Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Monday 18th May

It’s funny how, when you drive around Joburg to areas you don’t often (or ever) go to, it just hits you in the face that there are whole communities out there that function exactly the way the community you are used to does.

I went out to Krugersdorp yesterday to see a student. Even just around the school I was at, there must be families who live just as we do (or, at least, in similar ways): they have houses, where they cook and eat meals; they have pets that they love; they go visiting friends and family; they go to school, work, the shops; they just live! And yet, we know nothing about them. We will most likely never meet them and never interact with them.

And there are whole areas of this world carrying on all the time with which we will never become aware.

Strange thought. Huge world.

Then, of course, travelling around also makes you realise how lucky you are. One of the kids asked me where I was from. When I told him Wits, he asked if it isn’t very far. And, of course, it is. Wits is miles and miles from Krugersdorp. How lucky we are to live relatively close to where we work. Imagine being an academic living in Krugersdorp…

‘Lucky’ is such a loaded, and relative, term. I think I am lucky to have a home relatively near to so much, actually. I am definitely lucky to be able to have the kids at such good schools that I can easily drive to twice a day – and for David and Sarah to have relatively easy access to their varsities. Other people will think they are lucky only if they win the lottery.

I think everything in life is relative, in some way.

If I look at it from a different angle, perhaps I have been lucky in having had cancer.  This doesn’t mean I am glad it happened, or that I could recommend it happening to anyone else. It’s just that there’s always a different take on everything.

By having had cancer, I am so much more aware of many things. So are many people around me – not only the females whose awareness of breast cancer and the necessity to check early has been awakened.

Having cancer has been the most wonderfully life-affirming experience. I don’t know if I would have experienced the amount of open love and support from so many if I hadn’t had it. David told me today that people at varsity, most of whom I have never even met, still ask about me and how it is going. It is such a wonderful and humbling thing to receive those kinds of wishes. And they may be about me, but they are not only for me.

The fact that my cancer was found early and has been so well-treated is, of course, lucky.

As I said, I would not like to see anyone I know having to go through cancer. I had it and had to go through all the treatment – and have to live with the echoes of ‘what if’ and the effects of the medication – but that’s just how it is. There is so much to take away from anything that happens to us, so many lessons to be learned.

And I think that we are lucky to have the opportunity to learn, whether it’s about areas or people that we don’t know, or about ourselves from facing a dread disease.

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