Thursday, February 4, 2016

I am back, briefly

I am back, briefly

Hello, dear readers.

It has taken me about 45 minutes to log back into blogger.  After such a long hiatus Google freaked out and sent me all these emails warning me I was being hacked.  

Who would have thought Google would decide to annoyingly consolidate everything into one big non user friendly account with a 1990s style interface.

It has been so long I almost forgot both my user name and password, which is not helped by the fact I have 5 separate email accounts not including the home one. 

And I found more than 400 emails in my inbox, admittedly a rather large number of spam (not I don't want to 'collaborate' with you on my blog, sorry), but others, I am embarrassed to say, from dear internet friends emailing to check up on me and share their stories. 

To those who wrote and to whom I haven't got back to yet, I am dreadfully sorry.   I pride myself on being responsive and organised, and indeed, I get at least a 100 emails most days at work, and end the day with only a couple in my in box (not perfect of course, just slightly OC). 

As luck would have it, I am having a non superstitious month, and I have a few little thoughts and writings I have put together about cancer, post cancer and all of that stuff.  

I have put this off because I was pretty certain that continuing to write about cancer would curse me with a recurrence.   I am now slightly more philosophical about these things

None of my writing tends to feature any of the following words:

  • journey or cancer journey 
  • remission
  • courageous
  • pink.
I will explain why in due course.

In the meantime, it has been 3 years since I posted. 

My how the world of blogging has changed. 

No more blog rolls.  Hardly anyone comments any more.   It seems like a less generous, inclusive space, but I am sure that that is just the natural progression of life.  People are busy, and they find new and different ways to distract and entertain themselves. 

Most bloggers have moved to instagram, in my case, exclusively.  

And so, what that means is that I feel more like I am writing for no-one and no body, and that is a good thing.  So really  it has come full circle.  

The other anniversary which has passed by is my 5 year anniversary post my diagnosis.   And yes, I seem to be still here. 

I spent that day, a day I had been dreading, and anticipating, in equal quantities, in central England in a tiny honey coloured stone village called Easton on the Hill,  and here is what I posted to IG. 

Today marks 5 years since I was diagnosed with a breast cancer I was told was very aggressive. My children were 3 and 8. I was given a special pamphlet to help me explain 'cancer' to a boy who had just started kindergarten. 

I spent the next four weeks in total shock and denial. I had two major operations and then started two years of various treatments including chemo and Herceptin. And I don't even have room to list all the temporary and permanent side effects and issues arising from that treatment. I didn't really expect to be here to be honest. 

Being a patient in some ways is easy - you just let the system take over and you always feel supported (even though in some ways it is like attending your own funeral - so many flowers!). Being the family member or friend is much harder - so I would like to thank all those who brought food and champagne, wrote me notes, told me my newsreader style wig looked great, gave me the names of a great Chinese doctor and naturopath, sent me poems and DVDs and magazines and books, pushed me to keep exercising and just generally stood by me. 

Not just at diagnosis but six months and two years later. There were some friends and indeed family members who vanished never to be heard of again. But I guess that is more about them than me and other friends with cancer tell me this is quite common. I was lucky to get world class health care and to have an oncologist with both a sense of humor and great perception who understood what I wanted which was the nuclear option. Who also said do not whatever you do throw a five year survival party - because of course it is never over and in spite of what you might read there is no such thing as remission from breast cancer, not really. I was unlucky to be misdiagnosed by my GP so please do not do what I did and listen to the man who says you are too young to have a mammogram or ultrasound and trust your judgement always and always ask questions.

Love to all 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Myths and Mistakes

It has been so long since I posted I have had to seriously consider whether I should in fact close this blog down.  What happens when you delete a blog?  Can it be found floating around the ether?  It seems a shame to remove it completely.  
8 pm Fairhaven beach.  A rare still day. 

It has also been so long since I posted that I am starting to get vast amounts of spam comments to delete. (Why do the autobots target inactive blogs?  Seems counter intuitive to me.)  The other mystery of course is why do I lose followers when I don't blog?   Come on guys.  Hang in there. Surely infrequent posts are better than clogging up your reader with crap? 

I usually ask for no Xmas presents, but my husband ignored me
and this is what he gave me. A giant herb pot.  And still alive, last I looked.
So, I thought I would pop in to say, I am still here, alive and well (touches large piece of wood).

I have just had the most wonderful holiday down at the beach. We had a full four weeks away, which is the longest period of time I have had away from Melbourne since 1998.   So long that we returned to a completely dead garden.  Well the trees are fine, but the lawn, lavender, grass trees, jasmine and bay tree are dead or on the edge of death. So sad.  Perhaps we should have planned better.  But I didn't think Melbourne would have four weeks of no rain. 

So long that when I returned I really noticed all the cars and buildings were really close together, and felt cramped and busy all of a sudden.  Amazing what a change a few weeks in a different environment can make.

We spent our holiday swimming in the scary surf, doing Nippers with the children, cooking, roasting marshmallows, watching the tennis and cricket and old James Bond films, eating and drinking and sleeping.  Oh and reading.

Roasted eggplant, mint and pomegranate seed salad. 
I read a book every couple of days ranging from slightly trashy to sci fit to classic.   It was completely perfect.  

Wine, driftwood and trashy paperback ('Sister' - I wouldn't bother with it) 

I should say that I am not a particularly beachy person. I burn really easily, and I just had to stand on the beach, wearing hat and SPF30 mind you, for a few Nipper sessions for all my freckles to pop back up again.   And my hair.  Oh dear.   I just had to give up on getting it straight and shiny, and popped it back most days.  At least I have hair to complain about.  I can now finally say, 18 months after it started growing back, that is is almost where it was pre-cancer.  It takes such a long time to get back, much much longer than I had expected. 

540 Nippers posing for the news helicopter to
protest lack of government funding for the surf club 
And I also indulged my new addiction to Kundalini yoga, thanks to my Atlantan friend Jenny for the tip. I love Maya Fiennes so much I feel calm just looking at her face:

This book is brilliant by the way.  Easily available on line. 

I cannot emphasise enough how much yoga has helped me over the last few months. I really struggle with meditation - my mind races (yes I know the point of meditation is to control this) and it is very hard to get complete uninterrupted quiet in the house.  Yoga does require quiet but it is so much more doable with loud children around, and I still manage to get into quite a meditative state.   I highly highly recommend it.   And of course, you can do the Maya Kundalini yoga at home.   I prefer this to finding a yoga class which suits me (why are they always on Tuesday mornings or Saturday afternoons?)

I wrote a little article last year for the sometimes maligned Mamamia site.  It is about the myths which float around about cancer patients.  Mamamia annoyingly changed the title to 'Mistakes' which people make around cancer patients, which is the wrong word to use of course.  They have now published it (they didn't even tell me so I have only just seen it.)

I was going to ask you all to rush over and make nice comments about it, but there is not much criticism there, so it ain't necessary. But please by all means check it out at your leisure.  It is a consolidation of a lot of things I have been thinking for a while now.  Link is here

Have you been reading the GOMI thread about Aussie Mum Bloggers?  It's getting pretty long!  Leaving aside the 5% which is just very bitchy and malicious, I think there is something to learn in there for anyone who blogs.    And I have to be honest, some of the comments did make me laugh, and others I did agree with 100%.  Just makes me happy to not be a super huge blog with lots of sponsored posts and a gazillion readers. 

Another thing about being away for so long is that I arrived home and decided I am not completely happy with my house colour.  It is kind of this colour (Bristol Flagstone), we painted it 10 years ago.  

I want to paint it white, and give it a door like this.

(via a Beach Cottage)
Or this:

Is a white house really annoying? Does it get dirty and dusty?   I feel it is better for a house to recede than be out there and bright, but maybe a shake up is what is required.
I am going to do a juice cleanse for the start of February.  Given I do green smoothies blah blah I reckon it will be quite straightforward.  I wanted to do Orchard Street but irritatingly they only service Sydney.     So I am likely to go with Schkinny Manniny.  Silly name but it looks pretty interesting. 
That's all for now.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012


As a lawyer I get really annoyed about inaccuracies, misrepresentations and wrong information being given to me.

There is a lot of it out there when it comes to cancer.

But I can only post so many post anonymous comments on the Daily Mail in response to people who comment that anyone who has surgery and chemo for cancer is a fool or a 'Sheeple'.   I would like to help people sift through all that stuff.   I don't want people to feel bad about their treatment, or guilty, or God forbid, as if they have not been positive enough.  

Cape Otway by me
So I would like to mention my little Cancer FAQs at the side. I have just updated it, after leaving it un-updated since last November, which is way too long when you have a potentially life shortening disease.  

The reason for the delay is this. The longer I left it, the more superstitious I became that the very instance I updated it to say all is well I would have some catastrophic relapse into Cancer World. 

The same strange conviction has meant that I have not had my oven cleaned since December 2010, because the day I was diagnosed with cancer was the very day the Man Came To Clean the Oven. He did a great job by the way. But I feel that if I get him back, I will get cancer again.  (In case you are wondering, yes I have cleaned my oven in the last 19 months.  But myself, and not very well.)

From Anna Spiro's Instagram feed.

I know this is regressive, just like being a 16 year old and having some strange lovestruck repetivite thoughts like 'If this tram comes and if the boy is on it and sitting down the end then that means he likes me'.

But I can't help it. I have so little control over my life in some ways that if one way of getting that back is to have some little superstitions and phobias, then so be it. At least I don't have PTSD, which, truly, some people do get following cancer treatment.

Anyway, there it is.  Have a read and you can see where I am.

From Facehunter's Instagram feed

I am also in another place at the moment, the world of Instagram. I must confess, I am finding Instagram a great place to instantly connect with people, in a way which is really simple, and uncomplicated.   You can locate me on Instagram here

I have included in this post some favourite images from the last little while.   Fear not, you do not have to be inundated with images of 16 year old girls doing their nails. There are some wonderful images. 



From NatGeo's feed
To be honest, Instagram reminds me of blogging when I first started.  Before it got a bit cliquey, and a bit complicated, and a bit too much about branding, and advertising and making money from your blog, and counting stats, and linking, and etc etc.  Is that negative? I don't mean to be. 

I am just finding that I seem to have the time to post images to Instagram and I don't seem to have the time to blog. Feel free to follow me, but even better, go to Followgram and or sign up for Instagram if you have a smart phone and check out all the other amazing images, like Greenbeen below, who posts her fantastic breakfasts every day.

And if you have a feed I am not following, please let me know.  I still find the Instagram search function hilariously beta.   What I have found is a whole collection of Japanese people who post pictures of their very elegant, very charming cats.   I cannot resist.

via Ryukutora's Instragram feed

Stay happy, dear readers.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Blue and White Scarves

Still looking around, in a general, aimless way, for some more things for the beach house.   No, I do not move fast.  

I want to frame a scarf, which is of course a not very original design world idea.  Just check out Pinterest for all the gazillion examples of this look. 

Specifically however I would like blue and white and ideally a map.

I love this the most, from Table Tonic (only available in store) which Louise posted on Instagram yesterday:

I actually have a couple of Hermes scarves, as I mentioned in this post, which I contemplated wearing when I had no hair.  You know in the end I never wore a scarf when I was bald.  I just did not like the people staring which went with it.  The expression of someone who looks sad and shocked and sympathetic and pitying all at one time and then quickly tries to disguise it because they feel bad is something you only want to see a few times. 

The sadness for me is that the colours of my scarves, given to me by my mother, really don't suit me. In fact when you browse Hermes designs, some of them are just not that easy to wear.  Maybe that is why people have started framing them.

Here is another with a map in it (actually looks like the same designer as the one above):

(via Absolutely Beautiful Things)

The ones I like tend to be older.   Like this:

This is from 1969, design by Francoise de la Perriere.

Or this one, from One Kings Lane, which is a 2000 design.

And this amazing collage (sorry lost source), has some beautiful little blue and white in it. 

I can see this is going to be a long term project.

Weekend in Melbourne this weekend.  Lots to do including:

  • take children to see Brave
  • fish curry for dinner tonight. 
  • buy bedside table for son's room.
  • buy under bed storage for son's room.
  • clean out dining room.
  • college university reunion dinner tomorrow night. 
  • take bags of clothes to the Salvos.
  • get some sleep. 
  • do a bit of work. 
Have a lovely weekend.   If you want to see what I cook I will try to remember to post it on Instagram

Thursday, August 9, 2012


(at bedtime)

P (five year old): can I stay in this house forever?

Me:  Of course, how long did you have in mind?

P:    Until I am all grown up and me and Immy (big sister) have fallen in love with different people and we all live here together.  Me, Immy, the person I love and the person she loves.

Me:  What about mummy and daddy?

P:     You'll be dead won't you?

Me:   I bloody hope not.  (Note: bloody is not a swear word in our house as it is authentic Australian slang).

P:     (looks puzzled)

Me:   For example - look at Heddy, your grandmother. She is my mummy and she is still alive and I am grown up aren't I?

P:     Yes.

Me:   So there you go, when you are grown up, I should be alive too.

P:     Why do people die?

Me:  All living creatures have to die sometime. Sometimes they get sick, sometimes they just get old. The trick is to make sure you fit lots of life into the space between being born and dying.

P:    When will the Queen die?

Me:  I don't know for sure.  She is pretty old though. Over 80.

P:     Why isn't the Queen in the Lympics?  It's in her country.

Me:  I think she might be a bit old for running and swimming.

P:     It will be good when she dies.  There will be no one to boss us around anymore.

Me:   Not sure about that.  Prince Charles will become King Charles and unless we become a republic he will be our head of state.  Last time I looked he was pretty bossy.  About organic things. And architecture.  And the youth of today.

P:   What's a head of state?

Me: Never mind. (Note to self: need to better explain way constitutional monarchy works to children).

P:    I don't want you to die.  Or go to work tomorrow. Or leave me.  Ever.

Ever since I was diagnosed with cancer, something has been worrying P.   I know that this is an obvious thing to say, but I am constantly looking for signs that the fear he must have had to begin with is going away, at least a little.  After all, it has been almost two years now. 

In my lawyerly way I tried to pin his worry down to something specific, which I would then try to minimise or alleviate.  Was it losing my hair, vanishing to hospital for days on end, talking about my sore shoulder, being tired, being a bit sick or being unable to lift him properly anymore?   I have never lied to him about my diagnosis, and used my best efforts to explain bad cells and good cells and chemo to him.  I was always pretty vague about the surgery I had, simply because it was such an assault to my body that I really don't think he should be exposed to that at such a young age.

Of course that was just way too complicated an approach. 

He is five.  He doesn't care about any of that stuff.  He couldn't care less about my hair or my surgery or my blood counts or my bone scans or my fear of recurrence.

He just wants me to be alive.   Sometimes the simple obvious answer is in fact the correct answer. 

I understand clearly now that he is in contact with a visceral fear of abandonment or loss in a way that I certainly was not at his age.  I don't think I even thought about death once until I was a moody 12 year old listening to A Forest by the Cure (thank you Robert Smith for giving me some great black clothes wearing/goth/moping around teenage years. You were just the backdrop I needed).  Here's another one to mope to:

On a lighter note, we have been building up quite a collection of ecologically sound bedtime reading, ranging from this classic:

I love the Lorax still, complete with the Truffala trees and Thneeds.   It is compulsory reading for all children.  And I know a new Lorax was released last year, but you can also watch the original animated film on YouTube, here it is below.

To this:

Wouldn't this make great wallpaper?  Just as I knew nothing of death at 5, I also new nothing of climate change\recycling\ endangered animals, all topics my children are Full Bottle on.

This book is about a forest which was chopped down and a city which smothers everything with its smoke,  but has a happy ending.  

Don't you just love a happy ending? I do.   Although I now have a major hankering for the Cure. Time to get Faith out again. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Where I Work

(no, not here, this is an undemolished house around the corner from home) 

If had been sitting in my current office working away as a solicitor in 1935 (most unlikely given my gender) this is what my building would have looked like:

The National Trust has just released an app which tracks demolished buildings of Melbourne.  Like every city, there are many, although we demolished maybe more enthusiastically than others.  Save for the English of course.  Bill Bryson points out in his book At Home that literally thousands of magical country homes were demolished in the middle of the last century, a sad fact now the subject of a site which Lisa pointed me to in a recent post.

The building above was used by the US General Macarthur as his residence during WW2, and also played host to Mark Twain and Alexander Graham Bell.It was demolished and replaced with the current high rise. 

Almost too sad to think about, that such a building has gone for good.

There are plenty more where that came from.  Remember the 1950's? I don't but apparently old things were considered ugly and out of fashion, and people wanted new clean lines.   There were very limited heritage controls and so people could buy large blocks of land, demolish the inconvenient Italianate mansion located on it, and build a lovely orange brick block of flats.

Here are some no longer with us, just in my area:

(Alta Vista, South Yarra, 1859)

(Corrabert, Toorak) 

(Leura mid 1800s, Toorak)

(Norla, Irving Road Toorak)

So many memories and people laughing, all gone.

But fear not, there are many buildings which have survived.

(Ripponlea in the suburb of the same name)

and many more still in private hands:

(Coonac in Clendon Road Toorak)

(Miegunyah, Orrong Road Toorak) 

(Images via the Age, National Trust (thanks!)

I have a very personal reason for feeling sad about demolished houses.

I grew up in a pale pink 1920s house, which we sold when my parents divorced.  To me that house was happiness incarnate.  I still dream of it.

Eventually, it sold and then sold again.  A few years ago I happened to drive past, and the wreckers were there, busily pulling it down.   I pulled over, a stared in unbelieving horror.  The gingko tree we climbed on, the ancient pear trees, the morton bay fig, the terracotta roof, the slate verandah, all gone.   A little bit of me died that day, I tell you. 

And what is there now?  A large block of neo Georgian neo Tuscan neo Palladian apartments.     What can you say?

Happy post next time, I promise. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Emergency Winter Food for Children

After last year, where I took 45 (officially noted) days of sick leave (which felt like double or triple that amount), it has been very busy at work. I have child care constraints at the moment (is everyone in Europe or is it just my imagination?) so I have had to be creative with the last minute pick up from after school care.  With complaining \ hungry \ tired children, getting them fed \ bathed all in time to go to bed at 7 pm is a bit of a challenge.

(How amazing is the colour of this camellia? Instagram and its Bad Photography Concealing Filters love my camellias!)

Fast food is a must.   I am a night before person, which means that I try to  have dinner ready to go in the fridge the day before if I am not going to be there to cook it slowly.  So so much easier that way. 
But last week disaster struck - my daughter had a friend coming for a sleepover and the food had been prescribed in advance (spaghetti bolognese, white bread only, Tic Tacs and icy poles because she doesn't like ice-cream) and at the last minute I had neglected to defrost the pasta sauce. So I turned to my emergency bolognese sauce. 

Emergency Bol Sauce for Screaming Children

2 - 4 high quality pork sausages or chipolatas (not with fennel or chilli)
some butter
Splash of milk
A cup of tomato passata
3/4 cup of stock


Squeeze the porky meat out of the sausage casings.   Gently melt the butter in a fry pan, add a splash of olive oil and some crushed garlic if you want.   Fry the sausage meat, breaking it up with a fork.   When the sausage meat is lightly browned and broken into even tiny bits, put in a splash of milk (sounds gross but Italians do it and it keeps the meat moist).  When the milk has bubbled down, add the passata and chicken stock. At first it will be runny, that is fine.  Cook it down until the sauce has the consistency you want. I like my bol sauce a bit runny and not dried out.

Serve proudly with spaghetti and Parmesan.

When I first went to Paris in 1992, my lovely friend Penny took me for hot chocolate at Angelina's Tearooms in the Rivoli.  The hot chocolate blew my mind, so much better than the watery cocoa I had previously had.   There are a number of different ways to recreate proper hot chocolate, but I like this the most.  It is quick and not messy.   I have forgotten where I got this from, possibly Orangette.   Only proviso is that you really do need a stick blender to get it smooth and frothy. 

Semi Authentic Super Quick Hot Chocolate

Ingredients (this serves two, can easily be doubled)
2 cups of milk
2 tablespoons of water
1 1/2 tablespoons of caster sugar
a handful of chocolate chips which is about 1/4 cup.  Or more to taste but these won't melt as well. 


Put the milk, water and sugar in a saucepan.  Heat gently.   Watch it, when milk boils over it is horrible and messy.  When it is just about to boil there will be little bubbles around the edge.   Take it off the heat and put in the chocolate chips.   Assuming your pot has high sides you can do the next step in the pot.  Get your stick blender and whizz away.  The movement and heat will melt the chocolate, and the mixture will become frothy and smooth and thick.

Drink and enjoy.  
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