Pretend you don’t have it.
creative partner Julia Pascal
reader Samantha Pearl
I didn’t have much confidence, I thought I’d just get a job. I wanted to be a hairdresser, but ended up in retail. Dad preferred a proper job – not hairdressing. I done one year garment-making. I liked it! I didn’t want to do hairdressing again! Now, I don’t even touch a sewing machine. Down the line, I got pregnant. I ended up being a stay-at-home mum. I needed some extra cash so youth work was available and, after three years, I left. Moved on to being a Teaching Assistant and then I got ill. The kids saying, ‘Miss. Why you falling asleep all the time?’ Platelet count was over 2000. Hospital gave me a bone marrow biopsy and then drugs to bring down the platelets. I’ve had it twenty years now!
But, after a year, I got pregnant. I said, ‘I am going to have the baby.’ and they said, ‘It’s too dangerous for you.’ I said, ‘Yes.’ You see the drugs would harm the baby but would keep my condition stable. Termination? No. I am a Christian. My faith wouldn’t have allowed that. It was a rough pregnancy and I bled out at the delivery. He’s eighteen now. He’s OK, and me? It took me a long time to recover. The doctors said, ‘Don’t have any more!’ And then, there was a new tumour, in the liver and I got so thin. Only option was surgery but I needed to put the weight on first. This was 2012, the London Olympics. I’m a tennis fan. I had tickets for Federer but watched the Olympics from a hospital bed. Gall bladder gone too but I never knew. They never told me. Only found out when I had digestive problems.
I dreaded chemotherapy. It’s like a burning volcano inside you. I’m home alone with the kids most of the time. By the 3rd round I halted it. It’s too much. They said, ‘No.’ I needed to have a month off.
I said ‘Yes’. The disease stabilized but it’s not shrunk. I continued but, by round six, I couldn’t bear any more. Never to be repeated.
And then came Covid. The doctors can’t see you. There’s only phone consultations. I’ve done my own research about cancer, nutrition over the years. Took charge. The doctors wanted me to eat junk food. NO WAY! I eat healthy, nutritious food, if only they knew…… They only got two weeks training on nutrition, so they say…. I last saw a doctor face to face in September and February now. Oh, and I only get a call every three to four months.
I’ve been on and off to the hospice for five to six years now. They send wellbeing emails daily. I still have to be a parent. Life goes on. I take charge of what I eat and the drugs as much as possible. My body, my life, depends on it.
I’ve learnt GCSE Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. I wanted to be an interpreter back in the day. I loved going to the cinema and the theatre. But now I’m housebound with Covid. But I still do many things: Art classes, patchwork, screen-painting, monoprinting, yoga. Even with my diagnosis I still went on holidays; Butlin’s, Spain, Cyprus, St Lucia, Amsterdam, Gran Canaria with family and friends.
You can still love your life no matter what, – My eldest brother was diagnosed with a brain tumour recently and in a care home. Sigh. Aagh.
You can still enjoy your life even though stuck in the house with the pandemic. I have a thirst for knowledge. I am blessed.
The most important thing one doctor said to me: Pretend you don’t have it!