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New stuff: It’s been eight years since I was declared “cancer free.” This blog has gone dormant while I figure out what to do now that it’s pretty obvious that I’m not going to die soon, of cancer.

I’m not sure what shape a new and improved blog will take, but I am hoping this turns into something that other people find useful, so I’ve been revisiting it.

Also, I’m not going to go through and clean up the mess because it’s an accurate representation of the best I could do at the time.

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I’m a person with a sense of humor who also had cancer.  It gives me something to write about now. Thanks for coming, and I hope you find what you came here looking for.

As the blog has evolved, I find I write a great deal about how it makes me feel each and every time a false cure for illness creeps across my radar. That’s an identity I’m comfortable with.

Also, the legal stuff. Everything I write here is my own original work, and copyrighted. Please link to me, repost me, but don’t forget the part where you give me credit for what I’ve written.

7 Comments
  1. hi – here from askmoxie. love the blog, great writing – straightforward, funny. a lot of people don’t want to revisit tough times – i think it’s generous of you to write about your cancer to give other people a better understanding of the experience, for themselves or their loved ones. keep it up!

  2. lovethroughexample permalink

    Hi – just found your blog today. I love you candid, honest writing and the sprinkling of humour. I too am battling breast cancer and 2 recurrences. Am doing well now but has been a long tough road. Your writing touches many chords for me. Thank you.
    I am in the process of collating a collection of inspiring stories of support. I want to inspire friends of people with cancer to be creative in their support. If you are interested I would like to send you my introduction to my project. I am calling it Love Through Example.
    Let me know if you are interested.
    Thanks and keep writing – and I will keep reading. Kerryn

  3. Thank you. It is good to be doing something other than dealing with treatment for a change. Am on the other side of the world to you. I live in Melbourne Australia. It was such a relief to find someone with the courage to talk honestly.

    I have taken the liberty of including my Introduction to my project as it would be great if you were interested in contributing. If not no drama. If you were willing to help me find a way of getting my message out there in the US that would be fantastic. If you don’t want to read that’s ok too.

    Thanks for your time.
    Kerryn

    Love Through Example

    Introduction

    When I started to write this Introduction in my head, it started with “My journey with cancer began in 2006.” However, as I typed this sentence I realised this statement was not true. My journey with cancer began when I was born – or to be more accurate, when I was conceived. I realised, there is no way to be in this world, without having a relationship with cancer. Hence, my revised beginning is: My personal or conscious journey with cancer began in 2006 when I was diagnosed with primary breast cancer.

    When I was given this diagnosis I was overwhelmed by a myriad of emotions. The two feelings I was most aware of were fear and helplessness. In the early stages, these feelings were so overwhelming that I felt paralysed by them. A voice in my head was making it harder by saying that because of my training (I am a Psychologist) I should be able to handle all of this by myself. Over the coming weeks I learned that my prognosis was good and that chemotherapy was not considered necessary. From this point forward, I rediscovered my inner strength. I then approached the ensuing months of treatment in the way I have faced most other challenges in my life – head on!

    In retrospect, I guess I was a bit delusional in those early weeks. Somehow, I believed that I should be able to cope with cancer in an isolated, strong kind of way. In particular, I believed that life should not change for my beautiful, amazing, wonderful child, my daughter, Eliza. It still brings tears to my eyes thinking about how all this has affected her.

    Eliza was only six years old at the time of this diagnosis. Eliza was and is my very treasured only child. I was so afraid that I – her mother – was “causing” damage in her life. In fact through much of my journey with cancer my fears about the impact on Eliza have been greater than my concerns for myself.

    In 2006, I relied primarily on the support of my immediate family. My husband of 10 years, Peter, and I believed the best approach was to keep Eliza’s life “normal” and we both did all we could in pursuit of this goal. I now realise, this was often, at the expense of ourselves. I sometimes asked friends for practical support, collecting Eliza from school or having her over for a play date. In the main, I approached my life as if there was no change. I did not let friends who loved me reach me to support me. I did not even let them know how vulnerable I felt. In truth, I probably did not even let myself know how vulnerable I felt!

    Peter did all he could to be my “rock”. To a large extent he, like me, expected we could manage it all on our own. The pressure on him was immense. He continued working and being there for everyone. He also tried to shield me from his own enormous distress.

    Trying to be normal for everyone, especially for Eliza consumed an enormous amount of my energy. This was difficult, as stress and the effects of the treatment I was undergoing had already diminished my energy. Somehow, if I could kid myself that all this did not affect Eliza, I kept finding the energy to keep going.

    Some weeks after my diagnosis, as I was putting Eliza to bed, this beautiful little six year old asked me that question no parent wants to hear. She asked me what would happen to her if I died. I tried not to answer this question directly and I repeatedly reassured her that she did not need to think about this, as it was not going to happen. Without success, she tried several different approaches to get me to answer her question. Eventually, in frustration and with tears streaming down her face Eliza said “I know all that Mama but I need to know what will happen to me if you die!” In the enormous silence that this question generated I heard her. We sat together with tears streaming down both our faces and I systematically described her life without me in it. I answered every one of her questions, no matter how hard the questions were to hear. I still consider this the single most difficult conversation I have ever had. For six-year-old Eliza, this meant everything. I helped her to picture a life without me in it. With these images she was able to begin to move forward with her life. Eliza knew she needed my help and had the courage to ask for (indeed demand) what she needed.

    With hindsight, I wished I had stopped and learned more from Eliza at this time. I could have taken on more about the importance of being vulnerable and letting others help me, love me. Even to ask outright (demand) for what I needed. In spite of the rawness of this conversation there was, still only a handful of people in my life who know the extent of the vulnerability I was feeling. I could only find the courage to be honest with so few. For everyone else, I feigned strength.

    Only eight months after I was diagnosed, I returned to work. There were some alterations to my lifestyle, but essentially not to the way I lived. I still viewed myself, and was viewed by others, as a strong person who offered a great deal of support to others. I continued to live exuding the myth that I was invulnerable. Only those closest to me knew otherwise.

    In 2009 I was diagnosed with a recurrence of breast cancer. This time around, I was terrified. I was actually more terrified about “having” to do chemotherapy than I was about the disease itself. Within days of the diagnosis I felt like I was lost and alone within a horrible nightmare. I felt so very alone. The whirlwind of tests, treatment and side effects consumed my every waking (and most of my sleeping) thought. It was easy for me to feel and to believe that there was nothing anyone can do to help. Nothing anyone could do to remove or alleviate my burden. Not surprisingly, I noticed that many of my friends also become overwhelmed by their own feelings of fear and helplessness. In the face of the magnitude of me having a recurrence of cancer they felt that whatever they had to offer would not make enough of a difference to me. This resulted in friends limiting themselves to practical support or saying, “Let me know if there is anything I can do.” Friends also reduced their contact with me assuming I would not have the energy to connect with them. This state of affairs left them and me sitting in fear and helplessness. For me, figuring out what others could do to help only increased rather than alleviated my burden. It also exacerbated how alone I was feeling. Edgar Watson Howe once said “When a friend is in trouble, don’t annoy him by asking if there is anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it.” I am sure this paints a very clear picture of the cycle of helplessness everyone can be drawn into in the face of a cancer diagnosis.

    What was different for me in 2009 was that I felt vulnerable, scared and alone and I was not trying to pretend. I wanted my friends to reach me, to connect with me, to help through my devastation. I did not know how to communicate this to many of my friends. Two years on I am still learning to communicate my vulnerability. However, on the journey I have learned a lot about how wonderful it feels when someone reaches you and touches your soul. I have learned this because this time on my journey with cancer I have been open to being reached, touched and loved by others.

    As I was writing the paragraphs above, I was emailed a quote that is entirely apt to include here:
    “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” ~Albert Schweitzer

    With all of this background in mind, I am in the process of collating a collection of stories about encounters between loved ones that can rekindle the inner flame in someone negotiating a journey with cancer.
    There are many publications about the practical things that can be done to support a cancer patient. Cooking, cleaning, driving to appointments, shopping etc. I do not intend to replicate these very useful publications in this book. However, there is an absence of information that encourages people to find their own inspiration in the support that they offer to cancer patients. The aim of this collection of stories is to begin to fill this hole. These stories are not limited to or by the practical things that can be done to help. These stories will be tangible in showing the way simple and individual “gifts” or “moments” can touch the soul of a cancer patient and in so doing alleviate their burden.

    The things that can touch the soul of someone journeying with cancer do not need to be big or even obvious. In fact, often, small heart felt gestures are the ones that most touch the soul. I would like to share one of my stories with you.

    Some weeks after my diagnosis in 2009 I was still struggling with the diagnosis, fear and side effects. Within this haze I came home from a medical appointment one day to find a small simple bunch of flowers on my doorstep. Attached to the flowers was a card with the following message “God and me and God are one.” Great mantra for 11 mins.” I was so touched by this thoughtful gesture but the card was unsigned so I did not know whom to thank. I sent text messages to the people I thought were likely to have left this gift for me. They all replied that they had not left the gift – but wished they had! So this lovely gesture remained a mystery. I started trying the mantra, especially at night when I was having trouble sleeping. I found the mantra very soothing. In fact I still use it in the middle of the night when I cannot get back to sleep. The mantra really has been amazing for me.
    Over the following few weeks I continued to mention the flowers and mantra to friends as I saw or spoke with them. No one claimed they had left the gift for me. I gratefully accepted and embraced the benefits of the gift and noticed that by not signing the card I had been given more than I initially realized. I had been given an opportunity to reflect on all the people who loved me. This process in itself took me away from the challenges I was surrounded by and gave me some light and lovely moments.

    Life moved on and some weeks later I came home to a similar bunch of flowers with another anonymous card attached. The message on this card was “I love the soul I am.” “Great 11 min mantra to feel beautiful.” I had the wisdom this time not to pursue who had left the flowers and mantra. I had the insight just to receive. This too was a great gift for me to be given. I have never known how to really receive. As these gifts were anonymous I had no option other than to simply receive. These insights are as strong to me now as they were then.

    Over time I have reflected on how rare it is that we receive gifts where nothing is required in return. Social convention requires that we at least say thank you, even if the giver does not need acknowledgement. The anonymity of these gestures meant I had no choice but to free myself from social convention and just receive the gift. This person did not need me to even know who they were. The flowers that were left on my doorstep have long since died. I still have the cards with the mantras on them. I will always have the lessons these simple gestures taught me. My soul is still touched and warmed whenever I think of this story. Even thinking about these gifts still rekindles my internal fire.
    I am very grateful to this person for using their instinct and creativity to do something to reach me at a time when I desperately needed to be reached. Their approach was inspirational. I want to collate a collection of stories like this one to encourage people to do the same thing. To use their instinct and creativity to touch the life and soul of someone who needs to be reached. I believe a collection of stories such as this can break the cycle of helplessness that can be such a debilitating part of Cancer. In short, I want to help people to love through example.

    In keeping with my learning to ask for help – I NEED YOUR HELP. If you have or know of a story where someone’s life has been touched like this at a deep level, please send the story to me so I can include it in my collection. Please also send this message on to every one in your address book. Ask them to do the same. Send me an email letting me know how many people you have forwarded the message to. Ask everyone you forward it to do the same – and so on. I am in the process of setting up a website. When I do this I will post and keep a tally of how many people have received this message. I want to reach as MANY people as I can. I want to collect as many inspiring stories as I can. Please join me in helping the loved ones of cancer patients to “Love through Example”.

    Together let’s make something wonderful happen.

    Please send stories and tallies to lovethroughexample@gmail.com

    Thank you for your support of me in this exciting project.

    Kerryn Bennetts

  4. Julia permalink

    Hi – What a great blog. Funny, witty, pointed, and smart. – Julia

  5. Hi, I am still really enjoying your writing. So pleased to hear that you are in the category of “probably cured”. What a fantastic achievement. My last results were also positive. I am working to 2011 being the first year since 2008 without a recurrence. So far so good. What is important is I am feeling better and my quality of life is improving. These days I would even call it good. It is wonderful to again be a more present mother to my 11 year old.
    I am still working on my Love Through Example project. I am finding enthusiastic support but an absence of people willing to write stories. You write so well and so willingly. I was wondering whether you are still willing to put something together to include in the collection? If you have more than one story of support you are willing to write about that would also be great.
    Thank you so much for having the courage to write as openly an honestly as you do.
    Kerryn

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