Four Years On...
"It's so hard to forget pain, but it's even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace." Chuck Palahniuk
Again my blog has escaped me and I am months past the last entry. I really did like my last entry and I have realized time again that the more chaotic my life and mind are, the less likely I am to find the inner peace to form a single thought strong enough to translate into an entry. This was never a blog of my sub conscious babbling. I have tried so hard to make every entry matter and be something I could be proud of but for some reason those moments of clarity and inspiration are less and less.
Since I last wrote, I went to Canada with my daughter to see my family which was both therapeutic and lovely. There is something so effortless and comfortable about being with your clan - just like the soothing feeling of your favorite pair of sweats. And it fills my heart with such joy to see my daughter so in love with her cousins. She thrives so much around them and it brings out the extrovert in her. It makes it that much harder to deal with the distance and the fact that we only see each other once if not twice a year if lucky. My side of the family is very small and we need to stick together.
I also started working a reduced workload which has as predicted been very hard to do. I struggle so much with just letting go and saying no. I want to deliver and I want people to feel they can rely on me. Being on sick leave doesn't exactly instill that vote of confidence that I am after. But I am really trying this time and not losing out on the opportunity that I have been given. Rest, relax and reboot are my aims of the day. I am also embarking on a happiness project because I have realized that I am not exactly where I want to be. The last four years have taken a clear toll on me and I know myself well enough to know when I am not being the person I want to be. I so desperately want to be that person who squeezes everything out of life and appreciates the good stuff. I continue to live in this perpetual state in which I numb the world out through white noise. I am here of course and I smile, laugh and say the right things but inside I feel so bloody tired of making light of it all. So I will see how it goes and if anyone is curious, I am reading "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin. It is definitely worth a read if you want to clear out your physical and mental clutter.
And to finish off - it has been a big week for me but I forgot to properly acknowledge it so I am doing it now. Firstly it was my 4 year cancerversary which is both a painful reminder of all the struggles and suffering I have endured but also a huge celebration that I am still here and cancer free. Not everyone is so lucky and considering the extra bonus round I had, I am especially grateful to be here. It is so weird when this day comes around - it makes me sit back and revisit all those events that took me to today. The roller coaster of emotions that range from shock, fear, bravery, anger and finally relief. My cancer story is a patchwork quilt made up of so many colors, textures and experiences that will stay with me forever. In addition, we also had the International Triple Negative Breast Cancer Awareness Day which is of course of importance to me and my family. TNBC is one nasty ass bitch that tends to target young women and be much more ruthless in its wrath. We currently have no targeted treatment for TNBC unlike the other more common kinds of the disease so research remains essential to getting to a point where there is a specialist kind of black ops treatment available that will kick TNBC into another stratosphere. But for now I will remain hopeful and optimistic that the kind of experimental treatment they used on my relapse (and that so far has worked!) will become the norm and TNBC will no longer have the sinister reputation it does today. I thought it was fitting to roll back the clock and repost my first ever cancerversary entry on this blog. I think it so fittingly captures the raw emotion, denial and shock that comes with a cancer diagnosis especially one that came with absolutely no warning. It is strange re-reading my own words and how much more optimistic and less weathered by trauma I was back then. That girl who wrote those words could teach the me of today a thing or two. So let's hop in the time machine...
Four years 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 myself. There was no way I could tell him what had just happened. The next minutes that ticked by felt surreal and like I wasn't really there, 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, my anchor and just sat down beside me, held my hand 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 else 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. It didn't matter that it was the middle of the night, I needed her. 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.