I went ice skating for the first time in a long time recently. I hadn’t hesitated when my friend had asked if I wanted to go to Morning Gloryville’s festive early-morning ice skating rave. Yes. Yes I did want to go along. Yes I absolutely did want to listen to banging tunes as I skated my way around Somerset House with people dressed as unicorns. What better way would there be to spend the last day of November other than with a bunch of other people who thought getting out of bed at an ungodly hour to go ice skating was a good idea? None.
I was excited and, despite having to get out of bed at 7am for the first time in a long time, I’d been looking forward to going for a while. I laced up my boots and shuffled towards the rink entrance. But as I moved towards the ice, I was completely and entirely stricken by fear. I suddenly realised that, since being diagnosed with cancer, I no longer felt invincible. I was no longer as fearless as I had been before I got sick. I was suddenly all too aware of the things my body could and could not do. I was worried about slipping, catching myself on my right side and pulling my mastectomy scars. Paralysed, I looked at my friend and simply said “I don’t think I can”, ready to walk away. I suddenly realised just how fragile I feel these days. And just how far away I am from the person I was before I got sick.
I don’t think I’d ever felt real fear before I got my breast cancer diagnosis. Not the kind of fear that stops you in your tracks and fills you with a sickening feeling from your toes right through to the crown of your head. Not the cliched kind of fear that leaves you trembling. The first time I remember feeling fear like that was the day I went in for my mastectomy, as I waited for the anaesthatist to put me under. What a wonderfully charmed life to have lived though, right? I was never afraid of jumping off a waterfall and into the cold waters of Low Force when I went ghyll scrambling for my #25at25 challenge. I’d never been scared of my body failing me. I wasn’t scared of travelling to Texas on my own, or of throwing myself into open water swimming. Or of setting myself challenges I never knew if I could manage. I’d literally never been scared of ice skating before, despite being the person who ALWAYS falls over and ends up with the most hilarious bruises. But it seems cancer has stopped me from being quite as fearless as I used to be.
And I’m not just talking about getting scared of doing things. I’m actually really scared of my body. I don’t trust it not to let me down again. I’d never had reason to doubt it before, never questioned that it was entirely on my side, but ever since I found that lump in Cornwall all that time ago, I’ve been aware that some parts of what my body does are entirely out of my control. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I haven’t always known this fact, it’s just I have had a sickening reminder of that fact pretty much every day since 7th July 2015.
When I was in treatment, my body was not my own, and even though treatment is over now, I still feel like it isn’t mine again yet. And more to the point – I just don’t trust it. Someone asked me recently if I’d forgiven my boobs for trying to kill me yet. I said I wasn’t sure but I guessed not. But now I know the answer. The boob is forgotten, MIA until further notice, but the body is not yet forgiven.
So where do we go from here? How do I get back to being the fearless person I was before my breast tried to kill me? How do I forgive my body for putting me through everything? I guess I focus on the things that I am thankful for. As I bend and stretch a little more every week in yoga. As I reflect on the fact that even though my body betrayed me, I couldn’t have got through the last 18 months without it. It could have given up on me completely in the throes of treatment but it dealt with everything that was thrown at it in it’s stride. So I’m grateful to it for that. And it is this I must focus on as I try to move forward.
I guess you want to know whether I got on the ice or not. I did. I did so with huge trepidation and wouldn’t have managed it without the friend who took me by the arm and told me that I could. I couldn’t have done it if the girls hadn’t eased me round steadily as my confidence grew and consistently checking how I was. I had to put my trust in them that I could do it. That I would do it. And that I’d be OK when I did do it. Even if my body had let me down in any way when I was on the ice, I still would have been OK.
I just had to borrow some fearlessness from my friends. And til I find my own again, that’s OK too.