Three years ago I had just completed cancer treatment. Sat in chemotherapy, in a very comfy Lazy Boy style chair, I had the idea of organising some form of hockey festival which could raise funds in aid of Maggie’s whilst also saying a massive #FUCANCER. Today, sat at my not-so-comfy office desk, I am in disbelief at how that idea has developed into a reality.
Yesterday marked the second STICK IT TO CANCER HOCKEY FESTIVAL. For the second year running we welcomed over 100 hockey heroes dressed as heroes and villains to unite in the fight against cancer. I am delighted to say that the event raised £2175.27 which will be going straight to the Maggie’s Cancer Centre in Edinburgh. A place very close to my heart. I don’t know if it is because I have neglected this blog for so long that my writing skills are very rusty or if it is the fact I am absolutely exhausted from an incredible 24 hours but I am struggling to find the words to share how much this event means to me. Instead I will share the video below (click where it says STICK IT TO CANCER 2017) to give you a flavour of what the day is all about and finish with these words:
“Together, ordinary people can achieve extraordinary results” – Becka Schoettle
Thanks for being a part of it…
All the teams and their supporters, friends and family who came along on the day! Edinburgh Academy & George Sutherland; Harry’s Bar & Ben Ashcroft; Luca’s at Morningside, Edinburgh Leisure; Scotch Whiskey Experience; Butterfly & Insect World; Scran & Scallie; Ryze; Cineworld; Pinkk; Stewart Brewing; Camera Obscura; Morrisons; Sincy, Batch, George & Kyle. Craig Muir. The THRIVING umpires, George & Grace. The SITC Top Team – Nicola, Christian, Amy, Jenny, Marie, Buggernuts & Iceberg. And finally, more poor husband Funny Boy for putting up with me everyday!
Three years, two months and twenty eight days ago I moved to Edinburgh. Within that time I have experienced some of life’s greatest highs and challenging lows: The loss of two family members, infertility and cancer (not to mention all the incessant drama that follows). But, in that time I have been blessed through making a whole new posse of people I am proud to call my friends. I have had two jobs which I not only enjoy but has taught me an incredible amount and shown me where I want to go next. I met a funny boy who brought a funny dog into our lives. He is now my funny husband which means we are now a funny family. All of which has happened in the last two years! Crazy to think where a whole month of saying yes can lead… 😉 So, today my Funny Family and I waved goodbye to our Edinburgh address and ventured into West Lothian. We are officially residents of Winchburgh Village! In doing so, I have successfully ticked off another item of Project 30! Huge thank you to all our friends and family in helping us get here (especially Gary & Kerry) You’re all welcome anytime…
I love receiving post. Arriving at your new home with a card waiting for you from one of your oldest and closest friends has got to be the best yet! Even better than receiving a letter from Shout magazine saying we were getting a makeover… cheers!
Today’s blog is written by one of my nearest and dearest friends. I met Brando through work three years ago. He was the type of colleague you look at and think ‘Wow! I want to be like him. How does he do it all?’ Little did I know that my inspiring colleague would soon become one of my best friends! There is a popular quote which advises ‘Surround yourself with those who are going to lift you higher’ and Brando is testament to that. He has literally stood by me through life’s biggest highs and it’s darkest lows – and on all occasions has successfully managed to make me giggle. Here is Brando’s experience of FUCancer.
7 things you learn when your best friend gets cancer
The day you find out your best friend has cancer is not one that you forget very easily. Having logged a ‘working from home day’, I was still in bed when the call came. Heather hadn’t been feeling great, alongside spouts of grumpiness (which had we’d all put down to the usual ‘hangry’). I still remember the tone in Heather’s voice as she spoke the words ‘I have cancer’. It was formal, shocked and not how I knew my friend to talk. I know it was because the pain of saying the words was hard and the only way she could say them. To this day I am so proud that she was the one to tell me and found the strength to utter those awful word.
This blog comes after the first, of many, Cancerverseries where everyone can’t help in celebrating the amazing achievements of Mrs Heather Duff, Funnyboy and Parsnip the Wanderdug. When Heather asked me to write this blog my instant thoughts were to write something, akin to an obituary, which told the World Wide Web how amazing my friend is, how amazing a women she is and an inspiration to those around her. I quickly scraped that idea and instead I want to share things I’ve learnt over the last year, some of them our secrets, some of them our coping mechanisms, and some of them purely hilarious (well to me anyway). So these are my lessons….
The world doesn’t fall away
When I first got that news from Heather, I thought I would feel a sense of loss and grief as if the floor was going to fall away. In fact, the opposite happened. The future warped and changed, the landscape looked different, but there was still a future and that was all that would be acceptable. Discussions about the future, fuelled by gin and prosecco, continue including adopting Jamaican babies, inspiring the world as TED speakers, weddings, houses and micro pigs (soon to become micro dogs). You may read this an think me naïve, but not once did I think there was any future without Heather, in fact the Big C meant that a new future was coming and it was going to be epiC!
People you count as family doubles…
For those regular to the blog you will know Heather talks a lot about her family, so it will be unsurprising that they are awesome! What I never realised when that phone call came through was how much I would fall absolutely in love with them all. From the brothers who gave me abuse from the first time they met me to Buggernuts who stayed up drinking at the wedding until he gave himself carpet burns from a wooden floor. Also, receiving the wrath of Iceberg when she found out I was moving to London and we had snuck Parsnip into the wedding – only joking Alma 🙂 !!
You become more thoughtful than you ever thought possible
Now without drawing out gender stereotypes with this one, as a man, I thought that talking about someone else’s vagina would be considerably difficult, not to mention the emotional hurricane that came around it. For me the moment I realised that I had changed and became more thoughtful was following the initial all clear, or Day Zero, and for 181 days after I kept a note of a word, a phrase or a prayer. I realised that writing down that positive thought, or wish, or inspirational line helped me to untie the knot in my stomach worrying that the big C was going to come back. For 181 days, between day 0 and the first six month scan, I captured those positive thoughts sending them out to the universe. Following the all clear I wrapped them individually in a box to send to Heather, it was her turn to write for six months, I’m pretty sure she hasn’t been keeping them up but that box got me through the first six months and Heather knows where that box is if she ever needs it.
Frozen or any other Disney film become essential viewing
‘Do you want to build a snowman?’ had always been code for checking in and making contact. After April, Frozen came with its own deflate button. Often when together or apart the song lyrics to ‘Let it go’ or the snowman song would bring a smile! I was found too many times singing in my terrible voice through whatsapp to try and make Heather smile, I’m sure it worked half the time.
Singing becomes a therapeutic tool to manage the rage!
Singing in the car with the music turned up to top volume is one of the most therapeutic things anyone can do, even better with your bestie! Wither that is 8am in the morning to get ready for the day, screaming ‘Let it Go’ down the road or distressing the pre-wedding jitters to ‘time of your life’ (with the local coos and family giving us some strange looks).
Mutual Hatred for bell-ends…
Any best friend knows that there are unwritten rules relating to loyalty, protectiveness, and fiercely standing up for them. Sometimes this fires up out of nowhere, sometimes its deep and long seeded, or it’s a brutal dragon then causes smoke from the nose. So bell-ends of various forms from the mutes, to the awkwards, to the downright idiotic will forever be on a naughty list (Santa told me)
You can’t say no to some crazy crazy ideas
Now I’m a big big advocate of the C card, allowing anyone going through what Heather went through the ability to drop the C word and get whatever they wanted some good things, some frivolous like free cake to important things like a decent parking spot. However, I never imagined that the C card would include me getting drawn into some crazy adventures. These have included a Made in Chelsea inspired appearance on a proposal video, including optional boxer sniffing, getting Heather to the actual proposal venue, with Brando induced hangover (sorry Gordon), and walking a sausage dog down the aisle! If this is some of the crazy stuff that’s happened in just the last year I can wait for what’s coming!
But the final and only important thing I learnt was that Mrs Heather Duff is an unbelievable individual, whose character cannot be measured by us mere mortals. The things that she will achieve are going to change the world!
By the time I was born my home was already outnumbered by men. With two older brothers and a rock steady dad I have been blessed (haunted) with three strong male role models my whole life. A couple of months ago my brother Gareth shared his journey with #FUCancer. This week Buggernuts takes the spotlight. And for those who are not familiar with who or what a ‘Buggernuts’ is – he is my one and only dad:
Descending from Welsh and Cornish stock, it would be safe to say that my pedigree is Celtic in nature. This can mean I am volatile, slightly self-deprecating and hugely sentimental to the point of being maudlin. The sense of hiraeth – understood by so many Welshmen – is especially emphasised in those of us who are deemed to be ex-pats, so much so it can be over-powering. Crying, therefore, comes naturally to me even at my exalted age. There is no rhyme or reason when the throat will tighten and the tears roll; obvious times like the birth of a child or grandchild, the death of a close family member or friend are balanced by witnessing an unheralded act of kindness, a display of sportsmanship, the last night of a school show or the end of something really meaningful can all cause me to swallow hard, develop a lump in the throat and the eyes to redden. Indeed as I write this I have just returned from accompanying my three-year old grandson…well, nearly four……to his first rugby international, passing over the family baton as it were. I have had a very fortunate life – a loving wife, three great kids, two marvellous grandsons and an extended family of which I am inordinately proud. My family share my love of sport. My two sons and I chat on a level playing field about rugby and cricket and rugby and football and rugby and athletics and also rugby. We have been involved in the sport at various levels over a considerable passage of time. I also have a daughter! Heather and I have a close relationship built around polar opposites; if I say white she will answer black; if I say yes she will say no and if I suggest in she will respond with out. You get the picture. We are also very competitive and the ten days we spent together in Fuerteventura were metaphorically quite bloody. Tennis, table tennis, pool, putting, paddle boarding were all undertaken with a bitter edge with no quarter asked or given. However there is also a trust and an understanding which exists between us. Needless to say I am extremely proud of her, even more so as, competition notwithstanding, she frequently asks for my thoughts, views, opinions and ideas on the important matters in her life. She will listen and appreciate my honesty and candour regardless of whether they conflict with hers or not. I am comfortable pointing out flaws and pitfalls in her projects knowing that they will not be taken as criticism but as a helpful and constructive insight. However, Heather has made me cry! I cried when she told me of her selection to play hockey for Scotland at age group level; I cried when I saw her take the field against Ireland. I cried when I saw her in her wedding dress (what father wouldn’t!) and I cried making THAT speech which, as dads we all hope to make one day but strangely, in our heart of hearts, don’t really want to. If friends and family are to be believed I cried throughout that day as I had at Owains’s wedding some years earlier. I did not cry at Heather’s diagnosis. Heather was obviously shaken but she was also strong, matter of fact, committed, driven and was challenging me to be the same. As Angela has said Heather was making it easier for all of us. Tears were not what was wanted, I had a role to play, admittedly a subordinate one made up of driving, carrying, hurrying up and waiting. It is a role all father’s play but in this case the focus was sharper, more intense. Sometimes I wasn’t very good, to the point where Heather implored my wife not to leave me alone with her; other times I was great like the day I supported her carrying the Queen’s Baton around Leith. Curiously these two days are separated by twenty-four hours! But I didn’t cry! Heather gave me the inner strength to face the situation head on. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? I did cry when I first heard she was in remission and will continue so to do. In the meantime I will do my damnedest to beat her at everything I can – from Scrabble to skittles, tiddly winks to tennis, Buckaroo to boxing. Heather wouldn’t expect anything less!
Prior to starting treatment I had to get three small tattoos around my pelvis. This was so the radiotherapy team were able to target the radiation accurately. The tattoos are nothing bigger than the dot of a bic pen. They could easily be mistaken for a few dark freckles. At the time Iceberg and I joked about getting a tattoo. We made a pact. Here I am 15 months later and true to our word, the Iceberg and I have got our first ‘proper’ tattoo. Technically you could say it’s my fourth but I don’t think the NHS freebies count!
If I was ever asked to describe my family I would use the words competitive, weird and loyal. It goes without saying that a family who has a heavy interest in sport is going to be competitive. Some of the biggest arguments Buggernuts and I have ever had have been caused by an innocent game of tennis. Individually we all have our weird traits. The Iceberg has a spoon in her handbag at all times. The reason being it can prevent static on clothes whilst serving its original purpose. The Funny Boy has an incredible gift for locking himself out of the flat and breaking back in. It’s a talert he shows off regularly. I, myself, have more weird traits than anyone: whenever I am alone with Parsnip I have a sing and selfie marathon. The products of which often circulate whatsapp. But for a weird and competitive bunch my family are powerfully loyal. We are a pack and we support each other as one would expect.
The picture above is one my brother sent me mid treatment. The clear message of ‘Don’t ask why me – instead say TRY ME!’ Is one I have constantly referred to. I am not a huge believer in astrology, that being said I can’t resist reading my horoscope. I am a Leo which is represented with a lion mascot. Lions are a common symbol found across different cultures and religions. The majority of these use the lion to represent the following characteristics: courage, strength, loyalty and leadership. One of my favourite lines is:
“the lion wins the prize for most relentless fighter in the face of life challenges.”
My mum is the most incredible person I know. She is strong, brave and forever putting her family needs before her own. She is a true lioness. So, if anyone asks me what my tattoo represents? I’ll tell them my lioness is my mum. It represents my pack, my family who I am immensely proud of. And finally, my lioness is a reminder: when life puts me in tough situations simply say ‘Try Me!’ I am a fighter.
Ola from sunny Jandia! As I relish my R&R time I have been making good use of my surroundings to tick off more items of Project 30. Whilst #FUCancer is in full flow off the west coast of Africa I have asked my big brother to take the spotlight and share some untold truths about cancer from his perspective.
There is no good time to be told that someone in your family is suffering from Cancer.
I had just travelled overnight from Toronto via Dublin to Glasgow when I was told. My trip was specifically planned to meet my newest nephew Ryan who had been born just a couple of weeks prior. Mexcitement at meeting the “Ryno,” abruptly dissolved however when, within hours of me landing on Scottish soil, my little sister sat next to me and said she had been diagnosed with cervical cancer a few days before.
I was only home for a week on that trip – it remains a blur. I remember moments of sheer joy whilst holding the new baby and a paralyzing fear that my entire world was about to change for the worse and there was nothing I could do about it.
This blog post however, is to describe how Cancer has affected me personally. I live 3,000 miles away from my family and only visit once or twice a year. In effect, I will be giving you an insight into my own personal long distance relationship with the worst of all C-words.
Absolutely terrified. News like that doesn’t set in quickly – for a long time I was in the “just a bad dream,” phase. When I really accepted things a fear held me that just made everything else around feel numb. I felt isolated and knew on my journey back that I would have to, in turn, tell my own support network how my trip home had gone. Long story short I was afraid my sister would die, soon. I didn’t know when I would be coming back to Scotland again, or why.
I left home in 2008 – after 7 years here it’s safe to call Toronto home. I have always felt the full support of my family and friends in my move and have never felt guilty.
Until Heather received her diagnosis. Guilt at not being there for her or for my family is obvious but I still feel worse about how lucky I was to travel 3,000 miles away from it all.
I had calendars of chemo/radio/bracytherapy programmed into my Outlook telling me where she was and what she was going through. These daily reminders helped but I was lucky to be so far away. Lucky to have the distractions. Guilt therefore gripped me daily. I wish I could have been there more and wish I could have shouldered some of the burden my family took on.
I’m an analytical person. I like to know why things happen and what makes them happen – it’s an approach I think helps me personally at work or coaching rugby. As such I wanted to learn about the various stages Heather would go through and what was involved in each therapy.
I wasn’t going to ask her – she had enough on her plate. I turned to asking my parents – frequently asking what was involved, how long things took and all the intricacies of what medically was happening. Mum and Dad were quite dismissive to my questions, instead telling me to ask Gordon (my now brother in law) who I had met once – about 5 seconds before hearing about Heather’s diagnosis for this information.
The combination of being told no by my parents and the prospect of a stranger (sorry Gordon) telling me things about my sister made me angry.
Looking back I fully understand Mum and Dad’s lack of willingness to continue discussing what was an all consuming subject was even more. My anger was selfish – brought on by the aforementioned guilt. I was unable to see past my own pain and appreciate how my parents, much closer to cancer, would need to cope in their own way too.
Finding my Place
People frequently ask me here how hard it must be living away from my family. It’s obviously tough – not being able to just pop home every now and then, spending $1000 to travel home for Xmas etc.
I have always said the hardest part of living here is the time difference. I’m 5 hours behind here so Facetime/Skype calls home (in order to catch my early to bed mother or infant nephews who are apparently on the same sleep pattern) is restricted to weekend mornings – a major frustration.
One thing cancer did do was find a use for my 5 hour time difference. Readers of Heather’s blog will be familiar with her (all too graphic) descriptions of how the body reacts to drugs and treatments. During the summer of 2014 my sister was plagued by insomnia which I was oddly fond of because she was able to message me at whenever she wanted safe in the knowledge that I too was awake and responsive.
These small chats were crucial to me coping with cancer. I felt like I had a part to play (albeit microscopic in size) in helping my sister through her ordeal. Sound selfish? Yup – but regardless a key part to my personal coping with cancer in my life.
It’s been 15 months since I met Ryan Williams – and so 15 months since Heather was diagnosed. Looking back has been a strange and dizzying process for me because in many ways the distance really softened the whole experience. I am thankful for a lot of things – chiefly that my sister is on the right tracks to full recovery. I am thankful for my family who have done everything (and continue to do more) in their power to help Heather through such a miserable time. No amount of superlatives can describe the strength my family displayed in the last year – something which makes me smile from ear to ear with pride.
I am lucky in Canada. I have a support network of friends who would drop everything to help me if I needed it. For these people I am immensely thankful.
In recent months I have watched Heather get married (to that stranger), travel round the world on her honeymoon, appear in numerous publications and lay the FUCancer Foundations. She’s inspiration in human form – not letting “I can’t,” fall in to her vocabulary instead choosing to use “I can’t yet.”
Life has changed in the wake of cancer entering my life. Heather has evolved into a role model for anyone dealing with a challenging situation, big or small. She is just getting started though.
Patience is a virtue. Today I’m not feeling particular virtuous. The erratic and unpredictable bowel movements are getting worse. I have had a whole week of ‘taking it easy’ which basically means no sport. Apart from a quick game of table tennis and a run around at Inverleith park I have been limiting my after work duties to recharging my batteries. On Tuesday I was back in the confines of our loo. It is on days like those where I welcome a colonoscopy! The familiar view below is one I have come to hate:
I can’t complain however. The frustration of not doing sport was compensated yesterday when I got to play proud Auntie. Conor and Ryan, along with their cousins, competed in their first organised sporting event: the Vale of Leven toddler fun run! Between them they have surpassed any records in the Williams’ household by being the youngest to wear a running number.
Following the fun run the spotlight was on my older brother Owain who took to compete in the Vale of Leven 10k. I must admit I had slight envy and regret for not signing up. However those feelings quickly disappeared when Owain revealed his shirt which proudly boasted a Welsh Dragon and Saltire on either sleeve with a bold #FUCancer on the back.
As the festive season rolls in and the number of days until Christmas rapidly decline I find myself in disbelief that 2015 is merely days away. It is a feeling shared by many at this time of year: where has the time gone?
For me, it has been a year where I feel like I have missed out. I don’t think I appreciated how much of a social creature I was before cancer. Being a member of the hockey club brought regular training and fixtures with my mates and the club socials too. Despite trying to stay involved on the sidelines I found it too difficult. It was frustrating seeing my friends running around without me. Cancer excluded me from my favourite pastime leaving me with empty Saturdays. Even as I return to work I have struggled to reacquaint my body with the working pattern I once did with ease. Every year our team nominates awards based on our areas of work and achievements. For the past two years I was the one who was crowned Most Passionate. I was the one who was at my desk at 8am everyday and out and about most evenings. I was the one whose hours could never be questioned. Now I am the one who is here one minute and gone the next. I missed my final working week in 2014 thanks to a mixture of Noro virus and bacterial tonsillitis. Again, it is so frustrating to be forced to miss out on something you love to do. I find myself feeling envious of my colleagues. Missing the office Christmas party on Friday simply reminds me of the number of other social occasions I have missed; birthdays, leaving do’s, engagements. Cancer makes me feel forgotten about. It is such a horrible disease and even now, 3 months in the clear, I am overwhelmed by how much it still impacts my life. I feel as though it has stolen my lifestyle and with it my confidence. It is almost a day to day struggle where I feel like I am fighting towards my new normality. Friendships, priorities, outlook on life are all different now.
For anyone looking in, I think it is fair to say my year has been a challenging one. As much as I hate cancer and what it has done, I am thankful for what it has shown me. It has reminded me that I have a very special family. I always knew that in the family department I was blessed. Growing up my brothers, though irritating, always had my best interests at heart. Thanks to Owain, I now have something I always wanted: someone to call my sister. Angela is like an Iceberg in the making, very strong and kind but with a wicked sense of humour. Angela and Owain have blessed me with life’s greatest gifts, my nephews. Throughout everything they continue to put a smile on my face without fail! As for my parents they are simply the most selfless people I will ever know. There are not enough to words to express my gratitude for my family and cancer simply reminded me how proud and lucky I am to have them in my life. Cancer highlighted I have a fiancé who would literally do anything for me. Not many relationships get tested like ours did within the first few months. I am truly blessed to have him by my side.
Although I feel cancer has stolen my confidence and certain aspects of my life I believe this to be temporary. And the reason I believe this is because cancer has highlighted a strength within me that I never knew existed. I have overcome one of life’s greatest challenges and I refuse to let it hold me back. Through my strength I will achieve my new normality and I have every hope that it will be better than life before cancer. I move forward in the knowledge there is a possibility of cancer recurring. This does not scare me – this is something outwith my control. It would be like living my life in fear of getting hit by a bus. The greater fear for me is to not live my life the way I want with the people I love. Bring on 2015!
Yesterday was the first time in four and a half months that I have seen my mother cry. I finally heard the news we had all been dreaming of: I am in remission.
On the 8th April at approximately 3.30pm I was told I had a tumour. The following week I was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive type of cervical cancer. I am the 19th recorded case of it’s kind. I was told I had to ‘buck the trend’. The journey that has since followed has been an emotional roller coaster where I have celebrated the highest highs and endured the lowest lows.
Upon hearing my results this week I have received literally hundreds of messages from friends and family to say how happy they are for me. As you can imagine I am relieved. Upon arriving at the hospital on Wednesday I had tried to prepare myself for every possible scenario: more treatment, losing my hair, I had even began to contemplate my funeral. So here I am with the best possible outcome and how do I feel? Physically exhausted, emotionally drained and more vulnerable than ever before. It possibly sounds ungrateful but in all honesty I wouldn’t say the feeling I have right now is happiness. I simply feel angry. I feel so excluded from what I used to call my life I don’t know where to start.
Breaking the news of my diagnosis to my family and friends was one of the worst things I had to do. Trying to cushion the blow and await their reaction led me tears. It quickly highlights the ones who were there for me. Some people would say the wrong thing but the worst were those who said nothing. I heard someone excuse this with ‘I just find the whole cancer thing a bit awkward!’ —–> really?!
Two months on from completing treatment and I am still recovering. The fatigue is an ongoing fixture in everyday life which is a massive source of frustration. A large part of my social life revolved around being physically active and as the new hockey season starts I am beyond jealous to be missing out. For the first time in years I am without a team.
I am adapting to life with menopause and learning to accept what that means for the Funny Boy and I. The picture I had painted for myself has changed. When the time comes for the Funny Boy and I to start a family we will be looking into adoption. I had always imagined myself being pregnant and fantasised about everything that comes with it. Sharing the news with my friends and family, feeling a life grow inside me, watching my belly take shape and that amazing day when we get to meet mini Huffer for the first time. Pregnancy has always been a miracle to me. However the Funny Boy and I will have our own miracle one day which will be equally special – it’ll just have a different route. Losing the opportunity to be a mother is a price I have had to pay in order to save my life.
I imagine as a reader you must think I am very ungrateful and there are 10000s of people wishing they received the news I did this week. Perhaps if you had been in my shoes then you would understand. I have always said I want this blog to be an honest journal of my journey with cancer so here it is. Unfortunately the news of remission does not automatically bring back my old life. Life is different now and my perception of the world has changed. What I am grateful for are the key people who have helped me on my journey so far. You know who you are. The chapter of treatment is complete but the one ahead is focusing on how I recover and rebuild my life. For now I will just celebrate the relief:
Treatment finished five weeks ago now. I am relieved that after an arduous fortnight of pyrotechnical side affects it appears the symptoms have managed to settle and although I have a pitiful supply of energy it is good to have a bit more freedom and independence again. I have immense gratitude being able to visit the toilet without some form of pain relief.
Within the final weeks of treatment I had got to a point where I was constantly in the company of Iceberg, Buggernuts or the Funny Boy. All of whom adopted the role as my carer. I had around the clock supervision. They bought my food, prepared my meals, washed my clothes. I was chauffeured anywhere I wanted to go. Even at nights if I couldn’t sleep someone would sit with me. Sometimes I would get upset thinking about the unthinkable where other nights it would simply be the steroids keeping me awake. It is only now as I get back to ‘normality’ I can see how dependant I had become. I was actually proud of myself having slept at home alone whilst the Funny Boy was on a night shift. I was anxious ‘What if I don’t feel well? What if start to feel scared again? What if…’ But these are the things I am learning to accept as my new ‘normality’.
What is normality? Normality was life before cancer (BC) where I would happily be at my desk for 8am every working day. Where a pre-work run and post work gym or hockey session happened most days of the week. Weekends BC were jam packed. Saturdays were dominated by hockey fixtures, family visits and the odd glass of wine. Sunday mornings BC were made for long runs along Crammond promenade followed by a guilt-free afternoon where I could eat whatever took my fancy. Goal setting BC was a favourite of mine, wether it be holidays, marathons or career aspirations – I loved having something to work toward. As I await the results I am stuck in limbo waiting to move to the next BC (life beyond cancer). Getting back to ‘normality’ in the meantime is difficult. ‘Normailty’ now is uncomfortably hot flushes, limited energy supply and an increasingly short temper – largely fuelled by frustration. I get frustrated by the fact one game of table tennis leaves me needing a lie down for the rest of the day. The sound of bells made me think of Christmas, possibly my favourite time of the year, and I was angry at the thought of how many more will I get to enjoy? I get upset knowing the Funny Boy and I will never (biologically) have children. This is my new normality. I am adapting to the changes – both physically and emotionally. As I am reunited with friends and colleagues I have been flooded with messages of ‘you look great’ and ‘nobody can tell you’ve been ill’. This has been a source of comfort especially as I look at myself and struggle to see beyond my sweaty brow and increasingly large love handles! My peers still see me – the old me – and that is good but in some ways it’s difficult. They can’t understand why one day I will be fit to sit at my desk all day and the next I will struggle to get out of bed. They won’t appreciate how a simple ‘See ya later skiver!’ is the last thing I need to hear when it’s taken all my strength to get me to work in the first place. How can I expect my peers to understand something that I am still getting accustomed to?
As I rebuild my social life and return to work I find myself setting new goals with a firm understanding that these can easily be changed following my next appointment. However I refuse to let cancer deny me the life I am living right now. The Funny Boy and I had an incredible engagement party surrounded by loved ones which inspired us to start planning our wedding. The date has been set, groomsmen and bridal party recruited and our honeymoon is rapidly turning into the trip of a lifetime. When I ran the marathon last year I had to prepare my body and mind. I am learning to adapt to my new normality and much like the marathon this means listening to my body and more importantly thinking positive thoughts. So #FUCancer! I am Heather, I am strong and I won’t let you beat me.