Let me tell you about the two worlds I exist in.
In the first world, I am a 30-something-year-old graphic designer who has a great job working on the marketing team for Havaianas. I have luscious, long hair and I am the owner of a dog whose hair is equally as long and equally as luscious. Said dog and said hair only visit the best dog parks and beaches around Sydney and record the picture-perfect moments on Instagram. My Millennial Activity Bingo Card reads as such: travel, film festivals, art festivals, pop up bars, pop up restaurants, sending memes to friends, piercings and tattoos.
In the second world, I am a 30-something-year-old graphic designer who, after working for six months in a great job at Havaianas, found out they had advanced bowel cancer. After discovering that I would need to have a pelvic exenteration (removal of bladder, ovaries, cervix and section of bowel), radiation and chemotherapy, I learned that not all chemotherapy causes you to lose your hair and had my first tattoos administered on the bed of the radiation machine. My Bowel Cancer Patient Bingo card reads as such: a permanent urostomy (external bladder bag), temporary ileostomy, multiple surgeries, a scar the length of my torso, early onset menopause, kidney damage and an enormous UberEats bill.
After two years, three hospitals and one rehab centre, I was released back into the world, with a new body and a new set of limits.
My simultaneous existence in these two worlds has taught me how to be vulnerable while being strong. When to be patient and when to be impatient. How to live with fear but have no fear. How to be resilient but still wounded.
Most importantly it has taught me the power of perspective. Sometimes it’s hard to put things into perspective through words. Sometimes numbers can help. Only 733 Australians have ever had a pelvic exenteration. Of those 733, only 61 were under the age of 40.
Three years on from my diagnosis and I am still looking for a way to build a bridge between these two worlds. Between expectation and reality. Mine and other peoples. I am not there yet, but I am sure I will find the answer buried under my towel at the beach.