Up until now, I had always associated being ‘strong’ principally with physical strength. Being a cyclist I have numerous friends that epitomise what I’d characterise as ‘being strong’ – Tamina and Claire G tearing up the fields in national road races and TTs, Emily battling her way through feats of endurance like the Magnificat, Sam and I pitting ourselves against adversity during the Transalps. But recent events have made me start to expand my perspective a little.
My dear friend Charlie, who is unlucky enough to be going through a similar experience as me – in her case breast cancer – is a case in point. Truly inspirational, she has tackled her own aliens head on with true fighting spirit. When she found out that I’d likely be losing my hair thanks to the latest chemo concotion her immediate reaction was to send me 3 beautiful LMNH cycling caps so funky I’m in no mood to wait for the hair to drop out to start flashing them!
Another thing I’ve learned is that true strength is being able to separate the physical from the emotional. Having had over 5 litres of fluid drained from my belly over the past week and 7 chemo sessions down, I’d be lying if I said I’ve been feeling anything but a shadow of my former self (if that isn’t an oxymoron bearing in mind my grossly distended form!). For someone who used to cast disdain over those that chose the lift over the stairs, it’s been quite humbling to count a slow shuffle to the village shop as an achievement. Much as I love it, getting on a bike has been totally out of the question. But the second the fluid started to go I could feel my mood instantly lift. This morning I managed to get my jeans on for the first time in 10 days and how awesome did that feel?! (Thanks to the 7 month ‘alien’ pregnancy belly, my attire of late has tended towards to the ‘slummy mummy’ look: Sportsdirect trackie bottoms and hoodies all the way, perfectly complimented by my clip on chemo bottle which my mate Nathalie pointed out probably looks worryingly like a whisky hipflask.)
But hey, hopefully this particular chapter of my life will be short-lived, the new chemo will kick in and I can add ‘recognising my own body’ to my list of things to be thankful for. So go on cancer and chemo, throw what you can at me because I ain’t giving up yet.
I want to close with a quote from Charlie’s blog because it touched me so much. “Our best asset is inside and not even chemotherapy can burn it out of you.”