To my Mum, for Mother’s Day…

As I sit here, at your spot in the cemetery the day before Mother’s Day, the only tangible place I can visit you, I wonder…

I was 16 when you died, and you were 46. I am that age now. I wonder what it was like for you to be that age and be my Mum. I wonder if you felt the same emotions that I feel. I wonder if you felt the same fears, hopes and dreams for my sister and I that I feel for our own children. 

I wonder if you think I’m a good mum. I wonder if we are similar in any or many ways.

I wonder what our conversations would be about if you were still here. I wonder if we would spend mother daughter time together meeting for coffee, lunches and shopping trips.

I wonder how easy it may or may not be to sit without judgement of decisions I have made. I wonder if you can see what is coming but have to keep the secret for yourself.

I wonder if you and Nanna take care of each other up there. How could we have known you would both be gone so close together? I guess you are meant to be together in death as you were in life.

I know you see me. I know you hear me. I know you walk beside me and I know you guide me.

I can hear you whisper in my ear, “be strong, keep going, it is always alright”. I wonder who whispered in your ear while you battled for those five long years. I wonder why you’re not here.

I received your message. This is all meant to be. I have had to face my own battle and survived. I am meant to be here, to do whatever it is you want me to do. Whatever it is that I am destined to do, to bring to the world, I do it now.

As I sit here in your beautiful rose garden feeling closer to you than ever before, I write. The fountain is trickling gently. The birds are calling to each other and the sun is shining. The ants are still here too! It is peaceful. Busy, but peaceful. I do, however, have your section all to myself.

I brought coffee, my notebook and your favourite red roses. I am ready for you to say whatever you need to say. I am your voice. 

While I write, I remember it took me nine years to visit this place for the first time. Little sis brought me and lovingly held my hand. I don’t know why it took so long, but I just couldn’t bear the painful reminder.

As I sit here and shed a few tears, I try to remember the good times. I want to remember. Many of these memories have faded. I struggle to think of times we shared before you got sick. 

What I do remember is that you had beautiful grace and poise. You were gentle and kind. You would have given us the world if you could. 

Right now,  I hear you say ” be sunshine on a rainy day”. I will. I will shine bright when others can’t. And I know you will help me.

My coffee is now empty, the sun has gone behind the clouds and it is time to go home. I came here today to show you my love. Your roses will stay here for all to see. They will stay until we replace them. 

Every day I think of you. Every day I hear you. Every day I see you… And every day, I love you.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mum… All my love, your Daughter xxxx

To all the beautiful women I love…

img_2214I love that you wear your PJ’s all day. I love that you have crazy, wild hair.

I love that you take me to my place of zen. I love that you teach me to do things differently.

I love that you trust me to share your vulnerability. I love that you cry with me. I love your generosity.

I love that no matter how much time passes, its always familiar. I love your imperfections. I love your beauty. I love your struggles.

I love the resounding “f you” to the negatives. I love your triumphs over adversity. I love the words you share with me. I love that you know me. I love that you know yourself. I love that you accept me as I am.

I love that you share your stories with me. I love that you know I won’t judge you. I love that you don’t judge me. I love that you don’t give a crap what people think. I love your personal power.

I love your strength. I love that you love me.

…And I love you…

 

 

Our rawest moment…

Going through Breast Cancer has been incredibly tough on my husband. He has been my rock throughout all of it.  We have been tested and pushed to our limits at times but we know we are stronger for it. It has been hard for Phil to watch all that I have endured and feel like he couldn’t make it all okay. He has been to every appointment, every treatment, sat by my bedside through every surgery and supported me endlessly.

We have had some difficult moments through our journey. Some days have been hard to get through, and we have just had to hold on to each other. A lot of the time we have had to lift each other up, although probably more for my sake. I have been down that rabbit hole more than a few times.

The rawest moment for us was the day that symbolically, through one necessary act, everything became very real.

My body went through many physical changes very quickly and to think of it all now seems a bit of a blur. It was all very confronting, but at the same time, ironically, has taught me the most about myself.

When I was diagnosed I had long hair, was fit, active and strong. I always felt confident and secure within myself, but always wanted to lose more weight, exercise harder, lift heavier weights, bla bla bla…

Breast Cancer taught me to truly accept myself as I am.

After my mastectomy surgery I had a couple of weeks to recover before I started chemo. It was brutal. I can’t even describe how it felt except to say it felt like being hit by a “Mack Truck”. The physical changes started soon after.

It took two weeks for my hair to start to fall out on my head. That’s how long it took for all those toxic chemicals to kill all the hair follicles. I remember the day I grabbed a clump of hair in my hands and the feeling of it ‘sliding’ out of my head. It wasn’t the sharp little pain you normally feel when pulling out a single hair, this was’t painful at all. It had no resistance, it just came out.

I couldn’t stop pulling it out after that. It was such a strange sensation and became a new habit. I pulled out so much of it that I had created patches of baldness which were then noticeable and I decided it was time to clipper it off.

Phil, the girls and I finally chose the day to visit my beautiful hairdresser and friend to do it and I just wanted it over with. Six months before, she had styled my long hair for our wedding. It was a difficult day and we all cried together.

It was a confronting moment. It was real.

The next day, my beautiful eldest boy went and had his head shaved also to show his support. We were all experiencing it together.

Even after that the stubble fell out all the time. Every day in the shower I would rub my head and it would keep coming out. It was as if Phil had shaved and left whiskers everywhere. They were all over my pillow, clothes and car seat. They were itchy and annoying. I put up with that for about a week and then decided I had had enough.

I decided I needed to shave my head with a razor.

It was a Sunday morning, I got up and went into the bathroom. Phil was still asleep and didn’t know what I was doing.

I looked in the mirror and thought it was finally time. I could either fall in a heap and feel sorry for myself, or I could just do what I needed to do and get on with it. I wanted to do it alone and get it over with as quick as possible.

As I awkwardly soaped up my head and grabbed the razor I realised that I was going to struggle to do it by myself. It was unfamiliar and actually quite difficult. I couldn’t see the back, let alone manouvre the razor without cutting myself. I needed to ask Phil to help me.

I woke him still with soap everywhere, and after the shock of the visual when he opened his eyes he got up and followed me into our bathroom.

He stood behind me, razor in hand. Slowly and gently, he finished shaving the back of my head as we cried together and stood there with the realisation of the situation. It was a defining moment.

I never thought that would be something I would ever have to ask my husband to do for me. It was my most vulnerable moment, and the most raw moment of our relationship.

Before I lost my hair it was long, about boob length! It was a strange realisation that they almost kind of related to one another in a symbolic way. They were both gone.

I found my own beauty in the days to follow. It took losing a boob and all my hair to learn to truly accept myself, my body and my strength. I finally surrendered to my situation and acknowledged that it was okay to allow myself to be vulnerable.

I didn’t bother getting a wig, I didn’t see the point. I just figured that if I could accept myself as I was, everyone else would too. My kids and my husband walked beside me wherever we went. And to my surprise, not many people even shot me a glance!


Going forward a year and I have hair now. I’m glad it’s back. It was cold in winter! It is also nice to be a bit more ‘normal’. It will be quite a wait for it to grow longer, but that’s ok.

Phil has encouraged me through all my different looks! I am impatient and keep changing my hairstyle as it grows so that I can feel like it is making progress. Who knows what I will do next time I get my hair done. I do love the adventure!

And as for my husband? He still endlessly supports me. We still have difficult days but we are finding our way back to laughter. I am a lucky girl, and eternally grateful that he is mine…

 

 

 

The Education we didn’t want for our kids…

educationIt feels only logical to tell my story in the order of events. Not to dwell on the trauma but to move through it. I am sensitive to the feelings of those around me who have experienced this journey with me and the fact that they are all processing their own emotions.

Our children, particularly, have had much to deal with. They have been incredibly brave and we are immensely proud of the way they have shown strength and resilience beyond their years.

As parents we all want to protect our children from the harshness that can sometimes be life. We know through our own experiences what they may be faced with as they grow up.  It seems cruel for children to go through events that are hard enough to process as an adult. They don’t have the neurological wiring to go through the emotional journey the same as we, their parents, do.

Phil and I have not encouraged any of our kids to read my blog. They know about it and support me but at the same time they don’t want to relive the sadness, which I completely understand. They will read it when they are ready.

The saddest day of my breast cancer journey was the day we told the kids. This story is about them…

Picking up from my second blog “The Day I Asked the Loaded Question…”, I found out my diagnosis on Friday 15th October, 2015. We had no idea what my situation was at this point and had to get through the agonising wait until the follow up with my GP on the Monday. We decided not to tell the kids until we knew more about what we were faced with so that we could give them the facts and try not to confuse them any more than we knew they already would be. I picked the kids up that Friday afternoon and we went about our night acting as normal as we could. They never knew why my beautiful best friend came to visit with wine and flowers, or why we sat on my bed for hours talking and crying together.

On the Monday I had my appointment with my GP to follow up the results from the biopsy. The official report still wasn’t through in time but we went ahead and organised the referral and appointment to see the surgeon. Thankfully, a lovely lady (who I will always be very grateful to, and she knows who she is) was able to fit me in the next day, Tuesday, to review the results and find out my options for a medical plan. We had a very long conversation and went through all the details of the type of breast cancer I had and options for surgery and treatment.

The first step was to have bone scans to check if the cancer had spread.

The next twenty four hours were the scariest in my life.

After the appointment with the surgeon on Tuesday we decided to collect my children early from school and sit them down and give them the news. We felt that we couldn’t leave it any longer, they needed to know.

I felt sick.

All the memories of my Dad giving me the news about Mum came flooding back. I knew how this was going to feel for them to hear what we were about to tell them.

We picked up the two younger ones and got a message to the eldest one to leave school and meet us at home as soon as possible. They knew something was up and would not stop asking questions. They asked if it was “something bad” because they knew that in our family, when we have a “family meeting” it usually means there is something big to say.

It was an unsettling, awkward few minutes in anticipation of how I knew their world was about to turn upside down.

We all sat down in the lounge together and I said to them…

“I have a lump in my boob.”

They…were…shattered. And we were heartbroken watching them be consumed by shock and despair.

We all cried together. For the first time in my children’s lives, I had no idea how to help them. I wanted to take their pain away and make everything okay but I just couldn’t. Their first reaction was of the fear that the same would happen to me as had happened to my Mum and Grandmother. They knew that story and it had just become very real for them.

Phil and I didn’t have many answers for their questions, we still didn’t really know what was happening ourselves. We were still waiting on blood screening results to come through and I was scheduled for the bone scan the next day. We didn’t tell them about that appointment, they had enough to think about already.

And then something amazing happened.

Amidst the fear, sadness and shock we all felt, one by one the kids were all able to say to us that they felt that everything would be okay. Phil and I also had a knowing that I would survive and get through, and here were my children all saying the same. Somehow, we were all able to see past the trauma of the situation and understand that even though there was a big scary journey ahead everything really was going to be fine.

The next morning my kids got up, as normal, and went to school. I gave them the option to stay home but they just wanted to do what was normal for them and have their support network of their friends around them. I know I have brought up my kids to be independent and strong but I did not expect them to be so incredibly stoic. There was much to process, and maybe there was an element of denial, but keeping their routine as “normal” as possible was a high priority and showed us that was what they needed as part of their ability to cope.

A couple of days after telling my kids, we then had to go through it all again and tell Phil’s kids. Again, we had to turn our family life upside down with fear and uncertainty. Again, we cried many tears together as we slowly explained what was going to happen next and what they could expect.

Our children have certainly had difficult times throughout my journey. But they have drawn strength from each other, our families and close friends. They have been able to support each other through times like school holidays when family time should have been filled with fun activities and laughter. For all that time, while I went through chemo, we rarely ventured out. There were many weekends that I spent in bed and I wouldn’t see them during the day. It was very confronting for them to see all that they have. But they rallied together, carried on with life, accepted the situation and still managed to laugh along the way.

We have all had our wobbly moments emotionally. And there have been the normal pressures of life, parenting, school, finances and even just getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other.

To watch the kids move through this life education has been an incredible journey in itself. They have been patient, understanding, empathetic and strong. Qualities that many adults struggle to display! This life experience has changed them, and who knows, maybe their future lives too. To be aware and live life through those qualities shows me that these amazing little humans have much to look forward to.

And as for that bone scan? It was all clear…

Can you identify and manage your triggers?

We’ve all had the experience of hearing an old song that reminds us of when we first heard it, how old we were and what stage of life we were in at the time. Or maybe certain smells remind you of somewhere you have been and an experience you had. Most of the time these flashbacks are wonderful reminders of the good times in our lives.

Then there are the dark triggers that may remind us of a traumatic time or experience. They are sometimes connected to strong negative emotions that are hard to move on from.

I wanted to know a bit more about this word and did a bit of an online search. I found the following definition which I think describes it perfectly:

“A trigger is anything that sets you off emotionally and activates memories of your trauma. It’s particular to you and what your experience has been. Triggered, we revert to the feelings and behaviours we had in the traumatising situation”.*

Whilst walking on the beach yesterday with a beautiful friend, I was talking to her about something that someone said to me last week that rocked me to my core.  We talked about triggers and cruel reminders and it was such a light bulb moment for me to recognise certain situations that trigger my own emotions.

Last week I was walking along the beach one morning when I ran into a man that I had come to know whilst being part of a recovery program at the hospital. There was a small group of us participating together, all different ages, who were all going through different types and stages of cancer treatment. We all developed a strong bond and shared stories with each other along the way.

The program ended for some of us around Christmas time and we had a little gathering to celebrate and swapped phone numbers with the intention to reunite in several months time.

For the purpose of this blog, (and because I didn’t ask permission to write about him), let’s call my friend from the hospital program “Bob”. I think Bob is in about his late 60’s, has battled cancer in his brain, lungs and now liver. When I met him he was still going through chemo and, like all of us, had lost his hair.

When I walked past Bob on the beach I didn’t realise it was him at first. I said hello and kept walking thinking “I know that man”. I was several steps further on when I realised who he was and spun around and called out his name. We hadn’t recognised each other initially because we both had hair! We embraced each other with a warm knowing hug. You know the ones… the hugs that mean so much when you share a bond with someone, even if you don’t know them very well.

We exchanged updates on our situations and the events that had occurred since we saw each other last. I talked about my upcoming surgery and Bob talked about his treatment that he needs to undergo for the next two years.

And then he said… “if I live that long”.

That was my trigger.

My heart sank and I tried to hide the shock I felt. Bob said it with a smile on his face and a laugh under his breath, but for me it was hugely confronting. That one comment brought back all my fear. Fear about ‘what if’. Fear for Bob and fear for myself.

I had been able to move on from feeling this fear for myself every day, and it all just came flooding back in an instant. It was like a scene in a scary movie when they zoom in on something really fast and you are left with the still shot of a horror scene. To add to that, the feeling in my gut that was filled with dread rose to my throat. But I couldn’t show Bob that emotion. He needed my support and positivity. I guess the reality for Bob is much more confronting than I could know. He is faced with his own mortality every day he wakes up.

When I was alone, I cried. I cried for Bob and I cried for me.

It has taken several days to move on from that emotion. I have had a really big think about how I can deal with the emotion that arises when triggered. I’m certainly no expert and am not qualified in this area but I think I have learnt much over my time to figure this out.

I feel that it is important to acknowledge how we feel when we react to a trigger. It may feel uncomfortable and unsettling, and that’s ok. We can’t ignore our emotions, we need to embrace them. Not in a way that we negatively affect others but in a way that helps us process.

One way that helps me is to write. I have been doing this for many years now. And I don’t mean write a blog or a book, or anything else that other people will see. I have also taught my kids to use this technique when they have had issues in the past.

Sit with a notepad and pen or pencil and just write. Write whatever comes out. It doesn’t need to flow or even make any sense. It doesn’t even need to be legible, it just needs to be your raw emotion. It is a cathartic process to articulate the emotions you are feeling and offload. I can remember some days through the early stages of my breast cancer journey I would sit and write page after page of “f you cancer”…

I don’t believe you should journal those emotions. You can’t keep that stuff hanging around and you certainly don’t need to go back and be reminded of them. Those feelings should be written on paper that you can rip up, destroy and dispose of.

Whatever you do to help yourself get through your reaction to the trigger, remember that it will pass.

There are always going to be triggers that affect us in life in both positive and negative ways. It depends how we manage them that makes all the difference.

Be kind to yourself. None of us are perfect and we always have much to learn. But that’s the raw and completely beautiful part of life…

*facebook.com/TraumaAndDissociation

Would you notice…?

strong personHow do you know if a strong person is coping? Or I guess even more so, the question should be how do you know if a strong person is NOT coping?

What does it look like? Do you think you could recognise it?

Think of a strong person that you know who has experienced trauma. How did it look from the outside? Did you notice? Did you think they were so strong that they didn’t or don’t need your help?

Most people have, themselves, or know someone who has experienced trauma or grief of some kind. Never underestimate its significance in someone’s life, or your own for that matter.

Behind the smiles, and the positive attitudes and the “one day at a time”s, there is pain, fear and uncertainty. Never assume that someone doesn’t need your help. They just might. You can tell them how amazing you think they are and how well you think they are coping, but ask them if they actually are.

Ask their partners how they are doing, and ask their children. Life doesn’t actually ever return to normal. They are changed forever. Yes they more likely are able to move forward, but it will be in a way of their “new normal”.

After my Mum passed away, apart from my immediate inner circle, some people were awkward, didn’t know what to say and left me alone. On the other hand, I also experienced the extreme opposite with some people who had never spoken to me previously suddenly gushing at me offering their ear for whenever I needed to talk. They had the best of intentions I’m sure, but I never took them up on their offers. I was stoic, had a smile on my face every day and functioned adequately with the occasional breakdown as I processed my grief. I was brave, strong and invincible. People often commented that they were amazed at how well I was coping.

I didn’t seek any help, I had a good support system around me but I know now, on reflection, I was acting in such a way that I was avoiding my emotions.

I was trying to adult while still really being a broken child.

I made some good decisions and some not-so-good decisions in my life for a few years. I engaged in some self-destructive behaviour for part of that time before finally having a break down in my early 20’s. My beautiful Dad and Step-Mum wrapped their loving, caring arms around me and gently guided me through counselling.

I connected with an amazing doctor who specialised in grief counselling and got myself back on track. She taught me something that I have never forgotten.

Everything that occurs as a sequence of events in your life is preparing you for the next point of change.

And we have many. Embrace it, do what you need to do to get through it with self-care.

Seek help, it’s not a sign of weakness but rather evidence of your inner strength.

Someone I look up to reminded me recently that magic happens through experiencing the darkest of times.

Throughout my own Breast Cancer journey my support network has been amazing. Our families and close friends have been there every step of the way. Others have struggled. But we recognise that this is just a reflection of their own inability to know how to help. It can be overwhelming and scary for some and they can tend to avoid the issue altogether.

I have found, and was advised, that it is better to not have expectations of anyone and you won’t be disappointed.

I am forever grateful to have had a group of people around me who unselfishly gave of themselves to help me and my family. Some of my family and friends cooked food. Without that we could not have functioned adequately to feed our kids. Some checked on me constantly through phone calls, messages and visits. Some gave me incredibly generous gifts. I was amazed at all those who rallied around us. Not ever being one to ask for help, or being comfortable doing so, I have learned to say thank you without feeling guilty.

I can never pay those people back, but I can certainly pay it forward whenever possible in the future.

I know that I am strong.

I know that I have been strong throughout my journey and that people see that. You see me smile, be positive and cope with whatever has come my way. But there have been some dark times. Times in the last sixteen months that I wished it would all end.

I had times during treatment when I would say, out loud, “take me now”… Those days were just too hard.

In my pain and suffering, I wasn’t strong on the inside. I wasn’t the stoic girl that everyone sees. I couldn’t reach out to my family and friends, or my husband. But during those times I sought help from other avenues.

I would think of my family and my children. I couldn’t put them through what I had experienced. We are so fortunate to have access to incredible support organisations and programs in this country. I remained strong enough to be able to do that. I allowed myself to get through it. And in my experience, that is the key.

If you can remind yourself, or the person you care about, that there is a process to go through to get to the other side, it will pass. Nothing stays the same. Ever.

If you are a strong person but aren’t feeling that way, reach out. Contact a friend, family member, doctor or support agency. Don’t feel that you shouldn’t or can’t. Whatever your situation, there is always someone who can help you.

If you don’t think of yourself as a strong person, maybe you are and you just don’t know it yet.

If you know someone who is going through a difficult time. Reach out. Be kind to them. Be thoughtful, put yourself out for them and help them. They may not ask, but they will appreciate it.

 

When the sky fell in…

when the sky fell inToday is the 20th of March. It is not just any ordinary Monday. This day thirty years ago my Mum lost her battle with Cancer.

It was the darkest, saddest day of my life. Still is.

We watched her suffer for several years and it was heartbreaking.

I was sixteen when she died and my sister was fourteen. All of my teenage years were consumed with Mum’s illness and I had a far from normal secondary school life. I was in Year 12 and had spent three months over our summer in New Zealand on an exchange and did not have the luxury of spending that holiday time with her. But I guess I was also getting on with my life and took the opportunity of a life-time and experienced much while away from my family.

I had only returned from New Zealand a few days before my Dad told me Mum had a month to live. It was an awkward conversation as he was driving me to visit my best friend. He struggled to give me the news.

I understand now how immensely difficult it was for him to do that. I was in total disbelief as Mum was quite well when I left. Maybe they didn’t tell me before I left so that I could go and fully enjoy my exchange.

The amazing thing is though, the entire time I was away I felt that something was wrong.

The day Mum died I was in a biology lesson. I dropped a test tube in the lab at 3.00pm which I later learned was the time she slipped away. Our Grandparents picked up my sister and I from school and drove us to the hospital. We went into the room and met our Dad who just sat in the chair with his head in his hands. He was devastated. Mum was the love of his life and they adored each other.

She was just lying there, not moving, not breathing, just completely still.

She looked sad, she had finally been totally consumed by her disease.

I will never forget that day, nor how I felt noticing that her chest wasn’t rising and falling.

It was so final and so brutal.

I felt as if my world had ended. I felt helpless, lost and immense fear as to what the future would be like with this hole in my soul.

Experiencing that all consuming grief as a child is so different than when an adult. I didn’t have the adult wiring to rationalise my grief.

Remembering all the different stages of that journey always takes me back to that painful time. That hole is still there. It has never been filled.

Daughters losing their mothers at such a young age leaves a scar that can never heal.

My beautiful sister and I have always carried our sadness.

However, we have also learnt to carry on and live our lives and be strong women. Probably too much for our own good at times.

I have sought help when I needed it. I have processed much over the years.

I constantly worried that I would walk her path, and here I am. But, my journey is different to hers and will not end the same way.

I am meant to be here. I am meant to be here for my children, husband, sister, family and friends. I am meant to be here for me…

I have accepted what is and am looking forward. I don’t know what the future holds, but I am learning to let go and take each day at a time. Each day there is much to be grateful for.

Life really is beautiful.

If you woke up today you have much to be grateful for too. Celebrate, every. little. thing.

Stop and think about all the good things that have happened in your life. Celebrate the people in your life too. They have been sent to you for a reason. Even the ones that have hurt you are just teaching you more about yourself so you can grow.

Just live your life through love.

Go on, I dare you.

See what happens…

The day I asked the loaded question..

17274522_10211099432515220_1468253580_nWe are all familiar with the expression “be careful what you ask for”, right? Well I should have considered that before I did something that I believe changed the course of my life. The power of making statements out loud should not be taken lightly!

I believe in the power of the Universe.  I believe we are taken care of and guided all the time. Whatever you believe, we all have to have faith in something. I receive messages and experience syncronicities constantly. But it took my illness to really tune in and listen.

I had an amazing year in 2015. Some good, some bad. So much happened. I got married for the second time, we went on an incredible honeymoon, my eldest son was enduring Year 12 and we were negotiating life as a newly blended family.

As happy as I was, and as much as I enjoyed my job, I always felt there was something more. I felt like the ‘rat on the wheel’ and did my fair share of complaining as such. The poor girls I work with endured much during the six or so hours we sat together every day! Working full time and having such a big busy family was hard work. It was exhausting in fact. I felt stressed all the time. Worried about money (six kids is really expensive!!), and constantly thinking there has to be a better way.

In about August of that year I arrived at work one morning as per usual. I must have driven on autopilot because I couldn’t even remember getting there. I sat in the car for a few minutes, contemplating, and just threw my hands in the air and said outloud… “let me have it Universe, bring it all to me. What am I meant to be doing…? Little did I know at the time what was around the corner. I might as well have just sat in the middle of the road and waited for the bus.

In September I remembered that it had been some time since my last mammogram. I had been having them regularly since the age of 31 because of my Mum’s journey. I didn’t realise just how long I had left it. I had been so distracted with getting engaged, buying a house, moving two houses into one and organising a wedding, that I completely neglected my yearly routine. I finally made an appointment for early October.

The day before I went for my mammogram I found my lump. It was under my left nipple and it was bloody huge. I knew instantly. My heart sank. It had come from nowhere. I hadn’t felt it before and I knew it was foreign. It was my first time going to Breastscreen, as I had previously visited private practice for screenings.

When I told Breastscreen that I had found a lump they didn’t want to do the mammograms. They wanted me to go straight back to my GP. I insisted that they do them because I had my period, my boobs were normally lumpy during that time and I was already there.  They reluctantly agreed upon the understanding that if the lump was still there after my period finished I needed to go back to my doctor.

So another week passed. My lump was still there. I went to the GP and got my referral for the full screening at the place I had been previously for many years. I cried with the doctor. She was not my normal doctor and was young. I recognised her name. I had worked with her Mum who was a beautiful lady who had recently passed away after a long battle with cancer. I thought later how strange it was that I was at this appointment with her. I cried because I was frightened but I also cried for her Mum and my Mum. I mentioned that I had worked with her Mum and she cried too. So we all sat there crying together awkwardly and I tried to keep a brave face but I lost it. Deep down I knew what was coming.

The next day, Friday 15th October, I was sitting at work and rang the imaging company to make my full screening appointment. Not even half an hour later Breastscreen rang me and told me they had found a lump and that I needed a full screening. I said I had already made an appointment somewhere else.  They suggested that I would need to take the films with me. So I rang Phil, walked out of work (only two people knew what was going on) and we drove into the city to collect the films….

I opened the envelope… on the report was the circled word MALIGNENT.

I nearly threw up…I couldn’t believe what I was reading. My whole life flashed before my eyes. In his panic, Phil insisted, “I don’t care what we have to do, ring them and get in right now”. So I did, and they agreed to fit us in as soon as we could get there.

They did a biopsy. They called the doctor in. They weren’t saying anything. We asked for an explanation. They couldn’t confirm anything but replied with “you need to deal with this right now”.

OMG its 4pm on Friday afternoon, we are about to pick up the kids and you’ve just told me that?

I had to keep it together. WE had to keep it together. We couldn’t.

Phil and I just held each other in the car and cried, and cried and cried… we couldn’t stop.

We had to pull ourselves together, pick up my kids and not let on that anything was up. I had no idea what or how I was going to tell them..

I couldn’t believe that I was going to give them that news. I knew what it felt like, and I knew how frightening it was going to be for them.

That was just the beginning of my journey…

 

In the beginning…

sunset… There is a girl named Ali. She has a story to tell. So with fear, trepidation and no real clear path she launched her blog! And what better day than “International Women’s Day” to do it.

I have met some truly amazing and inspirational women throughout my life. Some of them I am totally in awe of… some of them have encouraged me to tell my story and share with others. So here we are.

This is for all the women out there who feel like they are holding back, are afraid, or just have no idea which step to take next. Don’t think about it, just do it. If I can, anyone can.

A cliche I know, but if you knew how far I’ve come through my personal journey in the last year or so you would be as shocked as I am right now typing this!

Do you immerse yourself in life’s lessons? Do you allow yourself to really think about how far you have come, how much you’ve grown and how beautiful you are now? Do you see that in yourself when you look in the mirror? Do you beat yourself up when things go wrong or do you just accept that stuff happens and learn from it…  My favourite quote is this:

You can never lose, only win or learn…

We spend so much time and energy trying to get everything right, myself included. Maybe we should all just accept that imperfection is beautiful too. If you get something wrong then you know how to do it better next time.  How awesome is that? Life would be so boring if there were no mistakes! They kick us in the arse, no doubt, and they hurt sometimes. But they also give us the opportunity to look back and think how they have shaped us into who we are now.

So here I am, mistakes, imperfect action, stories, raw and all. A much more grounded, self accepting and real woman than I was two years ago. Here’s to new beginnings, the future is full of new opportunities for us all, you just need to celebrate being you and open your eyes to what might be in front of you. Im taking this opportunity that has presented itself as a desire to write.  I have not written before and I am not a writer, but I can write. I am taking a risk… and I will be kind to myself while I learn and find my way.

I am woman…hear me roar…!