Today is world cancer day so what better day to tell my very own cancer story.
It will be as light hearted as possible as I will not let that fucker of a disease take anymore of my positive mental attitude.
My relationship with cancer started a very long time ago in 1999 when my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It was not picked up in time, despite many trips to the doctor, and he found out he was terminal in November 1999. I have managed to forget many things in my time, usually why I walked into a room, however hearing my dad tell me this bullshit news is something that will always be etched into my mind.
I was 17 years old and just coming through a tough time with my dad and our relationship. Now I realise that this was just part of growing up but I still carried so much guilt around with me because I thought I should have been a better daughter. Guilt that I have since let go off only after years of working through the emotions. We had a good relationship and I felt that I was very open with him. He always stayed up late so I would come home after a night drinking 20:20 or White Lightening at the park with my mates and tell him all the ridiculous stories about what we had been up too!!! I started off trying to pretend I was sober but in the end I think I just embraced the fact that he must have known I was fucked so to just roll with it.
This was the 90s before smart phones or Netflix or 1683 different games consoles. There was even less to do then than there is now so we got pissed up in parks to pass the time, don't judge me lol. They were cracking times and I am so damn happy I grew up when I did. We waited until after dinner to get smashed though so we did have some standards!
On 27th May 2000 my dad passed away in the early hours of the morning. It is so weird because no-one in my house had slept that night, it was as if in our hearts we knew what was coming. I wasn't shocked when the phone rang in the middle of the night. The shittest phone call any family should have to receive.
That is where my downward spiral started. 18 years old is no age to loose a parent and I did not cope well at all. My diet consisted of a cheese and ham sandwich a day and probably 20 fags. I don't think I drank a sip of water either. I would sit in my bedroom and smoke out my window listening to Westlife, Toni Braxton or Celene Dion.
I had absolutely no idea how to handle all these new emotions.
This is going to sound crazy but in a way I feel lucky to have lost my dad when I did - yes I know insane but hear me out. I've since had to watch friends loose their parents and being that bit older they are very AWARE of everything where as I feel that being young shielded me from a lot. Or maybe it was my mum protecting me, I don't know. However I feel that in a way I got off lightly because I just wasn't mature enough to really grasp it all. However that could also have been a downfall because I was fucked up for so many years as I didn't know how the fuck to process everything.
Grief is brutal. So so brutal. It never goes away. The ache in your heart lives with you forever but just gets duller as time passes on. There will be times though when it stabs so violently that it knocks you off your feet and you are brought straight back to that moment of pure pain.
The only way I felt like I could cope was to block ALL emotions out. Over time I just didn't feel anything - no love, happiness, excitement, joy, nothing positive.The only emotions I knew were anger, irritability and negativity and that is no way to live your life. I mean this didn't happen overnight. I didn't go from happy, positive, joyful and full of life Paula to the sewer troll over night, it was a gradual process which was worse as I didn't see it coming or notice just how toxic I was!
I think it was when I met my husband, Simon that I started to realise that I was a right miserable cunt and I needed to do something about that miserable cuntness!! I thank the universe every day that he saw the good in me and didn't walk away.
I feel so lucky to still have my girlfriends because I can not have been easy to be friends with. At times I'm pretty sure they wanted to just tell me to do one but they always stuck by me and despite a few ups and downs we are still best friends and I am grateful for that everyday. They knew who I was before the grief took over my life and they loved me enough to stick around and see me come out the other side.
They tried to help me and were always there to talk and offer advice but I was in self destruct mode and you know what it's like? You just don't listen to the sound advice that you really should take note of. Instead you crack on with your rather questionable decisions and end up in a more depressing situation - the most vicious circle to get caught up in.
Over the past 10 or so years I have had to really work hard on my mindset. That seems like such a long time but it really has been a process, a real fucking slow process! I had to teach myself to feel again. It is so difficult because I have felt the ultimate grief and the ultimate heartbreak. The thought of that again is enough to just be like fuck it I'd rather just be numb! But then you miss out on all the good feelings. The love when one of my boys comes for an impromptu cuddle or tells me they love me. The feeling when I'm all snuggled up on the sofa with Simon and I feel so grounded and safe. The excitement I feel when I am going out with the girls and can't wait to cackle like witches and probably piss everyone off in the restaurant because we are just having such a bloody good, and often loud time. The joy every time Nipa Threads gets an order. I want to FEEL again and if that means I have to open myself up then that is what I have to do.
I have a little practise that I would like to share with you. I am very in tune with my thoughts these days. When I am having negative thoughts, that will turn into negative feelings, I catch myself before I go down the rabbit hole of how wank everything is! I take that thought and I imagine it as a piece of paper that I rip up and throw in the bin. Then I think of something that I know will fill me with instant joy and focus on that.
If you are THINKING negatively then you will FEEL negative just in the same way that if you are thinking positively then you will feel positive. We are our thoughts so make sure you are choosing to think in a way that serves you not in a way that will see you reaching for the biscuit barrel or vodka bottle.
On the 26th May 2021 (oh the irony!) I am diagnosed with breast cancer.
I have the same disease in me that killed my dad. That shit is scary.
I always thought that if I was ever diagnosed with cancer that I would crumble and just not be able to cope. However I was an absolute fucking badass and the strongest I have ever been in my life. I am so fucking proud of myself and how I have dealt with breast cancer.
When I found the lump I was obviously pretty scared but I convinced myself it was just a cyst. My mum gets them so I was sure it was just a build up of fatty tissue and nothing to worry about. I was so convinced that I went to get my biopsy results on my own, for fuck sake. As soon as I was called through however, I just knew. Despite the masks I am pretty damn good at reading people (thank you 16 years in customer service!!) and the energy I felt just walking to meet the consultant - I knew. Despite that you are still never really ready to hear those words, you have cancer.
I am not going to go too much into my own story in this blog as there is just tooooo much to say so I will dedicate some time to getting my thoughts and feelings down. It is still very raw for me and I find it hard to express it.
The hardest part of the whole thing was having to tell people my diagnosis and even now thinking back to it the knot of anxiety I immediately feel in my stomach makes me want to puke.
Unfortunately we will all know someone who has been directly affected by cancer or that person may be you. It is an absolute cunt of a disease as it continues to ruin peoples lives with absolutely no shits given.
I do want to finish on a positive note. I am healthy and cancer free. I still have a way to go to recover - the fatigue is real - but on the whole I'm back to my sarcastic best.
Being diagnosed has given me a new perspective on life. I am kinder to myself, I speak to myself in a positive tone and I look after my health more. I am more active, more productive and I work smarter. I want to live my life to the full. I want to enjoy what I am doing, enjoy my surroundings, enjoy who I am spending my time with. I have absolutely no time for anything that doesn't serve me in a positive way. I have no time for toxic people or situations. I am more present, more mindful and I am working on being more calm - that one is definitely going to be an ongoing project! I let shit go!! I do not dwell on bullshit, I do not worry what people think of me. I am surrounded by lots of amazing people who I know love me and have my back - that matters and I am so grateful to these angels. I will not put myself in toxic situations for others - I do what I want, what is good for me and mine and I don't tolerate any bullshit. I've gone from existing to really living.
Pretty damn liberating to be honest.
To anyone who has a similar story, so much love to you. I don't want to be condescending but time really is the greatest healer. The pain will never go away but you will learn to live and deal with it in your own way. You will learn to feel the joy of the memory.
All together now FUCK YOU CANCER 💛