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.

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