HALE W18 Masthead

Teddi Confetti: Making the most of precious minutes and memories

Alexandra Tolmie

It’s not every day that you meet someone who tells you a story you just can’t stop thinking about.

When our writer Alex Tolmie met the effervescent Teddi and heard her incredible story of surviving cancer and going on to launch her own handmade business, Teddi Confetti, she knew it was a story that needed sharing.

Teddi, originally from Oklahoma in the United States, makes and sells ‘confettidoris’.

These are beautifully handcrafted fabric covers for planners and notebooks, based on the famous Traveler’s Notebook from Japan.

Whereas the original is only bound in leather, Teddi loves to pick and mix gorgeous and quirky fabrics to create her own unique versions.

teddiconfetti founder

Teddi

She makes each one with love and it shows in her attention to detail. Teddi’s confettidoris are so highly sought after that she sells out in literally minutes after listing them each Friday at 9 am in her Etsy store.

As a child, Teddi was really into art and craft but at her parents’ urging she chose a career in science (her other love) instead of pursuing her passion for art. Teddi was driven to prove that she could succeed.

She received a scholarship to study health and exercise science at university, was captain of the college rowing team and worked night shifts as a paramedic.

“I was always into creating and crafting but it was definitely put on the backburner during this time,” she laughs.

Four years ago, Teddi and her husband Nick moved to Canberra together.

Nick was offered a scholarship at the ANU to pursue a PhD in the effect of clouds on Canberra’s solar energy resource, and Teddi got a job as a liver researcher at the Canberra Hospital.

The move to Canberra sparked Teddi’s creative urges again.

“Things were good and we were really happy living here,” she remembers. “I did a lot of knitting and crochet and a lot of fibre arts. I got a spinning machine and I took a class in dyeing the wool. I could literally take a fleece right now and spin it into yarn if you needed me to. I’m really like a grandmother in training!” she giggles.

One of Teddi's planners

One of Teddi’s planners

“But I’ve always sort of had my eye out for what I wanted to do. I thought maybe I’d open a wool shop and have this cosy little place where people can come and have coffee and knit and chat and that would be my work.”

All was going well in Canberra and Teddi and Nick decided to start a family. Halfway through the pregnancy they found a lump on her ovary.

“During my second scan there was that weird moment where the lady left and then came back and told me I needed to see a specialist, but they all just thought it was a really normal thing. No big deal, don’t worry about it,” she recalls.

But then the baby never engaged and at 36 weeks he turned breech.

During the ultrasound they discovered her outlet was blocked and that she wouldn’t be able to deliver the baby naturally, so they planned a caesarean section at 37 weeks and 6 days.

The doctors kept reassuring Teddi it was probably just a fibroid and they would fix it up during the surgery.

On the day of the birth, their baby came out perfectly fine and healthy, but things went very quickly downhill for Teddi.

A Teddi Confetti planner

A Teddi Confetti planner

“The caesarean surgeon said, ‘oh, your appendix looks funny’, so he called in the general surgeon, who said ‘that looks a bit funny, I don’t want to touch that,’ and called in a specialist surgeon, who just peeked over and said ‘that looks like cancer to me’. So that was how I found out,” she says.

What they found inside Teddi was a 25 centimetre tumour where her right ovary once was. As it turns out, she had appendix cancer, which had been dribbling cancer cells onto her right ovary for some time.

“Towards the end of my pregnancy I was in shocking pain. I kept going in and saying, ‘something is wrong, it’s not okay, I’m in so much pain – it feels like he’s kicking something.’

But they would just say, ‘nothing is wrong, your baby is fine, go home, it’s just your ligaments.’ It’s weird when it’s your first baby because you don’t know if it’s supposed to be like this or not,” she laments.

“But I was really lucky. If the baby had attempted to come out naturally he would have bashed into this huge tumour and it would have burst and I probably would have died.

I wouldn’t have even had the surgery booked if the baby had not gone breech, and it was lucky I had the midwife appointment right when he turned breech, because the very next week he had flipped back over on his own. It’s a lot of good luck. It could have gone so much worse.”

The surgeons couldn’t remove the cancerous appendix or any other affected areas during the caesarean, because it requires a peritonectomy – specialist surgery to remove the lining of the abdominal cavity – to remove it as completely as possible.

There is only one specialist team in Australia who performs these surgeries, led by Professor David Morris, and there is unsurprisingly a huge waiting list.

Teddi waited 6 months to get the surgery, and it was during this time she started scrapbooking with a vengeance – writing down stories, collecting photos, capturing moments – to leave behind for her husband and son in case she died.

For the surgery, Teddi and Nick had to move to Sydney with their six month old baby for 6 weeks. They received a huge amount of emotional, practical and financial support from friends and strangers alike.

During the 12 hour surgery doctors removed her spleen, gallbladder, most of her left ovary, a third of her colon, a chunk of her liver, her omentum and, of course, her appendix.

After surgery, they pumped her abdomen full of hot chemo and let it swish around inside for a few hours. This was then followed with cold chemo treatment.

“They just cleared me all out because it had got so bad. They had to scrape off my diaphragm. It had gotten through my diaphragm onto my heart.

I felt like it was coming for me, you know? And the whole time I was waiting I tried naturopathy, I tried everything, and you’re just there hoping it’s not getting worse, you’re hoping it’s working, but you just don’t know.

But that whole time it was just growing and growing and growing.”

Teddi went back to work part-time four months later, but her outlook on life had changed completely.

“I did really like my job, I worked with good people and I was helping people. But I couldn’t go back to the regular day in, day out. I think we do a lot of things out of guilt, you know, like ‘I should do this, I should do that’.

Having the confidence to say ‘this is what I want to do’ and having no guilt about it is so important. Also, the preciousness of time is so much clearer to me now. My sense of appreciation and gratitude is so much stronger and deeper,” she reveals.

“When I got back from my surgery there was still this fear, like, is it gone? You have to wait 6 months before your next scan, so you literally feel like you only have 6 more guaranteed months. It’s like living life in 6 month increments.

Even now I’m at 1 year, so I have these ‘one year bites’ of life. I have a whole year – what to do with it? I just keep thinking if I appreciate this year that’s the best thing I can do. It’s all I can do,” she muses.

Teddi got heavily into planning after her surgery, which she feels helps her to wring the most out of life. The planner is also a great tool for reflection and journaling.

A Teddi Confetti planner

A Teddi Confetti planner

“Longhand journaling takes a lot of time and not everybody has that – it takes a lot of discipline and commitment – so planning is an easier, shorthand form of journaling.

I just put all the little moments in my planner, and I put photos in there too. I’m playing with pictures and stories and memory-keeping to document our lives,” Teddi explains.

Teddi is passionate about the importance of memory-keeping and good time management. She loves to show people how to easily and quickly document their lives both for themselves and for their own loved ones.

She feels planners are useful in myriad ways – a tool for personal development and inspiring creativity, as well as helping you to keep your life in order and planning ahead.

“I feel passionate about these [confettidoris]. I feel like people need them in their lives. There are so many ways that this improves me as a person, as a mother, as a wife.

I’m getting more out of my days using this system so I feel passionate about bringing it to others,” she says. “I tell people that I’m making them with love and I mean it because I think about the people that are going to use them and I think about the ideas and thoughts that they’re going to put in them and the places they’re going to take them and I feel so happy and excited about what I’m doing.”

Instagram is Teddi’s main medium for sharing her work and passion.

Although part of the Canberra planner crew, Teddi has only recently become more involved in the Canberra handmade community and has linked up with 25 other Canberra handmade businesses, including Anchor and Bliss, Brindie, Foxtrot Threads, Sash & Belle and more, as part of a special Instagram loop giveaway starting Thursday 12 November at 8 pm.

With Teddi Confetti clocking over 16,000 followers already, this could actually be your best chance to get your hands on one of these hotly-contested, lovingly-made confettidoris and start documenting your life in the most beautiful way.

user

Alex Tolmie

Alex is the founder and co-chair of the Department of Education and Training Women's Network and a mum of two gorgeous little girls. She has overcome big challenges as a new mother and now loves to help others become confident, joyful mamas themselves. She blogs about her experience at draxela.com More about the Author

MEJ Leaderboard