A Sunburnt Childhood

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My memoir ‘A Sunburnt Childhood’ will be released on 22 March 2016

PUBLICITY:  Live interview ‘Conversations with Richard Fidler’ on Thursday 24th March at 11 am across Australia. 

Click here to buy the paperback or EBook on BOOKTOPIA

Click here to order a copy on Amazon – A Sunburnt Childhood on Amazon

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2015 came and went in a whirl

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Hello Beautiful people
We have had an amazing year in the Coutts Household with seven weeks overseas, my book being signed up by a major publisher and having a studio built.
The trip was awesome – first up a 14 day cruise on the Azamara Quest, from Southampton to Guernsey, Cork, Dublin, Liverpool, Belfast, Isle of Skye, Stornoway, Edinburgh Sailing overnight and then Shaun playing gold with 150 other golfers, mainly Americans at all those ports. It was bitterly cold the whole time! I read three books, did a few land tours, drank wine and ate too much food. Met some great people (600 total on the ship). Went to the British Open at St Andrews for a day and it was amazing. Not a golf person but to see such a massive world class event was fabulous and we have great seats at the 16th Hole and saw all the top players in the world going past. Again it was bitterly cold.
The best part not having to constantly pack and unpack and lug cases around on the cruise
Hired a car in Scotland and spent seven days visiting family. We ate Pheasant and Venison and fresh Salmon and of course drank way too much wine! – Drove right into the Highland’s where a cousin lives, and looked for Nessie and visited Braveheart Country at Stirling Castle. Highlight was seeing the ‘Kelpies.’ If you get to Scotland make sure you see these massive stainless steel sculptures of two horse heads.
Down to London by Train and met up for our 12 day European Whirl Coach Tour. 52 people on the coach – Belgium, Amsterdam – dinner sailing down the canals, lunch sailing along the Rhine in Germany and staying overnight in Heidelberg. Went to Tyrolean Dinner with traditional German dancing, lots of beer and yodelling!
Into Italy to Florence, Venice, Rome and a lunch in a restored castle in Tuscany. Saw the Vatican and the Coliseum, went on a gondola ride in Venice, visited Murano Glass and so much more. The weather was nice but experienced a one in 25 year hail storm at about 7 o’clock at night. The ceiling of the hotel’s dining area leaked all over the buffet dinner!
Left Italy and spent a day and night in Lucerne in Switzerland – beautiful country of course and then off to Paris for a couple of days.
Paris is everything and more – Did all the sight seeing, went up the Eiffel Tower, floated up the Seine, Arc de Triomphe, Palace of Versailles etc. etc., but the highlight for me was going to Moulin Rouge.
Back to London and then 3 days in Ireland/County Kerry for another family reunion. My mother in-lawCreina Coutts was Irish. 350 people attended and we were the only Aussies. I often felt like I was the set of “Mrs Browns Boys”. Again cold windy and wet! A day in London and then the big trek home. 44 days away – no cooking – no washing up – no cleaning. Came home with the worst flu I have ever had and took six weeks to get over it. With the Australian dollar so low it was a very expensive trip.
Had one child living in Katherine when we left, and all three living here when we returned. Ben and Darcy moved to Warwick in QLD in January and were back by July when he was offered the job of Manager for Landmark. 25 year old Shannon broke up with her boyfriend in Darwin and moved in with her 2 cats! They are now back together and living in Katherine. The eldest granddaughter Cassey has finished school and has got a permanent job at the Childcare Centre which is what she wanted. Chelsea left year 11 a few weeks early after being beaten up at school by another girl. She is working at the Pizza Shop five days a week and considering her future.
The biggest excitement is that my memoir ‘A Sunburnt Childhood’ is being finalised this week and will be launched Australia wide in April 2016 by Hachette Australia. I will be going to Sydney for the launch, talk shows etc in April so look out for the Territory girl on a TV screen near you.
Shaun continues to travel too much and work too hard but manages to alleviate that with lots of golf and this year a trip to Thailand with his mates. He will be 70 next year so is looking to slowing down just a little.
Celebrating my Mum’s 80th Birthday this weekend, and we are going out to Killarney on Sunday to place a plaque on his grave. He only died in 1992! I turned 60 in November so now a SENIOR! Shaun and I are off on an 8 day cruise on the maiden voyage of the Azamara Quest in Australia, on the 28th December. Get on in Darwin and travel up to Thursday Island, around Cape York to the Great Barrier Reef, Cook Town and Port Douglas. Stop off in Cairns and fly home! Just hope we don’t come across any cyclones! The first night is dinner in Darwin at Crocosauras Cove – place with big glass tanks and massive crocs cruising by.
The Tapp family are all good. Joe and Judith sold up King River and have bought a place in Bendemeer near Tamworth. Their daughter Holly still pursuing her music career down there and getting some good gigs. Ben Tapp won the Warwick Gold Cup for the second time and is the only Territorian to have ever won it. Masterchef Lynton Tapp mainly lives in Darwin but does a lot of appearance work and PR for Tourism NT – He has been to Hong Kong, and London to cook Australian fare to the Duchess Camilla. Younger sister Emily Tapp who became a paraplegic in 2010 has been chosen to go to the para-Olympics in Rio doing triathlon. She also has been to Japan and Chicago to qualify and now lives in Canberra at the Institute of Sport. So we should be seeing her on our big screens next year! Another claim to fame is that Shaun’s brother Don, won a Scottish BAFTA for Best Director for his children’s series, ‘Katie Morag’ which he is hoping to sell to Australia.
Our writers group produced its 7th Anthology ‘Journeys Jaunts and Jeopardy’ this year and I designed the cover did all the final layout etc. Glad that is over. I have also started writing another book about our years of living down in the Gulf/McArthur River Station. So my dream is to now just work 20 hours a week and do lots of writing.
I have had my two year clearance from breast cancer so life is grand. Last week I was invited to speak at the opening of the Katherine Chemo Unit. Very exciting. When I started out lobbying the government for a chemo treatment unit in mid 2013 I never thought it would become a reality so soon.
So that is my life in the past year in a nutshell! Thankful everyday for where I live, and to have a strong healthy family, and great friends. Facebook tends to take over all our communications now and I love that too. But it is good that Xmas makes us take some time to Catch up with friends far and wide.
WIshing  you an amazing 2016 and I will blog a bit more.

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Summary of 2014 – because I didn’t do any blogging.

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I had my two year clearance fom Dr David Read early in February. Mammogram and ultra sound all clear.

In February 2013, 2 years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a roller coaster of 4 operations, 4 rounds of chemo, and 6 weeks of  radiation. Nine months of baldy head, pain, weak, and a thousand blood tests, scans, Doctors appointment etc etc etc and no taste buds! 

Then last year 2014, three MRI’s and two lumber punch and 6 months of Intravenous and oral antibiotics for a blood born infection/abscess/osteomyelitis on my L2/L3 that was finally cleared in October last year. I had to wear a bum bag with slow release Vancomycin drip feeding into my body 24/7 for 6 weeks. Had to sleep and shower with it and go to the hospital everyday to have the canister changed and a new one hooked up to my Pic Line.

During this time I was re elected back on to Katherine Town Council in a by-election as an Alderman/Councillor, a privilege and something I love.

March – a trip to Warwick in Queensland to see my niece Courtney Tapp marry Andrew Turvey in a beautiful gathering for all the family.

April – A trip Sydney to see my niece Holly perform live in The Voice and seeing her get through to the Top 8 was a real highlight. (She chose Joel Maddern as her coach and went to America with his team!)  Was so exciting and we are all so proud of her.

June – Have a fab job, when a year ago I wondered how I would be able to get back into the workforce at my age and medical issues. 

A new chemo unit opening at the hospital in the next couple of months and a Cancer Council NT support officer and new office open in the Katherine Government Centre. I am one happy little vegemite.

Great friends and a loving supportive family.

Can’t ask more than that.

 

A DREAM COME TRUE.

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Dear Toni,

 I am really, truly very happy to be able to send you a letter of offer for RAINING FISH – it is attached and I look forward to hearing your thoughts about it.

 I should also flag that we may wish to change the title – this is going to be an epic book and we think it needs an epic title! But obviously that is something to discuss, not a dictum.

Best wishes, Sophie Hamley – Non Fiction Publisher – Hachette Australia.

Dear Toni,

On behalf of my colleagues at Hachette Australia, I am absolutely delighted to make an offer to publish your memoir, Raining Fish. We would be proud to release your book under the Hachette Australia imprint and would all be thrilled to work with you to create and publish the book.

If we are lucky enough to become your publisher we would collaborate with you every step of the way through the editing and production of the book. Our aim would be to achieve the best possible results for you and your book, publishing it with flair and enthusiasm to help it reach the broadest possible audience.

Since meeting you in Darwin last year, I’ve thought that your story is destined for a wider audience and I am so pleased that the rest of the company agrees with me. Our publishing director, Fiona Hazard, also remembers you well and is very hopeful that your book will join our list. If our offer is accepted, the team looking after you and your book would be:

  • Louise Sherwin-Stark, Joint Managing Director and Head of Sales, Product and New Zealand;
  • Justin Ractliffe, Joint Managing Director and Head of Marketing, Publicity and Australian Publishing;
  • Fiona Hazard, Publishing Director;
  • Naomi Gaskell, Head of Digital Sales;
  • Airlie Lawson, Consultant – Licensing and Content Development;
  • an in-house editor in the Australian Publishing department. 
  • And, as your publisher, I would be your central point of contact throughout the whole publishing process. You would also have a publicity manager, a marketing manager and a national accounts manager, together with our colleagues in the Sydney office and the account managers who work around the country, all of whom would be focused on your book.

It has been nine months since I first met Sophie Hamley at the NT Writers Festival ‘Wordstorm’ in May 2014 and she showed an interest in my Memoir ‘Raining Fish’.  Whilst I knew she was keen about the MS and told me that she thought it had legs, it didn’t alter the fact that I thought I could not be that lucky, that one of the largest publishing houses in Australia will pick up your manuscript first time around.  When I got her phone call I was so excited and just kept babbling as she told me that her proposal to the acquisition team was accepted unanimously!

So – now nervously awaiting the contract and Sophie’s editing!  I am excited to be able to, not only master my book in to a great read with the help of Hachette and having a fabulous team behind me,  I am looking forward to the process and learning all about the Publishing industry and becoming, a REAL AUTHOR!

I will keep you in the loop!

No looking back.

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This time last year I have just started my cancer treatment after being diagnosed with Stage I Grade 3 breast cancer. I was about to go back for a third operation to remove more cancerous cells to get a cleared margin around the removed tumour.

From there, three months of chemo followed by six weeks of radiation. It was tough going at times, and now I’m quite amazed at how I handled it and got through it with out too much drama. Sometimes it all seems like a dream though I still have to have three monthly check ups and the switch to Tamoxofin has decreased some of the side affects that I had with Femara. The hot flushes are still driving me CRAZY and the hot weather doesn’t help.

As I watched some of my friends and family go through treatment at the same time I felt lucky that I had good veins, didn’t need a portacath and that I didn’t need to have the Herceptin for a further 12 months. My diagnosis has been good.

Last week I attended the funeral of my cousin Robyn Forscutt. She was just three months younger than me and was first diagnosed with breast cancer fourteen years ago. The secondary cancer returned five years ago. She fought the big battle over the last year and it was a relief that she went in a quick and very dignified way. I felt privileged to be able to spend a few hours with her in her last hours. We, her mother Jan and friend Ali Mills, sang her some songs, ‘White Cliffs of Dover’, ‘Arafura Pearl’ and Louis Armstrong’s, ‘Wonderful World.’ We relived stories of years growing up together and had a good laugh about all the crazy things we did. As she took her last breaths I did not feel sad for her because cancer is a tough ride, and she was finally pain free, but I felt a deep sense of loss, knowing that she would not be around anymore. With her guitar and dry sense of humour she was so much fun to be with. That surely is a great legacy to leave.

I had gone up for a meeting with the geneticist to discuss my family breast-cancer because of the four women being diagnosed with breast cancer in the past couple of years.
Due to the close proximity of Robyn and my Aunt Sue who are/were all being treated in the same Cancer Centre, they had access to our records and did some profiling. He said that it was most unlikely that we had the breast cancer gene which was a great relief. I have been worrying about my daughters and granddaughters if I had the gene and also that I may have to consider having both breasts removed.
He said that my daughters should not panic other than to take the normal steps that women need to take as precautions against breast cancer such as regular self examinations and to start Mammograms at the age of forty. They will continue to do some more profiling and will send a written report when finalised.

So, these are all good omens. I don’t want to dwell on what could be. No Looking back! I just want to take every opportunity and fly with it, which is why I am currently working at the Victoria Daly Regional Council, a local government authority that covers an area of 168,277 square kilometres’ and a population of 8,000 people!
The Council provides a range of services that cover the traditional rates, road and rubbish, parks and gardens but also Aged Care, Child Care, Sport and Recreation, work programs, festivals and events. It is huge! – with so much more responsibility than the traditional municipal councils in the NT.

Which leads me to the fact that, I ran for a position on the Katherine Town Council on the 15th March, and was successful in filling one of the two vacancies. This is half way through the 4 year term. Most of the meetings are after hours. Always plenty of reading and plenty of people who have an opinion on what Council should b doing and how badly they do it!
I have previously spent 10 years on and off Council since 1996 and love it. Didn’t get home till 9 pm last night sitting for the first time in a budget planning meeting. As always the CEO’s try to tell you ‘we have no money.’ They are soooo tight! I have some work to do in that area!

Hello 2014!

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I know keep saying it but I can’t believe how quickly 2013 went. There were times when I felt it would never end – and here I am – a head of nice curly hair, a wonky breast and Cancer Free. Does not get much better than that.
I had my final appointment for 2013 on the 23rd December in Darwin. Ultrasounds all look good other than a bit of fat on the liver and they have found a small cyst on my left kidney. I had a CAT scan on Tuesday have and another appointment in Darwin on the 20 January with the oncologist to follow up. It is most likely there is nothing to worry about with the cyst. Cannot help being a little worried though.

I commenced taking the Letrozole drug FEMARA in August and it played havoc on my joints. Following consultation with the Oncologist, he told me to take a month’s break and he would change the drug to TAMOXAFIN which I started on the 24th December. Am feeling a lot better already and I think that the hot flushes are also a little less intense! Just have to watch the weight gain as I have put a little on and need to keep the top button of my trousers undone!
The usual New Year resolutions have kicked in – No alcohol for January, eat less, exercise more, except it is excessively hot to exercise until after dark. Central Australia has experience the hottest day since weather was first documented. – So if it is not global warming – what is it?

So from here on it will be three monthly Doctor visits and blood tests and an annual mammogram for a minimum of five years. The current regime of the oestrogen blocker drugs is for five years but there is more and more evidence that these should be continued for a further 5 years. I do not mind if it means just another little thing that will stop cancer cells form having a party in my system!

9th January
Loving being back at the Gym and seeing people I have not seen for months/years! Muscles complaining, but energy creates energy and I am looking forward to firming up the chicken wings and stomach muscles!
I have really enjoyed having a year off not working. In between treatments, I have had time to rest and really think about what is important to me and what is not. I think the most important thing I have learnt is ‘DO NOT SWEAT THE LITTLE THINGS’ and to ‘ENJOY AND RELISH THE MOMENT.’

It has also allowed me to take a new direction in careers which I would not have done if I had not had Cancer. I am about to meet with a new employer and start a new career in selling Real Estate in February. Excited and nervous – what a great feeling to have!

Treatments all finished – I am so happy!

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A HEALTHY HEAD OF HAIR!

Only 4 weeks till Christmas! I had meant to be diligent with my Blog but time has flown by.

It was with huge relief that I finished Radiation on the 6th September. My breast was burnt and very sore. The final week of the ‘boost’ radiation targeted directly around the scar area created some swelling and was quite painful and burning. It took about 3 – 4 weeks to settle down, but I did not blister as many people do. At this stage 2 months later my left breast still has a bit of a tingle and a nice tanned look and my right breast is a nice doughy white!

The lumpectomy scar is barely discernible and I thank my lovely Surgeon David Read for doing such a wonderful job.

I was to have a consultation with the Surgeon last week but he had to go to the Philippines Typhoon Disaster with the medical task force from the NT as he is the Director of the Darwin Trauma Unit.

I have decided through this year that I would go for a change of career to take me into my old age. During October I spent 3 weeks in Darwin undertaking a Certificate 1V in Real Estate. Absolutely loved it. Learnt so much and cant wait to start selling real estate around town. Not so interested in property management, worrying about, landlords, tenants, rent, house damage etc etc seems to be too stressful. I have had an approach of interest from one of the real estate Companies so am really excited.

During this time I also participated in the Cancer Council Relay for Life that raised over $20,000 on the night and was a guest speaker at a Melbourne Cup Luncheon that raised over $7,000 in ticket sales and an auction.
I also was a guest speaker at the Women of the World (WOW) Conference held in Katherine where I prepared a Powerpoint presentation with photos of my journey, burnt breast and all. So many people came up to me afterwards and said they had no idea what breast cancer entailed or what it really meant and that my honest portrayal of the journey gave them a better understanding and awareness.
I hope to work out how to attach it to this Blog.

SO, at last the worst part of this is over. Last week I did the 600km trip again for a final appointment with the Radiologist to check the condition of my breast which was all fine.

Also had and appointment with the Oncologist Dr Karanth here in Katherine. The Hormone Therapy Drug FEMARA has been driving me crazy. Tidal wave HOT FLUSHES, aching joints, sore back, and gaining weight. Karanth said for me to stop taking the drug for 4 weeks and he will change the regime to 3 years of Tomoxafin followed by 2 years of Letrozole/Femara. Hopefully in three years time they will have more refined drugs with less side affects. My Vitmain D level is a bit low and liver activity still up. Another appointment on the 23rd December.

Other than those small complaints I am on top of the world. Have walked up and down thousands of stairs helping my friend move from one, two story house, to another. Back to aqua aerobics and have designed the cover and self published the anthology by our local writing group, KROW (Katherine Region of Writers) which has arrived and we will launch on the 6th of December.

I have also indulged in some Xmas cooking of chocolate fudge, coconut ice and mango chutney for gifts. Really enjoying the freedom to do things that I enjoy!

I have been thinking of maybe turning this blog into a little book with photos as a support for other breast cancer sufferers.