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:
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.