As I scrolled down my Facebook newsfeed yesterday morning, the first thing I saw was a ‘Happy Friends Day’ video montage commemorating Facebook’s 12th Birthday. I then carried on scrolling until I came across a post informing me that it was World Cancer Day.
‘World Cancer Day?’ I thought to myself. I wasn’t really sure what the day was meant to represent, because cancer is an everyday reality for many, including me.
It’s not like other so called ‘Hallmark Days’ where you send a card saying Happy Cancer. That would be a little harsh, right? But you do have to find ways to laugh. With recent well known deaths; Wogan, Rickman and Bowie, a friend said that the cancer charities must be happy with the donations that must be coming in, in their honour. Hmmmm, sometimes you just have to laugh.
I digress, back to WCD. Maybe it’s about raising awareness? Maybe it’s about raising money? About remembering those who have departed? Or possibly showing support for some of us still fighting? I don’t know.
What I do know is that cancer causes pain, pain that can last for a very long time. Pain not only for the one diagnosed, but pain for family members and friends. I also know that cancer causes a lot of fear, including the ultimate fear that is death. I have had to face and stare straight into the eyes of death. It had hunted me down and I could feel it breathing down on me. Oh those many dark nights of the soul.
Some people are able to keep a distance (for the time being) from the angel of death and find a cure and go into remission, and that has to be encouraging for those of us going through treatment. Many who have lived to tell the tale (or are still fighting) do incredible work to raise awareness, to help prevent someone else from getting the dis-ease, or to help detect the condition early by looking for and noticing suspicious signs. Early detection means a better chance of survival. I follow the work of Nalie on Facebook, http://www.nalie.ca/ who is a breast cancer survivor. She promotes a #FeelItOnTheFirst campaign getting women to feel their breasts on the first of each month, take a picture and then nominating others to do the same. For Nalie, the work never stops, it’s an everyday thing; whether it’s through her blogs, or talks, or interviews. It is very much her life.
Each cancer is different, and each type has different signs and symptoms. Too often it’s detected late, which is why it’s referred to as the silent killer. In my case it was stage 4, there are no stages after that. The statistics are alarming, according to Cancer Research UK, 1 in 2 people born after 1960 in the UK will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime, and at the moment 42% are preventable (UK) with lifestyle changes.
It’s not like someone consciously lives each day thinking, ‘I might get cancer’, well I didn’t anyway. I lived a relatively healthy lifestyle. Facebook memories show the countless health and fitness related updates; all those 5km runs, the 10km ones, and all the gym check-ins. So when I was eventually diagnosed part of the process was learning as much as I could about what was to be in store. Yet nothing can really prepare you. I mean once the chemo started to kick in, I experienced the nausea, the sickness, the fatigue, the loss of taste, the mouth ulcers, the weight loss, the sensitivity, the mood swings, the anger, the sadness, the blood clot, the blood transfusions… I haven’t mentioned hair loss because I was lucky enough for my hair to remain to the surprise of a particular aunty. (I won’t forget the hair thing, the footnote at the bottom will explain if you haven’t heard the story already).
Cancer really puts a bad hair day put into perspective.
For family members and close friends the fear is there too. They want to help, they want to ease the pain, ease the suffering they see on a daily basis, but they too suffer. Seeing a loved one deteriorate from their everyday life must be tough. But they do an incredible job, they are a part of the journey.
I have been relatively independent from a young age, and as such relying on family and friends to help was a bit of a challenge. I very early on resolved in my head that I will let go and absorb and welcome all the help and support that comes my way. Cancer has been the biggest challenge I’ve had to date, and as such it needs a lot of support to bring it into balance.
I am grateful for all the wonderful people in my life; my mum, my family, my friends, my wise people, my medical practitioners #TeamMo
And as World Cancer Day came and went for another year, the battle continues everyday. This post is in memory to all those who are soaring with the angels. They suffered, their loved ones might still be suffering, but I know they would have appreciated the love that came their way.
I just hope I can keep the love circulating for many many years to come.
[Oh and the footnote about the hair. A lot of times when I mentioned that I had cancer in the early days, people would look at my head and ask, does that mean you’re going to lose your hair. For me losing my hair was lower down on the list of importance. A few days into chemo cycle 1, an aunty called and the first (and only) thing she asked was “Does he still have hair?” “Yes” was my mum’s reply. “OK, that was why I called.” End of call. You just have to laugh.]