Liz Leckie: You can’t crush my spirit, Cancer

Liz Leckie is planning to take her motorbike around Europe. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Liz Leckie is planning to take her motorbike around Europe. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Dear Cancer, I would like to start off by making it clear I wish you had never entered my life. Yes, I gambled with unhealthy life choices, but surely I deserved a break, after all, I was a 42-year-old single parent to a 15-year-old son. I was prone to depression from a young age, but had battled my demons and was getting on with my life. Then you came along and changed me forever.

At first shock led me to denial that helped me cope with six rounds of chemotherapy and 33 blasts of radiation. Monday to Friday for six weeks I went to the oncology department and couldn’t feel sorry for myself for long when I saw kids waiting for their treatment.

I recognised that denial was not healthy and begun to try and accept my diagnosis, which meant trying to understand exactly what had invaded my body – stage 3b non-small cell adenocarcinoma lung cancer, to be specific. I understood the staging was because you had already spread to my lymph nodes in my esophagus and my other lung. The high staging scared me, before I even understood the implications, I just knew it was way too close to the dreaded stage 4.

You scared me so much. I awoke crying many times, terrified I wouldn’t see my son’s 16th birthday, never mind all the important years ahead. Would I see him find a career he loved, fall in love, get married, have kids and just watch him grow into the fine young man he is? I allowed you to consume my mind, not just my body, and depression got a hold of me and tried it’s hardest to destroy me before you could.

Then something happened. After two years of wallowing in self-pity, I started to attend the Maggie’s Centre and met with Peter Kravitz, their psychotherapist, and thus begun a journey of healing. Peter allowed me to talk, cry and feel very sorry for myself, all the while listening and really hearing me. Peter helped me understand that I can’t change the past or allow myself to worry about what my future may hold, but I can control now.

I began reading lots of books on cancer, mindfulness and meditation and came across the book The Cancer Whisperer, by Sophie Sabbage. I loved Sophie’s idea that you could find good in anything that is thrown at you, in her case stage 4 NSCLC. So I began on a journey to see if I could get to that point.

Maggie’s led me to the Santosa Yoga/Meditation centre where I was introduced to various different massage therapies. It was my sessions with my Shiatsu practitioner Jenny White, which opened up a whole new mindset for me dealing with cancer. I had never heard of it, much less believed in the power of Japanese and Chinese medicine. After several sessions I was pain-free for the first time in three years and have been hooked since. Not only is Shiatsu fantastic for my body but it is essential for my soul.

I began compiling a bucket list in my head last year. I bought a motorbike and saw dolphins swimming off the coast of Scotland, I travelled 3000 miles in the UK visiting family and friends. I attended the UK 1st Cancer and Holistic Health festival in Surrey.

A motorbike accident and two broken legs set me back for a bit, but I am back on track and sitting my “big” bike test soon and plan on taking my bike round Europe.

I have big dreams of visiting Kansas and Australia and smaller ones like I would really love to have a garden that I can go and enjoy and watch the stars at night, and I hope to outlive my 20-year-old cat.

In the words of Maya Angelou: “You may not control all the events that happen to you but you can decide not to be reduced by them”. So cancer, rest assured I am not fighting with you, I am not battling you. I am living with you and quite frankly I am thriving.

Liz Leckie

P.S. My son is 20 this year and regardless of what you may have planned for me, I look forward to his 21st next year.