Friends, I am writing this post with a big, fat lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.
Lisa Lynch passed away a few days ago and I am quite sure the entire breast cancer community shares my devastation. Which is, of course, nothing compared to those who knew Lisa personally. I know that for sure.
I’ve referenced Lisa on this blog before, but in a veiled tangential kind of a way. Yep, Lisa was my girl who I had such hopes for. The one who got breast cancer aged 28. The one I was looking to for guidance and reassurance, as I was trying to come to terms with being the girl with cancer. And when I read that she had incurable secondaries, I freaked out. Honestly, I’ve been in a semi media black-out ever since. However, as the months have passed, I’ve slowly opened my eyes, and my mind, to the possibility of incurable cancer.
Another incredible blogger, Scorchy, has helped me on my way with this. Scorchy, I should’ve told you months ago how much your blog has helped me. I always felt a bit shy to say so, because so far I’m one of the “lucky 80%” and I know you struggle with how the focus is on those with curable breast cancer and not the 20% who really deserve it. I didn’t feel quite worthy. And in truth, I’m also just shy. I’m a blurker. Sad but true.
And yet in a funny kind of a way, we’re in a very similar place right now. We had our initial diagnosis within a month or two of each other. We’re both back at work, and relishing the normality of it all. We’re both so, so grateful that our issues with pain are under control. We’re even on the same drug, Tamoxifen. Fun times. Scorchy never ceases to amaze and delight me with her honesty, her sarcasm and her seemingly unswayable determination. She is also a brilliant writer. She wrote a beautiful post about Lisa a few hours before mine, which I have no intention of trying to equal.
Lisa is… was… three years older than me. I can’t help but see that this could be my story. People say to me “It’s over now, right?” and I can’t even begin to articulate to them how far from the truth that is. Lisa was in my exact position after her initial treatment finished.
How is it that some people wind up as good statistics, and others as bad ones?
Don’t tell me it’s fate, or luck, or God, or science, or whatever. It just is, and it bloody sucks.
So what can you do? What can I do?
Draw strength from amazing women like Scorchy and Lisa. It sounds vampire-like, drawing strength from women with incurable breast cancer. But I do. You women are fricking incredible.
You help me believe that no matter what happens from here, you can stay strong and bright and honest and keep on loving life.
These are big concepts to come to terms with. I still can’t claim that I understand or accept the concept of death, at any point in time. But I understand the concept of living. I understand it so much more, post cancer. I’m not sure I would have reached this level of understanding any other way.
Lisa, I salute you, wherever you are.
All my love to all the brave, beautiful women out there. This one’s for you.
And the rainbow too.
When devising this blog post I toyed with going all high-brow-lit on you and doing a spin on Waiting for Godot where two protagonists talk back and forth beneath a tree and Chemo never shows up. Confused much?
I think it could be a hard read so I’ll give you the Readers Digest version instead.
So, the two protagonists are Charlie and I and, naturally enough, we have Chemo filling in for Godot. While we didn’t stay beneath a tree, talking back and forth, we did talk in a wide variety of other locations.
Location 1: The bus
Where Niccola declares that everything is terrible and the world is mocking her and look at all the shiny happy people on the beautiful spring day and why oh why do I have to do bloody chemo how unfair is that??? (Lack of punctuation more accurately recreates Niccola’s mono-whinge style).
Location 2: The IVF clinic
Where Charles gets his back up about the three remaining Judes. (Oops… update… there are now three very healthy SuperJude embryos safely frozen. Sadly the the other three Judes weren’t made of such stern stuff. We salute them all for their efforts.). We prepare to wage war on the IVF clinic but find that we’ve created sufficient waves within the clinic that the clinic has announced special dispensation for us. If all SuperJudes are found to carry the bad gene we now have permission to use them regardless. Small cheer!
Location 3: David Jones
Where Charles and Niccola pretend to be normal people for half an hour, seamlessly integrating back into the non-medical community and buying pants for Charles. They talk pants.
Location 4: The Wig Shop
Where Charles and Niccola seamlessly integrate back into the medical community and continue shopping, this time for a wig for Niccola. Niccola has a delightful time trying on wigs that enable her to fluidly move between personas including Jewish Princess, Double Bay Lady Who Lunches, and Tuckshop Lady. Luckily it just so happens that there is a Niccola wig just hanging out looking cool, knowing it’ll get there in the end. And the moment it finds its way on to Niccola’s head it’s the one. The best possible Niccola wig that a Niccola could have. I think you’ll love it. But I won’t ruin the surprise – let’s see if you can tell my new wig apart from my (soon to happen) new haircut… I’m hoping to get a lot of “what a great haircut!” comments…
Location 5: Back at home
Where Niccola freaks out again “I don’t want to eat I need to sleep I don’t want to eat I’m not allowed to sleep I’d better eat huh???”
Location 6: The Hospital Pharmacy
Where Niccola and Charles make their second failed attempt at picking up the suppositories Niccola was prescribed for nausea. Apparently there’s been a real run on suppositories. A real run on suppositories? Niccola figures that if everyone else is so damn excited about suppositories they’re welcome to them and decides to try again tomorrow.
Location 7: HOAC (AKA Home of Chemo)
Where Niccola pops her first three chemo pills, erring on the generous side dose-wise with the one with anti-anxiety properties (Good idea! Clever girl!). She briefly wonders if these are Alice kind of pills and that perhaps she might get very big or very small? She doesn’t. Niccola is escorted to her EZ Boy recliner and everyone admires the Port (ah yes, the Port… must post about that!). They plug Niccola in and give her more anti-nausea meds, this time straight into her chest. So streamlined and futuristic! (Must experiment with attempting to contact the Mothership via the Port later.).
But seriously where the hell is Chemo?
Location 8: Still HOAC
Ah. Just as protagonist Charles has left the building to go and do some real work, Chemo shows up. Ha ha, Charles may not believe me when I tell him Chemo really does exist. I thought that Chemo was some freaky robotic type guy who gave you brain freeze and made everything taste metallic but I was wrong! Who knew? It turns out that Mr Chemo number 1 (we in the cancer business call him “A”) actually looks like red cordial and hangs around in a really big syringe. In he goes. Niccola waits for another Alice moment – will she meet the smoking caterpillar? No, she will not. She will meet Mr Chemo number 2 instead (we call him “C”). “C” doesn’t look like anything at all. He just hangs, all cool and standoffish on the drip stand. No Alice moments this time either. Not even singing daisies? Seriously?
Location 9: Still HOAC
Charles returns, and there is no remaining evidence that “A” and “C” even existed. Still quite possibly a figment of Niccola’s imagination. They leave.
Location 10: Back at home
Niccola waits expectantly for signs of the Chemo, entertaining herself by writing a very poor Readers Digest version of Waiting For Godot. The only sign? Aha. Niccola’s urine is now red cordial coloured. Aren’t you glad I shared? Yep. I know. Don’t thank me…
So… yep… that’s about it really. Return to your regular programming, people… Let’s hope it continues to be this non-eventful over the next three days…
Here’s one for all you closet Freudian analysts out there.
I am having the most alarming number of dreams involving scary animals. In every dream, my “house” is invaded by some variety of animal.
In one case, it was hundreds of snakes. They slithered everywhere, falling from the ceiling and dripping down the walls (yep, in my dreams, snakes “drip”).
In another, an absolutely massive goanna kept popping up through holes in our kitchen. Every time I plugged a hole, another hole would appear.
Another dream transported my “house” into the middle of a warm, light blue sea. I had to swim from one room to the next. And I was systematically pursued by an enormous shark from room to room.
Last night, my house was Westwell, our old family home in the Adelaide hills. I looked out the window and found a smallish tiger prowling around. I desperately tried to seal up the house. Time passed, but the tiger would not leave. I grew sorry for the tiger, and worried for its health, and decided that I should order a herd of goats so that it could have something to eat.
I’m beginning to wonder if in my subconscious, the cancer is being realised as an animal. The “house” is my body, perhaps? The animals never quite destroy me, but they do manage to penetrate and navigate through all the defences that I set up. It is a strange sensation.
The tiger dream was a little different, but closely reflected my feelings towards the tumour. I’m drawn between wanting to send love and warmth to the breast, or trying to turn my body against it, asking it to fight for me.
It will be interesting to see if the dreams continue after the surgery.
I’ve got to be honest here. I might have painted myself as some kind of Pollyanna of the breast cancer brigade, but that is simply not true.
While my aim is always to see the funny, interesting, positive side to any situation, in my heart of hearts I’m rarely that brave or confident. This week has been a constant internal battle between fear and hope.
I was kindly pointed in the direction of a blog a few days ago, written by a girl not dissimilar to myself, who discovered she had breast cancer aged 28. “Hurrah!” says inner Pollyanna. “Here is the girl you’ve been looking for… the one who soundly kicked breast cancer’s arse and now has new hair, new boobs and is a complete success in every way!”. But when I went to her site, I discovered that she is, in fact, three years later, fighting incurable secondary cancers in her bones and lungs.
Fearful inner me quaked.
And is still quaking.
It turns out that I’m really quite superstitious, and in my weird and wonderful mind, I worry that if I start a blog about the cancer, I might become that girl. Hell, just by reading about that girl, I might become that girl.
Inner Pollyanna is plotting her comeback, I’m sure. I hope she comes up with something seriously whoop-ass to throw at her Fearful Friend.