the appointment for the CT scan that they wanted me to have before Christmas.  I received it in the mail and it was lucky that OH knew how to recognise the envelope so that I knew about it before I came back. 

I arrived back on the 1st December, Wednesday late afternoon and my CT had been scheduled for the 2nd at 8.30 am. I had to be back before the 2nd as it was the day of my next scheduled herceptin infusion but it meant that I had to go to two different hospitals the day after I came back.  The scan was done in the morning at Middlemore and herceptin at Auckland City Hospital in the afternoon. 

As usual the nurses were surprised about how blase I was about the scan and I was counting up how many scans I’ve had since August 2008 – I’ve had two bone scans, 2 brain scans (one CT , one MRI) and 8 CT scans of chest /abdomen/ pelvis .  No wonder I am just treating it like a routine thing.

OH wanted me to get my scan results before Christmas but they couldn’t fit me in so I get them on the 12th of January.  We are assuming that they are still all clear and it is amazing how important it is to me going into this Christmas  with no treatment other than herceptin.   I was in hospital Christmas 2008 and when I started the vinorelbine chemo just before last Christmas for my recurrence, one of the first questions YD asked was whether I woud be in hospital for Christmas again but the most reassurance we could give her was that “we hope not”.  This Christmas we really wanted to have a ‘normal’ Christmas without the cloud of chemo complications hanging over us.  I do have a herceptin infusion on the 23rd of December but that is not going to effect our Christmas other than me having to allow time for it amongst the Christmas preparations.

We have spent the last few days dogsitting until MD arrived up in her car on Monday and then she and I got stuck into clearing the garage to store her stuff in.  We are still awaiting the arrival of the furniture truck so one of us has to be home all the time til it arrives – they are supposed to ring before they arrive but they may not.

I caught up with my uni classmates for a bbq last Saturday night.  – After spending most of a week with them during the past year I definitely miss their faces.  I am meeting up with my smaller group of close uni friends for coffee on Friday.

I am looking forward to next week when things are organised and I can just get on with Christmas organisation

The C in Canterbury stands for…

Christchurch:  the day after I arrived  MD drove me into the central city.  Although not as close to the epicentre of the main quake as some areas of Canterbury, the central city suffered through closer aftershocks and because of the combination of old building and unstable foundations some of the citys older style buildings were badly damaged.  Down every main street there was buildings dotted here and there with scaffolding around them or in the worse case scenario had already been demolished.  What struck me was the seeming randomness of the damage – one building would be condemned while the one next to it of similar vintage would be fine.  Others would look fine from the vantage point of one street then you would turn the corner and see major damage to the roof or walls.  It was quite sad to see the landscapes of streets that I had walked or driven down changed forever by the quake. 

scaffolding round a building

a fence round another building - note the sign

Clearing out: Thursday and Friday were mainly spent helping MD sort out what she was keeping and what she was chucking away and starting to pack it in boxes for the move. 

Cuisine, Culture and Coleridge:  I spent the weekend with Bro and we had a really lovely time .  We went to the Lyttleton Farmers Market on Saturday morning. Lots of very yummy food.  Then in the afternoon Niece B and I went to the Christchurch  Art Gallery where there was a Ron Muerk exhibition. 

On Sunday Bro and his wife took me for a drive up by Mt Hutt and the Rakaia River.  Approximately only an hour across the Canterbury Plains this is where you start being in amongst the ‘foothills’ of the Southern Alps. We stopped in the Rakaia gorge for a picnic lunch then drove up to Lake Coleridge Lodge for coffee – Bro has made friends with the owners here of the converted hostel for the power station which is now the lovely Lake Coleridge Lodge.  I feel I too made new friends that day and will definitely be back to stay with OH

Looking down the Rakaia River over the plains

Rakaia Gorge where we had lunch

Looking upstream from the gorge

view from the Lodge

over the hill behind the lodge ... the lake

absolutely gorgeous

Definitely coming back here!!!

Cleaning:  Monday and Tuesday were spent more clearing and cleaning with MD. The removal van arrived Tuesday morning to get all the furniture etc. 

Crash:  MD and I had ducked out to Rolleston for lunch after the removal van left and had the misfortune to travel behind a truck which had a loose piece of metal that flew off and hit MDs windscreen.  It was some sort of cylinder approx 6-8 inches round and about 4-5 inches deep  – sort of looked like some sort of filter.  It gave both her and I a hell of a fright as it struck the windscreen and if it hadnt been for the fact the point of impact was right where the rearview mirror is attached to the windscreen the whole windscreen would have shattered.  So dealing with insurance and getting it repaired got added to MDs already stressful list of things to do before she drove back.

cracked windscreen

I flew home on Wednesday afternoon with Halo (MDs shitzu/poodle cross)

My sojourn to the South Island

I think everyone should do the scenic train trips at least once – I thoroughly enjoyed them!!

I left our local suburban Auckland Station at 8.15 in the morning on the ‘Overlander’ for the 11 hour trip to Wellington

Some of the views were spectacular especially in areas where the rail went over viaducts above rivers etc

on the viaduct high over one river

Although it was a long day it didnt feel like the train trip was 11 hours long.  There was a half-hour stop at National Park on the Central Plateau where you could get something to eat from the very nice cafe at the station or you could just got for a walk, breathing the mountain air .  It was a pity the cloud was low

Mt Ruapehu obscured by cloud

otherwise I could have got a spectacular view of Mt Ruapehu

I had a double seat all to myself so had plenty of room to move and the leg room is also a vast improvement on airplane economy seating.  The fact you could get up and walk around the train – the buffet car did a good coffee – also helped break the journey up.

One of the refreshments available from the buffet car

On arrival into Wellington I had the choice of getting a taxi or walking to my accommodation which they said was only 5 minutes walk. Both my bags had wheels so pulling the small carryon one with my right arm (the lymphodema affected one) and my large suitcase with my left I decided to walk as it was still light and good weather.  Pulling the suitcases and not being 100% certain of the street layout it took me closer to 10 minutes but it took me up past the ‘Beehive’ and then it was two minutes around the corner from there (not sure whether that is a good thing LOL).

I spent the Monday being a sightseer.  I have not been to Wellington on holiday for a very long time so it was interesting just spending the day there. I visited the iconic department store ‘Kirkcaldie and Stains’, rode the cablecar and visited the  sanctuary for New Zealand native wildlife (Zealandia) as well as wandering around central Wellington and along the waterfront.  My twitter friend Upsidebackwards had kindly left some vouchers at the reception of where I was staying for me to get some discounted or free rides.  Which made the day even more enjoyable (thank you!!!)

cable car

tui beside the path at Zealandia

City to Sea bridge on waterfront - art and functionality in one

The next day (Tuesday) I caught the ferry – I indulged myself and upgraded to Kaitaki Plus which gives you a seat in a spacious comfy lounge  -free food and drink and internet access.  Hot breakfast, pastries, sandwiches and cookies along with tea coffee wine etc – thoroughly worth the extra $40 if you have got it.  You can go out and wander round the deck and know you have a seat to come back to.

enjoying my complimentary magazine 🙂

Entering the Marlborough sounds

I spent the night at my cousins house (thanks J)

On Wednesday I caught the ‘Tranzcoastal’ between Picton and Christchurch. It doesnt leave until 1pm in the afternoon so I spent the morning in the waterfront park with a book and great views

sitting in the park

the coast near Kaikoura

hills on the other side of the track

views of river and ranges

This has been only a small selection of the wonderful views I saw on the way down to Christchurch.   It was a wonderfully relaxing way to get myself down there and I really enjoyed all four days of the trip.  Of course I then spent a week in Christchurch and environs itself.  But I’ll have to write another blog post about that 🙂

Exam results

Just a very quick note to say despite all my fatigue I managed to pass all my university exams went into them with a A+ (Lifespan Development), A (Tongan),  A-(Treaty of Waitangi), and a B- (Professional Communications Skills) and finished up with final grades respectively of 3A and a B so Im happy with that.  I haven’t had much chance to relax yet with everything else that has been going on but the energy I have for other things now shows just how draining doing a full time course at uni was.  Being so mentally active left me with no energy to be physically active.