A question I am often asked – Did you deny how ill you were to yourself?
“Because I wanted to live.” That is not to say other people don’t want to live: I’m sure they do. But I knew I needed to act.
I remember the consultant giving me the percentage of people surviving my type of cancer and I thought: I can do this. When Klaus and I got home after that consultation we went for a short walk and I, half laughing, asked;
“How do I get myself into the percentage that lives?”
And I didn’t get time to deny it because the hospital arranged for me to have an operation, a lumpectomy, about nine days later. After the operation, and before I left the hospital, a programme of treatment was set up, appointments were made and the chemotherapy started two weeks later. Before that I had to get a port inserted into my arm. The port was used to feed the drugs into my system.
I showed up for it all. That may sound like a really simple thing to say, but that’s what I did. The hospital staff were professional and kind and while I didn’t understand everything that was said, as I was in a hospital in Germany, I’m not sure I would have understood it in English. But I understood enough to grasp the seriousness of it.
They don’t use flowery language in these situations. They don’t say you have a bit of cancer. What I took away with me after that consultation was:
“You are very ill.”
Even though I didn’t feel it, or look it.
“But, I don’t feel ill.”
“Cancer is very deceptive,” the doctor said. She showed me a page from the medical report and said there were ten good things and two bad things on it. She said if it was her report she would be “pleased.” I looked at it, it was like algebra which I never grasped.
I remember looking down at my black patent, high heel shoes and thinking how lovely they were. How “real” they were, something of mine that always gives me a boost. How out of place they were in this white, sterile consultation room. They grounded me. They were telling me in order to keep going, to keep walking and enjoying life, I had to deal with it.
Now I try to keep taking risks, even small ones, because each risk I take gives me the strength and the know-how to deal with challenges that come into my life. Everything we do is connected.