Tuesday, June 13 2017
“Life is 10% of what happens to us and 90% how we react to it”
Facebook memories can sometimes be a double edged sword. On one side it shows you the silly and mundane status updates that have you questioning what on earth you were thinking way back when. Then there are the moments that your life changed in an instant in what feels like a lifetime ago, but was in fact a year to date. It has the power of instilling those emotions you felt at that time and can feel like a sharp stab at one’s own heart.
Sometimes it can be bittersweet and reminds me of the little ‘wins’ in life: like the time my husband got his P’s after 20 years as a learner driver and I felt immense pride for him but cried tears of relief that I now can take a step back and not be the sole driver; or that time that I drove a 4 hour round trip to spend Good Friday with my family (having had chemo the day prior) and felt so sick, but I was able to hold my nephew for the first time since his birth and he smiled and laughed with me and in that moment I felt an overwhelming sense of love and happiness, as if all is right in the world, for that boy has the most infectious smile that makes you feel so happy.
1 year = 12 months = 365 days = too many minutes and seconds to be happy
Today’s memory however, was that it was 12 months to the day that I was told chemotherapy was stopped, that I had exhausted all other options and was admitted to hospital under palliative care… I was given 12 months to live.
I remember that day clearly, I had turned up to my chemo appointment thinking it was a normal chemo day. I drove myself to the hospital and had expected to drive myself home; instead I called hubby and told him I needed him.
I remember feeling so terrified, I was scared now having been given a timeframe and I didn’t know what to make of any of it. What if I did life wrong, what or how was the best way to spend each minute of the day, was there even a right way? I didn't know what to do, I just knew I wasn't done trying just yet.
But amongst all the fear felt, I also felt so much guilt. I felt that I had failed my husband, my family, my friends and myself.
Most of all I wasn’t ready for the end.
I remember crying so much that day just being held and consoled by my husband, we cried together and despite no words being spoken we knew what the other was feeling.
So I started writing my bucket list and planning how I wanted to spend the next year, particularly, my final moments. I began organising my funeral and how I wanted my life to be celebrated. I tried to include my loved ones in organising/talking about my funeral and joining me on bucketlist experiences in the hopes that it helped them somehow.
But one thing I knew for sure, was that I was determined to spend the next year living life as fiercely and to the fullest as possible.
Choosing my legacy and how I want people to think of me:
I wanted people to remember me not for the hardships I faced but for how I chose to face life, I wanted people to not pity me but to think “hey that is one strong, badass and positive chick”. I didn’t want the next 12 months of health issues/decline and struggles to define me, I was determined to try and help others.
I feel like the last 12 months have been incredibly exhausting, I feel like not only have I struggled with daily challenges but that I also have lived the most I possibly could have too.
In the face of adversity and a time I should have been selfishly focusing on myself, I started a magazine for other young people with a stoma that has been well received all round but also what I hope will be my legacy.
But my determination to try and help others didn’t end there:
I have tried to empower people to make better choices through learning from my mistakes, I have tried to challenge people to think about how they talk to or treat someone who is chronically or terminally unwell, I have tried to help others feel less alone in sharing my story openly and I have tried to encourage others to live their life as they see fit.
The last couple of weeks I have been struggling with depression and felt myself in a downward spiral. I have been told I am dying too slowly, that I am a burden on Russ, that I am a fraud because I am not on my deathbed now; all in a matter of weeks.
I am feeling a lot of self loathing (and as a failure) as I had hoped a year on our finances would be in a better state, that things would be less messy and more manageable for Russ to takeover. Yet, despite all the frugal efforts made, I still don’t feel things are better 12 months on. I had also hoped to be prepared enough and finish my funeral preparations by now too.... but things need a lot more working done. I also hoped to have saved/paid off my funeral too (I don’t know who I was kidding).
I just regret not having life insurance so much, it could have made life a heck of a lot easier.
So please if you can learn anything from this story is to never just take one opinion/advice from a person who is “an authorised representative”, to always get another opinion.
I HAD life insurance and when I stopped working I was told that my life insurance would be void if I had no EMPLOYER contributions made, that I couldn’t just make them (the contributions) myself. My insurance lapsed as a result. I later spoke to them again (6 or so months later) only to be told that the information I was told was incorrect and I could have made contributions all along and I would still now be covered or be receiving the benefits owed to me.
That one person who incorrectly advised my rights has caused so much stress and inconvenience to my life and while I have been told that person no longer works there I have been left to live with this mistake $600,000 poorer… I didn’t question the advice as it had come from someone at the company, that I assumed them to be right.
If only someone had of told me to get a second opinion.
Same went for my thyroid cancer, a respected endocrinologist told me there was nothing wrong with my thyroid and a week later I was in Sydney having thyroid biopsies done as it was actually cancerous, sadly in “the sticks” there isn’t always a second opinion you can get but I am lucky that I sought one in Sydney. Or that time I was told I was diabetic from a Doctor without any testing being done and started medication, it didn’t feel right and made me sick, I saw a different doctor a month later and was diagnosed with anaemia not diabetes.
Moral to the story, if it doesn’t sound/feel right always get a second opinion.
Your best teacher is your last mistake
Though all of these moments impacted on my life, I learned valuable lessons about myself or others around me.
If you do happen to make a mistake along the way just learn from it, don’t be too hard on yourself and be forgiving - you wouldn’t really be living if you didn’t make mistakes. Just learn from them and make yourself more informed for next time.
So here is to time and life, may we all take everyday as it comes and try to stop every now and then to take it all in, or smell the roses as some say. Life is so precious and I am just grateful to still be here 12 months on and living by my promise of trying to help others. So learn from my life if not for helping yourself, help someone you know.
Time and life is something that can go by so quickly and before long it is a year or 5 years later, so it is important that you make the most out of it. To be cliche and all, it really can be taken away at any time. I know I am cherishing everyday I have; as I know age, time and life are all a privilege.
“Life always offers you a second chance… it is called Tomorrow!”