It’s December 23 today, exactly three months since my initial diagnosis.
With Christmas just two days away, I suppose I should be looking forward to Sunday and the exchanging of gifts.
Al has asked me what I want. It’s cheesy but true. “The only thing I want is my health back,” I have said.
The fact is though, there is nothing that is left for me to want.
Over the past few weeks, I have been inundated with gifts of every kind from family, friends, acquaintances and even strangers.
Of course, the first gifts I began to receive were flowers and soon, there was a collusion of scents in my bedroom. I haven't managed to photograph absolutely all of them, but here is what they looked like:
Sure there have also been the material things, the small ways people have found to express their concern for me through things they can make or buy. Now gifts are, as they say, my own 'language of love' and I was overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness of people, some who I have come to know only virtually.
Facebook friends, Clodagh, knitted a beanie and posted it to me all the way from Ireland. Lutje sent me a little key tag from Belgium, Patty all the way from the other side of BRISBANE sent me a CD of original compositions by a friend of hers, autographed and everything.
Just look at the booty I have collected (and I forgot to include a couple of other little things). I think this says it all.
But there are other gifts I cannot photograph and they are beyond any valuation.
Firstly there are the gifts of service not only from family (Ethel still arrives religiously to help me with my laundry and to change my bedsheets), but also from friends and strangers.
They are the ones who have cooked for me, an endeavour taking both time and effort. I love cooking and I know what is involved. Strangers have taken the time to buy produce, to plan recipes, to prepare, cook and arrange delivery. How can you put a value on that?
Secondly, there is the gift of time.
My friends who have held my hand through chemotherapy or have physically made the effort to visit me have given that gift that cannot be replaced. That time could have been spent in another form, somewhere else, with someone else. Surely this gift is priceless.
Others have spent time regularly telephoning me (Janet, Chris, Nim, Ness, Louise, Mark) or my parents or Al’s parents. (A friend of my mum's just rang this morning!)
Thirdly, there is the gift of knowledge and advice that has come from my fellow breast cancer sufferers and from people I have met and will continue to meet along the way. This tale is long and no doubt, there will be many more experiences that will be shared with me.
Fourthly, there is the gift of words of encouragement – from you, my blog readers, from Facebook friends, from a universe of people I am quickly losing count of.
Via card, email, or text message, these words are more important than you realise to someone who is a writer. I rarely use words lightly. They mean the world to me.
But lastly – and perhaps most importantly - I have received that gift that only illness can deliver.
That is the gift of revelation.
Already, just three months down the track, I have discovered that illness has a wisdom of its own which is revealed like slivers of light through a forest canopy.
And here is the revelation so far that I believe has already transformed me.
Don’t be afraid to tell your family and your friends you love them, or even better, show them.
Tomorrow might be too late, so do it now.
You might not think that’s particularly mind blowing but it is to me.
Because I am not a ‘hearts and flowers’ kind of person (Valentine Cards are a bit like, well, Dettol and Alpha Keri Oil to me – they make me gag) .
Because, until this illness, I was uncomfortable with all of that – verbal expressions of, well, ‘that lovey dovey shit’.
Since September 23 I have learned that being able to tell a friend you love them opens up a channel.
What is the point of going through life, spouting knowledge and wisdom and facts, carting cynicism and judgement.
At the end of the day when we all go to meet our maker, your life here will not be measured by the things you accomplished, the possessions you had, your job description, your fabulous attributes. No one will care about your petty vanities - your wealth, your beauty, your titles, the legacies you left.
Your life here will be measured by one thing: the love you gave, and the love you received.
What gift could be greater than that?