Remission Life is now a Youtube Channel!

Thank you all for visiting my blog! Remission Life has gone from blog to vlog. I’m taking this step to make my content more accessible and easier to find.

My hope for this YouTube channel is to reach a wider audience of young people and create a safe space to discuss cancer remission.

My first video is here:

I’ll also upload my videos on here as blog posts, if you find them useful it’d be great to subscribe and like any videos you find useful to help me know what is best to talk about!

Toxic Positivity

The phrase “toxic positivity” refers to the concept that keeping positive, and keeping positive only, is the right way to live your life.*

There is a very insightful TED talk about this by Psychologist Susan David: https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_david_the_gift_and_power_of_emotional_courage?utm_source=linkedin.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=social&utm_content=2020-7-20-cutdown

This is something that has surrounded me throughout remission. Mentioning a negative emotion about my situation was always instantly disregarded with a statement like ‘think yourself lucky’, leading me to stop mentioning them at all. And this caused much bigger problems, because they were still very much there, I just stopped letting other people know.

This constant need to be positive led me to bottling up all of my negative feelings. I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone about how I wanted to peel the scars off my legs because I assumed they would respond with a lecture about being grateful to have them. I couldn’t show sadness because I was meant to be living every day as if it was my last, making the most of my ‘borrowed time’, and boosted by the every-present thought that I was lucky. It felt audacious to feel any type of sadness, even though this sadness was often linked to my treatment after-effects like my limp and social exclusion from physical activities.

With this re-enforced idea of constant positivity came deep negativity. A problem shared is a problem halved, and I never shared any of mine. It was like I was dragging around 7 suitcases full of baggage in my head at all times, never being able to drop any of them off or share any of the load. I felt that I had to keep it inside because of the toxic positivity around me.

This changed when I started going to therapy and found myself practising a lot of self reflection. I knew that the change had to come from within. People will not stop saying ‘you’re so lucky!’. I cannot rely on other people to understand the was I interpret their ( well-meaning) statements. And so I had to change how I reacted to them.

I found myself making a bit of a joke out of it which may have seemed a little odd to some people. Joking and cancer don’t really go hand-in-hand. I would maybe say “lucky enough to get it in the first place” or “God really did choose a big challenge for a child”, but I no longer say these things. I do not want to make people uncomfortable in response to them making me feel uncomfortable. That doesn’t help. Instead I give a more rounded view, like saying “Ah yes, very lucky to be in the shape I’m in. Still lots of side-effects but I am doing my best.”. I like to think that maybe this helps people to understand that it’s not a year long blip of my life that I can forget, and that it’s still very present both physically and mentally. I’m sure I will always be refining this to help people understand!

We need to acknowledge that living in remission is it’s own entity and comes with it’s own set of challenges that are separate from diagnosis and critical treatment. Issues like impaired mobility, infertility, self-consciousness, altered brain function, incontinence, and weight management are just a few examples of the long-term effects from some cancer treatments. Constant positivity is impossible for any human, let alone having to face issues such as these.

So perhaps the next time someone in cancer remission speaks up about their struggle, we will remember that this is okay. It’s okay to feel bad about treatment, it’s okay to be upset about this catastrophically unfair diagnosis, it’s okay to be frustrated about the side-effects. People in remission do not need to be constantly compared to people who have sadly passed away from cancer. It’s is not a comparable thing. We all ‘could have died’ at some point in life. You could have been in a car crash the day you called in sick to work, you could have been knocked off your bike if you didn’t take that shortcut…

Toxic positivity is not helpful for people in cancer remission, it actually leads to people not speaking up about their sadness, fears, and anger, which leads to a much lower quality of life as these feelings then escalate to a point that severely damages mental health. Acknowledging these emotions as very understandable for people in remission validates people and eventually improves their mood. It’s not being negative – it’s understanding.

* Definition from https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-man-cave/201908/toxic-positivity-dont-always-look-the-bright-side

The importance of representation

Diversity and inclusion are now commonplace in conversation, and I am very here for it.

I have learnt so much about this recently, and realise just how important it is from the perspective of a person with a ‘physical difference’.

My ‘difference’ comes in the form of scars, a chunk cut out of my leg, and a limp. These are things that I can’t control, and that people point out before they’ve even spoken to me. I also spent a lot of time using mobility aids including a wheelchair and crutches as a teen, and remember the extent to which my peers’ judgements of this affected me.

I used to be embarrassed and ashamed of the way I looked, and it wasn’t exclusive to my cancer treatment side-effects – it was also general things like my big nose and flat chest. The constant bombardment of beautiful women in the media was one influence on my low self-esteem, but seeing other girls my age at school looking the way I wish I looked was probably more impactful. I used to cry myself to sleep comparing myself to the beauty of others. I knew that models were photoshopped, and so seeing girls in real life pained me more.

This comparison and self hatred lasted throughout my teens, until I started therapy and made much more peace with myself. This peace allowed me to move on from comparison and self-hatred. I am still (and probably always will be) working on lowering my self-judgement.

After sixth-form, I started to feel good about myself and proud of my body. This wasn’t an overnight transformation. I moved out of my childhood home, and started gaining confidence with little habits like dancing in my room, sleeping naked, and wearing make-up. I also entered into communities that made me feel good about myself. I became involved with Bone Cancer Research Trust firstly by being a part of a calendar photoshoot with them, where I met a group of people affected by bone cancer. This helped me to feel a part of something and far less isolated than I did before.

It was shortly after this photoshoot that I started following disabled models on social media. It was a world I had no idea about. I followed Models of Diversity, who the fabulous lady that co-ordinated the calendar shoot worked with. Their Facebook page posts frequent images of models with such a wide variety of visible differences.

This led me to start following the models involved on instagram and I realised just how important representation is. Their confidence seemed to flow through my phone screen and into my personality. This was especially true for models with leg amputations – my biggest fear in life was that something would happen to my leg and result in amputation (this is very common in treatment for bone cancer). And then, there they were in all of their beauty. Just seeing their pictures changed my life. The fear went away, my respect for visibly different models sky rocketed and I feel so much better for being a follower of this.

In a more recent event, I read Body Positive Power by Megan Crabbe. I have followed her on instagram for a while and my sister leant me her book as it was ‘life-changing’ – a heavy claim that actually turned out to be true. One of the recommendations from this book was to ‘detox your social media’. I unfollowed the face-tuned reality stars that I found myself admiring (Kardashians, I’m looking at you), and now my feed is so diverse and interestingly beautiful that I have found myself actually wanting to open instagram again.

This opened my eyes to the importance of visual representation in the media for marginalised people. I’m learning so much about various groups that have not been represented appropriately as of yet, and I can’t imagine the number of people who feel the same way. It has now been added to my list of ‘things I wish I knew when I was a teen’, and feel content in the knowledge that this diverse world will be available to the younger generation of people living in cancer remission.

Prescription Addiction: a side effect of childhood cancer

When I was 16 I became addicted to codeine. This addiction presented itself in me until I was 22. I worshipped it, and even writing about it now makes me yearn for the taste of that tablet and the wave of relaxation that would make its way down my body 15 minutes later. The ability to forget all my worries and just melt into a drug-induced emotional coma is what I am addicted to, even though I have not taken codeine in 2 years.

My addiction to opiates actually originated when I was having my knee replaced during my period of critical treatment in 2005 (age 9). I became addicted to pressing a button attached to a morphine pump. I still remember the feel of the button and the euphoric pain-free sensation that filled my body shortly after.

My mum alerted the nurses to my addiction when I asked her to keep pressing the button when I was asleep. I lived in fear of waking up in agony, and this escalated to my ‘need’ for the button to be pressed continually. There was a timer between doses to ensure there would be no overdosing. I pressed the button continually so that I did not have to wait one fraction of a second later that I necessary for another dose.

And so, the morphine pump was taken away and nothing more was really thought about this. With each further surgery came more painkillers, but only one packet or so to take home as the pain would ease after a week or to.

Then, when I was 16, I opted to have my right leg (with the knee replacement in) stretched over the period of six months. My legs were different lengths – 1 inch difference between them. This caused a painful, and very pronounced, limp and a need for a built-up shoe on one side. This was a huge problem for me in terms of self-confidence and I saw this procedure as an opportunity to improve. The thought that drove me to wanting my leg stretched was ultimately that I would disassociate further from being the ‘cancer girl’ in the next phase of life; university.

This procedure was an investment, and as with every investment, there is an element of risk. My body is exceptional at battling infections, I’m one of those people who ‘never gets ill’, I can count the number of colds I’ve had on one hand. My family always joke that when I do something I go big, and so when I was sick it had to be cancer – it couldn’t possibly be anything less dramatic. Needless to say, the overexposed risk of infection that came with the procedure I had (an illazrov frame) didn’t discourage me. I knew there would be pain and discomfort, but I already lived with that due to the uneven leg lengths. And, so I thought, what was the worst that could happen? I’d get through it and things would be better afterwards.

This long-term type of orthopaedic pain was not something I had experienced before. Strong painkillers were a necessity for an extended period of time and came in packs of 100. I was prescribed codeine for the pain when I had ‘the cage’ attached to my leg. And it was GREAT. I could sleep, I could eat, I felt ‘happier’.

And then… the cage was removed. The casts were removed, the splints, the wheelchair, and the crutches were all eventually removed through the space of twelve months.

But taking codeine stayed. It was my emotional crutch, even though I was still in pain. It’s hard to draw a line for taking painkillers recreationally when you live in chronic pain, and I’m not resentful to myself for taking codeine as a teenager. I used to be annoyed at myself for taking so much for so long, but now that I’m almost 2 years ‘clean of lean’ I am finding it easier to look back at myself with more kindness. It was what I had available to get me through.

I would visit my orthopaedic team or GP and receive a packet of 100 codeine tablets, enough to fuel my addiction. This didn’t have an end point. I eventually decided to stop taking codeine myself after I finished university and ‘ran out of excuses’. It was always something I would stop taking once the next hurdle of life was over. (It was surprisingly difficult to receive any help in stopping this. I repeatedly asked for help at the GP but there was never a system put in place or any form of support provided).

Perhaps a little perspective on my codeine taking might come in the form of numbers. I took codeine every day for around six years. Some days, I would only take one 30mg before bed, but at its peak I was taking perhaps ten a day, if I were going out in the evening at uni.

And so, I found myself ‘detoxing’ from codeine in 2018 for the first time in 6 years – over a quarter of my life at the time, with no support from medical professionals. I am grateful to have the support of people around me, but there was a month-long period of intense effects of quitting an opiate. I followed a ‘detoxing programme’ that I created myself based on documentaries about addiction. I took fewer tablets each week, rationing them out for myself and asking my boyfriend for help with this to keep my on track, until I was taking a very small amount.

And then the day came where I took the last tablet. That was it. No stashes in my underwear drawer or in an old handbag. It wasn’t available anymore, and I did indeed turn into a wreck like I had seen in movies. Uncontrollable crying outbursts, insomnia, pleading, waking up in cold sweats, shaking, and rock-bottom mental health ensued for the following months.

It was like every film you have ever seen of a heroin addict trying to quit – because this is essentially what it is; an opiate.

It took me a surprisingly long time to see that anything was better about not taking it. I couldn’t sleep, I was depressed, and I was in pain. But I knew that it was the right thing to do. The uncomfortable truth is that I still think about codeine every day. I long for it when I can’t sleep or if I’m having a particularly bad pain day. I even reacted to lockdown with the thought that it would be a great time to take codeine all day again with the absence of work and driving.

And so, painkiller addiction is one of the late side effects of my childhood cancer diagnosis and treatment. It only became an issue 10 years after my cancer diagnosis. It’s problems like this which are very linked to cancer treatment that crop up later in life, and make life-long aftercare for people in cancer remission essential.

Disability and the in-between

I’m not classed as disabled, and I’m not ‘fully abled’ due to my knee replacement. I find myself in the in-between.

I live with chronic pain and more mobility issues than average people my age, but not to the severity where I need to park my car closer to a building or receive financial support.

I have never qualified for a blue badge. At uni I had mental health crisis when my application was rejected. I was in such pain and in the depth of my painkiller addiction. Studying full time and working as a waitress while also having a social life led to intense pain around my knee replacement. All I was wanting at the time was a parking space on campus, so that I could carry equipment to the studio.

I did not qualify for a blue badge by 1 point on their scale.

When I opened the envelope and read this I burst into tears. Dramatic, ugly sobbing ensued for the next hour. My boyfriend was concerned at the magnitude of my breakdown.

Looking back now, this moment was the climax of all the frustration I had felt since my knee replacement. Never being fully mobile, never being pain-free, never receiving help because it wasn’t ‘bad enough’.

It must be hard to govern a system for disability benefits, and I understand (and am very thankful) that I am well-abled. I think it’s important to speak about this issue though.

There is an in-between. I find comfort in seeing that I have the best of both worlds; I have both legs and can move around with a level of ease, while having experienced periods of time with no mobility at all. However, sometimes I feel like a best of both loaf of bread. I’m meant to be healthy while also being tasty but in reality I am always disappointing. I don’t have the deliciousness of white bread, and I don’t have the health benefits of brown bread.

This might seem like a strange analogy, and now I am craving bread, but it’s the only way I can think of describing the worst-of-both-worlds perspective I sometimes slip in to. Gratitude is a daily practise, and so there are some days where I can see only from this perspective. And I’m sure there are lots of other people out there experiencing the same thing. The important thing to take away from this is an acknowledgement of the in-between – and that there’s a whole spectrum of ability. We all have to work harder than others to attain the same level of success at something in ours lives. For some people, that’s academic, sporty, weight management, or musical skill. For me, this is mobility (and also musical skill because oh my if you hear me belt out Beyonce), which sadly impacts quality of life in quite a big way. You don’t really feel like you’re missing out by not mastering the piano, but not being able to move around leads to quite a lot of missed experiences.

I’m constantly trying to feel less frustrated with this and learning to understand that everyone is dealt different hands. My situation is often described as unfair, but I feel everyone has something they just thought about when reading the word ‘unfair’. Young people have to deal with all sorts of issues, and they are incomparable. I think the term ‘worse off’ can be very damaging. Someone else being ‘worse off’ is very seldom a useful comparison to make. There are always people worse and better at certain things than you – what’s the point in pointing this out? It is not helpful when dealing with these issues.

So, here I am in the in-between. And I am doing my best right where I am. I’m proud to be at almost the same level of walking skill as my peers considering my medical history, and understand that the pain that comes with this is worth the benefits. I no longer act on the knowledge that this is unfair. I know it’s unfair, but acting in accordance to this only amplifies the issue. I now acknowledge it’s unfairness and accept it as my reality, a reality in which I can still achieve a lot.

Inherently Valuable

That’s you.

Survivor’s guilt makes up a part of my psyche. I couldn’t tell you the amount of time I have spent feeling ‘not grateful enough’ for my life. This guilt is still very present 13 years into remission.

I have now found a new way to alleviate this guilt; I am trying to learn my inherent value, and live in accordance of this knowledge. You wouldn’t look at a newborn baby and think ‘you’re not doing enough to earn your life’. Their inherent value is something we all cherish, and we need to start doing the same for ourselves – I need to start doing the same for myself.

Something I struggle with is speaking to myself with kindness. I wouldn’t call someone an absolute IDIOT for not putting enough salt in a recipe. I wouldn’t call someone UGLY when they laugh. I wouldn’t call someone a FAILURE for working a customer service role – so why do I do this to myself?

This type of self-talk really peaked when I worked at Nando’s full-time after graduating Uni. I would ask the universe why I was even alive ‘just to be a cashier’ and drowned in self disappointment each time I repeated ‘table number’, ‘how spicy’, and ‘peri-salt on those?’, even though I would never think of anyone else in this way. It’s laughable to look back at this now – everyone needs to earn money to live and I was doing just that.

Aside form the general examples I’ve just mentioned, I talk to myself very negatively when it comes to my cancer remission. ‘I should have trained to be a doctor’, ‘I should travel more because other people don’t get the chance’, ‘I should be sharing photos of my scars’, ‘I should be reaching out to more people with cancer’, ‘I should have a more influential job for a cancer charity’, ‘I should always be happy’… the list is quite possibly endless.

This derives from my ultimate desire to make the most out of the remission that I find myself in. I want to live the life I have been given in the best way possible to honour the people who sadly do not survive cancer. And to an extent, this is a good thing – it motivates me to constantly improve and be ambitious. However, the negative self-talk is doing the opposite. All the time I waste and stress I put myself under by speaking to myself this way blocks me from living my best life.

Learning my inherent value is actually helping me to live my best life. It is not selfish, it is not self-righteous, it is not ‘big-headed’. It’s healthy and will help me to help others. In the words of RuPaul ‘If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell can you love somebody else?’ (Amen!).

Something I do to put my inherent value in perspective is ask myself:

What is a newborn’s salary?

What are their qualifications?

What is their job title?

And this helps me to remember that we all hold so much incredible value within ourselves, just by being alive.

Tears of happiness!

This week I cried tears of happiness for the first time in maybe, ever?

There is a new treatment protocol for Ewing sarcoma patients in the UK, which means that the chemotherapy course I had will never have to be experienced by anyone ever again! Hallelujah!

So, as of 2020, no one in the UK will have the same chemo, knee prosthesis, or stay in the same wards that I did.

The new chemo course has fewer side effects and is more effective – incredible!

The new knee prosthesis is magnetically extendable with no need for an operation to extend it – incredible!

And children / teenage patients are now treated at a newly built (well, 2006 so not that new now!) children’s hospital at the John Radcliffe – incredible!

Although the terribleness of childhood cancer cannot be alleviated, these improvements will make it just that little bit easier, which is a reason to celebrate!

And so, cheers to the new – what great news in the midst of 2020. And Thank U, Next to EuroEwing99, the old knee replacement, and wards!

My heart is full knowing that no one will ever have to face the same reality as eight-year-old me had to. This is everything to me, and it wouldn’t have been possible without research, especially by Bone Cancer Research Trust.

You can read more about the new treatment protocol here.

Living a physio free life

Sounds like the dream, doesn’t it? I couldn’t have imagined a world where I wouldn’t have the daily pressure to do / guilt of not doing my physio with my knee replacement and the orthopaedic issues that this came with.

Having a folded up print out from my physiotherapist with the pressure of the next appointment looming and goals to be met was a solid part of my life for a decade.

I will always remember my first physiotherapist, Airlee. She was GREAT. She was Australian and so engaging. I looked forward to seeing her and finding out what fun activity we would do that week. This was in the first year after my knee replacement (age 9). She knew what I liked and personally catered for me. I used to draw with my feet because she knew I loved art and it would distract me from the pain of lifting my leg up and moving it around. She was a blessing in my life.

And then, she left. To go back to Australia. I cried when she left. And then I saw someone else, whose name I can’t even remember – although I did see so many medical professionals at this point that it would have been almost impossible to remember them all.

And she was… awful. She came to my house and I was screaming in pain. I had nerve damage in my left foot from a complication in my knee replacement which caused it to be hypersensitive. And I mean, HYPERsensitive. I had to wear a foot brace on it at night for years because a duvet brushing against it would feel like a knife slicing it. And the new physiotherapist thought I was exaggerating this sensitivity (as did a lot of medical professionals, which I am still trying not to hold resentment for). And so, she grabbed my left foot and squeezed it. I remember the moment clearly, I have actual PTSD about this moment. No one can touch my left foot still, even 13 years on.

And that was it. My all-encompassing hatred for physiotherapy began. My parents knew it had to be done, so I would have to lay on the living room floor and complete my sets of 10 of each leg strengthening exercise. And I was so miserable. It hurt and was uncomfortable. I had that Sunday-night-and-haven’t-done-my-homework-yet feeling all day until I was forced to do it. (I needed to be forced, otherwise my leg would have been very weak and much much worse in the long run).

And then I became older and my physio became less intense, when I was probably around 15. I ‘had’ to do less and less until I just stopped doing it. I would go to an appointment every 3 months or so and lie about doing it. And because I was so mobile for a young person with my surgical history, it was not really questioned. There would be disappointment but I could deal with that. Anything was better than having to do daily physio on the living room floor.

So I stopped doing any physio, and my leg physically wasted away. When I started uni it was quite a jump into adulthood in terms of my medical care. I had to make my appointments and somehow find my way to them (I’m so glad I will never have to get a £200 train from Plymouth to Oxford ever again). My parents weren’t there to drive me around and keep track of where I needed to be. I found this so hard. I cancelled appointments. I didn’t show up to so many because I’d lost track of when they were which I then felt very guilty for because of wasting NHS money. And physio was so far down the list of medical priorities that it didn’t even exist in my sphere of being.

My leg was in such pain. My limp was getting worse from the lack of strength. And then, I’d say in the summer semester of first year, I decided to take control.

I must have had 100s of physio appointments in my life. I knew what I had to do. I didn’t need to get it checked out or a plan written for me. I knew what I needed to do, I just wasn’t doing it.

And then I thought outside the box. I could incorporate my physio exercises into exercise that I actually wanted to do. I started doing yoga and going to a ballet dance class. I enjoyed them and realised that I was doing my physio-prescribed exercises without thinking about it.

I didn’t have to force myself to lay on the living room floor and follow a worksheet of 10 x leg raises. I would do these as part of what I would call a ‘normal people’ routine with arm exercises in-between which made them so much easier.

I got quite into the gym after uni, when I was unemployed and had all the time in the world, and I would create routines with my physio exercises included. There would be other ab / arm exercises in-between that even made the leg ones seem gentle. Anything feels gentle after a 45 second plank.

And just like that, I eliminated physio from my life. I have done my physio for years now without thinking of it in that way, and my leg is stronger than ever.

So, whatever it is: yoga, pilates, dancing, Zumba, swimming, Joe Wicks, or Pamela Reif – following a workout will free you form the dread of physio while allowing you to reap all the benefits.

Thank u, next

Moments of clarity that cause a shift in perspective often come when they’re least expected.

When this song was number 1 and played on Radio One 10,000 times a day, I was driving and listening to the lyrics when it hit me that this is the attitude I need when thinking about my cancer diagnosis and treatment.

I started saying thank you for what the experience taught me, rather than focusing on the frustration it caused. When catching myself feeling annoyed and angry at the reality of living in remission (namely my mobility issues), I would stop and say thank you.

I think about the empathy, kindness, and wisdom that I gained from having cancer as a child. There are some things in life that are impossible to understand without first-hand experience, and I thank the universe for the innate knowledge that I continue to gain living in cancer remission.

There’s also the ‘, next’. I then think about what I can do to improve. Or I think about the future if I can’t impact the present. It helps to reflect and then move on.

Resentment only takes us down. I strive to turn resentment into positivity because anger towards the void just bounces back to hit you. There is no one to blame for cancer. You can’t punch cancer in the face or scream your hatred at it.

So, like you would to a toxic ex, I say Thank u, next to cancer.

Childhood Cancer and Catholicism

Catholicism was a huge part of my childhood. I went to catholic schools, church every Sunday, and our year revolved around Christmas and Easter. My mum is a devout Catholic and raised us in the way of the Church.

This upbringing altered my understanding of my diagnosis immeasurably. Looking back now, it played a large part in the cloud of shame that entrapped me throughout and after treatment. It also gave me structure and belief in my healing. There are a lot of positives and negatives I think about when contemplating my Catholicism and its impact on my cancer treatment and remission.

The first thing I think about is, unfortunately, quite a heavy negative. I truly believed that I caused my cancer by thinking bad thoughts and not being grateful enough for my previous set of circumstances.

The moment I kept replaying in my mind as the magic moment I caused my cancer was when I wished to myself that my mum picked me up from school, rather than my nan. I remember thinking it was unfair that the other children’s mums were waiting for them at the gate after school, and my nan was waiting for me. Another child must have mentioned it one day and that was when I wished for a different set of circumstances so that my mum could pick me up. A few weeks later, my mum had to begin a year-long period of absence from work to take care of me while I was having critical treatment which of course included her picking me up from school.

That was enough for me to believe that I had wished for this tiny element of my life to change and so God had made a plan to change it. I was raised on moral stories from the bible where God or Jesus would teach people lessons in convoluted ways to make the lesson stick with them, and I whole heartedly believed this had happened to me. I thought that if I had just been more grateful to have parents who both had jobs and a nan that loved me dearly, I wouldn’t have caused a tumour to grow inside of me.

I only began to question this when having therapy around the age of 17. I held this idea of God punishing me for lack of gratitude through giving me cancer as a core belief for 9 years, without a shadow of a doubt. And there is a direct link between this core belief and the Catholic perspective. I became angry about this for a long time, until I changed my mindset to saying thank you rather than feeling frustration.

My change in perspective brought me to this conclusion; I survived against the odds, and believe that the Catholic faith surrounding me played a part in this. Now might be a good time to say that I no longer practice Catholicism or believe in the Cristian idea of God. I don’t think I have authentically believed in God. There was a lot of ‘how could he do this to me’ when I was diagnosed, which made me loose faith completely.

In relation to this, I am so grateful to have been a part of the Catholic community during my cancer diagnosis and treatment. All the prayers said for me, all the masses in my name, and the collective belief that God would bring me through are feelings I will cherish forever. I do believe that these helped me to survive. I believed in others’ faith. I believed in my mum’s faith in God to heal me and to guide the doctors I received treatment from. I am thankful to everyone person who focused even a second of their day in asking God to heal me. I’m grateful to every person in the world who prayed for the healing of cancer patients. When I think about the scale of this, I am overwhelmed by the love that this created. All the children and teachers at my school, the Parishioners at my Church, and the strangers that saw my bald head and wheelchair sending a short prayer into the universe – I thank them all.

I am no longer ‘angry at God for giving me cancer’, as I no longer believe in a God. I do believe in the universal power of faith and the unknown effect it can have on our lives. I firmly believe that Catholicism played a part in my recovery from cancer.

The biggest improvement caused by this new mindset for me personally is no longer being angry at the phrase ‘God gives his strongest people the biggest challenges’. I used to boil with resentment when my mum repeated this mantra to me. Every surgery, every set-back, she would say this. And I would be shocked that steam didn’t come out of my ears. Now I think back on this and am thankful for her faith in God and in me to overcome hardship, and I appreciate her unwavering belief in my healing.

So whatever they are; prayers, good vibes, affirmations, positive thoughts… let’s all keep posting these out into the universe. We will never know if they help, but that’s not a risk I’m willing to take.

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