"When I was told I had cancer after my operation, I was relieved. I had been under the hospital for 18 months without being diagnosed. Knowing was better than not knowing." Cancer Research, UK.
Hospital appointments. Sitting in the Beatson Cancer Centre waiting to discuss my 5 year clear! Hospitals like this one can make you feel very fortunate in that there is always someone worse off. I feel very lucky and fortunate.
My tumour the size of a basketball doesn't sounds as bad as the man across from me who has had 7 different tumours and the last one resulting in him losing his arm. I only lost a big part of my bowel. A part that nobody can see, nobody would know.
My scar can be hidden. But for many, their scars can't be hidden, the fight with cancer is an on-going process; and a fear that may always be there.
Speaking of my experience is not something I share very often, and not something I think about everyday. Yet today is different. Today, I get to say, "I am pretty much 5 years clear" (one more scan to go :))
Usually, I sit here in the waiting room and think that people may wonder if it's me that has or had cancer...I am the youngest in the room and I would say the healthiest looking, yet, I've also had to fight off the cancer curse. The question that my family members ask, "Why the healthiest one of all of us?"
Today is different, there are two people here for appointments around the same age as me. Brave smiles on their face, and one guy who decided he wanted to go into the appointment on his own. You have a wonder about what he is thinking and feeling but also his parents. For me, I knew I could deal, I knew I was resilient and strong, and wouldn't let it keep me down. I hope he has that feeling too.
This place brings back memories of Theresa. Theresa is the woman I met when I was going in for my second surgery. I was asleep in the waiting area, jet-lagged and knackered from exam cramming, but my mum who likes to chat, sparked up conversation with Theresa and Alex. What beautiful people! We kept in touch, and even visited Theresa in hospital when her cancer came back. She passed away, and as much as I prayed that she would recover she never did.
Everyone deals differently. I have found that I have dealt by being strong, not thinking of it as a bad thing, and not letting it define me. A lot of people wouldn't know that this is something I had endured but today, I felt like it would be good to share, and hopefully be a part in helping someone else.
My advice would be:
Keep living like each day is your last. You never know what's going to happen. I have always had the mindset of trying to cram as many things in as there's so much to do, so much to see, so much to learn, and when you deal with such a a thing like cancer, this helps you continue this mindset. Well mine.
Live for the moment. Live for the day. Take risks. Let go. Don't be afraid to try! Don't sweat the small stuff!
Before I had cancer, I never slowed down and carried out everything I did with stress and striving to be perfect. Always wanting to my best. I still have that. The strive to be my best, however, it doesn't come with the psychological stress I once had. Thanks to learning about psychology and sport psychology. I am now less concerned about meeting the harsh expectations that I put on myself, and try to enjoy life a lot more. Thank you to cancer for helping me relax in my mind, enjoy every day, and continue to strive for excellence in a healthy way.
Tracy Donachie, MSc in Performance Psychology.