My last blog post, ‘Breaking Up Is Hard To Do’, was pretty raw. It was difficult to write and took me a long time to post online. But I promised myself at the start of this journey that I was going to be honest about my struggles and share them openly without embarrassment. That’s easier said than done sometimes, but the response from everyone who reads my blog always amazes me.
Honesty breaks down barriers. When one person speaks from the heart, it gives others the opportunity and freedom to do so too, and what a better world it would be if we all dropped our guards once in a while and let our real selves out, insecurities and all. Everyday, there are people amongst us fighting unsaid battles, finding aspects of their lives troubling and feeling like they alone in their suffering.
I have been so touched to receive private messages from some of you who have openly shared your inner struggles. It is such a privilege to be able to support you, and I’m so glad my blog has helped in some little way.
It continues to be a daily challenge for me to reconcile the new ‘post-Cancer’ version of me with the healthy Kate I have been all my life. I still find it hard to look in the mirror, and every day I am reminded of my illness by the stares and sympathetic gazes of complete strangers.
But, I think last week’s letter to my body was a bit harsh, and so this week I’ve got the second instalment, ‘Part 2: My Body’s Right Of Reply’ to share with you! A big thanks to my gorgeous friend Rebecca Hayford for the inspiration!
WHOA, lady! That’s quite a comprehensive list of gripes you’ve got there! Bit brutal of you to pop it online for the whole world to see! I’m far from perfect, I know, but be fair! Can’t you see I’m doing the best I can?
I know you’re upset. I know you’re still reeling at the seismic shift that’s taken place this year and the mental and physical fallout that’s followed. I know that you feel like Cancer has infiltrated every bit of your life for the last five months and that you still have so much treatment to go. It’s a bloody unfair, scary situation and you have every right to feel angry about it. But this whole ‘you versus me’ scenario you’ve got going on? It’s not happening.
You are not allowed to make me your adversary, Kate. Now more than ever, you and I need to stick together, be in tune with each other. So for god’s sake stop the body-shame blogging for one minute and listen to me.
Nothing hurts me more than thinking you’ve given up on me.
I know these days I seem slow, worn out and tired all the time. I know it must be frustrating to be tied to a body that can’t perform the way you want it to. I’m trying, I really am. It’s been such a battle trying to function normally on chemo. While I welcome the effect they’re having on the cancer, those drugs you’ve had pumped into you since January destroy so many of my healthy cells while seeking out the nasty ones. They’re the reason for your bald head, pasty skin and lack of eyebrows – NOT ME!
If anything I think I deserve a bloody (gentle) pat on the back! I’ve been poked, prodded, scanned, cut, stretched, sutured and biopsied over and over this year and I think I’ve bounced back pretty marvellously. I know I struggle some days to keep you upright, protest on long walks and hate going up stairs. I know I conk out occasionally when it doesn’t suit you and often suggest a nana-nap in the afternoon for good measure, but what’s wrong with slowing down a little? Are you seriously going to complain about having a good excuse to put your feet up and watch a bit of telly for an hour here or there? Sounds pretty awesome to me! Maybe you’re looking at things the wrong way!
In all seriousness, I want you to know that the diagnosis last December was really traumatic for me too, Kate. It totally caught me off guard. I never thought it possible that this body of ours could have cultivated something as hideous as Cancer. We felt so healthy and well! I’m heartbroken that this has happened – that cancer spread so stealthily, cell by cell, and that life as we once knew it has vanished completely.
I’m particularly sad because I know how good we had it, and how we thought (ridiculously, like everyone else who is young, healthy and carefree) that it would stay like that forever! Ignorance is so powerful, isn’t it? It makes it impossible to entertain the idea that one day, without warning, your life could be ripped out from underneath you.
I also know how excited you were about 2015. That in your heart of hearts you had it marked out as your ‘Year For Big Things’. A new job, a chance to take the children to your beloved China, and more leaps and bounds on the fitness front. I’m truly devastated about that. Kate, but you’ve got to have hope that there will be a time for all that again, that cancer will not strip you of your future. Hold tight in the knowledge that you are getting the best treatment there is for your type of breast cancer, and that there is a good chance of a very long, bright future.
Even as I write to you, I know that your chemotherapy treatment is in its final weeks. Remember back in January when six months seemed like an eternity and you couldn’t even fathom getting through such a gruelling course of systemic treatment? You’re such a different Kate these days, and that’s not necessarily something to grieve about. New Kate may look sick, but she is strong. Remember the first few times you walked into the chemo ward, tearful and anxious, practically inconsolable? Well, last week I saw you walk in ignoring the pungent, chemical smell, smiling broadly at each nurse who called out ‘hello’, and I thought to myself, ‘how far you’ve come’.
Cancer can’t take everything away, Kate. It may have ravaged us physically, made each day a mental battle and given us more than our fair share of fear. It may have changed you in more ways than you wished, but it has unleashed a Kate we’d never have known without such adversity. New Kate knows real beauty. She cares less about transient struggle and complains less about trivial things. She knows much more about love, kindness and generosity and has felt each of them more deeply this year than ever before. New Kate is bolder, braver and kinder. I’d say that makes it pretty great to be New Kate too.
Eyebrows will come and go, days may not stretch on as easily and endlessly as you once presumed, but how great it is to be loved and to be alive!
We will bounce back from this. We will laugh and snort again. We will swim freestyle in the fast lane, and run again like we used to. We may not ever reclaim our ability to take health for granted, but I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.
Now, pop down the lap-top and take a chill pill for a bit! Where’s that TV remote?
Your body x