Finding a sense of belonging
My husband and I came to Australia six years ago, so when I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year one of the first things I thought was, ‘All our family and long-term friends are in the Netherlands’. We don’t have the same level of support here, so when the surgeon asked whether I would like to meet a breast care nurse I said, ‘Yes please!’.
She gave me a lot of information but also encouraged me to check out local support groups, which I did.
A week and a half after my lumpectomy I sat in a dragon boat and paddled along with a heap of unfamiliar men and women, but they were very kind. I also started going to the local support group meetings but still, I felt very lonely.
In the meantime there seemed no end to the bad news for several weeks, and I had to gear up for a much tougher fight than first anticipated. What made it worse was the loneliness I felt. Apart from my husband there was no family to hug and cry with. There were no meals being cooked, not many offers for practical help. Some friends really let me down, but some acquaintances stepped up unbelievably. Still, on days when I was alone, I cried so much.
It took a while before I got to know people better. When I started radiation therapy someone offered to take me once a week. That gave me the courage to ask others to take me every now and then so it wouldn’t be such a lonely trip. I recently finished all my treatment, and am now recovering from the side effects. I’m starting to make new friends; amazing women who have gone through the same ordeal. Some have made inspiring changes in their lives, others are just trying to enjoy every new day. They’re taking me by the hand and keep ringing, texting, staying in touch, meeting for coffee.
I hope that this hard, scary and lonely journey will result in me beating breast cancer, but I wonder ... could it also be a journey towards belonging?