When Keith was diagnosed with Cancer in December last year I remember feeling really unlucky. Looking around at all of our friends, all of our successes, failures, challenges and achievements, I struggled to understand why we were the unlucky ones. Why he was diagnosed.
Keith’s cancer, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, was an unusual one. It’s a skin cancer but can develop in the throat and is very rare in people under 60. The chance of someone his age, with his background, health and lifestyle history developing this Head and Neck Cancer is only 0.037%. *
My cancer, by comparison, is much more common. You’re more likely to get cancer just by being a girl - lucky us! - and Breast Cancer is the most common cancer in both the UK and in Scotland. Although the chance of developing breast cancer at my age is only 1.17%.**
A run of some sort of luck
The week I was partially diagnosed was the week of our first wedding anniversary. We had made a last minute booking at a gorgeous Spa hotel in Bath. I planned to have facials and massages, and I was going to send Keith for his first ever facial too!
When I called to book appointments I discovered it was a bank holiday down south. The spa was fully booked. No facials, massages or treatments on our anniversary trip away.
When we returned from Bath the car needed to be serviced, taxed and MOT’d for the first time. The car passed its MOT and was taxed, but the service flagged severely corroded back brake discs and worn pads. The cost to replace them: £600.
£600 to drop on the car. The week we were restructuring our household finances for the second time in a year. In January we dropped from a two income household to a one. In November we are dropping from a one income household to a half. £600 to drop on the car.
We didn’t have to fit the brake discs. We had 3 months left in them said Garage guy. But given we live in a very wet country and brakes keep you safe, they weren’t ignorable.
The following evening the dishwasher started to bleep. Then the pump-out feature wouldn’t cut out. It constantly tried to pump out water that wasn’t there, the motor was going to burn out if we left it running. No amount of switching it on and off would stop it. We unplugged it. One dead dishwasher.
The climax; the loss of Keith’s wedding ring, somewhere in our bushy, muddy, local reservoir, nestled below the Pentland Hills.
No amount of searching in the evening’s that followed uncovered it. Unsurprising given the reservoir is a large parkland surrounded by gorse and bushes and very gorgeous countryside. Perfect for dog walks, not ideal for lost jewellery.
That fortnight we were smashed mirror, black cat, walked under a ladder, Friday the 13th, didn’t forward that email chain letter, deep in bad luck.
Perspective & the way you approach life
All of these things will have happened to other people. Possibly in one week. Probably without the Cancer part. Are they bad luck?
We booked our hotel last minute and didn’t check the dates beforehand.
Our car has been a nightmare since we bought it and has done 20,000 miles on one set of brake pads and discs.
Our dishwasher is 7 years old.
Keith has lost 2.5 stone and *still* insists on wearing a loose wedding ring.
With perspective, were they bad luck, or circumstantial?
Of course, we could have done without all of these usual life challenges the week of my diagnosis, but if anything, Cancer gives you a wider perspective. None of these things were horrendous, insurmountable, or life and death (dishwasher aside). They were pesky, frustrating and unfortunate.
I have done a lot of work on mindset and our approach to life with a business coach, my co-directors and the business. I enjoy books on the topic. The way you view a challenge, a person, a problem, your daily, frames your reaction and its outcome.
I have been a very negative person. I have been a very cynical person. I am still a very sarcastic person. But I approach challenges with a positive frame of mind and the results are better for my mental and physical health, and for most of the life hurdles that drop in-front of us.
Manifest the good shit out of life
Don’t believe that manifesting and positivity work? …
We spent our spa treatment budget on some of the best meals we’ve ever eaten. I am a pescetarian and discovered Chateaubriand: wow, changed.
My best friend persuaded the garage to significantly discount our brake pad fee and they did - a massive thanks to her and to the garage.
Our mate knew a dishwasher repairman who text some free advice which worked - massive thanks for the dishwasher save, I can’t live without it!
Our family set up a Facebook campaign and someone FOUND Keith’s wedding ring, which really is good luck if you’ve ever walked around Harlaw reservoir.
Great luck or great doctor?
Keith met Dr Overton - the first GP he’d seen in 15 years - feeling fine but with a sore throat and raised lymph node which wouldn’t go down. Keith was as far away from a typical throat cancer case as you can get - 0.037%. But Dr Overton was bugged by it and insisted on doing a lot of tests. Eventually he referred him to ENT for investigation, despite clear blood work (where cancer normally shows up).
If Dr Overton had not referred Keith when he did, Keith’s aggressive cancer would have spread into his lungs and would have been incurable. By the time he started chemo it was sitting in the last lymph node before his lungs.
Bad luck, good luck, great doctor, coincidence or serendipitous?
We like to label things, but in actuality a series of things just fell into place.
* Based on cancer statistics from Scotland: population, age, cancer diagnosis, Head and Neck Cancer.
35,000 men aged 34 - 39 live in Scotland. Only 13 men aged 34 - 39 were diagnosed with Head and Neck cancer in 2017.
** Based on cancer statistics from Scotland: population, age, cancer diagnosis, breast cancer.
4700 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Scotland each year. Only 55 women aged 30 - 34 were diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2017.