“Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.”
It was a motto I (mostly) lived by until something wonderful didn’t happen. When I was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma-in-situ of the cervix, it hit me hard. Fear took over my life and at every turn I felt blocked. It was like all the wonderful things in my life had been taken away — even my own children. How could I enjoy them when, in my mind, I didn’t have much longer left to live?
Your own mind can be cruel. Crueler than anyone or anything.
Even though I recognised my feelings as fear and panic, they still seemed justified. I wasn’t making this up. I was actually dying of cancer; I was one of the unlucky ones. After all, why should I be immune? People died of cancer all the time.
No-one had actually told me this… except myself. Yes, I hadn’t imagined my diagnosis, but it was very early stages and there was no indication it had spread. And looking back now, if someone really had told me I was dying, I probably never would have accepted it anyway. I feel generally well and life is so worth fighting for.
But fear is a strange thing. It can mess with your head. Unless you face it head on, it can seem so insurmountable. When you do, it dissipates.
If I hadn’t previously experienced anxiety, it would have taken me much longer to push through the darkness. Waiting for my results, I took a risk. I told myself it was nothing — at the risk that it was something — and I treated my fear as a symptom of negative thinking, not as fear of something real.
I am well; I am healthy became a constant drum beat in my head. I went to kickboxing.
I took long walks. I drank green smoothies. I dyed my hair tangerine and blonde and pink and whatever else I could get my hands on. I smiled despite the sadness. And I shared my pain with any good friend who would listen. Thank you.
Still…when I lay in bed at night and the dark thoughts crowded in, I’d prepare myself for the worse. But instead of resisting the bad thoughts, I accepted them and planned how I would cope with a bad result. Even though it wasn’t easy, it at least gave me some power back. After doing this a hundred times, I can honestly say that the worst possible outcome didn’t seem quite as terrible.
If you die, you die, I told myself. When your time is up, it’s up. No point spending your last days in a state of panic. It’s not going to change anything… if that indeed is what is happening…
But when a letter arrived telling me they’d removed ALL the cancer and there was NOTHING ELSE to be found, it was a moment I’ll never forget : )
A whole year since I’d received the initial diagnosis, the weight came off in layers. I shed the first lot while reading the words; I shed some more when I hugged my husband; I lost still more as I messaged my mum; and even more as I pushed a shopping trolley around Woolworths. I have never been so happy to do a food shop. The relief! It felt so good, I could hardly walk.
And now life goes on. I still have to have a hysterectomy next year, because there’s a risk it will come back, but I can deal with that. It’s manageable now compared to dying. And I have my children. I’m also getting stuck into my new business. I’m writing again. I’m focused and I’m busy.
I’ll never be the same person again of course. I’ve learnt that my body is not invincible. What I put in is what I get out and I need to treat it with the respect it deserves. Thinking back to what I put it through during my twenties and early thirties, I honestly feel I had a lucky escape. Smoking, drinking, insufficient sleep, poor diet… the list goes on and it all contributes to where I am today. I’m not saying I wish I didn’t have fun, but there’s a line and I should’ve been more careful not to cross it. But no regrets. I can’t change it now.
So please look after yourself, my friends. Thank you all SO MUCH for your support on this journey. It has helped me immensely to share this with you, and I hope I can be of support to anyone else who might be going through some challenges. My heart goes out to you.
Who knows what’s next, but I have a feeling it will be wonderful.