There are notebooks everywhere in our house. Alan says they all have two pages used and he’s not far wrong. Often, with me, it’s the act of writing down that helps me to remember/recall something, so I can make a page of notes that I never look at again; hence my notebook use is inconsistent and anything but methodical.
This haphazard approach means that every now and then I come across some old notes that make me pause…. which is what happened yesterday. On a short break from playing with Flora (who is, as I write, playing a kitten game that involves swinging from the hem of my dress – she’s settling in very nicely) I picked up a notebook to collect a stray thought, and came acros a page on which I’d written,
Life after cancer?
A quick look at the other notes around it made me remember that this was part of a question a journalist had asked me – something along the lines of ’so, now you’re well, what does life after cancer look like?’ – and at the time I’d been struck by those three words put together.
Because I didn’t think then – as I don’t think now – of having ‘life after cancer’. On the one hand, it’s partly because, with remission date still the best part of eighteen months away, I’m not quite ready to say ‘after’ as I don’t think I’ve got to the place I can legitimately use it yet. It would be like calling myself a doctor when I’ve only learned lungs, kidneys, hips and knees.
More than that, though, I’m not sure there’s an ‘after’ to something that changes life as profoundly as cancer does. Of course there’s the technically-after, which I’ll reach in November 2013, provided that my breasts behave themselves between now and then. But emotionally, psychologically, practically – my dance with cancer has changed me. The way I think, feel, act. What I do, for a living, for a home, for fun. And these things remain changed. So life after cancer has become, well, just life. Maybe that’s why the phrase surprised me, struck me, was worth writing down.
With cancer, as with so many major life events, there isn’t an ‘after’ in the ‘let’s buy some shoes after we’ve found a handbag’ sense. Life after cancer is life heading in a new direction. New scars, new strengths, new friends, new places.
‘Life with cancer assimilated’ might be a better way of putting it. Just pass me a notebook, and I’ll write that down.