Thursday, August 21, 2008

And so, here is where it comes to an end. I can't believe I decided that running 14km, mainly up a piss-wreck hill that I thought would never end, was a great way to move from then til now.
But it worked!
I did make it and I have made it - shattered and wrecked and vowing to NEVER, EVER run anywhere again (not even to catch a cab!) There were some parts where Paul had to physically drag me along and other times where I just wanted to sit down and cry - it was too hard and too many parts of me hurt (I've had cancer for gods sake - didn't you know???!!!) There were also times where I was a powerhouse, pushing myself along just so I could get to the end. Running through the finish line was like running from what has been to what is now to come. And it ended just as it all started - with Paul, going through the battle with me and making sure I make it.
The voices have gone from my head that used to remind me of cancer every day. I am no longer an imposter in my own life.
I will always have the reminders of what I went through - from the blue dots tattooed onto my thighs for radiology to the memory of exactly what I went through in order to be well again.
So it's enough of this now. No more.
I am Fiona. I have made it.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Now It's My Turn

For the past year, my life has been ruled by cancer. It has decided when I sleep, where I go and how I feel. It has stripped me back to the lowest possible level of living and made me question just what it is that makes me, me on a daily basis. It has brought on extreme bouts of angst and tears every time I have had to go back for a check up or a scan. What if that test was the one the ologist looked at my results with a frown and said 'hmmm, that doesn't look right'.
Cancer has made me feel like I am going mad because every time I get back on top the doubts creep back in again. What happens if I get sick again, what if people are fed up with having to work around my idiotic ways because my memory has gone that day or I just don't feel like I should be here. What if I get to a point where I just can't keep up the struggle anymore.
Well, tomorrow is my turn. Tomorrow is where I get to take control of my life back on my terms. Running 14km, up a hill and quite possibly in the rain is a pain I can handle if it means I prove to myself that I am most definitely alive. I can handle 2 hours of pain and breathlessness and aching and struggle because I have been through worse. Living the rest of my life in this sub-human day to day existence is what I can't stand. I am not waiting for cancer to decide when I get my life back on track, I am in control and it is my choice when I draw a line in the sand.
I will still have another 4 years of tests and scans and doubt to deal with but that is fine, because it will be on my terms.
Running 14km is a small price to pay to kick cancers arse and let it know that it's lease has come to an end - don't forget to shut the frigging door on your way out either!
The finish line tomorrow will not be a finish, but a start. Everything that has held me in this place for the past year is going to be left behind, in the middle of the road, on its own so that the rain can just wash it out to sea.
Just as this whole fiasco started with Paul being right beside me, it ends the same way - with him making sure I don't get ahead of myself, watching me like a hawk, clearing all of the roadblocks so that my life is easy, and calm, and sane.
I think every home should install a Paul!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Don't Cue The Credits Just Yet....

I think I am the victim of having watched too much TV - I like everything to have a nice, clean cut ending. I like to be able to think that all of the characters will work out whatever their situation is and all will be laughs and smiles before the credits roll.
One year ago today I had to ring my mum to tell her Happy Birthday! As usual for this time of year, her and Dad had hooked their caravan up and headed north so I think she was half listening and half expecting me to tell her 'I'm having another baby' or 'Paul and I just won the lottery' when I told her I had something to tell her.
I had sat on the news for 2 days before I worked up the guts and the dialogue to tell her,
'I've been diagnosed with cancer'
I can still replay the 2 days previous to this in my head, over and over and over.
I was at home. Freddie was only 15 months old and had a cold. I decided not to send him to daycare that day and was actually looking forward to having a whole day of just him and me. Paul was at work at a meeting.
I had already gone to the doctor with Freddie and was in the chemist when I checked my mobile. I had a missed call and new message on it as well as my work phone. Both of them were from my gyno who I had seen the week before.
I put Freddie in his car seat and got into the car and then listened to my message.
'Hi Fiona, it's Polly Peres, I've just called your home number and work number and need you to call me back please.'
For a woman that it took me 6 weeks to get an appointment with, it took 1 minute for her receptionist to put me straight through to her office.
She told me that she had my test results back, that they were quite serious and that she would need to see me today. She also said that I had to bring my husband with me as it would help if someone could drive me home.
As she could hear Freddie in the background, she suggested that I find someone to look after him as we would need to have quite a serious conversation.
I just listened and told her that it wouldn't be a problem.
I felt sick.
I had to ask.
'Is it cancer?'
Nothing. Silence. (The dramatic climax of the half hour episode)
The internal dialogue started:
'Don't fall yet. Get yourself home. Put Freddie to bed. Call Paul. Get to the appointment. Sort this out. Then think.'
'Polly: 'Are you still there Fiona? I'm really sorry. I would have preferred not to bla bla bla this conversa.... bla bla bla. Come in this afternoon and bla bla bla. Will you be OK to get bla bla bla.'
I felt like someone had put a fishbowl on my head and built a race track inside it. The noise in between my ears was deafening.
I started the car. Drove the 5 minute journey to home.
How am I going to tell work? How do I pay my mortgage? What is going to happen with my kids? How are we going to live? What can I cook for dinner? I wonder if Paul can come out of his meeting?
I got home. My legs were trembling and I was sweating.
I made a bottle and put Freddie to bed. Lovely, squidgy snotty Freddie.
Then I called Paul.
'She thinks I have cancer. Do you think you can get off work early to come with me?'
He was home in 5 minutes flat.
and then I cried.
If this was a tv episode, an ad would go in here and the characters would all get to take a deep breath and escape from the trauma their character was experiencing for 5 minutes.
No ad break. No deep breath just floating around in space, panicked at the thought of what I now needed to go through.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Days like today are the ones that I hate.
It feels like wading through mud and everything is too hard.
Nothing causes it and I haven't yet found what can fix it - I just wake up that way.
My HRT drugs don't seem to work and I spend the day at the bottom of a black hole - spiralled out of control with internal rage at how I ended up here: A 38 year old woman trying to deal with the fallout from cancer and facing up to the reality of what menopause is like 20 years before my time. What a pioneer.
I hate the way I look, think and act on days like this.
My kids must look at me and wonder why they had to be landed with such a shit mother. Why couldn't they have gotten one that loved Play Dough and screaming and flying about like Superman. Why did theirs have to morph into Satan at the drop of a hat and slam doors and shout.
I know I'll pay for this through their actions when they are older and everyone can say they always saw this coming.
Good for them. It must make you feel great to be so perfect.
I know I should feel fortunate that I had my children before this happened. That I am lucky I got through it and came out the other side. That I am lucky to have such good support around me. I don't feel lucky. I feel shit. And hurt. And angry. And sad that it is me who has to go through this.
I know that if I just get through today I can wake up tomorrow and everything will be different. Everything will have returned to where it should be again.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Who Farted?

The saddest thing about cancer is that nobody goes through it alone. It acts like a vortex that sucks people in and effects them in ways they never thought imaginable. In a way, being told you have cancer is a bit like farting in a lift. Not the 'leaning to the side for best effect' ones that would earn most husbands an audition with the Symphony Orchestra, but the accidental ones that jump out unannounced like those that happen when you are preganant and lost your fart valve.

At first, you try to cough over it and pretend it's not you, that it was someone else. You shuffle silently a little more toward the back and hope that nobody will notice. You pray for the lift to plummet 14 floors so that everyone is distracted form the fact that it was you and their attention will be diverted elsewhere. When it becomes apparent that it had to be you, you wish the world would swallow you whole. You will be forever known and defined by that one instant even though it wasn't your fault and you had no control over it.

Cancer is like the pain in the arse colleague who invites themselves to all of your BBQs and cuts in on all of your private phone conversations with your girlfriends - they are always there, hanging around waiting for a chance to get in there. Almost like the fart in the lift hanging around. You wake up every day knowing that you have to face it in some way, shape or form. It's always there in the shadows, at the back of your mind, just lurking, giving you the shits and putting you off your game.

Cancer leaves physical marks that will heal - scars will fade over time, hair will grow back, the nausea will subside and one days I'll stop looking at my blue dots that were tattooed onto my legs for radiology. But what to do with the mental scars. How to process all of this experience into something meaninful and find a way forward that is positive and strong, rather than life sapping and tiring.

I am trying to find an end point and I don't think it exists. If I complete a run will that mean that it's all over and I can move on again or will I always rely on scans and tests to tell me I'm OK? I think the answer will come to me somehow, I just need to stop looking for it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Lights Are On.......

A gym can be quite a daunting place for your average person, particularly when you are on a sideways, rubber-burning skid towards 40 with a well developed muffin top like I am.
Every gym has an area that is the schoolyard equivalent of behind the toilets - it's where all the tough kids hang out and you're a little bit scared to walk past it in case they tell you to f*ck off away from their patch and start chasing you.
The gym version of 'behind-the-toilets' is where they keep all of the serious weights, with mirrors covering a complete wall. People who hang out there grunt a lot and tend to walk around the area like the head of a pride of lions, snatching sideways looks at themselves in the mirrored wall every couple of steps. Navigating your way through the behind-the-toilets area is like crossing the back lawn when your dog has the shits and your teenager is on poop scoop strike - you take your life in your hands!
I have always avoided the behind-the-toilets area. I have no idea what to do with any of the stuff in there and need to spend another 10 months dieting to look like I am a regular with any form of weights.
Until Rob (personal trainer) showed me a few moves that he guaranteed would banish my fadoobaddas (those floppy CWA lady arms) and pull my love handles into line. So in I walk. As luck would have it, the pissy weights I needed were the closest to the mirrors so I had to pick my way past grunting, up and down looks (yes, you are THAT obvious) and almost copped a barbell in the right ear!
Why bother, I thought. Why not just stick to running, push ups, sit ups and the big blow up ball thing I can never frigging balance on??!
Because I am not there to get ripped muscles. Or have a body that I can pose with at the pub on Friday night. Or show anyone else how strong/toned/buff I am. I am not on the cabbage diet, the bikini diet or lemon detox kickstart your summer here program.
My greatest fear is that my body will give out before my brain does. I am scared that I will be mistaken for my childrens granny when they reach their teen years because my bone go all brittle and arthritic. I am beside myself with worry that going through premature menopause will ravage my body and leave me with the lights flickering and nobody home.
Being on HRT at 38 already makes me feel like I'm standing on the shore waving goodbye to my youth. All my girlfriends are still on the ship sailing off with their bright minds, their dynamic thoughts and a body that can still be coaxed into shape. When I tried to search for information on what I was going through, I could never find a realistic picture of how other women cope. There was stuff written retrospectively by women who had been through it 7 years ago, but nothing on how they cope with the here and now, how they got through the terrible mood swings and trying to find which drug is best going to fit or do you just have to make do for infinity?
I have found my therapy and this is it. If it stays in my head, it rots, I rot, which means everyone around me rots. If I get it out, it's gone. Other people can have a small insight into what being me is like and what it takes to get through a day.
Keep running. Keep running.........

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The 'C' Word

It hit me last week that I had been diagnosed with cancer.
Gone through surgery for cancer.
Radiology and chemotherapy for cancer.
Offered counselling services and makeover sessions all becasue I had cancer without actually digesting the fact that it was me who all this cancer was happening to.

I had seen Kylie with cancer, friends from home with cancer, the chick from Sass and Bide with cancer (who I secretly wanted to wear my headscarf like when all my hair fell out. Which it didn't. So I just had to put up with sparse eyebrows and my hair being a bit thicker on one side of my head than the other but certainly nowhere near being headscarf appropriate - just my luck!)

Blame it on my current HRT drugs, but this freaks me out!! (the late realisation, not the lack of headscarf action!)

So what made me finally realise?? Someone else's case of foot in mouth - which is so memorable simply because it wasn't me with verbal diahorrea for a change.

The Scene......
I was talking to a person in my office about a certain pain in the ar*e (don't ANYONE EVER ask me who either was - my lips are sealed). The other person was about to describe PIA (Pain In Ar*e) as the office cancer when they stopped, stumbled and used the word cataract instead!!
Internally, I p*ssed myself laughing!

Does that mean that everyone is now scared to use the 'c' word around me, just in case I take it personally??

I chimed in and referred to PIA as the office cancer as that's what they are. And not the glamour, 'on-trend' breast cancer that is the disease du jour (even Sam Newman has jumped on the bandwagon). No no! Office PIA is more like erectile dysfunction with a cancer thrown in for good measure!

I guess my point is to ask you, 2 things for me:

1. don't let on that the City to Surf will just about kill me. I think I know that but just refuse to believe it. I read NOTHING about having babies before I did it. I read NOTHING about cancer treatment before I did it (seeing a trend here??) so figure that flying blind is a very good way for me to go.
and 2. never feel that I am too precious to just say what you want to say. Don't ever censor your thoughts, conversations or opinions around me.
I couldn't bear a homogonised life!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Personal Training 101

Have you ever had a moment in your life when you knew you were f*cked?
Not just in a bit of strife, but completely and overwhelmingly rooted beyond what you can ever handle?
You might like to invest in a personal trainer then. After one short sharp session, you will surely know what this feeling is like!
So here's me, confident as Jack the Lad that just by sheer determination and a few good iPod songs in my ears that I can run for 14 km. Uphill. With 1000's of other people around me. And a TV crew at the end.
What a wanker!
Rob the friendly, smiling Kiwi trainer that Paul uses and who already knows I am a retarded runner because I think I'm Cathy Freeman says all the right things.
'You look athletic, what sport do you do?'
'It won't take much to get you back to the fitness level you had when you were younger.'
'I just want to take it easy with you and gradually build up your strength.'
What I didn't realise is that New-Zealandish is a foreign language because what he really meant was:
'Even though it looks easy you'll feel like throwing up and won't be able to walk for 3 days. Oh, and did I mention I can't count for shit. Just 5 more squats for me.'.....4........3........2.....3 more and we're done.

The Worse I Feel The Better I Am

Becasue there is no such thing as an original thought anymore, I have flogged this one from Lance Armstrong! It's true - the worse I feel, the better I get.
Going through chemo, I was so focussed on what was happening that day.
Tomorrow didn't matter as it was too far away.
I was too sick to try and make any plans so my only strategy was to focus on getting through my treatment for that day. At the end of each radiology treatment, I would congratulate myself on getting one step closer to 'the end' (of my treatment).
Even though it was so hard to get out of bed toward the end of chemo, it meant that I was getting to the end of it - this is what drove me to function each day, regardless of how crap I felt or that my brain kept telling me to stop, I knew that feeling this shit was a good thing. It meant I was near the end of it all.
My mindset was that once I had finished my treatment, I could then switch off that part of my life and seamlessly slip back into where I had left off.
You can all stop pissing yourselves laughing now!! I realise this is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever thought (and this from a woman who has spent her life perfecting 'The Next Stupid Thing'!!!)
As soon as I felt like the effects of chemo and radiology had worn off (3 weeks later), I shoved myself back into work. I still felt crap, was so knackered I couldn't talk properly and was the shittiest woman on the planet. My kids wore it. My husband wore it. I felt like I was sliding very quickly down the slope towards barking lunacy.
I couldn't figure it out.
I was OK now, I was cured. I was armed with a decent supply of HRT to cover over the cracks of menopause so why did I feel like shouting at random teenagers walking past about their dress sense and getting a haircut???I had no idea of how to process everything that had happened.
I was still stuck in a 'get thru today' mindset. I was shoving myself through the motions of a life and hoping that it would just click in and become automatic.I was fed up with the 'you're an inspiration' speech because I knew the reality.
So I started to run.
It hurt and I looked like a baby elephant finding its feet. In my body, I was running to lose all of the weight I had put on in chemo. In my mind I was running to get as far away from cancer as I could. If I got some distance between me and it, my mind would be a better place.
In my ears, I had Kanye West telling me that 'that that don't kill you can only make me stronger. Jarvis Cocker telling me that he wanted to live like common people and Sneaky Sound System going on about not wanting to be lonely. I ran further. I ran faster. I still looked like a small elephant. I still wished my arse didn't move as much.
And then the click came. I need to do something that makes me lift my head up and look further than today. The fact that it happened to be an invitation to run 14km from the city out to Bondi is a bit of a shit but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
I will not live to regret this decision and I am determined to run every step of the way.

Running From Cancer - The Reason

One of the great philosophers of our time, Kanye West, once said,
'and that that that that don't kill you can only make me stronger'.

Today marks 4 months since my last chemo session.

In 6 months time I am going to run in the City to Surf and intend to take all of you along for the ride!

You are all a part of the next stage of my therapy, seeing as I don't really do counselling, group therapy or bark munching so if you'd like to join in, sign up here!

You are not required to contribute anything in the way of answers, cures or money. You just need to believe that I will make 14km (including Heartbreak Hill) and that getting across the line in Bondi will mark my next great milestone.

If I can do this, it will mean that 2008 will be defined by how well I can do, not by when my next scan or check up is, not by how many days I am 'in remision' or the time since my treatment ended.

Strap all starts here........