I’ll never be thankful for cancer, but it’s changed me and taught me to love like never before

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BAZ Lurman talks about being blindsided on an idle Tuesday afternoon.

For me, it was a Thursday, just before Christmas, exactly one year ago to the day.

 Cancer -all I could think was, did someone really just say that? Cancer -all I could think was, did someone really just say that?

As the gas and air from the colonoscopy started to wear off, I will never forget the look on one of the doctor’s face.

She starred at me with sympathy.

Her face said it all, it told me my life was about to change and not for the better.

My consultant got straight to the point, they found had found tumour and he told me, “in my opinion it’s cancerous”.

 As the gas and air from the colonoscopy started to wear off, I will never forget the look on one of the doctor's faceDeborah James As the gas and air from the colonoscopy started to wear off, I will never forget the look on one of the doctor’s face

CANCER.

All I could think was, did someone really just say that?

I was 35, I have two kids to look after, and a school run to do, I didn’t have time for cancer.

When you get news like that, you mentally leave your body to try and digest what has been said.

Your world becomes a blur, and life as you know it changes forever.

You change, forever.

I’ve lived my whole life with anxiety, hypochondria and a general fear of exactly what is happening, happening.

 When you get news like cancer, you mentally leave your body to try and digest what has been saidDeborah James When you get news like cancer, you mentally leave your body to try and digest what has been said

And yet, right at that moment I was numb. I felt nothing.

I tortured myself to the point of panic attacks over this exact reality.

And yet, I was numb.

When the word “cancer” is thrown at you, you end up in a suspended reality and somehow, god knows how, you just exist.

You are not quite sure you are really a part of your own life anymore, but at least, for the moment, you’re breathing.

Over the next few days, I went through a barrage of scans and tests.

 When the word Debroah James When the word “cancer” is thrown at you, you end up in a suspended reality  It was a Thursday, just before Christmas, exactly one year ago to the day, when I got the news It was a Thursday, just before Christmas, exactly one year ago to the day, when I got the news

Each time, before the results come back, you’re planning your funeral and looking up every worst case scenario that Google has to offer.

And as you crack open your second bottle of wine in an attempt to accept your fate, you question your life choices.

Is this my LOT? How will I be remembered? Did I make my parents proud?

Oh and there are my children, my darling babies – how will they survive without me?

How can life be this cruel? It’s not fair!

And then somehow you go through the motions of dealing with the cancer monster – because you are desperate to live.

And you don’t have a choice.

 Each time, before the results come back, you're planning your funeral and looking up every worst case scenarioDeborah James Each time, before the results come back, you’re planning your funeral and looking up every worst case scenario

People tell me I’m brave – I’m not. I’m doing what every other mother with stage 4 cancer and two little children that hang on to your every world does.

You grit your teeth, roll up your sleeves and get on with it.

You ride the rollercoaster that is first walking after a major operation, the depression of knowing your cancer is stage 4.

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You start by thinking there is light at the end of the tunnel, but then you discover it’s just another long tunnel.

You face the hideousness that is chemo and you lie awake at night contemplating if you have a future.

And somehow I find myself here – a year later, wondering what the hell has happened to me.

I’m beyond grateful that I am one of the 35 per cent that make it through the first year with stage 4 bowel cancer.

Anniversaries are weird. While they are cause for celebration, they are also a reminder of those who haven’t made it and they are a time to let everything that has happened sink in.

As I embark on my  second year living with cancer, I’m scared for what might be.

 I've learned to love in a way I never knew existed, I've learnt to live in the nowDEBORAH JAMES I’ve learned to love in a way I never knew existed, I’ve learnt to live in the now  I'm beyond grateful that I am one of the 35 per cent that make it through the first year with stage 4 bowel cancer I’m beyond grateful that I am one of the 35 per cent that make it through the first year with stage 4 bowel cancer

With less that one in ten people surviving more than five years, just how many more anniversaries will I have?

Is time running out now I’ve made it through a year?

I’m still under going treatment, with more chemo, more operations and more uncertainly to come and I’m shattered – truly shattered.

My body is at breaking point. My little battle wagon has endured 17 chemo cycles, four operations including removing parts of my bowel and lung, hundreds of blood tests, numerous CT scans and X-rays, relentless amounts of hospital visits, too many days waiting for scan results, and a new found talent for picking up bugs – including pneumonia (while on holiday!).

It has a new found skill for vomiting, pooping and peeing all at the same time, and I’m learning to blame all my irrational behaviour on the steroid rage!

 Mt body has endured 17 chemo cycles, four operations including removing parts of my bowel and lung, hundreds of blood tests, numerous CT scans and X-raysDebroah James Mt body has endured 17 chemo cycles, four operations including removing parts of my bowel and lung, hundreds of blood tests, numerous CT scans and X-rays

But still I plough on in the hope of more time.

I started the year with more chance of dying than staying alive and today is a milestone of the crazy, hellish, fun and incredible year I’ve had.

I will never be thankful to cancer but as a result of cancer I’ve done things this past year I never thought possible.

From raising vital funds of more than £45k for Bowel Cancer UK, to facing my fear of needles, operations and anything hospital related, to re-discovering my love of writing, learning to embrace the Instagram world and even negotiating a book deal!

 I started the year with more chance of dying than staying alive and today is a milestone of the crazy, hellish, fun and incredible year I've had I started the year with more chance of dying than staying alive and today is a milestone of the crazy, hellish, fun and incredible year I’ve had

I’ve learned to love in a way I never knew existed, I’ve learnt to live in the now, I’ve learned the strength that comes from a supportive family and I’ve learned I’m a pretty hard (slightly bonkers!) nutter!

I’m beyond grateful to the hundreds of people who have got me and others like me to this point.

My husband who copes with my online spending sprees (can I blame cancer for this too?) and steroid rage.

My family, friends, colleagues, the online world, the nurses and doctors, The Royal Marsden and wonderful charities like Bowel Cancer UK and Stand up to Cancer.

I will be raising a glass to all of you – before I embark on yet more chemo!




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