As the month of October and Breast Cancer Awareness month draws to a close we wanted to leave you with one last reason why supporting breast cancer research is so important… because you just never know if it will affect someone in your pack. This is our friend Marni and her incredible story of how she was diagnosed, fought and survived breast cancer in her words…
So I have been thinking about what it means to be a breast cancer survivor and to be honest, I feel normal. I feel like me. My hair has grown back and my boob mounds have healed and I’m back at work and living life. Good right? But what’s weird is, I barely remember the last year. The struggles, the heartache, the highs and the amazing memories.
So I thought I’d share some thoughts I wrote during my treatment, for those that may need it over the coming years.
“I don't want to show off, but I've been busy this last year. You see I managed to knock two milestones off my life list: have a boob job and experience chemotherapy.”
I'm a little spoilt for adrenaline at the moment to be honest. Experiencing some of the severest highs and lows of your life in three months is likely not on the health advice so should anyone need to use my glands for some type of anti-aging situation, I suggest picking the week they don't pump me full of poison.
The issue I have found is that I am a much better television writer than I am Cancer patient.
1. I just got the best haircut and now my hair has fallen out. I spent SO LONG growing that hair and it was taken from me in 48 hours. It's still better than my 2010 hair I guess (never forget) but 'speckled bald' is at least in the lower half of my lifetime hairstyle timeline.
2. Chemo takes a whole arvo. On a FRIDAY at that. And it makes you feel shit for the weekend. All hangover, no alcohol (but no hangxiety either, I guess). There's nothing worse than having four big ole' tumours removed from your body to the sounds of I WILL SURVIVE all full of New Years hope for a productive year because fuck life is short but now NOPE. We have to inject litres of poisonous liquid into you to stop more of their Cancer buddies setting up camp. Let me tell you, you haven't crammed for an exam until you've crammed for a post-chemo pre-production sweat fest skype meeting. If you're working during chemo: I AM HERE FOR YOU. YOU ARE A UNICORN. Let's stick with it, Cancer pals. It's saving our lives <3
3. I know, these are all short term life changes for me. I know how lucky I am that I found the lump. That they removed the cancers. That I am blessed to live in QUEENSLAND where the health system is unmatched and the staff are beautiful fairy princes or princesses. I know some people are in much worse situations and for a lot longer and I am really very aware of the fact that these treatments are saving my life, so my boys grow up with a mumma.
This all sounds bloody bleak but I PROMISE it is not. I'm actually kinda gross the way I enjoy my life. I love my stupidly cute children and am taking so much more time to enjoy them even when I've heard about Roblox cars for three hours straight and a small human is trying to physically remove a plastic port INSERTED UNDER MY SKIN. "Marni, listen to the story about the ad where the lego car turns into a real car. They had Christmas in hospital, you owe them". Nothing like a fuck tonne of mum guilt to help get your perspective right.
I am doing really good. But that can look different every day. In the last month I have shot a 14 hour day, I have cried in Big W, I have slept for 20 hours, I have been to events, I have removed lego from my wig, I have tried to explain to a 20 month old why I don't have nipples. I have networked, socialised, mourned, feared, laughed and prayed more than ever.
“The main thing Cancery people get told is that we are brave (which I will take thank you coz it's a badass word for a girl to be).”
But humans are all brave. We all run the gambit of all of these emotions daily, weekly, monthly and you don't know what you are capable of until you don't have a choice.
We are in different boats, but the same storm. I am doing the next thing I have to do with the information I have available at the time until I get to the point where the control is more in my hands. I am trusting medicine, and God and timing and stepping forward.
Let me start with this: it is extremely fucking weird to have cancer. Like, you know it's a thing people get and you know there's a chance you could get it but when you hear the word being said to you you definitely don't think it can be accurate. It's weird to lose your hair. It's weird to have chemotherapy. It's weird to not have nipples anymore. Especially for Charlie - he thinks that part’s real weird and he points at them a lot, unsure really of what to make of the Barbie-esque mounds he's presented with.
So it is all really bloody weird, we understand that but overall, it was okay. Core biopsy? Okay. Needle aspiration? No idea but sure. Ultrasounds, mammograms, PET, CT, Bone scans? Bring them on. Boobs removed? Hmmmmm okay, I guess. Some nodes for safety? No problem (what is a node even?). Injecting radiation? Just the radiation I've missed not flying in covid. Pump my body full of poison? Seems intense but I guess okay. Hair falls out? It's just hair, right? Nausea and dizziness? Hey, who hasn't been.
But then all of a sudden one day I got really sad.
And then I cried.
I think our bodies are amazing and we can really put them through a lot. Like injecting fluid that quite literally destroys their cells only to get up the next day and look after two kids. Women all over the world have reached out and told me about their stories. Single mums, pregnant women, women in abusive relationships, young women, old women... All united by a story of breast cancer, and how they lived their life around it like total badass boss bitches.
I was kinda prepared for the physical, I don't mind surgeries and scars so much, and was dealing with it pretty good (if I can be honest without sounding like an asshole). What I wasn't really ready for: the depression.
As a person who is not comfortable being vulnerable, I hate things like asking for help, relying on people and not doing things for myself. Turns out Cancer is super anti all those things. So after three cycles of me relying on people against my wishes, asking for help and generally being useless, I sunk deep in my heart and I sad-cried.
I cried because I had cancer. And I cried because I am having chemo. And I cried because I don't want any of those things and it's not fair.
And then I went to sleep and woke up the next day. I still had had cancer, I still had to have chemo, I still had the scars and pains and bald head: but I had made a little silent pact with myself in the night on my couch that I actually didn't have to feel okay about that all the time if I didn't want to. That I could do all the things I had to do, I could champion women and share their stories and guide them with mine but I did NOT have to say that it was okay that it was happening.
Written by, Marni Little