I can’t remember the reason, but there was an occasion at school when some girls in my year got on stage during assembly and performed Gloria Gaynor’s song “I Will Survive”. It might have been when we finished our GCSEs, or when we were leaving school after A Levels. Even before that, the song resonated with me, but since then it has been firmly lodged in my head. It was a great early example of girl power, of what a woman can do in the face of adversity, of saying “no” and meaning it. Cheesy – yes, but also meaningful.
Some of the lyrics seem particularly significant right now, in the face of secondary breast cancer:
“Did you think I’d crumble?
Did you think I’d break down and die?
Oh no, not I.
I will survive.
For as long as I know how to love I know I’ll stay alive”
…..and so on.
It’s fair to say it’s not entirely an accurate reflection of how I’m feeling. For example, it should be “For as long as they keep pumping me full of life saving drugs and as long as there are medical options, I know I’ll stay alive”. Actually, “know” is too strong – it should be “hope”. Although revising the lyrics that way certainly doesn’t scan very well.
But the point is this. At the moment, there is a good part of me that feels confident that I’ll survive – at least for a while. Which is funny, really, because ladies in my online community keep dying. Another two reported in the last 24 hours. All young, all fighters, all much loved, all too early to go. Somehow the sad news triggers the petulant child in me – I’m not going to give in to the cancer – I’m going to keep going and going and going. I figure this – if 98% of early stage breast cancer gets cured, that means that I was in the unlucky 2%. But the statistics have to work both ways – so if only a small percentage of women with secondary breast cancer live a long time, I have a good chance that I will be in that small percentage yet again. I’ve blogged before about how my family members seem to fall into the small percentage category time and time again. So let me fall into that category one more time, and stick two fingers up to cancer for as long as possible.
When I say this, or write it, a good part of me feels sick, as if I am tempting fate. I fast forward a couple of years, see my family after I’m gone re-reading these words and crying at my brave but misguided beliefs. I see them shaking their heads at this blog entry – “If only”, they say. And then the petulant child comes out again. “No”, she says. “That isn’t what happens”.
Who knows? Really, who knows? As I have told numerous friends when discussing my situation, no one knows. OK, so I have a particular situation. But anyone might walk out into the street and be hit by a car. Anyone might have a secret time bomb ticking inside them. Anyone may have a bad accident. No one knows. We are living in a time when a lot of money and effort is going into breast cancer research, when I regularly hear about a new drug or treatment being developed, including for triple negative breast cancer. So no one can say. They can be guarded about my future. But they can’t say for definite.
So with that in mind, I think I’m ok to keep singing along to Gloria in my head. A bit of disco never hurt anyone – particularly when it comes with a large dollop of positive mental attitude.