Category Archives: cancer

Warrior women



‘Warrior women’ is a term that’s been bandied about a fair bit, often connected with feminism or reclaiming that which is lost. Well, lately I’ve met the real deal. I’ve met a lot of new people online. Mostly women, all with similar advanced lung cancers to mine. And what a feisty lot they are. I’ve never met people so strong, so determined, so bloody-minded and intelligent. They have been my salvation in these last few dark weeks, waiting for results and a treatment plan.

They have taught me to look at life in a different way. They have warned me never to look at cancer statistics on Google – ever. They are brave and wise and I am totally in awe of them. None of us have the time, or the inclination to deal with bullshit – from anyone. We say it as it is, we are kind to each other, we offer information and virtual hugs. We know what this is all about. It is a very exclusive club that none of us wanted to belong to.

So within a week I will have started chemo and I can begin to beat the cancer cells into submission, wherever they rear their ugly heads. They will never be totally gone, of course, but that’s not the name of this particular game. Science is amazing – within a couple of days now, the genome sequencing will be finished on my cancer, the mutations identified, a plan of attack worked out. The diagnostic process I have undergone, with scans and biopsies etc. has been phenomenal. The NHS comes in for a lot of stick, but I can put my hand on my heart and say I have never felt so much confidence in any organisation as I do in all the doctors, nurses and  technicians responsible for my wrap-around care, at York Teaching Hospital and St James’s in Leeds.

Two months ago, I didn’t think I’d ever feel positive about life again. Today is different.


One month on, and waiting…


One month on, and still in the diagnostic process. Each test adds to what I know of the cancer, but it also adds to the bad news, the compromised lymph glands, the potential spread.  Just the biopsies left now, for a positive identification of the cancer cells, then hopefully a treatment plan.

It has been the worst month I can remember, with stress levels off the scale and mood swings like I’ve never known before. I haven’t felt like writing a blog, or doing anything but essential stuff. I’ve sorted out my wardrobe, put together a list of letters and documents I need to write, and I’ve started winding up my small business. Thankfully, I’ve no writing commissions on the books right now, because I’ve not been able to string half a dozen words together lately.

All of this is negative. It has everything to do with endings, and nothing to do with continuation. Every time I open my diary, put in an appointment, it feels like an act of faith. The further ahead the date, the more faith it takes to write it down.

There have been islands of  pleasure, at weekends, going out for days with my husband. We have found new places to visit, we have laughed, we have sat on benches in the sunshine watching the world go by. The silences, the long pauses between words, let in the sadness and it leaks into the brightness. We do our best to ignore it, but tears are never far away.

I’d love to be one of these brave people who can deal with the prospect of death with stoicism. Or perhaps no-one does. Perhaps the dark nights of the soul drag at us all in the end, and the rest is just bravado, putting on a good act to save our family and friends the distress  of seeing how terrified we really are.

People who know these things tell me that I will feel better when all the test results are in and treatment starts. There will be a focus then, a clearer road to travel.  I will fight like I’ve never fought before, and it will be quite a battle, I think. There are still things I want to do, things I’ve put off for other days, that suddenly seem important. The ‘other days’ aren’t there any more. The time is now.

       The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
       But I have promises to keep,   
       And miles to go before I sleep,   
      And miles to go before I sleep.
                                               Robert Frost


The other scary stuff


Suddenly, ‘Writing and Other Stuff’ has become about the ‘other stuff’.  Today, in a telephone consultation with my doctor, I came face to face with my own mortality. Yesterday’s X-Ray is today’s probability of lung cancer. More tests – a CT scan etc., etc., … but 50 years a smoker and the results are not hard to visualise.

It’s a strange place to be – probability without certainty (but I’m pretty sure – it’s my body after all). There is a newness about it, an altered reality. My new reality is less than two hours old. All I have is words. All I have in the insanity of my fractured thoughts is this blog, where I put one word after the other, and it makes me feel better. Somehow, I doubt this will be the outcome of today’s blog. But I write because it is a normality in a new world. A world that has changed with a conversation, an image on an X-Ray. I am no different to the ‘me’ I was this morning. I don’t feel sick, or changed, or different.  But everything is changed now. Because I know.

I’m sitting here with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and a huge bar of chocolate, because right now I don’t give a shit what poor diet does to my body.  Tomorrow I will possibly think differently.  Possibly not. There is a long road ahead, and I have no idea what the choices will be along that road.

I do know that a genie has been let out of a bottle today. Every time I open my mouth, a new honesty spills out. I haven’t got time for obfuscation. If I piss people off, that’s just tough. Those who love me will understand.

Tomorrow, I will greet the day as if it is my last. I will notice things I take for granted. And somehow, I will manage the fear, the anger, the regret for things I haven’t yet done.  I will prevail. Somehow.