Today marks 8 years of remission from cancer. I still need to have my annual CT scan and bloods done tomorrow, but I saw my doctors last week and they were happy with things. There have been a lot of bumps along the way, and some pretty big health scares but on these days I am reminded again what a privilege it is to be alive. To be given the opportunity to live life to its fullest. Because it really is a gift and privilege. And so today I celebrate being alive, healthy and cancer free.
It’s been a while since I have written. And I was reminded by a friend of mine last week to write about the good too and also to share this part of my life. And lots has happened in the last few months that is good.
May marked a year since I nearly died. A whole year. And all in all it’s been a healthy year. One in which I feel like I have got back to basics. I have focused on getting my body healthy, but also while doing it in a measured and moderate way by listening to my body, something which does not come naturally to me at all! I did the Fitmom weekend retreat which was awesome, and I completed the 2 Oceans half marathon and loved every step I took. I committed to doing it in August last year at my resilience retreat and when I managed to get an entry I took it as my sign that I really had to do it. It took me nearly 6 months to train for it. And in many ways it was a complete re-jig of how I had approached most other challenges in my life. I ran a lot before my Lymphoedema and always enjoyed it (but was very competitive with myself). But after cancer and Lymphoedema it has become extra difficult for me to run because of the extra 6 kilograms I carry in my one leg and the challenges that come with this. Before when I used to run it was about pushing my body as hard as possible, running faster, and always having a very specific time goal to try and beat. And this time I did it totally differently. I did it listening to my body, walking when I needed to, running super slowly, and all in all doing it to enjoy it rather than to try and achieve some massive physical feat (although completing the race felt like a big physical feat anyway to be honest!). But every time I ran this required me to remind myself of this new commitment to myself, to push against my natural inclination to be super competitive, to push as hard as I can and to achieve what I needed to, no matter the toll it took on me.
James, Murray and I also had a really lovely family holiday at Umngazi. This is a very special place for us and we just had the best time. It was the first holiday I can remember going on in the last 3.5 years where there hasn’t been something hanging over us. Either it was that we had booked the holiday expecting either Bella or Thomas to be with us, and then they weren’t. Or I was waiting to see if some fertility treatment had worked or not, or dealing with the disappointment of it not having worked. Or my body/mind was pretty broken and I couldn’t function properly. Maybe I am also finally at the place where I have accepted that our family of 3 is enough and have stopped pursuing that which is out of my reach. And this allowed me to fully commit to just being “us”.
And then this last weekend I went back to DSG in Grahamstown for my 20 year school reunion. I got to spend the whole weekend with some remarkable women some who I have known for 35 years! It was also so wonderful to reconnect with our male peers from St Andrews who also played such a pivotal role in our lives. I was reminded again of the true privilege my dad afforded me by sending me to this world class school, and the lifelong friendships I have made. A true gift and sacrifice in every sense of the word. DSG shaped who I am today. I came home exhausted with a heart overflowing with love, a sore tummy from laughing so much, aching legs from dancing until 3am, sore eyes from crying (good crying), a full memory bank of new treasured memories and a renewed realization of the privilege of our childhood friendships. I was filled with such gratitude to have got to do life with these remarkable human beings, the family I have chosen for myself.
At the chapel service on Sunday morning where we remembered the 3 girls in our class who had died, we also sang the school hymn, “For All The Saints”. This was one of the 2 hymns we chose to sing at Bella’s funeral. I was barely able to join in at all because the emotion was so much, I was filled with such extreme sadness that my daughter would never know the privileged of attending a school like DSG and of making such incredible friendships. Another reminder of the loss of every thing that should have been.
But all in all I am in a good space. I still have moments of huge, deep sadness, often which envelop me when I least expect it. But I feel like I am rebuilding myself around the loss I have suffered, as this saying below says. I will be whole again but I will never be the same again. Nor should I be the same, nor would I want to. There is no back to the “old me”. I am different now. Full Stop. This is not a wholly negative thing. Healing from trauma can also mean finding new strength and joy. The goal of healing is not a papering-over of changes in an effort to preserve or present things as normal. It is to acknowledge and wear your new life – warts, wisdom and all – with courage.