"The epic task of being brave is made that bit easier when there is hope." - Kylie Minogue
Look at this beautiful woman! You don't need to be a Kylie fan to appreciate that this is a woman who is fit and healthy, full of colour, full of sparkle and full of life. The photo is from her Aphrodite tour in 2011.
Almost 10 years ago, on 17th May 2005, Kylie was diagnosed with breast cancer, at age 37. Her 10 year "cancerversary" this year is significant. You are never cured of breast cancer - in some cases it will come back after 10 or even 20 years - but this is not common. If breast cancer is going to come back, it is most likely to do so within the first 2 years, and the more time that passes after diagnosis, the less likely it is that breast cancer will come back. So Kylie's 10 year cancerversary is a big milestone. And one that gives me hope.
Yesterday my friend Diane shared a link to an interview Kylie did with Cat Deeley around a year after her cancer diagnosis. I'd never seen it before. To be honest, I'd never paid that much attention to Kylie's cancer diagnosis before. But I started to watch the interview and found myself glued to it. By the end, I felt an incredible bond with Kylie even though I've never met her and we have such different lives! As she said in another interview "cancer is a great equaliser, it doesn't care who you are". Most people see Kylie Minogue the superstar, the celebrity. I now see Kylie Minogue the inspirational breast cancer survivor, a woman that I can relate to in ways I would never have imagined 6 months ago.
"When there is a diagnosis it rocks your world. So much so that I don't like to take myself back to thinking about that time."
After watching the interview with Cat Deeley, I found myself trawling the internet for other interviews with Kylie where she talks about cancer. In every interview, when talking about diagnosis and treatment, there are moments where she becomes visibly emotional, shaky. I know those emotions, I know those shakes. When she refers to dark places, dark thoughts - I know those dark places, I know those dark thoughts. I've been there, I've thought them, as recently as today. Which is why I've spent half the day googling Kylie, reading and watching interviews, looking at pictures. She gives me hope, she inspires me, and that gives me energy.
"I had moments where you just don't want to look in the mirror."
This is Kylie when she was going through cancer treatment.
I hadn't thought about it before, but beautiful, glamorous Kylie Minogue also spent some time with "Generic Cancer Face" and learning to tie headscarves. She also lost her hair, her eyelashes, her eyebrows. In fact, I think my favourite bit of the interview with Cat Deeley was where she talked about this and how when it all starts growing back it's thrilling:
"There's an eyelash!"
"There's an eyebrow!"
She's not wrong! It is thrilling! Recently I've spent a lot of time with the magnifying mirror, closely inspecting what's going on with my eyebrows and eyelashes. Also with two mirrors, angled just right, so that I can scrutinise the hair growth on the top of my head.
"I have to start from the beginning. I don't have strength, I don't have stamina, I don't have everything that I took for granted before so really I've got a mountain to climb... but I don't fancy hanging around at the bottom of the mountain."
I've felt incredibly frustrated recently at how unfit I've become and that I won't be able to put it right before surgery. My initial enthusiasm for and ability to keep running during chemo quickly disappeared. I've lost fitness, lost strength, put on weight and felt like a bit of a failure for it. Hearing Kylie talk about this makes me realise it was out of my control. Cancer treatment is gruelling. What my body has just been through is extreme. I should be proud to still be standing. And I can get the fitness and strength back in time. One day at a time.
And what is Kylie's message to other women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer?
"You can get through it, you can.... Coming out the other side - it's like spring time."
This is why I'm sticking a picture of Kylie Minogue on my fridge this year. To remind me every day that I will get through this. This is just a phase, and like Kylie, I will come out the other side, and into spring time.
"Having had cancer one important thing to know is you're still the same person at the end, you're still the same person during it. You're stripped down to zero, but you're still you, and it seems that most people come out at the other end feeling more like themselves than ever before."