The Art of Living Fearlessly

Happenstance is an intangible thing. However, I find our mantra for living well with cancer in the most unlikely of places – The Cullen Hotel room where a colourful card had been left as a  welcome message.

Typically, on the outside is a signature sketch by Adam Cullen of his dog, Growler and inside is the simple message “The Art  of Living Fearlessly.’’

Enjoying ourselves at daughter Felicia's 40th birthday in Melbourne.

I grab the card and recognise it as the secret human element of enjoying life  as we  journey with cancer, now that husband Olivier has been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.

We have a handful of friends with cancer (two girlfriends currently on chemotherapy treatment and another who finished six weeks of radiotherapy last week) and so we aren’t the only ones on this somewhat uncomfortable path back to health. I think it must be something like walking with a small stone in your shoe and Gee, how you would love to take it out to make the walking more comfortable.  Cancer, however, as is the situation with Olivier, is embedded in  the souls of his shoes.

Those metastases  certainly are not, to borrow from the classic Paul Simon song, “diamonds in the soles of our shoes’’.

We find this secret message after visiting Olivier’s oncologist on Wednesday, February 15, a long 15 days after diagnosis. He is a youngish metrosexual, who wore a stylish pink striped shirt with smart, expensive cufflinks and fashion shoes. His waiting room was an extraordinary experience with big framed colourful children’s sketches and a take on one of Salvadore Dali’s well-known weird paintings.  “Doom doesn’t dwell in this room“ was the first thought as I sat down, my questions embedded in my brain.

Husband sat silently as a receptor,  but I was there  to do what I do best as a journalist, to get all the information about his future scenario. Pencil poised, I bravely asked the one question the other specialists did not answer – the survival rates for two years and five years.  (His lovely mature-aged woman GP had told us it was “unrealistic’’ to expect a cure for bone cancer.)    There was good news along with the bad.   Olivier’s “life-threatening’’ secondary stage cancer had frightened us so much, but, the skilled oncologist said he can live a lot of years if the treatment works and the cancer is kept at bay. “The survival rates for two years are excellent’’, he said. “It falls for the five year mark, but it is still around 50 per cent, perhaps more.’’

How far we have come since the despairing days of early February because this is good news to us compared with the dreadful scenarios I had conjured up in my mind.  We had time together.  Already the hormone treatment had triggered a fall in his blood levels, he had passed the first hurdle.

We visit the Cullen is in this new mood of hopefulness and we are going to adopt that art of living fearlessly.

“The best thing you can do right now,’’ the oncologist had said, “is exercise.’’

“It will do you so much good that I cannot stress it enough.’’

And I do swear, it was a much more erect, positive partner of mine who strode out of that office into our “vie quotidien’’, daily life.

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2 Comments to “The Art of Living Fearlessly”

  1. By Marie Jonsson-Harrison, 01/04/2011 @ 1:30 pm

    Congratulations again my dear friend. Another beautifully written article with such honesty and reflections. However what I love most about it is uplifting spirit that streams through like sun rays on a cloudy day, and makes you happy to be alive. With an attitude like that I feel sure Olivier and you will enjoy many, many, many more years together!
    Much Love
    Marie xxxx
    ( I hope this article is well read too as it will inspire other people in the same situation.)

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