I’ve attempted to update my antics via this blog several times this year and experienced techy glitches, here’s hoping today’s works.
Many moons ago, a group of extraordinary women met via a faceless community forum. We were different ages, different cultures, from different parts of the world, and had very different outlooks, our common enemy, breast cancer (and a few bowel cancers for balance). We didn’t intend to become friends, I guess we were all out there in shock and searching for someone who might make sense of what was happening. Lord knows we needed that !!
Something in our group clicked, and a few of us switched over to Facebook and revealed our real identities that were hidden behind pseudo names. Some didn’t make the swap over, and the little core group, The Class of 2012 with it’s weird humour, sarcasm and silliness took strength from each either and grew. When Annabel died before most of us finished treatment it sent ripples of fear and reality throughout our group, it was so unexpected and unfair. It did however draw us closer, bringing physical meet ups to people you’d messaged at 3am about chemo complications or fears that you kept from your partners, children or friends. It also brought us Simon, Annabel’s husband.
Life after active treatment for cancer is so unpredictable. There’s the uncertainty and fear of premature death that you have to get a grip of and over time I’m pleased to say it lessens (somewhat). There’s the shock and devastation every time someone within your cancer community receives a diagnosis of a secondary cancer or dies, this is particularly hard in the first year where really every ache, pain, niggle has you running to your GP for reassurance. People talk about the new normal – I still dislike that phrase. There’s a sh*t load of acceptance to work through of how things have changed, and there’s the recognition to process what you’ve actually been through.
There’s the highs too where you celebrate the milestones of recovery, hair regrowth, energy restored, new jobs, physical challenges, new relationships, new babies….
There are the wobbles, it doesn’t matter how many years pass since the diagnosis, a check up, a CT scan, or anything which is a new or persistent ailment will have you wobbling about whether the ASBO cells have come out of hiding and attached somewhere new. A few weeks ago I had a medical receptionist misinterpret the results of my chest xray and sent me spinning into a cycle of fear and worry. Needless to say they were very apologetic, and the silver lining is that I have updated my life assurance cover to acknowledge I have had cancer.
A week after this personal scare, one of the Class of 2012 made a rare Facebook update that declared further treatment, radiotherapy to the brain. For any of us diagnosed we immediately know that this signals brain metastases. My personal biggest fear. Since then her deterioration has been rapid, and reading her daughter’s eloquently written updates I was struck by the love, unity and strength they have as a family. There was no fear, pure acceptance and fight to throw everything that can at it and take every treatment option available.
It’s been 4 years since cancer made a rude interruption to our lives, 4 very precious years, packed with memories and a sense of urgency that I always write about. In 4 years I have actually lost count of the brilliant, beautiful women that I’ve met and been friends with that have died, that’s terrible isn’t it ? Of course I remember them all personally and our time we spent together, the lessons they gave me. A well meaning therapist once told me at the beginning of treatment don’t make friends with other patients, ‘as people die’. We all die, you can’t actively avoid friendships for that reason, surely that would mean people wouldn’t befriend me as there is that 50/50 risk there too.
In 4 years I have tried to live as authentically as possible, and every time there is another ripple I once again reflect and change what I need to or can. Life is unpredictable and yet we waste it at times, being stagnant as afraid, stuck in comfort zones, picking back up on old habits.
The silver lining of cancer is the friendships you make, the strength and courage you find, the changes you make to live a fulfilled or authentic life. Never settle for less than you want, or pursue something that makes you unhappy. Seize the day !
If you are reading this do something extraordinary, step out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself. Be alive, in the now and fuck worrying about the future.
I fucking hate cancer …..