I can have cancer and still be joyful

Happy new year to you all! 2014 was full of joy and also full of unexpected journeys. It’s brought me to write my thoughts about happiness. Don’t feel that I am lecturing you… I’m just sharing my thoughts for the new year.

People seem obsessed with finding happiness. If only I had… if I wasn’t with… if that person would leave me alone… if I had a different job… then I would be happy. I don’t chase happiness.

Happiness is always momentary. I am happy when I’m eating my favourite meal. Beginning a friendship or relationship with someone new can bring happiness. Seeing a pretty butterfly or flower will do the same trick. The problem with happiness is that it’s transitory. Joy, however, is deep within your soul. You can be full of joy and yet still grieve or feel sad whereas you can’t share these feelings with happiness.

By chasing happiness we are always looking for a 5 minute ‘fix’. Ultimately in the end we will return to our original feeling… unsatisfied.

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The choices we make in order to find happiness often alter our long term happy feelings. Examples:

1. I’ve been ‘happily’ married to the MOTH for almost 35 years. This is not because we are perfect or even ‘right’ for each other. It’s because we are committed to making our marriage work. We are not compatible nor do we share the same interests or even the same values (originally). We are not always happy with each other. As well as that:

  • I detest sport- He loves it
  • I am impulsive- he is cautious
  • I love possibilities- he loves to know what’s happening or going to happen
  • My mother was a lay preacher- his father was a tough prison officer (our family values are different)

I could go on and on but I don’t want to air our dirty laundry here ha ha. The bottom line is, we could easily say tough times have destroyed us but instead they have strengthened us. If we decided we weren’t happy everytime we had tough experiences we wouldn’t be here today. Seeking happiness and ‘getting rid of negatives’ isn’t a long term answer.

Happiness amongst the rubble

Happiness amongst the rubble- Blake and Shannon

2. We restored 2 very old houses while rearing 3 young children. When I say ‘we’, I mean ‘we’!! We lived in 100% shambles for the entire time we lived in them, up until the time we put them on the market. After we sold each of them we purchased houses significantly cheaper than the one we sold. So we left our ‘beautifully restored house and went to another ‘renovators delight’ and began again. We paid our house loan off by the time I was 30 years old and have never borrowed ANY money since. The fact that we are financially comfortable is not because we are ‘lucky’. It’s because we have battled for it. Our happiness hasn’t come from having more, it’s come from doing without. Living in houses which are in a constant state of renovation is tricky. We had 3 children sleeping in the loungeroom for 5 years, for example. Not to mention the ‘no bathroom for 6 months etc. Up until recently we drove old bomb cars. Remember the MOTH’s beloved Camry? In fact, we only had one car for the first 10 years of marriage.

Even now, we may be seen to be jetsetting around the place having a wonderful time, but we make the following allowances:

  • No private health insurance (hospital)
  • No pay TV
  • No excessive use of heating and cooling
  • I dye my own hair (when I have it!!!)

These choices altered our long term happiness and also gave us many adventures and happy memories.

3. The most famous question of all. How do you find time for art? Answer: I make it. I worked fulltime, went to gym at 6.30am on my way to work, reared my 3 lovely children and studied for 8 qualifications for 20 years and still found time for creativity. How? I don’t watch television and I don’t iron. These are my priorities. They probably won’t be yours but don’t spend your life saying ‘I don’t have time for…’ or ‘If I had time I would be happy’. You will find time for anything if it’s what you really want.

I won’t bore you with the long list because I know you get the point and I don’t want it to seem I am making a judgement on others. That’s not my intent.

So what is the point of all of this prattle?

It’s now 1 year since I found that dreaded golf ball sized breast lump. If I was just chasing happiness in 2014 and it was based on being healthy and getting healed I would now be a very unhappy person. Do you know what? I’ve never felt so full of joy. Life is never the same after you have cancer.  You find happiness rising from things you never did before. You overlook the faults of others. You see life through different lenses. 2 of my friends have taken up motorbike riding after having breast cancer. Woo hoo!

It’s true, I’ve been blessed in many ways but I’ve also battled through a lot of tough stuff in 2014. To be happy it would have been easier for me to stop running 15kms per week and give up. I could have sat on the couch and gone to bed very easily. What was I trying to prove? Well I was trying to prove that by sticking with something you reap the benefits. It didn’t make me happy exercising while I was sick but it certainly improved my health and mental state. My doctor called me ‘superwoman’ many times.  After 9 months of chemo I was feeling pretty OK! So I don’t seek happiness. I have joy and that is what keeps me afloat. The happiness comes from appreciating what I’ve already got and by persistence in building good foundations.

That’s my little rant over for today so that should make you all happy LOL.

Medical hoo ha

I’ve finished 3 of my 33 radiotherapy treatments. It’s a little solitary, compared to chemotherapy. Even the radiologist runs out the room to get out of the radiation. It takes 30 minutes for the treatment (not including the time it takes to get changed into a magnificent gown and back again) and car parking is easy so I drive myself. Because of my tissue expander it is a little more complex and I end up with beautiful drawings all over my chest with a marker pen. They match the tattoos very nicely. I’m sure it is going to be a piece of cake compared to chemo and surgery.

Soon I will be able to microwave my own food. I’ll just pop it in my mouth and ‘voila’! Anyone for reheated lasagne?

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4 comments

  1. Thank you for writing all about your journey. I really love your positive attitude and I envy your ability to get on with life and make the most of every situation.

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  2. Well said Jen, you are doing so well and I’m sure that joy that you have is a key to your strength 🙂 Keep up the great commentary it is always good to read your blog and catch up with where you’re at in your journey (we have some parallels … not the cancer tho 🙂 ) … an inspiration to many 🙂 love you girlfriend xx

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  3. A very blessed new year is my wish for you. You have been, and still are, an inspiration to all of us and rejoice with you as you progress through all your treatments. I am so thrilled that you are well enough to go tripping and wish nothing but the best for you. God Bless. I feel blessed just knowing you.

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  4. Hi Jen.. thankyou. Your insperation is awesome. Never.. never.. give up… Make the best of the situation. Sometimes its only in the hard times you see the good times in 100 fold. You have had a tough road but all the way you have encouraged everyone else. Your humour, art and your openness in everything have helped us all see life is a journey.
    Today l am meeting Frances and Lois for their birthdays for lunch. Always good to spend time together. Frances has been married 50 year in Feb. They are having a party and Lois and I being Bridesmaid’s we have been asked to share some memorie…. that is racking our brains… lol we were bits of rebels l think.. not used to pomp and ceremony. .. Could be fun… I think l am a little more mature.. now…
    How’s Doug going. I want to catch up with you all sometime. Love you lots Jen. Take care.. praying continually for you and all your family. Happy New Year to you. Xxxxx

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