There is…

1 February, the sky today.

Today the sky is David Hockney blue. An unexpected bonus. A piece of delight, of joy. Normal.

There is normal in moments, the visit to the snowdrop garden on Sunday with my friend, the joy of the snowdrops, the mooching in the kitchen utensils section together in the garden centre, the decision of buying a colander for the allotment; shall I get the dinky turquoise one, or this lime green silicone one that folds flat? It is a good feeling when you know at the time you are having a good day. There is the yellow sign flashing on the motorway as I drive home. SALT SPREADING. Are we expecting a frost? Sherbet lemons that fizz in my mouth.

Several evenings this last week at sunset the sky is clear and there is Venus appearing first, followed by Jupiter, they hang in a line with a crescent moon between them. They are where they should be, where we know they will be. I can pick a random date three weeks from now (not actually random at all, 21 February, my fifth year ‘anniversary’ from diagnosis) and I can know where they will be in the night sky. I find that reassuring. Normal.

The cathedral garden.

There is normal in my weekly piano lesson, followed by my visit to the cathedral garden, to see the snowdrops there. The garden is a graveyard, ancient gravestones line the paths, engraved with words; died age 82, died age five weeks. I am among the dead here. I don’t mind. I go inside the cathedral to get warm. Light candles and sit. In the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, where I often go, a small chapel off to the side, there is a prayer book where you can write a request for prayers. I never do, not being religious, but sometimes I read others. Am I snooping doing that? One says simply, ‘Forgive me.’ Another says, ‘Please help Audrey with her treatment and be able to lead a normal life.’ I close the book, tears in my eyes. ‘A normal life.’ Isn’t that what we all want? A normal life.

I remember the journalist Dina Rabinovitch writing about how she felt jealous of all the people who don’t have cancer (she died of breast cancer the year after I was diagnosed, same age as me). Yes I know exactly how she feels. Sometimes I feel that some of the lives that are lived around me are smug without cancer. Too much background noise to decipher what really matters. Too much unimportant stuff. That they can’t or don’t know how it is to ‘live with cancer’. Whatever stage it’s at.

Because there is me feeling the weight of cancer:

“Some days the weight of it all is too much.”

That proverbial albatross, it feels like a physical weight. Of those newly diagnosed, and those still years down the line still dealing with whatever comes up next. That’s most definitely not normal.

But there are shards of normal – for me. I scrape ice off the windscreen this morning. I am going to the pool. There is a lot of blue here. The tiny blue tiles in shades of blue that cover the shower, the steam room, the blue lights in the sauna, the blue of the pool, the dark blue edging, the turquoise blue of my swimming costume and my flip flops (with sequins). There’s me finding peace, now, at times. Normal.

This morning my US friends are all enraged. Komen, the largest US breast cancer charity behaving in a way that’s, well, just wrong. I don’t have all the facts yet, but it seems appallingly wrong, biased, unjust, prejudiced and right wing. (Reuters article here, Salon article here). I feel anger, but I also feel, ‘Well what can I do?’

At times like this, I am overwhelmed. The weight of cancer. It is overwhelming. I need to immerse myself in water. There’s me driving to the pool, and there is me realising that I have forgotten to clean my teeth today.

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15 thoughts on “There is…

  1. I love that quote, “Some days the weight of it all is too much.” I wish I could drop the albatross weighing me down. I wish I could banish the feelings of jealousy over people without cancer histories who are enraged that a waitress brought them lukewarm coffee. Give me a break. And not at McDonalds. Please. I deserve better than that. Thanks for the great post. Keep looking up to those gorgeous blue skies.
    XOXO

  2. I think that is why we band together, Sarah. We take turns needing quiet, finding strength. The weight of this should not be on any one pair of our shoulders. We are so much stronger when we care for and work on these issues together.

    I am glad you had such a blue sky.

  3. For all of those who have lost the person who made them whole to cancer….there is no normal either. Such a profound emptiness that never goes away….blasts me everytime I walk through the front door….and that is when I owe much to my twitter friends. The house does not echo quiet as much when they are around. Enjoy the sunshine that goes with that beautiful blue sky!

  4. Sarah,

    The weight of it all. Some days it’s simply a feather I catch a glimpse of… off to the side. Other days, it is an albatross and I am thankful for a community of women who are so supportive. Unconditionally. No one dismisses feelings, no one feels the need to do the “rah rah” if I feel like I need a “rant rant” …

    My life is better because you are a part of it…. and those whose comments are above mine, too.

  5. Sarah,
    What a perfect post and timely for me as I just tried to have a ‘normal’ birthday. I spent much of the day feverishly writing about what else, breast cancer stuff? Two years ago doing that wouldn’t have occurred to me and now it’s well, normal. In fact, it’s more than that, it’s what sustains me now.

    And the weight of cancer, you’re so right, it’s never entirely lifted. That’s why I love how this community of ours (including the care givers) shares the weight, or at least tries to. I think that’s the reason we are all so close. We know it’s not even possible to do this alone, at least it’s not for me.

    Great post, Sarah. And love the blue sky photo!

    • Hi Nancy, I’m sure Sarah will have her own comment later, she’s out in the sunny day on Plot 44 at the moment. But I wanted to express my own pleasure at being included in the community of all you sisters. And I hope, with the weekend coming, you’re own care givers will help you get some high quality birthday time, you deserve it!

    • Nancy, in my life ‘before’ I never even considered the word ‘normal’… and now how I hunt it out and relish ‘normal’ moments! But I’m glad to be able to share them with this community. Thank you for being part of that. Sarah x

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