FTIAT: The Waiting Room
Ben (lifefromthesmallestroom) began his blog to bring a face to Crohn’s disease, with which he was diagnosed in 2009. He’s incredibly forthright about how life sometimes feels like it’s lived from “the smallest room” now, but his forthrightness isn’t limited to Crohn’s. His thoughts on facing cancer are equally difficult to read and empowering.
Recommended post: Learning Family Values
The Waiting Room
Someone once said, ‘Life is a roller coaster and you’ve just got to ride it.’
I don’t think of it as a roller coaster, but I agree you’ve got to hang on and ride it till the wheels come off, you’re blue in the face and you’re ready to throw up all over yourself.
Life isn’t a roller coaster. Life is a battle.
If there is one thing I know how to do, it is fight.
People call me stubborn, but there is a fine line between being stubborn and being determined, and I see myself as determined.
Cancer has shaped my life. In a way, it’s determined my life course so far. I wouldn’t be the person I am now were it not for cancer.
The first time I met Cancer, I was too young to really understand what it meant. I remember a needle in my arm, feeling sick and having my hair falling out. Apart from feeling like I wanted to throw up, I thought it was funny that my hair was falling out. (I still have that dodgy sense of humour!)
It was only when cancer took my grandmother that I really started to know what Cancer was and how it affected people. I was nine when I was told my grandmother had lung cancer and watched her slowly turn from a happy, semi-active older lady to one that ended up bedridden and uncommunicative in the space of two years.
Over my high school years, I saw two aunts fight cervical cancer and breast cancer and live.
Then it came closer to home again.
In the space of two years, I watched my mum’s hair fall out due to chemotherapy for breast cancer. I laughed when it grew back a totally different colour as she beat it.
I dropped out of university to help care for my stepfather as he was dying from pancreatic cancer, which ended up spreading to his liver, stomach and kidneys, and then sat myself in the oncology waiting room to be told I had testicular cancer. I was 20.
I told no one, not even my closest friends. I shaved my head and told people I was going traveling, when in fact I was going into the hospital for surgery and treatment.
Why? Because I didn’t want to be treated how I saw people with cancer treated—how people walk around on eggshells so they don’t upset you and they whisper in corners thinking you can’t hear them.
To the day my mum and brother died they didn’t know, and many people still don’t.
Over the intervening years I’ve had the pleasure and pain of raising money for cancer charities in the UK. I’ve ran marathons for Cancer Research UK. I’ve abseiled down some of the UK’s tallest buildings and walked across hot coals to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support, which helps with palliative care, because in my stepfather’s final days they gave me the support I needed to help care for him.
Over the years, I figure I’ve raised around £40,000/EUR49,000/US$65,935, but that still doesn’t relieve that guilt that I’ve survived while those I’ve been closest to died from it. I don’t expect it ever will . . . .
Having cancer has made me determined and more than likely a little stubborn. I know that sometimes this makes people angry, but I live each day as if it’s my last given that one never knows when it could come back.
Three years ago, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Colitis, an auto-immune gastrointestinal condition for which there is no known pharmaceutical or surgical cure. In a strange sort of way, dealing with cancer has enabled me to deal with this condition. It’s showed me to live for the good days, and at the moment I’m having good days . . . even though I’m again spending time in the oncologist’s waiting room.