If there’s one saying I took a huge disliking to when I was ill, it would have to be the one about getting hit by a bus tomorrow particularly when said in response to me when I was worrying about dying of cancer aged 33.
For 33 glorious years I can honestly say that I never really thought about dying even when my mum died of cancer in her 50s. Then one fateful day, I found a lump in my breast. I wasn’t overly worried; the odds were in my favour. I knew that 8 out of 10 lumps were not cancer plus breast cancer was an older woman’s disease at least so I thought. Also, I’d never known a woman my age to get it, but then someone had to be unlucky and unfortunately, as it transpired, it was me.
It was agressive they said. I’d need a mastectomy and chemo. The weeks following diagnosis were the worst. I thought mostly about leaving my young children without a mum and I’m sure I felt my heart actually breaking while I lie awake alone in my room sobbing at night for weeks on end.
Worrying about dying is horrific,upsetting and frightening. It’s also extremely lonely particularly being a young woman thinking about your own premature death. People didn’t always understand. “No one knows when their time’s up”and similar phrases just seemed to roll off of people’s tongues. I often wondered if they said things like that to make themselves feel better. It angered me much of the time really. I was going through this hell and people were almost blasé about me worrying about the whole death thing. “You’ll be fine.” They said. “You’ll beat it.” Encouraging and positive sentiments sure, but I felt such immense pressure . The reality was I really didn’t have any choice in the matter regarding whether I’d live or die.
I had the surgery and the chemo and radiation. I had the years worth of expensive injections, and then I had another 8 hour surgery to rebuild my breast. Then naturally, as time passed, I stopped thinking about dying quite as much, but the fear-it never really leaves you, not totally.
28 months on and I’m still here alive and kicking but recently thrown back full force in to the land of anxiety (or scanxiety as it’s known in cancer world.) I’m waiting for the results of a bone scan to rule out secondary cancer.
Everyone around me is getting on with life. They’re laughing and joking, they’re parenting and they’re working and socialising, but most of them won’t be thinking about dying. They won’t be thinking about being hit by that bus tomorrow, because the truth is: unless you’ve been diagnosed with a killer disease; unless you’ve watched your young friends dropping like flies dying of the very same disease that you had, you could never truly understand what it’s like even if you do mean well.
Nobody really thinks about that bus hitting them. But I do think about dying of cancer sometimes. I just made a vow to myself to get busy living and live a life I can be proud of however long I’ve got..