Cancer is a weird club - no-one wants to be in it, but many of us are. It's intensely lonely at times but you are also surrounded by love, and kindness and such amazingly thoughtful acts of support. Today, for example, Liz Tait (the Director of Fundraising at Battersea) presented me with 2 very big boxes of gorgeous and lovely M&S treats, fruit, drinks and food - all so I am not faced with the 'quiche pimple' again tomorrow. A truly thoughtful and wonderful gift. My mum has practically moved in every other week and poor Al has remained supportive, kind and loving, despite some occasionally irrational moments on my part (okay maybe they're fairly frequent irrational moments...).
Friends, colleagues (actually friends I work with) and family are phenomenal but the fact remains that having cancer is also terrifying, awful and can feel all consuming.
I recently read an amazing book 'Anticancer' (thank you Susie!). This book, for the first time helped me realise that there are choices I can make, beyond 'being strong and staying positive' (which is sometimes just ridiculously hard) that can help defeat this disease. There is stuff I can actively do in terms of my diet, and stress levels and exercise to keep alive for as long as possible and have a life that's healthy and happy. I am feeling much better, emotionally, since I read it and I am learning to manage the fear.
So here is how it is in the rough times...(just so you know, 1 in 3 people will get cancer at some point in their lives).
1 in 3
One in three
One in three
One in three
But it won't be me...
And then it is.
They tell you you've got cancer and the ice hits your stomach and it tightens, but it can't be that bad can it? And actually it can. It's advanced. Spread to your liver. It's serious. This isn't good and they all look so embarrassed, the student posse clutching their notes by the bed, staring a third of their futures in the eyes, knowing without a shadow of a doubt that it'll never ever be them. Oh no, not them.
One in three but it can't be me...
And then they leave. Left with an iPhone and Dr Google you desperately work out odds, factor in your age, search for misdiagnosis (without any irony, she fumes, 'why is cancer always missed and so rarely given as the incorrect diagnosis?'), look at medical alternatives, work out eventually that it's bad, I mean really bad. 6% kind of bad. A sort of peace descends. I can handle this. Life it's okay, but death, it's just the next step. I can handle this.
So you call them, the person you love, the one who will hold your hand, the one you'll leave behind, and it becomes real. The pain, the leaving feels so much closer.
But you continue your search; cancer, bowel, alternatives, liver, prognosis, diet, treatment, statistics - key words to give you hope, percentages to mean there's a chance. There's always a chance.
And you cry. Oh how you cry. At adverts. At happiness. At sorrow. At life. At death. At fiction and reality. For Lee Scoresby and Hester (I love Philip Pullman). For the people who'll weep at your funeral. You're vain and you're selfless. And of course you're terrified.
You're most scared of all for your children. The innocent ones. They don't deserve this.
And you know what I love them so much and I am so scared of leaving them. I've tried so hard to keep them happy and keep their innocence and now I'm about to shatter it. I've got to tell them that I've got cancer. Cancer. The C word. The thing that kills you. Me. Mummy. The one that kisses you goodnight. The makes it all better. And I can't. I can't make this go away. I wish. I so wish I could. I would do anything to stop my babies having to go through this. To protect them but I can't. And I have to be braver than I've ever been and tell Zak. And I am so scared. So fucking scared it's untrue.
I wrote the above on the 17th August (sorry to my parents for the swearing). For all the resilience and jokes and humour, it is how I feel at times.
But those times are less and further apart than they used to be and I am getting 'used' to this. Going to work with my amazing friends, who still nag me about deadlines and information and don't treat me as 'person with cancer' helps hugely. Al's teasing, Rosie's strops and funny dancing outside a Zumba class, Ilias's 7 year old gloriously self-centeredness and Zak's hugs and tweenager moments, all remind me that life is all around me and I am the same.