I’ve been wanting to write this blog for a long time now, but have felt so unsure about myself and what to say as I still don’t even know exactly what I think about this myself! Are there other people out there who feel the same way about this?…
Meeting people socially for the first time can be fun and exciting. They could be friends of friends, a possible new beau, a new next-door-neighbour, a taxi driver chatting to pass the time, or, old school friends at a reunion (So it may as well be meeting someone new!). Either way you want to make a good first impression, be true to yourself and full of confidence and kindness. Yet time and time again this situation that I once loved, gets me down and I feel so insecure and lost. The first couple of questions are fine; “What’s your name?”. “Where are you from?”, maybe even a bonus question of “So how do you know Bridget?”, but inevitably the question comes…
“So Amie from Hertfordshire – what do you do?”
Even though I’ve been expecting this – I dread it. I’m stumped. Do? Do?! I’m a cancer patient who for the first two years since diagnosis was either on aggressive chemotherapy or having operations which cut open my belly, and gave me skin reactions. The 6 months after that, I had a short-lived remission where I was off the chemo, for 8 weeks until scans showed that the cancer had returned. So, I started a clinical trial which I’ve been on for the past 6 months, meaning I have to go into hospital weekly, take pills every day and every 6 weeks I get scans and test updates on my progress. And that’s not even going into the side-effects I’ve had since the very first day of diagnosis – or the symptoms that I had over a year before! But enough about me – tell me about yourself.
Most of the time it’s easier to just tell the truth, but then I feel that I’ve dragged the energy and conversation down. I’m in my mid-thirties, live with my parents, have no financial security and have cancer. It’s difficult to feel independent or feel as if I have much to offer when I say that. It’s embarrassing to admit this about myself because I hate that this makes me feel like a failure. I have had, and still have, some fantastically inspiring friends that manage to continue working during treatment and I know of other cancer patients who you would never guess had cancer because they are (seemingly) constantly go-go-go all the time.
I can only talk about my own experience though and my side effects are like a roller coaster – even though I am no longer on chemotherapy. I still suffer from echoes of effects that can vary in intensity on a daily basis. Even the drugs from my clinical trial give me side effects, albeit a damn sight better than taking chemo. Although sometimes it’s not just the physical side effects, but the mental and emotional ones too that can have a bigger part to play in day to day life.
I’ve suffered lots of side effects from chemotherapy, as anyone who has had to have it will testify. Needless to say, trying to work with these side effects proved difficult, and after multiple attempts, in the end I just could not work anymore. So, what do I say to someone, who does not know my situation, who’s being up-beat at our first meeting, and who I would like to see me for me; not as a cancer patient, or as someone promoting a career, but simply as me, Amie? Well, in all honesty, I blank. Or mumble something vague.
So much has changed since starting treatment and yet seemingly has stayed the same. To all intents and purposes, I look ‘normal’ to everyone I meet, but I find that question “what do you do?” a nightmare. I hope that my side effects continue to wear away so that I am able to return to work properly without having to apologise for having an ‘off-day’, I hope that I am able to sing properly again and teach others so that I can finally receive my teaching certificate from the Royal Academy of Music, I hope that I am able to watch my niece’s and nephew grow up to be adults, I hope I make it to my 40th birthday and beyond, I hope I find the love of my life, I hope that as a human race we can stop cancer and change our attitude to the Earth before we become a cancer to it.
So what do I do? I hope.