Part 16. Opportunity and discovery.
But this new, temporary chapter isn’t all about the emosh stuff. It’s certainly hard, for me and my loved ones, and it will remain so until I’m waved off by Dr Patel with her beautiful smile and a gold sticker for effort while she tells me she’ll see me at the 10k next April (I’ve committed now even with potential for right hip to also need replacing soon after – that’ll be a piece of piss after this shiz)! However, it’s about a lot of other stuff too. The most tearful bits remain the gorgeous emotion that swells from the kindness of others, my girls finding it hard, and people sticking needles in my tit. No one enjoys that. Maybe some very weird people do. I don’t want to know about them, the freaks. And when I’m tired I’m weepy, especially if my girls are with me and I’m having to instruct them to do the stuff I literally can’t. Hormones are in the mix too. Those mofos are making themselves very known. With a dose of carboplatin my ovaries literally start shouting. Fortunately (for everyone) I haven’t started shouting yet apart from a couple of bad parenting moments where I got to my last tired nerve. But that’s just being a mum of 2 hormonal girls. My hormonal imbalance mainly means extra salt water eyeball action and a stomach that could currently compete with my mid-pregnancy profile. Where is the fucking justice? With all these crap statistics and odds I’ve been beating surely it’s time for me to be that 1 in 14m who loses weight AND wins the lottery. I’m being unfair to my girlie bits. The new found gut is also thanks to g-csf injections to stimulate my bone marrow to make more good white cells, and my liver being a bit sad about all the toxins its dealing with. But still – er, can I be more the one that loses weight…a bit. Vanity is never far away is it! Eating a salad as I type. Not joking.
Other than that, everything’s bloody great! Messing with you – loads of it SUCKS. I’ve had a hard couple of weeks, both physically and emotionally. As ever though, chinks of light shine through the dark bits and then BOOM, a giant beacon shines on me and rights the wrongs. Stuff is happening that might never have happened. In fact, it wouldn’t have happened. Those are the things I choose to focus on as I write today as I’ve done plenty of focusing (and crying/analysis/talking) and I need the positives, never mind the fact that you lot might need something a little lighter as you dip in to my, recently heavy, fortnightly soliloquy!
What this diagnosis, this treatment, my cancer has offered in abundance so far is opportunity, discovery and perspective. It’s opened my eyes to things I may otherwise have completely missed, about myself and people around me. It’s shown me more about me than I might have learned over years of ‘normal’ life. Wait, this is normal life, isn’t it. Shit happens. Big shit, little shit, it happens on a daily basis, to all of us. It’s life.
I’m counting this as BIG SHIT and it’s a bit like a pause button. Something I’m actually grateful for. I have no choice but to (almost) stop, look and listen, like David Prowse used to tell us in the 80s on the tellybox. He was mainly stopping kids from getting hit by non-seatbelt wearing, pissed drivers. Mine’s mainly about not getting killed by cancer and seeing the positives in doing so. Both good ideas I think.
We’re all different and we get dealt different shit. Something I knew to be true, but it’s come in to sharp focus, is that we deal with our own shit in very different ways and we bring our own past and stories to whatever we’re faced with. In this situation and during other challenging times, I choose to purge myself, completely publicly now, and very honestly, on a regular basis because it’s therapy. I get my thoughts, feelings and swears out and receive positive energy back from brilliant people. I’ve learned recently that getting this energy back from others is a huge motivational factor for me. It’s literally what stops me from going under. Conversely, a very lovely woman wrote to me recently saying she’d lost her voice (metaphorically) when she got her diagnosis. For her my public purging is, she wrote, “an inspiration’” going on to say, “where cancer has given you a voice, it silenced me. I just couldn’t find any words”. She continued that she’d follow my blog “in awe” and wished me luck. That’s powerful stuff, for us both. I was both moved and spurred on by her message. My words having any positive impact on others in BIG SHIT situations is an incredible new discovery for me.
Some people go in to themselves in times of crisis, some get mad, some choose to get support from a small handful of their people, and some go in to overdrive and set up charities and dangle off mountains etc. to raise loads of cash. I sort of wish I was one of those heroic types but I’m tired enough as it is. THE Party will be the fundraiser. Mark my words. You could actually do that, mark my actual words, if you use the draw function on your phone, or print this out and circle them with a sharpie. I’m guessing you might have better things to do. I hope so.
My knee-jerk reaction was to purge using words and in doing so I’ve discovered that I love to write. I have never considered myself particularly creative, I have until recently gone a bit green at the word ‘craft’ for example. That was until KV whipped her head round the other day laughing at me saying I’m not a creative type and mildly sarcastically uttered the words ‘er singing and photography’ to me. She’s right I have been and am creative, but for all my brazen ‘confidence’ I walk around with permanent impostor syndrome, like many women it seems, wondering when I’ll get found out for being a bit shit. Cancer may be doing me a favour in that department. While I regularly say/mutter/think ‘fuck cancer’, so too am I feeling more inclined to say ‘fuck it’ and believe I’m as good as the next writer, albeit in a more talkative, sweary, less erudite way. Therein lies the cancer-induced self discovery and opportunity. Hoorah! Thanks lumpy.
The more I write the more I want to write and the more I want to share. Sharing seems to be something that comes very naturally, which explains my comfort with corporate and high net worth fundraising. It explains me doing a counselling course some years ago. It explains my comfort with singing to big audiences and public speaking. I like getting to know people and for them to ‘get’ me. It’s connection isn’t it. I’m interested in people’s stories and understanding how they tick. I bloody like people and I like stories. We all have stories and sharing mine, the current story (for now anyway), is sparking things I hadn’t expected. Like inspiring others, as in the example above. That’s gold dust. I want to use this for good and it feels very natural to want positives to come from something so (triple) negative. See what I did there? God I’m funny.
What I hadn’t anticipated, along with it actually being of use to other people, as I launched with barely a thought in to writing, is how, of course, others interpret what you write according to their own stories. It’s taken me by surprise a couple of times and it’s filled me with joy on occasion as it’s had people sharing their light bulb moments on the back of reading my stream of consciousness. Any creative form is viewed by others according to what’s going on for them. This means that actually, my point has been lost a couple of times which initially rankled me. Rankled. There’s a word I think I’ve NEVER used. Huh. There you go. Anyway, it ‘rankled’ me until I thought about the fact that we see everything according to our own experiences. So if someone reads my words and takes a different meaning, so be it, even if it is about me. Maybe it helps them in another way. It’s liberating to feel that way rather than what I initially wanted to do which was say ‘no, wait, that’s not what I was saying, that’s stupid, I’m annoyed now’ etc. etc. in a stampy foot kind of way.
This jooouuurney is an opportunity to engage with new people. An opportunity to engage in different ways with people I know well and some I don’t know so well. An opportunity to learn. An opportunity to consider what I might do with this new found passion. An opportunity to gain perspective on what is fundamentally important to me and to live life according to that new found perspective.
Recently my writing has sparked some new collaborations with people I’ve connected with in my work life and through friends, who’ve offered their professional expertise in order to help me work towards the growth of something that has developed so organically to date. These people are talented professionals and business owners who have given their time, during evenings and weekends, around my minimal availability, to help me with creation of a proper home for this blog.
With these new collaborations comes a theme as all have been kick-started by conversations with women. Women who don’t know me hugely well but who were open to my asking a question of them and who responded with love, enthusiasm and hugely confidence-building commitment to get behind what they have been reading – my blog. I know, here we go, ffs, bigging up the sisterhood as is the fashion in sweary femme writers world (calling myself a writer now, tee hee!). Yeah – too right I’m bigging up women. Jeeez they’ve been indefatigable supporters in my life, let alone the last 4 months. From the women I work with offering daily support (and Gary!); to massage and weekly laundry; whisking me away and feeding me; wiping my tears and making me belly laugh; checking in and understanding; a virtual stranger gifting her time for insanely good aroma touch therapy; asking questions and being silent, creating a brand; taking my picture and building a website. I have been surrounded and left in peace in equal measure. It’s powerful stuff and I don’t doubt another factor in making my tumour shrink and my smile remain. Men have been great too, but they’ll get their own blog post!
Amongst the women helping with the creation of blog content are Liz and Susi. The two photos accompanying this post were taken by Liz of Vervate following a chat between me and Susi where she offered a ton of compassion and support having both followed and promoted the blog on twitter. Vervate, a Brighton-based photographic agency, have worked with us at Martlets and are known for their brilliant work and being a joy to be around. Susi and Liz came to my house for an hour on Sunday of last week, had a cuppa and took circa 80 shots of me. I wanted some pictures while I’m bald and the one below is what I am now referring to as ‘the money shot’. No amount of cancer selfies on Insta will have captured a moment that says so much about where I’m at right here and now. Literally fuck cancer. Liz and Susi got it and delivered with great humour and quickly enough for me to then lie down.
Finally, there’s Ruth and the team at Osomi and Optimistic Fox, plus the friends at Studio Awkward that connect us, and the brilliant KV. All have chosen to become part of #KnightsArmy too, something that has taken my appreciation of (awkward) humans to yet another level! This division of #KnightArmy are the real creatives along with our friends at Vervate. The ones who’ll design and build a home for Queen Emma Knight, my words, pictures, people, nuggets of info, and whatever comes next. Our steroid fuelled session (me not them – I assume), which was always in danger of a last minute cancellation due to my desperate need to lie down, was one of the most uplifting and encouraging experiences I’ve had in a very long time. I learned about me through their majorly awkward probing and found I was surrounded by people who believe in what I’m doing and saying so much they want to take me on. And these people are really bloody good. It excites the hell out of me. In weeks to come we’ll see the fruits of their labour and will put in to action some of their ridiculously good ideas.
It’s not just me any more. It never really was, I’ve always had family and friends right there for me. I’m lucky. But at times in the last few years life has felt very much like a solo mission to just do my best at being a mum, do my job well and pay the bills. Now I have a team, an army, and my words. #KnightsArmy has the same vision as me, to be cancer free and ensure from the BIG SHIT comes a giant crop of wonderfully smelling roses. Life won’t always smell of roses, but it will positively never be the same again. Once the Awkwards and KV have done their work it won’t look the same either. Bring it.