And so it continues. Only now at my age and stage and no doubt because of all the wonder and all the crap I have experienced thus far in my life’s journey, am I able to let go. Of some of my body issues. Only some. Crap like losing a breast and every single hair on my body. Don’t judge me too harshly when I tell you I was more fearful of losing my hair, than I was of dying. I do know that’s my avoidance strategy again. Focusing on the things I think I can control. And my vanity. I’ve always just taken it all for granted. The worst was the eyebrows and the lashes. Because then you can’t hide from the cancer label.  And from people looking at you with pity because they just don’t know how to be with you.  But … I was not intending to go on about cancer, but about  learning that the size of your breasts, the length of your hair doesn’t change who you are. Or even if you don’t have any. The gift of losing something makes you realise how you still are you without it. Sometimes even a better you. But, as a teenager it all matters so much. I was thinking about this all this morning as Katie needs a new bra. But she refuses to accept that she could possibly be a bigger size. In bra and or in dress. Because then she would be bigger. And in this world, bigger is not better. She will not be liked as much is implied. She will not like herself as much. It is irrelevant how often I explain she is simply growing. She knows that, but irrationally she can’t accept it. I remember this age so well. And no matter what I say, it is what it is in her world. And my experience is too far removed to have any bearing. Yet. I get her. And she will learn, quicker than me. And then she will get me. But still, how do I guide her in a world that is so externally focussed. When even her mother, despite all she’s learnt, is getting eyelash extensions to make her lashes lusher. It’s all gone a bit mad.


I was given so many books to read during my initial cancer treatment, mostly very uplifting and motivational. It will give you some insight into my feelings at the time that the only one I related to was titled … “It’s not like that, actually“.  By Kate Carr. As in, it’s not the best thing that ever happened to me. It was not a blessing as it forced me to re-evaluate things. It was not my aha moment. It’s not something you want to chat to your kids about. And if another person or book told me that I think I would scream. I wasn’t feeling it. And I felt guilty that I wasn’t feeling it. This lady was the only one who seemed to really get it, get me. It’s not like that actually. It’s bloody awful, bloody unfair, bloody lonely, bloody scary, bloody confronting, bloody terrible for children, family and friends…. it just is. Well. It just was for me. And for Kate Carr. But writing why me? a few days ago, I realised that now, 4 ish years later I’m finally getting what they meant. By the blessing. But I’m also getting how much of a strategy for living, avoidance is for me. I thought about this a lot at tennis today. We were talking about mortality and how unexpected tragedies, especially involving loved ones, suddenly makes you face your own. And how most of us would rather never have to. And how being forced to can actually be a blessing.  Because you have to acknowledge the impermanence of it all. The reality of what is and what will be. The beauty of what we have right now. And not to take it for granted. To hug a little tighter, to love that much more, to tell everyone how you feel more often, to be kinder, to be more grateful. To stop playing avoidance. And to find the time to discuss that will.


I’ve been a bit of a grump the past couple of days. I think it’s because our trip home is now only a week away. And whilst I know that should excite me, and it does, and remains one of my gratefuls, it still unnerves me. As it does every year. Because of what it holds. It means I can’t so effectively play avoidance anymore. I can’t pretend I am not fearful of what my doctors might find. I can’t pretend I’m not hopeful that they might tell me all is clear, and no further treatment required. And to be honest, I think that scares me the most of all, no, not the most, but a lot. Because then I will be on my own. Thinking about the possibility of not having someone there checking me all the time feels a little scary. No medication, no implants, no blood tests, no CT scans, no ultrasounds, no three monthly examinations and chats. I know I should be yahoo at the prospect, and I probably will be, eventually. But right now I feel unnerved. And a bit of a fraud too, because I like to believe it’s all up to me, that I am on the right path now.  But suddenly, I’m feeling a lot less certain.


Mmmmm. I have now been accused of wanting to control. Well, this is nothing new. See control freak. I have been accused of being non Christian. I never professed to be anything but one that believes in good. I have been accused of being self absorbed. Well this is my blog. About me. I think we all are a little bit, and should be if we are on a journey of self discovery. I have indirectly been accused of not liking criticism. And no, I don’t. But then who does. And I do believe that those who criticise should look to themselves rather. But I especially do not like being criticised for sharing my views. For sharing me. I am not for one minute saying they should be anyone else’s views. They are mine, based on my life thus far, my journey thus far. My journey towards understanding why I am so controlling, so insecure, so quick to ignite, why I got cancer, how scared I am, how I try to be a good mother and wife and friend, but fuck up. Because I am not perfect, and if you know me, if you care enough to understand me, you would know that is the one thing I have battled my whole life to reconcile. The fact that I am good enough. So, this is all about being honest. And sharing that. And if that makes you uncomfortable, you have many choices. You could choose to no longer follow this arrogant, self absorbed, controlling, areligious African Queen’s blog. (Oh yes, I have been accused of being an African Queen. I am proud of being African, I am proud of where I’ve come from, I do not believe I am better because I am African, I just am)  Or you could choose to ignore the stuff you can’t relate to and think about the stuff you can relate to. Or you can choose to realise we all react differently based on our own realities. This is just mine. Not arrogant, not judgemental, quite self effacing and actually quite honest. I fuck up all the time. I forget my kids. I speak badly to my family. I envy my friends. I like people to look at me when they talk to me. I focus on what I don’t have rather than what I do have. Hence my blog. MY blog. I love to hear everyone’s views, but I am not keen on being bullied for thinking the way I do. How about you sticking your neck out and standing up for what you believe. My dignity is intact. Is yours?


I can’t talk to you if you don’t look at me. To me it is as if you don’t hear me. I know we all think we are good at doing lots of things at once ( I hate the word multitasking, because its crap) but I absolutely believe then we don’t really do anything well at all. And sometimes good enough is good enough and that’s just life.  But I think whatever you are doing deserves all your attention. Or none at all. Just for that moment. And it is possible. Just stop doing everything, the world won’t stop. B loves my most favourite quote of all time and throws it back at me often. As he should. ‘Be still. Cease your relentless participation’. That’s why its all become a bit shitty and fucked up. We are all so busy doing everything we don’t focus on anything. Or anyone. Surely we should respect each another enough to just focus on each other. Just for that moment.  If you are a parent, I bet you have all had that moment when your young child put their little hands on both sides of your face and made you look at them and listen to them. I can just picture my face getting all squished as Kate or Jem physically forced me to look at them. To focus on them. How exquisite. Really. Well, that’s what I feel like doing to everyone. I need you to respect me enough to look at me when I talk to you. And don’t let me get on to those who look over your shoulder to see if they’re missing out on anything. Cease. Just for a moment. I am here. Right now. Look at me. And see me. Or move on. My family know this. Just this morning B covered Jem’s eyes while I was trying to get her to listen to me. I need to see her eyes. I need her to look at me so I know she has heard me. They thought it was hilarious. I didn’t. Well, not really.


I have a friend who skydives. And so does her son, who is 11. And in Jem’s grade. For some reason this came up over breakfast, and Jem wondered how he was not scared to do it. I replied probably because he’s grown up with it. For him it just is what you do. To him it isn’t different, it just is. His family does it and so does he. It’s a fairly adventurous family thing I went on to admit, but for him it would be the same as the family who play tennis together, who cycle together, who hike together or like us, who …. shit,  I couldn’t think of something to say. By way of an example. We play tennis, some of us but not as a regular family thing. We kayak, some of us but not as a regular weekend family thing. We walk, some of us, but not as a regular weekend family thing. We beach, but no longer all together so it’s not a regular weekend family thing. Shit, what is our family thing. I finally lamely settled on, just like us, we do breakfast out together as a regular family thing. Jem sort of looked at me. Clearly not a good enough example. Oh, well, stuff it, it is what it is, and thats our thing. We share ourselves with each other. Over breakfast out. That’s our family thing and I think that’s damn fine.

why me?

Why me? Actually why not me? I’m big on taking responsibility at the moment. Sometimes life is cruel. But it is not someones else’s fault or responsibility. It just is. And the responsibility is with you. We all have a choice. In how we respond. And to learn from it. And to change. To be the change. I am also very much about moderation. Some might call it fence sitting. Well, thats them. For me, its keeping an open mind, and not being absolute about anything. I often envy those who believe so absolutely in something, that for them there is no other way. I am thinking a lot about this especially in relation to cancer. Not only because I’m heading home soon for a reality check, but also because a friend of B’s is suffering. His partner has no time left. She has throat cancer that they treated themselves by attacking the acidic/alkaline ratio in her body. Some would say it was stupid, some would say it was brave. We are not here to judge but to learn. But it is very very sad. I threw everything at my cancer. I was too scared not to. Well, first time round I refused to accept it. I went for opinion after opinion after opinion until I got the opinion I was able to deal with. My holy grail. It was all about control driven by fear. But, I didn’t give up.  I also didn’t learn.  Second time round I decided not to fight so hard, because the very thing I fought against first time round came to be. And then some. So, second time round, I chose to accept and do what was required. I still didn’t give up, but definitely relinquished a bit of control. But I still didn’t learn. I can only now be thankful that the opportunity to move here came at a time when I wanted it least but needed it most. And I can only now be thankful to B for seeing what I needed. Only now can I begin to take some responsibility. Not for manifesting cancer, but for not putting me first. For getting ‘caught up in superficial achievements, goal-hitting, and daily drama’.  For not looking after my wellbeing. We all have cancer cells. It is our responsibility not to create an environment in which they need to grow. To look after ourselves. To take responsibility. I chose to deal with the symptoms, but only now am I dealing with the cause. Every single day there are moments, big and small, when things happen we don’t really like, stop for a minute and before you blame someone else, take responsibility for your part in it.  It’s actually quite liberating. I haven’t yet got to the place where I see my disease as a blessing. But I’m getting there.


When life isn’t great, you really know who your friends are. I do agree with this, and I know a lot of my friends are feeling it right now. And that sucks. To know you can’t always count on people you thought you could. But what I find even more interesting are the friends that are only there when your life isn’t great. When you are suffering. When you are sad. When you are ill. When you are struggling. There is a name for this, where your friends almost take ownership of your suffering. On a compassionate level, I am sure it makes them feel worthy. And it is sad that they feel they are only better when others aren’t.  As soon as you seem to be handling, and god forbid exceeding, they disappear. And not in a noble Florence Nightingale kind of way. How sad is that.  So to all my friends, those present, those absent, I salute you for all that you are, and once were to me. And hope you find happiness within.


We made a conscious decision when we came here not to actively seek out other South Africans. To not live in an African enclave. Many expats do that and thats cool. But we knew the only way we could survive being here was for us to embrace the difference. So there was no real basis for comparison. To live a new life, not try and emulate our life back home and then be even sadder when it was just not the same. To rather celebrate the difference. And learn from it. And that’s worked for us. Many Africans are seen as arrogant here, primarily because they don’t integrate. They keep to their own. In fact, I have been rejected on occasion purely on the basis of being a South African, and the assumption that I have an air about myself. Or maybe it was just because I say fuck a lot. Or maybe I do have an air about me. Whatever. I don’t think we have an air about us, but I do think we expect a lot. From ourselves, our friendships, our interactions. And I think that’s a good thing. But maybe sometimes we expect too much, and I for one am definitely learning that. To be still and have less expectation. Of others.  I am still very happy living in my not purely African enclave, but have to say every time I am with my fellow South Africans, I do feel at home.


I read recently about a challenge to be politer and kinder in how you speak to your partner and your children. Not to take them for granted, to be grateful for all they do and not what they don’t do. To be aware of every interaction. It is ridiculous how we treat perfect strangers better than we do our own family sometimes. And I know the flip side is that home is a safe place to be, where we can sometimes vent and show our not so nice side. Where we are loved no matter what. But we can also try be better. To be aware that its not ok to be impolite to those you love the most. Just because you can. But whilst I believe in being the change and taking the lead I challenge any parent of a teenager to do this. I challenge myself every morning. You see, my consistent theme remains … most of the stuff we all know, most of the stuff we all try do, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t.  Because if we’re honest, nobody is perfect. Nobody gets it right all the time. Especially not the parent of a teenager. But I will keep on trying. I have to keep reminding myself that Kate and Jem’s teenage and preteen behaviour is not about me. It just is. I just happen to be there. All the time. I wish I’d remembered that this morning when as I was discussing with Kate the merits of letting, or more to the point, not letting her friends come home to the empty apartment after a party on the river, she got up from the table went into the bathroom and shut the door. Okay, so maybe I was lecturing rather than discussing, and maybe I do go on a bit, but I mean, I was mid sentence. She didn’t even think. She had just had enough of the conversation. As much as I breathed and reasoned, I was not polite when she emerged. But I did manage to stop myself from beating down the door. She had got the point, and moved on. With a knowing air of disdain. Would she do that to a stranger. Never. Because she is a lovely polite girl. Just not always at home. But then, nor am I. So, we are taking up the challenge. We will be conscious of how we talk to each other, how we behave towards each other, how often we thank each other and how much we take each other for granted. And especially how much we ignore our mother.