About Me

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I started this blog as I entered my 40th year, and now firmly in my 40s, I continue to learn so much about life. I'm learning that life rarely goes according to plan and that there's something new to learn every single day, be it a subtle nudge or a smack in the face.... This is my blog about muddling through my 40s-working hard, writing a book, being an ammateur photographer, trying to exercise and eat well, endeavouring to be the world's best aunt, as well as having fun and laughing out loud every single day.

Monday, December 30, 2013

#28 Thanks For Everything 2013

Dear 2013,

Well, what a year you have been.

This year I've enjoyed much more balance.  I've taken photos, danced salsa and written to my heart's content.  I've travelled to far away places and some not so far.  I've spent precious days, hours and minutes with the people I love the most in the world. 

I've been more present.  More content.  Calm.  Happy.  At peace.  More accepting.

There's been more emotional distance from things that don't hurt as much anymore.

I've been moved by art, music, movies.  My concert list for 2013 is impressive: Bruce Springsteen; Counting Crows; Mama Kin; Kate Miller Heidke; Pink; Matt Corby; Fall Out Boy; Bon Jovi...... I'm sure I'm forgetting some.

The breast reconstruction is complete.  My hair is long.  Chemo brain is disappearing.

I have only true, healthy friendships.  I'm so blessed.

This time next year I hope I can look back and say "Wow!  I couldn't have imagined how wonderful 2014 was going to be.  I feel blessed and loved and so happy to be alive."

I wish all of you a happy and healthy new year.  May 2014 be FABULOUS for all of us.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

#27 I'd like to know.....

..... about a time when you dared to dream BIG and pulled it off.  A time when you were at your most lusciously creative, ambitious best.


P.S.  If it hasn't happened yet, tell me the dream anyway.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

#26 Sometimes I (Over) React

Take yesterday for example, and yesterday's post.  What was it that caused me to react so emotionally to such an innocent question?  Well, it was likely a combination of things.

I'd only found out that morning that another young woman had just lost her life to breast cancer.  Then we ran into a man who used to work at my high school who just found out he was riddled with cancer and is going to die.  My colleague then made a comment about how now it was in his lymph nodes it was all over.  My cancer made it to one of my lymph nodes.  I was primed for that question to come a couple of hours later - "What do you do to make sure you don't get cancer back?"

My mind had been worried about me dying ALL morning.  Then the question.  Bam!

I over reacted to the question.  But after reflecting on it last night, now I know why.

It's one of my faults.

Another is my need to please people and avoid conflict.

My parents and I just went to watch my nephews at karate.  Outside the dojo, at the end of the lesson, they sat on a step in front of a shop to put their shoes and socks on.  No sooner had they sat down, the owner of the shop came out to tell them to move.  The owner clearly had an intellectual disability of some description and was lacking in the usual social etiquette the situation called for.  Eager to defuse the situation, I had the boys move quickly to the bench seat on the footpath.  In doing so, another parent on the bench smiled at me.  I smiled back.

With that, the owner of the store, who had returned inside, stormed outside demanding to know what the problem was, shouting that we should treat him like an adult.  I calmly explained that there was no problem, but he went on to say that he'd seen the faces we'd pulled behind his back. 

Now, I know we did nothing wrong.  We had obeyed his wishes and had not been disrespectful.  Irrespective of this, he stood in his shop doorway for the next 10 minutes watching us as we waited for my brother in law to pick the kids up.  It was certainly a long and uncomfortable 10 minutes.

I felt bad that he thought we'd disrespected him and that he felt he needed to be aggressive in his approach towards us.  At the end of the day, we were two older people, two little kids and an unassuming woman.

As a psychologist, of course I can understand that there were reasons behind his presentation.  What I don't understand, is why almost two hours later, I'm still thinking about it and feeling uncomfortable.

It seems my blog has become my therapy room over the past two days.

I have to say, it's been helpful.

Thanks for indulging me.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

#25 The Control Illusion

Today someone innocently asked me what I do to make sure I don't get cancer again.

I don't mind admitting, I lost my shit.

At no stage have I tolerated any suggestion that if I only think positively/follow this diet/only eat organic/ don't drink alcohol/ read this self help book/ wear a certain bra that I will be able to prevent myself from getting cancer.  Again.

Why?  What's so bad about someone wanting to help?  Well, to me, any suggestion similar to the above screams "it's all your fault you got cancer".  And that makes me angry.

There is not one single, solitary reason I got breast cancer.  It was a combination of factors.  Factors I can guess at, but never fully be able to identify.

What have I done to "make sure" my cancer doesn't return?  There is nothing that can guarantee me of that.

What have I done to give myself the best possible chance?

I've had both of my breasts - as much breast tissue as possible - surgically removed, along with my skin and nipple and the majority of my lymph nodes.

I've had a full hysterectomy - before I turned 40 - leading to early menopause and likely osteoporosis and cardio vascular disease.

I take medication every day that makes every joint ache and is also likely to cause osteoporosis.

I try to live my life without the fear of dying hanging over my head.

I try to live with most things in moderation.

That's what I do.  That's all I can do.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

#24 The Online World

A recent news story focussed on a young couple, a writer and a professor, who met online and six weeks later decided to travel overseas together for three weeks - with no luggage.

The trip, a success in more ways than one, their relationship continues to this day and they have appeared on a myriad of international television shows, been offered books deals and have received multiple offers for the movie rights.  How awesome is that!

It turns out, the young lady's sister is in my writing class.  I find myself at times intimidated by her poetry and photography - she has a way with words that I could only dream of possessing.  She's not intimidating though.  Instead, kind, empathic and so, so generous - she has offered to read my the entirety of my book and provide feedback.  That is cool!

I've actually started with friendships with a number of people I'm yet to meet.  We all share the passion of writing, but there's so much more than that.

One new friend, Rocky, has read EVERY word I've written.  Providing feedback on every single one - making my book a billion times better already.  We've exchanged gifts of books and poetry and music - introducing each other to our native countries.  Such generosity instils hope in humanity.

Another talented lady, an editor of a magazine, has embraced my friendship (and my writing).  We've shared the funniest, most intimate stories about our lives and I simply adore her.

And there are many more people in my writing class that I know share many things in common with me - things that could and hopefully will form the foundations of some wonderful friendships.

There has been nothing sinister, or weird about meeting any of these people online.  In fact, so far, it's all been good.  So good.

Speaking of writing online, I'm currently procrastinating on editing my book.  Alright, alright.  I'm going.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

#23 Confessions of a Solitary Writer

Dear Blog World,

I have been cheating on you.  I have avoided you, betrayed you and made promises I knew I could never keep.  It's time to reveal my mistress to you.

This is the introduction to my memoir. 

Love to know what you think.


A Hole in my Genes:  A Psychologist's Memoir About Life, Love and Breast Cancer.

By Jodie Fleming



                     I stood at the back screened door of my childhood family home and remembered playing the ball game rounders with my little sister Kim.  We’d yell out “Koo-ee” as loud as we could – an invitation to our neighbour to come over and join in.  We’d kick the ball, run and giggle in the fresh cut grass, hoping Mum would forget to call us in for our bath.
           The above ground swimming pool, round and inviting where I spent many days and nights swimming with Sharynn Noonan on our blow up ponies, my sister and I fighting over the orange one. Behind the pool sits the asymmetrical outdoor table and chairs that my Dad painted mission brown.  Along the back fence is the well loved and used brick barbeque that my Dad would cook on, with a beer in one hand, entertaining the street with his ‘dad’ jokes on our regular neighbourhood get togethers.
           Our street used to be filled with so many young families like the Noonans with their perfectly manicured lawn, and the Morrows who had like a thousand kids and reindeer footprints in their garden at Christmas.  So many friends to explore the world with.  As I continue to scan the yard that formed the backdrop to my early life, I find the overgrown grass plant with the long leaves that cut our hands if we touched them the wrong way.  I remember standing in front of it with my pink and white diamond bathing suit when I was four years old having a photo taken.  We’d pick the large, purple flowers from the Hibiscus tree making an impressive bunch to take to the nursing home when the school choir went to sing to the residents.  Nana had a Hibiscus as well, but hers was pink.

             My eyes then rest upon our bright green bench swing, the same colour as a tree frog. I recall fondly swinging on it when my baby sister lay on her crocheted rug under the umbrella.  The Spring sun reflected off the white blanket making her seem angelic.  I’d only just asked my Mum when she would be taking Kim back to the hospital.  I didn’t like sharing my parents with this new baby.  Luckily for me she grew into my partner in crime, my personal chef, my therapist and my best friend as we navigated our way through relationships, children and now this.
             Next to the swing is the basketball ring. Hours and hours of shooting practice, rain, hail, shine. My Godmother Bernie taught us to use white sandshoe cleaner to put dots around the grass to shoot from.  We’d follow each other around the circuit counting how many successful shots we’d made.
              And then, the green slide where Robert Davey kissed my shoe and I kicked him out of embarrassment.  He and his young family died tragically only a few years ago.  How I wished I'd been kinder to him the day he chased me up the slide.

              Behind the garage off to the right is our cubby house complete with functioning kitchen sink. Our special space where dreams were made and plans hatched.  Sharynn, Kim and I made many plans to run away.  We’d each bring some fruit and a blanket and pack it into a small brown suit-case that we’d carry one block to the playground.  When it started to get cold or dark, we’d return to our safe, warm homes.
            The driveway leading up to the garage forms our skating rink, initially for roller skates, then later for skateboards, pogo sticks and later still, rollerblades.  Mum gave us a dress-up box.  I always chose the red and white striped shirt that I’d wear as a dress with a belt.  I pretended to be Oliver Newton John as we skated to Xanadu.  Sometimes the stones on the driveway that tripped us over would jolt us back to reality.
             Inside the garage are our bicycles. Our independence. Blessed to grow up at a time when it was safe to ride all over town and only come home when it got dark and the first street lights came on.  We rode to the beach, to our friends’ houses and more often than not, to see the most important person in my life, my grandmother, Nan. Nan made everything better – the taste of hot Milo, vegemite on toast, life.  I’d spend hours sitting at the foot of her chair as she watched sport on tv.  The loyalty and love I felt for her, second to none, lucky to have her in my life until I turned 34.
             Me and Kim were always outside, on the move, using our imaginations, developing our personalities and our resilience for later life. We were trusted and we could trust. We sucked on lollipops with sun kissed faces and breathed fresh air we didn’t even know existed. We were young and free.  We were happy.
             My smile fades as my mood grows somber opening my eyes and realising that my childhood has disappeared and I am all grown up, no longer naive or innocent. Things have changed.  I wear perfume and makeup and own more shoes and handbags than should be allowed.  Instead of my bike I choose to travel in my car because it’s faster.  Work and other responsibilities stop me from playing as much sport or seeing my friends as often.  And along with the playground equipment, my athletic toned muscles, tanned skin and thick hair have all changed too - disappeared.  There are lines on my face now.  They used to be laugh lines but lately come from frowning and wondering what has happened to my life.
             I adjust the headscarf on my bald head and shiver.  I can’t seem to get warm lately despite the layer upon layer of clothes I’m wearing.  My skin is pale, almost grey and my face and body are swollen due to the drugs I’m forced to take.  I’m tired even though I spend most of my day sleeping.  Hunger taunts me competing with the constant nausea I feel.  I can’t eat because my mouth is full of ulcers and yeast.  I feel so alone.  I miss my husband....
             But still, somewhere in amongst my thoughts, I smile.  I can’t wait for Summer.  I still love the smell of fresh cut grass.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

#21 Where did all the time go?

Not only have I not been finding the time to write, I also haven't found the time to read your blogs..... for a really long time.

I hereby pledge that I will do my utmost to begin re-reading your blogs - one per day.  So if you have a blog and the link is not attached to your avatar, please add the link in the comments to this post.

Not only that, but I am also going to comment - in a meaningful way.

Before I do that, I'd like to send a shout out to all of my followers.  All 30 of you.


Michelle Faithfull

Al Redfern

Lynn Proctor

Christine Harris



Teresa Coltrin

Mare Ball

Sylvia Ney

Ida Chiavaro

Acadia 1997

Sally Stackhouse

Aunty Amo

Donna Gotlib

Betty Alark

Mary Hill

Vicki Paulus

John Ivory





The Wicked Writer

Dot Hearn

Heidi Mannan



and last, but not least, Tim Riley

You'll find each other in the right hand menu.

If you don't hear from me in the next month on your blog, please give me a gentle nudge!

Happy reading.


Friday, September 6, 2013

#20, The Final Nip and Tuck

It's been a rather large week for me.  As well as losing my Grandad, I also had my latest, and hopefully final breast surgery.

This one was a simple day procedure, that has still resulted in a large amount of swelling and discomfort and an inability to shower properly for a week.  You should see my hair.

The benefit will hopefully be that I will now have two even, level, similar looking breasts.  Although the scarring on the outside remains, the amount of scar tissue within the breast has been reduced which has to improve the appearance and comfort factors.

It's an odd sensation to feel as though a part of your body does not actually belong to you.  Instead, an odd sort of numbness takes its place.

The final task once my scar heals will be nipple tattoos.  Can you even imagine how much fun that might be.  Thank goodness for the numbness.

And then, they will be complete and as perfect as they can be.  It will have all been worth and the circle will be complete.

Feeling blessed.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

#19, A Gold Tooth and A Glass Eye

It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.
It always feels that way at family gatherings.  Particularly as now we only ever seem to gather at someone’s funeral. This time it’s for my Grandad.  Jock.

Jock had three kids, two daughters and a son, my Dad, in the middle.  They each had their own families and all lived in different cities.  Each of them carried their own set of values and moral compasses along with very individual methods for coping with life’s ups and downs. 

Grandad’s funeral was yesterday.  A stranger spoke about his life based upon stories his two daughters told her.  She couldn't pronounce Leven, where he was born, so she just said Scotland.
I didn’t have a close relationship with my paternal grandparents, although Gran and I mended ours just before she died.  So blessed.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have fond memories.

I adored our trips to Tumblong to stay at the green house with the chicken coop.  Grandad and Laddie would always be wandering around fixing something.  The bakery truck would come right to the door to sell us fresh made pies for lunch.  I can still recall the smell if I close my eyes.  Gran would sing old Scottish songs to us, with us.  Grandad would tell us tall tales about his glass eye and gold teeth that he was going to leave us when he died.
His hair was always shiny with bryll cream and their toilet had WC written on the door.  Their house was where I learnt what that stands for.

One phone call, after my Nan had died, my Gran and I talked about our difficult relationship.  She summised that she felt it was because we were so similar, that we often butted heads.  Gran then told me that she thought I was much braver than she was.  I laughed at that suggestion.  She was referring to the time I moved to Spain to live.  I told her that she and Grandad were much braver than I.  They had moved their young family to a country on the other side of the world, sight unseen, with very little money in their pocket.  That was brave.  And they built a life here, giving us the privilege of being born in such a lucky country. 
We are all proud of our Scottish heritage.  And no matter what else, I’ll always be so proud and so grateful for two forty year old Scots, for taking such a risk and for being so hopeful about their future and the futures of their family.

Rest in Peace Gran and Grandad.
Vale Jock Fleming.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

#18 Home Sweet Home

What is it about travel the older you get that makes shorter trips preferable and the desire to return to the comforts of home appear much, much sooner?  Or is that only if you feel unsafe in your new location as I did in Lima?

I have to say, my visit to Machu Picchu by far redeamed my entire trip, but for the first week I was counting down the days till I would be travelling home again.

My flight over was amazing, and despite a sprained ankle, I managed to see a tiny bit of LA and enjoy the Summer sun.  I don't know what travel karma was bestowed upon me, but I was upgraded to Business class on the way over - ooh la la!  It was difficult going back, let me tell you!  I'm still sleeping in my Qantas pyjamas.

The arrival into Lima marked the start of my long term anxiety.  Several stories were passed on regarding the dangers of taking a taxi from the airport into Miraflores and they all had me on edge.  It was past midnight as we drove through the almost desserted streets of Callao under the weight of anticipation that I would be kidnapped at any given moment.  Luckily all that came to pass was that an extremely religious taxi driver attempted to suggest that I had many problems and should convert to his religion.  "I don't have any problems!  I'm great!" I exclaimed as I lept from his cab at my destination.

There, I felt like a prisoner.  Single, female travellers it seems, should not venture out of Miraflores.  I did not see Lima.  That still astounds me.  Luckily, I was able to experience some fabulous Peruvian food and hospitality in my neighbourhood, including the Independence Day Parade on my first day there.

The return trip to the airport was taken with extreme trepidation.  This time the driver avoided the eery beach route in the middle of the night, and I arrived safely (and cheaply!) once again, this time on my way to Cuzco.

The flight in Cuzco is simply breath taking.  And actually, literally breath taking.  The altitude sickness took a little while to hit, but only knocked me off my feet for a couple of hours before my tour of the city began.  The following day, the Sacred Valley wowed me, whetting my appetite for the piece de resistance - Machu Picchu.   There are no words to describe this wonder of the world. 

So, here are some photos.

The opening ceremony for the conference I attended had a series of traditional dances and costumes and music.  It was amazing.  I love this photo - the colours are so typical.

I waved my flag proudly at the Independence Day parade. Viva Peru!

Hello Machu Picchu.  Can you believe they built this in 50 short years??  Many hands make light work.

The view from Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley.

Monday, July 8, 2013

#17 Photography... my other love and frustration

My mind is very good at capturing images that will last a lifetime.  Creative, brilliant shots that would amaze even the most established photographer.

Unfortunately, my camera operating skills do not translate from my mind to my finger.  Nor do my photo editing skills.

Regardless, I trudge along to Camera Club on freezing Thursday nights and I persevere.

The next competition I am entering is titled "Performers".  I managed to coax two friends - one a Julia Gillard impersonator and the other a budding magician - to pose for me.  Here are some of the results.  I'd love your comments. 

Which four would you enter?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

#16 Peru Countdown

I began this post when my iPhone app told me there were 28 days to go before I fly to Peru.  As per post #15, my iPhone no longer tells me anything, but luckily for me, I can count.  In thirteen more sleeps, I'll be flying to Peru!  

Flying, aside from turbulence and plane crashes, would have to be one of my all time favourite pasttimes.  It combines all of my favourite things:  sitting down; warm socks; food and drinks; movies; and, sleep.  There is no guilt when you fly.  You can't be doing any housework; exercise; work; visiting elderly family members.  All you can do, is sit.

Today I packed.  Packing helped me procrastinate from writing or editing photos.  I love packing.  It means I'm going somewhere.  Packing also starts me imagining all of the situations I am going to find myself in while I'm away - all of them exotic, cultural and exciting.

I have 24 hours in Los Angeles to rest up and soak up the atmosphere.  I've been planning my Hop On/Hop Off stops and where I'll shop and eat dinner in Santa Monica, not to mention where I'll have breakfast on the beach before flying to Lima in the afternoon.

I'll be able to explore Lima over a week in between my conference workshops which I am really looking forward too.  And then, the highlight of my life.  Three days in Cuzco including my day trip to Machu Picchu.  I literally stop and sigh every time I think of it.

My hosts in Cuzco have organised my entire three days and have proudly informed me that by the time I leave I will have seen 85% of the region.  I think I'll be in need of some of that Coca tea!

Ah travel.  You complete me.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

#15 Careful what you wish for......

I spend the majority of my Friday nights wishing for a weekend to myself, to write.  Fortyeight hours without human contact, not leaving the house, cosy, comfortable and content.  That's my fantasy.

Now don't get me wrong.  I love my friends and family and I adore spending time with them, which is why I say yes to every invitation that comes my way.  Unfortunately, it doesn't take many yesses to fill a weekend and before I know it, I haven't written a word.  Again.

Last night, I had similar thoughts.  Imagine the bliss of a telephone that temporarily didn't ring.

For the most part, I can be fairly absent-minded but after my 'man flu' the week before last, I feel as though I have coasted through the past week in a haze.  Not quite sure how I made it actually.  That is my excuse for what happened this morning.

Bounding out of bed (not!) I scooped up my doona cover and swiftly deposited into the washing machine and set the cycle in motion.

It wasn't until about an hour later that I went looking for my phone and realised the unthinkable.  My phone entered the spin cycle about the same time.  Time cannot pass any slower than it does when one awaits the end of a front loader washing cycle.

Luckily I've had experience with this kind of thing and was prepared with my bag of rice.  Approximately 12 hours have passed now and I have resisted all temptation to see how it's going.

I found the majority of the day to be relatively peaceful with my reason to disconnect, but to be honest, I'm feeling a tiny bit lonely now.  I tried to watch the Paper Boy.  What is that all about?  Then I watched Safe Haven and enjoyed it.  Can't be a good sign.  Now I'm writing, but not really writing what I want to be writing.  I'm such a procrastinator.

The irony is that instead of fantasing about a phone that never rings, I'm not starting to fantasise about a time my phone will ring again...... hopefully in about another twelve hours time!

Friday, June 28, 2013

#14 Gratitude

One of my friends, Carla, has been writing a daily Facebook post on what she is grateful for.  Just recently, she wrote about how grateful she was to feel well and healthy, stating that it is usually when she is unwell, that she remembers to be grateful for feeling good.

Since recovering from cancer, or more importantly, chemotherapy, it has been relatively easy to embrace feeling good.  Even throughout treatment, perspective of what it meant to feel good changed.  When you can go days without being able to lift your head off the pillow, being able to move your weary body from the bed to the arm chair for 30 minutes can seem like heaven on Earth.

Imagine what it must be like to fully recover from the damaging effects of chemotherapy!  You feel completely invincible and so, so grateful for every second and ounce of energy you have.

This week I had a reminder of what feeling unwell was like.  I have been unlucky enough to catch this monster cold/flu that is going around and actually had the whole week off work to recover!  Taking time off work does not sit well with me.  I don't think I even took a week off at a time through chemotherapy, much less for a common cold, but this week I needed to.

Up until today I forgot what it was like not to have aching bones and joints or a throbbing head.  I couldn't sleep and I couldn't taste anything, not that I had much of an appetite anyway.  But today, my head felt clearer, and my headache went away with some aspirin and I had a reprieve.  What a relief.  Oh the joy of feeling (relatively) well again.

I am filled with gratitude.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

#13 Scrivener and the Scaredy Cat

This week when I picked up my nephews from school, I became the victim of that familiar childhood taunt "Made you look, you big fat chook, hanging on the butcher's hook".  They thought it was hysterical.

It reminded me of another childhood song we had:

"Scaredy cat from Ballarat
Went to school and got the strap...."

Which brings me to the topic of today's post.  I am indeed, despite my Leoness-ness, a scaredy cat.  What am I scared of?  I'm not sure it's any one thing, but the likely candidates are: hard work; being overwhelmed; not knowing where to start; and perhaps even that old gem, failure.

When I'm scared, I procrastinate and that's exactly what I have been doing since finishing my last writing class.  Procrastinating. 

Until today.

Armed with my cup of tea, the print-outs of all 24 assignments I've written in the Literary Kitchen and not to mention Scrivener, I have started organising my book - ready to write draft 2.

Scrivener is a software program I have downloaded for a free trial.  It's a virtual binder/cork board/note book that allows you to take the first draft of your manuscript and begin to format and organise it into something more.  For the next step in the process.

I have to say I'm finding it incredibly user friendly.  It has allowed me to take chunks out of existing chapters and move them around freely within my 'binder' - much more user friendly than a Word document.  I have even been able to separate my book into sections and chapters.  Scrivener even allows me to see how often I use particular words!

This is particularly useful to me as my writing friends often pointed out my overuse of the word "was".  It's incredible how annoying that word becomes once you are made aware of its presence.

So, I am ready.  Ready for Draft 2.  Encouraged as ever by everyone I love, and especially by my new writing family. 

Here we go!

Friday, June 14, 2013

#12 Salsa, Ricky and Sue Mc

Is time really passing by faster than it used to?  It sure feels like it.  How is it we are already in June of 2013?!

In January this year, I attended my first salsa lesson and had the time of my life (insert Dirty Dancing soundtrack here).  Ninety minutes of laughing, smiling and dancing like nobody was watching had me in heaven.  I vowed then and there to attend every Thursday night.  Salsa = therapy.

Last night, Thursday June 13th, I attended my second salsa lesson for the year.  FOR. THE. YEAR.

The blur that the first six months of this year have passed in has left me feeling as though I am wasting my life.  At Fiona's 5 year celebration last weekend I caught up with another fabulous friend and fellow cancer survivor, Sue Mc.  We spoke of this urgency we have to fit as much into life as we can.  Actually that's incorrect.  We have an urgency to fit more into life than we possibly can and we constantly feel as if we come up short.  It's exhausting.  Vicki Paulus, I'd love to know if you feel the same way.

Sue mentioned she'd begun salsa lessons as a part of her post 50th birthday life philosophy to try new things.  That was all I needed.  I committed to salsa-ing the night away with her.

Together we turned up to our hour long lesson that turned out to be half merengue and half salsa.  Ricky Martin played (not in person) all of my favourite songs that I know word for word in Spanish.  Seven men and seven women of varying skill level bonded over a mutual love for stepping out of our comfort zones, meeting new people, and doing something for ourselves - something that makes us feel good.  It was the best.

And so here I am again, vowing in public, I intend on attending more salsa lessons.  Salsa = therapy.  The kind of therapy I need!

What's yours??

Monday, June 3, 2013

#11 Fiona, at Five Years

I keep saying this is not a blog about breast cancer, but I cannot post this week if it's not about one of the most amazing women in my life - my cousin Fiona.

Fiona came into our family when I was still a teenager.  She married my cousin Tony and together they had two beautiful kids who are an important part of my life as well.  We didn't really have the opportunity to develop a friendship early on, mainly due to us living in different cities.  It wasn't until I was around 30 and living back in our home town that I picked up some casual work at their restaurant that I started to get to know Fi a little better.  Sadly, before long, I was on the move again and regular contact was lost once again.

One day five years ago, Tony called me that Fiona had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  I didn't know what to say or do, so I sent flowers and I said nothing.  I didn't reach out aside from maybe a couple of phone calls to Tony.  Being able to avoid seeing what the family were going through made it easy for me to pretend everything must be okay. 

Two years later when I was diagnosed with my own breast cancer, Fiona was the first person I sought out on a trip home.  She was sitting behind a desk at work when I told her my news.  Tears welled in her eyes as she walked around the desk and embraced me, telling me her tears were because she knew what I was about to face.  I apologised for the first time in a thousand for not having been there for her - for not getting it.  Fiona is gracious and never makes me feel as though I need to apologise.  I know that I do though.

Fiona was my rock, my backbone, all throughout my treatment.  She sent flowers at every cycle of chemotherapy, but only visited the day after because she knew I wouldn't feel like visitors.  Fiona bought me ginger biscuits and lip balm.  She always knew what I would need and when.

More importantly, Fi has been there when I have been scared, even now when something reminds me that this disease is a killer, that it can come back.  She understands me like no-one else, and now I am happy to say that I also understand her.  We have formed a bond that will never ever break and I now get the opportunity to support her as she has done for me.

I want to congratulate Fi on reaching her Five Year magic milestone this week!!  I can't wait to celebrate with you on the weekend.  You are an amazing inspiration to me.

I am so blessed for having you in my life.  I love you so much.  Thank you for all that you are.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

#10 Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

In a recent conversation with a new friend, also single, I asked whether they had ever pondered if there was anything inherently wrong with them that ultimately led to the demise of every relationship up until this point.

I asked the question not because I believe there is anything inherently wrong with them, or with me, but because I'm interested in what people discover in self reflection.

The first piece of important information that can be ascertained by asking such a question is indeed whether or not a person exercises self reflection. 

I think it is around age 7 in our development as children when we are able to 'put ourselves in someone else's shoes' and learn to empathise.  As adults, this hopefully has extended to being able to reflect on the impact our actions may have on others.

This is not to say that everything we reflect on or come up with is factual.  Far from it in my experience.  But what is important, is the ability to take some responsibility for our actions and recognise that sometimes we need to realise we have not always been in the right.

At times of relationship breakdown, conflict or tension, I have mostly always managed to walk away and ponder my role (usually based on whatever criticism may have been hurled my way).  At times I have been able to agree and take on board any changes that may be necessary.  And just as importantly, I have also been able to disagree based on my own self-knowledge and integrity.

My friend asked me what I had come up with when I pondered my role in relationship breakdowns.  I said that I realised that I might not always be easy to live with.  I also said that I thought I sometimes expected too much of myself and that sometimes that might transfer across to the person I am with.  Upon reflection though, I don't think that's true.  I think my only expectations have truly been to be treated with the same love and respect that I show for my partner.

My friend summed it up beautifully by saying that although no-one was perfect, they felt they could be perfect for someone.  I love that they have such healthy self worth and self esteem.

I'm happy to say that at the age of 40 I am also comfortable in the skin I'm in and am happy to be the person I have become.  Hopefully one day, I'll be perfect for someone too.

"Beneath clever conversation, no finer heart could ever beat for you."  Firefly, Sister Hazel

Sunday, May 26, 2013

#9 And running will set you free...

When I finished my doctorate in 2008 I needed a new goal.  Done with flexing my brain, I needed a physical challenge and so, I decided I would train for my first marathon.

A miracle arrived in the form of my running coach Al.  Al, a gentle man in his 60's, had a passion for running rivalled by none.  Every Saturday morning Al arrived bright and early with his infectious smile and ran with me.  We started slowly and walked for a large part of session.  He told me I didn't run like a girl and I became his biggest fan.

Al wrote me a program that I followed through the week on my own and looked forward to showing off my progress every Saturday.  Before I knew it, I entered my first 10km fun run and sprinted up hills without much huffing and puffing at all.  I felt so alive.

Six months in, I fractured my foot and took a break from running.  Unfortunately, not long after breast cancer got in the way and I have only relatively recently been able to put my running shoes back on.

Instead of running 10km, I'm only running 3 or 4, but that doesn't matter.  I am running!  I love to run.  I love that it hurts as I challenge my body.  I know what it can take.  It can take a lot.

On the weekend I purchased a new set of headphones and I ran with music for the first time in a long time and guess what..... I doubled my exercise time!

I sang out loud and ran faster than usual, motivated so much by the music playing only for me.  It's only been a week and I've run four times.  Once again, I'm starting to think about it when I'm doing anything else, planning my day around when I can run.

This is living.

Al changed my life and sadly I don't live near him anymore, but I think of him every time I lace up my Asics running shoes - one of the best people I have ever known.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

#8 Team Jolie

Well I think I have finally recovered from the A-Z Challenge and am ready to post again.  I did not set out to make this a blog about cancer, but Angelina Jolie's recent revelation about her prophylactic surgery is too topical and too close to home to not write about it.

Like Angelina, I too carry the BRCA1 gene mutation.

Unlike Angelina, I had two primary breast cancers which made my decision for bilateral mastectomies a relatively easy one.

Like Angelina, I had immediate reconstructive surgery.

Unlike Angelina, the entire world was not in a position to judge my decisions.

Like Angelina, I didn't want to be afraid of getting (more) cancer.

Unlike Angelina, the majority of people supported any treatment decision I made because I HAD cancer.

Like Angelina, I want to live a long and happy life.

Unfortunately, I have read a few Facebook posts and articles that have judged Angelina's decision harshly and to be honest, such views make me sick to my stomach.  There appear to be many misconceptions about genetic mutations.  One such misconception is that we all carry the BRCA1 genetic mutation and that we can switch it on and off based on our lifestyle choices, meaning that each individual is literally able to control whether or not they get cancer.  Please, let me refute this claim.

Firstly, we certainly all DO NOT carry the BRCA1 genetic mutation.  We do all however, have the BRCA1 gene.  This is one important gene as it is responsible for gobbling up any breast cancer cells to prevent a tumour growing.  When someone like Ange and I have a faulty BRCA1 gene, that means that our gobbling of breast cancer cell ability goes array and unfortunately doesn't always work - hence, the increased chance (up to 87% more likely) of getting breast cancer.  The number of people with faulty genes is minimal.  It is unlikely that you will have a genetic mutation in your BRCA1 genes.

Secondly, the decision to remove healthy body parts, particularly body parts that are so closely linked with our gender and sexuality (not to mention career, in Ange's case), is not a simple one.  As I mentioned, my situation was much more straightforward.  I do not envy anyone who has to make the decision to remove their breasts or ovaries in case cancer appears.  Psychologically, that must be a much more difficult dilemma.  And if not the decision to have the surgery, then the decision of when.

Early intervention is so vital.  Breast cancer is a disease that CAN be cured if it is diagnosed and treated early enough.  Angelina is not leaving anything to chance.  She made an empowered choice to minimise her risk, effectively controlling her future health outcomes.

Fear can paralyse many and make them stand in judgement, as if belittling someone else's choice protects them from ever facing the same fate.  Genetic mutations are inherited randomly.  They are nobody's fault. 

I am attending Sam's "after party" today.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago, just like me.  But her's was found a little late and had already travelled throughout her body providing her with an arduous battle over the past 3 years.  She died on May 8th, aged 43 and leaves behind two young twin boys, a teenage daughter and a loving husband. 

Sam would have given anything to be able to make a choice like Angelina and still be here today.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Who would have thought it could be so tiring writing a post practically every day for a month?!  I have to say I have thoroughly enjoyed the process, especially meeting all of you and finding such new and interesting blogs to follow.

I still have a lot more of you to meet and blogs to explore and I am looking forward to doing just that after a wee break and a nice big sleep!

Thanks for your comments and your follows.  I look forward to repaying the favour!

Now what’s the next challenge...........

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for Yesterday

Thank you firstly to everyone who offered Y and Z suggestions to get me over the line for the last two posts in this A – Z Challenge.

Yesterday was Sunday.  But it wasn’t just any other Sunday.  No.  Yesterday was a Sunday with a purpose.  It was also the fourth day of a loooong weekend for me beginning with Anzac Day here in Australia.  I attended my first Dawn Service that day...... but that’s another story.

I have been over-working.  It’s true.  It happens often for me and I have to be very careful to ensure I counterbalance the work with “me time”.  Usually that encompasses exercise, friend and family time, writing, photography, movies and relaxation.  Things have been out of whack lately and I ended up with chest pain.  I know!

I thought it was anxiety but not like I’d ever experienced before.  Luckily, a trip to the doctor informed me it was actually digestive.  I also have high cholesterol levels.  What?!  So now, exercise and diet are necessary for more reasons than one.  Nothing like hitting rock bottom to kick you in the butt!  Just what I needed.

The other thing I needed was my BFF to take me by the hand to the day spa to soak in the mineral pool and spa, lazily massaging our muscles against the jets, talking talking talking.  Soooo gooood.  When then treated ourselves to the lovely products on offer to moisturise and soothe our skin afterwards.   Next, a leisurely long lunch, and more talking........ it’s what girl’s do best!  A relaxing walk and window shop followed topping off the most amazing morning.  Thanks J!

I ended the long weekend feeling so relaxed and ready to start the week (another short week!).  Now, just to maintain it.........

What is the strangest thing you do for relaxation???

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X is for Xenophobia

I cannot explain why, but when thinking of words that begin with the letter ‘X’, the word xenophobia was the first word that popped into my head.  I’ve never actually met anyone who has xenophobia – probably because they would be too scared to meet me!

Anyway, the weirdness of the word got me researching and I came across a whole host of phobias beginning with the letter X.  Here they are below:

Xanthophobia: Fear of the colour yellow or the word yellow.

Xenoglossophobia: Fear of foreign languages.

Xenophobia: Fear of strangers or foreigners.

Xerophobia: Fear of dryness.

Xylophobia: 1) Fear of wooden objects. 2) Forests.

Xyrophobia: Fear of razors.

Can you even imagine what it would mean to live with any of these??? 

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for White Castle

Harold and Kumar go to White Castle goes down in my history as one of the funniest films I have ever seen.  Not only was it my re-introduction to Doogie Howser M. D., hello Neil Patrick Harris and welcome Barney Stinson...... okay, so I really am only talking about Harold and Kumar because I adore NPH!

This is cheating, but this is what NPH said in an interview about how he came to play himself in the Harold and Kumar Franchise:

Well, I got a call from a friend who was auditioning for this movie and he was so excited that we were going to be working together. And I said, “I have no idea what you're talking about.” And he said, “You're written in this movie. Neil Patrick Harris is a character in this movie. You don't know anything about it?” And I said, “I have no idea what you're talking about.” And so he said, “Oh, you should have your agents track it down.” So I did, and they read it, and then they called my attorney to find out what was going on, and then I winded up meeting with the guys, kind of cautiously, to see just what their plan was. Because when you're talking about an extreme version of yourself, you want to make sure you're not painted in a super shitty light. Even though it's like dark and funny and whatever, tons of drugs and strippers and lines of coke is dangerous territory potentially. But they were super nice and the whole movie was that same level of absurdity.
Imagine my excitement when I turned the corner onto 8th Avenue while I was in Manhattan, and saw my first White Castle restaurant!  No, I didn’t go in.
Anyway, the moral to this very short (and a little bit cheating) post, is that if you haven’t seen these movies, and you love NPH like I do, then do yourself a favour!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Vixen

Marisa Acocella Marchetto is a name that first came to my attention whilst working in a cancer hospital.  She had just published her memoir Cancer Vixen: A True Story about her battle with breast cancer 2004 through 2005.

The difference with this cancer memoir was that it was a cartoon.
And it was real and honest.

At the time, I was excited about its potential for being a resource I could use with my clients.  It also provided me with some insight into what it must be like for young women living with cancer.
Of course, as you all know by now it turned out to be a very valuable resource, but on more levels than I could ever have imagined.
Stories like this will never have an expiry date.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Unforgettable

There are things that happen in our lives that we will never forget.  Have you ever noticed how some unforgettable things are things you've had to forgive but can't forget?Here is a list of things that spring to mind for me.  

·         Our wedding day

·         Saying goodbye to my Nan

·         Arriving in Europe the first time

·         Visiting New York City

·         My 21st birthday party

·         Falling in love for the first time

·         My nephew’s births

·         Graduating from university

·         Sitting with my first client

·         Running my first (and only) 10K run

·         Losing my hair to chemotherapy

·         My friendships throughout cancer treatment

·         The end of a friendship due to cancer

·         Paris in the Summer

·         Turning 40

·         Matchbox20 at Tempus II

·         Bruce Springsteen live

·         Madonna live – when she was relevant, in 1993

What would be on your list?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T is for Travel

Okay, I acknowledge that at least 90% of the bloggers doing this challenge are going to write about travel.  Let’s face it.  We all know travel is the meaning of life.  (I can’t wait to read everyone’s responses to that statement!)

I was a late bloomer in the travel department, not getting my first passport until I was 21 years old and not leaving the country until 22 – New Zealand – 2.5 hours away.
I hit my travel stride at 26, adding stamps to that passport like something that adds things very quickly.
I once worked with a woman who judged people based on whether they possessed a passport or not.  Almost as if a person possessed no value whatsoever if they had not travelled.  Once, on a work trip, she and I, plus a non-passport owner workmate sat down to dinner.  Somehow the conversation turned to travel and I sat in utter silence as she literally berated the poor homebody non-traveller for not having left the country.  It was really weird and actually mean.
I have a question.  Has anyone else experienced an increase in trepidation in regards to travel as they get older?  As you’re well aware, I’m forty years old.  Where once I would take on the world in a single bound, with little to no forethought or planning, I now find myself slightly anxious when preparing to travel.
I’m off to Peru in July.  I speak Spanish, so the language shouldn’t be a barrier.  All of my flights and accommodation is booked and my spending money saved.  There’s very little for me to worry about apart from getting the best shot of Macchu Pichu that I can.  And yet, I worry.  What if something happens to me while I’m away?  What if I’m robbed?  Or there’s an earthquake?  Or volcano?  What if the plane crashes?  Or the train? 
Maybe it’s because I need vaccinations before I go.  Maybe because it’s a new continent for me?  The unknown?  I don’t know.  I’m just hoping that once I’m there and in the moment, the fear disappears and I let it all envelope me, reminding me of why I need to plan the next trip, and the one after that, and the one after that.......

Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Shoeshine Kit

Mad Men Season 6 is here.  Love it! 

Spoiler Alert – just in case you are slow off the mark like me and haven’t yet watched the first couple of episodes.
Roger Stirling is by far one of my favourite MM characters – so flawed and so vulnerable, he has had many experiences most psychologists would just eat up!  This season is no exception.  It begins with a photo shoot for the firm.  Roger is frantic about where the Shoe Shine man is and when he’ll arrive.
Later on, Roger’s secretary breaks the news that his mother has died.  She is grief stricken.  He comforts her.  “It’s okay.  She was 91 years old.  It was expected.”
The funeral comes and goes and Roger hasn’t cried.  In fact, he has a hissy fit that everyone is stealing his thunder (thanks for vomiting in the middle of the speeches Don Draper) “This is my funeral!”  His ex-wife bringing her new beau to the funeral possibly didn’t help.
We see sections of Roger on his therapist’s couch.  “I don’t feel anything.”
Then, towards the end of the episode, something I didn’t see coming.  Something poignant, endearing me even more to Roger’s character.  This time, his secretary informs Roger that the Shoe Shine man has died.  The family has sent over the shoe shine kit to Roger as he was the only person who ever asked after the dead man. 
Roger takes the kit into his office.  He opens it up and he cries.  
Meanwhile, somewhere on Park Ave, Don Draper is having sex with a married woman, still searching for an authentic experience............

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for Race Car

This one is written by my six year old nephew Tommy.  We wrote it as we drove to watch his dad drive a formula one race car, as a birthday gift from his family.  It’s short, but very sweet.

My dad is learning how to drive a race car.  Sometimes race cars crash.  Race cars go very fast.

My dad is a builder.  Dad is nervous and shy about driving the race car.  I know he’s shy because he doesn’t like to talk to strangers.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Q is for Quality of Life

Quality versus Quantity.  That eternal dilemma.  For me at least.  I used to lie awake at night working out my likely lifespan based on the average ages of my four grandparents.  I figured that with my relatively healthy lifestyle, I was a sure thing to reach 90.

Ninety felt like forever away and I felt content that I would have a long future ahead of me.  Plenty of time.  I still had 2/3 of my life ahead of me.  More in front than behind.  What a great position to be in.

Then I got cancer.  Regardless of whether the cancer returns, my life is more likely to be shorter than I once thought.  I wonder now that if it did come back, knowing it would be terminal as there is currently no real cure for secondary cancer, would I choose to go through treatment again. 

Would I choose to be so very sick, with no energy, sleeping most of the day, wishing it would end, in the hope that the treatment might add months, or if lucky, a year, to my life?  Or would I prefer to make the most of my time left.  Prioritising the people and the places that I’d like to spend my precious time, feeling well, at least initially.  I’d be able to enjoy food, and think clearly.  I’d be able to make more choices about what to do with my time, albeit shortened.  Short but sweet perhaps?

Not having children would help make the decision easier I think.  People want to live for their children, their family, their milestones.  I wouldn’t necessarily have that and maybe that would make my decision easier to choose quality over quantity.

One thing’s for sure, irrespective of how long I have I’m aiming for a high quality of life every single day.  Maybe you should too.
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