Making Empowering Decisions with Chronic IllnessSep 21, 2023
Engulfed in a dream so vivid, I found myself running for my life in a dense rainforest. A man, brandishing a machete, pursued me with a singular focus on my breasts.
Gasping for air, I woke up, relieved to realise my breasts were intact. But then came the jarring realisation: the tumour in my breast had returned.
Relentless Weight of Chronic Illness
Living with a chronic illness offers no respite. It’s a mental and physical marathon with no finish line in sight. For a brief year, the tumours in my breast, liver, and sternum stayed dormant. It enabled me to relax, just a little. Even providing glimpses of a more 'ordinary' life.
MS has taught me how to live with uncertainty. However, my recent PET scan results weren’t the news I wanted to hear. While the tumours in my liver and sternum remained asleep, activity was detected in my breast.
The harsh reality of living with Stage 4 breast cancer became palpable. The brutality of my dream coming all too real.
Empowering Choices Amidst Physical Scars
Living with a chronic illness means frequently making monumental decisions about our health. I’d faced this with MS. Now, cancer was demanding its turn, and the weight was overwhelming.
You know the drill: sitting in front of a doctor, being presented with options, then having to determine the right course for yourself.
Fortunately, my experience with MS has taught me that choices are simplified when you're clear about your priorities and what truly matters in your life.
This clarity guided my next move.
I could opt to remove the tumour and undergo a breast reduction. However, there was no guarantee that all pre-cancerous cells would be eliminated.
The alternative was a single mastectomy. This would provide a greater assurance that all cancerous cells would be removed.
When Andrew (my partner) was questioned about his thoughts, he simply said, “There's no point having Teish and her two boobs in an urn on the mantelpiece.”
His stance was unequivocal: life above all. The priority was living, even if it meant confronting the reality of a flat chest.
In the week leading to my mastectomy, a whirlpool of fears threatened to consume me. Yet, as the days went by, I was hit by this realisation.
My mastectomy was an act of reclaiming my power. Pulling it back from cancer's grasp. Doubts about my post-surgery appearance and societal perceptions loomed, but they soon diminished.
My priorities were clear: to live.
Embracing Difference That Radiates Inner Strength
Scars aren't just remnants of challenges; they're badges of resilience.
The mastectomy scars on my chest are steadfast reminders of my choice to confront Stage 4 breast cancer.
This isn’t a new concept for me. My legs narrate a similar story.
MRIs show that MS has not been active for years. However, my legs retain the legacy of past relapses — confined to beds and wheelchairs by paralysis. For years, I grappled with resentment towards them, bothered by their appearance. The way I look when I walk.
But that narrative has shifted. Now, I view them with gratitude and respect. Their unwavering support, despite everything, is amazing.
As you may have seen on Instagram I’ve even changed my thoughts about using a walker. This doesn’t mean MS has won. It is about recognising that my legs have been through so much, and if a walker makes exploring our new block possible. If it provides support for legs that have been through so much. Then why would I not use one?
Reflect and Embrace Your Chronic Illness Journey
Scars aren't merely reminders of endured pain; they symbolise the strength of our bodies and mindset.
When we look in the mirror, we have the choice to see resilience, decisions made, and a life lived.
Every scar has its story. By embracing these tales, we encourage self-compassion and recognise our body's incredible achievements. Always remember the trials your body has faced and its enduring strength.
That’s what I will keep reminding myself when looking at my mastectomy scars.
Navigating the complexities of chronic illness requires a dynamic mindset. One that continuously adapts to ensure we can make sense of decisions that on the surface seem brutal.
But the question becomes: How do we cultivate this adaptive mindset? How do we transition from merely coping with our illness to truly thriving amidst its challenges?
My journey with MS has offered invaluable mindset lessons, lessons that have become pivotal as I navigate the world with stage 4 breast cancer. And the transformative shifts that have resulted from these lessons? They’re something I not only cherish for myself but am deeply passionate about sharing with others, like you.
If you're eager to delve deeper into this journey and harness the power of a resilient mindset, I invite you to explore the "Mindset Masterclass: Reclaim Your Life.
It's an intimate exploration of the three mindset shifts that have been pivotal as I navigate my new diagnosis. Delve deeper into these insights with the Masterclass, available now. .Sign up below, and you can access immediately.