Cancer was totally not on my vision board for 2018.
I’m 31, fit and healthy, play touch footy and squash twice a week (yes it’s shocking I know people still play squash.)
It’s a rare blood cancer – the one Delta had or ‘The Good Cancer’ as people often call it. I mean Delta does have amazing hair these days but no matter what type you get it’s hard to find anything good about cancer.
Briony produced a video documenting life with and without hair. You really ought to watch it. Post continues after video.
It was the shock of my life. In the moment I was told the order of my thoughts were something like…
Well clearly you have the wrong person.
Shit, shit, shit
Will I lose my hair?
No there has definitely been a stuff up
Omg I’m going to be bald…
How can this be happening?
This is a pretty good excuse for being late to work.
Perhaps they switched my results with someone else.
How am I going to tell my sisters?
I just got my hair coloured…
No wonder my squash has gotten so bad…
How am I going to tell my friends?
OHHHH MYYYY GOOOOOODDDDDD
Can I start today over?
At least now I knew it wasn’t because I was crap at life, it was cancer. Words were being spoken to me but nothing was going in. It’s a pretty surreal experience.
Cue tears, IVF, egg harvesting, chemotherapy, wig shopping, hair loss, nausea and guilt-free naps (lots and lots of naps). The best family, friends and colleagues in the universe shrouding me in love and lifting me through this shitty experience and unexpected kindness coming from places you’d never imagine.
It’s been a whirlwind. No one chooses cancer, you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy. I feel bloody lucky to have come out the other side and be in remission.
And so my message to everyone is this:
Only you know your body.
If it feels off, if you feel consistently exhausted and can’t explain why, if you wake up feeling icky day after day, if something just doesn’t seem right, don’t keep powering through. Don’t be a hero and put your own exhaustion and pain to the side.
You need to demand answers and not give up until you have them. Seriously you actually have to be a pain in the arse, stamp your feet on the ground (politely) and demand answers.
BE A HYPOCHONDRIAC. (Special tip: do not wear makeup when you go to the doctor! Bronzer, as much as I love it can give a false sense of health.)
I really wish I hadn’t been so tough, I wish I hadn’t kept shrugging it off, compartmentalising the pain and exhaustion I felt everyday. I wish I hadn’t listened to doctors who told me it was just stress. I knew deep down there was something more going on.
Listen to your body. I mean like really listen to your body. Not the kind of listening you do when you’re on the phone to your mum but scrolling through Instagram.
Really listen to your body. Then do what it says.
A thousand thank-yous to the amazing doctors and nurses at the Gold Coast University Hospital for your incredible work and kindness getting me through chemotherapy. ( I think you might actually be angels.)
Briony Benjamin is the Executive Producer of Video mischief-making at Mamamia. Just before Christmas last year, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma after a year of feeling crappy for no good reason.
Thankfully, Briony is currently recovering from chemotherapy and feels like one lucky little chica. Whilst going through treatment she made this video With and Without: Hair. She hopes this video might encourage even a few people to go and get checked out, and remember to put their health first.
In another incredible story of resilience and love, Marilee Mai’s five-year-old daughter Milan was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer a year ago, now she’s doing everything she can to save her girl. Listen to Mia Freedman's full interview below.