The best way to get to know a person is not through superficial greetings at the school gate or by following them on social media… it’s by getting to know their story. Everyone has a story. Some share them widely and others don’t. The truth is that by sharing our own story we allow others to do the same… and through authentic communication we all learn how to grow personally and connect deeply.
My heart for the My Journey With series is that it would be a place of honesty, where women are able to share their stories and others are able to read them and resonate with the experiences or emotions shared.
Today is the turn of Belinda who shares her journey with facing the fear of dying, multiple times!
My Journey With… The fear of dying
In 2008 I was diagnosed with pulmonary TB. It had progressed to a large cavitation in my left lung. It was such a shock and really terrifying to receive this news. I thought I just had the 100 day cough that everyone else had that winter. For a few days the worst case scenario definitely crossed my mind. But I was extremely blessed that my TB was not drug resistant and I responded very well to the medication and after 6 months of treatment I had recovered fully. I think I tried to put it all behind me fairly quickly. It had been an awful year of loss with my husband losing his mom and dad within 5 months of each other. So my recovery actually became at least one bright thing in that dark year.
In 2014, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 34 weeks pregnant with my second child. We induced labour at 36 weeks and I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. I started 6 months of chemotherapy when he was two weeks old and when I had finished my chemotherapy, I had a double mastectomy.
Both of these experiences definitely took me to a place where I pondered the reality of a shortened life.
The breast cancer has had a bigger impact on my life as I now have children and the fear of death has been more palpable. This is because I want to be there to see them grow up. And because I know that there are no guarantees in the breast cancer journey, and I find that really hard.
Hindsight has mostly been a great joy in this experience. I have felt that I want to really cherish time here on this earth with my loved ones. I want to be better at saying what needs to be said and I want to live a little more honestly and consciously. I certainly don’t get this right all of the time, but I watched a lot of my fellow cancer warriors not get the time to do this at all. So I persevere and am always grateful for my extra time.
My faith was a big help in carrying me through these two experiences. I so badly wanted to control my outcome over both these diseases. However, there is no such thing and I realised letting go of some things would be a necessary survival tool. This does not mean that I did not fight and give the fight every ounce of my positivity. But having faith and being surrounded by prayer enabled me to fight what I could and leave the rest to God.
I was also incredibly blessed by friends and family who prayed, looked after kids, dropped off meals and sent ongoing messages that lifted me way beyond what I could do in my own power. And of course, my husband and my two small children were a constant driving force for me to get up, to keep fighting and to keep going.
I feel that I am never quite on the other side of the cancer journey. I stay positive most of the time. It hovers over me and the cloud becomes a little more threatening when I hear of someone who has lost the battle. But I have also learnt to accept that and harness some power over it. It is a daily tug of war.
Some of my power harnessing tools are finding joy and fulfillment in my family and work life. I thrive on my passion for connecting with people in my job as a physiotherapist as well as in my personal life. I am constantly learning from those around me and my patients. They inspire me too. I hope to learn more about the incredible mind-body connection as a way to live my own life more deeply, but also as a way to help others do the same.
As you find me now I am healthy and grateful. I still take a hormone medication for breast cancer management and have regular check ups. I often have moments, hours or days of fearing death. But mostly I feel enriched and blessed by these experiences. They have made me bigger.
I have finally started my personal blog, The Joy Stoke, which I had longed to do but never found the time. Covid-19 lockdown forced it upon me. I hope for it to be a space to tell some of my stories and other people’s stories too. A place to share joy in the journey and things that stoke joy. A place to build each other up and watch our sparks grow into roaring flames. I also dream of it becoming a space for cancer and TB support and fundraising. But I am taking one step at a time for now.
At the moment I just hope to live by my blog tagline and logo slogan.
Find joy in the journey.
Share the Joy – Spread the Stoke.
Find Belinda on Social Media here: