Wow, what a year!
We thought 2021 was going to be so much better than 2020, but unfortunately, it seems to have brought more of the same, just amplified 😳 We’ve had longer and deeper lockdowns, greater uncertainty, and I’ve personally had both the Covid journey and cancer journey amplified.
I’m currently at home recovering from major surgery, after being diagnosed with local recurrence of the breast cancer we thought we had beaten last year.
This time my breast surgeon, Erica, removed my left breast (full mastectomy) and then two plastic surgeons did an immediate reconstruction with a ‘free flap’ of tissue harvested from the little pooch of my tummy, along with the blood vessels that supply that area of tissue. My plastic surgeon, Janek, reattached the (inferior epigastric = lower tummy) artery and vein to the blood vessels between my ribs, to keep the flap of skin and fat alive that has been used to replace the tissue in my breast – called a DIEP flap.
I have a scar from hip to hip, and a new bellybutton, from where they harvested the tummy tissue; and a ‘pancake boob’ with no nipple on the left side as there wasn’t a decent amount of fat on my tummy to refill the skin of my breast – but at least I have a boob rather than a scar. The benefit is that I now have a super flat tummy, and the cancer has been completely removed with wide margins and no lymph node involvement, so I won’t need chemo. I will need a few more surgeries over the next year to try and get some more symmetry between my pancake boob and normal boob, and then reconstruct a nipple.
Some of you may recall that our GM (now acting CEO), Dee, had a delayed double DIEP flap reconstruction last year, after her fight with breast cancer 10 years ago, and she has made a marvellous recovery. Dee will be having some of the next stage surgery for improving symmetry, just before Xmas this year, and we wish her the best of healing wishes.
The DIEP flap reconstruction is a big operation – 8 hours on the table, with 3 surgeons operating, and a 2-3 month recovery. It’s highly inconvenient in our busiest time of year, especially as we are finally reopening from Covid lockdown, with Marilou, Marjorie and Kaitlin all on maternity leave, and some wonderful ‘experienced, but new to us’ injectors joining our team over the last 6 months.
I’m so incredibly grateful that we have an amazing team, solid systems and great support and training in place, which will keep the business running super smoothly, despite me needing to take some time off. We know these systems work well, as I used to travel at least 3-6 months a year prior to Covid lockdowns, and the business barely missed me!
What’s different this time is that Dee will be moving into the acting CEO role, taking over some of my duties, while I will be stepping into more of a Clinical Director’s role, supporting and mentoring the medical team with the assistance of Esme, our Nurse Practitioner/Nursing Team Leader, and being available as a resource for any more complex cases or queries that the medial or admin team need support with. So I’ll actually be even more available as a knowledge resource, which is exciting.
I’m unsure how much time I’ll be taking away from the day-to-day of the business, as my next step in the journey is going back onto the hormone suppressing medication, Tamoxifen. You might recall I had a struggle with Tamoxifen last year, lasting only a few months as it gave me crippling fatigue, and I had to reduce my hours right down. This time we are hoping that I will be able to tolerate it better if I step away from the day-to-day running of the business, and allow my body to integrate it, then slowly increase my duties back, as tolerated.
I’ve bounced back much more quickly than expected from the surgery (I thought I would be bedridden and on morphine for 2-3 weeks, but I’m able to potter around the house on Panadol and an anti-inflammatory, as long as I don’t lift or push anything, and no driving for 3-4 weeks) and have been so very well looked after by my incredible group of friends, who have a roster of who is ‘babysitting’ me, and who is organising food for me 😹
I feel so very blessed with the incredible level of support I’ve received from the team, patients, family and friends, and I’m sure all the prayers and well wishes have had a significant impact on my faster recovery. So thank you, from every part of my heart, for your incredible support. 🙏 💗🎀
I’m crossing my fingers that my journey with Tamoxifen will be much easier this time, but I will keep you informed of how I’m going. My brain so far is absolutely fine, so I’m continuing to learn, grow and develop by watching lots of online conferences and webinars, and passing my learning through to the team 💉🥰
It’s exciting that we finally get to properly open our doors before Xmas, with skin treatments and all medical treatments finally able to be offered from 3 December, as long as we receive your vaccine pass and Covid Declaration form prior to your appointment. We truly appreciate your support – and your patience – as we try to schedule you in over this period.
If you have a straightforward booking, the easiest way is to book online, and if you are dealing with our reception team, please remember to be kind, as they will be doing their best to jam 5 months worth of appointments (we already had pretty full pre-Xmas books before we went into lockdown), into less than a month before Xmas. Some of our team have increased their hours to accommodate, so you might also want to check online to see availability before contacting our reception team.
We are beyond delighted to be welcoming our newest team member, Rebekah, who will be joining the medical team as an experienced injecting nurse. Becks was the top injector in her previous role and has been an absolute superstar joining the team in the middle of lockdown, to cover for the lovely Marilou – who had her gorgeous baby girl Sofia just a few weeks ago. While Becks is well experienced with fillers, she will delay offering filler treatments until next year when she has received training in the ‘the TFP way’ of providing fillers.
The holiday season is a wonderful time to reconnect with family and reflect on the year that has been, and the new year ahead. I’ll be heading down to Canterbury with my dad to celebrate Christmas with my brother and his family. This time last year we thought it could be dad’s last Xmas, so we’re super grateful that his chemo has held the bone marrow cancer at bay for now, and we can celebrate another family Xmas with him. It’s been made even more poignant by the fact I haven’t been able to see dad in person over lockdown, as he lives in the Bay of Islands, while I’ve been locked into the Auckland lockdown zone!
As we wind up 2021 (crazy to think it’s December) and ease our way into 2022, we are super excited to be able to see you in clinic for more than just Botox treatments! 💉🥰 I speak on behalf of our whole team in wishing you a happy holiday season, and celebrating New Year’s for hopefully a brighter 2022 ahead!
Stay safe these holidays!
Love and hugs,
Dr Cat 😻