So Long For Now

Please don’t panic. I’m fine.

I’ve been playing with the idea of giving up blogging for about a month now. My treatments is over. I’ve said just about everything I want to say regarding living well after treatment.

Thanks to The Fast Diet I’ve lost 14 kilos and I’m now a very healthy weight. I’m also enjoying all of the health benefits that come with fasting including, hopefully, the promotion of ‘autophagy’ (the process whereby my body cleans up dead and damaged cells) and lowering my insulin type growth factor.

I’m attending two (sometimes three) yoga classes a week and I’m practicing yoga on my own at home on most days. I’ve now got that long, lean look that I so admired in all the pretzel girls when I first started class around five years ago.

I’ve campaigned for the legalisation of medical cannabis, shared my internal and external landscape with people I will never meet and tried to catalogue everything I’ve learned along the way.

I’ve read and re-read Russ Harris’s books on ACT and I have found strength and clarity by practicing what he teaches. I am clear about my values and each day I commit to living my life in a way that’s consistent with them.

I think I’m done.

Cancer has made me a different person. Most of the changes are good. Oh sure, I could have done without the peripheral neuropathy, the ongoing bone pain and the loss of my breasts, but I have so much to be grateful for.

My marriage is stronger. My husband exceeded my expectations and my hopes in so many ways. I know that like all couples we will still find ways to annoy each other from time to time, but I will never forget how supportive he’s been. He’s earned a lifetime supply of brownie points.

My relationship with my daughter has evolved to one of mutual respect. She’s always been wise beyond her years but coming face to face with my mortality, and her own, has pushed her into adulthood. She seems much stronger and more certain of who she is and what she wants to do with her life. I am grateful that she still seeks my opinion and impressed when she chooses not to give it more weight than her own.

My Mum has found a hundred ways to let me know she loves me, and a hundred more to avoid talking about me dying before her. She’ll be 80 this year. We’re going to have a party.

I’ve lost some friends and made some friends and deepened many of my existing friendships. I now know that it’s our relationships with other people that really gives substance to our lives. I have also surprised myself by being peaceful about those people that stepped back instead of stepping up. They made room for others.

I have sat holding hands with death and I have whispered ‘not yet’. I have experienced the deep wisdom that comes with the knowledge that I will die, that everyone will die and that none of us can really know when that will be. The only other event in my life that has had this much impact on me was giving birth to my daughter. Birth and death change all of us. The only way to know this is to turn and face them.

Cancer has made me softer, kinder, calmer. I am less cynical, less aggressive, less angry. Cancer has taught me humility. I am a tiny drop in a vast ocean and when I die I will be remembered by the relatively small collection of people whose lives I touched. I hold my opinions more lightly now. So much has been turned on its head.

I have a new joy in the everyday. I am grateful for simple things. Water that comes out of a tap, birds in the garden, new spinach growing from seeds dropped by a dying plant last year. Every day I notice the sun on my skin and the way the wind invites me to dance.

I am happier than I have ever been.

I have found blogging incredibly beneficial through all of this. I have discovered that the best way to sort my thinking is to write, and that even when treatment had broken me, I could still help others by writing about what I was experiencing. Some of my bleakest days have been lifted by the comments people left on this site. Best of all were the people that wrote “You’ve put into words exactly how I’ve been feeling”. The most moving comment came from a beautiful young woman whose mother died of breast cancer. She wrote to tell me that reading my blog had finally helped her to understand what her mother had been through, and why she hadn’t wanted to talk to her about it.

I have never paid to promote this site. I didn’t start this blog to become famous, to launch a book or an ap or a brand. It’s just been a great way to keep my head in the game and to help others while I did so. I have been surprised at how popular it’s become and grateful to everyone that’s found it worth reading.

I think I’ve run out of things to say.

I know that there’s now a five year countdown until I’m in the clear, but other than checking in to let you all know I’m still breathing, there’s not much else to write about. I might start another blog somewhere for all my occasional random musings about life, the universe and everything. I might not. We will see.

You see, the thing about writing is that it can take you away from mindfulness. You see or hear something and you think “I must remember to put that in my next blog post”. I find myself sometimes being once removed from my life, waiting for inspiration, watching for anecdotes. I sometimes realise I’ve been writing in my head when I could have been listening to someone I love, or paying attention to what’s right in front of me.

As regular followers will know, I’m not a fan of ‘The Secret’ or any philosophy that tries to convince people that they make their own reality with their thoughts. Oh sure, you’ve got a lot of control over how you choose to interpret things but the notion that you can think yourself sick or well just doesn’t hold water for me. If positive thinking cured cancer then mine wouldn’t have lasted a week. It certainly wouldn’t have come back again. I hope this blog proves that.

But there is something to be said for moving away from ‘cancer patient’ or ‘cancer warrior’ or ‘cancer victim’ as a major part of my identity. I’m pragmatic. I know that the cancer might come back and if it does I’ll come back here and write about it. I hope I never have to.

It’s time for me to embrace the ordinary. I’m never going to be the person I was before I had cancer but I would like to be a whole person again, with all the ordinary, mundane things that we all deal with when we’re not fighting a potentially terminal illness. It’s someone else’s turn to bask in all the love that comes your way when you are diagnosed with cancer. I’ll certainly be paying it forward.

If you’d like to keep in touch then I have a Facebook page here:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Positive3negative/548288675239161

I use it to keep friends, extended family and anyone whose interested updated on my regular check ups. I post any news about new research into triple negative breast cancer and share what I hope are inspirational ideas. Every Sunday I post seven things that I am grateful for that week.

Thank you to all of you. Whether you’ve been here from the start or not, whether you’ve commented or not, whether you’ve also had cancer or not. Thank you. You kindness and encouragement has kept me writing when I felt like stopping. It’s been quite a ride.

Love and good health to all of you. May you know the deep joy of a grateful life.

Meg

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Alternative Therapies

I’ve had a few questions about alternative therapies during my treatment, and a few people insisting that I was crazy for trusting mainstream medicine. I decided to go with something that was evidence-based and with measurable results. Yes, there’s no guaranteed cure for cancer but mainstream medicine still provides you with your best possible chance of beating it.

When it comes to alternative therapies, I’ll now be sending people a copy of this excellent article:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/03/what-do-doctors-say-to-alternative-therapists-when-a-patient-dies-nothing-we-never-talk?CMP=soc_567

Such a worthwhile read. Please take the time.

Here’s the last few paragraphs just to give you a taste:

The community practitioners who are best at checking in with oncologists are physiotherapists, palliative care nurses and general practitioners. They seem to have no qualms about sharing doubt, seeking advice and negotiating compromise.

But the point of many alternative therapies seems to be in their secret powers of healing. I know it’s often said but I honestly don’t consider arrogance a good explanation for why oncologists and alternative practitioners don’t talk. I would, however, say that dismay and distrust feature heavily. As does the troubling realisation that a doctor can face reprimand for inadvertent error but an alternative practitioner can get away with intentional harm.

This is not a reason to excuse the former but to regulate the latter. Perhaps this would make it easier to follow the advice that doctors need to familiarise themselves with the various forms of complementary and alternative medicines. It is conceivable that some worthwhile measures are tainted by the same brush as a lot of fraudulent ones.

Health literacy moves at a very slow pace. The alternative health industry, worth many billions of dollars, marches briskly. It will always attract unguarded patients who will cling to the faintest promise of recovery without associated harm. Whenever money changes hands and the premise sounds too good to be true, the motto remains: Caveat Emptor.

Indeed. Caveat Emptor is latin for ‘buyer beware’, in other words, the onus is on the individual to do their own checks into the legitimacy of any alternative treatment (and any mainstream treatment for that matter).

Unfortunately the internet is full of people happy to take your money or denigrate medical professionals.

I’ve said it before; I wish everyone giving out specific medical advice was held to the same standard of accountability as doctors.