Remembrance Day – and the 10 Year Anniversary of First Meeting my Cancer

Today is Remembrance Day when on he 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month we stop and remember with a minutes silence and even here in hospital I will once again do that. To honour the fallen and also those who have returned.  They have all given so much to ensure we continue to enjoy the life that we all have available around us.

poppy field

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

As you can see, this is a very important day for the allied countries and it is one that has not been diminished by time. In fact I think it is just as important as it has always been. We should never forget because to do that would condemn us to repeat history without thought of why we should never go there again.  No more world wars, the cost is just too high. Today troops help to solve smaller conflicts that may be long and involved but have not expanded to involve the entire world. I hope that it never does again.  Surely we have learned..  Please say we have….

Remembrance day is also a very significant day for me personally. It is the day that at 38 and after finding a lump in my left breast I had my first mammogram and ultrasound. It is the day that when I was sent back to my Doctor at 6.30 at night in the pouring rain that he took my pictures and as he looked at them on the light box dropped his head and just said.  I am so very sorry. You need to go to the Breast Surgeon to have this confirmed. I am so very sorry.

When I think about the sacrifice of so many that is remembered on this day, it seems so much more insignificant that I too have my own remembrance day. But there is always a start date and today is mine.

At first I was certainly a “Pink Warrior”. I was going to “Kick it’s Butt” and just make it go away. I was (am) super positive, ate as well as I could and exercised as often as I could. Removed as much stress as possible from my life and even though treatment made me extremely ill, I continued to arrive for treatment because it was my safety barrier.  This is certainly how  a majority of people tackle their diagnosis. I cannot imagine tackling it any other way. It helps to keep you focused and moving forward because it is so very easy to fall off the path and head into the dark side of feeling defeated and depressed and just totally overwhelmed.  Nobody should ever underestimate the mental battle that is raging inside someone who is fighting breast cancer (or any cancer for that matter). In the beginning I was not overly interested in connecting with others with breast cancer, it was something i just wanted to get past and forget as much as possible. On my 5th anniversary I had a wig presentation to the wig library as I figured that I was an official statistic and was past the threat.  As it turns out that was quite incorrect but at the time I had no idea. These days, I cherish the time with my support group friends.  Each and every one of them are amazing people. But I know that before, I was not ready to ‘share’.

But even though it has been written before (and one article in particular still stabs me) breast cancer is not a “sexy cancer” and nobody I know thinks it is. The battle to regain self image and a comfortable relationship with our bodies seems to go on for  very long time after we complete our treatment.  I cannot see how Breast Cancer receives too much funding, surely we would have a cure by now???  It is also a fact that many discoveries that help those with breast cancer then filter through and assist those dealing with other cancers and vice versa.  I also do not know of anyone (and their families and friends) that go through cancer that are not totally exhausted and would rather never, ever hear about it again. But you see, most know that it will never be like that. It is part of your life even if you choose not to speak about it.

It is just a fact that with an average diagnosis rate that continues to rise every year and is currently at just over 15,000 people, when you add the family and friends of all those people who watch the journey unfold that you suddenly have an awful large number of people who want to stop breast cancer in its tracks and with one person here and there deciding to try to make a difference, it just grows from there.  It cannot help but become a very large group of people. It is also a great blueprint for organised action.  It is only together that we have any real chance of defeating the debilitating disease that is cancer.

I now write my little blog (quite often with turtles in tow),  speak for both National Breast Cancer Foundation (research funding), Breast Cancer Network Australia (Support, Inform, Represent and Connect) and share information I have discovered with anyone who asks.  I spend an amazing amount of time working hard on staying upright by learning and understanding my disease and treatments, speaking and sharing as often as I can.  I still say that I am not defined by my disease but I am a different person since that first day that I was told I had breast cancer. I really tried the head in the sand approach and for a while it worked but then as the rat race and general life slowly dragged me back to my old life I wanted to grow and be heading in a different way but could never quite break away. In life there are commitments and choices that need to be honoured and made and it can be hard, very, very hard to look inwards and find what is the most important to you.  When I say important I do not mean paying off the house or feeding the family but finding an inner peace and glow.

It took me a very long time of searching but I believe I am finally well on the way (and I certainly started looking before my Secondary diagnosis).  I am calmer and much more tolerant. My need to be a control freak has softened to being an Organisational Entrepreneur.  I tried to be a person that just goes with the flow but it was indeed a miserable failure and I understand that I need structure no matter what.  I have discovered Tai Chi, Reiki, a wonderful group of people and make time to stop and watch the world around me.  I am slowly allocating time to take photos, garden (ok supervise and do very light work) and most of all, like myself.  I never really liked myself and it is probably the most important thing I have found……….  If you do not put yourself first and like who you are then you are incapable of maintaining a level of life where you can help others.  It will always implode if you do not.

I am living with Secondary Breast Cancer, and am certainly not waiting to die from it.  I am not brave just practical and want to live a life and no longer just exist through it.  I have so very much to still do and hope to have the time to do it.  Just Do It..  the name of my ‘list’. It seems quite long and that is the way i like it.  The length is not so important but actually getting things done on it are.

So there you have it..  Today as I acknowledge the first day of my new normal beginning 10 years ago I was also let out of hospital and it was only the morning after my 5th dose of chemo in this round.  These rounds are in charge of disbursing the party in my liver and after the next round in three weeks, it will be of for some interrogation and reconnaissance to see what has changed in the past three months.  Fingers and toes crossed that at very least it has all reduced and at best gone.  But time will tell and we will take it from there.. It is not something that I am trying to spend too much time thinking about because it certainly sits very well right in the middle of the ‘what if syndromes’ world.  You see, it is what it is and no amount of worry or thought will change the outcome in a few weeks.  So I just keep on going and doing what I do in the meantime.

So to the armed forces who have given so much in the field and to those who came home with extra baggage, I think of you and have the most amazing respect for you all.  In relation to my little anniversary, it is just a number, just a day, it just happens to be the day that my life changed direction.  I hated the time when I was told that I should look upon my cancer as a gift because of what it would offer…  For me, a gift it will never ever be.. But I have certainly made the best of it and sought out opportunity to get me through.


3 thoughts on “Remembrance Day – and the 10 Year Anniversary of First Meeting my Cancer

  1. Rememberance Day is now your day too. You can’t run away from that…so keeping the soldiers with you is a great way to go. They were young men too, probaby shit scared, homesick and did not know what was going to happen next. They had to be organised, focussed and disciplined to make it to the next day. They also loved and depended on their mates. Winning medals does not make the journey any easier or glorious: making the most of each moment does. Thanks Sharon for you reflection upon your 10 year tour of duty.

    Liked by 1 person

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