We can all do something (even if we’re living with cancer while balancing on one leg)


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!




  1. Claudia · · Reply

    Hi Louise, this is so inspiring. You my good friend, with this bloody cancer…. I remember when you had your first op with your leg. Cancer wasn’t an issue at that time. It’s so bloody hard and disgusting that it became such an issue now!
    But there is also my other friend, Laurent, who has been diagnosed with very strong and aggressive Parkinson when he was not event 30 year’s old. Married with two beautiful children, when this heartbreaking news came out. Still around like you, and hopefully both for as long as possible. Struggling like you, and hopefully with the same courage and strength you show us every day. I’d love to share your story with him and tell him YES, there is hope, yes there ARE beautiful people out there who are so inspiring to all of us who have hardly had more than a cold once in a while to complain about! Go on, inspire us over and over again! Love you for that and for so much more!

  2. WordPress.com
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    By logging in you’ll post the following comment to We can all do something (even if we’re living with cancer while balancing on one leg):
    Dear Lou

    Claudia put me onto your blog last year and I’m so grateful that she did. We don’t know each other but I’m sure we have many shared connections through the arts. No matter, I have come to really look forward to reading your thoughts, written so beautifully with such clarity, humility and wit.

    I think of you often, it’s funny how the Internet can help us make prosaic connections with others, particularly given that I’m a Scot living in Sydney. I’m so grateful to be aquatinted with your life and story. I became a mother for the first time in September last year and often think about the values that I would like to try and imbue in my son. Your thoughts are always a reminder of the importance of openness, gratitude and optimism, and that empathy is an act of imagination; all qualities that I would like him to magpie from the world around him.

    So thank you – I think you’re inspiring and tops and I wish you continued happiness each day.

    Ps. I love the Massoni (is it?) scarf. I have a scarf obsession.

    X Lisa.

  3. Kitty Brennan · · Reply

    Thank you Louise. Keep your words flowing – they sharpen our awareness of why we are here and what we can do to help others and, in so doing, make life happier for ourselves and those around us.
    Much love to you

  4. Lynne Learmond · · Reply

    Louise, “You are always on my mind” – I know you are a “big Elvis fan” just wish I could sing …. Lots of Love Lynne xxxxxxx

  5. Alice · · Reply

    Dear Lou
    Just wanted to say what a beautiful blog. So much of what you say is so true – I have not had cancer myself but my husband and son have, and I have a child with special needs and some of your blogs about living with disabilities and also your blog about when you looked back at your 19 yr old self and how beautiful you were, but at 19, you didn’t see it then … That so resonated

    Sometimes we just don’t realise until afterwards that life was actually good or beautiful , it’s only when something life changing happened that you realise that the past was actually pretty good – but your blog reminds us all to make the best of the here and now (this might be as good as it gets !)

    Wishing you peace and happiness ‘right now’ . I know you have lots of love in your life because you seem to be surrounded by many people who love you deeply . It’s what we all hope for . It’s what this life is all about . You are living it 🙂

  6. Amy B · · Reply

    Thank you for writing this blog and making the world a better place even if you are forced to leave it. You have made a difference. Your compassion for others is remarkable, no matter your own situation. I hope you find peace in this life.

  7. Tony Walton · · Reply

    Good on you for saying that. The bare fact is that some conditions are “sexy” and attract sympathy (and research) while others don’t. I was born with a club foot. 53 years, 8-10 operations (I honestly forget; they were between ages 2 and 16 years) and innumerable “manipulations under anæsthetic” later I still have a club foot. They offered me a partial amputation at age 12 but I turned it down.

    It hurts (always; sometimes it’s excruciating). I limp. I’m not going to die of it (though some days the looks I get because of the way I limp makes me want to die of embarrassment). But when did you ever hear of an appeal, a flag day, a “Limp for Life” for people with club foot? Club foot (or to give it its full official name “congenital talipes equinovarus”) is seen as a bit of a joke, really. If you want sinister in a poorly-written novel drag in a bloke with a club foot.

    Far (very far; I went through enough hospital time at a very early age to not wish to sneer at anyone’s experience with illness at any age) from me to belittle anyone, but sometimes I wish there was a little more sympathy given to anyone with a disability, rather than just those conditions that look good on the telly.

    Keep up the good work!

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