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.
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!