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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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    No Princess Alone button

1st week, 2nd Semester

Well its been an interesting week.

Monday started off with my first class for my Tongan Language paper.  Its going to be interesting to see how I go in this paper.  We have two assignments of 1000 words (in Tongan) that we need to do – there is no assignment due dates set yet so I am hoping that both of them are a bit later on in the semester when I have more of a grasp on the language.  We had to do a spoken introduction in Tongan and one of the things we had to say was describing ourselves as old women or men in a self derogatory manner as a mark of deference/respect towards the teacher – for me the old woman description is more accurate than for the rest of the class. LOL!!

We tried the slow cooker out for the first time on Monday and had delicious beef bourguignon for dinner when I got home from Uni – I can see this being very useful in the winter months of this semester.

Tuesday was the first of my ‘free’ days during the week – I spent it getting my haircut and doing errands and shopping as well as getting as organised as I could printing out lecture notes etc for my two Wednesday classes – made a big wokful of  pork chinese rice risotto so we can have the second half warmed up for tea on Wednesday.  I didn’t sleep well on Tuesday night partly due to getting a case of the ‘what ifs’  due to the significance of this week in the “Gertrude’ scheme of things

Wednesday was an interesting day but very long.  Our first lecture is at 8.30 in the morning – thank God I’m taking the express train.  As it was the first week we didn’t have any tutorials so we then had a 4 hour gap between lectures in which I spent a couple of hours wandering around Newmarket with a couple of Uni friends AW and JZ (JZ has just started this semester).  Usually my Wednesday schedule will go more like 8.30-10.30 ‘professional communication skills’ lecture, 11-12  ‘professional communication skills’ tutorial, 1.30-2.30 ‘Lifespan development’ tutorial, 2.30-4.30 ‘Lifespan development’ lecture.  Originally LD tutorial wasnt going to be until 4.30 to 5.30 and for half the class it is still that but I’m fortunate that mine has been changed so that I can get home at a reasonable time.  Due to the long break between classes -some people had found other ways to amuse themselves during that time and it made for an interesting diversion in the LD lecture when you have a person that is a wee bit ‘tiddly’ not behaving quite as she should. 

I had a splitting headache by the time I got home just by nature of it being such a long day and it was good that OH could just microwave his half of the risotto while I waited for the headache tablets to kick in.  I slept like a log going to bed quite early that night.

Thursday came and I kept to my  plan of trying to be more on top of organisational things.  I went into university early, catching my usual early express train and helped JZ finish organising her enrolment and guide her a little bit through CECIL our online Uni portal for getting lecture notes etc.  We had our ‘Treaty of Waitangi’ lecture and found out we don’t have any formal tutorials even though we had to register for one, this makes things a lot easier for me to keep having my herceptin treatment every three weeks on a Thursday afternoon.  I spent the rest of the afternoon accessing the readings for different courses and printing some initial ones out using the university printers – it cost the same but it is faster than printing them out at home.  I still struggle to read a lot on the computer of the readings they have scanned and put into PDF format and find it easier to print them out and read that way.  This exercise in trying to be more organised was disrupted by a fire drill in the library – where we had to leave whatever we were doing and go outside for a few minutes.  AW asked if we had been compensated by any sight of hunky fireman but unfortunately not. As OH and YD had their usual six-weekly Thursday evening haircuts we organised Thursday night’s dinner to be soup and pizza.

Friday morning was taken up with blood tests.  The fact I had to have blood tests this week and have my first oncologist visit for three months next Tuesday did play on my mind a little.  I am still having some pains on my IBC side – some twinges worse than others and I started to have aches in my hip as well – if you  haven’t had IBC or some other aggressive cancer it is hard to describe how easily your mind jumps to “bone mets?”.  There are several other possible reasons for all the pains, so although I will have to mention them to the oncologist,  I am pretty sure that I am still keeping ‘Gertrude’ at bay.

 I spent the rest of the day shopping and doing housework and organising into folder the readings I had printed out the day before.  I cooked lamb shanks in the slow cooker for tea.

I was feeling really proud of myself for keeping to at least the first week on my organisational plan and hope I can continue how I have started.  3 of us have said we should go for a walk around the block in between tutorials on Wednesday to counteract all the sitting we do that day.  I would like to think we will stick to it but only time will tell.

The only black spot on this otherwise very productive week is that I have woken up this morning (Saturday) with a very chesty cough.  I have cancelled my Sunday outing with YD that was supposed to happen  in the hopes that having a quiet weekend will get rid of it and that I will be good to go again on Monday.

Never enough holidays

My new University semester starts tomorrow and I must admit I need a bit of a holiday to get over my holiday – I wouldn’t have wanted to get back from Samoa and go straight back to Uni.   Due to the flight delay and not having sleep for 24 hours the day we came home threw me for a couple of days.  And then as I was coming right it was time for my herceptin and the next day I went to my great-aunts funeral, she’d made it to her 100th Birthday in May so she had had a great innings and indeed was more than twice as old as I am which gives you pause for thought. The weekend was taken up with having YD home and seeing MD back off home to Christchurch -she had been housesitting some of the time we were away and working at her old holiday job up here. My health has not been 100% since I got back – sinuses played up coming back to the winter temperatures- then OD had been away for a few days until last weekend and came back with some bug which I promptly caught off her – achy, fever, nausea for a couple of days – lots of fun.  I spent quite a bit of time sorting out the best photos from our holiday and writing up my travelogue blogs (from the diary I had kept while we were away). I cleaned my charm bead bracelet from all the tarnish it had accumulated due to humidity, sweat and salt air on our trip and bought myself a bead to commemorate my Samoa trip (cancer bracelet now stand at 10 beads other bracelet at 7 ) and all of a sudden its the last day of my break and I don’t know where the last 12 days have gone.

OH and I went out and bought a slow cooker today because although my health and energy levels are much better than they were, a full day at Uni still takes it out of me.  We figure with the slow cooker it will be easier to organise meals when we have the energy in the mornings and come home to a nice warm meal that we don’t need to worry too much about.  OH has been very good and done most of the cooking but he gets tired from his work too.

I also have bought myself a backpack on wheels with laptop compartment for Uni – OH actually used it as his cabin luggage for our trip.  Although I’m very fond of my large purple business bag – although it can fit my laptop and a folder,  it’s not suitable when I have more than just that and if I am carrying it for long periods of time it places undue stress on my left side – the only side I can carry more than 5kgs on.  This new bag will be especially good on Wednesdays when I have two lectures and two tutorials (day goes from 8.30am -5.30pm plus travelling time) as it means I can fit in my laptop plus folders plus any textbooks/library books etc that I might need.

In other news I have also got my results back from my last semester papers – I can’t be 100% sure of my actual marks for my exams as they have only given out our final grades – that is our exam and assignment marks added together as a grade I am pleased to announce that I got 3 “A-” for ‘Sociology’, ‘Psychology’ and ‘Social Work Environment’ and even my Friday class, ‘Culture and Diversity’  that you will recall I was most worried about as it was the class the day after chemo that I felt I hadn’t retained as much as the others I got an overall mark of a “B+” so I’m pretty pleased with those results.  My friend ‘the MRD’ (who called himself ‘the mysteriously reappearing D’ after reading this post) who lectures in social work in Melbourne joked that maybe he should write to  my lecturers and tell them to check whether any of my medications were performance-enhancing before my next exams.

As well as Uni starting again this week this time has other significance for me as well.  It was 2 years ago this week that ‘Gertrude’ first blew up and 1 year ago when I first got the ‘niggles’ which eventuated in being diagnosed with a recurrence.  It does make me wonder what the next few months will bring.  I got told 6th October last year that I had a recurrence so I think if I make it past that date this with no such news it will be cause for celebration.

Anyway I had better go and do some more organisational stuff – I start Tongan tomorrow as my general education requirement paper and although I know the tutors and systems at Epsom campus, I have to go into the city campus for this one and not knowing the tutors, rooms or the expectations for this paper will make it interesting

I have set myself a goal to be more organised and make better use of my time this semester – I will let you know how that works (or doesn’t – LOL)

I have learnt…..

I’m down to my last two exams of my first semester of my four-year degree (Bachelor of Social Work)

I have been a busy little study bee but thought I would destress by having a break and writing a blog post of what I have learnt in the past few months

I have learnt:  ….

 – that whatever class you take on the day after chemo, you are never going to absorb as much as in your other classes.  You will hear a theory or concept and go: “Was I there for that lecture – I don’t remember anything about it.”

 – that no matter how organised you are at the beginning of the semester if you don’t put some proper structure into the way you organise your readings/notes/time – once the assignment due dates came rolling round everything else falls to pieces

 – if you are in treatment for half the semester with chemo remember from the last time how you crash energy-wise when it finishes.  You stop running on adrenalin and you are tired and more prone to get sick etc

 – that you can achieve regardless of these problems as long as you give yourself enough time and space to concentrate

 – that you are naturally a group organiser – organising a Facebook group and contact list for the class within the first few weeks.

 – that if you put yourself out there, being as authentic as possible people will respond to that and you will make a lot of new friends

 – that you will be so busy with Uni that you will forget to make plans with your other friends – sorry J and S etc, I promise I will try better next semester

 – that you also need to structure some me time into the timetable, and some us time for me and OH.

 – that  its ok to say no to YD and put yourself first

– that you need to make some time for physical exercise – sitting in lecture rooms or in the library, on trains and sitting at home doing assignments does not keep you fit.  Working up and down the stairs at Uni helps but all the sitting doesn’t and not only does it make your general fitness worse but it increases the severity of your lymphodema as well.

 – to remember key phrases for exams make up silly things for them.  Using Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy to help remember something about ethics. In the HH2G ’42’ was the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything,  and one of the things I want to use in the exam is that ‘ in order to learn about safe social work practice we need to explore our ideas and beliefs about right and wrong, good and bad, life and death and basically the meaning of life and everything” so if I remember 42 I should be sweet – LOL

– be realistic about study for exam – realise when your eyes are glazing over and you are not absorbing/understanding anything.  Take short breaks when you need them but set time limits to both study and breaks otherwise you can just get sidetracked.

The two main things I have learnt this semester is 

 –  that this semester has just reaffirmed Social Work is what I should be doing

 – and that I am going to be ok whatever happens with Gertrude, that I am now in a place where although the fear of recurrence is still there, it has no place in my everyday life.



Psychological analysis?

Subtitled:  Stray thoughts from a psyched out psyche!!

Just a collection of thoughts that have popped into my head with doing my study for my Psychology exam that is on this coming Thursday morning

Extroversion vs Introversion – in our little study group N said she would like to meet an introvert and was surprised when I said she was sitting next to one i.e. me!  Just because I’m outwardly seeming to be outgoing and friendly doesnt necessarily mean I’m an extrovert it just means I push myself to make friends and be friendly and both having YD have special  needs and my own IBC battle have made me more assertive.  And we talked about how most people felt like I stated in my post   that I felt at high school – different etc, but I said the difference is that extroverts will seek to make more friends when they feel like that because they need validation from other people where introverts seek it from themselves.

My blog is both a way of me both processing the information for my own benefit and a tool to allow me not to have to constantly tell everyone everything.  Extroverts blog too but they do it to get the validation and input from others.  I think it would be interesting to know where bloggers think they sit on the introversion/extroversion scale.

Was on the phone last night – talking to N and AE about our study and several amusing thoughts popped into my head:-

What is it about the fact that my talking on the phone about psych disturbed OH so he couldnt do his work on his computer and he stopped.  If he had asked me to move to another room that would have negative reinforcement of him being able to work as he would have removed the aversive stimuli (me talking) and got a positive result (being able to work).  As it is he punished himself by stopping working.

Does the fact he threatened to hit me over the head (joking) constitute him punishing me?

When I was talking on the phone to N about psychological disorders and discussing schizophrenia, OH was walking around muttering “I havent got schizophrenia” – was he having auditory hallucinations (voices in his head) suggesting he had?

On facebook I posed the question “wonders is there such a thing as psyched-down – definitely not psyched-up for psychology exam on Thursday” – one of the comment answers was they think the antonym of psyched-up could be psyched-out not psyched-down so thanks RC for the contribution towards the subtitle of this blog post

As much as these stray thoughts have been in fun and amusing I actually think they will help me in the exam

And in the interests of being honest and authentic I will tell you about the “brain fart”  that I had in the sociology exam on Tuesday.

The exam is worth 50% of our final grade and so the marks for the exam are out of 50 – the last section was identifying quotes – author, subject how we understand their viewpoint sociologically… we had to pick 3 out of 11 and each was worth 5 marks – when I looked at that section I thought “oh good i know most of these quotations” – I knew 10 out of 11 of them but could not decide which ones to do so by the time I got to that section I did the first two and then for some stupid reason thought I had finished the exam and did not do the third one – I threw away 5 marks just like that.  I am hoping I still did well enough to pass the  exam but even if I didnt as long as I get the points to pass the course in total then I’ll be ok. I’ve put it down as a learning experience.   I don’t think I will ever make the same mistake in another exam.

Anyway back to errand running and study – trying to balance study with making sure I have things organised for Samoa

Studying sociology and sickness

I actually wrote a post about this yesterday (pre-exam) but for some reason my computer and the wordpress website weren’t meshing last night and when I hit publish it disappeared into the ether and was not recorded on my blog or as a draft.  It was quite frustrating as I had done it as a wind-down exercise before heading off to bed to get a good sleep before the exam and it ended up winding me up tighter.

I had my first of 4 exams this morning and although I think I have done OK – there are some gaps in my knowledge and in my ability to write it down.  While I have been studying I have realised I have got a good overview of the papers as a whole but I am struggling to retain the detailed stuff in my memory to churn it out for the exam.  There came a time in the weekend where I decided if I didn’t know it by then I wasnt going to know enough for the exams and just let it go.

I missed the last week of Uni lectures where they went over exam prep and giving us hints what to study due to the flu and I now have a throat/sinus infection on top of it. I am grateful to my classmates who took really good notes and passed them on to me.  I debated whether to go for compassionate marking on impaired performance but decided to just see how well I did any way.  As I have done fairly well in my assignments (2B+ in Sociology, 2A- in Psychology (which is the next exam upon Thursday 17th with my herceptin treatment straight after) B+ & B for ‘Culture and Diversity’ and A- & another still to be received mark for ‘The Social Work Environment’ )and that because of being in treatment and now being sick my goal for this semester was just to get a pass even if it was only a C – I am trying not to stress too much about the exams. 

MD thought it was amusing that the last ‘C & D” assignment I got back that I said I “only” achieved a ‘B’ for and that I was a bit disappointed as it was my lowest mark so far.  The realisation I have had reading my lecturers comments on that assignment is that I missed out one complete theory of analysing the case study and I have realised with going through my notes for the”C & D” exam because it was the Friday  class after having chemo on Thursdays  I don’t have the depth of understanding I have for the other classes and for certain concepts I was either not there or “away with the fairies” on those days – those concepts I have to study more over the course of this week and hope some of them sink in enough for me to pass the exam. 

It is my last exam next Tuesday 22nd and then I have 1 day to get organised for mine and OH’s Samoa trip on the 24th June.  I am really looking forward to it and I also think it will be good from taking my mind off waiting for the exam results.

 I still think it has been a major achievement just to get through this semester regardless of marks but next semester I hope to get a much better focus on my studies and I will also work on getting my general health and fitness levels back up.

Oh well,  back to the books – time to forget about Marx, Durkheim, Weber and Woolstonecraft and concentrate on Freud, Maslow, Skinner and Rogers et al.