My Journey

Light. Love. Life


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Feeling free

Imagine yourself taking a big deep breathe in and letting out a big sigh of relief. Why? Because as I started to write this post, that is exactly what I did and continued to type with a big smile.

My life is finally starting to take shape and form some kind of direction. This year has been busy for us with selling our home and moving into another one which we intend to re-build on early 2014. Our Thailand wedding is coming up in the next couple of months which is super exciting but again keeping me insanely busy. It has been such a joy to plan and organise. I also have been studying web design for a few weeks whilst taking on some work from home, keeping up my weekly voluntary work at the children’s hospital and writing guest posts for Therese Kerr and the lovely Alison at Relauncher. My body is feeling amazing after months of back rehabilitation and physiotherapy, my strength is back and I am training six days a week, sometimes twice a day! Along with all of this, I have just got a new part-time job. I love everything in my life right now and I could not be any happier.

After doing so much inspirational voluntary work along side the Breast Cancer Foundations, I have found myself pulling back on a lot of it. I have recently turned down several opportunities due to what feels like I have moved on. My mind is set on prioritising myself as #1 by doing what is going to now enhance and cherish my life to make me my happiest. It has not been an easy thing to do after so long, but it just seems to be an automated feeling inside me which makes me feel very proud and my positivity is beaming stronger each and everyday.

In saying all this, life has not been a walk in the park. It has been very difficult this year to reach this point of success and fulfilment. I think the big questions that survivors of any life threatening disease ask themselves is “So what do I do now? How to I pick up where I left off? Do I want to continue where I was headed.. or Do I make some big changes and start off fresh?” I think we all take this in different ways. For me, I had to think long and hard about what it is I want to be doing. I thought I was happy where I was before my illness but I didn’t feel as though I knew where I was heading or what my purpose was in life. I now feel confirmed that what I enjoy doing is what I need to be doing. I never liked the thought of myself working a full-time job doing the same thing everyday, I did it on and off for a while, but it always came back to wanting to do a few different things with my time and feeding my brain with creativity whilst also nurturing my caring side with something health or body related. Funnily enough, both two things I have qualifications in but being too completely different careers, I never really thought I would be piecing them to be worked in conjunction with each other.

Now, I have managed my life into being able to make both of these things work together and I feel like I have opened myself to a whole new me – which of course was always inside me. Being able to take time to look at yourself and reflect on what you want from your life is something we all need to take the time to do. You don’t have to feel lost or unhappy with your life, you just need to understand who you are and where you want to be to make you the best you. No one can do this for you but yourself.

It has not just been a hard year of me finding my true self, but for Adam too. To be able to come out from the anxiety of not having to worry about me everyday, or being able to go on a holiday and feeling free rather than thinking ‘Is Rach okay? Am I a bad person to be leaving her at home whilst I am away or out at work for the night?’ Absolutely not. But coming out from being the carer from a life threatening illness.. This is how your mind can make you feel about every single thing you do. Though it was me that has gone through all of the surgeries, illness and pain.. I cannot express enough honour to Adam for what he has been through himself to support me and watch me go through it all with so much love and support. Today, he is the strongest, most inspirational and successful person I have met in my life.

I feel so blessed to be able to be getting married at the end of this year to this extraordinary man. It could not be happening at a better time after a hard year of emotions and the questioning of life and where we are. It has all worked out and we are feeling on top of the world.

chi-thai


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‘Angel-ina’ Jolie

Lets be straight up here. Angelina Jolie is nothing short of an angel to have put her fears aside and put her beautiful family first by choosing to have an elective double mastectomy. By no means would this have been an easy decision for the well-known actress of such stature.

I came across this article below which was published on May 14, 2013 by the NY Times.

My Medical Choice

By ANGELINA JOLIE

LOS ANGELES

MY MOTHER fought cancer for almost a decade and died at 56. She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her and experience how loving and gracious she was.

We often speak of “Mommy’s mommy,” and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us. They have asked if the same could happen to me. I have always told them not to worry, but the truth is I carry a “faulty” gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman.

Only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited gene mutation. Those with a defect in BRCA1 have a 65 percent risk of getting it, on average.

Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex.

On April 27, I finished the three months of medical procedures that the mastectomies involved. During that time I have been able to keep this private and to carry on with my work.

But I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action.

My own process began on Feb. 2 with a procedure known as a “nipple delay,” which rules out disease in the breast ducts behind the nipple and draws extra blood flow to the area. This causes some pain and a lot of bruising, but it increases the chance of saving the nipple.

Two weeks later I had the major surgery, where the breast tissue is removed and temporary fillers are put in place. The operation can take eight hours. You wake up with drain tubes and expanders in your breasts. It does feel like a scene out of a science-fiction film. But days after surgery you can be back to a normal life.

Nine weeks later, the final surgery is completed with the reconstruction of the breasts with an implant. There have been many advances in this procedure in the last few years, and the results can be beautiful.

I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.

It is reassuring that they see nothing that makes them uncomfortable. They can see my small scars and that’s it. Everything else is just Mommy, the same as she always was. And they know that I love them and will do anything to be with them as long as I can. On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.

I am fortunate to have a partner, Brad Pitt, who is so loving and supportive. So to anyone who has a wife or girlfriend going through this, know that you are a very important part of the transition. Brad was at the Pink Lotus Breast Center, where I was treated, for every minute of the surgeries. We managed to find moments to laugh together. We knew this was the right thing to do for our family and that it would bring us closer. And it has.

For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options. I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices.

I acknowledge that there are many wonderful holistic doctors working on alternatives to surgery. My own regimen will be posted in due course on the Web site of the Pink Lotus Breast Center. I hope that this will be helpful to other women.

Breast cancer alone kills some 458,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization, mainly in low- and middle-income countries. It has got to be a priority to ensure that more women can access gene testing and lifesaving preventive treatment, whatever their means and background, wherever they live. The cost of testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2, at more than $3,000 in the United States, remains an obstacle for many women.

I choose not to keep my story private because there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer. It is my hope that they, too, will be able to get gene tested, and that if they have a high risk they, too, will know that they have strong options.

Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of.

After reading this, I felt very connected to both Angelina and Brad. Adam was also there for me every minute of every treatment and surgery and it was not only hard for me, but even worse for Adam to sit and watch. Though it is a good thing that my mother – nor any other family member has had breast cancer, it would of been a lot easier for me to have been able to have an elective double mastectomy than to have been through what I have. But it cuts both ways. I really hope that women and men can both take a lot from this. Many people may also not know that Christina Applegate also had a double mastectomy to eliminate her chances of developing breast cancer after she also tested positive to the breast cancer gene. Even though Angelina did not have to go through the horrific side of actually having breast cancer and all the extremely unpleasant treatments over a long period of time, I am extremely proud of her to be able to eliminate her chances from 87% of inheriting the BRCA1 mutation gene all the way down to a tiny 5% risk.

All this aside, this brings my attention to the results of my genetic testing. As my results came back as inconclusive, I am feeling unsure.. Am I to get re-tested? They stuffed around a lot with my blood tests and it was all a little bit hazy when the results came in. Even though I had ‘inconclusive’ results, I have still somehow come across a gene mutation. Once I have had my children, I will need to opt for my ovaries to be removed as this is where the cancer could return to.

This also brings me to discuss families. Lately my GP, my Endocrinologist and Oncologist have all been badgering me about when I am going to start a family. Its all very difficult to even be thinking about at the moment. Our wedding is in November this year so thats already one big step let alone the fact I need time to get myself back to being ‘me’ and getting my life on track before I even think about having my own children. I have been told that 35 is my limit and I am turning 31 this year. Can you imagine the pressure of all this? Does this mean wedding – kids – ovaries removed?.. Its all too much so I am trying to just carry on with living each day for what it is and nature will take its course.. Or maybe I will be using IVF. Who knows, but we are not ready. Throughout my illness I always thought how hard it would of been going through everything with young children or babies. I always felt a lot of respect for people I would see with kids going through similar procedures. But I never really thought of it the other way, how about me? I haven’t even been able to have my babies and what if I can’t? There is just so many factors that come along side with having cancer that really grind on your mind. I do believe I will combat it all within time whilst allowing myself to live my life to the fullest each day.

So.. This post was intended to be my praise to the Jolie/Pitt family, so on that note, all my love and I am so glad to see someone so beautiful and inspirational going through with such a difficult procedure whilst maintaing her family life.

xxxxxxxxx


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An update from the USA

HeatherSome of you may remember back in February I posted a brave story from Cameron about his wife Heather, who courageously pulled her way through Mesothelioma when she was told she had 15 months to live. If you have not – you can view this post here.

Cameron contacted me this morning to share an amazing project video they participated in. I really wanted to share it with you all so you could also see this lovely family and how they are now so happily living each day with their beautiful daughter Lily.

Heather’s approach to life throughout her illness and to how she is shining today has been so great for me to watch. I feel really connected to the way she is in life and her positive reflection on her life. As Heather quotes in this video:

I have been accused all my life of wearing rose coloured glasses and seeing life very optimistically and I have no intention of ever taking them off.

This is so heart warming. Bless you Heather for making me smile so bright today!

Love Rachel

xxx

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