Monday, 9 September 2013

Free but not free

Free. Cured. Better. Gone.

But not really gone. Though physically no longer there, still always there. Like a rock thrown into a pond once below the surface can no longer be seen but has changed the foundation of the pond forever.

Phrases like “So brave.” “So proud.” “So amazing.” Are often heard uttered but I can never quiet see why. I didn’t actually do anything. I am most certainly not the one who deserves the credit. It sometimes even feels like I was not even there myself but was looking on to someone else’s life. But I guess at such a young age the affect was harder on others than it was on me.

“You have cancer… cancer… cancer… cancer” I could imagine the word echoed around my parents heads. Meanwhile I just kept trying to watch the TV that was playing over his shoulder. Come on man Sylvester is trying to get Tweetie and I am trying to see what is going to happen. He prattled on about the drugs and the surgery and the side effects and I watched as Sylvester failed with a ladder and then failed tightrope walking across the clothes line. Then the screen went black.

“You’re not even listening,” said Dad.

“I was so they need to give me drugs and I’ll be sick and then more operations,” I replied.

“Your hair will probably fall out as well,” the doctor continued. Those were the first words to hit home. It was just getting past my shoulders. I’d always had trouble growing it. People thought I was a boy at the age of 2 because I had no hair. To the point mum even sticky taped a bow to my head.

“All of it?” I asked.

“It affects everyone differently. But most of the time it would be all of it.”

Fall out it did. Most of it until all that was left was some horrendous straw looking stray bits that we ended up shaving off. Then I was GI Jane. My favourite new phrase was “Draw a line down the middle of my head so it looks like a butt.” Yes Cool Running’s was one of my favourite movies at the time.

Numerous rounds of chemo and surgery later and they gave me the all clear. I had 6 monthly check-ups, then they became annual and then bi-annual and then at the 10 year mark they said well-done we don’t need to see you again.

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about it so it’s never really gone. Each morning before the shower I look at the surgical scars and wonder how much better I would look without them. Would my belly protrude as much had it not been sliced open so many times. Would I have tried working out to produce some abs that I now I will never be able to achieve with muscles cut through as many times as mine had been.

To this day it still affects my career. From the age of 9 I was determined to join the Navy. I studied hard, I joined Navy Cadets, I lived and breathed boating and weapons. I knew everything there was to know about ranks and ships and bases and any information I could get my hands on I did. My school career councillor spent a mere 5 minutes with me as I told her that my application was already in process and that I would be attending ADFA the next year and that was that. Upon leaving school and continuing the application process I received that letter that crushed my lifelong hopes and dreams. The letter told me that I was deemed to be medically unfit to join the defence force. I got everything together medical records, recommendations from my commanding officer all the cadet information and qualifications I had and sent through an appeal almost the size of a novel. This was returned with another letter telling me that they had reviewed my appeal but it was a “Defence Force Policy” that people with cancer could not join. Think it might be nice to put that on their recruiting information. The Navy needs you- but not if you have had cancer.

I then made my way to my fall back dream and struggled my way through with that as well. My second dream was to be a performer and still is but so often does a role require a bikini or a midriff or something else that will show of the wonderful array of surgical scars that I have. Many a look at the belly improportionate to the rest of my figure and walking away from an audition knowing that the role will go to a thinner looking person. Gave a crack at modelling but without getting my belly out the jobs were few and far between.

So failing my first two career options I dove into and endless cycle of hospitality and retail not really knowing what on earth I wanted to do with my life. I often think of calling those that would understand and went through the treatment with me the people I met at the hospital and then I remember that Heaven doesn’t have a phone. Then realise that my relationship forming problems come from the fact that it was too often I would make a friend only to have to say goodbye.

The final problem that I still face almost two decades after my diagnosis is babies. Can I have one? No-one knows and they won’t go poking around until I have started trying. Being not far of 30 means a normal woman’s chances have decreased but a one ovaried chemotherapy ridden ones chances have probably decreased much more. I say I will cross that bridge when I come to it but sometimes I can’t help but wonder.

Ten years after my initial defence force rejection I decided to give it another go. But once again was sent a letter telling me that I was medically unfit.

Even after so many years of being cured and the cancer gone it is still leaving its affects.

I am walking 60kms in a few months to raise money for women’s cancers so women like myself can receive the treatment and support they need. I have a very long way to go and the support has been very sporadic. I understand there are a lot of charities and a lot asking for donations but I thought perhaps that people who were there with me through it all and those who know that it will always be a part of which I am might help a little. Not always money but a little time with an event or a training walk or anything that they can verbal encouragement.

But after all this morbidness I am quite content with the life I have and more than appreciate the chance that I have been given to continue life when so many others are not granted that opportunity. I am generally a positive person but just wanted to point out that some things are with you forever.

(To my friends and family please do not be concerned I am fine and I am happy these are just thoughts to paper.)

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