At the moment everything I have written so far has been in past tense. The past. Last week. It is hard to believe that not even a whole week has gone by since I received my diagnosis.

After leaving the hospital we went home and I honestly cannot remember a word we said to each other on that short journey. I guess that is why I have decided to write this blog. As I mentioned previously, at this time, these words and thoughts are purely for my own journey. Whispers that I may keep to myself, to read back at some future date. However in the last couple of days I have been reading a couple of blogs written by breast cancer survivors detailing their experiences and they have been a great source of information and comfort to me. Perhaps someday, some-one will gain some comfort from my awkward writing – I would very much like to think that would happen.

So we return home and I have the daunting task of deciding when to tell people. If there is one thing I know about myself it is that with people I trust and who know me well, I am an open book. I have no ability to hide or censor how I am feeling at any particular time and I begin thinking that to try to keep this to myself will be damaging in the long run. I remember thinking that if I am to be as up and down as the nurse says I may well be, that I want people to know why. I want friends and family to know there is a reason, not that I have just gone batty overnight. As much as I would like to be different, I do worry about what people think of me. I want to be honest and upfront.

So the phone calls begin. I will not detail those here as I do not want to write about friends and loved ones. I am choosing to write about myself, I do not want to make any choices for them. But I do remember it being excruciating. Trying to continue to stay calm and breathe. Making those lame jokes again, saying that everything is under control and a’okay. I did feel extraordinarily calm – more so than I ever thought I would in a situation like this. We order take-away as a special treat, but the food is tasteless and I find it difficult to swallow. I also remember feeling absolutely exhausted; so very tired and so I go to bed to sleep on this strange situation that I now find myself in.

I woke up on Friday morning again feeling calm and got ready for work. The day turns out to be full of phone calls, to family, phone calls concerning work, cancelling obligations that I know I may not be able to fulfill in the coming weeks, more phone calls to friends, more discussions with loved ones, visiting a friend for coffee, picking up invites and coffee with another friend, chatting with a couple of people who have been through this too. If this all sounds like a blur, it was, but it was good to keep busy. Talking about it helped. Laughing and joking helped even more. There was no falseness about this. I would say that I almost felt euphoric. Does that sound strange? This is a hurdle and an inconvenience, but everything will be fine and I am determined to prove to myself and others that this is the case. I feel energetic and ready to take on whatever may come at me. That was Friday.

The weekend goes by ever so fast. Relatives come to stay, to help, to be there for us. I enjoy time with others but frequently need to go off and be myself. Every day I feel increasingly exhausted. I am smiling and laughing lots and it is a genuine emotion, but it is tiring. Telling more friends and relatives is tiring too. It is more difficult telling my younger friends than those of a similar age or older. Everybody I know, absolutely everybody in my circle of friends or family seems to know at least one or two people who have been through this. It is a shocking discovery and although I feel as if I should find that comforting, it is not. How can this be so common?

So now we are at Wednesday. Almost a week since my diagnosis. I have only cried once – just ever so briefly in the shower this morning and only a very few tears. This is strange as I am usually the soppy girl crying at TV adverts and at the end of the majority of films that I watch. But it seems that when something big happens, something real, something to me, my emotions are somehow held in check. I feel almost disengaged from the whole thing. I am grumpy and anxious, but these emotions appear to be more about the wedding (high anxiety about the organisation of this), my work and finances (yep – high anxiety) and my exhaustion. I am not sure if I am grasping the real situation.

Now for the first time, I am in the present. This journal brings me to right now. It is the day before my hospital appointment where I am hoping to find out more information. I do not know what I will discover tomorrow. Will I find out the type of cancer that I have; the stage the cancer is at; the exact treatment I will receive? I do not know. I don’t really know what to expect. All I currently have in the way of knowledge is that 2 weeks today I go for surgery.

We shall see what tomorrow will bring.


About gillianleesmith

A lifetime fascination with storytelling, history, fairytales and folklore, has led me to create imagery based on the everyday whirling mind of a person who does not always wish to be rooted in the realistic present. Themes of times gone by and reminiscence are especially evident in my designs and my work often delves into the expression and characterisation of our human nature, which we may hide away and only ever glimpse at when prompted by a reflection of our inner selves. My character sculptures in particular are a nod towards my own imaginations, avid reading and childhood dreams. They are a way of seeking the perfect representation of our character. Each tells an original tale, with a single image that endeavors to embody a whole life story in an uncomplicated way. My most recent work begins to explore ‘dwelling places’, a place where we can truly be content and again the setting that truly represents our character and history. Each material used is carefully chosen to create layers of texture incorporating textiles, paper, paint, hand painted imagery and meticulously detailed hand embroidery. The combinations of varying media help me to create many layers and textures, which are evocative of the memories and history that is integral to my work. Graduating from Edinburgh College of Art in Performance Costume in 2005, I have since been working on my own creations as well as teaching workshops with community groups. More recently, I have been coordinating a project involving reminiscence work with older people. This has been a huge source of inspiration to my latest artwork and themes of memories, dreams and childhood.
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