I’m lying in bed, trying to write this blog and trying even harder to catch your attention. So here goes… My name is Beth, I am 21 years old, and I have cancer.
I decided to deploy the C-word pretty early because it does have its benefits, including the ability to get people to listen to you, and maybe even do what you want (in an entirely un-bratty/un-manipulation-y way of course). I have never written anything like this before and, since I read that a writer must secure their reader’s attention within the first few seconds, I really did feel that drama, that certain je ne sais quoi, the C-word brings was entirely called for.
But from now on I will not be calling cancer the C-word because, let’s face it, cancer is no Voldemort, and it will not be smiting you if it hears you call it by it’s full name. I may, however, be using the ever so elegant terming of the ‘C-bomb’ from time to time because I think it is absolutely brilliant. Because cancer is just that: it is a bomb that disrupts your life and threatens to turn you into someone else, a cancer patient. It threatens to define you.
It’s easy to let that happen, but it’s easier not to. So let me introduce myself now I’ve hopefully caught your attention.
My name is Beth and I am 21 years old. I have just finished my third year studying Physics in London, a city which I love. I like to dance, run and watch Tipping Point, Millionaire Matchmaker and most shitty TV if I’m being honest (apart from Loose Women which is the worst). I like watching Bridget Jones with a glass of red wine (not alone, just to clear that up) but I also love ridiculously bad horror and action films. I like to take pictures that are sub-semi-decent and then edit them to death so I look dead edgy and trendy. I peaked at 18 years old when I got a free Krispy Kreme from Harrods. I like going out with friends and basically doing all the things a 21 year old likes to do, unless you are a 21 year old who likes going to Tiger Tiger Croydon. Then we might differ slightly.
But let’s face it, that shit is not interesting… This is a cancer blog so let’s get to the juicy stuff. I am a cancer patient and I am waiting now for my second operation, of which a date has been set for 29th September 2015. I want to say here, that my prognosis is good; my doctors and surgeons expect me to make a full recovery with the help of some surgery, a sprinkle of proton therapy and a dash of chemo. My cancer type is a soft tissue sarcoma, which is very rare and makes up only 1% of cancers. Specifically it is a Malignant Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumour (MPNST because that is a mouthful) and they make up only 5-10% of soft tissue sarcomas. Basically my cancer is special, just like me. (lol)
My cancer was initially missed in an MRI in February and then finally spotted in June, but was thought to be benign. This period of time, before which I even knew I had cancer, was the worst. The tumour was growing up the base of the sciatic nerve on the right side of my body and caused an enormous, indescribable amount of pain. Surprisingly, my neurosurgeon spotting a tumour in June was a relief. Although that feeling may have been down to the copious amount of drugs I was on. Even cancer, in my opinion, is better than the alternative, which would have been chronic pain. Back in June, we all knew that within a short amount of time, without surgery, I would have been unable to walk. The combination of drugs I was on was giving me panic attacks every few minutes and at points even staying upright was a struggle. And so for me it’s been hard to get too down about what’s happening.
I have kept saying to any of my friends that I have spoken to, “It doesn’t matter, well it does matter, but also it doesn’t”. In that incredibly literate and concise sentence what I’m trying to say is that these things happen. It’s something I am going through, and will come out of looking slightly balder, but okay (fingers crossed). 1 in 3 people have cancer; cancer is a thing now. It’s a scary word and yes, it is a scary thing, but for me personally, I have no alternative other than to just get on with it. I have a week until my next operation and until then I will live life as normal. Recently, I have been out with my family, seen friends, been on a night out, been on a date (you know who you are, you lucky thing) and the weekend before my op date I am going to a wedding. Before my operation I am determined to do things.
And it turns out one of those things was to start this blog. I guess the reason for writing such a blog is partially because it is a good outlet for myself and gives me something to focus on, both now and further down the line when I might not have the energy to do much else. Self-involvement aside, I want this blog to be useful to past or current cancer patients, as well as their friends and family. Whilst reading this, I want people who have cancer to gain insight into another’s experiences and know that they are not alone and that whatever they’re feeling is okay. I also want their friends and family to understand how they might be feeling, and what they might be thinking (although let’s be clear I am no psychologist and may/will be way off the mark on a few/all of these things ). Additionally, it is my hope that this blog might be mildly interesting. And that it does not read like the lost chapter from ‘The Fault in our Stars’ (No disrespect to the book; I thought it was very good, but a little depressing.) So basically this blog will be my very own cancer-fest, where I will share my experiences and thoughts and most likely occasionally bitch about cancer.
I will end this entry by saying that cancer is me, but it is not all of me. I think it would be easy to want to keep ‘cool me’ and ‘cancer me’ separate but it’s not possible. It’s not easy to stop the waves of the sea that is cancer from washing over you, but for me my saving graces have been the people around me, the copious amounts of cake they have provided and laughter. I am actually generally quite a private person (which if you don’t know me particularly well might read like the biggest load of BS considering I appear to have lay my business out here for all to see) but this has taught me to be more open and let people help. No amount of cancer, however, will be teaching me to let people help when suppositories are involved.
(As a saddening and heartbreaking afterthought I will actually finish with a shout out to the glorious trip to Thailand that could have been if only I was 18, I’m looking at you Make A Wish.)
The people from the photos on this page have been particularly brilliant through all of this, and I want to thank every single one of them.