It is not even a year since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, yet it is starting to feel like a distant dream. Almost surreal. Did that really happen to me? Did I really just go through that? Pumped with poison and zapped with radio waves? Did I really lose all my hair?
Whilst cancer has moved way down my list of daily preoccupations, this weekend I was reminded how significant this chapter of my life has been. And just how lucky I am.
Mum, Paul and I attended the “Field of Women” event, organised by the Breast Cancer Network Australia to raise awareness of and funds for breast cancer. Fifteen thousand people descended on the hallowed ground at the MCG* to form the shape of the BCNA symbol, the pink lady. This represents the number of women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer every year. 15,000 every year!
I wasn’t quite prepared for the cocktail of emotions I would feel. There was excitement at being on the MCG. A sense of solidarity with thousands in their pink ponchos, the iconic colour that now represents breast cancer.
Yet tears poured down my face and my heart broke at the sad stories shared and the images of those not so lucky in their battle with cancer.
At one point the women who had been diagnosed with cancer were asked to raise their hands. Within my immediate peripheral vision, mine was the only hand raised. Despite being surrounded by support, I didn’t expect in that moment to feel so alone. No matter how much support I had, this battle was my own and no-one could fight it for me.
But most importantly this event reminded me yet again how fortunate I am. Fortunate that I have the opportunity to put this chapter behind me. That I have the luxury of losing my perspective all over again.
Sometimes I forget that I am still going through treatment. The only reminder, my three weekly visit to the chemo day unit for an intravenous infusion of Herceptin. I usually feel annoyed and inconvenienced by these treatments.
In part this is because I don’t feel like I am sick so there’s no physical evidence to remind me that I need treatment. Like having to finish antibiotics long after your symptoms have eased. And in part I don’t want to be reminded of going through chemo. I want to put it behind me and get on with living.
But at the event I was reminded how lucky I am to be receiving Herceptin at zero cost. As little as 10 years ago this drug cost $60,000 and was completely out of reach. I am so grateful that this is now funded by the Government, thanks to lobbying by the BCNA.
So whilst at times I am guilty of losing perspective, in some ways this is a sign that life really is moving on. Which can only be a good thing.
*Melbourne Cricket Ground