A year ago today at 1:20pm, my life was forever changed (again) by four words: “I’m sorry, it’s cancer.” The difference this time was that it was me being given the news.
I replied, “What’re we gonna do about that?”
Quite a strange reply. I laugh at how smart arse and nonchalant I responded. Cancer? Piss easy after the year I had experienced! Clearly, I thought I was the shit and would just get on with it.
And in many ways, I did just get on with it. Travelled for my appointments, had my scans, got my treatment and made little fuss. There were even positive moments like meeting amazing new friends.
That doesn’t mean I had an easy ride. There were many times when I didn’t think I could keep going or wanted to carry on and even more tears. Depression, anxiety and OCD were already part of my life; cancer became their best friends and added fuel to the fires those demons had already set.
Safe to say it has been the most challenging time of my life but I’ve grown more in personhood and confidence than in all the years before diagnosis combined. For one thing, I wore a bloody leotard for a Halloween costume! Might sound stupid to you but it’s quite a big deal for me and a huge change.
Not that you’d expect me to be the same person after facing cancer without my ma three weeks after her death from the same disease. I’m not the tin man!
It was the tragic circumstances surrounding my diagnosis and the magnitude of having cancer that set the precedent. To face my first challenge without my ma so soon after her passing and for it to be such a huge challenge forced me to discover just how strong I am. It made me realise the true potential of my strength, bravery & courage.
(Don’t get it twisted though, I’ve always been kick arse- I’m a Gryffindor for after all.)
Finally, I truly understand what those words really mean and look like in reality. They don’t have to be stoic, for they can be found in the vulnerability that comes from sharing your feelings. They don’t have to be huge gestures, they can be something as simple as wearing red lipstick to chemo. They aren’t without fear, it’s the fear that confirms their presence in your spirit.
Even though I tell people that now I can handle anything and that I’m invincible, it’s not true. My body is broken, I’m living with the fear of recurrence, my mental health issues are more complex than ever before and I’m trying to build a new life from scratch but that doesn’t make me any less strong, brave or courageous. If anything, it makes me more because I am trying to repair my body, deal with demons, manage my anxieties and move forward in my life after cancer.
I wish it didn’t take me two traumatic events to find it but that’s just the way my cookie crumbled. We’ve all got that spirit within us, we just have to discover it.
Other than more hospital appointments, continuing with preventative treatment and uncertainties, I don’t know what the next year will hold. As a bare minimum, I hope to maintain my NED status, get back to work and build my new home.
Better stop writing before this post turns into a list of resolutions. I guess one’s cancerversary is the cancer club’s version of New Year’s Eve. The only difference between our goals is that they will never include sanctimonious charity work or diet shakes.
Tomorrow will be kinder.