Hi my name is Ivana and this my adventure.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2015 .I have had my mastectomy, currently having chemo then radio
I don't call it a story but an adventure... Everyone in life has hurdles to cross.. It's how we jump the hurdles, where we get advice, who picks us up when we fall, that can make a big difference to our adventure.
Not all adventures have a happy ending and I will be sensitive to this in my narration
I am a registered nurse who has worked in palliative care so feel my adventure could give others insight, hope, a good belly laugh!!
Well where does one start. I call my husband dad and have done for many years. This suitably embarrassed our teenage daughter who is all grown up now…I love to blog on Facebook….I blog like I talk..it just all pours out….spelling and grammar are not a strong point….I often wonder if you didn’t know me if you would understand my blogs!!...the girls at work often say….as I read your latest blog I can see it all happening in front of my eyes…nothing surprises them..life is short…enjoy each day as if it were your last…..surround yourself with positive people….live on the wild side now and then…..these are a few themes that underpin my blogs..they are written for fun and also for time out from a busy life………..
So I was sitting watching the ABC with dad…having a bit of a poke around in my boob and felt a bit of a lump ….I had implants 20 years ago and thought…must be that capsulation….hey dad have a feel of this ….what do you recon that is mum….think it’s time for a new titi job..the implants have done well 20 years…I will see the gp soon..
So off to work..busy busy..Groceries…movies…cleaning only if I must!!!..Riding my bike ..running..collapsing into bed. Life is good.
So off to the gp I go to the gp. Standard exam ..slip for mammogram and CT..Discuss plastics surgeon..life goes on. Time to book tests..look at roster…bugger might have to take an annual leave day…..can’t see where else radiology can fit me in….discuss with boss and it’s all good..
Hey dad got the day off to have those tests on my titties..might fit in some retail therapy and start researching registered reputable plastic surgeons in Melbourne.
Tests done. Tick the box…I remember looking at the request slip…request said?? Capsulation…? Breast disease….no family history of cancer…all…..must get home and squeeze a run..well it’s more like a stumble but I love exercise..good for the soul, mental health and some me time !!. I have endogenous depression which was diagnosed when I was in my early 20. It’s a disease just like diabetes and that’s how I manage it …lots of positive people, good food, time out, regular medication and seeking help when it’s needed.
At this time dads precious mum was in Melbourne having elective cardiac surgery. An amazing 85 year old who had a zest for life and looked more like 70yrs. Things did not go to plan …complications…we were all beside ourselves…where were we heading……another death in the family?
My baby sister, dad’s dad, dads Uncle, great nanna, my dad…all in a short space of time…please God not Joyce.
So our GP rang and wanted to speak to dad about Joyce condition and suggested I come along too…Joyce’s prognosis was poor….get ready to ride the roller coaster again…now Yvonne he said with much empathy and support. I have another thing to complicate your life……Brett do you want to sit down….silly GP he knows dad can’t sit…dad had an accident a few years after we married…that’s another story….soooooooooo
Yvonne I have your test results and am sorry to say that you have breast cancer….pause …award silence….ok so what happens now I ask ..off to see family surgeon..hang on I will ring him..its 5.30 but still might be there……….I look at dad shrug my shoulders…shit happens…yep he can see you now.
Dad and I walk out hope it the car..I am so sorry love he says..I can see the pain and sorrow in his eyes…I touch his hand…thanks love…just another adventure for us…
As we drive I read the path report which the GP gives to me. OK so I am a nurse so this should all make sense……….but I have not worked in this area for years….I read between the lines and figure I screwed..chop chop…..off with the breast…you know I am not a vain person but my first though…I had breast implants done for me and me only…growing up I waited and waited for my voluptuous breasts to appear but alas it was never to be…you know I never really felt like a woman ………..now they were going to chop one off…OK NURSE BRAIN IN OVERDRIVE…one path report and I had assumed mastectomy………..
And so the adventure began. My local surgeon choose to send me to melb because of my implant and strong desire to have an immediate reconstruction. The diagnosis was what it was.. Breast cancer… He referred me to our local Breast care nurses who became a life line………I rang work……….great support again…….
I can’t help but think of the different ladies I have meet during this adventure that were not so lucky with their correct diagnosis, choice of surgeon and referral to allied health assistance. How does someone who has no medical background and network , understand and go through the process………….
There is only one way ASK FOR HELP AND JUST KEEP ASKING……
Ask your GP, the lady down the road who had a mastectomy, the breast care nurse, your surgeon, hope on line and google like mad…..now dad saw me on the computer and said…mum should you really be googling anything about cancer…all good…. the breast care nurse said only google the Cancer council site…………just had a quick peek at few other sites…don’t tell dad !!!!
There is so much out there…for a hip hop happening chicky like me it’s so easy. Just log on…network baby network……….but how does that elderly man in chemo manage…or the young women with 3 little one at her feet manage the endless appointments, blood tests, scans, dr visits in Melbourne…their own mental health..the cleaning..cooking,, pooh round…..Probably not relevant to all but I said pet I said love we have 3 healthy hounds who defecate frequently..not in one spot of course..OK back to the story….
Right how do you tell people esp the ones you love I have breast cancer….for me it depended on the person..their coping skills.......my gorgeous 89 years old mum had lost one daughter in tragic circumstances…so I needed to assure her I would be OK…I would not die……pause that thought….I know people that have died from breast cancer..they were just like me……..I have worked in palliative care in aged care death is no stranger…but this is me……….no time to dwell on that…
Next was Lizzie our daughter the most amazing young women I know……….fear filled me..what do I say..how can she deal with another diagnosis which could be terminal…she is such a busy bee…like all young people…worrying constantly about Joyce…live or die..
this should be easy..I am a nurse…I have followed up families after the “bad news” from the dr…but this is different..this is me my daughter my family…..I drove past work and saw her sitting out on a break…it was now or never…many people new…she needed to hear it from me….we sit..
Lizzie I need to talk to you….I know this is not the place to tell you but here goes…..you know how I had a mammogram and Ct because I found a lump….pause..my heart bleeds for my baby…
.well she says..I reply ,I have breast cancer love….Tears stream down her face…..and I suppose you are going to die too….she is scared, angry..distressed..our family is F***Ked…….
I go in and explain to her manager..I need Lizzie for ten minutes…can you spare her..no worries..take as long as you like..we go to the park…lots of questions…love do you want to go home…no she says I will go back to work..they need me and I need to keep busy….
Ok she said this year we are doing the mother’s day classic fun run for breast cancer…lets raise money to cure this bustard.. Hannah’s mum had it and she all clear…
I waved good bye.. with a big smile..sat in the car and cried and cried..please God don’t let me die..I want to see out daughter grow up, get married and be a nana
After the initial shock there was an event posted on Face book that read like this
As a lot of you know, mum got diagnosed with breast cancer late last year.
We have done the Mother's Day classic together once before but mum really wants to get a team of us together this year to do the Mother's Day classic!
It's a nice walk/run & we will make it as fun as possible with a BBQ in the park to follow!
We all know Mumma Von will get through this, come join us for a very special walk!
And so our team was created..we had a goal…
Joyce was moving between a melb hospital and our local hospital..we were beside our self……how could this be happening…..this amazing lady was facing death or a life of care which she told us ….if someone has to wipe my bum and can’t go to life ball that’s not living…I would rather be dead…..family meetings..
Dad was torn..an only child who adored his mum…his wife with the C word…where should he be…chronic back pain making every drive to melb a night mare..but never did he complain…rather have a diagnosis of breast cancer with a good prognosis than chronic pain…it never leaves him for one second over the las t 30 years..love ya dad
So we spoke I am soooo lucky that we can talk and more importantly listen ..I mean really listen…I would be fibbing if I said our marriage was perfect….but after 30 something years and lots of give and take he will do me…………
.dad your mum is soo sick..she may die.. you need to be with her….I am OK here..I have so many friends who I know they will help..I am young …I have a long life ahead of me so go love..please go
Lizzie text me constantly. How you feeling..are you going to tell nanna..does it hurt..do you feel sick..whens your surgery….who is doing it……….
Ok the shit had hit the fan..brett was in melb..joyce condition unstable and critical…Lizzie stressed out..me in a daze..smiling on the outside..in turmoil on the inside….
2 days befoe Xmas Joyce passed away with her little family beside her…she said enough was enough..it was time to go…we bathed her ,turned
and fed…....lizzie was on mouth care duty…..
My grief was overwhelming…dad was in a haze and Lizzie being so mature was supporting us both..time to call the troops in..HELP PLEASE…I used facebook to inbox friends to help us get through this time…after years of caring for people..giving 100% to my patients..it was my turn..I just could not keep going alone……….meals arrived..a load of washing was hung out ..the ironing disappeared..the dogs were walked and even the pooh round was done !!!!!!!!!!!!
Amongst all this I had my mastectomy..chop chop..a little in one lymph gland..but all in all a good result the surgeon told me…the pathology of your tumour will be back in about 10 days..I need to get home to wang I told her..she is am amazing surgeon with a holistic approach who asked after Joyce each visit…..
2 days before xmas we sat in our lounge with the funeral director and plan a farewell that Joyce deserved….
My wound was not healing well. I was afebrile…no redness or swelling but the suture line was black..? necrosis..wait and see…..as we plan the funeral the phone rang..it was a resident dr from melb…we need you in theatre today..your surgeon reviewed a photo the breast care nurse sent yesterday….what time can you be here…..i explained my current situation..asked when I would go to theatre, as it was not an emergency and public holidays looming was theatre time available…the poor young lass could not answer my questions……I will check..this call was followed by 2 more from different young polite doctors all with different directives…
For the first time I lost the plot..no I can’t be in melbounre today I have a funeral to plan.. its 2 days before Xmas..I am afebrile…I travelled to melb yesterday especially to see the on call plastic surgeon..he said we will change the dressing and wait and see….HE GOT A BLAST TOO..
.OK at last they agreed with me that a visit to my GP to access the wound would be the most logical start!!!!!!!!!!!!!
You know I have to say that during this adventure every health care professional and volunteer I have meet have been so kind, compassionate, and going that extra mile….we are truly blessed to live in Australia and no matter what they say about our public health system I reckon it is f*****g Fantastic !!!
But there is always just one that gets under your skin…I used up so much emotional energy dealing with the way this dr. lets just sum it up….karma will catch him I have no doubt
Once again how in hell does your average Jo blow with no medical knowledge get on….I suppose they just say … Yes Doctor…3 bags full doctor
So I did do something about him …no need for details….. I believe that karma is heading his way.
So back to home…..the morning of the funeral the phone rang about 0800hrs..it was the dickhead on call plastic surgeon…In a very soft voice he explained he had sent the photos he took to my plastic surgeon who was on holidays….i needed to go to theatre today…………someone from the hospital will ring you in a minute…he hung up.
WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON I HAVE PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE!!!!!!!!!
Are you hearing my anger because pet I said I said love I am pounding these keys…… Oh yes did I mention when I looked into our private health insurance it was not going to cover me fully in a private hospital…so my holistic surgeon said..no worries Yvonne..I work in the public sector..money is not an issue ..you can come in as a private patient in a public hospital and not pay a cent and still have your 2 surgeons do the surgery…..Mr Plastics may have a different view but leave it to me……
Right so back to the story ……..So back to the morning of the funeral..news years eve. The phone rang again…Hello Yvonne this Michael the Registrar from the *************** hospital. I am so sorry for your loss . I believe today is your mother in laws funeral….All my anger subsided. I remembered Michael..a kind compassionate young doctor..we need to get you to theatre as soon as we can…the wound looks like it is necrotic and I have read your pathology…we don’t want to delay your chemo…I have booked 3 spots for you in theatre this afternoon at different times………..do you think you would be able to make your way down here after the funeral………it is very important that we look after you………….thankyou Jesus Mary and Joseph you restored my faith in human nature….yes Michael I replied I could be there by 4 I think…..thankyou.
And so we celebrated the life of an amazing lady…we laughed and cried…I only told the funeral director, dad, mum and Lizzie that I had to leave after the first round of cuppa’s…this was Joycie day..how do I get to Melb…..easy phone a dear friend coming up for the funeral..explain the situation ……..so I slipped out of the wake and they delivered me to the hospital..helped me find my way, and waited till I got back from theatre………so very lucky to have so many special people in my life……..
In recovery I heard the buzz of nurses and doctors planning their new years eve ….they where so busy with extra cases….3 unplanned c sections…I heard a new born cry…..I smiled ..the cirle of life….joyce left us today and a new soul was born
So back to the ward..my ward and my nurses who remembered me…it was a busy shift..they checked on me frequently, clinical care amazing, holistic care amazing…ward so clean and bright and cheery….it had been a big day..I phoned dad…he had been asleep…a brief chat…love you dad…love you mum….
Any pain Yvonne the nurses asked…yep reckon an endone might hit the spot.. about an 7/10 at rest.. so an endone I had.
.about 2030hrs I was rather jovial .. might watch the CHRISTMAS Carols..so I turned on the TV and flicked thru the stations…no carols..I wonder which channel…phone dad….he is the remote and TV king…dad had been asleep again…..Yvonne the FIRE WORKS are on Channel 7 ……have you had anything to eat….I was high as a kite…tripping I think..as the young people would say….no dad don’t think I have…well mum get some food..turn off your phone and get some sleep.
So what did I do..rang all my friends..wished them a happy new year..and kept looking for those dam Christmas carols…A new years eve to remember !!!!!!!!!!
All the time I had support from my family friends and health care professionals….my breast care nurse was on speed dial…when I asked her could she get my pathology result re the tumour..no worries…our breast care nurses are an amazing resource….I need to some how help support them and all the amazing people who have supported me on my adventure…..thats right Team Von is entered in the mothers day classic……Lizzie and I had invited 80 facebook friends..lots of interest and even some definite entries…....this is only Jan….better start “training”..so I did….certainly not so quick out of the blocks but I said pet I said Love I gave it my best shot….around the court twice..wacko the duck I was on my way !!!!!!!At about this time a friend emailed me about a fun run in Feb..was I interested??....was I up to it….I looked and the chemo calendar..yep should work…I promptly emailed back..lock me in….not sure about the 5 km but will give it a crack..dad says he is in too….just to make sure I don’t break into a gallop when the guns goes off..love ya guts dad….I knew I might need someone to pick me up if I stumbled….
Ok back to the path results..dad and I went to see the breast care nurse. She handed me the results..it was 2 pages long and really made no sense at all..long story for a little lump…yes I am a nurse…not a pathologist and this was about me.not a patient….Yvonne I wanted to talk you through the results and am glad Brett is here so you both understand.
So a multifocal tumor , margins close to the breast bone and skin.., small amount of cells in the first lymph gland…2nd gland clear..that’s good I think… 2 type’s of cancer..lobular and something else..12 cm in total…shit that’s big…sounds like a nasty bastard tumour I reply…yes it was Yvonne but the margins are clear
OK I had put this adventure into 3 boxes..surgery..chemo and radio…deal with one box at a time…tick that box when its finished and move on…
Next box Chemo..now that did scare me…..lose my hair vomit, drips drugs..nasty bastartd drugs….low white cell count..infection…can I have my Charlie dog with me inside….I will die without her and that’s a fact Jack!!!!!!!!!....I really didn’t understand it…time to phone a friend….the cancer council help line….omg they are an amazing resource…all trained professionals who are not in a rush and have time to listen and answer all those questions….google them…ring them……I reckon if they had a frequent fliers point system we would be able to jet off to Hawaii when my treatment is done and dusted !!
I didn’t sleep a wink the night before..up and dressed..full makeup..big smile and off we go….. was greeted with lots of familiar faces which was reassuring………..of course dad and Lizzie where with me…we are in this together. For that I am so grateful…….
Oh I have missed something..the Oncologist….First appointment is always a good time to suss them out..do they have a sense of humour…..can I be myself….what’s important to them…..ME or THEM….
The waiting room was packed to capacity..all shapes and sizes..some smiling..some not so happy…OK so its goes like this…stand behind the line..wait to be called..weigh in..report back…take a seat….OK that’s not to hard..must remember to discuss a port
Mrs Richards….we go in and take a seat..dad stands of course….Nice chap..doesn’t really look much older than me…formal visit..we address him as Dr…… shake his hands…..maintain eye contact…..let him run the show….he remarks about me DOB and says he is only 4 months older than me…gives me a grin..your only a spring chicken..we will take care of u…………..ok I thought question time…I pulled out my list..nurses love lists!!! .last question was.. did I need a port..he gazed over the desk and looked vaguely at my arms..you have good veins…only have 6 doses…no you will be right…. if only I had insisted then………. All in all he was a good bloke and I knew we would get long …...if we didn’t I would have asked for another oncologist. It is my right and this was serious business…………..wonder if poor old Jo Blow new his rights…..
ok box 3 chemo
for the record I would just like to acknowledge that for many of those I meet chemo was a trip to hell and back. So many debilitating side effects, admissions to hospital to treat side effects and even long term secondary medical conditions related to those nasty bastard drugs
OK let’s just take a detour for a minute…you know during this adventure there have been lots of positives….I discovered we have a family of blackbirds that nest in our hydrangeas under the kitchen window….where I spend hours looking out…….when I told dad…he said they have been there for years
I now have time to dance with Charlie my Jack Russell in the kitchen…..go for a slow walk cause that’s as fast as I can go and see things I usually fly past….book a random holiday just cause I could to Tassie for 3 days and surprise dad…what a hoot we had even if I had to wear a duck bill mask on the plane…have a moe hawk hair style for one minute during the ceremonial head shave……….lay on the trampoline at night and just watch the stars and listen to the night……..jump on the back of dads motor bike and participate in The Black Dog Ride for depression…great day..I really really looked like a bikie with my shaved headed and borrowed leathers !!!!!!!!!..visit my mum more often……….get to know my neighbour really well and discover what an amazing person she is….rethink my career path….figure out that we need money for sure……but how much do we really need….enter the Mothers day Classic as the captain of Team von…buy some funky hats and actually wear them…shower every second day( skin just too sore to do it every day)…nappies wipes are my best friend…..attend the Look Good Feel Good Day and be thoroughly spoilt with brand name make up that I would never buy….make so many new friends with and without cancer…….save big dollars on hair products.
Now where was I…. yep round one of 6 chemo..so we went through the motions…all a bit surreal I was the patient….we arrived home ..what are you meant to feel like ?????..dad says..how do you feel….normal I think…how do I look dad…yep Ok……better put a bucket by my bed….stock up on icey poles..make up that mouth wash…get a hazard bag ready for all my waste products..stock up on hand wash and hand cream, non-fragrant body wash and moisturisers…have we got a thermometer?? Put the oncology girls phone number on the fridge
All good and so very lucky with only minimal side effects………after 2nd round my good arm began to ache and swell..I could not straighten it at all…visit to oncology nurses..cording of the veins…need physio..ok.
.Another group of amazing nurses..so kind, gentle, professional and make you feel like you are the only patient in the room.Sooo busy ….. Call us anytime Yvonne no question is silly……yep you guessed it …I have them on speed dial!!!!
Next visit to oncologist..how’s your veins going he says..actually my arm is giving me hell..the oncology girls said I have cording of the veins…ok you can have a PICC…..that should solve the problem…I would rather a port please…why it’s just not necessary. You have to have a GA to get it out. Don’t care. I said……….port please..I don’t want a PICC, they block, have to be dressed every week, can’t get them wet in the shower, everyone can see them and knows you are sick…so the banter across the desk commenced..PICC he said PORT I said and so it went on and he finally relented….I give up you win he said ..here’s your request form, the girls at the desk will book you in..I smile..thankyou….how you travelling Jo Blow ?
So 3 rounds down and 3 to go….next round they change the drugs….fingers crossed I travel well.
So that’s where I am at the moment……..and that’s my adventure so far..must go… booked in for a wig trim at 4
Opps…While I was having my wig trimmed I remember one event during my adventure that I am sure will give some people a good belly laugh…OK so if you are a nurse or broad minded person read on…otherwise go do your breast exercises and start training for the Mother’s day Classic in your town…..
Now just a quick request before a good belly laugh… to all my fellow nurses..I think its one in 8 women get breast cancer and so do men.. we are predominately a female profession. So you too could start an adventure tomorrow, next week, next year or never. My adventure has been made so much easier with all the support I have received from health care professionals, volunteer organisation, family work colleagues and friends. My prognosis so far is all good. This is due to the amazing research and induvial treatment plans for each woman and man.. all this take $$$$$$$$$$$$..Nurses are great motivators and leaders sooo…gather your work mates, family and friends and get a team together to raise money for this year’s Mother’s day Classic.. Plenty of time..who need to train when you walk/run for 8-10 hours every shift !!!.Take the plunge you won’t be sorry. It’s a great day out for a great cause.
Belly laugh time.
Ok so I have always had a wee problem with constipation….took years for me to get it right..in fact it was dad who stumbled across a product at the chemist and proudly brought it home..
After my first round of chemo I was a bit unsure if I would have a daily normal evacuation……about day 4…I just did not make it to the loo in time….yep I “shit “ myself..I called dad…cried while dad hosed me down…in the shower . with a clean nightie on we had a laugh and I headed outside to do some yoga ..as I commenced the down ward face dog pose I could smell something..I thought bet these shoes have dog pooh on them….as I bent forward I let a little fart rip…there was something running down my legs. The warrior pose next…..it wasn’t dog shit …yep I had shit myself again…ok I called out to dad from the front door…Dad guess what….yep shit myself again !!!. this time we laughed hard. ….into the shower mum and lets hose you off or we could call the fire brigade !!!
Now the line “ I shit myself is most unprofessional “ but who cares…life is short ..live on the wild side..live every day as it is your last and surround yourself with positive people……over and out .
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.