“Nine months ago I was sitting in a doctor’s office in a lovely floral cotton gown and hearing that I had breast cancer. Two lumps in my right breast, Stage 2, Grade 3 with 1 lymph node involved. The doctor who diagnosed me was wearing a Byron Bay style turban. She had just finished her chemo for cancer. There was someone in the waiting room behind a curtain and I could hear them crying. Another cancer diagnosis.
What a frightening and bewildering time. I was 46 years old, and hardly ever even caught a cold. My immune system was better than most, I thought. But there I was. The weeks and months that followed were filled with appointments with the surgeon, many nerve-wracking scans and tests, two surgeries – a double mastectomy and lymph node dissection – then oncologist appointments, prognosis information and four months of so-called dense dose chemo. I now know that dense dose does not mean you receive a treatment every fortnight. It means that the drugs will make you quite dense! When I look back at that time I see I was living in some kind of parallel universe where life feels very different. You are poisoned and drugged.
Right now I am having three-monthly checkups and my cancer is in remission. I am on a new drug, which has its own set of side effects and makes me cry a lot. All of the treatments have put me into meanopause. Yes I did spell that correctly. MEANopause. If I was on Big Brother I would have been voted off yesterday. Having said all that, I am so very grateful for all of the treatments that are available. I feel very grateful that I can be here to complain about every single one of them!
There is a lot of fear in a cancer diagnosis. You fear for your future and your health, fear for your family’s future and well-being, fear when someone at the shops sneezes near you when your white blood cell count is low. It happened!
When I was diagnosed I decided to tackle my cancer challenge the same way I tackled work challenges – I would work very hard, stay calm and focussed on my goals and do my research. I would keep working at it for a long time. Forever if I had to. As long as it took. I began an anti-cancer diet, exercise and meditation which I continue today.
For me, having cancer has meant coming to terms with a new body. I have a new body shape, but I like it better than the old one – even though it’s not all real – I’ve finally lost the few kilos I’d been trying to lose for years! I have a new appreciation for nose hair. I received eight free skin peels and hair removal treatments thanks to chemo. I have newfound respect for skin care, make-up, wigs and headwear.
I have had an amazing experience being involved with the Look Good Feel Better program. When I was diagnosed with cancer, make-up was the last thing on my mind. Look Good Feel Better and the wonderful volunteers reminded me what a difference some beautiful new skin products, make-up and a wig can make to how you look and how you feel. Before long these things became a lifeline to me, and they continue to be, nine months later.
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