Curve balls and short straws
On any ordinary day you go to your GP because of something you’ve noticed in your body, something that you think, you desperately hope, is nothing to be alarmed about. But it’s been there for a while and you finally decide to have it checked out. Your GP takes one look at the thing you thought was no cause for alarm and your world turns upside down. Upside down and back to front.
It’s hard to get an appointment, my GP tells me as he picks up the phone to call a specialist surgeon. His tone is insistent as he explains he has a patient who needs to be seen urgently. The receptionist obliges with an appointment the next day.
In the surgeon’s rooms, less than 24 hours later, my world continues to spiral. My GP’s suspicions were correct; the diagnosis is confirmed. Two weeks later I’ve had scans and surgery and biopsies, and a treatment plan is in place. I’m dealing with the biggest curve ball I’ve ever been thrown, the shortest straw I’ve ever drawn.
According to the Cancer Council, an average of 33 West Australians are diagnosed with cancer every day. On 17 March 2021, St Patrick’s Day, I was one of them.
Cancer in the time of COVID
Writing has been one of my coping mechanisms, one of the ways I’ve been able to get through these past months. When I can’t speak, when I don’t want to see anyone, or answer questions, or explain and justify myself, when I need to be on my own and shut out the world, I always have writing. I write what I cannot say. It is so very cathartic.
I thought I’d had my mid-life crisis seven years ago when I started writing as a way of healing from a deep depression, to help me articulate unspoken pain and claw my way out of the darkness and back to the light. Turns out there was another curve ball, a second short straw, waiting in the wings.
And so, in 2021 I have been writing my way through this new health challenge at a time when the world has been brought to its knees by a brutal pandemic. COVID 19 aside, depression and cancer are the diseases of our times. I don’t know anyone whose life hasn’t been impacted by at least one of them. I’m also pretty sure that if you are going to have cancer in the time of COVID Western Australia is one of the best places on the planet to live.
Gratitude for life
Anyone who has ever had cancer will know that there are months and years of checks and scans ahead, so I don’t know the end of this story yet. But I am here, I am alive, I am as well as I can be and doing my very best with the cards I’ve been dealt. I have so much to be grateful for.
I don’t use the word ‘grateful’ lightly. Being diagnosed with cancer was one of the hardest things I’ve ever faced but it has also given me a deep and visceral gratitude for life, deeper, perhaps, than I’ve ever experienced before. I have, once again, found strength I didn’t know I had with the help, support and endless love of my family and friends, and the expert care of a wonderful oncology team. I have nothing but the greatest respect and admiration for medical science, for the surgeons and doctors and nurses and radiologists and all the ancillary staff who go to work each day for the good of humanity, to give cancer patients like me every chance to be well again.
I won’t go into any specifics now but I plan to post more reflections on this unexpected chapter in my life over the coming weeks. I would love it if you took my hand and walked by my side.
In the meantime, if you find something in your body that doesn’t feel right, don’t delay. Pick up the phone and make an appointment with your GP. It might just save your life.
Sue 💡🦋 xx
PS The Beyond Blue campaign I was involved with launched in May and has raised close to $700,000 to keep the life-saving Support Service open 24/7, a record for this type of appeal. 😄
PPS I hope that wherever you are in the world you and yours are safe and well and coping as best you can in these trying times. ❤️
PPPS Getting my second Pfizer jab this Thursday. Yay! 💪🏼
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