You know, when everything’s hunky dory with your health and life and you hear about people, on Grey’s Anatomy or in the paper, or in your circle of friends who have been diagnosed with cancer, you imagine it must feel like the end of the world. And you feel so grateful it’s not happening to you (admit it!).
And yes, when it does happen to you, it is a pile of crap. You feel like you’re still part of the world but you’re looking at things through a glass screen, or from a distance. Your sense of a future is taken away. You start to think how lucky other people are that this isn’t happening to them. You watch strangers passing in the street and think how amazing it must be to still be blissfully unaware of your mortality.
And then there’s obviously the surgery, the chemo, the radio and, in my case, the (repeated and gradual) removal of my leg. So yes there is loads of crap. And there are bad days, sad days, awful days. Days when you wish you weren’t creating so much worry and concern for all the people around you, who love and care about you.
But, believe it or not, there are great days too. I had loads of laughs on the cancer ward with the nurses and the other patients. There was one incident, when I was getting my Hickman line removed (That’s a tube that goes into your jugular vein in your neck and comes out somewhere in your chest, enabling drugs to be pumped straight into that rather than needing to find a vein in your arm every time) and there was a doctor and a student nurse doing this procedure, where they pull it out and then do some stitches. But for some reason, there was loads of blood. And the nurse fainted. And my parents, who were outside the curtain, had to pick her up and put her in my wheelchair and suddenly everyone was fussing around her and I was lying there bleeding and needing stitches! Hilarious (well, it is if you have a twisted sense of humour like I do!)
And I’ve had some great days in between the bad days, having fun with friends and family. Or having a great day at work. I know I mention Diana a lot, but she and I were once talking about this very subject and she simply said to me, “Well, you’re just living with cancer”. And I’ve heard that phrase before. But suddenly it resonated with me. And I thought, yes I am. I have cancer, but I am still living my life.
And it’s not that much different now I know I may only have weeks or months left on this earth. Maybe that glass screen is just a little thicker or I need binoculars to connect with the rest of the world.
Yes there are things that have made me break down and cry, putting away the Christmas decorations and realising that would be the last time I do that, and thinking Al will never wrap the fragile ornaments up as carefully as I do. And he won’t know that my seahorse bauble is my favourite, and that I bought it in a little shop in San Fran. And when Homeland Series 2 finished and I realised I’d never know how Carrie was going to prove Brodie’s innocence.
But then there’s the plus side. I don’t have to worry about all the annoying DIY jobs about the house, because I’ll be gone before they need tackling. I don’t need to worry about a pension, or getting old and sick. I’m saved from seeing my friends and beloved die, because I’ll be leaving first. And of course, perhaps most importantly I’m free to watch daytime TV and get addicted to The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
And I and the people close to me now genuinely know that all the things we all worry about on a daily basis – working to pay the bills, buy the latest gadgets and fashions, saving for an extension or a new oven – don’t matter. What matters is finding your own happiness, being with friends and family and not chasing money. It’s so simple. And if one person can realise that thanks to what’s happening with me, I’ll be a happy girl for ever.