A couple of weeks ago I spent a day with the Executive Team and the Trustees of CLIC Sargent, as a young adult volunteer for the charity we were giving them a bit of an insight into what life was like for a young cancer patient these days…or actually, any young person, we focused alot on social media and to be honest, I realised alot more than I expected to. It was something that was said about the long term impact of having cancer as a young person, it’s hard at any age but in later life often your life is established, you’ve followed the path you chose and you’ve built an education, career, family even. As a young adult, cancer comes along and changes your future and I hadn’t thought about it until I talked a little about my long term conditions because of my treatment, the way my closest friends are all survivors or still undergoing treatment, all of those things are a part of my cancer journey, I deal with the impact of cancer every day and we all paint the rose colored picture of our lives on social media. I know I do at times, post a happy, smiling selfie when I’m so tired I could sleep for days, mostly to take my mind off being so exhausted but actually it’s about time we started acknowledging those things and maybe it’s about time we all started celebrating what we have dealt with.
I’m not just talking about cancer, anything that we’ve overcome. I’m really hard on myself; I always have been and always will be, it’s a part of who I am, I want to be the best me I can but it means I never think about the things I have achieved, if I did every so often, maybe it would stop me being so hard on myself, maybe I’d be more sure that I can overcome any obstacle.
I’ve always said that I’m lucky, in being a survivor of cancer, in where I’ve got to since my treatment but actually…luck doesn’t have anything to do with some of it. Yes I’m better off than many of the people I know physically, I’m able to work and I’m still here…but some of those things I used to consider luck this one day with the Exec team made me realise it wasn’t luck. I worked damn hard to get through my GCSE’s during my cancer treatment; I came out with grades that got me into college. I pushed myself to go to college after taking a year out. I was behind everyone that had been in my year at school but it didn’t matter, I went and I did it. And I get up every day, in pain, exhausted alot of the time…dealing with my joints worsening, being stiff and sore and I work a full time job, I try to make time to volunteer which often means days in other cities, I manage to maintain my hobbies of choir and now my screenwriting. I do that because I push myself, past the pain and the tiredness and I put my all into doing a good job. I don’t think that’s luck that I’ve achieved those things, achieved holding down a job, we should all be celebrating ourselves for even getting out of bed in a morning at times.
I’m not going to pretend like my life so far has never been complicated, I’ve had probably a little more than some people my age to deal with but I’ve done just that, I’ve dealt with it. Cancer, serious illness in both my parents at different times, hip condition then a general joint condition, chronic pain, bullying, sexual violence, eating issues, anxiety. Yeah, it sounds weird when it’s listed like that and some aspects I won’t ever discuss but I dealt with it. Someone recently said to me “Complicated, like your life always is.” And yeah, maybe it is, maybe I have little quirks that I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t have that background but that’s ok and you know what, I style it out and I’ve done good, I’m proud of that, I’m not ashamed of my experiences because actually, when I look at everything I’ve achieved despite those things that could have set me back completely. I think maybe I deserve to celebrate that once in a while.
It just took the empowerment and the support from that group of people, my CLIC Sargent family to realise that, to realise that every day, I do really well, even if I don’t think so. When you deal with something for so long it becomes normal so we don’t stop and think about how well we do in dealing with it, I think that’s been alot of my life. Kind of a rollercoaster of crazy at times but because I do kind of accept and move forward as much as possible, I don’t see it as anything big or special. It’s not until I really thought about it on that one day that it did hit me and it made me a little emotional because I realised that yes, I have bad days, we all do…but I’m stronger than I think and I’m definitely more resilient than I give myself credit for. Some days are a fight but that’s ok because I manage it, and I don’t want to be praised or seen as whatever people’s version of “strong” is. That’s not why I’m writing this. I’m writing this because I finally realise that I’m allowed to be proud because I’ve done well, really well and I’ve got myself through alot of it, yes there have been friends, family around at times but actually…I did it, just me and that’s something to be proud of.
Celebrate you; celebrate all those things about you that are unique. In every bad experience something good will come along, it always has for me even if it’s just made me stronger and wiser.
I think if we all took a moment sometimes to remember what we can be proud of, we’d be much less hard on ourselves and maybe a little more open to sharing the not so good stuff with the people around us because we’d be proud to have got through it.