Every Three Weeks I Let Cancer Win A Battle

On this day, typically the fifth or sixth since my last chemotherapy infusion, every insecurity and unspoken fear of mine wraps their icy fingers around my wrist and drags me deeper and deeper into the abyss.

I can’t fight it. I simply don’t have the strength. My body feels heavy and useless. My antiemetic pills bring me no relief from the 24-hour nausea and I’m exhausted, so bloody exhausted, yet I haven’t moved from my bed for days.

Does cancer have an odour? It does today. I flinch when my husband tries to comfort me. My body confidence is shattered. There are loose strands of hair on my pillow. I can’t read. I can’t write. I can’t listen to music. I can only lie there, helpless, trying not to cry. Because crying will make my eyes feel like a thousand needles are stabbing them, just another frightening side effect of my chemotherapy drugs.

Sometimes I imagine my cancer as a stationmaster. A faceless man striding up and down the platform, checking his watch and blowing his whistle before The Last Train For Survival inches away. I usually catch this train by a whisker, sprinting down the steps before taking a flying leap into the packed carriage. Today, it doesn’t matter how many suitcases I hurdle or how fast I run. Cancer always blows the whistle too soon and the closing doors snap together right in front of my face.

A bedroom that I take such pride in is beginning to resemble my old university flat. I pretend not to see the hurt in my children’s faces when I beg my husband to take them away from me. They can’t see me like this. I want to be forever imprinted in their minds as their fun, smiley mummy, not this sad, pathetic creature confined to her attic like Bertha Rochester.

I think the unthinkable. Is this all worth it? My faith in my oncology team waivers. I consider taking my chances, walking away from my treatment and living out the rest of my days in the sun. After all, there are no guarantees that this chemo will stop a recurrence. Today, my odds will always fall in the unlucky 20% category.

But, inevitably, a new day dawns, and with it comes a stillness that was sorely lacking yesterday. The sunlight doesn’t hurt my eyes anymore. I can finally think about food without retching. I take a shower for the first time in days and, as I do, I notice that the leaves on the trees outside the bathroom window are starting to turn. It makes me think of an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote, how ‘life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.’ I’m flooded with optimism. I’m not quite brave enough to look a year into the future but I can see the immediate; my birthday, my end of treatment date, Christmas.

I finally remember how strong I am. How I didn’t crumble when I lost my father on a Tuesday and received my stage 3 cancer diagnosis four days later whilst sat in a car outside the funeral director’s. The bitterest of ironies designed to test the hardiest of women.

I wait impatiently for my children to come home from school, for the sound of their heavy footsteps on the staircase leading up to my bedroom. And when they finally throw their warm, little bodies onto my bed and bombard me with certificates, spellings and love, I hold them as tightly as I can. How could I have sent them away from me? Their laughter and vitality are as fundamental to my recovery as any modern medicine.

Every three weeks I let cancer win a battle. But I will win this war.



Rhyming with Wine


  1. roy bowers
    October 9, 2017 / 12:24 am

    I too had cancer (non-hodgkin lymphoma stage 2) and am now 4 years clear but also suffered badly with other complications. All i can say is that once you are clear,(hopefully sooner than later), you can look back and say what a shit cancer is. All the best for the future.

    • October 9, 2017 / 10:18 am

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Roy. It’s great to hear that you’re in remission! Fingers crossed I will be too very soon xxx

  2. October 10, 2017 / 11:09 am

    I also lost my both my grandfather and father in the months before my diagnosis, I didn’t think it was possible for the life to be so cruel. But at these times that we realise how strong we are and how to lean on people when you need to. Best of luck with the treatment…..I look forward to the day I can say I am cancer free – even if it is a temporary respite. Good luck. xx

    • October 10, 2017 / 11:55 am

      How devastating for you. Some days I feel like I can’t catch my breath, should I be grieving for my lost family members or grieving for my former life? What a crazy, crazy year. Best of luck with your treatment too xx

  3. October 11, 2017 / 7:49 am

    I love your end quote/philosophy. Sometimes we don’t win all our battles. But that’s ok. I’ve not had cancer but my mental health struggles give me a tiny glimpse of the suffering you face. That you for sharing and I hope you have good news in the future. #dreamteam

    • October 14, 2017 / 12:40 pm

      Thanks so much for commenting. I think any chronic illness, be it cancer or mental health issues, is a tough, tough gig. Sending you positive vibes xx

  4. October 12, 2017 / 3:16 pm

    I wouldn’t dream of saying I know what you’re dealing with, or that I can even begin to understand. But what I will say is You’ve Got This. Let it have the battle, keep your eye on the war. xxx #dreamteam

  5. October 13, 2017 / 3:06 pm

    I am not going to pretend that I know what you are dealing with as I have never gone through this experience. However I have seen four distant family members battle cancer – out of the four cancer won twice. The other two has been in remission for almost three years. My wish for you is that you remain hopeful and believe that you will overcome this. Some days will be better than others but draw strength when you look into your children’s eyes that you will beat this thing.All the best!#DreamTeam

    • October 14, 2017 / 12:42 pm

      Thanks Noleen. I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed. xx

  6. RaisieBay
    October 14, 2017 / 11:41 am

    I don’t have cancer, but I do have a stupid debilitating condition that only promises to get worse. I’m taking a treatment that makes me feel like death warmed up for a few days too. The only thing I can say to you is keep fighting, never give up. But also allow yourself to wallow when you need to, everyone else will understand, they know you are fighting this dreadful disease. I can see your positive light shining, keep holding on to that and I wish you the best of luck that remission is just around the corner xx

    • October 14, 2017 / 12:44 pm

      Oh that’s tough. Chronic illness really is the worst. Sending you all my love xxx

  7. October 15, 2017 / 8:52 pm

    Oh Catherine, I hadn’t realised. You are a strong and beautiful women. It’s ok to take your moments of sadness and rest. No one can know what you are going through, and of course there will be times when things feel like an uphill battle. Keep fighting lovely, we are here to push you up again when you feel like you are falling. Sending all the love, from the Buttons and the whole of our #DreamTeam crew. Xxxx

  8. October 15, 2017 / 9:14 pm

    Oh Catherine, I didn’t know and sending you so so much love. Thank you for sharing your incredibly honest and loving piece with the dreamteam – you sound so strong and you will absolutely fight this. Much love xxxx #dreamteam

  9. October 15, 2017 / 9:24 pm

    Oh Catherine, you poor thing. You sound so unbelievably strong and amazing, so I’m sending every positive vibe to you to help you beat this. Stay strong lovely xxx

  10. October 16, 2017 / 7:40 pm

    I can only begin to imagine what you’re going through right now. Thinking of you and your family Catherine. Sometimes we’re allowed to give up the battle as you say. It’s all about the war, and you WILL win. I think you’re incredibly strong and you’ll come through this fighting. Sending love xx

  11. October 18, 2017 / 9:34 pm

    Wow, you are incredibly strong and it’s great to hear you come out the other side of the bad days with renewed vigour. Keep fighting, stay strong. Sending cancer crushing vibes your way x #BlogCrush

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