Starting Cycle #15

Turning 47 was a muted occasion. I had 2 chemo infusions by then and the side effects were slowly starting to creep in. I also started my no soya and no sugar diet so there were no birthday treats to be had and I had no energy to protest. While I spent most of it taking it easy and nursing an unhappy tummy, it didn’t stop my family and friends from sending their love.

Don’t ever remember having so much flowers around me. And I have to say, flowers do make everything look prettier. I did say, I’m truly blessed with the village I’m a part of. Fast forward through chemo, WFH, surgery, radiation, more staying in because of a compromised immune system, more WFH, more chemo and immunotherapy; turning 48 is definitely cause for celebrations and so much to unpack.

If the prognosis wasn’t as positive and I had lost the fight to cancer, I’m happy to say I had no regrets in the first 47 years of my life. Sure, I made mistakes, got lazy, wasted time but by and large, I loved hard, worked hard and was afforded opportunities my 12 year old self wouldn’t have dared to think about.

Now with this second chance of sorts, it’s yet another opportunity to truly live the authentic life I often ponder about. What does that mean and how would it look like? In 2021, I thought my life and I guess the world in general was going to be split between pre-covid and post-covid. Now, for me it’s going to be BC, before cancer and AD, after the death of 47 year old me.

48 year old me has the same unbridled passion for leaving the world better than when I entered it. Just now more considered … it isn’t all cancer, it’s got a lot to do with getting older and hopefully wiser from the experiences life, including cancer have given me. In my attempt to live an authentic life, here’s my checklist:-

  • listen to myself
  • be honest to myself
  • show up for myself

Before I can authentically listen to others, be honest to others and show up for others. BC was learning, I’m hoping AD is about applying. From the famous words of my favourite drag queen (I do love drag queens)

If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?


It’s Been a Year

It’s time for infusion #15 out of 17 and it’s been a year since I started. 14th February 2022 was when I had my first chemotherapy infusion. I remember that Valentine’s day quite clearly, the emotions more than anything else. Everyone who love me was worried. I could feel it with every call and text which had my bravado shell switched on. Also, it’s the perennial “you don’t know what you don’t know”, right? I had some idea that it could get very bad but honestly, I didn’t have much idea what to expect so I was quite relaxed that day.

14 February 2022
14 February 2022

Chemo turned out to be very trying. Some days physically and other days much more mental. Now that the worst of it is over and I’m looking at the last stretch of the infusion treatment, I can say it could have been worse, much much worse. Definitely not interested in finding out how much more but stories from other #cancerwarriors reminded me of yet another #lifelesson I have yet to perfect – be grateful.

Friends know I always say “it could be worse.” I do believe it but it wasn’t until going through cancer treatment , did I realise how much worse things can be. Of course on the flip side, it can be better but hey, common sense, keeping up with the Joneses never made anyone happy. We know better and it’s all about perspective.

Not a new lesson, as 5 years ago there was this Now, it’s just cemented by the experience of fighting cancer. So today as I woke up from my usual infusion nap, I am grateful, very grateful for so many blessings. Top of my list would be the people in my life. From my family near and far to friends, even those who I haven’t heard from in years reaching out to give comfort. It is always the people in our lives who make it all worth it.

Much Ado About Hair

I’ve had long hair all of my life before 13th February 2022. The shortest it has ever been was what I would call a cute bob. Never had I ever considered anything shorter.

Mostly because I thought I had a really round face with flat straight hair that wouldn’t look particularly appealing. It took getting ready for chemo to chop off my hair. Lo and behold, I look pretty decent, if I don’t say so myself. The day before my first chemo infusion, I sat in the chair of my favourite stylist and told her to do as she saw fit and take it all off.

I felt fresh and it gave me that extra boost I needed to start chemo. The style lasted all of three weeks. In that three weeks, I learnt that I really love having short hair and it’s easy to maintain too. Then it started to all fall out, more about that in another post. Meanwhile, it’s post chemo and my hair is growing back in. It’s short like I would never imagine and I’m hoping it’s sassy too.

Think I’m going to keep it short for a while and make the habit of seeing my stylist once every 6 weeks. Something I never did before with long hair. Another #lifelesson you never know until you try … and even if you don’t like it, that’s when you’ll know for sure! So here’s me in what is typically called a pixie cut. Thanks to cancer and chemo, if not this wouldn’t happen.

rolling out

If I want to be a Jedi

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering – Yoda

People say recovering from cancer is about being in a state of constant fear – the fear of it coming back. When I was a kid, I was your regular scaredy cat. I reckon it’s par for course of being the first kid and your parents are extra cautious about keeping you alive. It took having a brave little sister to teach me to stare fear in the face and tell it to f%*k off!

As much as I didn’t want to do chemo, I didn’t want to be scared of it. Easy to say, the practice of which is a tad more challenging. The Catholic in me doesn’t fear death, it fears suffering which triggers the Jedi wannabe in me to lean into Master Yoda’s sayings. It’s a vicious cycle I told myself, embrace chemo, not fear it and there will be no suffering. With what I know today, it’s easier to be fearless. Yet as I look ahead, I realise the future is unknown today as it was a year ago before I started treatment. Hindsight is 20/20 and it’s easy not to fear the past but the future can be scary, simply because you don’t know.

This week I’m reminded how cancer taught me to take it one day at a time … sometimes just one moment at a time. I’m typically the always on the go type person. With three or four things happening around me. Constantly on the move and in my mind I’m reflecting on mistakes, executing on the present and planning for the next step. It took chemo to kick me off my hamster wheel and there were days when I couldn’t do anything but just be horizontal, so many days. I simply couldn’t reflect or plan … I merely had to just do and doing while on chemo was more often than not, just lying down. I’d like to say I took swimmingly to “One day at a time” but I didn’t. I distinctly remember when I had an iota of energy, I’d feel irritated that I couldn’t do more. And as soon as the energy left me I had no choice but to just be. That said, it wasn’t until after the worst of the treatment that I started savouring the moment. When I could do, I was so grateful it was easy to be in the moment.

So yes, cancer could possibly come back, a piano could also drop on me. In the meantime, I’ll be channelling my inner Yoda and my little sister as I practise savouring each moment and telling fear to f%*k off!