In February 1992 I was diagnosed with Follicular Lymphoma. I had just turned 40 and Alex, my son, was 6. I had five years of violent chemotherapy (one of which nearly killed me) and then it got aggressive. So I underwent a Stem Cell transplant in 1997. When I relapsed less than a year later my lovely oncologist, the legendary Len Price, told me the bad news: it was still the same aggressive beast we had been dealing with; there was very little left that he could do because there were only two drugs left that he’d not already administered up to the limit.
The good news was his promise that he would not let me suffer.
I had an absolute conviction that if I died Alex (who was in great disarray from all the seismic family events) would be in prison before he was 18. So I started working for a miracle.
Many miracles later I’m still here while Len himself, my equally legendary New York oncologist and Peter, my then husband are all, sadly, gone. I’ve had another couple of cancer diagnoses in the interim but I’m getting quite experienced at successfully doing it My Way.
My annual check up was at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London on Thursday morning (3rd January). The doctor told me that having been stable for 20 years they considered the risk of relapse to be so minuscule that they have signed me off to my GP’s care. I didn’t see it coming and, oddly enough, after almost 25 years of being yoked to oncologists to tell me how I’m doing I’m still getting my head around it. Mostly I am absolutely double-delighted. What a great way to begin a new decade!
I hope this story will give hope to everyone who is in the wilderness of cancer treatment. Doctors are great but they don’t know everything. They may know all about the disease but they mostly know nothing about who YOU are and what, if you’re sufficiently motivated, YOU are capable of. If, before this all challenged me, you had told me what I would be able to accomplish I would have said, “That’s not me you’re talking about. You’ve mistaken me for somebody else.”
In so many ways the guided visualisation I did when my world was rocking in February 1992 came true. I was told, “This is not a punishment. It is a gift and an opportunity”.
I don’t think I could have learned all the brilliant things I learned in the last 25 years any other way. Yes it was hard, beyond challenging at certain, quite long, stretches, but if my life had continued in the groove it was in I would not have become the person I am today. That may not be so much to write home about from where you sit but I promise you the capacities that have developed within me were unsuspected by anyone who knew me in my youth!
Over time I learned that you can create your own reality.
Indeed you cannot help but do so for what you think about you give energy and substance to. For me, these are three important takeaways:
1. However dire your situation looks at the moment raise your your attention beyond the immediate circumstances and fix it with excitement and energy on your aspirations.
2. Always de-emphasise the problem and concentrate on Solutions,
3. Focus on Forgiveness, Gratitude and where-to-find-The-Fun every single day of your life.