This time last year I was tackling 3 weeks of intensive radiotherapy treatment. I had finished chemo a month prior and in that break between treatments Will and I had taken a short 4 day break to lanzarote to get some warmth and sunshine. I was feeling quite good at the time. A little battered and bruised but so relieved to have the worst of the treatment done with. I look back at the photos now and can see that I was a bit more battered and bruised than I realised.
A year on and I really am feeling pretty good. I am in the middle of a tour of South East Asia by bicycle. Who would have thought it? I am one of the lucky ones and for me, there is life after cancer.
I won't say that I'm back to how I was 'before'. I will never be the person I was before. Cancer is a life changer. But It's not the cancer that has made me quit my job and set off to see the world. I was doing all that anyway. for me the changes have been more subtle.
I think people often feel the pressure after suffering a life threatening illness to make life really count. But in reality I'm finding it a big enough struggle just to get back to where I was before I was knocked off the rails. I am very grateful to be here but, although it sounds extremely obvious, I really wish none of it had ever happened. I have suddenly become (in my mind at least) a middle aged, menopausal woman whereas a year and a half ago I felt pretty young still. It's all happened a bit too quickly and I need time to get used to it.
Physically the scars have healed. My new boob now feels part of me. It still needs a bit of work to get it looking like a real boob but I'm happy to wait a while for all that. I feel generally fit and healthy. I can cycle 50 kilometres and more in a day and get back up and do the same again the next day. But mentally I don't feel strong. My confidence has taken a battering and I guess I just have to be patient and let time do its thing.
Coming travelling has been a good thing. Giving me time to think and work things out. The cycling is making me physically stronger and that can only help with the healing process.
We visited the Killing Fields in Cambodia a few days ago and that is a great lesson on resilience and people's ability to move on, even if they still feel a bit broken inside. It feels wrong to be comparing my suffering with a nation whose trauma one can't even begin to imagine. But I did feel some affinity with one of the survivors of the genocide who said that he felt like a broken glass and only he was able to find the pieces, no one could do that for him.
I have loved being in Cambodia. It's the people, as always, that make it so great. I have to admit we've been on a bit of a holiday so far but in a couple of days the cycling begins in earnest and we head north along the Mekong, eventually reaching Laos. I'm looking forward to getting into the rhythm of cycling, eating, sleeping, repeat. Easy to say when you're sitting in a bar drinking a margarita!
Will is writing a blog for this trip. If you're interested in following something slightly more light hearted then here is the link http://bicyclingbetty.blogspot.com/