16th January, 2008 2.10pm, a doctor leans his head to one side, looks at me and says ‘I’m sorry it’s cancer’. And in that moment, and with those few words, my life is changed forever.
For many years following my illness, and subsequent seemingly never ending medical treatments for Stage 3 Inflammatory Breast Cancer, gruelling physical and emotional challenges, I anxiously awaited the 16th January, as every cancer patient knows reaching the magical 5 years survival is a key date. And after 10 years, the risk of recurrence which looms ever present, is greatly reduced if not eliminated.
No Evidence Of Disease (NED), is the best I will get with IBC, but I’ll take that.
So I am spending this anniversary on a day of self love and self care, something I advocate and write about and know that many people, women especially, struggle with.
So a hair cut and colour for me, after I remind myself that having ‘old woman’s hair’ , thin and sparse, is a minor annoyance, and to stop feeling so sorry for myself.
Then off to a ‘luxury foot treatment’ , my feet another constant reminder; peripheral neuropathy and constant pain are my lingering companions. A side effect of chemotherapy that is another minor annoyance.
But I am still here, maybe older, but I need to remind myself that is a privilege denied to many. Time now to look forward, not back, it was bloody awful, but God willing it is in the past. I have learnt so much in these 11 years, about treatment, chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy, anxiety, depression, fatigue and struggles at work. I have been badly let down by people I thought were my friends. But my heart has also been filled with the love, good humour and generosity of so many people. I have also learnt about nutrition, reiki, Healing Codes, the therapeutic power of thought, of love and of singing. I have been to the amazing Penny Brohn centre and learnt about the mind, body soul connection, and the importance of managing stress. I learned more about the immune system and how it works to detect and destroy cancer cells in your body, and they helped me put a plan in place to strengthen my health and build up resilience.I have learnt that self confidence is something that anyone can achieve, with some work and focus, I studied this so much that I wrote a little book about it, which I self published.
I have learnt that when I thought it wasn’t possible to love my family any more, three grandchildren have come along in quick succession. They have given me the wonderful gift of watching them grow up and their love fills my heart.
I have learnt that I am not perfect, but that’s OK. I’m doing my best, and trying to help others too.
And I have learnt to look forward, for there is so much to look forward to.
I am so grateful, to my husband, family and friends for their constant love and support. And to you dear reader, thank you for reading.