It has been six years since my life took a drastic change with my diagnosis of breast cancer. Back then I was a forty five year old that had finally started taking her health more seriously....I had started running, and was training for a half marathon. But I was also a workaholic, had more of a type A personality, had run for public office....twice, a superwoman....took care of all the children's activities and their various appointments, and tried to keep up with a social life while living in one city, and working in another.
Phew!!! I feel tired already!
Then came the day....a few months after I ran my first half marathon. Twenty pounds lighter than I was before I started running, I felt fantastic! I was in better shape than I had been since I was a competitive swimmer, track and field runner, and ballerina in my teens and early twenties. That day I lost some blood from a nipple on my right breast. It was a small amount....the size of a needle head....and I probably wouldn't have seen it, if I hadn't been wearing a white bra. That spot of blood would come and go, but never went away.
I knew something was wrong.
And in April of 2007 I heard the words, from my newly appointed oncologist, that nobody wants to hear...."You have cancer".
That's the day my life changed. I was dumbfounded, confused, mad, in denial and hurt....not physically, but mentally. How could this happen to me????? I had three daughters, aged thirteen, eleven, and seven at the time. My mother and one of my sisters lived seven hours away from me. The other sister was closer, but several hundred more miles away in other ways.
I felt alone.
These are real feelings felt by many cancer patients and survivors around the world. They come and they go. They are more pronounced when first diagnosed. Once treatment starts, cancer patients tend to be vey concentrated on getting better, and are not as concerned with the feelings of isolation.
Once treatment is over, the feelings of depression and isolation tend to come back twofold. Many worry about what is to come next..... Suddenly the doctor visits go from two weeks to three months.
That is the bad side of cancer.
But there is another side to things. The one where the cancer patients decides in their mind that they are going to survive. The one where they start to really appreciate the small things in life. The one where family takes a truly special significance, and the people who have stuck around, not only through treatment,.....but more importantly....way after that...are an important part of your life. The one where you are incredibly grateful for your children, and you give thanks for them every day when you wake up. The one that uplifts you, almost to tears, when you are running the last kilometre of your half marathon. The one where you are sooooo happy to celebrate the special holidays with your family and loved ones beside you. The one where your are incredibly happy to be alive.
Nobody can feel this as much as a cancer survivor.
And that is what I'm feeling today. A mother, to three incredible daughters, a daughter to one incredible mother (who has been there for me through thick and thin), and a sister to one.....who is still very far away (but I hope will come closer one day), and one who is had become more and more close to my heart.
It's Mother's Day, and I have appreciated celebrating this day, more and more, since I have survived cancer. This has been a wonderful weekend spent with my daughters. The first one since I have survived past five years. They have shown me how important I am to them too....by giving up much of their time to be there with me.
And to all mothers out there; whether cancer survivors, or not.....Be grateful, be happy, and enjoy your day immensely.