Me. Am I Cancer. Is it me? Who would I be without it?
This is a topic that comes up again and again. To be fair though, this is the case with a lot of what I write about…the same things if you strip all the words back. Just with a different slant. A different tone. A different trigger. But essentially the same thing.
Slightly convoluted, probably complicated
I’m not on a huge quest to ‘find who I am’ or what the impact of having cancer has had on me. Not when I’m chronic. It would probably be very different if I had had an acute diagnosis instead and had ‘normal’ treatment. But me being me, nothing ‘normal’ happens to me. Most things seem to be a bit unusual, not the norm, slightly convoluted, probably complicated. So having ‘old man’s cancer’ and being a ‘sensitive responder’ so the treatment annihilates me ticks all the boxes.
I was diagnosed when I was 22 in my third year of University. I had no idea who I really was. Not sure if I do yet in some ways. I had no idea what I wanted to do in my professional life. Was toying with the idea of doing a law conversion and going into art fraud. I had decided the area I wanted my dissertation to be on – Islamic art/architecture. And then a blood test on the morning of Friday 19th January changed it all. Because I wasn’t ‘lucky’ and my life wasn’t ‘better than it had ever been’ and the treatment hit me like a bus rather than being ‘just a pill to take every day’. So many dangerous words were said to me by my first consultant.
11 and a bit years on I still wonder how much of me is me, and how much is me because of my diagnosis. I live with cancer every day. It’s in my blood. It hasn’t been removed. (I’m not saying that others who have been diagnosed aren’t still very much impacted on a daily basis by their diagnosis and treatment). I’m still on active treatment. I will potentially never be treatment free. There are 2 more drug options before I make the transplant decision.
The good days and the sad days
Everything I do, I do it with cancer. It impacts everything I do. Chronic fatigue as a side effect of treatment certainly makes me a lesser me in so many ways. A teary me. A sad me. A depressed me. A juggler of what I want to do vs what I can actually do vs destroying myself, so I sit on the sofa and cry because I can’t face standing up to make toast. This me. This is definitely the cancer me.
And then I have good days. Yes, I’m tired. Yes, cancer is always there. Yes, I take my meds and that’s a reminder. But I forget that I have cancer. It doesn’t feature in my thoughts. I still find it a bit weird that I have it. I talk about my parallel universe where I wasn’t diagnosed. In that universe, I’m a lawyer. I am married. I have children. I own where I live. I can do what I want and don’t have to worry about if I can find the energy to stand up. And this is me.
This is the me I was meant to be
But that me… the me that was ‘meant’ to be. She might hate her job. She might never have time to be at home with her family. She might never have time to pause when walking, to stand and smile at a building she has noticed by looking up. She might not be able to take true pleasure in walking past the wildflowers that are out in bloom. She might not have time to watch the bees buzzing around.
I love my job. I love what I do. As I work for me, I can take time out to be with my nieces. I can look after a dog who brings me so much joy. I can do what I do and be me.
So am I cancer? Is cancer me? Probably. In a way. Who would I be without it? I don’t know. I don’t know if I want to know. I do know that cancer has taught me and shown me that I am truly happy with me. I love me. I can sit with me and be content. So if cancer has done that to me. Well. That’s ok with me.