It’s been just over a year since I wrote my last blog post. For a very long time I haven’t wanted to write any more blog posts. In fact, I haven’t wanted to write anything at all – not blogposts, nor chapters for the new book, not even to-do lists (which I love and live by).
I’ve struggled with writing anything because for me, writing is about releasing whatever truth I’m working through at the time. And from the end of February 2016, I was dealing with a significant truth that I didn’t feel I could share. In the spirit of honesty, I’m still not 100% sure I want to share all the gory details of that truth – not yet, anyway. But I’d like to share a little of it with you.
The title of the blog post should really be two days, one year, one life. There were two specific days in February 2016 that changed my life.
The first was 17th February – the day the wonderful breeders I had been in contact with for the last few months told me that their gorgeous girl Amber had given birth to ten healthy puppies, and I would be getting one of the boys. Losing Simba in 2015 was one of the hardest things I’d dealt with, and there was a huge dog shaped hole in my life that was about to be filled. I was fizzing with so much excitement I felt like it was bursting through my skin into the air around me.
The second day was just as momentous, and as much of a low as the puppy announcement had been a high. Until February 2016, I had been in remission from Endometrial cancer for over seven years. But on that second life-changing day, 28th February, I was told that it was back.
I had had huge plans for 2016. It was going to be my year. 2015 had been consumed by the loss of Simba and learning to deal with the grief but by the end of the year, I had found my mojo again. My head was full of new beginnings and new plans – I was more than ready for 2016 so I could get going with them – more writing, better writing, publishing another book, a new puppy, maybe even getting back on the dating scene.
Plans. Lots of plans.I still have the vision board I made with my 2016 plans. But, just as in that famous quote “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”, my actual 2016 looked very different. I spent March and April in a haze of weekdays coping with a full-time contract, as well as the side effects of the new medication, added to a whole new health and fitness regime to help my body fight off the cancer, and weekends full of visits to play with the puppies. I treasure those hour long visits with the puppies – they reminded me that I had something wonderful to look forward to and fight to get healthy for.
I limited my social life to time with the very few wonderful friends and family I had shared my diagnosis with. I lived 2016 in segments. Three months of treatment, two weeks of operations, recovery and results (results which just wouldn’t go my way, no matter which drug combination we tried), then another three months of treatment, and so on. I will be forever grateful and forever in the debt of that select group of exceptional souls for keeping me going, keeping me focused on the positive and holding me up when I couldn’t hold myself up.
The highlight of 2016 was 17th April, when I brought my new puppy, Loki, home. He was (and still is) absolutely adorable, and settled in so quickly it felt as though he’d always been with me. I was besotted. But I felt permanently exhausted from a crazy combination of looking after a new puppy, working full-time at a great contract, working on the book at lunchtimes, and trying to fight the side effects of the medication. Three months into this schedule, I conceded that I just didn’t have enough energy to juggle all those balls. But the only one I could let go of was the writing. I cried all weekend after making that decision. I was putting on hold one of my biggest, most dearly held dreams just when I felt it was within reach, and it hurt like hell.
Painful or not, it was the right thing to do. I needed to focus all my energy on getting better. I was going to be fine, and I was going to hold onto my womb. I held onto that truth with fists balled up tight, in case it slipped even a millimetre. Each time a particular drug combination didn’t work, I convinced myself that the next combination would be the one that did. At the beginning of November, my consultant told me we had run out of drug-related options. The only way to beat this now was to have a full hysterectomy. I’d always know this was a possibility, all the way back to when I was first diagnosed, right back in 2006. But I had always imagined I was the exception, I was the one that the drugs would work for, and one day, I’d have children. And for almost eight years I was the exception. In November, I stopped being the exception. The choice was … well, it wasn’t a choice. It was the only path left to take. Cancer was going to take away my chance to give birth. The operation was scheduled for January 2017. I was determined it wasn’t going to ruin my life or even the end of 2016. I chose to have the most amazing Christmas – I said yes to every invitation, went to every party, and spent as much time as possible with friends and family. I had a very lovely month indeed.
I didn’t make any New Year’s Resolutions at the beginning of January 2017. I didn’t do a vision board. I didn’t write a single goal. I focused on becoming as fit and healthy as possible in preparation for the major surgery I was about to face. My personal New Year would begin after the hysterectomy at end of January.
I’m pleased to say the operation went well. The tumour has been removed. I need a little radiotherapy, which I’ll have as soon as I’ve healed from the operation.
I’m still not making any plans for the rest of 2017. I don’t know what is ahead. I hope that it’s good. I even dare to hope that it’s better than last year. I do know that I have the most amazing friends and family (and a wonderfully supportive work family too). I know I have my lovely little Loki. I know I have options. They just happen to be slightly different to the options I thought I would have. So now I will take action. Every day, I’ll do something that takes me forward. I’m going to start writing again. I’ll be back at work soon. As soon as I’ve healed I’ll be able to start walking Loki again, which I miss more than I can say. I’m also going to make sure that every day I do something that makes me smile. That’s an easy win, as I have my lovely Loki around. And every day I will be grateful for the monumental privilege of being here, of living.
Well, then…life. Just life. Glorious, unpredictable, terrifying, exhilarating life.