I have loved Gi Fletcher’s “Happy Mum, Happy Baby” podcast for as long as it’s been around. Way before babies were even on my horizon.
Same goes for One Born Every Minute lol, I’ve always had a weird interest in baby chat!
I recently had Ross listen to the Tom Fletcher episode on a trip to Bristol and we loved listening together. I also have a weird thing for people with good laughs, and Tom’s is infectious. I love listening to him and Gi together!
When Gi released a new series just as I was about to hit the midway point of my pregnancy, you can imagine I was all for it.
Except I soon realised that the baby hormones were not going to let me listen to a single episode without tears flowing lol. Cheers little man.
When I saw the Tracie Gledhill and Deborah James episode drop in, I thought “Ooh who are they?” “Maybe this will be the week I don’t cry at “Happy Mum, Happy Baby””. Lolololol.
I soon discovered that Tracie was diagnosed with breast cancer, and Deborah with bowel cancer, in the same year that I was diagnosed with stage 4 skin cancer, and there were going to be more tears than ever.
Don’t worry, it wasn’t because it was upsetting, or sad, in fact most of the time it was absolutely the opposite. But I related to it.
I felt like they were speaking aspects of my life so eloquently, and it struck all the chords.
From the very start
Discussing how it feels to be hit with those words “You’ve got cancer”, where Deborah tells us her first thought was “I don’t want to die”, and that limbo situation where you wait to hear what’s next.
That was me. It didn’t seem real. I don’t want to die. I had all the same things running through my head. “I’m too young!” “This doesn’t happen to me!”
That sheer panic as a serial planner. Someone who very much lives in the future, just like Deborah. Planning things for another day and thinking about all the things that will definitely happen “one day”.
Well, all of a sudden, it doesn’t look like “one day” is going to come. As the Oncologist in front of you delivers the news that you never thought you’d hear “2 weeks to live”. Except for me, it was a whirlwind of doctors and nurses surrounding my hospital bed. Every single one of them wanting to fix everything, but not knowing where to start.
Cancer and children
Of course, our situations differ in terms of how family life looks. Tracie and Deborah instantly worked out what age in their children’s lives their prognosis took them to. They talked about telling their children. How it had to be a normal part of life, not sugar coated or pre-fixed with “everything is going to be ok”.
For me, after the initial nightmare months were out of the way, and the prospect of a bit more life ahead of me set in, I panicked that I would never even get the chance to see what our children might have looked like. Let alone experience how being pregnant might feel. I panicked that I had stolen an entire life experience from my whole family. My husband, whose face I had dreamed of as I told him he would be a dad. My parents holding the grandchild they had expected one day. Ross’s parents…it wasn’t even their flesh and blood who might steal that chance for a grandchild. My sister who would be so excited to finally be an Aunty. My grandparents who I had always hoped would still being around when we extended the family. The list goes on.
And now I am past that panic mode and somehow carrying our child? Well now I panic that it’s selfish.
What if it all goes wrong and I’m not here to see him go to school, score his first goal, or get married.
Should I be allowed to bring him into a world that might be shattered one day?
Tracie and Deborah talked about how she let’s her children read or listen to everything she does in her career. She doesn’t want death to come like a bolt out of no where. I’m not even at that point. I don’t want death to come at all.
The “C” word affects the whole family. I know that already. But I need to focus on the good.
Deborah talked about how it’s brought her family together. Made her a more present parent. Each day she thinks “All I’ve got is this day”, because who knows what tomorrow brings?
This is the good that I need to focus on. This magical thing could very easily not have happened for us, so I need to enjoy every little moment.
Other people’s perception and “the future”
When she decided to go on a little OTT health kick, Deborah’s Oncologist told her, “don’t get into that game of trying to control your cancer”.
And it’s true. I added turmeric to every meal I could. I shunned anything I deemed slightly unhealthy. And then I realised that whatever will be, will be. Eat the damned burger.
Oh yeah, and bite your tongue when people tell you that turmeric is going to save the world. Or don’t, ya know, whatever mood you’re in.
The amount of times though, that I have sat and smiled politely when people say things like “I’m so glad it’s all over for you now”, “I’m so glad you’re all better now”.
But Tracie talked about how it’s not as simple as that perception. It’s something I haven’t known quite how to word, or how to react to, but as she says “you can’t get back to that pre-cancer you, because it doesn’t exist anymore. It’s damaging for people to expect you to do that”. For them to just assume that you’re over it now.
Sometimes, maybe it is better to give people the facts.
The future. Oh the future. Something so expected. So often taken for granted. But I don’t see the future in the same way anymore.
Deborah talks about what it is like to live knowing that you might not have a future. Living in fear. How you’d be naive to think that the bad thoughts will never creep in. Tracie talks about it like having an expiry date. And it’s all so true. I relate completely, even if I have been incredibly lucky with my treatment response so far. So, like Deborah, I have to draw a line and ask myself, “how am I going to make the most of this?”
I totally relate when Tracie talked about cancer making her a better person. Less tolerant of drama, of people that don’t have time for me, and of people that don’t have my best interests at heart.
I want to go out and do all the things. Live with no regrets.
That is when I have to remind myself that it’s OK to have this baby. What if I turn out to be one of the very lucky ones who is still here for many, many years to come? I would have lived in regret that we didn’t have children, just because we were scared of what might happen. Instead, I need to embrace it. Stop worrying about all the little dramas and problems that mean nothing in reality.
And I want to continue to speak out about what happened, and share my story.
I want to keep writing about things I love, and vlogging about my life, because think of all the memories I am creating for my little boy to look back on one day. Those things will always be here.
I want to make memories.
Yes we are just about starting to talk about so many more cancers than before, but I’ve never heard anyone talk about skin cancer to the level that it hit me. To the point where 13 tumours pickled my entire liver and threatened me with 2 weeks to live. It’s not as simple as an ugly mole that you cut out and move on from.
Doing some good
I’ve been struggling a little with finding something I’m passionate about lately. Yes I have this blog, which I am absolutely passionate about, but something more than that.
I want to raise awareness. Give people hope. Help others avoid that “I’ve got cancer” conversation with their families.
Deborah talked about the fact that, as we move into the future, more people will live with cancer than die from it. It’s becoming more “liveable”.
I want to help others park those dark fears and live life one step at a time. And remember that you’re allowed to have crappy days in your pyjamas where you’re angry at the world, because cancer really is shit.
You don’t look at me and think “cancer”. In fact, many of those who follow me don’t even realise, or have only recently discovered what happened.
I love that. I want people to see that there can be life after one of the most horrendous experiences.
We should all live as though we don’t know what is round the corner tomorrow, and I want to portray that online more than ever.
And when it comes to motherhood?
Deborah put it perfectly, “if you care about what your kids are doing, then they’re probably OK”. Lol, who cares what they’re eating/wearing/playing with. Have perspective.
When you’re hit with the next little drama, ask yourself “does it really matter?”
Just live a little bit. Do what makes you and the kids happy. Not what other people think you should do.
For the record, if Giovanna Fletcher ever fancies inviting me onto Happy Mum, Happy Baby, I’ll sign up quicker than I gobbled up my Cadbury’s Wispa today. And go and follow the little gems that are Tracie and Deborah.