Monday, August 15, 2011


Lately I have been wondering whether the last 8 months have changed me.  Objectively I would expect that a diagnosis of cancer at 42 would change me significantly. 

There is no point dwelling on the nasty changes like increased neuroses or bitterness or resentment. (Mind you sadly there has been a bit of that floating around the house this year).  No, I am thinking more about positive behavioural and personality changes. 

And yet I am still not sure really if I am that much changed inside.  I continue to surprise myself - first, on diagnosis I didn't cry and scream for a week in manner of Bronte style heroine with heart broken by cruel man.  Second, I feel so different physically (much better, in fact) that it is a bit odd that on the outside I appear to be the same person (albeit with some Hair Issues).  

When I finished chemo I got a lot of little booklets from the hospital about how to cope with this new period with no treatment (excluding Herceptin, which continues till next April). 

If all the pundits are correct, this is a hard time, where you feel empty and a bit directionless, and even depressed.   The treatment provides structure and something to think (or even complain and moan) about.  Life with no routine treatment means that a large gap opens up, which is there to be filled with horrible thoughts of the future and possible recurrences of cancer.  Every little twinge makes one think 'arggh shoulder cancer, or stomach cancer or foot cancer or lung cancer or mouth cancer or eyelash cancer..........'  My surgeon calls this hypervigilence and it is very common in post chemo patients. 

In the manner of a controlling lawyer I have developed a 6 point action plan to try to get me through the next little period. I have implemented most of the steps, and it is really helping.  I will post on that next. 

But even then I still have moments when I despair just a tiny little bit, and think why on earth has this happened to me?  But those moments then go, and I look at the blue sky, and think that things are probably okay.

These are the areas where I think that I may have changed. 

1. I smell the flowers.

The absence of picking flowers in my garden has been annoying me for sometime.  But if there is one thing my garden can produce in spades it is Daphne.  Here it is looking flush and smelling lemony.

My husband occasionally said to me during chemo 'please don't rush around' and I would say 'you have no idea how completely incapable I am of rushing around.' And now I am still in a rush free zone. Yes I am busy busy of course isn't everyone, but I am deleting things madly, walking slowly, and smelling the world outside. 

2. I feel more empathy.

I think I have always been a reasonably caring person, but now I can feel others' pain more tellingly.  If you have been pregnant you will recall how the tears start to flow when you see images of famine in Africa or lost puppy dogs on TV.  Well I am like that the whole time now.  This of course is the true meaning of compassion - that feeling of sharing the pain, of connectedness.  I still feel raw to the touch, I think, and that makes me feel things really intensely.

I was given quite a nice camera for Christmas. I have barely used it but am now starting to experiment with super close ups of flowers.

3. I am more aware of how I spend my time.

I am aware every day of how many books I still have to read.  The pile on my bedside table is towering, and that doesn't even include books on my Kindle. 

As an aside, can I recommend another book to you all?  If you read one book this year please make it this one.  In Anti Cancer, Dr David Servan Schreiber talks of his brush with cancer and what he has learned since about leading a life which repels cancer in all ways. This is not just about diet, although that is important (he mentions specifically green tea and turmeric and many more), but about ensuring despair and helplessness (not necessarily stress) have no place in your life. 

So with all these books to read I am trying to rationalise wasted time.  And sadly that does mean less time on the Internet.  I just can't justify it anymore.  I am still visiting you all, just not commenting as much.  I hope you all forgive me.

4. I am less interested in controlling my children's behaviour.

I still have some way to go on this one, but I am learning to pick my battles a bit more.  I have a very strong willed son, and it is exhausting trying to get him to conform all the time.  And what's more, I think it is bad for me and causes me anxiety. 

So now, if they want ice cream for dessert when they haven't eaten 100% of their dinner, then frankly, that is fine by me. 

(son having roll into ball tantrum in the street. One of his specialities)

Do you know what happens when two stubborn strong willed impatient and argumentative people live together?   It is fireworks and that has long been the way for me and my son.  But now, I am trying to learn new ways to manage him.  I am still disciplining him, but trying to be so much calmer in doing so.  

As an aside this is how I get the children to eat meat.  Slit open some little pork or beef sausage and fry gently with some butter and chopped garlic, pressing down with a fork to create smaller bits.  Add half a tin of chopped tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes. Serve with spaghetti and Parmesan. 

5. I want to make the most of things

During chemo I bought a new car. I suspect some people thought that was a bit strange, but once it happens to you, you realise that life doesn't stop just because you have cancer.  You still have to live, work and love.   You can't say 'oh I might die so I had better not do that'.   In fact it is the opposite. 

Next on the list is a little shack with a sea view, something we have always wanted to do but avoided for reasons to do with debt.  Do you know what I say to debt now? I spit on it.  Or laugh at it.  Conservatively and with a fair interest rate of course.

In an ideal world my beach house would be Scandinavian, a bit grey and brooding, salty but with clean lines.  Here is something to really live for:

6. I don't feel as sorry for myself as I used to.

Someone left a comment here about the 'downward social comparator', which is about realising that no matter what you are living with, there is always always someone going through something worse than you.   Like the young woman in my meditation class with three small children who has been told her cancer has spread and that there is no hope for her.  She is on chemo and a drug trial indefinitely, which is of course code for as long as she lives.   Or the woman I met at a dinner with a slipped disc and such chronic back pain resulting from a failed operation that not only can she not lift or hug her children but she cannot even get out of bed without taking 7 painkillers.

To me, these situations make my recent life look reasonably okay in comparison.  And they certainly make my regular Sunday Afternoon Folding And Putting Away 10 Loads Of Washing (something I was a bit apt to complain about) a walk in the park. 

What about you?  Have you been changed by an event? 

(Images (1) Pinterest (6)(7)(8) My Scandinavian Retreat)


Natasha in Oz said...

You, my friend, are an inspiration! You are truly the most sane and level-headed person I think I have ever "met"!

I am loving these new close-up pictures too-please keep 'em coming!

Best wishes always,

Sarah B said...

Hi JAne, there's so much to think about here. I didn't realise you were so young. I'm turning 40 in a few months. I on't feel old but there's that part of me that wonders what is going on inside my body. There's a fine line between being paranoid and just conscious of how your body feels, health-wise.
What has changed my life? The loss of a much much waited for child of someone very close to me. I have never been a clucky person but it gave me such a new appreciation of life and the gift of life. I will never never forget it.
There is something to be learnt from every challenge though I think it's fair to get shitty with what life throws at you sometimes. It sounds as hough you have things really sorted out though Jane :)


This is a great list. Thanks for sharing it.


jules @ The Diversion Project said...

i think you're amazing. reading your list jane I had recognition of some things that have come to me through various points in life like my dad passing away, and then divorce, and then trying to be a single working parent to two little people and beating myself up daily about it. but there's always more to think about, and you've got me doing that.

and as for interest rates, i agree whole heartedley, not truly alive unless your up to your eye balls in debt (well that's what i keep telling myself after my recent purchase!).


Felicity said...

Blogland is an amazing place isn't it.
I've been thinking about you quite a bit lately Jane.

We've never met, we don't really know each other but whenever I see a big, bright moon {and we've enjoyed some doozies lately} I think of you, wonder how you're going and send a little blessing.

It's wonderful to read about your progress, your amazing frame of mind and the fabulous gifts in your life to treasure and look forward to enjoying.

Happy day Lovely, I wish you the very best.

xx felicity

Maxabella said...

I sort of think I might have been changed by this post, Jane. x

P.Gaye Tapp at Little Augury said...

a good List- and one we relapse with at times-sometime-those changes bring us back to the List. Your own has been life altering, and affirming in ways I can't imagine. I like your plans for a seaside spot. pgt

Anonymous said...

Yes, changed when our three year old stopped breathing we lived in India just six weeks. Diagnosed with a brain tumour. She has survived three surgeries, a year of chemo and 6 weeks of radation and seven years of therapy. She is 11 and she rode her bicycle home from school today in Indonesia and is now doing her grade 3 maths homework. I don't need to explain how it has changed - it is what you mention in your posting and five years of very heartbreaking and emotional times; but time does heal and now 7 years later I do not think about cancer - it does not consume my thoughts everyday. Best to you on your journey.

Mise said...

It's a wise list, Jane. Do take it easy and enjoy yourself, and try to abandon any obligations that are imposed by yourself alone, so that they become only choices. I hope you find a beautiful shack and holiday happily there heedless of debt, letting your strong-willed boy run free so long as he is kind and safe. That he and his sister have a mother who is obviously a dedicated reader will in itself shape their lives.

Amanda (Small Acorns) said...

Jane, you and your list are such an inspiration.
Touch wood, I haven't had a life-changing event such as that which you've had to handle. Touch wood because I'm fairly certain that I wouldn't handle it like you have. You deserve that beach shack. Go for it. As for the temper tantrums - Brunnel and I have decided we are the ones who go for time out. It works a treat!

Makeminemidcentury said...

I think you've changed. I think you've changed a lot. I see a completely new woman, and I marvel at what she writes and how she perceives life.

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

Hi Jane,
Yours has been, and, still is, a long journey and you are coping so very well with it.I am sure that there are times when you aren't as positive as you usually are but, you have a wonderful family around you that keeps you focused and strong. I know you don't like it when people praise you BUT, I have to. You have dealt with all this in such an amazing and dignified way and I salute the strength and positive attitude that you have shown.
Your beach shack is a must have to get one.....Bugger the money !!!!
....and, your son is exactly like most children. It's all a learning process for him and, I have to say, sometimes we get so obsessed with things when it comes to bringing up our children. He is going to be just fine and, as you say, it will take the pressure off of you too.
It is said that we learn from every situation that is thrown at us and, from reading this post, you have learnt some beautiful things from the last eight months.
....and, lastly.....get ye to an Estate Agent and check out all of the beach shacks that are for sale !!!! XXXX

Christine said...

Dear Jane,
I could say many words to you after reading your posts, but especially after this one, I say just 2, very heart felt words, "Thank YOU"!

You are quite an inspiration to us all and I wish you much love, laughter and celebrations ahead!!

Christine xo

Jane said...

Ah Jane, it's such a fillip to read this post. Your fellow controlling lawyer is seriously impressed at your exposition. This is a truly wonderful list - bravo you. I wish you the very best of British in following it all through.

Living with depression and motherhood have seriously changed me, in so many ways. I completely *get* your empathy point. Sending you a huge Hobart ♥ tonight, my friend J x

Beautiful House said...

A great list for all of us Jane, thank you. I look forward to seeing more photos from you.x

Southhamsdarling said...

I think you're coming out the other side as a stronger and more positive woman. I so agree with you about your little boy. It's just not worth getting angry and thereby stressing yourself. Far better to look at it from another angle. Good luck with that. I have a three year old grandson, so I do know where you're coming from!! That's a really good list that you've come up with and you are right to spend your time doing other things, and not spending quite so long blogging. It's always nice when I see a post pop up from you though! Oh, I do wish you luck with your little shack by the sea. Wouldn't that be just so wonderful! Take care.

Vicki said...

Hi Jane,

I found that to be a very thought provoking post, so much for me to think about. I think you were always a strong, capable, determined and brave woman, but you had no need to show that in the normal daily run of events, cancer opened windows to another side of you. Your little boy may be very similar to you but he's only 3 so he's not mapped the world out in his brain yet, in time I have a feeling he's going to be a fine young man and that 'strong will' will be his asset.
Keep on relaxing, deleting, photographing, being you, as you are a role model in so many ways.

First House on the Right said...

I've been away from Blogginton for a little while so am catching up on everything. Such a beautiful post Jane and you gave me lots to think about. Hope you're having a good week, Nicolex

Kerry said...

Hi Jane. I never fail to be moved or inspired by these posts of yours. And I had to laugh about the controlling lawyer list maker! Anyone who fails to be changed by life, the good or the bad, is living in a vacuum or at least a bit mad. Some though, change for the worse, make terrible choices, blame others. You do none of these. You operate on wisdom, and I think that must be a very fine place to be.

Susanne said...

The one thing about cancer is it does improve your eye sight and it puts all things in a different perspective. It puts a whole new spin on things. The important are less so, the small things taken for granite are more precious. The spoken word "cancer" moves into the house and not many minutes go by when it doesn't run across your thought process and remind you. It is an unwelcome presence. One wants to spit on it and crush beneath one's feet and cast it out like the devil it husband has multiple myeloma from Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. He finished up his chemo 4 weeks ago and it is scary. Despite all the bad things about the treatments, you still know that something is being done to kill off this demon, there is hope. Now he goes on the 23rd of this month for a 2nd consult for bone marrow transplant. His last bone marrow biopsy shows the myeloma is again doing it's dirty work and this is our last hope. We are not immune to the suffering of others, it is like we gravitate to it more because we realize we are not alone in all of this, others suffer too. Jane you mirror so many of the thoughts that have passed through our minds. We understand you and wish a complete recovery for you. God Bless us all.

The Moerks said...

Wow, you are so inspiring, thank you. I hope your recovery continues without event.
I may complain less about the Sunday washing after reading this.

Simone - honeyandfizz said...

Hi Jane, this post gave me goosebumps. Thank you for sharing and giving me something to think about. This post will definately stay with me for a while xx

Eloise said...

such a beautiful post xxx I came here to visit from 'A Tranquil Townhouse'. The Melbourne blogging scene is awesome! I totally get the buckets of tears/african orphans/pregnancy thing...I couldn't even watch Kleenex commercials when I was pregnant without crying! I understand the increased empathy and compassion and I think it can only be a good thing. I think the world would benefit if more people thought the same way. In my mid 20's I had 7 operations in 3 years which left me scarred but healthy at the end of it and I have had a greater respect for life and the joy in little things ever since. I sometimes moan about the weather but if the sun comes up and its another day, well it can only be a good thing! I look forward to reading along with you. All the best xxx

Claudia Lane said...

Thank you for sharing your feelings Jane as they are incredibly inspirational to me. I know that your words will stay in my head for a very long time and that they will help me to be a better mother, wife, friend, daughter, sister...from now on

Claudia xo

posie blogs Jennie McClelland said...

Captivating post, i read every word Jane, i can feel it. Changed - yes - my husband goes to war, he's about to go again, his 5th trip, it's not any safer but it's how he provides for our family. While i accept that he was born a soldier & he's brilliant at what he does, we do have 4 children who miss him terribly, know the danger (youngest is 7.5 years old) & deal with it in our own ways. Instead of feeling stress or worry, we bond together, it makes us stronger & love him even more.
As for being head strong & realising you have that trait in a child (or 4) the best way to deal with it is not head on, certainly pick your battles & work out what their currency is, that is how you get to them. My eldest daughter struggles to be a daughter & not the mother/ leader/ in charge of the family, so i work around this, not fight it, oh she's a high schooler & i could lose her at any moment!!
As for stress, after raising children (mostly on my own) & running a business for a decade, i've all but quit it everything, other than being a housewife & mummy, it's fantastic. Children need you so much more as they get older, i never planned to resume work when i 'retired' in my mid 20s with 3 little girls & starting designing at home, but now they need me - me not to be distracted & i embrace that. Love Posie

Vicki Lane said...

Thank you for sharing your wonderful, level-heading approach to life. You are, indeed, an inspiration.

A Room For Everyone said...

It was wonderful, albeit emotional reading this. You have articulated how trauma can change a person so well. I haven't suffered from cancer and can't imagine what it must be like. But I did suffer from PTSD for a very long time when a family member murdered my grandmother. It took away years of my life as I lived in some kind of miserable mental hell. I am definitely what you would call hypervigilant and sensitive to sadness and pain! And although I have no illness now and feel strong and happy, I still have the occasional dark moment. It's just so wonderful to feel like a normal person most of the time! I can't tell you how happy I am that you are recovering. I'm sure you'll be absolutely fine and can enjoy everything you love. Rachaelxx

Unknown said...

Hi Jane. I have slowly been coming to the same outlook points you listed. My husband also has a debilitating back issue like your friend...we are trying to enjoy our hearts opening up to life more. Some days it is so hard. Thank you for the book reccomendation. So happy to hear you got a place to get away with the family...truly happy to hear about someone getting away on a semiregular basis. I think it does wonders for keeping the family with young children happy. Your photography of flowers looks great!

lesley said...

I taught myself, even though we had the white tornado come each week to keep us in line - an absolute treasure, to go with the flow......I have had three days out at different events all of which I enjoyed and it is oniy this morning that I noticed the dust on the polished boards oh well it will be done.......I am a long way down the track from where you are but by adjusting my life I know a longer and happier life will be achieved. Hang in there and buy the beach house it will serve you for years. x Lesley

Anonymous said...


we thought we'd drop by and say hello :-)

(blimey, that was a shock to read your first line - we're the same age.)

love this bit: "but I am deleting things madly, walking slowly, and smelling the world outside. "

we don't have a full diagnosis - just the "30% likelihood of cancer" (although if One More Person says "oh, you don't have Cancer" we're going to call the oncology department at all major NY hospitals to tell them to stop work as "clearly nobody gets Cancer anymore" ;-) sheez. of course what we hear is "don't worry Us".

we're actually really into the process of getting ready and feeling great and swimming and burning lavender oil and being quiet and ready for surgery in (less than three weeks now).

we'll drop by again soon.

thank you for your utterly beautiful view of life and your strength.

much love, team gloria. x

The House That A-M Built said...

Oh my, what a magnificent post. You are so eloquent Jane. You are such an inspiration. Your six things? I am living every one of them. And me? I am a completely different person to who I was 12 months ago. I have changed, I am smelling the roses, cherishing, running, singing, dancing, laughing.... Thank you for this post. It made me stop for a minute and realise how far I have come. A-M xx

Anonymous said...

I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

Millie said...

You are like my favorite peony rose Jane. Layers of beautiful fragile petals, that look they will blow away with the slightest whisper of a breeze. But of course they won't, because underpinning that beauty is the strongest of interwoven, complex stems that bends but doesn't break even in the wildest of gales. You are different & you have changed, & this incredibly honest post has described that perfectly. There is so much for you to do now darling girl, gosh the next 50 years are going to be fabulous. That of course will make me 105, still blogging & getting my revenge on the kids!
Millie xx

Limited Edition Prints said...

Such an inspiring post! Thank you for the wonderful list.

Anonymous said...

oh wow. you lovely woman. we picked up your comment on our late night angry rant in the middle of a very sleepless night and it was as if you reached out with a cup of P G Tips and a hankerchief and said "have a good cry" so we did. thank you so much.

you haven't blogged for a little bit - everything ok? love your words and pictures and would love to read more.

hope you're having a beautiful day (or night, by now, judging by the clock).

bless you. your comment truly helped.

_tg xx

Megan said...

Hi Jane-
Thank you for your post. I have folled your blog for a number of months now and think you are amazing. Having breast cancer at such a young age must been truely challenging especially with such a young family. I too have just finished 5 years of treatment for anorexia nervosa which nearly killed me several times and as i read your blog i could totally relate to the feeling for emptiness and directionless you have felt. Although treatment is hard and horrible, it does provide structure and support which suddenly disappears! Its nice to know your not alone in this. I think your list is fantastic and have made my own... one being to get myself ready for a craft market to sell some of the goodies i make. So thank you Jane and good luck to you. You are very inspirational!

WineDineDivas said...

Thank you for sharing your touching post. You are inspiring and your list with the lovely photos made us stop for a little while...
Wishing you and your family the very best from California :)
Judit & Corina

Philippines properties said...

Wow! What a great house. Is that real? It was amazing. I like it. Anyways just be optimistic and God was always there. Big thanks for sharing. God bless.

Charles A

Samantha said...

Very good thoughts.

My mom took Herceptin, too. She passed the five year mark already.

Yes, changed by events good and bad. Now trying to sweat the medium stuff (small stuff doesn't matter and big stuff you can't do anything about.)

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