You’re hitting some hard stuff right now, but darling, don’t let anything get in your way,” Michelle Visage said in a video directed to me. “Come on, i know you’ve got what it takes to fight this fight. I am taking bets on you. I love you, go kill it baby.”
I’m not writing this to let you know that my cancer has spread and that my doctors don’t think I’m going to survive, because, let’s be honest, you all know that by now, but to archive this moment of my life to look back on one day and say “hey, I proved science wrong. I made it”.
It’s been over a month since my surgery now and every time I go to write about cancer, I find myself not being able to. The blow that my cancer had spread way before I started chemotherapy almost a year ago was one thing, but hearing that these unknown spreads hadn’t reacted to any treatment and that my healthcare team don’t think I’m going to get better is a whole different story.
Surgery was hard, really hard. In the end, three ribs, half my diaphragm and half the lower lobe of my right lung were removed alongside as many tumours as they could find. The following week saw a highly dosed up me dwelling in the corners of a horrific ward, with nurses denying me dignity and treating me like I deserved to be in the situation I was in. However, ten tubes coming out of my body from various (and pretty gross) locations became nine, eight, seven and eventually I was let out with two single chest drains curling out of my wound and into bottles with questionable liquids inside. Flash forward to two weeks after that and a well-rested and healing me heard the news no-one ever wants to hear.
I might never get better.
Showers are dangerous places and I make them as short as I can now to avoid overthinking and upsetting myself over and over again. I’ve tried to make sure I’m never “woe is me” but, woah, this is terrifying. I can be completely fine and the realisation of everything crashes back down in an instance, be it because of another Cancer Research advert on television or the microwave in my house beeping and reminding me of the beeps my pump would make during chemo (yes, it’s gotten that pathetic).
There are hundreds of things I’m promising myself I’ll be alive and defy science for. I will make it to see my boyfriend graduate from Oxford with his PhD. I will be there to see my littlest brother start and finish “big school”. I will be here to see my friends succeed (and low-key cackle when those who told my I couldn’t, can’t). And hey, at least I have a beautiful little kitten to keep me company now I won’t be around friends in London anymore.
I’ve always wondered what it was that I must have done to get cancer. Was it because of that time when I was five years old and ate a sunflower seed I was supposed to plant at school and acted surprised when nothing grew? Was it that time when I was 7 and snooped in my parents’ bedroom a week before Christmas and saw my presents? Was it that time last year when I ate my boyfriend’s cookie and denied any knowledge of it? Who knows, yet here I am, riddled with cancer with a healthcare team completely unsure on how to make me better.
Regardless of my news, it’s taught me even more about the sanctity of life and how every day is just as important as the last. I want to use this as an opportunity to put pressure on the NHS to provide specialist and imperative training and workshops for nurses and doctors on how to treat LGBT people with integrity and knowledge of who they are. If I’m going to die, I want to die as a man who sought out every opportunity that came his way, benefitted as many people as he could and be someone people will look back on with pride.
“You must continue this fight”, my grandma text me with determination, a sense of pride and hint of militance. It was a demand, a plead and above all that, proof that there are people in this world who want me here just as much as I want to be here. I was told by my surgeons that I’d be bed bound after surgery for two months, yet here I am, only weeks after it, enjoying life and the beauty in this world. I’m still managing to moan about Theresa May, gag over the top four on RuPaul’s Drag Race, cry over the new London Grammar album, squeeze into ridiculously skinny jeans and find some sort of comfort, humour or goodness out of this disease. I know it’s there.
This is a documentation of what’s happened the past month, a promise to myself that I’m going to fight and a pledge to you – be you a first time reader or an avid (and appreciated) veteran to my fabulous cancer chronicles – that I will get better, that I will make it. I will make it.
You can read all about my cancer journey from day one to now right here.