When I first found out I had cancer, I never thought I’d be drawing a comparison to Anne Frank. But having just been round the Anne Frank House, I now find myself sitting in the cafe at Prinsengracht 267, in beautiful sunshine, with my health, my freedom and my iPad, and a compulsion to write.
A place like this, a story like hers, puts things into perspective. Nineteen years ago, I lost my brother. Despite growing up bickering, by the time we became teenagers we were incredibly close and he was my best friend. So losing him was awful. Cliche it may be, but I cannot find a word to describe it. I guess that’s why I felt kind of numb and focused on other things… My parents had lost their son – how must that feel? God knows. Other people lost loved ones in even worse ways – Lockerbie, for example – at least we’d had nine days to prepare for the worst, they’d just been hit with it. So after Simon died, the mental strength which kept me going was the thought that there was always someone worse off than me.
This same mentality came out in me when I was diagnosed with cancer – ok I have cancer, but it could be so much worse. A friend recently told me about a group of her friends who are cycling across India to raise money for brain tumor research – apparently, funding for research is allocated based on the likelihood of success/improvement, so the harder a cancer is to treat, the less likely it is to get funding. I’ve no idea if this is true, but the amount of funding that goes towards breast cancer is phenomenal, and the improvements in treatment as a result have been amazing. So if I’m going to have any kind of cancer, I feel lucky to have this one.
I’m nearing the end of the first part of my treatment – chemotherapy – which is perhaps one of the craziest things anyone would voluntarily put themselves through; so crazy that many cancer patients opt not to, in favour of almost anything else. I opted to go for it – nasty as it is, if it kills the cancer it’s the lesser of two evils, right? The journey has been horrible, but thanks to the drugs I’ve been taking to offset the side effects, it’s nothing like as bad as it could have been. Many people have it a whole lot worse.
OK so I’ve had to spend months at home, unable to go out of the apartment for long periods of time, unable to train, unable to travel, unable to socialize, unable to go to work… but reading extracts of Anne Franks’s diary today, seeing where she and her family had to hide, and reading about their ultimate demise, what on earth am I complaining about?
I have air in my lungs, sun on my face (yes dad, I have sunscreen on, don’t worry!), space to walk and the freedom to do all these things without fear for my life. There are millions of people out there, even today, who do not have any of this; who cannot walk to the end of the bed, let alone the end of the street, who are in hiding or fear for their lives, who have no idea if their loved ones are alive or dead…
…and here am I, sitting in the sunshine, in a cafe on a canal in Amsterdam, writing my blog on my iPad, with a cup of tea and a stroopwafel, planning how I’ll make up for lost time; who I will visit when I can travel again, where I will go to explore and inspire myself, what I’ll get stuck into when I get back to work, how I will celebrate my 41st birthday…
It’s all about perspective, and there’s always someone worse off.
#humble #thankful #positive #strong #hopeful