"Nothing is predestined. The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings." Ralph Blum
Today is a new day for 0BB. I made my last trip to C-Town for awhile and it feels both relieving and strange at the same time. I got the all clear from the surgical biopsy which is great news and everything seems to be in order. I said my goodbyes to the people who have been a daily fixture in my life for the past 12 months and in a way I said my goodbyes to that chapter in my life. I almost felt like crying on my way home but this time they were tears of relief, tears of joy and tears I have fought to hold back. There was a giant release and the motivation and spirit I had been struggling to retrieve over the last few months was back. It was today that I had to start living as if the cancer was gone forever because really no one has told me otherwise. It will not be easy as the mind is a powerful creature and I will have years to get through before I know this beast is well and truly dormant. But little steps can be made as I rebuild my life – a new life.
Lessons Learned from My Year with Cancer
10. I look really good without hair! Who knew my head shape and bone structure was so perfect and I could rock a GI Jane look. Now I actually think I might keep it short.
9. Cancer is not a death sentence. People survive cancer everyday. It is so easy to remember the scary awful stories that are literally everywhere. I know of these especially given I have such a nasty type of cancer. I have often had people tell me about how they were so relieved they didn’t have triple negative cancer because it was so bad. Oh really – that is great because that is just what I have!! Of course I am not being naive as I know we have lost far too many to this beast but as one of my very good friends told me when she visited me “You made me feel like not every young person dies from this and that you can survive.” And for every terrifying story there are probably a hundred or more success stories. Important things to keep in mind when dancing with the Big C. And for all my TNBC sisters out there – it is not all doom and gloom. There are plenty of great survivor stories for us to focus on.
8. I have some truly amazing friends. In times of crisis you really see what the people around you are made of. When I got sick, I had so many people rush to my side and rally around me. The love and support was amazing and I am still overwhelmed whenever I receive an email, card or message from someone I talked to two days ago or 15 years ago. But you also learn that some people just can’t deal with it and that is okay too. Cancer is scary and not for everyone.
7. Being a mother makes you push yourself to depths you never knew you had. I remember putting photos of my monkey up in my hospital room way back in the beginning to remind me who I was fighting for. I was fighting to be there for her – today and tomorrow. I would not let her grow up without me by her side. On days when I literally could barely do a thing – somehow I found energy to sit down and play with her, make her a snack or run a bath. She was my little battery reserve pack that I could always draw energy from. She also made me feel normal. To her I was just her mother and not a cancer patient.
6. Marriages and relationships require hard work. I always remember my therapist telling me something so valuable towards the end of my treatment when I was drowning in exhaustion and despair. I told her I barely had energy to function or be a mother let alone be a good wife. It was too hard to focus on all these things when I was fighting for my life. Her response – no matter what is happening in your life you can never drop the ball on the things that matter. Even though I had cancer, my marriage was still there and required attention and focus. What I take from this is that there will always be something in the way, something to put other things off, but you must continually go back to those things which matter most to you and put your energy into making them work.
5. Life is unexpected. Never in a million years could I have predicted that I would be sitting here now writing a list about the things I learnt from having cancer at the age of 32! Proof positive that life can throw some wicked curveballs. Now I don’t want this to make anyone afraid of what could be because most of those curveballs actually turn out to be really great. But when I say life is unexpected I mean treat your moments in life with respect and enjoy the little things. If there is something you really want to do but are afraid – why not try it? Time is the most precious gift we have so I now see how important it is to make good use of it.
4. Money is nice but not everything. I think I was a pretty materialistic person before this whole cancer situation kicked off and put a total spanner in my working life. Having not worked in over 2.5 years now, we have had to make concessions. I can’t have everything I want but I actually want far less then I used. Now I am not talking about living in a mud hut and subsisting on grubs and tree bark here. I always want to live comfortably and never struggle. However my health is worth more than any SUV, a day with my daughter is invaluable next to the latest handbag and having my husband home before dinner every day makes me feel like the richest woman in the world.
3. Boobs do not make a woman. Now I started this journey with a perfect set and now I am at ground zero. Sometimes I get angry when I see or hear women complaining about their breasts and I just want to scream – at least you have some! But I have come to terms with my new body and realise I am still a woman and I am still me. My husband said it best when I got upset about losing my other breast – he said “I would much rather have you for the rest of my life then a pair of boobs. “ Leave it to my man to make me feel special and loved.
2. Cancer brought me closer to my mom. My mother and I have always been close but not as close as we are now. I literally talk to her in some way every day because I want to. She allows me to talk to her without having to filter anything. She listens, offers advice and simply understands. Going through cancer together was so unbelievably horrific and comforting at the same time. We will be forever changed by this experience we shared and our bond has been made impregnable.
1. A good sense of humour can save you. From the beginning of this whole journey, I have tried to find the funny side of everything or at the very least a tiny silver lining. It helped me cope with the fear, with the uncertainty, with the pain and with the many challenges. I also think it helped everyone around me to feel better about the whole thing. If I can still crack a joke then I am still the same girl I was before this all happened. I like to think every joke I made about cancer killed off a few of those loser cells so that means they should all have been annihilated by now!
So now with this treasure chest of knowledge and insight, it is time to start making plans. For tomorrow and beyond. I no longer feel afraid of thinking ahead. I finally feel like I have earned the right to call myself a survivor.