‘The expected is just the beginning, the unexpected is what changes our lives’
It seems fitting to quote Grey’s Anatomy, as we’re in the realm of medicine and health, but this quote perfectly sums up my experience, and the subsequent journey we went on as a family when the unexpected happened; my Mum, who is my best friend, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I’m not going to be a negative Nancy and recreate the moment I found out, one reason is that I truly can’t remember it all that well, it was a numbing experience and that’s probably for the best. Of course, cancer affects millions of people in a vast variety of ways, but it wouldn’t be a true reflection of my mum’s experience to dwell on those initial moments of desperation. She has shown, through pure guts and fortitude, that amidst something so frightening and unpredictable, the attitude you choose the take can give you so much control. My mother showed that her mind came first and as if by magic, this positivity got to work in her body.
I expected nothing less from someone who has always had a fire in her belly that even a team of firemen couldn’t put out. Although she has countless qualities, the real sparklers are, ironically, the ones that gave her the edge over this pest we call cancer. For a start she’s from Yorkshire, so she’s always right. Cancer wasn’t going to take down someone from Doncaster. Come on. Secondly, the fact that her whole persona encompasses hard work, made that much needed drive throughout her journey, so much more natural. Most importantly and something I have only just come to realise, my mum has always had the tendency to be a ‘yes woman’. Throughout my childhood and to this day, she has carefully balanced her athletic career (she has been a sprinter since the age of 15 and has competed for Great Britain at Masters level), her work as a lecturer and her role as a mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend. Sometimes we’ve warned her, ‘you’re doing too much’, but on reflection, that is when she flourished. I believe the skills she possesses, to keep everyone happy whilst achieving her own dreams, were reflected in her journey through breast cancer. She did what she had to do; she just got on with it and never once complained. I can only really liken her to a bronze statue, at the centre of everything but so consistent and everlasting.
I once thought it would be difficult to speak to my mum about her treatment, and how it made me feel, for fear that it would seem thoughtless considering she the amount she was going through. However, thanks to her optimistic perspective, we spoke freely about everything, from chemo cravings and bothersome side effects to health and beauty advice to regain a glow. She made cancer comical, giving it a real presence in our lives, which made something that holds such negative connotations cement an already tight family unit into something that was unbreakable.
I guess it was a statement of my mum’s character, that fact even when, medically, the situation wasn’t clear and we had an agonising wait for results, I never once doubted she would make it out the other side. As I’m a serial over-thinker, that surprised me, as this situation was prime opportunity for the worries to start churning around my mind. However, it was thanks to her refreshing outlook and her inability to let it take over her life which allowed everything to carry on as normal.
As a talented athlete, chemo was a 400m for my mum, intense and arduous but something that was conquerable through a positive state of mind. Excuse the pun, but she won that race, by a mile.