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Part 12. Dear Universe

Dear Universe,

In the last 8 years you’ve dealt me some shit really. Oh I’m aware it’s all relative. I don’t live in a war zone, I have food in my fridge, a home, my girls, love, family etc etc. All of which I am hugely grateful for. Nonetheless you’ve dealt some shit.

This particular dose of shit is really quite harsh so now I’m asking what other lessons you have for me. Thing is, universe, I already knew how surrounded with love I am. I’ve never seen it in such wonderful technicolour until now, granted, but I knew. I also knew I was working a bit too hard. But I love my job and my girls weren’t suffering. I was still doing hard, loving mothering too! Now they’re suffering. Now they have an even more exhausted mum and a weight far too heavy for their young, beautiful shoulders. Least we know why I was SO exhausted now…it wasn’t just life was it, it was life with cancer, I just didn’t know it yet.

In the last 8 years I’ve seen an end to my marriage, until now the hardest thing I’d ever been through; I’ve split with 2 boyfriends albeit after relatively short relationships and for good reasons (one of them was an idiot for example); I walked around and trained on a failed left hip for over 2 years then had it fully replaced aged 41; and I’ve been a single mum throughout, working full time with permanent money stress. The single mum part doesn’t do justice to what that means. For example, the year my eldest started secondary school and found the experience very challenging for the first 3 months, my youngest endured an entire school year of unhappiness. When your children are unhappy, unsettled and challenged, it’s all consuming until the problem is fixed. Their pain is your pain and you do everything day to day with their well-being right at the front of your mind. As my own mum is enduring now, poor incredibly brilliant bitch (she’s reading this blog with great anticipation so she’ll appreciate that)!

You know what though universe, I’ve done all this stuff mostly with a smile, the support of my family and friends (who are family), and a knowledge that this is indeed all relative and my fortune is greater than that of many people. I still believe that, even with sodding cancer in my tit. I’ve had down times, some worse than others. And to the detriment of my financial health, I’ve had up times including amazing holidays I can’t afford, because I’ve always had a deep feeling that you don’t know what’s coming and life will go too fast. No fucking shit Emma you wise bastard you.

I’m not saying that because I see my own mortality ahead. I don’t. I see recovery and frankly a new woman of sorts. But it brings it all home. Life is short, it is fast and you really don’t know whats up next. Worrying and fretting about things and people who ultimately don’t matter is a massive time sink. Running on the hamster wheel without taking those days or weeks to travel and be with the people who do matter is foolish. Not taking time to be selfish and do things just for you is negligent. I’m guilty of that. Don’t get me wrong, being in debt is also foolish so if you can do these things because you’re a clever saver or earn enough to have disposable income then do it like that instead!

The last 8 years have schooled me in my own resilience; determination; compassion; ability; the strength of my support network; my attitude to life; and to probably be more wary of men speedily declaring their love. It’s also made me massively question life beginning at 40. Er – with a break up and a hip replacement? Stupid! But what of the last 8 weeks?

Well, so far I’ve been aware of that resilience and inner strength. I mentioned that my head had gone to a quite zen and focused place and I attribute that to a state of self-preservation. I’ve had periods in the past where my mental health has been at low points. Not so low that I worried I wouldn’t get through them, but low enough that I sought support both from my people and a counsellor. I believe wholeheartedly in seeking support of this kind. Nothing works properly if my head isn’t functioning properly – nothing. How can I be a mum to my very most important people if I’m not functioning because life has thrown the shit and I have overwhelm? This current mental strength is connected to my gut. I’ve failed it in the past, not trusting it, but now I am trusting it at every turn. I’ve been afraid and deeply sad, but I have an unshakeable feeling in my gut that I will get through this toughest challenge yet and I believe it.

There’s also that glorious technicolour love, a shit-ton of the stuff. So strong and vivid and powerful I wonder if I’ll ever be able to repay it or to explain fully to all these people around me how powerful it is for my well-being and ultimately my cure. I see clearly how surrounded I am, how loved I am, how fucking lucky I am. As in my last blog this includes my daughters. It also includes the steadfast support of my ex husband, it includes colleagues who are far more than colleagues, it has included the kindness of new friends and total strangers. Hashtag blessed and all that. That’s true of the magnificent NHS team I am surrounded by, some of whom are friends of old, all of whom will always hold a special place in my heart owing to their skill, efficiency, care and humour.

Finally there’s this – writing – who knew! It is therapy. It occupies me when I’m sleepless; it allows me to purge my thoughts and feelings; it tells the story as it unfolds meaning less repetition for me; and, the most wonderful part, it turns out it’s helping women and men on their own ‘joooouuurmeys’. That for me is golden.

Last week I had good news. I had a marker inserted in to my tumour – an experience I hope never to repeat but it’s for a good reason – so the area where a tumour once was can be seen and removed if chemo does all of it’s work. I saw my oncologist later the same day who after answering all my questions frankly and patiently, examined me and said the tumour and my lymph gland have shrunk – the lymph by 50%. This is after 2 rounds. My friend Liz attributed this to ‘positivity and science’, as did my fab oncologist who told me to keep doing what I’m doing. She was also referring to all the green veg and liquids I’m pouring down my neck I think. Its all of the above – and the people and their love – your love. Lessons, lessons, lessons.

I watched The Real Full Monty, Ladies Night on catch up on Monday night, the night before Round 3. Seems to me the lessons are just going to keep coming. Seeing Michelle Heaton and Victoria Derbyshire battle with their post surgery and treatment emotions bought home, again, what a massive, long and blind-siding experience cancer is. When it ended I blubbed. Just sat and let it out. This shit is scary, intrusive, physically butchers you and takes away so much control. So my mind, led by my gut, science, medicine and healthy choices, has to stay healthy. It won’t be all the time, that’s the reality, but that’s when I’ll call for help. It’s got a lot to process and it’ll be a long time before it’s done that job. A long time.

But in the words of Maya Angelou who would have been 90 today, humbly quoted, as she wrote of very different challenge and injustice of the kind I will never know, Still I’ll Rise.

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