Diep Flap: no walk in the park.



Drawing: ‘How to put the body parts back on.’


The idea of going into hospital for an 8 hour surgical procedure has become dare I say, appealing. The day to day has become mentally and physically tiring, most likely I’m still reeling from the post chemotherapy side effects. Checking into hospital is about the closest I am going to get to a 14 day health retreat only this time there is no spa suite, no sunshine, no swim up bar and I definitely wont be checking out with a glowing tan.

Around this same time last year I was still in the early stages of attempting to grasp this confusing diagnosis and treatment. We were forced to enjoy what would feel like my last vacation before chemotherapy began. I was spending my days taking calls from the breast care nurse who was touching upon frightening topics like chemo, mastectomy, tissue expanders, new nipples and was planning to put me in touch with other women who had already been through these phases of treatment. This was not my idea of a relaxing holiday, I was teary, shit scared and felt a little ripped off.

On this particular beach holiday I vividly remember the day of fun and laughter we had sitting at the pool swim up bar. My cousin unexpectedly popped into our resort to spend the entire day with us, in fact we spent the entire day in the pool with the kids splashing about while I clung onto my seemingly bottomless glass of champagne. I don’t recall exactly how many bottles of Moet we went through in the swimming pool bar, but I do remember repeatedly yelling: “Fuck it, lets get another bottle, I have cancer.”

I’m in room 1004 at St. Vincent’s Hospital and the room lighting is of course the mandatory fluorescent white, it feels harsh and all exposing. The plush holiday bathrobe is replaced by an exhausted looking pale blue hospital gown. I couldn’t shake the thought about the countless patients that had bled, wept, been confused and hollered out in pain in this same blue gown.  I relinquished my own clothing and donned the patient uniform which had become a symbol of my surrender to the system. I was going to lie back and take a slashing in the name of reconstruction.

The bed linen is fresh and has an industrial crispness to it. The drawers and chairs are more of an afterthought and the colour palette is monotone and somber apart from the print of a street scene facing my bed that hints to Seurat and pointillism. I have never quite understood why hospitals don’t have shelving in front of the bed, a chatty nurse kindly took it upon herself to move the furniture around so I could get to enjoy the flowers and gifts that had been carefully chosen by well wishing loved ones.


Drawing: ‘Sitting Uncomfortably.’


I woke up from theatre for what seemed like only a few minutes and remember the surgeon’s head nodding and telling me that everything went well.   Apparently I spent three drowsy drug induced hours in recovery then I was rolled into a hospital room. By this stage I was more lucid and the donor site hurt like hell, more like an axe had been heated over hot coals and then wedged into my abdomen. I needed more painkillers and I need them pronto. This time the PCA was not cutting it. The nursing staff felt my pain, heard my groans and someone with a kind face held my hand and didn’t let go. This simple gesture of being touched by a stranger had helped- I was no longer scared or alone, someone cared.

At one point I looked up and saw an assortment of heads surrounding the bed looking down at me, listening to my groans. One nurse suggested that I try to shift my butt as that might help to relieve the pain. I mustered some strength, raised my head and explained to the nurse that in all fairness the positioning of my arse was not going to soothe the pain from the massive incision in my abdomen. She in turn suggested I wait 20 minutes before calling the Anaesthetist. I kept my cool and insisted, letting her know I was certain he would cope with getting a phone call at 9pm.  I figured a few calls were factored into his hefty up front six thousand dollar fee. The PCA dose was immediately doubled, the pain subsided and I fell asleep.

I remember peeking down at my body under the sheets, checking for a mound where my once cancerous breast had been. I was wedged with pillows into what is known as the jack knife position. My knees were raised and bent and my torso was elevated forward: this would be my resting position for the next 12 days in hospital.

I’m now home, still in the jack knife position and can not stand up straight even if I tried. I’m shuffling about hunch back style and showering on a rented hospital bath stool. Standing for more than two minutes becomes painful to the point that I can only think of getting myself into a seated position and quickly.

My new breast looks voluminous and surprisingly natural and of course has a circular flap transfer from my abdomen. It doesn’t look so great but from experience I know that the blackness of the stitches will heal and fade to pale. There is of course the unforgiving incision from hip to hip.  A DIEP FLAP procedure is no walk in the park. In fact the idea of being able to go for a walk in the park seems fairly illusive at the moment. The procedure involved a rather significant amount of stomach tissue and fat that has been cut away and transferred to my breast with blood vessels from my abdomen. It’s nothing short of remarkable to think how far plastic surgery has come. The killer breast tissue that was removed in August by mastectomy has now been replaced by my own living tissue, which I think is pretty damn cool.  However, not being able to stand up straight is far from cool.

On discharge my surgeon flippantly reminded me that this is going to take several months to heal and to not worry about it too much. For the time being I feel fairly redundant as I can’t contribute or help out at home and I am not exactly in love with my hunched reflection.

This road has been quite long, often times it has been lonely and I’m pretty certain that it is not over yet.


A Cancerous Friendship or My Friendship With Cancer?



Friendship is one of life’s great rewards, however in todays online culture this can sometimes be confusing when you consider that the concept of a friend is scattered across so many settings. Which begs me to question have we become more fickle? I mean it’s quite easy to simply Unfollow someone if they post something unsavory or not to your palate, or perhaps just as easy to unlike someone who we once eagerly and impulsively decided we were going to ‘like’ on Facebook. Has this simple click of a button become a catalyst for simply dropping friends in real life just as easily as you can on social media?


For centuries we have considered love at first sight or instant connection a guide for investing in friendships and intimacy, however these investments have just as easily turned sour in our modern day friendships too. So what is friendship anyway? According to Psychologists, friendships can enrich our lives to varying degrees. There are of course varying degrees of enrichment, from mutual assistance, companionship, intimacy, affection, dependancy as well as some who seek socio economic goals in their friendships.


Aristotle characterized friends into three distinct categories: Utility, Pleasure and Virtue.

Those that engage in mutual pleasure-driven friendships can be described as the friend you go to parties with, see concerts with and generally have good conversations and laugh with. On the other hand friendships of utility offer more of a tangible advantage, this is mutually exchanged and is often done to gain social standing, business or perhaps a political interest. This could be the friend who gets you invited to parties on big boats, or perhaps charity events where you can rub shoulders with hard toned bodies holding Channel handbags. These advantageous friendships can at times be sought out by many and owe their durability to the amount of invitations they get.


Of the three categories I hold the virtuous friend in the highest regard as that friendship is based on the type of person that he or she is, not what they have to offer or how many fun times you can have. When Aristotle spoke of virtue I believe he referred to ethics, not in the oft thought stuffy formal sense.


The greatest gift a friend can give is their time. No implication here to spend vast amounts of time with a single person but rather the quality of that time spent. No matter if that time is short or infrequent our time is a most generous gift. We all value it and often cling to it and more commonly lament about where it went. My longstanding friends, some interstate and overseas that I unfortunately don’t spend much ‘time’ with anymore are what I know to be virtuous, I have a special soul connection with these friends. An anima cara – soul friends.


We have all heard of the term friendship vampire, those that suck us of our energy and take what they can. Sometimes what is taken is not tangible, we can be sucked into unrelenting emotional guidance, take on a barrage of complaints and negativity, be burdened by an individuals harshness or self interest or wasted hours on relationship dramas and gossip which have all drained me of my energy, my spirit, my mind and health and in turn has drawn me away from my anima cara.



I grew up in a large family with 2 brothers and 3 sisters so my friendships had been established early on mainly within my own family setting. Often times when one of us would invite an ‘outsider’ or ‘friend’ to our home, it was a mutual understanding that this person was a guest to be treated respectfully and in kind, not someone who we would fall on the sword for, as they were not of our blood line.


Growing up in the northern suburbs of Melbourne I spent many of my teenage years using my fake ID from Indooroopolly and heavy eyeliner to get into nightclubs like The Underground, Inflation and others too long ago to recall. Would I leave a cousin or friend to throw up in a filthy toilet cubicle after downing too many ‘Cock sucking cowboys’? Never.

Holding a friend’s hair back in a neat ponytail was an honorable duty. This was not what Aristotle had in mind when he spoke of virtue however you get the idea. It’s about owning a strong sense of Bushido, the honor of standing by someone in good times and in bad- Hospital bed or dance floor.


In light of a life changing diagnosis such as cancer the friendships I choose to invest in matter considerably more and more. When faced with thoughts on ones own mortality and how I had been accustomed to considering life through my own lens, the aperture quickly sharpened. The new viewfinder and understanding through introspection has made my picture much more clear and focused. I have tried to peel back the veil and see my life for what it is. It is a simple daily practice at living or more aptly the inevitable- a practice in death.


Socrates was convinced of the immortality of the soul, but for most mere mortals we become preoccupied with our life right now, and there is no dress rehearsal. A practice of contemplation and gratitude is what I need right now.


Perhaps this strong connection to virtue and family is why I have been comfortable to walk alone or share the footpath with companions at varying stages of my life.


Yes, I too have unfollowed friends at different moments of growth in my personal life, some friendships may perhaps flourish again, others will remain like the Goyte song; ‘Someone that I used to know’.






It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…. But I’m not exactly feeling it.
Last years potted Christmas tree has been dragged inside, the dead branches removed and the foliage still a little dull from a year of neglect. This year I decided to make crepe paper flowers to decorate the tree, partly because of my immobility post breast reconstruction and partly because I was hoping to create a little Christmas spirit.


The idea of Christmas is mostly warm and fuzzy, however it seems to be mostly about one thing… the presents. The unwrapping ritual usually commences early morning with a delighted frenzy. The obligatory Bing Crosby tunes will play out in the background with a nod to all things wholesome now lost, wrapping paper will go flying, and my husband and I will be yelling… “Read the card first” over and over again.
There is something quite disturbing about the amount of stuff some kids get these days…including my lot. The magic is long gone and has been replaced by a culture of consuming- a generation of mall kids. For some families shopping has become entertainment, a way to pass the time, to use, to dispose, to replace, to upgrade or to out do.
For me the festive season is also fraught with melancholy, a time when I’m drawn to ponder over my last year. In December last year my father in law passed away after a long struggle with bowel cancer treatment and only days after his funeral I was recovering from a lumpectomy and sentinel lymph node dissection in hospital. It was an emotional month and I mostly remember a fairly constant stream of tears.
Christmas day last year was full of despair, I was afraid of the chemotherapy and the treatment that I would come to endure. I cried in my bedroom between lunch courses and touched up my make up ready for act 2, 3 and 4. We celebrated Christmas lunch on our deck, clinked wine glasses and toasted to better days. My husband would dutifully fling every empty bottle of wine over his shoulder from the deck and it would land with an anticipated thump onto the grass. Much cheering would ensure with each bottle toss. It was a stunning Sydney summer day followed by a late afternoon tropical thunderstorm- I danced in the rain and tasted the rain drops in my mouth with my clothes getting drenched. I was drunk on the joy of being fully aware of the moment. My daily mindful meditation practice had seemed to slow time, I felt connected- plugged in.
It’s now approaching four weeks since my Diep Breast Reconstruction and I am slowly starting to move about more, however it’s sill quite painful and uncomfortable. I do know from experience that the body has an uncanny ability to heal itself, holes in the skin miraculously close up, stitches heal and pain slowly subsides. It seems with cancer there aren’t any Get Out Of Jail cards being handed out. It feels like a cancer cloud is always looming, at times it hangs overhead as a reminder of the ‘What if the cancer comes back’? Or it often looms in the distance barely out of sight but I know it’s there hanging around. A lifetime of tests and monitoring lay ahead, a constant reminder of the cloud.

Just when I thought I was getting closer to moving forward I got a red flag from my surgeon. It seems they found ‘something’ on my liver during a CT Angiogram. Gulp. Of course I got my Google Doctor on and Googled the hell out of the medical report. I searched for statistics on life expectancy for metastatic Breast Cancer, read articles about the grim survival rates for liver cancer and started to think about the Funeral Playlist I have on my iPhone. Yes, it is odd but I’ve had a Funeral Playlist for about 5 years – I always figured if I ever checked out I would at least have decent tunes, even if I wouldn’t be around to enjoy it.
The moment I surrendered myself to that search engine I pretty much knew that I was about to go for a ride on a rollercoaster without wheels. Looks like this Christmas will continue to have a little cloud hanging about. I see my Oncologist in a few days who I’m told will refer me to another medical oncologist for further testing. Gulp again. Fingers crossed it’s nothing, the playlist still needs some tweaking.

I plan to have a laughter filled Christmas day, shared with friends and family. This time the cloud might be a little too familiar and too close for comfort but I figure I can always open an umbrella or dance in the rain like last year should the cancer cloud decide to burst. I can’t help but to think that I should be so happy that this year will finally be behind me, that I can now move forward and not look back. The little fearful twinge of metastatic cancer might rear it’s head from time to time, but for now I’m going to focus on the present and try to spend my days living mindfully.

A pain in the body

I’ve been prodded, pricked, jabbed, slashed, drugged, scanned, reclined, made to sit, told to stand, told to hold my breath, exhale, had my breast tissue and muscle expanded, biopsied, given fluid samples, lost hair, lost sleep, lost my physical strength, told to roll over, shot up radioactive dye, made to wait, made to wait some more and paid a stack of medical fees and have always said thank you with a smile.

It’s no secret that I’ve never been a fitness enthusiast. I’d describe myself as more of a sensory enthusiast. It’s never been about the running or in my case now more fast walking than anything else, it’s always been more about the experience. That warm feeling of the sun touching me on my shoulders, the trees swaying in the breeze and the smell of the ocean is what motivates me and inspires. This is going to sound a little peculiar but from an early age I was convinced that the trees were waving their branches and saying hello whenever they would sway in the breeze. For me this is the kind of stuff that magic is made from, it can transform a person more than any weight bearing exercise.

You see I’ve been training my whole life, not in the must get my body fit kind of training but a different kind of grass roots training- the school of life. I’m pretty sure this schooling begun way before I formally entered the classroom. Which reminds me that on my very first day of primary school I decided to skip class, why I thought this would be a good idea I don’t recall. I timed it right and quietly exited the classroom and hid in the sand pit. I made a bunker out of bins, scrap wood and corrugated iron- this was 1978 and there was no such thing as playground risk and safety assessments. I was much more interested in having sand running through my fingers, feeling it build up in my shoes, under my toes and listen to the magpies singing. I believe a search party was sent out to scour the school playground and after an hour or so I was found. I soon realised that life could be an adventure just not always on my terms.

I was raised in a mostly extroverted big Italian family with at times dysfunctional parenting. I am the youngest of six children – I like to think of it as a social experiment, a bit like living in the Big Brother House. My father had a dose of mental illness, a penchant for gambling and an incredible drink driving skill. He would often drink drive whilst belting out  Neopolitan songs by Caruso or Mario Lanza with one hand on the steering wheel and the other hand on a ‘king brown’ (which is 750Mls of beer in a brown bottle). Meanwhile 6 kids would be rolling around the back of the Valiant without seat belts of course.

I’m guessing that life is basically one big lesson, some lessons take longer to grasp and realise than others. I, like many of us have had my share of trials and events that have been confronting and have demanded a fair amount of calculated resolve.  I say calculated resolve because for some reason in times of great stress, anxiety or life change I have tended to push away any emotional fog that may be waiting in the wings and have always tended to look for a way forward. It’s like a kind of temporary system shut down that allows me to reflect, reboot, start up again and move forward in a positive direction.

What makes a person resilient? Is it environmental or is it innate? Wherever these buckets of positivity have come from I am very grateful for the big gulps I’ve been able to take.  Which brings me back to the idea of life as a lesson, a curriculum that you must complete and at times feel like you must endure. The bizarre thing about this particular lesson that I’m currently undertaking is that it feels vaguely familiar. Yes, I said familiar.

No I’ve never had breast cancer before but I think I have been priming myself for this very moment. Perhaps I chose this very existence and that explains why I feel so ready and capable. Often I think that I’m just living in this body, a temporary rental. I particularly like the idea that my ‘essence’ is the real me – not this pain body.  Perhaps this idea of detachment from the physicality of what my body has had to endure is what has kept me positive and protected.  My body hurts, it is tired and worn down but my essence is still very vibrant and inspired. On the morning of my first chemotherapy, I remember walking through the sliding glass doors of the hospital with a very familiar feeling. I took big confident strides in my pumps, passed the receptionist with a knowing nod and a smile and made my way up the escalator. I had a spring in my step all the while thinking…I’ve got this, I’ve done this before.

So for all the jabbing, slashing and drugging I’ve endured in the past year I have another surgery ahead of me. Two days to be precise. It’s a breast reconstruction.  A DIEP flap procedure that involves microsurgery that aims to transplant living fat tissue from my well fed stomach reserves into my breast. It’s a 6-8 hour procedure.

I’m not worried about the surgery as I’ll be checking the surgeon’s breath for signs of alcohol before the procedure. If he doesn’t look shaky, have blood shot eyes or is unshaven I’m guessing that I’ll be in great hands.

This is just my body that has to endure this, not me.





Knowing when to stop

This has never been an easy concept for me.  As an art student knowing when to surrender the paintbrush was one of the most difficult things to master.  Knowing when a work is finished requires a certain amount of confidence and self assurance in ones abilities.  I believe a work is done when the artist becomes the audience and the work begins to speak for it self – in turn commanding it’s own presence.  Many times I have overworked an image which has revealed a tortured and clumsy work, ultimately a lack of knowing in oneself.  Jackson Pollack was once asked “How do you know when you are finished?” he replied with the question: “How do you know you are done making love?” I imagine the answer to be when you are satisfied.

This insatiable thirst for satisfaction has driven us in every pursuit of this 21St century and we are all a little desperate in our search for more.  More knowledge, more technology, more access, more entertainment, more connections, more money, more stuff and more searching for outward stimulus in the hope that we will one day be happy.  I’ve never been a fan of the word happy when searching to describe the ultimate state of being, I prefer to pursue the notion of being content.  The title of my site: my impermanent life, hopefully reflects on the way that I now choose to live my life based on the simple philosophy of impermanence. Perhaps a bitter pill to swallow if you are looking for happiness as the ultimate life goal.

Knowing when to stop has alluded me in other facets of my life.  In the good ol’ days (pre-cancer) my friends and I were usually the ones to stay out late and then continue to party the night away at someones house for a usually regrettably long amount of time.  Note to self, I never want to see the sun rise in heels again. This desire to keep having fun was of course the desire of the ego, a mere illusion.

Rarely did a night out end at a reasonable hour, except of course on this one occasion.  My friend and I, and for the sake of the story lets call this person Katherine, were on a Thelma and Louise kind of revenge-drinking mission. We were hell bent on having fun hard and drinking hard.  Why we were so determined is anyones guess however we had become pretty damn good at it.  We started our night at a seedy pub in Surry Hills woofing down tacos, tequila shots and margarita’s which were not my drinks of choice, however it seemed to fit the vibe of the place.  Our night had just begun and we were warming up.  The only thing to do was to keep on going this time harder and stronger than before.  We literally danced and sang our way to the next venue.  I vividly recall Katherine standing on the bench of a bus stop belting out the cheesy tune: Time Of My Life from Dirty Dancing, it was of course the perfect duet for two girls who wanted to live by this mantra.  We serenaded each other and the bemused passers by to our corny yet heart felt rendition, we sang from our hearts and we drew on all our music video knowledge to pull this off.  I thought I was on the stage of a broadway musical and I desperately revelled in the magic of drunken abandon.  We got to our next venue and entered the shady bar via the dimly lit alley way.  We headed to the bar without hesitation and ordered, “Two shots of whisky, bottom shelf please.”  We didn’t want the fancy french champagne that we had been exposed to, we wanted the nasty stuff- we were going to put hairs on our chests.  The bartender was somewhat amused by our antics, killing ourselves laughing and high fiving each other like we had made it into the fraternity of cheap ass drinkers.  I instinctively and somewhat impulsively decided that we were not going to be the only ones to have fun tonight so I ordered a round of whisky shots for the bar staff. One round, two rounds then three. We were on fire. Why things went south so quickly I really can’t be sure, although I do know that we were told that our brand of fun was no longer welcome and that we were to leave the bar.  We dutifully bowed our heads and did what we were good at, we moonwalked out of there. And what a fun way to exit a venue. It seems on this occasion that knowing when to stop had not been necessary as the decision had been made for us, we were no longer moonwalking, we were now crab walking our way back to our apartments.

Knowing when to stop this whole mess of a Breast Cancer diagnosis has also been met with similar difficulty.  Unfortunately some of the medical specialists treating me have used very emotive and coercive language when determining the best course of action for my condition.  I use the word unfortunate as this is not what I had been banking on, I have always been interested in the facts and the science. Having my Oncologist use fear as a way to get me to follow their chosen path of treatment has been very confusing for me.  The fear of  ‘not being able to see my children grow up’ is of course gut wrenching for any parent. Throwing this little aside comment in does not make for very scientific choices.  I have decided not to go ahead with Radiation Therapy even if my Doctor would ‘hit me on the head with a brick if I were their relative’.  The odds are thankfully stacked in my favour, I choose to focus on the 70% chance of cancer not coming back in 10 years rather than worrying about the 30% chance of recurrence.

Knowing when to stop has not been easy, howeverI have made my decision to cease treatment and am very content with the facts presented to me. I know that I am done and can now say that I am satisfied and willing to end this part of my treatment.

Going Bald was the easy part

No more ridiculously expensive imported hair products, no more 80’s hair mousse, no more need for the GBH straightener, no more hair dye…no more hair.

Shaving my head was kinda cool. I felt edgy and like I had joined a hard core feminist movement that had moved on from burning bras. This was liberation at its finest. I felt freed. Truly freed. No longer defined by my unruly wild curly black hair, my hair had in a way defined me and become an identifier.  I was accustomed to standing out amongst the other school mums who were mainly straightened blond haired beauties, I was the wog chick at school pick up with mad hair who wasn’t wearing active wear.

Those who didn’t know I was going through chemotherapy would comment how they loved my new look, again probably a vain denial on my part as I thought I looked so damn good. I’m guessing the yellow skin and puffy face might have been a give away but I held my shiny head up high. I had a pretty edgy wardrobe already but I decided to amp it up even further to complete the I’m too cool for hair on my head look. Obviously I looked different, but I still maintained the vibrant matt hot pink and red lipstick colours that had become my trade mark over the years. It’s a Melbourne thing.

I had a night out with friends early on during chemotherapy and I remember bumping into a friend that I hadn’t seen for quite some time. She always effortlessly managed to have a glamorous look about her, anyway this particular night she didn’t have any make up on, her hair was tied back in a simple pony tale and was in active wear… So me being me, said “Ohh my god I didn’t recognise you at all, you look so different!”  She turned around to me and quite rightly said, “You didn’t recognise me, are you serious?”

Looking back on my baldness I was really hell bent on never wearing a wig or head scarf which of course I never did. For me I associated the head scarves and wigs as representing a sense of shame about what I was going through.  I didn’t ask for my breast to try to kill me, so I wasn’t going to cover up my current state of hairlessness.  Having a rebellious nature meant that I was not going to run with what I called the cancer look, I had made up my mind and I didn’t give a shit about being bald. I had a pretty unapologetic attitude about it and probably carried a little chip on my shoulder too.

I remember going to a Look Good Feel Better program which is charity run, they show women going through breast cancer how to apply make up, draw on eyebrows, tie a head scarf around your head so it looks like you have hair under it amongst other beauty tips. They pulled out a few wigs and I was asked to model a wig for the group.  Being the complete non conformist that I am I asked if I could model the worst wig on display- the nasty nylon pink wig. I did  not want to be part of a cover up, I wanted to put the sting in this operation and have some fun with a very un fun situation. The wigs are hot and itchy and my scalp was extremely painful and sensitive so a wig was not going to work for me anyway.  Please don’t get me wrong I don’t want to come across as a total party pooper, I think women should wear wigs if it makes them feel better about themselves.  I’m all for trying to look good and feel better in what feels like a mostly crap time.  I too drew on my eyebrows and used black eyeliner on my lids to compensate for missing eyelashes. I was just pissed off that not once during this group did any of the facilitators talk about how you don’t need to cover up to feel better. I wanted to hear that we all looked beautiful with our shiny bald heads. We were a group of young dynamic, creative and diverse individuals who just needed a little esteem boost, to be told that we should be proud of the way we look.  To be told to go easy on ourselves for our ongoing struggles and for our hair loss.  I wanted to tell every woman that they were stunning and beautiful just the way they were…. and I did.

I did go home with a huge stash of high end designer make up and skin care products donated by these luxury brands. I was such a pain in the arse, I even asked where the organic products were and the natural oils and moisturises. I wasn’t keen on the products that would poison me further.  A few days later and still on my high horse I got a call from a person in head office from the program, someone had suggested that I would be a great model for their advertising campaign. Unfortunately that woman had called the wrong person. I was not interested in being photographed in a wig to support women with breast cancer, I would only be part of their photo shoot if I could wear my own bald head. Lets just say that the conversation didn’t go so well, and I wasn’t offered a spot in the shoot.

Morphine PCA – Patient Controlled Analgesia

Every time I wake up in pain from surgery I still manage to behave like a greedy kid in a candy store. Pushing the PCA button is the only thing that I can focus on.  A PCA is basically morphine that is electronically controlled via an infusion pump intravenously.  The dose is predetermined by the doctor so the patient can not overdose, I figured I’d be in safe hands.   I’ve had a few surgeries now so waking up in recovery with that little hand held button is my version of a security blanket.  There is something to be said for the self administration of drugs although some things are best left unsaid.  By pushing the PCA you are immediately fast tracked out of the pain queue, bypass the call bell and do not have to wait for a nurse to turn up while your waiting in post surgery hellish pain.  Apparently Im quite amusing post surgery, or so my husband reminds me.  I’m reduced to a mess of high pitched sing song sentences interspersed with a few painful yelps.

When the PCA is ready to administer another dose a little green light illuminates and its a race for me to press it.  I hate pain and I mean hate it, I think I have extra sensitive nerve endings because I don’t seem to tolerate physical pain very well at all.  When it comes to emotional pain I’ve done a few rounds and have taken a few emotional beatings without so much as flinching.

I was all over that PCA button, I was at it for days.  The nurses would check in on me every few hours and ask if I had, wait for it… ‘opened my bowels’.  I wasn’t eating anything so this probably explained why my colon was sheepish.

My gorgeous nutritionist friend came to visit me armed with a jar of 48 hour bone broth infused with various bones and of course chicken feet, a organic kale green juice with ginger and turmeric and some other super duper foods.  I was high as a kite on my PCA and so happy to have a visitor that would listen to my dribble.  I started on the green juice and shortly after backed it up with the intense bone broth.  One thing is for sure morphine can make you nauseous and thats just what happened, I heaved violently and creatively redecorated room 803.  I was a mess, although not my first experience with messy.

I do remember a pre-cancer debaucherous night out when I somehow managed to spill red wine up my skirt and ended up with wine soaked knickers.  This was the same night that I was at an uber cool bar in Paddington, wearing a simple cotton dress with a long slit down the middle of the back.  In a moment of inebriated genius I snatched a black magic marker from the bar tenders hand, spun my dress around and drew on my rather relaxed stomach a very nice set of abs. I now had a rockin’ six pack.

The next morning I woke up with a throbbing head ache, no PCA and killer abs.

Note to self: Don’t drink and draw.  It took several showers to scrub that off.

Then I discovered Google Scholar

Admittedly it’s been about 20 years since I left University and haven’t really done any study or research since then.  I’m guessing that looking up how to bake an easy chocolate cake recipe on the internet isn’t exactly research.  Like most of us, we don’t talk Oncologist speak, its a completely different language that is full of huge words that sound to me mostly harsh and terminal.  Once I heard the words Grade 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma I knew that I was way out of my language league.  I had studied Fine Art at University and I was more used to discussing the exstistential elements of art and its context. Onco speak was so daunting and final, there is no room for contemplation or personal interpretation.

The day I discovered Google Scholar I got my game on.  The note pad was ready, the pencils were sharpened, the ginger and turmeric tea was at hand.  I was in my PJ’s and I was ready to kick some scholary arse. I found myself reading research paper after research paper trying desperately to interpret language that was beyond me. The funny thing is I managed in my own inept way to scour across papers and seemingly made some sense out of it all. It was more gut feeling than intellect. I spread myself around the sites like a greedy cookie monster. One site wasn’t enough, multiple pages and research articles opened all at once, cross checking info on my iPad and iPhone simultaneously. I needed more devices.

Knowledge was king and I was hungry for more.  Im not so sure I was ingesting the right amount of quality nutrients but I was getting something. This was junk food for the mind. I felt inspired and motivated. That was the day that I swore off sugar as an evil product made by huge multinationals who were out to make big bucks and poison us at the same time. I discovered articles on assassinated professors who had come close to simple cancer cures that couldn’t be patented, there was so much to read, the concept of cancer as a business was starting to seem very real to me. That is when I declared that I would stick to an alkaline diet. I was going to kill this fungus inside me, no more sugar, no more acid causing foods or drinks, I was going to be the king of my own domain and re set my path to healing.  I was knee deep in conspiracy theories, this was so much fun. I was on the edge of my sofa. Chemotherapy was going to kill me, surgery was going to spread the cancer further, radiation would give me new cancers, holy shit I was l wadding through a pool of hot steaming crap and I couldn’t see a way of getting out of it.

Anyone who knows me knows all too well that I’m a rebel at heart, I like to question, I don’t like being told what to do.  This was going to get interesting, I was ready to fight every oncologist and pummel them with my questions and theories, I was armed with little knowledge and god knows this can be most dangerous.

I took my note book with me to my Medical Oncologist appointment (the chemo doctor) and fired away.  Will the Chemotherapy cause new cancers? Will it damage my organs? Is this the worlds best practice for treatment? How many of your patients have declined treatments and what was there outcome? What is a hidden cancer? Do you know if the cancer has spread or are you guessing? Is it in my big toe as well as my breast? Why don’t we remove the cancerous breast first? I went on and on. Suffice to say that this $565 appointment wasn’t going too well.  The Doctor had her back up, I was that pain in the arse patient that thinks they know everything and was questioning her extensive knowledge, expertise and experience.  She was ‘patient’ at first but soon realised that I was resisting treatment and perhaps resisting the idea that me, yes me, had Breast Cancer.

Patient: adjective. Able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious. “be patient, your time will come” synonyms: forbearing, uncomplaining, tolerant, long-suffering, resigned, stoical.

I walked out of that appointment humming Bowie’s classic 1974 track:

Do do do do do do do do, Rebel rebel, you’ve torn your dress, rebel rebel your face is a mess