Taking Some Time Out

Taking Some Time Out

After some time out from my blog, I feel I need to write about the current situation with the Covid-19 pandemic and how it is affecting people in my local area.

Technical Issues With My Blog

I have been having some time out from my blog.  Basically I ghosted Midlifestylist.  There were several reasons for this, one of which is that I “broke” my website.  I have been trying to fix it but to no avail.  I put a new plugin on my website which does automatic backups.  One of the plugin’s features is that it tidies up your photo gallery.  I thought that would be a good idea because I know I have a few images on the website that I don’t use.  I thought it was going to delete 10 images but it deleted almost everything.  

Images are a vital part of my website because I use them to illustrate statistics and as part of my guides.  I have spent a lot of time creating them.  It is devastating to lose so much from my website.  I attempted to restore an older version of my website from a backup file but have not been able to do it.  The technical aspects of running a website have always been challenging for me because I am self taught and really have no idea what I’m doing half the time.  It was the last straw for me and I had to step away from it or I would have exploded!

Tough Subject Matter

Prior to that I had been writing and recording episodes for my podcast.  The subject material was always going to be tough because it is about my BRCA2 genetic mutation.  The last episode was about prostate cancer, which has impacted my family in a huge way.  Writing about the cancers that have affected my family, and the ones that I have a high risk of getting like melanoma and pancreatic cancer, caused a lot of emotion.  That also was a deciding factor for me taking a break from my blog.

Readjusting to Work

I increased my hours at work and have been struggling with fatigue from the shift work.  Because I still have frequent medical appointments to attend, and chronic health issues, I have struggled at times.  I love my job and I’m so glad to be back at work.  I feel very blessed to have such a supportive boss and I will never take my job for granted again.  I just know that I need to maintain a good work/life balance.  I am currently doing five shifts a fortnight and aim for six.  I know that getting back to seven shifts is almost definitely out of the question because I was struggling with that many prior to my time off last year.  I’m just happy to be back and I know it was a huge achievement to get there.

All of these factors combined lead me to taking a break from blogging.  I didn’t want to just churn out anything and I felt that at times that is what I was doing.  I wasn’t happy with what I was writing.  I would rather write less often and with passion for the subject matter.  Having a break has been good for me.  I won’t be writing as often as I did before as publishing a blog piece weekly is just too difficult for me.

Border Closures Due to the Pandemic

The thing that made me decide to write again today is the current situation with Covid-19.  There are some issues that I am not happy with that I would like to write about.  Australia is divided in a way I never thought I’d see happen.  I live in Queensland which is a lucky state to live in.  Our Covid-19 numbers have always been low compared to the rest of the country and any outbreaks are quickly staunched by short sharp lock-downs.  We have never seen the high numbers here, meanwhile New South Wales and Victoria to the south of us have struggled with high numbers and lengthy lock-downs.

As a result we are isolated behind an impenetrable border at the moment, not allowing anyone to enter our state at the current time.  The problem with this is that, in their effort to keep Covid-19 out, our leaders have created other issues.  The worst problem is that they now will not allow medical staff to cross the border.  Many of the staff in hospitals, nursing homes, medical centres etc. come from Northern New South Wales.  The Queensland government has deemed them to be non-essential so they are not allowing them through.  

Media Coverage Does Not Reflect The Truth

The media has not picked up on the fact that they are not allowing doctors and nurses who are fully immunised through, even with a letter from management to say they are essential.  The result of that is that staff are doing double shifts and overtime to cover them.  Meanwhile these perfectly capable Fully Immunised staff are on full pay at home.  You won’t see that on mainstream media because they are too busy covering protests and people sneaking through the border and getting caught.

I have a major issue with the media’s coverage of this pandemic.  They have been the cause of the distrust that the public has towards the Covid-19 vaccines.  If they hadn’t made such a big deal out of the small number of people getting reactions from the vaccines, there wouldn’t have been so much fear in the community and our vaccination rates would have been much higher.  The truth is that every vaccination causes side effects to a certain number of people.  The risk of getting a blood clot from the Covid-19 virus is much higher than from the vaccine.  The public is given a skewed picture of the risks. 

Vaccination Rates 

In Australia the vaccination rollout started with nursing home patients and people who already had medical issues.  The rate of vaccination complications is always going to be higher in these people than in the rest of the community.  The media sensationalised the number of people having reactions which has negatively impacted the public’s view of it.  The Delta variant is a huge threat to our unvaccinated population.  It changed the whole picture of the pandemic.  If we want to control this pandemic we need to get at least 70% of the population vaccinated ASAP.

The Pandemic Has Caused Housing Shortages

Because of our low numbers in Queensland, we have seen a huge influx of people moving here.  This has impacted the supply of housing in a massive way.  It is now almost impossible to rent a property in Southeast Queensland and the value of housing has risen in line with the demand.  Locals are being pushed out of the market because we can’t compete with the amount that people from NSW and Victoria are able to pay.  My son is moving back home because it is almost impossible to rent a property in his price range.

Desperate people are offering six months’ rent in advance, or $50 more per week on the asking price, to be able to get a house.  My house has risen in value by about $300,000 in the last year.  People from interstate are buying houses sight unseen so that they can move here.  Lock-downs mean that people are unable to run their business – especially on the border between Queensland and New South Wales.  

The Effects of the Pandemic on Business

My brother lives in northern New South Wales and he is in strict lock-down.  He can’t run his business because he’s not able to travel more than 5km from home and customers can’t come to him.  The Government is propping up many businesses like his with funds but many of them will still go bust.  The most heartbreaking image we see on our nightly news is that of families forced to hug each other over the border barriers between our states.  

A Glimmer of Hope

We had some good news today, that Northern New South Wales is ending it’s lock-down which means that there will be more freedom to cross the border.  This is just for essential workers and students, which means that medical staff should be able to come to work.

There is light at the end of the tunnel for this pandemic.  We are seeing other countries getting back to normal once their vaccination rates are high enough.  Meanwhile, I hope all who are reading this are in good health.  I would love to hear what life looks like in your part of the world, so feel free to comment below.

Shared on #Life This Week Linkup on Denyse Whelan’s blog

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Feeling Nostalgic Watching The Tokyo Olympic Games

The Tokyo Olympics has me feeling very nostalgic.  

Sydney Olympic Games 2000

21 years ago Sydney hosted arguably the best Olympic Games the world has ever seen.  My sons were aged 6 and 9 in 2000.  We’re not normally  sports fans, but the atmosphere and fun around hosting this event turned us into fans of sports such as swimming, athletics and even wrestling.

Who could forget that iconic moment when Cathy Freeman won the 400m sprint in her full body suit?  Watching it still brings a tear to my eye.  Our National pride was at an all-time high as we cheered on our sporting heroes.

Attending Olympic Games Events

We lived in the Gold Coast and couldn’t afford to take our sons to Sydney.  We were keen to experience some of the Olympic spirit, and were lucky enough to win tickets to two soccer games in Brisbane.  It didn’t matter who was playing – we just wanted to experience it.  That is how we ended up being in the audience of very rowdy soccer fans – especially the Brazilians!

We watched every minute of the Games on TV, and joined the crowds to see the torch relay when it passed through the Gold Coast.  Some of you may remember the comedians Roy and HG – their TV show was an hilarious send-up of the Games.  My sons videoed themselves doing a send-up of the show which was so cute and funny.

Brisbane Olympics 2032

I was so excited to hear that Brisbane will host the Games in 2032.  We held the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast a couple of years ago.  My husband and I went to the opening ceremony, and my son and I went to watch the lawn bowls.  I think the Olympics will be our chance to showcase Southeast Queensland to the world, and will bring many benefits to our cities.

Memories of Our Holiday to Japan

Watching the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics triggered memories of our holiday to Japan.  We visited in September 2019 while the country was preparing for the Games.  Some of the special effects in the opening ceremony were reminiscent of some of the unique places in Japan.  There was one part in particular that may have been designed by the same company behind the Digital Art Museum in Tokyo.

Japan is a beautiful country, one which I hope to return to one day.  They have the perfect combination of history and culture, and modern technology.  We spent three weeks there, traveling only on public transport and shopping in local markets.  The language barrier was the only problem we encountered and I blame myself for not learning at least basic Japanese.

I am disappointed for the Japanese people, that they won’t get the benefit of hosting large crowds.  I doubt if it will be economically beneficial because they aren’t able to have a boost from ticket sales and tourism.  Such a shame considering all the preparation they put into it.

How About You?

Do you have any memories of the Olympics?  Maybe your city/country hosted it?  Have you visited Japan?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Time for my Covid-19 Vaccine

Time for my Covid-19 vaccine

Why I’ll Be Happy to Have My Covid-19 Vaccine

I received the text message on my phone yesterday.   It’s my turn to have the Covid-19 vaccine.  I did a little happy dance as I have been eagerly waiting for this.  Because I’m a nurse I am in stage 1b of the Covid rollout.

Although Australia hasn’t had high numbers of cases, and Queensland has escaped the worst of the restrictions and lockdowns, I have been extremely worried about catching Covid-19.   I have several comorbidities and am already dealing with enough health issues as it is.  

I’ve become a bit of a hermit in the last year, social distancing to the extreme.  My trips to the grocery store, chemist and for medical appointments are my only outings, apart from visiting close friends and family. The opportunity to be vaccinated means I can return to life as I knew it pre-pandemic.  My elderly unwell parents-in-law can too.  

Image of a vaccine being injected into the upper arm.  Text: Time for my Covid-19 Vaccine.  Read to discover Why I am happy to have it
Time for my Covid-19 vaccine. Read to discover: Why I am happy to have it.

Worldwide Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Not everyone will agree with me. A number of people are concerned about the vaccine despite the education campaigns.  Being a new vaccine for a new disease, we don’t have all the answers yet.  There is so much we don’t know about the long-term effects of Covid-19,  and why some people have virtually no symptoms and some people become very sick or die.

A pandemic has never taken a toll on the worldwide population as this one has.  The numbers are staggering and the toll on life as we know it is unprecedented.   In over 30 years of nursing I’ve never seen anything like it.

This is Not the First New Vaccine for a Vaccine Preventable Disease

I have nursed people extremely unwell from vaccine preventable deaths.  We have occasional outbreaks of measles, pertussis (whooping cough) and other diseases.   Shingles caused by the varicella virus continues to make life miserable for elderly people.

Vaccines have drastically reduced the death and morbidity toll of many diseases worldwide.  Numbers of almost fully vaccinated children are very high in Australia, because we have funding for most of them via the National Immunisation Program. 

Even in my children’s time there have been advances in the development of vaccines.  Rotavirus had my son hospitalised at 8 months.  Babies are vaccinated against it now.  Likewise HPV – a virus that leads to cervical cancer.  Hopefully my kids’ generation won’t have to go through that.  

Vaccines have almost completely eradicated some diseases.  I have only nursed two patients with tetanus in my career.  Both were extremely ill, requiring intensive care.  They call it “lockjaw” for a reason – it causes severe muscular spasms and can lead to death.  Complacency with being vaccinated has led to increasing rates of diseases such as measles.  This may be due to people not witnessing the diseases and believing that they have no chance of contracting them.

My Training as a Nurse Immuniser

I am currently doing an Immunisation Practitioner course.  As a Registered Nurse I have been able to give vaccines my whole career.  This course will allow me to administer vaccines independently in clinics or other healthcare settings.

The course is extensive and very thorough.  Most of it requires a 100% pass mark.  Following this I will need to do a separate course for the Covid vaccine which is just as comprehensive.   Be reassured: the staff administering the vaccine will be well trained.  

There was an unfortunate incident where a doctor administered four times the dose to residents of a nursing home.  If he had actually done the training he would have known that the vaccine comes in a multi-dose vial and needs to be diluted.  Swift action by a nurse brought it to the attention of health authorities. The patients were monitored in hospital and they suffered nil ill effects.  

This is a poster I designed for my Immunisation Course.  Pneumococcal Vaccines are now on the National Immunisation Schedule in Australia
This is a poster I designed for my Immunisation Course. Pneumococcal Vaccines are now on the National Immunisation Schedule in Australia

Ensuring the Vaccine Is Safe and Effective

The vaccine has been through clinical trials to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (similar to the FDA in the US).   Any side effects experienced by vaccine recipients will be reported to the TGA. The effectiveness of the vaccine will be closely monitored as well to ensure that it is not only safe, but has led to immunity from Covid-19.

Despite this, there will still be people concerned about getting the vaccine, and some will straight out refuse.  My suggestion would be to talk to your GP especially if you have health issues or have had reactions to other vaccines, medications or substances. 

Side Effects of Vaccines

Any vaccine (or medication) will have side effects.  The side effects are usually mild in most cases but there is always the potential for an anaphylactic reaction. 

A healthcare worker unfortunately had an anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine yesterday.  She had a history of anaphylaxis after vaccines so she had this vaccine in the safest environment possible – in a tertiary hospital with the facilities to monitor and treat her.  She was almost certainly given adrenaline and monitored for four hours afterward, which is the standard procedure.  By last night she was back home.  

All immunisation services need to carry adrenaline and have protocols around monitoring people following vaccination.  There are strict requirements for the storage of vaccines, and this ensures the vaccine is not only safe, but is effective as well.

Do Your Research

Do your research, using trusted sources before you have the vaccine.  The Covid-19 vaccine is not compulsory in Australia.  It is free.  These are some links to reliable sources of information:

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This post is for general informational and educational purposes only. Please refer to the disclaimer.

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Celebrating Australia’s Birthday

Celebrating Australia's Birthday

January 26th is Australia Day, which commemorates the arrival of the first fleet in Sydney in 1778 and the beginning of the colony.  Celebrating Australia’s birthday on this date has become controversial, however, because the nation’s first peoples see it as Invasion Day.  There have been calls to change Australia Day to another date out of respect for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.  So far Australia Day remains a public holiday and a day to celebrate our diverse culture.

I Am A Kiwi Aussie

Even though it is not politically correct, I still enjoy celebrating Australia Day.  I am proud to call myself Australian, and love my adopted country.  I was born and raised in New Zealand and came to Australia when I was 19, in 1986.  New Zealand is as much a part of me as Australia.  My sons think of themselves as Kiwi Australians because they had frequent holidays to New Zealand with me.

The symbol for a Kiwi Aussie - half kangaroo (Australian), half fern leaf (New Zealander).  Source:  Clipart
The symbol for a Kiwi Aussie – half kangaroo (Australian), half fern leaf (New Zealander). Source: Clipart http://cliparts.co/clipart/2806792

There has always been a bit of rivalry between Kiwis and Aussies.  The beginning of this video by actor Sam Neill explains it with a humorous twist:

https://www.facebook.com/SBSAustralia/videos/10156058565748686/

Australia, My Adopted Home

My sister and I came to Australia as two naive teenagers, and set out on the big Aussie adventure, backpacking on a working holiday.  We started off in South Australia, picking grapes at a vineyard and packing dried fruit at an apricot factory.  My poor mother struggled with the sudden loss of her daughters, so much that my parents emigrated the following year.  One brother then the other eventually moved here as well.

Three of us married Aussies.  I decided to make it official and became an Australian citizen after my first son was born.  My dad, who was a widower by then, became a citizen at the same time.  The law changed over time, and now it is much harder to become an Australian citizen.  One of my brothers had to go through a very lengthy process because he had returned to New Zealand to live for five years.  He proudly became a citizen on Australia Day 2020.

Celebrating Australia Day with friends - I'm in the middle.  Photo: 3 women wearing Australian hats
Celebrating Australia Day with friends – I’m in the middle

Celebrating Australia Day

We will celebrate with my husband’s family the way we usually do:  with a barbeque, a dip in the pool, and a few beers.  We’ll try not to get sunburnt, and avoid the crowded beaches that are the favoured place to celebrate Australia Day.  This year’s celebrations will be much more subdued because of Covid-19, but we’ll fly our Aussie flag and get into the spirit of day by listening to some Oz Rock.

Happy Australia Day!

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What I Really Want For Christmas in 2020

What I Really Want For Christmas in 2020

Family Unity is More Important Than Gifts

My Christmas wish list is a little different this year. What I really want for Christmas can’t be wrapped and placed under the tree. Christmas is a time for families to gather, often over a celebratory meal and the traditions like gift giving.  In Australia it is one of the main celebrations of the year.  Even if you don’t identify as Christian, most families gather together.

Most mothers take on the role of organising many of the Christmas traditions such as buying the gifts and preparing the food.  It can be a busy time leading up to the day as mothers tend to take on the extra tasks so that Christmas can be a happy time for their family.

Christmas Traditions

Every family has its own traditions for this time, whether it is watching the Carols by Candlelight, eating roast turkey, or going to Midnight Mass.  There is often food that she traditionally cooks every year because it is someone’s favourite.  

Every year there are a few things that I always cook.  My son loves turkey, but it has to be one specific turkey that I cook.  I was a single mother during their teens, and my budget didn’t stretch to buying a whole turkey.  I cooked a rolled turkey thigh that was frozen – it was pretty grim.  Even though I could now cook a whole turkey, my son insists on that awful rolled turkey thigh!  Every year we laugh about it, but that is what I still cook for him!

My Christmas Wish List

As another Christmas looms, I have put some thought into the gifts on my wishlist.  This year’s Christmas is sure to be extra special as most of us will be pleased to see the end of this very trying year.  These are the gifts I would love:

  • My family to be united to celebrate Christmas
  • Security and safety for my family
  • Good health – everyone remains Covid free, with the prospect of a vaccine soon
  • My sons are happy with life and both stay employed in jobs that they enjoy
  • Our country remains free of natural disasters
  • Our leaders keep our country safe and our economy strong
  • We are free to travel and enjoy our freedom again
  • Peace and serenity, gratitude for all that we are blessed with

I am optimistic that I will receive all the gifts on my wishlist this Christmas.  Wouldn’t it be a lovely celebration if we could all receive them?  It wasn’t that long ago that we took most of this for granted, but after this year I don’t take anything for granted anymore.

The Gift I Most Desire

Time with my family is even more precious now, as both sons moved out leaving us empty nesters.  The border was closed for most of the year meaning that I couldn’t see my family in New South Wales.  Our family has had many health issues, not from Covid, but from cancer and other issues.

This year the emphasis won’t be on material gifts, it will be on celebrating together as a family.  One of my brothers will be here, which will be lovely.  

My other brother has sadly distanced himself from the rest of the family after our father passed away.  It’s such a shame as dad’s dying wish was for all of us to be united as a family.  The situation seems insurmountable as he refuses all attempts of reconciliation. 

It may be the last year we spend with my mother-in-law too, as she has reached the palliative stage of lung cancer.  We will treasure every moment we have with her.  

This Christmas Will Be Different

This Christmas has taken on a different meaning for all of us.  We now don’t take for granted that we can cross the state border, or gather together as a family group.  Our health has been our focus and we no longer take that for granted either.  It will be a relief that we made it through one of the most challenging years any of us has ever seen.

I am so grateful for a Christmas celebration with the most precious thing, my family.

What gifts do you most look forward to receiving? Are you wanting intangible gifts like me? If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy:

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Tips to Improve Your Well-being When Life Gets You Down

Tips to Improve Your Well-being When Life Gets You Down

Life is Getting Us Down in 2020

This year I’ve noticed many more people talking about how they’re feeling demotivated, distressed, fed-up and down in the dumps.  Many people have begun to let their healthy diet and exercise routines slide, and their waistline expand.  The affects of the global pandemic on our well-being are really starting to become apparent as it drags on with no end in sight. The uncertainty, isolation and risks to our health and lifestyle are all factors in causing this decrease in our state of well-being.

Our well-being won’t just miraculously improve if we don’t make an effort to change our routines.  We have to work at it because it’s all too easy to be lazy and get into bad habits.  Frequently people get into a rut and can’t see any end to their current situation.  It’s as if a black cloud is over their head.  A few down days can lead to depression.

Clinical depression needs to be treated by health care professionals such as psychologists and medical doctors. (I am not a trained professional in these fields. Please refer to my disclaimer. This article should be used for informational purposes only).   I’m not talking about depression in this article, rather the low mood that many of us are experiencing due to the current pandemic.  If your mood has not improved after a few weeks, please seek professional help. 

How I’m Working on Improving My Well-being 

I talked recently about how my long recovery from surgery has been affecting my well-being.   As time drags on and I’m still not well enough to go back to work, I’ve had days where I feel really down in the dumps.  What have I been doing to help myself deal with these feelings?  

I’ve had to be proactive and work at maintaining my mental health.  My tendency to shut down and go into a shell, wallowing in misery, didn’t work for me in the past.  Over time I’ve found there are activities I can do to improve my mood.

When Life Gets You Down Use all Five Senses to Improve Your Well-being.  The senses of touch (massage), smell (perfume, scented candles), taste (fresh coffee, healthy fruits), hearing (music, sound of water fountain), sight (scenery, sunset) can be used to improve your mood
When Life Gets You Down Use all Five Senses to Improve Your Well-being. The senses of touch (massage), smell (perfume, scented candles), taste (fresh coffee, healthy fruits), hearing (music, sound of water fountain), sight (scenery, sunset) can be used to improve your mood

How to Use All 5 Senses to Improve Your Well-being When Life Is Getting You Down

You can use all five senses to improve your mood and your well-being.   For example, who can deny that the fresh whiff of coffee in the morning doesn’t immediately heighten your sense of smell?  Or that a warm hug from someone you love doesn’t make you feel calmer and happier? I am a very sensory person, and I’ve found the following have helped:

  • TOUCH: I had a massage.  I normally have a remedial full body massage but I still can’t lie on my front so I had a sitting massage instead.  To make the most of it I used deep breathing techniques to relax my muscles.  These tiny Thai masseurs are so strong, you feel like you’ve done 3 rounds with a sumo wrestler!  But it works.
  • SOUND: Listening to uplifting music.  I was born in the 60s so I love 70s and 80s music.  I can sing as loud as I like to my favourite hits  and it’s always a mood booster.
  • SMELL: A splash of my favourite perfume lifts my spirits.  I don’t save my scent for special occasions.   I use it daily because it makes me feel better to smell nice.  Using scented candles and reed diffusers has also helped.
  • SIGHT: Taking time to watch the sunset, or admire a beautiful scene is uplifting.  While I’m out walking my dog every day I take time to look at my surroundings.   I’m lucky to live where I have lovely parks and waterways nearby.  My dog’s a social butterfly so we end up meeting lots of dogs and their owners.  It’s nice to say hello or stop and chat if they’re up for it.
  • TASTE: I’ve done lots of cooking.  It’s starting to show as the weight’s starting to creep up.  Only 1kg but since I lost 17kg last year I’m very wary of gaining any weight.  So I’ve gone back to basics and getting back on a healthy diet.  It’s easy to grab convenience food when you’re feeling low, but taking the effort to prepare fresh food will boost your mood.  Eating lots of fruit and vegetables,  quality protein and healthy fats will make you feel more energised.

Other Ways I’m Boosting My Mood

Sometimes we have to push ourselves to be proactive in improving our well-being.   I know what depression is like and it’s easy for me to slide into that state of mind.  Rather than just allowing myself to stay in a rut, I push myself to do activities that I know will boost my mood.  

I credit my improved sense of well-being to the following:

  • Putting a bit of make-up on every day.  Then I don’t feel so daggy.
  • I’ve had a couple of phone sessions with a counsellor.   Getting the perspective of an impartial person about my long recovery time has really helped.  My takeaway from the sessions – I’ve been looking after everyone else for the last 30 plus years so it’s time to look after myself.  And let others look after me (which I find hard to do).  
  • I’ve been spending time socialising.  My nature is an introverted homebody so I  tend to stay home where I’m in my comfort zone.  I know that the most uplifting activity for me is having meaningful conversations with people.  So I make an effort to meet someone to talk over coffee or a meal.  Phoning them is the next best thing.  It improves my well-being so much.
  • I’ve been de-cluttering and tidying.  Just one area of the house at a time.  There’s nothing better than a good cleanout!  I can’t do too much housework because it increases the pain and swelling, so I just do a little bit every day.
  • I’ve been spending time in my garden every day.  Spring is upon us in Australia and the spring growth has begun.  It’s been a very long winter because time has dragged by for me and I’m really looking forward to warmer weather.  We’re lucky to have a pond with fountains in our garden.  The sound of cascading water is music to my soul.
We have a pond with fountains. The sound of the water trickling is music to my soul. I love the sound and find it very calming

What ways do you use to improve your well-being?  Share them here so others can benefit.

Just a head’s up, I saw my surgeon a couple of days ago, and because my swelling and pain are ongoing he’s going to operate again on Monday.  I’ll be in hospital for a few days and have a drain for a few weeks.  While I’m in hospital I won’t be allowed visitors which will be horrible. Not having the support of my family will be really hard but I know this is necessary to assist my healing and prevent further complications.

Because of this, I may be a bit inconsistent with my blog for the next few weeks.

shared on Life this Week, a linkup by Denyse Whelan

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2020 – My Unpredictable Year

2020 My Unpredictable Year

2020: The Year That Changed Everything

Who could have predicted how 2020 would pan out?  This has been my most unpredictable year to date, and that’s saying something.  It feels like the rug’s been pulled out from under me, and I’m not alone in feeling that way. It has been an unpredictable year for many reasons, both personal and external. Change and uncertainty can add to the emotional burden of the other world events such as the pandemic.

“Life is What Happens To Us When We’re Making Other Plans”

Allen Saunders, 1957

At the dawn of the New Year I wrote a post Don’t Hold Back.  Full of optimism and excitement for the year ahead, I planned to learn new skills and apply for positions that would take my career into a new direction.  My older son, inspired by my enthusiasm, planned to travel and push his music career to new levels.  We often talk about how our year has not panned out in the way we planned it.

My son had to put his music on hold while we were in lockdown – he couldn’t drive to Brisbane to practice with his band, and gigs were cancelled for months while venues were closed.  He was extremely frustrated – musicians need to perform.  When their creativity is put on hold a major part of themselves is affected.  Travel is also out of the question.

"Life is What Happens to Us When We're Making Other Plans" Allen Saunders.  Fits with this article on how unpredictable 2020 has been.
“Life is What Happens to Us When We’re Making Other Plans” Allen Saunders. Fits with this article on how unpredictable 2020 has been.

Changes in the Family Home

The first shock of the year came when my other son decided to move out.  The Half Empty Nest is the post I wrote at the time when I was going through a grieving process as I came to terms with it.  As it turns out, I’ve coped very well with my son moving out and very soon my other son is leaving too, then I’ll be an empty nester for the first time in 28 years!  It’s wonderful to see my sons “adulting” – they need to move out for their own personal growth.

BRCA2 and its Impact on my Health

The next shock, in February, was my diagnosis of a genetic mutation, BRCA2, which increases my risk of cancer.  At the beginning of this year I would not have believed that I would have four operations, two of them to fix complications from the other two, and that I would have most of this year off work.  My recovery has been prolonged, and at this stage I’m looking at even more time off work. 

 As a Registered Nurse in a busy surgical ward, I am unable to return until I can complete my role 100%, including performing CPR and patient handling.  The loss of that role has been extremely upsetting to me.  I’ve been a nurse for over 30 years and it’s part of my identity.  It’s taking me a while to come to terms with that.  The impact of the surgeries and complications has also taken a toll.  My body is different now, and I have new issues to deal with that will remain with me for life.

Pandemic Pandemonium

March saw the Pandemic drive us all into lockdown.  I doubt if anyone in the world has not been affected in some way from Covid-19.  I’ve been isolated from some of my family since then, and unable to spend time with some of my closest loved ones.  Not being able to travel to be with family during life-changing events like a death in the family, has taken its toll on many of us.  

I’ve now been at home recovering since mid-May, and had time off prior to that for my first operation.  The only positive is that I’ve been able to spend time on my blog, and work on my website to get it the way I want.  I really don’t know how I would have coped without this to do.  I would have gone crazy with boredom!

New Home for Midlifestylist

In the last two weeks I have moved my website from WordPress.com to a different platform.  I’ve been busy trying to get my website back up and functioning.  In the transfer process the last seven blog posts did not migrate to the new host, so I’ve been republishing them.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now.  

I am so glad I took the plunge and transferred my website.  The potential is amazing – I have lots of ideas on which direction I want to take Midlifestylist, so watch this space!

Ongoing Health Issues and the Emotional Toll 

In order to cope with massive life changing events and my health issues, my ability to cope emotionally has been under strain.  I’m not coping as well as I was a few weeks ago when I thought that my life would be back to normal by now.  I reached out and I’m going to talk to a counselor to help me to adjust.

I don’t think there’s any shame in admitting that you need counseling.  When your sleep is getting affected, and you’re crying at the drop of a hat, it’s time.  I’ll be looking into other ways to assist as well, like meditation and mindfulness.  Being proactive with your mental health is a sign of strength, not weakness.

I hope this resonates with some of my readers, and they find comfort in the fact that they are not alone in feeling stressed by the unpredictable events of this year.  Our ability to cope with all that 2020 has given us has been pushed to the limit.  Seek help if you’re not coping.  Don’t struggle through on your own.

I need to follow my own advice and take time for self care.  Read my two articles If you’re feeling stressed – Prioritising Self Care and Journalling as a Self Care Activity.

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Staying positive despite setbacks

Updates on Midlifestylist

It’s five weeks since my bilateral mastectomies and in that time there have been triumphs and setbacks. I’ve been trying to stay positive even though things have not gone as planned, and my recovery has been slow. I’ve been filling my time to help deal with my recovery time at home.

First the triumphs:

Midlifestylist News:

  • Midlifestylist is now officially a business! I registered the business name on the Australian Business Register and applied for an ABN (Australian Business Number). It’s exciting to see my business name on official documents. I first thought of the name seven years ago and bought a domain name but didn’t officially start my blog until October 2019. If I start earning money through my website I’ll need to pay tax so I thought it would be worth registering the name officially.
  • While I’ve been at home healing I completed a legal course for my website. I knew I’d need to get the legal side of things done before my website grew any further but haven’t had the time to sit down and tackle it until now. The course was very beneficial and included all the templates for Terms and Conditions, Disclosures, Privacy Policy and Disclaimers. A blogger that I follow had her blog plagiarised by a B-grade celebrity who made thousands of dollars off a book that she compiled from 4 or 5 bloggers’ work. The course I did covers copyright and what to do if your work is plagiarised. I recommend this course and if you’re interested, click the link highlighted. The basic course is free. If you buy one of the other courses I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Read the full disclosure here.

Personal news:

  • My niece Ally, her friend Coralee and I raised over $1000 for breast cancer research by taking part in the GO PINK campaign. We dyed our hair pink and did a live feed which was a lot of fun.
  • My husband and I baked bread for the first time. He did all the mixing and kneading because I’m still not able to do anything strenuous. We ate 3/4 of the loaf with some homemade vegetable soup because it was so moreish. We have a bread-maker on order but it won’t come until July. It looks like everyone else had the same idea when there were shortages of everything in the shops.
  • Our vegetable garden is thriving and we’re already eating produce from it. Every year it improves because with trial and error we’re finding the best ways to do things. The weather has been perfect for growing too with lovely sunny days and plenty of rain. Winter really is the perfect time of the year in Queensland.
  • I’ve been collaborating with other bloggers on some projects which are new and exciting. One of the best things about blogging is the community of like-minded individuals that you meet online. Reading their blogs gives you another perspective as well.
Freshly baked bread - learning new skills and trying new recipes have been some of the ways I have filled my time
Freshly baked bread

Now the setbacks:

  • I still have a lot of swelling and the wound is taking a long time to heal because of the massive post-op bleed I had on the left side. I had to have another course of antibiotics and I’ve been very restricted in what I’m allowed to do. I’m supposed to start back at work on Monday but I’m not up to that because nursing is a very active job and I’m not allowed to lift anything or do strenuous work yet. I was referred to a haematologist to try to get to the bottom of why I bled so much. It may be genetic because I’ve had a few other instances in my life of unexplained bleeding. There have been days when it all gets too much and I’ll be very down in the dumps and cry, but I’m able to bounce back and am in a positive frame of mind most of the time. I’ve had a lot of support so that definitely helps.
  • Because my mobility has been restricted I’ve been very tired at times. The worst week was when my husband went back to work after looking after me for 3 weeks. I wasn’t allowed to drive so was catching the bus and tram which meant catching 2 buses to get to my doctors’ appointments and 2 home, plus walking. I can drive short distances now and that’s been a huge improvement. We hired dog walkers so that my dog didn’t miss out on his walk and now that I can drive I can take him to a dog park where I can park so close that he can jump out of the car and go straight onto the off-leash area so I don’t have to hold his lead. He’s a big boy and at the moment I’m not up to him pulling on his lead.

The Pandemic and Social Distancing

The social distancing laws are gradually easing in Australia which is a big relief. The border between Queensland and New South Wales will open in a couple of weeks so I’ll finally be able to visit my brother who lives an hour away. We have a camping trip planned for the last weekend in August which has been delayed twice before. We’re really hoping we’ll be able to go this time. My sister-in-law’s 50th birthday party can finally go ahead as well – she was waiting for restrictions to ease. It has an Alice in Wonderland theme so I’ve been making a costume – watch this space as I may be brave enough to publish photos!

I hope all my readers are staying well and coping with whatever restrictions are on in your part of the world. This year has certainly put a lot of stress on to people and we’re all having to cope with current events. There’s still a lot of unrest from the Black Lives Matter movement, which I wrote about in my last post. I hope that this year’s events bring about lasting change for the better. The world has now woken up and it would be awesome if we all learnt the lessons that are available to us.

Taking my dog for a walk daily has been one of my favourite activities while recovering from surgery
Taking my dog for a walk daily has been one of my favourite activities while recovering from surgery

While recovering from surgery there are triumphs and setbacks. It’s important to stay positive and look to the future as this period in my life won’t last forever. I don’t regret making the decision to do risk-reducing surgery as it means my chances of getting cancer are reduced almost to zero. No matter how hard things seem right now, it is important to focus on the bigger picture. I’ve been through much worse than this in the past and I know I have the inner strength to get through this as well.

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Our own shameful statistics on Black Deaths in Custody

The news coming out of the US after George Floyd’s death in custody was incredibly disturbing. What followed was shocking to witness. I heard again and again “It’s disgusting what’s happening in America”. The reality is, however, Australia is no better than America. We have our own shameful statistics of black deaths in custody. I’m writing this because I don’t want to stay silent. As Meghan Markle said “the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing.” If we want change, we have to speak up.

Some Background on my own Situation

I grew up in New Zealand, where my life was stable and lacking in exposure to prejudice and racism. We grew up very close to our Maori and Pacific Islander friends and relatives. I honestly never thought about race in context of who to make friends with when I was a child. We learnt Maori language at school and learning New Zealand history included learning Maori history and folklore which was an integral aspect of our culture. We all learned Maori songs, crafts and art – it was as part of our education as maths and English were. I don’t remember ever witnessing racism during my childhood. That’s not to say it wasn’t there, but it was not something I ever thought about.

Biases towards New Zealanders in Australian Culture

It wasn’t until I moved to Australia in the 80’s as a 19 year old that I ever had prejudism focused on me. Australia in the ’80s was very different to today. Kiwis were allowed to emigrate to Australia without any barriers and we had a bad name for coming here and going straight on the dole. We were allowed immediate access to Australia’s welfare system and it was very easy to become a permanent resident and citizen. Consequently we were not always welcome here. I had a very hard time applying for jobs and frequently had the phone slammed in my ear as soon as they heard my Kiwi accent. We were regarded as bludgers and probably deserved it due to many of my fellow Kiwis taking advantage of the system.

I eventually did get a job, but not until I applied for a Government department that advertised their policy of equal opportunity no matter what race, sex, religion or sexuality you were. I pointed out the policy in my interview, and I like to think that my cheekiness had something to do with why I got that job. These days it is much easier to be accepted by employers but equal opportunity in those days was a new concept. Now it is in legislature, and rightly so. While I did experience some discrimination because of being a New Zealander, this was in no way comparable to the level of racism and discrimination that is facing by people of colour here and throughout the world.

Culture Shock as a Young Nurse

I had a bit of a naivity in those days. My nursing career began in 1987 in a public hospital in Brisbane. It opened my eyes to the health issues facing new migrants and Aboriginals. Seeing how their health outcomes were so much worse than the general population was disturbing. I wanted to do something to help – I thought that I could make a difference if I worked in a small community with a large Aboriginal population. Feeling driven to do something to help, I took a job in a small outback hospital in the Northern Territory.

I was in for a major culture shock. I soon realised that the problems facing Aboriginal communities were way more complex and ingrained than what I had anticipated. This naive 30 year old nurse was pretty useless, especially when trying to assess Aboriginals who were living very traditionally. My questions were met by amusement many times because of the cultural divide between myself and them. My ignorance was the problem. They are beautiful people who are proud and self sufficient – even when they are extremely sick they will still make their own way to the bathroom rather than have someone help them. Even though I’m disappointed that I really didn’t do much to change their health outcomes, I learnt more from my year in the Northern Territory than I did in 10 years in the city.

Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

The statistics on black deaths in custody are appalling, and not just in the US. In 1991 there was a Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody. The key finding of the royal commission was that Aboriginal people are more likely to die in custody because they are arrested and jailed at disproportionate rates. That remains as true in 2020 as it was in 1991. In 1991, 14.3% of the male prison population in Australia was Indigenous. In March 2020 it was 28.6%. According to data released by Australian Bureau of Statistics this month, 4.7% of all Indigenous men are in jail compared with just 0.3% of all non-Indigenous men.

At the time of the Royal Commission, as now, non-Indigenous people died in greater numbers, and at a greater rate, in custody than Indigenous people. But then, as now, Indigenous people made up just 3% of the total population. That means more Aboriginal people are imprisoned and dying as a proportion of their total population.

“The conclusions are clear,” royal commissioner Elliott Johnston QC wrote in 1991. “Aboriginal people die in custody at a rate relative to the proportion of the whole population which is totally unacceptable and which would not be tolerated if it occurred in the non-Aboriginal community. But this occurs … because the Aboriginal population is grossly over-represented in custody. Too many Aboriginal people are in custody too often.”

Source: Aboriginal deaths in custody: Black Lives Matter protests referred to our count of 432 deaths. It’s now 437, The Guardian, 9 June 2020

What is the Solution to the statistics on black deaths in custody?

There’s no easy solution, and it would be easy to put blame on the Government and politicians for these appalling figures. Prosecuting law enforcers as in the US in the case of George Floyd is definitely a step in the right direction. Police brutality in America has been in the headlines lately. Unfortunately Australian police have been guilty of excessive force as well, with a record including fatal shootings, excessive taser use and overly rough treatment during arrests.

Despite evidence in some cases of excessive force or neglect by police or prison officers, there has never been a criminal conviction for a death in custody in Australia. The police officer accused of killing an Aboriginal man on Palm Island in 2004, Chris Hurley, was acquitted of manslaughter. Two police officers are currently facing murder charges for the deaths of Kumanjayi Walker in the Northern Territory and Joyce Clarke in Western Australia, and both have indicated they will plead not guilty. The police have the power to use force, but only within the conditions set out in the legislation of their state. Stronger guidelines around what constitutes excessive force by law enforcement, and more awareness of citizens’ rights needs to be in place. Source: Shine Lawyers

How can we help the Black Lives Matter movement?

How can we help empower black people within our communities? Ask them what they need. Listen to their concerns. They have been dealing with inequalities and injustices for centuries. In 2020 it is clear that they’re frustrated. Aboriginals shouldn’t have to fight to be heard, or criticised for attending the Black Lives Matter protests. We need to be woken up! Wotna Moris, a Papua New Guinean lawyer and political analyst, wrote a very inspiring piece on how the collective voices of black people around the world combine in this one voice that is the Black Lives Matter protests.

Systemic racial discrimination is a worldwide problem that black people have combated since slavery and colonisation. And in that battle, every step taken by one of us, towards equality, is a step taken by all of us and has always been.

Wotna Moris, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/09/australias-pacific-minister-called-black-lives-matter-protests-self-indulgent-he-couldnt-be-more-wrong

Meyne Wyatt told us exactly what he wants in his powerful monologue on the ABC’s Q&A programme. His moving speech grabs at your guts and makes you sit up and take notice. They’re angry after more than two centuries of racism and prejudism. That anger is fueling the Black Lives Matter protests in Australia and around the world. I understand it, and I want to help! The best way to help is to listen to what they are telling us.

Meyne Wyatt on racism

Educate yourself about culture

Educate yourselves with regards to their culture. This is what I noticed with the difference between my education in NZ and my Australian counterparts. School children were immersed in the Maori culture. We didn’t regard it as separate from ourselves. It was part of us. My Australian friends knew very little about Aboriginal culture, whereas we knew a lot. Education brings tolerance. If I had done my nursing training in New Zealand there would have been a requirement to learn so much of the language and have cultural understanding before I was registered. That goes a long way towards tolerance and respect of their cultural differences.

Children aren’t born with cultural biases – they are learned. Education needs to start very young.

In Respect of the Traditional Aboriginal Owners of my own City

In saying this, I realised I do not know anything about the traditional owners of the city in which I live. I need to educate myself so that I can show appropriate respect for the land on which I live. Aboriginal culture is very much entwined with the land. They were the original environmentalists who knew how to respect their land, and receive nourishment from it without stripping it of resources. Australian landscapes can be harsh but they found enough food to sustain them during drought, often traveling vast distances to achieve it. They know how to regenerate the land after bushfire and other natural disasters, all too common in Australia.

I live in the Gold Coast, a very glitzy city which caters for tourists. It is well known for Surfers Paradise, the theme parks and beaches. What isn’t as well known is that it is the traditional home of the Yugambeh people. The Yugambeh language people are the traditional custodians of the land located in south-east Queensland and north-east New South Wales, now within the Logan City, Gold Coast, Scenic Rim, and Tweed City regions whose ancestors all spoke one or more dialects of the Yugambeh Language. 

How to Verbalise Respect For the Traditional Owners

We acknowledge and pay respect to the land and the traditional families of the Yugambeh region of South East Queensland, including the Kombumerri, Mununjali, Wangerriburra and others, and their Elders past present and emerging.

https://www.yugambeh.com/faq

One of the most popular beaches in the Gold Coast is Burleigh, the ancestral home of the Kombumerri Tribe. Known as “The Salt Water People”, it is believed they lived in the area for thousands of years. Around 1936 they ceased holding their ceremonies there. Many of the people remained at Burleigh Heads. The Aboriginal name for Big Burleigh is Jellurgul; Little Burleigh is Jebbribillum or the Waddy of Jebreen. Jellurgul meaning sugar bag or bee’s nest. Other reports from later say Big Burleigh was Jayling (black) and Gumbelmoy (rock), named after the volcanic black basalt rock of the headland. Jellurgal is the cultural centre in Burleigh where it is possible to learn more about Aboriginal culture. Source: https://www.burleigh.com.au/history.html

Burleigh Beach, Gold Coast, Australia.  Home of the Yugambeh people
Burleigh Beach, Gold Coast, Australia. Home of the Yugambeh people

Moving forwards …

As a final note, I urge you to stand up to racism and prejudism when you see it. Be aware of your own biases, as we all have them. Speak up if you see someone being intolerant of anyone else. We must stand up for those who do not have a voice, those who have been pushed down their whole lives. I do not know what it is like to live in fear every time I step out my door because of the colour of my skin. I acknowledge my own white privilege. It’s only by standing together that we can overcome this problem in our society.

Stop Black Deaths in Custody.  It's not just a problem in the U.S.  Australia has it's own shameful statistics on black deaths in custody
Stop Black Deaths in Custody. It’s not just a problem in the U.S. Australia has it’s own shameful statistics on black deaths in custody
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Being a patient in the midst of a pandemic

As I wrote in my previous post, I have been in and out of hospital since March, pretty much the whole time Australia has been in lockdown. Going through health issues during this time has been challenging to say the least. Being a patient in a pandemic has increased the stressful experience a massive amount. I was lucky to have my surgeries at all. Elective surgeries were put on hold to make way for an influx of Covid-19 patients.

Getting through the door of a hospital is like running the gauntlet. As you enter the building you are met by staff who screen you for signs of a fever and ask questions about your recent exposure risks. Visitors are limited which is difficult when you’re going through surgery.

My Recovery From Bilateral Prophylactic Mastectomies

On the 13th of May I had bilateral prophylactic mastectomies because my risk of getting breast cancer was 60-80% due to having the BRCA2 gene mutation. The surgery went well. The following morning I developed severe swelling in the left breast. My haemoglobin dropped very low due to bleeding.

I experience a post operative complication after my bilateral prophylactic mastectomy.  In this photo I am severely anaemic.  I had a haemorrhage in my left breast.  The swelling is visible in this photo.
Post-operative complications: My Hb was 63 (normally 120) so I’m extremely pale. My left upper chest is swollen up to my shoulder, compared to my right shoulder where you can clearly see my clavicle. The surgeon operated again to drain 600ml of blood. Not the prettiest photo of myself but it’s true to life

I had emergency surgery to drain the haematoma but continued to bleed into the drain. I lost over 1.2 litres of blood and needed 4 units of blood transfusion. It was extremely scary to go through, and I felt like I’d made a huge mistake to have the mastectomies done.

A Prolonged Recovery Due to Complications

My recovery has been slow because of this setback. I was in hospital for 6 days, waiting for my blood count to get high enough to be discharged. I’ve had some really low periods during the last couple of weeks, days where I’ve been really emotional and cried many times. I guess many women undergoing mastectomies would be emotional. My own low mood is affected by the fact that my surgeries have had complications.

I have been extremely lucky to be in the position where I can have surgery during the pandemic. If I was a public patient my operations wouldn’t have gone ahead at all. I’ve always had private insurance, but that doesn’t cover all the costs. I’m lucky I had funds set aside for emergency as I am thousands of dollars out of pocket.

The Cancellation of Elective Surgeries

Hospitals have been very quiet in Australia because of elective surgery being cancelled. This has worked in my favour because I have been able to have a nice quiet atmosphere to recover. As a nurse I am well aware of how busy hospitals usually are so it was nice to see the nurses looking relaxed and not stressed.

I received outstanding care from the nurses and doctors during my admissions to hospital. I felt very well looked after especially when I had the post-operative bleed. If the nurses hadn’t been so on-the-ball my outcome might not have been so great.

Limited Movement Post Mastectomy

I’m now recuperating at home, which will take time because of the complications. I am very limited in what I can do and need to rest as much as I can. I’m typing this on my mobile phone because I need to limit my arm movements. I’ve never been so reliant on other people for my needs

I have deep appreciation for my husband who has been taking very good care of me. He’s had to shower me and wash and dry my hair and do all the household tasks. My heart swells with gratitude for how he has cared for me and I feel more in love with him for the way he does everything for me so lovingly. He has been my rock through so many things in the past.

Emotional Support For Mastectomy Patients

I have felt loved and supported by so many people in the last few months. Even though we’ve had social distancing laws and can’t always be together, I’ve had many messages of support which have uplifted me when I need it the most. Social distancing hasn’t prevented them from caring.

My boss has been incredibly supportive as well, allowing me to have time off to have these operations and medical appointments. I am really grateful to her for caring and empathising with my situation. It has made a huge impact on my morale going through all my health issues to know my job is secure.

Looking Forward To My Recovery

I’m through all my surgeries now, and on the way to recovery. I am looking forward to gaining some independence back because it’s hard relying on other people. I’m very bruised and I still have drains in. I can’t do much except rest as I’m not able to raise my arms above my shoulders or even go for a walk. I’m really looking forward to the day I can walk the dog.

This year has made me aware of what truly matters in life. It’s not possessions or expensive holidays that count. The things I value now are my health, my loved ones and my independence. I feel very loved by many people and that is the ultimate outcome of a year which has brought unprecedented change to everyone worldwide.

Being a Patient in the Midst of a Pandemic.  How the pandemic impacts your experience of healthcare.  I had a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy in May 2020.  This is an account of how my surgery was impacted due to being a patient in the midst of a pandemic.

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