As a new member of Annabel’s Angels, in charge of content such as blog posts, like this, and statuses and tweets, I was asked to write something that was light hearted, something that took minds off of the crushing, stomach-dropping weight of The Big C that many carry. I have a story that needs to be told, and I think we need to talk about it more, to be more open.
I have only experienced Cancer from an outside perspective, never undergoing such an emotional, physical and mental strain that sits in Cancer’s passenger seat. I have never had Cancer, and I’m so grateful for that, I feel selfish for saying this as I know so many that have had it and all one can say in this situation is “I am well and truly sorry”.
What I do need to say is, is that my own father had Cancer, past tense, ‘had’, he no longer has it, we are lucky, it could have been worse, “it’s the better kind of Cancer” (as I’ve been told by clueless, yet devoted friends that were attempting to cling on to the ‘supportive’ friend role. Note: I love you all, I am so grateful).
Things that happened No. 1
His lifestyle has changed, he had Bladder Cancer, resulting in him needing to have it removed. Now, this article is not a pity party, nor is it from the extremely brave and tenacious experience of survivors or those living with Cancer. I am not giving advice on how to deal with Cancer, I am not a Doctor, I am not a counsellor, a therapist. I am 21 years old, I am young and naive and I merely want this article to shine a light on how important family and friends are, be it one friend, be it one family member, be it that one neighbour that used to feed your hamster named ‘Phillip’ when you went away on holiday.
Having someone is important.
I am lucky enough to have these things (not a hamster named Phillip however, such is life). It does need to be acknowledged that this is a story about how I dealt with my Dad having Cancer. Cancer is Cancer, defiant of any specific type, Cancer affects families, affects individuals, many may not be able to relate to this. This is okay. But read anyway and enlighten yourself a bit.
It does need to be known that dealing with Cancer is not easy for anyone. I guess the point that I’m making here is that Annabel’s Angels is a support charity, it does stand for family, for friends, for togetherness.
This local charity just makes it that little bit more easier to speak out about it. Cancer is something that nobody should have to deal with alone. It’s important to know how to support and communicate with your loved ones. This article is for everyone. If you stop reading here, that is fine, I hope you have a pleasant day.
Things that happened No. 2
I was in my First Year of University, and two months in when I found out that my Dad had been diagnosed with Cancer.
Now the interesting thing is my sister, 6 years older, was the one to tell me. I was in Nottingham at the time and she was living in Canada, 3,000 miles, and she was the one to call. This hurt first of all, although I love my sister, I would have much rather heard it from my dad.
- 1)There is already an unspoken issue: does he not think I can handle it?
- 2) Can they not speak to me about it?
- 3)Why can’t my Mum tell me?
- 4)Is he going to die? (this thought process happened in the space of 30 seconds).
I proceeded to ring my Dad and he started crying, only of course because I was weeping down the phone in an attempt to get answers out of him as to why he selfishly did not tell me. I did not know how to speak to him about it. The months went on and I rang him, talking at him, not to him, praying that I didn’t say anything that would remind him of his unwanted visitor. I didn’t want to upset him. Furthermore I didn’t want to upset my friends, I bottled myself up and smiled refusing to speak about it.
Things that happened No. 2.5
I felt bad if I went out and enjoyed the University experience. I felt bad because I thought that I should always be feeling sad that my own father had Cancer and could die. How dare I have fun whilst my Dad went through Cancer.
But he wasn’t going anywhere. I had only spoken to my counsellor and my best friend at this point, I did not know how to speak to my Mum or my Dad about it. My sister, the then mental health worker, was all about talking and sharing. As the youngest in the family I of course was stubborn and didn’t know how to speak to them about it, so like many I bottled it away, occasionally having bursts of strong overwhelming emotions. Note here, communication is key.
Yes I was speaking to a counsellor and I spoke to my best friend, she gave me kind words and was a shoulder to cry on, and provided unwavering, unbroken support (to you I am eternally grateful). Although they helped excessively, these people were not my Dad, I needed to speak to him, to understand. My counsellor said something that has stuck with me forever.
One day after my 6th and final session with we were sat in her office on the top floor, it was quiet, I had just spoken, it was now her turn. She leant forward over her clipboard and smiled, she said:
“think of your life in a snow globe, the snow globe has been shaken and you’re now stuck in the center of a blizzard. What do you think happens after the snow globe is shaken?”
...a few seconds my mind whirred for a complex answer, it did not come, so I replied with the simplest answer, “it settles”.
Things that happened No. 3
Over the summer of that year we started going for drives and having long talks. I’m now closer to my Dad than I have ever been before in my life. It was difficult but we all got through it. I learnt from my own experience that it’s important to understand, to those of you that have friends or family that are going through Cancer, that although you are their support network, their rock, their everything they absolutely do not need to tell you every little thing that is happening to them, of course, unless they want to.
Do not demand to know about treatment plans, if they want to tell you they will. I learned this the hard way. My Dad found solace in Macmillan (and cricket) and it helped him deal with it on a personal level and as a shared experience. This is the importance of charities that want nothing more than to support you and your family.
Communication is so important, it needs to be said. We found a way to communicate as a family. And I’ve found that speaking to friends is so important, sometimes it’s hard for me to initiate conversation about the topic however I do it if I need someone to speak to someone on the outside. There is an understanding that we have that they should trust me to tell them if something is wrong, a worry, or an issue. They ask if my family and I are doing well, I explain only what needs to be explained, or say only what needs to be said “yes he’s fine, he had a Doctor’s appointment the other day, everything is okay, thank you for asking”.
I’ve used the snow globe phrase constantly throughout his treatment, the most recent usage of it was in November 2014 when Cancer nearly took his life. Cancer is hard, it’s brutal, it’s nasty, it’s every negative phrase ever, it’s repulsive, it is not a friend, it is the enemy, it is a bunch of bad words that are said when you stub your pinky toe on a table leg, or step on a plug or piece of lego. But as a team, through thick and thin, friends and family will always be there and they are needed.
I joined Annabel’s Angels because this is what they stand for.