Living Life After Cancer - Tania's Story

I have a bucket list for my journey through life post cancer and at The Cancer Society’s Relay for Life earlier this month I ticked off something on that list… Public speaking!

I was asked by The Cancer Society in Invercargill if I would tell my story… a survivors story…. and the effects the BIG C had on me, in my own words at the candlelit remembrance ceremony. I was so nervous… This is a story I re-live everyday and although I know this story like the back of my hand, all I could think about was tripping over my words and embarrassing myself in front of all those people!

There was such a fantastic turn out of people and the time came to speak to them all… I was sweating!!! My husband, together with our daughter Peyton, came on stage to support me. I took a deep breath and jumped.

Thank you for allowing me to speak tonight, I feel very privileged to be up here.

My fight for my life began late 2012, We had to leave our home in Southland and head to Brisbane for treatment due to circumstances out of our control. My 6 year old daughter was uprooted from her school, my husband from his job and I was lucky enough to know a fantastic group of local photographers who helped cover my workload load as we jumped on a plane for a surgery that was unknown what the outcome would be.

On the 11th of January 2013, 3 days after a surgery which not only removed a growth nearly 20cm in size but also my left ovary my world came to a halt with something no one wants to hear …”It’s cancer”. There it was, the opportunity to burry my head in the sand or stand up and fight… I was not going to let this take me out.

I was booked in for another surgery, a bigger surgery again to stage and grade my cancer 4 weeks later. And this is where I had to make the toughest decision of my life. A decision to take away my chance of carrying anymore children and learn to accept our family may be finished with just the three of us.

Agreeing to a full hysterectomy to better my chance of this cancer never returning wasn’t easy and the thought of our daughter growing up without experiencing the bond of a brother or a sister broke my heart. That decision has bought a lot of sadness, a lot of anger, and a lot of frustration with it. And even though I know the most important thing is I am alive for my family it was still a decision I wouldn’t want anyone to experience.

In February I was diagnosed with Stage 1A Clear Cell Ovarian Cancer, a rare form of a silent killer. I started 4 cycles of weekly chemotherapy. I lost my hair, experienced fatigue, restless legs, weight gain, extreme leg pain and the extremely annoying chemo brain - I still deal with this after effect on a daily basis. The most frustrating thing for me going through both surgeries and treatment was that you could not control how your body reacted and that anxiety built up like a pressure cooker.

I was never prepared for that transition period after treatment either, that last time hooked up to the IV. They congratulate you and say goodbye .…. It’s just such a scary drop off.

Everyone around you is like, “Oh, it’s over, move on, you can get back to normal now.” But things are not normal, cancer changes your life.

When you are in treatment, everything is immediate. It’s so life or death. Then you get back into your old life, pre cancer and you have to think about things like planning your weekly grocery shop and keeping a household running.  It’s hard to get your head around the fact that last week you were in a fight for your life and now this week it’s over.

Overcoming cancer is something you learn to live with… to the ones around you it’s over and the cancer has been dealt with but for you the fears and struggles of living with a cancer diagnosis long term has a lasting emotional and phycological effect that only other cancer survivors can understand.

Some days it's so raw when the worries of cancer returning take over my mind, or what the long term effects of the chemo might be on my body. I am a 30 year old young adult cancer survivor who trusted her instincts and is now on the other side, dealing with life after cancer, going through early menopause and faced with higher risks of osteoporosis and heart disease.  

We have made many NEW friends along this journey and we were so incredibly lucky to go through this with such a huge support network back home. My beautiful friend set up a Facebook page with the intention of fundraising to help lift the financial strain we were going through being overseas and with our close friends support they helped us in a way that will never be forgotten.

We are grateful to everyone, for the uplifting messages of support, the power to share and spread awareness and the truly inspiring acts of kindness we received.

Our list of thank you's to our friends new and old is HUGE! 2013 had so many extremely hard moments for us but we won't let our memories of last year be overshadowed by all the bad because there was also so much GOOD!

When we remember what happened right here in our community it warms our heart and makes us proud to say we are Southlander’s. Each day brings a different emotion and more often than not it's a feeling of gratitude that I still get to be here …. Alive and do what I love, that I am able to live my wonderful life with my AMAZING family and friends. For however long it is I am going to make the most of it!!

YOU are your biggest advocate for your own health and if there is anything I have learned from my experience it is that you know yourself better than anyone else .. trust your own instincts and never give up.

All that time worrying about speaking slowly and saying the correct words never let me stop and think how emotional I may just get. It was all very overwhelming and the tears kept coming…. the crowd was silent and I managed to read out everything I had wrote and I did it and without picturing everyone naked! Proud moment!!

What an uplifting feeling to hear the cheers from the crowd a having arms wrapped around me from complete strangers was unbelievably comforting. What an amazing event and I am grateful I got to experience my first ever Relay for Life with such warmth and compassion from some amazing human beings.

I felt honoured to be able to share my feelings with others, bring awareness and help others to understand what their Mother, Sister, Son, Friend etc may be feeling with the next test of their strength...Living their life after cancer!

Tania with her daughter Peyton.

Tania with her daughter Peyton.