My wife, who has just finished her own chemo and radiotherapy for breast cancer, shared this unattributed poem on her timeline on Facebook. The original was posted earlier today on the Young Breast Cancer Network and I’ve cheekily lifted it to copy here.
Obviously I can’t wholly related to everything the writer felt, nor to others like my wife going through the same physical and mental pain, but I do ‘get’ it. The ups and downs, the denial and despair, the muddied tastes (and the sniff of rotting meat only they can smell). No, perhaps it’s not ‘brave’ to go through all that without even a guarantee that it won’t return a year, five years down the line – not when the only other choice is to die.
However, it takes strength. Strength to get up when all you want to do is hide under the covers and pretend it’s a bad dream. Strength to face the surgery, whether just a biopsy sample, cutting out a lump of tissue and lymph nodes, or all the breast. Strength to try and carry on with as normal a life as you can when they are filling your body with a substance so toxic they need a hazmat team IMMEDIATELY if they spill so much as a few drops as they insert the drip. Strength to takes week after week of burning, blistering radiation treatment, while the nurses and technicians hide safely behind shielded walls. It takes strength, especially for a woman, to walk out the door in a wig, however well fitting. And strength again to walk out after the chemo, when the hair is only just growing back and say to the world, "You know what, I don’t care if you stare, you don’t know what I’ve gone through."
Maybe not ‘brave’, but by god it takes strength, ladies!
I’m not brave.
I was just turned 36 the day
They said, I’m sorry chuck,
But the lump that you came in with
Is cancer. Such shit luck.
I wasn’t listening anyway,
I was in a different world.
I’d just been hit with a ton of crap
As my formerly nice life unfurled.
And I wasn’t very brave you know,
As I sobbed and screamed that day.
Total terror gripped my soul
And I shared it straight away!
None of this stoic, none of this calm,
Shove those ‘It’s what’s meant to be’.
I was happy to scowl and to tut all day long
‘Why did this happen to me?’
And I wasn’t ‘so brave’ because I had treatment
There wasn’t a choice to be made,
I bit off their hand at each chance for my life
And thanked God for each treatment they gave.
I asked them to cut me, to poison, to burn
The cancer right out of my being.
And I whined and I cried and was pissed off to hell
As I struggled with pooing and weeing.
And I struggled with eating, and drinking as well,
As everything tasted like shit,
And I struggled with walking and climbing the stairs
And it even would hurt just to sit.
I struggled with mirrors, and showers and reading
I struggled with watching TV.
I struggled to talk without hurling abuse
But excelled being sorry for me!
So, yes, I continued to get through each day
To tackle the treatment head first
I made sure I did the best that I could
Whilst cancer was doing its worst.
Because I’m a mum, because I’m a daughter,
A friend and a sister and wife,
I must do my best to keep myself well,
I must, cos I’ve only one life.
And no, I’m not brave and I’m not so inspiring,
I was dealt a crap hand, fair to say,
But if YOU found yourself in that same position
You’d also have done it my way.
You’d also have made the friends that I’ve made
As together you walk down this road,
And your heart would have broken, again and again
As their time in this world shrank and closed.
So yes, I get angry and yes I get bitter
And yes I get pissed off as hell,
But I also enjoy a life full of moments
To live, and to love. Might as well.