Not a ‘journey’ – an ‘education’ | PERSONAL STORY

Ever since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I keep hearing about people’s different cancer ‘journeys’. With due respect, it’s not like we were seduced by some clever advertising and thought, ‘Ooh, let’s go have all these invasive tests and find out if we qualify for this trip of a lifetime. If we do, let’s spend lots of time in a modern hospital where they have great drugs, remove parts of your body, then possibly poison you or irradiate you, (or both if you’re really lucky!)’

No, I certainly didn’t sign up for any of this. Instead, (in my early sixties) I feel like a small child who has been told it’s time to start school, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve figured out from talking to some students in higher grades that this is a school of hard knocks, and I’m torn between admiring them for their progress so far, and dreading what lies ahead.

Right now I’m about nine months into an open-ended course called ‘How to Cure Your Cancer’. I’ve been promised that if I obey the rules and pass all my assignments, I will eventually graduate. (I know there’s some fine print in there somewhere, but I’m not looking too closely.)

So, what’s in this course? There are several complicated modules and just perusing the syllabus is enough to give you information overload. If you’re very lucky, you get to skip some of the modules, but the following is an outline of the course that I’ve been forced to attend so far:

  • Diagnostics (I passed with top marks, unfortunately)
  • Homework (loads of texts that do not make for light bed- time reading)
  • Advanced Surgery (one breast and many lymph nodes removed)
  • Medical Jargon 101 (scary stuff)
  • Advanced Chemotherapy (includes Fatigue, depression and Needles 101)
  • Beauty Class (at least this was fun)
  • Radiation Therapy (I’m currently a weekly boarder because of distance)
  • Self-paced Learning (digging deep into the meaning of life, the universe and everything)
  • Hormone Therapy (will take years to complete)
  • Breast Reconstruction (optional).

Alison, NSW

Lady smiling wearing headscarf


Issue 79
Winter 2017