When you have Cancer you are often told “stay positive”, people say this when they do not know what else to say. Sometimes it is because they have seen you waiver and do not know how to support you, they do not know that sometimes you just need someone to let you have a bad day and agree with you that it is all pretty shit.
You also hear a lot of Cancer patients moan about being told to be positive, complaining about the pressure it puts on them, saying people do not understand how hard it is to remain positive.
To some extent, I agree it is tough to stay positive, and hearing that is what you should do all the time can be difficult. Equally a big piece of me thinks that actually staying positive might just help deal with the crap hand I have been dealt.
So what does staying positive mean to me? Well, positivity clearly is not going to cure me, it is not going to change the inevitable outcome. However, being positive might well help get me through this, and no I do not mean telling myself everything will be OK. Obviously, things will not be OK, but I can make the most of whatever I have left.
Remaining positive does not mean plastering a smile on my face and pretending life is good all the time. For me, it means not allowing myself to focus on things I cannot change, not becoming consumed with negative feelings. That might sound a lot like plastering a smile on my face and pretending, but it is not, what it really is is accepting that it is OK to not be OK. It means not bottling up my worries, having a good cry when I need to and talking about the difficult things.
When you accept the bad things that happen you can start to work out how to cope with them. If you put it in a box and pretend it is not happening, these things have a way of eating away at you and quietly destroying you. I will not let Cancer destroy me, I will not let it destroy who I am or take away my happiness.
Yes, I have bad days when my own mortality overwhelms me, and I ask why me? But I also have so many happy days, and if I am honest there are things I have done and experienced that I might never have done if Cancer had not come along and turned my world upside down.
Before Cancer having got both children into school I had finally embarked on my dream career, I got myself a law degree through the Open University, proudly achieving a 2.1 and had started the next step towards qualify as a solicitor. I was working as a paralegal and studying at the same time, I was focussed and driven, I wanted to give my children a better future.
I saw a better future in my earning more money and providing a good role model for my children by working hard and achieving in my chosen career. I dreamt of returning to South East Asia, somewhere I visited many years ago, only this time I wanted to share that with my husband in our retirement. I had plans, so many plans but many of them might never have come to fruition because, well there was always the future at some point to do this stuff.
Cancer made me realise time is short, it forced me to prioritise and made me choose what I wanted to do because I needed to do that now or never. Faced with the reality that I might not have too many tomorrows and I might not see my children grow up I realised I needed to spend time with them now. I quit my legal training, I started home-educating my children one day a week and we went to South East Asia as a family, actually we went to a lot of places together.
You see while it is absolutely the worst thing that has happened to me, being diagnosed with Cancer I mean, it also has been the catalyst for some of the best things that I have done. I could so easily have ploughed on through life and woken up at the age of 80 realising I had missed my children growing up, and I was too frail to take those trips of a lifetime I had always put off until tomorrow.
So staying positive for me means getting on with life and really living it, and yes that can mean really feeling those emotions good and bad. So yes have a good cry if you need to, but do not be afraid to have fun, just because there is a bad situation going on does not mean you cannot be happy and enjoy the moment.
Right now life is good, today the sun shone and I was well enough to enjoy it. Tomorrow is another day and I do not know what that will bring, but I will take it however it comes.