Last night I gave at talk at the W.I. about my dance with cancer. I give talks fairly often, and I really enjoy them.
I like making people laugh when I’m talking about cancer, and the funny look they get on their faces when they realise that they’re Laughing About Cancer. It’s the look of the feeling that you used to get when you saw a teacher at the weekend, wearing something excruciatingly casual and holding hands with a member of the opposite sex.
I like talking about the nuts and bolts of treatment and making the whole thing a bit less mystical/horrific.
I like to share some of the things that helped me and to talk about the people who were around me as I danced, and how much love and support they offered.
I love to see people nod with recognition and understanding as I speak.
But the best bit of all is the bit afterwards, when people come up to me and tell me stories. Their mother, who had cancer three times and is now 97 and off on a cruise. Their sister, who has raised £50,000 for charity since her diagnosis. And – my favourites – the women, like the lady last night,, who came to tell me that she had had a breast cancer too, and was well now, and felt very lucky. All the time she spoke she stood with her hand in the small of my back, an unconscious gesture that to me means support, and momentum, and that it’s good, and right, to go forward.
I came home feeling happy and supported and so grateful for all of those people who are sharing stories of wellness after cancer. If that’s something that you do – whether you do it very publicly or whether you do it quietly, starting with the words ‘I don’t tell a lot of people this’ – thank you. It matters. It helps. Don’t stop.
(Oh, and I think I’m going to join the W.I.)