October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month in countries all around the world.
In 2017 I asked author Liza Perrat if she would consider sharing her breast cancer story on my blog. She had been diagnosed one year earlier. I was honoured when she agreed.
Today I am reposting her original story AND her five-year update, just recently confirmed and celebrated across the miles.
I also want to share briefly another story here.
Breast cancer is particularly poignant to me today and to some people I love dearly. Since May, from the very early morning phone call from my BFF when we both cried, I have been following daily as her beautiful-in-every-way daughter, 35 years old and the mother of a 7-month-old and a 2-1/2 year old dealt with a heart-stopping diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer.
Throughout all the treatment (and it was the most aggressive) this young woman has met her challenges with grace and positivity and devoted support from her exceptional family and friends. She shared her journey and inspired us all. Yesterday she received this message from her healthcare team ~ CANCER FREE!
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, ten 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.
And now I turn this back over to Liza in France and the original post from October 2017 with her follow-up. I hope you go along with us.
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, home-baked 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?
OCTOBER 2021 ~ Firstly, Thank you for inviting me once again, on your blog, Patricia, it’s always a pleasure to talk to your lovely readers! Four years ago now, a year after my initial breast cancer diagnosis, Patricia posted my following “Reluctant Journey”. Five years down the track, and having – just last week! – had the “all clear” follow-up, yearly mammogram, I feel delighted, and privileged, to still be here, talking to you once again. And I would like to say that some positive things did come out of my “Reluctant Journey”. I really do appreciate the little things now, I live more “in the moment” and I certainly no longer sweat the small stuff. I have learned how to say “no”, how to avoid negative people and situations as far as possible. Basically, and perhaps ironically, breast cancer taught me how to live a happy life. However, reading back over my initial post reminds what a harrowing time that was in my life but, thanks to modern medicine, I was diagnosed before it was too late. As every woman who has been in this situation will tell you: “Get that mammogram!” Don’t push the issue under the carpet and hope it goes away, it won’t.
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To celebrate everyone who has faced or is facing the cancer journey, Liza is offering 3 e-book giveaways. Three winners will choose from one of the novels in her French historical trilogy, The Bone Angel series: Three standalone French village stories spanning six hundred years. Three midwife-healer women all linked by a bone angel talisman. Explore their tragedies and triumphs during the French Revolution (Spirit of Lost Angels), WW2 Nazi-occupied France (Wolfsangel) and the 1348 Black Plague (Blood Rose Angel).
To enter, leave a comment below and Liza will draw three names. Good luck!
Spirit of Lost Angels: https://books2read.com/u/49D5JY
Blood Rose Angel: https://books2read.com/u/3nYylx
Liza’s Australian-based family drama novels:
The Silent Kookaburra: https://books2read.com/u/4EyaqO
The Swooping Magpie: https://books2read.com/u/me7Gnr
The Lost Blackbird: https://books2read.com/u/3GAxQp
(Note from Patricia ~ Good luck/Bonne chance with this draw from Liza’s historical fiction trilogy. I absolutely devoured all three stories! The details are fascinating and the reader is truly drawn into the history of the time.
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. She is currently working on the first novel in her new French village series: Sainte-Marie-du-Lac.
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Liza, thank you very much for rewriting this post for us and sharing your journey. What happy news that you have just celebrated the fifth 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.