My new most hated phrase: 'But you look too young to have breast cancer'
I'm really starting to get sick of hearing this. I guess I understand people thinking this, but i still get surprised when someone actually says it, especially health professionals like doctors, nurses, and even sonographers. And what am I supposed to respond with? 'Yes I am too young to have breast cancer', 'Actually I must be older than you think', 'cancer doesn't discriminate'? Surely these people have some sense to know that telling me this is not a compliment, nor is it helpful. It certainly doesn't make me feel any better, and it just reminds me of how shit this whole situation is. At first I didn't mind too much. I guess it was a little comforting knowing that other people were as shocked as I was about my cancer, but I'm over it now. It's just the way things are. Every time I have to explain my situation to a new person, I don't need to be reminded of how ridiculous this all is. I was almost going to say 'how unfair' this is, but I stopped myself. As an adult I have learnt that there are few things 'fair' in life. Bad things happen to good people. Good things happen to bad. Incredibly strong and wonderful people can be taken from us by cancer, among many other things, and 'fairness' just doesn't come into it.
People keep telling me I am strong, and brave, but I don't know if that is true. I think I am just realistic, and maybe a little desensitised. You see, my husband and I have been through quite a lot over the last five or so years, and were unfortunately prepared for facing this kind of thing.
At the age of 22, after being married for only eight months, my husband was diagnosed with a massive brain tumour, a meningeoma the size of an orange. Watching my new husband entertain all his visitors, and fellow patients while in hospital, awaiting surgery, was inspiring. Even though he was facing one of the most terrifying things someone can be diagnosed with, his main concern was not himself, but assuring his family and friends that everything would be ok. Lucky enough for us, it wasn't cancer, but he still had to endure a 10+hr surgery to remove the tumour, as well as a small section of skull that it had fused to. Eight weeks after his surgery, he was told to reduce his anti seizure medication. At 5am one morning, he tapped me on my shoulder and woke me up. I sat up just in time to witness the most terrifying thing I have ever seen, my husband having a seizure. A grand mal seizure that only stopped once, for a few seconds, in the 27 minutes that it took for the ambulance to arrive. He spent a day in intensive care, five more in the high dependency ward, and was once again sent home. When he was given the all clear from his neurosurgeon six months later, we thought we had had all the bad luck a newly married couple could have and would be set to enjoy an uneventful life.
Unfortunately, only a few months later, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It was in her bones, her brain, her lungs... My husband had always been extremely close with his mum, not in a mammas boy kind of way, but everyone who met him just knew it. No matter what he did, he always wanted to help his mum, and she was the same. She would do anything for her family, her friends, her children, and her beloved grandchildren. In the space of twelve weeks we watched the strongest, bravest, most incredible woman fight for her life. She refused to consider not making it, and even made sure she was well enough to get out of hospital to see my husbands band play its first gig since he himself had been in hospital. Unfortunately it doesn't matter how strong you are, when your body is riddled with that much cancer, it is terminal. Helping care for her, especially in the last few weeks of her life, was an honour. Devastatingly, six months after her death my wonderful father-in-law also passed away. Up until that point in my life I had never really been exposed to anyone being sick or dying. I soon learnt that death is an unavoidable part of life. It isn't scary or spooky, it doesn't matter how much of a loving, amazing person you are, it will happen to you. And it is rarely fair.
So as i was saying, there is nothing 'fair' about anyone having cancer, be it a child, teenager, or adult. Life is not fair, so saying it is 'unfair' for me to have cancer seems a bit self indulgent. But life is also beautiful. I have an incredible little girl that makes me laugh and smile, and think how lucky I am every day. I have a loving, supportive husband, who makes me forget that I have cancer, and a scar across my lopsided chest. I have amazing parents, sister, sister-in-law, family and friends, who are doing everything possible to help me through this crappy time. So, it's not all doom and gloom, and there are plenty of things to be happy about. Right now, cancer is simply part of my (and my family's) life. But hopefully it won't be forever.