Welcome to the 89th Down Under Feminists’ Carnival

Come one, come all to the 89th Down Under Feminists’ Carnival.  I know an apostrophe goes in there somewhere, and that is where it goes today.  There are many wonderful things about the number 89, it’s 24th prime number, following 83 and preceding 97. 89 is a Chen prime and a Pythagorean prime. It is the smallest Sophie Germain prime to start a Cunningham chain of the first kind of six terms, {89, 179, 359, 719, 1439, 2879}. 89 is an Eisenstein prime with no imaginary part and real part of the form 3n - 1. M89 is the 10th Mersenne prime. (all from Wikipedia)  I don’t know what most of that actually means, but I share it for your edumacation.

Anyway, September was yet another fantastic month to be a blogger in Australia and New Zealand, particularly a feminist blogger.  There was the “knifing” of Tony Abbott, a new Minister for Women in Australia, a new Australian Prime Minister (more primes), Chris Brown effectively banned from Australia, lots of commentary on the scourge of domestic violence, spring started and Melbourne eventually started to warm up.  I haven’t been paying attention to the weather in other parts of Australia and New Zealand, so I hope your weather was also more spring like, and less winter/summer like.

If you reside in Australia or New Zealand and you’d like to host a future Down Under Feminist Carnival please let Chally know here.  It’s not very difficult, and I promise I will help by sharing relevant posts with you.  And now on with the carnival.


Andi Buchanan launched Capricious, the first issue is available for free.

Last week I launched the first issue of Capricious. It was a long (and at time stressful) road to get there, but I’m so pleased with how it turned out. (And telling myself that the formatting will be so much easier next time!)

Hoyden About Town turned 10!

Celeste Liddle at Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist writes, “When writing takes it out of you“:

Tonight I imparted a small bit of wisdom to someone who was new to public writing and had written on a raw topic. It was this: writing in this way can sometimes leave you feeling completely drained and vulnerable, but it is more powerful than keeping silent. It’s something I have personally experienced time and time again. There have been pieces I have written which have kept me from sleeping at night because they have been so close to the bone (even if they don’t read this way) and I find I’m still processing the act of divulging this hours afterwards. I’ve not regretted writing these (though a year down the track I may shudder at what I’ve constructed) but conveying trauma or experience, in veiled forms and completely openly, can really take it out of you. And it’s not just because you revisit traumatic experiences while you are writing. It’s also because you leave yourself open for others to interpret, or misinterpret your words. It’s impossible to completely prepare for that reaction from others.

Rebecca Shaw wrote for SBS, “The trouble with stating your opinion on the Internet while being a woman“:

Because Mr Christensen is known as a politician who will engage with people on Twitter, I expected to receive some blowback for the piece. As someone who writes opinion pieces, I have no problem with that. I assumed that he would engage with my (correct) opinions about his politics, and would debate those in a reasoned manner. But sadly for him, and kind of satisfyingly for me, he went on to prove all of my initial points about his character.

Rebecca Shaw writes at Kill Your Darlings, “Girl Gang: The value of female friendship“:

On-screen romantic relationships have often been held up as the gauge against which real-life relationships are measured. If you are single or your relationships don’t achieve the same dizzying heights as those depicted on screen, you can easily feel demoralised. And as we see more and more depictions of realistic but idealised friendships, there is a danger that this is just another way for women to be made to feel inferior or incomplete, if they can’t attain the kind of relationships they see depicted. But, as it is with the idealism of romantic relationships, this doesn’t mean the attempts should be discouraged.

Erin Farrow writes at The Conversation, “Honest and subtle: writing about sex in young adult literature“:

When young people have an unprecedented level of access to graphic depictions of sex, both in literature and online, how can teaching young writers to write about sex challenge them to navigate sexual relationships?

Tansy Rayner Roberts is writing a series on SF Women of the 20th Century, she’s written one on Octavia E Butler and Wendy Froud, one of the creators of Yoda.

Indigenous Australians

Bree Blakeman writes at Fieldnotes & Footnotes, “The way value inheres: Yolŋu riŋgitj and its relationship to Malay ‘ringgit’“:

There are many loan words from Malay and other Austronesian languages in the Yolŋu languages of east Arnhem Land (seeEvans 1992). These derive from pre-colonial exchange relations between Yolŋu people and seafarers from the port of Macassar (now Ujung Pandang) in Sulawesi. Collectively referred to as ‘Maŋgatharra’ in Yolŋu-matha, these seafarers made the annual voyage to Arnhem to collect trepang and engage in broader exchange relations with Yolŋu people.† A number of Yolŋu people also accompanied Maŋgatharra on return voyages to the Port of Macassar, as evidenced by oral history and art work such as that pictured above.

Stephanie at No Award writes, “hello and welcome to spring (not spring)“:

Here we are, solidly a “week” into “Spring.” In Melbourne, this means there’s nothing different to last month; it’s max 13C, there’s winds and rain, and this afternoon the possibility of hail.

So now seems like a good reminder: Spring is an artificial concept imported and imposed upon the Australian landscape when those invaders should have been chatting to the Traditional Owners about the six (or seven, or two) seasons. (It goes without saying that it’s all about imperialism and racism that we don’t talk about this stuff even now, but comment if you wanna chat about it)

Nicholas Biddle and Naomi Priest write at The Conversation, “Racism hits Indigenous students’ attendance and grades“:

These and other initiatives are clearly well intentioned. Many are based on solid evidence and evaluations. Despite this, we have been far from successful in achieving our goals for Indigenous education. The early childhood education target was not met. We are not on track to achieve the literacy and numeracy targets.

This may be in part because Indigenous education policy, at least at the national level, is mostly silent on the difficult issue of racism and discrimination. Our research shows the potential effect of an Indigenous child or his/her family experiencing racism, discrimination, prejudice, bullying or unfair treatment due to their Indigenous status between the ages of 5 and 9.

Kelly Briggs (The Koori Woman) is fundraising to:

travel to the Menominee Nation to ascertain the points and extenuating circumstances of the Menominee treaty and bring that information back to the Gomeroi people of Northern NSW to better campaign against environmental attacks and keep Gomeroi land for Gomeroi people.

Also an excellent opportunity to visit the Menominee Cultural Centre and gather some ideas for cultural centres across Australia.


Lauredhel at Hoyden About Town pointed out that GetUp failed at web accessibility standards with, “Brickbat: GetUp!’s “Can’t See?” alt text“:

If you are a GetUp! subscriber who can’t see, that information was what your screen reader would read to you. This is very obviously poor practice, it goes against all documented and long-standing guidelines on how to use alt text, and (leaving aside all the other reasons someone might have images off) it is a giant middle-finger “screw-you” to your blind subscribers.

Women in Sport

Mindy writes at Hoyden About Town about the Matilda’s pay dispute in, “Friday Hoyden: The Matildas“:

The Matildas were going to play some games in the US, but have pulled out of the tour because they are currently in the middle of a pay dispute. From what I understand they are contracted to work 40 days per year and paid a base salary of $21 000. On paper this looks pretty good. I wouldn’t mind being paid $525 per day. I’m sure they wouldn’t either because they haven’t been paid for two months. They have also already worked much more than 40 days this year.


Jo at A Life Unexamined writes, “An Asexual Future?“:

At the moment, I share a flat with my very good friend and housemate, E. We’ve been living together in our flat for almost three years now, and at least as far as I’m concerned, we couldn’t really have a better thing going on. Unlike some of the share houses I lived in previously, living with E feels like home. We rant at each other about our days, finish each other’s sentences, and can communicate without actually needing to say anything, which my sister finds amusing and endlessly confusing at the same time. Our perfect weekend consists of going to IKEA for breakfast and then spending the afternoon putting together furniture we weren’t actually looking for. We’re pretty sure the guy at the checkouts at Aldi thinks we’re a couple. Both of us are kind of terrified of the idea of having to live with anyone else.

Catherine Deveny writes for SBS, “For your records, only one form should be allowed to ask whether somebody has ever put a ring on it“:

It’s still there, on official forms: “MARITAL STATUS”. Why was this ever on forms in the first place? How is whether or not you are handcuffed in love jail relevant to anything?

I’m certain you’ll join me in suggesting it’s time we filed this medieval, homophobic, misogynist, discriminatory unnecessary judgment – posed as information for ‘our records’ – in the WTF file and moved on.

Women, Sexism, and Feminism

Anna writes at Hoyden About Town, “Talk like a pirate day Friday Hoyden: Sayyida al Hurra“:

In honour of the occasion, this year’s Pirate Hoyden is the Renaissance Moroccan Queen Sayyida al Hurra, and a magnificent example she is indeed.

She was born around 1485 in Granada which, as a city on the cusp of Spain’s blending point with North Africa, was one of the great centres of art and thought, but constantly being pulled between Christian and Muslim rule. A member of the Andalusian noble family Banu Rashid, her family relocated to Morocco after Granada fell to Christian conquest in the early sixteenth century.

Beth Gaze at The Conversation wrote, “Let’s talk about your pay, and loudly“:

September 4 this year was “Equal Pay Day”. September 4 was chosen because this marks the extra length of time, on average, a woman has to work to earn the same as a man. Less than a fortnight later, Greens Senator Larissa Waters has taken on the issue of pay secrecy, seeking amendments to Australia’s Fair Work Act.

Women’s Agenda has a spotlight on Tracey Spicer with, “Tracey Spicer: “Don’t take no for an answer”“.  I share this particularly because at the end of the post is a 25 minute documentary on breast cancer (a topic close to my heart right now – literally), and on the importance of knowing your risk for cancer, and your breasts.

Claire Connelly writes for the Sydney Morning Herald, “Why we need to stop car crash ‘women in tech’ panels and actually break the glass ceiling” (don’t read the comments):

“By the same husband?” King asked. Yes, you heard right: Just a few minutes into a panel discussion Wojcicki was asked whether her children were of the same father.

Missing from the panel was a discussion of Wojcocki’s accomplishments in physics at Stanford University, of history and literature at Harvard, her not one but two Masters – one in science of economics from the University of California, the other in business admin from UCLA Anderson School of Management. Also omitted from the event was her professional growth at Google from the Doodle department to heading up the departments that created AdWords, Adsense and Google Analytics, (you know, the stuff that makes Google money), before becoming CEO of YouTube.

3CR is doing a series on Sounds of Feminism.

Thalia writes at Sacraparental, “Everyday Misogyny: Sexism is OK as long as it’s funny – so rules the Advertising Standards Authority“:

People complained much earlier than me and the Chairman (sic) of the Complaints Board dismissed it. Didn’t even let the complaint go to the Complaints Board.


Because the Chairman thought it was funny.

Family and Parenting

Emily at Mama Said writes, “Before I was his mum“:

Oh, I was such a great parent before I had kids. I knew exactly how to parent.

I was supermarket tutter (I would never give my child a kinder surprise just because they asked for it), I was a smirker on planes (I would never put a child on a plane late at night – I mean you’re just asking for trouble), I was a eye roller over my latte (my child would be well behaved in cafes!)

And I was so breathtakingly wrong. I don’t even know where to begin. Here are some of my dumbest pre-kid ideas

Emily at Mama Said also writes, “When we share“:

I don’t really understand this idea that there are some things we are allowed to talk about and some things we are not allowed to talk about. It seems to suggest you’re allowed to say you’re a parent, but not what parenting is like for you. There doesn’t seem to be a master list that says which topics are OK and which ones aren’t. You’re allowed to tell family and friends about your life but only in person?

Stephanie at No Award writes, “on being a bilingual child“:

Steph was sort of raised in a multilingual household. Kind of. Sort of. Anyway it’s very complicated, and she has feelings about this beautifully written but very misleading post at The Toast: Exposure: On Raising a Bilingual Child.

Dr Christy Clark writes at The Australian Sociological Association, “Feminism and the terrifying dependency of children“:

For Australian women of my generation, many issues of structural gender inequality can seem far removed from their daily experiences and, thus, difficult to relate to. Many civil rights, which were only recently (and only partially) achieved, are easily taken for granted when you have grown up assuming access to them. For this reason, it is not uncommon for women to be shocked when confronted the ongoing reality of structural inequality when they become mothers and they suddenly find themselves falling into gendered roles and suffering from gendered disadvantage as a result. Given this fact, it is a shame that the dominant form of feminism in Australia – liberal feminism – does not deal particularly well with the structural inequalities faced by mothers.

Petra Bueskens writing for Online Opinion, “Keeping up supply: it isn’t only about the milk“:

The new norm is not to exclude women outright, but to exclude the particular embodied relationships women have with infants and young children (and, perhaps more fundamentally, that infants and young children have with their mothers). In the new model, liberalism has been surpassed by neo-liberalism: mothers are allowed in ‘the house’ (or out of the house as the case may be) but they and their babies are under pressure to minimise physical contact. As I have written recently, keeping up a ‘supply’ of milk and work is the new norm, which promotes ‘pumping’ over breastfeeding. These are, of course, not the same thing. The intimacy and bonding, the stroking and face-to-face contact, the intersubjective experience and embodied care are diminished in preference to disembodied ‘expressing’.

Health and Mental Health

A guest post at Mama Said, “GUEST POST: It’s OK to say yes“:

There is such a stigma when it comes to talking about medication for depression or anxiety, especially among those of us with young children. Postnatal depression effects 13% of new mothers in New Zealand according to Plunket. That is a shitload – yet among friends of mine, I would say that number is closer to 50%. The number of those who chose to medicate? Maybe 10% of that. But why? Why are we so loathe to take the magic little pills that can make all the difference?

Liz Barr at No Award writes, “R U OK? No, because turning mental health into a brand triggers my anxiety issues!“:

There’s a feeling you get in your gut when someone who doesn’t care about your mental health enough to ask any other day of the year asks, because a campaign told them to, RUOK?

Mate, if I wanted you to know, I wouldn’t want you to ask me today.

Erin Marie writes at Erinaree, “#Liptember special: Why women?“:

Throughout history, the standard patient upon which treatment and diagnostic strategies are based has been a 70kg (presumably white) man (source: Kulkarni). This means that social, biological and epidemiological differences between men and women, such as the structural and functional differences in women’s brains and endocrine systems, have been largely ignored. According to some researchers, factors such as gender related poverty, workplace inequalities (like discrimination or the pay gap) societal differences (like child-care responsibilities) and gender related violence have been under-emphasised in research. Additionally, prevalence rates for particular mental health issues between the genders, which in and of itself would seem to be a reason to dig more deeply into how women are affected.

Thalia at Sacraparental writes, “How to Support Someone with Postnatal Depression / Postpartum Depression: 9 Ideas“:

Postnatal depression – and all its cousins, like antenatal or prenatal depression, postnatal distress, and others – have traditionally been stigmatised and therefore hidden.

You may know very little real information about the signs of postnatal depression or how to help someone who is experiencing it. You may not know that there is good treatment available in most places.

One of the best places to go for information is this great New Zealand-based site, written by mental health practitioners: Mothers Matter.

Reproductive Health and Justice

Sara Holton, Heather Rowe, Jane Fisher and Maggie Kirkman write at The Conversation, “Few Australian women use long-acting contraceptives, despite their advantages“:

Few Australian women use long-acting reversible contraception, despite its advantages over other methods. These contraceptives offer women long-term, cost-effective, “fit-and-forget” contraception.

Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) includes intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants that are usually inserted in the upper arm. In contrast to other commonly used contraceptives, such as the pill and condoms, LARC don’t require women who use them to do something to prevent pregnancy daily or every time they have sex.

Jenny Ejlak writes at The Sydney Morning Herald, “NSW’s abortion laws are outdated, anti-women and dangerous“:

Restrictions in Australian laws include abortions having to take place in prescribed facilities, compulsory counselling, gestational limits, parental notification for minors, government-appointed panels of doctors, residency requirements and criminal charges if women terminate pregnancies themselves. All these legal requirements are at odds with internationally agreed, evidence-based medical practice and public health principles. In fact, there is no jurisdiction in Australia that is fully compliant with United Nations and World Health Organisation guidelines on legal and service delivery standards for abortion. Not a single one.


Stephanie at No Award writes, “new pm who dis“:

In all practical terms, this isn’t much of a change.  Turnbull may believe in climate change and marriage equality, but there’s no sign he’s actually going to pursue any changes to Liberal policies there.  In his first press conference this morning, he declared his commitment to mandatory detention for asylum seekers, so the change of prime minister just puts a new face on the same old human rights violations.

Jennifer Wilson at No Place for Sheep writes, “Politics, policy makers, and religion“:

It’s impossible to argue that the religious beliefs of these two men have not affected their political judgements, not only in the matter of asylum seekers and refugees. However, asylum seeker policies illustrate with stark clarity how religious beliefs can be used as justification for barbarous practices, by Christians as well as by other religions.

Jennifer Wilson at No Place for Sheep also wrote prior to the change of leadership in Australia, “Minister for Women, you are CRAP at your job” (emphasis in original):

In what other portfolio would a minister who remains consistently silent about his responsibilities to the huge demographic covered by that portfolio, even in the face of a staggering number of the cohort dying, be permitted to retain his job? Yet Tony Abbott continues to claim for himself the title “Minister for Women.”

Has there ever been a greater political insult to Australian women than this? He’s having a laugh. He always was.

Jane Gilmore at Women’s Agenda writes, “How one photo changed a decade of politics of fear“:

That every Prime Minister since Howard has been too afraid of wedge politics to even attempt a change in the national conversation is a reflection on us all. We are complicit in paving the road to Manus and Nauru, where our government deliberately sets out to make arrival in Australia more terrifying than the torturous regimes of the Middle East or the refugee camps where millions suffer and die. And the most searing indictment of that policy is that it works. People who have known horrors beyond our imagining are so traumatised by what our government does to them, with our implicit permission, that 5 year old girls are attempting suicide. Think of any 5 year old you know, could you imagine that child to driven to suicide? Could you imagine if it was your child and you could do nothing to help her?

Rebecca Shaw writes at SBS, “Comment: George Christensen makes me embarrassed to be a Queenslander“:

As an embarrassing Queensland politician, Mr Christensen has it all. He not only uses his mouth to say embarrassing things in parliament, but he then uses his fingers to post those things all over social media, doubling down where others might not.

Kate Galloway writes, “Women and power (redux)“:

Equality for women requires fundamental structural change. Government needs to revisit policy on tax, employment conditions, superannuation, social security, and housing (amongst other things). Violence against women is now gaining some traction as a policy priority – but the time for inquiries and taskforces is over. Frontline services must be funded, including advocacy and emergency housing and resettlement assistance. Court services need to be established. Additionally, education for perpetrators needs to be rolled out. Ministerial platitudes are not enough.

Alex McKinnon writes at Junkee, “The Government’s New Anti-Extremism Booklet Links Greenies And “Alternative Music” To Terrorism“:

Tony Abbott might not be Prime Minister anymore, but his legacy of spectacular fuck-ups lives on in policy decisions made under his leadership that are only now beginning to see the light of day. It’s like digging for buried treasure, only instead of pirate’s gold you find relics of bizarre paranoia and little nuggets of racism.


I like a section where I have no idea how to classify posts and then I realise I don’t have to.

Liz Barr at No Award writes, “Clearing up some common misconceptions about Australian dragons“:

Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths about Australian dragons, both those native to the continent, and those that were introduced — deliberately or otherwise — by human activity.  So we thought we’d throw together a quick listicle, outlining things more people should know about draconis Australis and other dragons one might find in Australia

Ju at The Conversationalist writes about meal planning and some of the great recipes she’s discovered.  I’m looking forward to trying some of these myself.

Violence Against Women

All posts in this section contain a trigger warning for violence, rape, and/or harassment.

Jennifer Wilson at No Place for Sheep writes, “Give us shelter: why new DV funding isn’t anywhere near enough” (emphasis in original):

The Turnbull government’s announcement last week of $100 million worth of funding to address domestic violence is better than than silence, and goes to some small way towards acknowledging the enormous problem this country has with male violence against women.

But what it does not do, and for this appalling omission the government should be unrelentingly and loudly pilloried, is fund the urgent immediate need for frontline services such as refuges and community legal centres, both of which are a woman’s first stop when she’s forced to flee a dangerous domestic situation.

LudditeJourno at The Hand Mirror writes, “Chris Brown and fairy dust“:

The men we look up to matter.  They are part of what stitches together gendered violence, misogyny and sexist oppression.  Does Chris Brown teach young men to treat women, and all other genders with respect or disdain?  Is he the kind of man we want young men in Aotearoa to learn from, emulate, hold up as a role model?

Hell no.

Jennie Hill at Women’s Agenda writes, “Stop diminishing the killing of women. It’s not road rage, it’s murder“:

Road rage is stupid, and sometimes dangerous. Many of us have been a victim and know how scary it can be. However, the perpetrators of road rage are – while almost certainly suffering from anger management issues and shouldn’t be in charge of 2 tonnes of metal and rubber – almost never deliberate murderers.

This is in stark contrast to the alleged killer of 24 year old Tara Brown, Lionel Patea. On Wednesday he allegedly deliberately ran the mother of his young daughter off the road in Queensland, then bashed her while she was trapped in the car. Most of us would see such an act as murder, or attempted murder.

The Koori Woman writes, “There are no murdered Aboriginal women’s funerals on the news“:

Indigenous women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised from domestic violence injuries than women in the rest of the community. Under reporting of domestic violence is much more prevalent among Indigenous women.

Distrust of police plays a huge factor in this. In a country where Indigenous women’s issues are pushed to the back burner to better accommodate white women’s problems ad nauseum the prevailing attitude is why bother?

Jane Gilmore writes at Women’s Agenda, “Family violence is not about poverty and it is about gender“:

Violence is gendered

We are not demonising men when we say that most violence is committed by men, or that most family violence is committed by men against women. There are obviously exceptions, but it is a reality that must be recognised in any effort to understand and change the causes of violence.

Michael Salter writes at The Ethics Centre, “Want men to stop hitting women? Stop talking about “real men”“:

In the same way, “real men don’t hit women” only makes sense within the culture of sexism that drives violence against women. Male anxiety about being a “real man” is at the very core of physical and sexual violence.

Susan Hopkins and Jenny Ostini write at Overland, “Domestic violence and the welfare state“:

While domestic violence is at last receiving some public attention, there are still certain aspects of the issue that remain relatively hidden. How Indigenous women are disproportionately subjected to domestic violence is rarely mentioned. How socioeconomic status makes some women more vulnerable not only to violence but to incarceration is another controversial issue avoided in the rush to take a stand.

Celeste Liddle writing for Daily Life writes, “Family violence isn’t something that happens to ‘unsuitable women’“:

If Devine were to examine intersectional feminism theory, she would find feminists identifying social disadvantage as an exacerbating factor – not the cause – of additionally oppressed women experiencing violence at a much higher rate. And the true common factor between all DV cases is that it’s a gendered issue in which most of the victims are women and most of the perpetrators are men.

In other words, to state plainly that poverty is the cause of domestic violence ignores the gendered power which lies at its root.

Clem Bastow writes at Daily Life, “The problem with the ban against Chris Brown“:

Similarly, where Collective Shout and Melinda Tankard Reist campaigned widely to have the music video for Kanye West’s Monster banned, there was no such level of effort put into having Maroon 5’s controversial (and equally as disturbing) clip for Animals torn from the airwaves; again, according to the Tone Deaf interview, Collective Shout “didn’t have capacity to run a campaign at the time”.

Where is the outcry over the misogyny of The Decemberists, appearing at Byron Bay Bluesfest early next year, whose lyrics frequently concern the rape and mistreatment of women? Or is it okay because they’re not rappers, and folk music isn’t seen to “incite violence against women”? If you’re going to decry the misogyny inherent in music, then apply the same lens to metal, country, pop, rock and alternative artists.

In the wake of Straight Outta Compton‘s success, Scarlett Harris examines misogynoir in rap music and whether we can separate the men from their art.

Scarlett Harris writes at The Scarlett Woman, “Following Bill Cosby & Hugh Hefner Down the Rabbit Hole“:

In July it came out that in 2005 Bill Cosby admitted in a sworn deposition to buying Quaaludes with the intent to use them to rape women, not to “have sex with them” as headlines read.

Around the same time, former Playboy Playmate and Hugh Hefner’s “No. 1 Girlfriend” Holly Madison released an incriminating memoir, entitled Down the Rabbit Hole, about her time in the Playboy Mansion and how it often involved Quaalude-addled group sex with Hefner.


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Cancer Update: Radiotherapy Day 6

So I’ve had a few days of radiotherapy now, and thought I’d provide a general update as to how it is.

So I rock up at the hospital, sign in and be advised if my appointment for the following day/week has changed, go to the waiting area, and hang about and wait.  The waiting usually isn’t for very long, and then I get changed into my hospital gown, go wait in the second waiting room for a few minutes, and then get into the radiation room.

So far I’ve only attended one of these appointments alone.  I’m very lucky I have the support of friends and family to keep me company in the waiting room, even if it is for a short period.

So in the radiation room I tell them who I am, what they’re treating, and lie down on a table under a big machine.


Not the actual machine at the hospital, just one like it from a site on the internet

As I’m getting treated for breast cancer, my arms are above my head and I’m holding onto some bars.  The technicians mark on my skin where I got some tiny tattoos, and then line me up under laser beams (I am high tech) to make sure I’m in the right spot for the radiation to be delivered.  Once they’re happy they leave the room and I get shot with high energy photons, twice, diagonally through my breast in order to avoid my heart.  It takes maybe 5 minutes.

I don’t have a problem appearing nude in front of people, so constantly being topless in front of the technicians isn’t a problem for me, I can imagine it would be for some people, particularly as some of the technicians are men.  All of the technicians are lovely, and highly professional.

My breast is beginning to redden from the radiotherapy, which is the expected side-effect.  I am after all getting constantly burnt with radiation.  It’s also a bit tender, which isn’t surprising as all the cells are constantly being damaged and then have to repair each day.

I have been warned that I might get extreme burns (blistering and/or skin cracking) as I progress through the treatment.  I don’t know if the burns will hurt as much as they will be annoying.  The hospital will keep an eye on any burns and side-effects to ensure that I am coping ok and provide assistance where possible.  I have already been provided with sorbolene cream to put on the irradiated area twice a day in order to keep the skin moisturised and soothed.

I’ve also had a cold/bacterial infection while doing this, so it’s been more shit than it normally would be.  I only have 14 more sessions left.


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Tell me a story

I tweeted the other day (ok several months) ago, that I had come to a realisation about why I just don’t like some stories.  Everyone raved about Anita Heiss’s Tiddas, and was talking about how they related to the story about a close knit group of girlfriends.  I love Anita and bought the book to read, but sadly I couldn’t finish it, and I thought over the course of a few weeks why that was.

It certainly wasn’t the writing, Anita is a fantastic author, her writing is superb and her senses of place and character are powerful, so it wasn’t that.  Eventually I realised it was because of the key essence of the story – secrets.

It’s not that I don’t mind a book where the characters have to keep things from each other to keep each other safe, or because there are far more important things to do than discuss how a careless comment hurt their feelings at breakfast, but in a book where there appears to be no other reason to keep secrets from each other than to drive dramatic tension, I have a problem with that.

I’m not sure why this is a specific thing that bugs me about some stories.  I’m sure part of it is being a person who is open and honest with those I care about, and that I don’t like keeping secrets from those I care about unless they’re fun secrets like surprise presents or parties.  That said, I also hate surprises, so maybe that’s part of it too.

Stories are often told where an event happens and that drives the plot, or where conflict between people happen, and that’s the plot, or there is a journey or a game or things.  Stories where someone is fretting about whether or not they should tell someone else this thing that is going on in their life, when for all the history as far as the reader knows of this character and this other person is that they would have told the other, irritates me.  I believe it’s huge in romance books (another genre I don’t read).

It’s one thing that annoyed me most about [Rowena] Cory Daniell’s series The Last of the T’en (and now I discover she is also from Brisbane), sure initially the main character has absolutely no reason to trust the invader who demands she marry him, but they begin to understand each other, and there are all sorts of non-reasons for them to stop communicating.  The romantic tension is driven by them failing to communicate and it annoyed me.  The world, ideas, clash of cultures, rebel alliances, etc are all great, but why can’t they just talk to each other?

Really this is me having a whine because my I value openness in my relationships over many other things, and when I see fictional characters fail to communicate (this even happened in Glitch and that annoyed me too), I rage at them to just sit down and do the talking thing.  Yes it is hard, it isn’t always fun, and can take time, but it is necessary and the plot will happen anyway because you have built interesting characters, in interesting places, with interesting things happening to them.

I love a great “us against the world” story.  I love reading about people learning about themselves and other people.  I love reading about defeating evil, or slightly evil, or “oops we thought that was the bad person”.  I love reading about people who learn to communicate better with each other as they realise that one of them communicates in a different way to themselves.  I love most stories.  It turns out I am not a fan of stories about not communicating.

Today’s post promted by this.

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Cancer Update #8 Radiotherapy Mapping/Planning

So this radiotherapy thing is becoming realer, and I’m getting more anxious about it.  It’s very easy to be flippant about these things when they’re off in an undefined time period in the future, but the moment it becomes real, the flippancy disappears and the anxiety settles in.

I’m more anxious about this than I think I was about the surgery.  I’ve had surgery before, I know what to expect (more or less).  I haven’t had radiotherapy.  Now that I know my radiotherapy date starting I will contact the people I know who have had breast cancer and talk to them about what to expect.  I don’t know how alarmist the radiotherapy doctor is being about being a fat woman having radiotherapy versus a thin woman (apparently I have a greater risk of skin cracking due to the burns I will get), or whether that is because I have larger breasts and I’d have that risk regardless of my weight.

Both the doctors who saw me today, the radiology doctor in training and the consultant weren’t particularly personable.  Their hands were FREEZING and I got quite cold as they poked and prodded my breasts before drawing on them in texta. I didn’t appreciate their talking about me as if I wasn’t really there, but I didn’t mind being part of a doctor’s specialisation education.

The nurses/radiotherapists on the other hand were absolutely delightful.  Their hands were warm, they were reassuring, they talked to me about what they were doing and how long things were going to take.  They apologised when they were about to touch me with something that was cold (mostly the ruler they were using) and ensured that I could get up and go to the toilet when I couldn’t wait any longer during the appointment.

So radiotherapy starts on the 22nd of September. A bit under 2 weeks away.  I will be going to the hospital 5 days a week (business days) for 4 weeks (barring sickness).  I may get very fatigued, I may burns that resemble severe sunburn, I may have none of those things and just have the inconvenience of my days interrupted with a hospital appointment.

I am a bit over the unknowns.  My life generally has a lot more certainty in it, and I prefer it that way.  But soon things will be back to normal (more or less).  I’ll start on the tamoxifen, work through the side-effects, and just be myself.

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Post-Apocalyptic Review: After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Cress

Book: After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Cress

Format consumed: Ebook, also available in hard copy (Fishpond, Booktopia)

Plot summary (Goodreads):

The year is 2035. After ecological disasters nearly destroyed the Earth, 26 survivors—the last of humanity—are trapped by an alien race in a sterile enclosure known as the Shell.

Fifteen-year-old Pete is one of the Six—children who were born deformed or sterile and raised in the Shell. As, one by one, the survivors grow sick and die, Pete and the Six struggle to put aside their anger at the alien Tesslies in order to find the means to rebuild the earth together. Their only hope lies within brief time-portals into the recent past, where they bring back children to replenish their disappearing gene pool.

Meanwhile, in 2013, brilliant mathematician Julie Kahn works with the FBI to solve a series of inexplicable kidnappings. Suddenly her predictive algorithms begin to reveal more than just criminal activity. As she begins to realize her role in the impending catastrophe, simultaneously affecting the Earth and the Shell, Julie closes in on the truth. She and Pete are converging in time upon the future of humanity—a future which might never unfold.

Weaving three consecutive time lines to unravel both the mystery of the Earth’s destruction and the key to its salvation, this taut post-apocalyptic thriller offers a topical plot with a satisfying twist.

I don’t think I agree with the plot summary in Goodreads.  I’d rewrite it as follows (unless I read a completely different book).

The year is 2035. After ecological disasters nearly destroyed the Earth, 26 survivors—the last of humanity—are trapped by an alien race in a sterile enclosure known as the Shell.

Fifteen-year-old Pete is one of the Six—children who were born deformed and sterile and raised in the Shell. The original survivors are growing old and sick, and some have died. Pete and the Six blame the alien Tesslies for the end of the world and their only hope lies within brief time-portals into the recent past, where they bring back children to replenish their disappearing gene pool, and supplies to make their lives more comfortable.

Meanwhile, in 2013, brilliant mathematician Julie Kahn works with the FBI to solve a series of inexplicable kidnappings and thefts. With each new data point her predictive algorithms are more accurate and she can predict where Pete and the Six will appear next.

Weaving three consecutive time lines to unravel both the mystery of the Earth’s destruction and the key to its salvation, this taut post-apocalyptic thriller offers a topical plot with a satisfying twist.

This novella was nominated for several awards and won some too (Goodreads):

Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novella (2013), Nebula Award for Best Novella (2012), Locus Award for SF Best Novella (2013), Endeavour Award Nominee (2013)

Type of post apocalyptic story: This one is interesting.  It’s written both immediately before the world as we know it is ending, has the moment the world is ending, and also in a now that is the future.  The chapters swap between the past and present, working towards the moment the world as we knew it ended.


This story is certainly ambitious, and the writing is of high quality.  The characters were all equally unlikeable, and I think that’s why it rates so poorly.  Pete is an obnoxious, aggressive, sex obsessed teenager with entitlement issues and Julie is a determined loner who wants to do it all on her own, bugger the consequences.  I certainly didn’t feel any empathy for either of them, mostly I wanted to shake them and tell them to grow up.

I did like the story mechanic.  I would have much preferred that the story followed one of the survivors versus Pete, but the gradual collapse of all the time lines to the main event was done really well, and the urgency was surrounding the events was well captured.

World Building: Basically the world is Gaia, a self regulating mechanism, and she/it gets pissed off with humanity and wipes us all out.  The book is set in the Northern Americas which is convincingly wiped out.  I’m still not sure Australia was affected.  We’d be protected from Yellowstone exploding by trade winds, and any resulting tsunami from that event would wipe out the Pacific Islands and PNG, but Australia would be mostly ok.  The tsunami from the Canary Islands collapsing in the Atlantic wouldn’t affect Australia.  If a major earthquake happened off the coast of Chile, then Western Australia would still be ok.  Australia is special that way.  I’m not sure anything happened in the Indian Ocean either, so all the countries in that part of the world are probably ok too.  However, there is another element to the plot which means that humanity would die off regardless of what continent they lived on.

I’m nit picking, and really when the end comes, it comes quickly enough that news about what is happening doesn’t have time to spread.  So I’ll just say that everyone but the survivors died, and the story went from there.

Character Building: I didn’t like any of the characters.  I didn’t like their motivations, I didn’t connect with them, I thought they were all insufferable.  This is not a ringing endorsement.

Women: So Julie is really smart and capable.  The women survivors are resourceful and have worked hard to build a new life for themselves with the male survivors in the Shell.  The survivors are a bit 2 dimensional because they’re not main characters in this novella.

Non-white characters: So they’re there, but most are not central to the plot.  The survivors in the Shell were all the the US at the end of the world, but are not all white.  There is a Chinese man, someone with Latino/a heritage, and Julie’s surname suggests that she has South Asian heritage.  It’s a good reflection of the diversity of the US.

Disabled characters: So the Six have various birth defects, for undisclosed reasons, which have meant that they all have a disability of some form.  The story does not go into this in much depth, but Pete is described as having a head too big for his body and a weak shoulder (which is wrenched from time to time when he’s kidnapping children or fighting).

Queer characters: There is no mention of any queer characters in the book at all.  LGBTI people do not exist in this world.

Final thoughts

Pete is such an obnoxious character.  He really ruined the story for me as he was so self obsessed and entitled.  I find it rather weird that he grew up that way given the survivors had the choice to change the ways they did things (including raising children).  Pete wanders around with such a huge chip on his shoulder, and believes that he should get what he wants in relation to sex.

Oh and the angry sex he has with one of the Six makes him even less palatable. I don’t recommend this story at all.

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Cancer Update #7 Radiotherapy Consult

So today I went and saw the radiotherapy doctors at the Peter Macallum Hospital, Victoria’s premier cancer hospital.  Before I talk about me, I want to talk about that hospital because it was one of the most amazing patient orientated places I have ever been.

The Peter Mac (as it tends to be known to everyone) is a bit of a maze.  That is a big downside when you’re stressed and confused and don’t know where to go.  However, once you get where you need to be – in my case the Breast Cancer clinic, the waiting space is absolutely amazing.  The various clinics are located alongside each other, with one big waiting room.  And what a waiting room it is.

I wasn’t there for very long, but this is what I saw.  There are jigsaw puzzles, with tables set up to do jigsaw puzzles on.  There is a big box of wool, with knitting needles and I’m guessing crochet hooks, so people can knit/crochet while waiting.  The supporting columns were all decorated with yarn bombing.  There were colouring pencils and adult style colouring pages.  There were board games and a chess board.  There was a library of fiction and non-fiction books.  There were magazines in many different languages.  There were comfortable chairs.  There were treadmills if you want to walk off anxiety or do your daily exercise.  There is also free wifi so you can browse the internet/read RSS feeds/play games on devices.

I know the Peter Mac is moving next year to a new location on Grattan Street, across from the Royal Melbourne and Royal Women’s Hospitals, and I hope they keep this very patient friendly and supportive atmosphere in their new building.  It was great to see so much creativity.  A little more on what goes on is here.

Ok, so me… I saw a younger doctor who initially told me I’d need 6 weeks of radiotherapy, and then went through my cancer diagnosis history and overall health.  I reported something* which I think might be related to the surgery I had, he wasn’t sure it was related, but I’ll speak to the breast care nurse at the Royal Women’s tomorrow anyway.  He took me through the not very likely, but serious risks of having radiotherapy, and then went off to find his supervisor – who is the doctor I’d actually been referred to see.

The supervisor doctor said that I’d only need 4 weeks (which is what the RWH had said), and that overall that’d be better for me as it means that it’s over quicker and the immediate side effects don’t last as long.  I will be called for a mapping appointment which will be in the next two weeks, and then radiotherapy will start two weeks later than that… probably.  Apparently the planning of how to deliver the treatment without impacting on my heart and lungs can take up to a week, so the radiotherapy won’t start as soon as I expected.  This is ok, I am not an urgent case. Given my cancer is at an early stage and appears to be completely removed from my body.

* I have some pain under my breast that seems to be as if some fluid (oedema) has formed as a result of surgery. It might resolve on it’s own, it might need to be drained.  I’ll get a second opinion, because it’s sore and that means that I’m not doing all the things I’d like to do otherwise.

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Cancer update #6 To chemo or not to chemo, that was the question

And the answer is no, which is good.

This morning we saw the oncologist and she was LOVELY, really really LOVELY, and laughed at our jokes and thought we were funny (which is always nice).  I am still super impressed with how the hospital, the nurses and the specialists are dealing with my two partners.  They pause briefly after I answer their question as to why I’m being accompanied into the room by two men, and then move on like it’s no big deal (which it isn’t).

Anyway, the oncologist said that with my tumour profile that the Oncotype DX test would essentially be unhelpful, and that with radiotherapy, and tamoxifen for 10 years that I will be right.  That’s essentially what she said, she talked a lot about the types of tests already done, the fact that the growth factor test is less reliable than the others (greater likelihood of false positives), and as it is stating a different finding than the other tests (grade 2 tumour, slow growth generally, no spreading into the lymphatic system, tiny tumour, etc) that she doesn’t think the Oncotype DX test is required.

She’ll refer me to the Peter Mac do to the radiotherapy as the Royal Women’s Hospital doesn’t have radiotherapy services, and I’ll need a month (4 weeks) of radiotheraphy at least.  I should have my initial appointment with them in the next two weeks, then an appointment to line up the machine and tattoo me, and then radiotherapy, 5 days a week until it is done.  I should be able to work while being treated, but will feel quite tired and a bit sore.

All in all, it was nice to get some good news.

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