The more things change, the more they stay the same
16th February 2021
Warning: the following contains me rabbiting on about cancer!
Whilst I don’t like giving cancer the power of emotion, I thought I would discuss this today.
The older I become, the more my memory is tested…what was the name of that movie? Where did I keep the sticky tape? What day is it? However some memories are triggered as if they were yesterday and along with the memory comes the emotion.
In seven days it will be 10 years to the day that I was informed that the biopsy had returned a positive result for breast cancer in my right breast. Yesterday I learnt the results of my latest scans and I can tell you, that whilst the years have offered up many changes, with so much growth in my own strength and determination, the anxiety and trepidation leading up to hearing the results, remain the same.
February 23rd 2011, I drove myself to the breast surgeon’s office with the very real knowledge that my life may never be the same. I remember waiting to turn at the cross roads of Corduroy Road and Warburton Highway, when a wave of reality crashed upon me and for a brief moment halted my journey. I suddenly couldn’t breathe. Anxiety had taken hold and was clinging on with all its might. I tried to fend it off by sternly reprimanding myself that catastrophizing the situation was detrimental and to wait until the words were spoken…if they were to be spoken. I tried to concentrate on driving, however spaces of time disappeared when my mind floated back to appointments leading up to this moment. The concerned glance from the mammogram technician, the uncertain reassurance from the ultrasound dude and the grave and clinical reaction from the biopsy doctor. The seemingly harmless words ‘good luck’ from all of the above, had taken a sinister turn. My suspicious and irrational brain questioned why I needed all this luck…and therefore added to the fear. The car managed to steer itself to the breast clinic and I remember sitting in the carpark for a short while until I could calm my thoughts.
The waiting room at the clinic was yet another test. I picked up a magazine and blindly flicked through it without any intention of consuming its content. The waiting was long and painful and distractions were few. Finally I was called to follow the breast surgeon into his room and then sat in a fog of disbelief as he explained my situation. It was indeed breast cancer, a rare type, stage 3 and quite aggressive. The chances of it returning were high. He then started drawing explanative diagrams as I desperately tried to retard the emotion. Whilst my intuitive voice had tried to prime me, there really is no preparation for this.
I look back on that initial diagnosis and realise that I knew nothing. I was about to enter a world that would test my strength and resilience.
Two years later thyroid cancer had to be dealt with. Another couple of years following it was determined that the breast cancer had metastasised to my lungs, classified as terminal and given, on average, 4 years to live. The eruption of emotion was intense. I actually don’t like using the word ‘terminal’ as it counteracts my need to live in denial. I say need to live in denial, because without hope for a future, I will become choked with despair. Reducing the fear of cancer’s consequences, crushes its command and restores my control. It may not be the bravest outlook, however it allows me to ‘chase my normal’ and live with optimism. It is almost 2 years past my so called ‘use-by’ date.
You may be pleased to know that I have calmed down somewhat from those emotional prognosis and try very hard not to focus on cancer and its theoretical outcomes. I am not consumed with its intent and truly believe in my individual status. I believe that if you define yourself by cancer, you will unleash its power.
So that leads us back to ‘the more they stay the same.’ Whist the level of emotion is not as extreme, and am able to safely operate heavy machinery, after 10 years, 4 surgeries, over 190 toxic cancer treatments and about 50 scans later, I still feel nervous receiving test results.
Due to Covid, this time my oncologist would be phoning with the results. Appointment time 1:00pm, however you are notified it could be 2 hours either side. I attempted to stay occupied with various tasks however knew that was futile. I started to recall the number of ‘good lucks’ I was issued, in the lead up to these results and dismissed that as nonsense. My mind started to consider how I may react if the news wasn’t good…another detrimental thought. The day was pretty much wasted until finally at 2pm the phone rings. My voice felt constricted by the clogging of concern.
The results are neither good nor bad.
Status quo is very good news in my world. I am left to breathe again…until the next scan.
Today is also a significant day as 19 years ago Steven Bradbury came from behind to win the first ever winter Olympic gold medal for Australia. Sure all the other competitors in front of him fell over, but a win is a win. So perhaps luck is the residue of design or choice, or perhaps just simple circumstance, either way I am taking my results and the fact that I am still here as a win!
PS: By the look of the pic, think I need some Bile Beans…or not!