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Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Finish Line for Fiona

After literally days of heavy rain, I wake to sun, sun, sun, sun oooohhhhhhoooooooo.

It's a big day today - the last chemo shot for my darling little sister, Fiona, who has been an absolute trouper through her ordeal.

This morning, as usual, I'm picking up my elder sister, Nicky before our visit to the hospital but first I have to drop off a craft box to the local art gallery, Yurara.  My artistic friend, Annie, is one of five artists who has agreed to decorate a box.

(I will be auctioning these at a fundraiser I am organising for cancer research in April.)

But after I have arrived  at the cute timber house at Cleveland's Pinkland's showgrounds and completed my errand, I make an error of judgement as I drive away in my Prius.  I decide to navigate my way over the grass only to find that I am... bogged!

 Nooooooo!  Shit.  My nicely planned and minutely timed day is instantly ruined.

In a dither I ring Nicky to ask her to come and pick me up - thinking I'll sort out the towing later.  At this very millisecond, would you believe, a huge four wheel drive ute happens to pass before my eyes.  Concluding my call I turn and eye the driver, wondering if I look helpless enough.

Sure enough, this Prince Charming stops and before I know it, he has winched me from the bog and I am able to drive away with a toot and a cheery 'THANK YOOOOOU' shouted out of my car window.

It is serendipitous and once I am on the road again, I ponder the Universe and how, while generally, I have found it to be somewhat of an arsehole, sometimes, it does surprise you with an unexpected kindness.

But I really am off with the fairies this morning and it is a frustrating journey I make. Three U-turns and 20-minutes of needless extra driving later, I finally reach my sister's house.

I will cut to the chase.  The visit to the hospital goes without drama.  Fiona has pretty much the same reaction I had to her sixth chemo.  It's all that negative psychology that has you wincing and retching and feeling sick.

The only thing to report is that Fiona had a very kind male nurse called 'Greg' today.  We also had to deal with a very rude female nurse.

After five hours, therefore, Nicky and I are able to leave, confident that Fiona has finished her final, last, never-to-be-seen-again God Willing chemotherapy experience.

On our way down in the elevator I say to Nicky:  "I never want to see a cannular being inserted again."  God willing.

I believe that Fiona had many more 'false starts' than I did in that department and really, she has been incredibly brave.

Much braver than I in fact, because you have to understand, this woman didn't even know what an antihistamine was on her first day of chemo.

The world of drugs and medication was completely alien to her and look what she has endured?

I am incredibly proud of her and simply relieved that this utterly vile period of her life is over.

Fiona's treatment protocol of course, will be completely different from mine.

She will have radiation and only then, a lumpectomy.

She doesn't need a mastectomy because the cancer has literally disappeared before her eyes.

I believe she ascribes this almost miraculous healing to a combination of factors.  Firstly, she was in the rudest of health when she became ill.  Secondly, she has received simply fabulous care.  Thirdly, she follows a rigorous regime of supplementation. And fourthly, she is incredibly self-disciplined when it comes to dietary and other changes.

Additionally, at this stage, it seems Fiona will not be taking the hormonal medication and I respect her decision.

It is a big leap for a woman who routinely practices yoga, who prefers organic food, who is meticulous about her dietary choices to pursue a regimen of daily drug therapy.

What can we do but what WE believe is right for US?

Who is anyone else to tell us that our choices are wrong?

At this point I don't care.  I am just happy, happy, happy that she has finished the most ghastly part of the whole process.

Personally, I think she looks much better than I did at the end of things.  She has handled it all fantastically and I think has bounced back much better than me, overall.

Looking back over the past 18 weeks, I don't know if I have been much of a Sherpa.

I just know she's got through it.

I also know that Fiona is going to go from strength to strength from here.

I believe that, like all my fellow breast cancer survivors, Fiona will gain the clarity that only cancer can provide - about herself and her relationship to her world.

Because cancer, while a foe to be respected, is also a teacher.

It has taught me to be aware of the every day struggles of people.  Because no matter how big or small they are, it is the crosses we bear that make us who we are.

It is our pain that so poignantly reveals our character.

Our hardest hours are, often, our greatest hours.

Now, my day with Fiona over, I stop at Nicky's for a coffee, helping the twins with a little of their homework.

Afterwards, as I drive home, I realise that the sun is still shining.  More.  I notice a large rainbow spreadeagled across the sky.

When I reach my house, Ben is in the shower washing Spunky who has rolled in something stinking it seems.  I lasso up my wet dog and go for a 10km run.

Returning I cook dinner when Al returns home with the real estate agent in tow.  Al goes off to tennis and by 8.30 pm we have accepted an offer on the block of land we have been desperately trying to sell.

For the first time in ages, I feel hopeful about better things afoot.

Yesterday, Al's twin second cousins celebrated their first birthday.  Next week, it will be the first-anniversary since George's death.

Cancer has made me keenly aware of the the nature of fate, how random it is, the chaos that is, ultimately, its foundation.

It has confirmed one of my long held beliefs:  That the only reliable thing in life is change.

It has allowed me to embrace uncertainty, to not fear the unknown.  No, that's not right.  It has made me aware that there IS an unknown.

What was I before all of this?  Oblivious.  I knew change was inevitable but I did not anticipate it.  I did not really - no, not REALLY - appreciate the tenuousness, the fragility of, well, everything - you, me, here, now.

And after?

After me, after Fiona, what is left, is cancer's greatest gift and that is an absence of fear.

Isn't that just gold?

The rain has eased for now but I believe another cyclone is brewing off the Coral Sea.

Who knows if more storms are coming?

I'm not bothered.  Fiona crossed the Finish Line.  *happy dance, lifting top and showing... um... scars*

Storms?  Bring them on!

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