You will have heard the saying many a times before “life is short so live each day like its your last” but how often do you actually get hit with a reality that makes you change the way you live your life forever? That is the life I live daily… That is my life living with terminal cancer.
I will let you take a moment to breath……………take in the news and know that by the time you have finished reading this blog you may just feel uplifted and inspired to love life and live life a little bit more then you did before you woke up this morning.
In August 2016 I received the news from my Breast Surgeon that my cancer had returned. The same cancer that grew inside me while I was growing our miracle baby. You can read more about this in our previous blog Pathway to Victory Almost 2 years on and just as life was beginning to resume normality, my cancer returned with a vengeance and spread extensively to my liver and some areas of my bone. No longer was my cancer curable. I was deemed terminal and advised to start palliative chemotherapy immediately in order to extend my life. The moment I received the news I felt my husbands hand squeeze mine tighter. In the space of a millisecond I had a million thoughts race through my head. I thought about the incredible man beside me who vowed to stand by me “through sickness and in health, until death do us apart”. How would he cope becoming a widower? My thoughts raced to my beautiful son Jai, who was happily playing away at nursery without a care in the world. How would he cope growing up without a mummy? I thought of my sister, my best friend, the one who knows me better then I know myself. Who will she call when she needs someone to talk to? How would I tell my poor mum and dad, who shouldn’t have to think about their child dying before them, because that’s not the ‘normal’ order of life? Hadn’t all my loved ones suffered enough? These feelings and thoughts that took over my body in that moment were nothing short of having a knife stabbed into your heart, over and over again. Yet in a strange confliction of emotions, I also felt a huge relief. Relief that I no longer had to be afraid of my cancer returning.
When originally diagnosed with cancer, I knew I was high risk of it returning as Stage 4 (not curable) and living with that fear daily was in many ways harder then receiving the ultimate diagnosis itself. Sadly 30% of patients diagnosed with early stage breast cancer will turn metastatic at some point in their life. Metastatic cancer is when your cancer spreads from its original site to a distant organ and is no longer curable. It’s important to highlight this information because many people do not fully understand that breast cancer contained within the breast cannot kill you. It is when that cancer spreads and invades the rest of your body that it becomes life threatening. A huge amount of money is spent on raising awareness, but I do feel more research is needed to fund developments of less toxic drugs and smarter ways of treating cancer and the individual as a whole. Cancer isn’t just about treating tumours, it’s about treating the overall wellbeing of the patient, ‘mind, body and soul’.
Sat in my consultant’s office, still numb from the news, I asked him how long I had left to live. He held my hand and said “that’s a very difficult question to answer, your liver is pretty advanced. If you respond well to treatment, then maybe you have 2 years”. In that moment I turned to my husband and said “We have a lot of living to do then!”.
Since August I have had to accept the stark reality of what is going on in my life and that has been no easy task for me or my family. I hit rock bottom and had to find a way to climb back up from a very dark hole. How do you adjust to living while you are dying? They are both conflicting paradigms, where one focuses on being ever present and the other focuses on planning for your ultimate death. Though we are all terminal from the day we are born I am just more aware of how my transition from this world to the next will likely occur. Talking about death is still very taboo, its uncomfortable and many of us would rather run a mile then confront the topic. Death is as much a fact of life as breathing air is to survive, but of course I didn’t know any of this at the time. All I knew, was that I needed a coping strategy. I had to get inside my head and truly counsel myself back to the land of living. I have no degree in psychology but I do have a relentless desire to live with no fear!
After the news hit us in August I was absolutely terrified of going through chemotherapy again. I know how toxic chemotherapy is (yes it damages the immune system and yes it is cancer causing, I don’t need anyone to remind me of this point) and whilst this would not be my preferred choice of treatment I have very few options available to me at this point to get my liver out of the danger zone. I therefore put all my faith into the little bag of Eribulin (my chemotherapy drug) and hope it buys me the extra time I so desperately want with my family. When stage 4 cancer is diagnosed, treatments never end until either you call it a day or there are no more drugs left to try. At my disposable I have chemotherapies, biological therapies, endocrine therapies and alternate therapies. I intend to try everything that maintains a good quality of life for me and my family – simple as that.
After recovering from my primary diagnosis, I went through a huge health kick and became very conscious of everything I ate, everything I applied on my body, every household chemical I used, the water I drank….and so on. Even after all these positive changes, my cancer still returned. I believe the stress of feeling like I ‘had’ to make all these changes in some way probably counteracted the benefits of what I was trying to do. Feeling forced to do anything from a place of fear never creates positive vibes in the body. The key is to find balance in everything we do. A quote shared by a fellow cancer thriver sums up what I now believe to be so true “There is no profit in curing the body if in the process we destroy the soul”.
The moment cancer hits your life you automatically begin to research. Research Research and more Research!! I didn’t even study so hard during my degree! I have learnt so much about what is going on inside my body and every cancer theory out there. I have explored all the diets that claim to cure cancer like the vegan diet, the sugar free diet, the alkaline diet, the budwig protocol, the gerson therepy, the ketogenic diet, the juice fast diet…! Then there are the alternate supporting therapies like high dose vitamin c, oxygen treatment, mistletoe therapy, infrared saunas, coffee enemas, essiac tea….! The list is endless and for many newly diagnosed cancer patients it can be highly confusing, contradictory and damn right frustrating at times! I do follow some of the above protocols to help alongside my conventional treatment, but what I would like to advocate in my blog is the ‘No Fear Diet’. This is the single most important protocol I believe anyone should adopt when dealing with ANY life crisis. Unhealthy fear is the root cause of so many of todays world problems and I am not just referring to Cancer. Fear of being judged, fear of failure, fear of loneliness… you will all have your own fears, some will be helpful but most will hold you back.
So what is my view on The Cancer Industry and Fear? I believe The Cancer Industry and its treatments can be full of anxiety and its associated stigma. I am referring to BOTH conventional and alternate routes. We can no longer escape cancer as it impacts most of our lives at some point, however we can control how we respond to the word ‘Cancer’ and the stigma and fear surrounding it. We create fear through our own choice of words when we talk of the big C. We talk about the ‘BATTLE’, the ‘FIGHT’, the ‘WIN’ and for many these words are helpful and supportive, but for me they are NOT. My life is NOT a battlefield and I certainly do not want to be at WAR with my own body. I want to find peace and live the remainder of my life from a place of love and enjoyment, not fear. Please avoid sending me messages telling me to keep fighting. I do not view this as a ‘fight’, I view this as a reminder to ‘live’.
If you wish to help me and my family, there are things you can do. Help us smile and laugh, make special memories with us; help us to find strength by praying for my family; help us to deal with our emotions by giving us space when we need it. As you can imagine, for my family to have to break this news to people has been heart wrenching. Please be sensitive to their feelings if they have not told you in person and you are reading about this for the first time through this blog. We have no good news to share that excites our parents to spread the word. This is very difficult news to break and I hope extended family and friends will see past this and be the support that my family will need moving forward.
My coping mechanism when faced with adversities throughout my life has been to identify the absolute worst case scenario of my predicament. So when I got told I had terminal cancer my immediate reaction was to find a way to accept the worst case scenario of my own mortality and NOT fear it. Only once had I done this could I begin living again. Yes, I have terminal cancer but I am not dead yet. I have much more to do in my life and many more memories to make. I still intend on visiting places I’ve always wanted to visit and experiencing things I have never made time to do before. My bucket list has just become ever more prioritized and on a much tighter time schedule then before, to be carried out in creative ways that work around my treatments. Having said that, I do not have an expiry date on the sole of my feet and nobody can say how long I actually have left. A small percentage of patients live way past their prognosis, especially when coupled with good nutrition, supplements and a healthy mind.
Please do not think for a second that by accepting death I am in any way giving up on life. In actual fact by accepting death you can truly start LIVING again. One is incomplete and unappreciated without the other. Once we have grasped this way of living, only then can we make way for miracles to happen… and yes I do believe in miracles everyday. My son Jai is testament to that and is a daily reminder that anything in life is possible!
#planfortheworsthopeforthebest #terminallyalive #fearlesslivemore