This song

Yesterday I listened to a song that was a massive hit in Italy while I was having my chemotherapy (Sei nell’anima, by Giana Nannini). The last lines of the song are, “drop by drop, side by side”, and A used to say those words to me when I was feeling down and it always lifted my spirits. I had just started my chemotherapy and we went to a wedding and they played this song and I thought, “oh my god, I can’t do this.” I had a ‘moment’. A moment where I felt totally alienated from everyone around me. Yesterday I listened to this song and I felt the most profound sadness. Loss. I was blindsided. These are the wobbly moments that try to knock me off an already tilted axis. I remind myself to breathe. I remind myself that I couldn’t be the same after everything that has happened. I remind myself that I am doing the best that I can. And that no one can ask more of me than that. But I wish I could remember how I felt before. I really wish that.

If I asked why

Did this happen

To me

There would be no answer.

This is the thing

That makes me catch my breath

The thought that this

Has no solution.

And all the hope

That I stored up

Tightly in my chest

Has evaporated.

And perhaps the thing

That makes me saddest of all

Is that I am forgetting who I was

Before this happened.



So, one operation over. And it’s cancer. So, okay and hmmm and what’s next? Another operation looms. They need to see if it’s spread. So I go and have my body injected with a radioactive dye and I sit in the car park in A’s car, massaging my left breast because you have to make sure that the dye reaches the tumour site. We laugh a lot because I look demented. Then I go back in and they scan my body to find the nearest lymph node. Dr M pops in, all jolly, and he looks at the scan and it’s all set. Operation tomorrow – one night in hospital. This is called – science, folks! – a sentinel node biopsy. They will remove the node nearest to the tumour and test it to see if the cancer has spread.

And back to the hospital again. I’m in a women-only ward. A has to leave at 8 o’clock and for the first time in my life I feel alone. ALONE. I’m thinking about my sister who is coming to see me the next day. I’m also thinking that she is about to tell my parents – who at this stage are oblivious – that I have breast cancer. CANCER! I’m thinking about how they might feel. I’m feeling guilty. I start to cry. Very quietly at first. Then a bit more. The room is full of very sick women. It’s very noisy. There are also the relatives who are fussing around and watching television. I have no one. Where’s my fuss? A lady sees me crying and comes over and gives me a hug. She asks me what I have. I tell her. She says, don’t worry, my sister had that and she’s fine. She offers me some food. Everyone looks at me. Everything about me is different and I am ALONE! But the kindness of strangers is strangely comforting.

In the morning, the doctors come to visit. Ah! Here is our English patient! They make me smile. Sometimes being different is good. And then it’s all over. A takes me home. Tomorrow I’m going to see my sister. I am shaking. She is part of me. I have never needed her so much. My sister.

Bruised but not beaten

Now I’m opening that box and it makes me so sad. Nagging backache. Must be the weather (humid), my posture (terrible). Feeling a bit sick. Silently screaming when people hugged me. Visits to the doctor, a chiropractor, check-ups in Italy and England. Must be nothing. Thought they could see something on my liver. Scared. More tests. Nothing there. Relief. Burst into tears on holiday with my family because my legs felt funny. Heaved two 20 kilo cases home from Italy. Hips on fire. Unable to get up off the bed after a bone scan. Pills that made me awake yet tired at the same time. My GP saying “Well, you know why we need to do some tests.” Going on holiday with some friends and knowing the moment I got there that I wanted to go home. Falling over on the ice. More tears. Delays. Feeling a lump in my neck. “Well, it doesn’t feel cancerous.” Crying with pain at the hospital. “It doesn’t feel like bone cancer.” All the odds stacked up in a rather large pile. Hearing afterwards that people ‘knew’ it was cancer. But how could they know when I didn’t? But it was. It is.

Bravery is not a word

I like very much

In relation to my illness

Or the way that I live.

I’m not a soldier preparing for battle,

I’m merely soldiering on.












So if I accept the news

The words

That make my blood run cold

The words

That change everything

For me.


Does that mean

That I am giving in?

That I am lying down?

That this is it?


If I accept

That I cannot change the outcome

I can also accept

That this is me

And I am stronger

Than anything that is thrown at me


Because I am me

And I accept that.

Nothing compares 2 U

The first time round it was about “Getting Better” and “A Cure”. This time it’s about “Control”. Had my second opinion. So many questions. The use of unpleasant words: “Extreme. Tumours. Operation.” Sometimes I just feel so tired. So sick of all of this. This week tests my emotional reserves. The second opinion is on Wednesday. Today is Sunday. I feel ‘better’ again. I cannot control my cancer but I can control how I react to it. Repeat 100 times.

Back in Sicily it was results’ day. I went to work as ‘normal’. I worked like a dog, as normal. I’d asked Dr M to call A as I was worried about not understanding his words. So began the calls. Between every lesson I called A and it was a “Don’t worry.” And a “I haven’t heard yet. “ And a “You’ll be fine.” I’d almost convinced myself that the results would be benign. Almost. But not really.

Nerves like nylon. Nerves like steel. A day D-R-A-G-G-I-N-G to its conclusion. A day like no other. Then came the break before the last lesson. The call came. “I’m outside.” So I went outside the school and I saw A and he said, “I’m sorry. It’s cancer.” And I said, “Oh, ok, thanks.” And I went back into the school and I told everyone.

The last lesson. Personal pronouns. Listen to the song. Fill in the gaps. Play the song. Nothing compares 2 u. Nothing. Play it again. Once more. All together. Don’t cry. Not like Sinead. Keep it together. Go home. Make that call.