Usually at Bah!, today is Cancer Free Friday, in honour of the great tradition begun by St George’s Hospital in Tooting – no oncology clinics and very few available oncology staff on a Friday, because as we all know, no-one has cancer on a Friday.
So I was going to take the C-word approach to today’s post, and talk about breast caterpillars and being diagnosed with a cyclone… but then I remembered that this is my blog, and I make the rules, and I’m not much of a one for observing the rules anyway.
So, Cancer Free Friday is taking a rest, because today I want to talk about how I feel, on this third anniversary of my diagnosis with a breast cancer.
Reading back over the posts I republished over the last two days, I can see what I’ve learned already. In the first year, I discovered that cancer is not the end of the world, and that my life is brilliant and blessed. In the second year, I grappled with the idea that I was remembering and marking the anniversary, and longed for the day when it passes without comment or notice.
I think as I reflect on this anniversary, I’m finally getting to grips with the fact that it’s OK for cancer to matter. Right from the beginning, my instinct has always been that a dance with cancer should not define anyone: that it should be a part of life, and not our whole lives. (Even if cancer is what brings about the end of our lives. How dreadful if ‘she died of cancer’ was the only thing that could be said of us.) And I still think that’s absolutely true.
But somewhere in my subconscious, ‘cancer does not define me’ has got tangled up with ‘cancer is not that important’, and they have been as tricky to separate as strands of mohair and alpaca (one for the knitters there), or eggs and flour once they’ve been made into a pancake.
All of the writing and thinking and talking I’ve done about my dance with cancer over the last year has helped me to discover that cancer shouldn’t be brushed off. That if I try to pretend that it doesn’t matter then I am doing a disservice to all that my body and mind and family and friends have been through.
So today I am celebrating the fact that – with the help and love and support of so many good people – I have survived three years of a dance with cancer, not unscathed, but stronger for it.
Today I am glad of my strong limbs and my deep, easy breaths and my beautiful, precious hair.
Today I can see that, for the last three years, cancer has been the warp to the weft of my life.
And today I acknowledge that, although this is not the happiest of anniversaries, it does matter. Cancer is part of my story now. And that’s fine.
So happy to see you healthy and writing. Your experiences and what you have done with them have helped you produce a book and this blog, and they matter a great deal. Have a wonderful well day. X
I want you to know this, Stephanie; I’m really glad that I know you, that I found this blog and you.