Today is my 44th birthday and I can’t help thinking that it might be my last. I need to get rid of that particular ear-worm. None of us really know what is round the corner but having an incurable disease rather focusses the mind, sometimes in an unhelpful and negative way but surprisingly sometimes allowing you to live in the moment in a way that had not previously been possible.
Those of you who have spoken to me in the last few days will know that I have unexpectedly found the impending celebrations tricky to say the least. This resulted in a full-on meltdown yesterday when everything just became too much and my instinct was to cancel everything and everyone and hide away. I’m feeling much better today and have once again been reminded how amazing my friends and family are. My day began with presents from Mike followed by Jan coming round for breakfast with pastries, RDA friends arriving for a meeting, birthday cake, and lovely presents including some stunning flowers.
This blog however is dedicated to my amazing friend Kat who has written me two very moving letters over the last few days, the second of which I share here. I still can’t read it without crying but that is not a bad thing, I’m learning to embrace it. So onwards to my pre-op appointment tomorrow and surgery on 9th November to remove the breast lump and lymph nodes. Over to Kat……
And good morning.
I have no idea how you’re going to be feeling today, but going on the recent struggles you’ve told me about I want to address the white massive elephant that’s in this room and that I fear you’ve been trying to face alone. I want you to know that you’re not facing it alone. I’ve learnt my lesson and I’m bloody well listening now. I’ve also learnt that listening isn’t worth shit if you don’t talk back.
This is your first birthday with cancer. There. Hello, elephant.
I’m no psychologist or therapist, but I do believe that everything you (we) would normally associate with birthdays is going to be amplified on a massive scale today, and possibly turned around and tossed out of the window.
You (we) would normally crack jokes about getting older or have wine-fuelled philosophical debates on how quickly it’s come about and where did the rest of the year go. You (we) would celebrate it, and open presents, and have a giggle or a groan at Gareth’s choice, and move on. But this birthday has a life and meaning of its own. It means that you’re sticking one up to cancer by being alive for it and it also means that cancer is sticking it right back at you by taking one away. Hello, elephant.
Is today good or bad? You mentioned in your blog that you’d settle for making it to your 50th birthday. So do you (we) celebrate it because you’re still here, and because this and every future birthday is a sign that you are bucking the trend and working your way into a medical miracle? Or do you (we) hate it coming round and are scared by it because it’s potentially the official beginning to the most god-awful of countdowns? Hello, elephant.
It’s the absolute mother of all mind fucks. How can anyone square it?
I suspect that your struggles over the past few days are the result of you trying to do exactly that, however unconsciously. Do you go out for a meal or do you sit at home crying? What does doing either mean or imply? To borrow the wrong terminology – are you “brave” or “defeated”? You’re neither, by the way. You’re in the middle of an impossible mind fuck. Let’s not forget that when this is over you (we) will have the pleasure of the “first Christmas with cancer”, and “first New Year with cancer” to look forward to. This elephant has got mates.
Or maybe you (we) *can* do both. Maybe you (we) can accept the mind fuck for what it is at face value and tell all the elephants to go and do one because you (we) can see them and you (we) are not stupid, thank you very much. Maybe you (we) can accept the fact that feelings are going to be especially raw today and that this is not just ok but inevitable.
Whatever you do or not do today *will* be the right thing. Whatever you feel *will* be the right feeling. We will all go with your flow, because, like it or not, this time it really is all about you. Happy birthday, from the heart. Yes, I have a present for you. No, it still won’t be anywhere near as good or as bad as Gareth’s.