I tried and tried to come up with a better name for this post. I really did! But you know how a working title sometimes sticks? Yeah. I pondered and pondered over what creative and, you know, not lame words I could come up with to describe this post to you, and I couldn’t decide on anything. So this will have to do. Here is what happened to me this year. Spoiler alert: It was hard, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Before I go any further, I want to also say sorry for there being such a delay since my last post. I’ve been working on a few collab things and trying to get more of my vlogs out. I still have a lot to say about the Phi Phis and Phuket before I move on to my adventures in Khao Lak and Chiang Mai – which means I am officially two and a half months behind where I want to be on the blog. But in the meantime, I don’t want to make people wait for content if they’re keen to see what I’ve been doing but aren’t so interested in Phuket. So if you want to see videos of stuff before it appears on the website here, head on over to my YouTube channel and watch. (Better yet, subscribe! Or I’ll cry!)
Anyway, on to this year. All up it’s been a year of changes and growth, with a lot of secrets that I had to keep (but thanks for understanding). Here’s what went down.
I started off the year drunk on vegan red wine at my friend’s house in one of the best New Year’s Eve parties I’ve been to in years. 2014 was really fucking hard and I was very glad to see the arse end of it – by this point, we already had a fair inkling that we were going to finally make our move overseas as digital nomads, and I wanted that moment to come so badly. So I got dressed up and saw out 2014 in style.
In this month I also got to spend a bit of time exploring my local area, and work was also quiet enough to give me time to sit and really think about where I wanted to take my old blog, Not Done Travelling. I had known for a long time that I was not feeling it anymore, and I had kept so much from people. I had only eluded to my spirituality because I felt that I was already considered weird enough as it was, and I didn’t think there was any room in travel blogging for beliefs as unusual as mine. But hiding everything was tearing me up – I wanted to write about so much more than just travel, and I didn’t think a rebranding was going to cut it, because Not Done Travelling seemed too narrow a title for everything I wanted to post about. After a long time of wondering how I was going to ease everybody into all my other topics, I realised it would be better to can the old site and start again from scratch, New Age warts and all.
It takes a lot of courage to be completely open and say, “Hey, I know this shit sounds crazy but this is what I think, take it or leave it”. Thanks to those who have taken it with respect.
February plodded on mostly uneventfully. I continued writing some content for the new site and tried to dream up a name, however mostly I spent the month working and hanging out with family.
At the end of February, news broke that the beautiful Jess Ainscough, well known for treating her cancer naturally with Gerson therapy and whole foods, had passed away. This event was to touch me deeper than I could imagine at the time.
March was a highlight because of the long weekend I got to spend in Phillip Island with my best friend. We did a lot of sightseeing, saw penguins, played mini golf and made vegan cake in mugs. It was a great time.
It was around this time that I chose my name, The Lost Lemurian, and I bought my domain. I already had an idea for how I wanted things to look, but getting a site theme that matched that vision was easier said than done. (It can be a slow process when you’re this much of a perfectionist!)
March was also the month where I had a strange dream and woke up with the words “epithilioid sarcoma” running through my head. Epithilioid sarcoma was the form of cancer that had killed Jess Ainscough and while I didn’t believe I had it, my angels told me to go and get things checked out.
I have had a history of skin abnormalities, and at that point had been growing lumps on my arms for years. In fact, in 2004 I had even undergone radiotherapy for a very large lump that had rapidly spread over my left forearm. At the time, the doctors has said they didn’t know what it was, just that it wasn’t cancer. Because of this I’d been fairly relaxed about the other lumps, most of which were concentrated on my right upper arm. Some of them would break up and go away over time, but there was one in particular that had been there for at least eight years and whilst it wasn’t growing, it definitely wasn’t going away.
To be safe, I told my doctor and he sent me for an ultrasound. I didn’t want to frighten anybody, and so I told almost nobody what was going on.
April saw the launch of this site, with my first official post!
By now, my then fiancé and I had made our plans to move to Thailand in October. We booked our plane tickets and made arrangements to bring my father in law with us for a two-week holiday, partly for his birthday and partly to thank him for helping us out of a financial jam earlier. Knowing that our move was now concrete, we told only our relatives and closest friends and then set about the long journey of clearing our clutter out of both our parents’ houses.
(The clutter is still there, by the way. We didn’t get through it all. Sorry guys).
Because of our impending move, we also made the decision to get married before we went over. We had actually been engaged for 4 years at that point, and had talked so often about how we would have our wedding, but a combination of other plans (travel, mostly) and money issues always prevented us actually doing it. We decided that there was nothing wrong with reasonably-priced registry-office nuptials and so booked our wedding for July 4th.
Unfortunately, getting married in this way meant that there was only room for approximately 30 guests. This meant that we could only bring along a handful of friends and family. I couldn’t even invite all of my cousins. Most people understood and respected this, but not everybody did, and I actually lost friendships over it. I know now that if people couldn’t understand the predicament that I was in then they weren’t really my friends in the first place, but still, it hurt.
Throughout this time, I also had the ultrasound on my arm. During the procedure, the radiologist and doctor went away and had a muffled conversation, and I started to get a very bad feeling. They told me the ultrasound was inconclusive and that a fine-needle biopsy would be required to rule out lymphoma. A week later, this was done and the results showed that there were lymphoid cells in the sample taken, but again things were inconclusive. I was booked in to see an oncologist.
During this time, it started to get cold and Mercury retrograde proceeded to kick my arse. I had conflicts with a few people and though it’s all water under the bridge now, it caused me a lot of sadness and stress. I also started pulling longer days at work and 10 or even 11-hour days became the norm – that was just work, that didn’t even include blog stuff. I started to grow apart from my friends – and yes, even my fiancé – because I was literally always working.
Ugh – I hate winter.
During this month I saw the oncologist and an excisional biopsy of the lump in my arm was recommended. I was upfront with them about my move to Thailand and the fact that I wasn’t changing that for anything, so they pushed everything through as quickly as they could. In mid May I underwent day surgery and the lump was taken out. I went back a week and a half later for review of my wound, and the surgeon was the one who broke the news that the histology report had confirmed lymphoma; I had cancer.
Unfortunately it was 10 days until I could see my oncologist again. I told myself, however, that at this point I needed more information before I could properly respond. After all, they could have completely gotten it all. So I decided that I wasn’t going to panic until I had seen the oncologist.
Those 10 days actually went really fast. Before I knew it, I was sitting in the oncologist’s office and she was telling me the lump had returned the result of marginal zone CD20 lymphoma. They had gotten all of the lump, but they needed more information in order to know whether the cancer had spread anywhere else in my body. So she booked a CT scan, a PET scan and a bone-marrow biopsy.
I continued to keep everything a secret from everyone except my family and my closest friends. I didn’t want anybody’s pity and I didn’t want anybody’s fear clouding up my mind while I was trying so hard to be positive. This was also around the time when the news broke that Belle Gibson’s claims of having cancer had been a lie, and so I didn’t want anybody to think that I too was doing this for attention.
Fortunately, work was incredibly supportive and allowed me as much time off as I needed to have each of the procedures done. I had the CT scan and PET scan done in the same day – walking from one hospital to another up the road in between – and I had the bone-marrow biopsy done as another day stay. (I can’t be 100% positive, but I’m pretty sure the drugs from the bone-marrow biopsy got me so stoned that I was preaching to the doctor and nurse about veganism the entire time. I have a distinct memory of telling them about male chicks being ground up alive and calves being separated from their mothers hours after birth. Am I dedicated to the cause or what, lol).
Then came June 21st, which was Yule, and I had a very fulfilling time celebrating in my backyard.
At the end of June I also had some good news. Fortunately, because everything was done so quickly, the results of my tests came back. 30 days after the surgeon had told me the lump was lymphoma, I sat in my oncologist’s office and she told me that the CT scan, PET scan and bone-marrow biopsy were all clear and I was clinically cancer free. Guys, if you’re facing a diagnosis of cancer at the moment, I want you to know something: This is how quick it can be. Yes, the road to complete health is long (as you will see below) but from diagnosis to all-clear, things can progress very quickly. When it comes to medical science, we live in a truly miraculous age.
In my case, despite very quickly being cancer free, my doctors wanted to do some further treatment just in case. Because lymphoid cells were found at the border of the tissue sample, and because I had made it clear that I was moving overseas and not even a herd of wild horses was going to stop me, the oncology team all decided that it would be prudent to treat the area with radiotherapy. I was very reluctant to do this, as I know that radiotherapy isn’t always the right choice, but in the end I decided to take their advice and proceed with treatment.
Since this time, some well-meaning people have told me that this was the wrong decision and that radiotherapy should be avoided at all costs – while I respect your opinions on this, I just want to say please be very sensitive when you are saying this kind of thing to a cancer survivor. Everybody’s journey to healing is different and there is a place for the marriage of both traditional and natural therapies.
July 4th was the big day. We got married!
It was a very simple ceremony and we had a small family dinner afterwards. Very low-key but meaningful to us.
Around a week later, I began my radiotherapy. I had 15 sessions, so every weekday for three weeks, and was able to work roughly full time throughout the treatment. When I had radiotherapy in 2004, I had attempted to keep working six-hour days but my immune system hadn’t been able to hold up against everything and I’d become very sick. This time, however, all I experienced was some fatigue and redness on my arm.
I’m not sure whether they were giving me a smaller dose, or my immune system was just stronger, or perhaps it was because I worked from home and was less exposed to stuff. Probably a combination of all three. Either way, everything went well. Work continued to be great, allowing me to do split shifts during this period which meant I was almost doing the same amount of work as on a normal day. I had my last session on July 31st.
This time required a hell of a lot of positivity, something I’m not sure I would have been able to find if I’d had people worrying about me. I know a lot of people would have liked to be there for me during my treatment, but I think keeping things quiet was the right choice for me.
In this month I launched my YouTube channel and also celebrated my one-year anniversary of going vegan. I can’t believe how quickly this first year of veganism passed and honestly, I still can’t get over how good things are on this side of the vegan fence. Seriously, one of the best decisions I ever made.
In August I also became an aunty again when my nephew was born. Yay!
I also had one more cancer-related test to undergo. My oncologist wanted me to undergo a gastroscopy to look for lymphoma in my stomach, just in case it had not been picked up on the scans, and to rule out Helicobacter pylori (a bacteria associated with this type of cancer). Fortunately that was clear also.
In this month, I was finally able to tell everybody about my cancer treatment. I saw my oncologist one last time and was provided with plenty of doctor’s letters to take with me overseas. And then it was done. I do have to have followup when I return to Australia at the end of 2016, but that’s basically it.
Because our departure date, the 6th of October, was fast approaching, we took the chance this month to take my father in law up to Hanging Rock, just outside of Melbourne. It’s a lovely area and I do recommend trying to climb the rock if you are nearby. On this occasion we only went a third of the way up, but I have gone all the way up before and it’s eerie stillness will make you wonder if the legend is true.
Overall, however, September was kind of a difficult month and I had to make a few decisions to move forward and away from some old situations.
After over a year of planning and waiting and saving, the big moment arrived. We moved to Thailand!
We originally flew to Phuket and spent two weeks there with my father in law. Our first few days were affected by the haze from the Indonesian fires but the rest of our time in Kata Beach was great and finding vegan food was easy. One of our highlights was our day in the Phi Phi Islands, where we went snorkelling, witnessed some beautiful scenery and encountered monkeys and fish. We spent the rest of our time on Phuket lazing on the beach, playing mini golf and seeing the local sights, such as the Big Buddha and Karon Viewpoint.
After our two weeks in Phuket, my husband and father in law flew back to Australia (my husband had some things to wrap up) and I went on to Khao Lak alone. I spent a few days there, including a day trip to the Similans (where I saw wild dolphins, gorgeous beaches and amazing scenery!) then took the overnight bus to Bangkok. I was in Bangkok for three days, and my time there was mixed; I ate delicious vegan food and saw beautiful local sites but also got scammed, which sucked. I am giving it another go though and plan to be back there in March, so hopefully my second time there will be better.
When my time in Bangkok was up I took another overnight bus – it was supposed to be a VIP bus, but yet again I got scammed – up to Chiang Mai. Here I settled in to our apartment, where I have been since. Chiang Mai is full of amazing people and I think we made a very good choice in spending the next few months here.
In mid November, after three and a half weeks apart, my husband arrived in Chiang Mai. Let me tell you, the period we spent away from each other was harder than I can ever say and we’ve agreed never to spend that much time apart again!
I spent November trying to get as much done as possible whilst also trying to catch up on my blog posts and YouTube videos. Let’s just say this was a massive fail. On my old website, Not Done Travelling, I would sometimes struggle to think of things to write about. Now I have a million ideas and can’t get them out fast enough!
Late November also was a significant time in the Thai calendar, with Yi Peng festivities in the north and Loy Klatong in the south. We celebrated Yi Peng by going to Tha Phae Gate and watching the parade, then observing hundreds, if not thousands, of paper lanterns being released and floating past a beautiful full moon.
We also had a lovely day out with a group of other travel bloggers to the Bua Tong waterfall, otherwise known as the Sticky Waterfall. It’s a beautiful place where the rocks are not slippery and can be easily gripped – therefore, you can climb right up the waterfall. It’s gorgeous there and I want to go again before we leave Chiang Mai!
December, the final month of the year has gone so fast. Seriously, where did the time go?
We started the month off with our first visa run to Mae Sai, on the border between Thailand and Myanmar. I used to travel here regularly when I lived in Chiang Rai, so it was nice to see it again (and this time in sunshine – previously I’d only gone on rainy days!) We have to leave the country again before the end of January, so we will be revisiting this town in the near future.
December has otherwise been busy as hell! We’ve used our days off to explore the city and so forth but we’ve also been attempting to save a lot of money so we’ve said no to a few activities we would normally have liked to do. Fingers crossed we get to do them in the coming months.
SO WHAT’S UP FOR 2016?
Last New Year’s, I hated 2014 so much that I didn’t care what lessons I had to learn from it, I just wanted to get to 2015 as quickly as possible. This year, 2015 has been hard (and in some ways harder than 2014), but I don’t hate it as much as I hated the previous year. It’s more the year that was and that’s that. I’m thankful for the hard times because they helped me get to where I am now and now I’m just ready for 2016 to be awesome.
My husband and I plan to be in Chiang Mai for a few more months, then we plan to relocate again a few times to other parts of Asia before coming back to Australia for a visit at the end of the year. We aren’t sure what 2017 is going to hold but we have a few ideas and will spend the next few months doing some research.
I’m proud of my site but it’s clear that there are still some major holes in it (please don’t look at all my static pages that still say “Coming Soon” – how embarrassment). So I hope to get that content out and spruce things up a bit. I feel like a good website is never completely done (is it just me?) so I’m sure my to-do list will never end, but if I can just make a bit of progress I’ll be happy.
Google Analytics is telling me that people want to hear more about Lemuria – the majority of my search traffic is from terms that are related to Lemuria in some fashion. So I need to bring you some more stuff that’s relevant to this topic. I really should have done this earlier – please tell me if this is something specific you’d be keen to see.
It’s also become glaringly obvious to me that although I still want to blog and I enjoy writing posts and articles, lately I’ve gotten so into making videos. I really haven’t wanted my site to become dominated by YouTube vids but the fact is that the majority of my content lately has been in video form. For me at least, videos are quicker and easier to make and infinitely more enjoyable! So I may need to evolve to find a way to present everything in a way that lets you find both my video and written content separately. I would love to hear your feedback on this too – do you prefer watching videos to reading blog posts? Do you hate videos? Do you not care either way? Let me know.
(And like I said, it might pay to ensure you’re following me on YouTube anyway because there’s a lot of content there that I haven’t even begun to talk about on the site – for example, the Similan Islands!)
Anyway. So that was my 2015. I’m really excited to get to 2016 so let’s do this. Roll on New Year’s Eve!
How was your 2015? What are your plans for 2016? Any thoughts or opinions on anything that happened to me this year? Leave a comment and tell me!