Yesterday morning I felt down and fed up. As my mum asked me what I was wearing up the pub, I responded, trying wildly to think of what constituted an acceptable outfit, but feeling deep down that I wanted to stay in bed, away from conversation. The pub was bustling with people and loud babble and it is bizarre how, as I nervously navigated the groups with my crutches, in a room with so many it was possible to feel so far removed., as though I was watching through a screen. I soon went to the toilet, and came back to a table surrounded by my amazing parents, my brilliant brother, his lovely girlfriend and my fabulous friends. And immediately, any prior worries seemed to disappear, replaced by excitement and eeks! My fantastic parents had organised for my friends to come to our house as an early birthday surprise since I will be in Florida for my actual birthday. We all returned to my house and gathered in the kitchen, my friends and family together, filling and warming the room with our chat and laughter. Throughout the day fragments of myself gradually drifted back to me, until I felt whole and complete, a feeling I have only experienced occasionally since my surgery.
From here on in I will be repeating adjectives because I have run out of different ways to describe yesterday and the people involved because a) honestly, it was just so good and b) I am wearing my new pug dressing gown and I am feeling exceptionally generous with my complimentary language.
So yes, the entire day was fantastically brilliant because I got to spend time with the people I love most (but not all of them, to my grandparents who better be reading this) and I was made to feel normal and special by each one of them. I got some amazing presents which were amazing because they all showed thought and care, and were each personal and meant something to me, whether it was a knowledge of my love of pugs, owls and cookies, or the thought that during chemo my bald head may get cold and that covering it up with a squid hat will both warm it and help my self esteem. And I loved it because my parents had thought to make this day a thing; even when they had so much going on, they had thought of the little things. And also because I got cake.
So what may have been a fairly normal day of seeing each other for my friends was so much more to me. To me it was a reminder that I am still relevant, that I matter. That I do not bore, and that I am not forgotten. These things may sound silly but cancer is isolating. It strips you of what you think you are and leaves you feeling naked and alone, nervous of what you have become and fearing that these changes will render you boring and flat in the eyes of your friends. But after yesterday I don’t feel boring and I don’t feel flat. Instead I feel healthy and normal.
I sound like a cheesy Christmas film, heartily chuckling out its festive message by saying this but, since the Christmas adverts are already out and I actually saw a house with fairy lights up last week, ’tis the season after all: reach out to your friends and to your family, whether they are unwell or perfectly healthy. Through all this I have learnt one thing, and that is that the people around you, those who you love, are the most important things and nothing else comes close to mattering.
In intensive care my parents were my rocks and, among the surreal blur of events that unfolded, their voices and their calm were what I desperately clung onto. Yesterday, my friends and family turned what would have been a day of watching The Real Housewives (which is quite brilliant anyway) into a day of love and warmth. The laughter they brought and continue to bring was and is the best medicine (apart from the Ketamine I had in high dependency) and before I even knew it the day had gone without me even thinking of my medication; In fact, at one point I even ran when cookies were involved, in a nearly Christmas miracle.
What I am trying to say is let your loved ones know they matter. And then let them know again and again. The people around me who have supported me through this, those who have been there consistently, are the brilliant ones and I want to thank you all again for helping me through this and reminding me each time of
who I really am. Those who have reminded me throughout the past few months that I am still here, that I have not faded away from them and those who have sat with me and I know will continue to sit with me, no matter how long this journey takes, are getting me through this. When I have needed each of them they have been there, whether it is to hold my hand in intensive care or down a garden path in the dark to watch fireworks. Whether it is to send me little parcels full of chocolate and a cress head or to make me laugh about something I would have otherwise cried about. This is what has meant the most to me through all this, so thank you… I think that is important to say.