What if I am cured?

The water tower. My goal. My nemesis.

I moved apartments as treatment began; to one with a lift, a second bedroom for carers and big windows for my sanity during the long winter days of sickness.

Soon after moving in, Suzanne introduced me to the water tower. Exactly one kilometre away and, naturally, one kilometre back home. A seemingly perfect loop for daily walks to keep me strong during chemotherapy but, as I clung to Suzanne’s arm on that first walk there, I was overwhelmed, it was so beyond me, and the loop took us an excruciating eternity.

The water tower has been a yardstick of my strength, some days I tottered there relatively comfortably, there were days where I had to stop and rest and many days it was beyond me. I’ve struggled by myself, I’ve limped; leaning on someone to keep me upright and I’ve powered there, feeling my muscles propel me efficiently.

The water tower sits in a local park with a cornfield on one side. The park has a playground, outdoor sports facilities, boules, and a small pond with a frog water feature; real frogs croaking in the mud and a comfortable reclining chair on the edge. It’s become my routine to walk around the water tower and back to this chair to rest. 

I sit there and take stock of where I am, make plans, weep, observe my corner of the world, smile at the dogs and their humans and listen to the frogs and try to think of nothing.

I sat there last week after a visit to my oncologist to begin hormone therapy. I had naively thought that the heavy stuff was behind me after I finished active treatment, but now I’m not so sure. You always hear about five year survival rates and, let’s face it, when you’re 40, that is way too bloody short a time frame to look forward to, so it was even more crushing to discuss getting through the next two years without a recurrence. That’s my oncologist’s goal and why she’s hitting me with the hard stuff. Pushing me into menopause in spite of the trauma it will put my body through.

If I thought cancer was scary, recurrence is petrifying. I spent the day stressing and crying and freaking out, but finally calmed down as I sat by the pond listening to the frogs and asked myself, what would I do differently? If I knew that I was likely to die from this disease and if it was likely to happen sooner rather than later, what would I do differently? Number one on that list was to stop crying so much. What’s the point in being here if I’m going to be so scared and depressed all the time?

Number two was to get myself as healthy as possible. I want to walk through this world as ably as I can and I want to be strong enough to face whatever comes my way.

As I came to terms with this, I then had a second epiphany. Someone asked, why do we always assume the worst with our what ifs? What if treatment was successful and we have long, healthy lives ahead of us?

My mind was blown.

What if I am cured?

What if it never comes back?

My outlook has done a backflip. I think I’m finally coming out of my depression, oh I still cry and feel bleak most days, but depression’s grip is starting to loosen a little.

And it has been a great week, my new bras with padded inserts arrived, I put one on and walked upright for the first time in four months, amazed at how my whole body changed. I knew my posture had deteriorated, but I had blamed it on surgery and been determined to get comfortable with being flat on one side, to not disguise my uneven body, but I hadn’t realised how much my self consciousness was affecting me. Then, even more brilliant, after two days I took the padding out, more comfortable flat! I’m starting to define who I am in my changed body, I don’t have to disguise it and I don’t have to be a loud and proud flattie, I can mix and match and that is liberating.

I went swimming again, I wore a different bathing suit, a rashie which is t-shirt style with no seams to irritate my tender underarm, it bubbled up on my back, and felt like I was swimming in a sack, but without the discomfort, I dropped into my meditation of chasing the black line, it was heavenly. I stopped before I was ready to as I didn’t want to overdo it, but I can feel it coming back to me and it is beautiful. 

I did pilates with my soothing instructor, my application for rehabilitation was rejected and I didn’t fall apart, a thoughtless woman told me that I was likely to develop breast cancer in my remaining breast and I did fall apart, I went to a session at the hospital where I started making my own plans for managing my recovery, I packed my bags for a few days in Stockholm.

And I walked every day, to the water tower and beyond the water tower, down to river, a whole new world waiting for me to stretch my legs and explore.

Distance swum since last post: 0.5km
Distance swum to date: 0.8km
Distance to go: 199.2km

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