I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 and shared my experience in articles published by the Huffington Post. Please find my previous posts: http://huffingtonpost.com/anne-gro-gulla//
I was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. During the summer of 2015, I went through surgery and radiation to gain my health back. It was a profound period of my life, a time I often refer back to, but also a time I have left behind.
Suddenly a letter from my Swedish hospital arrived in the mail. They had set up an appointment to plan the reconstruction of my left breast. I had not asked for this procedure. I had accepted my one smaller breast with the scar.
Sitting in the same waiting room where I two years previously had been overwhelmed by fear, I now had no problem focusing on the gossip magazine articles. The surgeon was the matter-of-fact-kind. She informed me how the fat from my stomach would be moved to my breast and that roughly 50% of the fat would die. She did not waste time on adjectives. I would receive a letter with the date for the surgery.
Back on the street, it all came back to me; the fear, the gratitude, the feeling of a world on hold. Where was I now? It was time for the real check-up.
I returned to work three months after the cancer diagnosis. I was scared of getting too tired. Hours on-end on the sofa were still fresh on my mind. A business trip to London could no longer be put on hold. Despite the planned slow time schedule, I ended up in the ER at a local hospital. An ambulance picked me up at Terminal 5, Heathrow Airport after puking and shitting without control. With no dignity left whatsoever, they drove me away, wrapped in plastic to hide the shame and the smell. The diagnose: too much, too early.
Very slowly, through trial and error, I tuned in to the language of my body. I learned that the restless irritation, the notion of tiredness, the un-specific pain, that was the body speaking; telling me to say “no”, to sleep, to read, to relax. I learned not to run faster, but smarter, to run with intention, not just speed. At last I understood that a strong immune system is like having money in the bank. I learned about investments.
A Lasting Wisdom?
But what else was different? My notes from the summer of 2015 listed what I had learned during my illness: 1) I cannot do it all alone, 2) Planning is over-rated! 3) I am surrounded by love, 4) Energy-stealing people are dangerous to me and 5) I have a wonderful life.
This had been a fragile truth for me two years ago. During the years of recovery, I realized I had stayed on the path. Today, the fresh wisdom has become part of my living repertoire. I seek help, I find excitement and calm in the unexpected, I swim in love, I avoid with ease both people and situations that harm me. I do indeed have a wonderful life. And, I have found a magic ingredient.
Gratefulness: I. Know. What. It. Is.
I have a new platform to stand on. Before cancer, I was aware of the importance of gratefulness. Now I am grateful. With abrupt life changes, the ingredients of our lives become illuminated. We are able to see with clarity what we took for granted. Today, I am grateful for all my experiences, my friends, my loved ones, my job, everything. I just want to enjoy life. I have no time for nothing else.
Thank You for My Fat-Filled Breast
As I write this, I just had surgery and don’t know what my new breast will look like. Bigger or smaller, I am sure it will be fine. Yet, the reconstructive surgery has been a step of completion. It has been a good ending and I am grateful to the Swedish health care system who took care of the entire journey. My cancer experience is over. Now onwards. In gratitude.