The World has Changed – 11th April 2020

I started writing this blog last Saturday, but for some reason didn’t publish it. So this is from last Saturday.

While I don’t think anyone reading this blog doesn’t read my other blog, just in case you don’t our pets got delayed in their transport to Australia which meant we got caught out by Covid-19 and are currently stuck in France. We’re in our third week of our lock down and I’m starting to go a little bit mad. It is difficult; I’m not working but trying to find things to do with my day. I have started doing more exercise – I’m walking twice a day (one advantage of living in the middle of the countryside) and doing my strength exercises. I’m really noticing my strength exercises, my arms are aching and my legs are very sore, so I’ve decided that I need to reduce my strength exercises to 3 times a week and introduce some stretching.

Psychologically the lockdown is difficult – for me because we were in the process of moving on to the next stage of our lives – with moving to Australia and now we are on hold indefinitely and that is hard. When we were originally delayed it was only for a couple of weeks so it didn’t feel so bad, now it is difficult. Of course on top of this is the lack of work – even though I can work remotely – there is no work. So that is very hard, I’ve taken to writing a list every day of things to do and trying to cross some of them off (and I’m happy even if I only get one thing crossed off).

This week I went and did the shopping and had to go the pharmacy for my drugs – the pharmacy is currently only allowing 3 people in at once, and there was a queue outside – all nicely spaced. I got my drugs but unfortunately forgot to get my carte vitale back (my medical card) so Pat went and got that for me today, he was also in an outside line when one of the pharmacists came out and gave Pat my card (small town and they have seen us a lot over the past year). She did ask why we weren’t in Australia yet, Pat had to explain – in French – that our pets had been delayed.

Currently it is looking like we are stuck here until end of May maybe even into June – not the best 65th birthday for Pat. I’m planning on making him a special dinner if we can’t go out – and maybe even a cake. I’m hoping by then we will have a date on getting home.

Until Next time.

One year on – 11 March 2020

It has been a while since I’ve written a blog for my Fit & Fab by 50 blog, that’s because there has and hasn’t been much happening – if that makes sense. As most of you would know our return to Australia has been delayed due to a delay in the import permit for our pets. We have this now and are just waiting on the confirmation from quarantine so hopefully by the end of the month we will all be in Australia.

Today (11th March) is my one year anniversary since I found out about my cancer. It has been a long and difficult year and I am struggling to get myself back on target for my health. I am going to use the next few weeks to get myself back on track, I’ve started with the diet (except for the past weekend in Paris) and getting some more exercise in my life. Walking is difficult due to the weather, but I need to force myself outside even if it is wet and cold (which I did do today despite the drizzle). I’ve also started doing some strengthening exercises for my upper body – unfortunately on the left side I’ve lost a lot of strength due to my operations. The hotel we stayed in over this past weekend had a pool – and swimming was wonderful and really made me realise that the goal of upper body strength is necessary.

So I’ve been planning out my weeks until we go. Four days a week with the strengthening, walking every day but also getting some of those things completed that I need to – such as my colour pencil drawing course, completing job applications and starting to sort out the paperwork we need for Australia.

I’m also trying to set myself goals for my health and fitness for the next seven months – which will take me to my 50th birthday. Most of these, of course will be Australia based, but some of it is about the mental aspects of getting me back to a fitness level and health level that I am happy with and also accepting that I am heading towards 50 and it will take a lot more effort than when I was 20 but I’m up for the challenge.

27 – It’s 2020 when the hell did that happen! – 4th January 2020

Happy New Year everyone. It is 2020, I turn 50 this year – half a century – when did that happen, I’m not an adult yet, let alone well into middle age. Oh well, I guess we just have to continue feeling like a 20 something while inhabiting a much older body.

Went to the hairdressers today, yep, but not for a cut, she cleaned up the sides and back of my hair as apparently the sides and back grow quicker than the top! I don’t think that they do, they just grow differently perhaps – I guess I could do some research, but hey I just want it to grow. Pat got a haircut though, so he is looking very dapper again.

Ok it is now the 12th January – sorry. However I have finished my treatment – this is great news. I’ve had my follow-up with the doctors and they are happy with everything so I’m now on my tablets for the next 5 years and have to have a mammogram later in the year, but for now, I’m free again.

I was asked to take part in a study the hospital is running and would have loved to have done this, but unfortunately as I will be returning to Australia sometime soon, this wasn’t possible.

So what is my plan now? I’m really concentrating on getting fitter and healthier, we are back on our diet, we are reducing our drinking and for me, I’m trying to up my exercise level. So last week I tried to average 5,000 steps a day, which I did, this week I’m heading for 6,000 a day. I’m also going to try and (finally) get my muscle strengthening exercises started. We shall see.

For now a bientôt – and remember try to be a little bit more kind to those around you (including yourself).

26 – My philosophy going forward

Hello friends and family. As you are all aware 2019 has been a particularly tough year – let’s be honest, it has been my worst year to date in my life! Cancer has that effect on you, it has also really made me think about counting my blessings – which will be a separate blog – but yesterday a little idea popped into my head and I decided that this little idea needed to be held on to and examined and taken to another level.

To start with, I struggle with the world at large as I truly am an introvert and I sometimes find the world a little bit overwhelming – especially the nastiness, the anger, the hate, the nationalism, the fact that people feel that they have the right to attack you personally because you think differently to them (argumentum ad hominem – remember discuss the topic don’t attack the person). So all of this out in the large old world was starting to get me down and then this idea of what can I do about this popped into my head.

Now, this is normally the point where I would speak to myself and say nothing, there is nothing you can do about this – le rien – you are too small, the world too big. I then thought about it a bit more and thought, I don’t have to change the world, just my little bit of it. So I’ve adopted a personally philosophy going forward – I will be kind and considerate wherever and whenever possible and where it isn’t possible, I will be polite and considerate. Hopefully this will mean that people reciprocate in the same way and ultimately if they don’t – it is their problem not mine.

With this thought in mind I have had another little thought building in my brain – it was suggested to me a while back to get an Instagram account and put up my art when I finished it, however I never did anything about this – now I have – I’ve set-up my account but not yet published anything – however I will be and I will let you all know when this goes live. This is also to add a little bit more beauty and softness into the world.

For now a bientôt – and remember try to be a little bit more kind to those around you (including yourself).

25 – Slowly, slowly

I’m starting to despair a little; I’m finding it very hard to look at myself at the moment. This is because my hair has started to grow back and it just looks like baby fuzz – dark (interspersed with grey) baby fuzz. It’s also very slow growing. My hair has always been slow growing but it is really, really noticeable now. I’m finding that I’m just not looking feminine. While I realise I’ve never been a girly, girl, but at the moment I don’t feel great with how I’m looking. I also have had to adjust the clothes I’m wearing for Radiotherapy, and this will continue for a few weeks after Radiotherapy so my clothes are not the most feminine either – mainly because I’m wearing cotton t-shirts and that’s it (can’t afford 100% silk!)!

However, Radiotherapy is going well, the most annoying thing is having to go back and forward to the hospital, and I must admit having a cold during the first week of radiotherapy didn’t help, as all I wanted to do was curl up in bed but I had to get up and get ready to go to the hospital (though due to machine maintenance I did get 1 day off – which I spent in bed).

Autumn is usually my favourite time of year, especially here in Europe as the way the colours change in nature it is amazing. This year it feels like there have been a lot more grey wet days than usual – now while I think this might be more to do with my mood and therefore I’m noticing the grey days, it’s not helping as I feel like I’m not able to enjoy the outdoors as much.

However it isn’t all doom and gloom, Friday I started a new painting at art class, Saturday I met up with a friend and we went out for lunch, which was great just to get together and natter with food, coffee and a lovely cheesecake. It was a great time and today we are heading off to a Christmas market so that should be a lot of fun.

For now a bientôt.

24 – Sorry mum I’ve got a tattoo! – 07/11/19

It has been over a month since I stopped chemo and I’m feeling very good, I would say I’m back to feeling normal. This has been great and has meant that almost every day I’ve got out for a walk (I don’t do walking in torrential rain)!

I’ve also been spending some time on myself reading, watching You Tube, and doing some planning for the future. Pat and I are back on our healthy eating plan, as after the past few months and our trip to Champagne both of us had allowed a few bad habits to creep into our lives and that has meant an increase in weight. So far, so good.

I also had my preliminary appointment to outline my radiotherapy treatment plan – unfortunately for me most of my appointments are between 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm. This is very annoying as it will mean around 2½ to 3 hours out of the house in the middle of the day due to travelling time. I also got given all the information about what will happen, side effects, use of soaps (nothing perfumed), no baths allowed!!!!!!!! was explained. I also had a session with the scanning machine that is used to plan out the area of treatment and with this you get a pin point tattoo – it is necessary as this is what is used to line your body up in the machine for each treatment and to make sure the treatment is going to the correct areas.

Another mainly quiet weekend ahead, for us, however we do have friends coming over for dinner on Saturday night so that will be fun.

For now a bientôt.

23 – All change

Most of you are most likely aware that my chemo has now finished – mid way through – unfortunately we were unable to control the side effects I was having and the decision was made to move forward to radiotherapy. It is a little bit scary with the change and we are now waiting on a letter from the hospital as to when radiotherapy will commence and when I get the port removed (I’m so looking forward to the port going).

I will admit this past week has been difficult – it was really nice not to spend 2-3 days over a bucket – but for some reason I’m feeling flat I guess that is because I don’t feel like I’m moving forward, I feel a little bit like I am stagnating and it is really, really difficult to feel that way.

I’m also trying to think what I will need to do to get myself back on track with my fitness – this really has taken a back seat with everything else that has been happening. I’ve tried to keep up with my walking but I’ve not been doing as much as I would like and my energy levels are down.

However one bright note is that Pat’s Australian Visa was granted so once my treatment has finished and we have done some travelling we will be heading back to Australia. It’s interesting to be planning for the future, but difficult as well, winter really isn’t the best time to be travelling within Europe.

So I’m still trying to figure things out and hopefully get back into some type of routine soon.

For now a bientôt.

22 – A state of mind

Next week is my 2nd chemo session, something I was dreading and hoping to avoid at all costs. Last week, at some point, I realised that my state of mind had changed and that I felt like I can get through this, whilst horrible it isn’t impossible, so that has been really good. Especially so as on Monday this week the hair on my head really started to fall out, getting progressively worse until today (Thursday). Today everything changed as I went to the hairdressers and had my head shaved (pictures at end of blog). It was not a difficult decision to make, my head was very itchy but the amount of hair I was depositing around the house was just getting ludicrous. I actually came home and vacuumed as there was so much hair everywhere.

In preparation for the shave today, yesterday we (mum, Pat and I) went into Limoges to buy me a wig. After my failed attempt the previous week, we had made an appointment this time. And 40 minutes later I walked out with a fabulous wig and a turban. I’ve also ordered another turban on-line along with watching various Youtube videos on how to tie a head scarf, just need some practice.

In regard to my health, I’ve lost a little bit of weight, and while my taste and appetite were affected for the first week, everything is back to normal now. I will admit it does take a lot to stop me from eating. This morning after waking earlier than normal, I decided to join Pat and Siena for their morning walk, we walked down to the Boulangerie and back – a good walk of around 2.5 km. While I was a little slow on the coming home bit, I was really pleased that I was able to do it and I’m hoping to continue with the walking every day! It really does help mentally and physically.

For now a bientôt.
(yes I look tired in these photo’s – 6:00 am start)

21 – To chemo or not to chemo

It’s been a very difficult week. I saw the oncologist on Friday and we went through the pro’s and con’s of chemo, the oncologist felt that; due to my age, the fact that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and a few other reasons that I really should go ahead and have the chemo. So the decision was made to go ahead with chemo, and we went through a whole lot of info with the nurse – some of which we need to re-visit as we just didn’t understand it all clearly. So that is a job for this week.

Tuesday was spent mostly at the hospital getting a port put in – unfortunately that was the day I fell apart. So much so the nurse went and got Pat from the waiting room to help comfort me. This was while I was waiting to go in to my operation for the port (done under local anaesthetic). Unfortunately I think not having time to process everything, and not wanting to have the chemo has made this week hard – especially as my shoulder is very sore from having the port put in – my vein was deep so it took a long time to find it and I had to have multiple needles to numb my shoulder. Though the nurses who come in daily to change the dressing are very happy with how it is all healing.

So here I am 4 days later (mum arrived on Friday from Australia) still trying to decide if I am going to go ahead with the chemo, I understand why the oncologist has recommended it, but part of me still wants to just run away and hide and not to have to go through it. To me, chemo is basically terrifying and I’m not sure why. I understand a lot about it, I know I’m not going to feel sick every day and I’m going to be having anti-nausea tablets on my treatment days, I’m not worried about losing my hair, but I really, really, really just don’t want to be doing this. Please note that not wanting to do this doesn’t mean that I’m not going to, but at this stage I’m just not in a good place and that is what I want to change, I want to get my head into a much better place before my first chemo session.

So that is where I’m at, sorry it’s not a more uplifting blog, but the reality is sometimes life just sucks!

Until next time.

The above was written last Sunday, I’ve since visited the hospital, asked some questions and feel a bit better about things, however I still have moments when the terror takes over. Soon I will know.

20 – Finding the good

It’s been a tough few weeks for me, which is why I haven’t written this blog for a number of weeks. Finding out I had to have another operation, still not knowing if I need to have chemo (interesting stat only approximately 34%* of women diagnosed with breast cancer have chemo). So all in all, my mind has only been seeing the bad, the horrible and the unjust around me, so the other day I decided that I needed to find ways to fight these feelings.

The results, I’ve re-started my gratitude diary. If you have never done this I would really recommend it as it really, really helps in seeing the things to be grateful for. It’s also an easy thing to do, at the end of each day you write down 3 things that you are grateful for. They don’t have to be big things – clean sheets; 5 minutes sitting outside having a cup of tea, watching your dog run around the back yard (all things from my diary). I keep a little note book & pen beside my bed and do this. The big thing is not to repeat a gratitude for a month – by the end of the month you can realise that you have a lot to be grateful for.

The other thing I did was find a “happy” music play list on YouTube – it’s all instrumental music but it has the “boppy” feel which makes me feel good. I’m also putting together a Delia Feel Good playlist of music that I like (lots of 80’s and dance music) for those days a need to feel better.

I also notice that if the sun is out and I have blue skies to look at, I am much happier. The Australian in me just loves it and I do realise how much I miss that consistency of blue skies and sunshine. So today I’m celebrating 3 days in a row of blue skies and sunshine.

My biggest hurdle in this is trying to find the good in the world – of hearing about the wonderful things that people do out in the greater world. I don’t watch TV news anymore because it is just too depressing for me, and I tend only to do headlines on news web pages with the occasional looking further because I just find the way we report news so blah! I will admit it is getting better but we still seem to hear more about the “bad” in the world rather than the “good”.

If you have any ideas I would love to hear them.

Until next time.

* 34% of patients diagnosed with breast cancer have chemotherapy as part of their primary cancer treatment.
https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/breast-cancer#heading-Five accessed June 2019