Whenever I see someone I have not seen for a while, since my diagnosis or treatment started, and they ask me how I’m doing, it is a chance for me to do a quick mental run through… how AM I doing? Today I visited with a good friend from Alice who was here for other reasons, but who made himself available to pick me up from treatment and enjoy some lunch. We both shared some stories about what has been going on in our lives, and of course the inevitable question comes up about how I’m doing. I realized as I was explaining to him about some of the trials and some of the observations that there has been waaaay more going on than I am able to process at the moment.
Try as I may to assimilate the various aspects of treatment, living away from home in an unfamiliar environment, and coming into contact daily with many, many people who are sick and some even dying, it struck me, this is too much to possibly digest as it happens. It may take me years to process it all. But there is one statement that has stood out from all the things I’ve heard along the way and it was made to me by a breast care nurse when she and I met for the first time. First let me say, the breast care nurses are a unique ‘breed’ of nurse. They are so knowledgeable and compassionate and strategically placed and ‘available’ at important intervals of the treatment. To my thinking they are indispensible for best care practice in breast cancer.
At a point just after my surgery, I had been explaining to the breast care nurse in Alice Springs that the journey, thus far, had been such an insight to life at so many levels that I could hardly say “I wish this had never happened” but was more inclined to say “I’m glad this has happened”. She smiled and nodded as if she knew exactly what I was saying and then she said ‘If you don’t feel that way, then it’s just a ‘treatment’’. And she repeated ‘It’s just a treatment’. I was stunned at how succinct were her words. That was exactly how I felt, and I knew from my own observations that some people viewed it as just a treatment to be gotten through, but that others had considered it a transformational experience. I make no judgements about this, I just simply say that my experience has undoubtedly been transformational.
In fact, from the beginning it was my choice to see this as an opportunity to learn from one of life’s unique experiences. I don’t feel obliged to dedicate the rest of my life to raising funds for cancer research or to necessarily identify myself as a breast cancer ‘survivor’ or a cancer ‘victim’. I don’t want to limit myself to those roles or labels. I just know that I have left myself open to absorbing as much as I can stand about this experience so that it is more than a treatment, as today was more than ‘just Monday’.