A breast cancer journey …

 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month in countries all around the world.

If you are like me, your life has been touched in one way or another by this pervasive disease. My mother had breast cancer in her eighties that resulted in a mastectomy. One of our daughters is a THRIVER … a term I learned many woman choose to use as they move on with their lives. After a vicious attack, double mastectomy and reconstruction, chemotherapy and radiation, seven years later she is strong and healthy.

Treatments have improved so much, the future is bright for so many who receive the initial frightening diagnosis.

Today, to honour the fight against breast cancer, I would like to highlight the journey of a friend and fellow author, Liza Perrat. I was so pleased when she agreed to write this post for us. Liza is a talented author, originally from Australia, who married a French man and has raised her family in France. More about that later. Here is the story she would like to share with us:

A Reluctant Journey

Reluctant because you’d not planned it, did not want it, had no time for it in your busy life. But most of all because you feared this breast cancer journey that had been foisted upon you one chill autumn morning of 2016.

No, no, no, not you! Surely not? There’s a mistake? No mistake, Liza, this time it’s you. And, whether you want it or not, you are going on this journey.

Reluctantly, you pack your suitcase: passport (with visa stamped, “To Hell and, maybe, Back”), bottle of lavender oil to massage away chemo headaches, tube of special cream to avoid radiotherapy burns, all-cotton-sports-support-wireless-bras in assorted colours.  Oh and don’t forget the “fighting, positive” spirit; you’re going to need barrels of that, where you’re off to.

You lock up the house, take a big breath and lug that suitcase out into the cold. The next three seasons –– the time you’ll be away (if all goes well) –– stretch before you, dauntingly, fearfully, as if you are standing at the foot of Mount Everest.

From your hospital bed, post-surgery, you watch the leaves turn their brilliant autumn shades of scarlet, mustard, cinnamon. Beautiful, you think, when the surgeon says, “I think we got it all… it only metastasized to one lymph node.” Those autumn hues are more exquisite than you’d ever noticed before.

Autumn quickly recedes to dismal winter, its grey moments of despair, self-pity and depression hovering like storm clouds over that mountain. Some days you feel like your journey is a never-ending uphill climb, the peak receding like a desert mirage.

But as the surgical scars begin to heal, the melting snow washes away the darkness. You look towards the next mountainous challenge: chemotherapy.

You turn up every third Thursday very early in the morning. No sleep in for the wicked! You slump down in the waiting room with other travellers, many of whom you guess, by the looks of them, are going nowhere. You breathe sharply. You’re ok, you’re going to be ok. You’ll make this journey; you’re climbing to that mountain peak. Between those dark clouds, you catch glimpses of a sunny summit.

You shed most of your hair along the sinewy trail, but, hey, who cares? It’s still cold; you can wear a pretty hat. Besides, a comb or brush is one less thing to carry in your bag. No razor either. Your legs have never been smoother, wow! No eyebrows is ugly though, and your red, stinging eyes make you realise that eyelashes really do have a purpose.

You tell your family and friends it’s not really that bad, this journey, as you keep dragging the heavy suitcase behind you.

Incredibly, you discover some surprises along the way. Pleasant surprises about your own strength, and the loveliness of your supportive network of friends and family who relentlessly cheer you on towards your destination with flowers, ginger sweets, fluffy socks, cashmere shawl, homebaked lasagna and cookies

Spring arrives and you leave behind the chemo. Yay, champagne! Only 6 weeks of radiotherapy left! You lumber down the other side of that mountain, the birdsong cheering you on, the tiny leaf buds nodding at you in the gentle breeze, as if saying, “Yes, keep going, you’re almost there.”  You’re breathless with the scent of new flowers; the heady fragrance of hope. The fabulous smell of happiness to simply be alive.

It’s summer now, and you stagger across the Welcome mat of The Refuge: place where you can unpack, recover, get “back to normal”.

“Normal” though, has become an incredible privilege, because the journey has taught you that you’re lucky. Luckier than many of the travellers you met along the way; lucky that your ticket was not a one-way. This time.

Yes, you can relax a bit, for now. Go on, smell the jasmine, gaze in wonder at the starry night sky, laugh at muddy dog paws on the sofa, bake a chocolate cake and eat it all.

Drink in your luck, savour it, guard it preciously. Because now you know that one day you might have to pack that suitcase again and travel back out into the cold. Return, or one-way. Because, who knows if that mountain will beckon once again?

To celebrate everyone who has faced or is facing the cancer journey, Liza is offering a giveaway: 2 sets of her French historical trilogy: The Bone Angel series (3 e-books each set). To enter, leave a comment below and Liza will draw two names. Good luck!

The Bone Angel trilogy consists of three standalone stories exploring the tragedies and triumphs of a French village family of midwife-healers during the French Revolution (Spirit of Lost Angels), WW2 Nazi-occupied France (Wolfsangel) and the 1348 Black Plague (Blood Rose Angel). (Note from Patricia ~ I absolutely devoured all three stories! The details are fascinating and the reader is truly drawn into the history of the time. Good luck, everyone!) Click here to order.

 

 

 

 

 

Liza Perrat grew up in Australia, working as a general nurse and midwife. She has now been living in France for over twenty years, where she works as a part-time medical translator and a novelist.

Her latest novel, The Silent Kookaburra, is a psychological suspense set in the 1970s of her homeland, Australia.

Liza is a co-founder and member of the writers’ collective Triskele Books and also reviews books for Bookmuse.

Sign up  for information on Liza’s book releases and receive a FREE copy of Ill-Fated Rose, short story that inspired The Bone Angel French historical series.

Connect with Liza online:

WEBSITE

BLOG

TWITTER

FACEBOOK

Liza, thank you very much for writing this post for us and sharing some of your journey. What happy news that you have already celebrated the first anniversary of your recovery. Onward! To all those still in the midst of a battle, we are all in this together and hold each other close in our hearts.

 

 

About Patricia Sands

Family, writing and travel are my passions … okay, and chocolate … and I’m seldom without a camera. I write women’s fiction and keep in touch with readers by a monthly newsletter that also has giveaways and contests. Come and join us by signing up on the right. See you there!

Comments

  1. That was an inspiring if hard-to-read post for someone whose daughter has only just come out the other side of breast cancer treatment and surgery: and who, as you know, has her own blog about her experiences as a recently widowed-to-cancer cancer patient. It’s so good that there are an increasing number of happier endings.
    Thank you Liza, thank you Patricia.

    • Patricia Sands says:

      You are most welcome, Margaret. Thank you. I know you and your daughter have been through the trenches with this terrible disease, as well as life in general. It seems to be such a fact of life for women and we will continue to battle on. Great strides have been made.

    • I’m sorry to hear you’ve been through this too, Margaret. Thanks for your support and all the best to you and your daughter! L x

  2. Thank you for this inspiring and encouraging message. I am a 12 years breast cancer “Thriver”. Each and every day I am reminded of my diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and years of “anti-cancer” medicines. Through the experience, I have learned from other people experiencing the diagnosis of cancer for themselves and/or loved ones. I asked my doctor when I could call myself a survivor and she said, “Right now. At the moment of diagnosis, you are a survivor.” That positive message helped me and my family tremendously. Blessings to all who are affected by cancer.

    • Patricia Sands says:

      Melissa, thank you for telling your story here. You are indeed a “Thriver”! It’s so important to share experiences, from which we can all learn and move forward with positivity and hope.

    • So pleased you are a 12-year survivor, Melissa! I too, am celebrating surviving! Do you mind if I ask about your “anti-cancer” medicines? I’d be interested to hear more about them. Thanks for your support. L x

      • The doctors referred to them as “anti-cancer” meds but in reality, they are meds to help with my bone loss experienced from the chemotherapy and radiation. Tamoxifen for 2 years. Aromasin for 3 years and now Evista and VitD3 forever. Amazing how the drugs used to kill the cancer affected other parts of my body in a different way. Congratulations on being a “Thriver”. 🙂

        • Ah ok, thanks for the clarification, Melissa. Yes, I too am on an anti-oestrogen similar to Tamoxifen, for 5 years. Yes I agree, incredible how those drugs have side-effects, sometimes debilitating!

  3. An incredible post. A thriver with a great attitude, so inspiring. Your books sound amazing Liza. How do we enter the giveaway?

    • Patricia Sands says:

      Good question, Darlene! Whoops … I just went back in and added the directions. Leave a comment here to be eligible! Thanks for spotting that.

    • Thanks for your comment, Darlene and good luck with the giveaway! Oh, and thanks Patricia for fixing the giveaway directions!

  4. These books sound fascinating!
    I read the Breast cancer essay with interest. As an eight year survivor, it is always good to understand others’ journeys through the experience.

    • Patricia Sands says:

      You are so right, Melissa. Congratulations on your eight years! Every person has their individual experience and by sharing the stories we gain greater understanding. Liza’s books are fabulous.

    • So pleased for you as an eight-year survivor, Melissa B. I too love hearing other people’s stories: same experience, different journey.

  5. Pam Chandler says:

    I’m a 5 year survivor lumpectomy Chemo and radiation now I work in a cancer center

  6. Susan Peterson says:

    This is a sisterhood I never thought I’d join, but I did, in February 2016. The love and support I got from other survivors, other thrives, brightened my dark days and filled me with hope.

    • Patricia Sands says:

      I hear you, Susan. We see so many loved ones battling cancer and all of a sudden it becomes our story too. It truly is a sisterhood.

    • Totally understand, Susan. I never thought I’d join either but did in the same year as you, October 2016. I had my operation exactly one year tomorrow (What a day; I’m sooo glad that’s over!) And yes, it was friends, family and other cancer sufferers who helped me through the dark days. I hope you’re doing well now? L x

  7. Susan Baldwin Mayfield says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, I shall pass it on. Life is a journey all by itself. Cancer shows no mercy and it doesn’t matter what your lifestyle is like. Our friends and families that need our love and support. Being in the medical field I am surprised of what I see and hear during every shift. I take it very personally. I want to help others. I am certainly not immune to it, my friends and family have been survivors and some have not. Praying for all.

    • Thank you for passing on my story, Susan. Yes you are right, cancer does not pick and choose and it’s simply luck (a throw of the dice) whether you get it, and survive, or not. People talk about fighting it, but I don’t think you fight the actual cancer, but rather battle to stay positive, to do everything possible to try and get healthy. Thanks for you comment.

  8. Robin Batterson says:

    As a Mammographer I will add this, get your mammogram! If found early many forms of breast cancer are curable with surgery. Even if not one of those types if found it is so much better to treat it and not ignore it. Touch yourself, know your normal lumps and bumps (all breast tissue can have) if you feel a change call your Dr. Get a mammogram or if younger an ultrasound. Do not ignore a change.
    Also while on my soapbox please also get your Pap test too. This simple test can also save your life.

  9. Carole Harvey-Perry says:

    I had breast cancer 6 1/2 years ago with a single mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy and with no possibility of reconstruction, I have a prosthesis! I had the inevitable hair loss, but it was fun choosing a wig – highly expensive here in France where I live. The plus side is that I saved many hours over the 3 months or so until my hair grew back, not having to wield the hair dryer and brush!!! The important thing is to always be positive (Yorkshire grit!) and I tell myself most days that I’m not having that ba….d back in my body!

    • Patricia Sands says:

      We can hear that strong and positive Yorkshire grit in your voice, Carole! Thank you for sharing your story here.

    • Thanks for sharing, Carole! Where are you in France? I live in a rural village near Lyon, and was pleasantly surprised at the excellent cancer care I was given here. All top-quality and, of course, you don’t pay in France + welcome extras like facials, head massages and yoga, during chemotherapy. It all helps to make you feel better, during those awful chemo months. I wore a cold cap, so didn’t lose all my hair, only about a third. It still looked thin, but I didn’t really need a wig. An upside I found was not having to shave/wax my legs for about 6 months, ha ha! Yes you’re right, we have to stay positive and enjoy this moment in life. It can change all too quickly. All the best to you! L x

  10. Susan Trainor says:

    It runs on the opposite side of the family. My 2 cousins. And for both it progressed one to esophagus cancer and she died 20 years ago. Her sisters came back in the liver and now to the brain. I don’t know how long her prognosis is.
    Her son is getting married this week. Or was this pat weekend.
    Her daughter had the DNA test and she carries the gene. She is having a double mastectomy next month. She is in her 20’s.
    It runs on her fathers side of the family. Not my side.
    I have current friends who either are survivors or battling now.

    • Patricia Sands says:

      Susan, thank you for sharing your family history with us. The more information we have, the better able we are to help each other and ourselves. I’m so sorry your family has had to face these challenges and hope for better days ahead.

    • Thanks for sharing, Susan, and I’m sorry you’ve had to face all this cancer. It’s good though, that we have genetic tests now, and can avoid some disasters.

  11. Margaret Wurth says:

    You are an inspiration to so many people my two cousins had breast cancer thank you for sharing your story

  12. Christine Woinich says:

    I saw the newsletter and had to come by to comment. This is the first time that I have heard the term Thriver. I have been cancer free for eight years. In a way I was lucky. I only underwent one round of chemo, then had a single mastectomy without reconstruction, and three months of radiation. I had lost my mother to brain tumors metastasized from lung cancer at the beginning of my year of diagnosis. My friend’s mother lost her battle with breast cancer while I was undergoing treatment, so I was a bit scared. My family, my friends, my church family, my scouting family all helped keep me going. So many people kept me positive, and I had to soldier on through all those doctors appointments, chemotherapy sittings, and testing. It is always good to hear of another making it through the fight, though the fight never truly ends.

    • Patricia Sands says:

      Thank you for taking the time to share your story here, Christine. You are indeed a THRIVER! I love that word and all it implies. Cancer brings such sadness to so many of us in a multitude of ways. But the stories of victories are so important for all of us to hear. You certainly had a supportive community around you and that’s a blessing. Onward!

    • I’d not heard the word, Thriver either, Christine, before this thread, but I really love it now! Yes, it’s definitely the support and comfort that helps us through that dark journey!

  13. Survivors are strong…we have to be. Congrats on retaining your sense of humor. Laughter is often the strongest healthy medicine.

  14. Sonnetta Jones says:

    I love nature and I really appreciated how you used it to describe your cancer journey. One of the hardest battle you face as a survivor, thrive or outlier is when you have gotten better and others have not. I am grateful to be here.

    You guys have to check out this company call A Fresh Chapter. It is for those who have been impacted by cancer and need a new Fresh Chapter coupled with volunteering. We are accepting applications for a 2week trip to Costa Rica. I had the privilege to go this year. Through the grace and presence of God I was able to push pass my fear and had an amazing time. I volunteered at a school with young children. Even though there was a language barrier, love made a way for us to communicate.

    • What a wonderful opportunity, Sonnetta and yes, I certainly am grateful to be here, whilst others are not. A Fresh Chapter sounds like something I’d love to do in the future, when I can stop working!

  15. Congrats on becoming a survivor, Liza. I went through this journey twice. Once in 1998 and again in 2016. I had one breast removed in Aug. ’16 and the other removed in Feb. ’17. I will not be having reconstruction. I am fine with no breasts. Get your mammogram every year, ladies and gents! Cancer can strike at any age. And I know a couple of male survivors as well. Thanks for sharing, Liza. Cancer sucks! Your books appeal to me immensely. I don’t read e-books so I’ll order them in print. Have a great day.

    • Patricia Sands says:

      Oh gosh, Mel, it must have been difficult to hear the second diagnosis. It sounds like you made wise decisions and your advice is right on the mark. I’m sure you will enjoy Liza’s books. All the best going forward and thanks for sharing your story here.

      • Thank you, Patricia. And thanks for having Liza as a guest and allowing her to share her story as well.

        • So sorry to hear that you had to go through this twice, Mel! Once was bad enough, but I guess you do what you have to! Glad to hear all is good for you now though, and thanks for sharing your story. Cheers, Liza

          • After my Feb. ’17 mastectomy I found out I have type 2 Diabetes. I changed my life overnight! Lost 43 pounds so far. This is very good. And I haven’t touched the Halloween candy!
            I wish you were giving away one of your books in print. 🙂

  16. Suzanne Walker says:

    I am a 22 – year breast cancer survivor. I had my lumpectomy the day after Christmas, 1995. My lymph nodes were removed in January and I started 6 rounds of chemo in February, 1996, followed by 6 weeks of radiation. The diagnosis was ductal carcinoma in situ, no lymph node involvement. Those are the blank facts, leaving out the emotional scarring, the bleak landscape, etc. Those you are very familiar with. I had no insurance, no job, a 9-year old daughter, and was a two-year widow (my husband died of cancer in 1993.) So I crawled out of the black hole like you have to do and lost my temper and fought. Now I really appreciate the compassion I gained for all people, the joy of ordinary boring days, and the inner knowledge that I can survive the mean and nasty blows of life. Take care, fight hard!

    • Patricia Sands says:

      Dear Suzanne ~ What challenges those were for you!I can well imagine the black hole, as you described. My first husband died of pancreatic cancer when I was 43 and our boys were 11 and 12. I hear you. However, I did have some other very positive support. I don’t know what I would have done if my circumstances had been like yours. Knowing how debilitating grief is, I’m immensely inspired by how you got mad and fought back. Your words show how much you gained from surviving all of that … you have a particular strength that will never leave you. Thank you for telling your story here.

    • Thanks for telling us your story, Suzanne. Friends and family support were what kept me going; got me out of the black hole. I remember thinking, I’m so glad my kids are grown up, this would be so much worse with young children at home, who are depending on you to function, when you just can’t! So glad to hear you are well after 22 years! x

  17. Natalya Lakhno says:

    Liza and Patricia, thank you very much for sharing! Blessings to you!! I’m praying for your health and ministry.
    It’s been three years since my surgery – thyroidectomy – Thyroid Cancer.
    It was a tough journey, esp after diagnosis. Only by God’s grace and support of my family, I’m well and helping others to overcome the fear.

  18. This is very poignant especially since I am just starting down this road. I know many others have been down this road, but it still feels very lonely. I’ve got my suitcase packed.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • Patricia Sands says:

      Oh Patricia, I am sorry to hear that this is on your plate. I hope you will find some support and inspiration from the words in these comments. I know you have wonderful friends who will be there to help hold you up when you need it. Don’t ever hesitate to reach out. Before you know it, you too will be a Thriver! <3

    • Hi Patricia, very sorry to hear you’re just starting your journey. I know, despite the best of support, you still feel quite alone most of the time. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch by email, or FB or Twitter, or whatever, if you’d like to chat some more. I’m no expert, but found a few helpful tips along the way, to make things easier. I also found chatting with others who’d been down that same road made it much easier too. Cheers. L x

  19. inspiring post

  20. Victoria K says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. You are an amazing women.

  21. What a great story with a great outcome. So many don’t get that. This made me thankful for my life. Thank you

  22. Hello – one thing that I’d LOVE to share with everyone who’s brushed, however lightly or however HARD with cancer, is my humble feeling that I was PRIVILEDGED in being FACED WITH MY OWN MORTALITY – I felt so sorry for my husband that his bride of only two years was perhaps going to leave him, but I felt glad that I nver had the reaction ‘why me?’ because I profoundly understood something like ‘Life’s a Lottery’ and to get on with it, enjoy it and make the world a better place for one having been here. That’s what civilisation is all about, isn’t it – that we owe everything that we have and enjoy to those who’ve CONTRIBUTED (including medical science)? Coming through breast cancer didn’t change me, except to appreciate life and its responsibilities even more…

    • Patricia Sands says:

      Thank you for sharing your story here. You are right. Life isn’t always easy or fair, but we need to appreciate every day as a gift and live it to the fullest. Onward!

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