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Feeling Ostomistic
Saturday, April 21 2018

Disclaimer: This blog post contains spoiler alerts for Irreplacable You and discusses themes around Anticipatory Grief and cancer.

I spend a lot of my time watching TV shows or movies online via netflix, that it is often the only way I can try to escape my surroundings or my reality faced. Sometimes you come across a doozy of a show that has you wondering how you could get back those wasted 90 minutes of your life; other times you stumble across the goods.... but then there are times where you start to really get into a show only to learn that it is actually about cancer, and when you're trying to escape your cancer riddled reality, often these shows just aren't what the Doctor ordered when he said to "Netflix and chill".

Sometimes it could be handy if a show came with a disclaimer/warning, similar to that of the warnings put in place in Australian media when warning that there may be footage/images/voice recordings of deceased Indigenous Australians which may cause distress for viewers:
 "WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following program may contain images and voices of deceased persons.” (ABC) This source also explains the cultural signifigance and meaning behind this practice too. 

With this in mind, there should be something similar to be considered when it comes to TV shows or movies that involve cancer, especially to the point that it may cause distress to viewers with The Australian Cancer Research Foundation stating that "most Australian's will be exposed to cancer at some stage in their life either personally or through family or friends" as sourced from "Cancer in Australia in 2017". When you consider that the Australian Cancer Council state that "1 in 2 Australian Men or Women will be diagnosed with cancer in their life before they are 85", that is a HUGE portion of the population that are exposed to cancer either inadvertly or advertly.....

So surely a duress warning is warranted after all, due to the amount of population exposed?

When a show ends up revolving around cancer or the premise of dying, it can be rather emotional watching it and if you're in a bad headspace mentally like I have been lately, you just end up bawling for hours on end and can sometimes lead to feeling in a funk for days if not weeks and can even unravel how well you are indeed coping with life. 

Very rarely however, I can find myself actually learning something from one of these movies or shows; which is rather surprising and unexpected when it does happens. I recently and surprisingly learned that how I have been feeling in regards to my prognosis, actually had a name!

Anticipatory Grief: The grief you experience without realising there's a name for it!

I recently stumbled upon a Netflix Original Rom-Com (romantic comedy, how it is a comedy is beyond me) called Irreplacable You, which introduced to me the term Anticipatory grief. Once I heard it, that this phrase actually had a name for it, I felt somewhat calmer about all the shit I had going on in my mind and started to get some clarity within myself. Choosing to read on may contain in spoilers of the movie, so spoiler alert friends.

But knowing about anticipatory grief made me feel normal in what I have been spending so long trying to process.

Anticipatory Grief, as presented in the movie, was in the way that Abbi (the lead, the protagonist of the story) was so caught up on being worried about how her partner (and fiance) Sam would cope after her death, that she created an online dating profile with the aim of seeking out "the right woman" whom she could ensure would have Sam's best interest at heart and that he would be okay and taken care of. Abbi was so focussed on making sure that everything was ready and prepared for that she had hoped this would make her anticipated death easier on herself and those around her.

It had the reverse effect as it made Abbi so focussed on life of her loved one's after she was gone that she lost sight of the living and the being present in the now. She alienated herself and by pushing Sam into another woman's arms, she lost him too. They did eventually rekindle their relationship and the day their wedding was planned for, it became her funeral, as she had died in the days prior.

But it really made me look long and hard at my own life.

I didn't know that there was such a term as anticipatory grief, and I hadn't realised that I had been living and navigating through it.

But once I knew that there was a name for a lot of what I have been trying to do, for the sole reason that I had died, such as:
Writing letters to my loved ones;
♕ Leaving behind memory boxes;
♕ Doing special things such as the photoshoot with my sisters as they wanted a letter and nice photos of us sisters together;
♕ trying to tidy up our finances so Russ can manage on his own and with ease;
♕ Planning my own funeral so that others could focus on their grief;
♕ or even in leaving gifts behind for future milestones I will have missed.

There have been other moments I experienced Anticipatory Grief without realising it:

I remember breaking down crying at my mum's wedding February 2017, like I mean full on hysterical tears. Everyone (all my siblings) were dancing and my mum came and sat with me and hugged me. She asked what was wrong: that was when the tears started and they wouldn't stop. I felt so guilty that I was ruining her special night with my sadness and grief, I was just so sad at the thought of all future family events and milestones I was going to miss, such as the wedding's of my siblings, and it all just got too much for me. I apologised afterwards and the following day, mum said it was okay and she acknowledged that it must be hard.

But I didn't know then that it was anticipatory grief, it also wasn't the only occasion that has thrown me for six either:
I remember tears felt for my nephew's first birthday as I was surprised I was still there to see him celebrate (was 6 months since entering palliative care), but the thought of him growing up not knowing me or knowing how much he meant to me does still upset me. For his first birthday I named a star after him, for his second birthday I got a bunch of kids books and wrote a heap of heartfelt inspirational messages inside each one, that I hope will help motivate and inspire him in the years to come.

There are so many other times too, poor Russ has had to deal with me and the various stages of my grief for so long. He sees it all and knows this stage is hard for me.... it is hard knowing that life will go on and that I will miss out on things, but I am also worried my life would have meant nothing or I would be easily forgotten, so I am trying to do memorable stuff and make a difference as I don't want to be forgotten... which is another form of anticipatory grief.

I often break down at the thought that Russ and I won't get to live out our dream of sitting on our back verandahs in our matching rocking chairs just laughing and chatting together, or we often find ourselves talking about our 10 year plan and what we will be doing without thinking and then it hits us and one of us is crying. I get upset at the thought of missing out on having a career, missing the wedding of my best friend and siblings too. I was fortunate to live to see one friend get married last November, a day I didn't think I would live to see, and we both hugged and cried so much that day she just kept saying how happy it made her that I could be there and the feeling was mutual, gah - I am crying now just remembering that powerful and emotional moment.

I must admit the thought of Russ moving on and finding love after I've gone has been on my mind a lot, but not to the extent (yet?) that I would actively seek out my replacement and set him up before I had died (like Abbi, in Irreplacable You); I know I tend to do things a little pre-emptively, but that (seeking out my own replacement) for me is a little too much. I had considered writing a letter to whomever came after me, but trying to put that pen to paper was just far too difficult everytime I have tried. What do I say or how do I begin, "so you're banging my husband and could give him a life I couldn't because my body was too stupid go ahead and have fun kids"... nah, it is too much. I want him to be happy and hope he isn't alone but at the same time I often cry at the thought that he will have a life I won't be a part of and I won't be here and it hurts thinking of him having a family and having a relationship with someone who is normal and can do normal things like walk or shower without assistance, and who isn't such a burden. I do worry about him though, if someone takes advantage of him when he is vulnerable (such as take our house from him) or his next partner doesn't understand Autism, how his mind works and just how patient you need to be at times; he says he probably won't try dating again. 

Noticing anticipatory grief in those around me:

Now that I know that it (anticipatory grief) exists and it has a name, I have been noticing it more and more in my own everyday life and pracitices. I have also been noticing the anticipatory grief that others have in their interactions or behaviours towards me.

Ways or some examples have been:
- Not inviting me to something because it was easier to exclude me than to try and accommodate me;
the list could go on but I would be here for days if I listed the experiences faced, and you'd be horrified if you knew some of the truth too.

Time for change, let's talk about Anticipatory Grief to Normalise it:

For so long I have felt guilty or ashamed for feeling grief or grieving over the loss of something due to being terminal, such as: the loss of friendships or social relationships; loss of my independence and being so reliant on Russ; loss of my ability to do normal everyday tasks such as dressing myself, showering, even walking; I know I felt grief over the loss of my bowel; grieving the loss of my connectedness to my community and feeling like I don't offer a valuable contribution to society; loss of career prospects; loss of being able to have a family and fertility.

I wished I knew then that anticipatory grief was normal and that it was what I have been feeling for all this time, it might have made accepting and acknowledging these feelings easier, rather than bottling them up because I felt like something was wrong with me for feeling how I did and feeling like it was all trivial, not realising this is a totally normal process and grief to experience.

Perhaps if people read more about anticipatory grief, they might then know to speak with a mental health professional to help work through their issues, like I currently am.

But most importantly there is nothing to feel ashamed of for feeling this grief or for grieving the life you're going to lose, it is only natural, but finding the right counsellor to help you through your issues is key. If you don't feel they are a right fit, try and search for someone who is.

Know you aren't alone and what you're feeling is completley valid, important and worthy of being acknowledged.

Posted by: Talya AT 02:25 am   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  Email
Friday, January 19 2018

I had wanted to write about this topic so many times last year, but each time I feared if I did it could somehow come across that I am some angry hermit who doesn't like visitors. 

I don't claim to talk on behalf of all the people who are chronically or terminally sick, I simply am sharing mine (and my husband's) views of how we feel when you have surprise visits. Sometimes surprise or short noticed visits are difficult and stressful, you mightn't realise but there are reasons that make surprise visits difficult.

It could be very easy for you and your loved one who is sick to know how you can better support them and what things or actions don't help them. Finding how they feel about their needs or issues and how you can better help could be a starting point so you both can understand.

It is hard when you're chronically (and also in my case) terminally sick and trying to navigate the waters of keeping up appearances, being social and people visiting often surprised and unnanounced. I know people care and they decide as a last minute thing that they wanted to visit me for the day but don't bother telling me as "it is fun to surprise you" thinking it will make me feel great about myself having visitors, but they don't realise surprise visits cause me a lot of stress and anxiety which I explain below.

Don't get me wrong, I like when people visit but only if 2 conditions are met:
#1. I have notice and #2. Providing I am feeling up for it.

There were a few times over the past couple of years when people had surprised visited me and despite continually asking for no surprise visits, they still happened.

Family and friends were outside waiting and were upset and bothered when I didn't answer the door, because I was asleep and had my phone turned off so I could sleep.

I NEED notice when it comes to having visitors for a few reasons.

#1. I sleep a lot:
I'm not lazy, I am sometimes tired of having to explain and justify my pain or tiredness, but there are days if not weeks or months where I am asleep and resting. I turn my phone off on my bad days or when I have had very little sleep and need un disturbed sleep. So telling me the day before gives me notice for then being able to make sure I am up and ready if I am ready.

#2. My stoma leaks a lot:
My stoma leaks a lot, 95% of the time when I wake I am dealing with leaks. It is really stressful when woken and knowing people are outside knocking and waiting/expecting me. It is something that makes me anxious when I do realise people are waiting for me, as if I am home alone I have to try and deal with a leaking stoma whilist trying to get to the front door quickly (often I miss the postie or courier and have to drive to Coffs to get my parcel). It is also why I get upset when Palliative care would randomly rock up without telling me and then were cranky when I wasn't home to answer the door when I was, I was just in bed asleep... so when my stoma leaks it can take me time to get ready. It means needing to get dressed and cleaned up and clean my linens if needed. It is something that I can need time to be ready, and knowing someone is outside waiting for ages makes me feel more flustered.

#3. I often sleep starkers:
Because my stoma leaks a lot, it is just easier to sleep with either no clothes on or just undies and no PJ pants. Sometimes I wear a top sometimes just undies and no top... so it is less laundry to wash because guaranteed my stoma leaks often in the middle of the night or when I wake and it is hard to have to strip down while trying to do a bag change - all while magically avoiding making a mess! If it is just going to be me home it is best if I know if anyone is coming so that I can have notice and get a chance to get ready. When you surprise rock up it can be hard as my clean clothes could be in the laundry (in the dryer) and I have to try and get through the house with just a dressing gown on and hope if you're outside waiting that you don't catch my streak through the house to get my clothes.... so I need notice if you plan on coming for obvious reasons.

#4. I am often in pain and bedridden:
When Russ leaves for work of a morning he shuts and locks the door as he walks out. So sometimes if I know someone is coming to visit I would ask him to leave the door unlocked and shut. If this is a day when I am barely able to get out of bed it can be stressful knowing someone will arrive and I can't exactly get up to open the door. I was criticised last year (well, 2016 too) when I wasn't much of a host and "don't make people feel comfortable or welcome" because I can't be a host. I think it is hard for people to understand that it is painful and difficult to stand and walk let alone be a hostess. If you come and visit, please have zero expectations of what I am meant to do... don't expect me to go above and beyond to impress you. I am not being rude, you might think I am, but if you wanted a cuppa help yourself. 

On days when I am bedridden I would love visits, providing you are understanding that I am in bed and you can sit in my room chatting with me. But don't expect me to get up and entertain you, defeats the point of being in bed resting. Don't ask "when are you getting up" or "why aren't you getting up" because it makes me want to kick you up the butt if I could because I don't need to justify myself to anyone.

#5. I can't just simply duck out to the shops:
If you just surprise visit me and I don't know you're coming, you very well could be having a cuppa without milk. Some days Russ will make his coffee for the day in his thermos and takes it to work, it is a guzzler for milk. So its very likely that he uses the last of his milk as he leaves for work knowing full well that he has to buy milk when he finishes work in the evening.

If you arrive and we don't know in advance, even if you tell me in the morning, if Russ has already left for work it is too late. I don't have a car and can't drive much anymore, so if you surprised me it would mean I wouldn't have milk or cake or anything and would be a terrible host (again) and I would be feeling so anxious all day if you arrived worried that am I going to hear about this from others about how I am a horrible host... I don't mind if you do turn up unnanouced, just don't be upset if I don't have milk or coffee and can't get to the shops.

#6. I need a chance to cancel:
I always will try and attend something regardless, but there are times when I am in too much pain or phsyically unable to attend. Giving me warning and time in advance of a visit gives me the chance to cancel within reason. If I had notice I could tell you ahead of time to not waste your petrol in coming up if I wasn't up for the visit, I would hate you to be disappointed with your visit or feel like I wasted your time. If you surprise visit me I can't give you the chance to avoid being disappointed with me.

#7. Our house mightn't be visitor friendly:
The entire household chores and running falls mostly on Russ' shoulders. He also works full time. He has a roster system of how he does the house, one day he does the rubbish and kitty litter (and every second day) and some days he would do the bathrooms or vacuum. If you surprise visit us, we will feel embarassed because the kitty litter might be due to be done that day or the rubbish. It can be hard when you surprise visit that I am anxious if you are judging us the entire visit and will go off and tell others about how we live, which has happened, and makes us less inclined to invite you back. 

I could go on about scenarios, there is so many more.

But I do love a visit, just prefer at least a couple of days notice at the very least to make sure the house is ready or that if you're staying the guest rooms are ready. You can visit, please just understand that turning up and surprising me isn't what works best for us. 

I know it is hard to understand, but please do reconsider and try to give us as much notice for when you want to visit. I want to have a nice visit with you but I don't want either of us to feel uncomfortable.

If you do decide to that day or morning to visit, please give me as much notice as you can. If you arrived in Coffs at 9am but aren't visiting until 4pm Don't wait until 3pm to call me! Tell me first thing so I can have time to assess if I am up for a visit or under what terms. If you don't hear back from me or Russ before 4 hours before you're planning on visiting then it might not be the best day. If you don't hear from me, try Russ. 

But if Russ says "today isn't the best day she isn't well" please respect his call.

Don't continue to turn up and then be upset if you're outside waiting for me for a while and I am asleep and don't know you're there until an hour after you've sat out there waiting. If you haven't heard a conifrmation at least 4 hours before arriving on if I am aware you're coming or if it is the right time, than maybe it isn't the most apporpriate time for a visit.

Again, none of this is said to upset anyone, I want visitors I really do - I just don't do well with surprise visits. My health IS declining and I am spending more time in bed, so surprise visits really aren't ideal for us anymore. #sorrynotsorry

As I said, ask your loved one how you can support them and what they need from you, in my case try to avoid surprise or unnanounced visits.

Posted by: Talya AT 10:19 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, January 12 2018

I was scrolling through my Facebook 'on this day' memories when a post from this day, 5 years ago, came up.

The post was:

You see, I had a pretty MASSIVE and life changing decision that needed to be made.

I was told not long before Xmas 2012, that I had early signs of bowel cancer and that I needed to have a surgery called a total colectomy with a permanent (end) ileostomy created.

I was so scared, I was so alone and I didn't know of ANY other people with an ileostomy let alone a young person with one.

I was 21, why should I have known anyone, afterall I was ignorant and thought just older people lived with stoma bags, it was hard to fathom a young person living with one.

I ignorantly made this association as I presumed that people had a stoma at the end of their life and that their lives are essentially over.

So when I was told that I would be needing one at 21, for the rest of my life, I was really freaking out.

I tried to search for blogs about young people with an ostomy and couldn't find anyone. Social media wasn't what it is today, there was Instagram but it hadn't taken off, but there was still so much stigma around living with an ostomy and the social stigma too for that matter, that not many were sharing their lives publicly.

The media wasn't helping much when it came to sharing stories about people with a stoma either. They published such negative, fear mongering articles that had people, like me, perceiving it as death sentance or that it was THE worst thing imaginable.

But my surgeon said this to me :
"while this will change your life, it will also save it."

I met with my stoma nurse, counsellors and surgeon a couple of times to help me process the surgery. I hadn't told any of my friends or family, I didn't know how to bring it up, I knew they would have questions that I wasn't ready to answer, but I was worried about being judged.... so I decided to wait until I had to tell them, which was the week before surgery. I had so much to process as it was I just didn't need anyone else weighing in, they were pissed understandably, but they were also upset that I was trying to process such a huge thing on my own.

I had told Russ though and he had been coming to my appointments with me, as it was impacting him too. At the time I gave him the option to leave me, told him that I wouldn't hold it against him if he did as it wasn't what he signed up for, he told me to stop being ridiculous and it would take a lot more than that to stop loving me.

I couldn't have gotten through all of this and life to come, without Russ though.

He came to my appointments and asked my surgeons or stoma nurse questions, he even asked if when they teach me how to look after my stoma that they show him too so that he knew how to help. I think it was at that point I fell even more in love with him, which I didn't think was possible.

Russ said to me that it was my decision to have the surgery or not, but if it meant that this could be helping me to live as long as I could that he would appreciate me having the surgery.

So 5 years on, this is a letter I wished I could tell my scared 21-year-old self, I don't even recognise that part of me anymore I feel like this was a massive turning point in my life and I grew up A LOT in the years to follow.


21-year-old me

Letter To My 21-Year-Old Self:

Talya,

I know you have a lot that you’re dealing with right now and I know that you’re doing the best that you can under the circumstances. You are facing a life-defining decision right now, I can tell you this because I have watched you live through this.

Yes it changed your life but it saved it too.

Do you know how much pain you’re in right now and every time you go to the toilet? You probably won’t believe me when I say this, but you won’t be in agony multiple times a day. You won't even be needing to spend most of your day on the toilet either.

Do you know how you don’t leave the house, go out for dinner or stay over at someone’s house unless you know that a toilet is accessible and close by? Well, you won’t have to worry as much. You won’t be needing to quickly dash to the toilet every time you eat.

Do you know how you lost your enjoyment of food because of the above comments? You will find you can eat all your favourite and missed foods, given there are things you can’t eat anymore, but you will find you will learn to love and appreciate food again.

I won’t lie, there will be some pretty difficult times ahead, not only will surgery and the recovery be long and hard but it will be painful.

You will adapt to stoma life, but it will take time, so be patient with the process.

There will be times where shit literally will happen, it is to be expected, but trust me - you will get used to it. You will sometimes wake covered in shit, so just remember to empty your bag throughout the night and also invest in waterproof mattress protectors.

Sometimes leaks happen, it isn’t your fault, but always carry a spare set of supplies everywhere you go just in case. There will be a time where you’ll be caught out, it will be embarrassing and it will serve as a learning curve.

I know you’re apprehensive right now about surgery, but your stoma will serve to give you extra time… everyday is a gift and not a given right, learn to appreciate each day you wake up and all of the moments you have.

You don’t need to worry about Russ or your marriage, he will be there for you every step of the way. He will surprise you at how calm and collected he is even when you’re flustered and freaking out and covered in shit, even if it is in the middle of the night. He won’t mind helping with your bag changes or leaks, you just have to ask him.

He loves you for you and your stoma will soon be a part of you.

You will lose friends, because they don’t understand - it will hurt but don’t dwell too much on those who aren’t there for you and appreciate and be grateful to those who are. You will make some great friendships over the coming years too, you'll find people who embrace you for the wonderful person you are and won't be worried that you have a stoma.

Just remember what dad used to say to you and find comfort in his words offered.

The next 5 years will be incredibly tough and this is just the start of the rollercoaster ride known as life, this will be the first of many primary cancer diagnosis’ and the start of many surgeries.

Know your limits but also recognise when you need to ask for help too. Put your stoicism aside and ask people to help you, most are wanting to help they just are waiting for you to ask.

There’ll be times where you easily wished you could pick up the phone and call dad, but there’ll be times where you will draw from his presence and he will be there to guide you. I am sure he will be proud of you. 

Learn to pick your battles, know that some just aren’t worth the stress. You will come to learn to try and let everything go, everyone will always be having their own opinion or force their mindset onto you. Just stay true to yourself. Know your worth. Know that you aren’t what they think of you. 

It will be hard on your mental health throughout times over these next 5 years, there will be times where you spiral and it is important to always recognise when you need help. Find what drives your creativity, focus on writing or creating, find ways to give yourself purpose in your day.

You are about to start a blog, you are worried about putting all this out there publicly and worried about how other’s perceive you. But by doing this you are going to be helping so many, you will help save lives, you will help nurses in how they help support young people with a stoma, you’ll be nominated for awards, you will even start your own magazine for young people with a stoma and will even help others to feel less alone.

You’ll start your blog because you’re finding as a 21-year-old female that there isn’t much info out there at the moment when it comes to young people with a stoma and a blog, you don’t know what life will be like going forward, but you will feel that if you share it as you go that maybe you’ll help others who are feeling alone or worried too. You will meet other young ostomates too.

You’ll even be invited to speak about your time as a young ostomate.

But you will also get to do some fun stuff too, like catch the train to Adelaide, go to P!nk’s 2013 concert, Meet the Dixie Chicks and see them in concert in 2017, finally get to experience and see Darling Harbour, Go to Melbourne and accidentally stumble across the Offspring hospital, go swimming and do water aerobics, and do some bucket listing too. You'll finally get a tattoo too!

You and Russ will realise your house dreams in 2015 and will build a house, you’ll also have a very adorable and fun kitten who will make your days fun and full of love.

Then in 2016 you’ll need surgery to remove one of your tumours which will mean losing your stoma, your stoma will now be retracted and sit under your skin. It will leak a lot, it will be hard at times to lose all hope knowing the good stoma you had prior, but you will get through it. You will get used to daily leaks and waking up with a leak, it will affect your mood and what you do but you’ll be relatively okay.

In 2016 you will also enter palliative care, they will offer you a wheelchair - don’t decline out of pride or feeling like you aren’t worthy of it. You will learn to love your wheelchair and embrace it, just like you have your stoma.

So while you have a huge decision to make right now, I can tell you this now that you will be better off having the surgery. You will be okay, your marriage will be fine, you will love life and not fear it.

Don’t fear asking your stoma nurse for help, even if you feel it is a silly question, she will be one of your greatest supports. She has probably heard it all, you really couldn't do this without her....

But you have got this, your life will be changed but you will cope and adapt.... just breathe!

Write that bucket list now, start to see and do as much as you can and don’t keep saying there’ll be plenty of time, go travel when you’re able to and take lots of photos and always tell those you hold dear you love them and appreciate them.

Love,
your older and somewhat wiser self

P.S I just wanted to say thank you to each and every person who reads my posts, comments on social media or on here or has emailed me over these 5 years supporting my blog. Cannot believe it is 5 years later already!

 

 

Posted by: Talya AT 06:47 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, January 08 2018

I know there has been a lot of posts around social media this past week (well, more so New Years Day) about the whole 'non resolutions' or how people were dropping the making resolutions as they either never stick or it makes people feel overwhelmed and anxious. This has something to do with the pressure placed on how it is a "new year new me" and that you internalise this pressure for the need to change yourself.... so it gets pretty depressing when it is the end of the year and you are yet to do one thing you set out to do.

amiright?


This was a snapshot of my best memories of 2017 - read my year in review post here

Well, I know for me I get horribly depressed each December when I realise that none of my unrealistic/unattainable goals weren't met, and I feel like a bit of a failure and get pretty hard on myself.

So this year I plan on doing something a little different... I give up on each year setting myself the task of finding that million dollar idea (maybe if I don't try so hard I will find it), or to feel bad that I didn't finish my uni degree, or that I haven't got a hot bod (#sorrynotsorry).

I am choosing 18 ACHIEVABLE things I want to accomplish in 2018.

#1. Self Care:
This is something I have been gradually introducing into my life since being sick, which feels like forever, but gradually over these 5 years I have been trying to focus more on putting my own needs first and focus on me more. So in preparation of this I have been reading "The Self-Care Project" written by Jayne Hardy who is the founder and CEO of The Blurt Foundation. I love the self care subscription boxes they offer through The Blurt Foundation and was how I first learned about their company when I was researching "pick me up gifts" for issue 1 of The Ostomistic Life.

I purchased the ebook version off Amazon and by a quarter of the way into the book I was astonished, I could have sworn it was me who had written this book as it was just so incredibly relatable. It definitely has me hooked! 

Self care isn't necassarily just candle lit bubble baths with a glass of bubbly and reading a book, it can be a whole range of things. It could be doing things that make you happy, here is a post I wrote back in 2016 about 5 things to do each to add happiness or meaning to my day. You could choose to meditate or do yoga, could do a course or learn a new skill, could do something on your bucket list, could volunteer, do a random act of kindness, buy yourself flowers, get pampered, get your hair done or watch a movie or show. 

#2. To read more:
I used to be a bit of a book worm back in the day, I often would be found skipping classes just to read books in the quad. I used to be able to read so quick and loved binge-reading a series. I felt so proud when my sister loved reading as much as I used to and had quite the impressive collection.

So I have been so focussed on micro managing every part of my day/life that I would say I was too busy to read or I didn't have the time, but I vow this year to make time to read more. Whether it be the ebooks I have stored on my ipad or tablet, or going old fashioned and reading the amassed pile of books I have acculumated over the past few years. So starting with reading "The Self-care project" I am setting myself the challenge of either reading 1 book a month or 18 books this year.

Let's do this!


Just some of the books sitting on my bedside on my "to read list" (pic from Jan last year)

#3. To say No more:
I am a people pleaser, I am notorious for putting the needs of others before myself and sacrificing myself in the process. I am struggling to recognise myself and part of the reason behind doing this self care and focussing on myself is to help me try and find or recognise myself again... so part of my self care is saying no to things that will cause me stress or anxiety or bring me misery and saying yes more to things that will bring me joy. Will see how I go, because it will be one of my biggest challenges yet.

In saying this though, there will be times where I say no simply because I am physically unable to do something due to pain or health, so I am sure this will cause more stress as some might think my health is an excuse? As I said, a challenge... but I am not putting my health at risk for a ridiculous deadline anymore.

#4. Reducing waste:
I watched the ABC series "War on Waste" (also on ABC iView) and it left me feeling sad and concerned for the world in 50 years. I have seen those dystopian movies and TV shows such as 100, Travellers, The Handmaid's Tale and the like, where the world decades or hundreds of years from now is in absolute ruin due to us humans, so watching this TV series about the impact we have on the environment definitely stops you in your tracks and makes you realise the need for change.

One of my favourite quotes from Gandhi is "Be the change you wish to see in the world". Change is hard and takes patience and a lot of baby steps, but you can't expect the world to be better or changed if you don't play a part yourself. 

So I have ordered some produce reusable bags from my Sister-In Law's business which will mean no longer using single use plastic bags for produce. We also plan on using environment friendly bags in replace of plastic bags and I hope to get a compost happening too.... as I said it will be hard, but I do hope it will help the environment.

I feel guilty sometimes being an ostomate, because my base plate and bags aren't biodegradable (that I'm aware of) so even if I used bio degradable garbage bags and buried it, it still wouldn't break down and would be just the same as putting it in the bin. So I hate having a bag that leaks multiple times a day as it means a lot of ostomy products are used and thrown away, and I feel guilty that I am impacting the environment.... but it can't be helped.

So if I can make changes in other areas of my life, it hopefully makes up for it somehow?

#5. See the snow:
I went to the snow years ago and loved skiing even though I was incredibly unco and fell over far too many times because I couldn't work out how to stop quickly enough... honestly, the stories are hilarious. It was the end of September and there was hardly any snow. But something I have always dreamed of was to see the snow, like think snow failing white Christmas.

I had always hoped to get to the US or Canada and see this in person myself, but while that dream won't happen, I am happy to settle for somewhere in Australia where it snows, there is a romantic log cabin with a fire and somewhere Russ and I can unwind and relax.

I have heard him say almost daily the past month that he truly wants to experience this with me. Watching all the romantic Christmas movies helped I think, but it has had him rather upset realising too all the things he wants to experience with me but not sure if we will.

It is hard sometimes trying to squeeze 80 years of experiences into as much time as we have left.

If you have suggestions, do let me know, I can't fly so anywhere that is easily train accessible or short driving trips in NSW will be best.

#6. Learn something new:
I am still undecided on what that NEW thing is yet to be, whether it is learn a craft or skill, or more complex like learn something I have thought about for a while like learning to feel confident again, learn how to be fashionable, learn how to edit videos, learn how to podcast or learn an instrument or learn to surf. HA okay, so the latter won't happen, but you get the drift.

I am doing a course right now cert 4 in screen and media and learning at the moment how to write children's stories.

#7. Write that damn book:
I have said for as long as I can remember that I wanted to write a book, I often thought about writing a children's book which who knows could happen if I can manage to do well in my course. I'll see where my writing takes me.

#8. Write a blog post a week:
This suggestion actually came from my wonderful GP last year, he told me to write more often and if not daily to write weekly. I guess this will be post #1 for the year? If you have a question or topic you want covered do reach out and let me know.

#9. Write a journal:
It has been a while since I have written a daily journal, but my GP thinks writing daily could be good. But I never really do ANYTHING lately that is worth jotting down. But it is 8 days in to this year I have already failed at this, I was given a diary for Xmas but Russ doesn't know where it is. I know I haven't done anything too exciting yet, but my GP thinks it could be beneficial.

All of these writing cues would be kind of life self care I guess, since it is cathartic and all.

#10. Regularly meet with a counsellor:
I have spoken openly on social media and on here about my mental health issues but in case you forgot I have depression, high functioning anxiety, borderline personality disorder, self diagnosed Excoriation Disorder and I think that mostly covers it. Anyway, I have been naughty and haven't seen anyone in a while and I know I need to. I have bottled so much up that I don't know how to contain it anymore and I have complex issues I am trying to work through and it is a little overwhelming at times. I don't feel like a repeat of my breakdown in June, it took months to recover.... I just need to make time and prioritise my mental health. Russ' roster has been changing and been hard to plan ahead of time for appointments, so I am really hoping this year to try harder to prioritise this.

I guess this would come under self care and taking time for my needs too.


My swimmers kindly gifted from Yours Clothing - LOVE them

#11. Go Swimming:
I haven't been to the beach in years, I know it sounds strange since I live minutes from some of the most beautiful beaches in Australia, but it is hard when the beaches require long walks and not very accessible. It is something I miss and haven't been swimming in years, so I am hoping now that there is an accessible ramp installed at Back Creek South West Rocks that swimming could happen. I got gifted this beautiful pair of swimmers back in July that I am yet to wear swimming, so between trying to find a day where my pain is managable, where my stoma is behaving, that it lines up on a day Russ has off or that the weather was good has been tricky. Since it is school holidays everywhere is probably packed anyway, so I might wait until it is over. I don't want to spoil my first swim in years by my anxiety and fear over if I am being judged or laughed at. I am determined to make it happen - stay tuned!

Don't worry I plan on being sun safe and have my SPF50+ rashie from SunSoaked and my Sunbella parasol to help me too.

#12. Go Glamping:
I have wanted to go glamping for years, Russ loves camping but with my health issues I prefer the glamping idea. For 5 years I have had this on my bucket list, every year I say "this is the year" but something always comes up or we can't afford it. There is this place not far from here that do beach tents, it is at Red Rock (one of my fave spots) so I'd like to manage a couple of days away in March for our birthdays - since I was in hospital for Russ' I really wanted to make up for it this year. So maybe this could be when I manage my much awaited swim.

#13. Have a holiday:
This could be the past 2 cues, but it has been a while since we have had a proper holiday where the one thing on our to do list is to relax. Our last proper holiday was March 2015, was just after being in hospital for months and learning of a couple of new cancer diagnosis and I booked this place in Kingcliff for a week. I have always wanted to go back, they had the most wonderful pool and it was so relaxing. I really would like to do something this year, Russ needs a holiday.

#14. Explore the Coast:
For years we have said we wanted to see more of the coast. If only Russ could legally tow a caravan a friend offered up their brand new luxe caravan and land rover anytime we wanted it. Russ is only on his green provisionals so will be another 18 months before he can drive it, but it definitely would help make our bucket listing adventures more affordable. But until then, we hope to do day trips exploring different parts of the coast such as seeing the Jacaranda festival in Grafton, visiting Yamba and Maclean, Visiting Wooli, Laurieten and Bonny Hills, go on the ferry at Port Macquarie, Visit Foster and Tuncurry, go on a picnic to Yarrahappini and so forth.

We still have bucket listing adventures for Brisbane, Sydney, Newcastle and beyond. I am just wanting to see so much!

I am just really hoping to see/experience new places this year.


Red Rock, NSW - where we had our wedding anniversary - a favourite place of mine

#15. Renew our vows:
I really wanted to do this for our 7th wedding anniversary last year, but spent the next few months in bed with pain and didn't manage to find time to do what I had hoped... I had this epic idea I wanted to do, so I do hope to do it in pieces throughout this year and reveal my big plan.

I had always said when we get to 10 years we would renew somewhere fun and overseas, but not sure that dream of international travel is managable or if I could make it to our 10 wedding anniversary.

#16. Get back on our feet financially:
It has been really hard to feel like we aren't drowning at times in our finances. Our bank is the worst, you may recall how they no longer are letting me do my own banking because I have cancer and they believe I no longer am of sound mind - all because I asked for the 1.5% less advertised rate... so because I knew it would save us money doing so they then questioned my judgement... so I am not allowed to do my own banking unless a lawyer is present. I can't afford a lawyer so I am backed into a corner and feel trapped. It has been many months of stress and worry.

We tried to apply to several other banks who all declined us because we didn't have savings (everything went into our house) and so we had hoped to even consolidate everything into one loan to make repayments easier and more affordable but were declined. Despite having equity in the property. It is hard to have savings when every cent is going into the house, our debt, living expenses, medical expenses and the list goes on.

I am just hoping this year we have better luck and if we can't at least consolidate everything that we can find a new bank for our home loan. I just want out of their grip, just like Britain wanted out of the EU. If we can get a new bank and debt consolidation everything will be more easier, we might even afford a mini holiday.

Part of this is finding a new bank too. I just want and need everything to be tidied up and managable ready for Russ to take over when I die.

#17. See a waterfall:
I have long dreamed of seeing a waterfall. We hope to get out to Dorrigo. I know there is a beautiful one in Woolgoolga but the wheelchair isn't designed for offroad 4x4.

#18. Try to get my pain under control:

I spent the better part of last year struggling with my pain. I know my doctors are doing their best to manage it, but it really is hard and affects so many aspects of my life. It is debilitating, exhausting, it makes me frustrated and irritable, it messes with my mental health and it just sucks. It is hard to manage getting out of bed most days let alone manage an hour of getting out and about. I missed out on a lot last year and I don't want to miss out on life this year because of pain.

☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟

I know it was a long post, but I thought 18 made sense since you know it is 2018 and all. I feel good that it is all written down but now overwhelmed, which is ironic, but I will do seperate posts throughout the year both here and on social media documenting how I go... it means I can hold myself accountable now since I have told you all about this.

My list honestly could have continued such as "yet to finish unpacking", "yet to manage that room makeover" and so on. I just decided to choose things that will either improve my life, bring me joy or are somewhat achievable for this year.... and if I win the lotto that is a bonus!

Russ asked me what I have been writing/working on the past couple of days, he then rattled off a list of 18 things he *felt* I should do instead which all involved him and were very much Russ focussed or specific. I laughed and said, your list kind of defeats the purpose of several things on my list like taking time for me and saying no and putting me first.

To be fair, his list was most of what I do anyway which was:
1. give Russ head scratches
2. Give him foot rubs and massages
3. Run a bubble bath for Russ
4. To go fishing
5. To go camping
6. To get roof racks and go canoeing
and so on..... but I was kind of proud that he is taking initiative when it comes to his own self care and recognising what he needs to do for his own mental health too.


One of the best moments of last year, my first tattoo drawn by Jubly-Umph

Here's hoping 2018 is a good year and that I can do some of these things if not all. Despite spending over 80% of the year in bed last year, the times I did bucket list stuff or was out and about are some of my most cherished memories looking back, those memories I remember on my bad days.

I wish you a HNY2018 and wishing you health, love, success, happiness and clarity this year.

Thank you for reading, feel free to share something you hope to do this year in the comments below:

Posted by: Talya AT 11:23 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, December 14 2017

If you have just read part 1, You will have learned: how heat can affect those who are vulnerable or sick or with an ostomy; what are the different heat related illnesses to look out for; what are the symptoms of the heat illnesses; and lastly, how/what to do under each situation.

NB: It is important to remember that this is just an informative guide only and I am not a nurse or doctor, and any individual circumstances or advisement is based on each person's own circumstances. If you have questions to follow it up with your team.

So in this Part 2, I will be sharing tips to help you be more prepared for the weekend

But just in case you haven't read part 1 yet, basically here in Australia we are preparing for an extreme heat wave which will occur over the weekend and most of Australia will be experiencing temps of 35'c-45'c+.


Image from Higgins Storm Chasing, providing a visual of just how much of Australia is to be affected

I have an ostomy, ileostomy to be exact, I also have other chronic co-morbid health issues/illnesses and take various medications which put me at higher risk of sun related illnesses.

I started writing this post a couple of years ago but never finished it in time for it to be relevant, so I am finishing it ahead of this weekend, I only hope it might help someone to be more informed of their own circumstances and to know what to do.

To read part 1, click here:

Also keep in mind anyone you know who might be at a higher risk of suffering with the heat, it could be a neighbour who is elderly and lives alone, or it could be checking in on a friend, just to make sure they are doing okay - as the heat can affect many in different ways.

Part 2: Being prepared and tips to surviving the heatwave

I thought it might just be helpful to share different tips to help you get through the heatwave, if you have your own be sure to comment.

Tip #1: Never leave kids or pets alone in a car
I know this hopefully is common knowledge, but you'd be surprised how many times I have been at the shops and found pets or kids sitting in the car while their parents or owners shopped. Even with the windows down or leaving the car running with the air conditioning going, the car is still going to be hot.

Even on a "cool day" this is a no-no. While the temp outside might only be 25'c the temps inside that car can be 55-70'c! It can rise 40 degrees hotter than the outside temperature, so imagine how hot it would be on a day during a heatwave.... scary to think. The damage it can do is increase a child's body temperature, which could lead to brain damage... not to mention what it does to pets too. 

I have seen videos and experiements where a chef has cooked a lamb while inside a car, to a vet documenting what it is like in a car. I do not suggest trying it out yourself, there are plenty of videos and information out on the interwebs about the consequences to leaving pets or kids in cars, which can be deadly.

A child left in a parked car under those conditions for even a few minutes can very quickly become distressed, dehydrated and can die from organ failure. If you see anything, you need to act quickly. If you wait, it can be too late.

What to do if you see a child or pet in the car?
The NRMA advises: You must make a judgment call as to whether it is a life and death situation and you would need to break a window yourself and call an ambulance, or whether you should call 000 and ask for police, who will get there as urgently as they can (and will break the window themselves) and they will call an ambulance.

If the child is clearly distressed, do not wait for help. Instead, break a window and remove the child from the vehicle until help arrives. If you break a window, and the child is simply asleep and it turns out not to be an emergency, it is possible that you could be required to pay for the window.

You don't have to be an NRMA member to call for roadside assistance if it is in less urgent circumstances. Because of the grave danger involved, the NRMA drops everything to respond immediately to calls where a child is locked in a car.

For pets: Visit Just 6 minutes, a site by the RSPCA which outlines that it takes only 6 minutes of a dog left in a car to die. Here is a factsheet of pet first aid if you can rescue the pet from the car and can wait until the owner arrives. Call 000 immediately and ask what you're legalities are if you can smash the window. But some states you can receive a $200k fine and imprisonment for leaving a pet in the car.

Tip #2: Have plenty of water
Water is important for helping you to stay rehydrated, make sure you have plenty to drink. Consider taking a bottle of water to someone who is experiencing homlessness, they might not have adequate access to water, it might not be a lot but it is a nice gesuture to look out for someone who is at high risk of heat related illnesses.

You should drink two to three litres of water a day even if you don't feel thirsty. 

Tip #3: Have electrolyte replacement on hand
If you're like me and have an ostomy and need to replenish lost electrolytes, make sure you have enough to get you through the weekend. I try and have a 1L bottle of sports drinks, I get the powder and mix in the water, and have a few of these made up in my fridge ready. You can consult with your Nurse or dietician over what is the best option for you to replace your lost electrolytes. Due to having no large bowel I am at risk of dehydration, which is worse in Summer and extreme heat. Salts and minerals are vital for your body's functionality.

Also important if you don't have an ostomy but have gastro or vomiting bugs during a heatwave too. Hydrolyte is an electrolyte drink which also comes in the form of icypoles too and can be found from most supermarkets or chemists.

Tip #4: Stay cool
This is important, especially if you struggle with body regulation, you need to find somewhere cool. Air conditioned is preferable, if your home isn't air conditioned maybe ask a neighbour or friend if you could join them, otherwise hit the shops and enjoy their air condiitioning too. If you don't have air conditioning find somewhere cool in your house and put on a fan. You could go to the library, cinema, art galleries, cafes too.

If you are outdoors try and find a nice shaded tree and be sure to keep hydrated.

You could also use one of those battery operated hand held mist fans Kmart have them for $5-$10, or a spray bottle with water in it to help.

A cool tip, get it (lol) I have one of my heatpacks in a zip lock bag and in my freezer. This turns into a cold pack and means I have a cool option too. I get my heatpack/cold packs from Chatterbox City.

Tip #5: Keep plenty of drinks in the fridge prepared
Fill as many bottles as possible and put in the fridge, some could be cordials or soft drinks, but limit the alcohol. Plenty of cool drinks will help keep you cool

Tip #6: Have ice packs or blocks in the freezer
Firstly, ice blocks or icypoles are a great way to keeping cool and hydrated in Summer. You could also freeze water bottles so they last cooler for longer, if you are going to the beach. Ice packs are good to keep on hand in case of first aid and if you need to aid in cooling someone down. See part 1 for how this works.

Tip #7: Keep blinds drawn
This will help keep your house cooler, even if you have air conditioning going, keeping the blinds drawn will help your system to not have to work overtime too. But if you don't have air conditioning it will still help if you have a fan too.

Tip #8: Wear light summery clothing
Avoid wearing lots of layers and wear something light and breathable, this will not only help in keeping your body cool but will aid in your body trying to regulate it's temperature. Avoid wearing dark or black coloured clothing. Clothing light in colour reflects the light better.

Tip #9: Be sun smart and sun safe
Slip, slop, slap. Sunscreen, a hat, sunnies and a shirt are not only safe ways of being out in the sun but also help in preventing melanoma. If you must be out in the sun keep out of the sun as much as possible - during a heatwave you should be minimising your sun exposure. Seek out shade.

Tip #10: Reapply sunscreen often
Even if it is overcast, you can still get burnt and when you're swimming sunscreen washes or rubs off after time, so everytime you come out of the water or as often as indicated on the bottle: reapply. Also if you do happen to get burnt, have some cooling after sun gel in the fridge to help your skin cool down, aloe vera fresh from the garden helps too.

Tip #11: Don't lie in the sun exposed
If you're planning on laying on the beach and reading a book, chances are you could fall asleep and get sun stroke. A heatwave isn't the right time to do this, seek out shelter or shade or plan your trip to the beach on a day where the weather isn't as hot.

Tip #12: in case of a blackout
It is important having items such as a torch, a battery operated fan, extra batteries, bottled water and first aid kit on hand in case of a power outage. Also, wrap medications that need to be refrigerated (such as insulin pens) in foil or place in an heat repellent container with some ice in case of power failure.

Tip #13: Open the house at night or evening if a cool change is forecast
This is self explanatory, but this might help to keep the house cool of a night or the next day if air gets circulating around, remember to draw the blinds early in the morning to keep the heat out and the cool in.

Tip #14: Pets or wildlife
Pets can be particularly vulnerable to the heat. Make sure they have shade and plenty of cool water to last the day. If you live near the bush, consider leaving a bowl or bucket of water out for any Koalas, kangaroos, dogs or cats or other animals that might want water.

Fill a kids clam pool sand pit thing with water and put in the shade and let your dog cool down when he needs to.

Tip #15: Keep your body cool but not freezing
It is important to remember that while you want to cool your body down that you aren't changing your temperature too quickly or suddenly. You could go swimming or lay in a bath if you run the cool water before the hot to cool down. You could set the sprinkler up or a water slide, brings back good memories being a kid and having a tarp and sprinkler on the yard and having a good old time. Just remember to be sun smart too!

Tip #16: Check in on those at risk
Keep a close eye on those most at risk, like the sick, the elderly and the young (a full list of vulnerable at risk perspns is in part 1). Do this at an arranged time at least twice a day. The heat affects everyone differently and adversely, be sure to make sure they have plenty to eat.

Tip #17: Watermelon
Would it be an Aussie summer without watermelon? I love watermelon, it is full of water plus it is a good source of electrolytes too! Make it fun by using cookie cutters to make fun shapes too. If you get sick of water, maybe have some watermelon to help replenish you. Your body will thank you too, it is oozing with benefits too. 

Tip #18: Foods
Enjoy delicious salads and cold meats for dinner, while a hot meal is delicious, it will only make you sweat and feel hot cooking away in the kitchen. But with the heatwave foods like strawberries, cucumbers, watermelons, celery, tomatoes and broccoli and lettuce contain water, which can be benefitial towards your water intake.

Tip #19: Wearing a stoma cover
I get rashes on my stomach under where my bag sits against my skin, especially when it is hot. I found last year if I wore an ostomy pouch bag cover it helped to relieve the rash as it wasn't plastic on my skin and it worked as a barrier between my skin and bag. If you find you get rashes too maybe speak to your nurse as she might have some bag covers or be able to point you in the right direction to where online you can find them. I had a friend make me some. Theres heaps of options if you google too.


My cover a friend made for me

Tip #20: Mashmallows
I find when I am dehydrated or in Summer my output is more watery. It is hard sometimes to keep my hydration up when this happens, but I have some marshmallows and immodium to help thicken my output. Sometimes a watery output is a sign of a blockage too, be mindful of this as you may need medical attention.

☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟

I hope that you have found these 2 posts helpful on how to prepare for a heatwave with an ostomy, I know they have been long posts but there was a lot of information I needed to share with you. These posts do not replace the information of that of your nurse or doctors, it is a guide to help inform you of the risks and tips on getting through the heatwave safely.

Please be sure to seek medical attention if you require it and don't delay, heat related illnesses are deadly serious.

More Links through my research:
- On how medication/heat affects you:
- Heat related illnesses and what to do: NSW health
- SES heatwave fact sheet
- SES heatwave tips
- ABC heatwave tips
- Know your risk
- Heat and children: NSW health
- Cancer Council Australia slip slop slap seek
- Just 6 minutes pet first aid
- NRMA children in a hot car

If you have another tip, be sure to let me know in the comments below. To read part 1, click here

Posted by: Talya AT 10:15 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, December 14 2017

NB: I am not a doctor or nurse, I am sharing information through my own experiences and also that of various credible sites online. The heat and how it may affect you can differ based on personal health issues, so please do speak to a professional regarding how to be safe in Summer based on your own needs. I am sharing the advice I have found and learned in the hopes it may help you to have a better awareness of how to prepare and endure the heatwave.

Here in Australia, we are 14 days into our Summer. We had a fairly non-existent Winter where we live near in northern NSW, and it honestly felt like a mild Summer. I don't recall having to wear a jumper at all and some nights we needed the air conditioning on. But temps were always around 30'c, it was so dry and warm that our grass and plants were rather dead looking - thankfully, after a lot of water and work, the lawn and garden are thriving.

But it did make me worry about the sort of heats and Summer to prepare for, and if going off the predictions for this weekend - I had a right to worry.

So this weekend, particularly Sunday and Monday, most of Australia will be experiencing temperatures ranging between 35'c to over 45'c, we are told this could be the first of many extreme heatwaves we'll need to prepare for this Summer.


Image from Higgins Storm Chasing, providing a visual of just how much of Australia is to be affected

..... 14 days in to December, this is going to be a long hot Summer!

Part 1: Knowing your risk and what to do

I know you're probably thinking, "big deal just go to the beach, no biggie" - well it actually is a big deal, especially to those vulnerable in the community which includes:
The homeless
The elderly
Children
Pregnant women or breastfeeding women
Those who are sick, including those who have health conditions such as Diabetes, lung disease, breathing issues, asthma, heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure or who take medications that make them vulnerable
☀ Those with conditions that affect sweating
☀ People with cancer
Those with an ostomy
Those who work outdoors or in factories or hot working environments
Athletes or people who exercise vigorously in the heat
Those who are obese, overweight or aren't very mobile
☀ Those with an acute illness such as an infection, fever, or gastroenteritis (diarrhoea and/or vomiting)
☀ Those who live alone or don't have much social support
☀ Those who enjoy the outdoors including gardening
☀ Those with Mental health issues or dementia
☀ Those who drink alcohol or use drugs
Not to forget our furry friends too!

During heatwaves you can be at risk of heat related illnesses such as heat stroke, dehydration, overheating or hyperthermia, heat cramps. Heat can also worsen health conditions too. During this time the extreme heatwaves can attribute to bushfires or power outages (blackouts) too, so it is important to be prepared.

Summer and heat realated health issues and illnesses need to be taken seriously as it can lead to deaths, heart attacks, strokes and more.

How does having an ostomy put me at risk during a heatwave?
If you're like me and have an ostomy (or have had bowel surgeries before) you could be at a higher risk of dehydration and feeling vulnerable to heat related illnesses. This is to do with the loss of bowel and without your large bowel your body might not be reabsorbing essential vitamins and minerals such as electrolytes. This is why doctors and stoma nurses suggest replenishing your electolytes to avoid dehydration. So it is essential at the best of times to monitor and replenish your minerals and stay hydrated.

Then add in sweating and extreme heat to the mix and you're more susceptible to becoming dehydrated and suffering due to the heat. Aside from drinking plenty of fluids, also drink electrolyte drinks such as sports drinks or even icypoles filled with all of your delicious minerals and vitamins. Be sure to ask your stoma nurse or dietician what else you can do to help.

With the dehydration issues aside (I will share signs to look out for below) heat can also affect your stoma, such as: by your bag not adhering to your skin properly, using tapes/boomerangs these can help to secure your bags; you might get a heat rash, I know in Summer I get a heat rash where my bag sits against my stomach, I find wearing stoma covers helps with the irritation; Your output might be more watery due to dehydration, so have some marshmallows or gastro stop/immodium to thicken your output. Just remember your spare stoma kit and supplies if you do go out, just incase you happen to have a leak.

It is important to also keep in mind (during the heatwave) that if you are outdoors, doing any strenuous activities such as sports or gardening with an ostomy, you are at risk of heat cramps too. I will explain more about heat cramps below, but essentially due to excessive sweating the body loses water and salts (electrolytes) and when the salts in the muscles get really low these cause cramps. If your electrolyte levels are at risk of being low consider avoiding activities that might put you at risk of heat cramps, at least until you are rehydrated and the weather is as normal as it will be during Summer.

So what is dehydration and what are the signs to look out for?
According to NSW health, when the weather is very hot, the body has to work very hard and produce a lot of sweat to keep itself cool. During extreme heatwaves, our bodies sweat a lot, which can lead to dehydration if we aren't careful. Mild to moderate dehydration makes the heart work faster and leads to reduced fluid available for sweating.

NSW health says the symptoms/signs of dehydration to look out for are:
Dizziness and tiredness
Irritability
Thirst
Bright or dark yellow urine
Loss of appetite
Fainting

So what should you do if you or a loved one are dehydrated? NSW health offers this advice:
☀ Drink plenty of water or diluted fruit juice (1 part juice in 4 parts water) and avoid tea, coffee or alcohol
☀ Move somewhere cool, ideally air-conditioned
☀ If possible use a spray bottle with water to cool yourself down
☀ If you start to feel unwell, seek medical advice

So what are heat cramps and what are the signs to look out for?
According to NSW health, "Heat cramps usually affect people who sweat a lot during strenuous activity (e.g. sport or gardening). The sweating causes the body to lose salt and water. The low salt levels in the muscles may be the cause of heat cramps and they can be a symptom of heat exhaustion".

NSW health says the symptoms/signs to look out for are:
 Muscle Pains
Muscle Spasms

So what should you do if you or a loved one are suffering with heat cramps? NSW health offers this advice: 
☀ Stop all activity and lie in a cool space, legs slightly raised
☀ Drink water or diluted fruit juice (1 part juice in 4 parts water)
☀ Have a cool shower or bath
☀ Massage your limbs to ease spasms, apply cool packs
☀ Do not return to strenuous activity for a few hours after the cramps subside (exertion may lead to heat exhaustion/heat stroke)
☀ Seek medical advice if there is no improvement

So what is heat exhaustion and what are the signs to look out for?
According to NSW health, "Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt contained in sweat. If heat exhaustion is not treated, it can turn into heat stroke."

NSW health says the symptoms/signs to look out for are:
 Heavy sweating (cool and moist skin)
☀ Pale skin
☀ Fast and weak pulse rate
☀ Shallow and fast breathing
☀ Muscle weakness or cramps
☀ Tiredness and dizziness
☀ Headache
☀ Nausea or vomiting
☀ Fainting

What to do -FIRST AID- according to NSW health:
 Move to a cool place, ideally air-conditioned and lie down
☀ Remove excess clothing
☀ Take small sips of cool fluids
☀ Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath
☀ Put cool packs under armpits, on the groin, or on the back of the neck to reduce body heat
☀ If symptoms worsen or if there is no improvement, seek urgent medical advice and call an ambulance if necessary

So what is heat stroke and what are the signs to look out for?
According to NSW health, "Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency and occurs when the body temperature rises above 40.5°C. Immediate first aid is very important, aim to lower body temperature as quickly as possible."

NSW health says the symptoms/signs to look out for are:
 Heavy sweating (cool and moist skin)
☀ Sudden rise in body temperature
☀ Red, hot and dry skin (sweating has stopped)
☀ Dry swollen tongue
☀ Rapid pulse
☀ Rapid shallow breathing
☀ Intense thirst
☀ Headache
☀ Nausea or vomiting
☀ Dizziness or confusion
☀ Poor coordination or slurred speech
☀ Aggressive or bizarre behaviour
☀ Loss of consciousness, seizures or coma

What to do -FIRST AID- according to NSW health:
 Immediately call 000 and ask for an ambulance
☀ Get the person into the shade, lay them down, and keep them as still as possible
☀ Give small sips of cool fluids if conscious and able to drink
☀ Bring their temperature down using any method available (sponging with cool water, cool shower, spraying with cool water from a garden hose or soaking clothes with cool water)
☀ Put cool packs under armpits, on the groin, or on the back of the neck to reduce body heat
☀ Do not give aspirin or paracetamol; they do not help and may be harmful
☀ If unconscious, lay the person on their side (recovery position) and check they can breathe properly
☀ Perform CPR if needed

I know that this is a long and comprehensive guide on the signs and symptoms pertaining to heat related illnesses and what to do in terms of First Aid, in the next post (part 2) I will talk about being prepared and tips for enduring the heatwave.

Again, I am no health professional, I have only done 2 years of Nursing, but I just wanted to put as much information out there from reliable sources to help you be more informed when it comes to the heat and Summer... especially with an ostomy or any health issue, which can make your risk heightened. Please seek medical attention and don't delay, also remember to slip slop slap!

Please be safe and be mindful of how your medications can affect you with the heat, speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you are worried.

To read Part 2, click here

 

Posted by: Talya AT 08:15 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, November 11 2017

CW: This post talks infertility, miscarriage and other heartbreak caused by having a faulty body


Our family photos Xmas '17, how tiny and adorable he was!

If you follow me on social media, no doubt you have met the gorgeous little furball Dusty who is a ragdoll x blue russian kitten. He has the most gorgeous blue eyes and has made every day over the past year filled with love, fun, adventure and cuddles.

Wait, 12 months on, is he still a kitten or is he a cat? I hate to think of him as a grown cat as he is wholeheartedly my little furbaby. I still like to think of him as this tiny little ball of fluff that relied on me.

Dusty has filled a void that I have had for far too long, and I know Russ will say the same.

Dusty is our baby, he is our child we never had and he is a spoiled little shit. I say that with lots of love. He has destroyed everything because he can, he makes a habit out of biting my ankles or backs of my knees, and he just throws tantrums if he doesn't get what he wants.... I love him, I do, but some days he can be a handful.

However, I know the huge benefit Dusty has had on my wellbeing, I believe he is a major part of why I am still here, he has filled our home and hearts with so much love, laughter, joy, and I know the last 12 months would have been a lot more lonlier and isolating if it weren't for him.


Russ and Dusty Hi-5ing as they visit me in hospital

Our Hopes for a family:

Russ and I have always wanted children, even before our first date 8 years ago he said "I am looking to settle down, to have a family, to find the one person to spend the rest of my life with". At the time the then 18-year-old me was like "hmm ok we'll see" it wasn't in my life's plan to have kids until I was at least 24, married and had a career and house. But then once we got to know each other, he supported me through several brain surgeries a month after we started dating, I knew there was something special about Russ and when he proposed a couple of months later I said yes. I was excited for what the future had in store for us, it was my chance for a new beginning and hopefully a family.

We had one misscarriage in February Valentine's Day (was the day of our engagement party) and it was the only successful attempt. We were shattered. We were hopeful that we would be a family one day.

Later that year we got married (July), then sometime after the wedding we learned that my dad was terminal with bowel cancer at 39 years of age and that it were a rare hereditary form that it was high probability that I too shared this gene. 

My doctors forewarned that I were likely to have cancer myself but wouldn't be until around 30 (boy they were wrong) and suggested we try and plan for a family right away and live our lives before surgery and cancer took over.

Our hopes and dreams as newlyweds of having the family we longed for were shattered now that we were gambling the life of a future child in our hands. We started meeting with geneticists, specialists, gynecologists, fertility specialists and counsellors to fully go over our options.

In 2012, 2 years after my diagnosis of FAP, I had investigative surgery of my pelvic area including my bladder and bowel.

I woke from surgery being told that I was in a medically induced menopause and that on top of the FAP I had severe stage 4 endometriosis and the chances of having a child with IVF was less than 1% and would be too costly.

So it was then that we put the plans of us having a family of our own to rest, we then said we would foster, adopt or get a kitten as Russ isn't a dog person.

In 2013, in the months that I were free of bowel cancer and rejoicing for my new lease on life after having surgery to have an ileostomy, we started training to be foster parents. In 2014, we learned of the new tumour where the bowel used to be and was told that I now couldn't be a foster parent until I had been 5 years cancer free and had a stable life - bringing a kid into a house with a sick parent could be traumatising for the child - so we said we would wait for that day to come.

Which brings us to 12 months ago:

We had moved into our own home, now as home owners we could have a kitten. We were scrolling through facebook one day when a lady posted a photo of Dusty and said he was available in 2 months time (late october). I quickly messaged expecting him to have been sold already, but to my surprise he hadn't found his forever home yet. Later that day Russ dropped by on his way home from work and paid for him and had his first cuddles with him.

Russ was completley smitten and in love.

It filled my heart with so much joy seeing the bond they've shared over the past year.

Dusty cuddles up to me a lot through the day and the night, but as soon as Russell's alarm goes off he shoots off the bed and meows all excitedly as he knows he is about to be fed. When Russ comes home Dusty runs to the door to greet him, Russ will pick him up for cuddles and often rolls around on the floor playing with him. 

It is a comfort some days knowing that Russ will not come home to an empty house once I've died, that he will always come home to seomone who loves him and needs him and I think (hope) that Dusty will be a great comfort for Russ.

I know a cat isn't a child, but Dusty is our little baby. He is funny, mischeivious, smart, playful and loving.

Dusty is so clever! He plays fetch. He learned when he was really little that I spend a lot of time in bed when I have bad days, so he learned if he wanted someone to play with that he needs to play on the bed as I am laying down, and it has worked really well.

He at times has sensed when I am upset or anxious, he often checks on me during my bad days, he also sometimes wakes me up by poking me in the face with his fish-on-a-stick-toy, but he has made me feel full and loved. He is so protective of me it is adorable.

I now feel like we are a family and we have Dusty to thank for completing our lives.

I know I post a lot of Dusty posts on social media, but most days he is the best part of my day and I want to share that with the world.

I always had been told that pets are theraputic, but until this past year I wasn't a believer. I get asked why I haven't died yet and what has changed in the past year and my answer is Dusty.


Have you got a little furbaby? Have you found the benefits they have made to your health and wellbeing as well?

Posted by: Talya AT 05:40 pm   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  Email
Friday, October 27 2017

In July 2015, my husband and I met with a local bank, well a credit union, because we were told that they put their members first above their profits and were meant to be a great bank to deal with. We told the bank's home loan manager that we wanted to buy a house asap as I was going to start chemo in September and we really wanted to get settled in our own home sooner than later (knowing during chemo wouldn't be the ideal time to move house). We told him that I was terminal and we just want to start the next part of our lives. We wanted to make a home our own. We said how we wanted a level home as I am in pain and struggle walking stairs or distances. It was this employee that ran the sums and said we could build as it were cheaper to buy a house, so we did!

Now, over 2 years later our bank is using the fact that I have cancer and take pain medication against me, all because we asked for a better rate.

We are currently on a 4.85% interest rate. We keep applying for a cheaper/better rate and they keep declining us... using my cancer as a reason.

This isn't the first issue with the bank this year.

They changed their BSB number and who hosts their cards, as a result EVERY member got new cards which now won't work as visa debits online for purchases which is infuriating. The old cards worked fine. Then the new BSB also meant that no major banks were recognising this new BSB and for months we couldn't direct transfer money from our ANZ account to the credit union which our only option of paying our mortgage was by direct depositing into the offset account and we got charged fees each time.

THEN....☟ ☟ ☟ ☟

We approached the bank to ask for the 3.5% fixed rate they had advertised (was a limited offer). We wanted to fix the loan for financial security and knowing what the loan payments were so we could better set out weekly/monthly budgets; we also wanted to fix the loan due to the uncertainty in the market predicted over the next couple of years, rates were expected to rise, and we wanted the best rate possible.

The bank came back and declined us (without talking to us about it) based on the reason that I am terminal with cancer and that they wouldn't do it as my husband could sell the house after I have died... but IF THEY HAD of bothered consulting WITH US to ask if this would be the best outcome, they would have known that Russ has no intention to sell and that Russ can't afford to move anywhere else even if he does sell, he would never get a brand new house for the tiny profit the house is now worth, so it is pointless and it isn't something he wants to do. He wanted to stay in this house for a long time to come. BUT they decided they knew what was best for us without talking to us or asking our needs first.

THEN...☟ ☟ ☟ ☟

The bank said as a counter offer that they would allow us to switch to their OMG home loan (a limited time offer) of 3.8%, so saving 1% in interest to what we are currently paying. Told it was a straight process since we had signed the documents for the fixing and that it would be done without any issues. That was on the 6th of October

THEN... ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟

On the 23rd of October, I got an email saying "there is no definite answer if this variation change will be approved," the email continued "they have expressed concerns regarding your health, you mentioned do to me that you regularly take pain medication to help with your current circumstances, they are worried that you are not capable to sign legal documents yourself and have requested that you have a legal representative or Power of attorney sign on your behalf."

I replied that my husband is my power of attorney and that despite taking pain medication it does not interfere with my cognitive ability or influence my thoughts. I said I run this blog that is well read, I write for other sites/publications too, and that I also launched a magazine that I write/design/edit 100% myself and that I take pride in my work.

I said my Doctor would happily write a letter of support to state that my mind is in good health and that there isn't any issues cognitively.

THEN...☟ ☟ ☟ ☟

The response was " I am sorry that bcu has questioned your cognitive ability, we did not want to come across like that at all, I honestly do feel horrible. [insert institution name] will always have the best interests of our members and that is why we have requested the documentation. You have mentioned previously that you do take pain medication to help, and that you have forgotten if you had made payments to your current loans."

The last comment was taken out of context, when trying to consolidate our debts there was one credit card that had a late fee for the month and when this employee asked why I explained "I have been unwell and had a lot going on healthwise I simply forgot if I had paid it on time and realised the following day but it was a day late and got a fee which is all there".

I forgot one payment (on a card that isn't through their bank), now they are using this against me saying I am forgetful because of having cancer and taking pain meds and that I am unable to do my own banking.

I was told that my banking would need to be done with someone present overseeing things, that I would lose my online banking privileges and my card access too, because you know, apparantly I am not thinking clearly because I am asking for a cheaper rate and I clearly don't understand what I am wanting to do.

THEN... I received this email today☟ ☟ ☟ ☟

To go ahead with offering the lower interest rate "we would require that the variation be signed in front of a solicitor (at your expense), as you have mentioned that you don't believe your cognitive ability has been affected by your medication you are taking we need this to be signed in front of a solicitor to ensure that you are fully aware of what you are signing and they will be required to sign the document stating that you are aware of what you are signing."

To make it more patronising the email said "again we apologise if we made you feel like we are judging your circumstances".

Uhhhhh, how are you not judging me?

You are telling me that I am unable to think clearly for myself and that my cognitive ability is impaired, you are telling me I am not of sound mind enough to be ALLOWED to do my own banking, you are telling me that you believe that I don't understand what I am signing up for simply because I am requesting the lower interest rate to save myself money.

Next, are you going to tell me that the entire basis of your argument that I'm not of sound mind is: because I am Aboriginal? Or is it because I am a woman? Because, that is as ridiculous as you saying that I can't be able to think for myself because I have cancer. It is being prejudicial, patronising and discriminating.

☟ ☟ ☟ ☟☟ ☟ ☟ ☟

I feel so trapped, I absolutley loathe this bank, I wish I could afford to take my loan elsewhere.

If I win lotto tomorrow it would be 21 million reasons to not bank with them!

But it is complete and utter BS that they claim to be putting the best interests of members at heart, because all they have done these past months is cause me nothing but undue stress.

I take pride in every single thing that I do in my life, and a large part of that is because of my brain. I have felt my self worth and self esteem feel threatened with each email I receive telling me that I am no longer able to think for myself, it truly hurts me.

I can tell you that my husband is not thrilled about their treatment of me either, and if it weren't for having the home loan with them and being trapped, I would be changing banks ASAP. I will let you know the outcome.

I had given the bank until today 5pm to get their shit together, instead of working with me within reason they continued to patronise me and undermine me. I will be going to the financial ombudsman on Monday and seeing what they have to say.

Posted by: Talya AT 02:51 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, September 23 2017

June last year (2016), I was told I had approx 12 months to live. I then wrote a bucket list of experiences and achievements I want to do and started working my way through it all. I had so much fun living and loving life that the 12 months became a blur. It took me to learn I was dying to really start living life, ironic hey.

One thing I have always wanted was a tattoo, it was more working up the courage to do but also finding something that resonated so deeply to me. Having struggled to feel this conntectedness between ideas, I thought I might best get something custom drawn.

I approached an artist Tasha from Jubly Umph that I loved her work and asked her to create something for me that is so personal and is something that I could continue to feel inspired by everyday. She began working on sketches for me and after some tweaks we had the perfect drawing.

I was so excited when Tasha asked me to write a guest post about my experience for her blog, you can read it here. I talk about my inspiration behind the design and why a tattoo was something that meant so much to me.

When it was my birthday back in March I had some family and friends gift me money with the specific intentions it be used on a tattoo. One of my gorgeous friends Bee gave me an envelope that said "open on the day you go to have your tattoo done" and inside was some cash, I thought it was the sweetest and thoughtful gift.

So the day before I had my tattoo done I got a call to say there was an opening for the next day, I was pretty excited and incredibly nervous. Russ came with me and I am so glad that he did.

My tattooist Megan - turns out is my stoma nurses daughter, what a small world! 

I had been researching her studio and work for months, then one day I was in talking to my florist about my birthday the flower crown workshops and I bumped into Megan she gave me her card and I realised who she was and kind of strangely fangirled as her work is so good. So I had complete faith in her work, I was just nervous as I didn't know if it would hurt or not!

The day for the tattoo came, I chose to get the top of my arm done as it is a big design but also so on my bad days I can be laying on my other side and see it and be reminded of my strength.


The blank canvas

A stencil was made of the design and placed on my arm to check for placement before the outlines were done, but also to check if the scale and size was big enough. We did this a couple of times as the positioning was off, only because of a mole and scars Megan realised she could work these into my tattoo design.


The stencil the second time round

Now came the outlines, it didn't hurt as much as I thought, just like scratching really. The outline was finished, I got up to stretch my legs and to have some pain meds as I was sore from tumour pain before jumping back in the chair. I remember feeling so proud and excited! I felt on top of the world!


So proud!

Now came the next part, the colour! 

BOY DID IT FREAKING HURT!

I was doing okay until about a third of the way through and I was just bawling my eyes out. Russ was standing next to me holding my hand and I was a blubbering mess.


See! Blubbering mess, but I felt so proud at this point.

I now understand why you get it done in stages, I just felt like I was buff but I felt like a sook and was so embarrassed that I must look weak. I left and got in the car and just cried and sobbed, it hurt for a week or so afterwards too. 

Best thing to help soothe the itch is this ointment from Woolworths called Dr Pickle, it really helped to moisturise it when it was dry and helped to fight the urge to itch it too. 


Comparison of the tattoo and the artwork!

I was really happy with the tattoo and the artist really did an amazing job at bringing the artwork to life. If you wanted to see more of Megan's work you can find her on Instagram under @meganlouisebucks

It has now been 5 months and the tattoo is looking so good!

I have had a lot of compliments on it, have had a few opinions from others but at the end of the day what I choose to do with my body is my own choice and when people get too judgey I just fired back with "I am dying so who really cares HOW I choose to live out my life, STFU". I am so over comments telling me how I should live out my days. I am only trying to do what makes me happy and to squeeze a lifetimes worth of experiences into the matter of months and days, so I am doing my best.

One shop I went into the salesguy was telling me how trashy I was because I had a tattoo and asking Russ what he thought about his wife ruining her body like that and how it reflects on him, Russ was pretty great and had my back but it took so much strength to not punch him in the face. Like seriously, how does me having a tattoo affect my ability to be a customer. Do you want my sale or not? 

I did hear comments like "your dad would be so disappointed in you and would be rolling over in his grave, if he were alive he would disown you". That one comment stung though, but I do like to think that if dad were watching from wherever he may be that he would be proud of me for choosing myself and for choosing to do things that made me happy, I would like to think that he understood out of anyone how hard it is to go on living your life knowing that anyday it could end, I would like to think that no matter how I lived my life in my final months that he would proud of the person I have tried to be... I always put everyone else before myself, so I wanted my bucketlist to be about me and doing things I wanted to do.

Before 12 months ago I didn't really feel that I had any idea or sense of who I was as a person, I do feel that I am starting to find myself and finding how amazing life is when you stop and look around.

It took me dying to realise just how beautiful life really is.

But my tattoo has become a reminder for myself that I am a badass and that I am strong, on my worst days I need this reminder, some days I need to know that beneath all these health issues there is still a young 26 year old woman trying to hold on.

Guest post on my tattoo story 
Design by Jubly Umph Facebook @jublyumphart Instagram @jublyumph
Tattoo was by Megan from Absolute Tattoo Instagram @MeganLouiseBucks  
Tattoo Studio: Absolute Tattoo Woolgoolga

Do you have a tattoo? Was there a meaning behind it?

 

Posted by: Talya AT 10:19 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, September 22 2017

WARNING: This post discusses death, dying, suicide, euthanasia and could provide a trigger. Continue to read at your own risk. Opinions discussed are of my own and I have no paid or unpaid political affiliation with Dying with Dignity NSW, nor have I been asked to write on this topic. This is purely something that I feel deeply about and it is a topic I have been wanting to write for a long time. These are my views so please be respectful

I am not one to usually talk politics with you, but this is something that is quite personal for me and something I have had discussions with Russ at length about. It is a topic that is misunderstood or misrepresented in the media, in order to create fear and hate and divide people. This is more than just a topic for me, it is something I think about daily, and that is that I deserve to die with dignity and compassion.

This week (on the 21st of September) in NSW legislative parliament, a bill was presented to the NSW upper house called the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017. This bill was created to help terminally ill adults to die on their own terms with compassion, respect and dignity.

There has been many heated debates referring this to "euthanasia" which is misleading a lot of people, politicians included, by the myths and fear mongering tactics employed by those who are so loud in their opposition of this Act. According to "Assisted Dying: Setting the record straight" an e-Book written By NSW Dying with Dignity, euthanasia is referred to as "life ending medication administered by a doctor". Under the proposed bill in NSW, a person who is at least 25 years of age, of sound mind, who is living with a terminal condition and is estimated to be in the last 12 months of their life based on the opinion of several medical experts, and is Experiencing severe pain, suffering or physical incapacity to an extent deemed unacceptable to the patient, can SELF-administer a lethal substance to end their lives and if they are unable to they can nominate a doctor or loved one to help them.

There is a need for this, a need for a law that protects and has the interests of those (like myself) who are dying from cancer or other terminal illnesses to die with compassion on our own terms when we deem the pain and suffering to be too much AND give us dignity in our deaths.

I have read reports of persons ending their own lives under horrific circumstances as they can't face this anymore. I know there have been times I have considered this, not out of depression but merely out of desperation. How can I go on knowing that the pain and my quality of life will only get worse - I didn't have any hope for the life I could still live as it is so hard... then add the feelings of guilt knowing you are hurting those you love and the FOMO (fear of missing out) on life and it can be too hard to bear. So YES, I can empathise with how someone can choose this.

Then referring to the above comment can lead to families suffering after witnessing a loved one's traumatic or "bad" death. By choosing this law families could ensure they get to say goodbye, a person could feel at peace themselves knowing they have no unfinished business, a dying person and their loved ones could make a beautiful moment or ceremony or way to commemmorate a life before it was over and it could help them to have control over their deaths and give everyone a better experience of the death.... I am not saying the loss of a loved one is easy by any means, but it could help give comfort to KNOW that they were not in pain, they were happy and they were surrounded by love.

I know my biggest fears are dying in pain and dying alone.

It scares me everyday.

☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟
But at the end of the day it comes down to the fact that I want to and believe that I should have the ability to die with dignity.

I remember back to my first university lecture on Ethics and the law when I was studying Nursing and the topic came up on Euthanasia. The whole room was literally divided and there were many debates, we even had to do an assignment on the topic. I got a High Destinction, but it was such a hard topic. I know then my heart was divided, I was being told that "NO, it is illegal" but my heart felt that morally it was unfair that someone should die in pain.

This lecture was before dad's cancer and many years before my own, but regardless of my own experiences of mortality, I do still believe that there can be dignity and compassion and respect in dying.

Because there are so many myths out there, I want to try and dispell some, to help show this bill won't affect anyone other than those who are terminally ill and living in their last 12 year of their lives.

Firstly, I am not saying my life or those with terminal cancer isn't worth living or anything like that, I believe in living life to the full and strongly belief life doesn't have to stop being lived. I plan on squeezing the most out of my life, and it is something I try to do everyday, but I know there will come a point where I am too sick and I am just simply existing and suffering in pain and only then is that when I want to say "hey let's do this". If this bill was already law (and it is something I have discussed at length with Russ) we would wait until we knew there wasn't much of my life left.

Truth be told, I have been told that my death is likely to be extremely painful and that pain meds won't help me... My pain levels now are barely managed and I am on high dosages already, knowing my pain is going to be tenfold compared to what it is now scares the crap out of me... I would much rather die happy and at peace... wouldn't you?

☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟

Myth: This will hurt those who are vulnerable within the community.
I know there are a lot of arguments against in the community as it could hurt those who are vulnerable such as the elderly or those with a disability, those who are of low socio economic status or even those with mental health issues.
Fact: To be considered under this bill you HAVE to meet criteria including being in the last 12 months of your life and living with a terminal illness, be confirmed to be eligible by not 1, not 2 but 3 different medical professionals including your GP, specialist and a psycologist.
Fact: YOU CANNOT JUST REQUEST IT if you do not meet the criteria

Did you know? That under this bill you can change your mind at any time too. You won't be forced to proceed if you no longer wish to. It will always come down to your choice, afterall it is the point of all of this which is to give you a choice in how you die if you're palliative and 12 months or less to live.

Myth: Assisted dying is suicide, legalising it will ruin society as a whole
Fact: People who are dying and want to control the manner and timing of their death are not suicidal. I know I am not suicidal but I am going to die, I just want to die on my own terms and have control. 
Fact: Having a choice is empowerment, having dignity is empowering.

Myth: A doctor can kill any patient and can cover it up by saying it was an assisted death
Fact: Only a patient will be administering the medication and would have met strong criteria as well as having 3 medical practitioners sign off, it isn't something that can instantly be done.
Fact: as this is patient administered it removes the need for a doctor to assist, therefore they are not going against their hippocratic oath of 'thou shall do no harm'. Again, it is not causing harm it is offering dignity.

Myth: Doctors don't know when you'll die, only GOD knows, no one can know these things so don't listen to a doctor they are wrong all the bloody time
Fact: You can look at a patient's scans and assess an esitmated life expectancy, yes nothing is ever certain but doctors know what signs to look for in someone who has 12 months to live.

☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟

I could go on about all of this for a long time, but you can view these myths and more in the "Assisted Dying: Setting the record straight" an e-Book written By NSW Dying with Dignity, to learn more about how this law WILL ONLY AFFECT those who need it.

I know it is a heated debate, I know some oppose it under religious beliefs, but do have a read up of just how important and life changing this could be to someone like myself - a young person dying from cancer.

Dying at 26 sucks enough as it is, it is painful, it is scary and most of all I have no control or relief. I know at some point in the next 6-12 months things will get a lot worse and more painful and I just wish that this was available if I felt it was too painful. Just to know there is an option to give me control in the end would give me hope that I won't be in pain forever and I could be at peace in the end.

I know I would only do this IF or WHEN the pain got too much, I would try and hold out as long as I could before. 

Please visit Dying With Dignity NSW to learn more or to follow the progress/updates of the legistlature or to read other people's stories on the bill.

Regardless of your personal stance on the issue, do consider reading up on the benefits this could help to people like myself dying from cancer. It might not be something that will be able to assist me through my death unless it is passed within the next 6-12 months, but it is something that could at least help those in the future to have dignity in their death.

P.S If you feel that this bill should be passed please consider writing a letter to your local MP to voice your concerns and to help get this bill passed. Click here to find out how you can help! 

Posted by: Talya AT 10:40 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, September 19 2017

Today was a pretty big day running around between appointments from one to the next, I was so pooped (exhausted) when I got home around 3pm that I went straight to bed only waking not long ago.

Yesterday and today have been the first days in over a month that I have ventured out of the house, it is a rather elated feeling when you feel so trapped and then suddenly you feel free. Hard to explain it really, but being cooped up all the time really gets to me emotionally. I think that is a massive attribution to my depression too.

So I welcomed the change of getting out of the house today.

So today's agenda involved meeting a new GP as my current one is on leave until end of Oct and I needed to see someone, running some errands and grabbing a bite to eat, then meeting with my bowel specialist who outside of seeing me in March (when I was admitted to the hospital) I was overdue for a meeting.

So first up: the new GP
I hadn't met with him before, Russ occassionally sees him when he can't get into our regular GP. I sat down and he said "what brings you in today?", I replied "oh I just have a specialit's appintment this afternoon and need a referral as my regular GP is on leave". 

I thought the appointment would be straight forward, I wasn't preparing myself for getting into deep and meaningful conversations today.

Unusually, I am still not used to telling strangers "hey, yeah so I am 26 and dying from cancer" I feel I am always having to say it with a smile in the hopes that it protects them from any hurt they could feel, I also hate feeling morbid and smiling also helps me. 

I get a bit anxious when going into depth about my FAP story and how this is more than just a bowel cancer gene, so many doctors don't understand the complexity of it unless it is a field they study... so I was rather surprised when this doctor knew about it and said "ahh yes it can invade multiple structures" which was a relief as it gets exhausting sometimes having to fight and advocate and educate someone especially a doctor on diseases that you live with - I really didn't have the energy today to do this so it was great that he had understanding.

He acknowledged that no matter how many years he has been a doctor or how many patients he has seen that it never gets easy when you have a patient who you can't do anything for other than what issues or symptoms they had.

I got my referral for my appointmet and a script for some antibiotics for a nasty wound I had and he took a swab of it.

One part of the conversation that surprised me though, was talking about my beliefs of what comes after I died. I don't often get asked and I said what I felt and that is a whole topic for another time I think.

So off I went to the errands we had to run next (go collect a parcel from a courier depot way out of town) then forgot all about the chemists to get my script filled and went to lunch thinking we had plenty of time. An hour passed still no lunch and had 10 minutes until my specialist's appointment when the food finally arrived and I scoffed it down and left. Was rather disappointed as I had been waiting and looking forward to that lunch date for sooooo long and it wasn't able to be enjoyed afteral.

Next up: Specialist's appointment
I had called them 15 minutes prior to the appointment explaining the whole lunch debacle and that I will try and be on time but could be a few minutes late. They were okay with it, but of course the one day you run late the doctor is on time!

So he called me straight in and I sat down.

He asked how was the concert (the whole reason I discharged myself from hospital) and I excitedly told him how that not only did I win the tickets to the Dixie Chicks but they wanted to meet me too, which is something they don't often do on their tours. He was so happy. I continued to tell him that they dedicated a song that was special to me and my dad to us and he said he was so glad I could make the concert of a lifetime.

He is a great and caring doctor, he has been my doctor since 2010 so he has been there for me right from diagnosis of the cancer gene right up until this point of my life, so he has been with me through everything. He has an amazing bedside manner and has always gone above and beyond for me, he is so kind and he even takes the time to talk to Russ down the street and ask about me.

Before we dwelved into what I needed for today's appointment, he asked what can he do for me, anything? Not often I get asked what extra assistance I need, but I am not good with asking for help. I did ask for possibility of him booking me respite at the hospital again soon as I need it, he said consider it done.

We talked about what is currently going on in my bowel, Russ never comes to my appointments with him as he always usually was working, but luck had it that he could come with me today. Russ was the one that brought up the pain when I eat before I had the chance too, it was all stuff paliative care have explained to me before, but the first time Russ heard a doctor explain it.

Basicly....
The tumour is blocking the blood supply to my small bowel which means that essentially my bowel is experiencing angina.

Imagine someone with heart issues tries to walk 100m and experiences sharp pains or angina, essentially my bowel is not getting enough blood supply for it to work. My body quickly rushes blood and it surges to the area to try and make it work. Because of the short blood supply my bowel is trying to run a marathon as a sprint. Gee is it bloody painful!

So everytime I eat I get horrible pain that lasts hours after my meal.

He suggested that I try shakes, protein drinks nothing foody (blended nutribullet as it isn't really a drink) and just try those. I know when I drink or have soft stuff like icecream or zooper doopers (ice blocks) there isn't the pain, which he said would be true as it isn't food and anything food like requires the stomach and bowel to work to process it. He said watery soups would be good too, but I am not a broth type of person. So drinks and ice cream it is!

Next issue was to do with my stoma, when I eat say 7pm my stoma isn't actually working and processing bulk of my output until around 5-6am the next morning. It never used to be this bad. He said it is caused from a bowel obstruction caused by the massive main going-to-kill-me tumour as it is compressing the bowel to narrow and food can't pass properly until it is a massive push/release. He said it isn't my fault just again tumour related and even if I reduced meal sizes he said it wouldn't make a difference and that to not have as much fibrous or foods.

Before we left he did tell me that he thinks I have done an amazing job through all of this to remain the same kind and positive person, he said my attitude towards things have always helped him and he always admired how well I handled things. He said that he acknowledges that the last 18 months with my new stoma hasn't been easy but he said he is proud of how I have adapted and gotten used to it.

It made me feel better to hear from someone such as my Doctor to think highly of me, made me feel like maybe I am strong afterall.

☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟

Sooo pretty much that is where I am at, that is latest health update and I am just trying to make the most of whatever time I have left. It is hard to know you are just basically waiting until you die, but I am trying my best to not let that get the better of me. I know (well, I hope) I still have a lot left to give.

If you read this far, thank you! I know I don't always update my blog as often as I would have liked, but sometimes when you spend 20 hours of your day in bed asleep it is just easier to microblog on facebook or instagram. You can follow me between blog posts by searching @feelingostomistic or twitter is @feel_ostomistic.

Posted by: AT 11:01 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, June 13 2017

 

“Life is 10% of what happens to us and 90% how we react to it” 
- Dennis P. Kimbro

Facebook memories can sometimes be a double edged sword. On one side it shows you the silly and mundane status updates that have you questioning what on earth you were thinking way back when. Then there are the moments that your life changed in an instant in what feels like a lifetime ago, but was in fact a year to date. It has the power of instilling those emotions you felt at that time and can feel like a sharp stab at one’s own heart.

Sometimes it can be bittersweet and reminds me of the little ‘wins’ in life: like the time my husband got his P’s after 20 years as a learner driver and I felt immense pride for him but cried tears of relief that I now can take a step back and not be the sole driver; or that time that I drove a 4 hour round trip to spend Good Friday with my family (having had chemo the day prior) and felt so sick, but I was able to hold my nephew for the first time since his birth and he smiled and laughed with me and in that moment I felt an overwhelming sense of love and happiness, as if all is right in the world, for that boy has the most infectious smile that makes you feel so happy.

1 year = 12 months = 365 days = too many minutes and seconds to be happy

Today’s memory however, was that it was 12 months to the day that I was told chemotherapy was stopped, that I had exhausted all other options and was admitted to hospital under palliative care… I was given 12 months to live.

I remember that day clearly, I had turned up to my chemo appointment thinking it was a normal chemo day. I drove myself to the hospital and had expected to drive myself home; instead I called hubby and told him I needed him.

I remember feeling so terrified, I was scared now having been given a timeframe and I didn’t know what to make of any of it. What if I did life wrong, what or how was the best way to spend each minute of the day, was there even a right way? I didn't know what to do, I just knew I wasn't done trying just yet.

But amongst all the fear felt, I also felt so much guilt. I felt that I had failed my husband, my family, my friends and myself.

Most of all I wasn’t ready for the end.

I remember crying so much that day just being held and consoled by my husband, we cried together and despite no words being spoken we knew what the other was feeling.

So I started writing my bucket list and planning how I wanted to spend the next year, particularly, my final moments. I began organising my funeral and how I wanted my life to be celebrated. I tried to include my loved ones in organising/talking about my funeral and joining me on bucketlist experiences in the hopes that it helped them somehow.

But one thing I knew for sure, was that I was determined to spend the next year living life as fiercely and to the fullest as possible. 

Choosing my legacy and how I want people to think of me:

I wanted people to remember me not for the hardships I faced but for how I chose to face life, I wanted people to not pity me but to think “hey that is one strong, badass and positive chick”. I didn’t want the next 12 months of health issues/decline and struggles to define me, I was determined to try and help others.

I feel like the last 12 months have been incredibly exhausting, I feel like not only have I struggled with daily challenges but that I also have lived the most I possibly could have too.

In the face of adversity and a time I should have been selfishly focusing on myself, I started a magazine for other young people with a stoma that has been well received all round but also what I hope will be my legacy.

But my determination to try and help others didn’t end there:

I have tried to empower people to make better choices through learning from my mistakes, I have tried to challenge people to think about how they talk to or treat someone who is chronically or terminally unwell, I have tried to help others feel less alone in sharing my story openly and I have tried to encourage others to live their life as they see fit.

The last couple of weeks I have been struggling with depression and felt myself in a downward spiral. I have been told I am dying too slowly, that I am a burden on Russ, that I am a fraud because I am not on my deathbed now; all in a matter of weeks. 

I am feeling a lot of self loathing (and as a failure) as I had hoped a year on our finances would be in a better state, that things would be less messy and more manageable for Russ to takeover. Yet, despite all the frugal efforts made, I still don’t feel things are better 12 months on. I had also hoped to be prepared enough and finish my funeral preparations by now too.... but things need a lot more working done. I also hoped to have saved/paid off my funeral too (I don’t know who I was kidding). 

I just regret not having life insurance so much, it could have made life a heck of a lot easier.

So please if you can learn anything from this story is to never just take one opinion/advice from a person who is “an authorised representative”, to always get another opinion. 

I HAD life insurance and when I stopped working I was told that my life insurance would be void if I had no EMPLOYER contributions made, that I couldn’t just make them (the contributions) myself. My insurance lapsed as a result. I later spoke to them again (6 or so months later) only to be told that the information I was told was incorrect and I could have made contributions all along and I would still now be covered or be receiving the benefits owed to me.

That one person who incorrectly advised my rights has caused so much stress and inconvenience to my life and while I have been told that person no longer works there I have been left to live with this mistake $600,000 poorer… I didn’t question the advice as it had come from someone at the company, that I assumed them to be right. 

If only someone had of told me to get a second opinion. 

Same went for my thyroid cancer, a respected endocrinologist told me there was nothing wrong with my thyroid and a week later I was in Sydney having thyroid biopsies done as it was actually cancerous, sadly in “the sticks” there isn’t always a second opinion you can get but I am lucky that I sought one in Sydney. Or that time I was told I was diabetic from a Doctor without any testing being done and started medication, it didn’t feel right and made me sick, I saw a different doctor a month later and was diagnosed with anaemia not diabetes. 

Moral to the story, if it doesn’t sound/feel right always get a second opinion. 

Your best teacher is your last mistake

Though all of these moments impacted on my life, I learned valuable lessons about myself or others around me.

If you do happen to make a mistake along the way just learn from it, don’t be too hard on yourself and be forgiving - you wouldn’t really be living if you didn’t make mistakes. Just learn from them and make yourself more informed for next time.
"A mistake is doing something once, the second time it is considered a choice."

So here is to time and life, may we all take everyday as it comes and try to stop every now and then to take it all in, or smell the roses as some say. Life is so precious and I am just grateful to still be here 12 months on and living by my promise of trying to help others. So learn from my life if not for helping yourself, help someone you know.

Time and life is something that can go by so quickly and before long it is a year or 5 years later, so it is important that you make the most out of it. To be cliche and all, it really can be taken away at any time. I know I am cherishing everyday I have; as I know age, time and life are all a privilege.

Always remember:

“Life always offers you a second chance… it is called Tomorrow!”

Posted by: Talya AT 01:36 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, April 09 2017

One thing that I have noticed time and time again since I have been sick and spending a lot of time in bed, is that I often felt uninspired and unmotivated. I feel if I wake up happy or feeling somewhat inspired I usually have more energy to tackle the day.

It all started when I was having chemo, I was so sick from chemo that I spent almost 6 days out of 7 in bed and feeling like absolute shit house. My room didn't inspire me at all, I had a beautiful and comfy bed (a must when you're sick) but as we were renting hubby was reluctant to let me make the room my own. We knew we would eventually be moving house and it was just more things to have to move.

So in June I stopped treatment and entered palliative care.

A week or so later I went into pillow talk and my brief was "I need a quilt cover that will inspire me, motivate me but make me feel happy". I found the perfect quilt with the thanks to a sales assistant, who was undergoing chemo herself at the time and she really understood how important it was for me. I wrote away thanking her and Pillow talk HQ.

It has been 6 months now since we moved house and aside from the quilt and a print on the wall, it still felt like I was missing a little bit more. I had a bed side that felt so clinical and reminded me of being sick every time I woke up or rolled over, it was covered with needle bins from my clexane or boxes and sheets of tablets strewn over. It really reminded me every day that I was sick, and it had really gotten me into a funk of late.

The before☟☟☟☟

So I had been planning a little bedside table makeover for a while, well had talked about it.

It is school holidays and 2 of my siblings (Macka 14, Carson 12) came up to help me do things around the house, so we decided now was the time to makeover my bedside table but also my bathroom vanity.

So I am sure it ended up being the most memorable house clean or bedroom makeover they've ever experienced!

We emptied all of the contents off my bedside table into a basket to go under the bedside table for ease of access, then we dusted it down and went about the house finding items I had been collecting or already had.

Some of the items had been found on clearance or at a cheap price.

So I found some books on the bookshelf that I got for Christmas and have been meaning to read, and from all the images I have seen of "pretty bedside table stylings" it usually has books stacked on. The marble canister is good for hiding things like remotes for the fan, tablet sheets or jewellery.

My brother said it had to have a necklace in there too.

So this is the after, and while I am no interior designer, I am feeling pretty proud of how this looks... and I don't feel like I am reminded of being sick everytime I roll over.

The After☟☟☟☟

So now the memorable (and humiliating) part to the story....

The basket wasn't fitting in the cupboard when we knew it should and was as if something was blocking it. The door was closing but was still ajar.

My sister reaches behind the basket and pulls out a red dildo (I hadn't seen it in about 5 years and didn't care for it) so I had no idea that it was in there, so my face I assume was as red as the adult toy.

I still feel so embarrased, haven't felt so humiliated in a long time, but it will be memorable story to tell in many years time or after I am gone. I did try to say it wasn't mine, they laughed and said "what it is Russell's?" which had them even more confused when I said it wasn't... how embarrassing indeed!!

"Hey, remember that time at Talya's when we were cleaning her room and found a giant red dildo in her cupboard".

I can now pass on knowing at least I have left them with one solid and hilarious memory.

Note to self: KNOW where you have hidden such toys, preferably in a safe place no one will EVER find again.


Have you ever had a mortifying moment at the hands of kids? Comment below or comment under the facebook post, please make me feel a little less embarrassed!

Posted by: Talya AT 05:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, March 05 2017

It is my birthday in 5 days and I am struggling with it, this is the first birthday in 5 years I have wanted to celebrate it. I am having a birthday of my dreams with items on my bucket list e.g enjoy a cocktail again, have a high tea for my birthday, do a flower crown workshop. It was meant to be a surprise vow renewal, but Russ shut that idea down quick smart.... he still claims to hope I will somehow miraculously make it to our 10 year in 2020.

I know it sounds weird that this is the first birthday in 5 years that I have wanted to celebrate, even though that has its own rollercoaster of emotions to accompany it.

This birthday is my 26th birthday but it is also very, very likely to be my last.

For the latter reason, I tried to put aside my issues and feelings to try and have the best birthday I possibly could not only for myself as I feel I need to be shown I am loved and that I matter lately (that is a whole story for another time) but I also knew that THIS was important for my family and friends.

I was told last month that "I don't understand what the issue is with your birthday, you are the only one feeling this way".

It kind of made me feel a little angry that my feelings weren't valid and that I should just suck it up, but this isn't that easy.

You see my birthday was always something I shared with my dad and we would always do a combined birthday, my birthday was the 10th and his the 11th. It was always precious moments I shared with him.

Why I find my birthday hard ☟☟☟☟

It was March 10th, 2012 when he actually started dying. He was terminal with cancer, but that day - my birthday - was the day he started his dying process.

It was also my 21st birthday.

I had this whole day planned, spent over $3000 on it and family were travelling all over for the day mostly because it was my birthday but a big part of it was they knew it very well would be the last time they would see my dad. I knew that, they knew that, he knew that.

So that morning I arrived at 7am to my dad's house to be greeted by my nan who said "He doesn't want you to know this, but he probably won't make it through the day". I went in to see my dad and to sit with him. He looked at me and said "you f$cking know don't you?" and he started yelling at me. I knew this was because he was frustrated, he felt like he had lost his independance and the one request he had to everyone was to not ruin my birthday by telling me, he was so selfish that he wanted his daughter to have a great 21st birthday, but he was angry.

I was so upset I jumped back in the car and drove back home to drive back ready for the party. It was a 3-4 hour round trip and I used the excuse I forgot my outfit (which I did). I drove the whole way crying, shaking and at one point pulling over because I was having an anxiety attack and couldn't see. I wasn't alone, I had Russ with me who was talking reason to me.

I had to get all my tears out before I returned to see him again, he got angry if people cried and gave him pity so you had to hold it in or if you felt you couldn't he didn't want you visiting.

So I got back to his place, I was eager to cancel the party because I wanted to stay with him and do something different.... but he wouldn't let me. He didn't want me to miss out on my birthday and he tried his best to get there but sadly he couldn't.

I understood but boy it hurt.

I got to my party and felt so guilty, I felt like I was the worst person in the world and that everyone would be judging me for being there instead of with him. I made an appearance and snuck outside and just cried for ages. My best friend came looking for me, she had a drink in her hand and she told me to take my time. I had a couple of drinks of liquid courage and went back in to face everyone.

I had a few more drinks and started to loosen up, I started to dance and had fun, I was surprised the DJ knew all the songs to play and I was having such a good time. 

Then it hit me, I felt the guilt again and then I started crying all over again.

Midnight came and the venue needed to close and I headed to dad's where I was meant to spend the night but knowing he needed his rest my friend let Russ and I stay there. He was waiting up for me and gave me my present, it was this beautiful silver heart bookmark engraved for my birthday.

He proceeded to tell me that he was texting the DJ all night the songs and he was telling my dad how I was, he knew already that I disappeared early in the night and was pretty upset but I tried my best to have a good night.

Next day was his birthday and we sang happy birthday via webcam as his room was too small with all the hospital equipment to fit over 20 of us. He managed to get out of bed that day and walk around with assistance, and I thought maybe he wasn't dying afterall.

Later that night it was only Russ, my brother, dads partner and I that were there when his breathing slowed right down that I thought it would stop and he was losing consciousness. We called the ambulance and I thought he was going to die. He held my hand and talked to me. He told me he was sorry and that he was proud of me.

When the ambulance officers came they told us to make ourselves familiar with his end of life wishes and to have the plan at hand, knowing when the time comes we weren't to do anything as he was DNR.

The next day I was having severe endometriosis pain and realised I had no pain meds with me and needed to drive home, as Russ didn't drive I had no way of getting back to dads so went home to rest. I got the call to say the doctor had been and they said he might have a day or a few days but definitely need to get everyone to say their goodbyes.

He died overnight, getting the call at 4am and jumped straight in the car and drove down.

He had always said he wanted to make it to at least see his oldest turn 21.

Why I struggled since to want a birthday ☟☟☟☟

But each year since, I would get rather depressed leading up to it. I had a lot of guilt and I felt traumatised from the events around my 21st birthday and that my birthday never felt the same, I felt like I was missing a piece of me. 

So I decided not to celebrate my birthday and would use this time to go away with Russ somewhere that I could just escape everything and everyone, I know it is selfish but I really can't cope with the overwhelm of feelings. But it is also because I just can't cope with this feelings, so I avoid them, I am in denial that I need to. 

Fast forward to this year, after the suggestion of family they felt that I needed to do this for them, so I have been trying a lot to make this a memorable time for them and hopefully myself, but it is hard when everytime I feel a little excited I then feel this massive overwhelm of guilt and I start vomiting. I can't help but hate myself for trying to want a good time when these feelings keep coming back.

I know no one understands why this time of year isn't easy for me, but it is so hard... it is hard to not feel survivors guilt or that I shouldn't be happy so close to his days.

I am trying my best but I am also struggling.

So I am stressed, I have $800 worth of things needing to be paid for before Friday. I applied weeks ago for a special terminal illness grant to be approved as a dying wish and still haven't heard back even though Russ has sent numerous emails. All the vendors demanding their monies and I am so upset that it won't be the perfect day I dreamed of. I have the cake $200, food at the venue $240 or $6/head and the flower crown workshops of $400 ($20/head). I know guests are paying for their own cocktail high tea in lieu of gifts ($35/head) as there was no way I could afford that too.

Didn't help that last week my cake maker pulled out and had to find a new one, which I am loving the cake.

I just worry I won't have enough time to wrangle money together if they don't let me know ASAP an outcome, I need to have time to either find things to sell or convince Russ to use one of the credit cards which means also getting the bank's approval as it will affect the outcome of our homeloan review in the coming months.

Besides, Tuesday I have an MRI and that has me rather anxious and worried.... just keep asking them to keep the results until after my birthday...

I just want to try and have one LAST memorable, uneventful, drama free birthday! Is it too much to ask of? BUT wish me luck, please, that the rest of this week goes smoothly!

So if you have heard me talk about why I am struggling leading up to my birthday, this might explain it all! But it is a comfort knowing that I will see him soon, life hasn't been the same since.

I miss dad so much ❤ 

p.s pretty keen for my first drink in 5 years, just hoping it doesn't trigger a pancreatitis attack or interfere too much with my medications... drink of choice is a fruit tingle

Posted by: Talya AT 08:33 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, October 23 2016

National Bandanna Day is coming up, and is this Friday the 28th of October. It is a day where people nationwide are encouraged to purchase and wear bandannas with the proceeds raised to support a charity called Canteen. You can read about the work they do by clicking here, or to read how Canteen has helped me personally, click here.

In the lead up to National Bandanna Day, I was approached by Canteen to be an ambassador (always wanted to be one) and talk about my cancer story and how canteen has helped me with various media outlets.

One of these outlets was a local ABC radio station, and I had always wanted to be interviewed on radio so I jumped at the chance.

Russ, my husband, was present with me the entire time I spoke and after I ended the call he praised me for how articulate I sounded and that he was proud of me.

I was a little nervous, but I made sure I was prepared.

I thought I would share 7 tips that helped me to stay calm and level headed during my radio interview, and I hope that they too help you.

#1. Find somewhere quiet to sit
My radio interview was done over the phone as opposed to meeting in the studio, so it was important that I had somewhere quiet to take the phone call that also had really good bars of reception. It also is important that you have a good/clear microphone on your phone and don't put the phone on loud speaker as it can interfere with the clarity.

#2. Remove any distractions
To make sure that you can give your full attention to the questions being asked, and to not sound at all disrespectful and distracted, it is important to make sure that there is nothing that can distract you or take the attention away from you. I made sure to close my laptop, and put my husbands phone on silent, but about half an hour before the interview call I made the decision to go and sit up at the headland in my car. This was also because I find the ocean calming and is my go to place to think if I am needing to be with my thoughts.

#3. Know your stuff, and know your 'why'
For me the interview was about my cancer story and journey and how Canteen has helped me and can help others. Because the story is that of my own I didn't need to worry about a script as I know this, but I also was prepared in knowing some statistics that I was able to casually throw into the conversation without sounding scripted or forced.

#4. Don't have a piece of paper to read off of
I only say this purely for two reasons. Firstly, the rustle of the paper might prove to be an added noise and distraction; and secondly, it might sound forced rather than a naturally flowing conversation. If you need to know statistics maybe memorise them beforehand or put them on an iPad to read or better still put the paper on a clipboard so it doesn't move or rustle.

#5. Have a bottle of water handy
As with any speaking gig, you might need to keep your mouth and throat moistened to avoid coughing or sounding hoarse.

#6. If able to, ask what questions will be asked
This is important if talking about a sensitive subject that might bring up emotions or might be a question that is off the table to be asked. I had a very respectful interviewer who asked me prior if there were any topics or questions that I didn't want to talk about, such as mortality, but in true nature of my blog I said I am pretty open and transparent and that I didn't have any objections to what is discussed.

#7. Know the name of your interviewer
This is important for courtesy and respect, but you also don't want to look like a fool when you said the wrong person's name. The interviewer has taken the time to research you and your story and it is respectful to show the same courtesy in return.

I know these are only a handful of tips, but these really helped me in preparation for my interview and I hope they help you. Feel free to add your own tips in the comments too.

Also, keep an eye out on my facebook page for when the interview will be aired as I am not too sure yet.

P.S Not sure how to wear your bandanna or how to fold it? Click here for a HOW-TO printable guide

 I ask (if you feel inclined to) that if my blog or my writing has helped you or made  a difference in your life, please consider treating me to lunch or a mango  smoothie by clicking through to my paypal.me account.

 I am mostly housebound  so being able to go out for a nice treat would really help  make my day that little  bit brighter. Would also help me to feel appreciated too.

Posted by: Talya AT 08:48 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, September 04 2016

I often wonder if my dad's bowel cancer had of been detected early on, would he still be here today? I believe that he could have been, especially if it hadn't metastised yet.

I also wonder, would he have needed a stoma and if he would have been okay with needing one if it meant he would still be alive.

Then I imagine my dad and I twinning at being stoma bag buddies, and sharing a humour about life with a stoma that only we would understand and appreciate.

My dad was one tough bloke, he was WAY tougher and stronger than I could ever be. He hardly complained about being in pain, and although you could see in his eyes he was exhausted, he would still make sure that he was there for us kids.

But, I know how hard living with a stoma can be, especially in those first few months.

I know if my dad were given the choice of life with a stoma or death he would have opted for living, he would have done anything for his kids. He would have made jokes about having a leak in public, and gone "well, fuck. Shit happens aye". 

He probably would have even said something like "don't scare me like that... I shit easily".

But something totally corny and dad jokey would have been "talk about de ja poo... I've heard this crap before"... or "Did you know that diarrhea is genetic... because it is running in my jeans".

Dad was a true comedian and could turn any situation into one that could make you laugh... I think he would have continued that humour and his positive outlook through having a stoma too.

I like to think that is where my strength, ostomism (optimism with a stoma) and humour come from.... and in a way I feel that he helps me to get through each day by asking myself "what would dad have done/said".

Even after his death my dad continues to inspire, motivate and give me the strength I need to get through my day.

Happy Father's Day dad.

Tell me, is there something that you inherited or share an interest with your dad?

 

 

 I ask (if you feel inclined to) that if my blog or my writing has helped you or made  a difference in your life, please consider treating me to lunch or a mango  smoothie by clicking through to my paypal.me account

 I am mostly housebound  so being able to go out for a nice treat would really help  make my day that little  bit brighter. Would also help me to feel appreciated too.

 

 

Posted by: Talya AT 11:01 pm   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  Email
Friday, August 26 2016

Today, and as it seems a lot lately, I am constantly met with doubt and disbelief when I share my story/prognosis or the fact that I am 25 and terminal with cancer. It almost always makes me feel like people assume that I am making it up.

For the past year my husband and I have been working on a new segment/section of my blog called 'The Ostomistic Husband' which will be posts and topics written by him and in the hopes of showing the perspective of how a spouse feels or views their loved one's illness. 

So, take it away Russ!

☟  ☟  ☟  ☟  ☟  ☟  

All too often I have Talya tell me how annoyed and upset she is because someone has just told her, “You can’t be dying. You don’t look like you’re dying of cancer so it mustn’t be that bad”.

I’m sure you have heard the same from someone you know with an illness; it seems to be all too common.

I myself believe I have a mild autism which makes me: crave routine; shy away from human interaction; find it difficult to create and nurture relationships as I don’t readily say what I feel inside; have processing issues regarding certain tactile sensations, etc.

These things are not visibly apparent and are not easily discernible even when you are interacting with me.

Why? Because I’ve spent a LOT of time learning how to go about my day, to fit in without drawing attention to myself unless I feel safe to do so. As such, it pains me to hear that Talya is being judged by her outward appearances and not by the effort she makes to display her frightening lifestyle in a manner palatable for those around her. She is always trying to alleviate others…

Fear.

I think that is probably the major force behind the “You don’t look like you’re dying of cancer so it mustn’t be that bad” line.

No-one wants to admit that a young person as outwardly vivacious and spirited as Talya could be dying inside, because that means that they too, may have something as monstrous within them (and not show any signs).

After all, they look fine. Don’t they?

Talya and I see this very differently.

She feels that people are constantly attacking her; sometimes bluntly and sometimes in a back-handed way.

I feel that people are constantly protecting themselves; outright denying the facts about her health (in fear for their own mortality) or suggesting that it can’t be as bad as all that (simply hoping that it could be true, were they in that position).

People don’t want to accept change, they are afraid of the unknown. I get that, more than most.

In the private studies I’ve made on human nature, and by simply watching people react to a situation then react to their own reaction, I believe that people are generally afraid inside (and what a perfect evolutionary trait in self-preservation that is). Some have learnt to deal with that most primal of instincts internally, while others still say, “You can’t be dying. You don’t look like you’re dying of cancer so it mustn’t be that bad”.

All in all, I feel for Talya a great deal in the aforesaid circumstances but I remind her that she is simply better at hiding her pain than some others are at dealing with their fear.

I say, “If they want to blurt out hurtful statements, without understanding what you are going through, to make themselves feel better, that’s on them, not you. But please, see it from their point of view too”.

No-one wants to live in fear.

 

About the Author:
Russell, a husband in his mid 30's, is a computer salesman by day and a unicorn husband by night*. He enjoys long walks on the beach, playing Pokemon Go, he loves lamp, and he loves all things nerdy! He hopes through his writing and sharing of his experiences of having a young and terminally ill wife, might help other men to understand what not to say (to avoid getting yelled at) or how they can better support their loved one. If you want to connect with Russ (or send him topics/questions or areas of concern you have) send him an email via russell @ feelingostomistic.com.au. Russ really loves his wife and wants her to enjoy what remanining time she has, so he has asked for help to build her a garden escape and needs your help ---> click here to read more about the why behind the garden.

*He is the sort of husband that everyone wishes were real, but doesn't believe actually exists.

 

 I ask (if you feel inclined to) that if my blog or my writing has helped you or made  a difference in your life, please consider treating me to lunch or a mango  smoothie by clicking through to my paypal.me account

 I am mostly housebound  so being able to go out for a nice treat would really help  make my day that little  bit brighter. Would also help me to feel appreciated too.

 

Posted by: Russell AT 02:12 am   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
Friday, August 05 2016

One of the hardest parts about being terminal and knowing your life will be short lived, is knowing just how much you will be missing out.

There will be plenty of birthdays, milestones, graduations, weddings and babies no doubt...

But it has really been upsetting me lately knowing that I will be missing so much, and that is hard to deal with.

I also know that if I leave Russell up to the task of buying special gifts for after I am gone, I know not only can he not choose a good present but he is never organised enough to make sure a present is arrived in time.

Heck, I start Xmas shopping around April/May each year (yes I already have presents organised already).

But part of me feels that I should be organised now and start buying gifts and getting cards together for their birthdays, future babies and weddings... but will that be creepy? Like will they be creeped out that I am giving gifts beyond my grave?

Hardest thing is I can't find like a 'etiquette to dying' handbook to tell me what I am meant to do and organise before I die... so I am kinda just winging it. (trust me I have looked... wait maybe that is my e-course or e-book idea?)

I wish everyday that I wasn't dying or that I can continue to grow old with my husband... I wish I wasn't given this shortened life sentence and that I could find a fairy godmother to grant me 3 wishes with one being 'to be cured'... but that only happens in fairytales and I am no Cinderella.

I really want to be here for Russell's 40th in 4 years, but I threw him a pretty cool 35th party (but I didn't tell him it was because I might not get to throw him a 40th). The party was under the disguise of 'half way to retirement' party.... but he had fun and his friends all had fun too. It was a themed party and everyone was to dress up as something they wanted to be when they grew up.

Was a lot of fun, and he asks me if I will throw him another party and I just reply "We'll see" and put on a smile and hold back the tears. I am considering a housewarming party, but we'll see.

Like I know I am not ready to fall off the perch just yet, and I hope I at least have another year or two but I am the sort of person that needs to be prepared and needs to be organised.

But tell me, if you got a gift or a card from a loved one beyond their grave, would you be creeped out?

 

 I ask (if you feel inclined to) that if my blog or my writing has helped you or made  a difference in your life, please consider treating me to lunch or a mango  smoothie by clicking through to my paypal.me account

 I am mostly housebound  so being able to go out for a nice treat would really help  make my day that little  bit brighter. Would also help me to feel appreciated too.

 

Posted by: Talya AT 11:06 pm   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, July 13 2016

[this post may contain spoilers, proceed at own risk]

I was watching Winners and Losers last night (the second episode of what will be the final season) and I felt rather annoyed by a particular conversation that seemed to have been missed on the show.

Jenny found out that she was pregnant (was a surprise/shock) and that she later learnt that it was ectopic.

But there should have been a conversation with Jenny and her husband about their options they have for planning or 'safer planning' for a family when she carries a genetic cancer gene mutation.

We learnt earlier in the series that her mum and sister both had breast cancer, then Jenny discovered that she too had the gene and she opted for the double masectomy... I always thought the writers did so well in those episodes that followed her diagnosis and surgery and that Melissa Burgland conveyed the emotion really well, I especially felt that I could relate.

But I felt really disappointed watching it last night that there was nothing mentioned about speaking with a genetic counsellor regarding family planning or anything.

I just know with my genetic cancer gene mutation that I had to consult with so many doctors and specialists BEFORE we were to start trying for a family, and to really know our options and risks going forward. Options for us included IVF where there is a test that can be performed on the embryos to see if they have the gene mutation.

I just know for me, a big responsibilty I felt was that I didn't want to be careless and knowingly pass on this gene knowing what my family (dad and sister) along with myself have gone through, and there would be that stress and worry of not knowing if they inherited the disease until they were at an age to be allowed to be tested... I am not judging those who have the disease and have children knowing the risk of passing it on, but I just know for me I would find it too hard and stressful knowing that I had options available to me.

I just think that the writers should have added in a discussion of some sorts and work with reputable sources to encourage awareness and to talk with someone (either her partner/family/specialists) about the risks or safer family planning.

I know it is just a show and it is fiction, but they did their research in the doctor prescribing a single dose of methtrexate to treat the ectopic pregnancy, but surely they could have done research about family planning when you have a known cancer causing genetic mutation... and that is where I felt the show really let me down.

It would have been nice to watch the show, and watch how the conversation would go and know somehow that I wasn't alone in my conversations with my husband/family/specialists about planning for a family with this disease.

Will be curious how the story pans out... but given it is the final season we may never know if the gene stopped with her or if she passed it on to her future offspring.

Speaking of offspring, I am LOVING this season!

Posted by: Talya AT 01:01 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, July 11 2016

Canteen is an organisation (charity) that provides support and help to young people (like me) aged 12-24 to help them on their cancer journey. You might have heard about Canteen through their National Bandanna Day campaign that runs annually each October.

When I was younger I had a beautiful little sister who was fighting her own intense cancer battle, and canteen helped our family out with support and ever since then and after my sister's passing we continued to support Canteen through their National Bandanna Day, our way of saying "thanks for the support".

It wasn't until after my dad died in 2012, that we realised that Canteen was there to help us through our dad having cancer and then dying, we thought it was just for people who had cancer and didn't know we could join too.

It was a few days after my dad's passing and my siblings weren't coping, so I looked into signing us up and a short time later we went on a 'New Member's Camp' where we weren't the only new kids on the block.

What I didn't know at the time was that I had found a place where I belonged and could turn to when I needed support... I also didn't know just how much I would come to rely on Canteen.

After the camp I kept in contact with the staff at my local division and accessed the counselling support.

Late 2012, I was told that I had early signs of bowel cancer and that I required my bowel to be removed in the coming months. I turned to Canteen for help and support as I made the decision to have my bowel removed and live the rest of my life with a permanent ileostomy.

Because of my surgery I didn't go on any programs during 2013, mostly out of anxiety around living with a stoma but also I was in and out of hospital with pancreatitis that I just kept missing out, which again happened during most of 2014. I was going on an over 18's program but instead was in hospital the day before camp started.

During this hospital admission they did a scan and found there was a tumour, I then travelled backwards and forwards to Sydney for consults with specialists and having scans done.

Canteen were fantastic, the staff touched base with me each week and when they were in the local area they would invite me to coffee to see how I was going.

I decided to say thank you to Canteen for their support and organised a Halloween themed high tea fundraiser, which was an absolute blast and success raising $1200 for Canteen and is an afternoon that guests still talk about.

Then in early 2015 I had a PET scan and it showed my tumour had now doubled in size, I had a new tumour growing and that I also had thyroid cancer.

I turned to Canteen a lot during this year, and I was involved a lot as a camp leader or helping to plan different programs (even though I wasn't able to attend for health reasons). I offered up my graphic design services and would design different flyers and posters or invites for camps, I loved not only having something to do but to help in my own way of saying thanks for being there for me.

I actually just got home from an Over 18's program, and I am so glad that I went... During the past fortnight I was told my chemo was to be stopped and that there were no more treatment options going forward and that palliative care were called in to help manage my pain and symptoms and to help me feel more comfortable.

The past fortnight has been extremely tough to deal with, and I just really needed to escape and get away and just talk to people my own age with their own experiences... to talk with peers who 'get it'.

I had so much fun on the program, and despite being in a lot of pain I really enjoyed myself. The staff were amazing going above and beyond to help me, and the member's who attended were so kind and accepting.

To be honest, Canteen is the one place that I feel accepted and valued and not judged, and I think that is why Canteen works so well.... it is a safe place for you to explore your feelings and dealings with your cancer journey and you are surrounded by people who are as well. 

I honestly don't know how I would have gotten through and navigated the last few years without the support and help from Canteen, and for that I will always be thankful and appreciative of all the times that Canteen was there when I needed them.

I age out of Canteen this year, so that was my last camp. I still plan on keeping in contact with the staff and offerring my graphic design services. But I have made some amazing friendships through Canteen that I will continue to cherish and keep in contact with.

If you are a young person aged 12-24 in Australia, or know someone who is affected by cancer (whether it be themselves, their parent or sibling who was/is sick) please let them know about Canteen by clicking this link.

Posted by: Talya AT 03:45 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, July 02 2016

I had my scan a month ago to check on my tumour growth and if it was responding to chemo or if there was any new growth. The scan showed a couple of new developments and one massive surprise.

I found out that my tumour was stable and showed no new growth or shrinkage (the surprise).

The two new developments were that I have a 17cm mass on my ovary and I also have 2 large blood clots (Pulmonary Embolisms) in my lungs.

I was called back to the hospital that day and taught how to inject myself with clexane needles twice a day. I was in shock and rather upset and my amazing husband took over and has since been giving me my twice daily injections.

I was so shocked as it was an incidental find and if it weren't for the oncologist bringing forward my scan by a fortnight I could have died... and as much as I thought I was okay and at peace with it....

Turns out I am not ready and that I still have so much life to live.

I thought maybe I did something wrong, but my doctors reassured me that I didn't. Apparantly the chemo and cancer combo can lead to blood clots due to my blood not clotting right... the only symptom I had experienced was a cough and shortness of breath.

So I have to have my injections twice a day.. my husband comes and gives me one in the morning before he leaves for work (along with my thyroxine medications) and then the other is at night before bed. I need to have these injections for at least 3-6 months.

Some tips if you need to have clexane injections:
#1. I find being jabbed in my thigh hurts a lot less than my stomach... maybe it is because my stomach is so sensitive from the tumours but it hurts a lot for me.

#2. Find an area that has more fatty tissue so you can kinda pinch the skin, I find the fattier part of my thigh hurts less

#3. After you receive the injection gently rub the area or tap on and around your thigh, it helps to relieve the pain and I don't know how but it just really helps to relieve the sting.

P.S if you are experiencing chest pain that is new or shortness of breath that is also new, please don't hesitate in seeing your doctor or presenting to the emergency department at your local hospital

 

Posted by: Talya AT 06:01 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, May 20 2016

When I talk to a lot of my friends or peers who aren't sick I realise just how different our current life stages are.

I have some friends that are busy planning their weddings (which I am loving being involved as I just love LOVE and weddings and all things happy) but I am at the stage of my life where I am planning my funeral and my list of wishes I want to do before I kick the proverbial bucket... but just because I am planning my funeral doesn't mean I have given up or that I am not being optimistic or ostomistic I should say about my situation.

While I feel a little sad that this is my current reality, I am in no way giving up so please don't tell me that I am.

For me, planning my funeral and writing a bucket list or as I prefer to call it my 'happy list' I feel is somewhat empowering and it makes me feel I have control over my situation, and control is something that is often lacking when you are sick, especially terminal.

Why is it empowering you might ask? Well it is simple really... it means I have control like I said just before, but it also means that when the time comes my family and husband won't be left wondering what I wanted to have done.. and I have seen the arguments over funerals and who organised what or didn't organise and I want to spare my family that extra stress when they are grieving... albeit they will have to make arrangements and finalise the order of things like flowers and food as I don't know when I am going to die (and this is the hard part about planning your funeral). But I am planning on having everything written down and instructed and planned so all they need to do is make a couple of phone calls and order things... I want it to be simple for them and want them to feel stronger that they don't have to make these decisions.

One thing I am struggling with is having my family and friends involved in helping me plan my funeral.. which it will be more a party/memorial service as I plan on being cremated so there won't be a body. But, no one is wanting to help me and I understand it is hard for them but I just wished I could talk openly and be supported without feeling like I am upsetting them. And I don't want them to read this and feel obligated in anyway to talk with me or help me plan, it is just one of the hard things about my situation is that it is hard on those who love me.

I want a party like service where everyone is to wear colours, and I want to find bio-degradable balloons that I can have released, I want bright flowers, I just want it to be bright and bubbly like me and not dim and black and depressing because that isn't me.

I am working on a concept for my funeral called a 'waste free funeral' where things like flowers can be donated to nursing homes or people in hospital doing it tough to make their day brighter, or left over food to be given to homeless shelters or like the balloons I don't want them to impact on the environment. I want to have a great send off but I don't want to hurt the environment or others, so I want to give back where I can and this is my way of doing so.

But please, if I am wanting to talk to you about my funeral and I am all happy and chirpy please just think about what you're about to say as it hurts me when you say things like "well that is too depressing to talk about", or "why are you giving up" because I don't want to do this alone and I am not sad or hurting about this decision... as I keep saying it is making me feel empowered.

Posted by: Talya AT 07:39 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, April 10 2016

We know that chemo can be toxic to ourselves and we can get sick, but did you know that it can make those around us sick too if they are exposed.

Before I started chemo, I was invited to attend a chemo education session where I learnt things about treatment, nutrition and what it means to be cytotoxic.

When you have chemo you are considered 'cytotoxic' for the next 7-10 days. This means that your bodily fluids such as urine, tears, sweat, saliva, semen, poo and blood contains chemicals that can be toxic to others if they are exposed to it. They can be near you and not get sick, just as long as they don't come into contact with your bodily fluids.

So when you have chemo it is important that you be mindful of what you're doing to help protect those around you.

Here are 10 steps I take to ensuring the safety of others around me when I am cytotoxic

#1. Double flushing the toilet with the lid down
This helps to keep the toxic waste inside the toilet and avoid splashing. Double flushing also ensures that the toxic waste is removed from the toilet and is safe for the next person to use. Make sure you also wipe the toilet seat properly.

#2. Try and use one toilet for my use only
I know this one can be hard especially if you only have one toilet being used by all the members of your household, but I am lucky in my house that we have two toilets and I try and keep one toilet for my use only. This is just to minimise the risk of me being cytotoxic with my husband or guests visiting our house.

#3. Don't share drinks/cups
As saliva is one of the ways in which I am cytotoxic it is important for your own safety that you don't drink out of a bottle I have drank out of, or a cup. If you (like me) prefer to drink out of the bottle of milk or softdrink rather than in a glass simply mark that bottle with your name or just make sure others know not to drink that drink.

#4. Don't share food/utensils
This very much goes with #3, don't eat the food off my plate or use my utensils after I have used them. I have to keep reminding my husband to not eat my leftovers. I am getting more into the habit of having smaller meals and going back for more if I am hungry as opposed to food going to waste... but sometimes my eyes are just too big for my tummy!

#5. Use condoms if having sex even if it is just oral
Not only do you not want to get pregnant while undergoing chemo (I imagine it wouldn't be good for the baby), but it also isn't safe for your partner if you have unprotected sex.

#6. Double line your garbage bags when disposing your stoma bags
This is something that I was told to do by my stoma nurses which helps ensure the safety of those working in the garbage disposal industry in the event that the original bag you've disposed of your stoma bag in has broken down or torn open, that you aren't exposing workers or the environment to your toxic waste. To be safe I put my soiled stoma bag in a garbage bag and seal it then place it inside another garbage bag and seal that one.

#7. Make sure you have disposable gloves handy
If you are likely to have someone at home who would jump in willy nilly and help you clean up if you vomitted, had a bag leak or made a mess, it is important that you have gloves at the ready for them to wear to protect themselves. My husband bless his soul really is my night in shining armour, he sees that I am in trouble and his first instinct is to jump in and help me. But, I have to keep stopping him and reminding him to get gloves if he wants to help as I don't want to run the risk of making him sick. Also put the used gloves in a plastic bag and seal it before placing in the garbage bin.

#8. If you are holding a newborn
My brother (and his partner) recently had a beautiful little boy. Easter was approaching and I had started back on chemo and I knew I would be sad if I could see him but not get cuddles. So I asked the chemo nurses if it was okay for me to hold him and they said that it was providing I wasn't sweaty, I don't kiss him and my bag isn't leaking. Thankfully, I got a couple of cuddles in on Good Friday and I made sure that there was always something between my skin and the baby to be safe. 

#9. Wash soiled items seperately
When you do have a leak it is important that the clothes and linens are washed seperately to your normal (non-chemo person's) laundry. I find one wash cycle to be enough to clean the clothes, it is just more to protect other's clothes from being exposed to cytotoxic waste.

#10. Wash your hands and make sure others do too
Whenever you go to the toilet, do a bag change, deal with soiled linen or clothes or if you sneeze/cough always make sure you wash your hands. Not only is this good hygeine practice, but it helps eliminate the spread of germs and chemicals. Make sure others around you wash their hands too and if possible ask them to use hand sanitiser.

Posted by: Talya AT 09:50 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, March 21 2016

Reading that heading, are you thinking "Wait did I just read that right?".

Well my friend, you certainly did.

Firstly, let me start by saying this is nothing sexual. Not that I am judging anyone who is into that sort of stuff... but my doctor advised me I needed to start fingering my stoma for medical reasons not sexual.

You might recall me complaining and sharing the recent experience of my new stoma here on my blog and on social media, and if you've been following from home you'll know that this new stoma is a bitch and is tricky and is very leaky!

One of the problems with the stoma, is due to the remaining tumour being completely adhered to the stoma it is pulling the stoma down from the surface and making it retracted.

Imagine a cone or a funnel, how you have a bigger and wider opening towards the top but at the bottom/base it is a smaller and more narrower hole.

Now imagine that small hole is under a lot of pressure and is getting smaller and smaller because it is being pulled down. 

Imagine that hole getting so small and closing up that passing any sort of waste through the stoma would become rather painful... That smaller hole is the part of my small intestine (small bowel) that USED to be stiched to the surface of my skin, and is now sitting some 5cm below the surface of what now looks like a belly button hole.

.. well this is what I am facing with my new stoma. There is a high chance that I could need corrective surgery (which might only make things worse) if it gets to this last stage.

But my doctor told me I can avoid this by doing one simple thing each time I do a bag change or at least once a day... and that is fingering my stoma!

It doesn't have to be rough or anything, but if I put my finger down into the stoma and just sit it there it should help to stretch it out. It does kinda hurt, it does bleed a little and there is often a huge gush of waste coming out.

But as much as I hate doing it I also don't want to be in the position where it will close over an become painful (or I should say more painful).

I just wish I could go back to how things were with my old stoma... I am really missing it!

disclaimer: please don't go stretching your stoma hole willy nilly without the guidance of your bowel surgeon or stoma nurses, I am simply sharing my recent experience in the hopes of helping someone in a similar situation feel less alone or feel empowered enough to ask if it is something they need to do to help their own difficult stoma.

Posted by: Talya AT 06:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, February 23 2016

I know having a loved one in hospital or unwell can be rather distressing, and I know more than anything just how much you want to help them get better.

I myself, have spent a lot of time in hospital and after a recent surgery with a hospital stay I thought that I might give you some ideas or suggestions on how you can support a loved one while they're in hospital. I guess these could even apply to when a loved one is at home chronically ill or unwell.

When a loved one is sick, you don't have to buy flowers to show them you support them. Here are some ideas to help you next time:

Suggestion #1. Calling them
I know that you're concerned for them and want to call them daily or every other day for updates but as much as I know you care and want to support me this actually is something that I find frustrating.

You see you might call me once a day, but so are a lot of other people all asking the same questions so I feel like I am constantly repeating myself and all the phone calls can become rather exhausting after a while, or you might just be having an 'off' day and just want to be left alone.

Also keeping in mind that when someone is in a hospital room sharing with 4 other people it can be hard to have an actual conversation without feeling like everyone in the room is listening... there just isn't privacy when you're in hospital and this makes me uncomfortable so I prefer to text or facebook message.

Solutions:
#1. Nominate one family member to call and relay the message back to those who are asking. Or if too many are upset they're not getting a turn to speak to the person in hospital create some sort of roster and take in turns of calling and relaying the message to others.
#2. Send a text message before calling and ask if now is an ok time to talk, as they might be asleep or might not be up for a chat. If they don't answer straight away then they aren't available, but they can reply when they are.
#3. Send texts instead of calling as it can be easier to reply to when they're up to it or as I mentioned above I prefer text is just more private than having a conversation in such a public room.

Suggestion #2. Flowers
I know when you're visiting or thinking of a loved one your first instinct is to buy them flowers. But flowers while they are beautiful and can make someone feel loved and smile, they also are rather expensive and will die.

Instead of buying flowers think of practical things they might need and either are unable to go buy it themselves while they are in hospital or they mightn't have the funds to purchase (especially as money can be tight when in hospital and if they have to take time off work to be there).

Solutions:
#1. If they have a laptop and are using a prepaid wireless dongle, purchase some credit or recharge for them to use
#2. If they have an iPad and enjoy reading books purchase an iTunes gift card so they can get some new books to read
#3. Make up a little care package with some comfy slippers and essential toiletries if they were in a rush and didn't get to pack these even include an eye mask and ear plugs to help them sleep a bit better
#4. If you know that they've been colouring in to keep them occupied you could buy a nice set of pencils or colouring in book in case they have used up all their book or pencils
#5. If you drive past their house and notice their lawns are looking a little neglected offer to give it a mow, or keep an eye on their pets it can be a stress they don't need to worry about

Suggestion #3. Food
Unless you're in a nice private hospital, the food in most public hospitals I have been in can at times be rather inedible leaving you rather hungry and annoyed.

I spent so much money this last admission on food as I found myself having to resort to the hospital's expensive cafe in order to get something that was half decent to eat. But sometimes you don't have the option to walk to the cafe to get food.

Solutions:
#1. Offer to bring in a nice home cooked meal for them to enjoy
#2. If there is a cafe but they're unable to walk there themselves offer to go get them something enjoyable
#3. Pick up or arrange delivery of some yummy take away and sit somewhere in the hospital and have a meal and chat

Suggestion #4. Make them feel at home/comfortable
When I am in hospital for long periods of time I quickly become homesick especially when home is so far away. For me I have some things with me that makes me feel comfortable and a bit at home which are some cushions/cuddle pillows (I can't sleep without cuddling up to these cushions) and also have my Redkite blanket with me.

These are some things that I find brings me comfort but others might find comfort in having a photo on their bedside of their family.

Solutions:
A reader suggested after reading this post, that if they have pets it can help with their recovery and feeling more at home if you brought their pets in for a visit. There might be a garden or somewhere close by that you can sit at, and if you can't walk far you might be able to be wheeled out in a wheelchair. She went on to say a visit from her fur babies really helped her in her recovery.

Suggestion #5. Respect their privacy
When you're in hospital you can feel vulnerable and often feel like you have lost dignity. But when you are visiting a loved one it is important to be mindful and respectful of how they might be feeling and to not make them feel worse.

Don't take a photo of them without their consent, and especially don't go posting that photo on social media.

Another thing you shouldn't do is share things they have told you in private or that the doctors may have said without their permission, this goes for social media. I know that your first instinct is that you want to update people on their condition but don't give out the specific and private details of the ordeal, not everyone needs to know the specifics. And if they share an image with you, don't text/send that image out to your contacts. It can be rather upsetting when they find out to know that things about their life/recovery have been shared without their permission.

Suggestion #6. Offer to do their laundry
If you are really wanting to offer support and help while they are in hospital, offering to wash their dirty clothes can be a huge help. But you need to be prepared that some of those articles of clothing might be dirty or soiled. It might be embarrassing for the patient to accept you washing their clothes especially their delicates, and it is important that you make them feel comfortable and not embarrassed about the state of their clothes, as they might be a little anxious about handing over their PJ pants that became soiled after a bag leak.

If you do end up washing their clothes, and if their clothes are rather dirty and soiled or stained, it is not your place to tell others in a gossip sort of way as it would be humiliating and tarnish any chances of the person asking/accepting help again.

While these are just a few suggestions I know the list could be longer. So if you have a suggestion that you think would help others comment below and let me know. I would love to hear your ideas of what makes you feel more supported when in hospital.

Posted by: Talya AT 05:57 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, February 20 2016

For those who have been following my facebook page would know of my struggle the past several months involving a rather aggressive and fast growing Desmoid tumour that was causing me issues and making me sick.

I haven't blogged much about my tumour and experience, just been mirco blogging on my facebook page. But today, I am wanting to write about my most recent experience which involved having the tumour removed and having  a new stoma created.

According to the Desmoid Tumour Research Foundation a definition of a Desmoid Tumour is that these "... are tumors that arise from cells called fibroblasts. Fibroblasts are found throughout our body and their main function is to provide structural support and protection to the vital organs such as lung, liver, blood vessels, heart, kidneys, skin, intestines etc. and they also play a critical role in wound healing. When fibroblast cells undergo mutations they can become cancerous and become desmoid tumors (also known as "aggressive fibromatosis")..."

These tumours can be slow growing or extremely aggressive (which mine are) and can become life threatening when they locally invade or restrict on structures, organs or blood vessels.

I had two tumours (now I have one) both in my mesentery and one is also deep in my abdomen compressing on my kidney and also presses on my stomach and back often causing me pain when I walk short periods or am standing for a few minutes. Hell, even having a shower can quickly become rather painful and tiring! For those at home wondering how big this beast is, it is the size of a watermelon... but this one won't be surgically removed (too risky) and is the one that I have been told will eventually kill me over the next few years and the aim of the chemo is to try and shrink it or stop it from growing before it causes too much damage.

The tumour that was removed last week was the size of a rockmelon (see image below of side on view of my stomach) and has since left me with not only a huge cave-in of my stomach but a new stoma which I am trying to adapt to but it is proving to be a challenge.

Surgeons are usually reluctant to remove these tumours due to their aggressive recurrence and because the more surgery you have the more chances for more tumours to appear, especially when you have a genetic pre-disposition to these tumours caused by FAP.

But, the reason my tumour was removed was because it was dying inside (turning necrotic) and was causing infections, ulcers and fevers and it was decided that it was best to remove the tumour now in hopes of preventing further issues and to make me better enough to FINALLY resume chemo to work on the other beast.

So I have been in hospital since New Years Day back home in Coffs Harbour with the exception of a week where I got to go home, but then I was readmitted there for 10 days while I waited for a transfer to Sydney to have surgery. So I got to Sydney via air ambulance on Tuesday the 9th of Feb and had my surgery on the 15th of Feb.


Me the day after surgery with my trusty Redkite blanket

The surgery went well and I was up walking the next day and had impressed the doctors so much (and myself for that matter) with how well I was doing that they were ready to send me home last Thursday. But my swelling went down on my stomach, and my stoma changed too and my bags no longer were sticking and getting a good seal so it kept leaking.... and leaking... and bloody leaking!

In a 24 hour period from Thursday to Friday I had experienced about 8-10 bag changes, I lost count, and my poor skin was so raw and sore it was quite uncomfortable. Then Friday to Saturday I had almost 24 hours without a leak, then the last 24 hours have experienced about 6 bag leaks and my skin is so sore I just want to cry!

It is so hard adapting to this new stoma, especially when it is so different comparitatively in size. My old stoma I miss so much as it worked and very rarely leaked, where as this one is so small and it is now sitting in a crease in my stomach where I never had a crease before the surgery, but worst of all it has become retracted and is under my skin.

As I said, I am REALLY missing my old stoma and struggling to like or adapt or feel confident with this new one. I know I needed my tumour removed and I know long term it should prove beneficial, but I am struggling to see the ostomisticness right now... which I feel like such a fraud as my blog is called 'optimism with a stoma'... 

I know I have gone through this before, it was 8 weeks of constant leaks before I found the bags that worked for me and then I fell in love with my stoma and the new life and freedom it gave me... but I miss that freedom and confidence and just hope I can perservere and one day will fall in love with this new stoma too.

It was almost three years that I had my first stoma, it had become such a huge part of me and who I am and I know this will sound strange but I do feel a little bit of grief and loss over my stoma. I am not only grieving for my stoma but my independence, dignity, confidence and freedom.

If my tumour hadn't attached itself to my small bowel and stoma I wouldn't have lost such a HUGE chunk of small bowel, and they would have had more bowel to work with to create this new stoma rather than opening me up to dig more bowel out and opening me up for more risks of tumours and complications.

I know it is a process of trial and error, I just have to get through this next bit to fully accept my new stoma.

Posted by: Talya AT 08:41 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, December 27 2015

Late last year, I decided that I would organise a fundraiser event for a charity I have been personally involved with the past 3 years. This charity is called Canteen and they help support young people (like myself and my siblings) who live with cancer in our lives.

We first became members back in 2012 after the loss of our dad to cancer, and they have been a huge support to me while I have been on my own cancer journey. So I wanted to do something to show my appreciation and have a bit of fun, and that was to host a Halloween themed high tea!

The turn out was great, so many dressed up and we raised a total of $1200!

To the attending guests they thought the event ran smoothly, but for me I realised so many things I could have done differently and I thought I would share these with you all. To see the full page of the event sponsors and images courtesy of the professional photographer who donated his time to run our photo booth, click here now.

10 mistakes to avoid when hosting a fundraising event


One of the decorated tables, the venue loaned me their candelabras for the event use

#1. Give yourself plenty of time to organise it
I only decided less than 4 weeks before the event took place that I was going to organise it. It was rather stressful trying to secure a venue, organise ticket sales, promote the event, organise donations and the works. If I were to host another event I would start organising at least 4-6 months ahead of time to allow for plenty of publicity and support to be engaged.

#2. Have a committee or team to help you
If it weren't for a couple of friends stepping forward to help me, I know my event wouldn't of been the same. I was in and out of being in hospital (one of the downfalls of being chronically sick) and was still trying to organise the fundraiser. One friend had a lot of connections within the community and helped to establish a lot of the donations and support from local businesses as well as organising a stall at the local market to help sell more tickets, and my other friend helped me to also arrange donations from businesses but also was a life saver on the day helping me to set up as well as selling raffle tickets for me on the day.

If I were to do an event again I would seek out those who want to help and delegate to them a job/task they can do and have regular meetings just so everyone can touch base with how they are going and hear how the event is coming along so far.

#3. Always have an authority to fundraise from the charity
This one is a given, and while I had the authority to fundraise from the start of organising the event, it is something I wanted to add here as it is crucial to your event. Not only does the authority to fundraise add legitimacy to your event, but it also shows that you are authorised to act on behalf of the charity to collect goods and is a legal requirement.

I gave a copy to each of my friends that helped me to arrange donations as well as having a copy available when I did the market stall to promote the event.


The lolly buffet.. was a HUGE hit

#4. Make sure your phone is charged
On the day when I left the venue an hour before it started, my phone was fully charged. Then half way through the event my phone died and I had no charger and it made life rather difficult as I had things stored on my phone that was imperitive to the afternoon running smoothly! I wasn't expecting so many people to get lost and ring me requiring directions. Next time I will bring a phone charger as back up, but importantly would have everything I need in a hard copy.

#5. Get an MC
While I am no public speaker and I felt rather intimitated standing up being the MC for the event, it was also rather difficult to host the event be the MC as well as doing the errands I needed to do... all at the same time! I think next time I would enlist the help of someone to specifically be the MC to help the event run smoothly and allow me to focus my attention on the running of the event.

#6. Time management
I didn't anticipate how fast time flies by when you're having fun, and the event ended up going over by an additional 30-45 minutes! A big part of it was my phone dying and having to think on my feet what I could do to replace the lost technology, and also trying to MC as well as running the event. But even time management leading up to the event is important as I was up all hours the night before finalising things and all the morning in the lead up to the event too, which made me run late and not on time. So time management is a must!

#7. Find monetary sponsors for the event
If there is a business that is unable to donate goods towards a raffle or auction item, ask if they might like to sponsor the event with money to help you cover running costs. I didn't think of this until after the event and ended up using $500 of my own money to ensure the event ran smoothly. This was things like the photo booth props and backdrop, the lolly buffet, the jars for the lolly buffet, the bags for the goody bags, printing of the tickets, printing of signage/shirts/flyers to promote the event, decorations for the event and more!

#8. Don't forget to thank your sponsors or supporters
I wanted to do something fun but simple to show my support to those who helped out the event, and I did this by designing a postcard that said "thanks a latte for your support" and it was an image of a takeaway coffee cup with a cuppacino sticking out top, with a message on the reverse saying how appreciative I was of their donation or support and let them know that $1200 was raised. These were handed out in person where possible as well as posted out.

 
These are my cup of thanks I gifted to the sponsors

#9. Get the support of local media behind your event
If you plan early enough you might be able to get a story run in your local paper to help boost ticket sales. I wished I had of gotten a story in the paper but I was lucky to get an editorial mention in a local magazine as well as in the upcoming events section of the local newspaper. But if your event has a special meaning behind you organising it than by all means sell your why behind the event in hopes of getting media attention. My "why" was because of being a Canteen member myself I know firsthand the benefits of the programs and rec days and counselling provided, canteen have helped me so much on my own journey I only wanted to try and give back.


The media editorial mention

#10. To save costs do as much DIY as possible, trust me it can still look awesome!
I wanted to add my own touch on the event so I purchased plain calico drawstring bags (like santa sacks) and with the enlisted help of my teen sisters we painted stenciled images (I also cut and designed myself) onto each bag. These turned out pretty cool and were fun to do.

I also made the trophy to be awarded to the best dressed, which I found some plastic couldrons and plastic mouldable skeletons and created a funky trophy.

I also used the plastic cauldrons to make little gifts of lollies for those who would win the group trivia games.

So if you're wanting to host a fundraising event, I highly recommend it! I still have people telling me over a year later how much fun they had and even on the day I had people asking when the next event would be held. I had hoped to run it again this year as an annual thing but I have been too sick to do it this year and especially undergoing chemo it was just too much pressure I was putting on myself and hope that one day when my health returns and I am in a better position I will host an event again.

 

 
Posted by: Talya AT 01:18 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, November 16 2015

Hi and welcome to Chemo Diaries: My experience, which will be a monthly series of posts written like a diary about my experience as I undergo chemo. This is the first month post and is also for the month of October, 2015.

Thankfully there is heaps of information out there to help understand the type of cancer treatment you need and how it will effect you. I have found CanTeen have some great resources for helping me to understand what to expect from my cancer journey (even booklets on fertility after treatment). Other great places of information I have found are from the Cancer Council as well as the chemo education sessions I attended at my local cancer centre. 

As I read in the Canteen booklet "Your guide to dealing with cancer ages 16-24", chemotherapy (chemo) is one of the more commonly used methods to treat cancer and it works by using drugs called cytotoxics to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. As explained in the booklet (and from my own experience) chemo also kills your good cells too, making you feel very sick, fatigued, and also why you lose your hair (I am yet to experience hair loss). I also experienced really painful mouth ulcers recently (was so bad I couldn't eat, read more about that below).

Initially I was planned on having monthly doses of Caelyx but after a severe (almost-died-reaction) to it my oncologists decided on weekly doses of Methotrexate and Vinblastine combination to try and shrink these tumours, and as my oncologist explained "to help give me relief to enjoy each day".

I didn't go into chemo with the expectation that one day I will be cured and tumour free, I know that isn't my reality and I don't want to have unrealistic expectations. But I just want my tumours to shrink enough so I can FINALLY be pain free and enjoy what is left of my short life. I have so much I want to still do (read about my happy list here) and I hope to be well enough one day to travel. 

My experience so far:
29.09.2015:
Met with surgeon to discuss portacath surgery. I had to drive down to Port Maquarie (roughly 3 hours south) as the surgeon here in Coffs wasn't available until the end of October and my chemo was to be started sooner rather than later. I really didn't want to have a PICC line to have chemo and I am so glad I advocated enough to let me go to Port for a consult and surgery as I got a Purple portacath. My doctor thought I was strange for being excited about a colour of a device implanted under my skin... but purple is my favourite colour and it made me feel so much more positive about the whole experience.

02.10.2015:
Today was the day that I had my surgery in Port Private Hospital (their sandwiches still don't beat Baringa Private at Coffs... in fact no where yet does) and the surgery went well. I was in a lot of pain and in pain for days afterwards but you can read all about my experience over on "Portacath and What to expect when you need one for chemo".

07.10.2015:
My first day of chemo, 5 days after my port was put in and I am feeling hopeful about this treatment. It was like it was a blessing and everything fell into place, it was like it was meant to be. There was something hopeful about this one bag (below) of chemo Caelyx that was worth $6000 AUD for the bag that made me think that this would work.

The day involved getting there early to start chemo, then I had to have my port accessed and blood taken. While waiting for the blood tests to come back (to make sure I was well enough to have chemo) I had some bags of fluids to keep me hydrated and a nice toasted sandwhich.

It was about 2PM when I had my first try of chemo, and beforehand I was warned that this chemo has side effects of a reaction (in rare cases) that results in feeling hot like you're on fire, sometimes pain in your back and heavy chest with inability to breathe. It was about 5 minutes (if that) into the infusion when I started feeling warm in my face, then it radiated to my whole body. I stayed calm and thought "this is okay, a little bit of heat never hurt anyone". Then it intensified around the same time that it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. My chest felt so heavy I couldn't breathe no matter how hard I was trying. Then the pain started in my back around my kidneys and was rather pulsing, it was so painful and then pain shot down the nerves in my legs and my whole body was going into spasms and my heart was racing.

By the point that my chest was heavy I had called the nurse over and they were frantically trying to stop the infusion. They called over the doctors who advised an ECG was needed and to give me anti-reaction meds to try and control the pain and slow down my heart rate.

It was then decided after an hour that we would try it again, but this time at a much slower rate, which the same symptoms (despite the anti reaction meds) started about a minute or two in.

08.10.15:
I spent the night before in hospital under observation after the reaction yesterday to ensure that I was okay and ready to try it again this morning. Except even with the anti reaction medications and slower rate of infusion (would have taken 6 hours to complete) I still reacted and realised that I am allergic to Liposomal Doxirubicin and that it is not the right chemo.

The doctors consulted with my Sydney oncologist who decided I would try the weekly over 52 weeks regime of Methotrexate and Vinblastine.

14.10.15:
Today was the day that I started the new chemo regime of Methotrexate and Vinblastine (a low dose weekly course of combination chemo that has had success in clinical trials). I was pretty nervous about starting a new chemo given how horrible the experience was last week when I reacted and could have died to Caelyx. The day started off getting there early to meet with the doctor and to have my bloods taken. While we waited, I was lucky to be in one of the rooms with a bed so while I had fluids infused through my port, I just napped. I got very little sleep the night before as I was too scared and anxious.

Due to the high toxicity of one of the drugs, when the Nurse has to manually push through the drug she has to sit there with me the entire time to monitor my port and make sure that it doesn't leak into my skin as it can cause nacrotic skin tissue like a chemical burn. She became my chemo buddy. I didn't feel any side effects and even felt so fine that I was able to drive home.

17.10.15:
I found an hour after chemo I started feeling the nausea and felt rather seedy like I was hungover, which I didn't feel like eating for days, for someone who loves food even the thought of it made me feel sick! I ended up feeling a bit sick all day with fevers then had a 39'C temperature, which I was told anything over 39'C means a trip to hospital. Turns out I had excoriated skin between my butt cheeks like big raw ulcers.

I spent the next 2 weeks in hospital and my chemo (was to be on the 20th and 27th) were postponed as I needed all the healthy cells possible to heal my wounds. I had twice daily applications of zinc (sudocreme), Rectinol (creame for heamoroids it has a numbing agent in it) and another gel based cream that was also an anti fungal but had local antiseptic. The most horrible part of having raw skin was when it needed to be scrubbed clean and washed. It was excruciating and while I have a high pain threshold I was screaming and often in tears. It wasn't very pleasant. They think it was a combination of chemo and my immune system was down and it was the reason for this. But I lost all dignity when many people were looking at my bum and cleaning it and poking it... I felt so embarrassed that this happened even though it wasn't my fault. But the nursing staff were great and while I felt embarrassed they did good at making sure I was okay.

This concludes my first month of chemo experiences ranging from my portacath surgery to starting two different chemo regimes and as my husband said to me recently, "I know it is horrible right now, but the sad thing is you will get used to feeling like shit... just imagine when chemo is all over and you will look back and think 'It is good not to feel that crappy'. If anyone can do this, you can".

I love that he has so much faith in my strength, although I constantly wonder and feel like I am not strong enough to do this.... my husband is like my own personal cheerleader! I don't think I could have done this without his support...

One month down, just 11 more to go!


 

 

 
Posted by: Talya AT 04:32 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, November 10 2015

One thing that I am learning more and more each day as I progress through my chemo regime is just how much fatigue I have and how little energy. I am realising the need and importance for energy conservation and working on improving this for myself and hoping to share a blog post to help others too, afterall being chronically sick is exhausting.

Another thing that is exhausting is dealing with the emotional side of living daily with a chronic and terminal illness.

I realised yesterday, that in order to help conserve my energy and to prevent just how exhausted I am feeling today, that I should try and keep my mental breakdowns and panic attacks to a mininum or at least save it for the times that need it most, or best yet to wait until you have all the facts and a confirmation from your primary care physicians before freaking out.

This is what happened yesterday and the lead up to it.

Friday 06.11.15:
I went for a CT scan of my abdomen for a suspected fluid leaking into my abdominal wall and possibly the reason I had fevers and have been in hospital since Wednesday night. The scan was to also compare my tumour growth and check on the tumours to ensure that those hadn't yet turned septic and were the cause for worry.

The doctors confirmed that either there is a new tumour to the right of my stoma or that it is a cavity that is filling with fluid from my bowel or stomach and needs to be drained. Surgery was discussed but they decided to do an ultrasound on Monday to get a better view of what is going on.

Monday 09.11.15 1PM AEST:
I went for an ultrasound and the radiologist came in and said "that isn't a fluid cavity that is a tumour and without knowing this patients prior history I suspect it is a desmoid tumour". He turns to me and says "I am sorry you have a large tumour 10cm x 11cm".

I left there trying to hold it together as I was hoping it was a fluid cavity as that could be fixed with a surgery and drain, but a new tumour I couldn't handle.

So I broke down I couldn't stop crying and I was freaking out that there is a tumour somehow in between two other tumours and my stoma and where on earth is it fitting and is my stoma going to be okay, will I be okay, does this mean my death is looming nearer than I expected? These were all questions running through my mind then the biggest freak out of all was "I can't die just yet, I am too young".

I was howling (literally) uncontrollably and couldn't stop crying. I needed support I needed someone to tell me I was going to be okay... I called my husband at work and my mum who came and sat with me and brought me a drink and some lollies.

Monday 09.11.15 3PM:
My doctors came in, first my bowel surgeon who was talking to me about my tumours and explaining how sometimes they can die from the inside out when chemo is involved and that the centre is liquid and can become septic.

Then my oncologist and his team came by and he asked what had me so upset. When I told him he replied "I am so sorry for all this upset caused but someone told you the wrong information, you don't have a 'new' tumour you know it is there it is the big ball under your skin at the top of the stoma". I was all confused and said "Wait whaaaaaat?"

He replied "it is new on the scans you've had here at the hospital, but not new on the scans that you had back in August which is why I asked your husband to bring them in, I am so sorry someone told you you had a new 4th tumour but you still only have the three."


My tumour the "new" one. To the left of the image is my belly button, my stomach normally would end there but that is how big the tumour is.. see it resembles a ball!

I felt like the biggest dickhead ever and felt horrible for causing my family further heartache, but my heart was broken as I was told the wrong misinformed information and I hadn't yet seen my primary doctors to have it all confirmed.

They saw how fragile I am and have transferred me over to the private hospital for a few days respite to help me recover, regain my strength and collect my thoughts again.

Lesson learnt... don't freak out until you know all the facts

To my followers that were supporting me yesterday during my freakout, I am so appreciative of your help and sorry for an undue stresses caused for worrying about me... It was not a cry for attention I legit thought I was on the brink of dying (so scary).

Much love to you all x

Tell me in the comments below, a time where you freaked out before knowing all the facts

 
Posted by: Talya AT 10:57 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, October 16 2015

Earlier this month on the 2nd of October, I travelled the three hours south of Coffs Harbour to Port Macquarie where I had an operation to put in my portacath (port for short) for ease of use/access during chemo.

I just realised how funny that I had to go to Port to get a port (HAHA).

I spoke with a couple of friends who I met through Canteen that have gone through treatment and I asked them how they got their chemo. One said she first had it via a drip in her arm then got a port put in and loved it, and my other friend had a Hickman line.

I had met with the vascular surgeon and he showed me the port I was getting, which was this awesome metallic purple Power Port and given purple is my favourite colour I thought that it was the coolest thing ever, although my doctor thought I was weird given that you won't see it as it is under your skin... but knowing it is there and that it is purple is all that matters!


This is the Purple Power Port

On the day of the surgery:
I stayed at a motel close by the night before and a friend picked me up to drop me to the hospital at 7am ready for my admission.

Once at the hospital I was admitted by the nurses and then was called in to see the aneathetist, where he had decided I would need to be intubated during the procedure (means a breathing tube down my throat due to sleep aponea).

I was called around to theatre and had a drip put in and went off to sleep and woke in recovery an hour or so afterwards.

When I was ready, I was wheeled around to the area where you sit and have something to eat and be monitored before you're discharged and spent a few hours there. The nurses had Cat Stevens playing and the Eagles which were two of my dads beloved bands he listened to, so it was rather comforting in a way.

I was really stiff and sore from the procedure and having had the tube down my throat so I tried not to talk too much and sought comfort in icecream and cold drinks, which rather soothed my throat.


Me after my surgery

The night after surgery:
I found it so hard to lie down and sleep, given that I sleep on my right side and my port is on my right side, and it also felt like it was pulling a lot when I walked. So I slept seated/reclined on the lounge.

It reminded me of my thyroidectomy surgery and how my head felt all stiff like it could just fall off.

I was in a lot of pain as well, so I had some pain medicine to help keep me comfortable.

How is the port accessed?
On the 7th I had my first (unsuccessful) attempt at chemo. It was the first time my port was accessed and I was given a numbing patch to put over the top of my skin above the port. It was still really swollen and sore so they had to use a 1 and 3 quarter needle to access it.

It was a little tender having the needle put in, but the numbing patch helped a lot!

I had to do a lot of different tricks to get the port working and eventually it worked. Tips and tricks included:
-Turning head as far to the left as possible
-Taking deep breaths in
-Coughing
-Putting my right arm above my head
-Laughing
-Talking
-reclining right back and trying all the above methods
-Sitting up and trying all the above methods again


My first attempt at chemo and port accessed

It turned out the needle was defective, so they tried a new needle and it worked using the head turned far to the left and coughing tricks.

I have since had my port accessed multiple times during chemo, but also for fluids when I have presented to the Emergency Department with dehydration and fevers.

For more information on ports and if it is best suited to you or your chemo regime speak with your oncologist or your chemo nurse who can provide you with booklets and information.

 

 
Posted by: Talya AT 07:43 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, September 26 2015

NB: This post contains raw emotions

I am sitting here writing this approximately 3 days out of having my first round of chemo, and if I said I wasn't shitting myself, I would be lying and quite possibly with my pants alight.

You see, even though I have known for a while now (little over 3 weeks) that I would be needing chemo I thought that I was okay with it and had accepted it, and that I was ready, but the more meetings I have with my oncologists and chemo nurses and waiting for vascular surgeon to put in my portacath and the more involved this process gets, the more overwhelmed I get.

It all started earlier this month, I went to Sydney and met with my oncologist to review my beastly desmoid tumours, and it was concluded that it was time to try chemotherapy to shrink these tumours after all other options had been exhausted.

My oncologist told me I would be needing to have a drug called Caelyx, which is predominately used to treat breast cancers but has had some clinical trials where it has been effective in the fight against desmoid tumours.

So I left the Sydney appointment with the relief of knowing that I can have chemo back home and would need to organise a local oncologist, which I first met with on the 17th of September. In this meeting I was blown away with how thorough he was and he knew EVERYTHING about my history and I was really impressed with how much research he had done into my rare tumours and disease.

It turns out that the chemo that I NEED to save my life comes at a price. You see, the drug currently isn't on the PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) and is $6,000 AUD per dose of chemo, meaning I would be needing to come up with $36k, which I don't have.

So I called my Private Health Insurer, who told me that "we only cover chemotheraphy if done as an inpatient and if it is on the PBS, unfortunately we can't cover your chemo". I was so upset and started considering what my options were.

My oncologist presented three options to me, these were:
1. I somehow come up with the money for treatment (and was considering taking my friend's up on their offer of a fundraiser)
2. That my oncologist could apply and advocate on my behalf to the chemo manufacturer for compassionate grounds and see if they would approve all or part of the drug to be subsidised, or
3. That we try a more toxic and lengthy chemo that would require WEEKLY rounds of chemo over 52 weeks

By this point it was a Thursday and I was told that I had until Monday to make my decision.

After talking at length with my husband and family, and writing a pro's and con's list I decided that we will go with option 3.

...........

Then .......

I got a phone call on Tuesday morning from my oncologist to say that the drug company has responded and approved 3 initial treatments and pre-approved a further 3 more, so 6 treatments in total!

I was so relieved I was crying and calling my husband and family to tell them the great news, I felt like I had won the lottery! Honestly!

Because of how rare my disease and tumours are, if this drug works for me then it might help other people with the same disease and options, and might provide some hope to those who feel all has been lost.

While I am so appreciative for the chemo being supplied, I am trying not to get my hopes up ..... if it doesn't work I really don't know how I could cope if I felt that all hope is lost, as it stands I am petrified of my future and what my life will entail for the next 12 months, and I am just praying that this works.

My husband and I have attended chemo education sessions, so we know what to expect and what is involved, just being only a few days out of starting chemo I am shitting myself, and finding myself feeling rather anxious, angry and scared.

... If I click my heals together 3 times and imagine a secluded beach in paradise, with Ryan Gosling serving me cocktails while topless, will I be transported there?

...CLICK....       ......CLICK.......      ......CLICK......

Maybe it only works if you're wearing glittery red heels?

Bugger!

P.S I need your help! While my chemo is being generously supplied, I am struggling financially with all of the other medical costs (scans, medications, specialist consults) as well as getting to and from chemo and trying to manage life in general, things are a bit tight..

I entered the Heritage banking savvy blog competition earlier this month, in the hopes of trying to win a share of $11k to help alleviate some of the financial stress I have had recently, and needing your help!

Please click here to vote for Feeling Ostomistic, and be sure to click the confirmation email they send you (otherwise it won't count) and please ask your friends too, I need all the help I can get to win most voted, and if I indeed won it would mean so much.

 
Posted by: Talya AT 07:08 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, August 30 2015

There is something about being chronically sick and told you're essentially "a ticking time bomb"  that really helps to put things into perspective.

When I was first diagnosed with FAP in 2010 (I was 19), I was told that I wouldn't be at risk of bowel cancer until I was 30. It made me realise just how much I wanted to do and achieve while I still could.

Then in late 2012, I found out the polyps in my bowel were turning cancerous and that I only had a matter of months to act and have all of my bowel removed. You would think that this would cause more of an alarm and prompt me to want to do a lot more with my life, but as the bowel cancer risk was removed, I naively thought that my risk of cancer would be removed and I could get on with my life..

But boy was I wrong.... My cancer journey didn't end there. In fact, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer earlier this year too which thankfully was successfully removed in April while it was still in the stage I phase, remained contained within my thyroid meaning it hadn't reached nearby neck tissues.

It wasn't until a year ago that I had this drive and motivation to want to do everything I have ever only imagined in day dreams, was re-ignited and has been a continual driving force (and distraction this past year). It made me realise that while I was content with my life and my accomplishments so far, that I didn't feel entirely happy, and I knew that there was more I wanted to do and see.

So I decided I would write a happy list, as opposed to a bucket list for one of two reasons:
1. it sounded more positive than saying bucket list
and
2. it would be a list of things I want to do, that would truly make me happy within myself.

What was the changing point for me, was when I was in hospital for pancreatitis when the doctors did a CT scan that revealed there was this new and rather large tumour and suspected it was a desmoid tumour. These types of tumours are really rare, but they can also be rather deadly and life threatening and these 'aggressive fibromatosis' can cause death.

To put it bluntly, when I was first diagnosed with FAP my doctors said that they "hope that you don't develop desmoid tumours... if it isn't the cancer from the FAP that kills you the desmoid tumours will".

So while I am only 24, I have come to terms with the fact that this condition will kill me, I just don't know when. Some doctors mentioned up to a year if the tumours continue to grow at the rate they currently are (thankfully last lost of treatment is keeping them at bay and no new growth) but others have said 5-6 years.


So it helps me to have a list of things that I want to do, that will make me happy but also offer my life more meaning. 
My 5 reasons for having a happy list as opposed to a bucket list is:

#1. Happiness
It was a no brainer that happiness be one of my reasons for wanting to have a happy list, as the word happy was in the title of it. Now, I'm not saying I'm not happy at the moment because I am but I want to be more happy.

For me a big part of my happiness has always been results driven and I am more happier when I feel like I have accomplished something, which brings me to my next point.

#2. Sense of accomplishment and fulfilment (purpose/direction)
My husband always seems to be getting cranky at my when I mention how I feel like I haven't accomplished much and want to have more of a purpose or direction of where my life is headed. The comparison thief plays a big part of this, but no matter what I do or try to do I still feel that I need to do more and often meaning bigger things.

And this has only gotten worse over the last year as there is still so much that I want to see and do and I don't know how to achieve it all. I want to die knowing that I made the most out of every day and I want others to see me as this amazing and successful person as opposed to "that girl that was really sick".

I want to be known as more than what my illness defines me as, as I am so much more than that girl that's really sick. But I also don't want my family or friends to say I was a lousy person because sometimes I was too unwell to make it to social events.

#3. Is more empowering and motivating
I find having a happy list helps me to feel more positive and optimistic about my future plans, as opposed to being depressed at the thought that I want to do things because I could die.

For me it is more empowering to see it as a positive of things I have dreamed of, and motivating to help me want to do it. I find other's are more accepting of my happy list of things to see and do as opposed to it being my bucket list.. which brings me to #4.

#4. Offers inclusion of others
Through being more positive about things I want to do and especially things that involve others (like my family and friends), I find they are wanting to join in and get excited about the activity or goal at hand, as opposed to being depressed that I am only wanting to do these things as I might die.

I also find that through having a happy list and being more positively about things that I hope this helps my family to remember the times shared and make memories with me and link these memories with happiness and fulfilment rather than sadness and loss.

#5. Works as a distraction
If I said it was easy knowing you have a chronic illness that can kill you is easy, I would be telling a major fib... and that isn't what my blog is about! Some days it can be extremely hard when I have new progression or diagnosis' or travelling the 16 hour round trip to see specialists in Sydney. Some days it can be too much and I easily feel overwhelmed, and not wanting to get out of bed to face the world.

But I find that my happy list serves as a distraction tool, and while I don't think I can ever completely forget the reality I am faced with every day, I can use my energy to focus more on the things that are important to me and that I want to see/do... and for me keeping busy is the ultimate distraction and one of the many coping mechanism I have.

Things on my happy list include (in no particular order):
☐ Being tumour free
Have confidence to be the real me and show others who I am
☐ Finishing a counselling course
Making a difference to someone's life
☐ Writing a book and telling my story
☐ Come up with a kick-ass start up idea
Win an award
☑ Have my product in a national newspaper
​☐ Travel around Australia
Have my own house
☐ Have a Japanese garden where I can escape my reality
☑ Get a kitten preferably a Ragdoll
☐ Have an office where I can be inspired to write and create
☑ Go on an all expenses paid business trip for my blogging
Do motivational speaking
☐ Be an entrepreneur and make at least $100k in one year
☐ Become a successful blogger, so successful and influential that I would be given a car (if not free, at a huge discount)
To have a family and my husband to have a child of his own 
☑ Have a celebrity receive a product you made (Ellen received one of my Santa Keys last year!!)
☐ Being there for my siblings when they need me
☐ Reaching 1 million views on my Made With Love-Cards and Crafts blog (currently at 390k)
☐ Reaching 500k views on Feeling Ostomistic (currently at 285k)
☐ Have my own magazine column
Start an online magazine
☐ Start a Not For Profit
☐ Do something newsworthy
☐ Lose a lot of weight, and be healthy enough to start exercising
☐ Become rich enough to have someone cook for me and drive me around
☐ Finish a university degree
☐ Go on a cruise
☐ Travel the Great Ocean Road (Melbourne- Adelaide)
☐ Travel to Kangaroo Island
☐ Vist Tasmania
☐ Visit the Pink lake in WA
☐ See a sunset from the West Coast
☐ Visit Coober Pedy

☐ Learn photography
☐ Meet Ellen Degeneres
☐ Have my own TV show making crafts... be the next Martha Stewart (without being in prison)
☐ Write for a big blog

I know some of these may sound over the top, and I admit they are but if you're going to dream you might as well dream big as well as being realistic... now if I could just find the next multimillion dollar idea, I will be well on my way to taking over the world (not quite literal).

So tell me, do you have a happy list and what is one thing you want to mark off your list? Feel free to comment below.

 
Posted by: Talya AT 05:50 am   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  Email
Monday, August 24 2015

I recently had a brain MRI as I was experiencing recurring symptoms I had when I was first diagnosed was arachnoid cysts on my brain in 2009, so as the symptoms had returned (the headaches, hearing loss and vision issues) I thought it was best to have a repeat MRI. The scan confirmed that the cysts that had been fenstrated (drained) back in 2009 had returned and were as big as they were then, and after consulting with my brain surgeon we agreed to monitor it for 6 months as this is the least of my conerns right now health wise.


My most recent MRI scan showing my brain (yes I do have one) and the cysts

So I had a reader message me after my scan, sharing that she too was going to have an MRI but she was feeling a bit concerned as she didn't know what to expect as she hadn't had one before, so she asked if I could share my experience and any tips to help her prepare.

What to expect when you need an MRI scan
& how to prepare for one in 10 easy steps!

What is an MRI machine?
MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and according to Better Health Channel it is a scan used for diagnostic imaging that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to help view what is going on inside your body, but is more commonly used to look at soft tissues (such as organs, and muscles) that don't show up on an X-ray.

An MRI also takes high resolution images of soft tissues and the picture is more clearer than a CT or X-ray.

How does the proceedure work?
You will be asked to lay on the scanning bed, which moves and slides you into the MRI tunnell. Sometimes (depending on what part of the body is being scanned) they will strap down or put a cage around the area so you don't move that part of your body, reason being if you move at all the images become blurry and you may be asked to re-do your scan. When I had my brain MRI they put this cage/mask over my head and secured it to the table so I couldn't move.

Some scans can take up to an hour to complete, and the tunnel you slide into is very small and it is normal to feel a bit claustraphobic as well, but there is an intercom inside the tunnel and you're given a button to press if you need to speak to the imaging technician.

The machine is also very loud (can be compared to that of a jackhammer), so you may be given ear plugs or ear muffs to wear. Some machines also have headphones that play music.

How much does a scan cost?
As the MRI is a specialised pieces of equipment it is also very expensive to run. Depending on the reason for the scan or where you're getting the scan done at can influence the price of the scan. Medicare (is the system we have here in Australia) bulk bills in some cases, but most of the time there could be an out of pocket expense. But it is best to ask when making your appointment what costs will be involved. One MRI I had in 2009 cost $685, so it is best to check up front.

Some places may also allow you to pay the gap and charge the rest to medicare, but as I mentioned before it is best to check with medicare and the imaging place what costs will be involved.

Can anyone have an MRI?
While most people can have an MRI, it is always best to check with your doctor or the radiologist if you have any concerns. While it is considered a safe procedure, some people may not be able to have the scan if they have a pacemaker or any implant, any metal in their body (that can't be removed) or people who are pregnant. It is always best to check with your doctor though if you have any concerns.

How to prepare for an MRI in 10 steps:
#1. You will be asked to not have anything to eat or drink for at least 4-5 hours BEFORE the scan, but this can vary depending on the part of the body being scanned or the time of day. It is important that you follow the fasting guidelines to ensure the best result of your scan.
#2. Allow at least an hour for the scan, and allow for additional time involved if they are running behind schedule or if you have paperwork you need to fill out.
#3. Remove all piercings and metal from your body, if you have any internal implants or metal objects it is best to tell someone immediately BEFORE having your scan.
#4. You may be asked to remove all clothing and put on a hospital gown, this is incase there is any metal on your clothing such as your bra, studs on your jean pockets or a zipper etc.
NB: Wear comfortable loose fitting clothing that doesn't have any metal to avoid having to strip down into a hospital gown, but not all practices will let you wear your own clothing either, so always ask. But I always wear tracksuit pants and a loose t-shirt when I have any scans.
#5. Turn your mobile off or to aeroplane mode before your scan
#6. If you find yourself feeling claustraphobic in confined spaces, it is best to tell someone before your scan. They can sometimes offer a sedative or anti-anxiety medication to help you relax. Otherwise if you know how to meditate and if it helps relieve your anxiety you can practice that.
#7. If you have an iPod or phone with music on it they may be able to play this for you and you can hear it through your headphones. The machine can be really loud with a lot of banging and clicks (sounds like a jackhammer).
#8. If you don't wish to listen to music and want to try to meditate or have a nap bring a set of ear plugs.
#9. Pack some panadol if you're prone to headaches which are brought on by loud noises to offer some relief after the scan (consult with your doctor first if panadol is right for you)
#10. It can be quite cold in the scan room, so bring a pair of socks to wear on your feet to help keep you warm. You may be offered a blanket too.

ONE thing I like to do after my scan, is to go for a nice lunch or coffee with a friend. Not only does it help ease the anxiety I feel while waiting for my results to come back (can be a couple of days) it also is nice after having had starved all day prior to the scan.

These tips are based on my own experience of having multiple scans, and I am sharing to help you in the lead up to your own scan. The scan isn't invasive and no need to be scared of the scan. But it is perfectly normal to be anxious about the results, I know I usually am (especially when waiting to review my tumours).

As always, if you're needing to ask a question you can always connect with me through email or via facebook. Please remember I am no Doctor, so it is always best to consult with your physician as your first point of contact. I am only sharing my experiences on this topic.

You may also like the following topics:
* PET scan and what is involved
* CT scan and what is involved
* Thyroid biopsy and what to expect
* Breast Mammogram, biopsies and what to expect
 

p.s If you find my tips and blog helpful, please take a moment to vote for my blog in the Heritage savvy bloggers competition. With your help I (and if I win) I am starting a new support website (and app) to help other young people who live daily with a chronic illness. By taking a moment to vote not only will you be helping me to help others but I am confident that this website will change the lives of many (and if you're in Australia you could win $100). Please remember to confirm your vote via clicking the email they send (check your junk/spam too).

 
Posted by: Talya AT 06:48 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, June 13 2015

There are some things in life that people shouldn't have to endure, but thankfully there are organisations out there to lend a much needed helping hand when you need it.

When I received my Cancer diagnosis earlier this year, Redkite were there for me and without their support I am certain my journey would have been completely different.

Redkite were there for me when I was alone in hospital for over a month in Sydney, 800km south of home.

Before I was referred to Redkite by the hospital social worker, I had seen Redkite on tv but never actually knew what it was that they did or how they helped others. Little did I realise that they were an amazing organisation helping young people aged 0-24 with Cancer and their families.

Here are 5 ways RedKite helped to make a difference:

#1 Red Duffle bag filled with goodies called a support pack
I remember when I was in hospital and got my diagnosis I was pretty devastated to say the least. I was anxious about what the future had in store for me, and I felt so lonely as my husband and family were 800km away.

When my youth support worker from the RPA Youth Team came in carrying this huge Redkite duffle overnight bag, I thought it was the coolest gift. Inside the bag was some amazing essentials that made the biggest difference to my hospital stay, and also since coming home.

There was:

  • a toiletry bag filled with toothbrushes and toothpaste and toiletries;
  • this super snuggly redkite blanket I take with me everywhere;
  • redkite travel coffee mug;
  • redkite drink bottle;
  • $50 coles gift card;
  • magazines;
  • visual arts diary with coloured pencils;
  • and there was so much more!

I take the blanket with me everywhere I go and snuggle up with it everyday, it is so soft and warm. I also use the bag heaps as well, often accompanies me to hospital.

#2 Financial assistance in the form of Coles or petrol gift cards
With all the travelling to and from Sydney this year, these petrol vouchers have made the biggest difference between whether or not I made it to the appointments. Let's just say things have been super tight this year with so much being spent on medical expenses (doctors, pathology, medications, radiology, hospital excess, surgery costs etc). The coles vouchers have made a huge difference too and has meant being able to buy groceries.

I am so appreciative that there is the support there when times are tough to help you manage financially.

#3 Education scholarships
If you're a young person with cancer and you're also studying or still in school, Redkite have education grants for up to $1000 that can help you with things like tutoring costs, course fees, stationery, or equipment.

These education grants can be a huge help if you're studying and help you to achieve your goals or ambitions. For more information click here.

#4 Dare to dream scholarships
These are national annual scholarships open to 15-24 year olds who've had cancer. The scholarships require you to enter a creative entry based on what your dream is and how having cancer has gotten in the way and how the scholarship can help you to make your dreams happen.

Applications close on the 13th of July. For more information visit here!

#5 counselling and help
One thing I have learnt from my cancer journey is just how lonely and distant you can become from those close to you, cancer can also be really isolating as well. There were times where speaking to Redkite really helped me to cope and learn new coping skills, but to also just have someone to talk to that isn't directly involved. It was hard talking to my family or husband about how I was feeling as I didn't want to burden them with my feelings and thoughts, so it was good talking to someone who understood.

Redkite can be contacted via 1800 REDKITE (1800 733 548), Monday to Friday, 9am – 7pm AEST or support@redkite.org.au.

Did you also know that they offer help and support to help you return to studies or the workforce? They can offer an individualised plan for 15-24 years who've had cancer and are wanting to return to studies or work. They work with you through setting a range of goals and a realistic plan to help you achieve them.

I would like to say a huge thank you to Redkite and for everyone reading this who donates and supports them. Their work that they do to help support young people like me who have had cancer is so important and has made the world of difference to my life. I will always be grateful for the support and help. 

Disclaimer: I wanted to write about my experiences with Redkite not because I was asked to or felt obliged to, but because I don't know how I could have gotten through this year without their support and help. I am sharing my experiences as they have made the world of difference to my cancer journey and I know first hand how important their work is. Please donate and support them so that they can continue helping young kids with cancer and their families.

 

 
Posted by: Talya AT 02:58 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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~  Living with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis - Effects of FAP  ~

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Talya Goding - Feeling Ostomistic   talya@feelingostomistic.com.au  |  0447 426 860

Thank you for stopping by Feeling Ostomistic. It has taken a lot of courage to share my story and I ask that you show me and my site/blog respect and courtesy. Views expressed in this blog are my own and I am not a nurse or a doctor. If you need medical advice please seek your medical practitioner.

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