“A Personal Story about Breast Cancer”

Thankfully, my direct family hasn’t been touched by this cancer…touch wood.  I do have a personal story from when I was young though, and it’s stuck with me (and always will).

I was about nine or ten when my best friend in primary school told me her mum had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  I was too young to fully comprehend what this meant.  I knew she’d get sick, of course, and I knew cancer was bad, but that was about it.  I’d often go over to their house, and I watched her get sicker, and her hair fell out.  I knew that was what happened with cancer.  She was always such a happy lady…other than no hair and looking tired, you’d never know she was sick.  She always had a smile on her face and was always happy to have me over.

Things got better.  I didn’t know the specifics because nobody wanted to tell kids that kind of stuff, and kids don’t talk about it with each other, but looking back I believe she must have gone into remission for a little while.  Her hair started growing back, she started getting her strength back, everything started going back to normal.

A year or two later (roughly, I’m not 100% sure), my best friend once again told me her mum had cancer.  Although a little older now, I was still fairly naive to what this could mean.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I knew cancer could kill people.  I just could never imagine the world without her.  She was too full of life, too happy.  No, she’d get past this too.  She had to.

I remember when my best friend told me her mum had to have her breast removed.  I’d never realized that was one of the treatment options.  I’d always heard people having chemotherapy, it just kind of went hand-in-hand…and I knew sometimes they cut the cancer out.  I just didn’t think they’d remove whole body parts because of it.  It kind of rocked my world a little bit.  Nevertheless, my best friend’s mum kept her chin up.  She’d gone through major surgery and she was still smiling.  It can’t be that bad, I wrongly assumed.  She started losing her hair again.  She started looking tired, weaker.  Then she went back into hospital.

“They’re saying she isn’t going to come back out.” My friend had told me.  What?  I thought.  No.  No, they must have it wrong.  How could that be right?  I remember wholeheartedly believing the doctors were wrong.  There’s no way she’s not going to make it.  She’s too friendly.  Too kind.  Too smiley.  Her personality is too big.  It’s not possible.  She stayed in hospital for some time.  Two weeks, three.  I’m not sure exactly.

I wanted to be there for my friend.  I wanted to go over to her house, keep her company, help her through it.  My mum told me “no, it’s best to leave her to have family time”.  I remember it clear as day.  Now, my mum is usually good with advice (as I’ve come to realize), but in this instance, she was wrong.  I should never have left my friend to have “family time”.  Not like I did.  We began drifting apart, and I’m sure I’m completely to blame.  She became closer with one of our other friends…a friend that was there for her when I wasn’t.  I still to this day wish I’d never listened to my mum.  I feel terrible I was so distant.  It wasn’t my intention, in fact, it was the opposite of my intention.  I’d never been through anything even remotely like what my friend was going through, so I didn’t know what was expected.  I didn’t know what she needed.  All I could do was listen to the (poor) advice I was given.  It still doesn’t make me feel any less guilty.  I’m so sorry.

Anyway, I got a call from my friend’s new best friend, saying that she’d passed on.  I remember it vividly.  I was crying before the phone call had ended.  I went and told mum and she broke down too.  How could this happen?  How could this be real?  How could she just be gone?

We went to the funeral.  I’d only been to one other funeral in my life, a few years before, but that was for my 97-year-old great-grandpa, who had been in a nursing home for a long time and was suffering terribly from dementia.  This was totally different, and a lot sadder.  Plus, I was a bit older, so I guess I knew what was going on more than the previous one.  I remember the drive home, and still being a bit shellshocked about it all.

Part of me still can’t believe she’s gone…and that she’s been gone for so long.  It was my first taste of what cancer can do.  It has no mercy.  It comes back when you think it’s gone.  It choses it’s victims at random.  It doesn’t matter how strong and bubbly and loved someone is, they can still be lost to it.

Rest Easy, Lynne.  We all still think of you and miss you.

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#loveme challenge – Day Twenty-One

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Day 21 – Something You Are Proud Of

I’m proud of surviving through this year.  I’ve had a really tough one – the toughest one of my life by far – and now that I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I can look back and say that I did well to handle everything as well as I did.  I had moments of weakness (a lot of them), but I also had moments where I proved to myself I’m stronger than I give myself credit for.  I feel like this year has forced me to grow up a lot, and to see things differently.  I have a newfound respect for my job and how important it is because I now appreciate how much it sucks to be job hunting.  I’ve had two cancer scares in my family, I had my first accident that was my fault, I had my first wisdom tooth removed, I had my first episode of sciatica (nobody realizes how much we take moving without pain for granted until they can’t do it!), I lost a lot of friends who I thought I could trust but they stabbed me in the back, I lost out on seeing the guy I like every day because he got a new job.  The list goes on.  It seriously has felt like all this year has dished out for me is blow after blow, and you know what?  I’m still standing.  I might be scarred and battered from it all, but I’m doing okay.  And okay is probably the best possible outcome I could hope for after all this.  Some days are tough, and some – like today – are wonderful.  It’s nice to finally have a good day.  It’s like a rainbow after a storm.  I know now that I’ve survived all this, I can survive anything!

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Time to Change – Day Seventeen

Today wound up being another good day.  It didn’t start out so optimistic though.  It was already 20 degrees and rising at 8am…yuck.  I mean, I guess I’d take it over the depths of winter but I certainly wasn’t in any mood for exercising like I’d planned.  As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a morning person at the best of times.  The thought of going for my walk with the temperature on the rise so early was too much.  I put on a couple of Netflix docos, ate my weetbix and procrastinated going clothes shopping instead.  I guess that was probably the real reason I wasn’t in a good headspace.  Like I talked about here, clothes shopping as an overweight person is extremely stressful and unappealing.  I had to do it though because I start my new job tomorrow, and they told me I had to have a black button up shirt…which I don’t have.  Button up shirts with E-cup boobs is never advisable.  I suspect I’ll be re-doing the buttons up continuously, but there’s nothing I can do about that.

Anyway, by the time I convinced myself to switch off Netflix (it took awhile) and go to the shops, it was the middle of the day and freaking hot.  I was in the lightest, summer-iest dress I owned and I was boiling by the time I crossed the carpark.  I know in a couple of months I’ll be looking back on this and laughing, but coming out of  a cold winter, my body is really struggling to deal with the sudden onset of sunshine.

When I shop, I have a simple goal in mind: walk into as few shops as possible, try on as few items as possible, leave as quickly as possible.  I hate shopping.  I hate shopping centres and getting stuck behind giant groups of people walking so slowly they might as well just stop.  I hate trying to find stores.  I hate trying to find a carpark.  The whole thing is just so unappealing.  I will never be one to go to a place like that just for fun.  True to form, I raced into Target, looked at all the pretty dresses that weren’t designed for fat people, dug around until I found a black shirt, raced into the changeroom, decided it wasn’t great but for $8 it will do, bought it, hit up the grocery store, ticked off my 8 items on my shopping list then straight back to the car and out of there.  On the plus side, it clocked up 2000 steps so that made it almost worth it.

The rest of the day was spent actively avoiding the heat (not helped by the fact that my aircon doesn’t work).  I napped, caught up on other people’s blogs, played the Sims and watched more Netflix.  How did Australia ever get by without it?

Up until about 6pm, I was thinking my exercise wasn’t going to happen today.  It was still humid and I wasn’t feeling it at all.  Then suddenly, the cool change crept in.  Nothing beats the cool change after days of hot weather.  That was enough motivation for me to go outside and tick another day off.  It was another beautiful night.  It was overcast but still warm, and there was a faint smell of rain in the air.  If only it would actually eventuate…

As I mentioned earlier, I start my new job tomorrow.  I feel very weird about it.  I feel like I’m lying to them knowing I will probably be taking another job in the very near future.  I know it happens and it’s to be expected when I originally applied for a full time role there and all they could offer me was casual, but I still feel like I’m messing them around.  There’s nothing I can do about it though…I can’t risk telling them about it until I get a definite yes, in case I don’t get the other job.  It’s taken me so long to get anything at all.  At least for my first couple of weeks they’re only really short shifts, so I’m not putting anyone out too much I suppose.  I know I should be feeling excited, but I honestly don’t think I’ll be working there in a few weeks, and even if for some reason the other job falls through, this job isn’t something I ever envisioned for myself, nor is it something I’m passionate about.  It’s literally just a job and at 25, I feel very frustrated about that.  I feel like everything is out of my control and I don’t like it at all.  I know I just have to wait and see how everything pans out but God I’m sick of waiting.  I feel like that’s all my life as been for the past three months.  Waiting waiting waiting.

I also found out today my grandmother has uterine (?) cancer.  She’s been feeling off for a couple of weeks but she got a confirmed diagnosis today.  Just another crappy event in this extremely shitty year.  Mum had cancer about six months ago (luckily they could just cut it out and that was the end of it), and now her mum has it.  The worst part is, she’s got dementia (at least, the early stages of it) and she’s probably going to forget she’s even going through all this.  It’d be easier for her if my grandpa was still around because he was always there to remind her of what’s going on, but unfortunately he passed away last year.  It also doesn’t help she lives about an hour and a half away from the rest of her family.  It’s going to be tough on my mum and uncle, who will alternate driving down there and staying there on and off until this is over.  They’re hoping a hysterectomy will get it all…I hope so.  I honestly don’t know how she’ll cope if it’s anything more than that.  I don’t know how the family will cope in general.

Urgh.  2015 just needs to fuck off already.  I’m so over being dealt blow after blow.  The car accident on my birthday was definitely a bad omen or something.  I just want things to be easy again.

-JD

Summer’s Coming

I’ve had a terrible year.  The worst of my life.  It hasn’t just been one big thing – that stuff happens but doesn’t make the whole year awful – but one bad thing after the other.  It feels like I’m a character in the Sims, where the game is being run by a bored 14-year-old boy.  Every time I find my feet and try to get back up, something comes along to kick me back down again.

It’s all a lesson right?

A lesson in accepting what comes.  A lesson in appreciating what you’ve got.  A lesson in trying to find the positive in everything.

RIGHT?

I don’t know.

The start of this year saw me in a job I was comfortable in, with great friends, a super cute crush I got to see 5 times a week, a healthy family, a reliable car and a gorgeous young dog.

And now?  A mere 9 months later?

I’m unemployed.  Not by choice.   My family has been touched by cancer.  I’m lucky if I see my crush once a month.  I’ve upset about half my friends unintentionally (my friendship group isn’t huge).  I had a car accident on my 25th birthday, though luckily (if you could call anything like that lucky) it wasn’t off the road too long.

It’s all a test, right?  If I survive this year, I’ll win a great 2016?

RIGHT?

And yet, despite receiving yet another phone call saying “sorry, you didn’t get the job, we found someone better” for the seventh time in two weeks, despite having no income with an upcoming mortgage, despite going stircrazy sitting around all day every day at home, I’m OKAY.

I’m not great.  There are days where I just want to throw in the towel, crawl under a blanket and refuse to participate in everything.  It’s only fair, right?  After everything I’ve been dealt?

But there are days – days like today – where the sun is out, the breeze is warm, and I feel like I can get through this.  That things aren’t so bad.  That I’m alive
and healthy and able to appreciate the fact that even if everything else in my world is shit, that summer is coming.  After a freezing winter, summer is coming.  Even if I don’t find a job, even if I get more bad news, the warmth is approaching and the days will soon get longer.  Nothing is going to change that.

And for some reason, today, just knowing that, is enough.

– JD