Talking to someone with Cancer…

Throughout the last few years I had a few awkward conversations, people don’t know what to say, they don’t want to offend you or say the wrong thing. I didn’t really take notice of it during my treatment because I was too preoccupied with everything else. It’s only now that I realise how hard some people found it, while others found talking to me easy.

The day I was told it was Cancer was summer. I was eighteen, looking forward to holidays and seeing friends, never in the world expecting the brick wall I was running straight towards. The first person I told was my best friends mum, luckily Rebecca was out because I think she would have passed out, her mum was calm and as always knew exactly what to say. I felt relaxed after speaking to her, but then I had to tell my other friends. One friends reply was, ‘fuck off!’ Before he suddenly realised that it wasn’t a sick joke it was real, he was the first person who couldn’t handle it. I lost contact with him half way through my treatment and we haven’t spoken since. My other friends were shocked, but found a way to deal with it. They would try and lighten the mood every time it was brought up. If someone insulted me one of my friends would whisper, ‘You cant say that…she has cancer!’ with a wink. Now I look back and it does make me shiver a little when I think about how we dealt with it, it was a joke, it wasn’t serious and I was fine. I never once cried in front of my friends, I never got upset, I didn’t talk about it unless I had to and I think they soon realised I was just the normal Lily.

I do look back and wish I had shown how I was inside, falling apart. Because now my treatment is finished and I have the all clear I feel like people expect me to go back to the way I was. I know that when I was having treatment and operations I wasn’t dealing with it, that’s why I did so well. Now that it’s all over and I should be back to my old self I am starting to deal with what happened to me, what I had to face and what I had to face alone. My family were an incredible support, as was my best friends and the nurse at Addenbrookes who took my weekly phone calls of panicked questions with not even a flicker of annoyance. Now I’m struggling to deal with what happened my friends don’t understand, they don’t realise how I feel because I never showed them when I was sick.

So from my experiences I have learned how I would have liked to have been treated, and how I should have acted:

1. I hated the word cancer, even now when I say it I feel a little sick. Don’t purposefully avoid using the word, but try not to squeeze it into every sentence. It does depend on the person, some, it might not bother, but I hated that word, and I still do.

2. Don’t patronize the person. “But you look so good, I never would have guessed you had Cancer!” What would they reply to that, “Well…Thanks.” It’s uncomfortable because I personally wouldn’t want people to look for clues that I had cancer. You can tell them they look good, but don’t connect it to the cancer.

3. I had a certain treatment that meant I didn’t lose my hair, and for months I felt horrendously guilty that I kept my hair when so many others didn’t. If I got upset or cried I would then feel like I was selfish, because so many other people have horrible treatments to go through and mine wasn’t so bad. Do not say to someone, “Well at least you didn’t lose your hair.” Because for me that just made me feel guilty again, I felt like a selfish person without other people unintentionally reminding me.

4. No cancer is a ‘good cancer’. I was told this, then I told my friends and my family and I soon felt like what I had wasn’t that bad. No cancer is good, it might be in a better place than some but its still awful and terrifying. So please, never say the words, good cancer.

5. Don’t talk about your own problems. This is a difficult one, because some didn’t bother me at all, but one boy text me the week after my treatment moaning and groaning about some girl that didn’t like him. He told me over and over how much he loved her and ‘why is the world so cruel?’ I’m sorry? I think some people are so wrapped up in their world they don’t have a clue, or some just really don’t realise they’re doing anything that you find uncomfortable. A sixteen year old boy thought he had it bad because a girl didn’t like him, and he didn’t think to ask how I was after having radiotherapy. Thanks! Another rang me up after my second op and the first thing he said was, “What the fuck is wrong with your voice?” (the surgeon paralyzed my vocal chords after my op which turned my voice into a croaky whisper for six months, I choked on drink and got very out of breath, I also hardly talked because it was so much effort.) When I told him he then carried on to tell me how he didn’t get his results that he needed for uni and his life was over. Again, a little insensitive.

6. Avoid comparing one person with cancer to another. If you say how well someone with cancer is dealing with it, then the other person might think you’re telling them to deal with it better. Everyone deals with it differently. Some people will break down at the beginning and be inconsolable and then deal with the rest really well. Others fall apart in the middle during treatments and appointments while some it hits them at the end, when everything is finished and they no longer have a goal of having that op, having that scan. It hit me at the end, I am still struggling to come to terms with it. The doctors almost say, ‘Well done, you beat it, off to the big wide world with you!’ Then you’re standing on the doorstep with your life in your hands and thinking, well what now? But in the end, everyone will fall apart somewhere, let them do it, help them through it and tell them you are there for them.

7. Lastly, let them know you’ll be there whenever you need them. Don’t badger them each time to tell you exactly whats happening and how they are feeling. Maybe just say the once, ‘Look, I know you’re having a hard time, I won’t talk to you about it unless you want me to. I’m here for you, if you need to be sad or angry or just want to have a laugh I’m right here.’ Just remember, they are the same person they were before they were diagnosed, they’re just a little more fragile, a little more scared and need you more than they ever thought they would.

One last point, If the person you know suffering from cancer, or suffering from the emotional stress after cancer is having a bad time, you can always lift their mood. The lowest I ever got was after my second operation, my best friend came over and I fell apart. But instead of sitting for hours watching me cry she did something incredible. It was simple, yet she made me feel like a different person by the time she left. She brought a Disney movie over, stuck it on the television and then pulled out a cardboard letter for both of us. Mine was an ‘L’ for Lily and hers was a ‘R’ for Rebecca. We spent the rest of the afternoon decorating them with different bits of paper. Distractions work, pity is like a high, works for a while but you always come crashing down. Sure. after she went I was still low, but I was confident that I could face the world better than I thought I could a few hours ago. You need your friends, so don’t hide from the fact they have cancer, do something incredible and be there for them, accept the way they are and love them. I’ll never be able to repay Rebecca or my family for what they did, and if you can do that for your friend, you are an amazing person.

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Rose tinted glass…

Wow, I haven’t posted for such a long time. I went through a bit of a phase where I was overwhelmingly happy, all my friends were home from university and I was planning on going to uni myself (although it didn’t seem like I would ever really leave home!) I was going out, having fun and not doing the same, dull routine.

I had to have another operation in July to remove yet another lump in my neck and I think I went back into limbo for a while. I honestly thought the results would be so bad I wouldn’t be able to go to university so I didn’t even think about it. When the results came back clear I was shocked to say the least, even when I was sitting in the room about to be told I thought I was going to be sick or faint, it was one of the worst moments so far. So all was good, it was a cyst which has been removed (yet another scar to lure in the boys, lucky me!) but it was all clear, which is all that matters.

It’s weird when you finally get the all clear, they almost say ‘Well done, you beat it…off you go, big wide world is waiting for you’. I had spent a year in the bubble of hospitals, the word cancer floating in and out of my head and impending treatment hanging over my head. Then I was turfed out into the real world quicker than I could blink.

I then had a month to prepare for university, emotionally prepare myself for the massive step and move out. Having the cancer knocked me back a lot, I couldn’t go out with friends to the town without having a panic attack before and wanting to crawl into my bed and hide from the world. So leaving my parents to go and live in a different town with a group of people I didn’t even know was terrifying to say the least. The weeks leading up to it I was a different person, moody and sulky, I didn’t want to pack, I didn’t want to do anything. When I got there I moved into a kitchen which was disgusting (actually disgusting isn’t a strong enough word) There was mouldy food everywhere, liquidised food dripping through the fridge and dead bugs all over the counter tops. The smell inside was stomach churning.

I was shocked, to move into a university halls that charged £120 a week and provided a kitchen so disgusting I couldn’t cook in it.

To cut a really long story short I was moved to a different floor after a new boy moved in who was very creepy and liked to lock people in the kitchen with him (not what I went to university for, although some girls would probably not say the same about themselves.)

I moved to the fourth floor and had a lot of fun, I met a lovely group of people and was very happy. Freshers wasn’t exactly all it had been cracked up to be, that is definitely something everyone builds up so much that it is a bit of a let down, but I still loved it!

Then lectures started. I didn’t enjoy them at all, I was uninterested, I couldn’t concentrate, I didn’t want to do the reading and I didn’t want to do the work. I was utterly baffled. I had been so excited about learning again, writing and being back in education but when I was there I hated it. 

It was a tough time, I had to look at it from the education side because I knew I couldn’t pay £30 000 for a social life that I really loved. I gave it another week and decided I couldn’t do it, I was getting depressed, I was crying constantly and couldn’t eat. After the year I have had I made the decision, my happiness was way more important than a degree, a lot more important than a piece of paper telling a future employer that I can read and write.

I left university this week and have already been back up to halls to visit my friends, I think I have the best of both worlds right now, and if I decide I should have stuck with it and got the degree I can reapply and try again.

The thing that makes me angry is that all my school ever talked about was university, we were told of nothing else, it is all university and it’s ridiculous. The system is warped around money, education and our unhappiness. I hope that one day schools will talk about universities, apprenticeships, internships, and the big wide world of work equally, because all I ever heard of was uni.

 

So that is a quick catch up of the last few months! Sorry for the rant and the essay, and sorry for the silence, I hope that now I might be a little more motivated to blog more often.

 

🙂

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Is the grass always greener?

I was away on holiday for the past ten days, enjoying sun, sea and lounging by the pool with a good book. Well, the sun came out eventually, the pool was freezing and the sea was full of jellyfish, but that didn’t stop us! I braved the sea and – finally – managed to clamber, however ungracefully, into the pool.

The hotel wasn’t anything remarkable, it was a normal family hotel with children’s entertainment and of course the one family that seems to take over the pool, splashes you while you are trying to lounge on a sun lounger and not look like the plastic slats are actually pretty uncomfortable. But it was nice, it was friendly, the pool was pretty and the staff are the type you remember for years.

I was sitting on the balcony one evening and looking at the gorgeous mountains, the sun set that turned the entire world pink and the children giggling in the pool when I noticed a man going through the bins. Just on the other side of the wall, just behind people lying by the pool, reading and messing around in a world of their own is a man searching through the bins. There were eight of the huge green bins with slide back lids and he went through each of them. I saw him pull a few things out, contemplate them and finally toss them into his bag.

Over the rest of my holiday I saw other men going through the bins and taking things away with them, it made me feel a little sour inside. While we were all enjoying a holiday and relaxing these men were so desperate they had to look through other people’s rubbish to sustain themselves.

My parents are hard working, they work long hours, five days a week and are generally so stressed when they come home from work they want to find somewhere else to go. I know that they worked hard for the holiday and that we don’t just throw away money, but the sight of those people still made me realise that we do often take things for granted.

We also got the train into Barcelona, it was 30 degrees, the air conditioning was like a little man was up in the vent blowing air at us, not good. On our journey a busker climbed onto the train, he had an accordion and a little portable speaker and started to play for the carriage. We gave him a tip, and a few others did, while some ignored him and glared out of the window.

We left the train and enjoyed a day seeing the sights of Barcelona. When we then got back onto the train home we didn’t expect to see him again, but we did. We had got the morning train at half past nine, and at eight o clock he was still going, smiling and playing his music for a few tips and a few glares.

I’m not oblivious to this kind of thing, I know it happens in every country, everywhere, all over the world. I’ve seen them in England, London, my home town. Any country I have ever visited you always notice the poor. It was just made a little more real for me when I saw the sun shining down on the holiday makers and the man in the shadows beyond the wall searching for a living in a bin. 

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All clear

I know I haven’t posted for ages but I’ve had a pretty stressful few months! I had my scans a few weeks ago to check my radiotherapy had worked, before the scans I had to go on a low iodine diet which makes you feel awful. I couldn’t eat anything nice, chocolate, dairy, even bread! I had to eat nasty home made bread. The diet was for two weeks which in normal conditions doesn’t even seem that long, but on the diet it seems like years.

Amidst all the drama with the diet and the scanner which was millimetres from my nose there was good news. My scans came back all clear and I don’t have to have the radiotherapy again. One more op in July and hopefully I am finished with all the trauma of the last year, I can go to university and enjoy myself again.

Hopefully I will now have the motivation to post more now that I have had the good news! Thanks for sticking by and bearing with me!

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Rejection

I know that rejection is the hardest part of being a writer, it makes you feel inadequate, you wonder if this path really is the right one to go down. I often wonder how I will ever be able to support myself in this profession.

I’ve only ever had one rejection, the main reason for that is because I have never sent my work off to anyone else! I had applied for an apprenticeship scheme last year called ‘Adventures in Fiction’.

You were required to have written a novel, that was it. Obviously the idea had to be good, it had to be something that would sell and the writing had to be good. I was always quite positive, I thought I may as well try for it. I told myself if I got the apprenticeship I wouldn’t go to university, and if I didn’t? Hello uni!

I had never showed my mum any of my work, it was always something I thought was private and personal, but I printed off the first few chapters, put it on her bed and went out for the day. When I got home she said she had found it but was only half way through. She said it was good, she had enjoyed it, gripping. I always doubt what my mum says, not because I don’t trust her, but because I know she will always praise what my brother and I do, its a mothers job. If I ever have any children I will do the same, I think its instinct, some sort of unwritten rule.

Anyway, I sent it off. A postcard came back to me a few days later to say they had received it.

Then the wait began, for months I kept checking the website to see if any apprenticeships had been selected. It was an agonizing wait, as I am sure most of the writers on here will understand.

I waited through summer, I went through my operation and recovered from it, and still there was nothing from the apprenticeship scheme. I had completely forgotten about it in the end.

Then, the worst day of my life arrived. I went to the hospital for the appointment after operations that you always have. The doctor told me the part of my thyroid they had removed contained cancer, they would have to take out the other side, I would have to have Radiotherapy.

That day was a blur, but I can remember it clearer than any other in my life so far. I carried on with my plans, I went to an outdoor pool with my friends because the weather was gorgeous. The whole time my hands were shaking.

My phone bleeped in my bag, I checked it and saw that I had an email, Apprenticeships in Fiction. My hands shook even more when I read that, I thought to myself, Please let some good come of this day, I even thought that maybe I could remember this day for the good reasons, rather than the bad. It said the names were on the website so I loaded up the page, scrolled down one name at a time. My name wasn’t on there.

Although it did mean so much to me, the news wasn’t such a blow. I’d just received some of the scariest news of my life, so this didn’t matter. I put my phone back in my bag and forgot about it, even now I look back at the apprenticeship and I don’t mind. I didn’t deserve to get onto the scheme, what I sent in wasn’t at its best standard, I can see that now.

A few weeks later I met one of the nicest doctors I have met so far, she explained to me that the amount of cancer in my thyroid didn’t deserve the name cancer. It had only been in one side, it was gone, the treatment was to stop it from ever coming back. So I can think, I am alive, I didn’t get onto an apprenticeship, but at least I am here, willing to try again in another shape and form.

So my first rejection didn’t really feel like a rejection, because it could have been so much worse.

So roll on the next rejection, and the next. Because I can compare them to that day and know that rejections don’t have to be painful, they can be lessons.

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The dreaded diet

It has been such a long time since my last blog post!! I’ve had the busiest few weeks of my entire year and now they are finished I am at a complete loss! Bloggers please welcome me back into the blogosphere!

In two weeks I have a diagnostic scan to check I have no thyroid tissue left. Before the scan I have to go on a low iodine diet so that the scan can work properly. Luckily I don’t have to come off of my medication which makes me very tired – and moody, (my parents are very happy about that!!)
I think the diet is one reason I cant seem to write, I can’t really be bothered to do anything because I can’t eat anything nice. If someone told me they were on this diet and couldn’t eat this, that and the other I probably wouldn’t realise what it actually meant. Everyone I speak to about it seems to shrug and pass it off as something that isn’t that big a deal. I went into town with my friend today and she dragged me into costa which I can’t have. I told her it was fine but while I sat there I was desperate to drink a hot chocolate for myself! The other evening I went to a party at a friends house and couldn’t eat a thing so spent the evening starving hungry and wishing I had brought something diet friendly.
I didn’t understand why people just didn’t get why I felt rubbish because they were all eating chocolate and cakes and I was eating rich tea biscuits!!

Never mind! It is for the best and at least I only have to do it for three weeks rather than my entire life like some poor people. In a couple of weeks I will eat chocolate and cakes and all sorts of lovely things and enjoy them like I have never enjoyed them before!!

On a sunnier note, the spring seems to have arrived and we are once again warming up! I may even get my legs out before the weekend is over and pretend it is as warm as it looks!

I have also started to read A Game of Thrones. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to discover it, I am hooked!

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RED NOSE DAY 2013

It’s a day late, but never mind.

I was working at pre school yesterday so we had a sponsored bounce on a big red bouncy castle, glitter tattoo’s and face painting to raise money for Red Nose Day. Here are a few pictures!!

These are my Red Nose Day nails that I painted, a bit messy but they still look cool!

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The glitter tattoo that still wont come off! I spent the day today wandering around pulling my sleeve down to hide it! (its a cow…no one seems to know what it is!)

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And finally, ME! Dressed for work as usual: (Tommy Cooper would be proud!)

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Happy belated Red Nose Day!

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