4 years on – progress

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My art practise continues. I’ve taken up ceramics now too, and I love it!

I’ve hesitated about writing this post, because I think it might be boring for some long time readers. But then I think that maybe by reading it, it will help someone to make a decision about their options, or help someone to be better informed about what to expect in the healing process, so I’m writing this with them in mind.

4 years on from the first major surgery, here’s how my body is faring…. in a word, it is doing well! The pressure I’ve felt on my abdomen is way less, my torso no longer has that twisted feeling. It is much, much better! It does still feel slightly tight. I don’t have feeling on a good portion of my stomach or any part of my breasts. I can’t feel anything that touches those areas, but I can feel pressure. Maybe the healing happens from the inside out, so you can’t feel anything on the surface, but inside, new nerves are growing and mending. That’s what I hope anyway!

Appearance wise, the scars are well faded. You can still see them, but they are fine white lines. There are a few ridges around the scars but nothing too worrying. I still can’t wear a proper bra, as they feel too uncomfortable, so I stick to light crop tops or a maternity bra, which is softer than a regular bra. You can find some nice ones nowadays!

Other than that, my breasts look great, probably better than pre surgery. They are fuller and rounder than before, my stomach is flatter. I have helped the healing process along with regular exersize sessions with a personal trainer a couple of times a week this past 12 months. That has helped strengthen my core, regain flexibility and take off any excess weight. So, appearance wise, I am very happy with the outcome. My surgeon, James, did a fantastic job.

Would I make this choice again? Definitely. It’s hard but it’s worth it. I read on the weekend that some implants (perhaps only ones used for cosmetic breast surgery?) are causing cancer. I am relieved I don’t have to worry about any of those sorts of complications or future surgery. It always felt right for me to go with the option where I used my own tissue to rebuild my breasts. Others will make the decision that feels right to them. I am fortunate to have been able to afford the more invasive surgery too.

In an emotional sense, I am still coming to terms with all the other unexpected changes in my life. I don’t think I have any lingering or unresolved emotion about the surgery. If I ever start a new relationship, I am sure there will be a few “issues” in trusting someone, physically and emotionally again, but I’ll deal with that if and when it happens. It just takes time, and a willingness to deal with it all I suppose.

I love the new place where I live in Queensland. Every morning I wake up and say, “thank you God” for the peaceful, beautiful place I live. I love being able to hear the sounds of the waves outside my window. (Who knew it was so soothing?!) I miss seeing my children every day but they are well settled in new homes in Sydney with their friends (and loving it!). We see each other often with flights back and forth. I love having them to stay. It is great to spend good quality time with them and we stay well connected in between visits (hooray for the iphone!).

I am reading a book about a man who loses his girlfriend at the same time their first child is born, “In every moment we are still alive”. It speaks of another man who is asked, following the death of his son, “The grief you are feeling now, would you exchange it for never having known Johannes at all?” It is a good question to ask yourself after a loss I think. Would you take the pain away, if it meant never having had the experience of love in the first place? Better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. True. The gain is worth the pain. I think that about my surgery too – very hard to do but WAY better than having cancer or living with the fear of it. Way better.

Sending love to all readers – those I know and those I don’t. If you are considering this surgery I send you special love. If you know someone about to go through it, or who has been through it, thank you for taking the time to learn about it. I hope it helps inform your decisions and expectations.

Moving on up!

IMG_8900This year I am doing something really special for myself. I’m spending lots of time in beautiful Noosa in Queensland, on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. I’ve always loved it, and we’ve holidayed there quite often over the years. And of course, we spent so much time in Noosa with my sister Martha (who had lived there for ten years) in the months before she passed away. Since then, I have discovered and grown to love Sunshine Beach up there. It’s where we scattered Martha’s ashes because it is the beach that she really loved. I scattered part of Lou’s ashes there too. It comforts me to think of my two sisters being together. I’ve found that a walk on that beautiful beach, at the beginning or end of the day is really peaceful and uplifting to me.

When I was up in Sunshine Beach this past December, as I have been on each of Martha’s anniversaries, I saw that the townhouse/apartment behind the place I usually stay in was up for permanent rental. In the split second that I saw the “to let” sign, something in me said to myself “I am going to live and paint there!” I’d had no thought of anything like that before, and it took a while to make sense for me. I just knew I needed to be there and spend some quiet time on my own. I’ve listened to my heart, trusted my vibe, done what my wise self was telling me: use this time to explore my creative self in peaceful solitude and a beautiful place that I love. Continue reading

Mighty Martha – 3 years on

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Martha on Rainbow Beach ~ 2000 (pre breast cancer)

Today it is three years since Martha passed away, over there to heaven, out of her tired and painful body. I do remember that day with sadness, but as the years have gone on, it has become a day to celebrate too. I know now that Martha lives on in a new realm with Lou. They’ve run their life races here, and now I feel like it is time for me to pick up where they left off, make the most of my life, and celebrate the creative spirit that has awakened in me since Martha passed away.

December 7 will always be important – time to reflect on Martha’s life, and celebrate the person that she was to me. I don’t think either of us ever really knew or understood the connection that we shared. I loved her, supported her and honored her while she was alive, but now I can see more clearly her most special attributes: brave, independent, expressive, creative, kind, vulnerable – a truly beautiful soul. Those of you that knew her well would agree I am sure! She wasn’t perfect, none of us are. But the thing that I love and admire most about her now is that she was true to herself all along.

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Eleven months on – lessons learned

photo[9]For those of you wondering, here’s how I’m faring 11 months after the first surgery, and six weeks after the second….

Mainly, I am just so relieved to have the surgeries behind me now, and, best of all, no more ahead of me. I am so grateful that, while this whole experience has not been a pleasant one, at least I’m not unwell, or suffering a progressive, debilitating illness. I am done with surgery! The last of my bandages were removed this week, so that was a great milestone to pass. My breast shape looks really good (thank you James!) although, of course, they are still totally numb to me. But they look good, so that’s a plus! It really is a miracle of modern science and James’ talents to think that I have had every one of my original breast cells removed, and now have my abdominal tissue transplanted to look pretty much like the real deal! I have scars circling each nipple (or where my right nipple used to be anyway) and vertical ones from nipple to under bust, as well as along the base of both breasts. They are fairly clean, fine lines and I know they will fade. All good there. Continue reading

Honouring Lou

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Today marks a sad milestone for my family. Twelve months ago today my sister Lou made the decision to end her life. Lou was such a gentle soul and it shocked us all deeply to hear of the tragedy that day.

Lou was an intelligent, graceful, sensitive woman, qualified as an architect, financial planner and teacher. She was also a great traveller, a photographer and a prolific writer. But most of all, she was a precious soul – kind, gentle and thoughtful. I really do not think for a moment she meant to bring any harm or distress to anyone, and would be deeply sad to know of the grief so many have endured in the aftermath.

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My creative life – past, present and future!

IMG_3711I mentioned at the end of my last post that I would be writing about “my creative life”. So I thought I would fill you in on the story of my (very short!) creative life to date. Some of you might think I have always been a painter, so the following may surprise you …

This photo shows me at kindergarten, aged about 4, painting a glorious creation! In all honesty, up until recent times, that was the last time I can recall immersing myself in painting or drawing or any kind of artistic endeavor. Yes, I have expressed my creative self in some ways through my business experience, whether through dreaming up a marketing campaign for a brand (I held various marketing/ management roles in a number of big companies in my career) or a new store concept for my own fashion business. But I never really knew I had any kind of artistic talent, at all. Somewhere along the way I must have shut it down, considering it “babyish” or frivolous, and that I really wasn’t any good at it. Along with many other children growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, we were actively encouraged to choose our careers in vocations that would “make money”, and art was certainly not considered to be one of those!

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A party in the sky – Lou at 50

Lou on the day of Bec's wedding 2000

Lou on the day of Bec’s wedding 2000

Today our dear Lou turns fifty and I’m quite sure she is having a party in the sky with Martha to celebrate. We will all be remembering Lou and the accomplished person that she was in so many ways – an architect, a world traveller, a teacher, a writer, a poet, a kind heart. Lou had different connections with so many people and I’m sure she would be humbled to know how dearly loved and well remembered she is.

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A tender heart – remembering Lou

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Lou with me at my wedding –  a good sister & friend

Today is the six month anniversary of the day that Lou left us, so it’s one of quiet reflection for me, my family and her dear friends, remembering Lou and the special person that she was to each of us.

I was thinking about Lou last night, and our final long conversation together. I remembered how I was telling her how devastated I’d felt after Martha left, for such a very long time. So many days and nights of tears for my loss. So I said to Lou, “I was such a sook”. And Lou said gently, “Oh no! Not a sook. Don’t call yourself that. You were sad. There’s got to be a better word than ‘sook’. Use a different word. You are not a sook, you are …. tender”.

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Heaven on earth

Paradise Rocks, Sunshine Beach, Qld

Paradise Rocks, Sunshine Beach, Qld

I have returned from my lovely week in Noosa. Such a special time, being in so many of Martha’s favorite places, with some of her favorite people too. I had a lovely dawn walk with her ex boyfriend Tom, along the very beautiful Sunshine Beach as well as dinner and a morning beach walk with her dear friend Doris too.

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Silver linings … and more girl talk

"Soar high" by my sister, Paula

“Soar high” by my sister, Paula

I received a lovely email yesterday from an old friend, in which he said:  “I’m sure you’ll look back in a few years and reflect on this time as one of enormous growth and a period which has given you such a different and important way of thinking. I guess that’s often the beauty of challenging times and this silver lining comes to us all a bit later on. Life is an interesting old journey isn’t it?”

Well, it sure is! I think I have learned more in the last two years about how life works than I have in the previous fifty! And yes, one of my learnings is that in hard times there is always a reason for them, and a lesson (or two or three or more!) to be learned.

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