So first up, apologies for not writing a blog for months, and huge thanks to all the people who have enquired after my welfare. I know from experience it’s always a bit worrying when a cancer blog seems to grind to a halt, but it is with good reason. Having unleashed my desire to write through creating the blog, and having unloaded all the cancer story through both the blog and my book, Under Cover of Darkness, I’m now incapable of stopping the writing muse, but have changed direction somewhat. I’m a huge fan of really clever chick lit – the kind that makes me laugh like crazy on one page then sob on the next, because it is so easy to relate to the characters. A couple of weeks ago I was suffering from the horrible hacking cough that’s doing the rounds, and decided to cheer myself up by reading Lindsey Kelk’s latest book, We Were on a Break. She is my absolute heroine for this kind of writing – clever, funny, almost like social commentary – so much so that I wrote to her when I was in chemo to tell her that her books were keeping me going during the long hours on the drip. She wrote me a delightful email back that I treasure, and as she matures even more as a writer, I eagerly await the arrival of each new book.
So, a hacking chesty cough and a funny book aren’t good bedfellows. And in fact I was tucked up in bed reading, due to feeling pretty grotty, and trying not to laugh because I knew it would start me coughing. After a while I realised that the more I tried to stop laughing the worse it got, and that the action of a really good laugh was probably a good idea as it would clear my chest. And oh my goodness, it did. A really good belly laugh is so good for the soul – and the chest – as it turned out, and I felt a lot better on several levels after having a good reading/laughing session. I also felt incredibly inspired and was itching to get back to writing my next book, which is the reason I haven’t written a blog for ages. There are only so many hours in a day and mine seem to be pretty over-subscribed at the moment. I’m fascinated by a style of writing that can address difficult issues without appearing too serious and deep. Humour is a great way of communicating otherwise unapproachable subjects, and I’m really enjoying playing with this in order to communicate some themes that are very close to my heart. Think Eat, Pray, Love kind of thing. And if I can get a film star to endorse it so it sells millions and gets made into a film, I really wouldn’t object.
And while I’ve been busy coughing and laughing and reading and writing, Facebook keeps popping up every day with an old post or photo of mine, usually one that goes back several years. Whilst everyone probably has a “No way, really?!” kind of reaction to random memories being shown in glorious technicolour, I find it extra strange because the last four years have been a real rollercoaster of experiences. The older the posts are (and the closer to 2013) the more bizarre it is, as at that point I was in chemo, which seems like another world away. I guess when it gets to June/July I’ll be faced with posts about the stem cell transplant, then later in the year a few pics of me with a bit of hair growing back. To top it all, last week WordPress sent a ‘Happy Anniversary’ message to me, as I started the blog on 11th January 2013. Wow. How my world has changed since then. The blog has been an incredible outlet for me, and almost immediately it became pretty much a life saver. Cancer is a terrifying and alienating disease and the blog connected me to a whole community of incredibly supportive new friends who kept me going in the darkest hours. It also gives me a means of offering support to people who are still in treatment and in need of that same support themselves.
I must say, with all this Facebook memory thing and the WordPress anniversary, it highlights times like Christmas in a totally different way. Different years bring different memories, but since my diagnosis in 2012 I think my experience and anticipation of Christmas has changed forever. I am lucky in that I always wake up and feel grateful to still be here, but Christmas is especially poignant – and not necessarily for the obvious reasons. My initial diagnosis and crazy round of scans and biopsies kicked off on 11th December 2012, so despite my best efforts that period is still a bit tricky for me every year. I don’t know whether it is heightened awareness/being a drama queen/hypochondriac, but as it gets towards my December check-up with Joe each year, I have to fight against a huge sense of déjà vu, as there has also been the odd scare around this time. In fact at the anniversary of the first year in December 2013, I was back in hospital having another biopsy to make sure that there was nothing sinister about my swollen throat and lymph glands. It was the same hospital and the same consultant, and I was terrified I would get the same result as before. Fortunately the tests came back fine, so that Christmas in particular was an important milestone. But what has niggled me in subsequent years is that my appointment schedule always seems to include a date in December. It isn’t easy to get the NHS to juggle appointments, but I thought it would be so lovely if only I could move it back or forward a month so I have December free. Sounds nuts, doesn’t it? I’ve had several people say they never think about it anymore and have just moved on with their lives, but I don’t seem able to do that in the same way; maybe because I am still very much involved with cancer through this blog and through contact with people still undergoing treatment – and I wouldn’t have it any other way to be honest. But I could do without being reminded of it at Christmas.
So imagine my joy when Joe scheduled my check up for November this time. Yay! The universe answered my prayer. I’m usually convinced that everything in fine, but it is comforting to have the whole spectrum of blood tests to back it up. Happily that was the situation in November so all is well, and I was free to enjoy December without the apprehension of the appointment. And you know, it really made a difference.
I am really temped to stop Facebook from bringing up all these memories, as in a sense I want to move forward – seeing those photos and old posts from what was a very challenging time sometimes give me a strange start to the day, and I don’t necessarily want to be reminded of it the whole time. Yes, I could take a holiday from Facebook, but it is also a means of communicating with customers through the Wessex Astrologer and Flying Horse Books pages, as well as advertising, so I do need to be on it. But then I realised how much I treasure those times too, because without them I wouldn’t be the me I am now, and I most certainly wouldn’t be writing – something I really, really love doing. So I guess I’m back at that good old gratitude thing; that I’m grateful to be here, and I’m grateful to have the perspective I do now. Yes, I would maybe have preferred another route to the new me, but it probably wouldn’t have been so effective. Nothing like a massive kick up the arse from the universe to catapult us onto another track, is there? And just in case the Universe is listening, I’m quite happy with this one, okay?
Wishing you a happy and healthy 2017