July 1, 2014

Never Stop Believing: One Woman’s Journey With Cancer

It seems nearly everyone you speak to has either battled cancer themselves, known someone who has, or knows someone whose life was cut short by the disease. It is shocking to consider the stats, but according to the Cancer Council “…it is expected 1 in 2 Australian men and 1 in 3 Australian women will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85 and that an estimated 128,000 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Australia this year.”

While I have heard a lot about cancer I have never realised the real journey cancer takes a person on…not until I picked up a book called Never Stop Believing, by channel 7 TV presenter, Sally Obermeder.

41 weeks into her pregnancy, and due to give birth to her first baby, a baby her and her husband had fought hard for and successfully conceived through IVF, Sally received the news that she had stage 3 breast cancer. To say the news was shocking and heartbreaking would be an understatement.

In her book, Sally courageously invites us into her life, her thoughts and her fears during her time with cancer; from diagnosis, treatment, surgery, to recovery. With such raw honesty and clarity she shares the depth of devastation that cancer brings to the body, the inner resilience needed to endure, and the powerful impact support, love and humour plays when facing one of life's greatest challenges.

She writes;

They say that your life changes forever when you’re diagnosed with cancer. There’s your life before, and your life after.

Cancer shows you things you cannot imagine you’d ever have to experience:

The grief, the fear.

Seeing your husband and parents crying at the thought of losing you.

Confronting the possibility that your baby might grow up without you.

The fear of losing everything you’ve worked for, hoped for, dreamed for.

And you’re sicker than you’ve ever been in your life: a sickness that affects your entire body —even your elbows, even your feet—and goes on for weeks and months and doesn’t end.

But you discover other things too: your strength. Your endurance. The pleasure of finding things to laugh about even in the darkest of times. The true force of friendship. The power of love.

It is this strength, courage, resilience and hope that shines through in Sally’s story. It is hard not to be inspired and humbled by her story and the attitude she has approached life with. 

It got me wondering, “Would I be as grounded, focused and positive as she was if I was in the same situation?” It is hard to predict these things, and maybe we can never know until we are in them ourselves, but it is worth considering and asking ourselves, “Am I building resilience and positivity into my life on a regular basis?”

“Am I building an inner foundation that will be strong enough to hold me when the truly bad times hit?”  

Sally’s story has inspired me to re-engage with my life with more vigour and more focus, because life is truly precious and it is also entirely unpredictable. 

She writes: 

A near-death experience forces you to re-evaluate your life. Forces you to be honest. You think, if I live what kind of life do I want? You realise it’s precious; you don’t want to take it for granted and you definitely don’t want to squander it.

While having a chronic illness taught me this lesson over five years ago, it is easy to become complacent, it is easy to focus on what is still missing from your life and not all the blessings surrounding you.

Even in the worst situation you are still blessed…you still have your life, and that is something Sally’s story reminded me not to take lightly. Life is the greatest gift of all, the question is “What will you do with yours?”  

Jess xxx

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