Tuesday 24th September 2019

Women Of Courage Series. #14. Veronica. 88/2019.

Trigger Warning: Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatments.

 

 

Women of Courage Series. #14. Veronica. 88/2019.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid May 2019: Wednesdays: each week.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

I have known Veronica, who is 50,  for some years now and we met way back via the blogging community in Sydney.  For some years we continued following each other via the usual social media and then we had a closer connection than either of us would choose. I was treated for my head and neck cancer in the same place where Veronica received the news she discloses in her story.  I welcome her to share today and her story concludes with a number of important links Veronica supplied. 

 

 

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

My life changed forever in March 2018, just about the time I was planning how to celebrate my upcoming 50th birthday.

After several hours of poking and prodding, I was sitting in the waiting room, trying to stay calm, breathing intentionally, focusing on positivity, yet bracing myself for bad news. The doctor finally called me into her office.

We sat down and I grabbed my husband’s hand tightly.

“I’m sorry…..you’ve got breast cancer.”

I tried to hold my composure as I attempted to absorb the news and subsequent information. “Treatment and outcomes have improved”, I heard someone say. A lot of the discussion was about the next steps. It was only when I mentioned what was first and foremost in my mind, my young daughters, that I burst into tears. I had to be here to see them grew up. I just had to.

 

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

There is no instruction manual for these type of moments. I didn’t realise it at the time but I found my natural problem solving drive kicked into gear. All procrastination seemed a thing of the past. I had to make quick decisions and take action to do what I needed to get this disease out of me immediately.

Amidst the persistent surreal fog I found myself in, my days were intentionally and determinedly busy. There were numerous tests, referrals, specialist appointments, scans, surgery and days and days of treatment. Attacking and overcoming this disease was the priority but keeping busy and distracted with work and a daily routine was paramount. It was my main coping mechanism.

Whilst I felt I could not control cancer or the treatments to come, I tried to focus on what I could control. Very early on, I knew I would lose my hair and chose to take control of that process very deliberately. I chose to embrace the hair loss and not hide it. It was liberating and empowering and still is.

The diagnosis and treatment forced me to look more seriously at my overall health. I started exercising after years of ignoring my general health and it’s helped with the after-effects of surgery and treatment.

I had to learn, and am still learning, to really be kind to myself and my body. Rest, sleep, eat well, let stress go. It’s still a work in slow progress but it’s a step in the right direction.

 

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

Over the ensuing months, many people commented on how strong I was. The truth is I didn’t feel strong much of the time and I definitely did not feel brave.

Before my own diagnosis, I remember looking in awe at others facing this disease and the debilitating effects of the treatments. I would think of my children and be grateful that wasn’t me, feeling strongly in my gut that I’d never have the wherewithal to face such a battle.

Then it was my face in the mirror and I had to face it and there was only one choice. It wasn’t a decision made from bravery. It was a no-brainer. It was a choice to live; a choice to survive; choice to fight for my children, my husband, my family, my loved ones; a choice to fiercely hang onto this precious life we have all been gifted. The quote below rang and still rings so true:

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.” – Bob Marley

I also learnt that I can’t solve every problem. I can use my agency to control what I can, and when there is little I can do, I have to release my mental and emotional grip. I have to go with the flow and embrace the moment and deal with what comes on the other side when I get there.

I learnt that life is a precious gift and worth being grateful for every day. Not everyone gets the chance.

I learnt that worry is inevitable but it fixes nothing. It is a thief, just like the disease. Positive energy, staying hopeful and being in the moment are the best choices.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that?

Yes, but being courageous is to me is feeling the fear but pushing through anyway. It’s not going forward with a sense of power and invincibility. It’s going forward, feeling fragile and vulnerable, yet knowing it is not an option to stay in that dark place. It’s searching for and moving towards the best possible choice that drives me.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

Take things moment by moment. Make one brave decision at a time. Take one brave step at time. Be in the now, embrace the present moments. Your initial goal is to take the first step. Then, you take another “first” step and the so on. Don’t worry about the 10th step still you have to face the 10th step.

 

Do add anything else that you think would help others who read your post.

Please add a trigger warning. See above.

Breast Cancer resources:

Pink Hope – Know Your Risk, Change Your Future

http://pinkhope.org.au

Be Dense Aware (Did you know dense breast tissue can make diagnosis more challenging?)

https://www.bedenseaware.com/

iPrevent – Breast Cancer Prevention Through Risk Assessment

https://nbcf.org.au/19/prevention-through-precision-medicine/

Sydney Breast Cancer Foundation – The 3 Step Breast Check

https://www.sbcf.org.au/resources/

National Breast Cancer Foundation – Zero Deaths from Breast Cancer by 2030 campaign

https://nbcf.org.au/

 

I do admire Veronica for her honesty in sharing what for many would be a great challenge. Watching Veronica through the social medium space of instagram I have been in awe of her courage. It was so good to know that she was prepared to share her words. Thank you again dear V.

Denyse.

 

Instagram:  @mixedgems

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

Copyright © 2019 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

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Comments

  1. I love your photograph, Veronica. Good advice about “one step at a time”.

  2. Thank you for sharing – that in itself takes courage, let alone everything else you’ve been through I love that Bob Marley quote – it’s very very true.

  3. Thanks for inviting me to share my journey, Denyse. You’ve done an amazing thing in collecting so many inspiring stories. I have been touched by many of them.

    • Thanks so much Veronica. It is testament to women and their stories of courage that this series has been well-subscribed by those I have invited to take part. Not everyone did say ‘yes’ but more than I ever might have guessed.

      Your photo is amazing!!

      Denyse x

  4. Another inspiring story and thanks so much for sharing it with us Veronica. I am always so impressed with how women gain courage and fortitude when they face something they never dreamed would be handed to them. Your strength shines through and that photo of you is such a battle cry for overcoming the odds.
    Denyse thanks for sharing another courageous woman with us at MLSTL and I’ve added it to my SM

    • It is yet another story well-worth the sharing I agree.

      This one too, is of education and information and Veronica’s message is very strong there.

      Thank you Leanne.

      Denyse x

    • Thanks Leanne. Every woman’s story has been so inspiring. They say diamonds are made through under pressure, water lillies push through the mud. I think it is so true. We can learn so much from these trials.

  5. Thank you Veronica for sharing your story – for your decision to embrace the no hair look – for clinging on to those words, “one step at a time”. May you have many years ahead to share with your family.

  6. Veronica you are a proud and beautiful woman and I love that you took control rather than letting the breast cancer take control of you. Thank you Denyse for another courageous and inspiring story. #MLSTL

  7. Love the advice about not worrying about the 10th step until it’s the next step. I think that is one of the most important things when dealing with these overwhelming medical issues. Great post.

  8. Thank you Denyse for hosting Veronica and her story here as part of your series. I know Veronica (online anyway). I think we met via the blog world. I can’t remember exactly, but I think we connected via our shared loved of photography. Veronica I wasn’t aware of your cancer diagnosis until you were towards the end of your treatment. I am so terrible at keeping up with everyone on social media. I have to tell you though that I thought you seemed incredibly brave and positive and I loved seeing the short video where you rang the bell at the end of your treatment. You look beautiful with no hair by the way! Bob Marley’s quote is very true – “You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice”. I found that out when I watched my Dad die. I wish you good health and happiness now Veronica and thank you for sharing your story and thoughts here as part of Denyse’s series. xo #TeamLovinLife

    • That is a beautiful message to Veronica Min. Yes, you both are people who capture great images. I met Veronica at a blogging event in Sydney when Nuffnang put on conferences!

      Thank you Min.

      Denyse x

    • Thanks for your kind words and positive wishes, Min. We met online over our blogs and images but also connected when I read your post about your bad work situation which I could deeply relate to. Glad to know we’ve both moved through those days to better ventures. Your blogging direction has been inspiring and very helpful for those of us in our 50s. It’s a really positive testimonial to how we can continue to live rich lives!

  9. Thank you, Denyse, for having Veronica here and sharing with us. Veronica, you have many wise words to share and thank you for doing that. I have not experienced significant health issues yet in my life, but have experienced significant loss. And my philosophy is very similar…one day at a time…one step at a time. Wishing you both many years of good health ahead!

  10. Thanks Denyse and Veronica for sharing this story. As my sister has recently been through something similar I can relate to much of Veronica’s story but only from being a bystander and supporter. It must be so hard to face this and I admire your bravery and true courage. Thanks again Denyse for sharing another fabulous woman of courage. #mlstl

    • Yes it is tough for the bystander too. I am not sure how I would be as a carer.
      I jokingly say to my husband, the best person to care for me is him as he is not a fusser or someone who tries to control.

      Thanks Debbie for your kind words.
      Denyse x

    • Debbie, the bystander role is very important. Ive read of those who didn’t really have anyone close through their treatment and that would be hard. Just being there for your loved ones matters deeply.

  11. Thanks for your kind words and positive wishes, Min. We met online over our blogs and images but also connected when I read your post about your bad work situation which I could deeply relate to. Glad to know we’ve both moved through those days to better ventures. Your blogging direction has been inspiring and very helpful for those of us in our 50s. It’s a really positive testimonial to how we can continue to live rich lives!

  12. Truly inspirational outlook on life and its challenges. So many wise words here that I’m all the better for reading. Thank you so much for sharing what you have learned through difficult times. One step at a time indeed and don’t worry about the other steps until you reach them. And I’ll add that some days even a minute at a time is all you can do to get through. Much love, Sandra Xx

  13. These is an amazing series Denyse. I draw strength from reading these stories of courage. Veronica, this must have been an awful diagnosis to receive with young daughters, I admire the way you have fought for life. #openslather

    • Thanks Alicia. I too have been amazed, tearful and pleased all at once in some stories. I now have decided to give the series a break in the busier month of December and then the holiday month of January and return in February. I never imagined it would do so well. Women “do” need to share their stories.

      Thank YOU for being one of those women.

      Denyse x

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