On Kawara, telegram to Sol LeWitt, February 5 1970, from ‘I Am Still Alive’ 1970-2000. Work by On Kawara, photograph by Kris Mckay
In case you were wondering!
Exactly two years ago today I was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer. I am still alive and I’m really well. ‘Strong and stable’ and my treatment is unchanged. I feel very differently about my condition too. I no longer feel that the reaper is standing behind a door, scythe in hand, ready to pounce. I feel normal most of the time but I do still have to be careful. The piano move was not my finest moment and I won’t be doing it again. I can imagine my spinal consultant’s face. I won’t tell him.
I still struggle with fatigue and I know it’s something I have to live with, but I’ve found the best way to combat it is to keep moving. ‘Do not sit if you have stuff to do’ is my new mantra! And since my blog, last July, I’ve done a lot of stuff (I confess I do a great deal of sitting also).
I saw my eldest daughter get married and it was the most beautiful, spectacularly mad and wonderful wedding I’ve ever been to – another milestone; I managed a group show with my pals in 10Strong, took a holiday to Spain with my youngest daughter and finished that book arts course ‘I very nearly didn’t start for fear of not making it to the end’. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done and as well as learning some amazing new skills, I made some very special and dear friends.
Cleo & James (not my photo, but I don’t have the wedding photographer’s deets)
2020 was set to be a busy year too. I had a print fair booked for April or May, another group exhibition planned for June/July, open studios to prep for, a website to work on and a whole lot more. Instead, I’ve been enjoying lockdown with the rest of the world. I wasn’t going to mention the pandemic, but as I’ve been shielding since early March there’s nothing else to talk about.
At the start of lockdown, when things were looking really dire and very confusing, my initial concern was that I’d be left to die if ventilators were in short supply. I was assured by my consultant that I wasn’t considered a lost cause, by any means, and I’d still get the full care I required. Then it was treatment … what if I couldn’t have my treatment? I knew of other patients with secondary breast cancer whose treatment had been suspended or ceased altogether and this became a more terrifying prospect than Covid 19. As it turns out, my fears have been unfounded. I am terribly lucky to be receiving my treatment from the Christie hospital in Manchester. They have not let me down once throughout this sorry saga and I could not be more grateful, or thankful, for them and for our NHS. I should also add a very special thank you to my son Felix, who has been my personal shopper and dog walker while I’m stuck indoors. I’d be lost without him!
I realise that my blog is generally upbeat and positive. It’s intentional. I try and live my life that way now, I think it’s important and I really believe that our mind is a powerful tool in keeping us well, both mentally and physically. I remember too, that when I was first diagnosed with secondaries I was terrified and desperate to find someone in the same boat as me who was doing well. I found a lot of women happy to share their ‘success’ stories, which was great, but the details of their cancer and treatment were vague so I still felt alone. I intend to address this in my next blog, which hopefully will be written in the not too distant future. Stay safe!
“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen