Home' LOTL : October 2010 Contents 10 Lesbians On The Loose Magazine • lotl.com
Lifestyle Opinion / Profile / Travel / Food / Stars
In 2006 I was diagnosed with a highly aggressive breast cancer.
My initial reaction was disbelief followed by annoyance that my carefully
planned schedule was being so rudely interrupted.
I thought there must have been a mistake. I told my doctor I couldn't
go to the clinic because I had an important meeting. I didn't have time for
What followed was a rush of appointments, tests and procedures.
Within two weeks I was undergoing major surgery, not knowing ex-
actly what would happen on the operating table. This would depend
on what the surgeon found when he operated.
When I awoke, I was concerned about the extent of the surgery. I did
not know whether I had undergone a full mastectomy or a 'lumpecto -
my' where part of the breast is removed. I didn't know if I still had my
breast, or to what degree the surgery would interfere with my life and
lifestyle. It was very frightening and I felt terribly vulnerable.
Radiation treatment followed surgery. I had appointments every
weekday for six weeks. Radiation is an awful experience, a bit like hav-
ing your breast microwaved. I got severe radiation burns, was in con-
stant pain and became unbelievably exhausted. The treatment made
me sick and consumed my life.
After five months of rush and bustle, I no longer needed treatment.
That's when my struggle with breast cancer really began. Who was I
after breast cancer? What impact had it had on the most precious and
important parts of my life? The fall-out lasted long after cancer had
been removed from my body.
I had sur vived breast cancer. But inside myself I was terribly lost.
How did you do this thing called life after breast cancer? Life could
never be the same again. Neither could I.
The crisis, trauma, stress and toxic treatment left my body, mind
and emotions battered. I knew how lucky I was to be alive, loved and
supported and surgery could have been much worse. But deep inside
myself I couldn't feel that way. At times I felt empty, depressed and
In our society, breasts are a core aspect of our identity as women and
as sexual beings. I felt mutilated, damaged, unattractive, undesirable
and unwantable. Could the passionate love and desire that had always
been central to my relationship sur vive the changes to my body and
being? I wondered if my partner at the time could remain in love with
and attracted to me.
Nobody talks much about life after breast cancer and how to do it.
How do you move from sur viving breast cancer to living after breast
cancer? Breast cancer doesn't just happen to the person experiencing
it. It also happens to her partner and to her relationship. How do you
identify and work through all the impacts that cancer has on each of
you and your relationship, and go on together from there? Nobody
talks much about that. Breast cancer can have an insidious effect that is
way beyond the physical presence of cancer in the body. Nobody talks
much about this.
I had an adverse reaction to radiation treatment, which took over
three years to recover from. I was exhausted and in pain every day.
Breast cancer robbed me of some very precious parts of my life.
Now I refuse to miss out on any more of this extraordinary experi-
ence called life and this wonderful body I live within. Having been
robbed of the joy of life for years, I have lost time to make up for!
Recently I joined Dragon's Abreast, a dragon boating club for wom-
en with breast cancer. I met with about thirty other brave, resilient
women who have struggled and suffered and are determined to love
life. We all understood an experience we had all undertaken in our in-
dividual ways. Yet early morning on Blackwattle Bay was full of delight,
excitement, friendship, life and hope!
I am now vibrantly alive and full of energy. My tiny days have be-
come big and full of living. I am reconnecting with life, people and
love. I am reclaiming my body and loving every moment of it! I explore
everything from dragon boating to gym workouts to zumba! I take
every opportunity to stretch my mind, heart and body to the fullest. I
practice the art of balance...balancing nurture with adventure, courage
to change with acceptance of who I am, aloneness with togetherness.
Of course I have difficult days and vulnerable times, but life can be
full, rich, loving and wonderful and each day I learn a little more about
how to do this.
I wish someone had told me there was a physical, psychological and
emotional 'mountain' to climb to heal the far-reaching impact that
cancer has on all aspects of your life. But one thing I know is YES, there
is life after breast cancer and it can become rich, full and wonderful.
And it's only just beginning...
Shannon Maguire is a counsellor and psychotherapist who works in Newtown
and Croydon. She sees women with breast cancer, and partners, family and
friends of women with breast cancer, as well as couples who are facing
breast cancer. Shannon can be contacted on 0431 791 729 or 02 9557 2003 or
Counsellor Shannon Maguire reveals her brush with breast cancer.
A survivor's story
Links Archive September 2010 01-Nov-2010 Navigation Previous Page Next Page