Written by our founder Lianne Grootings Ritzen in October 2019.
AT COLLEGE GIRLS USED TO SAY; “LIANNE SHE IS ALWAYS HAPPY. THAT’S NOT POSSIBLE.”
Yes! It is possible! My always positive mindset has been a great help during my life, especially in my current health situation.
After studying Hotel Management in Maastricht, I started working for the luxury hotel Sofitel in Beijing China. I said yes to 11 years of working and living together with my soulmate Paul. I used to receive Heads of States like Sheikh al Maktoum, the Sultan of Brunei, drinking cocktails with at that time Prime Minister Balkenende and receiving His Royal Highness King Willem Alexander and Princess Maxima twice.
When my husband Paul was in charge of the Netherlands Pavilion during the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010, he hired me to be in charge of the VIP & hospitality department with 40 employees.
I was unstoppable. Okay, maybe for just a little while being pregnant with Oscar (2012). We both knew we wanted to become parents early, for our children to also experience other cultures and living abroad. Both our fathers died at a young age, so we don’t postpone anything in life, never.
During my pregnancy, I studied Chinese every day at Science & Technology University in Shanghai.
And after giving birth I focused on Dutch companies visiting Shanghai and meeting all their needs.
Then our little one Tygo was born (2014), amazing times, totally in love, happy family time.
In April 2015 we decided to move from Shanghai to Singapore. We wanted a healthier environment for our children without smog. All was going super well.. until the 8th of July 2015. Hormone-sensitive breast cancer.
During that time I was still breastfeeding Tygo, so very much aware of my body. I felt a little something in my breast and my intuition told me it was wrong. I have always been healthy, never smoked, not able to drink alcohol, lots of sports since childhood already never experimented with drugs, and very much aware of my precious always strong body.
But I was tired and losing more hair. The family doctor mentioned;
“You are young and breastfeeding, it is probably nothing.”
But I wasn’t sure so insisted on more research.
Right after the ultrasound, we were asked to sit down. Then you know it is wrong. Bad news. The oncologist told us I had breast cancer.
Just 8 months ago we got married in The Netherlands, in sickness, and health. But sickness came so soon… Our lives collapsed. From the hospital, you exit, towards the busiest shopping street in Singapore. All those people rushing around you, all incredibly vulnerable, without even knowing… We sat down on a bench and both didn’t dare to say those words out loud; will I survive this… We went into survival mode.
Then immediately the days that follow after diagnosis will go so fast. And immediate MRI to see if there are metastasis. It went wrong because I had a little metal heart on my underwear “sorry, I am not an 80-year-old patient” we laughed about it. Which I often do while in difficult situations. Then it all goes a bit smoother, especially for the hospital staff I believe. I received the news; no metastasis found. I knew I was strong. Let’s do this!
I had to inform my family and friends. We flew back to The Netherlands for this. It had to be in person. I knew I had to be strong while doing this.
My mother and Paul’s parent I started; “ It is okay, I will heal.. but unfortunately I am ill. I have breast cancer.” They cried.. they were shocked.. their life went upside down…
You can’t hide anything for your children. After becoming bald I looked like an easter egg. Oscar made me “medicine” so I will get hair again. Tygo was still too little to understand. My message was all the time: This will pass. I will be fine.
I went in phases. First I cut my hair short, then I shaved one part and enjoyed this looking like a Rockstar for a couple of weeks. When it started to fall off two weeks in chemo, Paul shaved my hair with Rihanna – Shine bright like a diamond on our rooftop balcony in Singapore. It was quite okay, it didn’t look too awful and girlfriends gave me scarfs.
How did I manage to go through chemo and breast amputation? I stayed myself..
I experimented with more makeup, big earrings and always wearing nice clothes to chemo. It must have been confronting for the staff to see someone of their age in this situation. We were living in Singapore so after each chemo we would make a little getaway to Borneo, Thailand or Bali, to make memories together and focus on my happiness. So now, that is my memory if I think of chemo as well. I kept doing sport, wanted to stay fit. When my hair came back, I was so proud.
The day before my amputation, I took pictures of my breast. I knew it had to be done. I went into surgery in peace. I joked around “yes, take my right breast” (while it had to be the left one), you should have seen those serious faces.
During radiation people assumed I was joining an elderly, I dressed up and was usually the youngest in the waiting room.
After all these months of treatment, I was cancer-free! We were so so happy that I had a full response to chemo. Now we can focus on rebuilding our life again! We decided to move to Bali and start all over again. Lot’s of quality time and focus on our health while enjoying living on this beautiful island. In these months it gave us time to think about our future. And our future is in Maastricht. Near our parents, family and friends with good education for our children. We moved back in July 2016. In November 2016 I did my DIEPLAP reconstruction of 8 hours. In May 2017 the second phase. And then we were done with all treatment after 2 years! This would become our year!
We were enjoying life to the max, loved living in Europe. In June I injured my back during yoga. I went to the osteopath and continued yoga. Then this one day I couldn’t get out of bed anymore, full of pain! On the bone scan, there was nothing to see. So I wasn’t a cancer patient anymore. I arranged an MRI scan with my family doctor, almost sure I had a hernia.
I received the bad news: Metastasis in my bones and liver.
Hormone-sensitive. Paul instantly cried and I felt like thrown into a bath with ice cubes. The scariest question was asked: how long will I still be alive.
And I am alive. Research is ongoing. I have had many hormone treatments and chemo already. My ovaries were taken out. I am on menopause. I had to change medication so often since it was working, the side effects or progression of illness are huge. From not being able to walk anymore, fulltime wheelchair, then all of a sudden the new medication starts working and I can walk again. It is a real rollercoaster mentally and physically.
My kids this time around aren’t fully informed. It is so different this time. What to tell them.. Just that mommy is receiving medication “to stay healthy”. They deserve a “careless” childhood as long as possible. Obviously, they see differences from months I can’t walk, to months I go to the gym as often as possible to stay fit. There will be a time I will have to tell them the full facts.
For now, we are alive.. and there is still so much I want to achieve. I don’t want to sit back and wait for research on new medication becoming available. I want to be part of it because I feel responsible. We, stage 4 breast cancer patients are all ambassadors for this topic. We need to educate people, inform them, keep them up to date, only thén your family and friends will understand and feel the urge to support us. And will understand we are not there yet. We are not chronic yet. We won’t live for many years to come. We need to change this. It takes time, it needs research.
This is why I choose to Sparkle Up Your Mind. I choose to make a difference. And this difference starts with your help!!
Please support us!!
Lots of love and sparkles,