September 2012


Ten days. Three theme parks. Six rollercoasters. Water slides to scare the pants off you. Three excited kids. One fabulous zoo. And a bit of surgery in between. What a ride! And as I sit here with a glass of bubbly, I am celebrating another milestone in the journey, the return of my B-cup. And it’s important to celebrate our victories, isn’t it. Wetting the booby’s head I said. By the second glass my husband suggested it was more a drowning. Because once again I feel the sheer joy of being alive. For a brief moment post surgery the grief took hold as I realised the extent of the radiation damage. But with my new breast now taking shape, and the anaesthetic out of my system, it was more than I could have hoped for to actually be able to feel my new breast as a part of me. When my daughter accidently bumped me two days post surgery, it took me completely by surprise. Because I felt sensation in a part of me that had not existed this time last week. That blows my mind. The possibilities are incredible, aren’t they.

And this end of the week I can smile as I remember my apprehension pre-surgery. It’s a bit like a rollercoaster, isn’t it. The ups and downs. The waiting, the anticipating. So often the hardest part. And I often wonder why we are conditioned to expect the worst? Because there are so many things, so many situations, we often anticipate or fear that never come to pass, aren’t there. And in those moments before I reached the hospital for my fourth surgery in under two years, it suddenly occurred to me that this could be much easier than I realised…

Advertisements

It dawned on me yesterday that this time next week I will have two breasts again. And I can’t quite believe I have finally come full circle. The end of a long journey. There are mixed emotions. Relief, excitement, guilt, apprehension, an overwhelming sense of being able to finally exhale. Because it feels like I have been holding my breath for just this moment. Last summer, battling the prosthetic I called ‘the jellyfish’ every time I wore my swimmers, I knew I never wanted to experience another summer in this way. Small things, yes. They only got a measly 500 grams from me. But sometimes it’s the small things that give us the most grief, isn’t it.

The birth of the bump my girlfriend called it. Stage one of my reconstruction. An incredible gift, worth every cent. Because the joy this bump has given me in the last six weeks is beyond words. The freedom to embrace my femininity again. The joy of normal clothes. I ditched the prosthetic immediately. And the image of swinging my half kilo bra around my head and wildly letting go, prosthetic and all, like some sort of catapult, delights the wickedness in me. I get a sense of why our foremothers burned their bras.

And the really amazing thing is that even though the reconstruction is not complete my brain seems to have accepted my body as ‘whole’ again. I am fascinated by the workings of the mind, the brain in action. Proprioception they call it. That ability we have to recognise ourselves in space. Before, I was so keenly aware of the deficit. Funny, I never hated the scar, I hated the absence of me. But this bump, in all its rawness, has been accepted by my brain as ‘me’ and the sense of wholeness in my quieter moments brings tears of joy.

But the guilt I feel? Because in some ways it is just a small thing. Just a breast. Hidden away, no-one need ever know. I saw a man at the shops in a wheelchair with an amputated leg, and I felt lucky. It’s a strange thing when I work with people facing other challenges, because in listening to their stories, I feel so fortunate. And yet, knowing my story I’ve heard them question their own challenges as being small. But I guess each of us has a story of our own and it’s a wonderful thing when we can feel fortunate in the face of it, isn’t it…

**To follow future blog posts, I invite you to sign on at embracingchemo.com.au**

I spent some time talking to a young woman yesterday about her choices. Locked into a particular paradigm yet still struggling with depression, she realised that perhaps she needed to open her mind to other possibilities for healing. She was scared. Reasonably so. Because when we try anything new, it’s natural to be nervous, or cautious or uncertain, isn’t it. It’s just the nature of doing something we haven’t done before.

And it can be the same when we begin to reinvent ourselves. And that’s a necessary part of healing, isn’t it. Because when we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’re going to keep getting what we’ve always got. And there are some things we don’t want to repeat, aren’t there! Once in a lifetime is enough to experience some of the things we’ve experienced.

Most people don’t realise we actually become addicted to being ourselves. Every time we think a thought, or feel an emotion, we release chemicals in our body that form receptors on our nerve cells. And the more we repeat the thought, or the emotion, the more receptors that form and the more our body feels the need to keep repeating the thoughts, or the emotions, to get its fix. Being addicted to bitterness, or judgement, or anger, or anxiety, or stress, or sadness is no different at a cellular level than being addicted to smoking, or drinking or drugs. In fact, there’s a great smoking ad on tv that actually shows how it happens. We get into the habit of being ourselves. And because our bodies get used to being a certain way, they can kick up a real stink when we try to change. Like breaking any addiction, it has to be a multi-level approach. And that’s why we need to go below the surface, to focus our healing where the true problem lies. 

Shortly after chatting to this young woman, I happened to notice the date yesterday and it took be back two years to my own journey. My 14th wedding anniversary. And I remember being beside myself on that day. Breaking down. Because two years ago, I didn’t know if I was going to live or if I was going to die. I didn’t know if I was going to be around ‘next year’ to celebrate with my husband and my children. And the fear in these thoughts can be a terrifying thing, can’t it. But thankfully, now it is only a memory. And I no longer live in it’s grip. And it seems such a long time ago. Such a different life to the one I have now. Because the choices I have made have helped to reinvent myself. To break the old addictions. To help me get here to where I am today, a safe passage through the storm, and now more alive than ever…