Where do I start? I am now 55 but at the age of 47 I was off to my regular two-year check up. All women know of the humility of the internal and the breast test. Back home I was not concerned. Had voiced a few issues to my very thorough doctor but still had no problems to speak of.
Well, how wrong was I? Back to work and then that phone call, "Norma, you need to have some tests done asap." I told my doctor I only had Wednesdays off but she quickly told me it wasn't about my work - that could wait - have these tests done now!
Off to breast screenings, how great are they? Boobs squashed to mere pancakes and the pain. Oh well. But wait - there's more! We need to have an internal as well because we suspect ovarian problems as well. "Are we having fun yet?" I thought.
Still not too concerned, went about my daily chores. After the tests I then had that fatefull call from my now, or then, surgeon. "Norma we have your results and I think you should come see me asap."
That message was left on my answering machine. Not feeling very confident, I took myself off to the surgeon. "Norma," he said from across the desk, "you have breast cancer. We need to do a biopsy asap. If the results are what we think they are, you will be looking at a mastectomy at the same time."
Well, what to do? I have great faith so I just said, "I am now in your hands, I need you to fix this thing." I have five beautiful children, a husband, lots of family including my parents. Having watched my Mother beat breast cancer, I knew I was in for the long haul. But wait - there's more! On my barrage of tests I had also been to a Gynaecologist.
"Oh yes, it gets better, Norma," he said, "we have found an abnormality with your ovary. You need a radical hysterectomy. You have ovarian cancer."
"Gosh," I thought, "how could I be so lucky?" You have to keep some humour in your life. Trying to have some normality in your life at this stage is reasonably impossible. I had to tell my boss that I couldn't work. I told my family - that was really, really hard. At that stage we had one grandchild, one of our boys was playing AFL football, our only daughter had just moved to Perth - it just isn't that easy.
So, off I go to hospital to have my hysterectomy. At first I didn't think that was so bad, my surgeon did tell me he found foreign matter, maybe cancerous, on my bowel but took it off, anyway. Home I came, only to line up twelve days later to have my mastectomy, still wondering if I was having fun yet.
Lots of love and support from family and friends is an amazing thing, and the only thing that gets you through. I survived all that. Not a great deal of joy looking down to see the breast gone, it's that or survival so the choice was taken out of my hands.
Then came the chemo - oh yes chemo! How much fun is that? Not much. Not only do you feel like a freak because your boob has been lopped off, you then have to endure ridiculous pain, nausea, hairloss, transparent skin, lack of energy and an end to life as you knew it. But, being a cancer survivor, life will never be the same again.
Life goes on, you know. Yes, we are survivors, we are still surrounded by those we love, we still give to all the donations to find a cure for this hideous thing, but silently no-one will ever know how we truly feel. How much of an impact having the 'big c' has on your life. We all go around with a big smile and say how lucky we are, but the scars are embedded forever, and only fellow sufferers, survivors, family and friends, will ever know just what we have been through.
I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world, I still have the best and most loving family and friends, but the fact that I have survived this, thing, this cancer, is a miracle. Why was I spared? Am I to do more in this world? Should I be a voice? How do I get some financial support to have a reconstruction when other people are out having brow lifts and breast enhancements?
Really, they should be so lucky they have two. Shopping is a nightmare. Swimming is embarrassing. My life will never be the same, but I have the best outlook. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger - great theory to live by.
I have been so fortunate to witness more weddings, births, engagements - so many special occassions that I thought at one stage I would never get to see. My life is blessed and full of the love of those I love and I am always gratefully aware of that.
I am a survivor, and this is some of my story.