What comes next?

Last night we celebrated Samhain on Plot 44. A place where I garden, and where I share the cycles of nature that I find so calming and necessary to have in my life. And no, it has nothing to do with breast cancer, well other than being a place of solace for me.

30 October 2012, candles in the dark at Plot 44. Samhain.

And I need a place of solace, I mean I think we all do, I need somewhere to go to find peace, to turn off the outside noise and distractions. Even though I do have a two excellent tools – a very finely tuned shit filter (yes, you read that right, everyone should invest in one, and they’re free); I also have a well-oiled quack-o-meter (yes, I prefer informed discussion) – despite both of these essential tools, I still find there’s too much noise in my life at times.

Nearly six years now since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. But despite the circumstances that propelled me into the breast cancer community, I’ve found some extremely supportive and valued breast cancer friends:

“But I am not turning away from that community, no. I’m still here, but just so tired, so worn out – by the years of being a breast cancer patient, and now after months of working on Rachel’s book reminding me sharply and keenly, and reminding all of us too, that we simply haven’t got the right tools at our disposal to stop women from dying of breast cancer.”

And this year has been a very difficult year for me. To lose Rachel so suddenly, my dear friend. The grief has been enormous.To be immersed in her words and work on her book has meant I’ve had little time for much blogging of my own, or reading other people’s blogs.  And over and over I hear the same arguments and questions about the mainstream breast cancer culture. The pink-washing, the lack of research, the lack of awareness of metastatic breast cancer. I don’t want to keep repeating myself. Continue reading

Losing Rachel

Rachel and her dog Newman

My friend Rachel died on 6 February this year. From metastatic breast cancer. She was 41. She will be greatly missed by her beloved husband Anthony, her family, her friends, her dog and the thousands of people who read her sharp, angry and witty words on her blog where she challenged mainstream breast cancer culture: The Cancer Culture Chronicles. She was my friend. In fact, she was one of my closest friends, found in the blogosphere and we became close despite the 3,500 miles that separated us. Her death came too soon, I was not ready for this and the grief has been profound.

In the grief of Rach I’ve been remembering other things. Sort of introspectively remembering my life since my breast cancer diagnosis, things that happened. Continue reading

Oh Rach

The Skyping begins. Rachel interviewing Sarah for her Can Do Women blog, January 2011

Still Ronnie, standing in while Sarah is New Jersey.

Is it still too soon? I want to write Rachel something lovely. Something as good as anything I’ve ever written. (Something as beautiful as her friend Chemobabe’s eulogy, or as world-changingly essential as Gayle’s) She deserves at least that. But I can’t, yet. I need to take the fact and my feelings about her death to the park, to the cathedral, to the river – to my sacred places. I need to tell them about her. And my sense of loss. Until I’ve done that I won’t find the words, my words, for my friend Rachel.

So, for now, here is a very short poem. Continue reading

The gift of breast cancer? I’d like a refund.

Today’s post is another piece from Rachel at The Cancer Culture Chronicles who, at her own proud admission, likes a good rant. I’ve also written about the expression ‘cancer is a gift’ and it’s something that’s got Rach fully into ranting. She wrote this piece last November. ‘The gift of breast cancer,’ she says, ‘it doesn’t fit. Can I have a refund?’ For your reading pleasure…

“I would never wish cancer on anyone. But I wouldn’t give back the experience either.”
“You are forced to either look upon the experience as a curse, or a lesson in life/challenge to learn from and grow from. ie., a ‘blessing’!”

“These are real quotes sourced from comments posted to an article written by Eve Ensler (author of The Vagina Monologues) entitled, The Gift Of Cancer.  That’s right. The. Gift. Of. Cancer.  Gift. Cancer.  Really ?  These are not words that I would ever wish to see in the same sentence. Ever. And yet, I seem to be surrounded by this kind of sentiment.

Are there people out there who actually see cancer as a gift ?  An experience they would never give back ? A blessing ? Are people now drinking the chemo ?

This week I had plenty of opportunity to ponder my own particular gift and associated blessings. As I was injected with another vile vial of radioactive goop by Nurse I-Couldn’t-Hit-A-Vein-If-My-Life-Depended-On-It, so that my entire body could be scanned for more Breastmas-Tree-like lights whilst lying perfectly still in a dirt-nap state in a machine that is strangely reminiscent of lying in a coffin.  (Now, not personally knowing any vampires outside of Sookie and the gang from True Blood, I can’t attest to the accuracy of this statement, but I think the only difference might be that the occupant of said machine has a pulse).  Anyway, before I launch into a dull tirade on the indignities of the whole PET/CT scan thing, let me get back to the point of this post.

From a sociocultural perspective, much of what I see and hear in the media regarding the breast cancer “experience” seems to carry with it an aura of calm, peaceful reflection and contemplation.  One could be forgiven for thinking that breast cancer is simply a journey on a well-trodden path Continue reading

When I ran for charity

Speke Hall run, Bugruns

2 October 2011, start of Speke Hall run

Yesterday morning I ran a 10K. It took place in the grounds of Speke Hall in Liverpool, a nearly 500 year old manor house near the river. No charity fund raising, just me, running. For the sheer pleasure of being able to. It was a humid damp day, but it was fun to do this with friends, and go for breakfast afterwards. There’s a one minute film of the run here.

Runs are often done to raise money for charities by people who’ve been treated for cancer. Me included. Last year, one of the goals I’d set myself was to run a 10K, and raise money for charity. The charity I’d chosen was Yes to Life, who had helped me during my treatment for breast cancer, and I wanted to say ‘thank you’ to them, and raise money for them so they can continue to help other cancer patients.

In November 2009, I had my sixth surgery following my beast cancer diagnosis in February 2007. I’m pragmatic enough not to say it was my last surgery, or that have finished my treatment and surgery. I’m still on prescription drugs, I still have regular check ups with various doctors, I still have minor surgery to finish my breast reconstruction. But, as far as I know, for now, I have finished the major treatment, and the major surgeries. For now. Continue reading