Posted on August 14 2016
I have had an interesting week. It has been a roller coaster ride of extreme highs and the lowliest lows.
On Wednesday I was so excited to hear the news that my dad was cancer free. He had passed his five year mark. I was so overcome with joy, I cried and cried.
I first found out he had cancer the day I found out I was pregnant with our second baby. I'll never forget that day. I'd just come home from the doctors. I had nausea like a bitch, and was beyond tired, but I was so happy. We had been trying for her for nearly a year, so I was relieved as well as excited.
My mum dropped in just as I arrived home and I burst out our news, expecting squeals and hugs and happy tears. I got tears, but they weren't happy ones. She tried, oh she tried, but the look of pure sadness on her face stopped me in my tracks.
When she uttered the words 'dad has cancer', time stopped. I was not expecting this. I had no inkling whatsoever that he was ill, or even experiencing any symptoms. Turns out he actually wasn't.
My pop had prostate cancer. But he was told he would die WITH it, not FROM it. It wasn't aggressive. He was however, told to let the men in his family know that they needed to get checked and they did. Dad went and got the test, dreading the finger up the bum, but pleasantly surprised by a simple blood test.
His levels came back fine but was told to come back in a year.
Life went on. Then Black Saturday happened, that horrific, desolate time that changed so many lives. Dad was working at the Council and was caught up in the tragedy and logistics. Recovery of our community took priority over everything. He, like many others, worked and worked, with no room in his mind for anything but to try and make things better. A mammoth, sometimes traumatising task.
Mum reminded dad some time during the year that it has been over a year since his last test. It was the last thing on his mind, but he went, and life changed as we knew it. Cancer had worked its ugly way into our family.
I always thought of prostate cancer as a 'good' cancer. You know, if you want any cancers that's the one you want. How naive of me. This wasn't a nice one. It was aggressive and threatened the life of my hero. My dad. The man that I loved unconditionally, unequivocally.
This time of my life is a bit of a blur. I remember not wanting to feel happy. Because how could I? I didn't want to look forward to meeting my baby as how could I when I didn't know if my dad would be there to meet her. The logical part of me told me that I needed to feel joy, but the emotional side of me was winning.
I won't go into all the details but he won. He made it. He fought that evil bastard with the help of some amazing medical specialists and treatment and he is here. He was there for my daughter, and then my son. He was there for my siblings and their babies.
I am lucky. We are lucky.
But I also feel guilty. Is this normal? I don't know.
Unfortunately we have lost many people in our family. My father in law was cruelly taken. His life cut short by cancer, leaving the most incredible family behind.
My grandmother. My Pa, my Pop, my Great Aunty, 2 of my mums brothers, my uncles. My husbands grandparents. Just one day after celebrating my dad's good news, we found out that one of his best mates, a wonderful family friend, had lost a vicious battle with Motor Neurone Disease.
All of these wonderful people gone, and many more, in various circumstances, all of them tragic, all of them devastating.
Grief is like a swamp. A deep, thick hole where you are stuck. A place where you kind of need to be, but a place you desperately want to climb out of. Some of us manage to climb out faster than others. Others wallow there. And that's ok. The loss of someone you love and need is a physical pain, a hollowness, a deep, empty chasm. You don't know how you are going to get through. How you will ever smile again. Should you smile again? Is that disrespectful to the memory of your person?
A saying that I really hate, is 'life goes on'. You know why I hate it? Because it's f*cking true. It does continue to roll. To pick you up and sweep you into the next chapter. You might not be ready for it, you may feel like you are caught in swirling surf, but you have to surrender. Allow yourself to float and be carried to shore. Be held buoyant by those who love you. Those that are still here, needing you, wanting you, loving you.
I have witnessed many different types of grief and recovery. I have seen my amazing in laws suffer the worse kind of grief. They are a big loving family, and they are now even more so. They locked arms. They hugged, they cried. They keep the memory of their precious father alive with the power of family and love. They talk of him often, they visit his resting place. He is still so much a part of their family.
I have seen other people not be able to even mention their loved ones name. They turn inwards. They want their grief to be theirs and theirs only.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. It's a personal thing that is immeasurable and individual.
I recently have had my own health problems. I'm hoping it's nothing too serious. Pretty sure it's not. I had a procedure done yesterday, and while I feel like I was violated with the contents of my kitchen utensil drawer, I still feel lucky, albeit sore.
I feel lucky because I'm here. I feel lucky because we have an excellent health system. I feel lucky that I get to hold my babies tight, and that they get to have me.
I need to take better care of myself. Listen to my body. We all do. Due for a Pap smear? F**king go! Checked your boobs lately? No? WHY?
We are losing people we love. Sometimes there is nothing that can be done, but let's start with prevention. I don't want you to turn into a raving hypochondriac, but listen to your body.
I'm going to give up the fags. There. I said it. Sh*t. I don't know if I am ready. But I have to. Because the thought of sitting in an oncologist's office, hearing that I've pretty much killed myself is more than I can bear. An accident is tragic. MND is tragic. So many things can kill us, but self inflicted cancer is selfish. I don't want my husband and kids to bury me.
I feel like I have a second chance with my dad. You don't hear many happy endings with cancer. So I'm going to shout mine from the rooftops. Embrace survival. Focus on the happy things. Love the living, fondly remember those gone too soon. Celebrate the small things.
Cos life goes on.