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Five Years…


If you’re looking for inspiration then this post is not for you. It’s not a pity post either, though some may view it that way. For me this is just a cathartic process that I’m sharing openly with you…

Five years ago yesterday I was working in my capacity as a consultant in Bratislava (Slovakia) sharing my time between two clients. My wife had a hospital appointment scheduled for yesterday. I wasn’t able to reasonably cancel this job and Janice was insistent I carry on as normal as it’s probably nothing…

You see, the week before we’d been to the breast clinic. What should have been a routine test, turned into a series of tests throughout the morning and early afternoon.

Looking back, the alarm bells were ringing in my head, though Janice was a positive person and insisted its most likely fibroids as they’ve appeared before… In the back of my mind I was thinking the last time we weren’t held back for as many tests as being run which included a needle biopsy.

Janice was reassuring and insistent I was overthinking and worrying too much…

The week of the hospital appointment went quickly, it was a good client and after some interesting and exciting discussions, I returned to my hotel as normal in the early evening and called Janice as I did each day. Today though I don’t know why I didn’t use FaceTime, I called using audio as she asked about my day and our usual chit chat. I thought she’d say something about the hospital appointment, but nothing at all she carried on as normal encouraging me with the usual positivity in her voice.

Eventually the topic of the hospital appointment came up and after a pause she said the three words you really aren’t prepared for or want to hear.

“I have cancer”.

In the second or so it took to utter those words I collapsed to the floor of my hotel room, unable to speak, tears flooding my eyes and the room started spinning round. The world was collapsing in on itself. Why she didn’t say something at the start of the conversation I’ll never know because something as devastating as this is something you’d want to discuss surely?

I heard Janice’s voice on the phone keep asking, are you ok? are you ok? say something…

I was floored and speechless, how did this happen? Why Janice? I should have been there with her at the hospital when she received the news, instead she was alone when the news broke. How was it that this life changing news was received and I wasn’t there? The guilt took over in a big way, and yet she was still trying to reassure me everything will be ok.

I tried to get an earlier flight home since I was already scheduled for the next day, it wasn’t possible.

I couldn’t talk to anyone about it, I felt sick to the stomach, couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t face breakfast either, and the wait for my driver to pick me up and drive to Vienna where my flight awaited seemed to drag slowly like time was slowing down.

It was a long wait, my head all over the place, I can’t imagine what Janice has been going through the last twenty-four hours. I wanted to scream and tell the world how unfair the universe is being right now.

The flight seemed longer than usual, my driver collected me from the airport for the final drive home, where Janice was tracking my location on the phone. She did this when I was working away or at distance as she’d worry about me having an accident or something worse.

The car pulled up, Janice was at the door waiting, my cases unloaded, I knew I had to just make it into the house. Where I gave the biggest hug and sat down on the sofa to talk. She was a little upset I didn’t make eye contact when she was at the door, but I knew I would just burst into tears, and was just trying to get home to her.

We talked, cried, cried some more for a long time, both avoiding the C word until she made me say it. And that’s when it all gets too real. She’s one strong woman, dealing with that news alone. I was determined never to let that happen again.

There was no one I could discuss this with at the time as we had to wait for her parents to return from holiday to break the news, before others in the family would know. That was a long three days waiting for the Sunday, having to go there under the pretext of the Father-In-Laws birthday and deliver a present no one wants to receive.

Yesterday was a rough day, today rougher because its when shit got real and we were together again.

They say time is a healer. It isn’t really, you never heal from grief, you learn to absorb, mask and hide some of it, but it sits there like a reminder in the centre of your mind. Though the analogy of waves of grief getting further apart holds water, I’ve had good times in the last year (apart from ongoing health issues). When those waves hit though, they really hit hard.

During the first two years of grief, I was able to recall every conversation, meeting, people in the various rooms and hospitals with full HD surround sound and smell-o-vision. I was told I was suffering PTSD, something I thought only serving Soldiers experienced. Now for most of it my brain protects me from those experiences, with the full recall of the whole experience less than it used to be, but the flashbacks so very real and vivd.

I raise a Latte to you Janice, love you to the stars, sleep well my Angel xxx

Fuck Grief and Fuck Cancer.

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