August 9, 2016

Brow report

Hello there, here is a special report on how my new brows look!

Excuse me for posting all these weird selfies... but this is what I looked like post chemo. It's been over 3 years since I finished that shit. Every hair on my body grew back... except for my eyebrows.

So... I drew them on every single day. Even on those no make-up days because otherwise my face reminded me so much of all the harsh treatment. Such a naked face without brows. I tried powder and pencils.. and it did its job for a while. But I hated it so much, I never got the shape quite right. Lefty vs righty that type of stuff. So permanent make-up seemed like a wonderful option!

I found this amazing woman who does cosmetic and medical tattoos. She is especially involved with breast cancer patients and she also tattoos nipples and such. Please MAKE SURE you find the right person out there if you want to do this. There are many quack salvers out there. Ask for many pictures of this person's work, to see whether or not you like their style. Also check if they have helped people with alopecia and cancer before. For me it did not feel right to go to a normal beauty clinic because the thought behind it is very different. There's quite a difference between trying to make a brow prettier or having to tattoo an entire brow, shape, colour etc.

I scheduled my appointment to have my eyebrows tattooed with this special 3D micro blading technique. Apart from the radiation dots I have no other tattoos. So I was a bit nervous! It does not sound very lovely to get a tattoo in your face I think.

We agreed on colour and shape (yes they draw them on your face with a pencil and ruler) and I had to make a sad and happy face...

The anaesthetic was not very pleasant. Like a million little needles punching you above your eyes. But the actual tattoo, well it was not as bad as a I thought it would be. The chair was very comfortable that helps. I think it took her like 30 minutes for each eyebrow. I took this picture right after and it felt a bit crazy with the white lines and all. But check out those hairs!

I took this one about and hour and a half later and the white lines had already disappeared by then.

The days after that they became much darker and it felt a little like I painted them on with a big brush or something. I wasn't allowed to sweat (ha ha), not too much sunshine and they could not get wet for about ten days. Basically it felt like a a huge scratch in my face, but that only lasted for a day or two. 

Then the treated area develops scabs and it is very important to look after them and take care of it with some shiny tattoo goo.. the most important thing is not to rub, pick or peel off your flakes or scabs (it was SOOO hard). Eventually pieces (that look like tiny hairs) will start to fall off. It starts to look a bit like a leopard pattern.

As you can see the tattooed area is changing a lot during the healing period. The entire healing process of my treated area will take something from 4 to 6 weeks. They will change colour (become lighter) and the hairs will become thinner. So my second treatment is scheduled in three weeks. And yes I'm really excited about that!

I'm very happy with the results even though they're not quite finished yet. I already feel like having brows again. I'm pleased with the shape and the colour, the finishing touch will make it even more natural and prettier. Tattoo lady also told me I do have a couple of my own hairs coming through, which make the brow look even more fuzzy and real.

Can't believe I just dedicated an entire post to eyebrows.

June 21, 2016

First day of summer

I keep thinking I need to update.. but then I start reading my own blog. Page after page, words written by me. How those three years changed my entire life. How I handled things. A horror story. Yet written with humour and sarcasm. The medical facts, the struggles and the forgotten memories. Broken to the core. But hopeful and creative.

I'm just so thankful I started this blog almost four years ago now. It feels quite amazing reading, experiencing, looking back. It was such a long dark road.

I think it helps to heal. The road to recovery and remembering where you came from, it'll give new insights. Today. Matters. The here. The now.

I had my annual mammogram a few weeks ago. That feeling, that you'll never be able to shake this off, will start creeping and haunting you a couple of weeks before the date. Nervous Nellie here she comes. Sometimes I barely notice it but the tension in my entire body says enough. This time it was a little chaotic, new hospital wing, they were running late, long waiting hours.  But she called out my name and that is my cue. Strip down. And smash those boobies. They hurt me so much this time. The mammogram actually left me with several bruises on my breasts. It is such a fucking torture. They need to come up with something different here. We can go to Mars but not come up with a new boobie machine?! Anyway after waiting some more I got to go home and she told me everything looked fine! I just felt extremely tired that moment, I had a nagging headache. I was relieved but not happy. I think the tension builds up so much you need to get rid off it before you can feel happiness again. The next day I had another appointment with the mammacare nurse and she confirmed as well everything looked fine. The day after that I was able to finally feel happy again (and bought myself a new bag and ordered Chinese food yessss).

Work is going quite well for me. The short version is that I decided to jump (once more) and I started working as a secretary again. Same division, different building, different people. It was hard at first... but I think it helps me as well. I'm way more visible as a secretary, can not really hide behind anything anymore. I get to meet new people, I run into former colleagues.. people who know me and my story, people I don't know but know my story (well or so they think). It is a bit of a weird experience. All the responses you get. The super weird and sometimes very intimate questions. Sometimes it is hard and I'm freaked out about it.. but I'm also able to deal with it. I'm getting stronger. I enjoy spending time with colleagues, silly office humour, the teasing, the smiles... it is good for me.  It really helps picking up the pieces for a 'normal' everyday life. I enjoy working for my boss. To be able to assist him, to help other people by doing my job. It helps with the confidence to feel useful.

Today I talked to my psych.. about many things. We are now working towards closure. I will have a few more appointments and then in December we'll try to finish and have our last one. It feels good. It really does. I'm coming to terms with things. I have come so far, and I especially realize this when reading this blog. She complimented me on this as well, I have changed so much in the last few years. Slowly, slowly I'm getting there. Finding back old pieces and creating new stories. The glue is holding it all together.

I have a vacation coming up. Which feels a bit weird because when I had my last vacation, this thing all started and I did not come back for like three years. I hope I'll be able to enjoy it after a few days. Reintegrating is pretty exhausting and it should be good. Relax a little nervous Nellie.

I do have something special planned... which I'm definitely going to write about more. You see my eyebrows never grew back after chemo. Like 5 hairs... quite sad. I'm getting so sick of drawing them on my face every morning ugh. Sometimes I'm scared I'll smudge them or when walking in the rain they will fall off. Tough life. So... I found this amazing woman who does cosmetic and medical tattoos. And she is going to tattoo my eyebrows with this special 3D microblading technique. Apart from the radiation dots I have no other tattoos. So I'm really excited about this.. but also a bit nervous! I mean, come on it must hurt to have a tattoo in your face right?! But I'll be so happy afterwards, waking up in the morning with the perfect brows! Will keep you posted!

March 11, 2016

Life got in between

Hello there, remember me?! I wanted to write another update to tell you about my progress. Because I hate blogs that aren't updated anymore and you never know what happened to that person. I just hope one day, somebody reads this and feels a little less lonely. That my words or photos will mean something to just one person. That be enough.

When I started working again last year, at the same time one of my former bosses found out he was sick. A melanoma spread to his brain and lymph nodes. I was his secretary for about 4 years. So I sent him a card and in January I wrote him a long email. He wrote me one back and was so happy to hear from me. We chatted about our treatment, hopes, distraction, loving family/friends and photography. He knew he wasn't going to get better, but there were still lights of hope. He had surgery and was going to start immunotherapy... but it wasn't meant to be. He got partly paralysed because of a cerebral hemorrhage and died at home with his wife and twins. 

I really felt the need to be at his cremation. To be surrounded by people who knew him. I have been thinking about him a lot. Mostly happy memories of a secretary. The cremation was intense, sad and personal. Music was our 'thing' and we always talked a lot about concerts.. he even gave me a CD for my birthday once. So when I heard James Bay, Venice, Dotan & Coldplay... it was just perfect. 

Afterwards I went up to his wife who also spoke during the cremation. What a beautiful soul! What a gorgeous strong person. It's strange how people you barely know can touch your soul like that! Wow. I told her my name and she said her husband showed her my photo series of the Chemo Chronicles. She gave me a tight tight hug.. and she said, "But look at you now, you're still here.. you're still standing strong"... and at that moment I realized what the term 'survivors guilt' really means. But don't get me wrong I'm really really glad I went.  It was a powerful goodbye. 

I have slowly started to cut back on the antidepressants. Well at least one of them, the ones that are making me fat and hungry. I'm still taking the Citalopram, but I kept gaining weight on the Mirtazapine. I'm a vegetarian but I felt like I could eat an entire horse every night. It really got out of hand and it made me sad, which is exactly the opposite of what its suppose to do right?! I took a 1/2 pill for 3 weeks, and now I'm on 1/4 for the second week. I have had some withdrawal symptoms but I'm determined to quit this happy-but-fatty-pill. 

I have been seeing my physiotherapist twice a week. We are working on my muscles, strength, condition, balance, flexibility etc. It is hard work! He makes me sweat like a pig. 

I am currently working 5 hours on three days.. and I also work a couple of hours at home. It still is a struggle.. mostly the fatigue and joint pain. But I enjoy being among colleagues. People seem generally happy to see me, I still get hugs and kisses when they see me. I started working as a project assistant for a pretty big project and that is something I have always enjoyed. I'm still not sure what is going to happen to me, because I'm reintegrating and I don't have a permanent job, I'm surplus. But I try to not to worry about that, and have faith what will meant to be will be. Also I might have to work as secretary again.. and that feels like taking a step back. Being back at work you see people with new jobs, who have developed and educated themselves. I talked about this with my psych and what matters now is I will feel better about going back to work. Finding back my confidence, a daily rhythm. I am still young and I have plenty of time to find out what it is I really want. 

My company doctor. Oh my, don't get me started on this guy. He actually told me.. and I quote, "Compared to other people in your situation, I think you can't do anything." Are you fucking kidding me?! I was so pissed. I told him about how hard it was for me to look at the things I have achieved and that I am working every fucking single day to look at the positive things in my life instead of the things I have lost. I was really emotional but determined! In Dutch we say, die heb ik een poepie laten ruiken.. I kicked his ass! 

So from that point on my appointments are a little more pleasant. He actually gave me a compliment last time we spoke. Ha! So always, ALWAYS stand up for yourself... but also realize you never EVER have to apologize for the way you chose to survive. Don't abandon the person you used to be.. but carry her! Be brave, be strong!