Katie Smale, Hemel Hempstead
My husband was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer on Friday 13 January 2017. That consultants office, the way it looked, smelt and even the temperature of it, will permanently stay engrained in my mind. The highly articulate consultant, impeccably dressed and well-mannered, had just uttered the words you never imagine hearing. Cancer!
Not just the word ‘cancer’, he had used that word in a sentence, while discussing my husband’s health. Even though my head was swimming with emotions and I felt like my heart momentarily stopped, I was still, just about able to deduce something…
If I were to ask you: ‘what’s the most beautiful word in the English language?’ What would your reply be?
Last year, I would imagine I would have mulled over one of the following: love, happiness, opportunity, beauty, family, freedom…but after the events of this year, my answer is in the forefront of my mind.
Up until 13 January, when my life was all encompassed with sunshine and rainbows, I was blissfully unaware of what was truly important in life. If you were to ask me what my greatest dream was, it would have been superficial in its nature, and would have included being the proud owner of a Chanel handbag. The mood board I carried in my mind would have depicted the following aspirations:
1. buy a house
2. own a fancy car
3. to have money in my bank account at the end of the month
4. be a size 10 again
Reflecting, I feel like the above dreams were shallow and vacuous but, my life was pretty perfect and I wasn’t aware of the terrifying hand that nature could cruelly deal you.
Fast forward to my life right now and the above hopes couldn’t be further from the truth. Now, the word ‘Chanel’ is not the most important in my vocabulary. Now, the word I dream of hearing the most is:
The word clear, is the most beautiful and satisfying word in the English language. The word clear provides promise, opportunity and the ability for dreams to be carried out. Clear provides future; which is the only thing that I now aspire to grasp. Material possessions and items are no longer significant and, the idea of being able to restart our lives, is the most incredible prospect ever. When (notice I use the word ‘when’) when we hear that word, I will grab it with both hands and hold on to that feeling forever. When that word is uttered, it will provide a significant end to this challenging chapter and, I have a strong feeling, we will never be the same again.
When a loved one is diagnosed with a disease, your life is completely transformed. You meander through a myriad of unwanted emotions and are set on a testing rollercoaster. You find yourself reflecting on your ‘previous’ life – one untarnished by cancer – and punish yourself for not being appreciative of what you once had. You hear people moaning about daily nuances and you wish you could have their ‘bad days’. You dream of terrible days where the train was late. You wish for times when you were in financial difficulty. You could only long for moments when you were in bed with a horrific cold. For all those things are far more preferable to living with and battling an unpredictable illness.
You find yourself struggling to empathise while a friend is recounting how their boss is unfair and you cannot sympathise when someone mentions how they have ‘had the week from hell’. This used to anger me but, I’ve learnt that, we will all have our times of devastation, so why not embrace those periods in your life where an unfair boss is featured at the top of your ‘list of moans’.
I mentioned earlier that I am waiting for ‘when’ we hear the beautiful utterance of ‘clear’ and I wholeheartedly believe that that moment will arise. It has to. It’s not in our plan to not hear it. I know that I won’t ever be the same again after hearing that word. My wishes and dreams will have adjusted and my overall life dream will be to love, laugh and enjoy life to the max.
Although, I do still dream of rocking a black quilted Chanel bag!
Dave sadly died in May 2020.
But we’re improving access to treatment and care for advanced bowel cancer
Nearly 4,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer each year. This is when the cancer has spread to somewhere else in the body, such as the liver or lungs. People with advanced bowel cancer typically have poorer outcomes but access to surgery and drugs can help to extend life and can sometimes be curative.
We are determined to improve survival rates and support for people with advanced bowel cancer. We want to see improved access to high-quality treatment to ensure longer survival and a better quality of life for people, including:
- Increasing survival rates and improving holistic support for patients and their families
- Reducing inequalities in access to potential life-saving liver surgery
- Improving access to cancer drugs based on clinical need and not postcode
- Providing better communications and support for people with palliative and end of life care needs
The word clear provides promise, opportunity and the ability for dreams to be carried out.