Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Looking good = Feeling better? Yes!

I had a visit from the little girl next door yesterday who would be no older than 7. She came around to see if we were going to go to our streets bbq thats happening this weekend. I could see her staring at my arm, which had the usual plaster on it from the 3rd round/2 cycle of treatment I had received a few hours earlier. She went quiet for a bit and I could see she was trying to figure out what was wrong. Finally she softly said "Whats that for there?" as she pointed to my arm. Flip I thought. What do I say??? I stumbled over my words and umd and ahd for a bit before saying "Oh that? I have just been to the doctors and they gave me some special, magic medicine to make me feel better!" Nervously I awaited for the "but whhhyy?" and to see if she would dig further into why I had to have it. I really didn't want to go into Cancer with a child that I really dont know. "Oh!.......Ok!......Can I pat your Kitten please?" she replied. I smiled. I loved her response. No need for any more details. So carefree! Either that or she really didn't give a damn!! Haha oblivious to how much she made my day, she waddled passed me and headed over to play with our cat, Pixel.

Single Digits. Holy Moly - I am so flippen happy to be able to say that.  9 to go.

I will back track a bit. Tuesday the Fifteenth of February was not only Valentines day, it was the day of the Look Good Feel Good workshop. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, it has been a ray of light throughout this trial and I was really looking forward to it. All the nurses kept saying to me how much I will love and enjoy it but I really wasn't to sure what to expect. I always like to educate a little bit with every blog so here are a few little facts and figures about Look Good Feel Good for those of you who may not have heard of it before:

  • Look Good Feel Better was born in the USA in 1987.
  • The programme has been running in New Zealand since 1992.
  • More than 10,000 women are diagnosed with cancer in New Zealand every year.
  • In 2009 alone, our workshops helped over 2,770 women face the mirror and the future with increased confidence.
  • Workshops are run in 23 regions of New Zealand.
  • Last year, more than 180 workshops were held throughout the country.
  • Over 460 volunteers around New Zealand give their time to helping women at our workshops.
  • Look Good Feel Better has helped over 23,400 patients in New Zealand since the programme’s inception.
  • Look Good Feel Better is helping women suffering from cancer in over 20 countries around the world. -

Pretty amazing!!!  I turned up early (as usual!) and slowly walked in the room. I was greeted by a group of Woman who were all so friendly. I was quickly given something to drink and a name badge. I started making small talk with one of the Volunteers and then a woman approached me and said "I see the Vultures have had a go at you today." At first I was a little confused with what she was going on about....I thought to myself "I hope she's not talking about the lovely Volunteer that has been so friendly and is standing right next to me and listening to everything that we are saying." I soon figured out that she was referring to my arm, as I had a blood test done just before I went. I laughed and she laughed and the ice had been broken with another fellow Cancer fighter. I recognised her from my treatments and we got talking and before you knew it we were discussing what each other had and our treatment plans etc. She had breast cancer. She was diagnosed October last year and had her breast removed as soon as she found out. I honestly would not have been able to tell because she had a prosthesis and it looked like she had not lost a breast at all. I was so amazed as she spoke about finding out that she had cancer and how brave she was. She said to me that she didn't mind having her breast removed. It didn't upset her but as soon as her hair started falling out - thats when she struggled. I talked to her about what I was finding with my hair and she said that hers started like mine but got worse so she just shaved it off. The treatment for patients with Breast Cancer is quite intense and they always say that you will lose your hair.

A few more people arrived until there was about 8 of us there. All Woman. All fighting the Bastard that affects so many people every single day.

I found myself thinking that NEVER in a million years would I have thought that I would be attending such a thing because I have Cancer. If someone had told me a couple of years ago that I would be sitting in a room with a bunch of ladies who are fighting cancer just like myself, I would not have believed them.  I suppose that will be the same for all of you reading this. I am so glad that I was there though. After having been through this rewarding experience and getting to meet all these Beautiful ladies, I would not change a bloody thing. The crap stuff is bearable when you are alongside such strong and inspiring woman. I have to admit that I get a little emotional when I think about it.......I think I always will.

We were all asked to sit in our allocated seats. At each of a our benches was a Mirror and an array of Skin care and makeup products. We were each introduced to a Volunteer that would be looking after us for the day and doing our make up etc. I was surprised when I arrived at how healthy and good everyone looked. All had hair on their heads, except one lady. I glanced down for a few seconds and when I looked up, 5 of the 8 woman that were there all of a sudden were bald. I thought HUH?! Then clicked. All of these Woman that I had seen at treatments looking amazing with beautiful hair, had been wearing wigs all this time. They had me fooled!! The wigs look so real!! Still, they all rocked the short hair and baled hairstyles like pros! 

It all started off a little quite but I can assure you by the end of it, We were all laughing and talking :) So much so that they had to use a loud bell every time they wanted to get our attention. The ages ranged. I was the youngest by far. The ladies were Mature Woman and the oldest was in her 70's.  I didn't feel out of place at all like I had felt at chemo treatments. It started with removing our makeup and cleansing and toning our skin. They talked about ways we could cut down the risk of infections etc while dealing with beauty and skin products. Once we were fresh faced, it was time for the makeup. They talked us through applying foundation, eyeshadow, eye liner, blush, lip liner and lipstick. My helper had been Volunteering for 10 years+ and was so lovely. She works in a Pharmacy and thats how she got involved. She was so amazing and honest and I loved that she didn't have me leaving there looking like a completely different person. She did my make up very similar to how I already wear it, just a little flasher haha. Once we were all looking Beautiful (and each of the ladies looked stunning) we sat back and admired how good it made us feel. Some of the ladies I could see were quite overwhelmed with how it made them look and feel and I have to say it was very touching to see them smile. One of ladies in particular had found out the day before that her Cancer had actually spread into the middle if chest, between her breasts and that she was going to have to receive a stronger treatment, one that would definitely mean she would lose her hair. It doesn't stop there. This is her THIRD go at Chemo......and she has it every fortnight I think it was but for the week where she doesn't come in for treatment, she takes Chemo drugs orally. So its basically an everyday occurrence for her. She just stared in the mirror with such a happy look on her face and I know that she left there feeling a million dollars. Her and all the other ladies there are my Inspiration. I look forward to treatments now just so I can see them and talk about how things are going. Im a little sad that one of the ladies that I spoke most with, will be finishing treatment soon, Of course I am sooooooo stoked for her but I wish I had met her sooner.

After all the makeovers were completed it was time to talk about wigs, turbans and scarfs. It was so amazing to see the different wigs available and to learn some tricks to pimp your turbans. Once that was done we mingled and talked about all the different aspects of treatments and side effects. The nitty gritty stuff didn't take long to arise either.....its like we were all busting to talk about the gross things that come along with Chemo to someone who could relate and understand. Constipation, Diarrhea, Periods (or lack there of) were all spoken (and laughed) about as we traded our stories and our tricks to avoid the old burning poo scenario!

It was such a refreshing experience and I left there with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. Not to mention all the Skin care and make up products that they used on us! We were so spoilt.
It really will be something that I NEVER will forget and I recommend it to any Woman out there that has Cancer! So rewarding!!

The day after (Wednesday the Sixteenth) was my 3rd round of Chemo. I was dreading it a little I must admit, after how rank I felt last time but after meeting the ladies that I met the day before, I really didn't have anything to complain about after hearing their situations. So I sucked it up and rocked on up to Level 3 with my Dad beside me. Im slowly meeting all the Nurses as I seem to have a different one each time I go. They have all been Incredible but this weeks nurse was particularly awesome! I love her because she got the needle in first time!! I get so anxious leading up to having it inserted and its not getting any easier!!! My veins have started to play up when I go for Blood tests and are starting to show the effects of chemo. My Nurse said today that if it continues to go the way its going, they will ask me to consider having a Port-a-cath inserted in my chest. This would save having to put the needle in each time I go. We will see how things go....! We had a wee hiccup this week though. Like I said, I had a blood test the day before which was to make sure my White blood cells were up for another treatment. My count was quite low and so today I have my nurse coming round to check up on me and to also give me an injection to help boost my blood count. I am more susceptible to infection at the moment because it is so low. So all you sick puppies out there give me fair warning if we bump into each other!  If its to low before treatment, they sometimes wont let you have it. That would suck!! You work yourself up and prepare yourself for each treatment and then to be turned away and say you have to come back when its higher would really grind your gears. The thing is I feel fine. I was so surprised when she said that it was low. Smooth sailing otherwise :)

I sat there with familiar faces staring back at me, which was a nice change :) My Dad had finished work an hour or so before my treatment and hadn't had the chance to sleep. He snoozed while I rested. Also had a visit from my Partners Nana and Pop, which was lovely. They brought me some lovely flowers and flowers always brighten your mood!  As I get closer to the half way mark of my treatment, I am getting excited for the scans to see how much the Tumor has died a terrible death! Cant wait to see before and afters! My neck is looking normal for the first time in years and its just so awesome. I caught myself the other day staring at the mirror and pulling faces because I could see the Ligaments (?) in my neck for the first time in ages. Would have looked like an idiot!! But an idiot without a great big Tumor in my neck WOO HOO!!

I wanted to take a chance to let all you lovely readers know that I am doing the Relay for Life and if anyone would like to make a donation to my team, you can do so:
02-0704-0092628-000 - Relay for Life - Life Fighters. We all would appreciate any donations that you are able to make. Also if you are in Nelson on the 3rd + 4th of March, you should pop down to Saxtons Field and support all those that will be participating. I have done it once before and it really is such a great thing to be involved in. I cant wait :) 

With another treatment down, I say bring on the next. My life has been brightened by this hurdle and will always be grateful for the opportunities to meet the amazing Medical Staff I have had the pleasure to look after me and of course the Fighters. I know the horrible reality that so many people dont survive Cancer. I feel so lucky to have met each and every one of them. Everyone comes into your life for a reason and I have always believed that. So many valuable lessons I have learnt at the age of 21 and as my 22nd birthday approaches, I feel wiser beyond my years. What a gift!

1 comment:

  1. Andrea, You continue to inspire me with your positivity. Go, girl, go.

    Loving best wishes as you work your way through the treatment regime.

    Tom McInerney

    P.S. Weren't the photos of Layla and her family great. You captured them beautifully