The super-human parent juggle!

Sometimes I worry that what we see on social media isnt ‘real life’. We project the best versions of ourselves and try to look like super-humans, and often-times life can be so very different. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to do this story with the NZ Herald.

Being a single mum with a busy career is a full and rewarding life. I have many amazing supermum moments where I high five myself. Many days I juggle PR campaigns, run my beauty business, mentor juniors, make lego rocketships with my son, fit in a yoga class, cook an awesome dinner and fall asleep after meditating. But some days my car breaks down, my son is sick, technology is fickle and my work is so piled up so high that I don’t know where to start.

So when you start loading things on top of this, like major surgeries, recovery time, and trying to take care of children on your own – things can be pretty tough.  Through this blog I have met some amazing women. Many of them facing mastectomies and major surgery and most as single parents. I hope to see more general support available for these parents, and in paticular more short term benefit options so they can get through these tough times and avoid ending up on long term benefits.


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Single parents struggle in the face of illness

Prominent public relations specialist Anna Jobsz is calling for agencies to offer more support to single parents who undergo major surgeries or illnesses.

Jobsz has opened up about her struggle caring for her son alone, while also recovering from two major surgeries.

After discovering she had a mutated BRCA gene, in April 2016 Jobsz opted to have a mastectomy to reduce her considerable cancer risk.

Months later she had reconstructive surgery. All the while, she cared for her 3-year-old son full time.

Her family is overseas and Jobsz could depend on friends occasionally, but Jobsz was disappointed to be told by Work and Income New Zealand her only options were to receive a long term benefit, or nothing.

“I think most single parents want to keep working despite illness, and they don’t want to get into further debt because they take three weeks off work to recover,” Jobsz said.

“When I came home from hospital I would have friends come over the first few days if they could spare an hour or three away from work, which was a big help, but the hardest part was at night.

“My son would often wake up two or three times in the night because he was unsettled after I’d been away in hospital and at that point I could barely walk and I was still on heavy meds. Getting up at night and lifting him out of his cot was difficult mentally and physically.”

anna & Carlo first day homeShe recalled five days after leaving hospital having to take her son to his own surgery to receive grommets. They were at the hospital all day. The appointment had been a long time coming and she didn’t feel she could cancel.

“I had to drive him, and get him into the hospital in his pram, upstairs in the carpark, and help him through the day while I was on heavy meds and just wanted to sleep. I had waited months for him to get on the operating schedule for grommets, and his hearing was so bad, I had to go. Those moments are truly tough.”

Following her surgeries Jobsz was readmitted to hospital after contracting infections, and at that point the hospital appointed a social worker because they could see she was struggling. The worker said a WINZ staffer would visit her to explore options, but no one showed up, Jobsz said.

After following up she said she was told to call her family, or go on a long term benefit. Dismayed to discover there is no short term option available, she’s calling on the agency to introduce one for solo parents who find themselves in her position- juggling work and a child, and extra costs including medication, childcare, and travel.

Only after her surgeries did ACC contact Jobsz to tell her what payment options she might be eligible for, and Jobsz fears that single parents who don’t think to ask, won’t receive.

She wants WINZ, ACC, and hospital staff to work together to ensure patients like her get the right support.

“I hope that together we can find a solution because with an alarming rate of breast cancer in New Zealand, especially amongst Maori women, I can imagine that many future single mothers will have to deal with this issue. How can we find a way to take care of our parents in a short term way without them ending up on long term benefits?”

A social media post where she spoke about her struggles received strong support from others, including Minister Nikki Kaye, who recently battled breast cancer.

Breast cancer survivor and breast cancer charity Paddle for Hope founder Karin Horen said the gap in support was a major issue.

Horen was first diagnosed with cancer at 26, which returned in her 40s. She has three children whom she cared for after her surgeries.

“There’s people who have no access to anything. You sit in this hospital for days and they don’t give you any idea what you’re entitled to. The problem with cancer is that it doesn’t finish with chemotherapy, or radiation, or an operation. It’s the ongoing effects that you’re dealing with.”

Breast Cancer New Zealand spokeswoman Adele Gautier said breast cancer survivors were often surprised at the financial impact on themselves and their families.

“We have a free healthcare system and getting surgery and drugs is not a problem, but the additional costs can cause a really hard time. It’s a tough situation made even tougher.”

A WINZ spokesperson said it had a range of benefits available for single parents and that what they were eligible for was dependant on individual circumstances. In emergencies assistance could also be provided for accommodation, childcare, and medical costs.

Mediterranean diet could reduce your risk of Breast Cancer by 40%

We all know that eating a healthy diet can greatly improve our health. And in many cases we hear of ‘wonder-foods’ and superfoods that can boost our health and wellbeing in specific ways. But more recently researchers have started to look at diets from around the world, and the health impact on the people who eat these diets.

This huge study in the Netherlands followed 62,000 women aged 55 to 69 over a period of 20 years. The researchers found a strong link between the Mediterranean diet and reduced oestrogen receptor (ER) negative breast cancer.

Around 20 to 25% of all breast cancers diagnosed in New Zealand are ER negative, that’s 1200 – 1500 women diagnosed every year. According to this study, if we all followed the Mediterranean diet, 40% of those cases could be avoided.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in olive oil, fruit, nuts, fish, vegetables and whole grains, and is already known to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE!

More information about eating a Meditteranean Diet HERE!

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Getting it done!

My journey with BRCA was a strange thing. My mission to get testing seemed to take forever and it started to feel like I might never know whether I carried the cancer gene. So when the news finally came that I had tested positive as a carrier of the BRCA2 gene, I should have been prepared, and I thought I was, but I wasn’t at all. Hearing the words from Genetics NZ left me feeling numb.

The first few days after finding out I was overwhelmed thinking about what it would mean for me and my son. It wasn’t just the worry of surgery it was also the practical things like  -how long would I need to take off work? And who would look after Carlo? And what were the risks of the operation? Would I end up with breasts and nipples?

I had so many questions, and I realized that I had been so focused on trying to get testing that I hadn’t really thought about the next steps. St Marks Breast Clinic was helpful. The first thing they did was give me a folder of reading material. I was put under the care of Vanessa Blair, an Oncologist that specializes in ‘high risk’ cases, with a special interest in BRCA. She assesed my unique situation taking into consideration my family history and BRCA2 genetics and explained that my chance of breast cancer was extremely high. The thing that most shocked me was that BRCA cancers are most likey to strike at a younger age – they are not an older persons cancer.

In April 2016 I had a bilateral mastectoy at Auckland Surgical Hospital, under the care of St Marks.

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This photo  was taken the night before my operation. My girlfriend Delia came over to help calm my nerves. I told her what was planned with the surgery, and we celebrated my breasts and all the great memories they had given me. ‘Bye Bye Boobies’ we said. And although I was certain about my decision to remove my breasts, I was also apprehensive about the surgeries and procedures to come.

 

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The night before my double Mastectomy I didn’t get much sleep. Although I’m usually so calm under pressure, I wasn’t at all, it was unsettling. The morning of my operation I felt surprisingly OK. I said goodbye to Carlo and dropped him at his daycare to keep up our normal routine – then went on to Auckland Surgical Hospital.

My Plastic Surgeon Michelle Locke was very calming and ran through the procedure with me again. Dr Blair would remove my breast tissue and Dr Locke would work with her to put in my expanders (temporary pockets that get filled up with saline injections over 3 months).

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The operation was a success. I was under for more than 5 hours. But everything had gone as planned. The best news was that they had been able to do the nipple sparing procedure – I had kept my nipples! The first thing I said when I woke up was “I’m so glad they’re gone.” I was bruised, swollen and sore – but relieved.

It’s hard to really make the weeks that followed the operation sound great. I was very sore for the first 10 days and so frustrated not to be able to do all the things I wanted to do. It was over a week before I could make a cup of tea and even longer until I could really tuck my son into bed. But at no point did I regret the operation. I just looked forward to being fit and able again – and after two to three weeks I started to feel like myself.

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Only a couple of weeks after my operation I had my first expansion. The process was like something out of a sci-fi movie. Dr Locke explained I had metal ports inside the expander pockets, and started by using a magnet to find the point to inject. She used a pen to mark the exact spot. Then she injected me with a long needle that was attached with a curly tube to a syringe full of fluid. Gradually she pushed 100 mils of saline into my breast and it was like watching a balloon slowly inflate. I wish I had a picture to show you with just one side inflated – the difference was quite amazing.

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This photo was 4 weeks after my operation with 200 mils of saline in each breast, which is about an A cup. The inflation process takes approximately 3 – 4 months and during that time I kept having the inflations until I was back to my normal C cup size. The inflations feel really tight and they are generally uncomfortable. But there is light at the end of the tunnel!  Once the inflation process is complete the next operation is scheduled to have the silicones implanted.  Watch this space…

 

STORY ON STUFF:   http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/well-good/inspire-me/79422634/Mum-and-socialite-Anna-Jobsz-undergoes-double-mastectomy-for-her-son

So Much Love!

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Life BC (Before Carlo) was fun and full of highs!

As a busy PR girl I was always on the go, working overtime in the office, attending social events and spending time with my many friends. Drives in the convertible, long weekends at music festivals and jaunts to Sydney were just some of the regular features in my life.

And yet in the years leading up to the birth of my son something did feel empty. There was fun and there was excitement and probably ‘busyness’ would be a better way to describe my life – but in many ways it was a solitary life.

At age 26 I had been diagnosed with Endometriosis and at age 28 came another diagnosis –  Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

I wasn’t shocked really, we always had so much Ovarian Cancer in my family and I had always known my mother to have Endo. I tried with a long term partner to become pregnant but it didn’t work out. So I accepted that I probably wouldn’t be a mum and I tried to take it all in my stride and put motherhood in the back of my mind.

Eventually becoming pregnant was a very happy surprise and having Carlo in 2013 was such a special time.

I won’t sugar coat it – there were many many challenges I faced as a single mum and a parent in general. But those challenges didn’t take away from all the precious ‘firsts’ you experience. I will never forget watching my little guy open his icy blue eyes just moments after he was born, or taking his first steps across the room at 12 months old – unforgettable moments.

They certainly weren’t all the firsts I was expecting. Such as the first time he slept longer than 45 minutes at 6 weeks old and the first time we had to race to Starship Hospital late at night with Carlo passed out in my arms. In the end though the challenging moments become such special memories, because you do your best and you triumph – and that to me counts as a win.

BC might have been fun but AC is The Real Life!

#MumLife

 

 

 

Dear Mummy

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Author – Tui Flemming

The last event I attended before my big operation was the book launch of ‘Dear Mummy, You’re Important Too’. The author Tui Fleming is a passionate writer, career woman and mother of two young daughters.

I first met Tui at Westlake Girls in 1995 and she went on to become our head girl in my final year of College.  Intelligent, warm and driven are the three words I would use to describe Tui. So when she came to me with plans to launch her pending book I was delighted, but not one bit surprised that she had managed to get this project together all on her own.

‘Dear Mummy, You’re Important Too’ is about finding yourself again after becoming a mum. Tui’s perspective is that to be a great mum you need to be a great you.

unnamedI couldn’t agree with Tui more. When we feel together and happy in ourselves our energy reflects onto our little ones and those around us.  And while there are so many parenting ‘self help’ books available, I feel this one is more relevant to today’s busy lives. The focus is on the parent being the best version of themselves and coping with the many challenges of parenting through their own inner strength. Amen!

Here is Tui talking on TVNZ Breakfast, answering some interesting questions about being a mummy and putting yourself first   https://youtu.be/JMSVcX9NkFo

I asked Tui her thoughts on her own life as a busy working mum and she had this to say,

“Work to live, not live to work. I’ve always believed in that philosopy. For me t was never just about money and attainment. Working is about making connections, learning and being inspired. In reverse it’s about teaching, inspiring and developing others.”

“I should also mention ‘guilt’ because working mums feel so much of this. But we needn’t. If you must work to pay then bills, then how about feeling proud of your contribution? If you work because you want to then do it with gusto and enjoy it! Let it fill your cup and fuel you with satisfaction so that when you go home to your family you give them quality, full engagement.”

Food for thought… Tui also posted this inspiring blog post to her site!

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The book is well researched and brings in external influences and learnings for a well balanced read.  It centers around musings, motivations and morsels as key areas to drive your thinking as a mummy. But what I really love about this book is the practicality of the words and advice. This is not a book full of fluff! It’s a book full of great ideas and I think any mum (or parent) would benefit from reading it.

You can find out more about purchasing the book at www.dearmummy.co.nz

Dear Mummy NZ Facebook  community  http://www.facebook.com/dearmummyNZ

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You can sample the free E-Book here:     http://dearmummy.co.nz/shop/ebook/

You can read the blog here:        http://dearmummy.co.nz/blog/

 

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Tui speaking with her panel of career mums

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Media and special guests at the book launch

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Anna Reeve and I at the book launch

 

Pretty In Pink #PinkRibbon

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Photo at the Generator Pink Ribbon Breaky – on my right is Evangelina from NZBCF and in the pink vest is Breast Cancer survivor and BRCA carrier – Karin Horen

Today I was invited to speak at the Generator Pink Ribbon Breakfast. They asked me to share my story about having the BRCA cancer gene and my experience having a double mastectomy.

I was excited to see a few familiar faces in the room and I felt so much warmth and support from people I’d never even met before. It’s times such as these that make me proud to be a Kiwi!

I should also note the strong presence of males in the room. These are men who are brave enough to surround themselves with pink cupcakes and hear chicks talk about boob issues. Good on you boys!

 

They kicked off by playing this video:

http://www.newshub.co.nz/tvshows/story/finding-out-your-cancer-risk-a-hard-fought-battle-2016021119#axzz49ii4L08j

It was weird watching that video back and thinking about the stage I was going through at that point. I was making decisions about my mastectomy and talking to specialists at St Marks. It’s amazing to think how far you can come in just a few months!

Yesterday I sat down to write my story and I wondered where to start? I came to the conclusion that you can only really start at the beginning. So I talked about my first experiences of Breast Cancer as a child – finding out that my mum’s best friend had Breast Cancer and going to see her for the last time. The realization that Cancer isn’t an old person’s illness and that young parents can be taken away.

I went on to talk about losing my father to stomach cancer when he was age 39, and my own mother’s journey with breast cancer. Watching her lose both of her breasts and then the lengthy struggle to stay alive – she has been inspirational to say the least.

The final part was about my own BRCA journey and my experience having a double mastectomy. There’s so much to say about that it’s hard to squeeze into one post.

This morning was tinged with bittersweet feelings. I couldn’t stop thinking about Helena and I realized walking into Generator that it’s the first time I’ve ever been there without her. If those walls could talk! So many parties including numerous breast cancer events, Birthday parties and even a singles party – all with Helena.

It was comforting to have Helena’s husband Christopher at the event today. He never ceases to amaze me with his brave face and total strength of character. Some people deal with a lot in their lives but they always manage to keep on smiling from the inside out.

Now I deserve my pink cupcake!

Kia Kaha

Anna x

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Collecting with Christopher Barton & the Helena gang in 2015

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#MumLife

busy mum

We are ‘do it all’ 21st century mums with active children, busy careers, partners (or not!), friends, hobbies and passions. But how?? How did we become these women who take on so bloody much and manage to juggle everything around us on a constant basis? I’m still working that out!

I am always on the quest for the perfect balance… the balance of ‘mumness’, PR Girl duties, being a good friend and daughter, whilst trying to be a healthy happy individual. Sometimes I wonder if I’m so focused on finding my balance that I’m missing out on fun stuff along the way? But I guess that’s all just part of this thing called LIFE!

In this blog I will share posts about me, Anna Jobsz, a 36 year old mum with an energetic toddler and a busy PR & Events career. I have a bunch of amazing girlfriends here in New Zealand who I will invite to share their own ‘career mum’ journeys on this site.

Kia Kaha,

Anna X

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