I’ve often thought how strange it is that cancer gets so much attention and publicity. Especially when there are so many other incurable medical conditions out there. Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Motor Neurone disease, Lupus, Alzheimer’s, many forms of disability…I could go on.
So it somehow seems a little unfair as these can have the exact same impact as cancer, if not worse, on the person affected and therefore their families and friends. People struggle, they often can’t stay in work, they may have to adjust the whole way they live their lives because life, as they knew it, is no longer possible. So you have to be strong and pick yourself up and figure out how you’re going to live this new life, cope, work, do the simple things that we all take for granted. Simple things like walking the dog, carrying the weekly shopping or getting into that bar to meet your friends via the really steep, narrow staircase with no banister.
I myself have a double whammy – cancer and an acquired disability– i.e. a missing leg. And often it’s the cancer side of my life that people connect more easily with. Maybe because so many of us sadly have friends or family who’ve been affected or struck down by it. But the missing leg is pretty damn difficult too, if I’m honest. And it’s changed my life completely. I’ve gone from being a fairly outdoorsy girl, who loved to dance (badly no doubt), hike to a beautiful view and then on to a good pub, go to the beach, wear whatever I wanted. To the girl I am today – more sedentary and indoorsy (hence my bizarre TV addictions), more likely to go for coffee than for a walk. And when I do venture out, always on crutches, I always have to think ‘Can I get there?’, ‘Is it too far?’, ‘Are those steps too steep?’, ‘Is the path slippery?’ and oh so many more stupidly small, but, to me, rather important things.
But I’ve got on with it all, and I’ve lived my new life as best I know how. I made a choice to not dwell on what I couldn’t do, but to focus on what I could do. And to try and push myself to do things I thought I couldn’t do. So last year I managed to get into the sea and swim (yes just pause and imagine how to do that with crutches and one leg) on a quiet, mostly locals beach in Aruba, with my mum. And I’ve managed to stay at work in a job I love (thank you Thistle Foundation!) And I’m astoundingly lucky to have a husband, family and friends who’ve been there for me all along the way. So I am truly happy with my new life. And even now with terminal cancer and still the missing leg (sadly it hasn’t grown back) I’m aware that there are many people, who have it so much harder than I do. Maybe because they might not have as many people there to support them, or because they’ve fallen into depression.
So if it’s cancer or not, we should all be able to understand that often the challenges that people face, who are living with any kind of health condition, are similar. And it can’t be that hard to just imagine things from others’ perspectives, just for a while, and reach out a helping hand. Especially when we notice someone struggling. I certainly know I should. And maybe I should stop thinking “I should” and start thinking, “I will!”.
PS: If you know someone who is living with a long-term health condition or dealing with difficult life situations then my old charity Thistle offer a programme that can help http://bit.ly/P20Ibc And it’s free!