Friday, 16 March 2018

Molehills and mountains

Well it's been nearly two and a half years since I was diagnosed as having "months not years" to live on 21st October 2015.

The many mountains I have climbed (metaphorically speaking, I am a rubbish walker) have been well documented on this blog. So this post is dedicated to the myriad molehills that I have overcome since that momentous day. The little but ordinary things that make me feel 'normal'. Here are five of them...

1. I finally lifted my two-year-long self-imposed photography ban. I have not only appeared in photos, I have also initiated the capturing of my normal-sized head in a selfie. This was long overdue as Dean's new colleagues were convinced that I was too grotesque to be captured on film, kept out of sight in a dungeon or even worse, that I was entirely fictional.

2. I have had a bad hair day. Well, a few actually. My post-cancer hair looks fantastic when I've just 'stepped out of the salon'. However, I wake up in the morning looking like an 80s tribute act and on occasion, have terrified the postman.

3. I have thrown away the crocheted hat that I used to wear whilst I had no hair (exacerbated by a face the size of a small planet). Wigs and migraines proved to be a pretty horrible combination, so I bought some fake hair from the Cancer Centre and my wonderful friend Lucy made some silk hats and attached the long blonde fake hair. Amazing!
Me with a bald head, a wonderful hand-made silk hat and fake hair from the Cancer Centre.

Disclaimer: Not actually me. My face was twice this size.

 4. I no longer attract sympathetic looks. There's a subtle, but noticeable reaction that a person who is unusual in some way evokes (a bald head, a head-scarf, massive cheeks etc.). It's a double-take combined with a dose of curiosity and a pinch of sympathy. This is multiplied by ten if it's someone you know but hasn't seen you lately. There's a shock phase, then an embarrassment phase and then an over-exaggerated trying-to-hide-your-horror phase. Now, it's a more favourable "don't you look well?" comment, unless I've just come back from a run and I'm red-faced and huffing and puffing with the exertion.

5. One molehill I still struggle with is cancer advertising. I think that cancer gives you an empathy booster switch and I can't watch a cancer ad or programme without crying my eyes out. I watched Stand Up 2 Cancer's celebrity bake-off including Bill Turnbull, knowing that his cancer had spread, but also that he didn't know about it at the time of filming. In the video at the end, he was so lovely about his family and endearingly candid about the spread of his life-limiting cancer, inspiring others to act rather than ignore their symptoms.

So, if you're suffering from cancer and have a huge climb ahead, just be assured that it's amazing on the other side, and that you too will soon bemoan the multiple molehills of normal life! And, if you have any unusual changes to your body, speak to your GP. Early detection of cancer gives you a significantly better chance of recovering from this hideous disease and getting back to a gloriously normal life.


Sunday, 11 March 2018

Cancer and Mums

For many, myself and my husband Dean included, Mothering Sunday can be a challenging day. We won't be jostling for a family table at a local restaurant or surprising our Mums with flowers. Both our Mums are gone, but certainly not forgotten.

But this is a cancer blog, so this post is a tribute to all those Mums who have been taken by cancer, to all those Mums who are suffering from cancer, and all those Mums who had to endure the devastation of watching their child, young or old, suffering from this hideous disease.

My Mum was profoundly affected by cancer. She lost two of her beloved brothers to it, and her beautiful niece who was also bridesmaid at my Mum and Dad's wedding. She would often turn up the stereo full-blast to listen to 'He ain't heavy, he's my brother' by the Hollies. Having lost my sister to Meningitis in 1992, and then having to endure watching me suffer from the savage effects of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and two brain surgeries, it was as much as she could bear. It is a great sadness to me that she never got to hear about my wonderful remission news.

Today will also be a sad day for Dean and his sister, whose Mum was taken by cancer only two years ago. A wonderful Mum with an effervescent personality, an infectious laugh and a passion for watching any kind of sport on TV (as long as it didn't include darts player Phil 'The Power' Taylor - she would switch off the TV instantly whenever he came on!) she is sorely missed.

For many of my friends, this is a tough day, as surrounded by ads and posters for Mother's Day gifts, they only have special memories of their Mums to hold on to. Some of them were lost to cancer, many to other diseases.

Other friends are doing everything they can to support their mothers through the ravages of cancer, wishing they could take it away from them and praying for respite and remission. Some of my friend's Mums are nursing a partner with cancer, or devastating diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer's.

And, of course, there are Mums who have cancer, or are in remission, and have plastered a smile on their faces whilst suffering countless debilitating treatments whilst still fulfilling their most important job...being a Mum.

Finally, there are some Mums whose young children have faced the terrifying ordeal of cancer and I can only imagine how painful this must have been.

So today, I thank God for all the mothers who have loved us and supported us, battled with loss and are now no longer with us. We are, or have been blessed to have you.

Happy Mother's Day!