A Cancervisary......it is actually a thing!
Last week was a unusual moment in my life to mark, I really can’t say ‘celebrate’, it was my four-year ‘Cancervirsary’ as in four years since my original diagnosis. It was not marked with cards, flowers or even a date that anyone but me really thought about. I did joke with my Dad that maybe there should be a card for it (there does seem to be one for everything these days), as you can imagine he did not find this one bit funny!
No one is celebrating, and that is just fine by me, but it is time to reflect on the time that has passed and how living with cancer for four years has affected me and my family and friends.
So, what have I learned and what do I know that I could share with anyone who may be just diagnosed, especially those who are struggling to wrap their head around a cancer diagnosis and what it can mean. Well, firstly, it is crap and it’s not fair and it’s the lottery that no one wants to win. Once you can make peace with this and focus your attention on, hopefully, getting the best treatment you can you come to realise that there has never been a time when more people are recovering from a cancer diagnosis and go on to live long and happy lives. I know this is not the outcome for everyone, and considering all that is going on with cancer screening programs in Ireland and the UK, missing hundreds of early detection opportunities and some women even dying because of this, it is hard to see anything but a death sentence when you hear those horrific words “you have cancer”
Four years ago when I heard my surgeon tell me that I probably had a 30 per cent chance of surviving, little did I know that I’d beat those very short odds, albeit with a few alterations to my body and soul. I’ve no real idea why I still keep going, I do know that I’ve a vicious will to live and come from a long line of very strong, determined women, This, combined with outstanding medical decision-makers and treatments means I’m still here four years down the road, and as long as they keep offering me treatment, I’ll keep taking it.
I’ve really struggled over the past few weeks about this anniversary, is it to be celebrated, marked or even talked about?. Note the reference to the card above: my parents definitely did not want to be reminded it’s been four years. But then I see all that’s happened despite my cancer these past four years: my boys especially have grown from a baby and a little boy. My baby has now started school and somehow I’m the mum of a near ten-year-old who went on his first rugby tour with his Dad! And I got to live those four years with them and just enjoy the everyday wonderfulness of seeing them turn in to deadly little people. Everyone says those years when your children are young go fast, but as my kids were so young when I was first diagnosed, missing out on watching them grow up was the biggest worry in my diagnosis. But this ‘Cancervirsary’’ has been a trigger for me to just stop and appreciate all the time I’ve had with them. Sometimes I worry that ‘mum being sick’, on medication and in and out of hospital must be terrible for them, but I also think it might just be ‘normal’ and the things we worry about as adults are not the same worries kids have. We are always honest with them and, in words they understand, we explain what’s going on for me. Watching movies in bed on my post-chemo days is of my son’s favourite things to do - the weirdness of that sentence is not lost on my let me tell you!
Putting my cancer aside, everyone is on their own rollercoaster adventure through life these days and it’s always good to reflect on where you are or where you are going to. But the one thing that binds us all is one of the best human traits: hope, it sustains us no matter how awful things are, it keeps us going in the belief that tomorrow will be a better day. And I suppose it’s the hope, that keeps me going, even on the most vomit-induced days. Hope, and faith in my doctors and nurses, and especially in my family and friends who seem to very much like having me around. I’m a fully paid up member of the ‘Optimists Club’, and despite a seemingly global breakdown in the ability to ‘do the right thing’, when I look at my little world I’m hopeful all will be well.
In saying that, and why my post this week is late, I got a rather stark reminder that I am not invincible and no matter how much I think I can do anything, my body is here to remind me otherwise! This bowel of mine decided to act up, and the lesions and adhesion's I have from surgeries caused an obstruction, which resulted in a 2am dash to the hospital and a week on drips, drugs and rest. I was released yesterday, and after a lovely night in my own bed, and a few cuddles from my favourite boys, I’m back in the hospital again this morning for chemo! By any standards, this is not a fun week. But nurses and doctors in the hospital are like family to me now at this stage, and do make events like this all the more easier to bear, they mind me like their own and in a strange sort of way the team in the hospital are like family now, everyone from the phlebotomists to consultants.
Just as I was reflecting on the last four years and all the weird and wonderful things that have happened to me, something in the ‘wonderful’ category happened, and in the past week I was contacted my Laura and the great gals from www.mummypages.ie who had read my blog and somehow think my ramblings are interesting enough to feature on their site! After years of writing anonymous press releases for clients, it’s rather strange to think my actual name would be attached to a feature piece of writing. I am limited in what I can do in terms of concentration and the fatigue can kick in any time without warning, but writing here doesn’t feel like ‘work’ but more like thoughts that I write down and share. My amazing pal and journalist Orla Neligan is editing my musings, so you won’t be privy to bad spelling or me repeating myself badly. Hopefully it comes together in a way that I am showing and sharing that you can live your best life even with a chronic illness or any crappy limitations life throws at you. So, this blog will be on Mummpages.ie soon, in their Voices section and I’m so excited to see where this goes. Thanks Laura Erskine for being part of my “Just DO IT” strategy for this year!
It’s Friday the start of a super sunshine weekend (it’s FINALLY stopped raining in Ireland), and although I’ll be on the chemo I’m planning a weekend sitting in my garden with intermittent trips to the beach with my boys, punctuated with many ice creams, reading of magazines and wardrobe planning for my impending holidays. So, despite the old cytotoxic drugs, my weekend is shaping up well. Nurse/Super Sister is picking me up after treatment and will join me and the boys for all of the above and I can’t think of a more amazing way to spend my weekend. My morning’s googling while on treatment also led me find the most suitably inspiring t-shirt, for this post, from a deadly bunch of designers in germany called The Colourful Crew who I’ve been following for a while and love their aesthetic. They’ve only gone and designed a t-shirt with an ‘Optomists Club’ badge on the boobies and, well, I’m only going to have to go and buy it and wear it with pride.
So, to wrap up, I’m wishing everyone a super sunshine bank holiday, and while you are downing some sneaky afternoon pints please remember to smile, always be kind and no matter what your personal sh*t show is, there is always hope and hope is everything!