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I was diagnosed with breast cancer whilst living and working in Japan, March 2000, the new millennium. I emphasize the fact that I was fortunate enough to be diagnosed at an early detection.
A marble size lump was removed from my left breast in April, 2000 and thus began a continuing journey of recovery. Being in another country, I was concerned and frightened of the unknown yet became more confident to deal with my fears, assumptions and feelings and along with my doctor and surgeon, I was able to make informed decisions about my health and take charge of my body and life. Thankfully a host of great friends, excellent doctors and my own fighting spirit carried me through very difficult times, months of tests, surgery and radiation therapy.
I managed to cope beautifully through the ‘five’ years of monthly and yearly checkups and now, living and working in Australia, thinking I was invincible, with no signs of a reoccurrence, I was enjoying one of the happiest times of my life. I had a great job and wonderful friends.
Suddenly, to my surprise, in January 2007, seven years after my first diagnosis, I found a pea sized lump in the same left breast. I had once again been dragged into the world of cancer and was overwhelmed at the courage and stamina I found there. This time around it wasn’t as simple as removing a lump. I was told I had to have a mastectomy and luckily for me again I had an amazing team of doctors, who, in this day and age, where able to perform reconstruction surgery at the same time.
So, in August 2007, I went under the knife and thus began my second journey of recovery but this time one of great mental and physical strength, for the mastectomy was the easy part. The months of chemotherapy was the real journey, oh and what a journey, a real rollercoaster, the ride of my life.
From this experience, not only did I learn to live with the pain, but I learnt to love the pain, and as a personal trainer I had plenty of practice. I learnt to separate my mind from my body. It is definitely mind over matter and positive thinking. I knew I was strong but didn’t realise how strong, until I recognised the human spirit cannot be stopped or broken, unless it wants to be.
I did have my moments of weakness where I did feel sorry for myself and found it extremely hard to pick myself up and face this beautiful world, but I did time and time again. I found great joy and comfort in a good laugh and a wicked sense of humour. Along with a few close friends who knew me well, we laughed on a daily basis, and how important that was for me to maintain my sanity.
I can say, I coped extremely well throughout my six months of chemotherapy and kept telling myself, ‘it could be worse’ and on January 3rd 2008 things did get worse. I got a life threatening infection from a skin graft I’d had due to a burn on my reconstructed breast. I was hospitalised for a week and pumped with antibiotics hoping that would rid the infection. There was not a defensive ‘wait to see what happens’ game plan but a full out offensive attack against a seemingly indestructible opponent. The skin was dying and rotting from the inside out and I had to have emergency surgery to take out the expander, clean up the infection and cut away the dead skin. I was devastated that all the good work that had been done to rebuild me was now undone and I was back to square one.
I had got to the last hurdle and had fallen flat on my face only to pick myself up again. Time has been my painful teacher but it cannot be brought back, so I can only move forward.
So, here I am feeling, stronger everyday. After a few hiccups along the way, I can honestly say I’ve come out of this on top of my game and for those women who are living with breast cancer, who have bravely battled a fatal disease, I celebrate your courage, fortitude and stoicism.
I love my life and the people in it. I don’t know how I can ever repay them so I’ll just keep saying “THANK YOU” forever and sincerely, for as long as I have a voice.
Love and laughter