Sometimes I forget I have been diagnosed with cancer. It’s been a year and from the outside in, life just keeps chugging along until something comes along to remind me that actually my life is not what it was and that I need to spare a thought.
A letter from the NHS reminding me to book my cervical smear was one of those moments earlier in the year and a really unwelcome slap around the face of what once was and more recently I have been reminded of the bald clarity of my situation because it’s that time again.
The time again when I head off to have my chat with my cancer team, for them to check how I am, ask me questions about my appetite, my weight and then to do the most important bit of business a HPV test and Vault Smear.
I have passed the first year landmark so these appointments are now every four months as opposed to every three. I can remember feeling so happy in February when I was told I was being moved up to a four monthly consultation. It felt like progress.
For a couple of months I just got on with stuff, forgot all about it almost and then over the last few weeks it’s been there again, nagging away in my brain and waking me up at night.
“How are your bits?” My husband asked me this afternoon. For a man who spends his life crafting the most intelligent and articulate narrative for his international clients, his basic use of words sometimes takes me by surprise.
Of course I knew what he was referring to, but because I was feeling in a pig awkward mood at the time I threw him a disdainful glance and asked what he meant. “I saw you holding yourself yesterday. Are you ok?” he responded. “I am in constant pain.” I said. “Sometimes it’s manageable, sometimes it’s not. Don’t worry about it. I am sure it’s all fine.” Why did I say that? Why wasn’t I just honest?
Unbeknown to him I had spent the afternoon googling follow up warning signs to cervical cancer. You know how you do with google, you key in a query and then you find yourself caught like a fly in a web of “people also ask” links based on your initial search with endless questions that take you on a journey of mental torment and discovery that is not in anyway related to the one you started but you just can’t seem to stop clicking the links until you are right in the middle of the spider’s web and have managed to convince yourself that of course you maybe not as ok as you think.
Then there is the other nagging voice that makes you question whether you have maybe read this information before and perhaps simply forgotten it or in my case whether you have menopausal dementia or if it is all in fact new.
I wouldn’t describe myself as a generally maudlin person but my husband has always said I fall in the glass half empty column rather than the one he proudly inhabits which is clearly half full! It is however difficult to be positive all the time once you have been served the C word on a plate.
I read yesterday that those unfortunate enough to get a cancer diagnosis are often subject to PTSD. In the early days my team always commented on my positivity, my resilience, my “c’est la vie” attitude. I sought solace in forums listening to the stories of those worse off, offering support and comfort from the perspective of one only at the bottom of the ladder. I shunned counselling and face-to-face support groups on the premise I was fine. I had my friends and family after all.
But as I reflect today amidst another week of raising cervical cancer awareness I know I had quite simply compartmentalised it all and as time progressed hoped it was quite simply a bad dream. It’s odd that one year plus on I don’t have that confidence anymore. The doubts are more prevalent.
I haven’t embraced the green culture as my non-cancer friends refer to it. I don’t juice, exercise more vigorously or eat or drink less than I did. I have just tried to get on with my life, shutting that bit of me away in a box for a later date, whenever that may or may not be.
It’s not been an easy year. In fact it has probably been the worst of my life so far as my husband and I have faced our fair share of personal challenges not only as a couple but as a family and we are not out of the woods yet by any stretch. Sometimes it feels like the wood is denser than before.
Amidst all of this is keeping going for those around you. My daughter has handled the battle of GCSE’s and the turmoil that has engulfed our family with such stoicism that it brings tears to my eyes daily. She is a wonderful young woman who makes me proud everyday. My son has struggled too and his challenges come with their own burden.
There is no poor me in this stream of consciousness just a quiet reflectiveness on what has been and what is to come. There is also a silent admiration for those facing their own torment, as well as a prayer for those who I know personally who have recently lost their battle – because there is always someone worse off than any of us and it is them that I am sparing a thought for today.