When I need the loo I generally jiggle about like a three-year-old.
Ask me to wait in a queue and you’ll be met with all sorts of weird dance moves, stretches and hopping on one leg.
A common side effect of having part of your bowel removed is urgency – and when you need to go – you REALLY need to go!
At the weekend, during the interval at a lovely theatre show, I was standing in the toilet queue along with what felt like every woman in the place.
After doing some polite “waiting time”, my body decided enough was enough and I was overcome with that feeling of “get me to a bloody toilet NOW!”
So I kindly asked the ladies in front of me if I could just go to the front.
While most were fine, there was one lady (yes YOU – the lady in the red dress), who looked me up and down, asked why I couldn’t just wait like everyone else.
She even went on to tell me I didn’t look like I was that desperate.
AND… even after I was forced to explain the fact I’m a stage 4 bowel cancer patient, who’s had part of her insides removed, she called me a “lying b*tch” under her breath!
Luckily, in the time it took for me to explain my whole back story, the queue moved and the red dress lady and myself made it safely into a cubicle without any accidents.
I won’t lie… part of me wanted to pee a little bit on the floor just to show her!
And here lies one of the biggest challenges of having an “invisible” disease.
With the exception of my scars, which you can’t see now winter’s on its way, I actually look pretty well.
We all need to be a little more mindful that most illnesses, including stage 4 bowel cancer, don’t come with a neon, flashing badge announcing its existence
My relentless mission to look after my hair, is paying off, and ironically, thanks to lots of pampering, my locks are in the best condition of their life!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly grateful for not looking ill right now.
There’s so much to be said for the physical leading the mental at times – “If I look good, I feel good”.
But this is the cruel side of cancer, how you look can be deceptive.
I will never forget the moment I was told my cancer had spread to my lungs, screaming: “But I just ran 10K yesterday.”
I met a friend the other day, who I haven’t seen since before my diagnosis.
She kindly told me I look better now than before!
It might be something to do with having a few more hours in the bed to actually brush my hair, I admitted.
I love hearing I look well, enjoying a glass of wine and being as normal as possible.
But inside there are times I struggle.
Leaving the mental impact aside for this week, I do get tired.
My nuclear chemo zaps all the good and hopefully the bad in my body, leaving me too tired to get out of bed some days.
I inject myself to boost my white blood cells, but the injections give me horrible bone pain.
The barrage of drugs plays havoc with my stomach, and the steroids just make me crazy!
But, none of this is visible on the outside.
So much so, that sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder if it’s all just a lie.
Am I really THIS ill?
And then, after a 24-hour bout of vomiting, I’m quickly brought back down to Earth with a bang.
It makes me think, while indulging in a bit of people watching, what other people’s lives involve.
Are they happy?
I get jealous of those people that give off that air of having their sh*t together.
But, then I stop myself, and question how many of them have cancer, or another illness they are secretly battling.
I’m not the only one.
CATCH UP ON LAST WEEK’S COLUMN The NHS MUST do more to make sure bowel cancer patients like me have a fighting chance at surviving this nasty disease
Statistically there will be others, lots of others.
Some just quietly going about their daily business with only those closest to them knowing what they really deal with.
Some battle it alone for fear of being labelled, questioned or seen as not being capable.
Standing on the train home the other day, I was desperate to sit down.
My legs were shattered and wobbly, and I just wanted to close my eyes.
But of course, no one would look at me and offer up their seat – I look young, fit and well.
If my precious hair started to fall out, or I looked white and pasty, if I was confined to a wheelchair or needed a walking stick, I suspect the lady in the red dress at the theatre wouldn’t have been so quick to judge.
I realised – it wasn’t really about the dress, as nice as it was. It was my total fear that this may be the last birthday dress I would wear
And I’m certain I would have got a train seat.
I’m not embarrassed by my cancer, but there’s a fine line between it dominating every aspect of your life and not.
While I will shout about it from the rooftops on the right platform, I don’t want to have to walk around announcing my disease on a badge… Cancer On Board – not least because it might clash with my outfit!
We whack on our lippy, do our hair and get on with our lives, despite the sometimes impossible struggle our invisible illness throws at us.
I’m guilty of being pretty quick to feel jealous of that glam girl on the train, looking like her life is all sorted.
But, maybe she is one of us, living and struggling everyday with her invisible illness.
We all need to be less quick to assume everyone else has their sh*t together.
And unlike the lady in red, we all need to be a little more mindful that most illnesses, including stage 4 bowel cancer, don’t come with a neon, flashing badge announcing its existence.
It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to!
And I did – spectacularly!
I had it in my mind that I just had to find a new dress (to add to the 200 I already own), for my birthday celebrations.
So I set out on a mission around London to find my match.
Six department stores later, I found myself having a full-on meltdown in the changing rooms and actually cried when the sales assistant told me that my perfect dress was out of stock in my size.
We are not just talking a little welling up – we are talking full on, toddler tears!
But, then I realised – it wasn’t really about the dress, as nice as it was.
It was my total fear that this may be the last birthday dress I would wear.
Sometimes it’s good to cry, as long as there’s a tequila and good friends on hand soon afterwards.
THINGS CANCER MADE ME SAY
‘you really are never too young’
Fit and healthy mum battles bowel cancer at just 35 – and urges YOU to check for the warning signs
THINGS CANCER MADE ME SAY
Back to school onslaught is HELL, but a hell I hope cancer lets me stick around for next year
THINGS CANCER MADE ME SAY
My little girl is having nightmares that she can’t find mummy. If my cancer gets its way it might be her reality – and it’s breaking my heart
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Tell me your journey, show off your scars, share what keeps you smiling, or how you are giving two fat fingers to cancer (or anything else for that matter!)