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    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.
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    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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    No Princess Alone button

Irrelevant but not Irreverent

I have struggled to write this blog post, updating what happened at the oncologists last Wednesday, and have put it off until now because what is going on with me seems so inconsequential compared to what happened in Christchurch a week ago today.  At 12.51pm NZDT on 22nd February a 6.3 earthquake that was centred just outside Central Christchurch caused wide spread destruction and as of today the confirmed death toll is 154 with more still missing.

If you dont know New Zealand geography here’s images from Google Earth to explain where I live in relation to where Christchurch is. As you can see I live a fair way away from the earthquakes.  But New Zealand is a small country of only 4 million people and as such when a disaster of this magnitude strikes it brings us all together as if we were just one big village. 

I have ties to Christchurch – ‘Bro’ has lived down there for nearly 40 years ever since he first left home as a teenager.   Since I have started this blog I have written posts about visits there, in this post and this one and this one, as well as on the earthquake in September last year.  MD has just moved home from there , if she had stayed after the breakup with SB and with University starting last week she could have easily been in the central city when this devastating quake happened.

image of quakes in relation to Bro's house (and where MD used to live)

Bro and his family are OK but my heart was in my mouth for the few hours until I had found out that everyone I knew in Christchurch was safe.  I can only imagine what it was like for families actively caught up in the turmoil.  It is another reason I have hesitated to write about it as I am so aware that it is not my story as much as it is theirs.  The images in the newspaper and on television have been heartbreaking and I am only viewing them through a lens not experiencing it in reality.

image taken from the Port hills just after the quake


It was against this backdrop of national shock and mourning I had my oncology appointment on Wednesday.  I had been hoping for the all clear so I could start university this week with no extra scans, treatment etc to worry about.  Although it was good news on the lung and bone front they are now looking at another area of concern.It can best be summed up by a letter I had to write to my lecturers yesterday

“Subject: Keeping you advised of my health status
Although I have already had a quick chat to A on this subject I thought that advise you all in writing about the status of my health.  I had a ‘routine’ CT scan in December for them to check for another recurrence of my Inflammatory Breast Cancer (I have been in remission from first recurrence since May 2010 – initial diagnosis and treatment Aug 2008 to April 2009 recurrence September 2009).
We were expecting nothing but at my appointment in January they told me they did find a couple of points of concern (small spot on lung  and bone pain)  which required further investigation.  I had a followup appointment with my oncologist last week-  23rd of February, where we hoped to get the all clear for me starting University with nothing to worry about.  Although they have ruled out the spot on my lung being cancer and my bone scan being clear, they are now concerned about a shadow on my liver. 
they have booked me for an urgent CT to be done within 2 weeks of last Wednesday and depending on what it shows more follow up may be required.  If the shadow has disappeared then it isn’t cancer,  if it has stayed the same I am looking at having a liver biopsy to rule out cancer and if it has grown they will make the assumption without biopsy that it is Liver metastases and I will go back into active treatment instead of just being on 3 weekly infusions of Herceptin.
I am only part-time this semester doing Socwork papers 215 and 216 so even if I do need treatment I am hopeful of carrying on with study.  I may have to take time off over the next couple of weeks to get this sorted.  Hopefully I will get the all clear and be able to carry on the rest of the semester with no additional treatment, scans etc. 
I will keep you all posted as to what is happening.  Here’s hoping it’s nothing”
My over-riding thought since Wednesday is even though I am worried about this, it is nothing compared to the reality that many people are facing in Christchurch.  I’m still alive and my family is still all around me and for that I am extremely grateful.
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  1. BRO

     /  February 28, 2011

    We’re are lucky compared to some ! We have a roof over our head – we have power, no water, have food & fuel & both cars – some people have the clothes on their back only – Death toll is currently 154 (1100 – 01/03/11) and body recovery has slowed considerably. We know this ’cause our house is on the flight path from CBD to Burnham ( the morgue). We were lucky on Saturday to get out of town for 5 hrs ( missed 4 EQ aftershocks ) & went up to our good friends at Lake Coleridge Lodge, & got some washing done, & chilled for a few hours. We can cook & get water from an artesian well from the school across the road, so we are in comparative luxury.
    I have 2 guys from the United States ( Ex Marines) billeted out at a friends place in Rangiora, & they have IT experience& a backup water purification plant – at this stage we are waiting for an email from Civil Defence( CD) to get them accredited & we will go from there.
    The Canterbury Volunteer armys are emerging – Student Volunteer Army / Farmy Army / CHCH Baking Army, & some others.
    A poignant moment was yesterday afternoon, when I was showing the Yanks through the worst hit areas of Bexley / Wainoni / Dallington, when a young Maori boy standing on a raised manhole ( EQ Damage) offered us a pottle of hot food & an apple from a carton his mate was carrying – this in one of the worst hit areas & very low decile areas. Everyone is trying to do something to help, even when their own circumstances are severely compromised !

  2. I’m so glad your family and friends are all ok. My heart goes out to all those affected, directly and indirectly.
    Your worries aren’t trivial, though, even if the whole country seems to be wandering around in a daze at the moment! (At least, that’s what it feels like to me sometimes). I will keep my fingers crossed for you that you get an all-clear very quickly. Big hugs.

    • Here in Auckland, I find I notice it most on the train or in public spaces, there is a air of subdued bewilderment. People aren’t as quick to laugh or talk loudly.

  3. I’m so sorry for all you’re going through. I hope and pray the shadows on your liver disappear.

    – Judy

  4. Cheryl

     /  March 17, 2011

    Hi Jenny,
    Just to up date you on what has been happening here North of Christchurch on 22/2/11. I was at school with my 25 year 6 and seven students. It was a cool day and as our lunch time is at 1.45, I was allowing the students to stay in the classroom for lunch. The eerie part of this earthquake was that there was no sound before hand and the shaking started and then quite a roar. I yelled to the children to get under the desks when the shking really went crazy. (Usually we wait for a few seconds because there are still aftershocks from the first one happening. It seemed to be like being on a bucking bronco. Very severe jolting up and down and then riding waves while I went to the door to get the children outside the class into the turtle position. It was a precarious place to be as our doors have class in them and above the dooor so it is not a recommended place to be. The alarm went off and we herded the children to the field. Out of my class of 25 there were only three children that were not coping at all. I got their friends to accompany them while I got the roll and trying to get the students to answer their names was quite a challenge. One of my students was shivering and her teeth were chattering so I gave her my vest to wrap herself in and got her friends to give her a cuddle. The students were being fantastic really just an excited chatter until parents started streaming through the gate crying and screaming to get their kids. It made it quite chaotic. We waited for a while so that all the rooms could be checked. We got the all clear and we went back into the classroom. I got a text from my husband to say he was ok and trying to make his way home and asked after me. I sent a text back to him asking if he had heard from Tamara who had just started back at Uni that week. He hadn’t but said he was trying. Each of the texts took over an hour to get through. My son rang me from Auckland and I said I was OK and that his father was fine but I couldn’t talk as I was dealing with my students. We went back into the room and the students were placed under the desks to eat their lunch and play cards. Parents were coming in and collecting their children so the numbers were dwindling. It was chaotic in the office as we asked all parents to notify the office that they were taking their children with them. Once the children weree semi settled things seemed ok when suddenly there was another large after shock. We got the children crouched under desks and then were were herdeded out to the field again. I had one student that I couldn’t accopunt for but one student told me his mother had come and taken him away. I couldn’t verify that until one of the other teachers had told me that they saw her with him. Phew. By two o’clock I had only nine children left in the class and they were quite settled. A couple of students didn’t want to go home as it was more fun at school. I encouraged them to go after the parent came back after the second aftershock. I still hadn’t heard from my daughter and I was also trying to find out about my oldest son and his wife, my parents and brother and sisters and their families. We were hearing some horrific stories about building collapses and buses being crushed, but we had to remain clam foir the students sake. We had all the children from my class collected by three o’clock and we were checking on students that had gone home without parents collecting them. We drove to their homes to check. All was ok but some of the parents said it was horrific in town that it had taken two hours to get home when normally it was thirty minutes. We are very lucky to liuve so close to Christcurch but also in a place that hasn’t suffered greatly from aftershocks. At home we don’t feel aftershocks under 4.5. I encouraged all my family to come out to our place, but we still hadn’t heard from my brother Richard. (He owned the Manbchester Courts building that was badly damaged in the first quake and there were big arguments over pulling it down. We knew his office building was an old heritage building in Worcester Street with the restaurant Pedros above it. It was next door to buildings that had been devastated in the first shock. I got home at four thirty and Euan had been trying to get home since 1 pm. I finally got through to Tamara and she was fine but ferrying people to their homes. The roads were very congested though so it was taking a while. We got hold of Jeremy and his wife and they were fine but Jeremy was very shaken. He was in Columbo street and had only just walked out of a building that collapsed and he was right beside the buses (Over the road) that had buildings fall on top of them. He was very lucky not to be seriously injured. They were coming out with my Grand daughter Jessica who was at school in Redcliffs and her story of their evacuation was quite horrific too. Boulders were coming down the hill beside their school grounds. My sisters and their families were fine and they all came out to stay. We still hadn’t heard from Richard and we were all very worried. My parents were fine but they wanted to stay where they were as mum has a whole lot of rabbits and dogs. We finally found out that Richard was Ok. he had to walk from his building to his ex wifes place in Riccarton to make sure his children were safe. His building had collapsed on top of him. He saw the ceiling coming down and the wall separating from the ciling so he dived under his desk for tunately he did that as a beam crashed down on his chair and desk. His office was open to the street. (His buiding was in one of the before and after shots. he managed to get out to our place by 10 pm. His phone had been lost on his desk in all the rubble. He was agitated and very bruised and he didn’t want to stay as he wanted to check on his place on Huntsbury Hill. We told him it could wait and we stayed up with him until 1.30 am. I finall7y managed to get him to stay or so I thought) At around 2pm I heard our front door open and a car drive down our drive. It was scary as we had no way to contact him. For a week my family stayed there were up to 25 for dinner some nights. Funnily enough It was quite a lot of fun having your family so close but very tiring. Each day the house cleared out as family members had to check on businesses and Euan being in the building trade had to go into work too. Our school was closed for the week. The rest of us helped the communtity out by bottling water (We have an artisian well) baking bread etc (We had power water and septic tank so it was unreal being out here and so much devastation in town. Our school did not open the following week as 9 of our staff had severe problems with housing and family issues. The rest of us made up volunteer teams by digging out the most smelly silt form peoples gardens on the eastern side of Christchurch. We also had a group of us go into Latimer square to help feedc the Usar and rescue teams from throughout the world. It was very humbling and they were so friendly and thankful of us feeding them so well. It was long days as we had t be ferried in their at four a.m and ferried out at 2pm. They were often working ten to twelve hour shifts too. So we were very lucky. We have now been back at school two weeks and it is hard to believe that we are so lucky compared to the poor souls in Japan.

  5. Cheryl

     /  March 17, 2011

    I ended up with three extra students from different areas in my class since we reopened. Most of them are planning to stay until the end of the term. Euan had his surgery on his shoulder last week as he had torn his subscapular tendon in his shoulder. It was a full depth tear and it looks like their will be a six to eight week recovery time and then a six to eight week rehabilitation time. He is such a good patient though and is managing for himself while I am at work.


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