My Year and keeping perspective0
31st Aug 2019- owning my story.
A year. The 31st August marked the one year anniversary of a gym device saving my life. Literally!
On the 31st Aug 2018 I got up and went to the gym wearing a heart monitor. It rubbed. I felt. I felt again, and knew. I knew immediately I had breast cancer. I sent the kids off to school, booked into the Drs and then headed into work for a couple of hours while I waited for my appt. Wasn’t easy.
I was in a country town, with my two youngest children. It was our sea change. We were settling into the gorgeous community, having adventures and planning more. Living in our new little house we’d refinanced to purchase, planning to rent out our Adelaide home for the foreseeable future. Kids were settled into their new school, in an after school High School band, dance and soccer. We’d finish our days with walks around the marina, gardens, beach and dolphin spotting. My husband Mark had his name down to take a package from work and planned to move to live with us within the month. It was all planned.
Once the Dr stated he could tell it was likely to be BC he booked me into the local Hosp that afternoon. Action stations from there- the phone calls you don’t want to make, to family that are immediately too far away. The googling (first and only time). In the one afternoon I had an ultrasound, mammogram and biopsy. All confirming BC, 18mm, but not the stage or grade. All on the 31st Aug 2018. Mum packed her bags and was with us by nightfall. Mark was making plans to collect me and return me to Adelaide. Thankfully I had a new friend with me that afternoon. She kept me calm. I’m forever grateful. Mum let me wallow for the weekend. Then it was time to suck it up and plan. Mum was amazing. Mark and the kids were amazing. Tues 4th Sept we were told it was a Stage 1, Grade 3 cancer. I was lucky. I was “curable”(If anyone wants to use different language to this don’t use it in my presence) - it was aggressive but contained. I’d managed to feel an aggressive cancer early-ish. Within the next two weeks we were moving for the 3rd time in 7 months. We had sold 2/3 of our Adelaide furniture so moved our new country furniture home to Adelaide. We needed to be in Adelaide. We knew that much. Within two weeks I’d had numerous tests and surgery. Then it was time to embark on 5 months of chemotherapy (16 rounds in total) followed by 4 weeks of daily radiotherapy. I’d gone from Principal of a gorgeous little school in the country to jobless (permanent with but out of leadership contract) in the blink of an eye. While on chemo and radiotherapy I applied for a few jobs, even interviewed for 2. It was one of the most stressful times of my life career wise. Literally full of chemicals, having side effects, while also needing to learn the needs of different roles and retain information when I felt sick and ‘cloudy’. Wearing caps to interviews, all the while wanting to retreat and hide my bald head and bloated body. Only close friends and fam know the true impact this had on me. I am so thankful to the army I had around me. I couldn’t have remained strong without them. Two weeks after finishing radiotherapy I went back to work full time. It was too soon. A weekend of debilitating vertigo taught me that much. I stuck at it though as there was no going back and the kids needed the old “working me” back.
I’m now in another job. So, second job in the 4 months I’ve been back at work and 4th different job in 2 years. I’m contributing. I’m happy both professionally and at home. I’m lucky.
Life sent my family a curve ball. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. I’m not special. My day will come like it does for all, I’ve just managed (with a lot of help) to avoid the inevitable for now. Statistically: “One in eight Australian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 85. ... Approximately 28% of new cancers diagnosed in women in 2017 were breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.”
Like numerous women and men privately and publicly stepped up to help myself, Mark and the kids (CanTeen have been absolutely amazing), we now step up and help others. Cancer does change you and it’s effects never go away. Its impact never goes away. However, in saying this, it also doesn’t have to define you.
I consider myself extremely lucky. This blip (drs words not mine) is now over. It’s been a year of many lows but also many highs. I’ve learnt a lot about myself. I’ve learnt a lot about others. I’ve learnt what’s important and what is not.
I never take life for granted.
I keep perspective.
I am grateful every day. Grateful to my amazing family and for the friends who really stepped up and kept me as healthy as possible (and sane).
I share this in the hope that it continues to remind others to check their breasts and stay on top of their health. Get regular mammograms (I’d had my second only 18months prior to my BC-it showed nothing), take the bowel cancer test mailed to your door, make healthy choices but overall LIVE your best life as it’s the only one you’ll get and above all- own your own story.