Sunday Session #7: Cancer, Eating Disorders & Living My Life In A Series of 5’s.

Many years ago while living amongst the trees on my parent’s 20 acre property in the middle of Redneck County, I was known as the girl who believed in living her life in a series of 5’s.  A series of 5’s that would see me write, pen and dream about my life in allocated five year increments.

Like any 16 year old who dreams of a brighter future and desires about becoming a ‘better person’, I was dreaming about escaping the wilderness for grey skyscrapers, men wearing business suits and the freedom of once again living like a ‘true city bitch’. In fact, said wish was written as #1 on my brightly coloured piece of cardboard that lay smack bang in the middle of my wall.

As to how I came about living my life in a series of 5’s stems back from the time I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 14. Somewhere between being greeted by an extremely attractive male doctor with curly brown hair and leaving in a daze were the word, ‘You’ll die of cancer’ and ‘five years’. 

Like anyone who has just been given a death sentence around their neck, it would take me a couple of weeks before I was able to come to terms with what had just happened. With stricken parents beside me as I went about pretending like everything was a-okay, I realised one morning that I had effectively been given a death sentence that limited my original life expectancy of 100 years and it being drastically cut to dying at the tender age of 19.

As a result of this life altering declaration, I soon began living and thinking of my life in five year increments that would well and truly continue into my twenties. Even after having undergone surgery, removing any and all cancer existence at the time and being given a clean bill of health, it had become something that fascinated me and as a result, I became obsessed with controlling all aspects of my life.

Some ten years after having been delivered the death sentence of a lifetime, I discovered Life cannot be controlled within an inch of its existence. As to how I discovered this, I was waiting for the anaesthetic to kick in while my doctor prepared to remove a suspicious mole on my face. Stitching up the small incision on my face while my hands trembled and not because I was afraid, it brought back the memory and slight fear of ‘what if I have cancer again?’ 

Having gotten behind the wheel of my car and beginning the short 30 minute drive to my house, I thought about my life as a sixteen year old and what it had represented as compared to the life I now lead as a twenty something year old and how Karma can play a part in the structure and outcomes of your life.

Whether we believe or acknowledge Karma or the ultimate ‘being’ that plays a key part in our life and its eternal meaning, I’ve come to understand and accept that there are many things within my own life that can impact it. As a result, it has the ability of impacting how I see, think, interpret and respond to these situations when they arise. In my case, having being welcomed by the gorgeous doctor and handed a death sentence in a matter of minutes, I’ve become to refer these peculiar moments as ‘Life Lessons’.

Life Lessons have allowed me to address or point out both the positive and negative impacts while addressing how it has changed my life or someone else’s for the greater good or possibly, the worst outcome. Like any pro and con when it comes to the context of your life and own health, I have realised that living my life in a series of 5’s would not only drive anyone up the wall but it has resulted in many missed opportunities.

Having actually come to terms with this and accepting where I went wrong, it has allowed me to understand that by living such a structured and no means kind of life, it didn’t allow for personal growth and development. It also played a significant role in the destruction of self involved fun and exciting adventures undertaken by those surrounding me.

If you were to ask anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer or a life altering illness, you will learn that cancer can have both a negative and positive aspect. Most of us would say the negative aspect is having 24 hours in a day where we spend it wondering if the treatment is actually working while trying to remain positive on the exterior for our family. While some would say the positive is spending copious amount of time with our family, the negative is wondering if we’re spending too little time with them. 

After being diagnosed with cancer and well before nursing school and medicine entered my brainwave, I spent quite a lot of time Googling cancer rates. For someone who absolutely hated math and yet chose a degree revolving around math and calculating body weight later on down the tack, I became obsessed with crunching numbers and Googling the affects of climate change, skin cancer and the success rate of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

With this sudden urge to have answers to the inevitable “why me?” question, it had many negative repercussions. During the next year after undergoing surgery and more doctor visits than I care to remember, the negative side of life saw me yo-yo in weight. My family members and community watched as I went from being scarily thin and weighing in at 42 kilos to living the life of a healthy size 10 and being told I was obese and “when was the baby due?”

This resulted in me losing the weight I had finally put back on my thin frame and destroyed the success I was having at overcoming and beating my severe eating disorder. All because they chose not focus on the classic warning signs of anorexia such as limbs that were too slim for my body and why I was wearing children’s clothing but rather, the healthy look I was now sporting. 

Because of these comments and many other unmentionable things, what I was experiencing as a high school student caused me to restart living my life in a series of 5’s and as a result, had a significant impact on who I was as a person. Having never been someone who is comfortable in her skin or general appearance, these questions and allegations caused me to drop weight at an alarming speed, my perception on health was blurred beyond definition and in return, put immense strain on my relationship with my family and even more so on the budding relationships I had with my siblings.

After putting myself through a rehab program that allowed for me to slowly let go of my obsessions, my relationships improved drastically and for the greater good. So after ten years of not living not quite cancer free, overcoming an eating disorder or two and discovering that life cannot be continued within concrete walls, do I still wish to continue living my life in a series of 5’s?

I can honestly say after having been given a clean bill of health twice, I’ve learnt that it’s important to let go of my number crunching and toe curling obsessions and start living life like it should be. This means, I have given up living my life in five year increments and writing my goals, dreams and ambitions on a bright orange cardboard and in return, has allowed me to accept the fact of although Queensland has the highest percentage of skin cancer deaths and diagnosis in Australia per annum; it doesn’t mean that I am going to die of skin cancer or fall into this category within the next couple of years.

As of this very minute, at the more mature age of twenty something as compared to my sixteen year old self who knew jack shit on Life and living, I am a firm believer this is why I stopped living my life in a series of 5’s. Although I do admit that the temptation to spend countless hours crunching away at numbers in my induced padded cell of obsessions whilst the voice tells me, “You need to run 5 kilometres for that one mouthful of the enemy” is there, I choose to walk out into the light.

I choose to walk out into the light and when looking for me, I can be found sitting amongst the blades of grass, soaking up the sunshine and observing as my adult siblings laugh in the background. Life isn’t meant to be contained but rather it is expected to be lived, enjoyed and shared with those around you.

Isn’t the meaning of life beautiful and mysterious, Dearest Reader?

Until next time,

~S xo

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