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The Big C - finding comfort by drawing

What’s that song by Dinah Washington? What a Difference a Day Makes? The tune keeps coming into my mind but instead of those 24 little hours bringing sunshine and flowers it brought me a tsunami of fear, anger and, yes at times, despair.

The Big C has chosen me as one of the many millions of unfortunate hosts it thrives upon.

I’d only very recently bought my ‘Rebellious Hope’ T-shirt to support Debra James and the Bowel Babe charity. “What a woman!” I thought as I made my online PayPal purchase. “I’ll be proud to support her!”

I never dreamt that in only a few short weeks I would have my own Cancer membership card.

I was awaiting my two-week referral for a colonoscopy when events overtook me. Terrible sickness meant the NHS picked me up with expert hands when I dragged myself into A&E.

Subsequent scans and colonoscopies have identified a 10cm (large) tumour in my colon and it’s causing havoc as it gorges itself on the body it ironically needs to survive.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but nevertheless some of the things I’ve learned may be helpful to mention.

For my lovely female friends out there; it’s been extraordinary to see the progress in getting the ‘Menopause’ right out there as a headline now. The right for women to access HRT and the wide – almost limitless – side effects that women can suffer.

I had resisted HRT until September 2021. The reason I accepted patches was because the requirement to return to the workplace post-Covid meant I felt there was more pressure on me to manage the unbelievable hot flushes I was suffering. (I had been able to work online wearing shorts and no shoes with the window wide open!)

The HRT was awesome and I was able to do my thing with clients without fear of dripping with sweat at any moment.

Moods levelled out but work was as full on, as ever, and when I started to loose my appetite and feel tired I just thought I needed more HRT.

I didn’t class my need to see a GP as urgent and waited over two weeks for my appointment.

What I should have done was to really pay attention to symptoms that had no previous history and were unusually unique for me (I LOVE my food!).

The Menopause is only one small part of a very complex system. It’s worth remembering that.

Most people say “if anyone can do this, you can Hilary!” However, managing overwhelming emotions when feeling seriously unwell is a task for all of us and I am NOT superwoman.

Normally I would rely on animals or the outdoors to give me the energy I need when times are bad. Being so weak meant I couldn’t access either. My brain was too numb to write words so I picked up a pencil and drew some pictures to capture my feelings.

It was VERY cathartic so lesson number two is that drawing a problem or a feeling in whatever way works for you can be great self help whatever the context.

My journey has only just begun but I plan to share my learning points as I go that hopefully may be useful to anyone not just those unfortunate to have won the cancer lottery.

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