In August 2016 I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma. I had a whirlwind of a year with cancer care, treatment and hospital visits, before the little bastard decided it was done with me for now and yep it was going to leave me to live a normal life. Except, what is a normal life now?
Fo’ sure that kind of shizz makes you re-evaluate life, am I spending enough time with those who matter? Am I enjoying every little smidge of life? Do I really need to keep wishing I could win the lottery, when all that truly matters is health and happiness? (OK, I still want to win the lottery a little bit…I’m pretty certain an endless pot of holibob money would up my happiness lol)
Being v v lucky with the old cancer treatment is obvs amazing, I feel very fortunate to be in the position I am now in, and 90% of the time I smile and nod when people note how well I look, how amazing it all is, and how pleased they are that everything is ok now*. But it is those four words that physically bring a lump to my throat and make me feel a little bit like chucking my guts up or collapsing in a dizzy mess. “Everything is ok now”.
Because is it really? Yeah I look like the same old me. Yeah I still do the same old things I did before. And yeah, I’ll still tell you everything is fandabby-dozy on the surface. But I sure as hell don’t feel like the same old me. I run at a constant low level of anxiety (usually panicking about whether the little prick fancies rearing it’s head again), which raises my stress on so many things that wouldn’t phase me in the past. I’m forever questioning whether I can still say yes to whatever opportunity is coming my way, because what if things are different now I’ve had/have cancer. That’s another one, I’m never quite sure if I am supposed to describe my cancer as past tense or present, which is why I struggle with “everything is ok now”. IS IT? Is it really? Or is it all still happening?!
I know that people probably don’t know what to say, or they think they are saying the right thing… they genuinely are happy that everything seems to be ok now, but I still really struggle with those four words, and more often than not I would rather people said nothing at all.
The question mark over my future, and specifically children, is something that has driven me absolutely crazy since I stepped onto this horrific rollercoaster. It underpins so much of the anxiety that I talk about here, I can’t look at a baby without desperately wishing I had one of those snotty, noisy, messy little things. But the truth is we don’t know whether we can have children now. We were a fairly typical 20-something married couple who would have loved babies right now, but instead we’re facing the decision of a lifetime as we catapult towards the 2 year post-treatment mark when we could think about making mini-Richards’. But, will the pregnancy hormones say OH HEY CANCER, WELCOME BACK? Who knows. Who knows if I can even fall pregnant after the big old whack of drugs I was given to knock the power out of the ugly little thing. I know there are options to consider, but let’s be honest, I wanted to do it all myself. I want to make a baby, be pregnant, moan about all those pregnant things and drive my husband crazy with mood swings and hormones.
The problem is, so many people just think “everything is ok now”. So why wouldn’t you ask the happily married, woman of child bearing age if she wants to have babies soon? Or the husband let’s not forget, because it’s not just me that is in this situation. It’s not just me who is asked this question. Except when you ask me that question, it makes me want to burst into tears and scream YES I WANT A BLOODY BABY, GIMME ONE NOW! And when I think of us being left behind whilst all of our friends pop out mini-me’s, it’s like someone switched the tap on inside my face.
My point is, you don’t know what people have going on behind closed doors. They might want those doors closed up with a billion locks, just so they don’t have to talk to you about it. Equally, I think it’s great if we do talk about these things, but it has to be on your own terms. Be there for others, let them talk if they want to, but jeez just think before you ask.
*On the day that I wrote this, I had TWO PEOPLE SAY THIS TO ME!! AHHHH!
P.S. I am currently training to ride 100 miles to raise funds for the Centre for Cancer Immunology…you can read the whole story and donate here.
Jumpsuit – ASOS
T-Shirt – Tee & Cake via Topshop