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Monday, October 7, 2013


I have been suffering from cystic breasts for over seven years now, a painful condition where ones breasts develop numerous  pockets of fluid, clear or not, throughout the breast tissue.  My breasts are a little fibrous (or so I've been told), which may be a catalyst in this condition, but other than this thumb-suck, neither I nor the numerous doctors and radiologists that I've seen over the years, can give a reason for these developing.

I'm sharing this rather personal blog as it may be of help to someone who has been similarly plagued by sore lumpy boobs as I have...where self examination is pretty pointless as one doesn't have a clue what it is that one is feeling...a lump is a lump is a lump!!!!

 The reasons why I "shouldn't" have developed cystic breasts:
My bra size is a shy 32/34 b/c cup, depending on my weight, (fairly constant) but  I successfully breast-fed all my children, my son till 18 months old (I only stopped lactating when he was five....not cool!!). I was on a low dose contraceptive for around 4 years between my daughter and son...and not since. I have always been health conscious,  not drinking much except for the odd glass of wine, not smoking,  not having a sweet tooth at all (chocolate is apparently a no-no) , am paranoid about eating fresh fruit and veggies (grow my own), never cook with oil (except for olive oil when the recipe calls for it), and have always done some sport or other.   I drink one or two cups of coffee per day (coffee also a no-no), and hate fizzy drinks.  I don't have a family history of breast cancer.....except for my dad's sister who was taking HRT's for over 20 years.  

So there you have it...doing everything right......right????.....or am I?

Women are encouraged to go for a mammogram once a year after the age of 40, but for me this has meant fear and pain and every ounce of motivation within me to go.  I have always gone on my own, believing that it is a negative, nerve-wracking procedure and it's not fair to drag someone else into that space....although, there have been times when I wish that I was holding the hand of someone who cared. 

Having small boobs, mammograms are a tug of war between human flesh and technology.....literally!!  You have to strip down to your waist and stand in front of a complete stranger who yawns as she tells you to shove your already tender, cyst-filled boob onto a cold plastic table.  Whatever you can't manage to put on properly, she obligingly does for you, with some dexterous tugging and equally cold hands.  You know she's lying when she says: "this will be quick" and "its not going to be sore" as you watch  the top, descending plate slowly gobble up your boob and squash it to the size of a flap-jack. (Is it really important to take half the skin from your neck and torso too!!??) What I have learned is, that when she tells me not to breath...I DON'T!!! she'll have to do it again!  When the plates are released, and while your breast takes a few minutes to resume its shape, one almost expects to see some blood oozing from your nipple!!!!  Surely, at least one of the cysts have burst?!

Mammogram over, you wait for the results with sore throbbing boobs, in a waiting room full of other half dressed women, thinking to yourself:  "should I warn them?"

Then the dreaded: "Mrs Vallance, we've found something, and we need to do a biopsy".  At this point, you are barely able to suppress your inner hysteria.  Your mind races at 1000km per hour, you start writing your will, saying goodbye to family and friends in your head, planning a masterpiece that will last for all eternity, and plan some weird, over-the-top adventure that will ensure your detachment from the inevitable.  

 Its all a crazy, hazy space to be in...a mixture of calm, panic, fear and faith. 
HOWEVER....the procedure...the biopsy, quickly brings you back into the 'now'.  It's everything as above...only the 'flap-jack' stage lasts for a good 20 minutes.   She shoots a long, thick needle into the dodgy site again and again, removing as much of the 'spot' as she can, finally replacing it with a little metal 'ribbon' which will identify the site forever. (not big enough to set off a metal detector fortunately...imagine explaining that away in Dubai's notorious airport!!!)  You wonder if your torturer has the slightest bit of job satisfaction, and what it could possibly be. You concentrate hard on not hating her, by focusing on her poppie shoes and unshaven legs through one of the two holes in the suspended table.

When you get home, you feel as if your breasts have grown by two sizes but your husbands t-shirt is just far too tight.    Your nerves are all jangled and you have now become a combination of Za-Za Gabor and Joan of Arc.....and thus your split personality remains for the 7 days till you get the results.  Benign!!! Haleluja, thank you Lord. 

 You are jubilant..........till it all happens again, a few months later!

Around nine months ago, I was referred to Dr Carol-Anne Benn at the Milpark hospital, by my female GP. What an astounding relief to FINALLY have someone LISTEN and understand what having breast cysts was like!!!  After all, she HAS breasts, so why shouldn't she.  She took down a detailed history, and actually listened to what I had to say...a first.  I wasn't just a purse-filler, but a real woman, with a real problem.  At that stage, I had been seriously contemplating having a radical mastectomy. I'd had enough!!! I'd even discussed it with my husband and one or two friends.  I felt desperate.

She started me on palliative treatment : a Solal detox drink that eventually made me gag just by thinking about it (that was stopped), gave me reams of information on the condition, and put me on another Solal product called 13 Complex.  This is an extract of broccoli (and certainly smells like it when you take the lid off) who's function is to halt or at least slow down cell mutation.  I have researched Rooibos tea enough to feel that it is key to healing almost anything, so am drinking copious amounts with honey and occasionally with cinnamon.  I drink between 2 and 3 litres of water a day too.  (Anybody who knows me well, will know that that its no small fete for me.  I'm not a water-drinker.) 

Well, I'm now happy to report, that my sonar today showed that all my cysts have shrunk!!!!  Something is working and I'm delighted.  My mom is a great prayer.  When she says that she's praying for you, you can be sure that she this is one thing that I do not discount in my improvement.  

I know that I will always have cystic breasts, but I have never been one to simply accept things.  I question, I explore, I fight the demon and even if I get nowhere,  at least i'll have the peace knowing that I didn't simply walk away, but tried to make a positive change.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

This thing called guilt

I haven't blogged in ages, for many, many reasons....... mostly personal, and this sudden, out of the blue, splurge, does not mean that I have found my literary mojo.....not yet at any rate.  I just have a bit of time....well no, actually, I dont really, its just that I'm too darn exhausted  to start running around again today.  I have even managed to put my well developed 'guilt' to bed for a while, least for long enough to get a few lines down.  I have always journaled, and  other than scribbling down the odd thought/vent/idea/poem, that too, has all but stopped. 

Soooo much has happened since my last blog; the awesome, emotive wedding of our eldest daughter, the theft of around R100 000 worth of my jewelry by a domestic helper (who, it would seem, that the entire world warned me about.......(I do that quite often it seems....ignore people's warnings)), my middle daughter is happily in another job and is studying again, and my son is navigating his way through matric and  these hair-raising South African roads with his new drivers license.

My art has taken a back seat to brooms, mops and dusters, and now, more recently, to rakes, spades and pool equipment.  Not meaning to moan here, but my hands now look worse than my 76 year old mums', with all the toxic, skin-dehydrating elements and chemicals that they're exposed to daily. Life by no means 'sucks'.  In fact it's pretty darn wonderful...lots of sugar with just a pinch of salt....

The salt, I guess, is the balance that life itself  has a hand in, just to remind us of our vulnerabilities and limitations.  Yes, this 'guilt' thing.....

When you are sooooo used to doing good that it becomes bad for you, when it becomes second nature and is an extension of who you are (or how you see yourself ) that you eventually loose site of the real self... and possibly, all because of a little programmed seed that was planted by people and circumstances through a lifetime, where 'good enough' never was. So, we roboticaly chuff our way through life, trying to be perfect...the perfect child, the perfect mother, the perfect daughter, the perfect wife....and all the while we are lost to being perfectly human with perfect imperfections and perfect limitations. There is no such thing as super-hero's , no matter what the world wants us to believe..deep down, everybody knows that....don't they???  

 Being made to feel guilty as we get older....warranted or not..... can trigger reactions  in that that our 'abused' and belittled subconscious lashes out in the conscious, because all our lives we have lived with and attempted to subconsciously rectify the accusation of 'not enough', 'you're bad', 'you're lazy', 'you're ugly' etc, etc.

Examining the motive and motivation for doing anything is a good start.  If its driven by guilt....simply.....its NOT good and will not ultimately be good for you or the person/people for who its intended....except of course, when its for yourself.

It all really boils down to loving ones self enough to know when you aren't.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Within without

Hush!!, what do I hear
Above strong breeze and breakers roar
like birds above treas, their cry's do soar
The heart heard loud whats deaf to the ear
the unspoken word behind the cynical leer

The smile belies the deadened heart
where sweet worded whispers hide tormented screams
borne of nighmares and vivid, devilish dreams
silence and forgiveness , it would rip apart
were it not for the fear of that poisoned dart

Dark eyes that stare unseeing
A caressing touch that neither feels or soothes
putting into place, what love neither gives or removes
the foundation and shield that ensnares well-being
the loud sob of memory, released without freeing.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Actually, who cares

Five more weeks till W-day!! Why am I not panicking? My daughter has just sent me a to-do list which has more "reds" (to-do's) than "whites"(done). So far, I have made 30 small parish invites, 80 invitations with pewter, silk ribbons and little diamantes, and a meter and a half tall Eiffel Tower for her Bridal shower made entirely out of wire! My hands looked like they had been plunged into a bee hive.


Over and above that, life continued with the usual things... tilling a shower floor, painting a few meters of external railings and scrubbing grouting etc.....and then, squashed in the middle somewhere, was my sons operation ( a 3 1/2 hour ACL reconstruction) my commission, up to 7 new sheets of trumpet music per week and a new website about to be launched.  

No, actually,  things have gotten crazy where my life-long need to maintain balance has been challenged to the enth.  There are sporadic visits to church, to my friends, to gym and quiet moments that are spent reading or scribbling down garbled thoughts and amateurish pictures....or rather doodles of a somewhat un-wired and unimaginative mind which has been laid flat from chasing my own tail!

The rhythmic motions of the day have almost become my "hommmmmmm" meditation, where my mind competes in its own race between calm, agitation, practicality, light and dark.  I have learned to befriend them all.  The winner is the one which comes closest to touching the outside world.. so as to be fueled by it.

What value is this to anyone?  None whatsoever..dead-ass boring really, but  I learned from "practicality" today, that one cannot influence ones value in the eyes of another ....that your perceived value is as a direct result of what you have given out in your personal capacity as mother, wife, friend, sibling or artist for that matter.  Its recognition is influenced by the values that the recipients themselves have.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Weapon of mass distruction

 My CD player has not been working for a while so I've been forced to listen to 702..a chat radio station during the week, but which has fantastic music over the weekends.

By the end of yesterday, I wanted to slit my blumming wrists!!!!!!  I listened to producer after producer discussing topics pertinent to our current news:  i.e. A step-father/child-rapist who's life sentence for raping his 12 year old step daughter, was commuted, because she "did not scream" while being raped, she "consented" for rewards, and there is no "evidence" of physical or psychological harm.  I won't elaborate at this point, as to how I felt about this judgement, or how I reacted to it, except perhaps to say.... "give that peadophilic b@#$%rd to me (and lots of ladies I know),.... they want screams,..... I'll give them screams"!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I thought the life sentence for child-rape in this country was mandatory ...!! Obviously not.

Then, there was a story of our police force...that most of them are overweight and failed their fitness tests...UNABLE to run 2 km in 20 minutes!!! With that in mind, the next story was of a truck-driver who died of his head injuries, and another who was burned alive in his truck yesterday, during the trucking strike (which happily ended today).  Where were our police???  (other than sitting in their cars with a cell phone to one ear and a "double Mac" being shoveled into their mouths) Their response was that the perpetrators "disappeared into thin air".  Case closed.

The mining strike is continuing and so far has cost this country over R3B....and our state president is, all the while, building a mansion in Inkantla, Natal, for his gazillion wives and children, of which R2M will be payed by the tax-payer.

On a positive note however, the controversial "Spear" painting was declassified yesterday...which has now allowed me to put it onto my blog.

For those who are not familiar with this story, In May this year, SA artist, Brett Murry, exhibited his painting called The Spear" at the popular Goodman Gallery.  Its a painting of Jacob Zuma with his rather nasty-looking third leg exposed.
The reaction was very mixed.  The ANC condemned it as disrespectful and a law-suit was opened against the gallery, followers of Jacob Zuma were vociferous in their anger at Bret Murry, calling hm a racist amongst other things and then proceeded to deface it.

The painting was still bought and is now safely (defacement and all) in Germany.

 Then, a few months letter, a black artist called Ayanda Mabulu painted our president with those same nasty bits exposed ( obviously, after being slammed in a door), which he exhibited in Cape Town.
He called his painting "Umshini Wam", which roughly translated into English means "My Weapon".

Interestingly, there has been a play on words by both artists, comparing his genitalia to a weapon....could this be due to the rape case that once stood over his head....or his claiming that a good shower could prevent AIDS?

The reaction to this particular painting, however more detailed and graphic it is, was subdued.  The ANC just politely asked all artists to "respect" our president.

 Is it because the art work was done by a black person instead of a white?...the "racist" card obviously could not be used.

Throughout history and the history of art, the earliest contemporary pieces always gave voice to the voiceless, exposing troubling social issues which were largely left unchallenged because of fear and politics...or both.

If this man commanded a deep respect from his people, through his leadership, through his governance, through his intelligence, words and actions, I wonder if these paintings would have been done.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


 My eldest daughter is getting married in 7 weeks time which I believe, over these last few months of planning and preparation, is bringing about an emotional transition within me as a mother..from protective nurturer to bystander and more important, explorer, discoverer of a completely different world. A very strange and even frightening place for me to be.  When I walk into her bedroom now, its as if my mind consciously wants to absorb everything as it is: clothes lying around, make-up and jewelry, strewn everywhere, her smells, her pictures, her tacky little pot-plant...I feel a strange panic come over me that soon, this bedroom will be empty of all this and of my little girl. I will be handing the responsibility of her welfare to a man who has only known her for five years....and not 24....I will be handing her over to go and make decisions for her own family, her own life, and have to step back when she makes decisions which could potentially harm her or take her out of the comfort and protection which I as her mom, have striven  to give her, all her life.

My own parents still phone me often. I can hear the unvoiced concern in their voice...I can hear them reaching to me in love and I understand the desperation they feel's when their children hurt.
My fear is:  Do I have that incredible strength, to continue with my own life and detach myself when my heart is breaking, if my children move to different continents and I cant share their day-to-day life like I do now.
My role as a parent is taking on a whole new direction and Lord, it's scary...but also exciting, and wonderful.  I will be gaining a fantastic new son and, God willing, be blessed with beautiful grandchildren.

But right here, right now, its a matter of getting my head around all these changes...having the maturity of spirit to understand that this is all necessary, a natural progression of life...a generational transition, that every single human being ever created, has to go through this....the transience of life itself where each phase has its own importance and blessing.

I have been really busy lately but predominantly on my own. The voices in my head have been cruel, funny, calming, inspirational and I have listened to them all.  I have thought of love and being in love, the love of family and the love of friends:


Other than my family and "love" itself (Malvolio???) I love music .  my days are filled with all genre's of music, My trumpet has become my outlet and diversion. I wish that I had started to learn music sooner 

This is my all-time favorite love song..simplistic but beautiful


If a picture paints a thousand words then why can't I paint you?
the words will never show, the you I've come to know.
If a face could launch a thousand ships then where am I to go
There's no one home but you.You're all that's left me too. 
And when my love for life is running dry, 
you come and pour yourself on me.

If a man could be two places at one time, I'd be with you.
Tomorrow and today, beside you all the way.
If the world would stop revolving, spinning slowly down to die
I'd spend the end with you and when the world was through,
Then one by one the stars would all go out 
Then you and I would simply fly away.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ghosts and their horses

 This is a progression of the first commission which I completed recently. It is the first of a few references which I received from a "high profile" individual, who, frustratingly,  I know very little about.  The little I do know, I'm not at liberty to divulge. I really try and personalize my commissions but knowing next to nothing about this family, and given strict instructions to paint "the reference"only ("yes sir"!!!)  any artistic license which I may have been tempted to claim, has been squished!!
 Step two:  completing the background in layers, waiting for each to dry.  Patience is a necessary virtue here....hell on the nerves if you have two weeks to complete it by!!  If your paint is thin enough, it should work out well.
 Next, I started layering from the top left-hand corner, deciding on the base color and painting in the natural direction of the muscles, thinning out and thickening where the shadow occurs.  This makes it easier when working in the last layers of light or shadow
 I continued with this, working in sections.
 Being a dark colour, fortunately, it dried quickly so this part was quick (as quick as an anal artist could find it)  I worked in the white after the darker colors were takes a whole lot longer to dry and there is more chance of smooshing white all over the place ... (like always get covered with blue paint even when the darn tube is capped....whats with that???....or finding spinach in your teeth when all you've eaten is a jub-jub!)
 I worked from left to right as usual but didn't move down to grass level as that still needed layering before I could do the legs.
At this point, I was standing away from the painting a lot to ensure I've managed to capture the perspective, colors and shades and was going from one thing to another to correct and fill in as they came to my attention.
(I once painted an entire penis and only realized it once a fellow artist started laughing and I took a few steps back to actually SEE the picture)
 Once the grass was painted in, in the distance, only then could I start doing the legs and tail.  The fur was largely done using a fairly long rigger loaded with really thin paint. 
 Almost done, I was in a panic at this stage to ensure all the white had been added as the drying time is really long...especially if the weather is cold or rainy (which it was).  the white feet had to be completely dry before I could paint in the foreground. 
Done!  I hate painting in grass.  Its tedious and I'm still learning that less is more....i.e., sometimes using only a little detail in the foreground will create a better picture.

Because thin layers were used throughout, a week's drying time was adequate for me to cover in a thin gloss varnish.  I love using varnish as it enhances the color of your painting, especially if, like me, you are not a colorist.

Happily, my secretive client really loved her painting and a day later, I received a few more to do.