Life is Not a Race to be First Finished

I never realised when I started this blogging thing 2007 where it would lead. I called it Life is Not a Race to be First Finished cos kids in my class always seemed to be in a rush to be first wherever they went and it annoyed me. It went against my philosophy of ‘together we will get there bringing everyone with us’.

On this day, 31 January, in 2016 the title of this blog came into perspective and my life changed. Life was not indeed a race to be first finished.

I was working in Blenheim that day and saw that I had had four missed calls from a hidden caller ID. Alarm bells rang when eventually they got through. It was Nelson Anniversary Monday and they had rung me and asked for an urgent call back from my regular mammogram.

I cried in the car all the way home as fear set in. I had to pull over a couple of times as it got too much to bare. My sister had passed away from breast cancer sixteen years ago and her journey is always with me. It couldn’t be happening again could it???

What followed was further mammograms, MRI, biopsies, scans and specialist visits. There was talk of a double mastectomy and poisoned lymph nodes and long words that had little meaning. I tried to be strong but there was lots of tears especially telling the ones that I love most.

I had the mastectomy on March 16 followed by six cycles of aggressive chemotherapy here in Nelson, and then five weeks of daily radiation in Christchurch. My family and friends both in Nelson and scattered about New Zealand and the world helped me get to where I am now and I am indebted to them- their support, their love and sometimes just silence as I cried with pain and fear at what was happening to me.

Through all this there are a number of things that I am most grateful for…

  • my family, in particular Danny and Amy, who left their work and lives and came to be with me when I needed them most
  • my Nelson friends who came to visit with companionship, food and lawn mowing!
  • my scattered kiwi friends who supported me with moral support and driving when I needed it
  • my work friends who kept an eye on me from afar and gave me the support I needed.

I am thankful for…

  • not living in Syria and being displaced. I have my own place to live in that I know is safe
  • Nelson surgeons, oncology doctors and nurses- who can help me find laughter when sometimes it is burrowed deep
  • being able to work virtually with schools so I still got paid when I was having radiation in Christchurch
  • access to Daffodil House in Christchurch- I stayed there for free for the five weeks- it is wonderful- your donations are being well spent and are much needed
  • access to modern medicines- I am still on Herceptin- which costs quizillion dollars but is government funded
  • still being alive one year later- there were times that that wasn’t guaranteed and I was scared.

365 days later and things are OK. I have had a bone scan and MRI and they can’t see any more tumours. I am having some trouble in believing that I might have survived it and I suppose only time will tell but in the meantime….

‘My best medicine is to try and live without fear, have fun, live a balanced life, have check ups and just get on with it.’

My big message is have regular mammograms as without it it never would have been picked up- even the breast surgeon couldn’t feel a lump and it was 5cm big. And try and get what you need and enjoy every single day as you don’t know when it might all disintegrate. Life is not a race to be first finished.