Discovering my 'new normal' after breast cancer diagnosis at 34.

27 December 2011

2011: It's a wrap. 2012: Bring it on.

First of all, I'm sorry I have been so slow at posting since the last post. I have been very busy with my "normal" working life, which I am thrilled to announce is somewhat returning.

Yes, I still..
  • get tired
  • am much of a home-body
  • work part time, although this is slowly increasing and I'm pushing it to the limits
  • don't drink (a hangover after half a glass of wine really doesn't make it worth it)
  • need naps during the day, although these have gone from 5 days a week napping to around 2 - 3 
  • get driven crazy with fatigue and migraines on a 4-weekly basis thanks to Zolodex
  • am on Arimidex, which is a heck of a lot better for me than Tamoxifen was
  • am exercising - running - perhaps not as much as before but at least once a week
  • am going to do the 2012 Mothers' Day Classic
  • am not sure if it's Mothers' (collective) or Mother's (singular). I am veering towards collective.
The beginning of 2012 marks 3 years post-diagnosis. Three years ago my future was a complete blank slate. In 2009 I really had absolutely no idea what I would be doing in 2012; and no idea I would be doing what I am doing.

2012 also marks the half-way mark of my 5-year treatment plan, half-way through Zolodex+Arimidex. I can distinctly remember the half-way mark of chemo: 3 sessions down and 3 to go. Now it's 2.5 years down and 2.5 to go. I am very much looking forward to being off the drugs, but anxious about it too. On the odd day when I forget to take my Arimidex, I get that glimmer of exuberance and energy levels that my body is capable of; it's not until the next day when I see the pill still in its packet that I realise the reason for my temporary new-found but soon-lost surge of vitality. At least it's there - waiting to be captured in its full essence in 2014/15.

So, bring on 2012 and let the countdown continue.


14 August 2011

Creations: Portable Desk & File Storage

Mike likes to work on his computer and filing while sitting on the couch, because it's nice and warm in the living room. He bought himself this nice handy plastic filing box from a local stationery shop and I spent a few weeks looking at it on the floor of the living room. I couldn't think how to make it easier for him to move it around and have somewhere to keep his laptop until I realised this bedside table from Ikea might do the trick. This is what it normally looks like:
I had to alter the height of the bottom shelf to make the cavity larger and as you can see I have flipped it over so that pens etc do not roll off the sides. There is enough room for a mouse or for charging his phone from the laptop. I got the castors from Ikea too, and drilled holes into the top (my base) and glued them in place.

The bedside table was $AU14.99 and the castors $AU 1.99 for a 4-pack. It works a treat and we can roll it away into the spare room or even into Mike's office in the front room if necessary. It also means the laptop has its own place.

28 July 2011

Cancer vocabulary: 'Awareness'

People often talk about "awareness" when referring to a certain cause or organisation. "Raise awareness" they say. What does this really mean?

According to my dictionary, aware is an adjective:
  • "having knowledge or perception of a situation or fact"
  • "concerned and well-informed about a particular situation or development"
... and the noun awareness in the thesaurus has these synonyms:
  • "consciousness, recognition, realization; understanding, grasp, appreciation, knowledge, insight; familiarity; cognizance"

    Well, here's what "raising awareness" means to me:
    • Awareness about (knowledge of) a particular support organisation and what they can help with. For example, being aware of the Cancer Council Queensland means I am able to contact them if I need to, maybe to ask some questions or get some information.
    • Awareness is also about early detection - noticing any unusual changes to your body (if you can; some changes are not easily detectable) and seeking advice and assistance if there is something that doesn't seem right.

    What does "raising awareness" mean to you? Is it simply a euphemism for "raising money"? Or is it more than that?

    21 July 2011

    My 'other life'

    What do I do when I'm not sewing headscarves, running, or blogging?

    My professional background is in English language teaching. I've been doing that for almost 10 years now.

    The great thing about this job is that I have been able to work it into my 'new normal'. For most of my life, I've worked as an employee at various language organisations but now, in addition to Hatiheri, I run my own English tutoring business. I'm "English-Tutor-Brisbane" and I teach from my home, via skype, and online via moodle. Many of my students need assistance with IELTS writing in order to get that elusive band 7 (or band 8) usually for nursing registration or for permanent residence. I've developed my own course with original materials to help them with this. The flexibility is great in that I can choose my own hours.

    In addition to this, I've recently started contracting to OET Online, developing and writing materials for their website and new face-to-face teaching course. I also tutor OET reading and speaking students using skype and guide students' writing. OET is the 'Occupational English Test', a language proficiency test for medical professionals wanting to work in Australia and New Zealand. It's a very interesting job because I have had a fair bit of experience both as a patient and as an EFL teacher. Again, I can work to my own schedule, which is ideal.

    I volunteer with Look Good Feel Better at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital every month. We do a workshop on skin care, make-up and hair accessories (wigs, turbans) for people going through appearance changes due to cancer treatment. I love working with our fabulous team there.

    18 July 2011

    Running Accessories: ipod

    Recently I wrote that I like to run because I don't need too many peripherals. I still maintain that a decent bra and comfortable, functional shoes are all that are necessary.

    However, lately I have been running with my new 'toy', an ipod nano with the nike+running attachment. The red oval shaped device attaches to my shoe and the white part attaches to my iopd nano. It has a pedometer which keeps track of my 'workouts' (as they call them). It's very handy because once calibrated, I can use it to check how far I have run. I'm usually checking it every 100m towards the end of a run, trying to get to that elusive 8km! While I run, I can also listen to music playlists, podcasts, or the radio.

    At the end of every run, I can upload my data and see how I am going and achieving my goals. I can keep track of my workouts and check if I am keeping up with the programme I set for myself. I can also share my results on social media sites, map past and future runs, and play online games with other runners. I haven't done the last one yet because I don't really have that competitive edge, but I can see the attraction.

    Here is one of my runs, displayed on my nike+running website.

    16 July 2011

    Media: Brisbane Running Festival

    This is from the 'Brisbane Running Festival' website:

    Your inspiration Inspired to run because "I want to stay alive"
    Distance Brisbane 10km Fun Run
    Name Tish Kirkland - (Support Tish as a Hero on EverydayHero and help raise funds for Cancer research)
    Where do you reside Milton, Queensland
    Favourite Food Norwegian "Gjetost" goat's cheese
    Greatest Achievement Outside of fitness: conquering breast cancer (or more accurately: conquering chemotherapy). Fitness-related: running 5km without stopping!
    How far have you come since your diagnosis? That's a difficult question. Since diagnosis in January 2009, it's been a huge roller-coaster: physically, mentally, financially and emotionally. It was a rough ride for the first 10 months and continues to be a steady but challenging one to this day. I started running only 3 months ago (March 2011) to train for the 4.5km Brisbane Mother's Day Classic and two weeks after that I ran 5km at the Rotary Fun Run at UQ. Dealing with the side effects of ongoing treatment is an uphill battle.

    I find that I like to use any (and all) energy I have to run, but that might be followed by a 1-hour nap to recover. I run so that I can stay within my BMI, which means my chances of cancer returning are reduced but also so that if it does return, I can fight it with all I've got.
    Any tips for those competing Do a few practice runs of the circuit. Train with a couple of friends and then run with them on the day. You'll know your pace and it's nice to run with others.
    Do you have any advice to other cancer survivors out there? I don't think cancer survivors need any advice from me - they know they are awesome. But if you've just been diagnosed or are going through treatment: go for a walk every day. Even 10 minutes, which was a true struggle for me (Heussler Terrace!) helped in the long run. I would be so exhausted after a walk and might sleep for hours afterwards but it really helped me get better. And if you've had surgery: do the homework stretches your physio gives you. It's a drag at the time but again, it pays off. I think the worst thing about cancer is the fear of the unknown. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

    The major beneficiary this year; Cancer Council, has a hotline - use it! (ph. 13 11 20) I had a hard time sorting out what the different organisations were, so I've since listed a "who's who" of cancer-related resources on my website. And for friends and family of survivors - be patient. When the intense treatment finishes that is just the beginning of the patient's struggle back to normality.
    What has inspired you to participate in Brisbane Running Festival? My body has been through the wringer with cancer, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and now hormonal treatment. Now it's time to treat it with some respect and give it a good chance of getting back to normal - and hopefully beyond my previous 'normal' to an even better condition. They call life post-cancer your "new normal". It does change your life; I was never a runner and now I run regularly.

    I was forging a career and I suddenly had to take time out of that. I was hoping to start a family and I had to put those plans on hold. My "new normal" is definitely a new life. Part of this has been the evolution of my own business, Hatiheri - headwear and accessories for hair loss. I can still only work part time, and the challenge of running my own small "cottage industry" is perfect for me
    Anything else you want others to know? & And I am happy to report that I can now RUN up Heussler Terrace when 24 months ago I could barely walk up it. I think about that every time I struggle up the hill.

    14 July 2011

    Creations: Headphone Hat

    I'm the first to admit that running can get a bit boring, especially if it's for anything more than 35 minutes. I can usually keep myself entertained with thoughts for a while but then sometimes I like to listen to something while I'm running. I especially like BBC4 Podcasts or 97.3 FM.

    However, I really don't like headphones in my ears and I've heard (haha) that they bounce out when you're running anyways. I also didn't like the idea of the hook-over-ear ones as I wear glasses or sunglasses and I thought the ear hooks would probably annoy me.

    As a result, I created my own headphone device - my headphone hat!

    I stitched a little elastic onto each side of my hat just above the ear, and another one at the back adjustment strap to hold the cords. That runs down my back to attach to my ipod nano which snugly fits into a back zip-pocket of my running shorts.

    It's perfect for me because although I can easily listen to my podcast or the radio (provided I am not in a heavy traffic area), I can also listen out for other sounds like cyclists, cars, other people, pedestrian crossing signals, etc. I like to be able to hear the world around me. Plus, I ALWAYS wear a hat when running. It's perfect sun protection and sweat mopping - and now entertaining - at the same time!

    12 July 2011

    RBWH: Radiation Planning

    I took some photos of my skin after my radiation planning session, which took place at my hospital, the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital (RBWH), on 16 June 2009.

    The main thing I remember from the session was having to lie VERY STILL and that it was COLD in the room. One of the technicians had lovely warm hands, which made a huge difference to my comfort. I got my little tattoos that day - you can see one tiny blue dot on my sternum and one under my arm. The tattoos didn't hurt: just a prick with a needle and a dab with some ink and they were done.

    What's really interesting is that later, when the skin became red from the treatment, the red marks are EXACTLY within these lines. They said it would be accurate, and the were right! NB Blue patch is still from the SNB dye on 13 Feb 2011.

    You can see more photos of my treatment on my website:

    10 July 2011

    Nasties: Waking up with mild depression

    For the last 2 weeks I have been waking up feeling 'low'. Just before I wake up in the morning, it seems I have a bad-feeling dream and then wake up with that same anxious/sad feeling I have had in the dream. I usually feel better as the day progresses but then in the evening I dread going to bed because I don't want to wake again with that semi-depression.

    I don't know what's caused it. I eat well, sleep through the night (except for a regular nightly trip to the toilet), exercise nearly every day, and now have a paid job working from home. Admittedly, I do miss the company of other people during the day. The cats and my internet friends are a good substitute but are not quite the same as the camaraderie of a staff room. I get a bit lonely but on the other hand I have freedom to run or nap whenever I want to.

    It could be the mattress. We got a lovely new mattress a week and a half ago and it has a funny 'new mattress' smell. I wonder if that is somehow triggering some (unknown) uncomfortable memory? As the smell has subsided, so have my bad wake-ups. This morning, for example, I felt a lot better. Having said that, I sprayed some 'Sweet Dreams' pillow spray onto my pillow last night and maybe that helped (or the placebo effect helped - either way it helped so I'm happy about that!).

    I was very close to giving Beyond Blue a call just to talk things over. I won't rule that out and will monitor the situation for another week. I have been off Effexor now (I was on it for hot flushes when I started Tamixifen in Sept 2009) for about 3 months and I would rather keep it that way. I'll keep you posted.

    08 July 2011

    Inspiration: Running People

    Ask me 2 years ago if I would ever consider running for fitness/fun, and my answer would have been a resounding NO.

    I watched some of my friends get into running, namely Zoe and Fi. I admired them for their strength and stamina, and for their perseverance in what seemed like a very boring and taxing 'leisure' activity. They even ran in the cold and rain, which I thought was courageous (I still won't run if it's raining).

    Later, when I was contemplating running for health/weight control/fitness, I read on Facebook about my friend Tina's success with her fitness in Melbourne:
    Tina - before and after
    She is absolutely amazing and a true inspiration. It got me thinking: Can I do that too?

    More locally, our neighbour Anna, our good friend Tymara and my cousin Christie all go for regular runs and all have bodies to die for. I wanted to be like them!

    Meanwhile, I started training for the Mother's Day Classic. Team Tish members Tymara, Carly, and Louise did a couple of early runs with me until it got too difficult logistically. New friends Julie and Alexis kept me company on early Sunday morning runs, and Bronwyn came along for a couple too.

    I was amazed and surprised how many people DO run, and how good it actually feels.

    Thank you, my running friends, for inspiring me and encouraging me. You are truly wonderful!

    04 July 2011

    Reasons to Run 3: Osteoporosis

    Regular physical exercise, such as running can increase and maintain bone strength by increasing bone mass and therefore decreases the risk of developing osteoporosis.

    One side effect of my current condition as an oestrogen-free zone (thanks to Armidex and Zolodex) is the increased chance of losing bone mineral density and therefore developing osteoporosis.

    As well as taking calcium supplements, I figure that my running also helps cancel out this potential side-effect. Plus, it's good for me in other ways too!

    More information about preventing osteoporosis is on the Osteoporosis Australia website.

    An excellent resource about Arimidex (and other cancer things) can be found on Macmillan's cancer support site.

    Arimidex Consumer Medicine Information (PDF)

    There is an interesting article about aromatase inhibitors (such as arimidex) here.

    02 July 2011

    Reasons to Run 2: It's easy

    One thing I like about running is that it doesn't take too much physical coordination.

    Basically, it's putting one foot in front of the other. Admittedly,  I do think about where and how my feet, knees, shoulders and arms are positioned when I run, because I understand that this is important for short- and long-term injury prevention.


    I don't have to worry about catching or throwing a ball, using a stick or bat, or coordinating with other people. Yes, I do have to manoeuvre around pedestrians, bus stops, cyclists, and sometimes run on and off the footpath, but generally that's the extent of it - and that suits me just fine!

    To paraphrase Phoebe from Friends: it doesn't
    matter how you run because you only see
    (other people) the one time and then you pass
    them by.

    OK, so my running style isn't quite as energetic or unique as hers... but it's still fun!

    30 June 2011

    Reasons to Run 1: It's cheap

    The best part about running is that unless I want to, I don't have to pay any fees to join a gym, club, group, or employ a personal trainer. Cost is important, because for me, living with the after-effects of cancer diagnosis means my cash-flow isn't as healthy as it was in the past.

    The only start-up costs are a decent pair of running shoes:

    ... and a sports bra:

    I got my running shoes on sale from a shop in the city for $AU 70 and my bra from a department store for around $AU 60. No fancy bells and whistles, no special clothes, no ipod, no timer, no pedometer, no-thing else ... I am set to go!

    28 June 2011

    Cancer vocabulary: "New Normal"

    One of the new words/phrases in my vocabulary since cancer diagnosis in 2009 is "new normal": a concept I both understand and resent at the same time...

    The Cancer Council NSW's page on Life after treatment puts it succinctly:
    "Many people are surprised to discover that life after treatment presents its own challenges.
    "Some people feel pressure from their family and friends to get back to their ‘normal life’. Everyone will eventually re-establish a daily routine, but it will be at their own pace and may be different to how things were in the past. Some people call this a ‘new normal’.
    "Give yourself time to adjust to physical and emotional changes. You may not be fit enough to do your usual activities around the house. If you’re returning to work, ease back into it slowly, rather than rushing back the week after leaving hospital.
    "Some people say that after cancer, they have changed priorities and see life with a new clarity. For example, you may decide to spend more time with family, start a new hobby, travel or get involved in advocacy or volunteer work."

    ... understand because this is exactly what has happened/is happening to me.

    ... resent because I really want the old normal back!

    25 June 2011

    Crafties: Jess Van Den

    I want to make a special mention to Jess Van Den, who embodies all things crafty, creative and clever!

    Jess has several projects in operation...

    1. Epheriell Designs - her main line of jewellery, using eco-sterling silver to create unique, modern designs.

    2. Vintette - her new range of fun, sweet, pretty jewellery with vintage and vintage-inspired elements.

    3. *bespoke* zine - her crafty magazine.

    4. Crafty and Connected - her new online course: "a social media bootcamp for your indie biz".

    I think Jess is amazing and does a wonderful job of running her successful businesses!

    09 June 2011

    Brisbane Running Festival: About


    The Brisbane Running Festival is celebrating 20 years this year! In 2011, the official charity of the Brisbane Running Festival is the Cancer Council Queensland, the state’s leading organisation dedicated to reducing the impact of cancer.

    By training for the Brisbane Running Festival and by choosing to fundraise for Cancer Council Queensland I am supporting a great cause AND reducing my own risk of cancer returning.

    There are 4 running events which you can participate in: Marathon (42km), Half-marathon (21km), 10km, and 2km. I'm training for the 10km. Wish me luck!


    Brisbane Running Festival

    Cancer Council Queensland

    My Everyday Hero Fundraising Site

    07 June 2011

    Hatiheri as a Guest Blogger: Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

    Today my post as a guest writer was featured on Marie's wonderful blog, Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer (JBBC).

    There you can read my blog post about how I've taken up running since the intense part of my treatment has finished.

    Make sure you take a look around the JBBC blog while you're there - it's inspirational, motivational, and educational to say the least!

    01 June 2011

    Bizness Babes Blog: Hatiheri's Profile

    Here is my interview for the Bizness Babes Blog Profile:

    What is the name of your business?
    My name is Tish Kirkland and my business is Hatiheri - headwear and accessories for hair loss.

    When & Where did you start Bizness Babes?
    I did the Bizness Babes course in Brisbane starting August 2010. 

    How has it helped your business?
    In so many ways! By guiding me to produce my Business Plan, by providing advice about so many different legal obligations and financial aspects of running my own business, by sharing inspirational stories about other, real, women, and by giving me the confidence to take my idea to the world! 

    The biggest lesson you have learnt when it comes to your business?
    “Start where you want to finish.” 

    Your experience of doing the Bizness Babes course.
    For me, the Bizness Babes course was perfect for helping with getting me back on track with my life following treatment for breast cancer. It gave me something (other than my health) to focus on every week , which was a refreshing change. I met the most amazing women with bright and creative ideas and was (and continue to be) inspired by these women. In addition, I loved being part of a community organisation and it really made me feel connected with my city.

    29 May 2011

    Brisbane Running Festival: TEAM TISH

    On Sunday 7th August, I'll be running my first 10km run!

    Inspired by my success - and with so much support from friends and family - in running 4.5km for the Brisbane Mother's Day Classic (8 May 2011) and 5km in the Rotary Fun Run (22 May 2011), I've decided to take the plunge and pledge to run 10km in the Brisbane Running Festival (7 August 2011). Two weeks before that I'm going to run 8km in the RBWH Foundation's Royal Run for Research (24 July 2011).

    Three years ago I would never have considered running for fun. But some things have changed since then.

    The Brisbane Running Festival has featured me on their "Inspiration" page!

    26 May 2011

    Crafties: Spincushions & Your Organ Grinder

    Oh I do love social networking sites.

    Meandering through one link and another, I found my way to Spincushions and entered their blog giveaway to win an eye-ball hair tie from Simmone Grinder (of "Your Organ Grinder").

    I won!

    And to top it off, Shelley (of "Spincushions") did a featurette of me on her blog.

    A big thank you to Simmone who provided the hair tie and Shelley for the competition.

    Both of these talented ladies make lovely items.

    Check them out:

    Simmone "Your Organ Grinder" (Blog) (Facebook)

    Shelley "Spincushions" (Blog) (Facebook)

    25 May 2011

    Bizness Babes: Graduation Guest Speaker

    Yesterday I had the pleasure of being the guest speaker at the Graduation of the May 2011 Brisbane class of Bizness Babes. I was delighted to be asked and I spoke about my own business journey with Hatiheri.

    Here is what I said...

    Before I start I would like to acknowledge that this graduation ceremony is being held on Aboriginal land and I recognise the strength, resilience and capacity of the Aboriginal people of this land. 
    Thank you very much for having me today.  My name is Tish and I am a Bizness Babe. My business is called Hatiheri in which I make and sell headwear and accessories for hair loss. 
    Today I am going to talk about the interconnection of my personal and business journeys, my business role model, and mention some practical advice about keeping on top of your own wonderful businesses.
    I would first like to acknowledge those who have guided me on my own Business Journey: in particular Liana, Sam, Vickie, the Business Babes who have paved the way before me, those who trained with me, and now you who sit in front of me today. I look forward to learning more about your enterprise and entrepreneurship.
    I took part in the August 2010 Bizness Babes course, and - I am sure like many of you - my business idea began much earlier. I know that mine was in April 2009 to be precise.
    Unlike many of my “co-babes”, I didn’t take time out of a blossoming career in education management in order to have children, instead I took time out to ingest a whole lot of nasty chemicals which made me very very sick but also inhibited the potential spread of cancer beyond my breast and into my body. Thanks to those horrible drugs, as well as the care and attention of a bevy of medical specialists, my family, and my friends, I am happy to report that I’m now on the mend. 
    What does this have to do with my business idea?
    When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2009, and after making my news public, many of my friends sent me beautiful scarves as a thoughtful gift. Chemotherapy made me lose my hair and I was completely bald for approximately three months. It was at this point I discovered that many of the scarves, although gorgeous, were impractical for several reasons. They were too slippery, too thin, had tassels, or were the wrong shape. Hats were great but not appropriate indoors.
    In addition to dealing with debilitating side-effects from chemo, one of my main concerns was this new experience of being bald. It wasn't only the feeling of looking different but also the little things like being cold on the back of my neck (especially at night) and not having hair as protection from the sun, the wind, and also stray branches and cupboard corners. If you know what it's like to have long hair cut short and your ears feel exposed, imagine what that's like over your whole head.
    When I did feel ready to go out in public - and later return to work part time - I had difficulty finding a suitable scarf that matched my wardrobe as I certainly didn't have the energy or interest in matching my wardrobe to my scarf. Why should I have to change even more of my lifestyle to accommodate stupid cancer? That was the last straw and I started to think of a design for beautiful, easy-to-wear head scarves that were comfortable and functional.
    To say “necessity is the mother of invention” is certainly true in the case of my business.
    While still suffering from side effects of hormonal treatment (including fatigue, migraines and nausea), I bought a $150 sewing machine from Big W with the idea of keeping occupied and giving me the opportunity to do something practical - because in moments of normality, snatches of my “BC” existence, I craved a purpose. I am no seamstress but sewing seemed a practical, meaningful activity that I could learn to do at home and challenge my brain to work again. Meanwhile, I had heard about Bizness Babes, investigated them further on their website, took the plunge, and applied.
    As a result, Hatiheri was born, born out of this very frustration of not being able to find a subtle, simple, elegant, and practical headscarf while coping with hair loss. I never want anyone to need one of my scarves, but if there are in the situation where they do, I at least want them to feel as comfortable as possible.
    Bizness Babes was the perfect timely opportunity for me to take my idea and run with it. But not without reflecting back on a little business inspiration first.
    After my own mother and stepmother, one the most inspiring women I have ever had the pleasure to meet – and the person I consider as the original “Bizness Babe” - Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop International plc.
    Aside from loving The Body Shop’s products, I also love their principles, and, if it were not for TBS Australia and the Wise Foundation we would not be here today as Bizness Babes ourselves. (So I say thank you to the Wise Foundation for this opportunity.) Started by Anita Roddick with one small shop in 1976, TBS now has 2400 stores in 61 countries and was sold to the L’Oreal group in 2006 for the equivalent of $AU 996 million. Anita and her husband Gordon made $AU 198 million from the sale. Hmmmm. Wouldn’t that be nice?
    Having said this, I also get inspired by remembering that Anita was not initially the successful businesswoman we think of today when we imagine this “woman behind The Body Shop”. She and her husband Gordon had two businesses, first a restaurant and then a hotel, which they tried – not so successfully - prior to starting up The Body Shop. This experience paved the way for their next, slightly more successful business.
    It wasn’t until Anita was 34, with two young daughters in tow and a husband trekking on horseback across South America that she started her little business of selling naturally based skin and hair care products.
    My personal insight from this is that it’s OK not to be successful with your first ideas. Sheer perseverance and audacity, with a bit of luck and timing thrown in, makes TBS what it is today, and can make your business grow and succeed. Anita herself reflected, “when you make a mistake, you have to face up to the fact and take immediate steps to change course." When overcoming hurdles, I like to: Take time. Rethink. Have a cup of tea. Make a list. Regroup. Make some changes. Try again. But please don’t give up!
    Finally, seven pointers from one Bizness Babe to another:
    1. If you haven’t done so already, finish your business plan. The numbers do count - remember that it is a business. And the purpose of a business is to make a profit. 
    2. Include a wage to yourself in your costs. This will help later down the road when or if you want to outsource. When doing my figures, I worked out that I could sew approximately three scarves in one hour, so I incorporated a wage of $25 per hour, or $8.33 per scarf. Now, I outsource to a trusted seamstress – who can work much faster than me -  for $5 per item. There is a little extra time involved for me to deliver the material and pick up the completed scarves, but that’s still an extra $3 or so to play with. It means I can have different retail and wholesale prices.
    3. Get a website or a blog. I got mine for free using Google’s “Sites”, which is part of Google’s package, including gmail. Using this, I was able to create my own basic site. As Liana said to us, a web presence is all that is necessary to start with. The rest can be built on and built up later.  
    4. Write a daily plan of attack. Working from home can have many advantages, but it also has disadvantages. Your time slips away and before you know it, the washing is put out, brought in, folded, and put away, the dishes are done, and the flat car battery rescued and the car driven around for 25 minutes to recharge it. But your business is still waiting. I make a list, hour by hour, of all the things I want to achieve that day. It has to be realistic and factor in the mundane tasks too. As I go, I tick off each item. Then, at the end of the day when my partner says, “What did you do today?”, I can account for every moment. This has now evolved from practice into authentic invoicing which includes accounting for work completed on a daily basis. Use a kitchen timer or alarm function on your phone. I put the timer on for one hour, for example one hour of housework. Then stop. Then one hour of business work. Then stop. And so on.  
    5. Take some deep breaths and get over the anxiety of making an initial phone call, email or that initial visit. I always get really nervous before phoning someone about stocking my products. I’ve had a couple of knock backs, but on the positive side, a couple of yes’s. My headwear is for sale at the Atrium Plaza Pharmacy at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. and at Kim Walters Choices (a support group for breast and gynaecological cancers) at the Wesley Hospital.  
    6. Use media, promote yourself, promote your business, tell your story. In the lead-up to the recent Mother’s Day Classic, I contacted the organisers through a “tell your story” link on their website. From this, they got in touch with me about a possible news article in the local free paper, which then developed into an article in the Courier Mail. On the day, I was interviewed on stage about Hatiheri and my “new normal” as part of the lead-up to the actual run… and then I ran 4.5km in a personal best time. Our costume inspiration was “Rosie the Riveter” – I felt a connection to her because she was working in a time of adversity while wearing a headscarf … just like me!  
    I wish you all the very best for your own journey. I would like to end with a traditional African quote often used by Anita, “If you think you are too small to have an impact, then try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.”
    Oh and the seventh point? “We Can Do It!”

    08 May 2011

    Mother's Day Classic 2011: TEAM TISH - WE DID IT!

    I had a wonderful morning - thanks to all our "TEAM TISH" members for being with me on this important day.

    When asked why I was running in the "Mother's Day Classic", my answer was:

    • To say thanks for the research, without which I would not be alive.


    • To sustain strength and fitness so that I can (hopefully) reduce my chances of the disease returning

    • To keep up healthy lifestyle choices so that I can also (hopefully) become a mother myself after treatment has finished

    As a team we raised $1,140.00! What an incredible effort! This goes to the National Breast Cancer Foundation (Australia) for breast cancer research.

    I'd like to say special thanks to:

    Michael Ross Builders (my #1 supporter!)

    Thank you very much!

    01 May 2011

    Resources: Look Good ... Feel Better

    "Look Good...Feel Better is a free community service program dedicated to helping Australians cope with chemotherapy side effects, such as hair loss and changes to the skin. Cancer treatment and the ensuing appearance changes can be a very difficult for many of the thousands diagnosed with cancer each year in this country. The purpose of the program is to help them manage these side effects, with the use of skin care, make-up, hats, turbans and wigs, thereby helping to restore their appearance and self image."

    My experience with "Look Good...Feel Better" wasn't quite what I had expected... but I don't really know what I expected.

    It was the first time I had:

    • been in public with my cancer but not talked about it
    • revealed my bald head outside of my home
    • realised that cancer as a young adult was really different to that as a child or post-50
    I felt really out of place with the older women around me. I felt strange to be in a room full of women who seemed to have forced joviality. I felt weird to be surrounded by cancer but not talk about it.

    In retrospect, it was fabulous. It allowed me to think about having cancer, to acknowledge it, to consider some of the practical aspects, and to have some kind of fun - albeit forced fun - fun nevertheless. You know when you start to laugh, even though something isn't that funny, but if you keep laughing you soon forget what was(n't) funny but you just laugh for the sake of it. Well, the fun we had at LG...FB was a little bit like that.

    It was wonderful to be able to be out and doing something other than going to the hospital for medical appointments, and although cancer was the reason why we were in that room together, it wasn't the focus. Cancer was the means; enjoying ourselves with some free beauty products was the ends. (I would NOT say they were justified.)

    Now I am volunteer with Look Good ... Feel Better, every fourth Wednesday at the RBWH. I really enjoy spending time with the ladies and demonstrating how to draw on eyebrows and put on make-up to best enhance what we have!