I have had the most incredible week. It started with a CT scan on Monday. A peek at my insides to prove whether the new drug had reduced my tumours considering the chemo hadn’t worked for the first six months of the year. As usual the build up to the scan was worse than the actual scan itself- although I did get punctured more than necessary to administer the contrast dye. I have “shy” veins. They don’t like to present themselves to needles! Unfortunately the new drug causes me to bruise easily so my right arm ended up looking like an extra from the Thriller video… By Monday night I was freaking out. Why haven’t I heard about the scan? They’d most definitely have the results by now. I really ramped up the “scanxiety” as I noticed more and more niggly pains in my back, across my chest and in my abdomen.
By Tuesday afternoon I had done my best to distract myself from the impending doom. I called again to remind my oncologist’s secretary that “I still hadn’t heard and I didn’t want another night to freak out!” Ten minutes later – I had my results. No progression of tumours, lymph nodes all in the normal range: the new drugs had worked….welcome to REMISSION!
I’ve experienced numerous joys in my life and this is right up there. Hearing that there is a future, let alone a brighter future, is unbelievable! I can only sum it up by the feeling of being able to breathe out now. My husband and I couldn’t contain our happiness. We just glowed! Our children understood, by my careful way of describing why I was getting teary whilst hugging them more than usual, that their Mum was so much better. The hugs and kisses I received that afternoon were sweeter than anything!
On Wednesday I woke up whistling and I bounced out of bed and ironically played “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” by The Smiths very loudly. I have certainly got what I want. To be here. No active cancer. Right now I am “cancer free”. I also know that with stage 4 secondary cancer I will technically never be “cancer free” and certainly not “cured” but for now…right now…I am free of active growth. That’s good enough for me. I’m so lucky I was able to access this new drug Kadcyla. It is a miracle drug, although not without side effects. I know how incredibly lucky I am to live in this country where I have access to health care and the latest medical breakthroughs. Which brings me to Thursday.
On Thursday I decided to see if I could reduce some financial stress related to a number of large bills being due at the same time. Yes, unfortunately despite the elation of living without active cancer I still had to deal with the minutiae of life. I made the mistake of thinking I could ring an insurance company for a quick quote to see if I could reduce our insurance premium before I nipped out to the shops to prepare for a visit by my gorgeous friend, Rachel from Melbourne. I now know…there is no such thing as a quick quote!
One and a half hours later I was off the phone having pried myself away from the hard sell to close the deal by standing my ground. I needed to have some time to discuss and reflect. I previously wouldn’t have felt I could have been assertive in this way, but having cancer changes you in ways you can’t always predict. I’m much better at boundary setting!
Rachel arrived with flowers, Mumm champagne and nougat, and we had a delicious catch up, covering so much ground in an hour before school pick up. I ignored the insurance company phone call back. I had no urge to commit to a changeover until I’d spoken to Simon. The desire to close the deal was pressing hard for that employee and she called a few more times before leaving a message promising to talk with me first thing on Monday morning.
That night Simon, Rachel and I talked, ate and drank in great happiness, with Daniel, Rach’s partner, arriving later in the evening to join in the frivolity.
I mention all of this – the celebration, the love, the friendship, to illustrate the ease of life! Especially now that I have the scan results to prove it! I also mention the insurance quote because, yes the new quote would save us some money if we ever needed to rely on insurance in times of emergency. It would actually end up costing slightly more than what we were already paying but it would pay out more if we needed it. Which leads me to Friday.
On Friday Rach, Daniel and I walked the kids to school. It was a glorious blue sky Brisbane day. Not a cloud in the sky. I bade them farewell too as they went South and I headed to Art Class. Art Class was a celebration of life again. Seated amongst familiar faces – all women who have faced this hideous sickening cancer. There was so much joy, laughter and love in that room as always, but especially so when I shared my news.
We painted Monet. A beautiful calming waterlilies scene from Monet’s garden.
Then it happened. On the way home from art class as I drove through Rosalie and Paddington streets, past the character housing and chi chi boutiques and craft shops I heard on the radio the heartbreaking voice of a father in acute pain. The grieving voice of the father of a little boy who had washed up dead on the beach trying to flee a war zone. I hadn’t even seen the photo- that would come later to haunt my dreams. It was the sound of one mans’ anguish that choked me up and caused huge hot tears to drip from my eyes to my chin in an endless stream. I could barely see to steer these familiar safe streets.
Here I was. So damn lucky. Born into a very lucky country. No war here. No need to flee in desperation for a better life. Even with stage 4 cancer I have a much better life. I was so upset. I was also angry that this happens. That it happens all the time to families across the globe. War that kills in so many ways. And the sense that our government was contributing to the pain by their stance on refugees arriving by boat. These are not illegals. These are people. Families who had to make a heartbreaking choice to leave a dangerous land by heading out in a perilous sea. What sort of choice is that? I had to do something.
I stopped to buy some milk and bread. She stood outside the supermarket. Our eyes locked. Her name was Serat. She was from Eritrea. She beckoned me over. Synchronicity. She was working for the UNHCR. I wanted to help. But I wondered did I really have the money? These days charity is not putting a couple of coins in a bucket. These days there is direct debit and minimum year long commitment. I thought hard. I decided quickly that any gains made by cheaper premiums on insurance could balance out the cost of a dollar a day for a year to help families out of great pain. I have a home, safety, a community and a place where I belong. Surely I can give. I wanted to do something. Act on the emotional pull that had been building inside me. This is an emergency. UNHCR is the United Nations Refugee Agency. A large proportion of money donated goes directly to help those in need. Food, shelter, medical supplies like safe birthing kits (soap to wash hands, scissors to cut the umbilical cord) all essential requirements. Serat could not thank me enough and told me should would pray for me.
I did this because I had to. I felt morally, ethically and humanly obliged. I write about this because if you were seeing those pictures of that little boy face down on the shoreline you might have felt overwhelmed too and wondered what you could do. This is what you can do. Support organisations like UNHCR and World Vision that work directly with humanitarian crises like Syria or Sudan.
What a week.
Friday afternoon I picked up my cousin and aunt from a huge cruise ship at Portside and we had a lovely family catch up with my mum, brother and sister. That evening we toasted to family.
On Saturday morning we went to the School Fair. The kids were so happy and excitable. They went on all the rides, drank and ate mostly sugar, and had a ball! Such abundance and community. A wonderful day. Again I say we are lucky and blessed
Saturday night Team Meg- my support sisters from the school – all joined me, Simon, my sister and great friend Angie, for a remission celebration at our local- The Junk Bar. It was pure happiness and a great feeling of love amongst the Lemon Royales. I have really found the most beautiful people through the school extended family. Such deep connections – all equally important and cherished. I also love The Junk Bar so much, they really make you feel special- even shouting me a Lemon Royale in the house!
Tonight, after a relaxed and happy Father’s Day Sunday, celebrating the best man on earth, my darling Simon, whose parenting is patieht, generous and kind, I again feel so full of gratitude. We are here. Our kids are with us under the same roof. We have love and food and (finally) good health.
Tomorrow I will have a call from a very keen saleswoman from the insurance company. How do I tell her I won’t be taking up her offer after all? I won’t be able to afford her greater coverage for slightly more (about $360 more) per year. I have given that money away. Invested it in a tiny slice of humanity instead. For families that have no insurance against the cruelty of life. The unfairness of a child being born at the wrong time in the wrong place to a family that has no choice but to try and find a better life.
How will I tell her? Well, I guess I’ll just tell her the truth. I’m a bleeding heart. A very much alive and grateful bleeding loving living heart.