Six months of chemo down and another one or even two months to go. My lashes have gone, my brows are sparse, my skin like paper, and my muscles weak. Despite this, I cleared my calendar of my Friday night ‘couch date’ and proudly replaced it with the Treasure Chest 10 Year Anniversary ‘Men With Breast Intentions’ Black Tie Ball!
Now, the all important question. What to wear? I wasn’t going to spend my precious energy rummaging the retail racks. Fitting rooms are a chore. I don’t know about you, but I find getting undressed and dressed repeatedly utterly exhausting! A task made just that more difficult while trying to protect my annoying chemo hair from the ‘on and off’ action required when pulling clothes over your head. With that said, I shook the moths off my all-time favourite dress (from the archives of 2015 – seems like an eternity ago!) and polished my little black handbag (to a very high shine) all while deep in thought, promising myself that I would NOT be a repeat offender; falling head-over-heels in broad daylight in my rather firm-fitting pencil dress that has absolutely NO fabric stretch in front of a crowd of shocked onlookers. Note to self: undo back zip split so legs are able to move when walking – crucial. This type of fall is known as the ‘lassooed legs fall’.
Oooh, I can’t tell you how nice it was nice to be all dressed up! Heels heal, let me tell you! The Glasshouse venue sparkled with warm light. There was a sea of friendly faces, most of whom I didn’t know, but I knew that wouldn’t be the case for long. All who attended looked polished and preened for such a special event. There was magic in the room. To hear the beautiful voice of Nina Ferro was the perfect introduction, signing ‘I touch myself’ by Chrissy Amphlett. We sat down to a delicious three course meal, the third being dessert which was the Boob Bar dessert buffet where you could ‘Stack Your Rack’! I was certainly well-fed and ready to dance the night away to Joe Camilleri and the Black Sorrows – my goodness the man has still got it!
I haven’t been captivated by many speeches that have touched me, that I could truly relate to, that are personal, raw and stripped-back to the bone. But on Friday night I fought back tears when Pratika Lal (Founder of the Treasure Chest) addressed the room of 400 guests, both men and women, regarding the work the Treasure Chest Charity does to improve the experience for those undergoing breast cancer treatment, particularly breast reconstruction. I was also reminded of my cold, hard reality, but found comfort knowing that I’m not alone, and the treatment side effects are real, very real, as much as I try to disregard them. The nausea, sleepless nights, fatigue, ulcers, headaches, blurry vision, itchy skin and the daily mental challenges are relentless. I could go on and on, but let me spare you the details, many of them too gory for this medium as well as the shiny brochures that try to prepare you for what to expect during treatment – another time perhaps?!
What a memorable night! As a patient, I learnt so much. I left for home with mixed emotions. My heart was fluttering with the endless possibilities and ideas about how I could contribute to help those in need, but also with a heaviness knowing that women aren’t always able to get the care and support they truly need during an undoubtably challenging time in their life, and in many cases, a challenge for some that never ends. As I reflect on my journey, although difficult at times, it has been easier than that faced by others, and for that, I am thankful. I didn’t have to wait for reconstructive surgery and I can’t begin to imagine how that would have robbed me of my confidence and dampened my spirits. I will light my stunning gift from this special night, a gold Treasure Chest 10 Year Anniversary candle with much gratitude.
Thank you Treasure Chest for not only inspiring me further to help others but for the wonderful, selfless work you continue to do. It warms my heart to know that people can come together and create change, real tangible change. All you need is compassion, love, dedication and persistence.
Photograph: Pratika Lal, Founder of Treasure Chest Charity (centre) with ambassadors Glen Moriarty (left) & Brodie Harper (right)