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Finding Happiness In The New Normal

kmakmkmakm MelbourneMember Posts: 7,974
edited August 2018 in Day to day
I'm in the process of rebuilding my life after BC. My internal and external life. The oncologist says the physical recovery from chemo will take about a year. I'm at the three month mark from the bilateral mastectomy and DIEP reconstruction and feel more or less physically recovered though my belly is still quite tight.

I've completed an oncology exercise physiology course which was brilliant. Run by Eastern Health in Melbourne, it was an hour of exercise, specifically tailored for me by an exercise physiologist after an assessment. Each exercise session was followed by an hour of education. That was wide and varied, including Tai Chi, sleep advice, an hour with a hospital pharmacist to ask about your meds, a session on fatigue, Feldenkrais and art therapy. Two sessions a week for seven weeks. The price for ALL of this was $10. Our public health system is incredible.

So I feel like I've made a good start in regaining my strength, and I'm looking forward to gaining back more when I begin the ExMed programme in September. And walking more as the weather becomes more conducive!

Setting aside the ongoing issue of adjusting to the side effects of a decade on an AI, that's the physical, but what about the mental? The hard bit. It sure is a rollercoaster. And very much a work in progress. Up and down, mood swings, anxiety, hopelessness, sudden joy in the lttle things, pointlessness, fear of recurrence, life with sensationless foobs, frustration, etc etc etc.

When I was having chemo I kept a list on my phone of things I'd like to do when I was 'better'. The oft repeated advice to be kind to yourself, and put yourself first more often, rings in my ears. I'm taking it to heart and bit by bit I'm constructing a new normal (not overly fond of that phrase) which contains more for me, and less servitude to the family. Because you know, you could get run over by a bus tomorrow. Or get cancer...

So now I hang the expense and buy fresh flowers each week. They make me happy when I look at them. I'm extending my kitchen skills. I don't want to die without knowing how to make good pastry and a cumquat marmalade. I'm doing a preserves & fermentation class later this year! I'm giving back by saying yes to every advocacy opportunity I'm offered.

The biggest one in a way is the institution of a monthly day trip. I love to travel. It feeds my soul and makes me happier than anything. Travel doesn't have to be overseas or far away, it just has to be somewhere new.

My husband works 50 - 60 hours a week outside the home, often interstate. Come the weekend all he wants is to be at home. Currently I work the same hours in the home. And come the weekend I want to be anywhere else BUT at home! For 19 years I've put his needs above mine on this front but no more. Once a month I'm leaving the house, the laundry, the tidying, the cooking, the cleaning, the music practice, the homework, the catering all behind and heading off to explore my home state. Up to roughly a two hour driving radius, a trip with the aim of exploring, being diverted, a good walk, a rummage in an op shop, a local sight or anything else that might take my fancy.

This took a bit of persuading for my beloved to take on board. But he got there and we've had two fantastic day trips so far. The second was today. We went to Wonthaggi and Cape Paterson, two places I'd never been before.

Sometimes I'll go on my own, sometimes with my husband and sometimes I'll use the opportunity to have some one on one time with the kids. Useful when you've got four of them I think. Today we took my 12yo nephew, wrenching him from his beloved computer. Initially reluctant and resentful he had a lovely day. We also took the big dog who adored our exploration of the kangaroo filled wetlands between the desalination plant and the wind farm, not to mention the tennis ball throwing on the beach. We came home with some Bitossi from a fantastic vintage market, a delicious bottle of local pinot gris, award winning lamb and mint sausages and a new red leather collar for the dog!

I've done over 15,000 steps, had a delicious cup of coffee, ate fish and chips, learned some stuff I didn't know and seen a whole new part of the world.

Which is all a very long winded way of saying what are you doing, or planning to do, to find some happiness in your new normal?

Spotted today on the back of the door to the ladies loo in the Cape Paterson Tavern:

Happy dog at the beach:


  • kmakmkmakm MelbourneMember Posts: 7,974
    Beautiful words @AllyJay. I find the same solace in the creations of my grandmothers. One a knitter, the other a sewer, both long gone but still very vivid in my mind. Another very important person in my life was an artist. I have one of his paintings and he made me a jewellery box for my 21st. He died 16 years ago but is still very present for me through these items. K xox
  • SisterSister Adelaide Hills, SAMember Posts: 4,960
    Sounds wonderful @kmakm and @allyjay

    I really love your idea of taking a trip and exploring @kmakm.  I suspect that I won't be able to persuade my husband easily, but I'm sure I could get the kids on board.  I'm so sick of spending my time in waiting rooms or at home, and always with the thoughts - I need to get out and be distracted from the everyday.

    @allyjay I have some baby clothes my Mum knitted and a friend gave me back some of them a few years ago that Mum had knitted for her when her kids were born.  They are very precious to me.  Mum always had a stack of basic 8-ply cardis in her wardrobe that she'd knitted and my sister and I would often borrow one to keep warm when we were ill.  I wish I had kept one of those.  Funnily enough, I did keep two dresses of Mum's - one was her very stylish Melbourne designer after-5 wedding dress and the other was a navy 1950s dress that she always wore to go to town, etc.  I got them out to show my girls yesterday and it looks as if the younger won has claimed the town dress for her Year 7 graduation at the end of the year (just have to find her a petticoat to go with it!).  Mum would be pleased but she'd also be rolling on the floor, laughing.  God! I miss her so much even after 18 years.  The only good thing is that I never had to tell her about my diagnosis.
  • kmakmkmakm MelbourneMember Posts: 7,974
    @Sister Love how the fashion wheel goes round.
  • kmakmkmakm MelbourneMember Posts: 7,974
    @Sister But do you have any thoughts on things you'd like to do to reclaim yourself after radiation therapy is done?
  • SisterSister Adelaide Hills, SAMember Posts: 4,960
    Still in limbo a bit about that as it seems to distant and I don't know if I'm going to be back at work immediately and the rat-race starts again.  I love your idea about heading out to distant places for the day - I find I'm not much of a socialiser at the moment (which is so not me).  I know what I don't want and that is to be spending my down time stuck in a house in the hills.  When I got my diagnosis last year, I was planning Christmas holiday trips - either driving over to Perth (which was probably not going to happen) or a couple of smaller camping trips.  My husband hates camping (hates leaving the house, actually) but I told the kids that we would do a couple anyway - of course it didn't happen as I was having surgery instead.  So, when the weather improves and the holidays arrive that's definitely on the agenda.
  • arpiearpie Mid North Coast, NSWMember Posts: 6,359
    Well done, @kmakm  -  I started doing my 'own thing' about 10+ years ago
    after I'd finished 'natural' menopause! (I now call it being 'assertive' - he might say it was 'menopausal grumpy'!)  

    Hubby has always been a 'stay at home' (unless it was a triathlon somewhere .... then it became our 'holiday' in our campervan, to attend a triathlon competition!  The only bonus was that it is usually on the coast & I am able to have a fish as well!) However, I got a bit sick of that after a while .... so started meeting up with fellow kayak fishos (& now uke players as well) for weekends away at either fishing events or uke festivals!  

    Prior to that I was like a puppy, following hubby around all his sporting events.

    It is really just about reclaiming yourself 'Post BC' & finding what you are now happy to do & are able to do.  It may not include things that you used to be able to do. 

    It could be something as simple as starting a 'new routine' - i.e. going to the library for one morning a week, to catch up on the latest magazines (instead of buying them!)  Some libraries have coffee shops attached these days .... 

    It's a bugger, isn't it @Sister - it is amazing how this shitty disease continues to turn our lives (and our brains) upside down .....   After your treatment has finished .... are you able to negotiate a period of Long Service Leave (or Time off in Lieu of Payment) so that you DO have a period of time to recover not only physically but more so, mentally.  Going straight back to work may be quite stressful and not be beneficial to you in the long term ...... but - if you feel you will be up to it ... Go Girl!

    Doing 'new things' during this 'quiet' period would be a pathway to finding a new interests for you to move forward with .... whilst maintaining any of your current interests as well, of course.

    Just give something 'new' a go - you never know - you may just love it!!  ;) 

  • SisterSister Adelaide Hills, SAMember Posts: 4,960
    Nah, I'll have to go back as soon as the onc says so but if it's straight after rads I will try to negotiate a part-time return for the rest of the term.
  • ArtferretArtferret MelbourneMember Posts: 259
    Sounds amazing @kmakm! All we wanted to do was to escape to our home in Tawonga South, (which we do every month) sit on the deck and look across to Mt Bogong, which looks pretty spectacular any time of year but more so at the moment covered in snow (along with every other hill around it). I'm coming up to one year this week since first surgery and i know I've come a long way from the scared person of this time last year. Mammo is not until October due to timing of the trial I'm part of. Hubby is doing well with 3rd PSA test at zero and working like the possessed since this is tax time...mind you that's normal for the best part of the year...so it's up to me to make sure he has relax time. We've both done a fair bit of travel here and overseas but right now I'm just happy heading to our home in TS. Maybe next year we'll start planning our next trip overseas, thinking of doing a cycling trip round Holland, hubby can speak Dutch, followed by a walking, cycling round parts of the UK. Enjoy ExMed, i found it amazing and it was the one thing that got me back on track mentally. If you're going to Coburg you'll get the lovely Phoebe. I think she also does it at another location as well. Don't know where you live but the Yarra Valley is good for day trips, so many wineries that also have cafes attached, the chocolaterie just outside Yarra Glen (always busy) and pretty countryside. I grew up in that area. Even exploring all the quirky laneways of Melbourne, I love walking through them when I'm in the city. Enjoy and take care, Cathxx
  • kmakmkmakm MelbourneMember Posts: 7,974
    @Artferret Thank you for saying that about ExMed Cath. I'm going to Hawthorn. I'll let you know if have Phoebe!

    I'm in the outer-east and spend a fair bit of time in the Yarra Valley. Such pretty country. So many wineries... And I adore wandering the laneways of the City as well! Maybe I'll run into you one day  ;)

    Your trips for next year sound lovely! And that's good news about the PSA. I'm looking forward to putting all these first anniversaries behind me. Hope you're good this week. Kate xox
  • Spiv1803Spiv1803 Member Posts: 126
    @kmakm do you live in the East of Melbourne? I live in Perth but will be in the Lilydale area on Friday. Anywhere near there??
  • tigerbethtigerbeth MelbourneMember Posts: 537
    @ spiv1803 both kmakm & I both live not far from Lilydale ! 
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