Imagine if you will, a woman who loved life so much that she devoted as much time as she could to prolonging it and getting the most out of it by eating healthy, exercising and making all the right choices. Imagine that woman detecting a strange lump on her breast one morning, the panic the anxiety of wondering what the lump was all about.
Imagine her face when the doctor tells her she has breast cancer and would have to have her breast removed. When you are 30, healthy, happy with two and a half children and a wonderful marriage the last thing you think about is your own mortality, but there I was receiving what at the time felt like a death sentence and all I could say to the doctor was “thank you.”
I have gone through a lot of struggles in my life to get to where I am now. My mother died when I was 13 and I spent years angry at her for not saying anything about her illness and angry at God for taking someone from me. Because of the anger and not dealing with things back then I had abandonment issues.
Every relationship that I got into, every person I got to love I feared would leave me and I would just sabotage the relationship. Of course I didn’t know that then, just like I didn’t know at age 13 how to deal with grief or death. I have had many struggles since then but the biggest one has always been with my weight. Like most women I am always conscious of how I look but there were times when I took that to a whole other levels of self-deprecation.
I would be on one diet and give up and go on another diet and give up. People who have known me all my life have seen me go from 65 kg to 165 and back during several periods of my life. I couldn’t figure out how to have a healthy relationship with food let alone to love myself enough not to put my body through all that I put it through.
Things changed in my mid twenties when I met this a lady named Julie at work who was on a healthy weight loss diet. We hung out during coffee breaks and the more we talked the more we liked each other and our friendship became more than just a work friend. We became very good friends the kind that do Sunday brunches and help out with kids’ parties. We had a lot in common, our history almost ready the same. She had grown up without a mother who had Multiple Sclerosis.
She lived with the fear of either having the disorder or having it passed on to her children. Our five-year-old girls had play dates and we became second mother to the other one when one of us couldn’t be around. I would credit her with helping me understand my weight issues and helping me get to weight watchers.
The one thing that a learnt from Julie was that I needed to love myself enough to take care of my body not just for me but for my husband and baby girl. She mentioned she was on weight watchers but by looking at her I could not figure out why, she was a perfect size 6 and did not look like she needed to be on some diet. The thing that sold me was seeing a picture of her looking bigger than me stuck on her refrigerator door. I pointed it out and asked if it was her mother and she said it was her at her fattest.
Then she proceeded to show me her wedding pictures and I could not believe the Julie I knew was the same Julie in those pictures. “I did it mostly for my health”, she said. “I have already lost a mother to a disorder she had no control over and I live in constant fear of the same thing happening to me, the only thing I can control is this. I choose to have a full, healthy active life whilst i still can and not worry about things I cannot control.” I joined Weight watchers and loved how the program does not make you fear food but gets you to understand what your body needs. Five years down the line I am in the best shape of my life and I’m running marathons.
The cancer threw me for a loop. I spent the better part of the week in a daze, trying hard not to think about it. My husband, who knew how to read me, knew to leave me alone, to process the news in my head. Time. That’s all I could think of. We kept the news to ourselves for weeks. I didn’t feel like it was anybody’s business to know that I had cancer, people had their own problems to deal with and they didn’t need to have to deal with mine. On the outside I was fine. Still did the things I always did and quietly went on with my life but inside I was breaking down.
Doctors tell you that there is always hope, especially with breast cancer and more importantly if it caught early. I finally broke down and told Julie about it and we spent a good hour crying about it. She then proceeded to invite me to a church service in Edinburgh but I didn’t go, the next week she told me about a support group that met at her church for people dealing with terminal diseases.
I wasn’t much of a support group person, if this thing was going to kill me then it will kill me, no amount of support would stop it. After consistent invitations I finally relented and accompanied her to choir practice. I have never been much of a singer but I can hold a note and so I joined the choral choir.
It has been almost a year now since my cancer diagnosis. I had both breasts removed, am seeing a counselor, still on weight watchers and a member of a choral music group. According to my doctor things are going well with me. Chemotherapy is still hard but I have my choral choir ladies who have become like sisters that I can sing my heart out with and celebrate the life that I have. Death is inevitable but I don’t have to accept it. I still have control of my life and for now, it’s more than what I could ask for.
Below there are a few posts with some interesting stories about choir in Edinburgh.