Saturday, 1 February 2014

Cancer is bitch - why I am not giving up

Me and my parents at Salford Quays. 
I woke up and I was hungover, not just hungover but completely sleep deprived. It was one of those nights that started, and didn't seem to end. Another bar, another drink, bleary eyes and stumbling out into the bright blinding morning sunshine.

I slept for most of the day, a comatose state of drunken revelry.

I stared at my phone, there were three missed calls, and messages from my parents. Ugh, I thought, what do they want? I finally dragged myself to a computer and called them.

No-one really knows how they will react to bad news, not really. We think we know how we are, we understand our own emotions, but truly we don't.

And as I sat listening to my parents, tears just came, rushing out of me. I couldn't stop.

My mum had been diagnosed from a rare form of breast cancer: inflammatory breast cancer. So rare it only affects 1 - 4% of all breast cancer suffers.

At that moment, I shattered. I lost my mind. I was only a month into a new job, in a new strange city, away from my closest friends and family, and I cried. I have never cried like that before, a wave of unrelenting emotion just searing through me. I didn't do anything else, I just lay in bed and soaked the sheets with tears - I was by all accounts an absolute mess. 

I started to research the disease, every post made my cry harder. A word of advice, never look it up if this happens, no matter how much you want to - it is a spiral of pointless fear mongering.

This was in May last year.

I immediately thought I should move home, but that was ridiculous. My mum had worked too hard to give me the opportunities I had now, putting me through university and an MA. Helping me when I felt like I couldn't go on. Supporting my decision to move abroad.

At home, I would have been an inconvenient nuisance, an overgrown unemployed teenager taking up valuable space in a two bed terrace house. In a way, I helped by being in Belgium, and getting on with my life. 

Cancer, cancer everywhere

Cancer is a cluster bomb, it explodes in the centre and crashes through everyone close by. The circle is wide, people around feel the cuts and bruises, the emotional scars, the shrapnel piercing through their skin. And in the centre, there is one person.

It is a nasty, horrible, terrifying thing.

Because cancer is everywhere, it is used to scare us, the big unknown of disease. People fight cancer, they survive it, they exist in it. We all know about it, it is the big C. The treatment is just as bad, the equivalent of giving your computer a virus to fix itself and never being sure if it will work again.

BUT, we did survive it, all of us. We stood up, brushed ourselves off, and got on with it. Because there is nothing you can do, not really, except stand up and take each day as it comes.

My mum, in the centre of the explosion, was in no uncertain terms incredible. She would joke about it - she described her mastectomy as joining the lopsided ladies league, and the radiotherapy treatment like being in a sci film.

She looked brilliant bald, a feat that most of us would find hard to pull off. 

She discovered the delights of an iPad, read more books than I probably read in a year, and just you know, got on with it.

There are many things I am entirely grateful for. The GP who knew something was wrong and sent her to specialist, pretty much the whole of the NHS who are utterly superb people, who I will hear nothing against.

All the people who could be around her when I couldn't, because no-one tells you how hard it is to see your own mother suffer when you live in another country. The friends who I confided in (both in Belgium and beyond), who accepted when I really didn't want to talk about it, or let me make jokes instead of being serious. 

To my dad who was there the whole time, and saw everything I missed - the good and the bad.

The diagnosis of No Evidence of Disease - a wondrous thing we received recently.

And of course to my mum, who stood like a rock in the middle and who didn't let it waver her sense of humour. Who constantly complained about being stuck in the house all the day (something I do out of choice sometimes). 

I honestly couldn't be prouder, and more amazed (and believe me, I find this sort of emotional stuff hard to say).

Turn that sympathy into sponsorship

Now it is February, almost eight months after the diagnosis and I am running a marathon. I am running a marathon for Breast Cancer Campaign, a charity dedicated to research into breast cancer.

I really don't want anyone's sympathy, it you want to be sympathetic to me, then stop and donate money to my fundraising page instead here.

Because cancer is a bitch, and every year we are getting better and better at treating it, and if by finishing this marathon I can even do one thing to help that, then that is amazing.

So I won't give up, even when I want to.


Next week, more funny blogs about my terrible running, I promise. Believe me if this has taught me anything, it is that humour is the greatest thing in the world. 


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