‘SO, YOU HAVE CANCER..’
There’s no other way I can explain it other than surreal. It was numbing, acceptance and disbelieve all simultaneously. At 36 I was told I have cancer in my breast and lymph nodes.
Not knowing what to think, feel or do, my husband and I literally left the doctors office and sat in my car in the carpark. I had told my family and close friends what was going on so lots of people were waiting to hear the news.
I did a group call with my immediate family and we just talked together for a while. My dad sounded upset as to be expected, especially after mum died of cancer years ago, and her sister or breast cancer that had spread to her lymphatic system. I could just feel the fear in his voice as we spoke.
My brothers were equally upset and they all said that we are in this together and they will do whatever it takes to help me through it.
It was too early in the process to have fully digested the news. I was ok, I felt strong but unsure what to think or feel. I sent out a group msg telling everyone else so I didn’t have to call everyone. The incredible heartfelt msgs came flooding in. I couldn’t keep up with replying to them.
We didn’t know what to do or where to go. We were in Geelong and we arranged to have our children babysat just in case we got bad news. Here we were…we got the news and now what do we do?
I was lost, I didn’t know what to think let alone how to make a decision on what to do right now. I knew I wanted to go somewhere that I could laugh, cry, drink wine and talk. I wanted all options available to me, so I called some of my best friends and we went to their house. We did all of the above, we laughed cracking cancer jokes til we nearly wet our pants, we cried as we wondered how the f**k was this actually happening? We drank wine (thank goodness as I wouldn't have slept otherwise) and I woke up in the morning wondering if it had all been a dream.
WAS IT ALL A DREAM?
It was the strangest out of body feeling the morning after, I knew it was real but I just couldn’t believe it. I sat outside with my friends talking, tears streaming down even recalling this moment. We just shook our heads in disbelief, how was this happening to me? What now?
I only remember bits and pieces of this time, it’s quite the blur as my emotions were running all over the place. We were told the next step was to meet a surgeon. The doctor who gave us the news referred us to someone, however we knew that we wanted to look into our own team. See my other blog post on navigating my way through the treatment options here.
Everyone who you have told wants to help in some way, offers come flooding in, as do sympathy cards, flowers and love. Everyone has a story “My brothers friends ex girlfriend had breast cancer do you want to talk to her?” was what I was hearing daily. At the start I said yes because I didn’t know what the fuck else to do. Surely talking to people who had gone through it would help right?
I spoke to 2 people which was nice, but I was selective with who I spoke to. It was a comfort in some way, however after talking to 2, I didn’t feel the need to talk to anyone else at this stage. Honestly I knew the way I wanted to deal with cancer was in a positive frame, so I needed to be careful of people who would drag me down rather than lift me up.
Cancer can be extremely isolating. At times, even when you are surrounded by loved ones. YOU are the one going through it, YOU are the only one who feels the way you do, YOUR life is the only one at risk here. Whilst others can care for you so deeply, it’s just not the same. That thought is isolating.
There were times where I was crying and my husband Luke cuddled me in bed, and I STILL felt alone. How could I feel that when a loved one is comforting me? Because he can’t feel it how I do, he cannot understand, through no fault of his own, it’s just reality.
But the Isolation is another hurdle you have to overcome. For some I’ve spoken to, having the ‘cancer support group’ can really help with this. This wasn’t my path, but it may be an option to explore if you are feeling this.
Gosh, what a powerful word. A word that penetrates you deeply and takes over seemingly every ounce of your being. Fear is such a big part of a cancer diagnosis. Fear of the unknown, fear of losing control, fear of making the wrong decision, fear of death, fear of family members not having you here.
I had to allow all of the fear thoughts and feelings to come, which was challenging. I had to sit with it and let it all become a possibility in my mind because it was a possibility in life. I had no certainty of any way of knowing I was going to live. Whilst in life we all have no idea when we are going to die, when you are really faced with death the fear comes flooding in.
Personally I don’t fear death at all, on the contrary, I look forward to it one day as crazy as that sounds. I believe death is a transition where we relinquish our body and our soul becomes interconnected with all energy. The universal consciousness.
I guess my belief in this brings me comfort on some level, so fear of death is not a 'thing' for me as it is for most. However, with my death comes a fear of my loved ones not having me, in particular, my children. THAT is where my fear kicks in. So in so many words I guess I do fear death, but not for myself.
I was 26 when my own mum died, I’m grateful I had 26 years with her in my life, but I know what it’s like to live without your mum. It’s not something I want my children to experience, particularly at a super young age before they are adults and able to process it with some clarity and a good life foundation that I plan on giving them over the coming years.
I guess there comes a point of surrender in this process, you can only do so much. You cannot fully control the situation, you can control your actions, and take charge of natural things that you feel may help. But at the end of the day, the universe is going to decide if now is your time or not. You could get rid of your cancer and the universe decides to kill you in a car accident the next day. We never really know. It’s often easier said than done but operating in a state of fear constantly isn’t good for anyone, particularly those who find themselves in this kind of situation.
My advice here is to speak to a psychologist, loved ones, support group, hell even your brothers friends ex girlfriend if it feels right. Anyone you need to get those fears out in the open out loud. Even journaling or doing some video logs just for yourself. I love looking back on my own video logs and seeing where I was at mentally at the time.
Saying the words out loud or releasing it into the wild is cathartic and necessary in my eyes to help accept the possibility that you may die. Because it IS a possibility. If you bury it deep within and don’t face it, it can do more damage than good in my opinion. I’m a big believer in keeping the flow of energy going.
Once you have accepted that is is a possibility (I have some steps on how to help wit this here ) it becomes easier to release it and to stop holding onto it. Sure there will be moments where it comes and goes, but you can always keep releasing it back out.
There is a sense of calm when you can fully accept it.