Ava my sweet little niece was the gift that we all so desperately needed at a time of the most uncertainty in our lives, but upon the announcement from my brother and his wife that they were expecting their first child, my reaction wasn't exactly that of a thrilled Aunty to be, it was one of dread and fear, my stomach went into knots and I could feel a lump in my throat, (but I thought I had put on a pretty darn good show, at covering up my true feelings about this impending addition to our small, tight knit family, apparently not), my brother later questioned my mum as to why my reaction wasn't very excitable and at that point she didn't know my true feelings either.
The truth is, the first thing that came into my mind was, 'that's it I'm dying, the old one in, one out rule, she'll be born and I'm gonna die' and there was nothing or no-one else who could make me think otherwise.
I had just completed a gruelling cancer treatment regime over the last 8 months, which consisted of an 8 or 9 maybe 10 hour tumour removal surgery, which led to a months stay in hospital with a paralysed stomach problem and I went down to 36 kilos, about 80 pounds, I had also completed 3 months of intense chemotherapies and had another large surgery called a partial distal gastrectomy, so to be told in December, 2 weeks after completing my treatment, that we were expecting a new arrival, I just wasn't in the best frame of mind, I hadn't come to terms with what had happened to me over the past months yet.
For me the mental battle began after the completion of treatment and I actually think it would be quite a common reaction. I mean I'm not saying I didn't have hard emotional times throughout treatment, of course I did, it's just that when you're in active treatment, you feel like your fighting this bastard, you're doing something and you're thrown into this whirlwind of cancer jargon, treatment and everything else cancer related, so quickly, that you don't really have the time or the clarity of mind to sit back and actually absorb it, take it all in and digest it. You're thrown in the deep end without floaties and you can't swim, you're too busy trying to keep your head above water to be thinking about anything else, other than the actual fight. So once you've completed active treatment, that's when the brain kicks in, that's when all of the scary thoughts come.
People are constantly coming up to you after completing treatment and saying "Wow, how good must you be feeling? You've beat this, you won, let's go get pissed to celebrate that you're cancer free"! So what if you look like a bloated bald, eyelashless, eyebrowless cancer creature of the blue lagoon, yeah I really feel like the idea of trying to squeeze into my jeans that have fit me for the last 5 years since I bought them, but now won't even go past my calf since my 7 kilo treatment weight gain, sounds like sooooooo much fun.
For the family, friends and loved ones of the cancer "survivor", a little bit of advice to take on board, your friend, family member, whatever they are, it could be your pet bloody cat with kidney cancer for all I care, they have just been through the wringer, their bodies are either emaciated from chemo sickness or post surgery issues, they may be bloated from all the steroids they consume for sickness (I've told you before, these drugs actually reposition the way you gain weight, completely altering your face and body shape, it's not like normal weight gain, it's actually disfiguring), they will be lethargic beyond description, their muscle's will have turned to jelly, they may be bald, they may be sore, their brains are also like jelly (good old chemo brain, you know that medical phenomena that all chemo patients say they experience, but the medical field still insists there is no proper study or evidence to confirm that it is in fact a problem? Yeah that thing that doesn't really exist, just like Lymes) and this may end up being a long term side effect.
Your friend will be different after cancer, they won't be the same person and their personality will also have changed and you need to allow them to be different, I mean don't let them shit all over you and play the, "but I had cancer card, so we should be watching the notebook tonight, because I don't know if I'm going to live or die and ever get to see Ryan Gosling with his shirt off again card".......no don't put up with that crap, maybe you can once or twice, but anything beyond that, tell your friend to stop using the "C" word as a get out of jail free card and start living.
I can't attest to what it is like getting over the c word or if you ever even really do get over it, because let's face it, I stopped treatment in November and my disease was making its return appearance "METATASTIC GASTRIC SARCOMA: The sequel" in August the next year (symptomatically), so I was still in the "getting my head around it" stage when my tumourous friends returned.
I know for me, in those first few "remission" months, I would still look at people and think, how lucky are you?, you're not bald and fat and might get cancer and die, I would look at people in their 80's and think am I ever going to get to that age? I was still resenting cancer and what it had done to me and my family, friends, loved ones, how it had totally mind raped me and left me powerless, with no apology or regret, it just came in like a tornado that ripped through our lives for 8 months and left all of this devastation and uncertainty in its wake, with not even a sorry, who in the hell does that? Cancer, that's who does that, it sneaks up on you like a stealth missile in the middle of the night and unleashes a barrage of pain in seconds. The words "you have cancer" are ones that will forever ring in a cancer patients ears, whether they survive or it comes back, "you have cancer" will always be sitting there in the dark deserts of your mind, waiting to strike.
The whole 5 year survival thing is another bullshit cancer crap fest, I mean honestly do you think people are idiots? So 5 years after you've been cancer free, you're telling me, any little cancerous cells that may have been left behind and haven't been reactivated within that 5 year period all realise "hey it's the 5 year cancer free NED (No evidence of disease) anniversary today, well time to pack our rucksack and go spread our devastation elsewhere, sayonara", complete and utter bullshit, I apologise to those of you who have had cancer and survived it and truly believe that magic number 5, is when your body just suddenly decides to become immune to cancer. It's just another one of those numbers or statistics that doctors use, it's the 5 year survival rate, so for example they told me that at 5 years there would be a 50/50 chance that I would still be here and something like a stupid 57 % chance if I did chemo, so for 7% chance, I injected toxic sludge into my body over a period of 3 months and the bastard still came back, all for 7%, so that just proves how desperate we are as cancer patients to be cured, that we'd be willing to put our bodies through total annihilation for something that was a totally made up figure (well it was for me, as there were no available statistics about my cancer, as they'd never seen this type before and still haven't seen it since, I know, how unique and special am I?).
So when my brother announced Ava was on her way that December, I resented her, I feared her (good old Irish superstition) and it took me some months to actually get it into my head that it was all superstition and to not be so stupid and embrace it, so I did, I threw myself into making little crafty things for her room, threw the best baby shower with my mum to blow all other baby showers out of the water now and in the future of all baby showers.....did I mention the baby shower was great? Accepted the role of godmother (even though in the back of my head, actually it was still smack bang in the forefront of my head that I may not be around for her, if in fact the physical side of godmotherly duties was ever called into action, what if I die? Is there a sub or a reserve on the sidelines waiting to be tapped in? Do you have to go through the whole service again?) and came up from NSW, a week out of Mariannes (sister in law) due date, to physically be there when the bub was born.
That week leading up to Ava's birth I had the worst UTI's known to man and my stomach felt bloated and sore, going over speed bumps in a carpark killed my insides and the long day at the hospital waiting for Ava to be born, I was wearing 2 pairs of leggings (they're more slimming that way) and I remember the pain of the elastic pressing on my stomach was unbearable, I went into the toilets and took one pair off, still no relief, I walked outside to the outdoor eating area and remember just feeling this immense pain, but not wanting to mention it because my sister in law was in a room down the hall squeezing a watermelon out of her hoo haa, her pain and level of importance of event way outweighed or trumped any discomfort I was feeling that night.
So around 5ish in the evening on August 28th, Ava was born, slam bang in the middle of Mums 19th of August birth date and Dads 6th of September birthdate, she was playing both sides from the moment she was born 😉 I went in and hugged and kissed her and poor Marianne was rushed off to surgery after the birth, it was just Mum, Dad, Steven, myself and this new little perfect addition to our family. In the end I had to leave as I was in so much pain and of course as we know, I held off for another week or so, until I actually collapsed in pain and was forced to see the doctor and told it was back and I was riddled with it.
So you're probably thinking well what was the point of this whole story then, you were right, the cancer came back, the one in, one out rule applies? No, the cancer would have come back whether Ava was born or not, Ava was actually the gift that God gave us to actually get through these last few years, she has made me smile more than any other human, she has loved me unconditionally and without judgement, she is my little sidekick, the ying to my yang and she is also the same to every other family member or friend, she is just a shining light on any cloudy day, her personality fills the room and her love for us is immeasurable, I believe she was put here as our silver lining and for that I am eternally grateful.
I was not given the gift of my own child and I believe that was because my plan was already laid out, I was meant to get cancer and I was meant to die with it and if I had been blessed with kids, I know I wouldn't have been able to cope with this shit show if I had them , so Ava, although she's not mine and I would never try and infiltrate her mother/daughter relationship with Marianne, she is basically like all of our child, she spreads her love and time evenly with all of us and makes us feel special with just a look or a sly comment, she's as witty as get out, as sharp as a tack and the spitting image of her mother and without her I believe our days would be a lot duller.
So my point, Ava was my/our saviour, on many of the days that I was told I was dying or I don't feel like going on, she has come in and just sat with me, from the time she could sit up, she would sit next to me in the hospital bed and put her hand on my belly and just smile, she has clocked up more hours in a hospital than an average registered nurse and still to this day she has not thrown a tantrum.
So my parting words in his blog are to you Ava, you are my sunshine, you are my best bud, you are my little karatespiderava sidekick and without you, our family would not be complete. You complete me x
👁 ❤️U 🤗
My name is Lisa Magill and I have been navigating the minefield that is cancer since just months after turning 30, people have been saying to me for years that I should put my thoughts into writing and as time has progressed I thought I had left it too late, well here we are nearly 4 years in and for some unknown reason I've decided to start to write today.