It’s October, my first ‘cancerversary’ since being diagnosed twelve remarkable months ago. If I had fulfilled my prognosis my friends and family would be several months into grieving the loss of me. My daughter would be learning to live without her beloved mama and my husband would be raising her alone. This would hardly bear thinking about if I hadn’t thought about it almost daily on this long road to unlikely wellness, and borne it with as much realism and courage as I can muster. Those days may yet lie ahead. I still have cancer. It is still stage four. And remission (a.k.a The Flirt) eludes me like a butterfly I cannot net.
But I am here people! Alive and fucking kicking. Giving up no goddamn ghosts! If I may so eloquently and delicately say so.
This week I am marking the occasion with my next round of scans, a new bone broth recipe and the publication of my part memoir, part self-help book: The Cancer Whisperer, How To Let Cancer Heal Your Life.
As you do.
Now that my book is actually coming out I am wondering what the hell I was thinking. Ever the frontrunner in wearing my heart on my sleeve, this seems extreme even for me. As one of my reviewers said, “Sophie’s book, written from a place of excruciating vulnerability…” Excruciating indeed. There is a place to be vulnerable right? And that place is not in PUBLIC, out there for all to see. Part of me wants to crawl under my duvet for a week, a year, forever, until the dust blows over. Pretend it never happened. Or press rewind.
But then part of me hopes my reviewer is right in the second half of his sentence: “Sophie’s book, written from a place of excruciating vulnerability, burns with an incandescence that illuminates life directions for us all.” As the founder of a cancer charity called Yes To Life, who lost his daughter to cancer (or, arguably, to the effects of too much radiation from treating the cancer), he gets what I am trying to do. He is trying to do the same: ease the path for cancer patients, give them more choices, empower them to explore all possible treatments, help them preserve their personhood when the system reduces them to ‘patients’, create a community of support.
Some things are just utterly worth being excruciatingly vulnerable for and might make my experience of this painful, terrifying, transforming, skin-shedding, shitty disease count for something more than my own growth and illumination. So I wrote a book this summer. In five weeks flat to be precise (with no small amount of support from my somewhat pioneering publisher who gets books out of people who have been procrastinating for decades). I wrote it for cancer patients who want to attend to their hearts as well as their bodies, their spirits as well as their treatments, their transformation as well as their survival. I wrote it for the ones who want to find some meaning in their suffering and some wonderment in their pain.
I have wanted to write a book since I was ten years old. I guess I finally found something worth writing about. I hope my first is not my last. There is certainly another book inside me – my held-in-reserve spiritual odyssey with cancer, which I am still assimilating and integrating and marvelling at in the quiet moments. In the noisy moments too, as it happens – like when I had my brain MRI today. The machine makes a right racket, but I find it strangely peaceful, a momentary respite from the madding crowd. I had my CT scan too on my chest and abdomen. It’s that time again. Wondering. Waiting. Worrying. Chewing my fingers until I get the results on Friday. Praying that I am holding steady, if not wholly well.
Suddenly the stark naked feeling of putting my story out there takes second stage. There are more important things to be scared of.
Cancer gives you that.