It’s been one year since I’ve heard those dreaded words: ‘Natalie, your cancer has come back. It’s in your lungs, meaning you have Stage IV Metastatic Melanoma’.
I’ve been told those words twice, can you believe? Twice. Once, for the first time four years ago in October 2014 which was Stage III. And on this day, 365 days ago, in May 2018.
A lot has happened in the space of a year. My tumours grew from ‘normal’ to ‘aggressive’ to ‘scar tissue’. My liver got hepatitis, my lung collapsed. I threw up every morning for six weeks. I lost seven kilograms in the space of a month. The love of my life packed up his life in Germany and moved to Sydney.
I’ve cried more times than I can count, but I’ve also fist pumped the air many times too. I’ve had 38 eggs frozen thanks to IVF. I’ve lost friends, but gained some too. I’ve had over one hundred needles pierce my skin and roughly 32 cannulas inserted into my right arm for immunotherapy and guess what? I’m still here.
When I was first diagnosed back in 2014, I would often refer to my life as the ‘before’ and the ‘after’. Having the cancer come back; that line of definition, that signpost that allowed me to separate what I had established as known and unknown, is now so blurry I couldn’t tell you if it was really there. Because now, there’s an ‘after, after Natalie’. A woman who has been shaken to her core and has had to undo many of self-sewn stitches on parts of herself she thought she had worked through, and could therefore close.
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I’ve never been one to say I can understand others pain. Pain is unique to every beating heart on this earth, but boy, do I understand how Sisyphus felt being eternally damned to carry that rock on his back. That’s how I feel sometimes. My life repeating itself, with no concrete set of direction yet instead there’s heavy cocktail of loss, grief, anger and frustration forever stuck to my shoulders.