Month: August 2014

Alive at Forty-Five

I have always loved birthdays, and in fact I believe I was one of the originators of the Birthday Festival, which extends the celebration of one’s birth out to include the entire month. I love having all my people around me, going to lunches and dinners and parties and eating cakes. I’m not ashamed to say, I love it all!

Birthdays have become especially meaningful for me since my diagnosis. Every birthday I get is a gift (but I still expect presents). This Friday I turn 45; it will be my second birthday since finding out I had breast cancer. Last year my 44th birthday also marked three months since completion of treatment, and my first taste of alcohol in almost a year. I’m not really much of a drinker at the best of times, but this occasion really called for some serious social lubricant. Hence, I had my party at a pub, where my friends kept a steady supply of drinks up to me for the duration.

The drinks looked like this:


And by the end of the evening, I looked like this:

julie pissed

I didn’t get a photo with all of my friends, because earlier on in the day when I was sober and sensible, I was too busy enjoying everyone’s company to remember photos. But here are some shots of some of the most amazing people in the universe and a one-boobed chick.

Me and my husband. Look at the love on my face! Sure, some of it is attributable to Cointreau, but it’s mostly because of the man who lets me rest on his shoulder whenever I want:

Julie and Dave

My best buddies in the world. The one on the left of the photo flew almost 900 kms to surprise me at this party. I cannot tell you how bloody special that made me feel! The one on the right is The Wind Beneath My Wings.

kylie, julie, karin

My dear friend, whose life has rolled out at the polar opposite to mine (eg she was 17 when she had her first baby, I was 38) but who loves me, and gets me, and warms any room with the wattage of her personality. One day we will write a book together. Check me out clutching my non-existent pearls and braying like a donkey:

julie and katrina

My friend from uni, who I met in 1987. That’s nearly 30 years people!! She sewed me scarves when I was bald, one of them was made out of a beautiful purple fabric that made me feel a bit less like a pirate when I wore it:

julie and susie

This delightful lass and I met at work, and then spent many an evening with as two single 30-somethings watching crappy television and lamenting the lack of eligible men in our respective lounge rooms. Then I found love, and she found love! Then I had a baby boy, and she had a baby boy! She’s definitely not getting cancer though, I will take one for the team in that regard:

julie and kristin

Taking a risk in this shot and leaning over in a v-necked top – the boob out of the box might at any minute land in someone’s drink. The lady on the left I met when we were both about 7 – her parents lived next door to my aunt and uncle. Fast forward 35 years and we work in adjacent offices. During my 8 months off work she regularly emailed me pictures of other people using my beloved coffee mug, just to keep things real. The gorgeous girl in white I used to work with many years ago – she introduced me to the saying ‘I could eat a shit sandwich, but only if the bread was fresh’:

toni, julie and sue

At this point, all of the people who went home before I got the camera out are thinking thank fuck for that.

This Friday I will be in Sydney for my birthday, on a 5-day holiday with my boys and my two best buddies. I cannot tell you how fabulous it was to be 44, and how equally fabulous it will be to turn 45.

future meme

Happy Birthday to me!


Over the past week, I took part in one of those Facebook things where someone tags you and you have to post for seven days about what you’re grateful about, and each day tag someone else to participate. I rarely pay much attention to anything on Facebook except LOL cats and how many likes my posts get, but I decided to take on the grateful challenge because it seemed a lot less questionable than many others I’ve received.

funny facebook shares

I think the point of the grateful challenge is to make us stop and think about our lives, and how much we have to be thankful for. Either that or there is no actual point and it’s just a ploy to get us to keep us interested in Facebook, because they make around $10 per user per year from advertising in the US alone.  But I can’t believe that. I mean look at Mark Zuckerberg’s honest, baby face:


Anyway, I digress. Over seven days, I had to write down three things for which I am grateful. You probably think that someone who has (to this point at least) survived cancer, would have a heart full of gratefulness and an unlimited number of meaningful things to share and make all my Facebook friends misty-eyed and full of admiration at my pluck, but it just isn’t so. Yes, I am grateful to be alive, and that was in fact the first thing I posted. But most days I get shitted off by something or someone and I wish I had more of something (free time, money, chocolate) than I do. I feel impatient and tired and annoyed at the world at some point pretty regularly. I feel sad about having cancer hanging over me. I forget to be grateful about the good stuff because the bad stuff sometimes seems so much bigger and louder and in my face. Cancer has not made me saintly; I have not risen above it all.

The only light-bulb moment I had during the whole awful process was the giant dome-shaped, circular one in the operating theatre just before they chopped my right breast off.  Cancer is bullshit! I am happy to be alive and most definitely grateful that in the random lottery of life I was one of the ones for whom the treatment has so far worked. But there is plenty of stuff about which I am not happy, and that is most definitely no cause for gratefulness. In the spirit of this, I present you my list of the top 10 things that have recently given me the shits:

  1. People who say ‘so you’re cured?’. Firstly, in case you missed the fucking memo people, there is no cure for cancer. Secondly, we are casual acquaintances. What if I’m honest and answer no? How are you going to wrap up that awkward little conversation?
  2. Telstra. Two years ago they gave our home phone number and address to someone else, who is most likely actually not a real person. All the evidence points to this person not being real, but to this day if you look up his name on Telstra white pages, there he’ll be living in our house and using our telephone number. Oh and we haven’t been Telstra clients for almost six years, which just adds to the total fuckwittery of the whole situation.
  3. People in my workplace who say ‘that’s not in my job description’. Well, dealing with lazy-arsed pen pushers is not in my job description either, but here I am talking to you about what’s not in your job description.
  4. Random pains that have no explanation. Sudden stabbing pain to the abdomen that happens once for six minutes and then never returns, I’m talking to you! Thanks for introducing the idea of secondary liver cancer into my head, mentally going over that pretty much constantly for three weeks was fun.
  5. Christopher Pyne.Pyne
  6. And whilst I’m on a political tangent, Senator Eric Abetz. In case you missed it, this clueless arsehole (who incidentally speaks like Reverend Lovejoy from The Simpsons) said on national television: “I think the studies, and I think they date back from the 1950s, assert that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer.” And I think there’s a link between Liberal politicians and being dumb as dog shit, but I guess I don’t have any solid research from the 1950’s to back that up.
  7. Reality makeover shows where people say things like ‘I want to go back to being the man she married’. You are the man she married, just older and fatter.
  8. The fact that I paid the best part of $200 for some fancy shoes that are supposed to be ‘luxuriously comfortable’ but have given me blisters. If anyone who works at Zeira is reading this, I will accept multiple free pairs of shoes as compensation for my pain and suffering.
  9. My ridiculously dry skin. Thanks to a combination of the anti-cancer drugs I’m on and being a dried up old bag, my skin is so dry that it hurts, and even the most gentle, natural moisturisers just make it hurt more. I am considering covering myself in goose fat for the remainder of winter, but I don’t want the expectation that I’ll then swim the English Channel hanging over me.
  10. The word ‘amazeballs’. How is it pronounced? Is it ‘amaze – balls’? ‘Am-aze-eh-balls’? ‘Ama – zeballs’? Or ‘I’m a pretentious hipster twat’? In November last year amazeballs was added to the Dictionary of the Most Annoying Words in the English Language, where it was defined as “an exclamation inviting someone to hit you.”

So there it is, my shit list as at Wednesday, 20 August. Feel free to add your shit list as a comment, or even better, on the Boob in a Box Facebook page. I’d be ever so grateful.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Last week will be filed away under S for shithouse. Firstly, our dishwasher went on strike and we are now up to day seven of waiting for a part to see if it can be fixed. I know no-one likes washing up but I have a thing about water with stuff floating in it (gag) so every evening I loudly lament the loss of Mr Dishlex as my husband stoically does the dishes.

Then I had to have my beloved old cat euthanised. At the time, cremation was offered as an option but I decided I wanted him buried in our garden. Aforementioned stoic husband then had to dig the grave, which flared up a disc injury in his back and he was rendered unable to do much except lie on the floor in agony for the next 48 hours. I have also come to regret the decision to bury Cosmo, as every time I look out into the back garden and see the little patch of bare earth, I think about awful things like decomposition. I have also several times thought I’ve heard him meowing, only to realise it’s a bird or something on tv or my walking dead cat who’s clawed his way out of the earth and wants to know why one of the dogs is now using his heated bed.


The worst of the week is probably going to be the worst of many weeks to come. When the completion of my menopause was confirmed, my hormone therapy drug was changed. Because my sort of breast cancer was hormonally-driven, I need to take a drug which helps prevent further hormonally-based tumours developing in my body. Before and during menopause, the drug I was given was called Tamoxifen, which my body dealt with pretty well. It made me nauseous, but I could avoid that by taking it just before bed, so my year on Tamoxifen was pretty much a breeze. Five weeks ago I was switched to the drug of choice for post-menopausal dried up old bats such as my good self. The proper name for my new drug is Anastrozole, but I like to call it A Complete Fucking Nightmare.

The main side effect of Anastrozole is joint and bone pain. I am a bit of an old hand with it, as it was my main side effect from chemo. I had 16 weeks of pain that got so bad that it couldn’t be controlled by any of the many anti-inflammatories and painkillers the doctors tried, and by the end I would just lie in bed and cry. I dealt with the pain knowing that as soon as I stopped chemo, it would go away, which it did. Five weeks in on Anastrozole and the joint pain is severe, especially at night. During the last week, every night I’ve had a bit of a quiet cry at bedtime because the pain in my knees, hands and wrists is just constant. The kicker in all of this is that I know the pain will stop when I stop taking the Anastrozole. And when is that, I hear you ask? July, 2019.

Yep, I have to take Anastrozole for five years, and I’m at the five week mark right now and wondering how the hell I’m going to do it. I know the next question you have, because it was my next question – can I stop taking it? Well of course I can, no-one is making me take it. I can choose not to take it and go back to nice gentle Tamoxifen instead, but recent research shows that taking Anastrozole instead of Tamoxifen almost halves the likelihood of the breast cancer returning anywhere in the body and increases the chances of survival by nearly a third. When discussed in theory, these numbers pretty impressive. Let me tell you that when you are reading it and applying it to yourself and your chances of survival, of being alive and seeing your husband graduate from university and your kid lose his first tooth, it becomes all you need to know. Prescription and five years worth of repeats, thank you very much doctor.

Because cancer is apparently the gift that just keeps on giving, the bone pain is actually a good thing. A 2008 British study suggests that patients who experience joint pain while taking Anastrozole were less likely to have the breast cancer recur. So basically I choose to take Anastrozole because it may help me stay alive, but it gives me severe bone pain which will affect my quality of life, but the bone pain indicates a reduced risk of the cancer coming so in fact the pain may motivate me to keep taking it? Holy mindfuck Batman! I’m now investigating ways of controlling and minimising the bone pain, including acupuncture, massage, epsom salt baths, krill oil, green lip mussel extract, turmeric and crack cocaine. Not necessarily in that order.

But, in spite of the shit sandwich served with a side of dead cat, good things have also happened, so I might have to cross-reference this week under A for all right. First, this blog was mentioned twice by the fabulous Mrs Woog on the Woogsworld blog and Facebook page. I discovered – and literally yelled holy shit! when I did – that the incomparably talented Eden Riley has included my blog on her blogroll at Edenland, and then I got a lovely mention over at KiKi and Tea. Those mentions combined meant that there were more than 2,000 individual visits to this blog last week. Two thousand people from 12 countries. Seriously! Then, I got asked, on the basis of what I’ve written on this blog, to be the guest speaker at the major breast cancer fundraiser in my city during Breast Cancer Awareness month in October. On Monday 8 October 2012 I was told I had breast cancer, and on Wednesday, 8 October 2014 I will speak to a function room full of people about breast cancer. Holy mindfuck ON A STICK Batman!

Finally,  my favourite moment of the week has nothing to do with cancer or blogs or speaking gigs, and came from my boy (as it often does). Behold, what I believe to be the world’s best ever slogan for Book Week:

hugh book week

Look out Don Draper, there’s a new kid in town.

Goodbye Old Friend

My cat died this morning. He was 17 years old, and dementia had taken hold to the point where he had started going to the toilet anywhere and everywhere. He was constantly confused and meowing plaintively for food whilst sitting right in front of a full bowl of the good stuff. My friend Jules, who is a mobile vet, came to our house and he passed away peacefully in my arms. We buried him in the backyard, with a big rock over the top of the grave to prevent his two sparring partners, our dogs, from facilitating a feline re-enactment of The Walking Dead. zombie cat

God, I am so sad. I keep imaging the feeling of him brushing against my leg, and as I move around the kitchen my brain keeps reminding me to look out for him underfoot. I got Cosmo when he was 7 weeks old, the day after I moved into the house I’d just bought in 1997. It was the first time I’d ever lived alone, but I wasn’t alone for long because as soon as I bought home that ball of fluff who purred as loud as a jet engine, we were a pair. For seven years he was my only housemate. He slept on my bed every night, and sat waiting at the front gate for me to come home from work every afternoon. He was an enormous cat in his prime – as tall as my knee and weighing in at 10kgs – but he was more a lover than a fighter or hunter. He was a fixture in our little neck of the woods, where he wandered through gardens and climbed trees – everyone knew his name and the little boy across the road wanted to take Cosmo to ‘Pets to School’ day because Cosmo was the closest thing he had to a pet of his own. One day my next door neighbour found him curled up asleep on her bed, after he’d climbed in through the window. I was horrified when she came to tell me, and made straight for her house to retrieve him, but she told me to let him sleep and she’d send him home when he awoke.


When I met Dave, Cosmo’s life remained much the same, with just some minor adjustments to how much room he was allowed on our bed. The first and only time Cosmo ever hunted was on our wedding day. We were lying in bed on that Saturday morning when Cosmo appeared in the bedroom and dropped a dead Indian mynah on the floor. I decided it was a good omen (for us, not the bird) and the day did indeed go off without a hitch. After the wedding we moved house, to a much busier neighbourhood, so Dave built Cosmo a palatial cat playground where he could lie out in the sun and watch the world go by, but couldn’t wander into traffic or the jaws of the neighbours’ gigantic dogs. We then extended our pet family to include a tiny puppy called Myf, who soon had our gigantic cat just where she wanted him.


Then came Roy, the stray from the pound who’d been around the block enough times to realise that if he got along with the cat, everything would be just fine.

The three stooges, now two.

The three furry siblings.

When I was six months pregnant with Hugh, Cosmo got sick and was diagnosed with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) which is basically a cat version of HIV. I was told to expect the worst, but Cosmo bounced back after treatment and was symptom free for more than six years. During this time, he was also bitten by a paralysis tick and spent four days in intensive care, but he still has a few of his nine lives left, so he kicked on from that too.

When you have a 17 year old cat with FIV, you know that the end of the line can’t be too far away. My hope was that he’d do as my parents elderly cat did, and stroll into the lounge room, curl up in the middle of the rug, and fall quietly into a sleep from which he didn’t wake. But sadly that didn’t happen, and so I was forced to make the dreaded call. I have cried a lot, and I will probably cry a lot more; today I said goodbye to a dear companion and an unquestioning friend.

Until one has loved an animal a part of one's soul remains unawakened. - Anatole France

Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. – Anatole France

Rest in peace my beautiful Cosmo cat. My loud-purring, sometimes cranky, always arse-kicking mate. You were so very loved.


My dear friend Jules, from Creature Comforts Mobile Vets helped Cosmo to have such a dignified and peaceful death, and I will forever be grateful for her gentleness and compassion. If you live in Toowoomba or surrounds,  I cannot recommend Jules highly enough. She is a great vet and a wonderful human being.