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    If you have popped over here from my facebook page could you please add comments in the blog rather than on the link on facebook itself. I dont want to worry YD unnecessarily Thanks. You can now use your facebook log in so you dont need to enter extra details if you like
  • 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

To ‘Mixed Nuts’

“Mixed Nuts” is the facebook group we created for our year of the BSW degree

To my dear ‘Mixed Nuts’ family

You are all so diverse and I think mixed nuts was a great name for our group representing the unique ‘flavours’ we have all bought to the group

I just want you to know how much yesterday meant to me and I was so glad so many of you turned and said such lovely things about me… I felt so much love in that room.

my lovely gifts and cards

One thing I had wished I had said last night that I didn’t think about until I was talking to V at the end was  that you all indicated that you were all so amazed ‘that I had kept coming  to Uni with  everything else that was going on in my life’.

What you don’t realize is that it was for my own sanity.  I had my oldest daughter when I was 22 and had my youngest when I was 26.  When my youngest (YD) was born with a chromosome deletion my identity became first and foremost ‘YD’s Mum’.   When your child with a disability gets a label so do you… especially if you try to be assertive and get the services for your child that they need.  YD left home 8 months before I was first diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer, one of the rarest but the most aggressive forms of Breast Cancer so I went from YD’s ‘Mum’ to the new ‘Label’ of ‘ A Cancer Patient’ in very quick succession.  University has been the first time in many years where I have been Jenny, a university student and recognised as myself rather than ‘the Mum’ or ‘ the patient’ and that has saved my sanity in this journey I have been taking.  Thank you all for seeing me as Jenny first and foremost, even though those other labels were still there they were not the most prominent one.

Thank you again for showing the love and being my family the past 2-3 years.  Go well and I am sure you are all going to be absolutely amazing Social Workers

Love to you all

Jenny

What we told YD

and what she told us….

Most regular readers of my blog and people who know me in person know our youngest daughter (YD) has special needs – stemming from a congenital deletion of part of her 12th chromosome. 

She is 23 years old and has been living away from home in a residential services setting since a few months before I first got diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) in August 2008.  To a certain extent this has enabled us to ‘protect’ her from some of the realities of my cancer treatment and also let me deal with my treatment without trying to be her primary caregiver too.  She knew I still had cancer and that I was taking chemo but now was the time to tell her some important facts….

YD  came home for afternoon tea yesterday (Sunday), we told her I was getting sicker from the cancer and she investigated the electronic laziboy (she loved the fact it had a remote, that the buttons made it go up and down) and  wheelchair that had been supplied by the hospice, we talked about if we went out with the wheel chair she could help push the chair, then she got worried and went off to the kitchen to get reassurance alone with her Dad and they talked about the fact that I was a lot sicker now and that I was going to keep getting sicker – that the cancer was never going to go away.

She had a little cuddle and a cry and went to her room and found her cabbage patch doll ‘baby Tina’ and talked to her – ‘baby Tina started crying’ Dad (OH) and MD went into her room with her. They kept talking to her and she kept saying she was worried and that mummy would get sicker.  She asked was Mum going to die – they said yes

She asked if I was going to die at home or at the hospital – they said I was probably going to die at Hospice – the place she has visited where E (hospice family support manager) works. She then wanted to talk to Baby Tina and told her how worried she was and that she was sad and she had a little cry.

We talked about who the people were that she could talk to when she was upset, the family, some staff, some friends.

She then came out of the bedroom and sat with me in the lounge and asked MD when Mummy was going to die and we said Mummy was not going to be alive for her (YDs) birthday next April.

I  said I was now like my mum (Grandma J) and would  get more sicker fast like Grandma and Grandma died quite soon after she got sick and that we dont know how fast that is going to happen for me. She worked down through the birthdays that I might not be around for – OD’s and C’s birthdays (March) or maybe even be around for my birthday (December) or MD’s (October) – we do not know how fast this is going to happen so it is hard to give her specific time frame.

She was expressing a lot of emotion through Baby Tina – we could find her faster than ‘Baby W’  her older cabbage patch doll doll on the spur on the moment yesterday but will find ‘baby W’ by her visit home on Tuesday.  I think it is really important that baby tina or baby Williams accompany here on visits to me and that she can take them home to continue the emotional processing. We printed out some photos of my laziboy and wheel chair for her take home and she also drew a picture of my chairs and of her , dad (OH), MD and baby Tina sitting on her bed talking

Tara’s drawing – she draws a lot to process things

Just before she left she bought up the subject of whether or not I would be buried or ‘made into dust’ and I told her my idea that I thought I would like to made into dust but then my ‘dust’ be put in a box and be buried or put in a special wall at the cemetery with a notice that said my name etc and she could go and visit and take me flowers at the cemetery and ‘talk to me’ like she does when she goes to Poppa and her godfather’s graves  – she thought that was a good idea.

As she was going out the front door to go home – she wanted me to give Baby tina a hug rather than herself  so I gave Baby tina a hug and told her to ’look after ‘YD’ ’.  YD liked that. As they left she also asked OH and MD whether I was going to be here for Christmas and Boxing Day. As OH started to answer ‘Probably not’ – YD had already started to say “ I want to light a candle and put it by Mummy’s bed for her not being here at Christmas” they said it was a very good idea and that they can do that.

Once MD and OH got toYD’s house with her, YD went straight to her room to reunite ‘Baby Tina’ and ‘Yellow Ted’.  She stood on the side of her bed and sat them facing each other to have the following ‘conversation’

Baby Tina: “ Your owner (turned towards ‘YD’ then back to Yellow Ted) ‘YD’ was upset tonight”

Yellow Ted: “ok Baby tina , break it down for me”

Baby tina:  “ Mum is going to die, Mum is going to die in hospice”

Yellow Ted “ I understand,… I understand”

Baby Tina “ So ‘YD’ is upset”

Yellow Ted:  “I understand”

YD then lined up Baby Tina, Yellow Ted and Pink Ted and said they could look after each other and ‘YD’.

Terminal velocity

Dictionary definition of ‘terminal velocity’

noun

1.

Physics .

a.  the velocity at which a falling body moves through a medium, as air, when the force of resistance of the medium is equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to the force of gravity.
b.  the maximum velocity of a body falling through a viscous fluid.
2.

Rocketry, Ballistics .

a.  the greatest speed that a rocket, missile, etc., attains after burnout or after leaving the barrel of a gun.
b.  the speed of a missile or projectile on impact with its target.

Not quite the meaning of the heading above – unfortunately my definition of the title is something quite different.  It is how fast I have gone from being on chemo to how fast the cancer has taken off when I went off it.  in other words the ‘velocity’ at which I have become a ‘terminal’ cancer patient
When I made the decision to stop chemo 6 weeks ago all of us including my oncologist Dr H had an expectation that I would have a couple of good months before the cancer really started ramping up again  … how wrong we all were.  My blood tests of 6 weeks ago showed my CA 15-3 tumour markers had fallen to 174 and my liver function (GGT) was a good steady 117
I went away two weeks ago on a trip to the beach town of Whangamata (was going to do a pictorial blog post of the great time we had but thought I need to update you on this news first ) with my friends from uni (OH joined us later in the weekend) and realised then how much my appetite had dropped and also that I couldn’t stand in one place for more than a moment without getting quite dizzy and woozy.  I also had two bouts of unexplained nausea – one on the Sunday morning after which I slept for 3 hours and one on Monday evening heading home with OH.  The bouts of nausea and wooziness then became more regular and my appetite dropped right off so I knew something was going on, but nothing really expected me for the news that I got on Wednesday.
When I told Dr H at my oncology assessment the symptoms that I had been experiencing and then him doing a physical exam of my abdomen coupled with my blood test results the evidence was irrefutable. The liver just on physical examination was significantly larger than it had been  6 weeks earlier and it was the cause of all my issues – it was large enough to be pressing on my stomach restricting how much it could hold and the reason I was feeling so dizzy/woozy when standing was that it was actually pressing on my femoral veins so that my blood wasnt able to circulate properly and my brain wasnt getting enough blood flow.
Then he divulged the results of my blood test CA15-3 had jumped from 174 to 2060 and GGT had jumped from 117 to 1165 which meant my liver was no longer able to cope with the tumor load without affecting its function – that is my liver function was starting to be impaired and will ultimately fail .  When I asked him a time frame, while I had prepared myself for the fact when my liver started to fail I would have very little time I wasnt expecting his answer.  He hesitated and said worse case scenario 3-4 …weeks (!!!?@@ was appearing in my brain at this point) best case scenario 3-4 months – in all likelihood somewhere in the middle of those points but if I got ill at all it would be looking more at worst case scenario because at this stage my liver can’t handle me getting a cold on top of the tumor load.
He put me on steroids to try to take down some of the inflammation that the enlarged liver has caused to surrounding organs, He said I would be due to have a follow-up visit with him in 6 weeks but I would now go under the doctors at hospice for more routine symptom management.  He is not sure I will be well enough to travel to the appointment in 6 weeks but he will schedule it in the hope that I can.  Before I had my assessment they had been scheduling me for an MRI just to see the state of play and I had just received the appointment for that but Dr H said given my symptoms and the blood test results the MRI wasnt going to tell us anything we didn’t already know and that it was a waste of a day that I could be spending doing something more important or enjoyable.
One good note I can say about velocity at this point is having already been in touch with the hospice and being registered with them and they know what my needs might be when I rang them yesterday morning (Thursday, the day after the oncology appt) the hospice nurse came out and visited me later that morning and today (Friday) I was delivered a shower chair, an electronic lazy boy and a wheelchair. The shower means I can sit while showering thus not getting dizzy/woozy standing in the shower. The electronic lazy boy means I can sit/lie with my abdomen not scrunched up therefore allowing me to eat easier and as time goes on, if I get weaker it also has a function of helping me stand up.  And the wheel chair means I can still get out and about on fine days.

wheelchair

shower chair

electronic lazyboy

The family is all in a bit of a state of shock but because we have already talked about a lot of things and half-planned out some of the eventualities now it is just a matter of putting what we need want in place.

The hardest thing is to let go of my independence from now on. I can’t drive myself anywhere or do anything by myself and I need to have people to help me – the family is rallying around and I am trying to schedule others who want to help around them.  This is the time when I do need to accept the help that people want to give.
There will be some follow-up posts to this one to clarify but I thought I better update you all as to what was happening.