SOME THOUGHTS IN A WEEK OF LIVING WITH ADVANCED BREAST CANCER
“You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live. Now.”
Monday – Opened the “Inside Story” and there was yet another tale about one of us achieving a lifetime goal. It was easy to be happy for that adventurous person and to some extent, be an armchair traveller for the time of reading. However, what I have realised lately is that I have not been able to gain much solace from wonderful past deeds done, especially when my body is being challenged in some way by the cancer itself or a treatment regime. It’s hard to believe but at times I have been unable to plan or even participate in a dream trip. This was where my husband came in handy – his way of coping with my health challenge was to plan “adventures” for us, so I went along for the ride! Otherwise, I’ve decided it is OK to live in the present and do the best I can.
Tuesday – Today I connected by phone to the Brisbane based Group for Women with Advanced Breast Cancer. It was good to catch up with how everyone is faring and today was a great one as one of our group who is 25 has managed to re-enter the workforce and is coping well while still receiving chemo. In contrast, as hard as it is, at 59 years of age, I’ve decided to not re-register for casual teaching as my energy levels are not high enough for the hurly-burly of school. My daughter is in this robust environment of education and often communicates her enjoyment of her work, and this keeps me in contact with this world I’ve decided to farewell.
Wednesday – Thinking of farewells, one of the women yesterday was rueful of the fact she couldn’t discuss end stage matters such as funerals with any of her support network. My thoughts, unuttered, were “Careful what you wish for as you might get it!” What happened to me was that, until recently, after living with the ups and downs of advanced breast cancer for seven years, I talked with friends for the first time of the terminal nature of this health challenge of mine. Then, just the other day, one of my friends handed me a card her friend had written to me. I had met this woman on occasion when she visited from down south. Opening the card, I read words of farewell and I caught myself wondering where she was going, and why she was telling me, until reading further it dawned on me it was a goodbye to me who was about to supposedly pop off the planet sooner rather than later! I guess it was a change from being told my positivity would aid in conquering the cancer.l
Thursday – While I was ill during a recent regime of chemotherapy, I thought “a little” about my funeral, and often remembered the various styles of memorials women we have lost in the group have had. One had even filmed her last words for her memorial service, as she waggishly said, “It’s my final chance to have the last word!” The irony is now as I recover more each day, that event seems so remote, so much so that my present position is that my funeral is not so much my rite of passage as belonging to those left – so maybe I’ll let this planning go too instead of tidying loose ends as usual!
Friday – Years ago, during some leave from work after the initial breast cancer I joined a “rut buster” embroidery group and have maintained intermittent contact with these women. I took my embroideries of the homes my husband and I have shared to show today. This brought to mind how we all wonder what will happen to our homes and possessions after our passing, and I smile every time I think of one of the advanced breast cancer group who is constructing a patchwork quilt – she is hoping after her passing no other woman would sleep under this with her husband!
Saturday – I was sad to find out today hair regrows at only half an inch a month so I will be wearing this grey fuzz for a while. No sympathy from one of my brothers who lives in Tassie – he is sending a tea cosy he no longer uses saying he can picture me in it and that it conveniently has two slits my ears can fit through! I’m glad I won’t have to avail myself of his suggested headwear as we are experiencing our tropical “winter” – warm dry perfect days.
Sunday – This was a day of rest I gave to my mind, so today all thoughts of breast cancer etc were banned!! We could choose to brunch on the boardwalk or just laze here in the garden and be lucky enough to see the glorious blue Ulysses butterfly flutter by. Oh, on days like this it was good to be alive!