Two and a half years ago I wrote a blog post titled “Licking Lava“. I had woken feeling like I had dragged my tongue over the inferno of an active Hawaiian lava field. I sat miserable on my couch. Mouth ulcers had erupted on my tongue, inside my cheeks and in my throat from lifesaving chemotherapy. Unable to eat and struggling to swallow, I daydreamed about our future, wondering if I would still be in the picture.
Today I stood on a lava field two days out from the 2015 Ironman World Championships. Mr Cool made it! Incredibly, we all made it! He is about to achieve his long term dream of competing in Kona. And he did it while working full time, while supporting two young kids and a wife who sometimes feels like half the wife and mother she was pre cancer. He did this with both of his parents affected by their own diagnosis of cancer. Where he comes or places in the Ironman race is irrelevant.
The Big Island volcanoes of Hawaii are an appropriate analogy for our journey through breast cancer. A volcano spontaneously erupted back in January 2013 with such force it ejected enormous quantities of molten rock from the earth’s interior. Our clear blue skies suddenly filled with fetid and pungent ash. The sulphur dioxide, hazardous to breathe left us gasping, choking. Rocks rained down on our lives like bombs dropping from the sky and we scrambled and scurried to safety. We worried about our future, at first from day to day. Then the months and then the years ahead. The molten lava flowed and smothered our landscape, stripped of a life once known. The lava cooled rapidly in some places and slowly in others, bending and buckling, fracturing. It hardened into billowing pillows and in places it formed sinuous grey-black patterns. A jagged, dark and inhospitable moonscape. A place that is far removed from our life pre-eruption or pre-cancer.
Progress at rebuilding has been slow. I’m using the materials I now have. I am bald and very overweight. Which is part breast cancer drugs Tamoxifen and Zolodex, part anti-depressant, part early menopause, part inactivity. I continue to have bone pain, migraines, hot flushes, insomnia. I have recently developed foot, ankle, hand and wrist pain that feels like stress fractures. My bones are changing from the lowered levels of oestrogen.
Today, while scrambling on the lava I marvelled at such formidable forces; volcanoes, cancer and my families continued resilience. I marvelled at the passage of time and the joy of my continued place in it.