The blue folder. Part 1

Blue folder

Why do I hate this blue folder? It looks like a perfectly functional, useful type of blue folder, does it not?

One might use it for scrumptious looking recipes torn from trashy gossip magazines; maybe how-to handouts from that great mosaic course one did last spring; or maybe it is home for all the printed complaint emails one has sent to ones phone and internet provider.

Okay, which one of you said Telstra?

Well this perfectly handy looking folder holds none of the above for me. It’s actually my oncology folder.

Yesterday, February the 16th, is the exact day two years ago that I discovered the lump in my left breast. Damn the year 2013.

It was a Saturday night. Walking towards my desk to sit down and write an email to my email buddy, I unclipped my bra and did the out through the sleeve magic trick thing we women do so effortlessly with great style, and threw it on the floor beside my chair in disgust.

“Bloody uncomfortable bras” I said to myself as I rubbed my sore left breast, “I’m sick of the damn things making my breast sore. I’m so bloody annoyed I haven’t had time to buy some new ones”.

I was about to sit down when I stopped in my tracks. “Ouch!” I said out loud as a shooting pain went through to my nipple. “What the hell is that?”

I stopped breathing.

Just like I’d been hit in the guts and winded by a cricket bat.

The offending bra I thought was annoying me wasn’t my bra annoying me at all.

The pain I’d been experiencing in my left breast that I thought was a strain injury wasn’t a strain injury at all.

The itchy nipple that had been driving me nuts for months had nothing to do with my eczema and sensitive skin at all.

The annoying relentless fatigue I’d been fighting had nothing to do with maybe doing too much at all.

There beneath my fingers was a lump.

“Hmmm, that can’t be good” I whispered to no-one but my startled self.

“That doesn’t feel like a frozen pea? Cancer lumps are supposed to feel like a frozen pea? That feels more like a short thick length of twine? A gnarly thick bit of old twine?”

I looked at the clock… it was 9.30 pm.

By 9.30 pm and one second I was in the bathroom stripping off staring at my left breast in the mirror.

“Shit… it looks swollen. Does it look swollen? Yes, it definitely is larger than the other one.”

“Does it look funny? No! “Yes, it does look funny. It looks a little out of shape.”

“What’s that dimpling around my nipple? What is that? How come I haven’t noticed that before? “

“ Shit!”

I rang and made an appointment to see a doctor on the Monday morning.

On Friday the 8th of March, after waiting for results of mammogram, ultrasound and core biopsy, I sat on the end of my husband’s hospital bed and announced I had breast cancer. The day before was our 26th wedding anniversary. He’d been in hospital for a week with his fifth pneumonia in a two year period.

It sucked!

Left breast, 7 O’clock position, 3cm invasive ductal carcinoma. Negative for oestrogen receptor, negative for progesterone receptor, negative for HER-2 receptor.

Translation? Triple Negative Breast Cancer, 3cm tumour in the underside of my left breast. We would later learn that it was Stage 1, Grade 3 – which means we caught it early and it hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes or other parts of my body but it was an aggressive tumour.

Triple Negative Breast Cancer only equates to around 15% to 20 % of all breast cancers so chemotherapy regimes/options are limited. Trust me to get a subtype rare cancer.

What followed on from that day sitting on the end of Doug’s bed I’ll share over time. I’m only just feeling like I can write about it now. I couldn’t write much about it in 2013. I hoped I wouldn’t regret journaling the ride but I couldn’t bare to live through it twice in one day. Once for real and then another through words. Some days I couldn’t have held a pen at all… even if I wanted too.

I tested the water through words in 2014 to see if I could tread any stormy seas that I may encounter from writing those words and have them staring back at me in all their realness.

I discovered I could.

Sometimes I had trouble keeping my head above the swell of that stormy water churned from those words and the mentally and emotionally dumping waves… but I did.

I believe there is a nugget in every story told so I will continue to share my ride with hope in my heart that at least one person reading my words may feel that it’s okay to find your voice… that it’s okay to tell your story… that it’s okay to talk about not being okay.

I don’t know how often I’ll post in this series.  I’m sorry, I don’t have a regular schedule or day worked out to post about it.  Just as I feel I can, so then shall I do.

And that blue folder?

Well it was presented to me the first day of my treatment to indeed be a perfectly functional, useful type of folder whose purpose was to bring about organisation and structure and planning to my cancer ride and treatment… and it accomplished its mission… to a degree… but it far from represents that for me.

To me it symbolises nothing but a chaotic, ghastly, fearful and horrid, completely out of my control chain of events in my life that I had no say in the writing of; cancer treatment and circumstance had a vice like grip on the pen and it never ran out of malicious ink. No matter how I begged or wailed, governance of script was never mine.

I can’t look at it without malice.

Its perfect plan of dates, appointments, treatment regimes and reports display nothing of the frightful passage experienced that lays interlaced within the printed words, so endlessly invisible to the eyes of the reader.

And that, my friend, is why I hate that blue folder.

 

Footnote*

I’d like to thank the beautiful Sonia from Life, Love and Hiccups for inspiring me to one day REALLY share my story as she has done so powerfully and eloquently in her Peeling Back the Layers series on her blog.  Her strength of honesty with her writing touched me.  I secretly hoped that one day I could arrive at that place where I too could be raw and honest and just write.  I think I’m there. 

To my beautiful friend Jo who always manages to breathe air into my floaties and keep me afloat, thank you for always believing in me and loving me unconditionally.  If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have continued writing at all.  I may not have been here at all. My soul sister. 

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Comments

  1. Jo McKenzie says

    To my lovely friend Sandra, it has been a difficult road that you have been travelling and you are coming back to the smooth. It is wonderful that you are now sharing your experiences as I am sure that they will help anyone else who happens across your words, the same as when you found other people’s experiences helped you.

    I was honoured to be able to offer you what help I could during this challenging time as a result I have a friend for life. All my love Jo

  2. says

    Thank you for being brave enough to share this story. Your words have so much power in them. Each one of us will be, or has been, touched by cancer. Whether it attacks us, or our friends or our family, giving a window into the experience is such a valuable thing. Thank you.

    • Sandra says

      It’s sad to think how many people are affected by a cancer diagnosis isn’t it Robyna. Everyone has their own unique experience but there are similarities too. If my sharing resonates and someone’s emotions feel validated then I’m willing to share.

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂 Xx

  3. says

    Oh, you…Sandra Kelly are just one gorgeous lady.

    I just love hearing your stories on the internet and although I have never met you in person, I feel like I want to give you the biggest hug in the world.
    Your advice to me the other day… “just breathe”, has stayed with me for the last few weeks and I suspect it will for years to come.

    I’ll double hate that blue folder for you too…

    XX

  4. says

    Oh Sandra you beautiful brave inspiring heroic woman. You have done me such an honour by even mentioning my name is such a powerful story of a one hellava brave woman. Please dont hate that folder. Keep it as a reminder always of what you have overcome and the journey you have been from. Painful as it may be – it is part of your story and I am so damn proud of you that you have found the courage to share that story with others. you did it hun, you really did it xxxx

    • Sandra says

      Sonia, I appreciate you so much. It is me who is honoured to have such an incredible shout out from you on your Weekend Rewind blog post this week. I truly am humbled and really don’t know what to say or how to say it. Thank you THANK YOU! Xx

      I must say though that I don’t think of myself as brave, inspiring or heroic but I do indeed thank you for the high regard and sentiments. About three months in to my ride I was ready to wave the white flag so it’s hard for me to think of myself in these definitions. I’ve found much strength over the last few years from the honesty in others sharing – just like your honesty – we all under estimate the power of honest sharing I think.

      Shakey courage is more than enough to keep on going I’ve discovered, yeah? Thanks Sonia, much love. 🙂 Xx

    • Sandra says

      Hey there Mel! You know I tried putting it in a mauve coloured folder (my fav colour) but my emotional brain took over and said “Don’t taint your favourite colour with that shit!” Ha ha, so I decided to leave it in the not so favoured colour. I did have a purple bag with me though that I would shove it into – that helped. Thanks for stopping by Mel. 🙂 Xx

  5. says

    Thank you for taking such a brave step in sharing your story. I totally understand how you would hate that blue folder!

    I will be sharing this post with a friend who was recently diagnosed with cancer with the hope that it will help her journey.

    • Sandra says

      Oh Ingrid! I hope your friend is travelling okay and has a smooth road ahead. My journey was a rocky one so just keep in mind that everyones story is different and everyones experience unique. What happens to one won’t necessarily happen to another. Find the nuggets in people’s stories/sharing that help light the way and build strength – bin what doesn’t resonate. I wish you both well. Thanks for stopping by Ingrid. 🙂 Xx

  6. says

    Thank you so much for sharing your story Sandra. You did it beautifully. What an awful 2013 you and your husband had. Onwards and upwards and here’s to a speedy recovery. x

    • Sandra says

      Yeah 2013 pretty much sucked BIG time for many reasons. Thank you for your well wishes and stopping by to visit Anita 🙂 Xx

  7. says

    I have a folder like that too. It takes courage to share a story like yours, but I hope that as and when you do, you know we will be here supporting you with a flurry of hugs and virtual high fives. I found that writing about my cancer experience helped me regain some of that control that cancer took from me, and that writing about it had both a cathartic and therapeutic effect. I hope that writing reaps similar “rewards” for you too. Also rest assured in the knowledge, that not only will your writing be of some self-help but that sharing is caring, and will inspire and bring comfort to others facing their own fight with cancer. You rock! x

    • Sandra says

      Sammie YOU rock! Thanks so much for your wise words. I hope my writing and honesty won’t be too raw – I’d hate to put the wind up anyone going through this journey. I’m so pleased you feel like you have regained some of the control that cancer took from you. That feeling of loss of control bites hard and leaves teeth marks yeah? I appreciate you stopping by Sammie.

    • Sandra says

      I have found much validation and inspiration from the web in the last few years Steph. Many courageous souls out there. Thanks so much for stopping by and enjoy your weekend. 🙂 Xx

    • Sandra says

      Kate, thank you so much for stopping by and leaving this encourging comment. The sky didn’t fall on me after pressing publish on this post so I reckon I can keep at it now. See you again soon. 🙂 Xx

  8. says

    This is a really beautiful post. I would hate the blue folder, too. It’s a handy thing to focus the negative energy on, I’d imagine. Thank you for sharing this with us. And please do share more if that’s what you decide you want to do. (Or don’t if you don’t.) x

    • Sandra says

      It feels okay to be sharing Em! It really does. Well, maybe until I’m sitting here looking at that publish button that needs hitting the next time around ha ha!

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂 Xx

  9. says

    That nasty blue folder represents strength, endurance, guts, wisdom, solidarity and endless fortitude. You can hate it if you want, but I can’t. I lost a lifetime friend to breast cancer so I’m just grateful that you are sharing your story when so many others can’t. x

    • Sandra says

      I’m so sorry for your loss Bron. It’s a hideous disease that sadly touches too many. Every morning I stir and sink into the safety of my bed as I pull the covers tight around me… from my bed through the undressed window the untouched purity of the awakening morning greets my senses… I pretend that my room and these moments are so pure that nothing toxic or harmful can break through the imagined barriers of security the walls represent… there in my cocoon, listening to the breathing of my strength who lies beside me, I feel safe and protected and oh so so grateful.

      Thank you so much for stopping my Bron. Hugs to you xoxo 🙂

    • Sandra says

      I’ll take the hand hold and the squishy hug thanks! I’m a squishy hugger too. Thanks so much for the encouragement Sonia and for stopping by. 🙂 Xx

  10. Berny says

    Hi,Sandra,

    I don’t know how I missed this when you posted it. As ever, beautiful writing comes from a genuine story told with honesty, revealing the harsh truths if your experiences gently but without sugar-coating it.

    Given how much recent coverage has been given to someone who didn’t display your type of honesty, I hope more people discover your blog. They will find the very real connection you feel to a genuine, real person with a real story to tell.

    • Sandra says

      Always so supportive with beautiful words of encouragement Bernie. I’m humbled.

      Thank you so much for stopping by 🙂 Xx

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