It’s been a while since I shared my cancer diagnosis online. In the days following that post I was overwhelmed by the messages of love and support I received from friends and family across the world and have drawn strength from every comment and acknowledgement. It was both confronting and a relief to have arrived at the point where I felt strong enough to reach out to more than just a few people. 💕
A new book emerges
When I was first diagnosed and started writing it was my intention to share regular posts. But something told me to wait; a little voice within advised me not to rush to post and share. I didn’t want to live my illness online. I didn’t want to feel I had to post if I wasn’t up to it. I know my perfectionist tendencies well; if I started posting regular blogs, I’d feel bad if I missed one and I didn’t want to put additional pressure on myself. I needed to focus on getting through treatment, coping with bone-crushing exhaustion and weathering the storm.
But I kept writing as and when I could. So much so, in fact, that the words I began bashing out while sitting in Admissions at St John of God Hospital one sunny Tuesday in March took on a life of their own and seem to have turned into a book.
After my last post my plan was to start sharing a shortened version of my cancer story thus far but when I realised it had the makings of a book I held off. There was simply too much to share in blog format. I’d have to edit ruthlessly, it would lose its impact, and even then, I’d probably be posting every day for months. People would get sick of me. I had the very strong sense that the story needed to be told in a longer format.
I followed my instinct and resolved to try to bring this new book to fruition. 📚
Friends like these
I sent the first few thousand words to a friend who used to work for Breast Cancer Network Australia. She was the first person to proof-read Changing Lightbulbs, part of which, including the ending, was written in her apartment in South Yarra. Mine was a different type of cancer, but that didn’t matter.
This friend of mine is one in a million. She has been an unwavering supporter and encourager of my writing and was effusive in her praise, not just, I hope, because we love each other dearly, but also because she believed my words had the power to help other people going through similar battles. It was, she said, a story that needed to be out in the world.
‘No pressure then, Suze,’ she added, with a winking emoji and a twinkly pink love heart. 😉💖
Use your words
Four years ago, I published the book I finished in my friend’s apartment, Changing Lightbulbs, a memoir about my experience with depression and anxiety. Here is a link to the Kindle version changing lightbulbs kindle. I have absolutely no doubt that writing about it was one of things that saved my life. People said I was brave to share my story; I don’t quite see it like that. Yes, I was afraid about how people would react and terrified about being judged. But I’d already hit rock bottom after receiving terrible judgement in the workplace and told myself that surely the only way now was up. Being brave means facing your fear. But writing was also part of my fight for survival, an instinctive response to trauma rather than a calculated move. It wasn’t brave. It was a matter of life and death.
There isn’t a day that goes by without me thanking the mysterious powers that blessed me with the ability to put a few sentences together in writing, to use words and language to express the anguish within. When I found out I had cancer, turning sentences into paragraphs and paragraphs into chapters, writing it all down, was part of my battle for survival, my fight for life
The first draft of the book is now with an editor. Getting published isn’t easy but I’m determined to try and make it happen. Like Changing Lightbulbs, it will be, I hope, an uplifting read, and may even make you laugh at times, despite the serious subject matter.
Impending New York Times bestseller notwithstanding (hope, or perhaps grand delusion, springs eternal!) I’m pleased to report that I’ve had some encouraging health news lately. I have been slowly regaining strength under the spring sunshine and am feeling optimistic about the future.
I’m not sure you ever get complete closure when you’ve had cancer. There will be regular scans for years to come. This is, perhaps, as good as it gets, six months down the track. The trauma and shock of diagnosis, the fear, the exhaustion, the treatment, the despair, the glimmers of hope amidst the hellish anxiety, all that I have been through in 2021 is now firmly woven into the tapestry of my life, indelibly imprinted on my psyche, another ring on the bark. But I’ve faced my mortality once more and I’m still here.
Joy, wonder and awe
I may have lost some hair (not all of it, and not just from my head – no bikini waxing required), but cancer didn’t steal my joy. It didn’t take away my capacity for wonder and awe. If anything, it reminded me of just how beautiful life can be despite (or perhaps because of) the inevitable pain and suffering that is part of the human condition. It has helped me to refocus on what really matters, to appreciate my beautiful family, my dearest friends and the power of nature, to do the things that make my heart sing and my soul soar.
I plan to keep doing those things as often as I can in whatever time I have left on this planet. 💡🦋
Love, Sue xx
PS I’ve been writing and reflecting on other matters lately and hope to share some of those musings in my next posts. 📝
PPS A few weeks ago, on RUOK Day, I gave my first Beyond Blue presentation since February 2020, around the time a nasty little virus was taking hold of the world. It was wonderful to be back. 💙
PPPS I’m now very happily double-vaxxed 💪🏼. I hope the pace of vaccination in Australia will pick up so we can reopen, so families like mine can be reunited, so I can see my son. #vaxthenation
PPPPS Stay safe and well everyone, and I hope and pray we can see other in 2022. 🙏🏼
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