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Monday, July 23, 2012


Monday afternoon and it's the start of 'Think Pink' week. It's the week when we'll hear lots of news about breast cancer research. I heard all about it on the radio, as I drove home from the Wesley.

Briefly I wondered why and how pink came to be the colour associated with girls. Why not purple, or puce? Or aren't baby boys 'pink' when they are born? Mine were.

Today I was reminded that every day, 38 Australian women receive a diagnosis of breast cancer. Currently there are 70,000 women battling the condition.

Appropriately perhaps, today I mark seven months since diagnosis. It's a milestone as I rattle into the second half of my 'annus horriblis'.

It has also been a weekend of milestones of a different kind.

My sister Nicky, and good friend, Cathy who is also battling breast cancer, marked their fiftieth birthdays yesterday.

Two separate celebrations of very different personalities were attended on the weekend, both very pleasant and providing an opportunity for me to cavort and catch up with old friends.

Nicky's party was a real family affair. My eldest boy, Harry deejayed the night, Fiona made a speech, I put together the visuals. My mum and dad, and even Ethel got up and danced. Nicky's terrible twins ran amok. Her eldest Lily led the Macarena. Even Harry' gorgeous girl, Robin came along. My sister's favourite, Engelbert Humperdink, was played. It was a hoot.

But it was as I was watching my mum dancing in her lovely silver grey outfit that something awful happened. I looked at her feet and realised she was wearing sensible black pumps. My mum was wearing old lady's shoes.

A wave of sadness swept over me - a sense of loss.

I realised that the Mum I knew who once got around in her insensible and colourful sandals was now at an age where she would be described as 'elderly'.

For a moment I pondered the whole horrible reality of it, the way time overwrites us, and inexorably transforms us into a memory recalled in the past tense: "The Way We Were".

But today, in the cold hard light of day, I realise that my maudlin moment was ill-deserved.

That my mother now gets around in sensible shoes is not to be regretted but celebrated. Even boasted about (she's really rather spry).

Nowadays I realise, more than ever, how getting old is a privilege. And getting old with all your faculties in tact (if not your teeth) a true blessing.

Yet for too many of us, the idea of getting older can be petrifying - the thought of failing bodies, sagging boob(s) and faces caving into the ravages of too much vodka and sunbaking, perhaps waking up one day and seeing Joan Rivers or Bert Newton in the mirror.

No wonder so many of us are tempted to lunge for the vats of botox.

No wonder some of us dress like lamb, hoping to camouflage the mutton we have become.

But age is a privilege, from my perspective and should be a cause for 'Yahooooo' not 'Boo Hoo'.

The opportunity to wake up to embrace another morning, living and breathing, is not to be taken lightly.

The trip so far has, if nothing else, heightened my appreciation of what I now realise are scant moments spent on this earth.

I have always been a 'carpe deum' kind of girl, but, as I observed to Al just this week, the way my 'deums' are being 'carpe-d' involve an added level of mindfulness these days.

Yes, yes, as long as I can remember I've been cautious about planning too far ahead, always looking over my shoulder for that truck that could run me over.

I've never taken much of this thing called living for granted and I don't know why that is.

I have for years had a very intense awareness of my mortality.

If you were to believe in reincarnation as I do, you may explain it away by reference to a past life where, perhaps, my life was ended all too soon (most likely strangled by a husband who could no longer tolerate an impatient wife).

I just never have taken life for granted.

But breast cancer so far has taken this particular quality in me to a different level.

It's not just that I don't take life for granted. I also don't take the power I have over my life for granted.

The best example I have is the week that has passed.

After my earlier blog where I explained to you how I've struggled a bit of late with special 'moments', I decided that it was time to take back some control.

So in ensuing days, I have really focussed on addressing my motivation and taking greater charge of myself.

I have given myself a stern talking to and I'm just not going to get unmotivated Bronwyn get away with it.

I have hit the reset button and literally FORCED myself to plan activities and follow through.

Ergo, to my list of activities now tried I have added Bikram Yoga (truly an uncomfortable and unpleasant experience but one I did twice and intend to return to). Unfortunately, it's good for me.

I ran a total of 23 kilometres (very slowly), I went to the gym twice. I also started up social tennis (I truly SUCK!) and managed to drag myself to refereeing on Saturday despite feeling a little sore.

As for the persistent cold which, I believe, was at the root at my mental malaise, I have told myself that I must accept my poor breathing status and just work around it.

It is what it is. If it gets better then that's great. If not, well I am just going to have to deal with it.

The thing that I have realised is that there are some things about this illness I am powerless to change.

I cannot grow my breast back. I cannot return the thickness of my hair. There is still only the intuition of an eyebrow line (is there such a thing as 'eyebrow plugs'?) I cannot regain the vigour of my ovaries or it seems, my temper.

But the things I can change? By god, I'm going to work hard to change them.

And if all that requires is for me to get off my arse and out of bed, then by golly and by jingo, I will do it.

Now a caveat: I don't know if I'm kidding myself. Perhaps this 'reset' is nothing more than a temporary correction. Maybe there is a pattern I must adjust to of sloth followed by mobilisation.

For now I shall just rally on in the hope that this time next month, I can report that the improvement I have described has become habit: that I have truly returned from the brink of pink.

Meanwhile, I'm off to walk the dog. Come on, Spunky.

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