It wasn’t just me who had to deal with cancer.
My sister flew from Australia to Luxembourg twice to be with me during chemotherapy. The last time I saw Jenni I was finishing my fourth round of soul-destroying EC chemo and starting the eight week brutality of Taxol chemotherapy. I was bald, listless, depressed, incapacitated and hostile.
My regular FaceTime calls with my parents increased even more as I found my lump and went through diagnosis. I told them to go against their instincts and wait before they came over to be with me, knowing that cancer treatment is a marathon and I would need them more as treatment continued. They came to be with me through the last weeks of chemo, the brief respite I had from treatment, then surgery with its unavoidable depression.
The last time I saw my parents, my foul depression had begun to soften at the edges as the agony in my chest lessened and my downy hair started to grow back. Their three month visas had been used up, but I had made it through the worst of treatment and was starting to walk alone on my wobbly legs.
As my next steps of treatment began, ended and I started to heal, I made plans for recovery – physical, mental, emotional and familial. I knew I needed to spend time in Australia with my family who hadn’t hugged me since I was so ill. I needed to be with them, to somehow acknowledge what they had gone through with my illness and let us celebrate the other side of that darkness.
Jenni and I planned a trip to Uluru, the red heart of our country. I had last visited 20 years before but remembered the power and beauty of this place, sacred to its traditional owners and majestic to all. We had been talking about visiting for several years, but it was always too difficult, one blessing of a near death experience is that it will make you find the time.
We walked and worshipped and spent time together in this most magical of places. We indulged ourselves fully with adventures and hikes, a nauseating but spectacular helicopter ride over Uluru and Kata Tjuta and a dinner under the stars with red dirt between our toes. We reminisced and enjoyed the ease of sisterhood, remembering who we are together, our relationship continues to evolve and mature but will never forget its roots of a big sister tormenting her little sister. Jenni won’t understand how important that trip was to me, but it was perfect.
Then I flew to my parents. They live in a quiet fishing village, everyone assured me that I would be bored staying there so long, but they don’t know that this place holds my heart because it holds my mum and my dad. I loved it. Being. Being together, walking the beach with dad and the dogs, returning home for coffee in the garden with mum, swimming in the frigid water with dad, walking the spectacular coast road at sunset, making friends with the locals and challenging dad to cribbage. Being. And I was still recovering, I needed to sleep and move and talk and love and be. We found rhythms and routines together and celebrated the arrival, and the departure, of Jenni and her family, and I wept as I watched the fireworks for New Year’s Eve in the bay, reflecting on all I had lost and gained in the last year.
Time in Australia with my family is never enough, but my trip was about closure. Seeing them, being together, being healthy, being happy, sharing meals and memories, acknowledging a horrendous year for all of us and moving forward.
Distance swum since last post: 4.3km
Distance swum to date: 46.6km
Distance to go: 153.4km