Sunday morning = kids in the kitchen making blueberry pancakes.
Hope your weekend was just as delicious.
It's an emotion that doesn't sit comfortably with me. It's an emotion that I'm working through at the moment. It's an emotion that cancer treatment stirs up. Anger about the unjust nature of cancer. Anger about the horrific illness & pain that treatment causes. Anger about the awful loss. Anger about the permanent uncertainty of cancer returning.
I don't want to let it fester within me. It feels toxic, like some kind of residue from chemo. I don't want this anger to manifest and eat away at me like acid.
I feel guilty that this anger has me losing my patience and yelling at my kids far too much. I feel frustrated that this anger makes me want to close myself off from the world. This anger is exhausting, malevolently bubbling away under the surface, sapping my energy.
I cannot reconcile it with the innate gratitude of being alive.
I have to find a positive outlet to get rid of this anger.
The obvious choice is exercise. I need to push myself to get walking and working out every day. I need those endorphins, I need to improve my health to improve my mood. My homework from counselling this fortnight is to find an appropriate time & place to have a bloody good scream and cry. A little tricky given the distinct lack of time alone but I'll try.
Now that I've acknowledged the anger, it's time to let it go. I refuse to let cancer rob me of joy. I want to thrive, not just survive.
This is a guest post that I wrote for my Cancer Clique friend Julie who has featured it today on her fabulous blog Boob In A Box as part of her Breast Cancer Awareness month series. Please go and have a read, she is enormously funny and beautifully eloquent. Our online cancer support group is very special to me and I've come to realise that I have needed to share my experience with other women who truly understand what it's like because they're been through it too. They're all kinds of awesome to me.
When Julie first asked me to do a guest post for October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought sure, why not, I'd love to. Then I got to thinking about a meaningful topic and went entirely blank. I tend to go blank a lot these days. Before cancer I blamed baby brain for any occasional forgetfulness but I prided myself on being uber organised. These days, thanks to a healthy dose of chemo brain...............
I'm sorry, what was the question again?
I realised (eventually) that I wanted to write about 'Embracing the body I've got, whatever the weather'. We all battle with self image at different stages of our lives and Cancer creates a huge shift in self perception, I know it did for me.
Prior to being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36, I was in a pretty comfortable place within myself. I certainly didn't lose sleep because I didn't resemble a Victoria's Secret Angel. My husband loved my curves just as they were. There were times when I wished I wasn't so vertically challenged, but generally, I was happy with my health and didn't subscribe to the narrow definition of beauty created by magazines and Hollywood heavyweights.
I thought my body was pretty freaking amazing for creating, carrying, birthing and breastfeeding two little human beings. I admired the truly stunning metamorphosis that my body went through during pregnancy.
I loved my boobs. I loved them pre-pregnancy when they were perfectly pert. I loved them when they were gorgeously full with breast milk and I even loved them when they'd deflated and downsized once the milk bar officially closed.
I deemed them beautiful, productive and pleasurable. For almost two years now, my body has undergone another huge metamorphosis and I have had to learn how to embrace the new me that has evolved out of breast cancer. It's been an immense learning curve. Losing my right breast and all my hair within the first 6 weeks of diagnosis was somewhat soul destroying.
It felt like my femininity was being sliced, poisoned & burnt away with a torrent of surgery, chemo and radiation. My vanity took a big hit and that hurt but it also redefined how I saw myself. In the early days of chemo I felt a sense of shame being bald. I kept telling myself that it was just hair, it would grow back but despite the pep talks I still felt exposed and vulnerable to the stares of others.
My perspective took a shift during my time stuck in the Oncology ward at Canberra Hospital. I was the only one in my room who wasn't terminal. I witnessed women planning funerals with best friends, families saying goodbye for the last time and doctors explaining what death would be like. I listened to the MET teams working frantically to stabilise heart rates, temps and resps in the lonely hours before dawn. It was agonising and frightening. Losing a breast and my hair didn't seem like such a terrible thing after that. Being alive. Embracing the body I had right there, right then because I was alive became a priority. It was LIVING that was beautiful.
I dared to go out in public without my headscarf, I grew bold with my personal style and shook off the pity stares and discomfort of others who saw my bare head.
When lymphoedema developed in my right arm it felt like my body was under attack again. It was a set back but with physio and daily compression sleeves I learnt to manage what is now a condition for life.
I started gaining weight shortly after beginning Tamoxifen in September last year but I figured that I'd just have to give my body time to adjust to the medication. The menopausal hot flushes and weight gain became increasingly worse. One year and 15kgs later I found myself loving my body less and less. I loathed the body that cancer had left me.
I had a preventative mastectomy & reconstruction on my left side 2 months ago. While the surgery was a success, it triggered the end of 20 months of telling myself "I'm doing just fine" and emotionally I came crashing down in a spectacular post traumatic heap.
I was exhausted and depressed. I realised that at some point in time I'd shifted from embracing my body to resenting it. I'd stopped caring about my health and lost the motivation to exercise and eat well. Somewhere in there I'd lost my identity. I wasn't my pre-cancer self, I wasn't a cancer patient anymore and I still had three years to go before clicking over into remission.
I'm finally allowing myself to properly grieve my loss and acknowledge the trauma that my body has endured because of cancer. I've started counselling to help me process what I've been through and I'm coming to terms with my post treatment self. I'm establishing my new identity for the 'me' that I am now, in this moment.
I'm learning to love myself all over again, breast cancer battlescars and all.
After a very warm weekend with tops of 27 degrees Celsius, (sweltering I tell you...stop sniggering Queensland family) we're enjoying a few days of glorious soaking rain. The garden is doing a happy dance at the moment. The pear, cherry and apple trees have finished blossoming and are in leaf again. The lavender is resplendent in its vibrant purple. The wisteria, jasmine and port wine magnolias fill the warm afternoon air with their heady perfume. The banksia rose has burst into a buttery yellow cloud of blossom and the herb garden is fragrant and full. The hen house has been fox proofed and prepped for our new clucky hens arriving this weekend. Everything is alive and exciting and beautiful.
This weekend we'll be making a scarecrow, settling in our new hens and coming up with some crazy cool decorating ideas for Halloween.
I Love October!