Shirley

shirley

They didn't call it a tumour and didn't hint it was cancer. I didn't think it was cancer. I quite accepted that I had to have this operation, I treated it like appendicitis and so did the family. But it was bowel cancer, quite a large one. The doctor said I didn't need to have chemotherapy at that stage and I would have to wait for the prognosis to see if it was malignant. I got the results after a week. What was quite strange, was that I had never been aware of it. I think it is the silent killer because none of us know what is inside. Suddenly we are plunged into illness. Until it happens, you don't think these things can happen to you, and everything falls apart when you become ill. A friend said you seem calm, you're not upset. She couldn't understand. I said, I have never been afraid to die because I feel we all go on to better things.

When I lost my first child, although I was upset I had to be strong because my husband was so upset. Maybe that has something to do with it, my being strong to cope. Many years later I was told that my stillborn child was watching over me and that has given me strength. I think I was meant to survive, maybe to look after my other children. In the first year, after treatment, you naturally wonder what every ache is. I had a lot of trouble where a drainage tube had been inserted into me. It was so painful for a long time. It gradually went, but when I am tired, I can still feel a sensation there. In the early days, you do worry and I needed organisations, like CancerBACUP, to query if this is normal. It is great to have somebody to talk to. You don't get any sympathy from your doctors.

More people should be around to support people, who have been told they have cancer, it is so shattering. Here I am twelve years on, I do feel very lucky. I enjoy every day because I always feel - maybe tomorrow I won't be so lucky. I painted the tree of life and how I saw the illness, a very dark side and struggling to come up. I leaned the tree towards
the dark side, and the side that is more upright, is brighter, more positive. The negative and the positive, what might happen and what could happen. I didn't fear death but nevertheless I was still glad to be alive, I feel the tree of life does express that, a dark and a light side but the tree is always growing, it is rooted. I know it dies at some time but a tree can go on living for a long time, I have my feet firmly on the ground and I did cope. I felt I had to be brave, not for my sake, but for my family. I kept my emotions in, which may not have been a good thing, but I was strong, and knew my guardian angel was looking after me.