Category Archives: Stress

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Surgery, death and post op recovery

Category : Family , Stress

Ok, a number of people are waiting on an update from me regarding surgery……here it is.

Suffice to say that I made it through ok, even though I did experience a looming sensation that I would die in surgery.  I know that sounds melodramatic, but for the first time in a long time, I really did think that luck and good management were not with me.  Maybe it’s because I recently lost an aunt who was admitted to hospital and she never came out.  And she looked fine in the photo I saw of her the day before she passed away.  It took me a long time to come to terms with it and I would suggest that given my mental state in the lead up to my own surgery, I can see that I have not dealt with it well at all.

I even broached the subject with Mark as to which kids would get what special and significant pieces of jewellery.  This conversation did not go well.  Mark refuse to listen.  I also told him that under no circumstances whatever, he was to sell all my card making and scrapbooking supplies for what I told him I purchased them for!  Bernie Butler, this is probably a job for you and mum to do if the time ever comes.

But all this got me thinking.  Since having kids, Mark and I have not finalised our wills.  Sure we have the main stuff covered, like the farm, the assets and the land.  But we don’t have the most important things covered.  Our kids.  This is a hard one.  But after having the shit frightened out of me in regards to this whole episode (not just the surgery but the whole thing), it has me thinking that we better get this stitched up.

But it is not as easy at it seems.  When you have a gaggle of kids, it is difficult ask people to take on that amount of responsibility.  Either the people you trust live too far away for the kids to keep their normal lives, or they have moved into a different phase of their own family existence, or age might be a factor with them.

I know that solicitors and legal professionals tell you to “just make the decision, put it in a drawer and move on”.  Really the chances that both Mark and I will die prior to at least Tom reaching age of consent is pretty low.  But it could happen.  And this surgery and my unfounded fear has bought it all rushing back at me.  So this is back in the table as far as a discussion.  And quite possibly, the older kids might be able to have some input into it all as well.   However, seeing as the 6 of us cannot agree on what take-away to have at dinner, the chances are we are going to be pulling names out of a hat for guardianship!  So get ready……it’ll be like winning the lotto!

But back to the surgery.  Well, Monday morning loomed fast….very fast considering I didn’t sleep very well overnight.  But as I was first off the rank, my wait time was about 3 minutes to get into pre-op and then about 30 minutes to get into anaesthetic.    Mark and I had to part ways at this point and I was getting more and more worked up.  Greg Malham, my surgeon, came in to see me and after I told him not to stuff it up he reassured me that he does these all the time and everything would be fine.  He said it would be much like me not letting any of my swimming kids drown when I worked…..he would not let me become a quadriplegic.

The anaesthetist, Arthur Penberthy, was a champ.  Quiet, funny and once I started crying because I was as nervous as shit, he knocked me out!  LOL.

The surgery took around 2hrs and I woke up in pain, feeling like I had been hit be a tractor and disorientated.  I know people were talking to me, but I dunno what they were saying.  I had a drain tube in my neck to relieve bruising and soreness, and a catheter because I can’t pee on heavy narcs.  Over the next few hours, the pain from my neck was really only localised inside my throat where they pull all your innards around and out of the way, but the pain in my back was something else.  I couldn’t lift my arm very well and I had weakness down the left side of my body.  I was drugged up enough so that this did make not a scrap of difference to me (except the pain), but Greg and the team were not happy and quickly shot me down for another MRI to make sure that everything was still where it should have been after surgery.


Greg came and spoke to me yesterday about the extent of the injury.  It turns out it was bad.  Quite bad.  Worse than he saw on the MRI.  I was one good knock away from being a quadraplegic.  And because of where the spinal cord injury was, I would have also been on a respirator for the rest of my life as well.   Of course, I was upset because I wasn’t being flippant with my health for all this time.  I simply have not been in any pain and had no idea had bad it actually was.  But everything is stable now; the new cage is in place, the screw are holding and as an added benefit, the scar I will end up with will be minor because of the way they stitch everything back up.  I will be fine.  And so long as I am a good girl and allow myself to heal properly, I will have no trouble resuming my normal lifestyle in the future with no risk to any part of my spine.

The weakness has also improved everyday.  When the drainage tube came out of my neck yesterday, the pain in my back disappeared.  So it must have been referred pain.  I am in pain of course still from surgery, but we are getting on top of it  They have these pain management teams that come around every day to see you.  They have change my meds around quite a bit and I think we have got it right with a new regime for me to go home with.

So with the catheter out, the drainage tube out, the IV out and the oxygen off, I think I am good to go home and face the mob…ahem, I mean the kids.  And sort out once and for all who will be the guardians of my galaxy if I wind up in a life threatening situation again.

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Oh, can it get any worse?

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Category : Family , Stress

Ok, so 2016 has not been a great year.  In fact, it has been a bloody terrible year.  A number of my friends are also saying the same thing.  What happened?  What bad thing did we all do to deserve all this bad ju-ju?

In a nutshell, personally, we have been hit with the milk price to end all milk prices, rain that just won’t bloody stop,  have suffered a number of health related issues including a knee operation for Mark, gastro for the kids, food poisoning for me, and a resistant staph infection for Mark.

Many of you know that I recently had an extremely painful event that was caused by some nerves in my neck.  I had an emergency CT scan done and a follow up MRI which all pointed to some dodgy disc in my neck that seemed to be the cause.  Yesterday I had an appointment with a neurosurgeon in Melbourne who frankly and bluntly told me the truth.  And it is not pretty.  At all.

He told me that I have a disc that has moved out of it’s place and is now trying to crush the life out of my spinal cord.  For those that know anything about vertebrae, it is my c5/6 disc.  Unfortunately, it is already causing some spinal cord issues (nerves and reflexes) and – here is the whopper – if it is not operated on immediately, it is only a matter of time before I become a quadriplegic.

Are you freaking kidding me???!!

Things got very serious very quickly with him going into see the lady that books the surgeries and asking when various other attendants would be available.  He assumed that I had only had the symptoms for 2 or 3 weeks, not the 7 or 8 months (or more!) that I admitted to.  He told me that there was no way that he would allow a 46yo mum of four to become a quadriplegic.  My body is in some sort of hyper state.  It thinks it is in constant pain even though I don’t notice it all that much.  Maybe I’ve put up with the constant pain for so long, I just see it as a norm.

But it’s not, and there might be a fix!  That’s a bit exciting!

So because this is all such a rushed thing now, I will be operated on Monday 17th October.  Yes, just a week and a half from now.  I will be in hospital for 4 days and then pretty much doing nothing for 4 weeks after that, including no driving.  Following that, 4 more weeks of only light movements building up to moderate in the following 4 weeks after that.  In 12 weeks, I should be back to normal.  So long as nothing goes wrong.

And here is the not so exciting bit.  The operation carries it’s own risks over and above normal surgery.  Somewhere between 2 and 3% have complications.  Wait a sec….that’s 2 or 3 people in every 100.  God I hope that he’s operated on 99 people so far this year and already had his 2 or 3 people.  I’m gold in that case!  The complications can range from affecting my vocal cords – which Mark is a little too excited about for my liking – to actually paralysing me or causing quadriplegia which is the very thing we are trying to avoid!  Yikes.  From the sounds of it, it is a little complicated as they go in through the front of my neck and have to traverse my innards (important shit like my vocal cords, carotid artery and spinal cord!) to get to this little piece of gristle that is causing all the problems.  He will take out my disc, give me a new one (hey, I like the sound of that!) and also give me a cage thingy that will keep it in place.  It’s sleek, black and I’ll sort of be like a terminator.  Made up of space age parts.

Wanna see?

What the new disc will look like

What the new disc will look like.  It is actually a cage with either bone fragments in it, or artificial bone.  I think I’m getting artificial bone.  I understand that my own body will deposit bone on this over time and fuse the space together.

The "cage" that will stop the new disc from coming out.

The plate that will stop the new disc (cage) from coming out.

The "cage"

The plate.   Those are some tough looking screws!!!

So, in the meantime, I am trying to organise how the 4 kids will be ferried around for the time I’m out, how the house will run, trying to get it looking like some sort of liveable habitat in case I get home care, how to manage my little swimmers, how I will manage my Stampin’ Up! business, and how we will manage silage with a farm worker down (and me supposed to be filling in).

I know it will all work out, but right now….it just seems a bit overwhelming.  Bear with me if I fall behind in stuff.

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Get ready to break out the pitchforks

Fonterra announced it’s end of financial year report yesterday, and front and centre was this figure: $834 million profit.


Quite frankly, I doubt whether many dairy farmers are going to read past this figure because it is just so BIG.  And it flies in the face of Fonterra CEO Theo Spiring’s comment that Australian dairy farmers were being paid too much.  Adding insult to injury, Theo went on further to say that “What we are doing is drive (sic) every cent of money which we can out of Australia back to New Zealand shareholders in this extremely low milk price environment.”


I’m guessing that Theo (and let’s be fair in sharing the blame around here..Gary Helou, former boss of Murray Goulburn) aren’t overly concerned that the milk that they sip in their overpriced lattes in the city actually contains only a poofteeth of the money that dairy farmers are paid for them to enjoy.

But why waste good time and energy on being concerned about the nations dairy farmers?  Because one of them isn’t here anymore and the other resides across the ditch.  But we are here.  Still slogging it out, trying to make ends meet and retain some sense of normality for our kids.  But to open up emails, twitter feeds, Facebook posts this morning to be greeted by $834 million profit.  Well….it almost made me choke on my own morning cuppa and spill the white gold!

I went to an industry forum on Wednesday that was put on by the Young Dairy Network (supported by Dairy Australia) where a number of speakers presented information on the wider industry outlook, Victorian farm results and on farm practical applications.  A sobering dinner speaker Dr Jon Hauser, bought a sense of reality to the day when, in his own words (“these are my opinions only”) suggested that Victorian dairy farmers that were supplying the commodity export markets could in reality not expect to see highs of $7/kgMS or even $6.50.  Sobering yes, devastating information, no.

In amongst all of yesterday morning’s noise dealing with the huge profit announced by Fonterra, there was also a hearty discussion about Wednesday’s forum.  Some criticised, some supported.  What I found interesting about the criticising camp was that it concentrated around the notion of getting rid of Dairy Australia.

I’ll come clean.  In a past life, I worked for the Department of Agriculture (or one of the many names it presented itself as) and I was an extension officer.  This role meant that I was to take R&D results and deliver them to farmers in either workshops, discussion groups, focus groups or one on one in a form that could be implemented on farm.  Back then, the DofAg was the go-to for independent research, development and extension.  But those days are gone.  Completely gone.  Dairy farmers pay a levy which funds Dairy Australia.  Dairy Australia (DA) uses this money to drive R&D, extension (or workshops), promotion and raising the profile of the dairy industry to our city counterparts.  Is it perfect?  No.  And I will be the first one to say I have some criticisms and reservations about some of the activities.  But do I think it is a waste of money?  No.  Do I think that it should be scrapped?  God no.

Getting rid of DA would do no good for the dairy industry.  Without them in the landscape, farmers would be at the mercy of research and development that was done by commercial organisations that have a vested interest in a particular set of results.  And we would pay handsomely for it.  More than the levies paid to DA.

Someone on Facebook made the comment that they could take the money they paid in levies to DA and do their own research.  Good luck with that.  Your $8K (as was quoted in the post) is not going to go very far.  Sure you can travel the globe and check out innovative and interesting farming practices, but implementing them back on your own farm is quite another thing.  A quarter of that amount is going to disappear in travel costs alone.  And then there is the accomodation, meals, drinks….

DA and the United Dairy Farmers of Victoria (UDV) are being caught up in the blame game that is happening right now.  However, what we must understand is, neither of these organisations had any sway on what happened.  Yes, the UDV has been active in the arena of trying to sort out the mess, but they didn’t cause this.  DA didn’t cause this.  The leadership of Theo Spierings and Gary Helou caused this.

If we are going to break out the pitchforks and go on a Salem type witch hunt, let’s make sure that we are hunting the right people.  Let’s make sure that the heads on the spikes are the ones that put us in this predicament.  Because I want this industry to not just survive, I want it to thrive.  I want to have the confidence in the longevity of it.  When hubby and I eventually give up the dairy game, I don’t want to be buying my milk out of Tetrapaks from China.  I want to have the knowledge that the forums such as Wednesday’s are going to keep happening.  Because that will mean that young people are still interested and entering our industry.

Which is a good thing.

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The division of power

Category : Family , Stress

I recently had the opportunity to read an article written by Chaunie Brusie on social media (see article here) that talked about how she stopped asking her husband for “permission” to have her own time and the effect that it had on her, her relationship and the household.

I don’t want to open up a whole gender bashing segment here, but I have to say, that girl wrote my thoughts.  Her initial thoughts at least.  I have not actually taken the next step to empowering myself as yet…but the time is coming.

There is an old adage of “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world” or something like that.  But do you know, after nearly 12 years of being at home being the primary caretaker of the family, the person who is responsible for the running of the household, the one who is forever organising events, playdates, parties, school things, extra curricula crap, what I have gotten out of it?  Frustration, jealousy, mess, wrinkles, lost sleep, a snappy side to my character and a feeling of less than who I am.  I am certainly not ruling our house, let alone the world!


Now don’t get me wrong.  I got into this kid factory business with my eyes open.  I made the conscious and (at the time) self sacrificing offering with full knowledge.  Or so I thought.

I had cause recently to write a bit of a story on my life so far.  I left out a few bits, glossed over others and probably over emphasised and over romanticised my less than glorious past.  But one thing I did note, with clarity and truthfulness, was that despite everything I had done and all the study and all the connections and all the travel and all the experiences and all the life lessons… the end of the day, I boiled down to a SAHM.  And it was like I had been giving a fucking lobotomy rather than just having a baby.

All of a sudden, my husband, who at this point in time and compared to me had only limited exposure on boards and steering committees, was seen as the “boss” or the “head of the household”.  He was the one that people deferred to for opinion.  He was the one that was able to be counted on to do something.  And I let it.

Not only did I let it happen, I encouraged it.  I facilitated it.  I managed it.  It’s left me wondering how smart I actually am.

We have 4 kids under 11yrs.  When Henry came along, I had 4 kids under 6yo.  It was hard.  And unrewarding.  And there were some points that I could not believe that I had gotten to where I was.  But I love them with a fierce pride and really, I would not do it any other way.  In fact if the truth be known, if age had not beaten me, I would have had more.  But somewhere along the way, my hubby and I stopped being a team and it became just me.  I was the one to juggle everything and if I needed or wanted to go somewhere without the kids, it felt like I had to produce a GANTT chart and a powerpoint presentation just to justify getting out of the house.  And show just cause as to how everything would run when I was not there.

I am lucky.  I am an only child and my mum lives close by.  The reality is, she is my go to person for child minding duties, not Mark.  Like me, she has dug a hole for herself and over the course of this year, I have tried to pull her out of that hole by making sure that Mark will look after the kids.  Henry is 4 now and can certainly trail around after him for various jobs.  The others are at school, so they are not as much of an issue, and anyway, Tom is 11 and is “quite ok to look after myself mum”.

I blame no-one but myself for this predicament I am in.  I caused this.  Maybe I thought that Mark could not do things as well as me.  Maybe I thought he would really struggle.  Maybe I thought I was irreplaceable.  Regardless, things need to change.

In speaking with a number of girlfriends, it seems a common predicament.  Somehow us modern and progressive gals, have managed to somehow partially turn back the clocks to the 50’s.  Not that we actually ask for permission to go out or have time to ourselves, but nevertheless, if we do want a night our on the town with the girls, how many of us run around organising babysitters, meals and routines so that hubby is not inconvenienced in some way?  What’s worse, we don’t probably even realise we are doing it.

The original mothers group that I joined when Tom was 2 weeks old still get together.  Long gone is the need for us to get together to provide socialisation for our babies….the socialisation is more for us now.  We attempt to get together once a month (ok, doesn’t always pan out) for dinner and a chat starting at around 7pm.  This means, that hubbies are home with the kids, doing the dinner, the bathing, the homework and the wrestle into bed.  Without us.  And yet, almost without exception, each one of us has cooked dinner for them to eat before we have even left the house, have got school uniforms ready for the next day and probably whacked on a load of washing as well BEFORE getting ready to go out.

Let’s flip the coin.

My hubby has a meeting.  Or a social outing.  He walks in, has a shower, gets dressed and walks out.  That’s it.  He doesn’t give a second thought to whether there are clean clothes for the kids to wear the next day, or whether we have run out of bread so he will have to make a quick drive by Woolies before 10pm to grab some.  He only has to think of being clean, dressed and getting to wherever he is going on time.

I’m not sure how far down this slippery slope I have slid, but it is time to make a change.  A change for me.  A change for the overall better.  Mark and I need to become a team again.  After all, we both wanted kids, we both live in the same place and we both contribute to the fabric of the family.  So we should both shoulder the burdens of family life.  I may have to take baby steps and I’m sure that there will be time that I will sigh in exasperation at the way things are done, or curse under my breath that good clothes are worn out to get cows, or rage on the inside when I do walk back inside the house and there are 4 out of 5 things not done.  But I need help and I need things to be fair.  And I think that we will all benefit immensely.



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Look after #1

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend the South West Ladies Lunch which is really another name for a lunch attended by 300 odd female dairy farmers and an excuse to drink champers.  Not enough champers, but it was on offer.  Milkshakes too if you wanted!  This is only the second one I have attended although they have been going for about 5 years or so (probably longer in some different guises).

The presenter at this year’s event was non other than Dr Sally Cockburn (pron. Coh-burn, not Cock-burn), or better known as Dr Sally Feelgood.  Sally was entertaining and funny and insightful and truthful and talked bout things that most dairy women – and dare I say, women in general – don’t want to address.  That they put themselves last.  Nearly always.

She put up a slide of one of those talented Chinese performers that can keep all those plates spinning on chopsticks and not let any of them fall.  She likened a lot of womens lives to that picture.  That we are madly keeping all the plates spinning (or the balls in the air) and feeling like it needs to be US that keeps them going, that we let the really important person in our lives down.  Ourselves.

I really hadn’t thought of it in that way before. It sort of hit me like a ton of bricks really and it is such a stupidly simple concept that inside me, I was a bit upset with myself that I had let me down.

Last week, I suffered some major nerve impingement whilst at my second (or is that third or fourth??) job.  I was in the water teaching kids to swim and it was right at the end of class when I moved a particular way and BAM!  EXCRUCIATING pain in the forms of pins and needles and numbness right down both arms and legs.  A trip to A&E and a rushed CT scan showed a distinct narrowing of some vertebrae in my neck.  A rushed MRI shows that there is something wrong with one of the discs as it is bending my spinal cord into the shape of a banana!  Pain killers, muscle relaxants, anti inflams were all prescribed and taken duly (because I was in so much pain).  But you know what?  For months…and I mean MONTHS….I had been getting around with non painful electric shocks down arms and legs.  But I did nothing about them.  I did trapse off to an osteopathy guy here in our town and some improvement in extremely stiff muscles was noted, but the pins and needles remained.

How long would I have ignored them for had I not been forced to end up in casualty last Thursday night?  And why?

Because I am one of those people that keeps all the plates spinning.  I am the one that organises the household (not very well mind you), makes sure the there are clean clothes, food in the pantry, meals on the table, costumes to wear to book week, appointments to keep, ferrying kids to sports, washing, dishes, housework, doing bookwork, doing swimming teaching, running a card making business……on and on. And looking after EVERYBODY before me.

As I sit here typing this, I have stopped the pain meds.  Because in a household that contains a 4yo that is into everything, being dopey on drugs is not a great choice.  So I put up with the pain.  And life needs to go on.  Kids need to be taught to swim, my own family needs to be fed and bathed and clothed and loved.  And I can’t do it on pain meds all the time.

But if there was one thing that I took away from yesterday, is that it is ok to ask for help and it is ok to admit defeat.  I don’t think enough of us do it until too late.  Much too late for some.