Cancer is just the beginning of my story

I want my blog to be a source of inspiration, which will encourage others to open up their hearts and pursue their passion now, rather than leaving all the good stuff for 'one day'. Take it from me, life can change in an instant and there may not be as much time between now and that mythical 'one day' when you actually start living the life you really want. As the days go by, please don't fall into the same trap, assuming that time is linear and it's edging you closer towards 'that day' when you finally wake up, stop and listen to what it is your heart is telling you to do.  

~Sanja

Who am I?

 

That's a good question, one that will take an entire lifetime to answer. My cancer diagnosis or rather my healing journey is definitely fast tracking that process. That's why I've decided to start this blog. Life has taken an unexpected turn, it will never be the same, in the best possible way. Being faced with a deadly disease has been the beginning of an awakening process. I know I still have a long way to go but at least I have started on that journey. 

Before cancer, the answer to 'who am I?' would have gone something along the lines of this: Firstly, I am a mother! My children are my greatest source of joy and stress. I am a talented photographer living in one of the most picturesque parts of Australia. I'm a terrible cook but love farmers' markets and the idea of having my own vegetable garden. I absolutely love dancing, it's in my blood. I am blessed with a great family and amazing friends. All of this is true, but cancer forced me to dig even deeper for a true answer to that question.

On that fateful day when the doctor read out my diagnosis, it sent shockwaves through my entire body and in that instant I realised I hadn't really lived. It felt like I had just woken up and realised that the previous 32 years of my life were just a hazy dream. Now I'm determined to live out the rest of my life so that when it's time for me to go, I'll look back on a life I actually got to live. I wish to depart knowing I fulfilled my purpose for being here and reached my true potential. We all have unique talents and something to contribute to the world, leaving it a slightly better place because we lived. Join me through this blog as I go on my search and hopefully some of my discoveries will inspire you along your own journeys. 

Just Move

 

Shortly after my diagnosis I flew to the other side of the world, to a country I had hardly heard of before my healing journey. There I told the local oncologist that I'll be seeing her on top of Mt Blanc. Upon returning to Australia to face more surgery and months of harsh chemotherapy, I began training for the climb. I knew my cancer survival story would be unique. I trust that this happened to me for a reason and that the ripple effect of my journey is yet to be seen. The mountaineering adventure I've been training towards, the promiseclimb, is only the beginning of many great things to come. 

My chemo experience is a testament to the importance of exercise during one of the most trialing times on the human body both physically and mentally. As part of this blog, I wish to raise awareness of the importance of these exercise programs for rehabilitation in the hope that they will one day become an integral part of the mainstream cancer treatment protocol. Much like the program I undertook at Calvary Rehabilitation Hospital during chemotherapy, and continued privately afterwards.  

 

Alongside the existing posters of 'look good, feel better' programs, I believe we must see posters of the infamous bald heads in their activewear and moving their bodies. A quiet walk through the forest, a yoga pose, a dance twirl, or on a mountain peak, regardless of the fitness level the aim is the same - just move. Movement is our basic right as human beings but unfortunately the increasing number of sedentary professions seem to have taken that basic right away. 

Why Promise Climb?

 

In an attempt to avoid the harsh realities of chemotherapy, my search for alternatives led me to a cancer clinic in Latvia. There I met with an oncologist who also does mountaineering. What a combination.

To cut a long story short, the aggressiveness of my cancer meant that for me chemo was unavoidable. 

As we said our goodbyes and I began my long journey back home to Australia to face the treatment which I had been fearing more than the disease itself, I said something to the oncologist that planted a seed which would come to shape my entire cancer journey and most likely the treatment outcome.

As I hugged her goodbye I said 'the next time we meet, I don't want it to be inside a cancer clinic but on the top of Mt Blanc'. She said 'sounds good, but let's start with a smaller mountain'. And that's where this crazy story begins.

Although the next six months were going to be the toughest of my life, I already had my sights set on bigger and better things. I had mountains to climb. This gave birth to the idea of the #promiseclimb.

This idea got me excited, motivated me to exercise during chemo and most importantly gave me something to look forward to at the end of a tough road. It also meant I was making a promise that I would survive. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't always easy, but having that vision and knowing why it was important to keep moving, made everything seem less difficult. 

The climb itself took place on the 28th August 2018 on a mountain range in Serbia, to acknowledge my Serbian heritage. I invited a group of close friends to accompany me on my first climb. The significance of this date is multi faceted. Apart from being a significant feast day, it's the date a dear friend of mine lost her own battle with cancer, but to this day she continues being a tremendous source of inspiration for me.  I had my second surgery on this day, and learnt the importance of second chances. 

Over the coming months, I intend to prepare a short film documenting this entire cancer journey. You'll get insight into this rollercoaster ride I've been on since hearing the initial diagnosis. I wish to share it all, in the hope that it will provide comfort to those who need it most and show that even a cancer diagnosis can be just the beginning of an inspirational journey.  Because when you reach rock bottom, the only way is up, and being someone who takes everything literally - I did just that. I still have a long way to go. The next few years will be crucial for me, as I focus my efforts on keeping such an aggressive cancer at bay. 

I don't know how much time I have left, but I know that I want it to be meaningful and to leave a mark on the world, no matter how small. I want the world to be a slightly better place because I lived and had something to contribute. Nothing is random. This happened to me for a reason and I know that a lot of good will come out of this situation. It's helping me get closer to whatever it is I am meant to achieve in this lifetime. I'm finally taking the first few steps in the right direction, albeit a vertical one because that's just me, I do everything the hard way. 

I hope you enjoy reading my blog!

© 2018 by Sanja Nikolic. Proudly created with Wix.com

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