Tag Archives: anger

Untold Truths

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.

Moving Forward
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.

I think Cancer’s about to get F’d.

Hotdogs in Toronto! FUCancer in the Canaries

The Return of Ragebox

Like most people, I have changed a lot since leaving university. During my four years in Stirling I adopted the nickname Ragebox. A name bestowed upon me by an ex boyfriend. As the name suggests, I was quite hot headed then. If things didn’t go the way I wanted then I wouldn’t be afraid to employ a stern tone and an accusing finger. I recall throwing a pint of diesel (that is the name of a drink by the way – not car fuel) over a boy because he kissed another girl whilst we were ‘seeing’ one another. I cringe at the thought of another occasion where I hid a one of the rugby boy’s crutches whilst on a night out because he had, for want of a better expression, pissed me off. The nickname, and curse, of Ragebox even travelled North to Summer School with me. Losing the Clan Cup to the wannabe gangsta from Uppingham was a sore point not to be improved by his gloating. I remember even my mother, the Iceberg, provoked the Ragebox when she called to see if I was ‘off my high horse yet?’

The memories of Ragebox happened over six, nearly seven years ago now and I am far more laid back. I would say I have matured. Some might say this is because I have since met a boy who does not drive me bonkers but I don’t think it is that simple. The things that annoyed me before simply don’t. I am still competitive as ever yet I have managed to learn how to stay composed. I was happy in the knowledge that the Ragebox had retired and was sitting at the back of a proverbial shelf. Almost like a shoebox of old photos; it is great to look back and remember the stories but it is also a source of embarrassment.

Through Maggie’s I have been attending a course called ‘Where Now’. The course looks at emotions, nutrition, physical activity and coping mechanisms for people in remission. People like me. Everyone in the group has a different story but we share one key thing that others will never fully appreciate; once you hear the word cancer, life will never be the same again. This week we collectively talked about anger. In my opinion anger is a negative word associated with annoyance, hostility and hatred. It is, therefore, no surprise that anger is a common emotion linked to cancer. Cancer is irritating, it’s unwelcome, it’s exasperating. The impact is violent. All of which evoke feelings of rage. In short, cancer makes me angry. It is not an emotion I am proud of and I am loathed to admit it. However, thanks to Maggie’s I have come to look at anger in a new light. Anger was given to us as a defence mechanism. It is a natural response to the feeling of being attacked, insulted or frustrated. That being said too much anger can have detrimental affects. Wether it be saying something in the heat of the moment or simply bottling it up until you feel the need to implode, anger is an emotion that needs an element of restraint. I am beginning to understand that in order to move forward I should embrace this emotion without letting it consume me. Opposed to ignoring it I am finding avenues to help me express my frustration. This blog is a great place for me to vocalise my fury which naturally resulted in the #FUCancer sign off. I am gradually increasing my physical activity. Running in particular is a huge companion of mine. I almost feel as if I can outrun my problems. The reality is that the solitude of running simply puts things into perspective. Overall the best thing I have done with my anger is use it to motivate me. It would be very easy to sit at home and allow the Ragebox to take over in the knowledge my cancer has a high likelihood of reoccurrence. However that is simply not me. That is not how I want to live my life. Nobody knows how long we have on this planet but why should we let that hold us back? I am planning for my future. As Christmas approaches, undoubtedly my favourite time of the year, I have a whole timetable of plans to see family and friends. 2015 is set to be a busy year with a hen weekend, wedding and honeymoon to look forward to. And this week saw me agree to take on a new challenge; I have a new job! It was always my plan to start looking at the next step of my career in July of this year and given the minor detour I managed to endure, I am happy to say I am back on track.

Cancer makes me angry but that anger is helping me to be goal focused. It allows me to be constructive in what I want to achieve. Furthermore, I am no longer ashamed to admit this emotion. I can be a Ragebox. I am having a natural response to an invasion which threatens all aspects of my life. In the the most primitive of terms when an animal is under attack there is an inborn reaction to fight or flight for survival. I guess this simply confirms I am a fighter.