Smiley Things

Last week I was completing an application form and one of the questions was “What makes you smile?” The question stumped me a little. Not because I don’t smile – I like to think I’m usually quite an upbeat person (Ad, stop laughing šŸ˜‚šŸ˜‚šŸ˜‚šŸ˜‚) despite the crap going on in my life – but what struck me was how different my answer is now to 6 months ago. I’m not really talking about the big things in life – I always have been, and always will be, at my happiest when doing nice things with the greatest loves of my life; Ad and the kids. It doesn’t matter whether that’s curled up on the sofa watching BGT, girly shopping (shopping with the boys would feature on a “things I hate the most” list), cinema, walking the dog – just being around them makes me smile. Usually. Unless Ad’s being an arse. Or I’m being snippy. Or the kids are being bratish. And then it’s bloody hard work. This is still the same. One of life’s constants.

But the day to day things that make me smile have been totally flipped on their head following my diagnosis. Things I took for granted or didn’t notice are now so important, other things were not even on my radar before cancer but are now very much part of life!

Eating & drinking – for a good 10 days following treatment eating is a real challenge. Everything tastes bleuggghh. Or doesn’t taste at all. Or is the wrong consistency. Or the wrong temperature.  Eating becomes a necessary chore. Hot food in particular doesn’t work for me for a few days, neither does bread, cakes, chocolate, alcohol, anything fizzy, coffee…The list is endless. I can tolerate cereal, iced water, ice lollies, boiled eggs (left to cool of course). I eat to live. So when my taste buds start fighting back I know I’m through the low point of my cycle. By week 3 of each treatment cycle I’m eating and drinking everything in sight – and enjoying every second of it!

A week without a hospital appointment – my pre 2017 medical history is unremarkable. I had my tonsils out when I was 11 and sadly miscarried my first pregnancy in 1999. I seriously can’t think of any other medical issues I’ve had. But now my life is ruled by hospital appointments – scans, tests, consultants, treatment. Barely a week goes by that I don’t have to see someone and some weeks there are 3 or 4 appointments to slot in. So a week without the disruption of a hospital trip feels quite a treat!

Messages – I totally love getting all your text/whatsapp/messenger/Facebook/Wordpress messages offering support, checking up on me, just wanting a chat, seeing if I’m ok.  If I’m having a low or difficult day they really do give me a lift and make me smile. Knowing people are cheering me on from the sidelines is incredibly special. So never underestimate the power of an “Are you ok?” message – it can turn someone’s day around. My absolute favourite messages are those that begin, “You don’t know me, but”; strangers reaching out either to offer me advice and support or to tell me how my blogs have helped them. The kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze me.

Working – I’m sure I’ve spent most of my adult life wishing my work days away, feeling like work is a total drain on my time and energy. But during that first couple of weeks following treatment, when I’m either not working at all or only able to work minimally from home, I miss it. A lot. I love getting back to the office in week 3. I miss the people, many of whom are long term friends, I miss the banter, I miss feeling useful, I miss being part of it all. Getting back to work for a few days between treatments always feels brilliant.

Chemo Day – This is a bittersweet one. Don’t get me wrong, having chemo doesn’t make me smile. At best it’s a long, boring day which makes me feel ill for days. But it does mean that I’m one step closer to this crap being over. Or at least one step closer to being able to move on to the next stage of treatment, moving forward. And every dose of poison is another bitchslap to cancer. That makes me smile.

Week 3 – For the first 2 weeks of my chemo cycle I either feel rough, am at risk of infection, have no energy or the unpredictable nature of the side effects mean I can’t risk being out and about. This means I have to cram my life into week 3; working, catching up with friends, eating, family time, days out, shopping. Week 3 is fab. I love it. And what’s even better is that soon “week 3 living” will be a thing of the past. Final chemo session is scheduled for June 5th. ā¤ļø

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