Saturday, July 25 2015
I have been thinking a lot lately about my life and especially my health and what I have gone through and learnt. One thing that keeps popping into my mind is just how much being sick affects every aspect of my life!
When you think about it, being chronically sick interferes with your physical, mental, social, spiritual and financial health. I know my bank account has taken a massive hit since I had to stop working almost 3 years ago and with the never ending medical expenses (scans, blood tests, doctors fees, surgical fees, hospital excess fees). I also know people stop inviting me places because I often cancel last minute because I am stuck in bed, in pain and unable to drive (and have no one to drive for me).
I know a lot of people only associate health with just being physical, but I wanted to bring the attention to our health being holistic and incorporates the several key aspects of our life.
There are so many ways you can perform selfless acts, and it will make you feel better about yourself by bringing jo and happiness to others.
P.S if you have any suggestions or ways that you improve your health through small changes, please leave a comment and share ideas for others reading.
Friday, July 24 2015
Today marks 5 years since I walked down the aisle and said "I do" to my incredible husband.
We have gone through so much these past 5 years, and when they say marriage is for sickness and in health they weren't kidding!
We have often been told that our love story is incredible and a true testament to how much you're willing to do when someone you love is sick or ill.
I met Russell (my spunky hubby) when I was 18 and this crazy and bubbly first year nursing student at uni. I needed a new laptop after my laptop decided to go for a bit of a swim during the March '09 Coffs Harbour floods... so I desperately needed a laptop to keep up with uni work.
I headed off to my local Wow sight and sound electronics superstore (which has since closed) and was on a mission to find a new laptop. I was greeted by this rather adorable and spunky computer salesman (and I could tell he was a bit nerdy too) so I pulled out all my charm and wit and tried to pretend to understand whatever computer mumbo jumbo he was going on about... it was so hard to focus when his eyes were so dreamy!
I was a poor uni student who didn't have contents insurance or much savings, so I needed to apply for finance for a laptop.
I spent the next couple of hours chatting with this salesman while we were doing the application, and he claims I was hitting on him (I say otherwise) but when I was rejected for finance I was about to head home and decided I would ask for his number but just like GE and flexirent, he too rejected me.
A couple of months passed and I had received a scholarship from uni and had some savings in place to attempt to buy the laptop again. So I tried to wait until a couple of months had passed before I returned to the store in the hopes he wouldn't remember me.
I had even gone to the troubles of dying my hair a red/purple colour and cutting it really short.
So the day came in July (3 months later) and I wondered into the computer department when I noticed the hot salesman. I tried to avoid his attention (I still felt the shame) and pretended to be busy looking at computers when he walked up and approached me. He smiled and said "It's Talya isn't it" and I felt my face turning red like a beetroot and in my head I was cursing with a few "f#$%, f$#%, f$#%"'s and really wished he hadn't of remembered me.
But I felt my face returning to normal and told him I was ready to buy that $2000 laptop I wanted and would need a new printer, MS office word and some extended warranty (I was every computer salesman's dream customer.. one that knew what they wanted). He started to get it all organised when he said to me "I am sorry for not getting your number that day, I have regretted it everyday since and just hoped I would see you again and not be shy to get your number".
So we got talking and he asked what I was up to since I saw him last, and I told him how I had been sick and waiting to have brain surgery in a month's time.
His response was "What superpower are your getting?" which was pretty typical for a nerd, and made me smile. I left with his number and a new computer and sat by my phone waiting for 5.30pm to come so I could call him.
We chatted for ages on the phone and organised to have a date the following sunday and chatted every night leading up to our date. It was like we had known each other forever, and I really felt that I could be myself and could trust him. There was that instant connection.
My friends gave me a bit of a hard time over the age gap. I was 18 and he was 29, but never has it felt like there was this gap between our ages. Sometimes I think he is a kid with the way he acts and carries on... but they do say it takes a long time for males to mature LOL.
So we went on our first date and we started dating and he really helped me come to terms with my upcoming brain surgery, which I was so scared about (and it was also going to be filmed for the RPA TV show).
Russ was there for me through my brain surgeries even though he barely knew me, and my dad really admired that in him and the way he took care of me when I was sick. So I was almost in the second month out of three for my hospital stay (I devleoped golden staph/MRSA in fection after one of my surgeries so was 2 month treatment to rid me of the infection) when he proposed.
We got married the following July, and everyone thought I was being married because I was pregnant (which I wasn't and yet to have a child) or that it wouldn't last because I am too young or that I was rushing into it.... what many failed to grasp was when you are faced with life or death you soon realise how crucial it is to make the most of everyday you are alive... I was doing just that, living life at its fullest and not missing out on any opportunities.
Our wedding was a beautiful, intimate and relaxing day. Aside from the usual family drama that comes with a wedding, the day was better than expected. The weather held off, and we got married on a headland and saw whales breaching in the background, it was truly magical!
Best of all the wedding (including our outfits) was under $2500! I wanted to save as much on the wedding so we could have the honeymoon we dreamed of!
Not long after our wedding I started a traineeship at a bank and learnt of my dad's terminal bowel cancer and that it was a rare inherited type known as FAP. I started screening and testing which was confirmed I too inherited this disease and started meeting with an array of doctors and specialists who wanted me to fastrack having a family (preferably via IVF to diagnose any embryo's affected with the gene).
It was hard being a newlywed and finding out that your dreams of having a family and that you're at a 80% risk of bowel cancer and prone to other tumours and cancers and will require 6 monthly surveilence.
It was a lot for us to come to terms with, but we got through it all and Russ was there for me.
Dad lost his battle in March 2012, 3 days after my 21st birthday and Russ supported me through my grief.
Wow went into administration and Russ was made redundant in April, and he struggled to find work. I was able to pick up extra shifts but things were so difficult. I was finding my health especially my bowels deteriorating and I was in constant pain, but I had to keep working or we would have lost everything. I lived off of our credit cards to help make ends meat, as I was now needing to work enough to cover 2 incomes.
In September Russ thankfully got offered a job with a well established company coming to Coffs and it meant I could reduce my hours so I could finally go to Doctors appointments and catch up on colonoscopies.
After a few months on the waiting list to see a gynocologist, he booked me in for investigative surgery the following week as he discovered I had a large mass on one of my ovaries.
So I had a colonoscopy on Oct 8th and a laporoscopy, cystoscopy and hysteroscopy done on the 10th and it was discovered I had severe stage IV endometriosis with my surgeon saying "it was one of the worst cases he has seen in his career and in someone who was 21". I had a 15cm round enometrioma removed off of my left ovary along with the lining of the ovary, a couple of 7cm masses removed and a hundred 1 and 2cm sites removed as well.
Because of the extent of the damage I was placed in a medically induced menopause for 6 months and it was horrible. I was so sick and it took me a few months to recover from the surgery (sex was a no go, just hurt too much and still does) and I made the decision to stop working so I could recover and focus on my health. Russ was great about it and was so supportive and did everything to help me get better.
The week I finished up working (was Nov 24th) I found out the results from my colonoscopy, which showed the polyps in my bowel and rectum were in the early stages of becoming cancerous and I had an estimated 6 months to have my bowel removed before the cancer fully turned and spread. I was told I would need a permanent ileostomy.
The start of 2013 involved a lot of appointments with stoma therapy nurses and surgeons to ensure I understood what was going to happen. I was really struggling to come to terms with the idea of having an ileostomy and knowing it will be a lifelong decision was rather daunting.
Heck, all I wanted to do was be a normal 21 year old and I felt that my health was taking a lot of normalcy away from me.
So the surgery was scheduled for April, which was cancelled just as they were about to put me under and rescheduled a month later at the main hospital (for safety reasons) so it meant another month of trying to process it.
Russ was incredible through all this, he came to all my appointments and even asked to be shown what to do to help me do a bag change and wanted to be involved. He was there when I had my surgery and helped me to get out of bed and walk around (which was so painful) but he also would come and visit me every day for the month I was in hospital even after he had been working all day and would take home clothes to wash and bring me new clothes the following day, he would even help me to shower.
And no matter what has happened, he has never seen me as gross or disgusting because I have a stoma and continues to be attacted to me and love me unconditionally.
In 2013, I also developed acute recurrent pancreatitis which meant a lot more visits in hospital
This year wasn't as intense with as many surgeries but still had a lot of pancreatitis visits to hospital.
It was also discovered in July that year that there was a large abdominal mass, and was sent to Sydney for investigations and ordered to have PET scans, which after reviewing the October PET scan the doctors wanted me to repeat it in Feb 2015, so it was months of waiting to see what these tumours were.
In Feb' I had the repeat PET scan which showed there was activity on my thyroid, breast, multiple tumours in my abdomen as well as the bigger tumour now completly blocking my left kidney. This meant being admitted into hospital for further tests which went over a period of 5 weeks. I was in hospital some 800kms away from home, and it was really hard for Russ being home working and he wasn't coping trying to come to terms with everything. But in true stubborn male form, he wouldn't talk about it all either.
He helped me through my thyroid surgery and I wasn't very well and he helped me to shower and take care of me. When he arrived the morning after my surgery I was still sedated with a ventillator attached and tubes hooked up everywhere, he didn't cope well seeing me how I was and when I saw how I looked even I was worried.
I just found out I will be needing brain surgery again, and still waiting to see if my desmoid tumours will shrink or if I will need chemo, but it has made all the difference knowing that no matter what happens my husband will be there to help me.
He works so hard to help support us while I haven't been able to return to the workforce and he is great at putting up with my mood swings, some days I am coping but other days I am a mess, and he doesn't judge me. He always knows the right things to say!
But in the 5 years I have been married and been chronically sick, I have learnt 5 very important things:
A huge thank you to my husband for helping me through the last 5 years, without you I don't believe I would have made it. You're my hero x
Friday, July 17 2015
NB: This post contains the word 'shit'. If you'll be offended by the use of the word, please stop reading now.
Sometimes when things go horribly wrong, all you can do to keep yourself from breaking down and crying is to just laugh... this was a scenario I found myself in this week... and after all 'shit happens'.. in my case quite literally!
You see, I was invited to Melbourne this week for an exclusive bloggers workshop and was amongst the company of some of my blogging idols and heroes (even being in the same room let along being invited to the same event was pretty huge for me personally).
But what is one thing that can go wrong when you have a stoma... and something that you only ever think you're being overly paranoid about when in public?
If you guessed having a huge bag leak then you guessed correctly!
I was halfway through a 4 hour meeting/workshop when I quickly ducked off to the toilets only to realise that my bag had started leaking and was causing a bit of a mess. Of course the toilets were all the way down stairs and my stoma kit was all the way up in a seperate room (where everyone's bags and luggage was kept).. so I was sitting in the disabled toilets panicking thinking "shit, what the heck am I going to do?".
See I knew if I was in the toilet too long it might look suscpicious, or it might be even more suspicious if I ran upstairs grabbed my stoma kit, ran back downstairs and spent the next however long doing a bag change... so I realised where it was leaking and the bottom part of the bag that you close up was no longer sticking closed, so I emptied it, gave it a bit of a clean with some handtowels and ran upstairs.
I then did a bit of a McGyver trick and got the elastic tape (or I refer to them as banana wafers) and taped the bag closed.
I returned to my meeting and resumed my seat until the intermission (when everyone was mingling over wine, cheese and appetisers) I raced downstairs with my stoma kit and DID THE QUICKEST BAG CHANGE IN MY HISTORY OF HAVING A STOMA. No joke. It was the quickest change I have ever done, and thankfully no one noticed I had gone to the toilet for a second time in only a short period of time.
But it made me realise that I could have been better prepared and in hindsight I realise how, and I hope to share 5 ways to be better organised for when shit strikes...
5 ways to be better organised for a meeting/work when your stoma bag leaks
#1. Inside your handbag, briefcase or laptop bag have a seperate clutch or toiletry bag, that is dicreet and doesn't look like a toiletry bag and inside have enough for 1 bag change. So when you need to duck off to the toilet just grab your clutch and own how discreet you're being. Even if you don't have to take care of a bag leak, at least then you are prepared for when the moment strikes and you need to transform into a stoma bag changing Ninja!
#2. Always get to your meeting earlier than expected to so that you can allow time to go to the toilet and empty your bag, as nothing is more embarrassing than trying to excuse yourself from the meeting and as your bag is full and you apply pressure standing up your bag more or less bursts and it can be rather embarrassing (this has happened to me before when I was studying on campus).
#3. Always have a change of clothes or underwear with you. This one can be a bit hard if you only have a small handbag, thankfully I have a larger tote style handbag that is big enough to fit a change of clothes in. But if you have a locker at work or school/uni always have a spare change of clothes on hand, so that you are ready for when you have a bag leak and you don't have to go home in poo stained clothes, or sit in soiled clothes for the rest of your shift.
#4. Always carry some scented garbage bags in your handbag and stoma kit, so that if you have to dispose of your bag and there isn't any bins around and you have no choice but to carry your soiled stoma bag in your handbag until you can find a bin to dispose of it in.. at least it will help mask the smell a bit. Just soon as you find a bin, dump that shit (LITERALLY).
#5. If you have had to leave your meeting and people notice you have been gone for a length of time and start commenting (and rather then saying what really happened, unless you want to) just pull out the period card... no one especially men will ask more questions and your female co-workers will just look at you with an empathetic tone that says "I totes get how you feel".
I really, really hope that no one finds themselves in any situation where you have a bag leak in public, let alone at work or in a meeting. But I hope that this guide helps you to be better prepared for the worst case scenario. And by having these measures in place, it will help you to be more calm and collected when the 'shit hits the fan' and also helps put your mind/anxiety at ease.
p.s have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had to do a bag change or had a bag leak and it was the worst possible timing? If you are brave, feel free to share your story in the comments below. You can always post 'anon.' by simply writing this instead of your name.
Tuesday, July 07 2015
We are so lucky here in Coffs Harbour that there is an abundance of restaurants and cafe's open early in the morning right through until after lunch and often serving all-day-breakfast, and then there is almost as many places open serving dinner. There is a lot of variety to choose on depending on what it is that you like to eat and your budget. We also have some very beautiful surrounding towns not too far from Coffs and have some great shopping and local attractions.
The 'Clog Barn' offers the most delicious pancake stack for approx. $13, while the Twisted Sisters Cafe at the Jetty has an area for the kids to play while you catch up with friends over a well deserved coffee and cake. The food is pretty great too and they have a range of locally made products available to purchase as well, locals supporting locals is great!
Have you ever been on holidays and you actually WANTED to cook? Well... Me neither (lol)
I know how frustrating it is though, when you want something yummy and fulfilling for dinner, are on holidays and you have no idea on the best places to eat OR the places that offer GREAT meals at affordable budget friendly prices.
That's why I thought that I would do this post, and help share my part of Australia as a local with those who might be on holidays and visiting Coffs Harbour and the Coffs Coast and/if you are a local who is wanting to know where they can dine for under $11!
Here is my list of 11 places to eat for under $11.
Breakfast with a view
Plenty of parking available, and only a stones throw from the beach to go on a stroll after Breakfast.
If you're in Sawtell, or wanting to go and have breakfast somewhere, take the drive out there. Only a short drive from Coffs and some of the most beautiful beaches and views from the headlands and lookouts. While you're there stop by the Wholly Cow cafe and take advantage of the awesome $10 bacon + egg burger and coffee deal. Friendly staff and I just love the vibe you get when you walk through the doors.
Lunch for under $11
Hogs Breath Cafe $9.90 lunches available Monday-Friday, and these are pretty big meals! My husband loves the smoked BBQ beef wrap which comes with the delicious curly fries, while I like the grilled chicken and ranch burger with curly fries.
This would be my favourite Chinese place to go to for lunch or dinner in Coffs, and they have beautiful lunchtime specials for just $9.95 including fried rice or crispy noodles. Located in Park Ave across from Woolworths.
There is this quaint and homely little cafe about 20-30mins drive from Coffs Harbour situated in the village of Bellingen or as the locals know it as 'Bello'. The Black Bear Cafe situated on Church St, is home to the $11 Friday Pieday specials where you'll enjoy a locally baked pie, salad and a tea or coffee. What a bargain at $11!
The Plantation Hotel, on the highway in the heart of Coffs would be our regular place to eat with their $8.50 lunches and dinners, and it is such a good atmosphere with Tuesday nights being family nights and entertainment for the kids, and the kids can even make their own pizzas! I love their chunky battered fries they serve too.
There is this great and unique venue in Coffs down on the Jetty strip called element bar created within a modern/rustic/urban industrial space and is the place to be. With not only a great selection of food at a great price, they also have a range of drinks and cocktails to suit every preference along with amazing LIVE music.
While there are a lot more restaurants and cafes in the area than the 11 places I mentioned, this is a list of my top 11 choices for eating out in under $11, and if you have your own recommendations within the local area, please feel free to comment these below.
I feel blessed to live in such a beautiful area of Australia, and I hope that you find this guide to affordable places to eat while on holidays useful. Be sure to stop by the Solitary Islands Aquarium, and the Dolphin Marine Magic and get a kiss off of a Dolphin!
I highly urge you to head to the Woolgoolga headland during winter and see how many whales you can spot as they migrate north.
It won't take you long to fall in love with the Coffs Coast!