Wednesday, 16 January 2019
How Cancer Changed my Life
It's been three years since I finished my treatment for breast cancer, and yesterday I had a meeting with my oncologist to discuss my latest blood tests.
I have, he told me, 'a perfect set of bloods.' I don't have a perfect set of boobs any longer, obviously, but you can't have everything.
This, my friends, means that I am, as far as we can tell, still cancer free.
I swore, when I was first diagnosed, that if I was lucky enough to survive this, I would never, ever become one of those irritating people who said that cancer was the best thing that happened to them.
I still stand by that. Cancer was the very worst thing that has ever happened to me and my family, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.
However, in many ways my life is so much better now than it was before my diagnosis.
I am Grateful
Many studies have shown that feeling grateful is really good for our mental health. It's so easy to send life feeling constantly dissatisfied with our lives, and to forget the important things, like health and family.
I can never forget. Because three times a year I have checks at the boob clinic.
The night before this check-up, I lay in bed mulling over the usual issues of the day, like whether my son will ever get to grips with French grammar, and where my daughter's hockey mouth guard had disappeared to, and it struck me that in twenty-four hours I might be worrying about how long I had to live instead. From one day to the next, your life can change irrevocably.
Every four months I am reminded that having your health and your family is a precious gift that we can never take for granted.
I Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
I used to stress out about the smallest things. Everything had to be perfect.
A cancer diagnosis puts things into perspective. Once you've had to stare death in the face and think about your children growing up without a mother, a parking ticket or a less than perfect school report seem utterly insignificant.
I'm still not an entirely laid back mother, but I'm much more so.
I'm More Empathetic
We are always so quick to judge each other, and to get angry when we think that someone has treated us badly in some way.
Dealing with cancer makes you realise that everyone has their own stuff going on - a sick parent, a troubled child, a mean boss. Sometimes, just getting to the end of the day is a triumph. No-one can be expected to be perfect.
I Have a 'Fuck-it Button'
My life has totally transformed over the last three years. There were always many things I wanted to do with my life, but I thought there was plenty of time. I'd get around to it one day, when the time was right.
I was also paralysed by the fear of failure.
Since I was a child, I'd wanted to write, but I worried that I didn't have time, that I would never be good enough, that I'd be rejected or, worse, laughed at.
Since the cancer thing, however, I've developed a 'fuck-it button.'
Now, whenever I hear that little voice of doubt saying you can't, I reply FUCK IT! What's the worst that can happen? I'm not going to DIE (yet), and if I don't do it now, I might run out of time, because who knows what's around the next corner.
So, I published the story of that year of my life - the year I quit drinking, and then got cancer, The Sober Diaries (click here for my Amazon page). And, next year, my debut novel is being published.
I told this story to my oncologist yesterday, and he said that many of his breast cancer survivors have gone on to do extraordinary things.
But it's not just about cancer.
Whatever trauma you are dealing with in your life right now, know this: when you get out the other side (which you will), you will be stronger, happier, nicer and - what's more - you'll be a superhero.
Love to you all,