a bit of therapy…

after a year of cancer treatment, one is adviced to take lots of therapy. physio, lymph drainage and also psycho therapy.

I am doing it all. it feels good and i have learned to take time for these things in life as they seem important to me now. just like other people do yoga.

the physio is good the lymph drainage is very good and the psycho therapy is even better.

i met my therapist in november last year. by now we are so good together and can have lots of laughs during sessions.

the thing is, when you are really into it to find out where you might have gone wrong, where you might have made mistakes, why cancer happened, etc., its so good to have someone who goes through it all with you and reflects things where you can say: ‚ wow‘ i havent seen it this way ever! ‚ and than your thoughts become new.

this is what happened to me and a very important experience happened aswell: i found out that i have been fighting all my life for recognition. people liking me. And if i didnt get it, i would fight harder instead of going the other way and leave it behind. i have always done that. i needed the recognition, to be a good girl. i only always wanted to be a good girl.

its part of my upbringing (and this would need another blog post to explain. )

i also have learned to fix things. you can always fix things. if its broken. mend it. there is no such things as something you can not fix.
now i am learning the other way through therapy. and its good. i can not fix everything. i can not fix my marriage. i have tried everything to get the recognition. i faled. it didnt work. 

so this time and for the first time in my life, i am not a good girl, and thats good.

the aftermath..

i have been warned, by people who have gone trough the whole process for a year or more… after all treatments…whats next?

to say it in my own famous words: ‚ and then?‘

exactly. i have been so strong and courageous throughout the whole year of treatment. i am proud of that, and try to keep reminding myself. thats new for me. new is to look back of what i have done instead of only running and looking forward and to do what i need to do. thats my therapy. thats good.

i am very good in forgetting stress times. when its done, its over and out. but i don’t realise the impact it has on my system. i never realised i have to take time to break it down physically. get rid of it. but now i am learning that and i can say i have learned to be closer to myself than ever before.

and there is the year behind me. a big heavy year. with very bad things and very good things too. and in my natural way of being, its done, over and out. and now forward.

until it hits me… 

because a doctors appointment is heading. the final meeting to see if everything is alright after chemo, OP, and radiation. and just by bad luck, a few days before that, whilst working, i am talking to a customer – in my car – on the phone, who’s gone through a similar process ( lung cancer ) and cancels her meeting with me that same afternoon because she had the bad news that her cancer has come back.

at that moment i am in my car talking to her. i had to stop my car to burst into tears. what is that!!?? wtf? where is the strong me all of a sudden…gone. all of a sudden fear has taken over my life. completely. and not just for a moment but for the rest of the week until my own meeting this morning with the doctor. days.

an hour before the final call into the docs room, my heartbeat is going overdrive.. what if?

and than finally. all seems okay. so far. untill now. thats how i feel. now its okay.

and when i am about to leave the doctors room, he says:  ‚Renate…. when I met you a year ago, you looked tired. When i see you now you shine! you look good! you’ve changed! and I bet your friends won’t recognise you anymore……‘

and that made me relax and smile… and it will have to bring me to the next meeting with the doctor in 6 Months time. x

I’m a survivor, I’m not gonna give up…

My mother gave me a copy of an article from the Dutch Newspaper NRC about a woman who had breast cancer. She is a filmmaker, Meral Uslu, and she documented her year of therapy in her own movie, which was presented at the IDFA ( International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam ) last Month. I can’t wait to see it, because in the interview I liked her optimism and humor just the way I’ve gone through this year myself. She writes that she’s done all chemos on her own. Just like me. I recognise everything she writes. Why taking a friend to something you have to go through yourself!?

Dr. Rezai, the famous Doctor ‚Breast‘, who treated me, and  who is running the European Breast Centre Düsseldorf, just on my doorstep, says that he sees a pattern in the ‚type‘ of women who come to him with breast cancer. according to him these women are mostly :“ strong selfmade women“. thats interesting, because it would confirm the idea that cancer starts inside your system and not necessarily because of outside influences.

I have started psychotherapy in September to help me deal with things in my mind. After the first 4 sessions, my therapist, who is great by the way, told me: ‚ I don’t know how to help you?!, you are so strong, what you have gone through in the last years and what you made of it is amazing! you are an example for others, how could I help you, or what can I do for you?….My answer was:“ exactly that, please gide me in the process of learning not to be perfect all the time. to give in, to give up, to be weak sometimes and to learn to stop myself. to feel when things are too much, enough and finally to learn to cry.“

So we decided I see her twice a Month, just to discuss that. What have I done for myself, what about my feelings and what do I need. Its hilarious, because until now I still don’t know how to do it. And because my therapist is a great woman, we laugh a lot. She told me to write down all the things I managed this year, because my problem is that I am rather impatient that I think I have to be able to climb mountaints by now, and although the last chemo was only on the 19th of August, and after that, one of the most heavy operations possible, as I believe its all done and over, so by now I expect be to be back to ’normal‘. She told me;“ Renate, normally people who are dealing with cancer and are working independently are going bankrupt in a year like this… you managed to wrap everything up and at the same time start a whole new carreer!!!“ She says, write it down, please, look at it on a written piece of paper and read it backwards…

so here we go…

I had 4 operations, 16 chemo’s, uncountable doctors visits showing my breasts, about 30 blood tests, hair loss, exhaustion, total energy loss, no taste and a bad skin.

I had plenty of MRT’s, CT’s and Mamographics. I had writing on my breast with Edding, chips inside and metal pins shot into it.

I had doctors talking about me without understanding a word. I have lymph drainage and physiotherapy… yes physio…so you think so what? well… after a breast operation like i had, there is no such thing as ‚the physio….’….welcome to hell.

and nex to all of that:

I closed Suburbia store, wrapped it up, ended all well, financially, commercially and personally.

I kept working. As an agent and travelled with 13 bags of heavy collection from Hamburg to Munich to Berlin by car, on my own…. driving, dragging, building, selling….

I closed doors workwise, and at this moment I am opening new doors for my future and have not been so successful before, as I am now. I dare say…

I have taken care of my kids. They have suffered, but if I look a them I am so proud of them. How they enjoy life, how they live. I have walked the dog, every day, although sometimes i couldnt after a chemo, i did it. I have done the household, the shopping, and even organised little holidaytrips for the kids, inbetween chemos… for them, just so everything felt as normal as possible.

there’s just one thing that suffered… and thats my car… I have been driving.. with chemos, like a zombie. its a miracle it and also I survived… my car shows it. there are marks and scratches everywhere. in a way i don’t want it to be fixed. its a memory of me. of what I am, what I have gone through and about what I have to learn from and about myself. x

friends forever

This year of therapy has been so good to me. That sounds weird doesn’t it? 

Someone who is diagnosed with cancer, and goes through a nasty year of chemos, operations and total lack of energy whilst working…. 

Yes, its been a year, but the whole thing has a positive side that weighs up to everything negative.

I have realised who my friends are. I always knew who my friends were and I can not say that any of my friends I thought I had, have let me down this year. 

they were all there. each single one of them and all in their own way.

I am happy about it. I could never say I expected more of some friend or other. I can see what friendship means now and there are so many ways of being a friend.

the good thing about all of this is also, i found myself back. Through struggeling, through therapy, and because of you all, my friends who were there for me and helped me through this strange year.

I also made some unexpected new friends. so naturally. just like that! it grew out of nowhere.

it gives me energy and strength and makes me proud of what I have achieved.

i feel richer than rich. i feel good. i feel love from those people around me. 

and you know what!? soon, when I have recovered from all of this, I am going to be able to give more back…to all of you, whenever you need me…

i love you xxx

flashback

I am proud of myself.

I had a chemo on wednesday. on friday I drove to Hamburg. 350 km to build up a stand, sold the collection for 4 days to drive back another 350 km on tuesday. I had another chemo on wednesday, to drive to Munich on Friday. 600 km to build up a stand, i sold the collection for 3 days to drive back another 600 km on monday. I had another chemo on wednesday to drive another 500 km to Berlin on Friday to build up a stand, sold the collection, to drive back another 500 km on monday to have a chemo on wednesday…..

that was my weekly rythm of work and chemo. normally people who are dealing with a weekly chemo therapy don’t work. they are called sick and are at home. that is, when you are an employee. not like me. 

i am a freelancer. if I don’t work there is no money, and i have two kids to take care of.

suburbia is closed. the store has to be emptied. and it has to be done now, because after my operation i can not lift or cary heavy things so I have to do it now…

after my chemos i feel down. tired from all the travels and work. but there is a store to be resolved and so i go again. I drive every day, for two weeks . 3 trips, 4 trips. from store to home. full cars of stuff. furniture, goods. i make deals. sell stuff, organise, arrange, make contracts and drive the last left overs to the dump.

thats where i am now. i am tired. very very tired. i am very greatful for those friends who saw this and helped me. 

i am proud of myself and no one can tell me i cant do a job. i did it, better than anyone else could have done.

and now i say stop. i am going to have a break. my operation is next week, and after that a very long time of nothing nothing nothing……

nothing at all.

and for that decision, i am even more proud of myself.

don’t call me for work. bring me chocolate, flowers, music, and films.

bring me love and understanding. x

She’s dying of cancer! let’s give her a 100.000 likes!

noo.. I am not dying. at least not that I know of yet. could be, could be that I have a car accident next week.

this is about the question people, friends, ask me why I post so much about my cancer and the chemos. is that right? isn’t that too personal? could that be bad for my career? will it hurt me?

some are totally into it. some might be totally anoyed by it. some might quikly scrawl further because it scares them. some have unfriended me. all of that is fine. I have more than enough that I dont share on social Media, at home, with friends and family. All the posts are just moments.

nothing will hurt me so much, as the fact that this cancer happened to me. what it does to my children mainly, my mother, my near close friends and family who worry. not so much to myself and this is exactly reason why it happened to me at all, and why I have to go through this year of struggle, therapy, ups and downs and also why I share this on Facebook and in my blog.

I have totally forgotten about myself for many many years. As my Sister sometimes tells me: ‚ go love yourself a little’…. those words mean a lot more to me now.

In 1996 I moved from Amsterdam to Freiburg Germany. I’ve been brought up to adjust myself to others, put others first and than yourself, listen, help, give. ( that’s my Dad talking bless him ) There is nothing wrong with that, but I guess the life I choose to live, love and like was not fitting to this attitude. But I didnt know.

What I know now is that I am Renate. I am Dutch. As soon as I am with my very dear friends in Amsterdam, I know what that means to me. I speak out, I tell what I feel, say whatever I want, I can curse, be stupid, honest, go far.

So? you might say? Can’t you do that where you are now?…….

No. but it has nothing to do with where I am now. It has to do with me and what I thought of not being able to do where I am now. so that has started to change and that’s my therapy this year.

the answer to why I share all my shit on Facebook and on my blog is the answer to the above.

I am starting to change back from the sillent and in the background ‚german‘ Renate into the extrovert, open, direct ‚dutch‘ Renate.

that’s why I show my face, tell my story. to get from the one extreme back to the other: me.

so beware. from now on I will tell you what I mean, what I feel and what you might not want to hear.

just because I am dutch and called Renate and that combination just rocks for me.

Welcome to the hotel California

…“welcome to the hotel California. Such a lovely place. Such a lovely face. Plenty of room at the hotel California. Any time of year. You can find it hear.“….

my chemos are nearly done. only 2 more Wednesdays to go and than I will decorate the living room with balloons and drink Champagne. the therapy has worked well, the marathon is nearly over and I couldnt believe my luck and felt so strong and happy until today.

today I went into the hospital to discuss the operation which is happening 6 weeks after my last chemo. so for those who are interested the 1. of October is the big day.

until now I have been living with the information that it is going to be an easy operation. the tumor is nearly gone, and without giving too much ugly detail, a breast saving operation. In my head that meant something like a quicky, with 3 days hospital max. and than back home.

but I was too positive about all of that I guess. it still is in the eyes of the doctor one of the most easy options, but as I now learned about every detail, what they are doing exactly, and that the 3 days hospital will be 2 weeks hospital, it threw me right back from my happy feet on to the ground.

it makes me realise again, this is not going to be over so soon. this big change in my life will have all the time new information that can shock me. even if I really am one of the lucky ones, and after this full year of therapy it will never come back. I finally realise now that it will always stay one of the biggest worries. Whenever in future I will go there to do a check up, it can throw me back.

there are women at my weekly chemo, sitting in the same chairs as I do, who are dealing with their 3rd therapy. of course I should’nt think about that, it might not happen at all to me, but today it reached me finally, that the worries that it could come back, will never go away.

in this whole process, from the real beginning, right through the chemo sessions and even being the proud owner of a disabled parking license, I never called myself a cancer patient, never called myself ill, always was more positive than my family, pretty happy and strong.

all of a sudden something changed today. the operation news, the therapy ending, it feels as if I just lost hold of all my positive thoughts. I kept dreaming of the moment when it is all over. woohoooo! nearly there!!!!!

yes. now it is, nearly there. and than?

…“last thing I remember, I was running for the door, I had to find the passage back to the place I was before. Relax, said the night man, we are programmed to receive. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave….

 ( lyrics from The Eagles- Hotel California )

The bold and the beautiful

I have two confessions to make. 

One is, before I got the news of having breast cancer and before I started the Chemo’s, the possibility of having cancer was one of the big things in my head I was scared of. I am not scared of things in general and I don’t mean I was worried on a regular basis, but I am for sure one of those people who likes to block out bad things and turn away from what horrible things could possibly happen to me.

The second confession I have to make is that I have never been at all brave to start talking to someone you meet who has cancer and ask all the common questions you ask someone who goes through a heavy therapy. I was for real one of those people who would think ‚ oh dear‘ when I would see someone with a bold head because of Chemo and rather walk away than taking the risk of asking the wrong things.

Now I see how people sometimes do this to me. I am not at all sad about this. I totally understand it, and to be honest, sometimes it feels better to see people turning away from me than to meet someone who starts asking you all the repetitive shit and pulls you into this conversation about all the illnesses in the world.

However, this therapy made me think about my behaviour before and I know I will approach people differently after. I lived my life on a different surface. I was not living my life, but that of how I thought other people saw me and what I thought other people expected from me.

Inside the secret room of ‚Chemoland‘ I already have met so many different women with so many different personallities, style, age and size, yet in Chemoland we all of a sudden all look the same: bold.

When I am sitting there in my drug chair, I am trying to make up how these women would look with hair, what kind of hair style they used to wear, and it is not at all easy to figure that out. In my mind I am sticking some hair to some woman’s head and it never matches her personallity. Would she be blond? shoulder length? black curly hair? it seems impossible to guess when someone is bold and you’ve never met them before. I realise how important hair is for ones personallity and also: my fantasy what they would look like is too big. We really have become look- a-likes, all part of the Chemo family and we are all the same.

Last week there was a woman who was in her second week of ‚EC‘ Chemo, (which means the time has come that hair leaves you) and she had decided to shave a mohican. She explained to me that she is normally not at all the type for such hair but what the f***! now is the time to try it out, tomorrow it’s all gone anyway.

Where we all look the same in Chemoland, we have another thing in common. All these women I met going through Chemical Valley, are all so strong, possitive, healthy and brave and all enjoying life.There are young women around age 26, but mainly all of ‚us‘ are aged 35-55 and we’ve learned not to be scared anymore and face life.

Behind the secret doors of Chemoland we have our weekly get togethers with coffee, cake and lots of chatting. Not always interesting, sometimes boring too ( that makes it easier to stick a hairstyle to someone ;)) but most of the time about eachothers therapies and getting through it.

I am so curious how all of them look in half a years time, when there hairstyle is back, because now the only thing I can see is that they are bold on the outside, clones of Dr. Bold, but each one of them is ever so beautiful and has become so much stronger on the inside.

I yawned when Dr. Bold told me at the beginning of this all, that I will not be the same person after this and will learn a lot about myself. I really thought, ‚f*** off man! I know who I am. I don’t need you to tell me otherwise and especially not with this illness!‘

But I litterally had to go bold to learn. Being more egoistic even, more proud of myself, more at ease with myself, trust myself, learning what time is, saying no, enjoying things and not being scared anymore, about me, others and life. This already is starting to result in giving more to others, taking more, loving more and being loved more.

I was ( yes! was!!! ) bold, and I think I have become beautiful. x

Domestic Procrastination

I ‚ve considered stealing the title for this blog post from Nigella Lawson’s book ( who is my most favorite British super cook and of whome I have all cook books ) It’s called „Domestic Goddess“. But I’ve come so close to myself in the last couple of Months that being a goddess is very far away from reality and cooking and baking has always been one of my favorite hobbies anyway.

No, this is more about the procrastination part in the title, and very new for me is to spend time on ‚doing nothing things‘ at home. 

It is all good for something as I really could not realise how much time on your hands you need for this cancer to sort things out in your head. get clean, learn and if you wish change.

If you are not careful and happily slipping into the rythm of bringing the kids to school, walking the dog, putting a wash in the machine, getting some shopping done and walking the dog again, you are all of a sudden spending days full of these kind of activities without getting ‚real‘ work done. And before you start working on the accounting for the tax, there is a lot more washing to do, and yes that table needs a real good scrub and the empty bottles really need to be brought to the bottle bank right now before I start sorting my receipts from last season, or you just walk the dog again!

I am glad this ‚real‘ work is back in my life after the period of heavier chemos I did, where I really was not able to do much more than the important daily business on top of the domestic procrastination, but I also realise now how much time Suburbia store took from me since it is not there anymore.

Millie and Charlie told me the other day how happy they are that I am more at home and that they see more of me now, and not just having a fixing dinner and off to bed kind of relationship with their mother, like they used to for so many years. There used to be this Dutch tv commercial in the 90’s about a family at the table where the child asks its mother: “ who is this man carving our roast each Sunday?“ that was me for a long time.

So just for Millie & Charlie ( and the dog ), this needs to stay this way. more home time for me and more of mummy for them, but I need to change the procrastination in it all for being a goddess again, even if it is a domestic one. Because with each hair that grows on my head, I feel more alive again and a step nearer to the end of this therapy marathon and there has been enough thinking, enough learning enough crying and more so: enough changes. I am happy again.

I never knew procrastination is therapy.

an entrance for spiders and needles

I have never been afraid of both. Spiders and needles.

My children are afraid of spiders and always very impressed when I do the famous trick of my Father to get rid of a spider in the house. Take and empty match box, open it, and put it over the spider, gently close the box and take the spider outside in the garden to let it free. We used to have a ‚home spider‘ at our holiday place in Broadstairs. It always sat in the kitchen above the door to the garden, high on the wall, probibly still is now. After several attempts to release it in the garden, Incy Wincy Spider always climbed back on the kitchen wall, just over night. Apparently spiders have a good sence of location and memory.

With needles its the same thing. What theatrical crying sessions we had with the children at the doctors, when it was time for an injection. And me, tough mummy always had to calm them down, telling them its over in a jiffy and you will only feel a little prick.

Though this thing about being tough with needles is over now for me. Where I used to have no problem at all looking at the needle going into my arm and the blood running into the little tube, today I am disgusted by the whole idea. I close my eyes when its happening and need to take several deep breaths at the same time.

My left arm is used weekly for taking blood samples and I look pretty much like a drug addict there. The skin is sore, red and the spot hurts every time a little more. 

The ‚port‘ or entrance for the chemo every week on the left side of my upper chest is in my case and according to Nurse Gerda ‚ one of those rare cases‘. Where normally most women apparently have enough fat mass for this little under the skin port to sit comfortably, with me its right on top of my muscles and straight under the skin as I don’t have this common fat mass there. As a matter of fact, I don’t seem to have any fatt mass there at all, hence the painful local anaesthetic and long time of butching around when they had to put it in. Its probably because I am a lefty and practised tennis most of my life.  For those who have experienced receiving chemo this way, know how huge this needle is. It has the size of a tooth pick with a little disc on the top, like an ice cream umbrella. In my case it doesn’t first slide into a nice bed of fat mass, but straight through the skin into the little metal coin. By now my poor skin suffers and feels very sore. Ouch, ouch and again ouch.

With my children we have our little jokes and fun about this thing, as it looks like a little button and every night we turn out the lights through it, or turn up the volume through it when we like a song on the pod. But it hurts when I put the seatbelt over my shoulder in the car and it hurts when my bra touches it. it just hurts f’ing all the time.

When this is all over, I will do my Father’s famous match box trick. I slide the port into the box, close it and bury it far away in the garden, where it hopefully, unlike all lovely clever spiders never finds it’s way back again into my house.