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Tuesday, 29 November 2016

A Kidney Cancer Retrospective

This time last year I was asked to speak at the James Whale Kidney Cancer Fund (now Kidney Cancer UK) Information Day in Birmingham. To say I was nervous was an understatement but it wasn't only talking in front of an audience but also the content that I'd written which worried me.
Not having had the best experience - not that I think you can have a good 'kidney cancer' encounter, I was concerned that my account would frighten any newly diagnosed patients present. When I'd finished reading I felt no better about it despite a nice round of applause and some positive comments, but I remember leaving that day feeling quite lost. I hadn't thought that talking about it helped me or anyone else, speaking out loud was quite different from sitting behind a laptop writing a blog.
I'm spending a lot of time reflecting on what I went through and reading through my blog posts while I work on my book An Unfashionable Cancer. In order to tell my story I've had to fictionalise characters, including myself and my family and most especially the hospitals and medical staff. This means I'm beginning to view my story from another perspective which is helping in an odd kind of way. Instead of me telling the story it's being told through my alter ego in the book and this is strangely cathartic.
One of the things I've begun to realise is that it wasn't because I had kidney cancer that my time in hospital was so awful, that just happened to be the reason I was there. Neither was it my condition that caused delays with treatments, results, appointments or virtually any of the bad practice. I can't deny that being signed off less than 12 months after diagnosis wasn't confined to my being a kidney cancer patient as I'm pretty sure most cancer patients wouldn't be dismissed like this. However, it was again another case of poor hospital procedure rather than something only kidney cancer patients have to suffer.
I suppose what I'm starting to see is the fact I had kidney cancer was a major shock but that my treatment for this should be so diabolical was pure bad luck.
Throughout this blog I've not included my family much, neither have I elaborated on my life as a whole. In the book I'm able to include my family and friends as well as show how kidney cancer affected my life in general, from fashion designer to cancer patient.
This too has highlighted just what a radical change I went through and I've been able to reflect on how I felt then and what I feel now. For a long while I was angry and confused and felt the lifestyle and business I'd been running was superficial and had contributed to my illness. Now I can see that it was my illness that made me feel that way, I was going through a terrible time and couldn't make sense of what was happening so instead shut everything out.
I've got a long way to go to finish my book and expect it will continue to be an emotional rollercoaster. In the meantime I have returned to work fully and although not doing all the fashion shows and photoshoots I was before, I am enjoying looking back and feel a lot of pride in what I achieved, definitely a step in the right direction.

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