I find myself at a bit of a crossroads. Every direction I look there is an unknown road spiralling away from me. It doesn’t scare me but I do feel overwhelmed. I’m feeling the pressure to make this year count. But how? What should I do?
2019 was gruelling. It chewed me up and spat me out again. Now, I’m trying to glue all those bits together again, but I feel like I’m missing a crucial part. It feels as if a limb has gone AWOL and, therefore, the parts won’t quite slot together neatly. Who am I? What is this blog? What do I want from my future? So many questions and still no concrete answers. I’ve felt the tickle of death’s breath on my neck and now I want to make the most of every single day. I want to make it all count. But that’s exhausting and not how life works. Move forward, treasure every single day, life is a gift, are all platitudes that are flung my way. I get it, I really do, but life isn’t that simple. Life is messy and we can’t dress it up, we can’t wrap a bow around cancer and call it a gift. It wasn’t, it was fricking awful.
I find myself in a weird sort of limbo. I’m grieving for the person I once was, but then I can appreciate the new me that has emerged from the tyranny that was cancer. I am stronger, more determined. I’m no longer afraid to speak my mind and I don’t feel like I must please everyone. I have accepted, forgiven and moved on. But now what? I know people that have been diagnosed with PTSD after cancer, so I think I have been quite lucky. I have escaped relatively unscathed. Yes, I have my dark days, I even spoke about it in my last post, but thankfully I have been able to pull myself through them.
I’m tentatively trying to move forward but sometimes it feels like I take one step forward and twenty steps back. Trying to build my fitness back up is proving far more challenging than I had anticipated but I am making slow progress. I can now do deadlifts and lift an Olympic bar. I now know what a curtsy squat is, and I can do weighted lunges. My running continues to challenge me. I seem to have a streak of good running and then out of nowhere I will find that I am struggling again. However, I will stick at it because I love running for the escape it brings me, how the plodding in the rain stills the brain and how I finish feeling more at peace.
I still don’t know what to do next though. I want to do something that counts. I want to make a difference. Imagine thinking your time was up but then suddenly finding out that you have been given a reprieve. It’s the best of gifts but if you aren’t careful you can let that second chance to sip at the cup of life become a poisoned chalice. You can overthink everything. How can a “normal” day possibly live up to the gift of a second chance? You feel this sense of unrest, like you should always be on the go because you want to savour every single second, make every single minute count. But how can you make your life count? How can you show that you really appreciate that second chance? You feel as if you must do it for those who aren’t as lucky as you. You have to relish every single day for those whose days are numbered. If you aren’t careful you can find yourself in an exhausting cycle. Your mind runs away from you, everything feels frantic and you feel like you can’t let yourself relax because you are worried that the second chance will be whipped away from you again.
Trying to do everything and to the best of your ability is setting yourself up for failure. I’ve had to scale back. I’ve accepted that I’m not going to be that marathon runner overnight, that I’m still not an arts and crafts mother, that I still can’t sew and I’m still hopelessly disorganised, I can still be grumpy and I’m still not a morning person. But do you know what? I’m me and I know that’s what my family love me for.
They love that I dance in the kitchen as I get their breakfast ready, they love that I sing along at the top of my voice to songs on the radio very badly, Youngest loves that I let her have chocolate spread on toast and rolls her eyes when I tell her it’s really not healthy. She also loves that I crawl into her bed in the morning and give her big hugs, gently coaxing her to get up and ready for school. Oldest finds it hilarious when I try and impress her with my GCSE German, and she loves it when we both curl up on the sofa together to read our books. Both girls love that I pick them up from school and the car journey home invariably involves them both rushing to tell me the gossip from the school day. They always ask me to share stories of my childhood, and they laugh at my retelling of their dramatic birth stories. I love our Saturday evenings, huddled on the sofa under blankets. Cancer might not have made me perfect, but it’s made us appreciate those imperfect family moments even more. We have a new found love for the ordinary.
What do I do though? What do I do with this blog? Do I carry it on? If so, what does my focus become? Do I carry on just blogging about me or is that horribly narcissistic and self-indulgent? Several times I think about stopping it but then I receive messages from people asking for advice and I realise that me sharing my words honestly has the power to help others. Therefore, I will continue to talk about bowel cancer and the new “normal”. We are also in the process of setting up a cancer support group in Jersey, and hopefully that will help many others too. Then there is the book I have been working on. 30,000 words down and a publisher was interested, but then they decided it wasn’t quite right for them. I’m not disappointed, I’m amazed that anyone was interested at all. I need to change the format and possibly start all over again. I’ve also been accepted onto a writing course and I was delighted but coronavirus means that it is unlikely I will be able accept the offer. A week in London feels less than appealing at the moment.
Falling in love
Then there is Mr Bingley, our lovely energetic Airedale Terrier who has bounded into our lives with great nippy gusto. We have all fallen head over heels in love with him. Our furniture has been embellished with puppy teeth marks and we no longer get a lazy morning lie-in on a Sunday as Mr Bingley likes to start his day at 6am. He has brought us all so much joy, our garden lawn is looking even more sorrier for itself as Bingley likes to bury his bones in the garden. He’s great company, is always happy to see you in the morning and he likes to spread out on the kitchen floor next to me as I cook dinner. His favourite time is when the girls are in bed and he can squeeze on the sofa between me and Mr C. He loves cuddles and big belly rubs and is partial to an apple slice. I already couldn’t imagine life without him.
So, to answer my question – am I standing still? Most definitely not. I’m just moving forward a lot slower nowadays, but that’s okay because life is for savouring, not rushing.