4 Year Anniversary

Exactly 4 years ago I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in the clandestine rooms of a Breast Specialist. Who would’ve thought that neatly tucked away in the belly of a hospital down the road from my house, I would receive the most harrowing news ever.  It has been a long road, never easy, sometimes complicated and very frustrating. Mostly I have tried to live every day without any regrets. I try my best to stay positive and just keep swimming with my head above the water just following the tides…

Earlier this month I explained my general anxiety that the month of April brings in terms of having to see my Oncologist etc… It’s always such an unwelcoming reminder of my state of health that still frightens me and leaves me depressed and scared.

But today I am not depressed or morose. I think after this long my wounds have healed and the festering scab has finally settled down to just an irritating scar. I used to chug along and say just one more year to next year, just one more month, just one more day etc.. I used to place so much importance on this stupid inconsequential day! I used to calculate and bargain and make compensation just to make it to the next anniversary of 25th April…

The reasoning behind this thinking is that it’s the way in which my recurrence risk is measured medically. My onco type usually recurs within the first 5 years from diagnosis. So its basically a doom and gloom countdown to 5 years… And if I make it till then I should be okay!? But this is a gamble and life is not promised to anyone. So I feel childish and immature to fool myself into thinking this way… But I suppose the banter keeps my mind occupied and the distraction is welcoming as opposed to just worrying about recurrence all the time.

I think back and try to remember how I have gotten this far and what has sustained me through another year of life and in all honesty I am certain it is my refusal to feel defeated by adversity – that is an attribute the Almighty has blessed me with! Today, 4 years after the dread and horror – I am feeling great. I am more positive than ever, I am a lot wiser and stronger and definitely healthier than I have been in a long, long time. I am able to exercise daily without getting ill. I am not exhausted all the time and the brain fog has lifted slightly. My quality of life has improved dramatically since post chemo etc… and I can see the daylight filtering through from the light at the end of my tunnel!

I am grateful and thriving!

Alhamdulillah!

Today Was Rocky

Feeling a bit off today…
Got a call early this morning from a young lady I met only last year when she was diagnosed with Stage 2 Breast Cancer. She informed me that she got sick two weeks ago and that they have rediagnosed her with Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer, her cancer has spread to her lungs…

Whew!
I was dumbfounded… I mean I never run out of things to say really…
But this morning… I had no words…
My lengthy list of curses and colourful expletives were silenced…

I am still trying to process her grief and anguish. I am utterly broken…

Stage 4 metastatic cancer is tricky and your life expectancy is shortened drastically depending on how your body reacts to treatment. I tried my best to stay positive and told her about many other Stage 4 Thrivers on Social Media and elsewhere. But my heart still feels the traitor…

I turn the mirror inwardly because I know what the nature of this disease is… that you are never really cured… it is part of your body and can return without warning and explanation at any given time…

I always get asked how I cope with this reality…
I don’t…
I don’t think about it…
I fill my head with other things… like music, books, children, family, running, praying, reading, working and creating…
So there’s really no time for the nagging insecurities lurking in my subconscious.

But on a rocky day, like today, I think about it a lot more than necessary…

Life’s a Beach

Writing about my breast cancer is a serious job and it is not always easy because in reality it becomes part of your daily truth. Your brain gets rewired during the process and you change (I have said this before… I know) sometimes in the biggest most visible ways and sometimes in the most miniscule ways that nobody notices but you. For example: I no longer smoke… anything… and I am not afraid to say everything and secretly I refuse to wear a bra!

So I have strived to be as honest and truthful in my retelling of my cancer chronicles (Side note: I am tired of saying ’Journey’ because ‘Journey’ implies I am going somewhere and where EXACTLY am I GOING???) instead of creating a false sense of reality. My writing comes from my head and heart and reflects who I am (an insane Nutter mostly) and flows outta my fingertips magically (KAK Man lol)! Writing is a natural outlet for me and if I am unable to write I feel as if I am being choked… emotionally and physically… and I don’t like being choked! I get frustrated as hell and only swear words spews from my mouth – not pretty!

So recently I have decided to up my game and do some research and read other people’s blogs! Biggest fucken Mistake! I have never been more bored, scared and depressed by my reality. Breast cancer blogs are uninteresting and hopeless! Maybe these women all got their brains rewired to being redundant… I don’t know… it’s very sad… I thought writing was supposed to help others and to inspire others – not scare the shit out of them!
So I have decided to keep on swearing and laughing at my situation because FFS I will not let this get me down – and neither should you! Its depressing and sad I know… but come on at least you are alive? Right?

I remember going to see a Psychotherapist during my treatment (notice no ‘Journey’) and she asked me if I am sad all the time… I said that I wasn’t sad at all! She was surprised when I said that I am angry and mad mostly! I needed to explain: I was angry at myself for getting this way and I was mad because I did not know how to deal with it! I felt that I was being deserted and all I wanted to do was run away from everyone and everything. She asked me where I would go… I said that I would go to Hermanus…. LOL for days! (Hows that for thinking creatively bwahahahahaha!!!)

She was really confused… But still maintained I was suffering of PTSD and offered me anti-depressants!

Point is – why so much doom and gloom? Yes, life is flippen hard and super challenging… for EVERYONE not just you! You are not alone in this gigantic universe. You do not exist in isolation… No! You form part of the many amazing things this world has to offer no matter how broken or bruised you are. So please choose to see beyond your circumstances and your problems and your sadness but rather focus on things beyond yourself and your existence! Why choose to be the source of someone’s misery and fear?

Some words of wisdom from the Streets: As jy niks mooi het om te sê nie dan hou jou bek!
Translation: If you have nothing nice to say then rather be quiet!

On a lighter note – the insanity continues! I am stuck in bed today with a tummy bug that my kids keep returning to me because I am the ONLY OFFICIAL BUM CLEANER in my house! They do not call for ‘Daddy’ and get grossed out by the idea of cleaning themselves! Both hands clenching nostrils… EEuuuuwwww!

And I am rather pissed off because I may need to take antibiotics and I will miss my hills training this evening…

PS: Doing my first 21km Race this weekend… In Shaa Allah!

How January escaped Me

Its February already… and here I am still wondering what the Hell happened to January???

Come to think of it, January was a bit messy – all over the place like spilled sugar! I felt my life veering out of control as I emerged from holiday mode and needed to settle my kids into a normal school routine as well as train myself to be a disciplined hands-on Mommy Monster. Some days I am still flummoxed by the amount of energy needed to keep up this act… But I admit once the school clothes and shoes were bought, stationery bought and labelled, books covered and labelled, bags and lunch packed and the kids were carted off to school…
I felt like less of a failure…. And more like a Conqueror! Yeah!

So I could calmly settle into the dullness of adulthood! Where the requirements bore the crap out of me. But never the less I push on… because I could Rant Like Mad about how much I Love being grown up….

I set myself many goals to achieve this year but one I am particularly more excited about than all the others. Particularly because it embraces two things I am passionate about… running and raising awareness!

I have decided to run my first Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon 21k Race… and I will be doing it for Charity! I specifically chose to do this to represent and inspire other Breast Cancer Survivors to join the cause of awareness! I feel so honoured that I will be representing the PinkDrive Organisation – they have mobile mammography and gynae clinics that service disadvantaged women all over South Africa. Drumroll…. Tadaaa!

So be warned that my social media feeds will be about fundraising, fundraising and more fundraising for the next month! I would like to donate at least R5000 towards this cause as I feel it is an important and much needed service for women, considering the cost of these services at a hospital.

I hope that R5000 is not too ambitious… My idea is that I get at least 100 people to each donate R50 to my cause! So please people do not ‘unfriend’ me rather help me out on my road to the OMTOM!

I’ll be posting links to my GivenGain page soonest… Keep your eyes peeled!

Unpolished Farewell

I am writing from my poorly lit bedroom with a breeze playing at my curtains. My youngest is happily cleaning up her rabbits mess in the yard whilst my eldest is miserably drying off the dishes and verbalising her dismay from the kitchen with ‘bolla wange’ in tow. Flicking through my social media pages and I realised that its that time of year again… due to all the FB posts … when you get a glance of ‘Your Yearly Review’… So I figured I might as well deliver mine…

I am certain that today will be the last time I write on this blog for 2016 (I actually wrote 2015 lol thank goodness for spellcheck). This year has worn me out and hacked me down to another level of tired. Somewhere between June and July the carriage veered off the scheduled route and left me abandoned in unaccustomed territory… feeling helpless and lost.

The tone was set for the rest of the year unfortunately. I have been quite solitary for the last few months – if it weren’t for my family I would have been that crazy hermit living on the outskirts of society actually… living off the grid and rejecting societal norms… My family keep me in check and literally force me to live, despite me just wanting to survive… In all honesty I feel like 2016 has culled me…purged me!

The first quarter of this year was ushered in with wonderfully positive vibes. I finally built up the courage to start working for myself. I was certain I could do it all – mom, wife, business woman – the dream of every woman in this century! I was managing wonderfully and I was certain that the rest of the year would only bless me with more luck – right? But yet I was just not convinced enough to be at ease with my blessings as my spirit kept cautioning me to look deeper than the appearance of material things.

The second quarter of this year I spent desperately trying to improve my physical form. I became really strict with my diet and exercise routine. I kept busy. I kept ahead. I kept healthy. I pushed. I pulled. I huffed and puffed. I socialised. I spoke my mind. I got involved. I stayed grounded. I challenged myself. I made promises. I dared to dream. I ran and ran and ran some more… so much that I ran out of time…

I came to a halt… My life was forever changed in the third quarter of this year… I lost my very best friend confidant and mentor… suddenly and without warning… I was raw with rage and crippled with anger. I struggled to even get through my daily routines. Grief, sadness and loneliness kept me barely alive. I felt like I had entered into a nightmarish alternate dimension because reality made no sense. The rest of the months remains a blur…

And now I find myself here in December 2016… with my kids on holiday and the festive season on my doorstep… and I realise that 2016 has come to an end. And with every year ending I feel the natural tendency to reflect and think about the lessons I have learnt, if not the heartache I have endured…

I have come full circle and realise that I am a Mind, Body, Soul person. Something I have tried to downplay because in all practicality there is no room for arty farty hippie horseshit! But guess what… that is ME and I will embrace it! So Yes! There will be many meditative walks (and runs), yoga and tree hugging followed by star gazing and soul searching whilst immersing myself in nature for the last few days of 2016.

For me 2016 has been the year of Wanting Perfection…but choosing Courage Over Everything! I look forward to greeting 2017 with wonder and appreciation as I walk into another year of undiscovered blessings for which I am eternally grateful!

Tamoxifen Anniversary

It’s my Tamoxifen Anniversary Month!

FOUR YEARS!

I KNOW… I can’t believe it either… IT’S IMPRESSIVE!

I MADE PEACE WITH IT!

I started taking Tamoxifen on 6 November 2012. It has been a rollercoaster of unexpected revelations filled with ups and downs and twists and mind boggling curves…. But guess what…

I AM ALIVE!

In all honesty I can say that it gets better, easier, manageable. The side effects lessen somewhat or you just get used to it. In my case I think that I just got used to feeling this way as its been so long that I don’t remember what I felt like BC (Before Cancer).

Yesterday I took a moment to look my body over and was alarmed to notice that I still look and weigh EXACTLY THE SAME AS I DID AFTER Chemo…. What this translates to is… an extra 12 kilograms!!! And I have not lost even a milligram of weight despite having trained consistently ALL YEAR!

Now don’t feel dismayed or get discouraged! I am absolutely elated at my progress. I am super proud that Since January 2016 up until yesterday I have managed to run a total of 675kms!!!

Despite the fatigue, the pain, the anger, the depression, the bone aches, the muscle spasms, the general unwell feeling, the brain fog, the insomnia, the judgement and the FEAR…

I BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW THAT!

That’s right FEAR – I remember how afraid I was of starting to exercise once I was done with chemo… And I am still afraid of exercising! I am afraid of running! It challenges me on so many levels to push my mind and body to the point beyond fear… and it’s scary! I never know if I will survive the onslaught LOL!

It was not easy, I did not just decide to start exercising and do it… Oh no! It takes courage! It takes Balls! It takes a fighting spirit! ASK ANYONE ON Tamoxifen or Post Chemo… I progressed gently from home workouts to Yoga and rebounding in early 2013, then Functional training and bootcamp till 2014 and then in 2015 I did Cross training until I felt brave enough to start running super slowly.

What I have learnt over these four years on this medication is that my ability to recover from intense workouts has diminished quite drastically. My levels of pain post training is quite intense as well. I just generally pray for calmness and hope that it will pass! I try not to rely on pain medication unless I really need it – when my arms or legs swell up and I can’t touch them…

BUT…. After I had a workout I feel amazing! I feel like I have achieved EVERYTHING and that makes me feel happy and a whole lot more human! And Yes I still hobble in the morning (unable to stand on my feet) my arms and legs still ache, my hips hurt, my armpits are on fire and the back pain is still there – Nothings Changed – Except My Mind!

I no longer feel that I can’t do it…

I BELIEVE AND KNOW THAT I CAN!

PS: I must admit that even though I am still overweight, I am a whole lot less jiggly!

Cancer Survivors Summit

I had the most profound experience over the past weekend. I was lucky enough to attend the first ever Cancer Survivors Summit that was held at His People Church in N1 City in Cape Town. It was absolutely amazing and completely relevant and much much needed. I applaud the amazing Linda Greef from Cancercare and People Living with Cancer for this significant milestone.

It was the first time I was basically surrounded by so many Cancer Patients / Survivors at any given time. I must admit that I felt euphoric and overwhelmed because I never thought that such an event would ever happen here in South Africa. Throughout my cancer journey I really struggled with loneliness and searched and scoured the internet looking for events like this anywhere on our continent of Africa – and there was none! I feel that the more events there are like this, the less people will agonize about their health. It provides hope and positive support that is much needed to help patients and survivors cope with their circumstances.

I had the pleasure of meeting Conn Bertish from Cancer Dojo (and even got a hug) who is designing an app to help cancer patients deal with their emotions by using creativity. As a cancer survivor himself, he believes in a science called psychoneuroimmunology, which basically states that your state of mind can determine your health and help with your healing. So you speak to your cancer, and imagine it, you play with it, you laugh at it and in turn you feel positive and your immune system functions better and helps your body fight your cancer. Amazing! His project is exciting and innovative. I can’t wait for his app to be launched and wish him the very best with his venture!

The only part of the event I did not enjoy was the Doctors who presented in the opening talks. From a cancer patients perspective I felt their cold and clinical medical jargon a bit condescending and sometimes a bit self-indulgent… I don’t care to hear about how I am at higher risk of getting a secondary cancer just because I have survived a primary cancer… I also don’t care much to hear that alternative or natural supplementation is nothing but a hoax… I feel that these speakers dampened the lively spirit and intention of the event… which primarily was to foster hope and provide support!

On a lighter note I left the event feeling relieved and hopeful and invigorated, but mostly I am inspired! Thank You I am so grateful for this experience!

I have come to this conclusion: When you face your own mortality, one of two things happen… You either get so scared that you STOP living OR you find SUCH purpose that you START LIVING!