The LW ladies were absolutely lovely. Not at all intimidating, nor indeed remotely loose, but genuinely warm and friendly. In fact everyone was. I was bowled over by their generosity. In make up, Jenni McAlpine and I played the “have we met before?” game, decided that we probably had somewhere in our past, and chatted on from there about mutual friends and colleagues. Emmerdale and Corrie have always been quite closely entwined. Linda Lusardi, also ex Emmerdale, never looks a day older, with her lovely daughter, also stopped to say hello.
I am no stranger to TV interviews, but where in the past, I may have been required to discourse on my character’s trials, tribulations and traumas, no problem, just switch on professional mode, sell the storyline etc etc this is unchartered territory. No script. No character to hide behind. My life on display. Raw. Naked.
I wouldn’t have chosen it. So I ask myself, why expose this personal challenging episode so publicly? Why hang my washing out for all to see? Especially as privacy is something so sacred to me. In answer, I suppose that I hope by not hiding away, by shining a spotlight on the elephant in the room, we can change our thinking about cancer or “terminal” illness. Both individually and collectively. As patient, as treatment provider, as a society.
During such a fearful, stressful and uncertain time, one has to navigate a sea of confusion and contradiction. Even when surrounded by loving friends and family, it can feel like being afloat, alone in the dark. The isolation can be deafening.
The truth is that there are already many of us in that boat, trying to stay afloat, like Noah, on the look out for land. Each day I receive dozens of stories of people’s journeys. All of us hoping for the dove to return with a branch in its beak.We are all searching for that beacon of light that says help is here, you are safe. Reaching out in the dark, and hoping that someone will hold our hand. And guide us to where the light shines a little brighter.
The almighty swell of positive feedback following my appearance on Loose Women truly took my breath away. (Hmmm, maybe I should stop saying that, the irony has only just occurred to me!) I don’t think I can express enough times my immense gratitude for the support, love and prayers I have received.( I am just sorry I can’t reply to everyone all the time) And if people found the discussion helpful I am grateful for the opportunity to be a voice piece for the many, many people who are living with cancer today. And I honour the many many people who are far braver and have endured far more than me. The people facing their journey alone. The family, loved ones and carers of those who have cancer. And the amazing dedicated people who treat us and tend us and want to give us life.
My own experience is showing me how vital it is to participate as fully as possible on the journey of your own healing. To be informed, to research, to challenge and question and, if need be, to dare to say “no”. To shrug off the mantle of “victim”, step into one’s power. To be prepared to make radical changes to lifestyle and thinking. When cancer moves in it is your body trying to alert you to the fact that somehow, something has come out of balance. It necessitates change :physically, emotionally, spiritually. And knowing that can either be daunting or a challenge and a gift. Getting a diagnosis of cancer is like saying “Ok, the chips are down, gloves off, sleeves rolled up, now what are you going to do about that?” Sometimes our inner warrior comes to our defence and gives us the strength to face the challenges, and sometimes a sinkhole of despair opens up beneath our feet and engulfs us. Which feeling wins, depends on which one you feed. I’m going to ensure my warrior is well fed and watered. I’m going to need her.
It also occurs to me, that when faced with the reality of one’s mortality, there’s nothing to do but try to exceed our expectation of ourselves. We hide too long from being our true brave and beautiful selves caught up in the distractions and duties and mundanities of modern life. So it’s time to love as much as you can, to live full and big, to dare, to say YES, To quest towards healing , to nourish and nurture yourself, to give yourself permission to receive, to be prepared to fail from time to time, to honour the pain and grief and anger and fear, and to know that not being OK is OK too.
And I just wanted to say . .
You’re doing amazing.
We are all amazing.
And in the darkness we reach , grab hold and keep one another afloat.
Thank you for keeping my head above water.
Om shanti. Peace.