Thursday 25 August 2016

My view of life through cancer-tinted glasses ~ Caroline

As any person who has ever had cancer will tell you, once you hear that fateful diagnosis, your life is forever torn in two - life BC and life AC. There is no going back.  They say cancer changes you, but what if you didn't know who you were BC?  I know what the name on my birth certificate says, but who is Caroline and what makes me different from everyone else?

I am a daughter, sister, wife, mummy, runner, triathlete, vet, cancer patient, vegetarian, but those are all things attributed to me rather than me per se.  Maybe I should be grateful that cancer has given me a greater degree of self-awareness than I ever would have found on my own.  Without a doubt I have a different outlook on life than I did BC, my values have changed and as I search for meaning and a sense of purpose I find myself looking inward.

As I do so I look at all my relationships and what they mean to me. I finally understand that change has to come from within, and in doing so accept that certain relationships are probably never going to change.  That acceptance brings me a sense of peace that has been a long time coming.

I am the master of my own fate.

Cancer is now part of who I am. There is no escaping it, especially since my last appointment where I was told the family history clinic would follow me for the rest of my life. There will be no returning to the way things were, no end to the appointments.  The mention of the family history clinic brings a renewed concern about the genes I've landed my children with, and thoughts about when I should broach the subject with them.  Not yet, they're too little, let them enjoy a worry free childhood for a few more years, as long as I remain NED (which stands for no evidence of disease, a delightful phrase uttered by oncologists who will never declare me cancer free.)

I read something the other day that described the first year post cancer treatment as the 'tofu year.' This made me laugh as I have stopped eating meat and dairy products, and do enjoy a smoked tofu salad or an iced soy latte. I am not so keen on green tea, and as I believe you have to drink 7 cups a day for its cancer reducing properties to have any effect, trying to force 1 cup down my throat every now and then seems a bit pointless.

I will never know why I got cancer. Yes it runs in my family, but that still doesn't explain why me instead of my sister or my cousins. But equally why not me? I have no idea if changing my diet will reduce the risk of my cancer returning, but I have read several books and scientific studies that point towards a western lifestyle as being a contributory factor to the huge rise in levels of certain cancers over recent years. I do feel healthier, and more importantly I feel like I am doing something - the doctors have done their bit, now it's my turn.  I am no saint though. I still enjoy a glass of wine as much as the next person, and will never give up my morning coffee.

When I was first diagnosed and going through treatment I never questioned why. I told myself that it was all down to bad luck, and that I didn't have the energy to answer the unanswerable.  I now know that I was quite naive to think that I would be OK with that as time went on. I have spent the past year asking myself that question in so many different ways. I have searched my soul, dug through my past, meditated on it, and finally am back at square one being unable to answer it, but I have reached a level of acceptance that I could never have achieved without having done the work.

I also think I'm OK with the idea of a recurrence, but of course I'll never really know unless it happens. I don't know why I'm so convinced that it's only a matter of time before the bast*rd comes back, but at the moment that's where I'm at.  Maybe as more milestones pass by, 2 years, 3 years, 5 years, I'll have more faith in my body's ability to stay healthy.

Meanwhile I shall continue to search for answers to my many questions, in the knowledge that cancer has given me increased clarity about who I am.  Cancer itself hasn't changed me, but it has given me the impetus required to make long overdue changes.

In other news, do you like my new cycling socks?

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