Up until I was 29, my life was very normal. I mean, I got hit by a car in 2012 but besides that, it was relatively non eventful. I started as an embryo that grew into a baby, child, teenager and now adult.

Pretty accurate evolution of Carla. Darwin would be proud.

Then 2019 became the year where everything went from normal to everyday being extraordinary.

Extraordinary is usually a positive word. In this case, it’s a way of reflecting on how I managed at all. I originally thought I had a UTI because they started of as cramps and it wasn’t that special time of the month. So I was prescribed antibiotics and I drank an insane amount of cranberry juice for a week. By the weekend, the pain became intolerable that walking was impossible. I went to the GP, thinking I was getting stronger antibiotics. I explained where my pain was.

Doctor: “let me examine where it’s hurting”.

I lie down on the bed

Doctor: “I’m really sorry”

Then pushed into my lower abdomen where my now defunct appendix used to be.

I yelped- very loudly.

I was sent to ED. It was then decided that they would take my appendix out. So far, good times.

I get a call from the hospital a week later saying during a biopsy, they found a burst tumour in my appendix.

Have you ever felt so numb, even silence is deafening? I can still remember that moment. I can still feel that moment. It was the moment I knew something was very, very wrong.

They performed a whole lot of tests, scans and I got to drink many coffees all over the western suburbs of Melbourne. Work provided a distraction but nothing could silence the fear. As my appointment got closer, the fear got louder.

“Does your family have a history of cancer?”

This was the first question the doctor asked. It was also the only thing I remember hearing him say. I cried throughout the rest of the appointment. I knew my GP wanted to know the results so I got him to draw a diagram and write notes on an ipad that I took a photo of.

Note: I have noticed these illnesses have some reference to the latin language. I am never playing scrabble with a medical person.

Cancer removal operation draft A

I do remember he confirmed I had cancer. It was a tricky little cancer that would soon a become the biggest pain I’ve ever dealt with.

At this time, I was living with family with the intention of moving out. Naturally, as I broke the news to them then my immediate family over face-time in New Zealand, I had to push pause on those plans. I had to push pause on life because I had no idea what was happening.

I felt it was important for my family, colleagues and close friends to know from me. They mean the world to me and the thought of them finding out from anybody else felt deceitful. It was the most difficult month of my life, going round to their house, calling them via messenger and texting them. If there is any new development, I always told them.

Breaking the news to my family was brutal. We had lost my Nana to an aggressive gall bladder cancer a few years earlier. To think that I was the next in line to deal with it wasn’t something I knew how to convey. In a way, it was a way of avoiding dealing with my new reality. Focusing on everybody else diverted their attention from the fact that I was in agony every second of the day. Night time was worse. I survived on very strong coffee and chocolate. One to put me on such a buzz it kept my mind busy, the other was for comfort. Night time was also hard because I felt isolated just going back to my bedroom after work. I had no one to talk to because how do you understand if you’ve never had cancer? How do you tell people how much pain you’re in when you have no idea what’s happening? So I just cried myself to sleep most nights and waited for an operation date.

After telling them and a few selected friends, I didn’t say a word to anyone else. On my last day before my surgery, my manager asked what should she say if anyone asks why I wasn’t at work and I said you can tell them. I didn’t expect too big a reaction because all I ever did was shop and put clothes away. The love I received when I got back to work was incredible! They’re still incredible.

Some days were, and are, harder than others. Sometimes, walking down the stairs and breathing was a struggle but I always told myself, if I can make it out the front door, I’d be fine. The front door was my freedom. Well, that’s what I told myself.

The biggest blessing I had during this time (and still is) was my nieces and nephews. They were all little and had no idea what was happening. They still don’t. To them, I’m Aunty. I’m there to entertain them, feed them and put them to sleep. It was my saving grace at the time because it was the only time I was happy.

I was on the phone to the nurse quite a  few times to explain how much pain I was in and if they had a date for my operation. Every doctors appointment, I asked if they had a date for my operation. I was either told:

“We’re meeting on Tuesday to discuss future operations. We’ll let you know when we’ve booked you in”

“I’ve sent them an email, hopefully we’ll have an answer for you soon.”

“If something was wrong, it would have showed up on the scans.”

“Also, remember the are others that are worse off. We are trying to help everyone.”

“Leave a message and we’ll get back to you in 2 business days.” (Most popular one)

Didn’t. Hear. A. Thing.

I told my family what the doctors and nurses said and they sided with them. I can understand it now because who wants to think the worse when you had a glimmer of hope to cling on? No one was listening and it broke my heart. I knew something was wrong in body and no one was listening. The pain felt like severe cramps and stabby and sometimes it cramped on so bad, I couldn’t breathe. It also felt like it was spreading all over my abdomen. Abdomen is a funny word. Like, say it 10 times at it feels like your doing a circus trick with your mouth.

I saw a therapist every week. All I did was cry and tell her about everything that was happening in my body. I feared it was much worse then what they were saying. Even she tried to get in touch with someone to help me. It was the most bullshit conversation because it genuinely sounded like the medical professional thought I was making it up.

They wouldn’t prescribe me any pain meds as they didn’t think it was that bad. They suggested taking 2 panadol every 4 hours and it should be fine. I told them it wasn’t working and they just said they’ll talk to the doctors.  I ended up taking 3 or 4 panadol or ibuprofen every 4 hours because it was the only thing I could take and 2 did nothing. This was my life for 3 months.

One day, I had enough and decided I would not get off the phone until the nurse literally did something other then send another damn email. If it meant I bugged her then go to the hospital and sit there until I got an answer then fine. The pain reminded me of the Saturday they took out my appendix but much worse. It was too familiar and I said all of this to the nurse.

I finally got an appointment to organise a date for my surgery.

He wanted to operate that week but they were fully booked. So he said to book me the next Thursday available. That was in 2 weeks. My operation was on October 23rd, 2019.

Remember when I said how I feared it worse then they said? You remember the diagram the doctor drew up on the ipad? It was suppose to be an easy operation where they took out some of my intestines and colon. Yeah, there’s a reason I called it a draft.

It turns out I was right. The tumours had spread. It became a major operation.


The right side of my large intestines,

1x gall bladder

1x spleen

1/3  of my liver

1/3 of my colon

Some fat around my stomach (free liposuction- thanks!)

some of my intestines lining

scrapped it off my diaphragm and uterus.


When I gained consciousness, I asked what happened. They told me what they took out and that it had spread, I WAS FUMING.

Would this had happened if they listened? Why did they make me feel like a nuisance when I insisted something was wrong? How hard is it to do another scan? One of the doctors I asked about my surgery date was on the team. I hated him so much for doing nothing. To be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever like him. It might just get easier to cope with the flashbacks but that feeling will never change.

The miracle was that the cancer didn’t seep into any of the organs. It just coated it. I say ‘just’ like it was no biggie. Like my organs were coated in panko crumbs.

I saw my therapist a week after the surgery. We looked at each other and I just cried.

I decided I’d put my feelings to the side because I needed to heal. They insisted they got everything out with the surgery and HIPEC so I just needed to heal. Then everything will be fine. Looking at the surgeons and resisting the urge to scream at them was made easier because I was on some full on pain meds. I was too busy looking at gorillas in tutus and dancing masks to care. Also, everything that could go wrong, went wrong in the first two weeks. Fluid build up, severe pain around my pelvis, vomiting (turns out my stomach worked too hard during the surgery and had a 4 week nap.), nausea, being stuck in bed for ages, tiredness from everything happening. They decided to give me my own room because it would be easier to monitor me that way.

When I was sharing a room, my room mate was delightful. She had a form of bowel cancer (I think). She was a kiwi and had a gorgeous little baby. Her family came everyday and it was so nice to see. We talked whenever we could about her treatment and my surgery. We talked a lot about NZ and how much we missed home. I think she said she was from Shepparton. I imagine that was far away.

My family were there everyday. My Aunty flew over from NZ first and I think she saw the worst of my recovery. Then my mum came over once she got her visa sorted. It felt nice to just hear their voices and feel their presence. My mum gave me foot massages everyday and my cousins gave my hand massages. They helped me shower because my scar and UV lines made it hard to shower myself. I was so doped up, I wasn’t fussed with being self concious.

It took longer than expected to recover. I ended up spending my 30th birthday in hospital. It was bitter-sweet. I didn’t think in a million years this is where I’d be on my 30th. My mum came with massive 30th birthday ballons and attached it to that machine they put IV lines on. I was still getting fed via the IV line on my birthday. My older cousin and his wife surprised me with a cake, a tickle me Elmo and beautiful paper flowers that my nieces and nephew made. I still have them, they’re on my prayer table. They said I could eat cake but I had to spit it out or I’d vomit. It felt so counter intuitive to spit out cake. Almost illegal. I still had a gastric tube, draining my stomach acid so the crumbs that escaped down my oesophagus came out in the tube. Evidence of my rebellion.

My 30th birthday party room

The nurses on the ward surprised me later by singing Happy Birthday and they had a cake. My cousin stood up and said some nice words and thanked the nurses for looking after me and my non existent veins. One time, they had to use an ultrasound machine to find a vein. It didn’t work, my veins cannot be traced that easily.

All my family came with presents and we just chilled in my ward. My Aunty bought me the prettiest cake from Brunettis. I was too tired to rebel again so we gave the pretty cake to the nurses for their supper. My 30th turned into a birthday where gratitude was the main meal of the day. I realised I was healing in a hospital where some people weren’t going to see Christmas (my birthday is in November). I got to celebrate more birthdays because the tumour wanted to remodel the organs and renovate the interior of my bowel. It didn’t think buying property was necessary. It’s just renting studio space, learning interpretive dance around the lining of my abs. Like, I appreciate the artistry. I just wish I wasn’t suffering for the sake of their art.

The interpretive dancing tumour. Expressing itself part #6,4326 (and counting)…

My Uncle said a beautiful prayer and said some lovely words. Then we discussed Christmas and how I was so happy to be around them. It was very humbling, emotional and beautiful.

After I got discharged, I went to NZ for a holiday and to see my family. I hadn’t seen them since April so I wanted to show them my scar. I was quite proud of my scar.

After I got back, I did follow up scans to see to see how my abdomen was going. They found there was still spots of tumour left in my bowel. Next stage was chemotherapy.

2019 became such a life changing year. I was forced to confront every aspect of myself- the good, bad and ugly. You can’t escape cancer either. Believe me, I’ve tried. 2019 started the worse time in my life, where I have constantly questioned the value of my existence. 2019 also created the greatest time of my life too. Nothing makes you feel more alive then knowing your own mortality. Ying and Yang, as they say.

2 responses to “2019”

  1. Love you , I’m reading this Carla my sweet friend and remembering it , how well you hid your pain and all your emotions if only you were beside me now I would embrace you in a hug. . You a truly one of the most beautiful people to have entered my life and I’m so lucky to have met you , Love you ,I’m always here for you don’t ever forget that .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Maria! Being around such beautiful women, like yourself, was and is such a blessing. Love you always and thank you for being with me during this journey. xoxoxoxoxo


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