8 January 2013 was my six year anniversary of my first bc diagnosis. For those of us who’ve been diagnosed (or gone through traumas), dates can be significant. It was also my 39th birthday and the day my life rapidly spiralled into a new direction – not of my choosing.
The bc diagnosis didn’t register completely as I was in shock and had thought that cancer would never happen to me. Little did I know that bc would lead me down a path of almost utter destruction to a life that is now better than it was.
I didn’t try and think too much about prognosis at that time. And actually, I tried not to tell many people. But with my first diagnosis, an Oncologist told me that I had a 10% chance of surviving 10 years if I did not do the treatment I did.
Well, it is six years later – and yes, I had another primary bc diagnosis in 2011. But the cancer did not metastasise and as of today, I am cancer free.
So in my own way, I am celebrating that I am alive and relatively well and also, the learning and growing that has taken place because of the bc.
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of bc is really crappy and unfortunately, like many of us, I have had people close to me pass away way too young because of this awful disease. However, for those of us lucky to survive, there are often good things that come out of bc (though sometimes, it takes years to see those good things; I definitely didn’t see the good things while I was going through all the physical treatments, especially chemo).
Everyone goes through a lot of change in six years but here is my rundown and some of the good things that have come out of bc.
In six years:
- For fun, I have travelled to the US, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France and Portugal (and Viet Nam for work). I like to have travel adventures every year if I can as: there are so many places to see, I love meeting new people and learning languages – and I don’t want to put life experiences off for some later date which is not guaranteed.
- I have made a lot of new great friends and my circle of friends on the whole, is quite different from back then. My friends now have walked beside me in sickness and health. Bc is a sifting exercise with friends and I am very lucky to have the ones I have.
- I set up BC Nirvana and learned how to set up and run a website. Having BC Nirvana has been one of the most creative, fun things that I’ve ever done. I love working on the site and I am looking forward to building the site in the future.
- I have gone through a lot of surgeries and treatment (six surgeries, nine months of chemo, six weeks of radio, two years of Herceptin and four years of hormone therapy) and I have managed to bounce back more or less. A lot of the last six years has been spent in recovery from bc – but see 1) for my best way to recover from bc i.e. travel for fun.
- I saved hard and have been flexible with my living situation and finances to manage the cancer journey. I have done quite a lot of house sitting in order to travel – and finally, bought my own home last year after having to sell my home in 2009.
- I have worked pretty hard but not full time for most of the six years – managing international aid programmes. But in 2011, I learned how to ‘not work’ which is really important for healing and rejuvenation.
Good things that have come out of BC
BC has taken me on a completely different journey than I would have gone on if I hadn’t been ill. While I would not wish bc on anyone., in balance, my life is better become of it:
- I am finally able to say that I know who I am and what makes me tick. I have accepted myself more – especially that I have physical limits and I am not superwoman.
- I know how to keep healthy and listen to my body. And I am getting better at listening to my intuition too.
- I don’t live for tomorrow. I do my best to live well today, this week and this year rather than plan for a ‘big life’ decades down the track.
- I know that life is not a straight line and I am not in control of everything. I know that life has ups and downs and will take me in directions that I have no idea of and it is all okay. I seem to be more flexible and enjoy a week with variety, not routine.
- I have been forced to heal parts of me that I didn’t know how to heal e.g. a ‘big’ hospital phobia, shock, traumas, side effects etc. I have mainly used EFT for this and found that is the best way to neutralise and heal bad stuff that happens in life.
- I have learned not to worry too much about the small stuff. Many of us know what the big things are e.g. life threatening illnesses or when a loved one passes on – and it certainly does put life in perspective.
- My confidence has increased and I feel okay talking about quite personal things with you guys.
- I have developed courage and strength to go through two bc journeys. At the time, I didn’t feel strong at all but somehow, you just get through and become stronger.
- I try to live life more on my terms – not what society thinks I should do. Before, I constantly worried about letting people down or what others thought of my decisions.
- With my first diagnosis, me and my family and friends fund raised for $70,000 of Herceptin treatment. It was quite a difficult experience but amazing that $55,000 was raised. It was a great feeling to have that much support.
Crappy things that have come out of BC
- Definitely some of the side effects from chemo, surgeries etc. I have thrown up a lot in the last few years.
- I do have a few more scars and on-going side effects e.g. nerve damage and headaches. But I am going to a great acupuncturist who is working miracles with me.
- I’m financially worse off than I was before bc (not working and working part time has reduced my assets). But in a way, I have learned that money is not everything. It comes and it goes and then it comes again.