I’d ironically forgotten that today was World Cancer Day. I knew it was coming up but had had a busy few days and got my dates confused. I was only reminded when my lovely friend had my World Cancer Day wristband she’d got me hand delivered while I was at work earlier (long story!). I am now sporting it proudly and will be wearing it through the rest of my treatment, just another little reminder that I’m not alone in fighting this horrible disease. The whole world wants to kick its ass too.
It’s made me reflect on how cancer has really been the unwelcome gatecrasher at life’s great party for my family. Mum had a brush with it more than 15 years ago but her bowel cancer was caught early and an operation stopped it in its tracks and she’s been all clear ever since.
Not all cancers are made equal though. Some you keep punching and they just keep getting back up and coming at you again. My dad came up against the Mike Tyson of cancers – cancer of the esophagus. Every doctor I’ve had to relay family history to has winced at the mention of it. “That’s a bad one”. It has a less than 15% five-year survival rate. He gave it a good run for its money, undergoing a 10 hour esophagectomy, numerous rounds of chemo and radiotherapy. For a few short months we thought we’d got it, then it came back in his bones. Incurable. And in the end it was the chemo that killed him. He contracted pneumonia with a neutrophil count of zero and his immune system had nothing more to throw at it. We spent a weekend in hospital watching him fade away hour by hour. He knew he was dying. We knew he was dying. But we tried to convince him there was still a chance. Until we all succumbed to the inevitable and sat with him, willing him peacefully into the next world as he took his final breath.
That was July 2014, and just as we were picking ourselves up and getting used to life without my dad the cancer came for me. I don’t wish to be too maudlin about it though because the odds are in my favour. Breast cancer, if you had to pick, is the one to get. It’s very treatable. So far, touch wood, I’ve found the treatment OK, had hardly any side effects and apart from a couple of groggy days and way too many visits to the hospital, most of the time I just feel normal. I do everything I was doing before; I work, I play with my little boy, I meet my mummy friends for coffee. A lot of the time I find myself forgetting. Most days I’m positive I’ve got this and I can see our future with another little baby to complete our family plans that were irritatingly put on hold when all this kicked off. But just sometimes, often late at night when I can’t sleep, the dark voices come a whispering. And as much as I try not to, I keep imagining my beautiful little boy only knowing his mummy through pictures and videos and stories that people tell him.
But then I wake up in the morning, dust off my boxing gloves and I’m ready to fight another day.
For my family. For your family. For me. For you. Let’s never stop fighting.
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