I’ve been meaning to write another blog post for a while but have not quite got around to it.
There has been a lot of discussion about cancer in the media in the week following Rachael Bland’s death from secondary breast cancer. This has brought up some raw feelings within me again. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just has made me realise that I haven’t allowed myself to fully heal both emotionally and mentally from the ordeal the last six months has brought.
What Rachael Bland and her colleagues, Deborah James and Lauren Mahon have achieved in the past six months through their podcast #YouMe&theBigC is unbelievable and truly amazing. They’ve opened the door on talking about cancer and all that it involves. I’ve listened now to every one of the podcasts, and whilst I couldn’t listen during my treatment I’m glad I finally got around to it. The discussions they have had are frank, honest and humbling. These girls are strong!! They really don’t leave any stone unturned. My favourite episodes were their very first one, “About Us” and then “About the Head” and “About the Nearest and Dearest”. All of them are good and all worth listening too.
So inevitably in listening to these podcasts I’ve had many thoughts about cancer and my own diagnosis and, for want of a better word, ‘journey’ over the past six months.
Alistair, Lauren’s dad, was a guest speaker on the show and talked about drawing a line in the sand which happens at diagnosis. You imagine drawing this hypothetical line in the sand at diagnosis and then stepping over it and bringing all your loved ones with you. That’s it…you can’t step backwards once that line has been crossed. It’s symbolic of – that life is never going to be the same as it was before.
It really isn’t going to be the same. Yes, the diagnosis of any cancer is devastating, and yes in the early stages I just wanted to go back across my line and be the person I was before. I grieved tremendously for that person. However, there are positive things about ‘the line.’
So in a way this blog is about my positives. (Of which the girls have done a podcast about too!! Listen to it.)
Whilst I appreciated life before (and I really loved my life) I love it all the more!
I appreciate every single day. Yes, there are days that I feel tired and I’m not able to do all I want to do but I’m so happy to be here. That’s a simple one to begin with. I love my partner. I love where we live. I love my family. I cherish every single puppy snuggle I get from my dogs. I love my friends and my work colleagues, and I love that I am still able to do all the things I did before diagnosis. I can still run (albeit more slowly), swim, cycle, walk, travel to foreign countries, drive my beautiful car. The list is endless actually.
Perspective changes your priorities.
You get a very healthy dose of perspective when you’re faced with your own mortality. We all have to face our mortality some time, but at 36 yrs of age when you think you’re pretty much invincible and someone tells you – ‘you got cancer,’ it puts things into perspective pretty sharpish. The most notable change for me was realising that for too long a time I have worried about what people think of me. That’s just ridiculous. It’s such a waste of time and energy. So what did this change of attitude bring about? Well I’ve been living in a semi-closet for most of my life and all of a sudden I just stepped out of it. Fuck that, I’ve cancer who gives a rat’s arse anymore what people think of me for being with another girl!!! Imagine that! Cancer trumps being gay any day. That aside, I actually do hope to continue to live being the real me, warts and all for the rest of my life. I don’t want to worry about what other people think, it’s their problem to sort out, not mine.
Joining the cancer community.
The cancer community is unbelievable. I’ve met some amazing individuals through having cancer and am totally humbled by the work of volunteers and health-care staff working in any of the cancer units and areas. They truly are the best sort of people. I’ve also met a lot of other cancer patients, those who are living well with secondary cancer and those who have been through a similar situation to me, that is have been given the all clear for now. Don’t worry we don’t all sit around talking about cancer, sometimes we talk about anything but!! There is therapy in talking to people who have been through what you’ve been through and I’m very grateful to be part of this community, as grim as it sounds – the club no-one really wanted to be part of!
Learning to live in the present.
I’m still working on this one but I’m definitely better than I was before diagnosis. There is only the present, the past is gone and the future isn’t here yet. It sounds so bloody obvious!! However, we spend so much time worrying about the future or yearning for the past, that we don’t live in the moment and that is incredibly distressing. I’m working on my ‘being here now’ stance and I don’t think I ever would have worked on that had it not been for my diagnosis. Mindfulness is great and classes like Yoga and Pilates that focus on breathing also are something that are helping with this philosophy.
Strengthening your inner circle.
Dear dear, it really sounds like I’m getting a bit buddha like here. What I’m trying to express here is that your inner circle of family and friends really come to the fore when you become unwell. I am still blown away by the absolutely amazing group of people who surrounded me and showered me with love, prayers and support after my announcement of breast cancer. I feel closer to my family than I have done in years. I have a small group of university friends who stepped up to the bat. I received flowers, presents, thoughtful gifts from work colleagues and friends and endless offers of support. My best friend came straight to our house as soon as she found out (that is the day of my diagnosis) and had a cuppa and a cry with me.
The most important person of all however, is my beautiful partner. She literally has been the rock at my side the whole way through this shit-storm and she’s been through it all too. Every rock-bottom, every break-down, every fearful disintegration into tears. I’m so proud of her and am so thankful I get to have her as my person. I am lucky.
There are probably loads more positives out there, they just haven’t come to mind during the writing of this blog. I just wanted to share because I do think it’s important to continue this dialogue about cancer and to appreciate those people who have opened those doors.
1 in 2 of us will have a diagnosis of cancer in our lifetime and it’s ok to talk about it. It’s important to talk about it, because it raises awareness, it makes people check themselves, go to the doctor sooner about worrying symptoms and also normalises the word cancer.
Thanks for reading to the end!! That was a bit of an essay. 🙂