Last week, I received the terribly sad news that one of my gorgeous, energetic students I taught back in 2003 and 2004 was killed when he had a motorcycle accident on an alpine rode. My heart sank. It was a road I drove him and his classmates on for several school camps. He sat up the front of the bus and talked to me as we went up the mountain. I may have had a small part in introducing him to the same mountains that one day would take his life, and I wasn’t able to go to his memorial service because I was having oncology appointments at my local hospital.
I remember him as a gentle giant. He wasn’t tall in stature, but there were some giant like qualities to him. His amazing smile could light and supply a power station. There was always an air of cheekiness in his interaction with me. I remember the time I had the privilege as his teacher of sharing a canoe with him on an Outdoor Education trip. His broad shoulders powered the boat so well I only occasionally had to steer from the stern. We spent the bulk of the afternoon floating down the mighty Murray River through the ancient Rivergum forest past kingfishers, telling lame jokes and counting fish that jumped in the tea coloured water. We peered with amusement into the different campsites we sighted around each meandering bend. Late in the day as the sun was getting low, he spent a whole hour educating me about the finer points of the game of cricket which he was deeply passionate about (which I have always secretly loathed). He has been the only person to ever give me any sort of appreciation for why Shane Warne the Australian cricketer was a genius of the game, and I was a convert. My heart goes out to his family and friends. Rest in Peace BW.
This has reinforced in me this idea of living your best life and thinking about what kind of legacy you want to create for yourself. What would be the lasting impressions of you in the minds and memories of others? My own brush with cancer and mortality this year has made this even more important to me. If I am not here tomorrow, or in five years, how would I like to be remembered? Remembered by my loved ones? My children? My community? What exactly would my legacy be?
So it occurred to me to put this “inevitable chemo cancer hair loss process” to good use and have some fun with it. Why not notch up a few new hairstyles while I’m at it? The idea sprang to mind to have multiple haircuts in one session, have a laugh and take some piccies before moving onto the next creation. The final hair style will probably only be attached to my head for a matter of days anyway. But it is about taking control of it myself. Not letting chemo and cancer dictate it’s effects to me. My hair will get shorter on my own terms. Quite empowering really!
First impressions, beauty, fashion and the like have always been fleetingly superficial to me. For the bulk of my life I have shimmied around with long, bottle blonde hair and this hair monotony has occurred out of a superficial idea of who I thought I was based on my appearance. Then through the laziness of not really caring about how I looked, many, many years passed by and I had largely carried the same hairstyle for 30 years. The hairdressing tally stood at 7 visits in 38 years, with home cuts being done in front of the mirror by “Mwah” with the bluntest scissors in the house and dyes done with a 10 dollar supermarket job!
In 1997 a fit mountain bike rider who I will refer to as Punk Chick, caught my eye in a cafe I used to be a waitress at. At the time it was the cool place to drink coffee in my town. There was something about Punk Chick that was magnetic. She invited me to a women’s riding group, but being busy, I never made it happen. Eleven years passed, and we discovered through Facebook that we both had our first children weeks apart; two little boys. And although we still didn’t catch up, we made plans as recently as November of last year to start riding our road bikes together after Christmas. Unfortunately we still haven’t done that, because I found a cancerous lump in my breast and it has taken up a lot of my time since. But it will happen!
Coincidentally though, I bumped into her at my local pool in my ‘crisis time’ at diagnosis back in January. She got out of the pool and walked over to me and we embraced. The embrace was long. She had read about my breast cancer diagnosis on Facebook. She then revealed to me that 20 years earlier, as a young, mowhawked, punk, university student she was diagnosed with Lymphoma. In the prime of her life, and struck down with cancer. My jaw hit the deck of the pool. After explaining that the chemotherapy she experienced from the early 1990’s nearly killed her, she got through it and she went into remission. At the pool she told me that her oncologist has recently said that there is no way they would give present cancer patients the same brutal regime. In the early 1990’s there wasn’t the anti-nausea drugs available that we fortunately have today. Then, after a year in remission with the world at her feet, her cancer returned. This is the stuff that builds the strongest of characters and teaches the lesson about living your best life. And that is exactly what she has done for twenty years. At the pool that day and through my tears, there standing before me was a beautiful, vivacious, healthy and inspiring woman and wise soul who overcame cancer twice at a time when most university students are worried about what beer to drink and which clubs to join. And to think, I almost connected with her all those years ago in the late 1990’s.
I chose her to be my “chemo cut” hairdresser because I couldn’t think of a better person, a better woman to share such an experience with. The fact she was a hairdresser was a bonus. The planet’s aligned and she was available to spend half a day with myself and my bestie JRF to transform me through a series of haircuts in the magic window just before my hair would start falling out. These haircuts were over as quick as they were created and the final haircut will fall out within the week and I will be bald and without hair for much of the year. But this is all temporary and superficial in the scheme of things. My hair, does not define me.
It is the lasting impressions that really matter. Our legacies.
Last year, I found myself on a transformative path. After 19 years of not putting myself first, I decided to start walking 6 days a week. After a month I was jogging. I was inspired by an amazing array of women I had chance encounters with. I was also inspired by the fit, healthy people at my local running club. I embarrassingly joined as nearly the slowest runner. I had spent years watching Mr Cool from the sidelines and loitering around the cakes on the afternoon tea table. It took a lot of courage to take that first step. But I jumped in and joined the running club, to run of all ghastly things. It was bloody hard! But in the next eight months I ran 1500 kms and competed a half marathon. I raised money for a cancer charity. I connected with many wonderful people. I lost 18kgs. I had grand plans for athletic feats in 2013. Then I discovered a lump in my breast and here I am… in the best physical and emotional place of my adult life to deal with cancer.
So here is my challenge to you.
What could you do for yourself to make your life better or richer or more meaningful than it already is? What could you do for others? How can you extend yourself to make a difference? What can you do for your community? What could you do for your environment? Think about one of these questions and jump into action. You will reap benefits that you can’t yet imagine. You get back in spades what you put in to making your own life rich. I have only recently learnt this lesson. In the last several years I really embraced aspects of my community, sporting clubs, mothers groups, online community and this has enriched my life in ways I would never have thought. My community has blown me away with their love and support in this time, by delivering food, minding our children, getting a gardener for us, pampering me in a girly way. We are seriously indebted. But our community would not have been activated in our lives unless we were willing participants in it.
So, slow down, look after yourself, stop worrying about the things that don’t matter, love your life and if you don’t then change the aspects of it that can be changed. Think about it in terms of contributing to your legacy. If you weren’t here tomorrow how would you be remembered? What would be the qualities that people remember of you? What would your children remember? Really think about what you could do to improve your life and “Just Do It” take that first step!
Suggestions to make a difference to your life and leave a more positive lasting impression could include but are not limited to…
- Donating to or supporting a charity of your choice.
- Contributing to a community group in your locale though volunteering your time in some way.
- Committing to making healthy changes in your life through nutrition and exercise because YOU ARE absolutely WORTH IT! We all only have one life and we will all be dead for a very long time!
- Get into slow juicing or raw foods and buy organic where possible because they all rock! Get rid of the processed stuff.
- Commit to moving your body more. Seats are the worst thing ever invented. Stand up and move for an hour or more a day. I started with very poor fitness and chronic back troubles and headaches after years of inactivity and I used Runkeeper on my iPhone to track my walks. This was very motivating for me.
- Reacquaint yourself with the things that you love but may have lost along the way such as music, dancing, art or sport. I loved all of these things when I was younger but lost them through the seriousness of adult life. They have been slowly coming back to me in recent years and I love it!
- Spend time with elderly neighbours or relatives and listen to their life stories.
- Ring your family and arrange a nice family gathering or dinner and tell them you love and appreciate them.
- Join an environmental group and make a difference to your local environment.
- If you have young children, stop and play with them. Try and be in their world each day even if just for an hour. You can’t get these years back.
- Start planning or saving for that destination you’ve always wanted to visit or trip you’ve dreamed of taking but keep putting off. Make it happen!
- Most importantly to me… If you are due for an annual health check up, or if something has been troubling you for a while and you just haven’t gotten around to it, please make that doctors appointment and sort it out. Early detection save lives.
If you are inspired in some way by this, then take a leap and when you have made that first step to make your life better is some teeny tiny or humongous way, or thought about how to build on your legacy, come back and tell me in the comments section or if you want some privacy then email me the details.
When at least 10 different people share their inspiration or progress I will reveal the next haircut in the “ShittyTittie Chemo Cuts Series”.
There were 8 cuts in four hours or a year of haircuts in one afternoon. We created eight characters to reveal and we had an absolute blast doing it. Who knew chemotherapy and impending hair loss could be so positive and exciting!
Please join my “Shittytittie Chemo Cuts Reveal Challenge“. Because you know you’re worth it!
♥ Love ♥
♥ Lisey ♥
These organisation’s are very dear to my heart at present because they do some awesome things.
The Forgotten Cancers Project. Click to DONATE
Peter MaCallum Cancer Centre Click to DONATE
Bendigo Health Foundation Click to DONATE
Pink Hope Click to DONATE
Breast Cancer Network of Australia Click to DONATE
Well that’s an invitation I can’t refuse.
For me, the klutzy gross-motor-challenged creative-arty-thinker, the big challenge will always be exercise. So I’ve committed myself to doing an hour a day of SOMETHING, whether just walking up the long dirt road with my dog or attempting not to fall off my bike as I travel the same route. Or, to avoid the excuse ‘it’s raining so I can’t POSSIBLY blahblahblah’, getting on the Wii Fit and pretending exercise is fun there for an hour.
This is, seriously, like getting a fish to ride a bicycle. But it has to happen.
Go Candy go! I’ve found it helpful to put exercise in the same priority basket each day as toileting, dressing, showering and eating every day. Then there is no emotion attached to it, it’s just something that needs to be done. This has really helped me in recent times. I’ve always found it funny that rain stops us from exercising. Like we are the Wicked Witch or something. “Help me I’m melting…” ha ha ha. Last year I ran in rain hail or shine and I ran a lot at night too. No excuses through winter. Loved it! Thanks for jumping into this. Your dog will also be happier. x
Lisey, this is a beautiful post, every part of it. So sorry that you lost one of your students. As a psychologist, I grow to love the children and teens with whom I work and I can only imagine that it is the same for teachers.
As far as inspiration. Let’s see, today I commit to doing two things. I am “paying it forward” by accompanying a friend of the family to her first visit to a breast surgeon, actually my wonderful breast surgeon. Just as my friend, Nancy did for me. She brought her laptop computer and took down notes.
Okay, that one is cheating as I had already committed to going to the appointment. The second commitment is that I am going to stop procrastinating and make an appointment for acupuncture even though it is out of my comfort zone as a western trained Ph.D. who is not crazy about the needle idea.
Your friend is lucky to have you in her life! Hope the appointment went well. Glad the acupuncture appointment went well. Are you feeling better for it? Thanks for reminding me to make another one. x
Hi again, Lisey. I was very glad to have been able to be at my friend’s appointment. She is a friend and neighbor of my parents, about my age but I do not know her very well. She has no extended family in the area though my parents play a grandparent role in their 13 year-old son’s life, giving him a ride to school once a week and attending his piano recitals. It’s a very sweet relationship.
The appointment itself was not what I expected. It turned out that my friend had not just learned that she had cancer, as I had thought when she contacted me for a referral for a breast surgeon. She had gotten her first biopsy last December! Although extremely intelligent and mostly educated in the U.S., the combination of her non-native English speaker status, her somewhat circuitous thinking style, and the multi-disciplinary nature of cancer diagnosis and treatment had gotten her totally confused.
She had been getting her care from another hospital near her house. She consulted with my breast surgeon who is perhaps one of the kindest and most competent physicians I have ever met. He spent nearly THREE hours with her, sorting through her pathology reports, imaging reports, and her history to figure out what had been done and what needed to happen. As it turned out, she’d had some surgical biopsies and didn’t need surgery. Despite that, he stepped in to take over coordinating her care until it got back on track as she had gotten stuck for a couple of months, not knowing what to do. Isn’t that awful? I am so glad she asked for help and that my surgeon went above and beyond for her.
I have booked the “trip of a lifetime” because there may not be a tomorrow to do it…no time like the present!
Good for you Kristy! Hope you and your family have a fabulous time. Can’t wait to see pics. x
HI Lisey, your are always inspiring me. I love your creativity.
I’ll continue to be a great mum to William and Hamish so that one day they can go for a walk together or communicate to each other. I’ve made a promise to the boys to be the best advocate I can be for them and in turn help other children with special needs. To do this I personally need to stay strong both physically and mentally. I find my solace in running.
Hmmm… My Legacy? I guess I’d like to think I’ll make a positive difference to someone else’s life and to help make their journey a little easier or at least happier for knowing me:)
That is really wonderful Nat! Give those gorgeous boys a big kiss from me! Hope to run with you very soon and all the best for New York! I’ll be thinking of you. A great example of living your best. x
Lise, thanks for sharing all of your emotions with us. It’s so easy to turn a blind eye when things get tough but reading your posts just makes me want to be a better person. You are so inspiring.
At this stage in my life I want to be the best mum I can be. There are no direct challenges for me to be this apart from the ongoing need of nurturing three beautiful children. As all mothers know some days are harder than others. Like you and Nat I find my solace in running so I am about to step it up a level and complete in the cross country season this year and maybe even get some coaching on the side. I’m quite tentative about this though.
Also I have just started a facebook page on health and wellness and would like to build on this little community and hopefully inspire people to eat and live well.
No need to be tentative Jacinta! You will love it so much and it is such a positive thing to do with wonderful people who share the same interests. The children love the forest and it is all inclusive experience. Your Facebook page is wonderful. You are certainly a source of inspiration to me and many others I am sure! Hope to run with you this year (or have your run past me, chemo has added a bit of time onto my runs lol) x
Come on people, comment on this post. I am eager to see Lisey’s photos!
Thanks MyEyes, you can be my arse kicker. Gotta keep these people on it or it might be Christmas before I trot all of these hairstyles out! lol.
Yes, I am the enforcer! I will force people to do what is good for them in order to achieve my goal to see all 8 of your hair styles!
When I had been diagnosed with breast cancer, I thought I could start drawing my story and posting the images on a blog (magsblog.com).
Even if I have never been drawing before… but I always enjoyed reading comic books.
These drawings have kept me busy and also helped me get through the journey. I have also been grateful to receive nice feedback from women in similar situations all around the world.
Lise, I would love to see your photos !
Mags, your blog is beautiful and it was one of the very first resources I came across when I was diagnosed. I found it on Google. It also helped me decide to set up my own blog using WordPress. So thank you for the inspiration. I love the fact that it is in French and English. You are amazing! I will share it on my blog very soon if that is okay? Hope you are doing well. x
Of course it is okay for you to share my blog on yours! Merci 🙂
Thanks for your encouragement and this nice message, it means a lot.
Love your blog too and your photos are beautiful. X
my challenge is to do more fun things with my family i started yesterday by playing football and cricket outside xx
Such an awesome investment Liza. Really adding to your legacy with experiences and fun memories for your children. Positive family time is so important. x
I STOPPED smoking on Monday at Midnight and have not had one since. Thanks for your challenge Lisey xoxoxo
You are AMAZEBALLS J! You can do it! x
I am moving my arse with exercise! I’ve been slack lately & u have inspired me xxxx. You are my inspiration Little Lise & I love you lots xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Awesome Fiona. I found music to inspire me to do this. Love my exercise hour. All the best with it. x