LifeGrid Magazine March 2018 - Page 21

El Ultimo Peregrino by Leah Rando In June 2013 at the age of 45, I was diagnosed with DCIS in my right breast. I remember every detail of that day; the heightened emotions and particularly the initial fear and uncertainty of what was going to happen. Was I going to die? What about my husband and my son? What would I look like if I lost my hair; my beautiful curly hair that so many identi- fied me with. All these questions rolled into one stress ball tightly knotted up in my stomach. Some very real and some very superficial, but all very significant at the time. And then I remembered who I was and that I was too busy to die! I had too much to do…raise my son, my step children, be the wife, daughter and sister that I wanted to be…yeah, too busy to fall off the perch yet! So, I used this to motivate me to find the positives. I could hear the words of my dad, “There is a positive in every situation”. At the time, it was like…yeah right! In reflection, it became my truth. So, I set about looking at what I could control and that was my attitude to the whole situation. I had a choice. Let it beat me emotionally and physically or make a conscious decision to find my new normal. joining one of the global treks, however, I think it was the lack of courage, more so than timing, that prevented me from moving forward. This time it is different, as I have been further involved as a volun- teer for some community groups who provide support to breast cancer patients and survivors. I have experienced the good of such a service, so paying it forward is important. At no point during my five surgeries did I ever feel that I did not have the backing of wonderful people and services behind me. I want this for others. As a fiercely independent woman, I had to let others love and support me the way that they knew how and allow myself to be open to new ways of receiv- ing support. I learnt that others were more concerned for me than I was for myself because I knew that my normality was about to change. I was OK with that, but it was those around me who found the possibility of my changes difficult. I can now confidently say that I think that those who have known me for a long time and those who meet me for the first time, like the new version of me, because of my positivity and strength that I now have. The El Camino Trail in North Western Spain, with origin points in France and Portugal, lead to Santia- go de Compostela, where it is believed that the remains of the Apostle Saint James rest. Although I will undertake the last 112km of the trek between Sarria and Santiago de Compostela, I will be consid- ered a Pilgrim, along with fourteen fellow surviving breast cancer companions from the East Coast of Australia. This pilgrimage means so many things to so many people. Not one reason fits all and it is what makes the journey such an interesting undertaking, for many say that your El Camino is life changing. What do I do with this new-found focus? Share it, live it and use it to motivate me towards betterment and help others do the same. To live life with this new enrichment is very fulfilling and it is now the strength of my professional and personal connections with others. My surgical scars are a reminder of my jour- ney and the people, especially the medical and BCNA (Breast Cancer Network Australia) staff, who gave me the support material and encouragement that I needed on my journey. I have been asked why I am doing this? I think simply, because I have the option. I as given this opportunity to give back to my community and have done so by raising over $4000 AUD for this trek. I feel that this is the perfect way to embrace the next phase of my life showing gratitude to all those who have gone before me with this disease and give thanks to those who have supported me along the way. This year is my year! So, why El Camino and why Spain? For the past 4 years I have read the emails and contemplated do “El Ultimo Peregrino”