On 1 June this year, after two breast cancers, I received my five-year cancer clearance. In official terms, I am now a survivor. Though it is recommended that I continue to have annual mammograms and full check-ups each year onwards.
I am thrilled that this is the case.
It has been a long time coming.
The common thread of the last nine years has been cancer. On my first four-year check-up, I had the second cancer diagnosis. At my four-year check-up last year, I got twitchy. It was hard to relax as it felt that I might be stuck in a loop, in ground hog days of cancer diagnoses.
So here I am, five years on and it feels, well it’s hard to say exactly.
I want to make it clear that I am thrilled to not have cancer and to be healthy.
I feel very strange about the clearance and being called a survivor. The term survivor doesn’t feel quite right though it is right.
Five years on
There is something about five years that makes me feel that I should have my life in order. That I can start to apply for permanent jobs, that I should live in one place, that I can buy a new car, and that I can start thinking longer term.
And it feels frankly weird. I am used to thinking ahead three to six months. In fact, a three to six-month work contract feels quite long for me! After thinking life and death for so many years, I am used to thinking things forward only a few months.
And of course, I thought I would know exactly what I wanted to do career wise by now. I am enjoying doing different contracts but I don’t feel that I have a set plan.
I have written a few books over recently years and I love that, and I have another website, The Joy Agency, focused on finding joy during and after cancer. And I’m enjoying life in the workplace too.
I’m staying put in my house which is a gesture of confidence. Before I went house sitting regularly as my income fluctuated all the time.
My headaches and migraines have cut right down. I’m drinking coffee which seems to help.
I’m pretty much at my goal weight and doing yoga most days. I’m doing the intermittent fasting diet and feeling good on that.
I have good friends and a social life.
I feel that five years of clearance means I should commit to things – relationships, jobs, houses and goals. Instead, I am still a bit floaty, floating around jobs and projects.
However, I have put a stake in the ground. I am here and my light is burning bright. I have just published a book and about to launch it at Parliament. I am starting a new job working in the mental health area, and I am really looking forward to it. I am loving life and it is very very busy.
It is just so jolly incredible to not factor cancer in my life on a day to day basis. I am blessed and grateful. And I continue to live my life as if it may be short. To live a joyful life and leave my legacy behind me. To do things that matter and to help people when I can. And to live with joy and peace.
I’m in a hurry too. There is much to do and much of life to live. I hope I have enough time to do everything.
And a super thank you to all the medical and support teams, and loved ones, that wrapped themselves around me to get to health. Two of them are pictured above! It takes a village to get someone well.
The Joy of health
And isn’t it amazing that I have had my clearance. It really is a miracle.
I went into the chemo day ward at Wellington hospital last week. Many people were going through their second bout of cancer. I was able to say “yes I had cancer twice and I’ve just had my five-year clearance”. I felt that saying those words gave people permission to have hope. I felt that I was in the right place in the right time, doing the right thing and saying the right words.
With love, Andrea x