Fifteen months on from that surrealistic moment of being told 'We're telling you - it's Cancer', I can hardly believe the twists and turns my life,my body, my emotions and my personality have experienced. From that stunning realisation that I wouldn't be going back to work for a while - I am a hairdresser and had a full mastectomy - losing my identity, vital human connections, and dealing with telling my family and my children, I could never have guessed at how big that black hole could be, how lonely or even that I would ever feel I was coming out the other side.
Through the time that has passed, I've felt the disappointment at friends inability to deal with what has happened - people do disappear - I have concluded that the reality of cancer day by day and it's treatment is too much for most people to take on emotionally or intellectually. I learned to edit what my life had become, with the never ending problems I had with pain, muscle collapse and my own inability for the first time in my life to be positive, when I kept feeling dumped by health professional as well as friends. After all - 'isn't treatment about throwing up?'- someone asked me. Don't misunderstand me - I had good days in amonghst all of that, but I can't help feeling I lost myself for quite a while.
Crunch time for me came earlier this year - when really in the depths of despair that the nightmare was never going to end, I found some spark of my old self to finally take the first step towards some control. I went to my GP - nobody had thought to tell me to stay in touch with him, and I certainly never thought of it, after all I was seeing so many specialists - shouldn't they be helping me? My first step was a referral to see a physical therapist, to rebuild my strength, 'wake up' my muscles that would not switch on and rehabilitate my shoulder and arm. I started walking - very short walks, exercises every day and a pool programme. For two hours every day - nothing else got done, I was too tired after that. Slowly my muscles started working, my walks became longer, stairs were no longer a dreaded thing to behold. I started Pilates once per week and my GP put me onto supplements to build my stamina as well as other things. My physical strength has come back to what I consider my start point - now I can now build my fitness. My children have been a wonderful help, making lots of cups of tea, helping their poor old mum in and out of the car, up off the lounge chair, out of bed, twice nearly burning the house down to cook some dinner. They were frightened about what would happen to them and their dad if mum wasn't around. But I found giving them a plan, even though my statistics are good helped them.
I am now working on my emotional fallout and feel sure that if I approach it the same as I did with my physical problems - one thing at a time - it too will all come together.
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.