The Cloak of Calm and ostrich impersonations…
Did you know that tomorrow, July 1, 2014 is National ‘I Touch Myself’ Day in Australia?
Until this week, I didn’t either.
Did you know that 35 women are diagnosed in Australia every DAY with breast cancer?
I didn’t either.
Why do I bring this up here?
Because June 23, 2014 will go down as the day I was among those 35 women.
Yep. You read that right. A phone call last Monday from a lovely doctor sympathetically confirmed what I suspected, after biospies were taken from my left breast at an unscheduled mammogram the previous Friday. I had a Grade 2* cancer.
It was found by a series of ‘pure chance‘ moments less than a fortnight ago – chance that a doctor I saw in Brisbane who decided to use his influence to squeeze me in for an unscheduled mammogram with just two days notice. Chance that I even saw that doctor at all – his referral had been bouncing around in my handbag for months. Chance that I mentioned to him that I felt ‘a bit weird’ on that side. Not pain, not even discomfort, just a bit weird. A series of chances that saw a five-and-a-half hour stint at a mammogram centre (with my long-suffering kids who made multitudes of loom bands as we waited between scans and ultrasounds and doctors chats and biopsies). And it was found. A ‘lesion’ that was quite undetectable by feel.
I kinda knew it would be a ‘bad’ one. I just knew.
Was I surprised?
Not really. My mother has had breast cancer, her aunt had breast cancer, my father’s mother had breast cancer. To a degree, in my mind, it was always a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’.
When I got the call, confirming was an ‘invasive ductal carcenoma’, was I shocked or panicked or horrified?
No. Not at all.
Overwheming relief is what I felt.
Relief cushioned in a generous cloak of calmness.
I cannot tell you why this was my reaction exactly – the calm that has surrounded me in the past week has been quite amazing. My chief thought is that I feel is so VERY lucky. I am incredibly aware that this could so easily NOT have been found for many months or years even… when it would have been so much harder to deal with.
It was surgically removed on Friday, along with several lymph nodes to see if has begun to spread to other parts of my body. I wait now to see if I add chemotherapy to the radiation already on my treatment schedule. And while I am not looking forward to either therapy, I count my blessings these treatments are available to me. If I lived a few decades ago, or in many other countries in the world, I would not have these options at all. I would not have had access to the tests that found this so early. How blessed I am that I live HERE and NOW.
You know what HAS been quite hard? Really tricky and exhausting?
Telling people about it. Dealing with their shock. Their horror. They don’t MEAN to be exhausting, of course. I know because I am pretty sure I was them, up until a week ago. Being shocked and horrified if the ‘Big C’ touched anyone I loved or cared about. It’s a normal reaction and it means they care enough about me to feel strongly. But for me, the person dealing with it, and having to pass on the news, it can be bloody exhausting and draining.
I need people to understand that my calm does NOT mean I am unaware of the possible repercussions of this diagnosis. I am not in shock or denial, and don’t need to be talked through what I face. My specialists are taking care of keeping me informed. And those who I choose to ask about their own journey. This calm approach is my choice …for now. I hope that it continues to be my choice for however long this takes.
I have been a bit naughty and have retreated into sharing my news via message, hoping that people can recover from their immediate (often very emotional) reactions first, before we talk. So they can understand that I don’t need a pity party, or a woe-is-me session. I just want them all to know my situation, to process their own feelings, to continue to stand beside me, and help me keep feeling good about life in general. I’m still me. A glass-half-full, nature-loving, snap-happy kinda girl.
So many people have been amazing – lots of offers of ‘whatever you need’ have come in. The kids have enjoyed diversions provided by loved ones post-surgery. But I have to say I love having them near too – I am not remotely sick, just a little sore. And they need to know that Mum is still Mum, and have their questions answered by us as they pop into their heads.
I have many amazing examples of women who have walked the same path I find myself on now: my mother (who beat this disease more than two decades ago and is a healthy 75 now), my friend Debby who chronicled her experiences on her blog as did my friend Jools, and then there is my childhood friend Kim, who hardly missed a beat as she continued to work throughout her chemo. I will be inspired by them all.
Me & my mate Debby.
Divinyl’s wild front woman, Chrissy Amphlett left a legacy after she lost her battle with breast cancer (untreatable because of her MS) last year, through her song ‘I Touch Myself’ It is an anthem of the sexual revolution which I remember well from my high school days. It was an in-your-face song back then, and I love the injection of pure irreverence that it gives to such a serious subject as cancer, in this reworked version (below) to raise awareness for breast cancer detection.
It features some amazing singers from Olivia Newton John to Deborah Conway and Kate Cebrano.
And it’s quite beautiful…
Am I sorry this thing has been found in me?
How could I be? KNOWLEDGE is essential for CHANGE. I know now, and with my amazing team onside, we are changing course for the better because of this knowledge.
What do I hope you will do with my news?
I would really urge ALL WOMEN (and blokes too) to check themselves. Please…do it now. And even if you can’t feel a lump but just have a vague ‘something doesn’t seem quite right’ feeling, a sensation that’s a bit different – GET IT CHECKED! After all, that’s all I had. This goes for ANY health issues on your mind really.
You are in charge of your own health, your own journey. No-one knows you, better than YOU.
And for all those who love doing ‘ostrich impersonations’ when it comes to health checks (you know who you are) I pose this question:
What’s the worst that can happen?
You can only 1) get an ‘ALL CLEAR’ or 2) be on the way to TAKING BACK CONTROL of your health.
Pretty awesome options, really.
Signing off with much love, and great hope that the ‘ostriches’ among us are already making that doctor appointment.
JUST DO IT.
*The terms ‘grade’ and ‘stage’ in cancer are two different things. I will find out this week which stage I am dealing with. And then we will go from there.
** Please breathe through that shock before you comment… I am well. I am happy. I am very, very lucky!