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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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. I was lucky to have my surgeries at all because 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 are met by staff who screen you for signs of a fever and ask questions about your recent exposure risks as you enter the building. Visitors are limited which is difficult when you’re going through surgery.

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 and my Hb dropped very low due to bleeding.

post operative complication after a mastectomy
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.

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. 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, but 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 so I’m lucky I had funds set aside for emergency as I am thousands of dollars out of pocket.

In Australia, hospitals have been very quiet 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.

I’m now recuperating at home, which will take time because of the complications. I’m 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 as well as 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.

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.

I’m through all my surgeries now, and on the way to recovery. I’m 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.

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