The War Chest

When we speak about cancer, we tend to talk in terms of ‘fight’ and ‘battle’. And for that we need plenty of currency in our war chest.

Faith, hope and love: we talk about them often, bandy them about, become emotional over them – or not. Yet these three little words (not mine, but taken from the beginning of the last verse of the very beautiful and inspirational chapter of the Bible: 1 Corinthians 13) form the essentials for our battle against breast cancer.

With a diagnosis such as mine, I knew I must prepare myself to face my mortality. Don’t get me wrong: I am not, by nature, a brave person. Fear of death has always restricted the boundaries of my life. I had to dig deep. Very deep. Only one thing has ever transcended my fear of death: my lifelong love of horses.

Not so long ago, a friend asked me: “How did you do that? Prepare yourself for your mortality?”

Good question! I answered with the truth, but on reflection, it was neither well thought out nor complete. So, today I will give it a go, recognising that an answer for me may not be satisfactory or acceptable to everyone. But since it kept me positive at least 99% of the time, I think it is worth considering.

After thinking hard about it, I came to the conclusion that the complete answer lies in these three simple but powerful words. The most powerful words in the universe: faith, hope and love.

Faith: because you can believe that, even if the worst happens, and you die, that you will still live on, still be who you are. With faith we can believe that our earthly life is just the infinitesimal beginning of the journey, and not all there is.

If you’ve read my other blogs, you will not be surprised that I made plans to meet all the people from history who fascinate me, as well as my loved ones who’ve gone before. That would just about occupy me for an eternity, I think.

Imagine walking with Verdi, that beautiful man who, having lost his wife and children, felt that all music had left his soul. Yet when the wind flipped the pages of a libretto, and he read the words: ‘Fly, thoughts, on golden wings,’ he was able to compose Nabucco, including my favourite, Va Pensiero.

Or Moritz Herold, who saved the white stallions of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna after WWI, and Alois Podhajsky, who did the same thing after WWII; and what about out own St. Mary McKillop, Florence Nightingale and Queen Boadicea? The list is endless.

Hope: must always be there. While you can breathe, you have hope. Hope keeps you positive, allows you to believe in miracles – not only believe, but expect. Hope gives you energy, cranks up the immune system for its greatest battle. Yes, hope in your war chest is a must.

And, let’s face it, with all the breast cancer research going on, there is the exciting prospect of a cure just around the corner. Never give up: There is always hope!

Love: because being surrounded by love is the greatest tonic. Every positive thought enables and strengthens the immune system, and love is the greatest positive there is.

Faith, hope and love, these three remain … (1 Corinthians 13 v 13(part)) Powerful funding for a truly formidable war chest!

Breast Cancer Month

Well, it’s Pink Ribbon month, again. Notice I say month and not week? Here in Manilla, we celebrate it with gusto, the whole month of October, every business decorating its premises, all the assistants, including men, wearing pink. Today, we had our annual Pink Ribbon Afternoon Tea held at Harry and Robyn Fletcher’s ‘Tandarrra’. Guests arrived with one intention, to spend as much as they could to raise money for cancer research, while having a rocking good time to the music of country artists such as our own John Brand and Max Ellis.

Of course, this is a time that I reflect on my own lucky escape, and the wonderful gift that came with it – precious time to write. From the fabulous surgeon specialist who saved my life, to the kindly, anonymous person who sewed a soft, first prosthesis, and a dear little purple cushion for my arm (which I still have), I was overwhelmed by love and kindness – truly a positive in a devastating situation.

Through it all, all the fellow sufferers I met in clinics, hospital and surgeries, I found it amazing that, though from different walks of life, age groups etc., we all had one thing in common. Yes, you say, breast cancer. But, no, it was our attitude we all had in common. It did not matter how we approached the reality of our diagnosis – stoic, panic-stricken, silent, go-it-alone misery, or sharing and seeking support, we all said the same thing. Do you know what it was? Of course, you do! Don’t you?

I did not think it would happen to me!