“The moment my doctor told me, I went silent. My mum and dad were with me. Then we all fell to pieces.” Kylie Minogue, On being diagnosed with breast cancer.
This week has a very busy and tiring one for me so far and it marks the anniversary of one of the biggest moments in my life. Now I have wrestled with how I should acknowledge this date and I thought perhaps I shouldn’t put any special significance on it as it was a truly horrific day. But on the other hand, it happened and it proceeded to change me in so many different ways over the next 12 months and this metamorphosis , in my opinion, worth mentioning.
One year ago in a hospital exam room in Oslo,Norway:
Me: So I just wanted to come in to make sure everything was healing ok – you know me worry worry worry about everything.
Nurse: I see you are alone today. You usually always come with your husband but he isn’t with you today.
Me: No – I didn’t want to bother him with a routine appointment.
Doctor: Well everything looks to be healing fine but I think you should sit down. (She stares blankly at me, looks at her computer screen and takes a breath). I have some bad news.
Me: What do you mean?
Doctor: We have found malignant cells in your biopsy. You have breast cancer.
Me: What does that mean?
Doctor: You have cancer.
The shock took over and I was trembling with fear. I handed my phone to the nurse and told her to call my husband and tell him to come now. There was no way I could get the words out to him. There was no way I could tell him what had just happened. The next minutes that ticked by felt surreal as they told me what I would need to be ready for and that so many women survive breast cancer these days.
Me: I am sorry but I am not listening to a word you are saying. I am somewhere else.
Doctor: Ok. I am sure this all very upsetting for you.
Truth be told I was using every ounce of energy to hold the pieces of myself together and not fall apart…not yet. A million questions zoomed around my brain – none of them good. It was just so hard to believe it was happening to me. The moment my husband arrived in the room, I felt more secure. I wasn’t alone. He was so strong and just sat down beside me, held my head and asked the right questions. He didn’t flinch, he didn’t cry – he kept it together for me which gave me so much strength. That is the type of person you want beside you when your world crumbles – a sturdy stable refuge when everything is spinning out of control around you.
When we walked out into the corridor, the tsunami that had been growing in strength and momentum finally crashed. I ran into the washroom and dialed my mother’s number. She was the first person I told those three words to (amidst uncontrollable sobs of the deepest pain I have ever felt) – I have cancer.
Those three words changed my life. They changed how I looked, how I felt and how I see. Of course it was predominantly a nightmare but I have gained such deep insight into myself and life. An insight that would have taken a lifetime to learn. So it is not all bad.
So one year on, I am happy to be able to call myself a survivor. I am here, I am breathing, I am living. And in the words of my husband in those dark early days, “ We will beat this, no matter what.” And we did.