A Letter From Michelle – Survive and Thrive

Dear Paul,

Firstly I want to thank you for all your love and support the last 12 months, I know this has been as tough on you as it has on me and that is the reason why I think you deserve this explanation.

When I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in February 2020, I was scared but I knew you were too, you’d witnessed your beloved mother deteriorate and eventually pass from breast cancer only ten years previously so it seemed like history was repeating itself all over again for you. How cruel life can be that it forced you to watch the two women in your life that you love so deeply battle this horrible disease. I knew how scared you were so I put on a brave face and got myself firmly into survival mode. I insisted on telling the kids by myself cos I knew how much it’d hurt you to shatter their perfect little childhood and I didn’t want to scare them by us both sitting them down to have that talk.

Covid made it easy for me to hide my hurt, fear and pain from you as you couldn’t sit by my bedside after the radical hysterectomy. Those days were dark. I cried silent tears for days for the babies that we’d never hold and watch grow but when you and the kids would video call me I’d wipe the tears and put on the brave face again.

The five weeks of radiotherapy were somewhat better as dad brought me each day while you cared for the kids. Getting them through this as unscathed as possible was the main priority for both of us. Dad bringing me each day allowed us to have conversations we’d never have had otherwise, I heard stories that I very easily may never have heard if it wasn’t for my cancer diagnosis so I focused on the positives.

As life started to return to normal for us after treatment ended what we’d gone through start hitting home in waves. I didn’t know what to do or where to go, I tried counselling but you know me I don’t let people in easily so that never really worked as I struggled to be truthful. I was struggling to accept what had happened. I was burdened with shame and guilt that I could’ve prevented all the heartache I’d caused if I’d just went for that flipping smear test when you told me to. My moods were up and down because of this and yet again you beared the brunt of that.

Whilst scrolling through twitter one day I found the Marie Keating Foundation were offering a course, Survive and Thrive. I was desperate to find someway to cope at this stage so I signed up albeit dubious as to whether it would help at all. Helen rang me, we had a chat and with that I was signed up. You were worried that the course would make me worse and that it would focus on me being a cancer patient. I’d said since the start that I never wanted to let cancer define me so I understood your concern. Nervously that first night I logged on and as we went through our stories one by one, the tears came, I sobbed and blubbed my way through that first session. It was the first time I’d let myself cry over my diagnosis and the tears came from nowhere as soon as I opened my mouth.

I see now it was the exact release that I needed. Helen phoned me the following day to ensure that I was okay. The following five weeks I found a group of amazing women who understood me, sympathised when needed and made me stop feeling sorry for myself when needed too. I found my strength and my voice again during those weeks. I honestly can’t explain how it works Paul but I’ve found me again through the Survive and Thrive. I was so lost when I started the course, I refused to talk about my diagnosis and what had happened and that was eating me up inside. I just didn’t want to cause you anymore hurt than I already had but by talking to others I’ve been able to process it all.

I’m now fully ready to leave this ‘cancer bubble’ I’ve been living in for the last 12 months and get back to living the gorgeous little life we’ve created with new eyes and new appreciation.

I love you dearly and will never fully thank you for all your support and patience with me, your Michelle has returned again, I’ve missed her just as much as you have.

Love always,