I wonder, have you ever had that feeling of being so happy, you could cry? As I sit here on the tarmac tonight, I am filled with a rainbow of emotions. And it is overwhelming in a good way. The most intense peace, happiness, joy and gratitude. Gratitude that I live in a time and place where I have choices. Gratitude for the wonders of flight that have enabled me to travel almost 2,500 kilometres here and back in one day to see a doctor doing some very special work. Gratitude for the people who go out on a limb pushing the frontiers of possibility. Gratitude for my family who have helped make this trip possible. And gratitude for that part of myself that never gives up.

Today I found another beautiful doctor. The second I entered his office, I knew I was in the right place. Warm, friendly staff who were pleased to see me and welcomed me by name, as a person, not a patient. And as I turned, I saw it, a Tree of Life painting on his wall. This symbol means so much to me. Steve and I once ran a practice where we actually painted the Tree of Life on our office wall. To me, it is a symbol of wholeness, of life, hope and beauty. And so I knew it was a sign just for me that everything would be okay. He introduced himself simply by his first name and explained the wonders of this new stem cell technology. And what wonder it is. My own tissue, to recreate what is missing without damaging me further. It is difficult to explain the feeling of parts missing, isn’t it?. And now the chance to feel whole again. I felt the tears as the emotions came. I can’t wait to get started.

First I’ll need an expander to create the space for a new breast. It’s quite brilliant really. No different to how your skin expands during pregnancy. But when I first enquired about reconstruction along traditional routes, I was told this was not a good path for me because of the radiation. But with this technology the stem cells actually heal the tissue as a part of the deal! It certainly pays to get a second opinion, doesn’t it. To look outside the sqaure. And then six weeks later there will be the fat transfer. Goodbye tummy, hips and thighs. I believe the benefits of liposuction are an added bonus with no scars! And to top it off, this surgeon recommends herbs and vitamins for healing. Again, he speaks my language!

Every woman who’s had breast cancer should know they have this choice, shouldn’t they.

Tonight as I travel home to my family and the comfort of my own bed, I want to leave you with the surprise I discovered in the hospital bathroom, just down the corridor. One more sign that I am in good hands. I was quite blown away. If you can, picture this. A suite of doctor’s offices, on the top floor of a hospital building. A regular office style bathroom, 6 cubicles and there in between the paper towel dispensers I saw this plaque:

Daily Affirmation – The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts, it is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day . We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.

If only more hospitals were designed to feed our minds as a part of our healing…

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Stem cells. Little promises of something more. I must confess I’ve always sat on the fence when it comes to the controversy of stem cell research. With 3 potentially life threatening conditions in the family, it’s a door we’ve left open. But now I find they are touching my life directly and I’m filled with great excitement. Next week I get on a plane to see the only doctor in Australia who is doing stem cell breast reconstruction. And the best bit about it is they are my own stem cells. It’s cutting edge stuff. I always love what’s happening at the edge. It speaks to the scientist in me, the part of me that dreams of possibilities. It’s an exciting place.

In a nutshell, this type of reconstruction holds promise for anyone who has had breast surgery. Basically, they lypo-suction out your own fat tissue from a donor site and wash half of it to get the stem cells, before mixing it back together and augmenting a breast after lumpectomy or reconstructing it in its entirety. And the stem cells can be used to repair skin after radiation too. The best bit is it’s only an overnight stay in hospital. So much more appealing than the other forms of reconstruction I was offered that involved cutting me up even more, topped off with stints in intensive care – no thanks! And I was fascinated to find out that our fat tissue is absolutely laden with stem cells that can differentiate to provide all the blood supply that the fat needs to keep living once it has been ‘farmed’. Thank you tummy after children I say. I have a new respect for my womanly features and now look at my curves even more lovingly.

In trawling the net, I discovered this type of reconstruction has been ramping up in Europe, Japan and America, but wasn’t discussed as an option with me until I uncovered it for myself. Once again it has brought home to me the truth of the need to go looking for alternatives, when the ones we are presented with simply do not feel right. Because gut instinct is a powerful survival mechanism, isn’t it?. A gift from within that has saved me time and time again when I stop to listen to its wisdom. And even if the answers are not immediately there, with a little persistence and patience, I find they always come. Because there are a lot of things we discover when we take the time to look and listen, aren’t there?. When we won’t take ‘no’ for an answer…

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“In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins – not through strength, but through persistence.” — Buddha