I remember my mum teaching me proverbs when I was little and my favourite was “every cloud has a silver lining”. I do try to look at the upside of situations and believe in the benefits of a positive mental attitude. Although my usual cheer has diminished of late (being diagnosed with cancer twice does that) this is my attempt at a more positive post.
Before I give my take on the ‘bright side’ of my cancer experience to date, I’d like to insert a brief disclaimer that it’s a bit soppy, which is unlike me, so I’ve included a couple of funny stories at the end too.
A reminder of the support, love and kindness in the world.
Since telling people, I have felt so much support, love and kindness from the medical teams, work and, of course, family and friends (old and new).
- The medical professionals I’ve encountered on a regular basis including my doctor, the nurses, surgeons and other medical staff feel like my extended family who I trust. They have been instrumental in providing practical advice, reassurance and hugs during the process.
- I work in a corporate environment and, although I like to express my personality, it is important for me to maintain a certain professional level as well. I was completely open with my bosses from the start – explaining my concerns before getting the biopsy and talking about the potential options for treatment too. I needed to do this given the direct impact of my situation on my absence from work but I was moved by the genuine support and care shown. I would much rather be at work than going through cancer treatment and plan to return to work with gusto when I’m fully recovered. Part of that is because I’m being supported so well during this time. I hope other employers would do the same for their people.
- Like a lot of mothers, my children are my raison d’être and give me wonderful support without even knowing it. I hate that they have been exposed to this but I could not be more proud of their response. My son listened carefully when I’ve explained the situation, he continues to ask questions as they pop into his head and he has created the most uplifting, heart-warming surprises for me. My two year old doesn’t understand in the same way but she has been incredibly perceptive and found ways to cuddle up with me while I’m not able to lift her as I recover from surgery. I can’t wait to be mucking around with them again – bring on recovery and family bundles!
- The support from my awesome husband has been incredible. I’m lucky to have a brilliant partner who knows me so well and can support me in the superstar way he has. My ups and downs have meant that he hasn’t ‘got it right’ all the time because something that helps one moment, won’t the next and there is no way for him to know. But I’m grateful for his patience and love him more than ever for helping me through this. He has made it so much more bearable, being by my side the whole time, listening when I want to talk, holding me when I want to cry and just letting me know he is there for me. He even washed my hair and styled it (into a ponytail as I didn’t trust him with the straighteners!) when I couldn’t lift my arms post-surgery – I was grateful but I’m pleased I have regained control of that now! I have heard of instances where relationships breakdown, and I can see how this could easily happen amidst all the stress and emotions, but ours has strengthened.
- Family and friends have sent caring, encouraging, long-distance messages and generous gifts to boost spirits too. Again, I’m lucky to have people who know me so well. The amount of chocolate (including the best English stuff) and cake that has landed on my doorstep verges on grotesque but, it would have been so rude not to devour the lot. It’s been a bit of a chore but somehow we have managed to get through it 😉
- I mentioned the situation to my son’s school so they would look out for any changes in his behaviour and the following week we had home-cooked meals for our freezer as well as offers to baby-sit and take our kids on playdates. These are such kind gestures from people we barely know. I would never have asked for this but it has made such a difference to ensure I’m not overdoing it and can concentrate on a good recovery.
Sometimes life can get serious but, even during this time, there have been some giggles which helped to lighten the mood and take my mind off things. Here are two stories that could have been awkward but, in the moment, I opted to laugh and not cry.
- A week after my diagnosis, a technician came to our house to install our internet. He obviously had no idea what was going on in our lives but refused to drill into the roof of the house claiming he wouldn’t do it “because of the asbestos… which could give you cancer”. My husband paused for a moment to gauge my reaction and then – realising I was ok – responded with “oh no, we wouldn’t want that”. Luckily (for everyone’s sake) I wasn’t feeling overly sensitive at that point so we had a little chuckle. The tech guy was a bit confused though and carried on with his job!
- The day after I got home from the hospital, my husband suggested taking me to the shops and for a coffee. I was slightly cautious about it because I wasn’t sure I was ready to see people but I do love a bit of retail therapy so decided to go. We only planned to visit a few shops but, upon leaving the first one, the store alarm was set off. The young security man asked to see in my bag not realising the only contents were my drains from surgery. I felt so bad for him but it was quite funny and I probably passed on my caution to him!
This reflection of the positive side of my experience so far may not be what others encounter (particularly the odd stories at the end). I do hope that anyone who does face a similar situation can look for any glimmers of silver linings, when they are ready to do so and if it helps. It has taken me a while to be ready to write this but I now want to look back at this as I continue with the rest of my treatment and remind myself that it’s not all bad.