Mar 21, 2017

A tough week

Last weekend my beautiful friend Lisa, who you probably know as Terminally Fabulous, passed away. I met Lisa just under a year ago, the same week I got diagnosed with cancer myself. Although Lisa had terminal cancer and lived each and every day in a huge amount of pain, she comforted me and helped me through the whole thing. She was the person I could turn to when I felt like chemo was going to kill me, she'd give me real advice that would help me so much. Like the time I told the Doctors I wanted to be admitted the night after I had my chemo (I was having a lot of struggles with anxiety and was so scared that chemo was going to kill me that I wanted to stay in the hospital so they could make sure I wouldn't die. This seems so crazy that I would think like that now but it was a tough time) and Lisa calmly suggested that staying overnight in hospital after chemo with anxiety could actually be extremely traumatic for me. She told me that I'd be on a cancer ward, with extremely sick people that sometimes pass away. She was one of the only people I'd listen to and because of that I stayed home and was absolutely fine that first night with no anxiety at all.

She came with me to my second chemo, with a bag full of presents as it was also my birthday and when I started quizzing the nurses about why I needed to take a panadol or aspirin or something (major drug paranoia anxiety!) she jokingly reminded me I was currently getting bag fulls of poison pumped into my veins and I'd be fine with a frickin panadol!

Yes, we bonded over the fact we had cancer but the when it came down to it, she was so much more than her disease, she was a fantastic human, she was beautiful, she had so much sass and wit and humour, she would listen to you and she'd make it better, she'd make you laugh hysterically and she was one of those people who would just light up the room and every minute you spent with her was special.

Which is why although ever since I've met her she was 'terminal' I never believed this moment would actually come. I'd say to her,  you have so much more life in you than anyone I know! And until I saw her in hospital the week before she passed I didn't think it would happen. She'd outlived every milestone the Drs threw at her. She'd been told she wouldn't make it through the night numerous times, she'd been told she would die within three months and went on to live three years longer than that.

She was inspirational on every level that a human can be and I'm just so lucky I got to be friends with her.

The last days she was alive she was so weak after the most courageous fight, it was hard to see someone you care about so much go through that. The last thing she said to me was 'make sure you keep me updated with your treatment and how you are, well I'll be making sure and checking. Love you' which is just so typical of Lisa, thinking of others before herself.

I went to see her after she passed as there was an open casket at the house. I got to speak with her lovely Mum and some of her friends. I was really glad I got to see her, she looked peaceful and as beautiful as ever.

The night before her funeral I woke up at 5am, paralysed with fear. I felt like I couldn't breathe, gasping for air and that awful sensation of adrenaline, panic and fear hit me like a tonne of bricks. After days of feeling on edge, I had a full on panic attack, the first major one I've had in 9 months. It took me about half an hour to calm myself down. I kept thinking of Lisa, how cancer doesn't discriminate, it doesn't matter how young you are, how nice of a person you are, it can happen. The sadness with missing Lisa and the selfish feeling of, what if it comes back and what if that's me? And at 5am that morning I really was convinced it would happen to me. My anxiety has always been about me dying. Some people get anxious in large crowds or busy places or in social situations and I have no issues with that at all, but I guess it's no surprise that it happened the morning of Lisas funeral.

Luckily Craig came home from night shift early that morning and hopped into bed and cuddled me. I went to Lisas funeral, which was beautiful, full of love and the sun was shining. As we drove to the church we could see the ocean glittering in the background. Butterflies were released as her coffin was taken away, a couple of them landing on people which raised a few smiles.

I got home collapsing into bed for an hour as I thought about the pain of everyone who loved her, the unfairness of it all and just a general feeling of sadness.

I know that it is natural to feel this way when someone you care about passes away but I was scared that I'd go back to that dark place I was in that first week I found out I had cancer, the panic attacks, the fear...But I won't let it happen. It's stupid to live your life like that. It's the first time I have felt like that since my treatment has finished and I'm proud of myself for pulling myself out of it and getting back up again. I think when you are sad you are really vulnerable, because your defences are down and you haven't got the energy to fight off things like anxiety.

Grief is not something I have a lot of experience with. I'm unsure what to do with these feelings and the uneasiness and just horrible sad feeling. I think of how I'm feeling and then I think of her family, her best friends, and the pain they must be going through and that fills me with such sadness all over again. Especially after getting to know them over the last week and finding out what beautiful people they all are.

It's just shit. I don't know how to feel and this week has mainly just been about getting through it.

Also, I recently started my tamoxifen drug, probably about a month ago now and I think the side effects are starting to hit me. I hate taking this drug so much. I hate taking anything but knowing that all these horrible side effects could start to happen fills me with a little anxiety in itself. This is a drug which can cause liver cancer, uterine cancer and all sorts of other lovely stuff. It's a classic case of benefits vs. risks. Will it stop the breast cancer returning and I will be healthy for the rest of my life, or will I get liver cancer as a result of the drug instead....

Will I continue to get horrible headaches and stomach cramps and fuck up my ovaries and all that stuff forever....
Should I jst keep taking it and hope for the best or stop taking it and worry every day that it'll come back and the Doctors can look at me and say 'Well of course it's come back, you didn't take the Tamoxifen...'

Oh wow I'm on a really depressing streak tonight! I'm so sorry to write such a downbeat entry but I have to be honest. I'm trying to navigate this as best I can and at the moment, I have no answers, I have no inspirational quote. I'm just...saying it how it is today I'm afraid, so thanks for bearing with me.

Also if anyone has any advice re. tamoxifen, I would love to hear it :)

I would also like to say a huge thank you to the amount of support I received from my last blog post. Which you can read HERE

It was really emotional, the amount of messages and comments I received from girls telling me similar stories or thanking me because they were going to persist with their own Doctors as a result of the blog. It was also really amazing the amount of attention it got from the media, helping me spread the awareness even further.

Thanks to Mamamia, Quest newspaper, Noosa Today, the Daily Mail, little boo- teek and Constance Hall for republishing it and to everyone who sent a message of support.

If you would like to help me further in support of breast cancer awareness, please feel free to share my posts or to purchase a 'Lion in Me' print from my store. $10 from every print sold is donated to The National Breast Cancer Foundation to help fund research and of course the hope of finding a cure.

You can purchase a print HERE

I was honoured to have seen this painting of mine, that Lisa asked me to do before Christmas, framed, amongst the flowers at her home. And I was also honoured that Rebecca, Lisas best friend asked me to paint one of her favourite pictures of the two of them together. It helped me focus on doing something good in the days after she passed.

Rest in Peace beautiful Lisa and thank you for all the light you shone on this world 


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