I just want to say, thanks for sticking around and being here to read my little blog. I haven’t been writing as much lately; I guess it’s one of those things that has taken a backseat whilst I get on with life. I’ve never intended to be a professional blogger, but writing this thing has been such a great way to record our journey here in beautiful Tasmania.
I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching over the past 18 months. I want to feel fulfilled – to feel like I’m achieving goals and making the most of my life (don’t we all?!). I’ve been trying to focus on things that enrich my life… But all that changed almost two months ago, when I found out I have breast cancer. Since then I seem to have stopped trying. But that is about to change.
I had lost 30 kilos since January 2016. I had been breastfeeding for almost 2 1/2 years. My breasts were little flat supple things, so seeing and feeling the change in my breast was easy. My breast shape had changed, with a dent where a curve should be. And I could feel a hard lump in there. It was a scary time, waiting for tests and results. I wasn’t surprised when my Dr told me I had a malignant tumour in there.
It has been nearly two months since I found out I have (had) breast cancer. The doctors say they think the cancer has been removed due to the surgery I’ve had (I had the lump removed, and my breast doesn’t look very different from before – people wonder about that sometimes). Over the next few months I’ll be doing a course of chemotherapy, then radiation therapy. I’ll be on hormone therapy because my cancer was highly receptive to progesterone and oestrogen. Then I’ll have radiation therapy. It’s all about mopping up any extra cancer cells that could be floating around.
So. When life throws you a curve ball, just when you felt you were really on top of things, it takes effort to regain that control, and the momentum. I was enjoying my job; I’d lost the weight; I was fit and happy – life was just good. I felt better than I have in a long time. I felt great.
It’s not the first time our gentle existence has been shaken up in the proverbial shit storm. In this painful time we are also remembering our Charlotte, which adds to the grief of this part of the journey. But, thankfully, we know some things we can do to climb out of the abyss (so dramatic) and reclaim our life the way we want it.
Below I talk about things I do to reclaim my life as my own, not cancer’s, not grief’s.
After Charlotte died, I learned that trying to find joy in each day was paramount to feeling happiness. Usually I find that joy in my children; or a song; a clean, tidy house; or a beautiful sunny day. Joy comes in the smallest things, it’s just about being open to see them.
When you’re ready to stop being dragged along the ground, starting to develop a new routine is another way to regain control. If I can get up and be dressed and ready in the morning, I feel more able to start the day and make it a good one, even when it’s difficult. I want the kids at school on time, and the house clean and tidy. I want the laundry up to date; dinner planned and ready; and baked goods for the kids’ snacks. These are such little things, but focussing on the little things, and getting the little things right, is one way I feel better about myself. It’s nice to focus on those gentle things instead of the big negative things. Being on top of the little, albeit important, day-to-day things actually makes me feel happier and more on top of life in general.
Doing little things I enjoy makes me feel happier and more in control of my life. Doing little things for myself make me feel like I’m not letting myself be dragged down by the disappointments in life. Instead, I feel like I’m allowing myself to have fun. People enjoy different things. I like sitting on the floor playing with the kids; cleaning my kitchen; painting my nails; doing makeup and stealing kisses from my husband. I enjoy exercising, watching documentaries about animals, taking photos, cooking, eating, reading and writing. Even just doing a few of these things each day makes me feel like I’m having actual fun. Sometimes I sit and write a list of things I enjoy, just so I can look at it on the bad days, and choose some things to do.
Reaching out to others helps me reclaim my life. It takes the focus away from myself – I am not the unluckiest person alive, even though sometimes I think that. There are others needing help out there, and putting energy into helping them makes me feel stronger. Stitching blankets for women in need; making toys for children in poverty; knitting blanket squares for children in detention centres; or just phoning a friend. Helping others makes me happy and takes my energy away from my pain and converts it to bringing joy to others and myself.
Being in control of my diet and exercise is really helpful for me to keep control of my life, my health and therefore my happiness. Doing good things for my body is good for me. I am exercising each day and setting fitness goals. I know meditation and yoga are good for me. I’m trying to eat well, but every now and then I fall short of my goals, and that’s ok. Not beating myself up about that is also important! Anyway, it may sound silly, but being in control of what I do to my body makes me feel in control of my life. It helps my mood, as well as helping me to realise I am helping my health, especially at this time.
Finally (not really finally, I’m sure there’s more to fulfilment, joy and control in your life), being grateful and acknowledging the things you are grateful for makes such a difference. I used to do the 365 happy photo challenge – little things that brought me joy each day. That was such a helpful project for me. It really made me focus on the positives. Doing something like that, even making a list of one thing each day that makes you happy, is such a beneficial thing.
It’s not an easy road, and some days it takes more effort than others. Some days I’m pretty scared, other days I feel like I’m in complete control. And that’s ok. It’s ok to feel the emotions that flop on me, but it’s not ok to let them get the better of me and push me further down.
So, this is my new chapter. Thanks for reading. You’re welcome to come along with me; I’m planning to write more regularly on this blog while I’m taking time off work for treatments etc.
Have a joyful day x