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  • Writer's pictureAja McDonald

The start of Monday blog posts

Since my last post, I have had a lot happen. I feel it will be easiest to try and break it down with a quick brief, followed with a photo and links to help anyone else that may be interested in locating the things I’ve found along the way.

There is not one simple path in the journey through breast cancer as our bodies are unique genetic codes we have to try to understand and learn throughout life. Some of us never get the opportunity to access this sort of knowledge easily. So if what I am going through and sharing with you all helps just one person along the way, then creating this blog is worth it!

On Tuesday, I tried a private art therapy session via zoom with Amanda Levey from Alleviate based in Auckland, New Zealand.

It was really nice to be able to connect with someone that has been through cancer and gets it. To find the time to create something new with just one hour of my time; I didn’t feel the need to perfect my creation or do it for anyone else but me. Just got to channel my feelings and connect with myself completely.

I highly recommend art therapy for anyone out there that is healing and just needs a little time to connect with themselves. Trying out this one session was very inspiring and maybe one day, I might be able to do the same for someone else down the road. Anything is possible.

“Elegance” pastel on drawing paper.

Later that day, my husband and got to I pick up my breast tissue (it was an option offered to me through Mercy Hopsital Dunedin, where I had my surgery). I had received a letter from Southern Community Laboratories once it was ready and organised a time to pick it up.

It was handed over to me all packaged and sealed up. I was told by the specialist who met with me all the basic information and how to handle it along with burying it. The next day we took the box out of the freezer and my husband helped me dig a hole in our chosen area of land. I burned a white sage bundle I made from my plants while we buried the tissue under a magnolia tree in which we chose together for this occasion.

Here lies ‘Bob’ my left boob and the 27 lymph nodes removed. To Bob, here is a white sage bundle I made and a Magnolia Aurora planted on top of you in remembrance. You will blossom during the season I caught onto having breast cancer and your blooms will shine for #breastcancerawarenessmonth every year. In honour of my body and it’s hard work to fight breast cancer.

Magnolia Aurora. Resting place of my left breast.

On Thursday, I met with my oncologist and went over everything that involves the next steps with the chemotherapy I will be receiving after surgery.

We went over all my personal and family history, current medical records and updates on what my surgery had discovered. 27 Lymph nodes removed, 4 of which had cancer. There was a bit more cancer than originally expected and so my oncologist told me that she planned for a more intense chemotherapy that would go over a 20 week period, accompanied with hormone treatment. I would later have radiation after the chemotherapy process is complete.

I had been given all information and options and my husband and I were very confident in continuing with her plan. She had a look at my healing and confirmed that everything was looking good and I should contact my breast care nurse in regards to my concerns of the discomfort and swelling still happening (since surgery) in my left arm and armpit area. I did have 27 lymph nodes removed, so swelling at this stage is something completely normal. With the right guidance and help, it can be treated and will calm down over time.

Chemo port options explained to me by oncologist and nurse. Photo taken by my husband.

Since I would be gong through hormone treatment, it was advised that I try and get my IUD taken out immediately so the treatment can begin as soon as possible. The next day, I contacted Family Planning and was able to get my originally scheduled appointment moved that same day as they had a cancelation. It was so much easier than I had expected and to be honest, way more comfortable going there than to the GP. I honestly don’t know why I hadn’t been to them before now. It really wasn’t an option given to me in the past, so I assume due to demand and current situations I was in the right place at the right time.

On Friday, I met with my therapist to go over everything that has happened in the last five weeks since I last saw him. I am very proud of the work I have done with myself over the past couple years and feel with his help, I have regained so much more confidence within myself.

Even though I know not everyone can talk about what I am going through with as much comfort, I know I have been ready and prepared. I can look into the mirror with amazement and pride when I see my “battle wound” and I know that there is nothing that will stop me now that I have started this journey. It’s one hell of a way to finally get that breast reduction. But I’m only half way done!

Art and stitches.

After therapy, I met with my breast care nurse to revisit the pain and swelling issues I’ve been having and see what else I can be doing to improve.

Once I got to sit down with her and my husband, she took her time with us and listened to everything we had to talk about. I realised she did care, but she must have so many people to manage day to day that it would be impossible to have all the answers in a flick of a text message reply.

To be honest, I didn’t have a high opinion at first of the experience I have had up until this point with the breast care nurse. I had an impression that she would be more hands on than she had been. But then again, I am one to do things myslef. So accepting that reaching out for help was what I would have to do; it was harder when I would get very brief replies with no direction when I did reach out. The suggestions sent my way were not very helpful when I am unable to drive and search for these said suggestions.

Nonetheless, I got sent home with some more physio guidance, confidence in my current healing, and knowledge that this coming week will be the next steps moving forward when I have my next surgery to place my chemo port and then meet with my surgeon to examine my healing.

After the first two appts of this day, I decided to move forward with reaching out to Natural Wear New Zealand to find a post surgery bra that would help me with my healing over the next six months. I had been given information from my breast care nurse’s support pack when we first met. These post surgery bras will be a game changer in the next months moving forward.

Following the breast care nurse appointment, I met with a wig specialist at Hair Care Market here in Dunedin to go over some options and prepare ahead of time for the inevitable loss of hair I will experience while going through chemo.

I selected three possible wigs that I wouldn’t mind wearing (new hair do without the hassle!). In the meantime, I purchased a few head scarves to keep me company while my hair decides to go for a journey away from my scalp.

Compression socks form Kathmandu and head scarves from Hair Care Market.

So all in all, it had been an adventurous week. Now I begin my relaxation phase for the next three days before I meet up with my surgeon and get my chemo port placed under my skin!

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