Man Cancer: More than just cancer

Today is The Man’s 3 monthly check up with the Oncologist. As a direct result, I have to say shit’s been a bit weird around here lately.

You see, there is something they don’t tell you about cancer when they give you a diagnosis. Sure, they tell you all about the tumour, the treatment, the percentages of this that and the next thing (Cancer is apparently a real numbers game). But what they DON’T tell you is that cancer is not just a disease of the body. It’s a disease of the psyche too. After all, being faced with one’s mortality is not an easy cross to bear, especially at the age of 34.

Even in the case of those fortunate enough to be given the coveted rubber stamp of “remission”, the lingering fear of relapse is forever in mind.

I think the medical profession largely overlook this fact, especially when it comes to men.

Not once during the course of The Man’s testicular cancer (TC) diagnosis, surgery, treatment and consequent follow up has he ever been offered any form of counselling or psychological support. I find it particularly staggering given the facts that we know about men, serious illness and mental health.

Things we know:

  1. Men aged 35-44 have the highest rates of depression.
  2. Men are less likely to access mental health support services.
  3. Feelings of shock, anger, grief, loss and sadness are common with an unexpected serious life event and can put you greater risk of developing depression and anxiety.
  4. Approx a quarter of TC sufferers experience depression and/or anxiety.
  5. TC sufferers report loss of a testicle having adverse effects on psychological wellbeing, relationships, self image, sexual function and work life.

Small wonder then that sometimes living with The Man can be a little heavy!

Of course, we are extremely fortunate that his cancer was detected early and more intensive treatment wasn’t required. Perhaps that’s why these services have not been offered? Maybe it’s reasonable to expect The Man to just “go home and get better” (yes a doctor really did say that to him!) Perhaps it is because we went private and you are supposed to source these services yourself?

The fact is it really isn’t good enough. Organisations like Beyond Blue and Blue September do amazing work to bring attention to men’s health issues and reduce stigma around seeking treatment, both for physical and mental health issues. Mainstream medical services need to lift their game and get on board.

In any case, I do what I can to support my husband and on the whole, he has coped with his ordeal extraordinarily well. However, it extremely frustrating both as a wife, carer and informed health consumer, that more support has not been offered to help us on our Man Cancer journey.

Fingers crossed for a good report today!!

If a man in your life is struggling with issues he doesn’t know how to deal with Beyond Blue‘s Man Therapy Initiative is a great place to start.

References

1. ABS,4326.0, National Stuvey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, 2007

2 & 3. Beyond Blue Men, Serious Health Events and Chronic Illness,  http://www.beyondblue.org.au/resources/for-me/men/what-causes-anxiety-and-depression-in-men/serious-health-events-and-chronic-illness

4 & 5.  The University of Sydney Psycho-Oncology Co-Operative Research Group (POCOG), Testicular Cancer and Quality of Life, http://www.pocog.org.au/content.aspx?page=Testicular cancer

 

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A letter to Pebbles (18 months old)

To my dearest Pebbles,

You are now 18 months old.

Jess March15

As I write this you are sprawled on my chest. It is 11.20pm and we’ve been playing this game for over an hour. Every time I try to put you down you scream, but on me you are content to doze. I guess I’ll stay here a while longer then.

Never would I have done this with your brothers. In fact, I have held you longer, breastfed you longer and carried you longer than either of the boys. Despite this you are fiercely independent. Eager to run, explore, climb and dig. You chat easily to strangers and love to wave to everyone.

We can see so much of The Wilful One in your features and your inquisitive mind, but you also have Bam Bam’s wild spirit and sense of adventure. I often say that you are the Perfect Storm.

You never stop. Busy, busy, always into something. Every cupboard and drawer is now latched and no bag or container can be left within your reach, else you will unpack it with gusto.

You love to dance. Even a sound as simple as my phone ringing will have you bopping along and doing the most adorable shoulder shimmy.

We have also come to the very challenging stage where you insist on walking rather than using the stroller. This makes the school run difficult and time intensive most days, especially the uphill section!

Breastfeeding you exercises my entire upper torso, as well as my patience, as I try to accommodate your wriggling form and avoid a thorough eye gouging. Recently you discovered my hair and seem intent on removing ever last strand from my skull.

However, your constant motion and physical abuse exuberance is tempered by great affection. You love to cuddle and kiss, and there is no better homecoming than being greeted by your outstretched arms and a high pitch “Hi-Ya!”.
Jess March15
I do wish you would say “mama” though… When I prompt you, your reply is usually “dada” which of course pleases your father no end. You also say; Will (your first proper word), brother, Carter (our dog!), along with a host of other small words (ball, bye, car, bath etc).

The thing that makes me smile the most is your current phrase of choice: “Oh my god!” complete with hands over mouth. It gets me every time! “Wass that?” is also a favourite catch cry, especially when we are out and about and accompanied by an imperious pointing finger.

And oh boy are you loud! You are particularly good at expressing displeasure. Rarely do you cry, but frequently yell and shriek.

You keep my on my toes every single day as you learn new skills, push new boundaries and find your groove in the world.

Above all, you have brought so much love, joy and laughter to our lives, my darling girl.

I can’t wait to see you blossom into a young lady, yet part of my heart yearns for you to stay this small, adorable version of you forever.

Love you to the moon and back.

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Marriage, skirting boards and chasing dreams

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Last night The Man and I had a full blown argument heated discussion about… well a few things actually, but essentially the meaning of life. It went a little something like this:

Him: You have all these airy fairy dreams of becoming a writer and spend hours in front of the computer each day, but for what? Everyone with a keyboard thinks they can write these days. You should be spending your time more productively, like dusting the skirting boards. And look at the state of these windows!

Me: You are an arse.

Ensue much crying, soul-searching and him sleeping on the couch. You’ll be relieved to know that The Man quickly came to his senses and making up commenced. He confessed that he had been a thoughtless arse and, while it would be nice to be married to Martha Stewart, her rack was nowhere near as good as mine (what with her being 100 and all). He even admitted that perhaps there really was more to life than dusted skirting boards.

I’m glad he came to his senses, because I’d hate to have to divorce him. Such a messy business.

The pragmatic part of me does however, see a minuscule part of his argument.

I could easily go back to my mundane, frustrating, but reasonably well remunerated role in the public service and forget about my pipe dreams to become a freelance writer and novelist. After all, I would still be writing everyday.

The problem is I bear the unfortunate cross of being one of those bothersome folk who require a certain degree of personal fulfilment. I can honestly say that policy writing does not a creative outlet make. I would love something to become of my words, something meaningful, informative, or at the very least mildly entertaining. It’s just a little dream I have.

Furthermore, I want my kids to know that there is more to life that just waking up and working to live. I want them to know that they have the power to make their life into anything they want. To chose to do something they love and make it their life’s work.

I know this all sounds idealistic and it certainly isn’t as easy as just doing what ever the hell you want. At this point in time though I am very privileged that we are in a position where I don’t need to rush back to the coal face so, with The Man’s blessing, “dream chasing” is back on the agenda. Yippee!

I’m under no illusion about how fortunate I am to be in such a position, not to mention hitting the jackpot on having a man who is able to admit when he’s being an arse.

No doubt my good fortune will run out and I’ll have to return to conventional employment at some point, but until then I plan to giddy up and make the most of it.

So, if you are in the biz, I’d appreciate you keeping in mind my words are for hire. Oh and  if you happen to pop by for a coffee, please ignore the skirting boards.

What say you? Do you think it’s impractical to chase your dreams? Or is life too short to ignore your hearts desire?

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Parenting: Would you do it again?

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Let me preface this post with the disclaimer that I love my children unconditionally. They bring me mountains of joy and love. The kind I never would have experienced if they weren’t in my life.

Right, now that’s out of the way…

Oh my freaking gosh!!! Having kids is such hard work. Mind numbing and emotionally draining, it’s the type of hard work no one ever tells you about. Perhaps because if anyone got a heads up about the real truth of rearing small humans, the future of our species would be in dire straits. It’s certainly not like it is in the brochure.

A friend of mine recently shared this Huff Post article about being a woman who doesn’t want children. I really get what this author is staying. Some people are born wanting children. Others, not so much. I was in the not-so-much camp for a very long time. It’s hard to say what changed my mind but suddenly I find myself, nearly nine years later, with three children wondering what the hell I was thinking.

Even though having children was a conscious decision for us, I’m not sure it was an informed decision. I can honestly say life sans kids sounds pretty bloody attractive right now.

“The grass is always greener”, I hear you say. Certainly life would be cleaner, quieter and a lot less chaotic but would I still be happy?

Yep, I reckon I could manage it.

A life without the daily palaver of spilt milk, lost EVERYTHING and the perpetual responsibility for other people’s bodily functions has to be a darn good start on the road to inner peace.

Aside from missing out on all that aforementioned joy and love, what would I do with my time? The world would be my oyster! I’d travel, write and travel some more. It’s highly likely I’d take better care of myself, not to mention the guarantee of having more time and energy for other relationships, especially my marriage.

The trolls and the haters out there will no doubt say I’m a terrible person, undeserving of the 3 little blessings in my life. But haters gonna hate. Just as folk who chose not to have children should not be made to feel guilty, I don’t think I should feel guilty admitting that I don’t love every aspect of parenting. It certainly doesn’t mean I don’t love my children.

Could I look those squishy little faces in the eye and tell them I’d send them back? Of course not. Now that they are here, I love them with every fibre of my being. Even on the days when it takes every one of those fibres to stop me from curling up in a ball in the corner.

Despite my flaws as a mother, I know my kids will grow up to be awesome humans. I don’t presume to take all the credit for it, I just hope they know how much I love them and what a labour of love raising them has been.

However, if they ever ask me if I’d do it all over again, I confess they may not like my answer!

Tell me, if you had your time over would you have kids again?

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Taking a stroll with the Quinny Yezz {Review}

I’ve learnt that buying a pram or stroller is an investment that should not be undertaken lightly. Much like buying a vehicle, a test drive is imperative. These days there are so many features and accessories to be bedazzled by.

Now that Pebbles is getting older, a stroller is the ideal way for us to get around easily. The strollers I have used in the past have been the conventional 4 wheeled umbrella style. While generally inexpensive and functional, I have found these to lack durability, style and comfort. So when we were offered a Quinny Yezz to test drive, I jumped at the chance!

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We’ve been using our Yezz for a few months now and here’s the low down.

Style

The Quinny Yezz certainly is a stylish and unique little stroller. The amount of compliments we receive is amazing. They come in a great range of colours as well

Manoeuvrability

This has to be one of the biggest selling points of the Yezz. Weighing in at only 5kg, steering this stroller is a dream. It has 3 wheels, which is pretty unusual for a stroller, but they aren’t just any wheels. The Yezz features skate wheels which glide effortlessly on smooth surfaces. This makes it the ideal stroller for shopping centres and pavements. The downside to these light thin wheels is that rough terrain can be a struggle. However, it certainly is my vehicle of choice on the mad dash to school drop off!

A word of warning, the Yezz is so light and easy to manoeuvre that it can easily get away from you. It has a wrist safety strap which I tend to use a lot, particularly on hills.

Comfort

The Yezz is certainly comfortable to steer as mentioned above, and can be pushed easily with one hand. As for the passenger’s comfort, the seat is a simple hammock design with a 5 point harness. The hammock design means there are no pointy metal frames to poke into your child or to get your fingers jammed in! As it is not adjustable to a layback position, we still tend to use our larger pram for extended outings in the rare event Pebbles may have a sleep. An older toddler or child would be more than comfortable resting their head to the side for a doze.  The Yezz is suitable from 6 months up to 17kg (approx 4yrs).

The Yezz also has a sunshade which pops out to protect your precious cargo and a rain cover is also available as an add-on accessory.

On-board Storage

One can’t expect too much storage from a lightweight stroller, however the Yezz has a roomy back pocket that claims to hold up to 2kg. I personally find it more than sufficient to store my wallet, phone and keys with room to spare for a nappy wallet if required.

Ease of Use

When the Yezz arrived it required some assembly. Due to it’s innovative design, I must confess The Man and I did some serious head scratching until I found an online tutorial on how to assemble and erect it! Now it’s a breeze. A simple push button on the handle lets you erect or collapse the stroller, in conjunction with a foot mechanism to lock the frame in place. Up and down can easily be achieved with one hand (and one foot).

The 5 point harness is a standard configuration with over the shoulder, waist and groin straps clicking into one central point.

The material of the Yezz is water and spill resistant, making it easy to clean. Hurrah!

The Yezz folds down to a compact size. It also has a shoulder strap built into the frame, and combined with it’s light weight, this really does make it the ideal stroller for travelling (or for carrying when your stubborn toddler decides to walk!)

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Price

The Quinny Yezz is definitely at a higher price point than any other stroller that I have purchased. To be honest I’m not sure I would have spent the money if I hadn’t had the opportunity to give it a test drive. Having said that, the quality and features of the Yezz definitely make it a great stroller, especially if you use public transport or travel a lot with small children.

Over all, I think the Quinny Yezz is a top little stroller and I’m sure we will get a lot of use out of it in the years to come.

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Now tell me, do you ever find yourself pushing an empty stroller or pram while bub either walks or insists on being carried??

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