THE BEST THING ABOUT CANCER

…said no one ever. Immediately after being diagnosed whenever I was speaking to someone about it, I’d say, “there are literally no positives in this”.  Generally, cancer doesn’t have any silver linings.  From the horrible treatment to the constant fear of dying it’s really hard to look on the bright side.  But that’s what I’d normally do in a challenging situation (after an initial period of freaking out obviously!) – look for some shred of positivity.

As it turns out, I’ve discovered I do have something positive to take out of this whole horrible situation. The love and care shown to me over the last few weeks from family, friends, colleagues and complete strangers has been really incredibly touching.  As someone who’s modus operandi is to presume people don’t like me very much, to feel such an overwhelming wave of support has been a real eye opener.  I’ve found myself in tears on a number of occasions at the wonderful things people have said and done.

Family support

I’m very lucky to have a wonderful family support network around me.  I know if someone has to go through this, then I’m as good a person as any, as I have such a great team.  My husband Steve is of course the Captain.  One of our friends, on hearing the news, sent a message saying if you ever had to go through cancer, then Steve would be the man you’d want alongside you.  It’s only been three years since our beautiful wedding, when we were so full of hope for what our future together would hold.  We stood at the front of that church and promised to love each other in sickness and in health.  Neither of us could have imagined the sickness part would come so soon.  I feel terribly guilty that he’s having to go through this because of me.  That’s apparently quite common among women with cancer.  But Steve has told me so many times now, that he’d rather go through cancer with me, than have an easy time with anyone else.  So he’s been there for every appointment, holding my hand and picking me up when I’m down.  I still feel bad that he’s going to have to pick up a lot of slack on the days I’m feeling rough, when I won’t be able to pull my weight with the childcare and household chores.  It now seems fortuitous that I’ve always been a really dreadful housewife – because me being out of action won’t be such a wrench to him!  I don’t cook and I only clean sporadically.  I told him I’d actually just had him in training through our marriage so far, ready for this moment when he’d need to fully grab the reins of domestic drudgery.  Well, young Jedi, your time has come.  Let’s hope I don’t get too out of practice that I never pick up a duster again!

Old friends!

My oldest friends have also been amazing.  They immediately set up a fundraising page to get money together for a wig.  I was never going to be rocking an NHS synthetic number.  It had to be real human hair all the way for me and looking as close to my natural style as possible.  Vain? Possibly.  But as I read on one cancer website… vanity is sanity!  It was such a wonderful gesture and has really taken a lot of the worry out of how I would afford the beauty aspect of all of this.  Trying to look vaguely normal with cancer is an expensive business!  I thought a few hundred pounds would come in that I could put towards the cost of a wig.  It’s now in the thousands.  It even made our local paper back home in Wales.  I’m just blown away by the generosity of people, from old school friends I’ve not seen in years to complete strangers I’ve never met.  Every last penny has been a boost to the system…realising that people do care about me and are rooting for me to get through this.

Dad

Our recent family history of dealing with cancer is not good.  My dad died of cancer two and a half years ago after a brutal battle with a particularly nasty tumour in his esophagus.  After his diagnosis, and before his treatment left him a shadow of his former self, I noticed that his hugs became so much stronger.  When you feel cancer trying to pull you away from your loved ones you hold on to them as tightly as you can.  Now I find myself doing the same, when a proper hug is offered (and there have been many), I grip on for dear life.

So many messages

I’ve had hundreds messages from people, it’s turned me into a rather tardy correspondent.  There are of course friends who’ve retreated, those who I expected to hear from but haven’t spoken a word.  But then there are the old friends I’d lost touch with, who’ve sent me some beautiful and inspiring messages.  Our sentiments are the same, it’s a crap reason but isn’t it nice to be in touch again?  To feel so many people pulling for you is good.  You need that with such tough times coming up.  I’m a people pleaser.  I don’t want to let them down.  So I’ve got to do this and get out the other side just like I’ve now promised so many times.

People have sent flowers and gifts, and each one with its accompanying message has made me cry.  Again I am just floored by the kindness and generosity of people, I’m so used to giving myself a hard time, I hadn’t stopped to think that the rest of the world wasn’t always doing the same.  One fabulous friend sent me a gorgeous cashmere robe…the note with it read “When the going gets tough…the tough get cashmere”.  It’s a mantra I now plan to live my life by.  One that Steve is already ruing!

Then there are the complete strangers, the cancer survivors I’ve been put in touch with by various people who’ve taken the time to talk me through their experiences and give me advice on everything they’ve learned. There’s a lot to discover about cancer and I’m a lazy researcher.  They’ve saved me a lot of googling by sending me tips, lists and forums on how to survive the chemo, the surgery, the recovery, the guilt and the fear.  So many have said they’ll be there for me when the road gets rocky.  They’ve been there and done it and know that sometimes, you don’t want to be positive and you just need a good cry.  To see so many people who’ve been there and done it and are still smiling on the other side is such a wonderful source of hope.

So I guess what I’m saying (in a very VERY longwinded way) is thank you.  Thank you to those who’ve said wonderful things, thank you to all those who’ve been so very generous and thank you to everyone who’s kept me on the straight and narrow so far.  You’ve all helped to make me that little bit stronger, ready for the fight ahead.

Chemo starts on the 28th of December.  So it’s just five more days of ordinary life left.

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