Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Saturday 21st May

Today I entered a new world – that of competition shooting.

Michael is doing shooting as an extra-mural at school and had his first competition today. It reminded me of when Sarah started canoeing: I didn’t understand a lot of the terminology and didn’t know exactly what was going on. SA Schools seemed to be foreign turf and I had no idea why one would need a ‘petrol saver’ for a boat!

Now, I am basically managing Parktown’s entry into SA Schools, know just about everyone in canoeing in Gauteng, at least, and even know exactly why a petrol saver is necessary.

So it may be with shooting. Just give me time!

Things are like that for me – for anyone who gets involved in what their kids do, I reckon.

It’s also been like that with this cancer thing. A year ago, I knew that breast cancer involved a lump in the breast, which could be treated by having the lump removed, or having the whole breast taken. I had an idea about chemo, mainly because of Dale; and I knew that radiation existed. I didn’t know the ins-and-outs, or the details of treatments, or that there were even different types of breast cancer.

Look at me now. I know a helluva lot more than I thought I ever would, or ever needed to know. And that came, not from being involved in something I (or one of my kids) did for fun, but because I was thrust into it by the silent intruder in my boob.

I have these thoughts that things we go through are sometimes preparation for something else. I have just had a fairly lengthy message conversation with my cousin in Australia. She has breast cancer and is facing a journey that will undoubtedly be longer and harsher than mine was – in terms of the effects and the treatment, in any case. I understand exactly what she is talking about, though, and can empathise with her every step of the way. Maybe that’s partly why I had to go through my cancer – so that I can do just that: understand exactly and empathise. No-one else in the family can. Maybe she needed just that.

Maybe I do too.

I think there is no greater feeling of being alone than knowing you are the only one who really, truly understands because it is you to whom the things are happening. I am surrounded by so much love and support and different levels of understanding, but no-one here really knows, simply because it’s been me, not them, to whom it has actually happened. Bridget does know, though, because she is in a similar position. For both of us, that can only be a source of great strength and support.

This is something David has really come to realise and to partially understand as he has studied about breast cancer in the last week or two. He openly acknowledges that no-one will actually know everything about what I have gone through – and am still going through – but that he, for example, can begin to understand as he finds out more about the disease/condition.

Given the choice, I would far rather have not found out so much about breast cancer by having it happen to me. I would like to have good reasons to become familiar with new turf – like Michael taking up shooting.

Having found out by experience, though, it does put me in a position to be able to speak with authority and to offer support and comfort on a whole different level to Bridget as she goes on her journey.

And, possibly, to other women too.


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