Sunday, 3 April 2011

Number Five: The Rather Me than You…

I have been thinking more and more about how actually glad I am it’s me who got the cancer and not someone else whom I hold dear. The fact is- I’m the ill one I therefore get all the help- I have literally tripped over meals kind friends have left on my doorstep! I also get all of the compliments and kind thoughts. (They sound lovely but are definitely exaggerated and in some cases totally misplaced!) I get to go for a lie down whenever I feel like it- believe me this as good as shopping as far as I am concerned- I do love a daytime nap!
If it were someone I love that was sick instead I would have to cope. I would have to cope whilst being upset. My overactive imagination would run wild and I’d have to cope whilst being upset and conjuring images of the worst.

So, when I say ‘rather me than you’, I do not mean that I am so virtuous as not to trade places with a total stranger but I am selfish enough not to want to swap with someone I love.

Lately, every time I hear someone’s bad news I can’t help thinking how my news is nothing in comparison. It’s almost as if there is a hierarchy in my head of the worst news possible. (Or maybe a league table for you Glenn) I seem to be saying ‘At least I’m not...’ an awful lot.
Cancer seems to have struck quite often throughout my extended family but fortunately it has been met in equal measure by cancer survival! Maybe this has something to do with my positive outlook because in my experience- cancer is not something that kills you. The fact that this is my personal experience of cancer has led me never to question how this will end. I haven’t had to dig deep to find the mental resources to remain upbeat… I was lucky enough to know that having been diagnosed with cancer ten years ago; my own mum is fit, well and most importantly cancer-free! Surely this sets me up to tackle my own situation much more positively than had no one close to me every have gone through the same thing? In stark contrast to yours truly, my mum is a very private person so although I remember her diagnosis being a sad and scary time I don’t remember unpleasant details. She managed to keep her hair throughout chemotherapy and so I suppose that helps you disguise what you are going through from the rest of the world. (Or at least from fellow Centre:MK shoppers in my mum’s case!) The reason I tell you all this is because it was more upsetting having someone I love go through this than to have it myself. Call me a control freak but there’s something comforting about it being my body rather than the precious body of someone close to me.
‘Did it just feel like the worst thing in the world when you had cancer?’ I asked my mum.
‘I remember thinking it would be the worst thing for one of my children to have it.’ She replied. ‘And now I’ve done both.’
This rang very true; I had been thinking exactly the same thing. (We were sat in my hospital room and a young boy had just been wheeled past on a trolley.) I was reminded of three years ago when I was told my new baby boy, at just eight weeks old, was going to need an operation and would have to have a general anaesthetic. I searched for the silver lining then and could not find it- I was distraught. When you’re little and something horrid happens your parents make it better- there are treats, gifts, sweets and special visitors to make it all better. When it’s your child you would give anything to swap places. I wonder if it’s any different when your child is all grown up. Was my mum feeling as awful as I had felt three years ago right now? 

So thankfully it’s me... not one of my beautiful boys who are so special, I completely agree with mum that it would be devastating for your child to be sick. Thankfully it’s not my husband... he’s much better cast in the ‘capable coping with anything that’s thrown in his lap’ role and makes an awful patient.
Thankfully it’s not one of my sisters, one of whom still needs to have her own children before she’s ready to tackle this, the other whom cares so deeply about her daughters that she couldn’t bear to spend a night away from them even if it were to be in hospital making herself better! Thankfully it’s not one of my closest friends who is petrified of needles and would maybe just freak out a little at the thought of endless blood test, drips and cannulas!

At the end of the day I had decided pretty early one that this whole thing would be something that may just benefit me in the long run. Crappy along the way (But not everyday) however maybe I’d get a new zest for life (something I’d lost for a split second there thinking I may have post-natal depression) maybe cancer would gift me confidence and perspective. (I would have an awful lot more time on my hands if I wasn’t so consumed by what people thought of me!) Just maybe instead of groaning at another early morning wake up with young children I’d wake up happy to be alive!


  1. Your thoughts echo exactly my own experience and those of the women and their husbands I talked to during treatment.

    That (even despite problems with the health system), the women going through treatment just seemed to be getting on with it (without any hysterics) whilst their husbands were the ones who had trouble coping, and were often close to tears.

    I have thought about this a lot and decided that it's because, someone diagnosed with cancer enters a well-oiled machine, where people and (mostly) professional, kind, pleasant and reassuring. If one puts one faith into the system, there's nothing one can contribute to one's treatment except turn up when/where told.

    Whereas the partner/relative - as observer - doesn't get same the soothing voices and hands. They just have the worry.

    I also agree that there are many worse things to have besides breast cancer - that is, the kind that can be lopped out and there's no sign of spread. I have friends with chronic back pain or who have problems with their marriage.

    I also have a friend with a return of leukaemia with an uncertain future. He said he feels lucky because he has access to specialist treatment at a research hospital (whereas the on-paper approach for his situation is not to treat him) as well as a second bone marrow donation from his original donor.

    Maybe it's all relative?


  2. Very proud of you sis! xxxx