This is the first time I’ve written a blog that’s not just for me. I’m feeling very honoured that SamSpaces even asked me. I’ve been thinking about what to write for a while. My life and my volunteering at the hummingbird cancer centre has led me here.
We often hear things like cancer journey, the cancer rollercoaster, cancer being our mountain to climb and how having cancer changes us. I like to call it my cancer story. This tiny play on words makes me feel like I have a bit of control and choice in my cancer world, even if it’s just choosing when to start the next chapter, turn the next page, even when you know there’s stormy cancer pages ahead.
This year I will have had cancer in my life for ten years. In August 2009, we were told the words. ( I can’t even remember the actual words used anymore.) I was thirty five with four young children. People like me don’t get cancer. I thought it will be ok, this is not gonna change me. In fact, I remember saying those actual words to this day.
Seven operations, six chemos and hormone therapy later, battling just living, well, surviving each day, takes its toll. Our whole daily life changed. I no longer did every school run, I never cooked every dinner. I was in the hospital when my youngest lost his first tooth but, we hugged and played. I was given the all clear of breast cancer after the ops and the chemo. Six years later (in 2016) the sneaky little bugger came back, this time in my lung (he’s called NORMAN) and many of my central nodes. We can’t fix or remove Norman, So I choose to live with my body squatter the best I can.
The week I found out I had stage 4 cancer was the scariest of my life. I was planning my funeral in my head. I pictured myself in the hospice and I was terrified beyond belief. I was back on the cancer rollercoaster. I am however very very lucky. With treatment, Norman is staying locked up in his solid metal box, and my nodes are behaving. I’ve had a bad scan, even found cancer in my bones, but we’ve kicked that in the butt with treatment.
I now live my life very very differently, but hopefully in a good way. Once I started to see both Norman and myself could live together, I got brave, I climbed out of my “being scared of living” box. I have the most scariest thing living inside me. I can’t always make every day count, we all need duvet days and that’s ok. but other days I live my best days possible. I live better now than I ever have done.
I started a blog to help others understand, to hopefully help those newly diagnosed feel less scared. It’s not really my thing, being a dyslexic and also a fairly private person. I am living my dreams. I’ve been trained in cancer hair care and help as many people as I can. I climbed a mountain just because I could, I wanted to prove to myself that I’m still in charge, I’m living my story, not Normans.
Last year I took part in the London Moonwalk, 26.2 miles in the night walking London in a bra, I was even filmed for the One Show. We even planned and had a wedding blessing last year, the best day of my life, so far. I’m not sure what challenges we are doing this year. To be honest, I’m just loving life! My husbands got a campervan, we are exploring new places, enjoying waking up with sea views. It’s very simple but I love it.
Having cancer makes me see the world differently to how I did. I want to cherish everything. I do often have times when I feel like I can’t cope, like I’m sinking into dark places, with no simple way out. I’ve found nature and spaces to be a great source of grounding when I feel like this.
When I have a duvet day, I have a tree that I watch. It gets blown around and is standing bare right now, but it will blossom beautiful pink blossoms in the spring. It just stays standing tall. The tree’s branches change, but the core of the tree stays the same.
My cancer story is much like a tree. During cancer treatment. my tree is bare, it’s having to cope with many storms, wind, rain and snow while standing naked. Cancer brings us many storms, and at times we don’t feel strong, but we somehow survive just like the tree does. I have fruit trees in my garden. They need a little TLC each year, to remove the dead branches, so they can flourish, When we have cancer we feel like we lose a lot of things. I know that I lost friends that I thought were close, and things like housework are never at the top of my to-do list. I think maybe before cancer my tree was a little overgrown. I was trying to care for too many branches. I now have fewer branches, but try to care for the strong ones.
A tree seems like something very simple. It just stands tall in its own space, whether that’s by the side of the road, on a beachfront, or in a garden. A tree has all it needs, roots for water, rain and sunlight. The storms help the trees to remove dead branches or blow seeds into the ground, for new growth. It’s all amazing and yet very simple at the same time. When we have cancer all our needs are usually met medically, but emotionally it’s a different story. We come away feeling like we’ve changed, not really knowing our place, being a little scared and battered to stand tall in our place. We question our roots, what was once important to us, might not be any more. How does a tree do it??
The tree’s roots have to travel through dark and often lonely places, but these roots are strong and find all that the tree needs. I have some amazing friends around me, the friendships have very strong roots, they need to, as sometimes it’s hard to stay standing tall.
I think cancer has changed me, just like the seasons change the trees, but my tree trunk, my core, my true me is still me. LOVE and HONESTY, have always been me and they still are. Cancer takes away some of our branches. We even lose our blossom for a bit and we have to stand naked in the storm. Sometimes it feels like winter will last forever. but given time and love, all our trees can flourish.
Trees are amazing, even those trees at the roadside can blossom. However, the trees that get extra TLC and care do the best. Cancer is a terrible hard storm, often we don’t realise the damage done until the storm is over. This is often when the normal world thinks we are ok, but when we need the most care.
I’ve been looking at lots of trees and some of the most interesting ones are the ones with branches covered in ivy. Their branches look thick and tough, they look protected by armour. I think these branches are pretending to be ok, they are trying hard to cope, to find their sunshine through the ivy which is putting the branch into darkness, but even that’s ok. The tree has other branches, it has its core and its roots but maybe today it needs to feel covered, feel that the ivy is hugging it. These branches look the strongest, but are actually the weakest. Always always be kind to yourself. The ivy won’t get your good branches.
One of the biggest things cancer has taught me is that its easier with help. Talk, shout, scream, climb a mountain, climb a tree. but please know your happy place is still there, your tree trunk core is still strong. and given some sunshine, your tree will blossom.
By Lucie Joels
FB; @Lucie Joels