This morning my mum and I received a surprise visit from a family friend bearing flowers. We spoke briefly at the door, and some tears were shed. It perfectly demonstrated to me how a bad situation can bring out the best form of humanity in people. I felt immediately inspired to write.
The experience with cancer has been traumatic in so many ways and reliving some of the most painful moments on The Road to Diagnosis series has been hard. What shocks me is the incredible response from people to these stories. We have an amazing ability to empathise with each other’s struggles, and I get to experience the best part of this human trait daily through your heartfelt words.
It feels like the right time to name and shame some of the actions of my friends and family over the past few weeks. These fiends have made it their sole objective to do everything possible to make me feel so lucky, in such an un-lucky situation. Many of these situations have resulted in me becoming a babbling mess and falling into the ever-so-annoying “you shouldn’t have” and “I can’t accept this” tropes. It can be hard to accept the generosity of others, even when those people are your family and closest friends. The least I can do is recognise some of these actions, and I hope you enjoy a positivity-filled blog post for a change.
Firstly, I would like to introduce you to Lucy. She is a 12-week-old Miniature Dachshund and the newest member of me and Anna’s family. I first met Lucy when Anna walked into my bedroom on Wednesday 24th November and asked me if I could come downstairs to help with ‘something’. This should have perhaps aroused a level of suspicion in me, but my mind was elsewhere. Chemotherapy was starting on the coming Saturday and my mind was racing. In response to the anxiety, I had decided to sit down on my own and try to write about how I was diagnosed to alleviate some of the negativity that I was feeling mentally. It was the inception of the blog, and those words would eventually morph into the first Road to Diagnosis entry.
I followed Anna downstairs, entirely in my own head and reliving some of the tough parts of the cancer journey thus far. To my surprise, my brother Alfie and his girlfriend Kat were sitting in the front room when I walked in. My dad was also sitting there. Everyone was looking at me expectantly. “Is this an intervention? Do these people think I’ve been diagnosed with alcoholism?” I thought. As I took another step, I realised there was a small box on the floor. As I looked down, I saw beautiful little Lucy plotting her escape. I think the video speaks clearer than any words I could write from this point.
I haven’t watched the video as I cannot stand the sound of my voice, but I have seen the still images of my dad laughing to high heaven. He processes emotion in a different way to the rest of us if you couldn’t tell. Lucy was organised by my wonderfully thoughtful sister Becky and paid for by the whole family and some very close family friends. She was to be my chemotherapy companion, and she does a fantastic job of sitting and looking cute in the car when I am picked up from the hospital. I have shown the nurses pictures of her and threatened to sneak her onto the ward in my bag. They reluctantly encourage me not to. I still think they’d let her stay if I did though.
The next group of people in the spotlight are my incredible friends. Upon learning about a difficult financial situation with work, whereby I would only be receiving full sick pay for 4 weeks (the diagnosis alone took 5 weeks), my friend Finch organised a collection. They were trying to take away some of the external stresses that come with a cancer diagnosis; the things that you would hope could be put to the back of the mind in this scenario. Unfortunately, financial problems quickly become a hot topic with such a diagnosis, but that is an entirely different article.
I needed to use the money to buy something significant, as I felt so uncomfortable accepting such a gesture and spending it on something benign. So, the money bought a ring which Anna now wears on a rather significant finger on her left hand… It will forever remind us of the kindness of a group of people who have always been there for me, and who I love with all my heart.
My friends then organised a sort-of-surprise engagement meal for me and Anna, which was lovely. It was on Monday 22nd November, the same day that we packed up our lives in London to move back home with my parents for me to undergo treatment at The Christie. We had only recently purchased our flat in London and had enjoyed decorating it and making it our home. We were sad to leave it behind and packing away our things so soon after moving them in felt wrong. It emphasised the fact that our lives were changing, suddenly and drastically. The meal provided another perspective on the situation; that we had the support of people we loved around us, and that we were closer to those people for a while (as many of them aren’t hip Londoners like Anna and I).
Although cancer is a destructive and horrible thing, I have it to thank for all the above and far more. Whether it kills me or doesn’t, it has provided me with an opportunity to gain such a valuable perspective on the world that will remain with me forever. The way I interact with people has irreversibly changed. But you shouldn’t need a cancer diagnosis to gain such a perspective. If you feel gratitude for a friend, tell them. When you know someone is going through a hard time, set a reminder on your phone to message them each day and tell them something about them you love. Be the person that you would want other people to be for you.