Cancer is a Part of Me
I have been living with cancer now for 13 years. It would be stupid of me to say that cancer has not changed me over the years. My illness is terminal but treatable and I still have a very good quality of life. I now accept cancer as part of my being. It has certainly affected me physically and mentally. During my journey there have been events that profoundly affected and changed me. Having said this, I do believe I have never lost myself. “Cancer” has challenged who I am but through it there has been a lot of self-discovery along the way. Some of it good some of it bad.
My circumstance has not allowed me to forget “cancer”. Living with cancer, you overcome one hurdle, feel good for a while, then it’s back again. Because of this, I have lost my personal sense of safety and health.
Whenever I am well enough I take charge by undertaking gym work under the supervision of an exercise physiologist, which I enjoy. Yeah, since I made the decision to be as strong as I could physically and mentally, I have faced new hurdles. In April 2016, due to long term use of bone density drugs, my femur shafts became brittle and fractured. This resulted in having femoral rods inserted in each femur. Following my operations, I refractured twice so this “hurdle” lasted till May 2017! Easily my biggest test living with cancer. Recently I am overcoming brain surgery. I had a 5cm cyst attached to which turned out to be necrotic tissue left from two radio-stereo surgeries to a lesion. Was successfully removed but I experienced brief visual interruptions before the surgery and continue to have episodes. I have been told they are seizures therefore unable to drive. My independence has gone.
None of this is character building, it tests your resilience. Thankfully I am turning the corner and my neurologist has allowed me to drive again! Hallelujah.
Because of cancer I now have bucket loads of self-discovery, teaching me to be more tolerant, slow down, be unselfish and compassionate. I am still working on “me” time. I think this is difficult for women.
I have greater compassion for people facing illness and adversity, particularly those who do not have the same level of determination, positive attitude and fighting spirit which I seem to inherently have.
There is one aspect of my behavior which I’m not proud of. My life goal has always been to be gracious and seek the high road, but at times my actions prove that I am not quite there. Truthfully, I work hard to ensure that I don’t look like a cancer patient or inflict my predicament on those around me. After all, it’s no one’s fault that I have metastatic breast cancer.
At times I have made some pretty bad jokes about dying. I have often been flippant with my husband about my mortality not thinking how this affects him. I have jokingly talked about my mortality to my friends in a non-sensitive way. I now make a conscious effort to not do this. Its upsets them.
For many years I saw my career as being a big part of my identity. As my disease wasn’t going away, in the end I was treated differently which affected me emotionally and financially. What had been my normal lifestyle was turned up-side-down. Myself and my family had to adjust to this big change as I was the major income earner. This has and still does test our resilience.
Technology is keeping us living well despite our underlying disease, yet we are finding we cannot work. I would like to see a flexible workforce for people who are living well with cancer who can work are encouraged to stay working in some capacity rather than eat away at their life savings and ultimately find themselves prematurely on a pension.
Now I focus on my health and my mindset. I have been an excellent advocate for myself and have actively participated in the management of my treatment. I am a BCNA Consumer Representative and have enjoyed the assignments that have come my way.
By nature, I am an optimistic person, I am very thankful for my blessings. I have two wonderful adult boys and a supportive husband, sister and extended family. I also have great mates that are a shining beacon. When you are faced with a terminal illness, its these relationships that are your focal point. Bricks and mortar and material things have become irrelevant which have been replaced by experiences shared with family and friends.
I know it sounds clichéd, but I take nothing of granted and enjoy every day.
You never know what curve balls life is going to throw at you, and it's how you deal with them that defines who you are. For now, I am living with cancer. It is my hope that we obliterate it, but I am not wasting time worrying about it. Anyone that has cancer knows that life goes on and it’s up to you to go with it.
Cancer Lifer for 13 years