Thursday, March 1, 2012

World's Greatest Shave For A Cure - Marija

I first met Marija around 5 years ago when I was relatively new to Hobart. Marija and her partner lived up the road from me and we would occasionally walk to work together. They are both kind and gentle people and I always enjoyed walking with them into the city. Marija and I do not see or speak to each other regularly and keep in contact via Facebook or the occasional meet in the street on our lunch breaks.
Many house moves (for us both) and years later I first found out about Marija's cancer when I was newly pregnant with Millie and Marija had just finished her last round of treatment. As you may be aware cancer has touched my life too many times and I was shocked to hear of her journey, especially when I was just beginning a new journey of my own. She was so positive about itI was then elated to see Marija months later post treatment looking like a new woman.
When I saw she was doing the World's Greatest Shave for a Cure I knew that her story was important and that I wanted to share it with you all in the hopes that you might be able to spare a couple of bucks to help her reach her $3000 goal. So I sent her some daggy questions and she sent me back some heartfelt answers. I hope you enjoy reading her story and can help her reach her goal.

Marija's Story


Why are you doing the greatest shave?

I’d always threatened to shave my head in the past, but wasn’t in control of that in Feb 2010 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33. This time around its of my own free will, I’m taking back control and what a fantastic way of doing it! raising awareness, fundraising and thanking my ponsors and supporters at the same time!
I think its extremely important to raise awareness of all types of blood cancers because the services the Leukemia Foundation provides is all free and we cant lose that sort of service.
My friend’s husband, John has a rare blood cancer which is incurable but treatable. He is on trial drug which is working superbly and will most likely have this blood cancer for the rest of his life….he is in his 50’s. I’m hoping desperately they find a cure for this cancer so he doesn’t have to do bone marrow biopsies every 3 months…its very grueling and painful.

What was your cancer journey like?
Marija in treatment
Its hard to describe as every cancer journey is different, I cant speak for everyone who has had cancer, but hopefully I can share and convey some of what all cancer patients go through mentally and physically through my experience.
When your doctor tells you that you have cancer, your life instantly changes, for yourself and those closest to you…it happens in a heartbeat, but then in the next instance (after all the crying is done) you make a decision that you can either let it take your life or you can fight with every being…it this all happens before you know your prognosis.
Before I knew it, I’m seeing a surgeon and oncologist and having surgery inside of two weeks since being diagnosed….the two weeks I had to wait felt like a lifetime, but I got through each day.

I developed a hate/love relationship with my oncologist, one because she was so clinical and all I wanted to do was knock some emotion in to her (I can hear some cancer patients cheering).
She gave me the treatment plan of 4 rounds of chemo over 3 months, 6 weeks of radiation and 5 years on Tamoxifen and/or removal of my ovaries...which meant possibly never having children (my partner and I were trying to conceive our first child at the time of my diagnosis). This did not sit with us well, so we had to make some further life changing decisions, by this stage I was screaming at the universe ‘how much more are you going to put me through?’
I immediately agreed to chemo and radiation but was hesitant with Tamoxifen.
Prior to starting my treatment in April 2010 my partner and I decided to go down the IVF road and have some embryos frozen, what a gruelling process in itself!
Because of the type of cancer I had, I was petrified at having to pump more hormones in to my body. My ovaries were bursting with eggs, 13 were removed, 6 embryos frozen (someone was looking out for me) and that was end of that trip.
I was put on a drug called Zoladex, to shut down and protect my ovaries, this put me straight in to menopause, the side effects of menopause were tenfold….it was awful together with the steroids and chemo!
Chemo made me feel awful for a week at a time, I was fortunate enough to be able to go to work for a couple of weeks and do the next round of chemo. I tried my hardest to convince my oncologist that I didn’t need a fourth round of chemo, but I couldn’t get out of that one!..ha ha ha ha….
I had a month off treatment before I began radiation, my ovaries were well protected, I stopped Zoladex and my ovaries started working again…yay, I could have had a party!
Radiation wasn’t too bad, felt like bad sunburn and left me lethargic all the time. I suffered from ‘chemo brain’ pretty badly and its taken a good couple of years to come right, I think it will always be there to some degree, but it helps to do brain exercises!
The hardest part during treatment was having to only take care of myself, not be hard on myself and trying not to worry about my partner’s well being, but getting him surrounded by friends to keep an eye on him. You have to become selfish, it broke my heart but I’m better for it.
The hardest part after treatment is the “aftermath” (I can see cancer patients nodding their heads). Once treatment has completed, you stop seeing doctors, specialists every few weeks. This part is harder than treatment but personally for me I’m not the person I was a couple of years ago.
I’ve met some amazing people, nurses, doctors and strangers...they were the nicest lot! I’ve formed some special friendships and built on those.
I’ve ended up on a hippie/spiritual path, getting rid of a lot of emotional baggage through self-awareness work, being grateful for each day I’m allowed for take a new breath. I’m now trying to learn tolerance, I think that was stripped completely through my journey..ha ha ha ha…I have no time for nonsense! is simply too short and I’m grateful for a second chance in life.

from Marija's World's Greatest Shave sponsorship page
What is your advice to anyone newly diagnosed with cancer?
Be kind to yourself and try not to let your fear take hold. Try to find good on your hardest days, laugh at least once on those day, don’t hold back your tears, surround yourself with those you love.

Which support groups did you find the most beneficial to you?
I struggled to find a support group that suited my needs, because most of the women I’d met were already mothers or grandmothers and have had their kids. I couldn’t bounce my questions or thoughts with anyone. I have a fantastic breast care nurse who helped me with all the medical and emotional stuff....I owe her my life!

What are your hobbies?
I love cooking up a storm, trying to become a decent gardener, I dabble in arts and crafts (I havent found my niche that would support me financially and away from office work…a work in progress), getting out and about and losing myself in a good book.

What makes your heart sing?
Life! matter how good or bad it can be!

What's been your worst haircut?
Grade 6 – I had wild curly hair and got it cut short and looked like a boy when I started Year 7!

What shouldacouldawoulda's fell off your list once your life changed?
Ha ha ha…I refuse to use the words “should, could and would”…ha ha ha….otherwise I’d be self sabotaging myself. Nowadays its just getting on with it and doing it. I refuse to have a bucket list as I live for each day. I take care of myself and those I love. I’d really love to travel to Italy, Ireland and Scotland.

Tell me about the hairstyles you'll be modelling as your hair grows back again? What are your celebrity style hot hair tips for 2012? Will we see a Jenny Aniston circa 1995 'do? Or perhaps a NKOTB 1992? Undercuts?
Ha ha ha ha… I get bored very quickly, so anything goes! (AMY EDIT: I'd like to add that I've seen Marija have some gorgeous hairstyles since her hair has grown back. I'd give anything for her curls!)

Amy, I’d like to especially thank you for the opportunity in sharing part of my journey, you are gorgeous soul! And thank you to all your readers and potential sponsors!

With heartfelt thanks..xx


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