In A Weird Way I Look At Cancer As A Gift
After giving birth to my second child in 2014, I had no idea about the horrid future that lay before me.
I had dreams and aspirations of being a hands-on, loving and devoted mother who would always be there for my children. Instead I was thrown a massive curve ball: I was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer.
So instead of doing all those things I imagined, I now spend my time in hospital undergoing chemotherapy, having blood transfusions and MRI scans.
This was not my plan. This was not how my life was supposed to be.
I ended up having to give up being a new mother and left the care of my children in the hands of my husband and my mother-in-law, while my parents had to care for me like I was a child.
The funny thing is it hit everybody else so much harder than it hit me. Yes, I’ve had my days of crying, but how can I do that when I have two children to look after? When I’m gone I don’t want their only memories of me to have been of me crying in bed under a blanket. I couldn’t bear the thought of them having those bad memories later in life.
So I did what I’m sure any mother would do -- I picked myself up and got on with the job of fighting this disease.
After a year I was told that I was cancer-free. But then a little over a year-and-a-half into my remission I was told the cancer had returned, and this time doctors told me that any treatment we did going forward was not ‘curative’ anymore. I had now crossed over to ‘non-curative’ treatment plans.
Five years later and I’m still here.
The past year alone I’ve already had two surgeries -- one being a spinal surgery where doctors had to cut out a nerve root which left me in the most intense pain I’ve ever felt.
Then my doctors started cutting out tumors from my lungs. We started on my right lung, and next week I’m going back in so they can start on my left lung.
Since my diagnosis, the way I live my life has changed. Here are some of the things I've learned:
Treasure The Moment
In a weird way I look at cancer as a gift. A horrible gift in reality, but one that’s help given me the gift of living in the now.
I take all the moments in and make the best of the time I have. No matter what it is -- whether it’s quality time with friends, or kicking a ball in the park with the kids. It’s all about making memories.
I also make sure that I take time to enjoy even the small moments with my kids. One of my favourite things to do now is sit in clover patches and look for four-leaf clovers.
I try and encourage my kids to savour moments such as taking in deep breaths of the ocean breeze, or enjoying the smell of freshly cut grass, and stopping to smell all the beautiful flowers.
I now spend my time working on my legacy: My children.
I’ve sat down and handwritten letters for the moments they will experience in their future life without me. You know, topics like “when you first kiss a boy”, and “what to do when you’ve had a huge fight with your sister”. I’ve even written them one to deal with the uncomfortable topic of “when daddy gets a new girlfriend”.
I have packaged up all of the letters into an Ava and Ash box and have given instruction that they not open any letter until the event happens.
I don’t want my kids to go forward and not know how I felt about the important things in their lives. I want to impart my wisdom, my humour, and my two cents, because I’m being robbed of that and so is my family.
Living In The Present
It sounds corny, but when you’re not really sure what’s to come, you can only focus on the now.
Your True Friends Will Show Themselves
People will pop out of the woodwork to support you when you are down. However, the opposite can happen too. I’ve had some people in my life that I’ve never seen since my diagnosis.
Also, don't be afraid to let people help you sometimes. It’s hard to ask for or accept help, but people only offer if they have the means to do so.
Trust The Process
It’s my oncologist’s favourite catch phrase and at times it’s hard to do, but he’s right -- I have no option but to put my faith in my medical team and know that they are making the right decisions in regards to my health.
Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover
During my journey I’ve always been told “you just don’t look that sick” -- even with a bald head I still got told how good I look. But I’ve found it hard for people to accept my illness when I’m walking around in heels and a full face of makeup.
Yet people don’t realise that on the inside I feel like a 70-year-old, and I definitely don’t have a bikini body after undergoing seven cancer surgeries. If I have the strength to do my hair, and wear nice clothes then I will while I still can. I can save my makeup free and pajama wearing time for home with my kids.
Lauren’s friends have set up a GoFundMe page to try and raise some funds to help her and her family with general living costs like groceries, medication and child care payments. Click here to help: https://www.gofundme.com/help-support-my-dear-friend-lauren
Special thanks to Ryde District Mum's Facebook page for first alerting us to Lauren's plight.