Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Saturday 25th April

Birthdays are special. Birthdays of those close to you are even more so. The most special, possibly, are those of one’s children. Each year it is an opportunity to look at the extraordinary human being you once held as a tiny, little baby, crying and pawing the air, looking for contact, waiting to become what they will be.

Today is David’s birthday. 23 years ago, on a Saturday, too, I spent a rather less comfortable day than today, at the end of which the little man who was so eager to make his mark on the world emerged – to be whisked away to have tubes stuck into him all over in ICU.

Look at him now!

We are in Dinokeng Game Reserve to celebrate the birthday. Tonight we had a lovely gathering around a huge fire and then a gesellige braai – our family and a whole whack of Dave’s friends. Just the way he wanted it. Everything was lovely and, most importantly, David had a great time.

It’s so special to be able to be out ‘in the bush’ with the family – and not even so far from Joburg. Having done a bit of travelling in the last two days, it brings it home to me again that this country has so much to offer.

It’s quite funny how, just out of the blue and during actually really happy times, I will suddenly find myself having a thought that the fact I had to have a mastectomy is so unfair. It’s usually quite a fleeting thought and easily dealt with, but, obviously is sitting there, waiting to be noticed.

I still find it quite difficult at times to reconcile the idea I have always held of a mastectomy, which is a huge operation, with what has happened to me. Not that I devalue the size of my operation and the impact it has had on me, both physically and psychologically. Both have been big. It’s just that, living with the reality every day means it is just part of me and I simply carry on with what I have to do.

It was huge, though – the operation. And traumatic. Obviously my brain just needs me to register that!

What is also interesting, though, is how we bounce back, or, in fact, just keep on running (or plodding, depending on the mood, time of day and level of energy). There is so much that happens in the world that kicks us in the teeth, pushes us back and even tries to hold us still. The human spirit is indominitable, though and keeps forging ahead, even it is only tiny step by tiny step.

That’s what makes us all so special. Often, it is not the huge things that hit us, but the little things that just happen bit-by-bit, that shape us and help to forge our spirits. The larger experiences may stand out more and may shake us – and even seem to force us in a certain direction – but it is the way of life that everything goes on and, just as we sort through the fallout of the larger event, so is it that the everyday, ordinary ways we make sense of the world help us through the more trying experiences and serve to shape our spirits.

So, I had cancer and I had the mastectomy. That is just something ‘along the way’, though. Cancer is not a small thing and a mastectomy is, definitely, not something to ‘pooh-pooh’. The whole experience has, inevitably, had a huge impact on my life and who I am. In the bigger picture, though, it has been just another step, something else to deal with, and who I am, how I am, has helped me through it – and will continue to help me to cope with those random thoughts about the trauma and to process the reality.

That is just how we are made. 🙂

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