March


We need our unions, now more than ever! They have slowly been stripped of their rights, and it is time to ensure that this ceases. The construction union, the CFMEU, has been denied entry to work sites to ensure that they are safe, and in one instance, a tragedy occurred, when a young father was killed. People’s safety shouldn’t be determined by the edicts of big business.

A handy list of things to do to shake up your world!

Love your scars!

I am guilty of having gone crazy with a pair of scissors, giving my daughter a haircut!

Live like Spongebob!

 

Be Vulnerable


I learnt an important lesson this past week. Life had become extraordinarily busy; happily due to wondrous events, and I was delighted to share photos and details with my friends. I was less enthusiastic to share information about my foot. How I would be curled up in a ball due to the pain, both before and after surgery. I wouldn’t let my daughter see the wound, nor anyone else. It was a large crater. It was all well and good to pronounce that I was in the city, going about business, and share pictures of places and smiles and happiness. I found it hard to articulate how my foot felt at the end of the day, and the challenge of getting bandages off which were fused to the wound. How every step was excruciating.

On Sunday, I took a picture of the site, to see how it was healing. Despite all internal objections, I shared the pic. A friend and her husband have a podiatry practice, and she made contact. They organized for me to go to the local high-risk foot clinic, and an appointment was made for that very day! Everything from my circulation to neuropathy was tested. The podiatrist made me a cushioned insole to place in my shoe, did some work on my foot, dressed it appropriately and gave me supplies to ensure it healed well. With glucose intolerance and a nerve deficit, I was at greater risk for infections, etc.

I went from a stoic woman who felt she had to do everything alone, to allowing a group of people to help me, and it was humbling. It was hard to share the photo of my foot, as it felt I was making myself vulnerable. I felt silly; people didn’t want nor need to see a gruesome image! However, friends assume you are doing well, when all they see are happy snaps. By allowing them to see another side to my life, I was able to receive the help  I desperately needed. A big lesson was learned! Being vulnerable is a risky business, but so is stubbornly trying to do it all on your own. There are wonderful people in this world, willing to help. All you need do is ask.

International Women’s Day


It was the eve of International Women’s Day, and I was ploughing through a long list of chores. I caught the headline news, and dropped the pen I was holding. The healthcare centre I had been visiting with my foot was featured in a story about a doctor arrested for sexual abuse and assault. He was subsequently charged. Nausea overtook me, horrified that I had taken my child to this practice, a place where evil had quietly resided. We always went into the room together, and I was quietly relieved that it wasn’t our doctor; it couldn’t be. His manner had been a little strange… He had looked at us intently and for too long. There was an air of arrogance about him, but nothing that screamed danger. I had it confirmed that it was indeed the doctor we had been seeing, and I ran to the bathroom to throw up. All the horror of the past came hurtling back. I bid my daughter goodnight, and bundled myself into my room, armed with gin and a bottle of tonic. It took  four glasses until I was adequately settled.

I didn’t know what to do with the anger, confusion and terror I was feeling. I had felt less afraid in the past few years, more confident and assured that both my daughter and I were safe. I had tried so hard to keep her safe, always aware of where she was and with whom; scanning her social media daily. Now I found that she had been in the room of a predator, when accompanying me to appointments.

I had a few women contact me, sharing that they had been abused by this creature. In all cases, they froze when he insisted on thorough examinations; it had felt wrong, and yet they didn’t quite know why. Surely a doctor insisting on you undressing can’t be amiss? I knew exactly what they had gone through; where their minds had wandered to. They had disassociated , a device of the brain to protect us from threat. It were as though they weren’t there, and this couldn’t be happening. Numbness had been conscripted, and it was only later that the full horror of the betrayal hit them. They talked of the pain they felt, by having taken their children to this particular doctor. They had trusted him. The world felt a bit less safe as a result.

I am going to escort one lady to the police station to give a statement. It has now been 24 hours since the news hit, and I still can’t eat. I keep replaying the consults I had with this man over the last month, replaying everything he said and how he had looked. There was nothing to give him away; nothing you could put your finger on. My instincts felt he was rather peculiar, but nothing overt. Thank God I had seen him about my foot, and only my foot.

I am furious that he was able to go from practice to practice. Who knows how long it had been going on, and if the authorities knew? More victims have come forward since his arrest, and I applaud all these brave patients. On International Women’s Day, my heart is with all those whom he hurt. My thoughts are with all those whom he deceived and re-traumatized. My thoughts are with all the parents who thought their children were safe in his care. It isn’t the celebration of International Women’s Day that I had hoped for, but as I reflect on the women I know and love, and the girls I have had the privilege of seeing grow throughout the years, I am humbled. The old guard is dying, and an egalitarian spirit is not only being summoned, but demanding to come forth. The sexism, abuse and horror of the past shall not be tolerated. It never should have been.

 

 

 

Have a Haircut!


I was identified with having long blonde hair. It was white when I was little, and always showed the state of my health. Anaesthetics, IVF, pregnancy and menopause had seen it become lacklustre, brittle and unhealthy. It had become cumbersome; a cloak in which I hid. Laying in bed, recovering from my foot surgery, I had an epiphany. Why not have it all cut off? I hobbled into my friend’s salon, and asked her to remove the tendrils. As I watched the thick golden locks drop to the floor, I felt nothing but relief. I believe that hair contains memories, which cling to our shoulders like a polluted waterfall, if given enough trauma. I felt light, as though the weight of a boulder had been released from my head, once it was snipped off. It was quite extraordinary, how free I felt. The pixie cut I was gifted brought back a positivity and impishness I had been missing. If you have been thinking of getting your hair cut, my advice is to go ahead and do it! It is too easy to go hide behind your hair, covering your face and concealing your visage. Show the world who you are!

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March into Yellow for Endometriosis Month


I visited a friend on the other side of Sydney recently,after receiving a message. She had been suffering excruciating pelvic pains, and tests had revealed that she has extensive endometriosis. I made a massage blend to provide comfort to her abdomen and lower back, and grabbed my folder filled with reams of information- gathered from a decade of research-to give to her. Her story is sadly common amongst endometriosis sufferers. She started her periods early, and from the start, they were excruciating. She was misdiagnosed as having IBS, and the resulting diet and medication did nothing to alleviate her symptoms. To make matters worse, she had extensive adhesions, as a result of a burst appendix at eleven. A laparascopy had been ordered, and though they found a mass of endometriosis, they failed to tackle it. As a busy mum, it had now gotten to the point where her quality of life was massively impacted, and something had to be done. She has endured twenty years of seeing doctors, being prescribed the pill to alleviate the cramps, been misdiagnosed, having nothing show up on ultrasounds, and then diagnosed without treatment. She is facing huge costs in order for a gynacologist who doesnt specifically specialize in endometriosis to have “a go” at operating.

My endometriosis journey began at age eleven, when my periods started. They were excruciating and a gynacologist put me on the pill, which did nothing to help. The disease didn’t show up in ultrasounds, and it was suggested that I had a phobia regarding my periods, and was ‘hysterical!’ For at least two weeks every month, I was in agony, and often had to go to hospital for pain relief. I was desperate for somebody to understand, and tell me what on earth was happening. I felt very alone. Endometriosis was suggested when I was twenty, and I was given a shot of a drug made with progesterone. I was told that it was one of my only options to preserve my fertility. The next year was hell. I bled profusely, my stomach swelled and I had continual pelvic pain and migraines.

Twelve years ago, I sought the opinion of an orthopaedic surgeon about my lower back pain. My spine had been severely damaged at fifteen, and I had quite a few operations on my back to keep me walking. After I explained that the back pain became unbearable the week before my period, and started to ease the week after, it was suggested that I may have endometriosis. I was referred to a gynacologist, and he booked me in for a laparoscopy. During the lap, the disease was found throughout my pelvis, in balls the size of oranges. This doctor burnt off the disease. When I went back to him for the post-op consult, I was doubled over in pain. He told me that I was fixed, and disregarded my concerns about my fertility and ongoing pain. He wrote a script for the pill and sent me on my way. I collapsed a month later, and sought out an endometriosis specialist. When he operated, he found scores of blood-filled cysts and extensive disease underneath the scarring (the aftermath of some of the disease being burnt off). He had to perform a radical excision of the endometriosis, to seperate it from my uterosacral ligaments and ureter, amongst many places.

Straight afterward, I decided to start IVF, as it was the optimal time, whilst I had a clear pelvis. Once again, I faced ignorance regarding endometriosis, and was put on drugs that encouraged it to grow at lightning speed. I had to be carried into emergency and was put in the maternity ward for two weeks, whilst they treated me. I was told that these particular drugs were like pouring fuel onto the disease and striking a match. I changed clinics, and with a different drug protocol, I flourished. Despite only getting one follicle, I fell pregnant and my daughter was born. I was so used to being in a great deal of pain, that I had no idea that I was in the late stages of labor when I finally went to hospital! Apparently, that is quite common with women suffering endometriosis.

When my daughter was a few months old, the disease came back with a vengeance, and I had extensive surgery. When she was three, I had another operation, and nearly lost my life. I was taken back to theatre after I bled out, and had life-saving surgery. As a result of the trauma, I went into early menopause. It has been an arduous, lonely journey, and I would hope that pelvic pain in girls is now taken seriously. Endometriosis should be suspected if a girl complains of severe period pain. Go straight to a gynacologist who specializes in endometriosis. The difference in outcomes can be astounding. My friend is saving to have the surgery to give her back her life. Even with being in a private health fund, the out-of-pocket costs can be in the thousands. I stored my daughter’s cord-blood when she was born, such was my terror that she may be diagnosed with the disease one day. It gives me peace of mind that her cord-blood may one day prove useful in the event of an endometriosis diagnosis. For further information, go to the Endometriosis Association of Australia Facebook Page. March is Endometriosis Awareness month, and it’s colour is yellow. Let’s paint the town this sunny hue, living in hope that our little girls never have to suffer in the manner their mothers and grandmothers did.

Surrender


Surrender is  tough, particularly if you are a control freak! I had been having trouble with pain in the sole of my foot, but was mindful of money over the Christmas period. My doctor is excellent, but charges over the Medicare Rebate. I needed new scripts, and thought about asking about my foot, though decided against it. It would have meant a short consult would be billed as a long one, and I was on a budget! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I was billed the higher fee anyway on my way out. When it got to the point where I couldn’t walk without agony, and my spine was affected, I sought help from a GP who bulk-billed. X-rays and Ultrasounds led me to a surgeon. I was given a gift, by meeting this remarkable human. He scheduled my surgery,and then the consult was spent with him regaling me with stories from his remarkable life. He had come to Australia to study medicine, and he talked of how he felt stuck between worlds when he went back to his native country. He talked about when he first started his practice, and was invited to a property for dinner with his family. There was a sign out the front, saying ‘Animal Kingdom’. It certainly was! When his kids went into the living room, they were delighted to see a kangaroo sitting on the sofa, watching TV!

I have lost count of all the operations I have had; all I know is that there wasn’t room on the hospital form to list them all! This foot surgery wasn’t the worst of them, that’s for sure. Mind you, I don’t think I ever fully appreciated what an essential job one’s feet play until now. The stuff we take for granted is mind-blowing. We hold on so tight in our lives, to people, places and circumstances, as though through willpower alone, we can control the outcomes. I have always loved the feeling of release, when I am put under. I can feel myself slipping away from consciousness, and yet it is a relief rather than something to fear. I can let go for a little bit, and let the theatre staff (with their eclectic taste in music), take over.

Before the anaesthetist came, my surgeon showed me a collection of photographs he had shot throughout the years on his Iphone. He had taken up photography after his wife had died, and the images made me well up. There were pictures of zebras, waratahs and spiders and it were as if seeing them for the first time, from another level. He remarked that people fail to stop and see what is in front of them; the beauty and terror. He is right. So much of our life is spent trying to avoid big feelings, and ignoring beauty. Maybe I can learn to stop a little more. Maybe I can learn to release and surrender, without having an anaesthetic. Perhaps each second of the day doesn’t have to be accounted for. I want to see waratahs and zebras from a different light too. If a busy surgeon can find time to stop and surrender, surely I can.

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Come as you are, See me as I am


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My daughter’s Godfather is Reverend Bill Crews, an icon in Sydney, admired for The Exodus Foundation and The Bill Crews Charitable Trust. At the end of a service at the Uniting Church in Ashfield, we all hold hands, forming a circle. In part, he says the following “come, come as you are… This is not the door of hopelessness. It doesn’t matter what age you are, what sex you are, who you are or what you’ve done.” We all feel it. A bunch of eccentrics, poets, misfits and empaths, we feel that we can indeed come as we are. The ego is a silly thing, misguided and sometimes seeing to it that we neglect opportunities. Neglected, because at that particular time, we don’t feel 100%…Our house is a mess, we lack the funds to put on a fancy spread for dinner, we need a haircut or we feel we need to present better before having people over… I didn’t think I had allowed my ego to misguide me, but I certainly had! I have planned dinners in my head, and am waiting for the perfect opportunity. I have planned to have people over, then neglected to actually invite them! I look back and in all honesty,  perfect gatherings were unscripted. I have drunk cheap wine out of jam jars, and had a drizzle of olive oil on bread with friends by candlelight, vying for space amongst magazines and cushions. Those nights were sublime and unforgettable.

I have a problem with my right foot (where nerve damage has occurred from my spinal injuries), and am having surgery next week. In spite of this, each day I have showered, done my hair and put fresh clothes on. I have cleaned my home, and put everything in its place. Last weekend, the pain got the best of me, and I had heavy-duty painkillers and put myself to bed, where I stayed. Sunday, I was surrounded by empty bottles of water, clothes and medicines strewn all over the floor, the Sunday papers covering the bed. I was still in my pajamas, and looked a sight with unbrushed hair and teeth. Of course, this was the day that a friend I haven’t seen in ages came for an impromptu visit. She didn’t bat an eyelid at the chaos; rather she got herself a chair and sat by my bedside. I didn’t feel self-conscious; she had come as she was, and so had I! It actually felt good, to visually demonstrate the chaos that was happening within. I felt authentic, un-judged and valued. She not only tread through the detritus when my mask fell, she also gifted me this magnificent umbrella!

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Apparently, it had spoken to her at the shops, and she knew she had to buy it for me! We avoided niceties, delving into the deepest parts of our lives and the society in which we live. My friend gifted me a reminder to stop the avoidance of extending invitations to people because my life/house isn’t perfect that day/week. No life, house or veneer ever is, and those whom love you don’t give a flying fig about any of that. They will step over the clothes strewn on the floor to reach you. Come as you are.

 

Newsies


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I didn’t quite know what to expect when I attended the preview of Newsies, a movie filmed on Broadway during a live performance. The sublime music and spectacular dancing entranced both my daughter and I, dropping us gently into New York circa 1899, and the beginning of an uprising. The whole audience cheered for the street-smart newsboys, and sneered when the villainous mogul slithered onto stage. It is heartwarming, especially knowing it is based on real events and real lads. It opened up a discussion with my daughter about trade unions, and how essential they have been in bringing workers decent conditions. I highly recommend taking the kids to see the movie this Sunday.

Here is an article from the illustrious Elissa Blake on Newsies.

Newsies is being screened for one day only, on Sunday 19th February at Event Cinemas. Book here.

 

 

Grant Hackett


I read the following with dismay yesterday. It is a road many families have walked. I have walked… Some of my friends have also walked this road. It can start gradually, sneaking up on both the individual and those who love them. They don’t want to do what they once loved. They retreat, becoming uncommunicative. They find no joy in anything. You may find that they are drinking more than usual. You may uncover just how much when you put the bins out and see the many empty bottles in the recycling. There is something going on that you can’t quite put your finger on, and they are either refusing to talk or aren’t capable of telling you. It is frustrating, as in social settings, they can be  quite animated-jovial even-which masks what is really occurring.

When it all falls apart, it is often dramatic and spectacular. It can be after years of seeking help for the person. Marriage and family counselling, dietitians and alternative healthcare practitioners (to get their diet right and make sure that they have no deficiencies), AA, NA, GP’s, brain scans, blood tests, and so much more. There may be brushes with the law, and unpaid bills and fines. You may feel as though you are grieving a loved one, though they are right in front of you. You would do anything to retrieve their essence.

Thousands of families across Australia are facing the same agony as Grant’s loved ones. Right here and now. Finding appropriate help is time-consuming and exhausting, particularly when you are dealing with someone who denies they have a problem, or who tires of being on the merry-go-round. Who could blame them? Services tend to be dislocated from one another, and having to relay the story of why you came to be in somebody’s office time and again is wearing.

After five exhausting years of not knowing what the heck was going on with their partner, a friend was relieved when a diagnosis of depression came about. It was short-lived, as the antidepressants put them in free-fall. After another year of tumult, it turned out that they actually had bi-polar disorder, and the medication was causing them to rapid-cycle. They are doing so much better today, though life can still be challenging. The whole family or friendship group may have to adapt to a new normal. Stressors which the person may have coped with in the past, may cause them a set-back in their recovery. I hope with all my heart that Grant gets the help he needs, and I hope that his family can feel our support. It highlights the urgent need for prompt and cohesive services.

For urgent help, contact Beyond Blue or the Black Dog Institute.