Sorry this is a long one!
Harley street check up with my eye oncologist on Monday was boringly normal! Hurrah! Tumour same size, what’s new? But dead as a dodo at present. I always worry slightly though, can they come back from the dead? Do they become active again? Anyway mine isn’t which is great.
Took me a while to write this as I had a million thoughts whizzing through my brain. The main one is too many friends are succumbing to this disease. When I started on this horrid path, being told that 50% go onto stage 4, I felt scared, for myself. I still am. But now also for my friends. Friends I have made along the way, How were we naive enough to not realise if it didn’t happen to me, it would happen to you? How did we not think as we shared are fears, that perhaps one of us would not be here to listen anymore? Who can we text at night to whisper “I’m scared, are you?” when one of us is no longer there?
So results day for so many lovely people wasn’t bringing the joyous news they deserve, hence my slow reaction in shouting “hooray I had a great hospital visit.” Instead I went for a run, a long fast one. I cried. Luckily the rain hitting my face disguised the tears. I felt angry. Why do we have to wait and see? Wait and see whether you’re in the A team or the B team. Do you win or lose? It’s not good enough. More money is needed for cancer research and cures are wanted, fast. People shouldn’t have to pay for the only treatment that could prolong their life because it is still only in the research stage. People shouldn’t have to rely on trials where they may be the one getting the placebo. It’s not fair I wanted to scream from my aching lungs as I heaved myself up Kingston hill.
I made a decision as I ran, that the marathon is the end for me. I’m stopping my blog and leaving the eye cancer group. I’m sorry if it appears weak and unsupportive. I have made wonderful friends and they will remain friends, but I don’t want to make anymore. I want to protect them and me. One of us is going to lose this battle and I can’t face anymore of it.
As my thought process moved on I thought of the good that has come of my cancer diagnosis and there is some. It dawned on me how far we have come as a family. It’s taken me a while to realise this, but my children are the lucky ones. At the start I had all sorts of awful thoughts, one of which was that I desperately wished I had never had children. I couldn’t bare to see them hurt or in pain through what I was experiencing. I felt sorry for them, guilty for what I had put them through, angry that it was now part of their lives too. I was hurt and saddened to see worry etched across their faces. I was scared and so were they.
But they have experienced it and they are no longer scared. The ‘big C’ is no more. Now they hear the word cancer and they don’t equate it with death. As a family we are very lucky as we have a few cancer survivors. No one in our family has died of cancer and I don’t plan on being the first. So my kids now think of it a bit like running a marathon. It’s a pain, you have to go through all the treatment, it’s a bit of a long haul, but they believe you will come through the other side. And that’s a good place to be, living with hope and belief and being without fear. They are the lucky ones.
Many adults have a fear of cancer. But some peoples’ alarm always seemed a little irrational or weak to me. I think that was due to my nursing experience. I have been with people who have lost loved ones, seen children cry as parents were ripped suddenly and tragically from their lives. Through this I never became desensitised, but you do end up being a little matter of fact about it and not scared. It’s life. You hope it won’t happen to you, feel desperately sorry for the people it happened to, finish your shift and go home to have dinner with the family. You move on. You don’t forget them but you have to be able to compartmentalise your life otherwise you would never do the job. I learnt very early on that you can’t share with friends and loved ones what you have experienced, as people are horrified and frightened. So you may just say “a young mum died today.” Rather than “a young mother with four small children has been dying on my ward for the past month. She has had surgery but it was unsuccessful. She is in excruciating pain but tries to hold it together when her children visit. She cries like a wounded animal at night as we desperately page the pain team so we can get it under control. We are trying to get her into a hospice to die so that she doesn’t have to die behind a curtain on this four bedded ward. We are waiting for a bed for her. Which means we are willing someone else to hurry up and die in the hospice so that she can have their bed. We are being offered counselling from the hospital as it is so distressing caring for her and we are rotating shifts so that no one is with her all of the time. Her husband is about 6ft 5 and looks like a tiny child.” I remember this woman with absolute clarity and her four children. She never made it to the hospice. I was 23 years old trying to make sense of it all.
Why am I sharing this story? Because it is these things that shape us into who we are today. I look back and wonder if I helped her? Was I a good nurse? Did I care enough? I know I would be so much better now. It’s when you compare your younger self with the person you are today, the hurt and life experiences we have had over the years, that have shaped us into caring and sensitive people, who can show understanding and empathy. It helps us to help others. And due to what my kids have experienced they have some of that, the empathy, the understanding, at their gorgeous tender ages, which will shape them into wonderful people as they travel through life. So they are the lucky ones.
My eldest daughter had a call recently from a friend asking her advise, as someone they knew had been diagnosed with cancer. “What do I say to her?” She pleaded with my daughter as my eldest nonchalantly munched through a bag of crisps wondering what words of wisdom she could share. I asked her what she had said. She shrugged, “not a lot, cancer doesn’t mean you’re going to die. It’s fine.” I though at the time well a fat lot of help you were! But actually it was the perfect answer, said without drama, said without angst, said with such little fanfare that the ‘big C’ was brought down to size. It lost its power. It was as if she was describing the weather. Now move on to something more interesting. And it was perfect. When I was first diagnosed with cancer peoples reactions scared and upset me. Seeing the fear in their eyes or them crying made me feel like I was already 12 feet under. If I had had someone like my daughter who had just shrugged and said “whatever” maybe it would have saved me months of anxiety! Now I’m not suggesting that’s the right response when someone close calls to say they have cancer, a shrug and a ‘whatever’ and then moving on to the KFC chicken crisis probably won’t cut it, but you get my drift?
On a final positive note, I was googling fuel to consume for long runs and somewhere in Runners world I found the perfect article!
Champagne: Raise a glass to your heart, say Reading University scientists. Their studies found that the polyphenols in bubbly reduce the loss of nitric oxide from the blood, improving circulation. Per week: 3 glasses
Only downsize is obviously the 3 glasses per week!
Cheers and lots of love until next time.