A fiver for them

If I had a fiver for every time someone has said to me: what have you learnt from having had cancer then .. well you know the rest. It’s a great question to be asked and I celebrate those dear friends who have been bold enough to engage with me in such a deep topic of conversation, prepared to hear the good, the bad and the ugly. Because, let’s face it, most of it has been ugly. Very ugly. To be diagnosed with stage three breast cancer aged 51 as a single parent with a seven year old son is very ugly indeed. But it’s also been good. And I mean that. Friends get a touch with angry with me when I say that if was my path to get cancer then the time that I was diagnosed was the very best time of all in my life to get it. I was nicely established in a career with a good job, and a company prepared to support me through my treatment; my son was old enough to understand and process what was going on, and at an age when he no longer needed lifting up or help with dressing and bathing (activities which – post surgery or with depleted energy from drugs – would have been hugely challenging); and I was ready to change how I lived my life. They say that life beyond cancer diagnosis is very different and eventhough I might have chosen a different way to do it, I was already primed to start mixing things up a bit.

But let’s get back to that question: what I have I learnt?

I can never answer this easily because there is just so much that I have learnt. It’s too clichéd to say that cancer has been a gift because well, it hasn’t. But there have been some beautiful returns on the emotional and physical investment: extra closeness with dear friends, new insights into other friends, and new brand new friendships based on criteria that match where I am now and not where I used to be. It’s also given me time to think about a new path for my life which is less about career and more about where I want to go. A strengthening of the already precious attachment with my son. And most important of all, a new way to love my life.

So that’s what this space is all about. How, when the world throws you a curved ball in the shape of diagnosis and treatment, there are rich – sometimes different – ways to love your life. So rather than get a fiver for each way I’ve learnt how to love my life post treatment, I’d like to share them here.

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