I may have incurable breast cancer that has taken residence inside me and relentlessly persists to take over my body and ultimately my life, forcing me into combat with ongoing treatments to buy time and maintain quality of life; but it cannot take the essence of who I am. It does not define me and it will never take my spirit, my heart nor my soul and it doesn't stand a chance at diminishing my determination to challenge it every day with bucket loads of inspiration in my life to do so combined with an abundance of gratitude for so many blessings. Without a cure I realistically know that my type of cancer is almost certainly going to deny me of growing old but I have come to realise that some people are old at 18 and some young at 90. Time is a concept that humans created. The only time that really counts is right here....right now and when love prevails life is wonderful and everything is absolutely okay exactly as it is. #Loveyourmother #loveeachother!
I was born in January 1966. I am currently 53 years of age and in-spite of living with cancer I feel like I am truly "Living the Dream" and eternally blessed with a strong and happy heart. I spent 24 years with my ex-husband. I have been divorced for over a decade. I am a mum and my greatest achievement in life is my son Jake. He is my everything and my strongest inspiration. He was born in 1995 which currently makes him 24 years of age. I am the eldest of 3 girls and have a fabulous bond with my two sisters. I have a half brother. My mother and father both enjoy good health and still live in the home I grew up in. I am a proud Aunt and Godmother. I had the privilege of meeting my four grandparents (all now deceased) who helped shape me. I embarked on my working life the moment I completed HSC. My career has been very diversified and family and financial hardships have exposed me to many work experiences, life lessons and opportunities whereby I have, as part of the course, acquired insight, understanding and skills that I am immensely grateful for. I have enjoyed setting up and growing my own businesses with the most recent being Crofts Keogh Pty Ltd which I co-owned with my friend (of 40 years) Sharon Crofts. With a heavy heart, after ten wonderful years, I retired completely from Crofts Keogh in late 2019 to make my health a priority given the progression of my disease. Laughter is my greatest weapon. From a young age I decided I would never drink alcohol nor coffee and was never enticed to smoke or explore other toxic vices which have ironically worked in my favour to combat cancer. I have always held a strong faith in God and a higher purpose. I have made many mistakes but strive to learn from them and often need to repeat the life lessons. I am high on life, fresh air and love. I trust the Universe immensely. I have wonderful friends from all walks of life and appreciate the connections I share with them and our differences. My cousins share my blood. I have lost people dear to me but know I will be joined with them when it's my time. I believe in the Divine Plan. My greatest evolvement has been induced by cancer. I am very comfortable in my own skin and on my own although I am still open to partnering with that elusive special someone - if that is meant to be and if I am granted the time on earth to do so. I know many would describe me as a zany personality and I can't deny that. I have a dog. He gives me joy I never imagined possible. I have always had pet dogs and still cannot fathom the unconditional love and loyalty they impart. What wonderful attributes they innately possess. I love to walk and to dance - particularly zumba. Music is my salvation and incredibly powerful in my life. I have been managing depression (with treatment) most of my adult life and I can be honest about that. I derive some of my greatest pleasures out of the simplest things. I am a strong ambassador for making even the smallest difference to enact change or enhance the life or well-being of another. I feel blessed to have been born in the "land of plenty" Australia in good health mentally (some may question that...ha ha) and physically. That's a very awesome start to be given in life! I believe in the power of community and the language of love. The very fabric of me is made up of the last 53 plus years and I am thankful for every trial and tribulation, the adversity and the prosperity and even cancer - all of it....brings me "here" and right here is seriously GOOD! Every day is to be celebrated and if I had one wish - it would be world peace & equality!
My heritage is Irish and when I was diagnosed with cancer I was faced with a reality that, if my body wasn't responsive to treatments to slow down my cancer, my time could be very limited (initially I was faced with months) hence I immediately planned a trip, with my son, which encompassed travel to Ireland. Therein I felt an incredible affinity with the nucleus of the South of Ireland and in particular Tralee the largest town and capital of County Kerry in the south-west of Ireland. Tralee boasted a tranquility that overcame me immediately along with a very obvious thriving community making the best of its history, culture and landscape to feed its economy. I just loved the town's architecture with a well preserved mix of Victorian and Georgian buildings lining the main street in town. I found that the vast majority of people working in the shops, restaurants, bars and tourist sites were all locals which provided for a very authentic Emerald Isle experience for me. Tralee is just so unique being a rural location right by the sea that preserves its past culture and history like no other. It's beauty was breath-taking with dramatic landscapes and seascapes just minutes from town. We only had to drive five minutes out of town before we were surrounded by rolling farmland and undulating fields of green and open sea views. Everything felt so "down-to-earth" and it was so notably welcoming, charming and idyllic of the Irish countryside and the town had an exceptionally warm buzz. Interestingly Tralee is largely bypassed by tourists, apart from the week of its international "Rose of Tralee" festival in late August so I found it to be an incredible hidden treasure that was more engaged with the business of every day life vs a tourist trade and loved that it is only a two-hour drive from Cork where my ancestry was born. Whilst I was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia - Tralee just felt like home to me and I found myself fantasising about living there one day or at least going back or having some of my ashes scattered there when I take flight from this life on earth. The word "Tralee" ironically encompasses both my first and middle names thus Tralee has become an endearing denomination I have fondly identified with and feel innately connected to hence the branding to our website. Just off the Town Park, in Tralee, is St John's Church and therein I attended (with my papa) a very moving and emotional service and had the opportunity to give thanks to God and pray to him. Every prayer I prayed that day in Tralee, Ireland has been answered. That was in November 2014.
I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in June 2014 which had unfortunately metastasised to my liver. This came as a dreadful shock given I was in optimum health and at the top of my game personally and professionally. In fact I struggled to believe it and felt rather certain the diagnosis was a mistake. Only 24 hours before I was on my daily power walk, which always included an off-leash run for my dog at our local park where I could never resist singing out loud (headphones snuggly-fit to my ears), my arms stretched out wide pointing towards the sky giving thanks for my life and every aspect of it! This almost became a daily ritual for me where I would find myself so energised with gratitude and happiness that I was bursting at the seams and yelling thanks to the Divine Power above and to the Universe as I looked to the sky be it filled with sunshine or rain. A red-herring was responsible for my cancer discovery and may well have saved my life from ending very rapidly as I was very ignorant to the fact that breast cancer was well and truly on the move, within my body, let alone having spread to my liver with 18 active tumors thereon.
Initially my diagnosis only revealed secondary cancer to my liver hence an immediate roller-coaster ride ensued to find the primary cancer so an action plan could be put in place to stop it taking my life - which would have been the case (had it gone undetected) within months or even weeks. The following days included test after test until a liver biopsy divulged that breast cancer was the culprit. My oncologist and medical team were perplexed as to how my liver was holding up and still exceptionally healthy given the extent of the tumors. I couldn't help but wonder if the ironic fact that I had never consumed alcohol, coffee, soft drinks nor smoked and generally adhered to a clean diet (with the exception of chocolate) all my life had something to do with it! Upon those thoughts I then had an answer to a question I have been asked surmountable times by enquiring, and very often bewildered peers and people, as to why I chose not to consume or indulge in alcohol or coffee and never deviated from those lifestyle choices. Fact is most never believed I was sober anyway given my energy, enthusiasm and ability to outlast them on a late night/early morning dancing stint, laughing and reveling in life and whatever the moment presented. My answer to that question, I now know, would have been "I need to preserve my liver and health to fight cancer as it will challenge me one day to come"
Upon my diagnosis, I was told the reality of my prognosis and made aware of the facts and statistics which are bleak and confronting. Currently, only 8% of women diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, that has spread to other parts of the body (be it liver, lungs, brain, bones) have a 5 year survival rate relying on the success of treatments to slow it down. It was made very clear to me that my cancer was incurable (that I would never be in remission) and that the approach/focus of treatments was to be one that could only slow down my cancer and "buy time" whilst maintaining the best quality of life as with every treatment there are various (and nasty) side effects which are the trade-off. It was made clear that my cancer could not be exterminated (unless a cure presented) and that it would always be on a mission to "get" me and "outsmart" my treatments and eventually always will. It became a MIND GAME and a race against the clock. All of a sudden - it was my life before cancer and now my life with cancer. Those days and weeks, immediately post my diagnosis, are somewhat a blur as it was full speed ahead with back to back tests, scans, procedures and an operation and treatments to get the cancer under control. As a matter of sensibility my oncologist also advised I get my financial affairs in order including my Will and all those things important and relevant with specific consideration for my son who was my absolute priority and dependent on me. All of the above was nothing I had ever contemplated would be on my life "deck of cards" and at the age of 48. I had never been overly concerned about preparing a Will and just assumed I would grow old. I now know there are no guarantees. Cancer is non-discriminate and our only certainty in life is actually right here...right now and that we cannot take anything for granted and growing old is actually a privilege for some.
My oncologist is world class and at the forefront of clinical trials and medical research. He has become my "knight in shining armour" and my trust and faith in him is second to none. It is KEY to have the best medical care and utmost confidence in your medical specialists and health practitioners. Most would have blasted me with radical chemotherapy immediately instead my oncologist gave me enormous credit for being so healthy and well and believed in my mind-set and took a less conservative approach and 'whipped' (the adjective he used) out my ovaries (my cancer is HER2 negative / estrogen positive) and induced menopause (a very small price to pay in the scheme of things) and put me on an anti-hormone treatment with blood tests every two weeks for many many months to follow to monitor responsiveness.
He kindly agreed to give me a "leave pass" (as long as I did so immediately I had recovered from my operation and respected my physical vulnerability vigilantly) and let me embark on an around-the-world, once-in-a-life time adventure with my son. Mindful that my cancer may not have responded positively to treatments, my oncologist was encouraging me to execute my bucket list items as a matter of urgency and my objective for this trip was to share something special with my son and facilitate experiences and memories that would hopefully be of enormous benefit to him in the future with the reality he may lose his mum earlier rather than later. A 6 week overseas trip ensued and was to be the second most momentous experience of my life. The first being my son's birth. Ireland, as described above, was to be our second destination as part of that global adventure. Cancer, with its drudgery, has actually been a gift to me, for many reasons which I will explain in more detail later, but one of which was to share exclusive, precious and uninterrupted time with my then 19yo son (I was 48yo) sharing moments together experiencing corners of the globe, different cultures, visiting historical sites and landmarks, exploring hidden secrets and just being together as mother and son coming to terms with what life had presented us exercising gratitude as we embraced cancer as just another life challenge whereby we would execute a practical plan, optimism, hope and faith and trust in what is meant to be and whatever that may be - everything IS and WILL be okay.
Reality is we all have to face death at some time and I can honestly say I was not / am not afraid of crossing to the other side and hand on heart feel incredibly blessed and have already lived such a full, fulfilling, meaningful and rewarding life BUT my greatest fear was/is leaving my boy and imposing grief upon him. That said....we all have to face and manage grief at stages through our lives and we grow up assuming we will grow old but one thing I have learned is that growing old is a gift and not a guarantee and that the grief card may come unexpectedly and we just have to play the hand we are given. All these challenges shape us and if we look hard enough all challenges have both pros and cons. My salvation is knowing that my boy is a young man with the world at his feet and the capability to forge ahead with his life no matter what the future holds. I know he has absolutely everything he needs, within, to create and live a wonderful and full life with me by his side or living in his heart.
My/our journey with cancer, and living from test to test (holding our breathe for confirmation that my cancer is still under control) the turbulence and panic when treatments stop working and the tumor markers start rising, the uncertainty if the next treatment will be successful and what the timeline is likely to be combined with seeing his mum's life challenged from day to day has provided him with life experiences, emotional growth, strength and resourcefulness that has shaped him and contributed to the amazing human being he is. I have enormous faith in his logical mind, balanced approach, commitment and diligence to strive for good outcomes and his many quality attributes and that gives me immense comfort. I know he will go far and that he will be my greatest legacy.
All that said, he is my greatest inspiration to defy the odds and keep this cancer under control to get as much life mileage as possible filled with laughter, gratitude and love. Thus far.....we have outsmarted my cancer for 5 years and whilst my oncologist will hail what a massive achievement that is unto itself- I just know in my heart I have several more years in me yet and then some. "Believe in the unbelievable"
I was incredibly fortunate to get 3 years of time out of my anti-hormone treatment and manage the side effects relatively well and continued to live and love life enjoying every single moment and deriving enormous pleasure out of the most basic things. My priorities changed significantly (they had to - I had no choice) and I learned to feel comfortable with being selfish and making my health a priority as I was being told and reminded (by my medical team) that not doing so is the very reason I have cancer and that saying "No" is no longer an option but paramount for me. Very soon I realised another gift that cancer bestowed me was being forced to make radical changes in my life for my survival that ironically would bring me more happiness and peace than I had known before or realised possible. Cancer has empowered me in so many ways. I learned to balance my life and pace myself. I accepted that I had to make compromises and I have allowed myself to be my true self and do what makes me happiest even if that means letting someone down to do something as simple as make my son a hearty meal because that gives me the greatest pleasure or forfeit social commitments for others because I want to be well and strong enough to enjoy his footy game on the weekend ahead. I have come to the resolve that cancer has created limitations in my life but I also believe they serve me very well. If one has a clear conscience and is transparent and true to themselves - one is free and at one with oneself! I have always been very aware and present in life having an innate interest and love for all mankind and aspiring to make even the smallest difference because I feel blessed to have a happy heart and upbeat spirit and want others to feel what that feels like. I also "feel" deeply and grateful for that. However with cancer on board and perhaps combined with age - my heart and mind has become more open - and I have had so many remarkable revelations and experiences and in spite of cancer fatigue, gruelling persistent side effects, lurking depression, I categorically know I have every reason to turn that "happy switch"on every day and count my blessings and embrace this wonderful journey we call life.
In October 2017 my cancer found its way around the anti-hormone treatment (although it did take the sucker 3 years) and my tumor markers were on the rise again and moving quite fast with one of the larger tumors on my liver proving to be very resilient and active. I was hopeful of a liver dissection to eradicate the troublesome tumour (as the other tumors were somewhat sleepy in comparison - albeit no guarantees as to when they may wake up) however the liver operation was deemed not viable and way too dangerous with new tumours discovered totalling 21 throughout my liver and not favouring any particular lobe in particular spreading itself all over the place. And for the first time the cancer was starting to impact my liver with results showing it getting angry and my immune system was struggling so we had to up the anti before the cancer got too far out of control. I was also starting to feel quite unwell and for a few months leading up to this struggled to find my 'mojo' and had fallen into a bit of a slump. Unfortunately radiation was also off the table because of how widespread the tumours are however my oncologist, focused on giving me the best quality of life and prescribed me with oral chemotherapy vs intravenous so as I could administer in the comfort of my own home. Grateful this is now an option with progressive advancement over the past few years. SUCCESS struck again! My tumor markers slowly but surely went down.
The transition to the oral chemotherapy was a massive adjustment particularly knowing it was an ongoing scenario until it didn't work anymore and learning to manage the side-effects from day to day, the worst being 'hand and foot syndrome' where the soles of my feet were literally burnt, bleeding and ulcerated with skin peeling in layers. My hands were burnt too but much more manageable. Whether chemotherapy is oral or intravenous (and there are so many different types of chemotherapy) the side effects are nasty and need to be managed. I was doing that relatively well and we kept tweaking chemotherapy doses to minimise the impact the side effects had on my day to day life and on my ability to undertake normal daily chores and activities. I was put on week on/week off chemo cycles of a chemotherapy called xeloda. My greatest challenge is cancer and chemo fatigue which will be ongoing for the rest of my life but I have found some wonderful strategies to combat / minimise them with my greatest weapon the POWER of the MIND and POSITIVITY; exercise at any cost (even if you have to wrap up burning and ulcerated feet); clean healthy food even if nausea persists and you feel like stodgy food; sleep and more sleep even if you have to forfeit some things and most important is an Attitude of Gratitude and turning on that HAPPY switch every morning and celebrating life and spreading love - it is the best medicine for the soul and cancer hates a loving heart! The more cancer tries to wear me down the more lashings of love I lay on it and every time I seem to get the better of it.
Sometimes (a LOT of the time) I feel like I will never be able to do my power walks again; I feel like zumba could be a thing of the past; I feel certain I could spend more time asleep than awake; I wonder if I will ever have the energy to take my dog to the park again; I feel like I will always need to have a loaf of bread on my bedside table to help ease the nausea; sometimes I start to resent everything I eat because I know it can translate to cramps and the runs but can't stop eating because it is the only thing that takes away the nausea albeit only temporarily and nothing quite tastes the same with the metalllic taste that chemo leaves with you. I find myself panicking constantly about my low immunity and being susceptible to everything. Aching joints and nerve pain can become unbearable at times. I get overwhelmed keeping up with those that love me. I contemplate moving my bedroom downstairs because of exhaustion just getting up the stairs; I get into the doldrums and become disheartened because even coming close to getting through my daily "to do" lists of basic things, and adamant I have to do them all myself and hell-bent on having everything completely up to date and in perfect order (in case my world ended the next day), is a massive feat and only leaves me disappointed using that as a measuring stick for myself. Eye problems and vision impairment (due to chemo side effects) stop me from creative projects and make some of the most simplest day to day things extremely difficult. I find myself crying when I want to laugh. It is easy to succumb to it all, as the alternative to fight takes enormous emotional, mental and physical energy but I force myself to find triggers and the good sense to harden the f*ck up, to stop feeling sorry for myself and to stop being pathetically ungrateful and take back the power and make the most of my scenario and remind myself to lay that love and positivism on and push the boundaries that cancer tries to dictate! And walk away from negative forces and surround myself with positivity including the right people that will serve me and my life well mindful that I am on borrowed time and need to be super sensible if I wish to continue with life in this earthly dimension.
With the right formula and depending on the day I can enjoy puppy trips to the park, hit the dance floor at a zumba class, go to pilates, get through my days laughing and drinking green juices ( freshly blended myself), keep up to date with most things that are important to me by writing smaller "to do" lists and not sweating the small stuff, eating clean food and benefiting immensely from a balanced and healthy diet, meditating and sleeping well and making sure I get plenty of it and if that isn't today - that's okay too! It is what it is AND everything IS okay right NOW. I accept now (vs getting frustrated and upset) that my body struggles to keep up with my mind and whilst I am always thinking about and feeling excited about the next project I would like to do - it is OK if it remains an idea/fantasy and/or a plan vs a reality. I can commit to fun events and experiences and be comfortable if I can't participate at the last minute but living to the fullest when I can, laughing more than crying, singing out loud and giving thanks as I look to the sky, nurturing all the things that are important to me, inspired and empowered by family and friendships and incredible human spirit and spreading as much love as I can - it is FREE and it is POWERFUL AND MAGICAL!
The oral chemo treatment bought me 11 months of life with pretty good quality of living and supported me through lots I feel proud to have achieved. During that time I felt prompted by an intense need to give back given my gratitude for life....I organised and hosted a black tie charity ball in October 2018 and was thrilled to have just over 450 guests attend to support me to raise funds for those brilliant minds to continue their invaluable research into a cure for cancer. This event was a wonderful success culminating a fun night in a room filled with love with proceeds raised at $65,000 which were donated for Professor Geoff Lindeman who presented to guests at the ball and explained to us all where these funds go and the very real and notable contribution they make to his dedicated research and advancement in treatments to provide longer lives for those with incurable cancer and creating better quality of life for as long as possible. I was very humbled by so many who supported me to bring this event to fruition including celebrities who kindly donated their time and energy to speak and entertain. It was a night to remember for so many reasons!
Further to my charity event above I committed to and completed the Peter MacCallum "Unite to Fight" Cancer 21km walk, in October 2018, with my son (my life) and a wonderful team of family and friends who joined me and collectively raised an additional $75,000 for Peter Mac in its research towards a cure for cancer. Thank you to those who have so kindly and generously donated to my campaigns to date and who physically walked with me - it was a very humbling and moving experience to say the least.
Thankful for valuable research, trials and medical advancement in November 2018 I commenced on a ground-breaking combo-treatment that became available when my tumour markers started to take off again, with some speed to be wary of and my liver started to get angry as my tumours became active and hell-bent on gaining some momentum. The relatively new treatment is palbociclib (3 week on and 1 week off cycle) plus faslodex intramuscular injections monthly. Slowly but surely, albeit with new side effects to manage, it is working and slowing down my cancer progression again! Research indicates that this new combo-treatment is proving successful at "buying up to two and a half to three years of time" for a specific stage IV breast cancer with metastases that happens to be mine! Good fortune, I feel, strikes me again!! It is now July 2019 and this combo treatment has taken me into 8 months with the biggest impact, aside from fatigue that cannot be explained (sometimes debilitating), low neutrophils and compromised immunity which has seen me in hospital a few times, over the past few months, trying to combat simple viruses which can impact the effectiveness of the treatment too. With tests continuing monthly to monitor my cancer, I have not had good news the last two cycles disclosing tumor markers on the rise. In fact they have risen so much that the good work achieved by this treatment has now been negated however we persist for another cycle with fingers and toes crossed. I am currently referred to as a "third line treatment" patient with limited options on the current horizon. Currently the only option hereafter would be weekly IV chemo (the heavy-duty stuff) and will significantly reduce the quality of life as I know it today and would be ongoing given disease not curable. I always knew this would come eventually and don't want to sound ungrateful but I don't feel I am ready yet and selfishly don't want to forfeit more quality of life. SO....I want to prolong that for as long as I can and keep telling myself I get to choose how I let cancer affect me and that it is up to me and that I need to find the formula to turn this current treatment around so it can work for me!! I am not ready to leave my Jake. I have often been told that life with cancer also brings about changes, revelations, disappointments, in things and in people, that one may not have imagined possible and one has to do their best to take in stride. That has happened to me. Life is a changing model and nothing stays the same forever and that is okay. I know it is cliche but it is true; A season....a reason. I have no regrets and treasure good memories with thankfulness for it all. I am on track again, with a strong oncology team, strict medical instructions and some new found inspiration including powerful understanding and support from those that have taken me by complete surprise, those that are committed and have demonstrated selflessness and understanding that I have never experienced nor seen in my life before. My arms are open wide to this profound kind of new love and nurturing from others that I am experiencing and I have no doubt will help me pave some more healthy months (maybe years) on this place we call Earth. It is not just about the drugs and treatments, so much can be said for so many external factors that impact cancer and having the right team of people around you is monumental to your collective treatment and how you may fare. This is something my oncology team take enormous interest in too.
Approximately one year into my cancer journey, a long time friend called me and completely crunched me for letting them down explaining how upset they felt about my behaviour (that was new to them) and how disappointed they were feeling and expressed emotions that rocked me and made me cry. We both cried. We had a moment of truth. And whilst I didn't realise it at that particular time, I realise now that it was a catalyst moment for me, and a GIFT, and a benchmark in defining healthy relationships - which are integral when living with incurable cancer. Cancer has inevitably changed me, my capacity, my passions and my life. My oncologist constantly reiterates that it is proven that stress is directly related to causing breast cancer and feeding it and to surround myself with the best team of love and understanding; those who are prepared to understand and value and encourage that my life has to be about me and either love me for it or leave me in peace. Not everyone has that capacity and that is absolutely okay but I need to surround myself with those that have that capacity as it is crucial to my big picture. It is exceptionally hard to come to terms with a loved one's cancer diagnosis and not putting (knowingly or unknowingly) pressure on that person (that they may interpret as love) vs striving to do the opposite. The friend I refer to above listened to me like no other. Heard me. Felt my reality. Selflessly stepped into one of my shoes and has kept that shoe on ever since and has stayed with me without any expectation whatsoever. That person has saved my life to date and too selfless to even realise it. He is a brother I have chosen for myself and has had so many reasons to abandon me but finds exception in his heart to be the most selfless human being I have ever encountered and keeps nurturing my spirit with the most valuable crutch - understanding and acceptance. Find someone who can wear one of your shoes and comfortable in it and you'll never feel alone with cancer - as it can be very lonely. The ones that are truly prepared to compromise what they want or need from you - for you and your best interests - are your greatest weapons.
Thank you for reading my story. I have happily shared and been very candid and open as this is my life and it is what it is and I love where I am at and who I am and I am not afraid to say so. I am eternally grateful for the family, friendships and connections I have; for the invaluable support and care. Unconditional love and interest in my welfare has provoked me to create this website to keep those who are interested up to date; to help create understanding; hopefully inspire others living with cancer and their families and friends; to send a message to remind all women just how important it is to have regular breast screening. Encourage men to get testing too. Cancer is evil and so unpredictable and indiscriminate. I believe in the need to continue to create awareness and the importance of raising funds for research and a cure for the little ones; for our children; for young parents whose children need them.
I feel I have this covered....I truly do......but I would dearly love a cure for all cancers....not just stage 4 breast. I would love to shut cancer down completely and save every little child who has to endure this disease and young parents who have families to raise.
It is October 2019 and my tumor markers are on the rise indicative that my cancer is alive and active but I persist with my current treatment plan as my liver is still holding up well and options outside of heavy duty chemo have been exhausted to date. The heavy duty intravenous chemo pathway will alter my quality of life dramatically and there will be no turning back but I am forced to consider it with each passing test and week. With tumor markers persisting at rising and a recent catapult into bone scans, liver testings, MRI, CT and specialised PET now show my tumour count at 44 lesions on my liver with 3/4 of "the suckers" alive and active. My disease is slowly but surely progressing and could be approaching the pointy end but not if I can help it. The game plan that we have adhered to so unyieldingly for the past 5 years significantly changes. We will no longer put weight (and hope) on treatments towards getting my cancer to sleep instead we strive to keep my liver healthy and almost play russian roulette with cancer. At the onset of my diagnosis, my oncologist used the analogy akin to my liver being a christmas tree laiden with breast cancerous tumours that would be the christmas lights. Treatments were specifically working towards keeping the christmas lights turned off, that is, tumours that would be asleep, sleepy, inactive.....and that we had achieved until now. Massive WIN which has equated to 5 years of life with quality of living I couldn't have imagined and beyond so many of my cancer sisters who have heartbreakingly lost their battles. I am surrounded by the harsh realities and cruelty of cancer daily and just cannot fathom why I am, one of the few lucky ones, in the 3% now living with this type of cancer beyond 5 years. Why.....me? Over the course of the past 5 years my 19 tumours (christmas lights) pale in number to the 44 that now exist on my liver - all of varying sizes, the biggest being almost 5cm and positioned just under my diaphragm. Status quo today is 3/4 of my tumors, my christmas lights, are on; some blinking some with solid light. A PET scan is mostly used for cancer, heart disease and brain conditions. It is invaluable in managing liver lesions, in particular in the evaluation of suspected liver metastases and is currently the most sensitive non-invasive imaging modality for the detection of hepatic metastases. The scan uses a special dye containing radioactive tracers. These tracers are injected into a vein in your arm. The PET Scan then works to identify areas of hypermetabolic activity in the body and on organs. The radioactive substance attaches to glucose, which is attracted to cells that are hypermetabolic. When the scan is done, these areas "light up." Perhaps you may find it very hard to comprehend my reactive laughter to the terminology my oncologist used at my last appointment disclosing results of my PET scan, "Tracey you are now lit up like a Christmas Tree" because in theory it is not funny at all but perhaps it was a mixture of my feelings wavering between visualing myself as a truly beautiful sparkling christmas tree and a satisfying sense of power as I became aware of my inner voice gloating "well....it has only taken you five years cancer". Despite it all my reality is I have had the upper hand on cancer, to date, and owe it to my cancer sisters, who have sadly succumbed to this wretched disease, to make it count for something and particularly for their young children that they have left behind. Someone very ignorantly questioned whether I now may be more conditioned to death given I see it perhaps more than others. Quite the contrary, every life lost and moreso for every little child yearning a parent taken too soon it becomes more difficult and heartfelt, soul destroying and heart wrenching and leaves me feeling so many emotions from helplessness to guilt to despair and desperation. It is a very scary state of play and one that is hard to get my head around knowing cancer is actively living and thriving inside my body and wondering why I am defying the odds whilst others in my predicament are losing their battles. I have to stop wondering what it looks like and wishing I could be rid of it or get it back to sleep without killing my quality of life and me and just get on with it and distracted with the magnificence of life itself and my purpose - which I can't help but feel is to help others face cancer however that may look for them hence my commitment to charity work! Inevitably with active cancer my life becomes more complex to manage and I find myself in a serious juggling act trying to balance my enormous desire to embrace life, as best I can while I can, whilst managing my physical reality with serious limitations imposed by active cancer and treatments. I am also particularly vulnerable with very low white blood count and compromised immunity that I have to work with as that will not improve for as long as cancer is inside me with my immune system in overdrive and chemotherapy drugs and anti-hormone injections constantly on board. I play with fate, with enormous faith and hope and trust in the Universe and the collective remedies/strategies that I practice to keep this beast from impacting my liver or spreading to my bones and/or brain. My oncologist is now monitoring me more closely with fortnightly blood tests and screens and weekly visits to see how I am as I persist living alight (the beautiful Christmas Tree....lol) vs succumbing to ongoing heavy duty IV chemo that will most certainly dramatically change the quality of life (as I know it now) forever and serve as a surrender to my trip to the last station with no return. I am determined to stretch my and challenge my liver for months and months and even years! Let's see how long it can cope with active cancer on it. Prove to cancer that it is possible to live with it and laugh in its face some more and louder! Forgive me as I have become greedy for more life and time on this plane we call Earth and any remote ponder of a white flag is very quickly banished back to where it came from. I am currently writing a book which is incredibly therapeutic. I only live one day at a time. Due to so much demand and my continued gratitude and keen desire to raise more funds for research I have decided to host my next charity event which is taking place on Saturday 8 August 2020. Mindful that my health could/may deteriorate, I have a strong committee in place to support me, so whatever the circumstances the fundraiser will go on. That said....I am determined to be here with the hope that a new treatment may be discovered and pursuit to find energy-to-boot and hold my zest for life.
Unfortunately due to the COVID-19 global pandemic this event has been cancelled. A heartfelt thank you to over 800 people who purchased pre-sale tickets and secured tables before we even had a chance to publicly release; those who generously pledged donations of goods and services and those who were on board to support and facilitate this 1500 guest event. Refunds are currently being processed (please refer to link herein for more details) and information available for those who have very generously asked to forfeit their ticket purchase/s for a donation to Peter MacCallum. Such donations have to be managed directly with Peter MacCallum so as you can be issued with a tax deductible receipt accordingly. Peter MacCallum are incredibly grateful for your donations no matter how big or small particularly at this very challenging and daunting time in life for everyone.
At this time our priority is to bunker down and support each other through this war against corona virus and keep each other safe and well staying as optimistic as possible re life after COVID-19.
Meanwhile - embrace today and right now! Spread acts of kindness. No act is too small and be kind to yourself!
Love and Blessings