The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Another chemotherapy treatment day rolled around yesterday. That meant another 6:45am alarm, 4.5 hours in the hospital on a Saturday and more baked goods for the nurses. Yesterday I made them chocolate chip banana bread. I’ll save that material for the next Chemotherapy Diaries post though, thank you; I’m collecting ammunition for it with every second that passes. But this isn’t a blog based on chemo complaints. This post has a more positive topic: thankfulness.

One of the significant side-effects of having cancer that is not listed on the NHS website is the incredible opportunity to see the best in human beings come out constantly and unrelentingly. I find myself humbled time and time again by the actions of others. This is another post, similar to my Friends & Family post, where my only goal is to highlight the amazing things people have done for me and give thanks. I’m only covering a select group of scenarios here, but I have plenty. I plan to slowly drop these things into other blog posts over time. “A steady flow of content, how irresistible,” I think to myself, stroking my black cat and cackling to the sky. I will name drop everyone one day, in one way or another.

The first thing I woke up to yesterday morning, doing my usual scan of Twitter and WordPress in bed, was this post from Dr. Eric Perry recommending my blog to his 33K+ followers. I was truly bowled over by the gesture. His blog is far more advanced than mine, both in form and purpose. His articles are written eloquently, always have a fantastic central theme, and contain well-researched information to support the points. It is an excellent self-help blog, and I am so honoured to have my blog featured within its work. To everyone who has joined Ebb and Flow from that recommendation, welcome, and I hope it lives up to the expectations set by Dr. Eric. I’ve already received touching comments from many of you, and it made my treatment day feel so special and joyous, 2 words I usually don’t associate with the chemotherapy ward.

The next person in the firing line is my cousin Anna. Unfortunately, she lives in Europe, so I seldom see her or her talented children. They play various instruments among the 3 of them. After a family wedding in Germany that I could not attend, my family returned home full of praise for her children’s instrumental skill after they performed there. Upon reading one of my Chemotherapy Diaries posts where I had complained about my hands cramping (as they are now) because of the drugs, she sent me a little gift. The below fingerless gloves arrived with a lovely note inside, telling me that they were to help alleviate the cramping when writing. I wear them often and they not only help the cramping by warming up my hands, but have a similar effect on my heart. What a beautiful gesture. Thank you so much, Anna.

A more general thank you next to an exceptional person in my life. Her name is Daniella, but everyone knows her as Dee. She insists that it is spelt ‘D’, but I cannot fathom something so ridiculous. D is a letter and something you try to avoid getting in an exam in school, not a name. In all seriousness, Dee has supported me so much throughout the 6 years I’ve known her, though more than ever since the hospital visits started. There are few people I find myself speaking so openly to. She is the first person I cried to when I was first diagnosed with a cancerous tumour. I had managed to keep it together with my fiance Anna, choosing a display of strength over vulnerability. Within 2 minutes of speaking to Dee, I just collapsed. With every supportive text, weekend visit and comforting word, she has been a pillar in my life that has withstood so much stress, emotion and pain. I love her dearly, and I will try my very best to be there for her in the same capacity that she has been there for me.

My best friend Luke is to thank next. I hope he doesn’t mind me saying, but he has had his own fair share of battles with mental health. When I was living and working in the US, I spent nights worrying about him and speaking to him as often as possible. I always wondered how vulnerable he was, how things were going for him and if he was managing to win his battles. It was hard being so far from a friend you knew was suffering. He has a wonderful girlfriend and seems better at managing these days, or so I hope. I can’t say, though, because he somewhat selfishly always speaks to me about my situation, asking how I’m feeling and providing a reasonable voice when I feel worried. All this, as well as making me laugh more than anyone I know (my fiance Anna is close second here; she won’t appreciate being second, though). Every time I see him, I cry with laughter at least once. The positive effect on my ability to fight cannot be understated. He’s been my best friend since we were both in school, and his intelligence, wit and enormous heart continue to surprise me every day.

Finally, my fiance Anna. She has had a good amount of air time in this blog but it is mostly in passing, during The Road to Diagnosis series and in other places. We only met 2 years ago. If the Covid pandemic had not occurred, I would have still been living and working in Philadelphia, US, and I almost definitely would not have met her. We met during lockdown 1, and within 3 months were looking at properties to buy together in London. When you know, you really do know. I thought it was a cliche but I’ve felt it. Meeting Anna has proved to me that sometimes things are fated to happen. If I hadn’t met her, I don’t know how I would be dealing with my cancer diagnosis. That isn’t to discredit the role of friends, family, and everyone else, but Anna is constant support for me in a way that only someone you love can be. She teaches me so much every day through her kindness, her ability to laugh at everything and how she can wear pyjamas during every work call; it’s quite impressive how little she dresses for work these days. I can’t wait to see what our lives bring us and she’s one of the main reasons I’m fighting this cancer with the force I am – I cannot stand missing all of the things she’s going to do in her life, and I refuse to not be part of them.

Of all the talk of positivity and hope, I owe so much to the actions of others. I do not stay positive every second of every day, and I don’t expect myself to be. Suffering alone is tough. The hard miles come during the sleepless nights, the nausea-laced days and when the ruthless nature of the cancer is more prominent in my mind than the possibility of survival. Small actions of kindness, a handwritten card, some gloves, unannounced flowers, all represent another human’s empathy and want to contribute to something otherwise out of their control. It isn’t about the present; it’s about the human spirit they represent. The text messages, comments on the blog and random exchanges on Twitter. They all contribute to a feeling that I am not alone in this.

To close this post, I encourage you to invest in the people around you. Whatever your support network consists of, nurture it. Life is unpredictable and changing. Without the help of others, we are far less capable of coping with the curveballs it throws at us. Something that I am changing my opinion on is social media. Twitter is allowing me to seek out other pancreatic cancer patients, survivors and experts that I would not have connected with otherwise. Their many posts, interviews and articles are a wealth of knowledge, encouragement and support. Used in the right way, it can be a museum of information tailored to your needs. I will post a link to the blog’s Twitter account below. Please follow if you so wish by clicking on the Twitter icon. It’s another growing support network in my struggle, and I look forward to seeing where it takes me.