I’ve been prodded, pricked, jabbed, slashed, drugged, scanned, reclined, made to sit, told to stand, told to hold my breath, exhale, had my breast tissue and muscle expanded, biopsied, given fluid samples, lost hair, lost sleep, lost my physical strength, told to roll over, shot up radioactive dye, made to wait, made to wait some more and paid a stack of medical fees and have always said thank you with a smile.
It’s no secret that I’ve never been a fitness enthusiast. I’d describe myself as more of a sensory enthusiast. It’s never been about the running or in my case now more fast walking than anything else, it’s always been more about the experience. That warm feeling of the sun touching me on my shoulders, the trees swaying in the breeze and the smell of the ocean is what motivates me and inspires. This is going to sound a little peculiar but from an early age I was convinced that the trees were waving their branches and saying hello whenever they would sway in the breeze. For me this is the kind of stuff that magic is made from, it can transform a person more than any weight bearing exercise.
You see I’ve been training my whole life, not in the must get my body fit kind of training but a different kind of grass roots training- the school of life. I’m pretty sure this schooling begun way before I formally entered the classroom. Which reminds me that on my very first day of primary school I decided to skip class, why I thought this would be a good idea I don’t recall. I timed it right and quietly exited the classroom and hid in the sand pit. I made a bunker out of bins, scrap wood and corrugated iron- this was 1978 and there was no such thing as playground risk and safety assessments. I was much more interested in having sand running through my fingers, feeling it build up in my shoes, under my toes and listen to the magpies singing. I believe a search party was sent out to scour the school playground and after an hour or so I was found. I soon realised that life could be an adventure just not always on my terms.
I was raised in a mostly extroverted big Italian family with at times dysfunctional parenting. I am the youngest of six children – I like to think of it as a social experiment, a bit like living in the Big Brother House. My father had a dose of mental illness, a penchant for gambling and an incredible drink driving skill. He would often drink drive whilst belting out Neopolitan songs by Caruso or Mario Lanza with one hand on the steering wheel and the other hand on a ‘king brown’ (which is 750Mls of beer in a brown bottle). Meanwhile 6 kids would be rolling around the back of the Valiant without seat belts of course.
I’m guessing that life is basically one big lesson, some lessons take longer to grasp and realise than others. I, like many of us have had my share of trials and events that have been confronting and have demanded a fair amount of calculated resolve. I say calculated resolve because for some reason in times of great stress, anxiety or life change I have tended to push away any emotional fog that may be waiting in the wings and have always tended to look for a way forward. It’s like a kind of temporary system shut down that allows me to reflect, reboot, start up again and move forward in a positive direction.
What makes a person resilient? Is it environmental or is it innate? Wherever these buckets of positivity have come from I am very grateful for the big gulps I’ve been able to take. Which brings me back to the idea of life as a lesson, a curriculum that you must complete and at times feel like you must endure. The bizarre thing about this particular lesson that I’m currently undertaking is that it feels vaguely familiar. Yes, I said familiar.
No I’ve never had breast cancer before but I think I have been priming myself for this very moment. Perhaps I chose this very existence and that explains why I feel so ready and capable. Often I think that I’m just living in this body, a temporary rental. I particularly like the idea that my ‘essence’ is the real me – not this pain body. Perhaps this idea of detachment from the physicality of what my body has had to endure is what has kept me positive and protected. My body hurts, it is tired and worn down but my essence is still very vibrant and inspired. On the morning of my first chemotherapy, I remember walking through the sliding glass doors of the hospital with a very familiar feeling. I took big confident strides in my pumps, passed the receptionist with a knowing nod and a smile and made my way up the escalator. I had a spring in my step all the while thinking…I’ve got this, I’ve done this before.
So for all the jabbing, slashing and drugging I’ve endured in the past year I have another surgery ahead of me. Two days to be precise. It’s a breast reconstruction. A DIEP flap procedure that involves microsurgery that aims to transplant living fat tissue from my well fed stomach reserves into my breast. It’s a 6-8 hour procedure.
I’m not worried about the surgery as I’ll be checking the surgeon’s breath for signs of alcohol before the procedure. If he doesn’t look shaky, have blood shot eyes or is unshaven I’m guessing that I’ll be in great hands.
This is just my body that has to endure this, not me.