Time for Cake!

Today is another landmark day.  Three years ago today, after yet another sleepless night with the weight of too many thoughts crowding my post diagnosis headspace, I took the plunge.  I had already been blogging as Feisty Blue Gecko for a couple of years, but needed a new online space for the new real space I had stepped into.  And this gecko-flavoured breast cancer blog was duly hatched.

Last year, on my second blogaversary, I wrote a long post with some background detail, and characters which have evolved as the blog has taken on a life of its own.  It is quite a blogossary.

This morning, I took a big step back in time, and visited that very first post when I dipped my toes into the blogospheric waters. And this is how I saw things then, on 28 October 2009:

This really is a record of the unexpected.  I don’t know where it is going, and I don’t know how it will look, but life changed 3 weeks ago and I have a lot to get off my chest.  Quite literally.

And the purpose of this?  To help me process and deal with what has and is happening.  To share one experience of what is a very common disease.  To tell my story as it unfolds, in a way that helps me.  And the rest…………….

This is the biggest and scariest challenge of my life.  Breast cancer is unknown in our family and I have not really been close to anyone while they have been fighting cancer.  But I have such a lot going for me, this is not going to be a tale (tail) of woe, (well maybe sometimes), but a rise to the challenge.  I have such amazing support – I am not in this alone.  I also know that much of this will be revealing and personal, but I have been encouraged by the number of other blogs by women with breast cancer so I think I’m entitled to have a shout too!  We are all different and I know my perspective will be different.

This part of the story starts on September 23 so there is a bit of catching up to do.  I will try and fill in the details and bring things up to date but it will take a bit of time.  This is partly because so much has happened, and partly because I am feeling the grand theft of many lymph nodes from under my left arm which makes typing slow and full of mistakes.  And partly because there is so much going on in my head which, as I said above – I need to get off my chest!

28 October  2009

I could never have imagined how important the blog would become in my life, and how many incredible people I have connected with, the friendships I have formed and the lorryloads I have learned.

And here I am, after three years.  Still writing.  Still ranting and venting.  Still reflecting.  Still making friendships and connections.  Still processing and deliberating.  And still getting a great deal off my chest!

So this is one to celebrate.  I even Googled “gecko cake” because it is much sweeter than Googling “is-this-funny-mark-a-sign-of-cancer?”

And guess what?  There are heaps and heaps of images of gecko cakes!  And not only gecko cakes, but even a gecko shaped cake cutter! Who would have imagined that?

So, thank you dear gecko and dear blog.  Here’s to many returns of the day, and many more years of irreverence and feistiness together!

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Recalling Radiation and radiation recall

Today is another Landmark Day – it is a year today since my last radiation treatment.  A whole year.  And it was not just the end of Rads, it was the end of what had been the triathlon from hell indeed.  The whole stretch of heavy treatment had started at the beginning of October 2009 with surgery and soon after, the first chemo.  What felt like minutes after the 8th chemo came the start of Radiation.  There was hardly any time to breathe as I trundled rapidly along the treatment process.

And then, finally I was locked in the Bunker for my final session of beeps and zaps, and then I was allowed out into the big wide world.  I could finally make plans to get back to the UK and see family and friends in 3D who had been holding my hand virtually all the way through.  After months of being on a loop between Bangkok and Yangon, staying away from crowded places, napping several times and day and counting the spaces between treatments I was suddenly FREE!

So here I am a year later.  Filled with a mix of emotions and looking and feeling like a different person.  I had not been expecting that strange “after the treatment” phase very helpfully discussed in Dr Peter Harvey’s article, and often called the “new normal”.  It was impossible to imagine that I might rebuild after the destructive yet life-preserving rounds of treatment.  But I have indeed re-built.  I have hair again, thank heavens, even if it is still the wrong colour.  I am much much stronger and fitter.  I have re-gained my independence.  Of course I live looking over my shoulder with Captain Paranoia feeding my fears, but that is part of the deal.

There are, however, the obvious reminders.  That scar of course.  Twang Arm.  My port.  Additionally, I had a rather unexpected and unwelcome reminder of radiation last month.  After I had my port flushed, as usual a sticky plaster was placed over the puncture mark.  As frequently happened, my skin became a bit irritated underneath the plaster and then when I removed it the folowing day, a layer of skin peeled off with it.  I was gifted a beautiful, elastoplast shaped wound to accompany my port scar.  A friend joked that I was aiming to remove my port by peeling it off layer by layer!  I might give it a try if it is less painful than the surgical way?

I have since learned that this tenderness and irritation could well be linked to what is euphemistically called “radiation recall” so that is something else to talk to Dr W about when I see him next.  It cleared up with careful treatment but my skin continues to be very sensitive thanks to the combination of surgery, radiation and chemo skin and the aggravation of a hot and humid climate. It is something else to keep an eye on and something else to remind me.

For today, though,  I am glad to be in such a different place.  I am happy to recall that last dose of radiation and everything it signified.  I am particularly thankful that this year my eyes are open to seeing so many things which I didn’t see last year.  I completely missed the jacaranda blooms which I love so much.  They must have been there, but out of my view in my sheltered routine to and from the hospital, keeping my head down because of the troubles in Bangkok.  So this year I have been blown away by the variety and splendour of so many different blooming and blossoming trees in so many different colours.   I am sharing this picture from my field trip of a week ago, and a glimpse of the amazing blossoms, signs and symbols of regrowth and regeneration that surround me, which I completely missed last year.