Today I ask you for some time - to read this for Natalie - Time is something she doesn't have.
Unique Boutique is donating to the raffle - you will need tissues x
My name is Natalie Murphy, I am 34yrs old and I have Stage 4 Breast Cancer which has metastasized to my liver and my spine.
Being that it’s in my liver, I am now what they consider ‘terminal’, so the Oncologist tells me.
In March 2010 I was told that with chemotherapy I would have appx 2-5yrs to live, but I refused to accept this and I’m fighting hard to be here for a lot longer than that. My wonderful husband and almost 18month old little boy Jackson are keeping me strong and positive and of course a reason to keep fighting and prove my oncologist wrong. This is my story.
Jackson was 11 days late, so my midwife decided I needed a ‘stretch and sweep’ to get things started. At my appointment I noticed my lump. My husband had found it earlier but I was lying down at the time and it didn’t feel that bad so I didn’t take it seriously. But whilst at this appointment my arm brushed against it and I realised there really was a noticeable lump. I asked my midwife to check it out. She told me it was “more than likely my ‘milk coming in’” and “not to worry about”. I believed her and ignored it. At that stage it felt like the size of a large marble but imperfect, like a mass, not a round lump.
Not long into breast feeding I developed mastitis in that same breast so that made me think the lump was a blocked milk duct and I was put on meds to treat the infection. The lump never changed though.
When Jackson was 4mths old, two of his teeth appeared and he started to bite me while feeding. I ended up with a very damaged nipple and decided to try a week of bottle feeding with only one breastfeed at night. My lump never changed and my intuition got the better of me...something wasn’t right.
I went to the GP early Dec 09 and had an examination. My doctor told me she didn’t think it ‘felt like cancer’...I was thinking how can a lump feel or not feel like cancer?? But she still sent off a referral letter to the breast clinic at North Shore Hospital to get an ultrasound. She warned me due to Christmas that there may be a wait. It was a torturous wait. 6 weeks later Id had no letter from the hospital for an appointment. I rang the medical centre to find no one had followed it up. I asked them to, but 4 days later I still hadn’t a phone call. So I rang them again only to be told “we’ve tried to call and have left messages but no one has called us back”. Feeling unimpressed and losing sleep due to being so anxious about it, I decided I wasn’t getting anywhere relying on them, so I rang the hospital myself as it had now been 7wks since my appt. The hospital had NO RECORD of a referral letter. They never received it and they said they had no messages from my doctor’s clinic. I was furious. Why was something so important not being handled better and taken more seriously? I rang back the clinic and made a complaint and asked them to resend the letter. I had to start the whole process all over again, get the letter resent and wait for my appointment letter - which was normally a 4 week waiting time. I finally got my appt in early March.
I went along trying to be positive. At worst I decided it may be the start of something and I may need a lumpectomy but not a mastectomy. The appointment wasn’t going to give me final results. The ultrasound technician made me aware that there was possibly a concern, it could be benign but the characteristics of it didn’t look promising. I would need a biopsy to be sure.
Two weeks later I had a follow-up biopsy and mammograms on both sides. During the biopsy the technician made it clear to us that we should prepare ourselves. His words were “I am concerned” and that was enough to make me sick to my stomach for the next week while we waited for the results.
I remember waiting in the car after the biopsy while Greg ran back into the hospital (as he forgot the free parking ticket). A woman and her son walked past, he would have been about 7 yrs old. I burst into tears. I had an overwhelming feeling that things were not ok, and I wouldn’t get to see my little boy at 7yrs old, let alone an adult. I’ve always had good intuition. This was one time I wasn’t grateful for it.
My appt letter (to get my results) said it would be with the surgical team. Immediately we knew I was in the least having a lumpectomy but maybe it wasn’t cancer, just a benign lump. And worst case maybe it was cancer and I needed a single mastectomy. But we stayed positive and hoped for the best. On arrival she examined me before she gave me the prognosis. Then, “deep breath” she said “it’s cancer”.
They say you never forget the moment you first find out. It’s so true.
I was booked in straight away for a mastectomy in 3 weeks time. Only 3wks more with my left boob. Crazy thought to have. I was told I had every chance of going into remission and living a long life. The outlook was positive but I had definitely had this a while as it was large. 4cms. Pretty much the size a golf ball.
Only one of the lymph nodes was tested in the biopsy but it was malignant too (cancerous) and they presumed the other 3 surrounding the lump were also affected – which then meant that it was highly likely the lymph nodes in my auxiliary (armpit) were also affected meaning that the cancer had possibly spread but hopefully we had caught it in time.
I had to come home to my mum who was looking after Jackson. Telling her was insanely hard as you can imagine. A lot of tears but it all felt so surreal. Surely this wasn’t happening to me? I can only imagine the pain Mum must’ve felt too knowing that her ‘baby’ (I’m the youngest of 4) was sick. That night I rang Dad as he was away on business. It was the first time I’d ever heard my Dad cry. Hearing him made it all hit home and for the first time I really sobbed too.
I had a CT scan 10days later and my Mastectomy was booked in for 10days after that.
I decided not to be down about my boob, it was just a boob, not a limb, so instead I had a ‘farewell thy lovely boob’ party at my sister’s house, with 60 of my closest friends. It was a great night and it felt good to be dancing and having a great time. The word ‘cancer’ had started to form a black cloud over my life and I didn’t want it that way...so I said to everyone at the party;
“Farewell thy lovely boob, and good riddance you cancer bastard. I plan on living a long and happy life, starting with tonight and getting plastered”. I had a great night and got home at 3am, just as I had hoped!
So there was me, sitting in my hospital gown, sexy plastic socks and all, ready to be put on the table in about 5min, when my surgeon came rushing in the room. “I’m really sorry Natalie but the cancer is in your liver and possibly in your lungs. We won’t be able to cure you any longer with chemo and we can’t do your mastectomy due to the fact we need to get you started on chemo ASAP. Surgery will only delay it and we need to get on it straight away”.She apologized, gave me a hug and left Greg and I in the room alone to process. All I could do was keep apologising to Greg. I didn’t know what else to say. We sobbed together for a while then 2min later she was back in the room asking me if I wanted to keep my surgery time and instead have my Portacath inserted into my chest for administering my chemo (so I didn’t have to worry about coming back) and then my chemo would be able to start sooner. Of course I agreed and was whisked away to my surgery. Poor Greg was left behind in a state of shock. He had to go out and explain to his Dad and sister what had just happened and try to get his head around it while I was in surgery. Thank God they were there for him. I was obviously still in shock too and started to shake while I was under anesthetic. I took a bit longer to come around too. We should have had more time to process.
When I came to I was told I would be seeing an Oncologist to discuss my prognosis in 2 days time. In other words, we would find out how much time I had.
I came home from the hospital, early and to my mum’s surprise who wasn’t expecting to see me until the next day. It was so surreal telling her I was going to die. It was sh*t to put it mildly!! But telling her suddenly made it all hit home. This was really happening....to me! It was the hardest day of my life. Then my Dad came over. It was the first time I had seen him cry. It broke me. Then one by one each family member came over to see me and so one by one I had to re-tell the horrible news. Of course everyone was devastated. I was their little sister. I was supposed to be the last to go, not the first.Greg had to pop into work and finish some things up so he could come back and be with me for the next couple of days. I remember for the most part trying to be the strong one as I told each of them. We cried but then I pulled myself together to put my son to bed. That’s when I fell apart. I left his room, walked to my bedroom, fell on the bed and sobbed, screamed, and cursed God for not letting me see my son grow up. I didn’t want to die. My family all came in and huddled around me but I couldn’t stop crying. Then Greg came home. Everyone left the room so he could try and console me. Before I knew it I was giggling. I can’t remember what he said to me now, but that’s Greg. He will always find a way to make me laugh and I knew no matter what I was going to be ok and he would be by my side every day. I’m a very lucky woman, cancer or not.
Those 2 days until we saw the Oncologist were THE WORST TWO DAYS OF MY LIFE. So many tears, “why me’s!”, fears, anger and insomnia. We had no idea if I had weeks, let alone months or even years. I didn’t want to miss out on my future with Greg, and the idea of leaving my son floored me in ways I can’t put into words. If you are a parent, I’m sure you can understand.
The day came and Greg and I sat in the waiting room literally awaiting my death sentence. I remember even talking to him about making sure his next wife was ‘this and that’, and that I wanted him to happy etc. Of course he kept telling me to shut up, way too soon for those conversations! But every part of me just wanted to make sure Greg and Jackson were going to be ok. But I was so scared. The thought of leaving them, possibly soon, was terrifying me.
The news was the best bad news I could have asked for. He said that with chemo I was looking at 2-5yrs!!! Well that’s better than months and WAY better than weeks. We walked out smiling and that was the craziest feeling! How can we be so happy that I supposedly only have this short amount of time compared to growing old together like we planned? We had so many plans for the future. But like I said to Greg then and still say to him now - I could have got hit by a bus a month ago and had no time with you and Jackson and everyone I love at all. I could have had no opportunity to do all the things I still want to do, to spend more time with family and friends, to make more memories with my wonderful husband and so thankfully, to see my little boy grow up that little bit more.
Chemo way more manageable than I could ever have hoped for. I believe mainly due to the Ozone Treatments I have been having...with a bit of 'tough chick' on the side.
First round was fairly easy. I lost my hair on day 14 just as they said I would. It took 3 days of major shedding before I finally got Greg to shave it. We made it fun and to be honest, my vanity has almost completely gone out the window....almost! There is more to life that my hair and my looks. That doesn’t make me happy and I’m realising that more every day. Second round I started to feel more of the nausea but still ok. This time though at about 6pm the day of chemo I suddenly felt totally wiped and couldn’t get off the couch. I went pale and felt pretty bad. Greg got teary; he’d never seen me sick like that before. A few hours late I came right again. Third round was slightly worse but mainly due to just growing more tired. Fourth round probably affected me the most with the growing tiredness, plus the loss of 50% of my brows and lashes, a few mouth ulcers, dry mouth and nose and dehydration, sinusitis, and aches in my legs (as the bone marrow depletes) plus a few sleepless nights. But considering how it affects so many others much worse, I still feel very lucky! After my 4th round I had a CT Scan to see how things were looking.
The tumor in my breast had shrunk a little along with the affected nodes surrounding it. Yay!
I originally had 6 spots of cancer in my liver (I thought I only had 4, oh well) and now I only have 3 visible by scan and all of which have shrunk in size, the largest being only 11mm.
I have though, had a spot appear in the CT scan on my spine. Very small, so small they think it was probably there at my first scan but they missed it. It’s only 8mm in size. The chemo has been on to it though as it is dense which means it is healing.
The small dot that was originally seen on my lung has not changed; this confirms it is definitely not cancer and nothing to worry about.Although a good result, not a fantastic one. It really just means the chemo is doing its job fairly well, not amazing, but well - which is great! But it hasn’t changed my prognosis or meant that I have more time than originally thought, but it is still good news. And although the spot on my spine was a bit of a surprise, they don’t seem any more concerned than previously. If anything it is maybe just an eye opener for what my come further down the line as the bones and liver is usually where breast cancer will spread to so I guess it’s really not a shock to anyone and just great it hadn’t gone any further. I’m still curtain I will outlive their expectations without a doubt!
I also found out after my CT scan that I will no longer being having radiation. They have decided to hold off on this and maybe give it to me if the cancer 'takes off' on us again and I need further treatment down the line. This is fantastic news. I was really dreading this as the side-effects aren't very nice and I was really worried about not being able to pick up my son for while due to the burns and infection you can suffer. This on top of not being able to possibly pick him up much post Mastectomy for a few weeks was all sounding very hard. So I'm a happy woman.
Denied!! I was rejected for my 5th round of chemo due to my neutrophil (white cell) count being far too low. Soooo gutting! You must have a neutrophil count of at least 1.5 to receive chemo. I had a blood test the day prior and my result was 0.19. So they tested me again and but only 0.24! Oh well, nothing I could do about it. Home I went to hibernate and stay away from any possibility of catching anything for a week before we could try again. I got acupuncture which helped a little and started taking Shark Liver Oils which also help to fight cancer cells along with boosting your immune system.
Luckily I just passed and had my fifth round of chemo. It was the hardest one so far but it made sense as many of the side effects are accumulative. I was sick for 3 days afterwards and felt way more tired. But I didn’t cancel Jackson's 1st Birthday 3 days after chemo, how could I? It was such a great day, we had 100 people come along for a great day in the park!!
Unfortunately due to my Ozone nurse being away I had to skip a week of my usual weekly Ozone treatment. It’s was good and bad to notice the difference. I ended up with my lips covered in ulcers and a few in my mouth. At least I know the Ozone was doing its job keeping so many of my side effects at bay! I lost more eyelashes and eyebrows, but it didn’t bothered me as much as I thought it would. I didn’t lose anymore hair either due to the ozone. That’s something!
It’s over! As of the 18th August, Round 6 completed, and chemo is done and dusted. For now.
The last round was definitely the worst. I was nauseous for 6 days, dehydrated, achy, extremely tired, pains in my skull, hips and legs, bad headaches, ulcers and generally felt like an old woman! Two weeks after I was still suffering side-effects and also began having regular menopausal systems - hot flushes which are horrible, no period (not complaining) and a bit more emotional and anxious than usual. Lots of headaches, pains in strange places and exhaustion like I’ve never experienced before. I guess it was to be expected. The symptoms were always going to get worse as I went as they are accumulative but I never expected them to be so bad after round 6 compared to round 5. It took me 3 weeks to recover.
I then had a follow up CT Scan to get the final perspective on how Chemo went.
The lump in my breast shrank a few more mm's but there are still 3 spots on my liver which really didn’t change at all. Buggar! The 8mm spot on my spine is still there with no change.
Not a wonderful result but still not a bad one either. Now that my energy is back I can concentrate on fighting.
My oncologist says the mastectomy is optional. (He said) there is no real proof at my stage of things, that a single mastectomy, let alone a double, will buy me any more time. He said one is a good idea, you don’t have to though, but two is not necessary. But as far as I was concerned they could both go! I think I’d be an idiot not get rid of the very place it all started. Not only for peace of mind that the 'source' is no longer with me every day, but also to reduce the chances greatly of another lump appearing there further down the track. Maybe a new lump in my breast later is not as big a deal as the metastasizes I already have in my liver and spine, but the fewer tumors the better I say! And as for the healthy one, when you have jubblies like me (D's) I really don’t fancy being lop-sided, I’d rather they both went! So, I elected to have them both off around mid October.
He also told me after the op and a few weeks of recovery, I may be facing some more treatment. What exactly I’m not sure but they will analyse what they remove and decide what’s best from there. All I hoped for was that I still felt ok over Christmas (with maybe even enough hair growth to brave going out without my scarf or my wig!). And then just prayed that I had at least a couple of years before I possibly had to face another round of chemo. I want to try to believe in the miracle that maybe I won’t have to face any of this again and it will just disappear...who knows, maybe I will be lucky enough to be one of those stories.
Just letting you all know how the mastectomy went... Great! Seems strange to be describing losing both my boobs as 'great' but I guess I’m just saying it really couldn't have gone any better.
I had the operation at 330pm on Thurs 28th October, (2 surgeons worked on me so I was only under for 90min) I 'came to' from recovery at 610pm, slept until 745pm, ate my dinner with Greg, watched a movie from my laptop, fell asleep at 11pm, got woken by nurses at midnight, so I wrote a blog on facebook, slept again at 3am only to be woken by nurses again at 6am. I felt fine, I was so numb I couldn’t really feel anything. My movement was restricted and I had to drains coming out of my chest, but I actually felt really good and soooo wanted to go home. So, by 11am I was home (17hrs after i woke up from surgery). I know. The doctors were pretty amazed too. I was just feeling too 'fine' to sit in a hospital bed and was dreading facing another night of bad sleep. I knew I was better off at home. Plus I missed Jackson.
They did a great job. I couldn’t have been flatter!! Literally nothing there but ribs and skin. Really tidy. I was impressed.
I was bandaged so i couldn't see the scar yet but that would come. The drains were full of red/orange fluid which I was told I would have to regularly empty until they would be removed a week later. They were a pain.
About a week later the pain started to kick in. It was bearable but I had to sleep on my back every night which drove me nuts as I can only sleep on my side.
The pain felt like someone (really heavy) was leaning on my chest, and their hands were pulling my skin really, really tight across my chest at the same time. The pressure was amazing. But yet I had no feeling, no nerve sensation at all on my skin - across my chest or down my biceps. You could have cut me and I wouldn’t have felt it. The other weird feeling was that I no longer had these boobs that formed a protective cushioning across my chest,. I could feel ALL my ribs and my heart felt like it was literally directly under my skin! Bizarre.
4 days later the bandages came off and i was able to see my very tidy scar. No stitches (only internal) there were only steri strips going all the way across one great long scar holding my skin together.
The drains come out after 7 days and that was the craziest thing to watch. I had no idea those tubes were about 2 feet long inside my chest. Lucky I still had absolutely no sensation so it didn’t hurt at all.
Emotionally the first week was strange. Everyone was looking at me with these "poor you" eyes but that wasn’t how I felt. I was on a high. I was so glad the tumor was gone. A huge weight had been lifted emotionally. It wasn’t until it was gone that I realised how much it had obviously been affecting me. The reason it was a strange week though was because even though I wanted everyone to see how fine I was and not to worry about me, the one person who was treating me like I really was fine was Greg, and that annoyed me. Poor guy. He was acting on what he could see. A woman who was bubbly, unaffected, a bit sore but his wife no longer had a huge lump so that was great. And it was, but of all the people I just wanted Greg's cuddles and compassion. I didn’t want anyone's sympathy, so Greg thought he was doing the right thing by playing it all down. And he was, but emotionally Greg is the only person I 'let in'. He is the one person I let see the vulnerable side and its not even a conscious thing. So I was looking to him comfort and nurturing even though I was portraying that I didn’t need it. I had no idea what i needed from him until I realised I wasn’t getting it. Such a chick thing to do. I was like "hello? remember me? I just had my boobs off!! Where are my cuddles? Where's my nurturing, fussing over me husband? He was seeing a very capable wife, which is what I was being, but in the end I had to tell him that I didn't need to cry, but I needed cuddles, I needed compassion/acknowledgement for what I'd just been through and a little bit of special treatment. I needed to be honest and he got it. He understood and was only acting on what he saw and also on his own relief, excitement and joy that the original bastard that caused all this heartache was gone, one (major) less thing to worry about. The reality that his wife had lost her boobs was so insignificant to him because of the positive aspects, and he wasn't thinking that I probably needed reassurance and comfort over the fact that I had lost a huge part of my womanhood - even though I wasn't falling apart over it. So after a week of saying "i just had my boobs off remember? hug me damn it" in my head, I finally realised Greg needed me to communicate what I needed as he had no idea I was feeling so vulnerable. I must make a mental note to take off my super woman cape I seem to display so much these days, even when I'm not ok. It's true though, woman are capable of so much. We are stronger than we ever realise until we are faced with a huge challenge. Whether we shine at the time or go into hiding, we still come out the other side stronger than ever. Remember that ladies if you are ever faced with a challenge like mine. You will get through it, you will be stronger for it, a better person/wife/mum/sister/daughter for it. It's hard, you have good days, and days of crying on the floor of the shower, but you are capable of fighting for every single day!
So anyway, back to being boobless. It's been easier to accept that I thought it would. Two weeks after my operation I felt like the old Nat was back, on form, full of life, smiles and ready to take on the remaining tumors in my liver and the spot on my spine. There have been lots of positives to having no boobs compared to the great big D's I had after having Jackson. Some of my clothes look way better than they ever did. I look skinnier up top, I’m lighter (about 2kgs) my back and neck pain has lessened and I don’t have to wear a bra. The fine lines I had in my chest (aging) have even gone now due to the skin being pulled so tight!
I know everyone handles these things differently. I imagined myself having teary days but I've only had one over my boobs and it was a couple of weeks ago. I went to the beach for the first time and I noticed a few people looking at me. I didn’t have a bikini I could wear yet so i wore a strapless top and pulled it up so bare my tummy and catch some rays. The group of girls next to me were looking, obviously noticing i literally had no boobs. Then a couple of times my top fell down and bared my scar. My scar didn’t bother me, feeling different bothered me. I just wanted to blend in and not be noticed. When i got home I shed a few tears but was ok after that. I knew I just had to go out and buy a bikini top that hid my scar and had shape that made me look like i had boobs. I have 2 now and its amazing how great they look!!
So many people have been asking me what (in detail) I’ve been doing besides Chemotherapy.
I have been having Ozone treatment, which has been fantastic and I believe it will buy me more time. Basically it is oxygen that has been converted to ozone and is administered to me intravenously, and injected into my gluteus (butt), and also rectally to fill my organs (joy). In layman’s terms it helps the chemo do its job more effectively and maybe even slow down the cancer growth. If you want more detail you can go to the Ozone University website. I have no doubt it is working and that is one of the reasons why some of the spots on my liver have vanished and why I handled the chemo better than so many others. It also stopped my hair falling out again as it should’ve done after each chemo round. I have to say I’m now sporting a bit of a Halley Berry haircut which everyone thinks I should keep!! Who would have thought people would think I’m better looking after my chemo!! LOL!!
I’m taking metagenics supplements, several, too many almost, which is helping my body fight and deal with other health issues that could be making it harder for my body to deal with the chemo. Plus telling the chemo to concentrate on the bad cells and not so many of the good ones too!(If you want to know exactly what I’m taking you will find my email address at the end.)
My naturopath puts me on a machine that tells him all about my ‘body health’. My ‘health age’ started at 31.5yrs (I was actually 33), 5 weeks later after a round of chemo I still managed to improve it to 27yrs old!! But after two more rounds of chemo I was back up to 31.2yrs old but hey, that’s still pretty good considering what chemo puts your body through. I haven’t been back to see him in a while as all my treatments are costing so much and he isn’t exactly cheap, but I’m planning to go back after I get my CT results.
I’m also juicing veggies and fruit once a day. Plus my lovely, close friend Sheri who is a Chiropractor treats me regularly (and for free, she is so great!) for my back and neck problems, which in turn also helps all my ‘systems’ work as optimally as possible so I can give my body the best chance to fight this thing. www.dynamicchrio.co.nz
I’m also doing Intravenous Vitamin C which I can only do since finishing my chemo. You would have seen and heard a bit about it on the news. It’s been known for some time now that it has really positive effects on cancer! Finally people are talking about it in the media so hopefully one day, maybe it will be available to everyone publically and for free! Meanwhile it costs me $150 a go and I usually try to get it twice a week!! It’s just crazy that it’s so expensive to try and fight for your life!
I’m also investigating Infra-red heat treatment, Rife machines, and Colon Cleansing but can’t afford to do everything and once and with Jackson around there isn’t really time to do it all either!!
At some stage I’m also going to go and see a Chinese lady who works with herbs and other interesting new things and has helped other cancer patients. Should be interesting. Turns out she happens to be my landlords mother-in-law. Maybe I can get a discount!! LOL.I took Shark Liver Oils to help my white cell count and I’m told they are also effective in fighting cancer cells. Apricot Seeds which are also well known to help fight cancer. All of which you can find out more about just by googling them.
Whatever else is out there that has some evidence to back it up, I’m probably going to give a try. I want to die knowing I fought hard and tried as much as I could afford to do. I have to fight, for me for my son and for my friends and family. But we greatly need financial help. My husband Greg is currently paying himself a minimum wage as he tries to build his company and so we are also on 2 benefits to help pay the bills. Currently, there are no spare funds to pay for all these alternative treatments or other miscellaneous things needed to try and keep myself as healthy as possible.
My cousins, my friends and I have been busy fundraising for me to help pay for all these on-going expenses. I can’t thank them enough. So far the money raised has paid for my ozone treatments, my supplements, and Intravenous Vit C to date. But in 2 months it will have run out.
Any help we can get is sooooo appreciated and I promise I am making every penny count. I’m a fighter, I’m a positive thinker, I’m tough, and I believe I will baffle my Oncologist. I have to be around for my family, my husband, and my 18mth old son, as long as I can.
If you would like to make a donation you can do so by making a deposit to: Natalie & Greg Murphy BNZ 02-0238-0116716-97OR I also have a PAYPAL acct under email@example.com
If you have sent me money, made a donation of any kind, sent me gifts, letters, emails, texts etc, commented on facebook etc, please know I am eternally grateful and appreciate every little thing you are all doing for me so much. I don’t know that I will ever feel satisfied that I have thanked people enough!
It has been 3 months since my surgery. I feel great! Now is a time in my life when things are probably what we would call 'at their best'. This is the time I have to make the most of. I’m not under-going chemo, I feel good, I look pretty good too ;-)
In about a week’s time I will have a CT scan to see if there was been further growth since I finished my chemo in August. Fingers crossed things are stable. If not, I will have to face more treatment. I’m trying to stay positive but I have also had a blood test recently which says my liver isn’t doing too well. This could be a result of my great holiday over Xmas where I had a few drinks and tried to relax a little, (currently trying to make up for that) but it could also mean the cancer in my liver is flaring up again. We will find out soon enough.
The blood test is no real surprise though as lately I have been feeling a lot more tired than normal – a sure sign your liver isn’t happy. I’ve also had more back pain and had moment of feel pale and wiped out. At the end of the day I have cancer, I’m going to have days where I don’t feel great. But I have so many days where I do feel great that the bad ones still come as a shock and a bit of an unfriendly reminder of my reality. I find it easy to forget I’m sick. Like I say I feel great most of the time (9 days out of 10) and people are always telling me how great I look – some even say better than I did before!! Go figure!! Either way, no matter what that scan says, I’m still going to fight hard and I’m still going to outlive their predictions. They can stick their diagnosis where the sun don't shine. I have way too much to live for.
One thing that Greg and I have been discussing are the pro’s and con’s of further treatment. They can never guarantee how much time it may or may not buy you, and yet you may spend 6 months feeling like rubbish and unable to enjoy the life you are fighting for. It’s hard to get your head around. When you have a son that wants your time, attention and energy I know that I would rather be able to give him 6 months of that, than a year of being bedridden. I’m not saying I’m not going to do any more chemo, but this time around I’m going to be doing a lot more research, thinking, planning and analysing rather than just doing what the hospital tells me to when to them I’m just a number if we are going to be honest. One thing I have decided though is that if the scan is not so great and they do want me to start another round of treatment, that I’m going to wait until summer is over. Maybe early April, so I can enjoy this time of feeling good, being outdoors, having energy, enjoying family time and having a great summer with Greg and Jackson. Memories are so important now and I want to make as many great ones as I can while I’m at my best!!
But I’m still doing my Ozone and Intravenous Vit C treatments, plus my supplements and a good diet so I’m still fighting every day. Chemo can maybe just wait a tinsey bit longer. And hey, maybe we will have some good news for the first time along this journey. Maybe things will be stable, maybe my liver hasn’t taken off again, maybe it hasn’t spread any further. Maybe my lungs are still ok, maybe I will be lucky this time around. I can only hope and pray. I certainly wouldn’t complain about having another year chemo free!!
If it’s good news, they will scan me again in 6 months time, and check on me with the occasional blood test. If I feel unwell for any reason they will scan me earlier.
So I’ve had my results. Not good. The liver has taken off and they tell me that even though the scais not showing tumours in my lunges or bones so much, it will be there, just too small to show up in the scan just yet. They predicted I now only have 12-18mths. They also said they probably won’t do any chemotherapy as at most it will buy me 3months. It’s better that I enjoy feeling great while I do and spend time with my family rather than spoil this precious time with feeling crappy from chemo. They might look at that later when I start to feel unwell.
Obviously were totally floored, and incredibly sad. I really hoped that with all the extra things I was doing that it might buy me more than 5yrs as originally predicted. But these things have a mind of their own. It doesn’t mean I am going to stop fighting.
After the tears Greg and I realised that it just means we now more than ever have to make the most of everyday and relook at how we want to spend those 18mths. Hopefully, even longer.
The tears come sometimes (heck its only been 4 days! Moments like after putting my son to bed, and when I think about poor Greg being left behind without a wife and having to face being a single parent. He is too young to have to deal with that. I picture his grief, Jackson’s asking for mum and wondering where I am, and the grief of those who love me when the time comes. That gets me started every time. But I’m ok. I’m still thankful I have any time at all.
One thing I have noticed is how many times on a day-to-day basis someone will talk to you about the ‘future’ and you’re suddenly reminded several times a day that you are not necessarily going to be around in the future. I’m talking about strangers; like the lady at Chipmunks who might say “he’s gonna be a handful when he grows up with looks like that”. Or the lady in the clothing store that says “you’ll get years of wear out of that”. Or the older lady in the park that says “your son is just gorgeous, you’ll have to have lots more”. Or the man at the pharmacy that says “he can take that when he’s 5 and over, but in the meantime give him this”. Small passing comments that you hear every day, especially as a parent. In my head I’m saying “I’m probably not going to be here then, thanks for the reminder”, or “I can’t blimmin’ have any more kids OK!!” But instead I smile sweetly and say “thanks”. Then I give myself a little pep talk reminding me to be more positive and maybe I will be here, you never know. =)
More than ever we need your help.
With less time than we thought we had (so they say) Greg plans to only work 3 days a week as of April 1st so he can spend more time with me. This obviously means a drop income but Greg wants to have no regrets and to put time with me first.
As I won’t be having any chemo at this stage, we want to increase my Intravenous Vit C treatments which we had to drop back due to a lack of funds. We also would like to be able to take a holiday together as a family sometime within the next 12months. Without help neither of these things are possible.
How can you help?
- On Monday 28th February there will be a Fundraiser Movie night at the Bridgeway Theatre in Birkenhead Point. The movie is Love Birds starring Rhys Darby. $25 incl nibbles. Check it out on facebook or you can email me.
- On Thurs 7th April there will be a Fundraiser Music Gig at The Patriot so keep that date aside. Things are in early stages of organising but we are hoping that Jason from Opshop may make a guest appearance along with 2 other great bands so it should be a great night. The Patriot have kindly donated nibbles for the event also. $30 entry and prizes!! More info to come once finalised.
- There is of course also just a simple donation of any size which can deposited to:
Natalie & Greg Murphy BNZ 02-0238-0116716-97 or if you are a company you can donate into our Trust account Hand in Hand for Natalie 02-1244-0064478-000
I also have a PAYPAL acct under firstname.lastname@example.org
- Petrol vouchers, supermarket vouchers etc are also of a huge help!
Any help of any kind would be appreciated beyond words. It all adds up and helps to make some of our dreams come true and maybe if we are lucky, even buy me some more time!!
We want to make the best of this last 'period' of time but without funding our options are severely limited. Please help us not be restricted by funds to fight this thing for every last extra day, and not restrict all our memories to a 100km radius from home.
Since the latest discovery, it has got me thinking about Goals. So here are mine:
1: to make it to my 10th wedding anniversary (14mths away) where Greg and I want to renew our wedding vows.
2: to make Jacksons 3rd birthday (18mths away)
3: to make Jacksons first day at school (3.5yrs away)
4. to make it to my 40th bday. (5yrs and 7mths away)
5. to make it to Greg’s 40th bday. (6yrs and 2mths away)
6. to make it to Jacksons wedding day (a while away)
7. to meet my grandchildren (?)
8. to give my son the best of me every day until he moves out of home and lives his own life. To share my mistakes with him and pass on lessons I have learnt. I want to fuss when he falls over, I want to hear "mummy" until it drives me crazy, I want to sit and discuss Jackson’s wants, needs, rules, disciplines, crazy haircuts and be a parent alongside Greg as he grows into a young boy, and teenager. I want to sing annoying songs with him, read him a lifetime of storybooks, place a thousand plasters on his knees and wipe his bum (even no 3's). I want to teach him the alphabet, I want to wash the sheets in the middle of the night when he wets his bed, I want to buy his first school bag and uniform, I want to help him with his homework and teach him timestables, manners and how to pooh in the loo. I want to ask “how was your day” and only get 'good' for an answer. I want to lie in bed and shake my head the crazy music he likes and the way he wants to dress. I want to critique his girlfriends and teach him how to treat woman and be a good man.
9. I want to do all this together with the love of my life. I want to grow old with him.
10. I don’t want Greg to have to do all this without me.
It’s funny how the prospect of dying puts what is really important into perspective. In the face of things (the idea of dying) you don’t desire flash cars, a big house, trips all around the world, a great body, a new wardrobe, or anything materialistic. You just want to be close to the ones you love and share as much time as you can with them, making as many memories as you can for you to take with you and for them to hold on to when you are gone. You just want more time.
Yet when not in the face of it, people rush through their lives at 100 miles an hour, stress about just about everything, sweat about the small stuff, constantly complain like it's the latest craze, do everything they can to obtain 'things', and feel empty or a failure when we don’t have as many toys, as big a house or as flash a car as the next guy. Many women spend all their time trying to compete with airbrushed models in magazines and the memory of their 18yr old body they think they can get back despite gravity and a much slower metabolism.
We are the consumer generation. Most of us are hard on ourselves, have high expectations, are never satisfied and think the grass is always greener in some else's paddock.
Learn from my journey. Learn ahead of 'time' what is important and appreciate your life, your loved ones. Appreciate the partner that drives you crazy sometimes cos you know you don’t actually want to live without them. Appreciate your children that often whine and exhaust you because you love them more than life - you'd probably sacrifice your own for theirs. Appreciate your lopsided breasts cos they're yours and you still have them. That goes for the men too! Appreciate your wrinkles cos it means you are alive and you are aging, that is what is supposed to happen (or it means you also need to stop smoking) and wrinkles are better than having to worry about puberty, acne or wearing the shocking 80s gear you gladly left behind you in your youth (like fluro crop tops and shoulder pads).
Appreciate your life. Look after it. Don’t neglect it or take it for granted. Any of you could die before I do (in an accident or however) and not have the opportunity to design the last of your days/years. So make your life the way you want it now. If you are unhappy, change what you need to so that you are. Don’t complain constantly, find a solution. If you have dreams make them happen. No one else will do it for you. If you know something is wrong, go to the doctor. Please!
Slow down, stop, be in the quiet, hang out with yourself and get to know yourself all over again. I can guarantee most of you are lost in your jobs. Find a better balance. Ask yourself, if you were in my position what would you, what would you change? and make it happen. Don't wait until you are sick or whatever to realise you haven’t lived the way you wish you had.
Fortunately for me I have very few regrets. In the past you probably would have heard me say that I don’t believe in regrets, that everything in life happens for a reason, good and bad. We are supposed to learn from it and grow from it. Mistakes/regrets make us who we are. Without them we would incredibly boring. I still believe this. I guess what I mean by 'regrets' is that looking back there are times in my life when I wish my older self could have talked to my younger self. There is no one that won't agree with me on this one. I'll call these my regrets.
I regret not helping mum more and appreciating her more when I lived at home. I regret finding myself worth in what others thought of me in highschool. I regret holding onto the hurts of broken highschool friendships for way too long. I regret having boyfriends before I was 16. I regret being a people pleaser (and pushover) for many years, just wanting to be liked.
I regret not believing in myself way sooner - like at 27 when I finally realised I could turn something I was good at in a successful business.
I regret the hurt Greg and I put each other through in our naivety for so many years before we finally got it right.
I regret not taking my lump more seriously when Greg first found it and later on not pushing harder to get results sooner (through the shocking public system).
I regret that I can’t give Jackson a sibling and that I probably won't see his first day at school. I regret that I won't be growing old with my husband as I promised I would.
But these regrets don't burden me, they don't weigh over me or make down... Ok maybe the last few are a bit harder to swallow right now, but my point is that I’m a very lucky woman to know that when my time does come, that I will be leaving behind a life I am incredibly proud of, and only now truly appreciate to the level that I should. (I am blown away beyond words, by the realisation of how many people are surrounding me that love and care about me. So incredibly humbling and eternally grateful). But hey, it’s human nature to take our lives for granted. Don’t wait until you're possibly in my shoes one day. You don't know what is around the corner. Hey I still catch myself thinking "this kind of thing doesn't happen to 'me'!"and waiting for someone to tell me they've made big mistake, "sorry". But it did happen to me.
Appreciate your life now. And leave it with as few 'regrets' as possible (if you believe in them).
In case you’re wondering, I did ring my midwife. I told her my ‘milk coming in’ was cancer and I told her I was now terminal. She was upset for me of course and apologised for what I was going through, not for not telling me to get it properly checked. A part of me was angry towards her. She shouldn’t have presumed it was my milk, she should have said, have your baby and go get it checked to be sure after Jackson arrives. But then again, I’m sure most women who have lumpy breasts are just experiencing their milk coming in, that’s what happens. So I never expressed any animosity or let on that at that time I was a bit resentful. I simply told her in that in the future if she’s asked to check lumps to maybe suggest they get it properly checked out to be safe, so they didn’t end up in my situation. Since then, I have let it go. I think a part of me was looking for someone or something to blame. I was thinking things like, maybe if id got it checked then it wouldn’t be in my liver now and I would have a chance at remission. But Greg reminds me that there is no way of knowing that. I could’ve already been in my liver at that point as I’m actually pressure sure it was. (A specialist I saw thinks it had possibly been there 2yrs before I found it). But there’s no way of ever knowing and there is no point dwelling on that now. Now it’s time to be positive, to fight, to stay healthy, to focus on milestones, all the things I have to look forward to and time to prove the diagnosis wrong and still be around in 10yrs or even more!! It’s time to appreciate what I have and make the most of every single day.
After finding out that I have cancer, my doctor’s clinic realised that they needed to re-examine their follow up process which they have now majorly improved to ensure that kind of delay, especially with such a time sensitive situation, never happens again. A 2mth delay in following up a referral when it comes to cancer is not ok. And I’m glad this will now, hopefully, not happen to someone else.
A journalist came to see me from my brother-in-laws work, and my story ended up in the Sunday News which meant so much to me. It meant that hopefully many more women which start checking themselves at a much earlier age, and I have learnt from several letters and emails in response to the article, that this is the case. Maybe I have saved a life in sharing my story, maybe many lives? I really hope so.
Another friend of a friend (a midwife with her own midwifery clinic) has told me how my story has now changed the way she runs her practice and is now way more bossy towards her clients to ensure they get themselves checked properly when they find lumps.
It means so much to me to know that I have positively affected so many people and changed their lives in some way. If nothing else good comes from this bastard cancer, then I’m just glad I got the opportunity to create more awareness and maybe prevent others from not ending up in the same situation as me.
So, I guess I’ve not had a lot of luck during this process beginning with not being given the right advice, delays at my GP, getting breast cancer, and then finding out 5min before my op that it had spread and I’m ‘terminal’. I do hate that word and have since stopped using it. But yet despite all of this, I feel lucky.
Firstly, because I’m still here. I didn’t die yesterday, or a month ago. I’m alive and I have time.
Secondly, because of my amazing husband, Greg. He is my rock, my best friend and the love of my life. I would be lost without him. He is an amazing man, husband and father and I could never find enough words to thank him for all that he does for me. He holds me when I cry, listens, and then makes me laugh. He takes care of me, works hard for me and does everything he can to make me happy. He keeps me grounded, focused, and in love. I’m a lucky woman. In the words of Opshop...
“One day you’ll understand how much, you have me, One day you’ll realise we have it easy.I can’t offer you the future, I don’t know it myself, all I can offer you, is me.”
Thirdly, that I was lucky enough to not only experience motherhood, but to have the best son I could have ever asked for in Jackson. It amazes me that we can love someone so much you think you’re heart is going to explode sometimes. He is just so freakin’ good looking! He’s cheeky which he gets from both of us, he’s smart and well, he’s mine. He’s quite simply an incredible blessing in my life. He is probably the one thing that makes me cry these days. When I think about what I might miss out on... I pray that I see his first day at school which according to some is wishful thinking. So I think positive and reach for the stars, then beg God to let make his 10th birthday or even beyond. Maybe it’s unrealistic, maybe it’s not at all with the right attitude. I try to find a balance between what is and isn’t good for me pin my hopes on. One naturally tries to be realistic in a hope to prepare themselves for the worst so they don’t fall apart when the time comes, but at the same time trying their best to believe in miracles. It’s not easy. The way I’m trying to see it now is that every day is a bonus. Yesterdays history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift...that’s why it’s called the ‘present’.
Fourth, I have been blessed with a wonderful family.
My Mum is my personal wonder woman. She is always there when I need her. She comes over and she doesn’t stop from the moment she arrives. She comes with food, she does housework and she takes great care of Jackson while I’m off at appointments. She is tireless it seems at times, never stops, so hard working. How she does what she does at her age amazes me. She is sensitive, incredibly caring, thoughtful, supportive, generous, and knows how to have a good laugh. She taught me how to shop! To take pride in my appearance and to make a big deal of birthdays, Christmas and any get together. Food and love being the centre of it all! She is the best mother I could have ever asked for. She loves me unconditionally and abundantly. She is the most beautiful woman I know, inside and out. I’m so incredibly lucky and proud to have her. I hope she knows that.
My Dad is the rock in our family. Never failing to astound me by his gentleness, honesty, kindness, his grace, his calm, his generosity and the fact he never ever says a bad word about anyone. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. He is the first to offer to help, the first to ask someone he just met to stay for dinner, or offer them a beer. He has the respect of everyone he knows and it’s so deserved. I want to be more like him in these ways that seem so rare to find these days. We all could learn something from him. Despite the fact he has had to travel with his job throughout my life, I have never really ‘felt’ his absence. He is always there for me. He is an incredible person, and father. I’m filled with pride to be able to call him my Dad.
I’m so lucky to have the parents I do. I’d like to say I don’t take them for granted, I guess we all do, but I don’t anymore. When life takes a bad turn like this, suddenly you appreciate everything so much more!
And as for my siblings, my two sisters and my bro are awesome. Meeghan, Eleni and Cameron are always there for me and they have helped to mould me into who I am today. Thank you for teaching me to rollerskate, to appreciate good music, to laugh so hard that I cry, to dance all night long and be the last to leave, how to fight blow off steam, but also to forgive and move on, to always present myself well, to have an opinion and be a good listener, that family is important and to always be there for each other, in the good times and the bad. I think being the youngest I have ended up being the sum total of all three of them put together...and I’m not complaining. I can’t thank them enough for all that they have done for me all these years. For being so much fun, for being my friends, for all the love and support and advice – and even being willing to take mine on occasion too. My family rock, I’m a very lucky woman. I know you will always be there for Greg and Jackson too. I’m counting on that!
This includes my extended family (Cousins and Aunties) too who have all rallied around me since finding out my news. They have organised fundraisers and babysat for me several times too. They have given advice, gifts, time and so much love. The Swan clan are an amazing bunch of people. My friends often say to me, “I knew which one’s were relations of yours because they're all so bloody gorgeous”. I haven’t spent as much time with them all over the last 10yrs until now, and for that I will always be regretful, but it doesn’t matter. They are blowing me away with how quickly and effortlessly they have been at my side, just as if they had been right there the whole time. I’m incredibly grateful. Cuzzies, not only are you all stunningly gorgeous but you all are on the inside too.
I also want to thank my wonderful in-laws. Fay (Greg’s Mum) is a star. She has been so supportive, kind and generous! She helps with Jackson and often pops around with flowers or kiwifruit to keep me going. She is so giving when she has so little herself. I love her heaps. Bridget, Andy, Louise and Nigel, you are my second family and I love you heaps too. Thank you for always being there, for your love, support and friendship. I love the bond that we have formed over the last 11.5 years and I thank you for always making me feel like a part of your family. Thanks you for being an awesome support for Greg. I can’t thank you enough. When the time comes I know you will be there for Greg and Jackson and that means so much to me.
Fifth, I am so blessed to have sooo many amazing friends!! There was a time in my life when I could count my ‘real’ friends on one hand a long time ago. Since then, I seem to be overwhelmed and struggle to keep up with them all!! It’s not a complaint. I am humbled and honored to have so many wonderful people in my life who care about me. And so many who have contacted me after not seeing me since College, offering so much love, support and generosity. It has just blown me away. I have swept away baggage from past hurts with people I can now call a friend again. And I have made amends with someone that I once hurt who blew me away with their forgiveness and instant friendship and love.
I want to in particular give thanks to Inez, Debbie, Sheri, Mel, Annette, Jo H, Rachel & Kev, Ruth & Rob, Deb & Tom, Mike and Shari, Jana and Dean, Angela, Anna, Kerryn, Jo M, and Sarah. I love you all so much and I will never forget the special ways in which you have each been there for me.
All my friends are wonderful, they have all added to my life in their own special way. Once upon a time I never thought I would ever be so overwhelmed with the number of people I could call a real friend. At times like these you realise who your real friends are. You have blown me away and far exceeded my expectations. I love you all.
Sixth, I am thankful for the generosity, kindness and support from all the strangers who have sent me gifts, money, emails, letters, cards. They have sent me praise for my strength and courage which has meant so much. It has blown my mind the generosity of even strangers and taught someone like me who always considered themselves ‘giving’, what giving is really all about. This cancer had brought people together in ways I never could have imagined. It’s restored my faith in the human spirit and ever single message I get every day keeps me inspired and encouraged more than I could ever put into words.
Lastly, I feel lucky because I have received the gift of a wake-up call about life so I want to offer you all some advice...
Don’t be a selfish person. Life isn’t just about you. It’s about relationships, it’s about giving, it’s about loving each other, being good to each other and being there for one another. Don’t take the ones you care about for granted – family, friends, husbands, wives, lovers, your children. Appreciate what you have, those who you love and those who love you. Stop and tell them more often what they mean to you. Show them what they mean to you. Too many of us are lazy in our relationships. Don’t wait until you lose someone before you realise what you had.
Don’t hold on to anger. Don’t let the sunset on an argument. Forgive. Don’t hold on to hurt and resentment, it will only eat you up inside. Don’t punish people for their mistakes because it makes you feel better. Let it go, forgive, move on. None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes.
If you are having problems in your relationship, any relationship, be willing to look at yourself as much as you are willing to point the finger. Most problems take two people to fix. We all have our faults, accept each other’s imperfections, and embrace them. This doesn’t mean allow people to hurt you or walk all over you, but forgive them when they do. If they continue to hurt you, then move on from them. They are not good for you. Life is too short to hold on to resentment, to live in sadness or believe we don’t deserve any better, to live in a situation with more bad than good times. People can change, but not everyone wants to. So don’t wait around for someone to change if they don’t want to. But also we can’t always blame someone else when things fail and take no responsibility ourselves. Pointing the finger doesn’t make things better, working together as a team does. Take it from someone who has tried both ways, and succeeded with the latter.
Look after your health. Go for walks, drink lots of water. Don’t drink energy drinks and fizzy drinks and too much coffee. In general, look after your body! It is your temple and yes you are what you eat! Don’t smoke.
Ladies check your breasts and men your prostates, etc. Go and get regularly checkups. Having no family history does not make you safe. I had no family history. 95% of breast cancer cases today do not have a history. Ladies start checking yourself from 20...that means now for all of you over 20. Someone I know got breast cancer at 24 and had a 6mth old son. If you’re 35 don’t wait until your 40+ for the free screening. Start now. It’s free to check yourself. Go ahead, feel yourself up, regularly! No one else can look after you better than you can. The earlier and the more often you start checking the more likely you are to realise when something feels different. My generation has had an increase of 25% in breast cancers. Please, check yourself in the shower in the morning. Or even make it part of your Monday to do list in the shower. It should be more important to you than shaving your legs!
It sounds cliché, but don’t take your life for granted. Days shouldn’t be lost or thrown away thinking we have endless buckets of them. I’m not being morbid, we just don’t know what’s around the corner. We always think ‘the really bad things’ happen to everyone else, not to us. But we are ‘everyone else’. We all have to appreciate our life. It’s a blessing. If there is something you have always wanted to do, go and do it! Make it happen. Make the most of everyday. Stop making excuses. Stop and smell the roses. Watch the sunset. Watch the sunrise. As I said earlier, Yesterdays history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift...that’s why it’s called the ‘present’.
One of my favourite sayings is now my life’s motto...
Life is not about the number of breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away.
You’ve been told, with love.
Again, thanks so much for your support. I’m humbled by my wonderful life, and I’ll never find the words to truly express how grateful I am.
Natalie F Murphy 39b Penzance Road, Mairangi BayAuckland 0630
Natalie & Greg MurphyBNZ 02-0238-0116716-97
Trust Acct: Hand in Hand for Natalie 02-1244-0064478-000