Tuesday October 9th – one week after diagnosis.
I have been overwhelmed by the response to my first blog post. Such warm, thoughtful, supportive messages from friends, colleagues and people whose lives I have touched – some who I have never met. It is these messages that have taken me aback.
“You have inspired me so many times through your posts”
“So sorry to hear you news your an inspiration to all now get your big girl panties on and kick cancers butt”
“You are a strong women, that has inspired so many troubled individuals. Myself as a teenager included in that list you help.”
“Your blogs are so inspiring and heartfelt and they raise so much awareness…”
“Not a truer word spoken. U did help so many young people and made school that tiny bit more bareable.”
Who is this Wonder Woman I am reading about? She is far removed from the woman I see when I look in the mirror! I do not recognise her as the woman who climbs into my bed each night filled with self-doubt. She does not resemble the simple soul who just plods through life trying not to cock things up and hoping she is just about doing ok.
While I wait for my existential crisis to fully kick in, sitting here like a quivering plate of jelly, intermittently bursting into tears, these messages calm me, give me succour and even bring a smile to my snotty, tear stained face. While the debate continues on the good and evil of social media, thank you – for taking the time to message me. Thank you for letting me know I have made a difference.
There is a message here for everyone though. We do not know how we touch people’s lives. Our actions, our words, our presence can do harm and do good. I know I have done harm in the past, particularly in my younger years – and for that I am truly sorry. But I hope, by being true to myself, by being respectful of others’ experiences, I now mostly “do no harm.” I am privileged and humbled to have shared in so many people’s journeys in the last thirty years. If I have been able to make a positive difference, that is because those people have taken a risk and allowed me into their life and connected with me on some level. Any betterment is because they took that risk.
I’m living a strange surreal limbo just now. Just waiting … waiting to know what I can expect of life going forward. Can I expect a life going forward? What happens next? When you are frightened and just want a simple answer to a simple question, everything seems like a hurdle and becomes so overwhelming. Trying to physically speak with someone at the hospital was nightmare. I was snared in a vicious circle of answerphone messages. How many people does the NHS employ? Can one of them not pick up the phone and answer a question?
My wonderful GP acknowledges the shit “patient journey” explaining that he has no “secret numbers” through which he can access information either. I was a wreck, shaking, crying, helpless – and yes, angry and frustrated. Luckily I have my sister. We have spent more time together in the last week than in the last fifteen years. I am grateful for her coolness, her focus, her distance (though not indifference). She did what needed to be done via Lisa, or Debbie, or someone in “Complaints” and got the answer I needed. I will know nothing before 10th October.
With that news came some calm, some purpose – a shopping trip to prepare for all eventualities. A purple fleecy dressing gown, purple slippers and big knickers. Not just any big knickers – these are M&S big knickers ……. Having successfully lost 4 stone in the last couple of years and proudly squeezed myself into sexier (!), briefer briefs, the big knickers thing is a bit of a bummer. To be fair the sexier, briefer briefs have seen no action in the last few years. Whatever the future holds I am guaranteed a lot more going on in my knickers over the next few months. Admittedly – not the sort of action I have dreamed of – but action there will be.
Action there is now, as this thing grows and bleeds; a daily reminder that I am “not ok.” An Elastoplast and hug to make it all better just ain’t going to cut it. So, shit scared as I am, I am also surrounded by positive cancer stories. Paul (my ex) and his dad’s recovery from prostate cancer nearly 15 years ago. Joe, my son, and his recovery from testicular cancer in January this year. I can say now I never fully appreciated what they went through – how could I? Joe bravely shared his cancer journey, giving hope to others. I will, less bravely, share mine. Yes, I hope to raise awareness of vulval cancer, but in truth this is my self-indulgent way of coping and I’m not apologising for that ….