It’s almost my cancerversary – 12 months since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. A totally awesome Christmas present, I’m sure you’ll agree. Making it through the festivities was hellish because I was trying to hide my illness from friends and more importantly my children – in an effort not to spoil the vibe. I think I failed anyway: my forced smile in the photos can’t hide the pale-faced, strained knowledge of what 2017 was about to bring.
And, on the face of it, 2017 has been utterly crap:
two nausea-inducing surgeries under general anaesthetic
6 soul-destroying cycles of chemotherapy
15 rounds of fatiguing radiotherapy
17 painful injections of herceptin
seemingly-endless days of depression, tears and difficult decisions and anxiety (I’ve lost count)
BUT, hidden amongst the angst, there have been moments of joy, and laughter, and kindness. And I’ve been keeping a ‘thankful diary’ this year, to remember them. Keeping a ‘thankful diary’ is the sort of activity I would previously have dismissed as new age bollocks, and perhaps it is – a little bit. But it also works, to reset my brain from focusing on the negatives to the positives, so here are some of the things I’ve written this year:
Binge-watching The Good Fight
Beautiful flowers & cards in the post
Introducing the kids to Fresh Prince
Roast chicken & black forest gateau
Mum sitting with me on the hospital ward
Dad doing the school run for me
Wimbledon on the telly
The gang visiting from work
A hug and ‘hope I don’t see you again’ from the radiographer at hospital
Staycation trips to Scarborough, Northumberland and Windsor
Family, friends, food and TV figure frequently in my diary – perhaps unsurprising in a year in which I have spent a great deal of time lying around in various states of fatigue and nausea. And I have spent a lot of time with my kids, much more than I did the year before when I was healthy, but working and training hard. That has been a privilege and a blessing – because when else do we, as working parents, get to spend so much time with our children once maternity leave is over? I am continuously astounded by their resilience and ability to lift my spirits, even on the darkest days. And I couldn’t end this mushy post without crediting my long-suffering husband, who has to deal with my sarcasm, pessimism and bad moods on a daily basis, and who truly knows the meaning of “in sickness and in health”.
I am in some ways fearful of what next year might bring: more surgery is planned; I am forever anxious about recurrence; and I continue to be plagued with limited mobility and side effects from the cancer drugs. But I am also thankful for the people who surround me, and the little punctuations of hope and happiness they provide.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy Christmas and new year xxx