Tag Archives: cancer

What’s it like?

Someone asked me recently what it felt like. She meant to have cancer. I said a few words – terrifying, devastating, frightening – but I don’t think she really got it.

I’ve been thinking about how to describe it. Maybe this helps.

Imagine your life as like a long, wide, gently flowing river. Sometimes it flows slowly and smoothly. Other times the flow gathers apace and life gets quite exciting. At times the river gets a bit choppy and you bump along for a while. It may be uncomfortable, or scary or even dangerous but the river generally becomes calm again.

Then you have to go to the doctor, so you paddle over to the riverbank, feeling a bit apprehensive. But it will be ok, you think, you’ve been here before. He’ll say it’s nothing.

But then he doesn’t, and you have to paddle over to the far shore, against the current, for tests. But it will be ok, you think, because you’ve been there before as well. And even if it’s bad news, well, you’ll deal with it.

But then you get the news and it’s so much worse than you could possibly have imagined and the river takes your kayak and smashes it into rocks and splits it in two.

You are thrown into the rapids, hitting rocks and tree branches. Your foot gets caught in something under the water, but you make it back to the surface.

The river takes you and you can only just keep your head above the water. You keep hitting rocks and you’re getting so, so tired. Your foot gets caught on something under the water again and you think, maybe I’ll just stay down here, and not fight to get back to the surface for air, because this is too hard.

But somehow you make it back to the surface and you swim and swim, against the current, but you seem to get nowhere and you’re fucking exhausted. But now you know you just have to keep swimming.

That’s a bit what it’s like. But also nothing like it.

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Filed under breast cancer, cancer

Making the whole trip

I made two commitments to myself today – to go for a swim and to write for an hour.

So, there I was at the beach this morning after a swim, scribbling in my little notebook.

The swim was a challenge – every day this week it’s been about 30 degrees by 8.30am; today it’s only 22 degrees and overcast. But one of my life mottos is you never regret a swim, and I didn’t.

A flat, calm ocean – perhaps a little murky and “sharky” – didn’t put off swimmers, kayakers, hundreds of nippers, old blokes, young blokes, old gals, young gals, people frolicking about like me or those putting in serious strokes.

I’m at Port Beach, close to Fremantle, and I’ve never swum here before. But it’s a Western Australian beach and therefore wild and beautiful.  This is despite – or maybe even because of – its proximity to the Port of Fremantle and its backdrop of sea containers stacked up like multi-coloured bricks. Container ships idle in the distance off the coast and on a clear day you can see the island of Rottnest 18 kilometres off the coast. Today it merges with the horizon.


Today is the first day of my writing challenge – to write for an hour a day for a month – and it being February I have a few days less to commit to.

Yesterday I went to a writing masterclass with the writer and comedian Catherine Deveny, who threw down this challenge and I’ve taken it up because I want this year to be about getting back to normal and moving forward after the horrors of the past year. Moving forward. Getting on with life after the stagnation and feeling of being in suspension of the most fucked year of my life.

Breast cancer, metastasised; broken kneecap; then more metastases to my freaking brain; chemo; radiation, to my spine and to my boob; surgery on my knee; surgery on my brain, and then again because the wound got infected. Every time some new shit appeared, I thought – ok, this is it now, this is the last of the shit. But each time I was wrong. It felt like every time I got back up, someone would come and pull the rug out from under me and I would come crashing down again.

Not now though. It’s a new year – 2015! I’ve got a writing challenge (note I didn’t say publishing challenge), I’m moving ahead, living in the now with an eye to the future.

E.L Doctorow said, “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” I would say that life is like that too, you just have to keep going even when you can only see a few steps in front of you.


Filed under breast cancer, cancer, writing

Plan B looks like it’s gone AWOL too

Oh I know, it’s been a while, 18 March 2013 to be exact, since I wrote a post on this blog (except for this post on this other blog).

A lot has been going on, and I feel like it might be a good idea to get it down in writing, for my sake as much as for your reading pleasure.

So, since the last post:

I decide to leave Sydney and return to Perth.

I quit my job.

I drive from Sydney to Perth (a post on the epic 5,000 km road trip later)

I get a nice job in communications as soon as I arrive in Perth.

I house sit for while – no rent!

I start going out with that old boyfriend of 20-odd years ago from this earlier post.

(Sounding good right!)

I hurt my back and end up in hospital just before New Year.

My back seems to slowly start to get better.

I think I’d better go to the doctor to get my boobs checked – one is a bit weird.

I have a mammogram and ultrasound.

I am diagnosed with breast cancer.

Wait – WHAT?

(Even now, 9 months later, I have to do a double-take – ME? Cancer?)

Because the lymph nodes are involved, I have a CT scan and a full body bone scan.

I am diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer – it’s spread to my bones.

(It was really hard to write that last sentence – still makes me cry).

My back starts to really hurt again.

The cancer is 100% oestrogen-receptor positive, so the oncologist puts me on the drug Tamoxifen. No chemo? Maybe not, says the oncologist. Really? No chemo? I keep asking, though I’m pretty happy about not having chemo.

I have 5 days of radiation for my back, because it turns out that soreness? It’s actually the cancer and I’ve fractured a vertebra. No wonder it’s so freaking sore.

I have a follow-up scan in April. It’s spread to my liver now. Better start chemo straight away. You bet we’d better. Isn’t that what I’ve been fucking asking for?

Despite all this, I feel really healthy. Traumatised, devastated, shocked, grieving, deeply, deeply sad, a whole lot of other things, but physically healthy.

I have 6 rounds of chemo, 3 weeks apart. I’m terrified, but it’s not nearly as awful as I anticipated. Like having one of those hangovers where you just can’t get up off the sofa. Of course there was the hair loss and traumatic as that was, I got over it pretty quickly. Hair grows back.

Chemo finished, hair starts to sprout again, looking forward to really starting to feel 100% healthy again, then. I fall over in my courtyard at home and break my freaking kneecap. Surgery and 4 days in hospital.

Universe – WHAT THE HELL?

Ok, ok, I GET IT. I’m not resting enough. Now I can nothing but. I can’t drive, can’t leave the house unassisted, so I have to rest.

Start 5 weeks of radiation on my naughty boob. Surgery later in the year.

Phew. More later.



Filed under breast cancer, cancer, ER+