Who am I?
This used to be an easy question to answer. I was an expat, living in London. I was a successful entrepreneur. I was bold, creative, and confident. I was healthy and strong. I had a 10-year plan and I was living it. Surpassing it.
But it wasn't enough.
(Photo: Fotostorm via Getty Images)
I fell in love. I got married. I had a beautiful baby boy. I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing. And, yet, I couldn't pin myself down in this world I created. We moved. A new city, a new country, a new business, a new start. But here I was. Lost.
And then another pregnancy. A miracle. This was right. This was how things were supposed to be. I was on track. I thought.
And then cancer. Cancer and a baby. At the same time.
Those things aren't supposed to happen at the same time.
She saved my life. My 37-week-old daughter saved my life. But it came at a cost. I missed the first six months of her life, pumped so full of chemo and radiation that I could hardly function.
Cancer wasn't a gift. It was never a gift. But it was a push.
I couldn't tell if I was cancer and a good mum, or cancer and a neglectful mum. Either way, I knew I was more cancer than Mum, and I hated it.
And yet, I knew: I needed to be cancer now so I could be Mum forever.
So I cracked open my linear mind. I pushed aside my judgments. I did Tai Chi. I ate organically. I cut out sugar. I tried healing touch, massage, acupuncture, energy work, writing, art, meditating. I ever started running. Running.
I finally understood Leonard Cohen: "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in." Cancer was my crack. I didn't want it to be, but there it was.
Cancer wasn't a gift. It was never a gift. But it was a push. A force. A road map.
I don't feel lost.
I'm Mum. Not cancer and Mum. Just Mum.
I feel tethered by the love I have for my children. I am anchored by the strength of my husband. I am fuelled by the support of my parents, siblings, friends.
I am open-minded.
I am a work in progress.
I am fallible. And fragile. Yet strong and mighty.
I am content in quiet. And I find happiness in calm. I tree bathe.
I have lost my London edge. Good riddance.
I'm short hair and red lips. Or short hair and no makeup. Equally beautiful.
I'm a woman who finally defined her womanhood. On her own terms, and with a pump or two of HRT.
I'm Mum. Not cancer and Mum. Just Mum.
I am a mum who jumps in the bath when my kids ask me. I belly laugh at their surprised eyes.
I make time for small moments. I thrive on small moments.
I accept that I actually wasn't healthy and strong before. I was skinny because of genetics and stress.
(Photo: Vesna Andjic via Getty Images)
I have finally taken responsibility for my body. For what I put in it, on it, around it, and for what I do to it. Because no one else will. Because my life depends on it.
I'm a woman on a mission. Ovarian cancer is the deadliest female cancer, so I'm doing everything I can raise money for research. Because my daughter saved my life, and now I need to help save others.
I'm am riding a bike from Vancouver to Seattle over August 26 and 27 in the Ride to Conquer Cancer. I'm going to raise money for the BC Cancer Foundation. Since 2009, the Ride has raised over $77 million. But it's still not enough. Not nearly enough to pay off the fear I can still taste.
I'm going to raise money with Team Lady Bits so that any woman facing a gynaecological cancer doesn't have to be afraid. I'm doing it because I couldn't last year. And because this year I can.
I'm better than I was before.
But I'm not fixed. I still worry. I worry at 3 a.m. I worry at 3 p.m. I worry of return. I worry that riding a bike may not be enough. I worry I might forget how important it is to jump into the bath. I worry that this crack, this beautiful crack, will get covered with deadlines, emails, grocery shopping and endless laundry, and that the light won't shine in anymore.
I want my lessons learned to be enough. To be able to draw a line under this experience. To shout to some great cosmic power that I get it. I understand the crack. I have let the light in. Please give me a guarantee that this won't happen again.
But that's not coming.
So, who am I?
I'm brave and I'm scared. I'm lost and I'm found. I'm worried and I'm confident. I'm openhearted and I'm unsure. But either way, I'm better than I was before.
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Breastfeeding can help reduce ovarian cancer risk as it causes the body to release fewer eggs from the ovaries, meaning the ovaries are less exposed to damage, which can lead to cancer," explains Dr Rob Hicks. "Definitely another good reason to breastfeed if you're a new mother."
According to Bupa, increasing your vitamin D intake can help reduce your ovarian cancer risk, as a deficiency of this vitamin can lead to the cancer developing. Find out how to top up your vitamin D levels with these foods.
"Doctors believe that ovarian cancer is related to how many times you ovulate (release one or more eggs from one of your ovaries), in your life," says Dr Annabel Bentley, from Bupa. "You ovulate during each menstrual cycle but the contraceptive pill prevents ovulation, so the fewer cycles you have, the lower your risk of ovarian cancer."
"Maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking are the most effective ways a woman can reduce their risk," says Dr Rob Hicks. Eating foods rich in flavonoids is also a good way of reducing ovarian cancer risks. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, flavonoids such as kaempferol (found in tea, broccoli, kale and spinach) and luteolin (found in peppers, carrots, cabbage and celery) are both great cancer preventatives, especially effective with ovarian cancer.
According to the Canadian National Enhanced Cancer Surveillance System (NECSS), moderate and regular exercise greatly reduces ovarian risk in women. They claim that it's because regular exercise boosts the body's immune system and decreases the chance of obesity.
Follow Erin Barrett on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ErinJBarrett