Life on Pause

There’s been loads written over the last few years about social media and the rise of FOMO. The Fear Of Missing Out is allegedly terrorising millennials, who scroll through their social media feeds and are stricken by an intense feeling that they’re missing out on doing something awesome, while they’re sat at home twiddling their thumbs and browsing the stories of other people’s lives on their screens.

Now, I can’t say I’ve never been hit by a blast of FOMO, but it’s not something I’ve hugely battled with in my life. I do cool things. I see cool things. I’m exceptionally privileged to live in one of the best cities in the world, so even if I wasn’t doing something cool at the moment I whizzed past a friend posting about doing something awesome on the old social media, I knew I’d be doing something cool all of my own in due course. That was, of course, BC (before cancer).

I don’t remember an awful lot about the 7th July. I remember what I did before going to the hospital, I remember being nervous. I remember watching the 7/7 memorial service in the waiting room. I remember what I was wearing (Hogwarts Tshirt FTW). I remember the kindly doctor in the big bow tie when he said “there’s no easy way to say this”.

But after that moment, my life as I knew it stopped. The world kept moving around me, but my life, my plans, everything I knew was paused. Chris’ life was paused too. Indefinitely. At 26 years old, when you’ve got plans coming out of your ears, when you’ve been living life as fully and as passionately as you can, when you’ve been dreaming big and hoping for bigger, this comes as quite a shock.

And it takes quite an adjustment too. I’ve talked before about swapping nights out for early nights, delicious dinners with friends for a bowl of buttered pasta with peas in front of the telly (actually not as depressing as it sounds – and still a favourite), swapping Sri Lanka for Sarah Ward at Guy’s Hospital and finding myself crawling into bed at 9pm, drained, anxious and not ready to take on another day. I’m not sure there’s a whole lot of words that can appropriately describe how those things feel.

It’s so easy to get lost in all the things you’re missing out on. More than once I’ve felt like life has been passing me by while all of my friends have been living theirs. I’ve felt stuck, stranded. More than once I’ve identified hugely with Professor Andrew Martin in The Humans by Matt Haig (a must read if you’re a fiction fan) as an alien living in the midst of a world I didn’t really understand, finding myself lost and confused and heading to chemotherapy appointments while my colleagues got dressed up in their finery to head to the work Christmas party. More than once I’ve been infuriated at cancer for limiting my freedom to do exactly what I want. I’m stubborn and I don’t largely like being told what to do, especially not by a bunch of mutated cells. Not cool, yo.

This sounds a bit wanky, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about gratitude recently. Partially because of how grateful I am for the love of my friends and family during this crappy time. For the NHS who have worked to beat this bloody disease. For the love of a man I cant imagine making it through this without.

But also for things like the daffodils being in bloom. The sun on my face. The ability to dance around the room like a loon to my favourite song of the moment (DON’T ASK ME, IT’S PROBABLY ZAYN OK. I have literally never been cool). For food on the table. For a delicious hot chocolate in the best company. For Margaret Atwood. For the sound of my record player. For having primary breast cancer rather than secondary. I could go on. And on and on.

Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the things to be grateful for, especially on the days when you wake up and think “do I have to live with this again today?” Especially on the days you’re hyper aware of all the things you’re “missing out on” while dealing with cancer. Especially on the days you don’t really want to get up and face the world. But the reasons for gratitude are many. And they are really wonderful if I remind myself to look for them. And they make up for “missing out” on the things I think I should be doing. Most days.

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