I’m still standing!

Hi everyone. How are you all? I know it’s been a while but I just wanted to stop by and let you know that, contrary to medical expectations, I’m still alive! I’m not on this site much any more because my life is now very much focused on permaculture and my other blog that lives here:

Smarter than Crows

So how is life after triple negative breast cancer? Well, it’s actually a lot like life before triple negative breast cancer, and yet somehow just slightly better.

I can remember being at a function a few years back when we were seated with strangers. My husband commented that we were celebrating four years since my diagnosis and the man opposite him said, “After a while that stops being a thing.” He told us his wife was also a long time survivor but that they no longer paid much attention to how many years had passed. It was a bit of a shock at the time. Cancer had loomed large in our lives for so long that any alternative seemed unlikely. He was right. After a while it does stop being a thing. But for me it’s still there in the background and an important part of who I am.

Looking back I’m humbled by all the amazing support I received. I know it’s a cliche but you really do find out who your friends are (and who they aren’t!). I’m also just a bit proud that I used the whole experience as an opportunity to grow a better version of me, and to help other people going through the same thing. It’s heartening that six years on the blog still draws a fair amount of traffic and the sales of the book, Free From Fear, Living Well After Cancer are steady, even though I do zero in terms of promotion.

Anniversaries are a useful point of reflection. My daily yoga practice has slipped but I still attend my weekly class. Time to recommit to daily practice. I’m eating much less meat and a lot more vegetables, and I have also increased my intake of seeds, nuts and as many different kinds of mushrooms as I can find. I make my own sourdough and ferment water kefir and apple scrap vinegar. The garden overflows with organic food and provides about 80% of our vegetables and a good portion of our fruit.

I still drink more alcohol than I should but the counter to that is that I’m not on any pharmaceuticals for pain. When I look at the side effects of any of the medications they offered me, good quality organic wine seems like a better option. I’m now exploring medicinal cannabis as an even better alternative but sadly, it continues to be illegal in Australia. I was fasting twice a week and that has dropped off too. Time to lift my game. It’s so easy to fall back into old patterns!

Although I purchased foobs (prosthetic breast forms) I don’t wear them. They are heavy and if the bilateral mastectomy had any benefits at all it was that losing my F cup breasts meant not having to wear a bra. I still miss my nipples and replay that moment when my surgeon asked me if I wanted to keep them, explaining that the two surgeries on my left breast meant saving the nipple on that side would put it in an awkward position. I wish someone (my surgeon?) had explained to me that saved nipples would still have sensation once they healed. Intimacy without nipples is, for me, a bit like intimacy with my eyes closed. It’s still beautiful, of course, but there’s something missing.

My marriage survived breast cancer. I am deeply grateful. So many don’t. My husband has returned to pretty much the same pattern that existed before the cancer. There’s a part of me that misses his tenderness and the way he was with me when he thought that he might lose me, and a bigger part of me that hopes to never put him in that position again. We are a good team, close friends, and happy to have the opportunity to grow old together. He prefers not to talk about sex so we don’t. We are still loving and affectionate but rarely passionate. He’s over 60 and I’m close to it. I suppose this is just part of growing older but it still makes me just a little sad.

My daughter and her husband celebrated their first anniversary this month. What a joy to have been at their wedding! They are now in the early stages of thinking about children and the possibility that I may live to meet them is now very real. This is my greatest source of happiness. Like all young couples they struggle to figure out the balance between careers and family life. They talk of moving back here if and when a baby arrives. I am beyond excited at the prospect of being able to support them during those early years when most other cultures recognise the huge benefits of having extended family near by.

There are still times when it all comes flooding back. There are still times when I feel like I did that cool, bending over backwards thing that Keanau Reeves does in The Matrix. The bullet should have hit me and somehow I seem to have bent time and space to avoid it. Or something else did. Either way I am grateful.

I have friends with cancer, and friends with other serious health issues. It’s their turn now. I do what I can to help. I spent today with a friend in her 80’s hearing her talk about her battles with incontinence; “Humiliation is the price we pay for longevity,” she said. True enough. I’ll take it over early death though. Any day.

 

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