I was 30 years old when I found out about my cancer by presenting to emergency with intense stabbing abdominal pain. I had not picked up any other symptoms. I had just returned from a long volunteering stint in Cambodia 6 weeks prior, and the doctors almost sent me home with antibiotics thinking I had picked up a parasitic infection.
After a relentless 6 hours, I was finally scanned. This was when I was told I had a large malignant tumour near my ovary that may have spread to my lungs. In that moment, I was aBeclone and the world became awash with water colours and my ears started buzzing. I transcended my body and found myself watching the situation from afar. It was like it was happening to another version of myself. Despite this, I was serenely calm and at peace, almost as though I knew this was always going to happen. I got the formal diagnosis the next day, which I realised later was Teal Ribbon Day and February, Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
There was no clarity around the severity of the disease, the doctor predicted Stage IIII, and I gave consent for my surgeon to remove my whole reproductive system if necessary. It was that Saturday night that I sat down at my computer and started outpouring into a blog. I made peace with my mortality. The past no longer haunted me and I became content with a shortened future. I forgave myself for my mistakes. I accepted that life was not going to play out the way I predicted, and I wondered if my whole life had been leading up to this moment. I took stock of what was most important and all the superfluous periphery melted away. There was a sense of freedom in not being bound by the usual complications of living. I was okay with dying. It was all very simple.
I entered my surgery four days later amidst the backdrop of my parents’ grief and confusion. However, I was able to put this aside and completely surrendered to the surgery, I was calm, peaceful and collected. Entering the surgery was like a spiritual transition, a quest chosen just for me. I woke up from that surgery a transformed person, and experienced being bathed in love and an amazing sense of connectedness with the pulse of life, despite those many hours alone in my hospital bed. The tumour had burst, which had caused the initial pain, and it was classified as IC as it had not spread.
My surgery was followed by 4.5 months of weekly chemotherapy. I entered hibernation. My home became a sanctuary-cave surrounded by the love and concern of hundreds of people who came out of the woodwork to cheer me on. It was a time of deep protection, reflection and expression. I was more deeply connected within myself than ever before. My hair loss became very much symbolic of shedding my old self. I’d grown up smothered with complements about my thick blonde hair, so much so that it had become a significant part of my identity. After weeks of hair fall, I ceremoniously shaved it off completely on Easter Sunday when my house mate was out of the house, and wrote a poem about the experience.
Twelve months post chemo, fresh out of a seven month personal development course, a confusing relationship, a new job as a university tutor, and a completed master’s degree I sank into deep depression. I became anxious about the right way to live my life, how best to honour my journey and keep my sacred promises to myself.
From the outside, it likely looked like I was wandering in circles, dabbling and experimenting, but really I was adjusting and calibrating and integrating the new parts of myself and finding where they fit. I’m at the tail end of this now, I sense a transition into a new authenticity as I follow my long standing dream of becoming an artist and sharing my story. I have started at Art School, and have enjoyed rendering my IV bag in clay for ceramics class. I have gone back to work as an occupational therapist, both tutoring university students and working in Aboriginal health in a small town in South Australia. I am blessed to have learned how to live moment by moment and I’m enjoying documenting every day through a photography project “365 Alive”, capturing things I am grateful for every day over the course of one year.