Archive for April, 2014

Best boob forward…

April 29th, 2014 | no comments

shutterstock_22476220I’m honoured to have been invited to MC an upcoming celebration lunch for Breastscreen ACT. The ACT-Government service is celebrating 21 years of free breast screening in Canberra (which would translate into many, many lives saved).

The guest speaker, communications specialist Niree Creed, is a survivor of breast cancer. She’s also a very funny woman. At the planning meeting today, the organising committee asked if I had any funny stories to swap as MC, on the topic of mammograms and so forth.

I didn’t. I’d never had one. But I want to be a really good MC. So I said, ‘Can I have one?’ and they gave me one on the spot.

It’s not that they hand out mammograms like lollies, although actually they do—for free—targeting those aged between 50-75, but also if you’re aged 40 or over, which I am, just. Normally you’d phone the lovely staff who I met today to book in, but as I was there, and ‘eager’, and they had a space available, I was up to the plate next (so to speak!)

The mammographer, Margaret, was so immensely comforting in her approach that by the time I took my top off, I was almost as relaxed as I had been the last time I stripped off in front of a stranger—on my 40th birthday get-away with the BFFs, walking into a Daylesford day spa for a hot-rock massage.

She explained exactly what was going to happen and told me I was in complete control of the process. She said I could tell her to stop at any time and she would, immediately.

I asked how long my boobs would be ‘pancaked’ (for want of a better description) and she said that depended how dense they were. Older ladies tend to be zipped through quickly by the camera due to lack of ‘substance’ to photograph. Younger women’s breasts can take a few seconds longer to capture on film because the tissue is more dense.

‘So, if it takes a little longer, that’s a compliment?’ I observed…

You have to understand that I’ve breastfed three babies and look like it. The last one refused to latch on. Ever. I spent weeks hooked up to a lactation machine and I suspect that it had irreversible aesthetic consequences. If I have to fish for compliments on my cleavage from a state-of-the-art, Swedish-manufactured x-ray machine, I will.

Whenever I’ve seen mammograms pictured in news stories or on Embarrassing Bodies, they seem so straight forward. You stand there. They squish your boob. They take a photo. Done.

It’s not like that at all!

“Okay,” Margaret said. “Just stand there. Now, take a small step to the right. Good. Put your arm up here. And the other hand around the back of the machine. Now, relax your left shoulder. Lovely. Stick your bottom out slightly. Perfect. Turn your head to the side. Look over at the opposite wall…’

It was like a glamour shoot. I haven’t felt so pampered in a long while. I started to wonder when my boobs might be invited into the picture.

‘That’s great!’ Margaret said. I felt like I had achieved the Miranda Kerr of the mammogram stance. ‘Now, can you, sort of, “flop” onto the platform.’

My left breast’s moment had come. It was time for the old workhorse to take centre stage, sans a chunk of its nipple, gnawed off by child #1 who back in 1999 was an early teether.

I flopped as best I could without destroying my perfect stance, and she expertly, gently and delicately assisted my boob into its best angle for the photograph. This involved some pretty impressive manoeuvring. A bit of ‘folding’. And, if I could just stick my bottom out a bit more … Perfect! Don’t move. Light breathing …

Now. For the squishy bit.

The sandwich-press descended gradually. At every stage, Margaret checked on my welfare. It pushed down further and flatter, like air-lock doors in a science-fiction movie. I could have extracted myself at any stage, with a single word… She wanted to take it to one more level of flatness if I could bear it—and, well, I’m not one to brag, but I could.

It was absolutely fine! Would I want to spend all day with one boob pressed between two plates, while going about my normal business? Probably not, but honestly the tourniquet for a blood test is worse. (Though, granted, I would not want to complete this exercise with symptoms of PMT.)

I usually watch during blood tests, fascinated. I didn’t look today. Body image is such a delicate thing. The sight of ones mammaries comprehensively sandwiched might do psychological damage.

We switched, next, to some shots on the diagonal. It sounds worse than it is. We stuffed not only my boobs but my armpits into these frames. You don’t question the photographer as a model—you just rise to the occasion and pull it off.

At every point, I kept thinking how amazing modern medical technology is. This could save my life. And, to think, I’d been procrastinating over the appointment because of ‘fear of the unknown’, worried about a few seconds of potential discomfort.

I exited the appointment—Xena, Warrior Princess. I came. I saw. I conquered. Oh, that’s Caesar. Another thing I conquered.

The point is, just do it, because—breast cancer.

Next challenge: I’ve never been an MC before. Any tips?

Curious about mammograms? Attend the Breastscreen ACT Open Day on Friday 9 May, 8am-12 noon, 1 Moore Street, Canberra City. All welcome. Morning tea provided. Your best protection is early detection.

make the magic happen

April 13th, 2014 | no comments

shutterstock_64712308On Friday night, my thirteen-year-old was feeling rotten with a head-cold. They were heading interstate to stay at their dad’s early Saturday morning and she was dreading the all-day bus and train trip.

She lay on the lounge beside me, feeling miserable. Eventually I asked if she’d like me to read aloud to her.

I haven’t read aloud to my girls for years. At thirteen and fifteen it’s difficult enough finding a moment when they haven’t got iPods rammed in their ears!

It’s something I’ve done over and over in the past. But it’s NEVER felt like this.

The magic part? It was the second draft of my book.

On Sunday I went to a piano concert. Three world premiere compositions were played. Each of them gave me chills. I had tears. It was so special.


The pianist, Sally Whitwell, was an old schoolfriend.

All through our lives there are ordinary events, waiting for us to make them extraordinary. What’s usually missing is that extra meaning. A sentimental slant. A personal touch.

Having found the extra meaning in two activities over the weekend, I’m hooked. I’ll be searching for meaning in things all week.

It can be as simple as inviting someone to share something you were originally going to do alone. Giving someone an unexpected surprise. Pausing to watch the sunset.

I believe in the magic that we create ourselves.

5 ways to find an extra hour EVERY day

April 6th, 2014 | 3 comments

1166690Isn’t the end of Daylight Saving blissful? (Unless, of course, you have very young children, who appear to be up even earlier than usual).

All day, you’re glancing at the clock thinking, ‘Oh! Is that all it is?’ and time seems to be stretched. It’s only one hour, but it feels like longer. You can pack more into the day, get more done, sleep more, relax… it’s magical!

Alas, it only happens once each year, but there are lots of things we can do to create more time every day – or at least the illusion of it. Here are five:

Curb social media

Jump onto the Facebook Time Machine and find out how much time you’ve spent on the website. Once you’ve recovered from the shock, make a new rule. No Facebook before 8pm. Or no Facebook after 8pm. Or none during the week. Or none at all.

Use an application like Keep Me Out to help you stick to this. You set the rules, it enforces them.

Let people do things differently

The belief that ‘nobody does it as well as I do’ can fill your days with unnecessary tasks. Hoarding work because ‘it’s quicker just to do it myself’ spreads onto the home front, where you’d rather do things ‘properly’ than watch someone else take longer or do it differently from the way you would.

Becoming comfortable with people’s different approaches to things that really don’t matter in the long run will save you bucketloads of time (and angst). Let it go.

Drop ‘I’ll just…”

I’ll just do the washing. I’ll just tidy my desk. I’ll just check Facebook. I’ll just read this one article… I’ll just, I’ll just, I’ll just…

At the end of a day of ‘justs’ you’re inevitably behind on your work, staying back late or staying up late to catch up.

Have some ‘non-negotiables’ in your week.

Whether it’s picking the kids up from school each Friday or swimming or running or having a long soak in the bath with a book, catching up with friends, coaching a sports team or something else – establish a routine of self-care. Book appointments with yourself first and don’t allow other pressures to encroach on this time.

When you have a reason to leave work and a pre-scheduled commitment, you’re more likely to prioritise during the day in order to meet it.

Cut corners

I once decided to drop ironing everything except school uniforms. Then I dropped ironing those too. At the end of the semester the school report said that my daughter was “always immaculately presented”. That was enough for me! I probably get the iron out five times a year for special occasions now (although it should be said that my husband irons his work shirts).

It’s not about being lazy, it’s about choosing to do something that you decide is more important. For me, that’s spending time with the kids and writing.

What can you cut and out of your life to squeeze an extra hour into every day (which is an extra 15 days every year!)

If you’re keen to take a guided course in changing how you do things, try My 15 Minutes.