365 days ago I was watching television on the couch. Laying on my side, and with fists tucked under my armpits I felt a lump in my left breast.
I had no family history of breast cancer (that I knew of). I was in my thirties and would not even think of breast screening for over a decade. I had small breasts and it never ever occurred to me that breast cancer would set up shop inside my body.
So I made a doctor’s appointment for four weeks later and in the meantime went on holiday. The lump kept whispering to me in that month and I would have discreet squeezes to see if it was still there; in the shower, at the checkout, at the children’s playground. It would be fine. I would have it inspected in January when my women’s health doctor was back from holidays.
Today, 365 days later, as we travel for our annual holiday to Western Australia, I reflect on my “lumpiversary”. The anniversary of the day my life changed forever.
Today, I have very thin short hair with a sort of male patterned baldness. My left armpit is tender and tight when I reach for things. And for the rest of my life I need to prevent trauma to my arm to try and reduce the chance of lymphedema. I am totally numb around my chest. To touch my expanders and nipples hurts. I can’t hug people with the same joy and intimacy as I used to. This is particularly distressing when I think of what this feels like to my children. I have crooked nipples. I have gained weight. I have severed nerves that are regenerating and sometimes they shoot fireworks down my arms and across my clavicle area. There are other weird sensations that my brain is learning to make sense of. I have less fitness as a result of three surgeries, chemo and rads. I sleep very long hours at night. I experience mental fog and extreme fatigue. I have lost some of my memory and have a reduced IQ. I am experiencing the symptoms of menopause at an age nearly twenty years earlier than my Mum. And sadly, I will not have anymore children. But the lump is gone. And the remaining cancer cells were dealt the most severe treatment blow.
And today, I am here to travel to see Mr Cool’s attempt at Ironman finish number eleven, see my kids again play chasy on the beach and make more happy memories with my family.
I have been shown a lot of generosity and love this year. A much brighter light has shone and a positive energy force has radiated through all of the darkness and negativity of cancer. There have been some profound life lessons and there is still much healing and work to be done for me and my family.
I am grateful to be living.