I can’t quite believe the difference a year makes - that old cliché. I know I keep saying it to people; it does however continue to remind me of how lucky I am to be so WELL. Believe me it’s take a lot of hard work to get to this point and to be honest, even greater effort mentally at times, I refer to it as ‘mind over matter’. And when I say ‘well’ I am...but it doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with my residual limb, my remaining leg, my back, under active thyroid etc Some days it takes monumental effort to drag myself out of bed and put on a couple of body parts. I may even be just having a ‘can’t be arsed day’ that ANYONE can have. But I know that once I do get going I will feel better for it. Whether it’s teaching at the University, mentoring a student who is training to be a teacher, Signing in a nursery, walking the dog or swimming in the Lido.
On this day in 2017 I faced my 2nd surgery in a fortnight. To repair what had gone wrong after the mastectomy and reconstruction. I was unable to attend the funeral of my friend’s son and was still very very unwell still. Today a nursery manager who I’ve been teaching on a Signing Training Course told me her Mum’s been diagnosed with breast cancer and is currently undergoing treatment. She asked me advice and to explain more about what was happening. We looked at my photos (to show her you CAN come back from this).
I also know how life could be so very different. I saw a post from a school friend who had breast cancer several years ago and was successfully treated. She had written about how amazing she felt a year ago....then was diagnosed with a recurrence and is currently being treated. I hope this will show her a year from today will be very different again.
A dear friend who was also diagnosed and treated around about the same time (with a different type of cancer) has heartbreakingly now been referred to the palliative care team.
A journalist who I have followed; as she was diagnosed and treated at a similar time to me, has been diagnosed with Secondary Breast Cancer i.e. it has spread to other parts of her body and she won’t survive to see her son grow up.
Life is precious and fragile and it’s course can literally be changed in a heartbeat. It’s a cliché telling you live life to the full and appreciate it, but I truly mean it. Sometimes this will involve catching yourself and reminding yourself of this. I have to; when I get caught up in the minutiae of day-to-day life.
I have been given this chance to make the most of whatever time I have left in this life and to make a difference. It doesn’t mean I don’t get angry or frustrated about things that are trivial in the grand scheme of things but as long as I can pull myself and appreciate the precious moments, that’s what matters. The sunset or rainbow that stops me in my tracks. Standing to watch and marvel as a deer crosses my path whilst walking the dog. To have the pleasure of leading an assembly for lots of young people who are interested and inquisitive. A little Spanish girl who interacts and joins in signing more than she has ever done in anything else at nursery.
I have my faults (my family could probably tell you lots of them!) I’m untidy and often late, as I’m trying to cram too many things into too short a space of time. What I do know though is that I definitely won’t need to put ‘I wish I’d spent more time enjoying life’ on my gravestone. I MAY need ‘I should have spent more time tidying up/washing/ironing/cleaning’ but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
I’m sharing these photos with you to illustrate just how far you can come in a year. To those who are facing seemingly insurmountable problems, to not give up. It is possible for life to be good again; to manage ongoing difficulties with help of physios, medics, counsellors.....whoever you need. It may not be in a year or even two...but don’t give up hope or stop reminding yourself how resilient we can all be, even when it’s the last thing you believe.
I’m not ashamed of them (sorry if you’re squeamish though!) They ‘cheese grated’ the skin off my only thigh and to be honest it was one of the most painful things I have EVER been through; bleed profusely for weeks, took months to heal and made it really hard to walk. The wounds healed eventually, scars are still there but will fade and it just makes me think that the body’s capacity to heal is phenomenal.