My Story Is Not Over

I never imagined that sitting down to write again would be so difficult, almost impossible if I’m brutally honest. In my mind, the words flow like the ocean, and telling the story of how my entire life has changed and my world has completely evolved is effortless and putting it all together in a blog post should, in theory, feel like second nature to me… well, I suppose that’s why there is such a big difference between theory and practice or shall I say, reality. Truth be told, I’ve been sitting here for hours, changing the look and feel of my site, customizing the menus, updating the details, everything except actually writing a post. The simplest and most accurate way to put it is that I am completely and utterly terrified.For reasons unknown, the thought of writing again, sharing again, scares the life out of me.

It’s been such an incredibly long time since I’ve been able to let go, open up and really just write from that place deep inside of me that always seems burst open, explode; like a volcano, whenever I start telling my story. For so long, I’ve felt as though I’ve lost that place, that feeling and whenever  I did feel as though it might be coming back to me, I, very quickly suppressed it. I don’t have a logical or even justifiable explanation for this, like so many other things in my life lately, I just stopped wanting to share, wanting to talk about it. People have never stopped asking me to tell my story, I never stop getting requests for a new post and people ask on so many occasions why I haven’t written a book yet. At one point I started saying that I don’t write anymore, the shock and horror was enough to stop me from ever using that line very quickly. Honestly, I think that I possibly just got tired of living in that story and although I know that I need to tell it as much as others need to hear it, I think needed to heal from it too. I need to find myself beyond that and become whoever Mands was / is after ‘the big story’ and maybe ignoring it for a while was what needed to be done for me to get that right.

So here we are. All this time has gone by, life carried on and absolutely everything changed. I have changed. My big story has become, well, just a chapter in a bigger story. What I thought was the biggest thing I could ever go through, the one experience that would shape my entire existence has become a big part in this huge Tornado that is my life and as it turns out, my story is so much more than a Cancer journey and I have so much more to share. I am so much more than a cancer survivor and MY STORY IS NOT OVER!

I have so much to catch up on… so many stories to tell… so many posts to make….

The great part is… I’m ready to share again. I am ready to inspire and be inspired. I’m ready to tell my story. I don’t want to take this journey on my own. There is simply too much to see, too much to do and life is too short to go through it alone. As I look through my old posts and read my blog from the beginning, there is one thing I am absolutely sure of, sharing my journey and walking my road through this blog kept me sane, the feedback, the love, the inspiration and the comfort I got from my followers made every moment of that fight worth it. So, as I carry on with this journey, walk with me and we’ll go on all these adventures, the good, the bad and the ugly… together. ONE DAY AT A TIME

Much Love

One Day At A Time

Born in to Heaven, Forever in Mommy’s Heart and Soul

So I haven’t been able to write for a while… a long while.  I have tried more times than I care to mention and although I have had so much to share, so much to say, for some reason, I simply haven’t been able to put pen to paper, so to speak, for so long that even the concept of writing seems foreign to me now. My hands tremble as I try now. I feel as though I don’t remember how. If I hope that you will forgive my rusty hand and bear with me as I try and find my feet again.

I find myself at a point, once again, where this piece of paper is the only place I really have to turn, the only place I can really let it out, and so I will try again and hope that somehow I can find the words, somehow I can string them together and make them make sense in a way that will not only ease my weary heart but also provide some kind of inspiration for someone else, somewhere in this huge, crazy world.

In my last post, so long ago, I spoke about my desire to have a child, to be a mother. I mentioned how it was my goal to pursue that desire and make it happen despite the odds that were stacked against me. Well, life happened! In the time that has passed since then, I dug a very deep, very dark, very lonely hole for myself and in all honesty, stopped living all together. I survived day to day not knowing who I was or what I was doing, I did what I had to do, pretended to be the person the world needed me to be and wore the smile that everyone around me needed to see but behind closed doors I was numb, lifeless, an empty shell of a human being without purpose or meaning, lost and completely hopeless. Truth be told, I was just waiting to die. Although my cancer was in remission and my body was healing, my soul was broken, my heart was cold and my mind was convinced that my life was over. Yes, I do know how awful that sounds considered how what a miracle my survival is. I should have been alive and living every second to the fullest and I should have been doing everything that I dreamt of while I was lying on my death bed. That wasn’t the case though. I found out recently that it is actually a medical condition which is quite common for cancer patients who survive such advanced stages of cancer, it’s called the ‘transition phase’ and it is absolute hell!

I lived in that hole, in that ‘transition phase’ for quite a while, numb, cold, dead. And then, I woke up one morning and looked in mirror and said, “No more!” That was it. I knew at that point that if I didn’t do something I wouldn’t survive.  I made the decision there and then to come back to life. To become Mands again. I changed EVERYTHING! I got divorced, I started doing make-up again, I started living. I forced myself back into life. I found that I was able to inspire people again; I was able to tell my story again, I was able to help people again. It was happening slowly but one day at a time I was coming back to life, I was becoming back to life. My business felt it, my friends saw it, my family saw it, but most importantly, I felt it. I was starting to feel alive again. Yes, I lost friends, I gained a few enemies, there were a million rumors and all that comes with a big life change but none of that bothered me because for the first time in so long, I was Mands, I was alive, I was free.

One day out of the blue I blessed with yet another miracle. Although I was on track with getting my life back, my heart was still cold and my soul still struggled with the concept of love and then, out of nowhere, God gave me back my soul. My BIG love, my soul mate, came back into my life after 9 years. I got another chance with ‘the one that got away’. We have such a history, such story…. That’s a whole new post on its own, but the important thing is, we got another chance. Yes, I had to fight for it, I had to fight hard! Fighting for Steve was like fighting cancer all over again, it was hard, it was long and there were a number of times that I came very, very close to giving up but it was worth it. It was always worth it. From the day I first saw his beautiful baby face 12 years ago, he’s been worth it. Life took us in different directions but love brought us back together….. 4 times! Now, I wake up every morning and I still can’t believe I get to see that face next to me, I get to hold that hand, I am going to marry that man.

Steve and I have had our share of tests over the years, more than ever over the past 6 months. First, just after we finally got to be together again, Steve had to leave to work in Nigeria for 4 months. That alone was enough to tear any ‘new couple’ apart. Not us though. We got through it. We faced a few very, very difficult challenges while he was away, apart from the distance, there were obstacles we had to overcome that broke both of us, some that we kept to ourselves and dealt with via long, tearful phone calls, worried messages and broken hearts, others that we shared with family and friends but, we made it through all of them and although those 4 months were the some of the longest months of my life, the passed and he came home.  We made a promise not to waste any more time, this was our time! We had the most amazing holiday with my best of the best in Cape Town over December and came home to find out that we were expecting a little miracle. We were pregnant.

There are simply no words to describe how I felt when I found out that I was pregnant.  I have waited forever to be a Mommy. Having a child has always been my biggest dream, my life-long desire. Hearing that there was a little person inside of me was the most amazing words I have ever heard anyone say to me and I have never been happier than I was in that moment. I could go on for hours about how I felt about that but unfortunately, right now; my soul simply cannot handle that.

Just after my birthday, Steve asked me to marry him, yet another moment that I doubt I will ever find the words to describe. Finally, I had my fairytale, I was alive, I was healthy, I was a Mommy and I was going to marry my Prince Charming, the man of my dreams. It all made sense in that moment, I knew then what the fight was for, I understood why I survived cancer, I knew why I had to go through all of the hell that this life has thrown at me. There was a perfect life waiting for me and it was finally here, I was finally living it. Steve, me, our baby and all of our fur kids were going to make the perfect family and it was all unfolding in the perfect dream.

Unfortunately, I am Mandy and this is my life and as I said in one of my previous posts, “Nothing is ever simple.” Yesterday, after a ‘maternal feeling” I made an emergency appointment and went to the hospital. Our little miracle, my little angel, is gone. I have had a miscarriage and I’ve lost my precious baby. I may only have been in my first trimester and to many, my baby was only an embryo and not a human being yet, but I really do not see it that way. To me, I was a Mommy, I had a human being inside of my body, I had a baby, which was my child. As far as I am concerned, right now, I am a parent who is mourning the loss of my child. Yes, I never got to look into those little eyes, I never got to hold that little hand, I never got to kiss that soft skin or cuddle that little body in my arms, but from the moment that child was conceived, I loved my Baby more than life itself. I was a Mommy and there is no one that can convince me differently. My little angel was born into heaven and is now alive and well in the arms of those who have gone before me to take care of my baby and prepare for the day that I can hold my child in my own arms.

Honestly, I am broken right now, my heart is torn and my soul is weak and weary from the stabbing pain that comes with the emptiness I feel in my body. This life has thrown some pretty hard curve balls at me but I must admit, this is definitely one of the worst. I look at Steve and I realise the pain in his eyes resembles the pain in me and there isn’t anything I can do, there is no comfort in this for either of us apart from the fact that we have each other and that we can and will keep trying. Although we will try again, we cannot replace the child we have lost. You cannot replace a human being, no matter how small, no matter how young. Trying again will not take away this loss and we will always feel this. No matter how many children we have, this will always be my little miracle, my little angel and I will always remember this little soul. May this precious little being rest in peace knowing that Mommy loves you forever.

That being said; I understand that I need to feel this, I need to mourn for my Baby, I need to cry, I need to be sad right now but I also know that I need to get up again, as I always do. I need to carry on, knowing that I can conquer this as I have everything else in this life, I need to stand up, wipe the tears from my face, the dust from my knees and keep walking because, I’m not done yet. My journey is not over yet and although life has once again tried to break me, I am a warrior, I am a fighter! I was built for this. I’ve got this. I’m still here and I am not going anywhere. Cancer couldn’t beat me, life can’t break me, I am a survivor!

If you have ever doubted that you can carry on, that you can fight another battle, that you can live another day…. Take a page from my book; take a step in my shoes. It is possible to overcome what this life throws at you. It is possible to get through the storm; it is possible to get over this mountain. You can do this. Allow yourself to feel what you need to feel, go through the hard times, feel the pain, but get up again, dust yourself off and carry on, there is so much more to this life, there is good in this world, there are amazing things in this life and you owe it to yourself to fight to experience them. Keep walking, keep fighting, keep living. You are an amazing human being!

I truly hope that of all the awesome warriors that have walked my journey with me are still me are still out there… I need you now! We’re in this together. I’m with you if you’re with me! As life throws a new battle at me, a new challenge, a new fight, I’m ready to go and I’m finally ready to inspire, to share, to move again. Are you with me?

Namaste, Forever and Always

Much Love

One Day At A Time

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So what’s next?

So, cancer free and loving every moment of it, I catch myself craving a challenge now. I fought so hard for so long that it became a way of life for me and now that it’s over, I feel like I need to be doing something else that’s great and inspiring. So what’s next for cancer-free me?

Well, for the moment I’m just trying to get back into life, it’s crazy how much confidence I lost on my cancer journey and getting it back is a challenge on it’s own but I just feel like I need more, I need something big. I need something to inspire you and to stimulate me. I have a renewed life, energy, ambition… I need to use it! I’ve come up with a few options and I’ve been trying to work on them, although I’ve been unsuccessful so far, I see it as yet another journey, yet another battle and I’m so ready for the fight.

Firstly, apart from getting back into the swing of things in my own business I’ve decided to look for another job, something that will push me and challenge me. I’ve sent my CV out to a million people and another million places and nothing’s come if it yet but I’ll keep searching, if any of you know of anything out there, I’d appreciate the head’s up.

Then there’s the big thing, my greatest wish and the goal I have not achieved…. I want to me a Mommy!

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a mother. Finding out I can’t naturally have children was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with (And there have been quite a few of those in my life) and it broke my heart. Even through cancer I never stopped wishing for a child and now that I am rid of the monster that invaded my body for so long I want it even more. Unfortunately this is one thing I can’t do on my own, unlike fighting cancer, it’s not just me and I can’t make it happen.

I often find myself getting angry when I look at some parents, I think to myself, “I know I would be a good mother so why can a bad mother have a child and I can’t.” I get irritated when pregnant women complain about pregnancy and when parents complain about their children. It’s wrong of me, I know that but I just can’t help it. I would give almost anything to be a mother.

I so desperately want to feel the movement of a little life where there once was a monster inside of me, to look into little eyes that look like mine and to hold a tiny hand that is so precious and special. I want to be responsible for bringing a new life into this crazy world and bringing him or her up with the lessons I’ve learned and watching him or her grow into a strong, wonderful person who will always, no matter how much time passes, be my baby and will always need me, no matter how old he or she gets. I crave that… to be needed, to be everything to someone and to be loved without exception by someone that comes from me, is a part of me, someone that no one can ever take from me. I want to be Mommy!

Unfortunately, IVF is expensive and not guaranteed but it is an option for me and one that I want with everything that I am, if there is the slightest chance that it will work, I’ll do it. But, it’s not just up to me, if it were, I would’ve done it 6 times over. My husband has a million terms and conditions and he’s not budging, no matter how much I pour my soul into all of the begging and pleading I do. Knowing that my biggest dream lies in someone else’s hands is a very bitter pill for me to swallow and I’m having trouble dealing with that. What I need here is another miracle. I feel selfish saying that in light of the mere fact that I am here writing this is a miracle and although I am so grateful to have my life back, I want, with all of my being to pass that life on.

So, as I go about my journey searching for the next big challenge, longing for that unfulfilled goal and fighting my way through “recovery”, I hope that you’re still with me, I hope that I can still hold your interest and inspire you somehow through this journey. In fact, I’d like to ask you a favour… a big one… if you’ve been following my blog you will have come to know me quite well and so, I’d like your input, I want to know what you think I should do next, where should this journey take me now? What should I do and what is your opinion on my yearning to have a child? Please get in touch and give me your thoughts. I need your help to make an impact on this world.

Hope to hear from you soon

Much Love

One Day At A Time

Remission… Finally

20 months ago I started a journey, a fight, a mission and I asked you to join me. Nothing could have prepared me for what this journey meant and what I would go through along the way and to this day I still have trouble believing I actually survived for so long but today, after all this time and one hell of a fight I can finally tell you, we won! Cancer’s ass has officially been kicked and I am in remission. I couldn’t be more proud to bring you this news. I can only hope that those of you who have walked with me, fought with me and carried me for the last 20 months are as proud as I am today.

Looking back on my previous posts, I think it’s only fair to say this fight has been a tough one, sometimes too tough to share. There have been days when I felt like giving in, days when I felt like the monster inside me had won and days when I couldn’t see an end to the agony. It was those days when I relied on you, whether you knew it or not, I read each comment, each message and thought about each prayer. I thought about all the people all over the world who were fighting with me, walking with me and I let that carry me through. I have no doubt that you, the wonderful people who have been there since the beginning, are the reason I managed to get this far and this victory is most definitely not mine alone. I fought for you as much as I did for me and I soldiered on through it all just to reach this day for all of us and for the thousands of people who haven’t won their fight yet, for those who are still suffering, still in agony and all the journeys that still have to be taken.

The last 6 months were definitely rock bottom for me; there are no words for the things I went through. I honestly believed it was coming to an end and not the end I had hoped for. The worst had to be going off of 100 micrograms an hour of morphine… cold turkey. Imagine your skin being torn from your body or being stabbed over and over with no end, that’s what it felt like and that was just the physical side. The end of morphine took me into a depression so deep that most of the time I barely knew who I was never mind what I was fighting for. As hard as it is to say, I lost my will to live, to function, and even to breathe. No one should ever have to go through that. Taking life one day at a time became impossible, I was fighting one moment at a time and that fight took everything I had. I almost lost myself and that will always be the thing I hate most about the journey I’ve travelled. I shudder when I think of how I couldn’t bring myself to lift my head from my pillow, how I pushed everyone away from me, even my own husband. It was such a dark time that today, I still can’t tell you how I got through. There is simply no earthly explanation for how I am here today. I saw a saying the other day, “If you don’t believe in miracles, remember you are one”. That really is the only explanation I can give for being able to tell you this story. There is no way I explain to you the hell that is withdrawal from morphine coupled with the pain of the monster called cancer eating away at me but at the same time, there are even less words to describe how it feels not to be bound to that drug and free from that monster.

In the middle of this darkness, we were hit with another tragedy, our house burnt down and I lost my two guardian angels, my little yorkies, Charlie and Britney as well as most of my possessions. Even though they were material things some things cannot be replaced and that hit me hard, very, very hard. That loss sent me even deeper into the abyss of depression and it became even harder to imagine living any kind of life. Now I look back and realise that another miracle occurred that night. I had, for the first time in a very long time managed to drag myself out of my bed and visit my brother. Had I not done that I would have been in that house and again, I wouldn’t be here to tell this story. So, now that the darkness has begun to lift and I am able to function again, I am just grateful for every single moment. The house is being rebuilt, the relationships I sabotaged are being repaired and I am alive. Thank God, I am alive!

I stopped relying on the world of medicine when I stopped the morphine and I swore that no matter how bad, doctors would not cure my cancer and so I stopped seeing them. The medical world had failed me too many times and I wasn’t willing to go through it again. I fought the pain with my mind, my soul and everything in me but I wouldn’t let a doctor near me again. I wouldn’t have survived the horrible depression without medication but I wouldn’t allow anything for the cancer. Then, out of the blue I woke up one morning and decided that to know and so I went to the doctor and allowed her to do the tests to determine how bad my cancer was. As long as I live I will never forget the phone call I received a few days later. My doctor was in shock and all I really remember from that conversation was the word REMISSION. My heart sank into my stomach and I just sat there as she explained how they could find nothing, the cancer is gone and apart from a very deep depression, a spastic colon and irritable bowel syndrome, I’m healthy. If that is not a miracle, I don’t know what is.

My goal when I started this blog was not only to tell my story but to inspire others in their own fights, not only in cancer but in life. I hoped that opening my life to the world would change things for somebody somewhere, give someone a new perspective and encourage a struggling soul to keep fighting. Today, in my own way, I believe I reached that goal. I survived! Hopefully someone out there has been given a second breath and a will to keep fighting just by knowing that it can be done, cancer can be beaten and one person can have the strength to take on a journey of agony and come out on the other end alive. I can finally say, with evidence and experience, no matter what your fight, no matter what your journey, you can do it, you can win. All it takes is ONE DAY AT A TIME!

I’ve thought about this day so much over the last 20 months, in the beginning and for a long time since then I believed that today would be the end of my journey and my life would be what it was again… normal. I believed that beating cancer would be the end of the long road and I would celebrate like there’s tomorrow. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The truth is, my journey is far from over and my fight, although no longer for myself, has really just begun. I’ve learnt so much, changed so drastically and grown so rapidly along the way that I realise now, there’s no turning back. I may be in remission but there are thousands of people out there who aren’t and there are millions of people out there fighting all types of fights, how selfish would I be if I stopped now. I have to keep going, keep fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves, keep inspiring for those who need someone to walk with them like all of you have walked with me. Needless to say, the word has not seen the last of me and my story will continue as long as I have breath in me.

I will never be the person I was when I started this journey and I never want to be. I may not be running any marathons any time soon but I will be here and I will continue this journey called life as a stronger, wiser and more grateful being. I’m not sure what comes next but I hope that you will continue to walk with me anyway.

Until we meet again.

Much Love

One Day At A Time

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JUST DO IT & DO IT NOW

Isn’t it strange how the things that are worst for us are often the hardest to let go of. It’s as if we get so comfortable in our pain and / or misery that we forget anything and everything that is or could be positive in our lives.

The truth is, amongst all the thorns we face on a daily basis, there are still so many beautiful roses. All we really have to do is take a second to admire them, enjoy them and simply acknowledge that they’re there. I’ve spoken a lot about positivity in my previous blogs but I’ve recently realized, more is required to overcome life and its challenges. Being positive is not enough, we actually have to believe, have faith and make the effort to make the positive happen in our lives.

I’m ashamed to say, I recently came to the harsh realization that I’ve allowed cancer become my crutch. Subconsciously I’ve been so busy waiting to die that I’ve neglected, well, everything about my life. Coming to this realization hasn’t been easy and I will admit, I tried to deny it for as long as possible. Now that I’ve accepted it though, it’s time for change, a whole lot of change. It’s time to start making plans, getting going and moving on again. 18 months down the line, I think cancer has taken enough from me and my life.

So many people have asked me what my goals are for 2014. Until now, my answers have all been things like, “beat cancer”, “grow my businesses”, etc. But since my recent shock to the system and the realization of what I’ve allowed to happen, my goal has changed. Now, it’s a simple phrase that I plan to apply to EVERY aspect of my life, “Just Do It and Do It Now!” it’s that simple. No more waiting to see what happens next, procrastinating on where my cancer journey is headed, just immediate action. Call it spontaneity if you will.

I’m excited, revived and for the first time in a very long time, I’m alive! I even did a Warrior race two weeks ago, that was something I never thought I’d do, with or without cancer. I loved it, I finished it… I did it… and it felt like heaven. There are so many things I want to do, so many places I want to go and for the first time, I have no desire to wait for anything or anyone else to do them with or for me, I’m officially on a mission. This journey is about to get a whole lot more exciting  and I’d love to have you with me so stick around, I promise to be a little more active if you promise to walk, no, run, with me.

I think there comes a point where every one of us has to come to some kind of harsh realization in order to make the changes we are constantly longing for. I think we all need an intervention at some point in our lives. When will yours come? When will you allow yourself to make those changes, put in that effort and JUST DO IT?

I’d really appreciate your input and feedback on my posts, as irregular as they are. Feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments, I promise to respond.

Much Love

One Day At A Time

17 Months and counting…

Today I’m writing to you from my favourite place on earth… the place I call “my spot” on the beach on Blouberg beach in Cape Town. It’s quite funny how I came to be here now.  It’s been a rough few weeks, more about that later, and so I decided to take a few extra days in Cape Town because I had to travel here for a radio interview. When I arrived at the apartment I rented for my stay, I walked onto the balcony and my eyes filled with tears immediately. I was staring directly at my spot, not in inch either way, simply right there. I believe to this day, Good saw that I was in hell and so he sent me heaven. I am completely at peace now and feeling amazing.

So it’s been 17 months (so much for the 6 month death sentence) of ups and downs, good days and many, many bad and yet, I am still here, I’m still kicking and life carries on. The hardest part of this journey has become the limitations it has placed on my life, although I resist them daily, it does take effort, which I feel is an unnecessary waste of extremely valuable time. I can report however that the last month has been a breeze when it comes to cancer in comparison to the earlier 16.

Everything about me has been tested in the last 17 months; cancer seemed to become a smaller of the many obstacles I’ve had to face of late. Yet, it is still there, it is still an obstacle and it still runs my daily life to my utter disgust.

In October of last year I was forced to go for a check-up after having my morphine taken from me.  I last all of 2 days without it and let me tell you, there is no withdrawal in the world like a morphine withdrawal coupled with the crippling pain of cancer running through your body. It was one hell of a fight, a degrading and humiliating experience that landed me in a mental institution for a week for substance abuse ( as if I intentionally and deliberately took morphine for recreation). Needless to say, these “doctors” will never be seeing me again unless it’s in court. I have never in my life felt more emotional pain along with my physical pain.

Long story short, I am no longer on morphine and it has done wonders for some parts of my life unfortunately, those don’t include the pain of the ever-present cancer though. Although I am grateful to be rid of an addiction to such a terrible drug, I have built such a hatred, mistrust and   perception of complete incompetence in the medical community in this country. I have never been so badly treated in my life.

That being said, I am finally mobile again, and thank God for that… after spending the last six months bed bound, I managed to get myself up and about after leaving the mental institution. Before that, I slept day and night and when I was not asleep I was crying in agony, never leaving my bed. I slept so deeply from the medication that couldn’t be woken by a phone call or the doorbell. The reason I’m tell you this is 2 weeks ago, there was a fire in our home which destroyed the house and killing my children (my 2 teacup Yorkies ) in the process. Thankfully I was not home and even more so, I was not bed bound. They say everything happens for a reason and after this ordeal I cannot help but believe that to be true.

Unfortunately, apart from the material items in the house, I lost my children, my babies. The little monsters that stayed by my side day in and day out and loved me unconditionally. That is something I cannot get my head around. I don’t care what anyone says but I have not lost my pets, I have lost my children and my heart is so horribly broken that cannot even look at a toy or a hair brush without falling apart. Britney and Charlie played such a big part in my journey, losing them has made me lose a huge part of the strength I had for his fight. They say there is no loss like the loss of a child and now that I have lost mine, I fight so that my parents will not have to experience that. I’ve been through so much in this life but no trauma will ever compare to holding those two little lifeless bodies in my arms and knowing I would never see my children again except for in my dreams.

Although there has been so much drama, so much of which I won’t even mention for the sake of not complaining, there have been good days too. My amazing friend and pillar of strength, Lee-Anne Van Renen, threw me the most amazing birthday party at which I partied like a rock star, so much so that I missed half of it 😉 my wonderful brother and sister opened their home to us and have been so kind, loving and supportive through this whole ordeal and I am finally back at work, although not full day, I’m getting there and it feels great. I’m really starting to feel like a human being again.

As far as a medical update goes… I’m sorry but I don’t have one and I have no intention of getting one, I really am living one day at a time and travelling this journey my way. What will be will be and I’m quite happy with that. I’m trying to do one thing different every day… today; I’m blogging on the beach with a Bloody Mary. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Again, I have to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has been so supportive, so loving and so involved. The biggest shout out to my very special friend Yvonne in the UK, you’re thoughts, prayers, messages and calls are not unnoticed and I adore you. I would not be where I am today without ALL the support and love from all of you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you and I love you like ice is cold.

And your inspiration for today… you know that thing you’ve always wanted to do… you should go and do it… today! Take a good read at my journey and allow it to help you realise the potential you have within yourself. Whatever it is you are going through, you can do it because you are awesome, you are loved and you are special. Fight to live, live to love and love to live.

Until we meet again

Much Love

One Day At A Time

2014-01-09 06.55.54

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bring It On…

The last few weeks have been a real challenge for me, I have been at war with my body and unfortunately, I haven’t won, not yet. Physically, it has been hell, I have never experienced pain like I have in the last few weeks, I’ve never been more tired or weak… to put it bluntly I’ve never been so full of cancer. Dealing with the physical and medical side of this monster has taken all I have to give but it’s nothing compared to the emotional and mental stuff. I avoided my blog like a plague out of fear that if I began writing, those emotions and thoughts would all spill out and I’d be forced to deal with them.

The physical fight has taken so much out of me that I haven’t had much left to deal with what’s going on in my head and in my heart, I’ve tried so hard to push everything else in the back of my mind, promising to deal with it later. I needed my strength and all of my energy to fight physically, the emotional side was just going to have to wait. I’ve pushed back the tears and dismissed any thoughts and feelings I believed I couldn’t deal with. Although that’s what I believed I had to do, it was probably one of the biggest mistakes I have ever made. It backfired on me in the most horrible way. Keeping everything locked up in the back of my head in a little box labelled “To-Do… Later” may have been what I’ve needed for a while but the problem is, that little box is only so big and sooner or later it was bound to overflow.

Late yesterday afternoon, that’s exactly what happened. After weeks of dismissing thoughts, denying feelings and pushing back tears, my little box exploded. I’m not going to get into the details of what and how, there’s not much point to that, but I completely lost control. I felt like a teenage girl who had just had her heart-broken for the first time, I know, that doesn’t side so bad but if you’ve ever been a teenage girl and had your heart-broken for the first time, you’ll know that at that point, in that moment, there is nothing worse in the world and the pain is absolutely unbearable. With age, we learn that there are bigger things to worry about and there are things that hurt more but at the time, it is literally hell. The truth is, it’s really my own fault, I should have dealt with a lot of things a lot earlier and I should never have let me guard down, but I did. Needless to say, I will never make that mistake again.

It’s so easy to believe that when you have cancer, you’re somehow exempt from the world’s problems, that somehow, having cancer means that the world owes you a break and that no one will hurt you, stab you in the back or try to break you… why would they, you’re already broken. What kind of person would take advantage of a person suffering with cancer?  On paper, that seems like a pretty naïve attitude to have and in reality, it is, but trust me, it’s very, very easy to fall into that mind-set and when someone or something proves you wrong and shows you that regardless of your situation and / or circumstances, people can be hurtful and you are still vulnerable to getting hurt emotionally, when it happens, it hurts like hell and all of a sudden, you realise that, dying or not, you’re human and the people you trust most are the people who can and will cut you the deepest.

I’ve been tested on every level in the last few weeks, my strength, my faith, my patience, my spirit and my mortality… all of these have been pushed to their limits and I have been left lifeless far too many times. It’s been a real wake up call for me. I’ve seen so much of the good that this world has to offer, I’ve been overwhelmed by the love, support and selflessness of the amazing people around me and I’ve been overcome by the actions of people who give so much of themselves to helping others. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen the other side of the coin. I’ve seen and felt the hurt that people can cause. I’ve been betrayed and taken advantage of, I’ve been disappointed and stabbed in the back , I’ve lost respect for the people I once had so much for and most of all I’ve been reminded of why I possess such high walls and why I never, ever let my guard down.  I am so unbelievably grateful for the handful of people who have carried me through these few weeks, I have taken strength and support from people and places I never considered and found comfort in the strangest situations. For those you are true, I will never be able to repay what you have done for me and I am eternally grateful. I owe you my life, thank you. There are those people who check in on me every single day without fail, who motivate me and support me. Those people who go out of their way to give me strength and hold me up constantly, those people are the reason I am still here and the reason I am able to fight, as weak as I am.  To those who have betrayed me, taken advantage of my weakness and broken my heart, I forgive you, I understand your desire for self fulfilment and I will not hate you for the pain you have caused but I will never forget. Life is too short for hatred and I believe with all of my heart that one must forgive. I do forgive but I have also learnt a valuable lesson.

As a result of all of this, I am weak, I am tired and I am sad. I would love nothing more than to tell you that all is well, that my treatment is working and I’m strong but I’m not, not today. Today all I need is to scream. I need someone to hold me tight and say, “I know you’re not okay and that’s fine.” I need someone to see through the mask and cry with me, I need someone to make it better. Today I am bitter and angry and I don’t want to be. Today, I just want everything to be normal and it’s not.

Medically, I’m afraid there’s still no good news. My body is still not absorbing ANYTHING and the pain is almost unbearable. My body does not react to the strongest pain killers or even sleeping pills and I still have no reaction to food or liquids. Basically, I’m doing cancer cold turkey at the moment.  I am weaker than I have ever been and at the moment there is nothing anyone can do about it. In January I will start a very dangerous, very controversial treatment which scares me to death. It’s not something that just any doctor will do and it doesn’t have a very high success rate, in fact, it doesn’t have a very high survival rate but it’s a chance, my only chance and I have to take it. I’m told that it’s not approved by any medical council because it’s too dangerous and far too painful and there is a good chance I won’t survive it but if I do, it will work.  It’s an incredibly painful process; apparently chemo and radiation are a day at the spa compared to this. I have to do it. I promised that I would try anything and everything and I would leave no stone unturned. I gave my word to fight with everything I am until the very end and that’s what I’m doing. Cancer may take my life but it will have taken a hell of a fight to do it.

My husband and I decided to wait until January to start this new treatment because we both feel that we need to spend some quality time together first. The risk is extremely high and there are a few things I need to do first. If I don’t make it through, I need to know that we had some time to say goodbye and that I got to do the few little things I wanted to. We’re going on a nice long vacation and I plan to cherish every single moment I have with him. If this is all we have left, it will be worth remembering. I’ve often been asked the question, “how would you spend your last days?” well; I’d rather spend them with Marnewicke than anywhere else on earth. He has given me so much, added so much to my life and I love him more than I could ever describe, and so, if this is the end, I want to end it with him, knowing that we never left a word unsaid and we spent the time together that we need to say goodbye.

The concept of having to say goodbye, not only to my wonderful husband, but to my family and my friends, my business and my life haunts me constantly in ways that I can’t even begin to describe to you and although it saddens me, I know that if I have to go now, it’s because that’s how it’s meant to be. If God wants to call me home now, I will go, with the biggest smile and a spring in my step knowing that I’ve done what he put me here to do and I have fulfilled the purpose that he put in place for me. I know I have so many angels to carry me home and wave me goodbye. In the end, if I have touched one life, if I have played a part in helping a single person to win their fight, whether it be against cancer or anything else, I know then that I have succeeded and I have beaten cancer, maybe not in my own fight but in someone else’s. That’s enough for me. There is a saying, I’m not sure who said it but I believe it is so true and I have lived my life to this”

“You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

If I have managed this, I have lived, I am complete and I am grateful. People may take the credit for this, they may find their limelight, but at the end of the day, no one needs to know, as long as someone somewhere got the help they needed.

I will continue this fight, I will keep walking and no matter who or what tries to stop me, tries to break me, I will keep going. I may get discouraged, I may beg for an end but I will keep going. So listen up cancer, I’m not done! I will fight you each and every step of the way and you will not break my spirit, you will not take my soul! To anyone who thinks that my journey is an opportunity to get your 30 seconds of fame, to anyone who believes that because I am fighting cancer I am weak and you can take me on, BRING IT! I may be weak, I may be ill but I am still Mandy Loubser and I am still a force to be reckoned with. In the end, you will not win. So, to cancer and to anyone who feels the need to use my war with cancer against me… I’m ready for you; I am up for this fight.

Thank you again to those wonderful and amazing people who are standing by me. I know that I am difficult lately; I know it is getting hard to watch but I appreciate you. You keep me going. I love you dearly.

Until we meet again.

One Day At A Time

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The 6 Month death Sentence…

So, it’s been a while… yet again I have been too quiet for too long and even though I have thought about and even tried to write a post for a while now, it has been a really, really tough few weeks and in all honesty, I haven’t had the strength to do very much, writing has seemed like an impossible effort and I just haven’t been able to face it. I have had so much to tell you, so many ‘events’ to talk about but I just haven’t been able to find the words to get it all out.

Today has been both wonderful and awful. I celebrated the 1st birthday of my son but then felt the shock and mourned the death of my daughter. I call them my son and my daughter because that’s exactly what they are. Our animals are our children and I love them in the same way as I believe I would a human child. Diezel, our beautiful, adorable bull-terrier is a year old today, we celebrated by feeding him Tinkies, singing Happy Birthday and showering him with love. It felt like a good day. Unfortunately this evening was a different story though. My husband and I were visiting my parents when I got a frantic call from our maid. All I heard was little cat and come home.

Marnewicke arrived before i did and he found Bella, my beautiful baby girl, the gorgeous grey tabby cat that I fell in love with the moment I laid eyes on her, lying lifeless on the front lawn. Apparently she had been out of the yard; the maid saw her jump over the wall and collapse onto the grass. When I arrived Marnewicke showed me my lifeless little girl with blood dripping from her perfect little nose and we examined her for any injuries to try to figure out how she died. Judging by the smell that came off her little body and the fact that she had absolutely no external injuries, we assume it was poison. I’m pretty sure it was poison. Whether some sick excuse for a human being intentionally poisoned her or she ate something, I don’t know.

Bella was always the little hunter; she always brought her ‘trophies’ to show me before she ate them, whether it was a bird, a mouse or some kind of insect, she always had to show me first. She always laid whatever it was in front of me and then looked up at me with those big beautiful, “Look what I got Mommy, aren’t you proud” eyes. I suppose it’s very possible that one of her ‘prey’ had poisoned her; I suppose I’ll never know. I am so going to miss my little girl though; I have such wonderful memories of her. Tonight I’m more than a cancer patient, tonight I’m a mommy who has just lost her baby and I’m heartbroken.

Although I didn’t really plan to write a post today, Bella’s death made me realise that I actually have quite a bit to say and considering what the past few weeks have been like, getting it all off my chest might actually be a good idea. Burying my little girl tonight came with the harsh realisation that I may be joining her soon. I thought that I should probably chat about that a bit.

Lately I’ve been involved in quite a few conversations about life, miracles, destiny and death. I think that’s pretty understandable considering my current circumstances. Even so, it is a rather uncomfortable conversation to have. The other day, my mother asked me if I’m afraid to die. Needless to say, that question really got me thinking, even though I have thought about that a lot, hearing the question coming from another person, especially my mother, makes it very real. Let’s take a few steps back though; these conversations haven’t come out of nowhere. Allow me to take you back to how this question and all of these conversations came about…

My last post was written just before I started my 2nd round of chemo. I was supposed to have treatment 5 days a week for 6 weeks. This was a desperate attempt by my medical team to slow down the rapid progression of cancer through my body. After the very unsuccessful 1st round, I didn’t get my hopes and as I’m sure you will have picked up from my last few posts, reaching the decision to agree to a 2nd round was incredibly difficult for me. I had serious reservations about going through chemo again and the only thing that convinced me to go ahead with another round was my promise to do whatever it takes to fight this thing.

In all the research I’ve done on chemotherapy and in almost every conversation I had with various doctors about the treatment, the risk of a ‘serious’ infection came up every single time. Unfortunately the risk of a deadly infection comes hand in hand with the possible treatment and even cure that chemo offers. Chemotherapy, like most treatments for terminal illnesses, is a temperamental treatment, it doesn’t affect everyone in the same way and it’s impossible to predict what side effects any given person will have. I knew beforehand that it was going to be horrible; I knew I was going to be sick. No one could tell me exactly how my body would react or what side effects I would have, everyone’s different. Even though I couldn’t compare it to the 1st round because it was a different treatment, a much stronger dosage and my body was not the same as it was in the 1st round,  I prepared myself as best I could, I psyched myself up for the nausea and even the pain.

I had my first 5 sessions and then a break for the weekend, I won’t lie to you, it was horrible, I felt even worse than I expected but I felt like I was getting through it. Sunday evening was a very different story though, I was violently ill and even though I had been warned about the high dosage and i really did expect the worst from round 2, I knew something was wrong. After a very long night, I finally fell asleep in the early hours of Monday morning. After a few short hours, I woke up to a vicious panic attack, shaking violently, in a cold sweat and feeling the entire world closing in on me, I fought for each breath. I managed to rip the catheter out of my arm in my state of panic and I honestly thought that was it, the end had come and I was completely and utterly alone. My husband had already left for work and it was just me.

When I finally made it to the hospital for what was supposed to be my 6th session, the nurses were as shocked and horrified by what they saw as I was. Needless to say, I didn’t have a chemo session that day. The doctor was called immediately and the tests began.

Anyone that truly knows me will tell you, I never do things halfway and I always seem to be the exception to the rule, especially when it comes to my health. If something can go wrong, it will go wrong with me, if there is a risk of some unlikely event, I will almost always experience that event. You know when you read the little package insert that tells you all about the possible side effect of the medication it relates to, the side effects are usually listed in categories like, ‘most common’, ‘less common’ and ‘rare’… well I usually concentrate on the ‘rare’ category because those are usually the side effects I experience. True to character, I got the dreaded and relatively rare infection that I read so much about. The tests showed that the infection is in my blood and had caused my body to reject absolutely everything. I’m not sure if my body thinks it’s helping itself but it refuses to take any nutrients from food, any treatment or relief from medication, I don’t even get any hydration from fluids. Basically, my body has a serious, possibly fatal infection but I’m unable to fight it because my body refuses to absorb the medication, I am dehydrated and malnourished because my body refuses to take in the nutrients from food or liquids and my immune system is pretty much nonexistent because the extremely high doses of chemo have broken me down to almost nothing.

Needless to say, this is not good news. The doctors assessed the tests and even sent them around for further assessment by other doctors in the hope that someone, somewhere could come up with another plan. Unfortunately the unanimous consensus was that we had to stop chemotherapy immediately and that I can never, ever try it again. I was given yet another negative prognosis, more bad news and another heartbreaking death sentence. All of the doctors that viewed my file and the latest test results agreed that if I last another 6 months, it will be an amazement. 6 months… that is what my maximum life expectancy is. I’m still, after two weeks, not sure how to come to terms with that, I don’t know what to say to you or how to sugar coat that one. This could be the last 6 months of my life, what could I possibly say to that? Yes, it’s an opinion, but it’s an educated opinion, it’s the educated opinion of more than 1 specialist that deals with this type of stuff every single day. It’s incredibly difficult to stay positive when these curve balls keep racing at me with the speed of light. It seems like the prognosis gets worse with every test result and my life expectancy decreases with every doctor’s visit. This is not an easy time.

I have never been more afraid or felt more alone than I did on that Monday morning. It was strange though, I was filled with fear, completely and utterly terrified, but looking back at it now, I wasn’t afraid of death, I wasn’t scared of not being here anymore, I was at peace with that, my fear was for my memory. I was so scared that I won’t be remembered or that I’ll be remembered with bitterness and even hatred. I remember thinking, “what if I haven’t done enough in this life, what if I’ve failed, what if I’ve broken more hearts than I’ve warmed or destroyed more lives than I’ve touched? What if my existence has been meaningless and I haven’t done anything of value or anything worth remembering?” I can’t even begin to explain to you how it feels to search 27 years of existence in your mind, desperately looking for a moment or an action that has made your life worth remembering, anything that could possibly, in some small way, have made the world a better place. It’s so humbling to search yourself, your personality and everything you think you know about yourself for anything that makes you worthy of someone else’s memory or a passing thought when you’re no longer around to remind them of your existence. I came to the realization at that point that, it’s really not the destination (death) that I fear, it’s the journey. It’s what happens along the way and how I got through it. Once I leave this world, when I’m no longer around to influence people’s perceptions or make amends for the mistakes I’ve made, the only thing that will be left of me are other people’s memories of me. What I did and who I was will mean nothing if it’s not in YOUR memory of me. That is probably the most terrifying realisation I have ever come to.

I wish that I had something witty and inspirational to say now, something to soften the blow and make this news a little easier to swallow. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything like that, there is nothing that i can say or do that will make this any less real or any less devastating, trust me, I have tried to find the words to calm myself down for a while, there simply aren’t any. It is what it is and unfortunately, at some point, we all have to face the harsh reality that I may not get better, I may not beat this thing and ultimately, this may be the end for me.

What I can tell you is, death sentence or no death sentence, I’m not done fighting yet. Even if all I can do now is fight with my heart, I will fight with my heart. I’m not saying I am or am not going to make it, I’m just saying I’m not going to give up. I believe in destiny, I believe that we all have a ‘time’ and that no matter what; God will do what He wants to do. If it is God’s will for me to go now,  if it’s my ‘time’ then so be it, I am comfortable with that, I’m not afraid of death and I am ready but that doesn’t mean that I’m done trying. I will do everything n my power to stay here for as long as I can, if he still wants to take me, I’ll go with the biggest smile knowing that I did everything I could, that I fought with everything in me. Yes, I do wish that I could have more time, there are still things I’d like to see and do but they’re not critical. I know that I may not get to say all of my goodbyes the way I would like to but I like to believe that those people know in their hearts that I thought of them constantly and I carried them with me every step of the way. My love was pure and true and I will always have the memories.

I can’t tell you that I’m not sad, I am, there is so much about this life that I will miss, there are so many people who I can’t imagine being away from and I despise the thought of leaving all the people who I love so dearly, but, in the same breath, I know I have lived. I am content with my life and my experiences and I am ready to be rid of this pain. As awful as it may sound, I honestly look forward to being free of the suffering that cancer has brought into my life. I’m not afraid to leave this world because I know that where I’m going, there is no cancer, no pain, no sleepless nights and no stress. I hope with all of my heart that you can take comfort from that.

I hope, I pray, with all that is in me, that I will leave a few good memories behind, that I have done or been something that warrants a passing thought when I’m gone. My greatest desire at this point is that if there are any memories left of me when I move on, that they are not all bad. I know that I have not saved the world but I truly hope that I have, in some minute way, had some effect on it or at least one or two of the people in it.

All that I ask of you is that you keep these thoughts in mind, that you become conscious of your actions and the effect that what you do and who you are has on the people around you. Be aware of the memory you will leave behind and do everything in your power to make sure that it is a good one.

Be blessed, be strong and don’t take a single moment for granted. You are forever in my heart.

I don’t believe that this will be my last post and so I’m not going to say goodbye just yet but just in case, always remember, I love you all more deeply than I can express and I am forever indebted to you for walking this journey with me. Thank you for the support, the motivation and most of all the love. If it is at all possible, I will stay with you forever and always and watch over you with the deepest gratitude. We will meet again. Stay strong.

Much Love

One Day At A Time

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