Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Who doesn't love surprises - with colours and a view?

This is a very old post - sorry about that guys. But I do need to tell you about my best best birthdy ever. 
So I am now 31. I am officially "in" my 30s. And in spite of everything that's going on, I'm going to say 30 is a great age. I wouldn't go back to my 20s for the world. 

And my birthday. What a wonderful, endless adventure of loved ones, happy faces, long overdue catch-ups, laughs, craziness, good foo

d and amazing company and SURPRISES. Oh my, so many surprises. 

Let me just talk you through the wonderful little surprise bundle that started a few  days before my actual birthday.

1. We surprised my friend Fleur who had come down from Sydney (also celebrating her birthday just days before me) by having our friend Michelle, who has been in South Africa for months, fly from Perth and surprise her at the apartment door on the day of my party. There were tears.
2. I was surprised by a make-up artist to do up our pretty little faces for the party at the apartment - a present from older sister Jacq
3. I was surprised by the arrival of two good friends Cam and Nicola from NSW to my party later that night
4. I got three nights in a penthouse suite overlooking the Melbourne bayside - a surprise from three of my nearest and dearest awesome friends

5. My cousin flew down from London for a week and she showed up at my birthday brunch. Amazing ...

As some of you may know, for my birthday I decided to hire an Southbank apartment and just have people come over for drinks and tunes (though we didn't really have tunes, the sounds of voices drowned that out).  We checked in at about 3, the surprises begin, then the people start rolling in ... and rolling in. I think the most people in the apartment at one time would have been around 30-40 and well over 80 would have come through throughout the evening and night overall. It was brilliant, but unfortunately with a crammed apartment comes noise and we had a million noise complaints until it got to the point where they refused to let anyone else up, at about 10-11. So out we went, to a really bad pub in a shopping centre on Southbank for a while because security were on our backs, but it was OK because there was good company and drinks flowing. The end result was that it was a great night, and I thank all the people that showed up and made it such an awesome night. 

The next day we all headed to Ringwood for my friend Fleur’s birthday party. It was a beautiful, sunny day with a crispness in the air, also celebrated with old uni friends and cake, children running around, Just Dance, fun times in a relaxing setting … another great day.

That night I was just expecting to relax at the apartment for the night, but when my girlfriends arrived to pick up their bags, we realized we were hungry, and we headed out on a mission to get pizza at about 10 at night. I was thinking we were going just around the corner, but the girls were fixated on a pizza place a friend had recommended. When we drove past Crown Casino, I wondered why were venturing so far for pizza at this time of night; it all seemed a little excessive, but I just went along for the ride. Then all of a sudden, we were driving into a multi-level car park. “Um, why are we in a car park? This must be some pizza place,” I was thinking, still just blindly going along for the ride. It wasn’t until we actually got into an elevator, and the girls pressed level no.40, and we headed up that I started to think this was all really strange. We walked into a white hallway, the girls pressed in a code, and  as they opened the door, there was an amazing penthouse suite, with the twinkling lights of Melbourne stretched before me. “We’ve booked a penthouse suite for three nights!!” the girls all laughed, and I swear my jaw hit the floor. I was in a daze. “Is this even real?” The views were just breathtaking … we had panoramic views from St Kilda and beyond across to the Westgate Bridge/Williamstown. I couldn’t believe it. What an amazing, awesome surprise. (I was still hungry and wanted pizza though, so we did go get that).

So it was a fantastic few days of photos, watching movies, amazing food, jacuzzis, just awesome times with the girls. The beds were like sleeping on giant marshmallows. It was luxury and we lapped it up. I still had the apartment on my actual birthday, which was also awesome. I had a beautiful brunch with my family and friends, and was surprised to find my cousin Jemma, who has been in London for 14 months, sitting at the table! There was also a send-off that day, as my brother headed off to South Africa for three weeks. He gave me a bunch of 31 balloons which attracted a lot of stares. 

It was a beautiful sunny day in Melbourne, so we spent some time wandering, riding ferries, having coffee, then it was back to the apartment for delicious Vietnamese and some game playing. Good times.
I loved every minute if my birthday and I am so thankful for it all. But every now and then, I felt some underlying anxiety creeping back. Maybe it was seeing so many people in my life talking about their futures and lives and me wishing that realistically, I could too. The big question about whether it was my last birthday. I’d also been experiencing a symptom over the last few weeks that had been worrying me a lot; white lights had appeared in my vision, making it hard to read, write and focus on things, and also a numbness in my forehead in the mornings. I’d had a lumbar puncture (where fluid is taken from my spine and tested, and chemotherapy is put in) but it had come up with no conclusive results of what it might be, as my doctor thought it was an infection of the optic nerve. Anyway, I guess the vision thing has really scared me. And changes in my body, like my very skinny weak legswhich is so unusual for me. I don’t even feel like myself. I feel like my body is failing me, that things are deteriatiIng and things are slipping away. I feel fatigued, like I can’t do little things, when I felt that months ago I was building strength. I spent a lot of time looking out at that cityscape at night or morning just wanting to hang onto it, praying to anyone out there, to help my body get through this.
After four glorious days of beauty, I went to work. I was distracted and disengaged. I decided that maybe it was time to give up this job. I need to focus on my health 100% at the moment. Also my sight issues are making it really difficult. I think I just need some time to sort myself out.
So when I finally got back to my apartment that night, I finally got the time to go through all the wonderful cards, letters, poems, gifts and even text messages (I’d barely touched my phone for days) and suddenly instead of this despair I’d been feeling, I was filled with resolve.  body what to do, and it’s going to do it, or else. I am not going to let this disease win, I need to find control of it. It’s a philosophy that fits in perfectly with the views and experiences of Ian Gawler, whose retreat I am going to in a week or so. If you’ve never heard of him, Google him, he has such an amazing story and his book You Can Conquer Cancer is changing my life. 
So I spent the weekend following my birthday with wonderful family and friends. It was a great time. I even had a few drinks and woke up feeling great. Sunday had brunch in the city and then enjoyed a spontaneous football match (my first of the year) at a very sparsely populated Melbourne Football Ground (Hawks v Suns – was almost the upset of the year but alas no). Then dinner in Kew. It was a great weekend. I turned down tickets to Kraftwerk in Sydney, even though I’m a massive fan, but I’m glad I did. Spending time with my dearest and closest, especially those who had traveled from afar, was so much better.
On Tuesday I saw my doctor and we spoke about my sight issues. The next step will be to get an eye test and MRI scan to see what is going on. What it might be is all speculation at the moment, but it is worrying me. It’s just always there, bothering me, and I don’t know where it’s coming from, what it means, whether it’s permanent … but it’s just something I have to deal with right now. We made arrangements that I would get the MRI when I returned from the Ian Gawler retreat in mid June. Still no answers but at least there is a plan. I spent that day out and about doing quite a bit of walking.
I decided to leave my Cancer Council job to concentrate 100% on my health and get things sorted out. My last day was yesterday, and that was a hard day. For a number of reasons. I found it really hard going walking to work, which is only a 15-20 stroll. My legs were heavy. Maybe it was tiredness from the day before, maybe it was something else. The forehead numbness was bothering me. I couldn’t concentrate at work and at times I felt very dizzy. Then I had to say goodbye to everyone, and that was hard. Such wonderful people at that place and a piece of normality in my life that I must put away for now. Maybe it was the stress and everything of that day that fell on top of me and as I walked home I couldn’t stop crying, my vision felt so blurred, and I felt so unsure about everything. I wondered if going away for 10 days to the retreat was a good idea – what if my symptoms got worse? Is it more important I get the MRI quickly?
More about the MRI later.
I’ll probably be disappearing into a vortex of meditation, yoga, good food, etc etc so don’t be alarmed if I don’t answer my phone over the next 10 days or so.
You know what, what I’m facing is full-on. It really is. Trust me I know it. LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL but maybe death is the real adventure.

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