"Where there is creativity, there is hope." ~ Donna Karan

Autumn and Winter Achievements

by - Monday, November 04, 2019

Back in February I set myself six goals to work towards achieving over March and April. So how did I go?

While I didn't achieve everything on my goals list by the end of April I continued doing the best I could on my better days and I'm now happy to report that I've achieved everything I hoped to. 

I am incredibly proud of myself for persevering in the face of so many setbacks and challenges:

On a bad fatigue day one Saturday in March, I dragged myself into the shower and soon wished I hadn't.

After showering I was about to open the shower door and get out when I noticed my bath mat glistening through the steamy glass. It looked like a bucket of glitter had been dumped on it.

What the heck?

If only it was glitter; water had flooded my entire bathroom.

Oh my goodness.

Something had obviously gone awry while I had the water running but I couldn't find any leaks or work out where the water had come from. I thought the flooding was contained to my bathroom, so I was like this is fine, I can clean this up and arrange for a plumber to investigate

But when I opened my bathroom door I revealed how dire the situation was. To my horror, half of our apartment was flooded.

The water had travelled all the way down the left side of our little abode. It travelled under furniture and soaked the carpets in both bedrooms. Unexpectedly, it seeped through my wardrobe and soaked my shoes. It even travelled out of our apartment's door into the hallway!

Apart from a section of our living room and kitchen, everything got wet to some degree. It was a bit of a nightmare. I had to throw a few things out but thankfully nothing important got damaged.

My sister was out, so I was alone and freaking out. I called my dad in a panic hoping he could come to my rescue but he was busy working. He left a message with my sister to call me as I was very upset, which she found amusing. I was like it's okay for you, you're not here having to deal with this mess - of course it's funny to you

To be fair, it was kind of funny but I just wasn't in the mood to see the funny side. I was very annoyed that it happened to me on such a bad day and that the whole ordeal stole energy from me I didn't even have to spare.

My mum kindly reminded me of those who were losing their homes in the Gippsland bushfires, which did help turn my mood and attitude around.

I will not lie though - feeling extra unwell from the physical exertion this drama demanded sucked.

But I got through it.

I soaked up all the water I could with old towels and mopped. I had an emergency maintenance plumber out within the hour to find the problem - the water had overflowed from the floor drain while I was showering, but the exact cause of the blockage wasn't identifiable.

Getting water out of the carpets turned out to be the most frustrating and lengthy process of the cleanup. The plumber confirmed they were soaked right through and required professionals as quickly as possible.

We spent a few days walking on squelching carpet and inhaling the disgusting stench of water hitting the floor slab until someone could come out. The smell was like sewage and it permeated our entire apartment.

As we were amid some hot nights, I had my fan on trying to help dry the carpet in my bedroom while also trying to keep cool, but it caused me to keep waking in the night as the pungent smell kept blowing in my face. It was horrible.

Our apartment wasn't a fun place to be. 

The carpet guy came to find the damage wasn't as bad as he was expecting. He was pretty impressed with our clean up efforts. (I should say my because I did most of the work.) 

''Can you come work for us?!'' he asked, half-joking. Had I been well enough to manage work I would have asked for a job opportunity!

He delighted in telling us horror flood stories. He had recently been to a two-storey home where water had flooded part of the top floor and the ceiling caved in with the weight of it. Yikes.

Another person he was called out to had taken a sleeping tablet and didn't wake to the sound of a pipe bursting in the night. They awoke in the morning, greeted by ankle-deep water as they got out of bed. That could have easily been me.

Hearing these stories filled me with more gratitude. It could have been much, much worse. Ahh, my friend perspective. In the grand scheme of things it was a minor nuisance.

He left us with industrial carpet blowers to dry the carpets before returning a few days later to steam clean.

My sister and I loved the carpet blowers; they were more efficient at keeping us cool and were surprisingly cheap to run. We wanted to keep them for summer. Speaking of warm weather, we were lucky this happened during an autumn hot spurt and not in the dead of winter. What a headache that would have been!

This ordeal was all a good learning experience I guess. I learnt how to clean up a flooded apartment and the steps for drying heavily soaked carpet.

Now I know exactly what to do should it ever happen again. Knock on wood. And I also know to keep an eye on the floor drain in my bathroom while showering.

Plus, I got to enjoy some eye candy - the plumber that came out was delicious!

Fast forward to June, I was walloped with a massive pain flare-up in my dominant hand as a result of stopping hormone therapy. It was so damn painful; I was utterly miserable. It was even worse than the wrist and finger pain I had while I was on the drug and that was pretty bad at times!

For just over a week it was insanely painful to do basic things like getting dressed, tying my hair up and doing dishes. I had to do what I could with my other hand and do the bare minimum. The pain was like what I had with severe carpal tunnel syndrome *shudder*, and just as bad - if not worse - than rheumatoid arthritis pain.

After dealing with these dramas I kept plowing through to achieve my goals. Here's what I've accomplished over the last several months: 

Goal achieved: Clean out kitchen cupboards and reorganise. Full honesty - this goal is only 90% completed. But I think that's a good effort to be celebrated.

I still need to rearrange a few things and get some more suitable storage (it's still trial and error with a challenging cupboard layout), but I've achieved the main thing I wanted - clean shelves and more functionality.

I know where everything is; things are no longer randomly shoved in cupboards which means I don't have to spend precious energy looking for a tupperware lid. The heavy appliances that I use frequently are now easily accessible, making cooking easier. Groceries are also quicker to put away and looking for ingredients isn't a small nightmare.

Although working towards this goal has been an energy vampire, it has been very satisfying and life-changing. I feel less stressed.

I like storing canned food in magazine holders. I pinched this storage idea from Pinterest. I'm using some old ones I had lying around temporarily until I get some black or pale pink ones.
I've semi-organised my tea stash and mugs. These handy shelves from The Reject Shop are saving my sanity while trying to better organise and create more storage space in a small kitchen. Now I just need to get some nice tea storage, but it's already looking much better than the mess it was before.

How I achieved my goal: I adjusted some shelves to help with rearranging bulky items and tackled one section at a time whenever I felt motivated and up to it. I pulled everything from the cupboards, gave them a good scrub, and threw out any food that had expired and was taking up valuable space.

I also ditched the plastic containers I was storing food in because they were ugly and didn't bring me joy when I opened the cupboards.

Shopping for nicer food storage at Ikea helped motivate me to get things clean and better orgainised. I chose these gorgeous glass jars because they ''sparked joy,'' which helps me maintain clean and organised shelves.

I'm currently using labels from The Reject Shop until I can make my own.

My reward: Even though I still need to get some storage pieces and shuffle some things around, I thought I deserved a little reward for making it this far while contending with flank pain, shortness of breath and excessive sweating. So I put together a little artificial flower arrangement for our kitchen.

If you know me, you probably know that I hate modern style, so I'm thrilled to finally have a bit of rustic in our kitchen which doesn't look too out of place in a modern apartment. I had my eye on this cute little milk bottle crate at Spotlight and was excited when it came on clearance. The flowers are also from Spotlight, I just cut them to the height I wanted.

When the kitchen is 100% complete, I plan to reward myself with some kitchen decor from Kmart and Ikea.

Goal achieved: Investigate new symptoms. I wanted to find answers to why I was experiencing bad flank pain, excessive sweating episodes and shortness of breath.

My general practitioner seemed happy to put it down to fibromyalgia or hyperhidrosis with no underlying cause. But that didn't sit right with me. I knew my body and I knew something wasn't quite right, so I pushed for answers.

How I achieved my goal: I had lots of tests done to rule things out and have been to many doctors (who all gave me a different opinion) to sort this mess out. I've had blood tests, x-rays and an echocardiogram. My rheumatologist eliminated the possibility of a link to my history of rheumatoid arthritis and I had to monitor my blood pressure for a week. I was even tested for premature menopause.

After every test came back negative, my general practitioner started to question if this was all related to side effects from a drug I was on.

At the beginning of 2018 my endometriosis specialist put me on a drug that's commonly used to treat breast cancer in some women. One of the main side effects of this drug is severe menopause-like symptoms, which I was not informed of prior to taking it.

WebMD lists hot flushes, hair loss, joint/bone/muscle pain, tiredness, unusual sweating, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, and trouble sleeping as common side effects. I was experiencing all these listed side effects except hair loss, so suspicions it was this drug that was making me ill were high.

I stopped the god-awful drug in May after my endometriosis specialist agreed it might be the problem. After five weeks off the drug I started feeling a little better, but I was still struggling with shortness of breath. So, I came off another hormone after a pharmacist informed me it can cause shortness of breath.

For two months I was in blissful side effect free heaven. And then five months after stopping the main culprit, the flank pain, sweating, shortness of breath and feeling super weird came back. 

Thankfully, they aren't as severe as they were while I was on hormone therapy, but they're back.

It's so crazy. 

It has been a long and frustrating journey, but with a lot of research (mainly on my part), I think I've figured out what's happening to me.

I don't think the flank pain I'm getting is a side effect from hormone therapy; I think it might be coincidental. It appears to be cyclic - it comes on suddenly, hangs around for a few days to a week, and then disappears for two weeks or so before returning.

I think it may be related to either endometriosis or adenomyosis. It's probably referred pain from my uterus or somewhere else in my pelvis. The worst case scenario? Endometriosis has infiltrated my urinary tract. I'm hoping this isn't the case but some days I think my urine seems off. Maybe it explains why my urine was so acidic back in December?

As for the sweating and all that, I'm certain the breast cancer drug is responsible. But why am I experiencing side effects when I haven't taken it for five months is the question?  It's like the drug flicked a switch in my brain or body that can't be turned off. I'm wondering if taking this drug has much more lasting consequences than I've been led to believe. My general practitioner is questioning this too.

Finding answers to these questions is my next challenge.

As much as this sucks, I'm better off than I was back in March. At least I know I'm not going crazy. For a minute there I really thought I was. Going forward I plan to get my urine checked again and have the flank pain better investigated. 

As for the side effects that have returned, I will keep a diary of them and if I'm still dealing with them come next year I will ask my doctors to phone an oncologist for advice - someone who  knows the drug inside out and exactly what it can do to a woman's body.

I'm so angry with my gynecologist for prescribing that horrid drug and I'm angry at myself for trusting them. Never again!

My reward: For getting another step closer to solid answers I rewarded myself with a doughnut. Oh, who am I kidding, I had a few too many doughnuts for making it this far through hell.

Goal achieved: Catch up with one or two friends from church. I smashed this goal and met three friends for separate coffee dates. I'm really enjoying getting to know people; I've met some incredible souls and have gained great, supportive, kind and trustworthy friends.

How I achieved this goal: I was brave and asked some women if they wanted to meet for coffee. This is huge progress for me. While I've made leaps and bounds healing from past church hurt, I still struggle with self-esteem issues. I have this huge fear that I'm not a likeable person and I'm also terrified of being a burden to others. Some people at my last church treated me like I was a burden and I never want to be that to anyone in this church; so it takes a lot of courage to work at making friends and ask for a bit of help and support when I need it most.

My reward: I ordered chai lattes - one of my favourite things in life. When I see a cafe has loose leaf chai with honey on the drinks menu, I get excited. I'm addicted! I have no photo proof of this though. Most of the time I just want to go to a cafe and not have to stress about taking a photo with the right lighting and angle, you know? It's exhausting.

Goal achieved: Clean my shower. I wanted to give my shower a deep clean for a rental inspection, and well... because it was filthy. And clean it I did. I scrubbed it squeaky clean and had it looking immaculate for the inspection. Our property manager complemented us on our furniture and not my amazingly clean shower. Sigh.

How I achieved this goal: Instead of cleaning it all in one hit and landing myself in bed for two days, I concentrated on cleaning one area at a time, pacing myself over five days. It was still challenging and it still made me fatigued and caused my pain to flare, but doing it this way made it more manageable.

I also tried a different cleaning product - Gumption Multi-purpose Cleaner, after reading rave reviews. I'm impressed with how well it works on grout and shower screens; it has become a staple in my cleaning cupboard. It feels so good to have a shower that's cleaner than ever.

My reward: I spent a gift card I received for Christmas and got this lovely artificial orchid I'd been eyeing off for ages at Kmart. My bathroom doesn't have windows so I'm loving how much this helps brighten up a small, boxed-in space.

Goal achieved: Complete 3-4 craft projects. I wanted to make some beautiful gifts and I think I did just that. I had a go at making my first chocolate tree for a friend's thirtieth and I focussed on completing a gift for my mum's birthday.

For a last minute Mother's Day gift I also whipped up a fancy chocolate bouquet. As you can probably tell, my mum's favourite colour is pale blue.

How I achieved this goal: I crafted in 20 minute blocks (sometimes longer) on my better days. For the chocolate tree I researched what materials I needed. I tried scouring the internet for design inspiration but ended up doing my own thing and relying on my own ideas as nothing inspired me for these projects.

My reward: I'm still yet to check out that craft store that's not too far from me, but I did go craft shopping at Spotlight earlier in the year during a sale, so I can't say I'm devoid of craft supplies.

Goal achieved: Change blog name and template. If you don't know that I've successfully accomplished this goal you need to get your brain scanned. Also, probably go read Welcome to Chapter Creativity - the story of how my blog's new name and layout came to be, so you're not in the dark. 

How I achieved this goal: I googled until my head exploded and figured out how to change domain names and get it connected to my blog. I ended up watching a YouTube tutorial in another language because it was easier to follow than the written instructions in English! I also prayed. A lot.

My reward: I am yet to have a pizza and board games night with a friend, so that's something to look forward to.

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