The rebranding of Pinchy

I did something small yesterday – tiny, really – that has a much larger significance. I removed two little words from my Twitter profile. So what? you may be asking, quite reasonably. Well, the two little words were ”F*cked Cancer’.

It just felt right to let them go. Or maybe it stopped feeling right to include them. I only have 140 characters to sum myself up for my trusty band of followers, and spending ten per cent of that on a disease I had a couple of years ago (I’ll be three years past diagnosis this October) suddenly seemed…what? Irrelevant? Awkward? Embarrassing? Like I was hanging onto something in the past and continuing to let it define me? Maybe even a little bit David Brent going back to Wernham Hogg after he’d been sacked. Sometimes it’s just time to move on.

This isn’t to say, of course, that I will ever forget about having cancer. The day I was diagnosed was, and will always be, as defining a moment in my life as getting married and giving birth to my two babies, in that it changed everything. There are moments in one’s life when it really does seem, quite tangibly, that you are one person one day, and a completely different person the next.

It's all about these little guys...
It’s all about these little guys…

Or, perhaps, that you see the world differently as one chapter closes and another opens. Like you are breathing a subtly different air; like the appearance of everything has been put through an Instagram filter. Marriage, birth, death, diagnosis, divorce, and lottery wins: they split your life into ‘before’ and ‘after’.

So pre-October 2010 was BC: Before Cancer, and everything after 13 October was AD: After Diagnosis. That sounds a little simplistic, but that’s how it was. One day, life is a certain way. The next day, your previous taken-for-granted existence has disappeared, forever.

I was accidentally reading some emails from the BC-AD period this week – you know when you press a button on Outlook and you’re suddenly looking at your oldest emails, rather than the newest ones? – and it was plain weird. In the weeks leading up to The Big Day, it’s all chat, jokes and making arrangements with friends, liaising with existing clients on projects, and setting up meetings with new clients. I marvelled at the normality of it. The innocence.

From 14 October, the emails have a different texture and tone. Cancelling meetings and dates, and explaining why. Announcing, carefully, my news. Asking for help and support and advice. I was astonished at my calmness, my clarity, my eloquence, the lack of panic or distress in my words. But it’s really obvious that nowhere, in not one single email, do I say the word ‘cancer’: it was still too raw, too powerful, too shocking.

My 40 year old boy on his birthday trip to Roma.
My 40 year old boy on his birthday trip to Roma.

I’ve said before that I don’t consider the day I was diagnosed to be the worst day of my life. It was probably up there for DH, my sister, and my parents, but not for me. And I’ve said before, also, that I wouldn’t have not gone through it: I don’t want to go through chemo again, ta, but I honestly feel it was a critical experience, a positive turning point, and full of important lessons. I’m still processing all of that – it takes time to become someone new, or rather, to slough off the crap that has accumulated over the years and allow yourself, with love and approval, to just be yourself.

Rome and Cosmopolitans: what's not to like?
Rome and Cosmopolitans: what’s not to like?

Nevertheless, I have never defined myself as a cancer patient, sufferer, victim or survivor. It’s just something that happened to me, it’s not everything I am, by a long way (although I know I do go on about it rather a lot in this blog…) And it’s time, now my scars are silvering and my hair is finally thick and growing, to move forward. I’ll still nod respectfully to  cancer, of course: it will never not be a significant part of my life and history. I honour its memory. But it’s not part of my present or, god willing, my future.

And I don’t want it to be one of my ‘things’ any more. My adorable children, their education, the marvels and bafflements of love, books, writing, cats, trees, good light, cooking and eating good food, good wine, good company, the pop music of the late 80s and early 90s, quantum physics, the mysteries of the universe, complementary therapy, Italy (we had an amazing time in Rome for DH’s 40th in April…), London, social media, art, stripey tops, pretty necklaces, spa days, heels, being a red-headed Leo – all of these will continue to be my ‘things’. Cancer doesn’t belong  in that rich, colourful tapestry any more. There will always be a bit of me that’s ‘the girl who f*cked cancer’, but it’s rapidly becoming a 1970s-orange-tinted Polaroid.

Someone I adore once told me I had ‘f*cked cancer with dignity and courage’. I look back on that brief interlude with my head held high, but only for a moment. I turn round to face today, and tomorrow, and the sun on this golden afternoon is warm on my face, and I am smiling, and the view is really quite something.

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14 comments

  1. I got a tingle up my spine and goose-bumps reading this. The best is yet to come for you. I know it! Love Bernie

  2. Once again, so much I can identify with, Maya. It’s great to move on, isn’t it?! The reference on my Twitter profile went a while ago. It’ll always be a part of me, but thankfully now a part of my past, and, as you say, God willing, not a part of my future. All the best. x

    • Thanks Fiona. Yup, it’s a weird thing, accepting and acknowledging that cancer is part of you, but past, and that ‘interesting’ experience is over. The journey continues…

  3. Good on you for looking forward. The memory doesn’t disappear – but I think at a certain point, for the sake of sanity, we need to move ahead in our own ways.

  4. A lovely ‘sunny’ post, optimistic and moving – just what I need to read from someone, who once, had cancer. So much depressing stuff out there to read that this shining post provides much encouragement to anyone a year, or two behind you (18 months AD for me!) And yes, life has changed, so many important lessons learnt, life is actually so, so much brighter (but I’d happily erase that diagnosis from history if I could) So when I’m woken from my sleep by my 2 year old I have a brief moment of “god no, I’m not ready to get up yet” but then I remember what I’ve been through, and why I’ve been through it and I happily get up, lift my bubba from her cot, and we get on with yet another glorious day. Life is good, enjoy x

    • Thank Cheryl. The journey continues, but I see no reason to think it won’t have a happy ending! Cancer doesn’t make you into a saint but it does often provide a useful reminder that life is short, and gives one a bit more perspective when we are at risk of sweating the small stuff. What matters, really? That we show the people we love that we love them, and look after our bodies and minds. That each day has moments of joy, and gratitude. That we know the sun is shining on us even though it might be a cloudy day. Carry on moving forward and learning those lessons! Much love xxx

  5. Hello Maya, I’m a friend of Cherie from Australia. I loved reading your blog and can relate to you on a number of levels. I am now 7 yrs on fro m diagnosis, a different soul since 2006. That same year my darling husband was diagnosed with dementia, cancer seemed less critical to me. I did what was required of me then to borrow your parlance said F off!!.
    Len passed away on July 12 th 2012 and I am still trying to make sense of this world without him.
    You inspiring attitude can only help with my journey. I’m so glad Cherie introduced us, she is a wonderful friend and keeps me smiling with irreverent jokes. She and John have been part of our lives for many years.
    Your approach to life reminds me so much of Len, he expects great things of me and always rated my abilities far higher than I ever did.. I know he would have liked you enormously.
    As Cherie said , keep writing. Dora.

    • Hi Dora! How lovely to hear from a friend of my lovely mother-in-law-in-law (!), all the way from Australia! I’m so sorry to hear about Len, and so pleased to hear you are seven years past diagnosis. Life throws a lot of stuff at us that can be blindsiding – it sounds like Len would be enormously proud of you. Have a wonderful day. xxx

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