“I’ve reached the winter of my life cycle a lot earlier than anyone would have hoped, but there is a lot to celebrate about winter if you know where to look.”
Imagine being a busy mother of four and finding out that you have terminal cancer. You’d think your world would come to a staggering halt. That’s exactly what happened to Julia Watson. Except Julia’s life didn’t — and couldn’t — stop. In her book Breakfast, School Run, Chemo she shares the challenges, triumphs and life lessons she learnt while living with terminal cancer. Below is a tiny extract of this inspiring story.
I’ve been thinking a bit lately about 2013, my last year before getting diagnosed with cancer. I’d studied a Certificate III in Community Services Work the year before, two days a week, and I loved it. After years of being a stay-at-home mum to four children, I had three at school and one at kinder. Studying gave me a balance between being a mother and being, well… being me.
In 2013, I decided to throw myself full-time into a diploma. For most of the first half of the year, I got up at dawn, got four children off to school and kinder, went to classes all day or to the library to study, did a round of pick-ups at 3.30 pm, grabbed some groceries on the run, came home, cooked, did the bath and bedtime routine, kissed four little faces, made school lunches, signed notes and washed clothes. Then at about 10 pm, you would find me studying. I wasn’t prepared to do anything by halves.
When I had to write an argumentative essay, after 20 years of having not written any type of essay, I spent 12 hours in the library to make sure I knew how to write it before I even started writing it.
I was intense. Driven. Absolutely bloody delusional. I thought I was knocking it out of the park.
All of a sudden, all the years in which I had given birth, nurtured babies, given cuddles, kissed boo boos, chased monsters out from under the bed – and all the birthday parties and movie nights and growing a bloody big, beautiful family – didn’t mean so much. Not when I lined them up against this epic year of doing it all. Being a mum, a wife, a student, all bloody things to all people.
I was exhausted.
I was so exhausted that I thought it was normal to be rundown all the time. So exhausted that I thought nothing of the fact that I was dropping kilos without even trying… anyone would if they were keeping up that pace! So exhausted that I wrote off a heap of irritable bowel symptoms as being due to stress, something I was sure would sort itself out later. Later –when I had that diploma and that job and I had replaced a full time studying week with a full-time working week and kept on donning the superhero cape until I literally dropped.
I was too busy valuing my busyness to value my health and my place at the heart of my family. This is something for which I will, one day, pay the ultimate price.