Charity fundraising is so abundant in our 21st century world, but tonight I found myself irked and emotional in equal measure in a way I never have before. The cause was #standuptocancer. The why, I cannot explain – or at least not yet.
To set the scene, atypical of most families back from a holiday with an early morning flight behind us, we were surrounded by cases full of dirty washing, take away boxes abandoned carelessly and collapsed on the sofa with wine clutched almost desperately to our chests and flicking through the channels for something to get us through that period of exhaustion until it is acceptable to go to bed.
#standuptocancer seemed like the obvious choice. I say obvious in some kind of perverse way because now that I am in that exclusive club I am automatically drawn to those programmes that remind me just how lucky I am in the face of the misery and anguish of others. It’s like picking at a scab. I know it’s going to make me wretched but I just can’t help myself.
So let’s retrack. Why am I lucky exactly? Oh I am 51, have many glorious years behind me spanning two marriages, two great kids and a wonderful career but these programmes remind me of the raw palpability of life. The fall out is that I inevitably end up arguing with my family, as they try to protect me, telling them they don’t understand which is unfair and unacceptable actually as they are very much standing at the coal face with me.
I can remember listening to an interview with Tessa Jowell the week of my diagnosis and just being awestruck by her acceptance of her situation and appreciation of what her life had given her.
Regardless of your political inclination you could not but love that woman, her passion, drive and genuine spirit. When you find yourself on the cancer gravy train you have to hold onto the aspirations of someone and in the early days Tessa was it for me.
I was and remain the first in my friend group with cancer and she struck a chord with me. Intelligent, articulate and gracious. I have tried really hard to abide by those values but tonight I failed and as I type with my family sleeping above me and the cases still strewn everywhere, I am embarrassed and cross in equal measure.
So back to this evening, what made me cross? The filming of the tears of celebrities watching the bad news stories and the ridiculous japes of people that just don’t get it. The tone just felt quite simply wrong.
What really struck a chord and made me text to 70404 multiple times were the heart wrenching stories of the families affected by the Big C and no more than the ones with young adolescents. It reminded me of my visits to the hospital and how humbled I felt in the face of the suffering of the young people around me and their families.
Of course without the celebrities most of us without cancer probably wouldn’t give a flying bird about it until of course it hits us smack in the face. The celebrities draw us in but it is the real life stories that engage you and remind you of the reality of cancer in everyday life.
Tears are natural and of course that is what these programmes do – provoke tears and lets not forget the value of that. These icons do a great job in striking a chord where most people can’t.
One in two is a scary statistic. I feel lucky to be where I am right now but no cancer journey is without its cost.
My milestone is two years and after that I am supposed to be on the lucky side of cancer but in the meantime every three months that i see my surgeon and have my tests I wonder whether I will be pushed back rather than forwards. When people say F***cancer i wonder and revel in their bravery. For me right now it is more about what next and to all those not in the same boat – whatever you say, like my family will be wrong, but I have learnt that saying something is better than nothing. In the meantime donations are good because the stats dictate that if it is not you it will be someone close to you. Sorry to be so brutal but sometimes strong words are needed. X