Thursday, 8 August 2013
One year on
A year ago today I was alone in a hospital bed surrounded by a group of medical students and an insensitive junior doctor being told that I had advanced bowel cancer - with tumours on my liver and lungs. A quick trip around google made me realise how serious this was and that the prognosis wasn't, to put it mildly, great. As I lay there I remember thinking "okay I am going to die, I can cope with that" then I spoke to Al and thought about saying goodbye to him and the children, and my world fell apart.
I cried a lot in the months immediately after my diagnosis. On the way to work I had to stop and walk around Battersea Park in tears, dropping Rosie at nursery, seeing Ilias off to school, telling Zak - all times when I broke down and couldn't cope. On so many occasions I had to call friends or family to talk me out of my panic and give me hope. I was terrified that this would be my last Christmas, my last start of school term, my last everything. I felt that I had no future and that this was the beginning of the end of my life.
I'm not about to say (and I won't ever) that getting cancer has made me a better person, and that I am grateful. It hasn't and I am not. I hate this disease. I hate the pain it causes me. The stress it places on my family and the constant dark presence of it in our lives. But I have realised and discovered some amazing stuff. Virtual friends can become as important and valuable as real ones. The amount of support and love I have received from the Beating Bowel Cancer forum, and charity is phenomenal. In the fact the amount of support and love I have received in general is just phenomenal. From work, from family, from strangers and from friends. I didn't realise how much love and care there was around me until I got my diagnosis. I have also genuinely learnt to really appreciate and value some of the beauty in the world. I breathe in the air and look at the sky and smile. I try and see the joy and wonder of the world and revel in it. Don't worry I also get grumpy when the train home is noisy, if men spread their thighs across two seats and when people walk slowly in front of me - I do work in London afterall. And as regular readers of this blog will know, I am still a bit of a miserable old cow who feels pretty sorry for herself at times.
But for me the big revelation is that you can live with this horrible disease. I have continued to work full time, albeit with the support of the brilliant and wonderful Battersea. The kindness and care towards me demonstrates the truth behind the values and love that exist at the Home. It is a remarkable place and I feel so lucky to work there. I have been promoted and whilst I know that my 'disability' shouldn't officially stand in the way of my career, I am also grateful that Battersea can see past cancer. I am still a mum with three wonderful, demanding, noisy, funny and lovely children, for whom a visit from the district nurses just means that it's Sunday evening. I have the best husband in the world (this is a fact) and we talk, and bicker, and laugh in the same way we have always done.
So a year on I am still alive. In fact, thanks to chemo I am in better health than I was - despite my on-going pain issues and inability to digest anything a bit challenging and overtly fibrous. I am looking to the future, with Al and I excited about a New York trip in November, and most of today spent planning budgets for 2014 - living on the edge that's me...
A cancer diagnosis is shit. There's no two ways about it. This is not a good thing. It isn't however the end. Even an inoperable diagnosis like mine doesn't mean it's all over. It feels vaguely ridiculous to say but in this instance I inspire myself. A year ago I believed my life to be over but it wasn't and isn't. I am still here. I have made plans for the future, I am part of an organisation that is making the world the world a better place (and not just for dogs and cats), I have a brilliant and loving family, wonderful friends and I am alive, in every sense of the word.
I am alive and it feels brilliant.