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.

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.

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