Once I was given my first diagnosis, I kept saying “I have cancer” over and over in my head, looking in the mirror putting my makeup on “I have cancer”, getting dressed “I have cancer”, maybe this way it will sink in. I can honestly say that I never thought that’s it I am going to die, yes I got scared but never believed I would die, maybe because I have too much to live for, too much I want to see and still do. But saying “I have cancer” out loud is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. My daughter had attended a talk by a very brave young lady at her school, who is battling cancer herself, she said during her talk that its good to say it out loud, this in turn made my daughter encourage me to say the words.
Cancer changed everything, it changed my relationship with friends and family. It’s changed how I look and feel about me. It’s changed how I view the world, I actually saw a peacock yesterday dropping my children off at school, I paused and took the sight of this beautiful bird in, I have slowed down. It’s changed my work role:
All other changes happened slowly and to different degrees, but my work changed very early on, and hit me very hard. I love my job, I am someone that wants to help people, within my job I get to do this at one of the most difficult points in their lives, I can make a small difference for them – but could I do this while I needed support myself? I wanted to believe to could, I was given the options, do less hours, change my role or carryon. I decided to change my role, this was extremely hard to do, and those who were around me know how upset I was (this was the first time I cried since the diagnosis – although not many tears have been shed, no I will not turn into a blubbering wreck for cancer), cancer had now taken my ability to do my job well, this has had a knock on affect and still does have, as I am on long term sick. (Long term sick is a statement that doesn’t sit well with me, my job has always be a big part of me, its who I am – I may joke about being a lady of leisure, but I don’t have so much purpose to my life now) In hindsight, after attending a memory café as a support worker, and having 3 people talk about losing loved ones to cancer (they didn’t know my situation – and this was a few weeks later) it was the best decision to make, not just for me but for the people I support with dementia and their carers, they deserve the best support possible and at the time that wasn’t me, that was from my brilliant colleagues. On the flip side of this came the guilt, guilt that my colleagues were picking up the extra work, I know that under the circumstances they didn’t mind, but I did (who said our thoughts are rational?). So actually being able to say I will be off for 6 months due to chemotherapy helped me, because this enabled work to replace me, and ease the pressure on my colleagues, (who said your feelings can’t contradict themselves?)
I don’t have cancer now, its been removed, I have to tell myself this everyday now and pinch myself regularly “I am lucky”