Friday, 6 July 2012

How many stones can one have?

About a year ago I was diagnosed with a kidney stone.  I posted about that here.

However, since my diagnosis, I have continued to experience ongoing pain on my right, upper side, despite the fact that I no longer had any kidney stones.  Several scans were performed, but nothing was found to be wrong.  Yet the pain continued.

Finally at yet another scan, gallstones were found.  Many gallstones.  As in my gallbladder was full of gallstones.

"Did they just develop over the last couple of months since my last scan?" I asked in amazement.

"No," replied the radiologist.  "It takes a long time for that many stones to develop."

So it turns out that the kidney stone I had last year, well that probably wasn't a kidney stone after all.  It was probably a gallstone.

I saw a specialist whose recommendation was to remove my gallbladder.  Which is quite a daunting thing, when your gallbladder is a part of you and has some useful function!  It was a hard decision to make.  While I did have pain, it wasn't excruciating like some people experience.  It was just annoying.  But the problem with gallstones is that they are like a ticking time bomb.  They can sit in the gallbladder forever and never cause a real problem.  They can be released and cause pain, but safely travel through the body.   Or they can get stuck and block off the liver and/or pancreas and lead to life threatening situations.  In fact over the last year I'd had some blood tests done to see if that shed light on the pain situation and they showed mild liver damage.  Over several tests the damage improved and then got worse again.  I was already experiencing some damage to the liver.

My surgery was on Monday and a stone was found completely blocking off my liver and pancreas.

I still am questioning whether it was the right decision or not.  Especially directly after the surgery when still in pain.

I can't believe I chose to do this to myself.

But my decision was made to lower the risk of long term damage to some much more vital organs.

And with a stone blocking off my liver, it might have just been a matter of time until I was in the emergency room anyway.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Who will get your organs?

Did you know that Australia has one of the lowest organ donation rates in the developed world?  And that each year people die waiting for a life-saving transplant?

Part of the reason is that for a person to become an organ donor, their death has to be under specific conditions that will allow them to be a candidate.  In Australia, in 2011, for example, there were approximately 146,500 deaths but only 730 of these were identified as potential organ donors.1  However, out of these 730 potential donors only 337 became donors.1

There are around 1600 Australians on the organ transplant wait list and on average people can wait 6 months to 4 years before they receive an organ (but for some the wait is even longer and the longer they wait the more their health deteriorates).2

The interesting thing is the majority of Australians are generally willing to become organ (79%) and tissue (76%) donors.2

So why were there only 337 donors out of 730 potential donors (46%)?

The reason is that despite the fact that a large number of Australians are willing to donate their organs, it is your loved ones who will make the decision on whether or not to donate your organs when you die.  And less than 50% of loved ones generally give their consent.

When families are asked about donating their loved ones organs around 43% of Australians do not know or are not sure of the donation wishes of their loved ones.2  Whereas, the majority of Australians (93%) that are aware of their family members' wishes agree and support these wishes.2

So while you might make a decision to donate your organs and even register your decision on the Australian Organ Donor Register, when you die it will be your loved ones who make the decision.

That's why it is so important to talk to your loved ones about organ donation and make sure they know your wishes.  It might sound like a morbid subject that you don't want to think about, but it only requires a few minutes to express your wishes.  And expressing your wishes will increase your loved ones chance (93%) of choosing to have your organs donated.

So who will get your organs when you die?
1 World News Australia,  Five myths about organ donation in Australia,
2 DonateLife, Facts and Statistics,

Monday, 14 May 2012


I received a letter from one of my mother's friends recently and in it she wrote of her regret at not seeing my mother for such a long time.

My mother's friend lives in another country.  The country my mother grew up in and left.  They were best of friends growing up and stayed in touch by writing.  The last time they saw each was twenty-six years ago when we were there on a family holiday.

It's not that they couldn't have seen each other again during those twenty-six years.  They both had opportunities to visit one another.  But my mother wanted her friend to come here.  And her friend wanted my mother to go there.  And neither would budge.  Not because they were stubborn, but because they were both afraid.  Afraid of taking a journey on their own.  And now it's too late.

Fear is a powerful emotion that can prevent us from doing what we want to do and stop us in our tracks.  But when you look back will you be glad your fear stopped you or regret not taking the journeys you were too afraid to take.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

To have no regrets.

I recently read a post written by palliative care nurse, Bonnie Ware, about the five most common regrets of the dying.  You can read the article here.

In Bonnie's post she writes
Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
While it is comforting to know that palliative patients find peace before passing, I know this is not the case for my mother.  Between discovering she was terminal and dying, she only had five days.  Most of which were spent in a tremendous amount of pain, sleeping, delirious or in anger and remorse.  It breaks my heart to think that my mother did not find peace in her final days.  She went to her grave with so many regrets and I wish I could have taken those burdens from her

What it leaves me with is that not everyone is afforded the time to prepare for their death.  Indeed my mother had more time than some.  Time to process some regrets, to say "I love you", to say "I don't want to leave you".

But some people's lives end in an unexpected instant.  Recently I read about a local woman who was standing on a median strip, struck down by an out of control car and killed instantly.  No time to process.  No time to say goodbye.  No time to say "I love you".

Now's the time to live.  To say "I love you".  To make changes.  To fulfil dreams.  To work out what you want.  What will make you happy.  And to work out a way to do it.

To have no regrets.


Thursday, 23 February 2012

No reserves in place.

Often when I mention that I no longer have much help with Maya, now that my mother is gone, I hear replies such as "I never had any help" or "I don't have any help either".  The thing is these people's parents either never helped much anyway or they live too far away to help.  And the decision to have children was made knowing their parents wouldn't be around to help. 

I didn't make such a decision.

I always knew motherhood would be hard and I didn't want to do it without my mother's help and company.  Of course Greg is a great father and husband and he does help a lot.  But he works full time and he's away the majority of the time I am with Maya.

Yes I know other people have raised children without the support of parents.  But it's not what I chose to do nor what I wanted to do.  It's not something I planned for nor thought would happen. 

When I decided to have a child I made that decision based on the fact that I would have my mother's support. 

And that support was suddenly pulled out from under me, with no reserves in place.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Choose your last words.

I can't stop listening to this song "Born to Die" by Lana Del Rey.
"Feet don't fail me now
Take me to the finish line
All my heart, it breaks every step that I take"
"Don't make me sad, don't make me cry
Sometimes love is not enough and the road gets tough"
"The road is long, we carry on
Try to have fun in the meantime"
"Choose your last words.
This is the last time.
Cause you and I, we were born to die."

All we know is what we have now.

A year ago I discovered that my mother was terminally ill and I was told that she had two to three months to live.  I remember thinking that two to three months was not enough time.  And I said that in my post here.  Five days later she was dead.  And what I wouldn't give to have two to three months more with her now.  What a blessing any time with her would be.

Everything happened so quickly in the end.  There were so many things to say.  So many things I was unable to say.  So many things left unsaid.  And so many questions left unanswered.

Of course my mother did not have time either.  And while she started to reflect on her life and process everything, her life was over before she could finish.  And it breaks my heart that she left without finding peace.

We never know when lives will end.  All we know is what we have now.  And we know one day it will end for us.

Now's the time to say what needs to be said.  To ask what needs to be asked.  To do what needs to be done.

For tomorrow might be too late. xx

Friday, 10 February 2012

A reflection on 2011

At the start of every new year, I typically reflect on the year just passed.  And as I reflect on 2011, I could easily say it was one of the worst years of my life, having lost my mother so suddenly.

Then it was hard to grieve in the way I needed to with someone so dependent on me.  Someone who did not understand what I was going through.  Someone who wanted my full, undivided attention.   Someone who looked to me for strength and comfort, while inside I felt like I was falling apart.

But Maya was also my light who helped guide me through and I was often able to get lost in her enthusiasm, energy and lust for life.

And then there's the change I was finally able to make.  Leaving a job I was unhappy with.  Suddenly I had the confidence to leave without any backup job or plans for my future.  I just knew I had to leave and better now than never.  So I did.  And it gave me some time out and space and led me to apply for jobs I normally wouldn't.  It led me to attain a new job that I enjoy.  And I am working there again this year with more hours and more opportunities.

Life is too short to spend it doing something you are unhappy doing.  Perhaps you can't make a change right now.  Perhaps you have to work towards a change.  But what better time to start than now. xx

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The reality is, life involves pain.

In this Blog I have been open and honest about my feelings - 'good' or 'bad'.  And while it serves us better to focus on the positive things in our lives and to be grateful for what we do have.  Lows are inevitably a part of our lives, and it's not always possible to maintain a positive focus during difficult times.  The lows are as much a part of our lives as the highs.
The reality is, life involves pain.  There's no getting away from it.  As human beings we are all faced with the fact that sooner or later we will grow infirm, get sick, and die.  Sooner or later we all will lose valued relationships through rejection, separation, or death.  Sooner or later we all will come face to face with crisis, disappointment, and failure.  This means that in one form or another, we are all going to experience painful thoughts and feelings.       - The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris
Once I became a mother myself, suddenly there were a few whispers in my ear about how hard motherhood actually is.  When I asked them why they hadn't spoken of the hard times before, they replied that they didn't want to admit it was hard.  It's as though admitting motherhood is hard somehow makes us a failed mother.  If I find it hard as a mother that must mean I am a bad mother.  Yet it is the stories of the hard times as mothers that let me know that I am not alone in my feelings.  Finding motherhood difficult at times, does in no way make me less of a mother or mean that I love my daughter any less or mean that I am not prepared to do anything and everything for her.

I have also shared my journey this year of the loss of my mother.  I dare say most people would find this a difficult period in their life.  And I wanted to be open and honest about the roller-coaster ride of grief.  Losing my father twelve years ago and now my mother this year, have been the hardest things I have ever been through in my life.  My feelings are rife this year.  And there is no right or wrong in my feelings.  They are my feelings. 

Telling someone to 'get over it' or to 'focus on what they do have' is extremely unhelpful and only serves to diminish their feelings, which are neither right nor wrong, just feelings.  It makes it not OK to talk about 'bad' feelings for fear of being judged "stupid and shallow and selfish" by people who obviously cannot possibly understand.

Saturday, 29 October 2011


Maya asks questions.  All the time.  And I'm sure I've posted before that there are some questions that are easy to answer and some questions I don't know the answer to.

The other day I was looking at a picture book with Maya.  This particular picture was of a hot air balloon and the word was balloon.

Maya pointed at the picture and asked "What is it?"

"A balloon," I answered.

Pointing to the basket below the balloon "What is it?"

"That's a basket," I answered.

Pointing to the picture again, Maya asked "What is it?"

"It's a hot air balloon.  That's the balloon part and hot air is put into the balloon and it floats up and it pulls the basket up and people can ride in the basket."

Maya pauses for a while looking at the picture.  I feel like I'm doing well with my explanations.  I know that it's a picture of a hot air balloon and I know how it works.

Then Maya asks "What's his name?", pointing to a man in the basket.

"Err.. I dunno?"