Posted on November 29, 2015
When I found out I had terminal cancer, I never wanted to know how long I had. I never wanted to work to a timeline, but I knew that if I had one, part of me always would. However, I never got a chance to ask not to hear this information – too late, it was given. As little as three months if the chemo didn’t work at all (not particularly uncommon given the advanced state of my cancer), maybe 2 years at the most, if chemo worked really, really well.
The very first thing I did was think about where I would be in two years. I worked out almost immediately that it would be around the time of my first childs graduation from grade 6. I was so sad, I wanted so badly to be there, but I figured even if I was lucky enough, I would be really ill at the time. I pictured myself there, in a wheelchair, bald, crying….not because my baby was graduating from primary school (I’m the sentimental type, it was a given that I would cry at that, I cry when OTHER peoples children graduate from primary school), but because it was the last thing that I would ever get to see.
Over the last 23 months there have been other “dates” that have stuck in my head that would be very close to that two years. In March, when I was nominated for the Kidspot bloggers top 100 (top 25 in my category), I found out that the blogging program attached ran for the better part of the year, ending in a gala night in Sydney at the end of November. Ahh, that was that then. Sadly I knew that was something that I would never see through to the end.
Last night, I walked into that gala night. Here I am:
None too shabby. Where’s the wheelchair? Who in the blue fuck owns all that HAIR?
It was a fabulous night, though they could have tried harder with the venue 😛
Perhaps a celebrity host would not have gone astray. Oh…
What about a night in a snazzy five star hotel, with your best friend, who came along as your plus one How about breakfast in The Rocks and a wander around the market?
Yes, it was a fabulous and heady 24 or so hours, but the biggest thing of all, of course, was that I was there. That I was there at all.
I’m not the same person who used to run around like a cut cat and still have energy to burn, before all this shit started. I’ll never be her again. The afternoon, before the night that was, Kez and I decided to wander a kilometre down George St, so I could get some stockings to wear with my dress. I stopped several times in that kilometre, I was breathless, I had no energy, buckets of sweat were pouring out of my head, I would imagine a combination of the humidity, the chemo, and some bullshit I heard about people with advanced cancer struggling to control their body temperature. I was a mess by the time we walked the kilometre back, and frustrated to boot. A 44 year old woman who can no longer walk a couple of k’s….yeah, you bet I was pissed off. But after a quick rest, and a shower, I was feeling as right as rain, and we were on our way. I met lots of people who I had known as online presences for years, I talked and schmoozed and stayed in the game until midnight, when Kez and I collapsed between the trillion thread count sheets of our lovely five star hotel.
I returned this afternoon, to my Gaz, to my children. Tired but, do you know, happy? Sometimes I feel like someone I knew really well moved out and left me with this….stranger. I don’t know this person who sleeps for several hours during the day now in the early part of her chemo cycle. I don’t know the woman who no longer has the quick brain and mixes the smallest of things up (Annie Love, darling, if you are reading this, I am sorry I kept saying “so lovely to meet you”, I do actually know you were at my Brisbane book launch and I have met you before…put it down to chemo brain…please sweetheart). But I am getting to know her, and although I will never like her, I have learned to appreciate her. The life she provides me, it’s different, in some ways it’s less, but it’s still a life, and one that is well and truly worth living. Give me ALL the drugs, and when we are done with them, find me some more. I’ll keep on taking them, keep on sleeping more than I have ever slept in my fucking life, but I will get up again, and I will apply my now slow brain to my writing ideas, then I’ll sit down and write them. Then I’ll make dinner for my children, before I hit the sack again.
In two weeks time, I will watch my daughter graduate from primary school. No wheelchair, shitloads of hair. I’ll take her to her first day of high school at the end of January too, and I was told I would NEVER have that.
If you have been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and been given a timeline, I can’t tell you that that little pearl of information will ever leave your head, it won’t. Acknowledge it, but don’t unpack and live there. It might not happen – it hasn’t for me. And, this I promise you. You will be amazed that a life, even much changed, can be very much worth living, if that’s the only choice you have.