A Midlife Cancer Crisis

A Midlife Cancer Crisis

A cancer diagnosis over Christmas and New Year has turned my world upside down and it will never be the same again.

This time last year I was in party planning overdrive preparing for my 50th birthday celebrations and flying the platinum flag for being fifty and fabulous.  This year I am busy getting ready for a series of gruelling treatments.

“So what do you have?  How did you know? What were the symptoms?"  These  are the irrelevant questions of those unused to dealing with people shell shocked and reeling from any kind of tragedy in their lives, whose fallback is to focus on the quite frankly superfluous detail.

It's not their fault.  It’s tough knowing what to say and in their defence I fall outside the box of what is normal. My cancer is predominantly a young person’s disease.  The domain of those in their 20’s and 30’s apparently.

“This is unusual in your age group.  You have been unlucky. We will be looking into this.” Shock affects us all in different ways.  My husband went white and reached for my hand.  I smiled, batted his hand away and said “That doesn’t help where I am now, what is next?”

People that know me will vouch that I am a control freak, uber organised, an obsessive compulsive even.  I do what I have to when I have to. This just doesn’t happen to people like me.  At a party over the summer I nagged a dear friend in her mid 50’s who hadn't had a health check in 15 years to get on with it before it was too late.  So how come I am where I am?

Well returning to those questions about the symptoms, yes I was displaying some changes but despite chats with my GP about concerns I had,  those early warning signs for what I have were the same as those you would expect from any woman going through the menopause , it is after all a period of change.  Well their reassurances have turned out to be futile and could cost me dear.  There was something to "seriously" worry about.  Those menopausal symptoms as they were so reassuringly labelled, were actually an indication of something more sinister.

Right now I am terrified.  Despite the huge amount of love I am guaranteed from my nearest and dearest - the inner and select sanctum of people who are fully aware of the minutiae of what is going on and watching my back, I am alone in my bubble of fear, just like everyone else I assume who receives this kind of diagnosis.  Platitudes and well-meant reassurances of "You will be OK.  You are strong. Stay positive"  fall on deaf ears at this stage even though of course they are right.  Oh to to be able to turn back the clock or wake from this living hell.

I want to see my teens grow up, graduate from university, pursue a career with passion, find love and happiness and go onto have families of their own.   More than anything I want to be there for them every step of the way just as my parents have been and continue to be for me.

This midlife stage is meant to be a period of new adventure with my husband too, free of our children, indulging each other once again in our joy and love of being a couple and not just parents.  The thought of being robbed of that makes me feel sick, it comes in huge waves when I least expect it.  Tears prick at the backs of my eyes and I find myself gulping for air and diving for cover so that he doesn't see my anxiety and pain.

I have spent days over the last couple of weeks at hospital having a series of scans.  A more depressing place on earth there surely isn’t.  After fighting for a space in the over populated car park, my husband and I walk hand in hand to the entrance on autopilot, staring on the way in to the ashen and soulless faces of those going through treatment. Death is literally on every corner.  Alongside is despair, the false mumblings of reassurance and smiles of bonhomie, the palpable panic and the totally crushing claustrophobia of being in a group of people by necessity rather than choice.

The reverse side of this is the extremely humbling experience of being with professionals dedicated to making this rather painful journey easier. It takes a very special kind of person to commit to a lifetime of helping people and that deserves a cheer and a fist bump.  Add to that the fact that whilst I bemoan my situation there are children amidst the sea of sick faces.  Some as young as five. Smiling and hopeful.

Life has a way of twisting the knife sometimes but without these wonderful people, the love and support of family and friends and pure childlike hope - the journey would be tough.  Mine is only just beginning. The markers are in the sand and I don’t know where this path will take me or even us, it is a detour on the route I had planned but for now it is just one step at a time.

As featured on HuffPost

A Midlife Cancer Crisis

 

Editor's Note: Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust is the only UK charity dedicated to women and their families affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities. For more information about screening, including helpful tips, visit their website. They offer a range of information and support, both online and face-to-face, 24 hours a day.

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44 Comments

  1. January 27, 2018 / 3:53 pm

    Wow! I don’t even know what to say. To say I’m sorry isn’t enough, even though I am. I have plans for my 50’s. Already have a bucket list set up and everything but life does have a tendency to throw us some serious curve balls. I can’t believe this is happening to you. You deserve to make all of your plans happen but you’re right. This is just a detour. While I know Cancer is still a serious threat to us humans I also know that research and treatment has come a long way since my grandmother died of Cancer in 1992. I pray that your doctors find the right treatment for you and I believe that you will beat this. I’m thinking of you! #TweensTeensBeyond
    Michelle recently posted…Rockin’ Quote #35: Love Yourself Enough to Set BoundariesMy Profile

    • Jo
      Author
      February 11, 2018 / 7:40 am

      Thank you Michelle. Life would certainly be dull without a few challenges along the way. As you say the Cancer of today is far removed from that of the last century. My mother is here 15 years after a fatal cancer prognosis and there are many more like her who continue to live full lives. The treatment is key and at this stage you simply have to place yourself in the hands of the experts and let them get on with their job. X

  2. January 26, 2018 / 3:06 pm

    No words, especially not the written ones can express how I feel for you and your family to read this right now, strength comes in many forms and can be expressed in many ways, I’m so pleased you persisted with the doctors and didn’t just accept it was to do with the menopause. Sending love and hugs and positive thoughts your way. x #tweensteensbeyond

    • Jo
      Author
      February 11, 2018 / 7:44 am

      We have certainly run the full gamut of emotions over Christmas and New Year Suzanne. I am writing this reply now on the other side of surgery and it is almost like the last few weeks have just been happening to someone else. it was all so quick and intense, there was no time to fully absorb the enormity of what was going on. I am glad to say that at this point I am glad the first box is now ticked and I can start to tackle what lies ahead. Thanks for your lovely words. X

  3. January 25, 2018 / 11:04 pm

    No words, just much love and hugs. Be gentle with yourself xxx
    #tweensteensbeyond

    • Jo
      Author
      February 11, 2018 / 7:45 am

      Thank you Matthew that is so very kind of you, I appreciate it. X

  4. January 25, 2018 / 7:18 pm

    Just popping back via #tweensteensbeyond to offer more hugs and support xxx Your worries make my plans and adventures seem self-centred and petty, but I hope they at least amuse you x
    Mary Mayfield recently posted…Hurry Up, Spring!My Profile

    • Jo
      Author
      February 11, 2018 / 7:46 am

      Oh Mary it is the normal things and particularly the funny ones that keep me going. A sense of humour is key to my life hence “Midlife Parenting With Style & A Smile” so please keep those stories coming. X

  5. January 25, 2018 / 3:23 pm

    I am so sorry to hear what you’re going through. I feel for you and I am thinking of you. It is so difficult and there are no words I don’t think. Sending love and hugs xx #tweensteensbeyond

    • Jo
      Author
      February 11, 2018 / 7:48 am

      Thank you Susan. My scenario, just like those of others dealt this cruel blow, has rendered many speechless, including myself! I really appreciate your kind wishes. Thanks for taking the time to read my post. X

  6. January 24, 2018 / 7:13 pm

    Oh, no, I’m sorry. I would be terrified, too.

    And, yes, I don’t know what else to say.

    I hope your blog brings you a welcome place to share your feelings–or escape from them–as needed. Hugs to you.
    Katy recently posted…A Peek At My Goings-OnMy Profile

    • Jo
      Author
      February 11, 2018 / 7:49 am

      So far the blog has provided a much welcome outlet. I did consider throwing in the towel and calling it a day but am glad I decided against it for now at least. Thanks for your kind wishes Katy. X

  7. January 24, 2018 / 2:55 pm

    I don’t know what to say, how to offer you comfort. So so very sorry to hear this. I wish I were close enough to give you a hug. You’ll be in my prayers.

    • Jo
      Author
      February 11, 2018 / 7:50 am

      Tulika that means a lot thank you. To be honest this post is a bit of a curved ball amidst my usual posts as it is more personal than most and actually just knowing people are reading and listening is comfort enough. X

  8. January 24, 2018 / 2:45 pm

    O, Jo.I have not enjoyed reading this bit of news. I can’t imagine what your going through. I send you hugs and the biggest get well wishes. Of course please keep us updated. I will be wondering all the time now. If you ever want to meet for coffee or tea some time, I would love that. xx

    • Jo
      Author
      February 11, 2018 / 7:52 am

      Hi Laurie I am sitting typing on the other side of surgery now and my mindset of the early days of this post has shifted somewhat as you would expect. The journey ahead is still long but the first major hurdle is out of the way and now I must just move forward. I will definitely be in touch for a meet up once I am back up and on my feet. X

  9. January 24, 2018 / 12:57 pm

    I saw this post sitting here and it took me some time to are it as I just wanted to believe it wasn’t true, that somehow if you don’t rad something then it hasn’t really happened, does that even make sense? I am just so sad for you, as a mum all we want is to be invincible so we can be there for our children and watch them grow up, and as a wife I too look forward to those days where hubby and I can explore again the world just the two of us. I am heartbroken for you, but these things will happen for you, you will beat this!!!! I will keep sending positive vibes and please if there is anything I can do let me know xx
    Mackenzie Glanville recently posted…do we need bad times to appreciate the good?My Profile

    • Jo
      Author
      February 11, 2018 / 8:11 am

      Thanks Mac I understand completely what you mean. I think the biggest lesson I have learnt from this is that we are not invincible and no doubt like many others going through a similar journey I will re-evaluate many things in my life as a result. It is still early days for me but it has taught me that there is no room for putting things off until tomorrow. We need to seize every moment as it comes along and not leave any room for regrets and if onlys. X

  10. January 24, 2018 / 11:38 am

    Oh goodness, what an awful shock for you and your family, I’m really sorry to hear that. Your post is raw with feeling and emotion, you are so right that in a time of enormous crisis, people find it difficult to know what to say, we experienced that a year ago. What you are writing now is extremely valuable to us women, a gift to us. I hope you find strength through the weeks and months ahead to keep sharing your journey, we’ll be listening. I wish you well. #tweensteensbeyond.

    • Jo
      Author
      February 11, 2018 / 8:17 am

      Thanks Liberty. Ironically many of my friends have been encouraging me to write everything down and to start a “blog” – of course not knowing I am already doing just that. I prevaricated a lot over pressing publish on this post as I didn’t want the cancer to take over my blog, but for me it is about getting the balance right between sharing and the cathartic process of writing about it. At the moment it is top of my agenda but I am looking forward to those days again when it won’t be. Thanks for your encouragement, it is good to know that people are listening and actually that is enough in a way. X

  11. January 24, 2018 / 10:54 am

    Oh gosh, Jo! I am speechless. I have known you for such a short period of time through your blog and I can’t imagine that this is happening to you. I am holding you in my heart, my prayers. You will get to do all those things. You are damn well going to fight and make sure that you defeat this disease. Words are inadequate just now. Know that there are so many of us who are wishing you strength and love. Do keep us posted. Love and Hugs.

    • Jo
      Author
      February 11, 2018 / 8:21 am

      Thanks Rachna that is just so sweet of you. I have been truly touched by everyone’s response. I didn’t want to make people feel awkward as I know myself that it is difficult to know what to say and do but writing about what is happening is a good way of processing my deepest thoughts, however, dark they may seem at the time. There is no doubt that this will be a tough journey but it is one I have to take now and I will be doing my very best to look forwards. Everyone’s words of support and encouragement and prayers are a great help. X

    • Jo
      Author
      January 24, 2018 / 9:26 am

      Liz you are an absolute treasure. I have loved your blog from the outset – your humour is so infectious and I was so jealous and excited about your trip. You will be my go to travel guru for the holiday I have planned at the end of this nightmare. Thanks for your lovely message of support. Big hugsxx

  12. January 23, 2018 / 6:51 pm

    Oh Jo…I’m crying. You poor love. I feel you are my blogging friend so I’m sending you the biggest (((HUGS))) possible. Stay strong dear one. Xxxxx
    Sophie recently posted…What Can We Learn From Our Teenagers?My Profile

    • Jo
      Author
      January 24, 2018 / 9:23 am

      Oh Sophie bless you that means so much as did your DM. The messages of love and support keep the dark thoughts at bay. As of today I have a treatment plan so at least now I know what I am facing and each step is a step forward now.x

  13. January 23, 2018 / 2:54 pm

    Stay strong Jo. I know so many people are going to be saying that right now. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you and sending healing thoughts your way. It is a shocking thing to be told, I know, and it takes a while for the shock to go away. I hope all goes well for you. Much love, Morgan xxx
    Morgan Prince recently posted…Cervical Cancer – my storyMy Profile

    • Jo
      Author
      January 24, 2018 / 9:21 am

      Thanks Morgan. I have just listened to R4 and the interview with Tessa Jowell – what a brave lady and an inspiration for all cancer sufferers. x

  14. January 23, 2018 / 10:34 am

    Thinking of you Jo and sending as much love and light as is humanly possible! xxxx

    • Jo
      Author
      January 23, 2018 / 2:27 pm

      Thanks Sharon, that means a lot. You and Nicky have been absolute stars over the last few weeks and TTB is a welcome and much needed reprieve. Speak later. Xx

  15. January 23, 2018 / 9:11 am

    Oh Jo! I am so sorry. I feel helpless and useless typing a comment here but I’m holding you in my prayers from this moment forth. I’ll pray very very hard that you will come out of this with everything fine and you’ll get to see the kids grow up, graduate, marry and everything else.

    Just so shocked at the moment but I’m really hoping that there will be a good prognosis at the end of all this.

    • Jo
      Author
      January 23, 2018 / 2:25 pm

      That is so very kind. At the moment until I know the prognosis I feel slightly in limbo and almost as if it is not real – if only that were the case. Thanks for your support and your prayers. Xx

  16. January 23, 2018 / 7:56 am

    Beautifully written my lovely. It is only when we have been in these shoes that we can truly understand and having your mum by your side, who has also suffered, must be a tower of strength Jo. Hear from you later and all of everything from me to you xx

    • Jo
      Author
      January 23, 2018 / 2:23 pm

      Thanks Nicky, for once not much editing on this one! My mother is the obvious source of support and an inspiration for anyone who feels like giving up but I am also touched by the support of all my fabulous friends – not least those in the blogging community who have never even met me. It goes without saying that you and Sharon have been fantastic and it is so appreciated. Xx

  17. January 22, 2018 / 11:44 pm

    Jo I’m shell-shocked. You’re so brave writing about this. Not easy. (It’s shaken me up from a personal perspective too as I’m terribly casual about regular tests). Im totally keeping you in my thoughts hoping for the right outcome to this my dear.

    • Jo
      Author
      January 23, 2018 / 7:29 am

      Prabs! You surprise me. I had you down as a woman on top of her health. Don’t take it for granted my dear. Not sure whether your checks in Malta are as regular as ours but don’t overlook them. I have been religious about attending all mine and in part that was why the shock for me was so immense. But as my consultant keeps saying be positive, we got it! As a glass half empty person that is not easy but I am trying! Thanks for your supportxx

  18. January 22, 2018 / 9:45 pm

    I’m so sorry you’re going through this, it must be utterly devastating. My cousin had cervical cancer about 10 years ago in her early 40s and made a full recovery. Sending you my very best wishes xxx

    Emma

    • Jo
      Author
      January 23, 2018 / 7:27 am

      Thanks Emma and it is so great to hear the good news about your cousin. It gives me hope for sure. The point of diagnosis is a lonely and devastating place to be and positive stories are good to hear. xx

  19. January 22, 2018 / 9:28 pm

    I am so so sorry to hear what you’re going Jo. Again, futile words that I’m sure you’re fed up of hearing and they won’t change what you’re going through. Nothing anyone can say will, but I feel as though I know you even though we’ve never met, and I wanted you to know I’m thinking about you. So much love ❤️ Susie xx

    • Jo
      Author
      January 22, 2018 / 9:40 pm

      Oh thank you Susie, no words are futile believe me! Every word of encouragement and support is another step forward. I have been there offering my mother and father support with their own cancer nightmares and said the same words – what else is there to say? It takes us all by surprise and the key is to always be vigilant. I may be unlucky but in a way as my consultant said I am also lucky! It has been caught, it has been diagnosed and there is hope and that is what I have to hang on to. Look forward to seeing your #smearforsmear selfie tomorrow – I know you will do it well – tag me! x

  20. January 22, 2018 / 7:21 pm

    Oh no! Like all those well-meaning friends, I feel I don’t know what to say. Stay strong.Think positive. Don’t give up hope. Believe the experts are doing their utmost. All no doubt wise words but sometimes life seems so cruel – and all you can do is scream against it. Huge virtual hugs for you and your family xxx
    Mary Mayfield recently posted…Resolutions 2018My Profile

    • Jo
      Author
      January 22, 2018 / 8:10 pm

      Oh Mary bless you and thank you. One of the nurses looking after me at the weekend said she had been in nursing for 38 years and positivity was key to recovery. We debated it for hours whilst I waited for my treatment and I railed against it but ultimately she should know. I can’t and won’t give up. My mother was given 6 months to live at the age of 62 and she is still here 15 years later. She is my inspiration, so when she says “stay strong jo” I really do listen. x

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