3rd May 2012 is etched in my brain, it’s the day life threw me a curve ball that I didn’t expect. I will never forget my surgeon pausing and looking at me intently before gently saying, ‘It’s not good news…..’ My actual memory of that day after the words, ‘ metastasised’ and ‘unknown primary cancer’ were heard kind of swirl and blur away, just like the Macmillan advert. I remember driving home and crying my eyes out, stopping the car to compose myself before I walked in with a poker face so not to worry my kids. How can I tell them I have cancer ? I can’t remember how I got through that night, but distinctly remember the next day spent in a variety of hospital gowns, injected with a variety of contrast dyes as the scanned every body part to confirm the primary cause of the asbo cells and out rule any potential spread. There began 2 weeks of dread, waking up and truly hoping it was just a bad dream.
I clearly remember faking sleep to avoid telling my daughter that night, not wanting the tears to betray me and to be able to sound strong and convincing when I told her, that it would all be ok. It’s just a touch of cancer. I remember the heart wrenching conversations with friends, where I became Samantha Jones, and matter of factly told them I had cancer and comforted their shock and tears. Hiding my own fear and tears to the confines of the park whilst walking my dog and my secret confidant, my Macmillan Blog. I don’t know what I would have done without that in those early days….
So, here I am 3 years or 1095 days later. Something at times I never thought I’d see this day, I’d worry what would become of kids, my dog. Ridiculous maybe, but truly how scared I felt at times. 1095 days filled of living life, not just surviving cancer. So much has happened, so much to be grateful for, happy times, sad times, growth in all ways, acceptance, falling down – the inevitable post cancer come down, change – lots of it.
Arriving at this important date I felt happy, confident in my strides through the woodlands of the park where I concealed my tears and fears. My hair growing and blowing in the breeze again. My muscles strong and capable. Energy restored. I feel me again, the old me, merged with the new me, as complete a me as I can ever be.
So on Saturday, coming home after walking 17 miles with a friend I was saddened to read the headlines of Rio Ferdinand wife’s premature death, and the devastation of leaving 3 young children behind her. Breast cancer is still killing young women. It’s sickening. I came home to further sad news, one of the group, a Macland friend had received confirmation of a further spread, and I felt powerless to help, to find the right supportive words, that weren’t just this fecking sucks, and I hate this disease. Reality sucks doesn’t it ?
Every day I am filled with gratitude and reminded how fragile life is, that it all sits on a fine balance. We have to keep on keeping on, keep living and filling each day with memories and taking chances, creating new opportunities. Perhaps this explains the crazy endurance challenges, or crammed diaries to really feel you are using precious time and not wasting it. I read that human beings are the only creature that has a concept of time, and thereby live in recognition of it being limited. We know there will be an end, we don’t know when. So fill this was pleasures, ditch the things, where possible that drag us down or depress us. Hold those close to you tighter, tell those you love how much they matter to you, try new things, experiment, be grateful for every waking day.
I considered my cancer diagnosis a second chance, I didn’t wake up the next day with a perfect life, and it’s taken time to quit things that have made me unhappy, I’ve missed opportunities when complacency kicked back in. I’ve become stuck again in negative experiences or retrod old ground. The difference ? This recognition that the silly little things that irk us don’t really matter, that eventually I will force change or call time on something that makes me unhappy as …feck it I don’t need it, and that if I retread some old ground I jumped off it quicker when I realised the patterns. I am still working on this love affair with myself, and fighting against the bullshit of perfection. I’m a lopsided lovely that’s overcome a lot, damn I’m going to be proud of me, and treat myself with love and affection.
I’m raising a glass to all those living with secondary cancers, all those friends I’ve lost along the way, all of the class of 2012, who are an incredible,remarkable and wilful band of women, to all our friends, family and supporters that have stood by us along the way and a big two fingers up to cancer….from us all.
It’s a great life if you don’t weaken …..