On February 1st, I had my second cancerversary. And while there was no champagne and no celebratory dinner, I did most definitely have a few flashback moments and reminders of the day I was diagnosed. After two years, lots of the horrific memories of 2016 have started to fade, but my desire to be healthy, strong and happy absolutely remains.
[Here is a little trip down hair memory lane. Taken using Photo Booth on my iMac at various stages from diagnosis to today]
I haven’t written a blog post in quite some time. But when I started this blog I wanted to bring everyone along on the ride and help people to understand that breast cancer (well, any cancer to be honest) does not discriminate and that no matter someones age/ fitness level/ marital status/ employment status, cancer really can pop up at the most unexpected times… or is that expected times?
I recently read a book called ‘When the Body Says No’. It’s a pretty confronting read for anyone that has or has had a chronic illness, but, it’s message was pretty simple. Sometimes our bodies will do what we don’t do – say no. It is written by a Canadian physician who says that modern medicine has divorced the mind/ body connection when treating patients. He argues that modern medicine treats only the body, but that it is important for doctors to ask ‘why’ their patient got sick. He says (and I would agree) that many don’t ask that question because they don’t want to ascribe blame to patients. After all, we really are told to believe that getting a chronic illness like cancer is just unlucky. The book challenges that assumption and concludes by telling the reader that if they have a chronic illness they have to go on a healing journey.
The book and ‘turning two’ has had me reflecting on my own ‘journey’. Was breast cancer my body throwing its toys out of the cot and my body telling me to stop, slow down, take a breath and most importantly take care of myself? Probably. When I look back at life pre-cancer it was hectic. All the time. I was working non stop, trying to be there for family, making sure I saw my friends, trying not to miss out on events, working some more in-between it all and not really taking very good care of myself. I was stressed, puffed up like a blowfish (like, seriously!), not sleeping properly, eating pretty badly (I mean, who doesn’t love kit-kats and cheezels washed down with coke zero?) and not exercising nearly enough. My Mum referred to me as the ‘robot’. My regular routine involved being at work by 7.30, working all day and into the night, eating most meals at my desk (including dinner which was often something from the vending machine) and then coming home to sleep and getting up to do it all over again the next day. For some people that is sustainable, for me, it wasn’t.
Life now is different. And purposely so.
I ditched the job in private practice and I work a nine-day fortnight for a statutory authority. My role is only quasi legal but very interesting and I am really loving not being in a law firm. I really need and look forward to weekends and time out of the office. I spend lots of time outside, I exercise regularly, I eat much better and I sleep for far longer every night than I used to. But I make a serious effort to do those things – most days.
I’m not perfect by any stretch (like this week where I haven’t exercised really at all and I succumbed to sugar to get me through busy days), but I certainly do try to make better choices for me. I had to re-prioritise my whole life, one bit at a time. Not an easy thing to do and I am definitely not perfect and I am definitely still figuring things out. I still overdo it sometimes. I still crave and eat some sugar (even though everyone said if you cut it out eventually you won’t like the taste – I’m telling you they’re just lying to you and themselves. Sugar is delicious. I will always think so.). I still get stressed and a bit anxious. And sometimes I just get a little bit sad. But that’s life, right? You’ve just got to live it. And as my surgeon reminded me this week, you can’t live in a bubble. So, I’m living, as best as I can. And constantly making sure I tune in to my body.
I am so bloody happy to have gotten to February 2018. And I sincerely hope (and pray) to see many more Februaries. I am actually very grateful for everything that has changed since 1 February 2016. I am lighter, happier, more relaxed (ok, not all the time) and genuinely more grateful for life than ever before. I catch myself all the time thinking how fortunate I am to be here, hang out with family and friends, swim in the ocean (although the reconstructed boobs don’t particularly like cold water), think, work, breath and live. Life really is a blessing and a privilege and February will forever more be an anniversary that reminds me of that.
To many more Februaries, a little more hair, a bit more fun and whole lot more living.