This is my story
On Valentines Day 2017 my heart was broken and my life was forced into a state of utter tumult. A few days earlier some unseen force placed my hand on my right boob and I felt something I wasn’t sure I liked. The first available appointment for a check up was on 14th Feb, and I really had nothing better to do that day. Expecting to be told it was a fibroid, I drove myself there and didn’t bother to alarm anyone. But instead of relief I got my boob biopsied and was told with 99 percent certainty that I had cancer. And that was that, she was right.
So ladies, please check your assets! I never checked my boobs out other than at my annual gynea appointment, and I most certainly never wore pink ribbons in October. I was living blissfully in breast cancer non-awareness. Until that day.
Breast cancer! Really?! Me?? Besides the fact that I have been known for my particularly epic big boobs, I’m a dietician and a yoga teacher, have no family history, was relatively young, and had barely put a processed food in my mouth for years. I later came to realise that most woman I have met with the disease are just like me. And its baffling.
The two weeks after diagnosis were probably the weirdest and hardest of my entire life. I could barely eat, my anxiety levels were at an all time high and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was dreaming. Waking up in the morning and facing the reality of oh fk no this is actually happening, and having to make snap decisions for my health was taxing to say the least.
But eventually you pull it together. I realized that denial, anxiety and anger were acceptable initial emotions, but that if I didn’t let them go I was going to be in even more trouble. So I stopped. Just like that! In fact, I had never felt more grounded, chilled and happy in some ways. I knew I needed a wake up call but for someone who has lived a charmed life thus far, this seemed really harsh. But I had to suck it up and take it day by day before the whole ordeal attacked me at once. And so here I am, almost 4 years later, living to tell my story.
So, you’re OK now? I get this question a lot. From very loving people, who mean well. But it’s one hell of a loaded question. I can feel my brain and heart darting back to the trauma, the uncertainty and then forward into the fear of what if I’m not actually going to be OK. And its not that I am stuck in any negativity. It’s the reality of this beast!
I survived breast cancer and am living my best life. I have never been happier, or felt healthier. I have only good relationships in my life for the first time probably ever. But I am broken into pieces that I have put together with magic red strings, golden glue and rainbow putty. My heart was shattered, my child-like naivety squashed by experience. I always wanted something big and grand to happen in my life to shake me, but I never, ever, thought this would happen. My life became a science fiction, medical-drama, dark comedy shit show and I did not trust the director.
Surviving cancer is not just about getting through some treatments and getting on with your life, and then being OK! You survive the diagnosis. You survive having to tell your family. The horror, shock and disbelief of it all. You survive the panic attacks. The depression. You survive the waiting. For biopsy results, scan results and wondering if it has spread. You survive the first oncologist appointment and being told about your very harsh treatments. I am definitely not OK at this point.
You survive the financial turmoil. You survive the mis-information and information overload. You survive your hair falling out in clumps. You survive nausea, pain, exhaustion. You survive the operating theatre, the crazy clanging machines, the cuts and the burns. You survive having to do mundane tasks like go grocery shopping and the pity looks as people cock their heads to one side when they ask how you are in aisle 4 and you say, I’m OK! You survive the withdrawal of support of friends and family when treatment is over, because you are now obviously OK. You survive pretending your life is back to normal but you will never be the same again.
I am truly grateful for my life. Having a strong will to live is essential to survival. I threw all that I had into my passions and decided to just live it up and carry on doing all the things that make me happy.
Although what I had to do was intense, I embraced it all with love because I knew that it was there to help heal me and I didn’t feel like I had much of a choice, which makes it easier to accept. You eventually just give in and go with the flow and let your family, friends, loved ones and doctors carry you through.
You let go of your worries and stresses and you stop complaining. You have more important things to do. You practice self-care, you eat well, you move your body and you still your mind. You let go of being bitter, and you get better. And you realize how far you have come and how loved you are, and you just start believing that everything is going to be OK.