I sat in the theatre close to tears, but my emotion wasn’t really a response to what was happening on stage, I was having a cancer moment.
The show was drawing to an end, and I could feel the emotion inside, a wave which was close to overwhelming me. I sat in the theatre aware that I was very close to tears, which in itself is not surprising, the power of live performance and a classic production – Macbeth, Evita or Swan lake, all may very well draw out such a response. Although I have to admit that I was watching nothing quite on the same dramatic scale as these shows.
I was sat next to my son watching LazyTown Live – A Pirate Adventure, in a theatre filled with two to six year olds, all dressed in either Stephanie pink or Sporticus blue. It was my son’s fourth birthday and he was laughing and squealing with delight as Robbie Rotten (Boo Hiss!) fell over for the second time in a row. My emotion, as good as the show was, wasn’t really a response to what was happening on stage, I was having a cancer moment.
Eighteen months into remission from my cancer; non-aggressive Hodgkin lymphoma, now fit, well and getting on with life. Initially it is almost surprising how quickly the cancer period can be forgotten, life does go on and you get on with it. But there are these moments of sudden realisation of what I could have lost or not experienced, where I arrive at a destination in my journey that I wasn’t expecting to visit during my cancer derailment.
Returning to my home town for the first time, watching the latest Star Trek movie, going to the doctor for something that has no link to cancer at all – these are all recent and unexpected cancer moments, but the less unexpected cancer moments relate almost 100% to my family. These are the times of being a husband and friend to my wife, and where I get to be a father to my two sons. But if I’m honest, most of them relate to my sons.
When first facing the prospect of Cancer, awaiting diagnosis my eldest son was just two years old, while my youngest hadn’t yet made his first appearance, as we were about four months into his pregnancy. And for me, pre-diagnosis was one of the hardest times of the cancer experience, as I had no limitations on the extent of the illness or its impact on me. I had no knowledge of how far it had grown, how much damage it was doing and how much of my time it might take away. As a dad, this was what I found unbearable.
Just before my surgery, I spoke to a friend and shared my sadness and desperation about the prospect I possibly faced over not getting to be a father to my children, perhaps not getting to see my second child born, not getting to parent them with my wife. This was one of my saddest, most awful and darkest moments, because there is no easy answer to the knowledge that you might have to trust the care of your children over to someone else- friends, family, God even- the point is, it wasn’t going to be me.
And there it is, the source of my cancer moments, the reason they are so potent, so emotionally impacting- like a grief in reverse. They are my realisation that I didn’t have that moment, whatever it was, stolen away by the insipid creeping parasite thankfully now gone from my life. These moments are the first-times, milestones and celebrations, both obvious and subtle, whether seeing my second son born, starting playgroup, their birthdays or watching my eldest squeal with delight as he watches Sporticus save the day.