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Tumour Has It

A letter dropped through our postbox this morning. From the NHS. Addressed to me. I presumed it would be about my impending appointment to pop along and see my surgeon and have my new medical photographs taken (as weird and as funny as it sounds). Alas, it wasn’t an appointment about my boobs this time. It was a letter to tell me it’s time to go and have my cervix checked out.

Women aged 25 to 49 in the UK are invited for cervical screening every three years, but recent information released by Jo’s Cancer Trust have shown that one in three women aren’t attending their regular check ups. Whether is through busy-ness, or fear or apathy, I’m not sure, but one thing I am sure about is that we need to get out of the habit of putting things like this off.

Right now, I can literally think of nothing worse than having a test for cancer and having to wait until the results come back. I’m still pretty traumatised from all of the drama I had when the assisted conception team tried to get my coil out before I started treatment to protect my fertility in case chemo ravaged it completely. I won’t go into details cos it’s a story for another time, but all I will say is they spent about 50 mins trying to get it out, and failed. While I was reminded of the chapter in Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues “Because He Liked to Look at It” it was not a pleasant experience for anyone, least of all me.

So yeah. I get that revealing your lady parts to a doctor is not a particularly nice thing to have to do but, and I understand that having a test for cancer can be a bit scary and a bit overwhelming –  but it is imperative. And actually it’s not all that bad. Sounds like a stupid thing to say but the more relaxed you are, the easier it is. It’s a bit uncomfortable but it’s much, much better than the alternative.

According to Jo’s Trust “cervical screening is 80–90% reliable and can prevent 60–80% of cervical cancers. This means that seven out of every 10 cases of women who would have developed cancer of the cervix can be prevented.” Sounds like a pretty useful tool to me. And it’s like always say when I’m talking about checking your boobs, knowledge is power. You owe it to yourself to get checked out, because a healthy cervix is a happy cervix, right?

I recently met a pretty special lady called Karen. Karen and I are both part of an organisation called Trekstock, and we’re both lucky enough to be in the group of people classed as “young adults with cancer”. I know right, what an awesome and elite group to be part of!

Karen was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014, aged 25. Since her diagnosis and treatment, she’s dedicated a lot of her time to raise awareness of cervical cancer and gynaecological disease. At the moment, Karen’s doing this through her one-woman comedy show Tumour Has It. As we speak, she’s up in Edinburgh performing this show to the masses at The Fringe. Billed as an “honest and hilarious tory of her cervical cancer extravaganza” told “through comedy, storytelling and a poem to Svetlana the Tumour”.

But Karen wants MORE. And I want MORE for Karen too. She’s determined to keep telling her story to new audiences and has turned to Crowdfunding in an attempt to raise enough money to keep her show going around the country when she gets back from Edinburgh. She needs £££ for venue hire, production costs, marketing and promotional materials (including a badge that says the word “vagina”). Her target is £7000 by 26th August.

Here’s a little to do list of things it’d be great if you could think about doing off the back of this post.

  1. BOOK YOUR SMEAR TEST. ATTEND YOUR SMEAR TEST WHEN CALLED FOR SCREENING
  2. Go and see Karen in Edinburgh if you’re there*
  3. Remember that a healthy cervix is a happy cervix, and help Karen raise awareness of cervical cancer and gynaecological disease with her show by helping her Crowdfunding Campaign. There’s a video all about it right here. Find out more about the show on Facebook.

I saw “No More Stage 3”, a comedy show by Alistair Barrie about his wife’s run in with breast cancer the other week and at the close of the show he said “Always keep laughing. Because if you stop laughing, you stop living, and then the cancer has won”. This is very true and applies as much to Karen’s show as it did to Alistair’s. It’s also just a really good motto for life. You can swap out “cancer” for other words including “depression” “terrorists” “Conservatives” etc.,

I’m off to book my smear appointment right now, fear be damned.

*Another of my friends Katie Brennan is at Edinburgh Fringe as well, performing her show Quarter Life Crisis, so go see that too, yeah? Because I can’t and I’d like to live vicariously through you. K, thanks.

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Food for the Soul

I’m a firm believer in doing nice things for yourself. Sometimes I buy myself flowers if I’m feeling a bit low, or I’ll drag myself through a couple of sun salutations if my body is feeling heavy and tired. When my mind is clouded, I’ll try and get out for a run, in the hopes feeling my heart beat faster and feeling my lungs stretch beneath my rib cage will help me figure out what’s going on in my brain. But for my whole life, the solace I have found in reading offers my soul hearty and healthy food like nothing else.

Reading is my sanctuary and always has been. My family joke that one day I’ll have so many books the walls will start to fall in, but until then, I’ll keep buying books and devouring them a page at a time. And I’ll keep noticing and being grateful for the way they impact on my life long after the last page has been turned.

I found comfort with Harry Potter when I was sick. When my brain was too tired to take in the intricacies of a new story, I pulled Harry Potter from the shelf and put the words on like they were a warm and familiar coat. I barely had to read the words to know what was happening, and returning to them in my chemo-addled state was like coming home after a long time away. JK Rowling’s words offered me safety and a chance to escape from what was going on around me that I’d never truly needed before.

The words of Mary McCarthy in The Group and Marilyn French in the Women’s Room helped me establish a big part of who I am as a woman, a reminder of what people went through before I was even part of someone’s imagination. After reading these, I went through a stage of reading fiction set in 1960’s America, demolishing Revolutionary Road and Light Years, then moving on to London pre and peri-war fiction in Norman Collins’ sprawling novel London Belongs to Me and Patrick Hamilton’s three part 20,000 Streets Under the Sky. These make up some of my favourite books of all time – and any time anyone asks for a book recommendation, they’re the first I turn to.

A Little Life; Where’d You Go Bernadette; We The Drowned; The Blind Assassin; The Secret History; The Goldfinch; The Luminaries; The American Wife; White Teeth; Americanah, We Need to Talk About Kevin; My Friend Leonard; The Goldne Notebook; The Belljar. All of these and so many, many more have stayed with me long after I’ve returned them to the shelf.

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I get anxious if I’m reading a book I don’t enjoy. If my soul doesn’t have a place to rest, it gets fractious and I feel consistently on edge if I can’t sink into the paragraphs of something that makes my body and brain a better place to be.

While fiction offers me a kind of quieting, non-fiction grants me a view from a different perspective. Though I wanted to, I couldn’t get on board with the essays of Marina Keegan in The Opposite of Loneliness, whose talent was unfairly cut short. I felt it was clear that she hadn’t reached the level she really could have done with just a few more years – and the fact that she hadn’t been able to reach her potential left me on edge. Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist (current read) offers me a chance to examine someone else’s truth – someone whose life has been so very different to mine – and have it impact the way I carry out my day-to-day. Reading Girl Up by Laura Bates, about 10 years too late, made me wish someone had been able to hand me a manifesto for living like that when I had been 16. How different would my approach to my late teenage years have been if I had a bible like that leading the way? How much sooner would I have found myself comfortable saying “I am a feminist” had a writer like Bates given me the understanding and the permission I thought I needed to do so? I can’t wait to read Ctrl Alt Del by Emma Gannon when I’ve reached it in my “to read” pile and I’m building up to reading When Breath Becomes Air. Bryony Gordon’s Mad Girl is somewhere in transit on it’s way to me as we speak.

I tried to join a book club once. It didn’t go well. I didn’t like anything we read. I was critical of the characters (I just didn’t care about them), I was critical of the writing (I’m really judgemental, OK?!), I was critical of the storylines (I found them tiresome and dull). Then I recommended stuff that I loved and everyone else hated. I learned that probably, I should sometimes keep my opinions to myself, and, while sharing literature is one of my absolute favourite things, I also realised I’m a much better solitary reader than I am at reading in a pack.

Words have such an incredible power and this power is so often undervalued and underestimated. I’m reminded of that old expression “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” and I think this is naive and simplistic. Words can hurt and they can move and they can create and they can provide support and show passion and tell stories that have been previously silenced. Words are powerful and I never underestimate my privilege to be able to pick up a book and read it, let alone enjoy it.

So I want to talk more about books and words and what I’m reading. So…stand by, I guess.

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Cancerversary – One Year On

Up until a few months ago, I never even realised a “cancerversary” was a thing. But that was before I found myself immersed in the cancer community. People mark different days for their cancerversary – the day they had surgery, the day they had the first biopsies and scans, the day they started chemo, the day they finished chemo, the day they finished treatment all together…

For me, my cancerversary seems to be the day I got diagnosed. And believe it or not, we’re coming up to a year since I sat patiently in Lewisham Hospital, watching the 10 year memorial service of the 7/7 bombings. One year since the kindly surgeon in the big bow tie sat in front of me and said “you have cancer”.  One year since I said “I have breast cancer” out loud for the first time. One year since I had to tell my family, three hundred miles away, that the lump I’d found was, in fact, something to be worried about.

One year since the course of my life changed. If not forever, then temporarily at least.

I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to process the last year over recent weeks. I’ve found that, as I’m moving further and further away from my active treatment, I’m gradually coming to terms with what I’ve been through, even though I thought I was all over it before. I keep having weird flashbacks to things I’ve definitely repressed – like when my boob began leaking on the way into the office and I had to rush to the hospital to get it checked. Or when my hair fell out and I told myself it was ok. It actually, really wasn’t OK. The day I laid in the anaesthetics room waiting for my surgery, more scared than I had ever been about anything in my entire adult life but trying desperately not to cry. Trying desperately to keep my shit together.

I’ve had nightmares about cancer coming back, I still feel sick when I think of the chemo going into my veins, I have pain where my boob used to be. My body is still covered with reminders of the ravages of treatment.

Throughout treatment I was determined to make it to Glastonbury Festival 2016. I was diagnosed just a few days after we got back from Glasto last year and it quickly became my marker for recovery. I remember hearing a woman talking about her breast cancer treatment behind me in the queue for the toilet on the campsite. I wanted to turn around and hug her, tell her how incredible she was, tell her I was waiting for results and I didn’t think it was good news and I was terrified but trying to still have a good time.

Glasto this year was such hard work. Not only ‘cos of the mud (you probably heard about that though right?) but three months after finishing treatment and with the cloud of post-cancer fatigue lingering, schlepping, or rather sliding, across Worthy Farm was pretty tough. I saw barely any music this year and spent the majority of Saturday sick and sleeping in our tent. But I was so, so grateful to be there. I loved seeing all the gloriously happy and smiling faces of the other festival goers. Loved dancing into the early hours of the morning in the silent disco with three of my favourite people in the world. Loved singing along to Adele at the top of my lungs, despite the fact I’d felt horrendous for most of the day previous.

Cancer is a motherfucker. Treatment is a bloody bastard. But it’s doable. And on the days I wonder if it was all worth it, I think I’ll remember sitting on Worthy View, looking out over the festival site having dragged myself through cancer treatment and know that it was worth it.

On 7th July, I’ll be spending the day with the love of my life and eating dinner with some of the people who made my treatment so much more bearable. I’ve no idea how else I’m going to mark it. I might get a tattoo. I might go to the theatre. I might run a 10km. If it wasn’t so hot, I’d be tempted just to sit in the house in my onesie and take stock of everything. Suggestions on a postcard for how I mark it.

What a bloody year, eh?

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On Bravery

I read this post on The Pool on the Everyday Bravery of Being a Woman a month or so ago and I wanted to send it to all the incredibly powerful and brave women in my life to remind them that even if they don’t feel brave, they are. They’re often just brave for existing and doing stuff that people have told them that they shouldn’t or wouldn’t be able to do.

So what makes a brave woman? I asked a few of my friends and the internet what they thought made a brave woman and who they considered to be brave and loved the truly varying nature of their answers.

One told me her Nan was the bravest person she knew, because she ditched her cheating husband in a time when it wasn’t socially acceptable to do so, and went on to raise two incredible daughters on her own.

Another told me that people who escape abusive relationships are brave. Another explained that her sister is brave because she isn’t afraid to work hard and get what she wants from her life. People who stand up for what they believe in, doctors working in horrendous conditions and impossible circumstances. Taking the path of least certainty. Another told me that they consider bravery to be “a lifelong condition” that is determined by the experiences of your life and not what you do in one specific situation.

One of my friends is an incredible journalist in the US who works her arse off to educate people on the racism and discrimination that is still prevalent in the USA. People aren’t always nice to her about it, but she doesn’t back down. She stands her ground and she’s making the world a better place. Every time she tweets or puts something on Facebook that I can’t possibly understand because of the life that I’ve led, she makes me think about things from an entirely different perspective. Speaking out and putting your neck on the line? That’s brave.

I obviously didn’t know them but the women who fought for our right during the Suffragette movement were the definition of brave in my book (and this is particularly poignant as we approach the EU Referendum). They were arrested and beaten and chastised and ridiculed simply because they wanted to be afforded the same rights as the men of the country, the other 50% of the population.

Joan Clarke who worked on and cracked The Enigma Machine with Alan Turing and changed the course of the second world war entirely, during a time when women were completely disregarded in the fields of mathematics, science, medicine, engineering. That was brave.

Amelia Earhart – the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932, aged 34. Can you IMAGINE the sheer stones it must have taken her to do that? God, I don’t think I’d want to do it, let alone in the 1930’s when she, and the other 98 women she worked alongside, was aiming to advance aviation for women.

I came across Maud Wagner the other day, the first known female tattoo artist in the USA who cropped up circa 1907. ERM. Can you imagine the shit she must have gone through to express her art? I know people who are shirty about women having tattoos now, over 100 years later. Yep. BRAVE. Rosa Parks for her simple but enormous act of staying sat on that bus seat. Katherine Switzer who defied Boston Marathon organisers in 1967, completely disregarding the fact that her genitals didn’t meet their entry criteria.

I recently discovered the rather magnificent Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) who writes about her fights with depression and anxiety with a candour and humour I’ve never known before (srsly, if you haven’t read Furiously Happy, you absolutely must. It is equal parts sidesplittingly, snortworthingly hilarious and desperately tender and poignant).

But bravery isn’t just about flying across the world and breaking down boundaries and moving things for forward for the women of the future. There really is an abundance of every day bravery in our lives.

I know women who have lived and survived through incredible hardships and have come out remarkably unscathed. I’ve watched people I love deal with terrible loss and get up the next day and carry on with a life that will be forever changed. I know doctors who tell stories about saving lives in road traffic accidents like it’s no big deal. I know people who have picked up their lives and moved across the world in the name of their career, leaving everything they know behind to follow their dreams. I know women who have started their own businesses and been incredibly successful despite growing up in incredibly deprived areas of the country and leaving school without a single qualification to their name. I know people who have struggled with dyslexia but spend their days teaching kids who live with similar issues.

There are little flecks of bravery everywhere in our lives. Isn’t that nice to think about? Isn’t that special? I bet you, like Marisa Bate says in that piece in The Pool, have never called yourself brave before, but you’ve said it of your Mum or your best friend or someone you’ve read about in the news. So maybe you should think about something you’ve done that’s been brave in your lifetime. Maybe you’ve started over alone after a brutal break up, or you’ve upped sticks and left your hometown. Maybe you’ve suffered abuse, or you’ve stood up for a friend who has been on the receiving end of a heavy dose of sexism. Maybe, actually, just getting out of bed was brave today because you’re surrounded by the darkness. That’s still bravery.

The world feels like a pretty dark place today, given the news that’s been flowing out of Orlando in the last 24 hours. I guess I just wanted to put a little bit of love and light out there.

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So. What next?

OH HI THERE. Yes, I’m back. I’ve been going through a bit of time my counsellor and I have been calling my “restoration” period, so I decided to take a step back from blogging while I did that, but I’m here now and I’m keen to get my finger out and start writing for you folks again.

It’s a bit of a weird time for me (LOL – the last ten months have been so normal, yeah?) as I shift from cancer patient back into the real world. I’m feeling less like a broken toaster these days, but some days, I do wake up and feel like I’m not really functioning that well. It’s quite hard to know where I’m going to position my blog, now that my cancer treatment has finished. Obviously, I’ve still got quite a lot to say, but I don’t know how interested anyone will be in reading it if it’s on a different subject.

There’s still plenty of breast cancer related stuff going on my life – I’m now officially a Boobette for the incredible CoppaFeel! so I’ll be going to schools, workplaces, WI’s and anywhere that will have me to talk about the importance of self checking and my story. I’ve somehow ended up being a model in the Breast Cancer Care fashion show in November. I’ve got my first post-treatment mammogram coming up where my good boob gets squashed and scanned to make sure there’s no nasty business hanging around in there, and I’ve got all the usual scanxiety associated with that as a breast cancer survivor. I still have a surgery to deal with next year (and the build up while I figure out how I’m going to fatten myself up enough so my magnificent surgeon can make me a new boob out of a tummy tuck – queue a three week trip to Sicily for gelato, connolo’s, pizza and pasta).

I have humongous visions of setting up my own charity to offer support for younger women affected by cancer but back in the real world, I’m trying to establish myself as a freelance social media consultant, copywriter and journalist. I’m pitching feature ideas, offering social media strategies, tinkering with my new professional website and discovering the new world of lunches when you can’t just dash to the Pret that’s five minutes walk away. Because there isn’t one. And this can occasionally lead to disasters. Please note, bulgar wheat with bacon lardons and feta, while sounding fairly delicious, is all of the weird textures.

I’m still checking my boobs obsessively every day (YOU DON’T NEED TO DO IT THAT OFTEN) and I’m still trying to come to terms with the person I am after cancer. I’m still figuring out my style now that I care what I look like again and I’m still eagerly awaiting the resurgence of my eyebrows. I’m writing more creatively and I’m just trying to figure out my new normal. Some days that’s easy. Some days it feels overwhelming and suffocating and impossible. I feel like I have the opportunity to do something incredible and if I don’t, if I waste this opportunity, I will have failed. Which feels like quite a lot of pressure on the days my brain wants to tell me I’m a failure and I’ll never amount to anything and I should just give up and crawl back into a hole in the ground, and I’m foolish for ever thinking that I can achieve anything. But that’s just when The Blues are rearing their ugly head and Anxiety Alice is out in full force.

And then there’s the anniversary of my diagnosis coming up. Which is weird. I was struck yesterday when an accidental photo I took of Chris and I on holiday in Cornwall last year popped up in my On This Day on Facebook (I so think there’s a post in the torment of timehop to be written somewhere. Watch this space). I had cancer then. But I didn’t know it. And I look so carefree and happy and healthy and I have so much hair. And so much has changed since then, but so much has stayed the same too. But I, we, have both been through so much. Someone on Twitter said to me when they look at pictures of themselves just before they got diagnosed, it’s like looking through a telescope, and I absolutely agree. I was that person once, and I still kind of am that person, but I’m so very different at the same time. It makes me feel a bit sick if I think about it for too long.

So I suppose what I’m saying is this. I’ll keep writing my blog. Sometimes it’ll be about breast cancer stuff. Like being a proud Boobette and (hopefully) not falling flat on my face in The Breast Cancer Care Show and dealing with scanxiety, and prepping for surgery. About my mission to make life easier for young women with breast cancer.But there might be some other stuff too. About my thoughts on life, love, London. Stuff that I want to write that no-one else fancies publishing. Writing this blog, particularly during my treatment, has given me more faith in my writing ability than I’ve ever had before, and that’s largely down to you people reading and commenting and nominating me for awards and just telling me you believe in what I’m doing.

I hope you’ll stick around to see what happens next…

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Radiotherapy

When it comes to cancer treatments, radiotherapy is the lesser-talked-about sibling of chemotherapy. It doesn’t have the reputation that chemotherapy does, it isn’t perceived to be as blatant in the way it goes about its business, and it generally isn’t as widely recognised as part of Operation Let’s Blast the Pants off Cancer.

But radiotherapy, despite all these things, is still an integral part of cancer treatment for many people and one which can take its toll, if not as much physically as its predecessors then emotionally and mentally.

The treatments may only be 15 minutes long, but hot-footing your way to the hospital five days a week for a minimum of three weeks is hardly anyone’s idea of a good time.

I was very apprehensive ahead of my first session of radiotherapy. I’d had my CT scan and my planning session. The team had all the measurements for ensuring I’d be blasted in the right place and I’d learned the position I’d be spending 225 minutes in over the following three weeks (it’s a bit like being in fifth position in ballet, or what your arms would be doing if you were holding a beach ball above your head). I knew the basics of what I was going to be experiencing.

But it was quite different when I found myself on that first day, back in a hospital gown, back in a clinical setting, awaiting the last part of my active cancer treatment.

It was quite different when the team, though incredibly friendly and wonderfully reassuring, muttered numbers and words at one another over me in some kind of medical language that I had zero understanding of: ‘One right and one ant’.

It was quite different when they shifted me into exactly the right spot on the bed, telling me not to help them, but to let them manipulate my body as they needed to.

It was quite different when they left the room, the risk of them being exposed to what I was being exposed to, too great for them to remain.

It was quite different when the machine clunked and clicked and growled its way around me, blasting The Artist Formerly Known as Boob with radioactive waves, eradicating any final stubborn cancer cells which may have survived the poison of chemotherapy.

Radiotherapy is the last flourish across the finish line, the last push in a pretty brutal series of events. But for many people, the end of radiotherapy and active treatment marks the beginning of something else – a whole new journey, a new set of obstacles, a new bunch of challenges to tackle.

But that’s a topic for another blog post. Maybe to onlookers it seems like it’s easier than what has come before it. Maybe because it’s often the last thing on the treatment menu for most patients, it’s expected that the feeling of almost being ‘done’ will carry you to that victory lap.

I found radiotherapy easier than chemotherapy, but it’s all relative. No matter what has come before it, finding yourself in that environment will never be easy. It’s manageable.

Originally written for and posted on Breast Cancer Care

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“Survivor”

Survive:

– To remain alive or in existence.

– To carry on despite hardships or trauma; persevere: families that were surviving in tents after the flood.

– To remain functional or usable: I dropped the toaster, but it survived.

I almost don’t want to speak too soon, because it’s impossible to know what the coming weeks, months, years have in store, but it seems that I’m gradually moving further away from “cancer patient” status and into the realms of “cancer survivor”. I’ve never been a survivor before. And to be honest, I don’t feel much like a survivor at the moment. The word feels weird on my tongue, my fingers don’t type it smoothly.

I suppose of the three definitions above, I feel most like the toaster – like I’m just about staying functional, moving from day to day in a bit of a haze, burning things a bit in the aftermath of the incident. It’s a balance between allowing myself to feel all of the emotions I need to feel, making it through every day, getting out of bed each morning and being grateful that this part of my story has ended this way, rather than any other. While I’m trying to process all of the emotions around what happened over the last few months, I’m plagued by a feeling of guilt. I shouldn’t be crying over the end of active treatment – for some people their treatment never ends.

I read something that compared the end of cancer treatment to the end of a war – the “battle” has been won, the soldiers have gone home, but the battle site is still covered in debris. Things need rebuilding – but rather than putting streets and houses and communities back together, people who’ve had cancer are putting themselves back together, one piece at a time. We are rebuilding confidence – in ourselves, in our bodies, in our abilities to work or do exercise or to love. We are rebuilding trust in our bodies that they won’t betray us again. In some cases, we are still literally watching our bodies being rebuilt. We are watching scars heal and we are trying to move forward while the shadows of the battle linger on. I kind of hate the war analogy that comes with a cancer diagnosis, but in this instance, it’s actually completely fitting.

As ever, I’m conflicted at the moment between wanting to get back out there and get my life on track or retreating reclusively into the comfort of my own home for a few months. It’s still such early days (I know how absurd I must sound) but I’m already putting pressure on myself to be “better” or “ok” or to figure out exactly what I want to do or be or feel, when the reality is, I actually have no clue. I’m not even sure I know how to be myself anymore. I spent so long trying to get used to being a cancer patient, I’ve lost the person I was before then. I’m gripped by anxiety every time I face meeting someone new, organising anything that’s more than a day or so in advance fills me with fear, so much so that I just shut off and some days leaving the house makes me feel sick.

I tell myself “it’s only been two weeks, your skin hasn’t even healed yet, so how can you expect your heart to have healed?” And I tell my friends who’ve just finished treatment, we have to give ourselves a break, be kind, be patient, take the time we need and not feel guilty about it. So why can’t I listen to my own advice? Why don’t I listen to them when they say exactly the same thing?

I suppose it’s because even though active treatment has finished, cancer patients live with their initial diagnosis for the rest of their lives. We aren’t told that at the beginning, because it would be too overwhelming, but as you approach the end of treatment, you start to realise that even if you show no evidence of disease, you’re a lifer. In this for the long haul. And there may be days, weeks, even months, I imagine when you don’t think about it, but then it’ll creep up on you and you’ll remember what an ordeal you’ve been through.

The hair will grow back, you might go back to work, you might have that “final” surgery, you might manage to have kids if your fertility has been an issue, you might be able to go on the holiday you had to cancel , you’ll come to terms with your new body and the ravaging it had from the treatment that saved your life, but the emotional legacy of cancer will never really leave you. And do you know what? That’s ok. It really is OK. It’s like getting to the end of a really good book – you know it’s done, but you live with it, as part of you, forever.

*Despite the sombre tone of this blog post, I have in fact been singing “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child on repeat since I started this post a week ago. So I think you should be doing the same. Pop it on, turn it up and let’s all have a dance around the living room. I’ll be Beyonce.