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Monday, May 21, 2012

Celebration 1

Four weeks to the day I finished radiation (on Friday last week) I realise that I have come to a turning point in the narrative of this tedious breast cancer odyssey.

The revelation comes as I approach the 10 kilometre mark in one of what was once a three-times a week routine: an afternoon run.

Since chemotherapy and now, on Arimidex, I have already mentioned the impact of these treatments on the condition of my muscles and joints. Overnight, as I complain to a few of my pals, I seem to have been transformed into a very old woman and sadly, the loss of Nicky notwithstanding, I don't think I'll ever be 100% again.

They are kind, as you'd expect, and try to brush away my concerns as signs of 'natural ageing' or perhaps the cold that has come with the Brisbane winter that is now nipping at our heels.

But I acknowledge it: the fact that the body that was fairly strong and limber is now a little on the rickety side. I am aware of aches and creaks whenever I move my limbs. When I bounce up and down on my knees they make a sound not dissimilar to cockroaches at the bottom of a drawer - a sound that makes my skin crawl a bit.

Sometimes in bleaker moments, I imagine my activities reduced to water aerobics and a few leg squats to the riveting beats of Glen Campbell and "Galveston" emanating through some tin-pot iPod speakers.

But Friday's run is instructive. Up to the two kilometre mark, my knees are bloody painful and I find myself thinking: "This is how you get through this, Bronwyn. Keep moving. Keep going."

By five kilometres I settle into it and, although I know I'm slow, I'm just pleased that I'm barely puffing.

By the eight kilometre mark, a shooting pain up the side of my right knee indicates that perhaps I should stop. I'm thinking that I may be overdoing things but I can't be sure. You see, this is not a well body that's running - it's one that is still a little on the sick side, if the truth be told. So those twinges, they could be unusual, but then again, they could now just be par for the course.

But here's the thing. I keep going because I keep reminding myself what Dr Choo told me at our first meeting: "It's mind over matter."

Before I know it, I've reached the 10km mark and, on the way, I even managed to field two phone calls! One from Lorelei to arrange getting together for lunch. One from Maddy, inviting Al and I over for home made pizzas in the evening.

As I walk the few metres back to my front door, each footstep is an 'ouch', but I'm feeling quite chuffed about making the distance.

I think it's about now that I realise that I'm at a turning point - that phase of my story where I'll start reclaiming a little of my old life, and reinventing the parts that need to be remodelled, to suit this slightly ricketier me.

So it seems serendipitous that on Sunday, yesterday, and quite on a whim, I have a party for which I'm expecting around 92 people.

What started as an intimate lunch for 30 kind of got out of hand. It's typical of me. I've been an inveterate entertainer since my late teens and it's a habit of mine that I'll keep inviting people until I actually make a list and then go: "Oops. Now that's a lot of people."

I think the classic was the day a policeman turned up my door to return some licence plates that had been stolen off my car. I was having dinner party at the time and invited him to join us. Ha ha ha.

I do love entertaining though because really, it's the only way I get to see most of my friends and frankly, it's one reason I was really attracted to Al - because he's a party man too!

Together, we make quite a pair as we are both quite social. Ergo: party = lots of people.

The uber-entertainer in me was, I think, inculcated in my early years when I'd watch my mum prepare cakes, short-eats and other delicacies for the annual Christmas Party at the 'rugger' club that was so central to the social life of Ceylon's planters. (The rest of the time, this was the cook's job).

Later, in Australia, I grew up with Mum's dinner parties and lunches when she would invite a literal hoard around to savour the many delicacies she would painstakingly prepare.

I often tell the story of some of the first such events my Mum held when Brisbane was described as "a small country town" and pasta would have been considered a 'foreign' dish.

Mum's guests, usually from the office where she worked, would circle the smorgasbord displayed on our dining table, literally clutching their empty plates to their chests as if to shield them from a fate worse than death. Then Mum would begin explaining what was before them. "In Ceylon we call that 'parripu' or lentils and, oh, that?, that is a curry leaf".

I once watched a guest spit something into her spoon and stare at it as if it were a sample brought back by the Mars probe. She was relieved when we explained it was a cinnamon quill.

As it is, this event (held yesterday) is partly enabled by Mum's easy offer to help. (She could be sitting on her bum complaining about her varicose veins like other oldies but she's not of that ilk). It's also enabled by Ethel's generous willingness to help clean up the house in preparation. And long-suffering Al's readiness to tidy the garden.

It's a mammoth process in the end with preparations for this random event beginning last Monday. Mum and I go shopping for the ingredients for what will be 'lampries', a special Sri Lankan dish that is time-consuming to prepare but very practical for large scale events.

Throughout Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning, my Mum cooks up the components, a process that will consume around 20 hours of her time.

On Thursday and Friday, Mum and I together spend 15 hours putting the packets of food together. The glasses and a pie oven needed for keeping the food warm are delivered.

On Saturday, after refereeing soccer for a couple of hours, I spend seven hours on my feet without sitting down, just getting the house in order. In the evening Al and I go to the trivia night at the Redland Bay Tennis Club and come third.

When I get home I'm shattered.

Yesterday, Sunday, is a beautiful day. Just right for a party on the back deck.

When 92 old friends, including a couple of acquaintances descend on our home, it's high tide and the mild sun is warming my arms.

Before too long, the conversation is loud and happily, I realise that most have found someone to chat to.

After lunch is served, I make a speech where I thank my friends for their love and support throughout my cancer ordeal and burst into tears.

Janet and I pull out our old party trick: a duet where we sing Elvis Presley's "Wooden Heart" in the hope that our audience also has "Wooden" ears.

Oscar, Harry's friend from school, a hugely talented guitarist and singer performs through the afternoon.

A few people leave and it's about now I manage to extort a favour from my special guest, Karen, the - er hem - New Mayor of Redlands. She agrees to showcase her yodelling skills, a rare performance that has guests talking for hours afterwards. (Karen is REALLY funny and has my audience in stitches, god love her).

Around a dozen stalwarts remain as the sunsets and the stars come out. And Oscar keeps playing until it's too cool to be outdoors and the mossies have started to annoy us.

I think we are all fast asleep well before 9 o'clock.

In this way my party-for-no-reason becomes a party-for-a-great-reason.

I'm a three-month cancer "survivor". Yayyyyy!

I've almost reached my 49th birthday. Yayyyy!

I've got the best family and friends in the world. Yayyy.

And the biggest "Yayyy" of all.

Yes, my body is creakier and more rickety than 'of old'. But it can still run 10kms - it can KEEP GOING NO MATTER WHAT.

And best of all? It still knows how to party.

1 comment:

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