As I lay there on the floor, wrapped in a towel, unable to move from the pain and sickness I wondered does it ever go away? The fear? The illness? The anger? Is this the best it gets?
Every ache, every pain, every twinge, every new sensation bringing with it the lingering thought ‘is this cancer?’
No longer do you just get a head ache. No it must be a brain tumour.
The pain in your side can’t be from overdoing it. No it must mean the cancer in your lungs is back.
Upset tummy? That’s definitely the cancer spreading.
No matter how positive you are in the day to day, the here and now, the fear is just a moment away, waiting. Death walks beside you every step of the way.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not wallowing in a constant fear, depressed and unable to live. No, that would mean that the beautiful lessons cancer brought me had been ignored.
Instead I am aware of its whispers. I hear it call my name in the quiet moments of pain, in the dead of night, punctuating my daily joy with subtle reminders of its permanent presence.
Internally I scream,
“I heard you. I learned the lessons. Now hear me. I want to LIVE!”
Of course it will not hear. You cannot bargain with stage four cancer.
It is such a cruel reality; the gift of knowing how precious life is and wanting to live and enjoy every moment coinciding with the fact that your life will be shortened by this gift. Oh the painful irony.
Perhaps, however, that is part of the beauty of stage four cancer. Perhaps if remission meant ‘never to return’ instead of ‘short break‘ then the lessons wouldn’t be learned. Time would march on and slowly we’d slip into old habits, forgetting the value of each moment, each breath.
Yet this fear does not bring joy.
People want to comfort you, telling you it’ll be ok. You are different after all don’t you know…
You know the truth though. You smile and nod, excepting their reassurance but inside your pain feels belittled. Why won’t someone just listen to your fears without comforting? Why won’t someone just hear your words?
In the incredible book ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ the author perfectly states “there is cancer and then there is CANCER“, highlighting the difference between those who have curable cancer and go on to live happy, healthy lives and those who, like me, have incurable cancer which will linger in the shadows ready to pounce.
Recently a friend said “we’ll look after Ewan when you’re gone.” The acceptance, the acknowledgment of the reality of my disease was the most comforting words I’d ever heard. They didn’t depressingly insinuate that my death was imminent, neither did they ignorantly suggest I was ‘heathy’. No, what they did was reassure me. With those words they also silently said, ‘I hear your fears’, ‘I love you’, ‘I support you’, ‘I’m here’.
I was not as alone as I’d once thought. They knew. They accepted.
And suddenly I realised. Perhaps everyone ‘knows’.
Had I really thought talking about it would make any difference? Is that what I want?
Would constantly grieving the future change the reality?
Perhaps all each of us in this journey together – the cancer warriors and their loved ones – can do is savour each moment, each smile, each breath without anticipatory grief of an, as yet, unknown future.
Yes, perhaps that’s all any of us can do. Each and every one of us on this wild and wonderful journey called ‘life’. We can live for today, irrespective of tomorrow, and pause and smile at all of the wonderful, incredible and beautiful moments there are to be grateful for.
You see, living in fear doesn’t change anything. However, living in gratitude…now that can change your whole world!
Love and light, Fi xxx
Ps. Dear Reader, please don’t take this post to mean that I am ‘depressed’ nor that I want to talk about my prognosis all the time. Instead please understand that I wrote this post merely to highlight some of the painful moments felt on the rollercoaster that is LIVING with late stage cancer.xxx
You can read more about Fi Munro on her website and public Facebook page.
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© FKMunro.com 2017