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When I was told…


clodaghdowning86.2124 days agoPeakD5 min read


(Me at The Cannes Film Festival, 2012. Colon Cancer starts 10 years b4 reaching stage 4)

Oh please, let’s not bother with the “My world started to spin”, “Time stopped” or “It was like I was in a car crash”. Do these things happen when you are told you have X amount of time to live? Yes. But we hear that all the time, don’t we? And that’s when we shut down, space out because we believe this won’t happen to us- mind over matter- right? Shut down the possibility of it happening to you and run!

My reaction

I suppose you want to know how I coped though. Ready? Like I mentioned in my first blog post, my doctors were thrilled with the lucky catch in my diagnosis. I was diagnosed at first Stage 1, then some more tests and it turned out I was early Stage 3 with a good prognosis. I was still lifting my hand to high five the doctors like we had the week before, but they were not in the mood. My surgeon was rubbing his hands in a ‘worry circle’. My oncologist was calm and serious. But I had a trump card that they had no clue about so I high fived myself. Yay!
I don’t know if I should tell you though. I mean I could jinx myself or you could just write me off as crazy or worse pathetic, but then this probably wouldn’t be much of a read, and I am vain that way. To be honest, I am writing this blog for my future grown-up son, and I want him to know who I am as an adult to his adult self. So, for my son, I’ll tell you the story about my trump card.

My Trump Card

(Courtesy of https://www.hiclipart.com )
When I was a first year acting student at Manchester Metropolitan University (UK), a third-year came up to our table in the canteen and blurted “I have a card reading slot with the White Witch of the North who has a ten-year waiting list, but it’s a hundred quid for the hour and I can’t afford it. I rang the White Witch and she said because we are students, she’ll agree to see four of us for 15 minutes each so it’s 25 quid each. Anyone want to come?”
A ten-year waiting list was good enough for me and put my hand up and so did my friend S. Off we went on our jolly and all I wanted to know was would I be rich and famous because I was pretty sure I would be, and I was shallow like that. I flicked my long hair as I sashayed into the White Witch when it was my turn. She had huge brown eyes, auburn hair in a sharp Bob and fringe (or bangs). She took one look, pulled my hand into her chest, covered them with her other hand and said:
“I want you to listen to me very carefully about what I am going to tell you. Are you listening?” I assured her I was. She continued:
“You are going to get a very serious illness in your midlife. But you will make a complete and full recovery but it’s important you remember my words when the time comes.”
I cobbled together, that as I’d make a full recovery that sure, I’d be grand. "Brilliant!" I declared. She pulled me in closer to her- all I can remember were her huge eyes. They said, “You poor sod!” She wouldn’t let go of my hands and she made me repeat the words back to her- “I will make a complete and full recovery.” Relieved, I asked her, "Will I become rich and famous?" Still holding my hand, she squeezed it and continued “It’ll be rough for a while.” Yet again I was taken aback- not only by that but she was still looking at me like I was doomed. I quizzed her whether "a while" meant a short or long period of time as it could be either- she went, “I can’t answer that.” So, I challenged her with the logic that by following a healthy lifestyle I could avoid it. “No! This is your fate, there is nothing you can do to avoid it.” I blubbered “Midlife? What age is that exactly?” She shrugged her shoulders and suggested about fifty. That’s all I remember of her reading. Before I left, she made me repeat the words again. As I was at the door she added “It’s important you remember my words when the time comes.”

Me now

To be honest, my cancer has spread, and I am frequently taking morphine top ups (called breakthrough pain medication) on top of my slow-release morphine to manage my pain. My hope falters and that is not good. It is not good because hopelessness impedes my quality of life, and I spend my days crying about the future instead of living in the present. When I think of the White Witch and her words, they cheer me up. So, in a sense, it was the best £25 I have ever spent. Her words have got me through the hardest battles in the last 2 years and 10 months. So, for this alone I am grateful, I remember to live in the present and do yoga!
(Taken last year and hoping to get back that strength again.)


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