Secondary breast cancer: Giving up seats on Tube trains and angry demons

Ismena Clout
cancer 225x300 Secondary breast cancer: Giving up seats on Tube trains and angry demons

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I try at all times to take this secondary breast cancer path with grace and dignity. I try to set an example and live to high standards but occasionally the mask slips. Occasionally I’m niggled by the small stuff and I get downright angry over things that just shouldn’t matter.

Take Wednesday for example, I get to work very late as the side effects of my chemotherapy kick in a bit early. I feel like I’m moving through clay and I just can’t get going, it doesn’t feel like I’m tired just heavy and listless. In addition the latest treatment means my brain, which has been working just fine for a few weeks now, suddenly forgets all the names of things, forgets how to do simple tasks like brushing my teeth and is mystified by multitasking. I get to work and slowly, methodically plod my way through what I have to do but there is an irritation to my day.

I have a new car as I can’t handle the nightmare of the tubes any more. I haven’t been able to stand on tubes for over two years now as it hurts the bones too much and I worry what the jerking action could do to the cancer-damaged bones. This means that for over two years I have been asking the kind London commuters for a seat. Two years of stares, tuts and mutterings as to why I need a seat, it is the only time I feel like a victim. The whole time I’m asking to sit down; explaining that I have advanced cancer, I have a broken back, all with the words ‘but you look so well’ ringing in my ears. I’ve even overheard conversations about how I can’t have a broken back and someone even said: ‘oh god, the lengths people go to for a seat’.

Trust me, no one would go through that ordeal if they didn’t need to sit down. I would love to be able to stand on the tube but I just can’t. In all that time only one person has volunteered their seat before I had to ask, even when I was at my worst on chemo with no hair and grey skin, no one gave up their seat. There was one beacon of light, a chap on the train from Wimbledon to Waterloo said: ‘of course you can have my seat, no one would make up a story like that.’ Thank you kind sir, you are right but the only person in London I have encountered who was connected to life enough to realise it.

So I have got a car to drive around instead, this car represents to me freedom and independence. It’s only a week old and had precisely 54 miles on the clock when on this Wednesday a warning light starts flashing. Long story short, it’s broken already and has to go back to the dealership. This is very annoying, it’s from a very reliable company and I’m miserable that this has happened. Words creep into my head that I normally keep away. These words float around the edge of my consciousness all the time and 99 per cent of the time I ignore them but occasionally the ‘small stuff’ allows them in. Words like: ‘why me.’ I don’t ever think this about my cancer but when something else goes wrong I think it in the context of, ‘why has this car broken, why has it happened to me, isn’t dealing with cancer enough for the universe!’

Last Wednesday ended when I had a tantrum at home that any self respecting two-year-old would have been proud of. I even jumped up and down shaking my fists when I realised my cleaner hadn’t used a black bag in the bin. I know that the anger is really from a deeper place, one that is usually locked away and controlled but it does escape occasionally and mostly over the mundane things in life. It’s healthy to get it out but not to let it take you over.

After the anger of Wednesday I decided to make Thursday the day of being thankful. I sent messages to some companies where I recently had excellent service – too often we complain when things go wrong but how often do we congratulate when things go right? I made sure some good staff got recognition and before going to bed I listed some things in my life I am grateful for, I went to sleep with a smile on my face as I have so much good in life.  Thank you x

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  • Sharin

    public transit is full of douche bags unfortunately

  • Megan B

    The world is full of douche bags, and unfortunately with people who con you.

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