And another year slips by in what feels like the blink of an eye…
This Christmas is feeling a little different for me in a few ways. Usually, I would have spent Christmas Eve having a few more drinks than the average night with my family and friends. In past years this has resulted in me struggling to eat my Christmas Dinner or, in particularly bad years, stopping me from enjoying a single second of Christmas Day. I can’t say that I feel disappointed about this change. I still had friends over yesterday though, and they had some drinks with my family. I just enjoyed the company, and they are always great company!
Finch waited until everyone was there before walking into the room with 2 wrapped presents and a card. Everyone was smiling and I was trying to figure out what sort of smile it was. Were they happy because they knew the presents were that good? Have they done something else that I was going to struggle to accept? Or were those smiles in fact smirks? Is this going to be at my expense? I was told to unwrap the presents in the order they were handed to me, including the card in the middle.
The first present was a book. ‘Everybody Writes’ by Ann Handley, a book about improving your writing. “So the first present was incredibly thoughtful,” I thought to myself. I read the card next – “To Dan and Anna. We have put something together which will hopefully help put a smile on your faces if future dates/appointments begin to become a little overwhelming”. My interest was well and truly peaked, but it seemed another undeniably thoughtful present based on the message. I unwrapped the last present and found it was a calendar with the picture from the surprise engagement meal on it; I used this picture in my Friends & Family post. What I didn’t know at the time was that this picture was a ploy. It was a façade placed there only to naively draw me in. What followed was me flipping page by page through the calendar to various levels of laughter, surprise and a peppering of disgust. Seeing as they gave me this calendar to hang in my house, I don’t think they will have a problem with me posting it here. Flick through at your own risk, there’s some disturbing content to say the least. It really is undeniably thoughtful though, and it will definitely put a smile on my face no matter what appointments I am having to mark inside it.
I also wanted to add a couple of honourable mentions. Firstly, to Lucy Giannasi for making me the amazing ‘Ebb and Flow’ card. I love it so much and it is so beautifully done! Next, to the group of friends that are self-named ‘The Turks’. I met Dan Sayek at Arcadis when I used to work there, and he’s been a very close friend ever since. Lucky for me, Dan Sayek comes with a whole catalogue of other friends that he knows from Turkey. They all live in London and are amazingly intelligent, thoughtful and interesting people. Not only have they made the 3 hour journey from London to visit me recently, but they then sent a Christmas Hamper to Anna and I to say thank you. What they were thanking me for I am not sure, all I did was cook them some spaghetti and let them look after my dog. I am so grateful for them and all the support that they are providing to me.
Another change this year is that my brother Greg won’t be here as he failed a PCR test. The labs were struggling to meet demand with PCR results this week it seemed, and it took 5 days for him to receive his. He had packed up the car with his stuff and was ready to leave Manchester as he received the positive result via text. By this point, he was convinced that the minor symptoms he had experienced the weekend before were due to the booster jab. He had done 2 hardcore cycling sessions that week since experiencing the symptoms (for those of you who know him, you will know he doesn’t do easy fitness sessions) and neither of them phased him. He was pretty sure he couldn’t do this with covid, but he did also test positive for Covid a few days after competing in the Bolton Iron Man last year; we should have known better really. Apparently us Godley’s like completing challenging events with unknown health problems – I did my last ultra marathon with cancer and Greg completed an Iron Man with covid. Luckily, his wonderful girlfriend Kate is staying with him in Manchester, so I hope they have a lovely day together and I look forward to seeing them soon.
The biggest change for me though is my diagnosis. What is strange is that Christmas was one of the first things that played on my mind when wrestling with the idea of having cancer. “I wonder how many Christmases I have left,” I sat pondering at 4am in my hospital bed one night. It really bothered me. I wondered if I would be able to enjoy any single one of them, or if the pressure I’d put on myself to enjoy them to the fullest would make the whole thing overwhelming.
I am now in a completely different headspace to then. You cannot process news like that in a week. You can’t even expect yourself to process it in a month, or 6 months, or even a year. Everyone is going to be different, and what ‘processing the news’ means for you may be very different to what it means for me. It is also influenced by the people around you, including the doctors you have. My processing came in waves, across 2 diagnoses of very different severity and with a range of differing attitudes of different doctors and nurses. It was only when I got to The Christie in Manchester that I felt like a set of doctors truly spoke to me positively about the situation, and that made a huge difference for me. Until this point, I was still processing news that felt to me was almost certainly a death sentence, something which was taking me a while and was difficult.
Another thing worth mentioning is that I have started to use Twitter to follow others experiencing cancer. Those of you who know me likely know that I have been very anti social media for a long time (Strava doesn’t count as social media – don’t even try it). For me, I realised that social media gave me a false reality that negatively affected my relationships. It was a means of feeling like I had a lot of friends and that I was involved in their lives, but actually I was passively learning about the ongoings of their life with little effort or engagement from either of us. As a result, I deleted all of my personal social media accounts and decided that any relationships I have from now on, I must make an effort to sustain. It felt good, and I have stood by that stance for 6 years. Now that I have a Twitter for the blog however, I have started seeing some different positives to social media. Twitter is helping me find people experiencing similar things to me, which is wonderfully therapeutic and encouraging. I opened the Twitter app 2 days ago to find the following tweet at the top of my feed.
The treatment plan she speaks of here is the exact same treatment plan that I am currently undergoing. Folfirinox is the same chemotherapy type that I am on, 12 sessions (2 cycles of 6 sessions) is the current plan and the aim of that chemotherapy is to allow surgeons to perform the Whipple, which is the type of surgery required to remove the tumour. I was suddenly flooded with so much positive emotion. Primarily for this woman who I did not know, but that I knew was sitting somewhere in the world right at that moment, experiencing such an incredible feat. I felt so incredibly happy for her. But it also showed me that treatment plans work and, specifically, my treatment plan has worked for someone. It is easy to say that this should have been obvious to me, but it felt different to see a random stranger write the details of the very same treatment plan as me, within a message stating that she had beat the cancer. What an amazing feeling, and it’s another example of someone sharing their message and having a profound effect on the world around them. I responded to her Tweet, and she sent me a lovely message of positivity and strength.
It is on this positive note that I will sign-off the post for today. Thank you so much for reading my blog, it means the world to me. It feels like I have been doing it for so much longer than I have, and I keep reminding myself that it is new to me every time I get cold feet about a post or feel self-conscious about things that I am writing. I’m learning a lot about writing and about myself, and it is when I am learning that I am most motivated in life, so it is helping me tremendously with my diagnosis. I hope that you have a lovely Christmas day and spend it with whoever is closest to you, exchanging gifts and eating far too much food.
Love, Dan x