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April 23rd, 2017

Howdy.

 

Yes-yes, can you believe it, I’ve finally managed to post an entry on the blog! Ha, this blog is so sporadically updated isn’t it, I just hope the dearest readers don’t give up on me!

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So, some of you (if any!) might be wondering how I’m doing with my breast cancer. The last time I wrote about it was back in January before the radiotherapy. Well, I did the radiotherapy everyday (with a rest at weekends) for four weeks. It sounds pretty full-on, but actually, each treatment was only a mere thirty seconds long (… and it wasn’t a zapping beam like in the Bond movies!). The reason for such short treatment being, the full dose of radiation is given in fractions. Radiotherapy is about damaging the DNA of the cancer cells to cause it to die, but inevitably the surrounding healthy tissue is exposed and gets a whacking too, so it’s best to spread out the killer bursts, allowing for your healthy cells to recover.

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The actual beaming may be short, but of course it takes ten or so minutes for the radiographer to position me accurately on the table. Ah, talking of accuracy, to do so, they tattooed two pinprick size dots on my chest! MY FIRST TAT Y’ALL! Lol, I’ve always fancied a tattoo, but who knew I’d be getting one in such an un-rock n’ roll situation! Oh well, despite the un-hipness, nevertheless I was excited and jolly as they did it, I mean c’mon, it was the highlight of my hospital visits, ANYTHING is better after experiencing the ghastly chemotherapy and the cold-cap.

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The chemotherapy…, the chemotherapy. Where do I start on how to tell you about this one.

 

Y’know, at the time, I was acting all brave and strong and as normal as I can be, because that’s the defence mechanism in me. And there’s everyone around me commenting “You’re managing so well!” and “You’re looking great!”. But looking back? I can tell you that it really was the shittiest time of my life (oops sorry, excuse the language!). Crappiest. Really. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemies! (well, I don’t have an enemy but just saying!)

 

Of course I could have made my life much easier by opting out of cold-capping, because that probably equated for half of the problem. Cold cap is basically a headgear that you put on pre, during and after your chemotherapy, which freezes your scalp in the hope of keeping your hair. Logic being that the poisonous drug won’t reach the hair follicles if it’s frozen. Like I say, that’s the logic anyway (because I still lost a lot of hair).

 

Traumatic? Yes. Painful? Oh yes, terribly. Endurable? Barely yes, but only because I have children who I was adamant not to upset any further. If it were not for trying to look ‘Normal’ for them, I would have torn off the mf-ing cap off my head in a speed never before seen by mankind. But with the cold-capping, I managed to keep ‘some’ hair, mostly on the sides, so when I put a hat on and have hair showing on the sides, people never suspected!

 

But for the children, it’s bad enough that their mum has cancer, right? Suddenly their steady, happy and ordinary everyday life gets hit by this bombshell of a news! Obviously we involved them wherever we can, filled them in on what’s happening because “not knowing” brings unnecessary fear. Without sounding scary, we told them, “it’s just taking the lump out and making sure it never comes back again with some medicine!”, which, in a nutshell, is all it is.

 

Perhaps it comes with the job of being a mother, but I worried. I worried what effect this would have on them. Being mindful for their mental state was a paramount issue for me, even though my own mental state was all over the shop. Actually even more so because I was suffering, that I didn’t want to drag them down too. We lay a stable ground for them as much as we can and of course always tried to be the chirpy mum in front of them but my eyes were often puffed up. And seeing people around us always asking about your mum’s health brings home the seriousness perhaps.

 

I felt that it was important to stamp out any problems before it happens, so quite earlier on in all of this, I sent two group emails asking for help. One was to my son’s friends parents. The other was to all the girl’s parents in my daughter’s class. If you want, you can read one of them through this link, which will open another page from my website.

 

Despite my worries, the children certainly stood up to the challenge:

 

Unbeknown to me, our teenage son put a picture of a woman with bald head plugged into chemo on his Instagram account, with the words: “I’ll delete this picture when she’s done fighting it”. My gosh, you can just imagine how it squeezed my heart when I found out! – The other week though, I noticed that the picture was gone. I asked him what happened and why, to which he replied, “Well, you’re better now aren’t you!”. – I will do anything for this boy.

 

And then our daughter brought out the maternal quality in droves with this experience. If I nodded off while reading a book or something like that, or at times even during play with her, she’d attentively put a blanket over me and then ever so slowly walk out of the room, careful not to make a squeak. I noticed her doing this before proper sleep got hold of me and I was deeply moved and so grateful that she is my daughter.

Although, sometimes she treats me like an injured pony or a kitty! Lol! Her recent ‘thing’ is to stroke my short hair back and forth, like petting an animal. I understand her fascination though, the hair that grew from baldness does feel especially soft and nice like animal fur! – A friend of mine described my daughter as having an ‘old soul’, that she seems to understand the world around her. Well, I do think she has a developed sense of empathy. Do you believe in past lives? I do, and I sometimes feel that we were also mother and child, but in reversal, me the child. That’s what I feel when she envelopes me. – I will do anything for this girl too.

 

My children’s friends and their mums stood up to the challenge too!

 

I was told by my son’s friend’s mum that his group of friends have a gentleman’s agreement that they won’t ask about my health unless my son mentions it. Thirteen year old boys and their pact! Bless ’em. :-)

 

And my daughter’s friends mums! I received so much emotional support. For example, as soon as the email was sent, they organised a get together for me. It was exactly what I needed, not to be a sorry-case at home, but having a laugh in the pub! They brought around food and flowers from time to time too. And we went for numerous coffees and lunches! It sure made a difference knowing that I had them to fall back on.

 

And Mr.D… Shall I tell you? It was on his birthday, 28th June, that I was diagnosed…! Poor guy, what a shocker it must’ve been, and what a horrible present it was! I’m so sorry that it had to be that day. But of course he has been a rock and a shoulder to cry on. I guess he had the short end of the stick than any other because not only did he had to process this news and deal with my bouts of negativity, he had to look after the family but also go to work throughout the time!

 

Now with the benefit of hindsight, I asked them how they felt at the time and my family all say they were not scared. I think we came through this alright! Thank God for that! Life is almost back to normal now, I just need to go back for treatment once every three weeks for the rest of this year, and take oral medicine for the next five years.

 

I sometimes have bouts of fear. Like a heart attack it suddenly comes unannounced. I worry that the cancer might come back again. And that the next time will not be so lucky. And I still grieve the loss of the work I loved doing too and I feel slightly lost. But that thought gets disrupted soon enough with the children that need my attention and I am ever so grateful for that.

 

Ps: some of you might have realised that the website has been updated? Yup! It has! Now, it is mobile-responsive, and with the bonus of a ‘Recipes’ page where you can now access my recipes much easily. I have also recently started Instagram! There you’ll find me posting stuff much more frequently than on the blog, so please check it out~! ;-)

 

17 Comments »

  1. This so moving, you have been so incredibly brave and positive. Having had a parent go through this I know how impossibly hard it is at times. You have always had a smile when I know on the inside you haven’t felt that way. So relieved for you and all your family. Love to see you soon x

    Comment by Emma - April 23, 2017 10:43 am

  2. Hi Tamami,

    Glad to hear from you again! :) Just wanna give you a virtual hug and to let you know that you’re extremely courageous and brave! I’m not a mom, but I can definitely feel the love you have for your kids and the love that they have for you! Love the bit about how your son’s (is he a teenager now??? my my time has flown, I still remember him as a toddler) supporting you in the best way he can via instagram and how Sakura’s (I still remember reading your post of her birth!) taking care of you too!! They’re so precious hey :)

    Hang in there, sending you, Mr D and your two bubs lots of love all the way from Aussie!!

    Comment by Jo - April 23, 2017 12:32 pm

  3. Hello Emma!!! Oh wow! So happy to know that you read this blog! Thank you~! Haha, you saw through me! Sometimes keeping a smile is easier than facing issues…! Hope to see you soon! xx

    Comment by tamami - April 23, 2017 2:36 pm

  4. Hello Jo! I loved receiving a virtual hug from Australia, thank you!!! :) It’s amazing to hear that you have been reading this for so long! Yes, he’s 13, and she’s 9 already! Lol, lol, my-my time has flown indeed! Sending you my BIG gratitude from London, T xx

    Comment by tamami - April 23, 2017 2:37 pm

  5. Dear Tamami

    I haven’t looked at your blog in a while but I remembered your account of plain scones and came to look it up.

    I got a shock to read about your illness – I’m so sorry you had this twist of fate, adjustment and treatment to go through but you have managed it – congratulations on your successful navigation of these events. All best wishes to you and yours for the future. I’ll follow you on IG.

    Thanks for all the amazing posts over the years and now I’ll make some scones –

    Maire

    Comment by Maire - April 24, 2017 4:25 pm

  6. Tamami-san, I’m so glad to hear that the worst of the treatment is over and that you’re on the mend. And it’s so touching to hear that your children were so thoughtful and nurturing during your recovery.

    I can totally relate to your defense mechanism. Japanese culture is certainly instilled with the concept of gaman, so it just seems so natural to put on a brave face and get on with it – even in the most troubling of adversities.

    Sending you much support and best wishes for a complete and full recovery. Hugs from across the pond.

    P.S. One of my aunts had a fairly aggressive form of breast cancer 6 years ago, and she’s still in remission. I will keep you both in my thoughts.

    Comment by Yoshiko Yeto - April 25, 2017 1:39 am

  7. Dear Maire

    thank you so much for leaving a lovely message! And I’m sorry that I gave you a shock!

    Twist of fate…, yes, who knew it’ll be like this?! Do things happen for a reason, I can’t say, but I am coming out of it with a healthier lifestyle – better eating and exercising, and also getting to sleep earlier too! (I was a very bad girl about that!) Needless to say, I’m cutting way down on sugar as well but must say not completely…!

    – And thanks for the follow on Instagram. I started it quite recently and I use it to motivate me to keep eating healthily!!!!! :)

    Comment by Tamami - April 25, 2017 6:49 am

  8. Hello Yoshiko san! :)

    yes, the defence mechanism…, it’s a “built-in” to cope with these tough situations, right? It’s also easier to keep smiling and pretend it’s alright, (perhaps not the best way of going about it because it’s a denial) but otherwise it was far too depressing.

    You’re right in that it is probably different to the Western concept of ‘letting it all out’ and ‘talking it over’. I tried that when I had a free session with the psychologist for an hour and a half. – I came out of it more beaten up than before! Everyone has a different way of coping, and going to a psychologist was not for me!

    Thank you so much for all your emotional support, Y! :) :) :)

    Comment by Tamami - April 25, 2017 8:55 am

  9. Tamami, this brought tears to my eyes, both sad and happy. Sad because you had to endure so much and happy because you have such a good support system. Your children sound so incredible, and so mature and brave for their age, you must be one very proud mom. I think it is natural to get scared and sad from time to time, it is impossible not to after what you have been through. Just try not to dwell on it too much and continue taking good care of yourself. A big virtual hug to you…

    Comment by Poornima - April 26, 2017 10:08 pm

  10. By the way, I think the Indian system is also similar to the Japanese in that we believe in putting on a happy face. I once tried to talk to a psychologist when I was feeling particularly down, and I was so traumatized by talking to this stranger abt my personal problems and her generalising the situation that I swore off it forever. I think dwelling on it and talking about it doesn’t really work for me unless the ones I am talking to are close family members or friends who can really understand. And I believe we should all do what is right for us and not what is considered right by others. If denial is what works at any given moment, then so be it ha ha.

    Comment by Poornima - April 26, 2017 10:22 pm

  11. Hi Poornima!
    Thank you so much for the caring message! :)

    Yes, I was very lucky that I had a great support system! There has never been a time when I needed people around me the most. I was on the receiving end of so much kindness. One day I will reciprocate in some sort of way.

    Re, smile: I think it works y’know, smiling when you’re sad! It trips the brain in to thinking positively, and eventually it overpowers and you really become a happy person. It also attracts people to you too. That few degrees up on the corners of your mouth is all it is. I learnt this when I was behind the stall in the market. I would get more customers when I was smiling! Ofcourse, if the problem is deep-rooted, denial just pushes the problem forward and you’d still need to face it, so it’s not good, but in my case, I knew perfectly well what I am going through, and how to cope with it!

    Anyway, thanks for all your support! x

    Comment by Tamami - April 27, 2017 12:14 pm

  12. So pleased to see that you are being positive, it really helps. And it has always been my philosophy that if you are pleasant to others they will be pleasant to you in return. That definitely works! My very best wishes for your continued recovery.

    Comment by Jeannette - April 30, 2017 2:09 pm

  13. I haven’t been reading your posts for quite a while; I know because my third child is already 2 now…!
    I was happy to rediscover your blog, and then, I was sad to see what you’ve been through, and now I’m kind of glad to see you’ve come through the worst of it.
    My mother went through treatment some years back. I don’t know if I was any support to her compared to your lovely children.
    With hugs and many wishes for your complete recovery from Japan.

    Comment by rita - May 1, 2017 8:38 am

  14. The first time I read your blog and nearly visit your stall was 11 years old when we were planning for our honeymoon( n we look e visiting weekends stall). Neen folowing yournblod since then. I admire your postivity and determination. *big pat on the shoulder* it never easy to battle against cancer but your positively have defintely encourage those around you. Stay cheerful!!

    Comment by Slting - May 3, 2017 5:13 am

  15. Dear Jeannette,
    first of all, sorry for the late reply…! That theory definitely works! Even, say, when someone is talking aggressively, if I make it my mission to talk even more politely and pleasantly, then eventually they calm down and be pleasant back! :)

    Thank you so much for your continual support!!!! xxxxxx

    Comment by Tamami - May 3, 2017 8:42 am

  16. Hello Rita! And thank you for revisiting the blog! Omg, you have 3 children now???? I think the last time I heard from you was when you just had the second baby! How funny and weird that time flies by so fast…! How are you in Japan? (Tokyo I believe?) Hope all is well~! And thanx for the kind message, it means a lot to me! :) :) :)

    Comment by Tamami - May 3, 2017 8:51 am

  17. Dear Slting!
    Oh wow…, 11 years!!!? Do I feel old reading that number?! Lol! That’s pretty amazing that you’ve been coming back to this blog all those years! **Thank you so much!** How life is different from 11 years ago, hei?
    – And thank you also for the big pat on the shoulder! :) :) :) Am fine, am fine! It’s a ‘readjustment’ that’s all…!

    Comment by Tamami - May 3, 2017 9:00 am

 

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