Cancer is full of anniversaries. Shout out a date and I’ll be able to associate it with something cancer related, but this was the big one. One year since diagnosis. One year since the world titled on its axis and sent me hurtling straight to hell. A not so gentle reminder of the last 14 months of horror since I found that tender spot in my right breast.
In retrospect, this probably wasn’t the best time to have my first blood test since treatment ended, my first blood test to see if I’d be one of the unfortunates that treatment doesn’t work for, my first blood test to see if I’ve had a recurrence.
I’ve been doing pretty well on the fear front, working on the assumption that I’m cured. But there’s nothing like a blood test to blow up your sanity, especially when it comes with finding a lump in your underarm. I looked at myself in the mirror while I brushed my teeth and remembered her looking back at me and lost my shit. I can’t go through that again.
Then the phone calls started. I thought I could wait until I saw my oncologist two weeks after the blood test, but that was naive. Call after call to the hospital until they confirmed that my tumour markers are normal. No recurrence.
I deflated like a party balloon. A soggy shell in the corner of my bed. Adrenaline that had been taking me through the last days suddenly dispersed and I was spent. Mum breathed a sigh of relief. I had called her even more times than I had the hospital. We were both having flashbacks to the panicked phone calls I made in the middle of the night while I waited for my biopsy results. But after 14 months of trauma, the mother rock is wobbling too.
November is full of ghosts and appointments, so when I realised I had a week between appointments I booked some more recovery time. A week at a health resort in Portugal. A place with healthy food, a busy fitness schedule, a divine spa and hopefully some sunshine. When the flight out was on 9 November, my anniversary, it was destiny.
I had a week of sweat, detox and relaxation in perfect proportion.
The sun shone, but the wind also blew mightily and the rain fell on occasion, but it was still heaven in comparison to icy Luxembourg.
It was more of a hotel, so didn’t have the community feel of my Turkey experiences. People came and went throughout the week and used it as a hotel rather than a retreat, but I bullied my way into people’s lives with vibrant greetings and joining others when all the breakfast tables were full, teasing some during classes and chatting in the steam room. And it paid off, we had quite a fun time. I ended up being invited to join others for dinner and being told how infectious my laugh is, a joyous moment as it made me realise that I’m laughing again after a year of tears. How fabulous is that?
Still feeling my Zumba high, I joined all dance classes and stiffly rocked my Portuguese dance moves with lots of laughter. I challenged myself with high impact classes and even found myself on the floor doing chest presses! And I could! My abs were destroyed after a pilates class and took two days to recover, but it felt so good to stress my body that way. I apologised my way through one class for not being able to continue and my instructor looked at me, “You’ve done Shape It, dance and now pilates, you did all the classes yesterday. And YOU’RE HERE!” She looked around the empty room, “You’re the only one here, what are you apologising for? You have brought it.” My throat tightened. Yes, I am amazing. I am doing things with my body that healthy people do not. I am pushing myself and I am turning up. Over and over. I am so fucking proud of myself.
I also indulged myself a fair bit, massage, scrub, wrap, steam room, sauna and, ahem, my first colonic irrigation.
I also had a body composition analysis which showed that I lost weight over the week, but more importantly, it was a lot of fat that I lost, and replaced it with muscle mass, I think it’s all my core muscles! I’m walking even taller, my clothes are feeling looser and my smile is bigger. Another step forward!
Distance swum since last post: 0.5km
Distance swum to date: 35.8km
Distance to go: 164.2km