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Friday, September 23, 2016

Five

I have woken to a fresh, bright morning, bursting with energy and optimism.

And I suppose, it is all makes for a perfect day to mark an important milestones.

Today is the day!  It was exactly five years ago that I sat opposite my doctor and first heard the dreaded words:  'You will never be Miranda Kerr'.... and something about lalalala.

Five years and 99 Instalments in my online memoir later...

So much has transpired (albeit in approximations):

  • Two mastectomies
  • Six shots of chemo
  • 20+ shots of radiation
  • 3 MRIs
  • 1 Bone Scan
  • 2 CT Scans
  • 30 blood tests 
  • 1 stint in ICU
  • 1 Sister's Breast Cancer
  • 1 Sister's spinal tumour
  • 1 death in the family
  • 6 funerals attended (George,  Louise's Mum, Louise's Dad, Lyndal's Dad, James's Aunt ... and Spunky)
  • 20 + Specialist follow-ups
  • 4 new sports attempted (hockey, outrigging, fencing and rowing)
  • 1 book launch
  • Roughly 20+  speaking engagements
  • 1 book prize
  • 5 trips abroad   (India/Bhutan/Nepal;  a Mediterranean cruise with the family; Thailand; the Philippines;  Czech Republic/Austria/Poland)
  • 1 phD commenced
  • 1 marriage break up
  • 2 wedding invitations
  • 1 engagement party
  • 4 Prime Ministers
  • 2 Local Government Elections
And so the list goes on - an eclectic '365 Days of Cancer' that changes every year without the Partridge or the Pear Tree ever appearing.   (However, I do have a Brush Turkey on the Back Deck - that is something!)

Life it seems, is not to be stalled by the spectre of a cancer battle.  It is not to be denied.

In my daily advance, I have stayed firmly focused on the horizon making 'moving forward' my only option.

After all, change is the nature of life, and I have opted to seize it.  It has often been uncomfortable - even distressing but you know, if you're not changing you are not growing.

I mean. Come on!  Even rocks change.

In the process, I am truly grateful to all my family and friends who have aided me, supported me, counselled me, held me, hugged me and some who have never let me go.

I would not have survived thus far without you.

A special mention to my Oncologist, Poh See, my surgeon Jason,  the Chicks in Pink and the Cancer Council, all people who have made a meaningful contribution to my continued survival thus far.

Thank you each and everyone  of you.

Five. Alive.  It's fucking awesome.













Monday, September 19, 2016

Loss and Growth

It's a miserable, windy Monday morning and guess what?  I turn 53 today!  It's a milestone for me because this time five years ago, I had already noticed the change in my breast, I had already had my biopsy.  I already knew...

So it's very special indeed that I can reflect now upon the five years that have gone by.

Poh See says that in reality, the cancer mark is taken from the time of your first major procedure (excluding lumpectomy and biopsy).

But for me, the really meaningful day was that Saturday morning, breakfasting with a close few, keeping my secret silent, and announcing that 'age is a privilege' - at my birthday FIVE years ago!

What is the theme of all that has transpired in the intervening years?

I would sum it up as:  "Loss and Growth".

Perhaps it is one of the perplexing ironies of being human that,  in some respects, all  loss is a kind of growth.
  • A growth of courage - for those of us who are able to keep going.  
  • A growth of spirit - for those of us who come to realise the extent of our capacity to survive the worst.
  • A growth of insight - for from all loss is learning, about oneself and our place in the world, and of others in that world.
  • A growth of strength - for are not the sharpest blades forged of fire and sharpened by stone?
In the end, I wonder if, in all of this - this terrifying business of being human, with all our mortality and vulnerability and propensity for doubt and insecurity and failure - the one truth is that it is only from this continual diminishing that somehow we are all expanded?

Could it be that it is in the process of knowing, comprehending and accepting loss that we realise the full extent of our magnificence?

It's something I ponder now as I sit alone in an apartment de-Benned for the weekend.  On Friday I had drinks and dinner with James and Libby.  I've known James since I was 17 and he has been unbelievably kind and supportive to me over the years.

On Saturday, I consumed a string of Margaritas in an ill-considered pre-birthday knees up that saw me literally weaving my way home in a haze, narrowly missing one or two encounters with the pavement.   But it was so much fun.  It's not something I do every day but I quite enjoyed getting plastered.  If not shtonkered.  Pissed as a parrot, plastered and stewed.  With my friends Ness, Cath, Les, Ann, Sharyn, Lindar and John in tow, I was, you could say, a little untidy.

On Sunday I had dinner with my sister Fiona, a much more sophisticated affair.  And today, I am looking forward to lunch with Rachy, a catch up with Ethel and dinner with my parents.

It is these precious moments that I have focused on in the process and recovery from the runaway freight train of a breast cancer diagosis.  Sure, I have had my losses: health, husband, home, hound.  But it is here, from these interactions over  a meal, a cuppa, or my fourth margarita  that I have gained my real opportunity for growth.

I think I am just better overall at at least some of the subtleties of relationships.

I have a greater appreciation of the whole business of simply being and whatever that entails.

I have learned to value silence and stillness.

I have learned how to render the negative spaces in order to identify the form.

I have come to appreciate how it is that what is lacking or missing or lost is, in fact, the way in which I begin to see the true shape of things:  of life as it is right here right now.

Every loss can be, albeit with some legerdemain, an opportunity.

All that is required is a shift in perspective and, of course, the willingness to make that shift.

And right there is the true challenge.