The calm before the storm

I haven’t got a date for my operation yet, but I do know it is in the second week of December, so that’s close enough.  We’re looking at about 4 weeks, and it feels pretty surreal, I can tell you now!

I had my last chemo infusion 13 days ago, and I THOUGHT it had treated me pretty kindly this time, as I had a reduced dose of the drug that the body seems to find the least palatable (oxaliplaitin, also known in cancer circles as “POXY OXY”).  Unfortunately, as I also take oral chemo for 14 days post infusion, my immune suppression has just peaked, and I have 12 ulcers in my mouth that I can actually count.  I can’t count the ones that I do believe have found their way down my throat.  Ouch.

Enough of all that though!  Up until today I have felt pretty good, and have been concentrating on having some family fun!  We started out with a Melbourne Cup long weekend trip to one of our favourite places, Mitta Mitta in country Victoria.  We have a bus motorhome because…well, four kids and the cost of hotel rooms…so we thought we might as well.

It didn’t start out all that well!  It’s a 5 – 6 hour trip, but you can make that 7 at a minimum with 4 under 12.  I wouldn’t mind a dollar for every time I was asked are were there yet, and it was VERY hot.  About 1 hour in, two of the children looked like this:

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Around 2 hours in, the bus floor looked like this:

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If this makes you feel better about your lives, my work here is done.

It was all worth it when we got there though, and calm and peace descended upon the whole family.  This is a place where you let your kids get on their bikes first thing, and you only wonder idly from time to time where they are.  Something that I used to do myself as a child, but couldn’t allow my children to do now without being on the edge of a nervy breakdown all the time, but Mitta, well it’s different.  It’s like a place from a different time, so beautiful and special.  I read two books, cooked for my family, spent beautiful times with my extended family, and felt for all the world that I could just keep on going like that forever and ever…like there was nothing actually wrong with me at  all.  And yet in a month I am going to have an operation that will remove 70% of my liver.  Sometimes it can be very deceiving, and very difficult to fathom how ill I really am.

Some more photos of our time at Mitta:

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It was idyllic.  I didn’t want to leave.  Leaving meant real life was closer to getting real.  Loved.every.minute.  You never know how precious “normal” can feel until your life becomes so far from it that you can’t grasp that you ever knew the meaning of the word.

More fun times were to come though.  We left Mitta on Tuesday, and I was all set to drive to Canberra on the Friday just gone for my nieces wedding.  But first I had to come back to Melbourne and pay my last visit to my oncologist before my care was handed over to the liver surgeon for the time being.  I wasn’t expecting much, but what I found on that Wednesday was astonishing.  My cancer markers, which had been significantly abnormal at the previous appointment 3 weeks before, had returned to completely normal levels.  It showed that the portal vein procedure I had a couple of weeks previous to starve the two active tumours on the right hand side of my liver of blood has been a complete success…and they are no longer active.  Words pretty much failed me, and the oncologist was a bit on the emotional side as well.  He never believed that I would be a candidate for my upcoming operation, and knowing what i know now about how infrequently he would see someone with cancer as advanced as mine actually get to this potentially curative surgery, I can understand it.  We shared a little hug, and he was so thrilled that we are on the cusp of seeing this day that seemed so unlikely at the start of this awful journey.  A momentous day indeed.

So, I set off on my big road trip to Canberra at 6.15am on Friday morning with a huge spring in my step.  It helped that I was attending alone (my husband stayed home with the kids), but meeting my whole family up there, who were coming from all over Australia.  I made the drive in just over 7 hours, with two stops only when I wanted to make them, and arrived in sunny Canberra mid afternoon.  Nobody asked me if we were there yet, and I can assure you that the floor of the car at no time looked anything like the floor of the bus on the way to Mitta, though I did throw a Minty wrapper to the floor once, just to see if there was anything in it.  I think it must be more fun when you are a child.

My sister, nephew and I shared this room:

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It was dollhouse cute and very comfortable.  I really, really liked hanging out in it with the door open, listening to the fountain outside and the sound of no children.  Does anyone sense I was needing a bit of a break?  LOL.  My nephew and I went out for a fancy dinner and ate it while hot, and no one cried.  It was epic.

The next day, I had the opportunity to meet up with the lovely Emily, who is part of a close knit cancer support group that we have formed.  We have all become very close and the chance to meet Em, who lives in Canberra was too good to pass up.  We had so much to talk about, and I felt like I had known her forever.  When you talk every day, even if it’s just online, you jump straight into a friendship with no effort, because it was already there.  And when you have shared  the trauma that is cancer…..well, you feel so understood.  Very special.  Much love, Em.

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After a delicious breakfast at a trendy cafe (did I mention that was also eaten hot?  And no one spilled their drink…) it was time to go back to the dollshouse and get ready for my nieces wedding.

This is my sister and I, all ready for the big event:

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The ceremony was idyllic, the joining of two beautiful people in a formal sense.  They are both amazing people, my niece and her new husband.  My favourite moment, and there were so many, was when my other niece, the sister of the bride, escorted the brides daughter down the aisle to the tune of Sesame Street.  Just sums up the relaxed, creative and funny people they are.  And the whole night was a testament to it.

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Alas, the next day I had to return to reality, but it’s the best weekend that I have spent in a long time.  I love my hubby and children, but after the year I have had, where I have been in control of basically no aspect of my life, it was pretty special to just be so carefree for a couple of days, and remember the strong, independent, and quite frankly HAPPY woman that I used to be.  And I can be again.

That’s what all this is about.  Just another thing I’m fighting for.

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