The day arrived.... It was cold and dark and felt like we were marching towards a heavy sentence about to be served. Annet had to be at the hospital at 0700 hrs in the morning and we met at the entrance, 30 mins before.
Annet attended with her husband and son. She was nervous, but still tried to smile (as usual) but mostly, we were all just quiet and I could feel the emotion in the room, like it was my own.
Annet was very brave and she said that the operation happening early and the whole process going so fast, made things a lot easier. She took a few moments to answer all the messages she had received that morning before getting ready for the operation.
One of the biggest lessons I have learnt throughout this whole process... is just how big and positively the impact of a some kind words to the people you care for and are thinking about... can be.
Saying goodbye to Annet was very emotional but we all knew that this step was necessary for her recovery...
When Annet woke up from the operation, she was in a lot of pain... She said that it was the first operation she had where she actually woke up, feeling pain. The nurse had immediately given her pain medication and later, she was given morphine which she was able to regulate herself by means of a little pump.
Not really thinking about what had actually happened during the operation, Annet was most concerned about the pain and the whole time, she had a feeling that this whole experience was happening to someone else.
During the visit in the evening, she was able to console her parents as again, she had the feeling like this was all happening to someone else and her parents were struggling with what Annet was going through.
The next day, the nurse informed Annet that she would be removing the bandage later that day...
Annet was not looking forward to this... Annet's sister had previously informed her that she would be present when they removed the bandages, if Annet wanted her to. So Annet gave her sister a call and once she arrived, the bandages were removed.
When the bandages were removed, Annet said that it was not as big a shock as she was expecting. The expander in her breast was slightly filled so that it seemed like cleavage and her chest wasn't totally flat.
It wasn't until two days later that she was able to have a shower at the hospital and faced herself in the mirror, when she actually really started crying for the first time since the operation...
Every time she had a shower she cried and slowly but surely... she started accepting her body (post operation), something she is still getting used to...
Annet is thankful for the support which she has received throughout these difficult days. She feels that without the support she has received she would have been caught up in depression and that she would have really struggled to cope with it all. She also said that this difficult time is experienced very differently by everyone who has to endure it.
Some woman choose for a mastectomy straight away and others (like Annet) struggle to make that decision. She acknowledges that it's something that NEEDED to be done and that in the end when it had to happen and she had no choice. But... Annet asks that you give your loved one the space to work through their own emotions when they are faced with a decision like this and she implores you not to tell another what to think or do... This experience is different for each person involved.
It was my intention tell Annet's story so that you can try and have an understanding about the challenges that cancer brings so that the little issues which upset us on a daily basis, can be brought into perspective when realising what others (and those close to us) have to face.
So many lives are touched by cancer and we hear so much about cancer, that we sometimes become hardened to it. No matter how many people in the world you know who are affected by cancer, once you, or someone close to you are affected by it, it becomes the world... and a weight which is sometimes too heavy to carry. Please remember that when you speak to those affected by cancer.
Thank you again to Annet who has been kind enough to allow me to photograph her journey throughout her cancer treatment and recovery, a project which I am overwhelmed by at times... but always incredibly thankful for.