I have cancer. I’m 37 years old and I have cancer. I’m a happily married mother of two beautiful little girls and I have cancer.
When a small mass was discovered in my sigmoid colon I found myself staring into an abyss of uncertainty. Biopsies were taken. A CT scan was scheduled to see if it had spread. I was left with an interminable 10-day wait until my fate was to be sealed in a colorectal surgeon’s office at 11:40am the following Wednesday.
If cancer is cruel then waiting for those results was pure malevolence. But I’m a mum so life went on. I clicked into autopilot – dropping the kids off at school, running errands, supervising homework. I never once let on to my children that my life was hanging in the balance.
I didn’t allow myself time to wallow until after 7pm each night. That’s when the wheels fell off. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. Stage One and I was in with a fighting chance. Stage Four meant slashed odds and a long, arduous battle ahead of us. My mind started playing tricks on me. I convinced myself of the worst possible scenario. I composed eloquent, emotional letters to my girls, a new one every year until they turned eighteen. I chose Don Henley and Ryan Adams songs to play at my funeral.
I was so scared, yet when I thought of my daughters I wanted to ‘rage against the dying of the light’ with two clenched fists and a deadly kung-fu kick. No child deserves to lose a parent, certainly not my sweet, sensitive girls. And not at the ages of six and four. I’m a strong woman. I tend to absorb bad news and turn it to my advantage, but the thought of my children growing up motherless made me fall apart in my husband’s arms. I wasn’t crying for me, for my lost opportunities. I was crying for theirs.
When I gave birth to Emily in 2011 I found myself metamorphosing into some selfless, altruistic being. I certainly hadn’t been that way nine months before, with a cocktail in one hand and a diary full of social occasions in the other. But just how much motherhood has changed me was only apparent in…