Thursday, 10 May 2018

A (different) life begins at 40

Ever since I was very young, birthdays have been a big cause for celebration for our family. Largely driven by my Mum, both my sister, Steph and I would receive a mountain of amazing presents (although she was more than slightly disadvantaged by her birthday being two days after Christmas). Even as an adult, the volume of presents did not reduce, and I will never forget my Mum's thoughtful present giving.

But without (the lovelier) half of my family, and with the unwelcome arrival of cancer only months after my 40th birthday, birthdays were never to be the same again. OK, well that's a bit melodramatic, but also, unfortunately, true (so far).

Just after my celebration of the 'big 4-0' I had a letter to invite me to a check-up with the GP (I never knew about these beforehand) but they're to ascertain your health against a number of criteria: weight, lifestyle, bloods, cholesterol etc. All my results were positive.

Then, ironically, after finding a gob-stopper sized lump in my breast and seeing a variety of specialists, I was diagnosed with an aggressive kind of breast cancer, Triple Negative. 'Positive' to 'Triple Negative' was a startling transition to say the least. This was an unwelcome twist on the old adage, 'life begins at 40'.

On my 41st birthday I felt like I had been hit by a sledgehammer, having just finished my sixth session of chemo the day before. I had a few weeks to recover before the radiotherapy that started in June. But, I was alive, albeit bald, exhausted and sickly, and I was extremely grateful to God for that (the 'alive' bit not the 'bald, exhausted and sickly' bit).

On my 42nd birthday, I went to the dogs (literally and metaphorically) and we celebrated my 'victory over cancer' (prematurely as it turned out) and my lovely friend sponsored the last race and we all piled onto the winner's podium.

One day later I was in hospital, before I'd even packed away my birthday presents (it is obligatory to display them for at least two days afterwards). I was admitted with a suspected stroke which was later revealed to be a cancerous brain tumour (a metastasis from the original breast cancer, so, a breast cancer on the brain).

On my 43rd birthday, I was more than a little nervous. I fled the country to Spain (with travel insurance the size of the National Debt) and lounged around in the sun (sun-block factor 900+) and enjoyed it immensely.

My 44th birthday was a transition from cancer grimness to a new era of tentative hope and a slow rebuilding process. NOTE for language enthusiasts (you know who you are): I looked on the online thesaurus for an alternative word to 'transition' and was horrified to see the word 'metastasis'. I am sticking with 'transition' for now.

So, later tonight I will be celebrating my 45th birthday. It is with joy in my heart that I am still here, with sadness in the pit of my stomach (no, I don't know why I feel it there) for those who are not here with me, and for those who mourn their loved ones who will not see another birthday, and with boundless thanks to God for giving me another year in this beautiful world.

Amanda

And for healing, love, friendship and joy