Last year I set out to run the Melbourne half marathon and in doing so raised money for The Cure Cancer Foundation of Australia which supports young cancer researchers. I had lost my Dad to esophageal cancer four years prior. I had taken control of my health and was fitter than I had been in years, running regular fun runs and competing in some triathlons. My life could not have been better. Little did I know that when I ecstatically crossed the finish line of that half marathon race, I already had a grade three aggressive tumour growing in my breast.
The ten months that followed have been well documented on this blog. From diagnosis to today, 2013 has included a lumpectomy, two separate mastectomies with reconstruction, months of FEC chemotherapy, the loss of my long hair and eyebrows (which might never return), nerve pain and numbness, physiotherapy and five weeks of radiotherapy to my chest and clavicle area. Chemotherapy has put me into menopause at the age of 38. I may or may not snap out of it. But the hot flushes are ridiculous and don’t get me started about the chin hair that is appearing!
I am grateful for all the medical professionals who have treated me. Without their intervention I might have only lived 18 months. The ongoing medical surveillance will continue for some time with breast surgeon reviews, oncological appointments, checks for lymphodema in my arm and ingesting Tamoxifen as part of the therapy to prevent oestrogen feeding the type of cancer that was removed. My life will never be the same again.
In the week following the conclusion of my active treatment for breast cancer, I am burnt from radiotherapy and looking forward to healing. But it is going to take a very long time. The psychological impacts of having cancer are only understood by those who experience it. The conclusion of active treatment is a bizarre place to be. The crazy wheel of survival has stopped spinning and I am finally in a place to ask what the hell has happened? What will happen to me now? What if it comes back? It has been ten months since my diagnosis. My dad was diagnosed and died within ten months. I ask the question why am I still here and he isn’t given we both were stage 2 at diagnosis?
People expect you to immediately celebrate and get on with life. I should be rejoicing! I’m alive! But to celebrate might jinx my circumstances. My battle with the Dread Dragon I have written about throughout this year continues. The fear of metastasis sits in the pit of my stomach and will need to be dealt with, packaged up and put somewhere out of reach.
Getting on with the life I had is not possible. Things are immensely different now. It must be about creating a new life, letting go of the old, and building the new. But it is going to take time, some time to work through the emotions and grief and heal. People assume you are okay now. But I am discovering that this phase of finishing treatment might just as well be the most difficult part of the journey so far for myself and my family.
To add to this life altering and totally unexpected year, my dear friend from primary and high school was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, six months to the day of my diagnosis. I wrote about learning of this news in this blog. Two chicks in their thirties, both with very young children, both getting cancer in the same year. Just. Plain. Wrong!
There is no doubt about it, cancer sucks! It is indiscriminate, robbing children of mothers, taking grandmothers, aunties, sisters, daughters. It takes the people we love, leaves lifelong scars for survivors, and burdens our society in ways we cannot measure. The psychological impacts of the effects of cancer are immense. The intergenerational effects of loss and suffering from cancer are a burden on families.
So here I find myself, a participating and fundraising member of THE GOOD TITTIE TEAM, named by my friend Mel, after she called her blog “I Got The Good Cancer” in jest, and combined it with the “Tittie” from my blog title. We are walking together and our team is growing.
You can support me and my team by donating, or joining our team to walk and fundraise with us.
The Weekend to End Women’s Cancers benefits the Peter Mac Cancer Centre. It is a 2-day, 60-kilometre walk through the neighbourhoods of Melbourne. Money raised through participation in and donating towards the weekend will help impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and their families, here in Australia, and right around the globe. Peter Mac shares its research discoveries and its expertise beyond the benefit of patients treated at Peter Mac, to healthcare organisations and research institutes around the world. For information about the Walk to End Womens Cancers benefitting Peter Mac click here.
To support me and donate to my fundraising page, click here
Many, many thanks for your support.