When Sharni from Gypsy & The Thief told me that she’d found an incredible woman who had recently undergone chemotherapy to donate her henna art skills to, I begged her to let me come along and document the morning. Sharni’s work is breathtaking and I could take photographs of her work all day, but I had the feeling that this was going to be a particularly transformational experience.
I wasn’t wrong.
I’ve struggled for words over this one. How could I adequately explain the bravery of a single mother of two beautiful children who was dealt this cruel and crushing blow? How could I speak of her journey without sounding glib and privileged – having never experienced anything like this myself? How could I describe the way I was drawn instantly to her and to the tribe who had gathered around her, like protective lionesses – their rock-solid sisterhood palpable amongst glasses of wine and easy chatter? I felt honoured to even be there witnessing the space they held for her – for each other.
It stayed under my skin for days. It could have happened to me.
It could have happened to anyone.
But it happened to Beth, and so I asked if she wouldn’t mind recounting her journey in her own words, and I read her email last night with tears in my eyes. Courage is never a trait to be taken lightly – and it presents in a myriad of ways. Not only did she fight and endure everything that was thrown her way, but she then went on to find a way to love herself for the woman that it made her.
And that, is everything. Everything.
“I love you……..its been hard to say these word to myself. I see myself so diffently now, its not just the physical changes but the way I think about things about life. This fear has consumed me this past year and I felt like it had taken a piece of me away.
Or did it? Let me take you back to August 2016.
Aged 36, I was given the devastating news that I had breast cancer.
As I sat alone in a quiet office in what I can only describe as something out of a movie scene…I cried uncontrollably trying to get my head around the blow I have been dealt. Why is this happening to me? I’m a good person? What am I meant to learn from this? The previous year rolled into my mind of recently becoming a single mother of two little children…….how will I do this on my own?……..just a whirlwind of emotions and fear.
Within a week I had a bilateral mastectomy, then another setback during the surgery they found the cancer had progressed further and also spread to my lymph nodes.
Shortly after I commenced intense chemotherapy every week for 6+ months. This takes almost every piece of good from you, it truly is one of the hardest things I have ever endured. I have been taken to some dark places during this process and the struggle to fight it is incomprehensible. But I fought and wouldn’t let it beat me, trying everyday to keep my positive attitude and smile at people when all I wanted to do was hide and cry.
Ironically in April on my 37th birthday I finished my last day of chemotherapy and feel I can begin to get little bits of me back and love myself again……..4 weeks post chemo and I’m lucky enough to meet 2 beautiful people to help me along my way to self -love and acceptance. This has been extremely difficult to see myself so raw without hiding under my pretty little wig but, its real and its shows how far I’ve come. It also teaches my children to be comfortable in their own skin no matter what life throws at them.
I used to think that this disease has taken so much from me but with the support and generosity of Erica and Sharni, they have showed me how it has made me so strong.
I have gained the value of life, the value that you are never alone and the value of love.
If I can tell myself just one thing today it’s that, I LOVE YOU. xxx”
Thank you Beth – and Sharni for inviting me. x