Cancer. It no longer defines me!

Hey lovely people,

Today is world cancer day and so thought it was apt to write this post today. It’s a topic I’ve wanted to write about for a very long time, and back in November I spoke on this at FYSOT (a Teenage Cancer Trust conference). I’m going to try and write more than what I chose to speak on, simply because lots has changed since then too. However, to start I’m going to talk about how and why I first started to loose the cancer label.

So obviously if you haven’t read my blog before you have guessed I had cancer, well technically I didn’t. It was a blood disorder called Very Sever Aplastic but treated similarly, so it was cancer-ish. For me it was an incredibly hard season of my life. I had to have a bone marrow transplant which basically strips you back to nothing, both physically and mentally.  It changes your life so drastically, and often quite dramatically too, that you loose who you are. Re-building your life after something like this, well its certainly not easy.

For me I felt like I had nothing, my life was a shell of what it once was. I had to suspend uni for a year and a half and even when I went back it wasn’t the same, I wasn’t the same. I had to adapt to my ‘new life’ and the restrictions that illness had imposed on me. I felt distant from friends, and felt that they lacked the understanding (even though they were massively supportive). I’d struggled with memory loss and PTSD and my mental health was in a mess.  The things that got me through this time however were incredible charities like CLIC Sargent, Teenage Cancer Trust, and Ellen MacArthur Cancer.

I will often say that cancer-ish whilst being the worst thing that ever happened, it was also the best, it changed everything. Incredibly I got the best help and support I could have ever imagined and I was able to rebuild a sort of life thanks to these incredible charities.

I finished treatment but walked into this sort of half life. Unable to fully live due to the complications, late effects and long journey of recovery that I was on. So while normal life was still a way off, I decided that the best thing I could do was to immerse myself into the cancer world. This had me in a place with people that understood and where expectations of me weren’t too high or unachievable.

I felt that once I finished treatment, and returned back to university that I’d moved on from cancer. I thought I was done and as much as I possibly could moved past it. After I finished uni I was pretty sick still. Around the same sort of time 3 years ago I walked through the doors at Freedom Church. I was really unsure on where my life was heading. Especially as the internship that I was doing at the time with CLIC Sargent, simply proved how unready I was for the world of work, due to my late effects.

About a year in (maybe longer) someone at my church came up to me and said I just think you really need to loose the cancer label. I was furious, I didn’t see it. I thought I’d already lost it, and was really angry about it. I’d moved on as much as I possibly could and thought ‘how dare she say this when she knew nothing about it’. I avoided her for a good 6 months, but then someone pointed out to me that if it wasn’t there how did someone else see it?

So I began investigating how I portrayed myself, and then I realised. When introducing myself to anyone I’d ask what do you do? When the question was thrown back at me- I’d respond well I can’t work because of the late effects from cancer-ish. The problem with answering a question in this way was that the questions that followed were never about what I did get to do, but always about the Cancer and the late effects I suffered. So when I realised this, I started to change the way I talked about it, simply talking about the volunteering that I did. Its was amazing when people knew more about my sailing than the days in bed I had to take. Changing how I talked about it changed everything so much so that about 6 months later one of my newer friends had no idea that I’d ever even been ill. I was no longer held by this label of Cancer-ish!

Fast forward to November when I first got asked to give a talk at first I didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t up for telling the sob story and wasn’t sure about emerging myself in a world full of people who were still living that story. With EMCT its completely different- because its about building confidence and learning a new skill, getting out of the cancer world bubble and finding yourself again. This conference however isn’t about stepping out its more about relating to others.

I decided to do it but not just to be another story where you hear about the dodgy diagnosis or moments you nearly died. But one of life change even when the odds were stacked against me. Even when I hadn’t recovered like others had, after all I still had chronic fatigue, memory issues and no immune system. I talked on loosing the cancer label and how changing my language around it changed so much. What is so amazing is that I still have people reaching out now or commenting how good a talk it was for them. By sharing insight into the small changes I made its helped way more than just me.

 

 

While I was preparing I asked God (yep I’m a christian too!) to guide me in what to write which he did. I’d never have chosen to talk so openly about my mental health without his nudge. However not only did God show me all of the areas I had worked through and overcome. Like how changing the way you speak can change so much, or that I’d defied the odds time and time again and stepped out into new things like the course I’m doing now. He also showed me all the things I still had to work on like loosing the crippling control issues I had. Speaking life and not sickness over myself, getting bigger vision for my future, and believing that I do have a future. He showed me how I’d let the fear control me, and how my health and wealth were intertwined (I’m sure at one stage i’ll explain all these a bit more).

I can now honestly and truly say that control plays way less a part of my life now, I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been and I know more is to come! Illness doesn’t define my outlook any longer (which doesn’t mean I don’t still face it- but its in a completely different way). For the first time in 8 and a half years I can say that Cancer doesn’t define what I do. That cancer label which yes will always be apart of my life no longer has a negative impact on me or my life.

I can truly say I’m Thriving not just Surviving.

I can’t wait to see what my future holds, but one thing I know for sure is I will keep going and will keep sailing as its a great opportunity to inspire and help others.

All the best

Wen

ps. If your one of my cancer friend reading this and want to know more please dm me and I’d love to talk more about what I shared. Go loose that label! thrive.jpg

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Survivorship Guilt- Loosing a Cancer Friend

Yep this one is hard to write- but after spending a little while searching I realised its not out there enough in those moments where we need it.

Tonight I found myself scrolling through Facebook to hit a post that had me stunned into shock. Another (yep I’ve been dealing with this for 8 years now) cancer friend has passed away. I’d met this person through the sailing charity I’m a volunteer for and remember really clearly having a very long and deep conversation with this young person she was something special. I now choose not to be informed by the trust if a young person I’ve met passes away (simply because I have to protect myself from feeling like I did tonight) but also now they don’t do this either. I had a mutual friend with this person and through a shared social media post I found out.

I’m going to describe what its like simply because tonight when I had no words I wished I had the explanation to pass on to my ‘normal’ (non-cancer) friends as I was completely unable to talk to. Please understand this is my experience but I’m also writing it for my friends to also use in these situations.

What the grief process is like

Because we have been so ill we have been exposed to death way more than most of our peers, but the loss of a cancer friend is so different to when you loose a family member or friend because of an accident or other illness. I say this because I often feel greater grief in this than like any other types of grief I’ve experienced simply because we also have survivorship guilt wrapped up in our grief. Now we have different types of cancer friends loss, those we’ve met and done life with over time, those we have met only a few times but also those who we have followed through social media. We also have the expected and unexpected versions of loss too. For some we’ve known are on palliative (end of life) care for some time, others have a slow decline in health, and others are completely unexpected- and happen completely out of the blue as the deteriorated over just a few days or hours.

Because we now live in a digital world, most I’d say 95% of the people who I’ve lost over the years I’ve found out through social media. So almost every time I go onto Facebook now (because of my years of experience) I prepare myself just in case I scroll to the news of a death and I know this isn’t exclusive to just the cancer world.

When your met with the news a cancer friend has passed away one of 4 things happen- 1.  your well prepared and although its still sad- and you still grieve you aren’t hit quite as harshly with survivorship guilt and your able to process through it quickly (as quick as you can after any friends death). 2 you are prepared for it but haven’t prepared how much of an impact their loss has on you and survivors guilt slaps you. 3 it doesn’t hit yet- and is delayed either due to the shock or being unable to process it there and then but it always still hits Or 4 your completely blindsided by the grief and overwhelming survivors guilt.

I don’t think there has ever been a time that I’ve experienced the loss of a cancer friend and not experienced survivorship guilt.

What does survivors guilt look like

Well it looks you hearing the news and then the complete shock of the loss- it hits you like a big giant wave knocking you off your feet completely. Your unable to breathe and you haven’t yet got to the tears but then its like a huge weight falls on you… one you can’t shake and it consumes you- that’s the guilt- yep it comes before the grief even hits but the grief usually hits very soon after so you experience them together sometimes. This guilt is tough to explain but I’m going to do my best. Its like you suddenly question why them, and not you. Why did they get taken when they had so much more to live for than you… You feel responsible for them because you’ve been through such a similar things and supported one another. You see the potential that their life had and have a moment where they are put on that pedestal of well they were better than me… You feel guilty for surviving when they didn’t. You feel guilty for not being able to help them. You feel awful because of you realise you shouldn’t feel guilty so you get guilt for the guilt. You question who you are, you question if the last thing you spoke to them about was positive. It’s the gut puncher that they won’t now get a chance of a future. The pain that you’ll not get any more words of wisdom or yea I get that too from them. Its worse when you’ve journeyed with them, or have the same cancer because you then feel like ‘you’re the lucky one’ for surviving. You question if you’ll be the next, you question if your going to relapse but it also has you questioning who you need to prepare to loose next. Plus then you have the normal grieving that everyone experiences.

What people tell you

Its hard because rationally you know the things that people tell you, it’s the same advice we give to our cancer friends when the face it… That there is no need for you to feel guilty. That the harsh reality of cancer is not everyone survives. There is no reason to why you survived and they didn’t. That you need to remember the good, the joy you brought them and they brought you. The comfort you were for each other. That they wouldn’t want  you to feel like this, they would want you to live your life to the full… this last thing though- it’s hard because you end up living your life for them.. You take them on add the name to your ongoing list of the people your living life for… I’m not sure how I feel about this but in resent years I’ve begun to realise that this is just  how unhealthy it is to do this, you cant live for them… you can live and know that they would be bursting with pride for doing so… but you cant live for them.  Yet that rational thinking doesn’t exist in that moment… sometimes it takes minutes to move through survivorship guilt and into rational, sometimes it takes hours and other times it takes weeks. I have no answers for how to move through it- other than it helps to let people in, help them understand where your at and help them understand its not just grief your dealing with. I find that hard especially in the overwhelming stage (which can sometimes last several hours) hence why I’m writing this!

 

Why I struggle with the Battle metaphor

The thing with treatment is you could be identical twins and have the exact same cancer, same stage and place. You have the exact same treatment but you could have completely different response and outcomes. No one knows why, its just the reality. I think this is the reason I struggle with the battle metaphor… by this I mean the lost their fight/battel or the you’ve beaten cancer. See there are a few problems with it, it implies that some haven’t fought hard enough or you haven’t won, that others fought harder because they survive which is simply not true. It also is hard for those who have ‘beaten cancer’ because you have you will find that people assume your ‘better’ and healthy now… you still live with the effects and the impact of the words ‘you have cancer’ (or cancer-ish in my case) will forever have on your life. At my friends Peter’s funeral this was written on the front of the service sheet and sums it up so well ‘When you die, it doesn’t mean that you lose to cancer, you beat cancer by how live, why you live and the manner in which you live’. Stuart Scott.

 

Cancer Friends/Normal friends

Your cancer friends get you like no-one else, they understand you and the problems you face unlike anyone else. I love my normal friends but at times they just don’t get it, nor do I expect them to- no amount of explaining even comes close- but with a cancer friend you know they get it… like completely! So its hard when your cancer friends are literally dotted throughout the whole country and the people you have around you in the moments when you get the news are often your normal friends its really hard,  while many of them understand grief, many haven’t lost friends and the certainly don’t get what its like to loose someone who you have shared experience of, or the survivorship guilt either. However I’m beginning to learn that they can still support me in this- I’ve just got to try and explain and understand that they wont get it fully, but that’s OK.

Loosing friends doesn’t get any easier, yes different people hit me on different scales like any grief but the survivorship guilt can vary- and often doesn’t matter how well I knew someone or not. Sometimes it just depends on where I’m at personally before the news, other times it depends on how well I knew the person, others its whether there is an accumulation effect, and others on how prepared or unprepared I was for the news. I’m learning to let my friends in, praying for peace and working it through. Maybe one day I’ll have the answer and be able to separate the grief from the guilt but for now- this is me stumbling through.

Hope this helps bring understanding to the non cancer world, and a way for the cancer world to explain it. I’m grateful for those church friends and cancer world friends who have been there for me over the last 24hrs. You guys really helped thankyou.

The start of something NEW!

Like always, its been a while. Sorry for that- its not that I’ve not had things to say it’s more been is it the right time to say it…. and for most things it still isn’t- but one day i’ll get round to then hundreds of blog post ideas and getting some of the things said that I’ve wanted to for a long time.

This blog post is about CHANGE! Something that I massively hate and have done for the longest time… but something feels different this time and I can’t quite put my finger on it- maybe I will as I keep typing. Stood in the kitchen of my friends house last night I said about how I really don’t like change and doing something new always terrified me yet I hadn’t felt like that moving out recently as I began the process of  moving from Cardiff to Hereford (I’ll explain more later).

Growing up I defiantly was someone who needed a routine and I was someone who was always busy- every night of the week I had something… and I also would often cram in swimming before school too… routine and business kept me going. Deciding to go to college, Camp America and University was all stepping out of my comfort zone and embracing change… but it was hard! Then after I got sick even the smallest of changes unsettled me- I remember how fearful I was when anything changed. Going on my first EMCT trip I remember telling my social worker I didn’t want to go, and returning to University seemed like an impossible challenge. I think getting ill worsened my outlook on change because my life changed so drastically in an instant… I went from a normal university life to one surrounded by drip machines and months of isolation. Knowing how quickly you can loose it all really rocked me for a long time.

Things however, have finally changed…. and although I still don’t like change but I’m learning to embrace it and run with it… and having faith is helping massively with that. Don’t get me wrong I still have concerns and I’m still nervous about the change but I also know that I don’t need to worry about every little thing. I’m putting faith into my faith, and knowing that whilst I’m unsure on how I’m going to manage financially or with the practicalities of life in a new place- this should not and will not hold me back from giving it a good old go!

I’m leaving the life I’ve built for myself in the wonderful city of Cardiff, and its hard. This city has been home for the past 9 years, its where I met some incredible friends through uni, hospital and church. It’s a place I got to call my own, a place of safety and a place where I’ve got to be me. This past few weeks I’ve said goodbye to some incredible flatmates, my stomping ground where I’ve been based for at least 6 of those years, my favourite coffee shops and favourite places and I’ve had moments of sadness in this- not knowing if i’ll get to call these places mine again… (I’m not saying I won’t be back its just if I’m back it will be different). I’m also going embracing the fact that I could be called anywhere after Academy and I’m not ruling anything out yet…

Last night on my way to my last rehearsal with church I got teary… goodbyes have never been a strong point for me, I find them hard and I will often push those I’m close to away in preparation for it (I know this is not the way to do it but its a habit I’m yet to break- so I’m really sorry if I’ve done this- its most defiantly a me thing and recognising it is a huge step for me…so please accept this as an apology). The team I’ve had the privilege of working along side at church have been well incredible… they have taught me so much, not just in faith but in skills and in leadership qualities. They have helped me transform from a broken girl who felt like I could bring nothing to one who can get stuck in, own the vision and now I’ve been training others up too. This team have been key in that transformation they have pushed me when I’ve needed it and helped me manage my health when I’ve needed that too. I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today without them and the hours of love and prayer they have given me. I’m going to miss them all massively especially Sam and Kyle who have rocked production managing and have pushed me further than I ever thought possible. Last night they gave me a lovely send off with a couple of gifts including beautiful orchid which I’ve named ‘Mac Toshi’ after the beloved big mac.

Mac ToshiThey also prayed for me which is a moment I don’t think I’ll ever forget. They spoke such wonderful words about me, from the transformation that has taken place in me, to the glue I’ve been for the team… They also prayed into my future and gave me some key things to hold for the days ahead. Yes there will be a hole in the team because I’m leaving but that will soon fill with the guys stepping up and new people joining the team. I’m going to have a huge hole in my heart for this team tho- and knowing that I’m not ever coming back to the same team because everyone grows and new people will be added and others will be sent out… it does however make me immensely proud of the team that has been built here. Thank you Production team its been a blast!

I’ve got 2 more Sunday’s in church but because i’m sailing next week, which feels immensely perfect as I did my first time trip the week before I moved back to Cardiff to start University again- now i’m sailing the week before my new course. This has meant some goodbyes have already had to happen… I’ve said some goodbyes to those who I’ve known for years and thats been tough… please make me accountable to staying in touch its something I’m not great at but hope this time i’ll do better at it. I move to Hereford on the 10th September and I’ll be taking part in a leadership course with my church called Freedom Academy… it’s a ten month programme (2 days a week) designed to grow our;

  • understanding of the Christian faith
  • relationship with God
  • sight into the role and development of leadership (insight and experience)
  • growth personally

I’m super excited and think this change feels different to others because it feels so right for me, because I now have an unshakeable faith and because I’ve learnt to embrace change not fear it! I also know its the right time for me to do something new otherwise i’d just be forming a rut and one that i’d never move on from. I’ll be living with lots of people from all over and its gonna be tough and very challenging. If you pray then i’d love prayer covering  a few things

  1. My finances for the year- I’m stepping out into the unknown until I’m there I won’t know what the impact on my finances there maybe so be praying that i’ll have enough to afford to live and pay rent and course fees.
  2. Friendships- for great bonds to be formed in and out of church.
  3. Health- for my immune system to not be effected too much with the change of environment and my energy levels not to dip as much this winter.
  4. Existing Relationships- for me to navigate the best way to stay in touch with people (I’m not the best at this).
  5. Personally- that I’m able to open up, trust and give this year my all.

I’m so grateful for all the things that have helped build me to who i am today and I’m looking forward to see the change that this year has on my life further down the line… I’m looking forward to reviewing how I action some of this and seeing how I grow. Thank-you to every single person that has encouraged, challenged and pushed me I wouldn’t be facing this new challenge if it hadn’t have been for your input.

 

A profound statement at an Ellen Macarthur Cancer Trust event….

Again I find myself in a position of having so many ideas of what to write about and not knowing what to write… one is about exiting hibernation and how that really feels and what it looks like, another about my future, one about loosing a label and another about random conversations that become quite profound and life changing as well as some others too. This post is about something profound but it wasn’t said in a conversation. It was a statement. Which I know is going to change me!

Two weeks ago, or so I got the joy of going to London to an event for Key supporters of the Ellen Macarthur Cancer Trust. I was there to talk about what the trust does, encourage people to get more involved and to thank people who were there for their support. Along with this I was there to help introduce the evening.

I had spent the morning hooked up to a drip in Cardiff hospital and the evening in a very swanky building Trinity House in London, just a stones throw away from Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. I was on my very first day of being antibiotic free (reminds me its Monday I need to take my antibiotics haa) after spending the last 5 weeks on the stronger antibiotics 3 times a day every day- rather than 1 tablet 3 days a week like I am now…. I really stood in awe taking in the Tower of London at the amazing double life I get to lead. How blessed I am to be alive, and experiencing all that I get to. The evening was amazing and it was so special to be able to share what the trust does and how much its changed me as a person and impacted my life. To see what the trust did last year please watch this The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust looks back on 2017  and to hear more about how the trust changed my life watch this… #12years12stories Part 4 . This puts it all into words more eloquently than I can typing.. (I just watched back my 12 years 12 stories and am now a blubbing mess so bear with and go watch it)….

In this video filmed about 3 years ago I said that every year I come away with something new…. I’d say this about every trust event I’ve ever attended to, its why I’m happy to go from hospital to meetings and events… I always have something to take away… 2 weeks ago I was sat in the audience listening to a group of my friends share about the impact the trust has had on them. One girl Claire Amaladoss (seriously cool name) who I’ve got to watch blossom into an incredible human and grow in faith and in leadership. She is also a very awesome trustee for the trust. Spoke and said something so profound and on point that it hit me like a train….. She said ‘We don’t pick up our lives to the full, because we know all to well what its like to have to give it all up…’ wow! I can not tell you how true this statement which she fleetingly made was so, so true. Its not only true but still very relevant to me today. The trust enables us to begin to pick up a life again, dream bigger and reach further again it rebuilds us in a way that no-one else can… but I sat there and realised I still had to do some more picking up to really live to the full again.

Recovering cancer-ish and from loosing it all is tough, it comes in waves, and isn’t something you can pick up where you left off…  it isn’t something that day one out of hospital/ remission you can physically manage to pick it all up. It comes with complications, life moves on but you haven’t. It comes with new struggles of how you manage with a life full of complications and long term follow up. A life with that lingering fear of loosing it all again. We have to mourn for the life we lost, the one we thought we were going to get and work out what sort of life we now want…. For any kid this is hard, but for one that has the dreams they have always had taken away- well that’s huge. I always thought I would be a teacher, one that fought for the kids who fall through the cracks, one that inspired a generation who had CAN’T shoved in their face and help them to realise that they truly could achieve anything. I’d worked hard, gained experience and knowledge that was set to equip me well into the future I believed I would always have. Getting sick meant I lost all this… after getting sick I got a complication that means my immune system just doesn’t work so teaching kids who carry all sorts of bugs and always get sick… well it was completely off the cards….

I hadn’t realised until Claire said it though at how fearful I was still about loosing it all. I mean I do still loose it when I get sick with the slightest bug, and it completely knocks me out- and in winter when meeting with people becomes next to impossible- but should this mean I shouldn’t live my life to the full when I can- NO! I actually need to work even harder than most to keep hold of my life in seasons where I’m ill, and push even further when I’m well to live… like really LIVE! I know I’ve still got a long way to go and I’ve already begun to action this in my life right now… I’m super excited to see what’s to come because I know  its going to be so big and so exciting. I’m obviously not going reveal what that looks like just yet but I’m really looking forward to reading this back in a year or two and crying because I’ll see just how far I’ve come- just like I was today watching the film back… at the point this was filmed I was really struggling, I was so tired and so unwell because 3rd year had taken so much out of me I had no idea what I wanted to do with my future, I spent the next year just recovering from doing the degree… now I look back and although I haven’t been anywhere near as creative or productive as I was then I do see how far I’ve come and I see how much the trust has played a part in that. Without the trust I’d never have returned to university, never walked out with a first class honours. I’d never have spent time sailing and really embracing all that this incredible sport has to offer. I’d probably still be the woe is me girl sat in a wheelchair…. I’d never have met some of my amazing friends who have really gone out and lived life to the full and I wouldn’t continue to be inspired by them and the amazing young people we support.  Like always I can not wait to get back out there this summer and see what I learn… but for now I need to prepare myself to be the encouraging voice to get people to sign up to come on one of these life changing trips as this is exactly what I’ll be doing tomorrow.

Just wanted to say a huge thankyou to everyone at the Ellen Macarthur Cancer trust you really have changed my life! I also want to say a huge thankyou to Claire, your words are always so timely and I cant wait to share with you how I respond to your challenge. To Karenza for interviewing me 3 years ago and most of all to Tom Roberts… thankyou for capturing the trust so well, and thank you for capturing that period of my life so incredibly- its now something I can look back on in awe just like everyone was telling me at the time, it is also amazing at how true it all I had to say then is still so true today.

Till next time….

Wen

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Hibernation

Hey lovely blog readers,

So again its been a while I guess my new years resolution to have more blogs kinda went out the window along with some other resolutions so I doubt I’ll be making any this year. However I’ve wanted to write something for the past few days and its always been about hibernation.

So right now I very much feel like an animal going into hibernation. I’ve been really bad at replying to emails, texts ect and I’ve only left the house for supplies and to go to church (even that’s a push some days). I’m feeling somewhat distant from my spring/summer self. I forget how much worse I tend to be in the winter months, infections increase and even though at times they are only minor because it comes at a time when I’m already feeling rough so even the smallest of things hits me. I’m finding the ‘hey how has your week been?’ and the ‘how are you?’ questions more and more difficult to answer. No-one likes a moaner (I hate it) but at the same time after spending 80-90% of your week resting really sucks when you know others lives are continuing at a normal pace, all you want to say is actually its been pretty pants but instead you go with the its been alright or the tentative mixed hand gesture.

For the past few weeks I’ve had really bad migraines (partly down to the infusions I have for my immune system), and although the headache part may only last a day- sometimes it’s a good few days before I’m feeling human again. Then the next one comes. Its been really naff because although I’ve not been anywhere near ill as I have been in the past they are hitting me pretty hard. So I just want to apologies to all those who have waited days for a reply to a text, or asked me to do something and I’ve had to flake.

Hibernation is not as glamorous as it sounds, and although I was always pretty envious of animals who hibernated as a kid, now I get to experience it- it’s a real the grass is greener situation. It very quickly gets boring, seeing the same 4 walls, Netflix as great as it is gets boring too, all you want to be able to do is go out for a nice walk or to have a catch up with someone but energy levels or that stupid migraine means you can’t. I’m really missing the coffee shops, and exploring my city. However, hibernating does mean that when I can I will, I’ll get to appreciate the small things again. I also know that this is just a small season in my life and I probably should be doing more to embrace it and to change the way I think about it. Hopefully in a few days time I’ll be doing just that but for now hibernation sucks and I cant wait for spring.

Until next time….

Wen x

Hibernate

 

 

Why I don’t want a cure for Cancer.

So I’m going to start by apologising this post is in no way suppose to cause offence, or to say that Cancer research is pointless because IT’S VERY IMPORTANT and I want research to always continue! However as you continue to read this you’ll get my point. I do want a cure for cancer, but its kinda secondary to what I really want. Right now I’m not after a cure, I’m after kinder treatments first.

So, why don’t I want a cure for cancer, well you might think it’s because I’m the most selfish person on the planet, or that its because Cancer was a good thing in my life. Well yes to an extent it was.. but again it’s not my point. Years on from my treatment I look back and am amazed about how far the research has gone, the things you wouldn’t even believe. I’m extremely proud and grateful for all those who are searching for the cure for cancer. However, what those not in the know don’t often realise is that cancer is stupidly complex… its millions of different variations of a disease… So sorry to burst the bubble but one miracle cure isn’t going to cut the mustard.

So why am I even writing a post like this… well after a conversation with someone recently I realise how deluded they were about what is out there. So we got into a little bit of an argument as they believe the cure for cancer has already been found and that big pharma companies were hiding it because they wanted to continue to make money. Well to some extent yes this could be true- they might have found a cure for *A* cancer – but if that ‘cure’ is gonna kill 99% and cure the 1% would you take it? What about if it leads you to be paralysed – you’d be cured of cancer at least? I realised with this particular person no amounts of arguments were going to re-align his thinking so left the conversation with a ‘Well you can believe what you want, I just think of it differently so lets agree to disagree’.

This blog post has been on my list since the list started- but the convo I had has prompted me to write. I am so grateful to be alive. The cancer-ish (Very Sever Aplastic Anaemia-actually a rare blood disorder treated like cancer) I had, has only been treatable in my life time. One of the crazy rare complications had only had a ‘cure’ 2 years earlier. So if it hadn’t been for advances in medical science and the millions of souls searching for the cures. I wouldn’t be alive. However, as much as I would love for their to be a cure for Cancer- I really don’t want it if it means that’s the end.

I don’t want a cure for cancer, if it means there are millions of people who end up like me, or worse. Unable to get out of bed some days (yep you guessed it another blog written under duvet)… I don’t want to have to continue to meet people who get it- because they too have had their lives turned upside down not by the cancer- but by the side-effects that get left behind. I don’t want to have friends that have to exhaust all treatment options before they get placed on the ‘wonder drug’ (often still in trial) because they have to fail before its offered as an option…. because often these people have had to endure grueling rounds of treatment, that weaken them, gives them way less chance of recovering. I don’t want to have friends on a ‘watch and wait protocol’ because they need to let the disease to get worse first because treatment now would be too harmful. I don’t want to hear the painstaking cries of friends who are so fed up of being on lifelong treatment because their cancer hasn’t got a ‘curable’ treatment option available yet (of course in this case i want a cureable treatment option to be avalible and then it to be made as kind as possible). I don’t want to lose another friend because the poison that chemotherapy and radiotherapy is made them too weak, or to susceptible to infections which ultimately leads to yet another funeral. I dont want to lose another friend who survived cancer, but the effects it left them with meant they were unable to survive. I want kinder treatments, so that people aren’t just surviving cancer- but they are thriving post cancer.

I want to be able to pick up the phone and congratulate my friend who defeated the odds and now is walking into a fantastic new job. I want treatments that don’t kill, don’t come with a list as long as your arm for side effects of late effects. I don’t want treatments that mean your life as you knew it disappears before your eyes. I want treatments that mean your life can continue there is no ‘break’ from normality while you endure endless months in and out of hospital. I want kinder treatments because I don’t want more people to have to go through what myself and thousands of others have.

Yes I ultimately would love for their to be a cure, but let’s be realistic and lets be thinking about what happens in the mean time. Lets start changing the outcomes of cancer, and giving those facing it a better chance at a normal life again! The #Quest4aCure must start with kinder treatments.

 

 

I wrote this post- and paused… I sent it on to some of my friends who pointed me in the way of a new report by Bloodwise – called Childhood Cancer report- The quest for a kinder cure..So i’d say its quite apt… So very happy to share the report here- just follow the link!!!! Read the red case studies it will help your understanding! Read it all- and take on board what it says… its important! https://bloodwise.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Bloodwise-Childhood-Cancer-Report-2017.pdf

(Artwork at top my own)

Life as a long-term bum/volunteer

So tonight I got super teary over something that I don’t even want to discuss because it’s so pointless and I’m not one to share my laundry or ups and downs on Facebook (It solves nothing). So I have decided to look at my long list of possible blog titles and start writing as it helps even when its about a completely different thing.

So welcome to my life as a long term bum/volunteer. It’s both because I’m terrible at balancing and pacing in my life so I do too much of the latter and end up doing a lot of time as the former. As you know I struggle health wise with quite a few different things (mainly all as a result of my bone marrow transplant). I’ve recently changed the way I talk about it and boy has that helped lots. Now instead of replying to the What do you do? question with I can’t work because I was once really sick…. to I volunteer. Boy has that helped set up the conversations that follow it. (I’ve covered this in one of my earlier blog posts.)

However, today I’d love to give you an insight into what living this life is truly like. Pre summer I was doing loads with CLIC Sargent and was on lots of different groups, helped by representing them at things ect… ect… Over this summer I’ve done a bit for Ellen Macarthur Cancer Trust which take children and young people in recovery from cancer sailing. However with my last trip of the summer fast approaching I’m left feeling a little lost…. What will I do when this wraps up (and I’ve recovered from the sailing). The answer right now- I’m not entirely sure. (This is quite a scary thing for me but I know something will slot into place). I guess the unknown of whats next is scary because I don’t plan- because I simply can’t I have maybe 2 weeks in my head at a time- post that its normally waiting to see how long it takes me to recover from x or y… or simply too far off for me to think about. When I make plans and they fall through and its not me cancelling they hit me quite hard because I have to plan more than most to be able to do things… Thinking about pre rest time and post crash time. I don’t know why but takes me a day or so to think clearly about the reasons why things fell through, and why it benefits me in the long run as I can then do x or y instead- I suppose its because for some things that last 4 days I could have 2 weeks either side planned to prepare for it. However, this by no means that sometimes I can’t do things last minute either (I just have to be well first).

The life of someone with chronic fatigue is frustrating and something I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. It’s exhausting planning, preparing and pre-empting how many spoons (units of energy) your going to need. Its frustrating that after a weekend of doing thinks (a normal person wouldn’t think twice about) your so shattered you spend your evening teary over the most pathetic things because your just exhausted… In so many ways and sleep and rest is all you can do for 4 days+ so that when the next event/trip or fun thing on your to do list happens you have enough energy to actually do it. I wouldn’t change doing the things I do- and never want to stop doing things. I just really wish I wouldn’t have the crippling days (or weeks when i really overdo it) of paying for having a bit of fun or just doing something normal.

I’m struggling a bit if I’m honest with this life- well because its more like a half life… only able to do so much before you crash. I recently had a DWP fit for work assessment and it stressed me out so much I made no/ very little plans for about 2 months. I missed out on opportunities I’d normally jump at because my ability to plan like I would normally went out of the window. When it came to the actual assessment the assessor realised in reality not much had changed in the years since I was last assessed. While at the time I was a bit confused because I thought they had (they really hadn’t). You may see me on a good day- Yes sometimes I can jump and dance, sometimes i can walk to the bay- other times walking to the corner of my road is simply too far and getting dressed can take a life time. It can be really tough. Most of the the time I refuse to let on the hard side of it. I’m far too busy looking at life through the positive light and seeing the massive amounts of opportunities I am able to get, the time with friends I’m fortunate to have, the flexibility to rest around the things I want to do.

This ‘LIFESTYLE’ (as it was once described to me) of being on benefits, isn’t fun. It’s really not as glamorous as it looks (yes I have time to go for coffee’s) but the funds don’t really push to nice trips out, or holidays. It doesn’t mean that because I have the time- I have the funds or energy to travel to you and visit. It’s not a blessing to not have to work (yes it has it’s perks) but I would love to use this brain, and my skills to hold down a full time job. I would love to have the energy to do all the things normal people do (including working without fatigue), I’d also love to be able to say wow work was tiring today…. Instead it’s I got driven to lunch and sat for 2 hours now I’m in tears because I’m just too tired *but knowing sleep won’t help*.

Today, it got a bit much and the emotions of being tired and knowing I’ll be resting till monday so I am in Tip-Top form to go sailing got a bit big. I wouldn’t change for the Trust at all (right now it’s all I’ve got to look forward to). I wanted to let you all know- remember when ‘I look well’ or seem ok- one of  four things is happening; Ive prepared well and am ok, something weird is happening and I’m having a good patch, am hiding it, or I’m approaching a crash. Please remember even when you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Thanks for understanding (or trying to)

Wen x