Flashback to Time Before Cancer – A Friendly Friday Post

When I first read this Friendly Friday challenge from Sandy Chronicles, I first thought of how much London has changed since I first arrived here in 1995. But then I thought of the biggest change in my life in the recent years and it is not external, but internal. Hence a flashback to time before cancer.

Pictures can lie.

Flashback to time before cancer shows how pictures can hide the truth. I am smiling but in constant pain
This picture was taken on a World Book Day just a few weeks before my surgery.

They can hide so many truths. I smiled for the camera, but lived on painkillers.

I might look healthy in pictures before the cancer diagnosis, but inside me a tumour grew and had been growing God knows for how long. It is strange to look back now and think that I worked right up to the day before my surgery.

My then head teacher offered me to take the week off leading to the surgery, but I didn’t want to. Why?

I think it was because it was better – for me at least – to keep my mind busy and not dwell on the surgery and what might come after too much. It was also because my class had an Easter production coming up and I wanted to get them as ready for it as possible.

And I felt gutted that I wouldn’t be there for them when they performed it. My teaching assistant sent me recordings of the performance and they did so well.

I still think I made the right choice to work up to the last day before the surgery, but looking back, my work-life balanced was totally skewed.

I was working crazy hours (like most teachers).

Make returning to work easier for yourself
The marking never ends…

I’m definitely not alone in the teaching profession to have worked ridiculously long days, and bringing work home during the weekends, too.

Many of my colleagues are still working 50 or even 60+ hour weeks. It is this workload and the crazy targets we have that make many talented teachers leave the profession.

The teaching unions have long been stressing the importance of work-life balance and asking for changes. So far nothing really has changed and teachers are still working 12+ hour days.

When I finished my treatments and was well enough to return to work, I knew I wasn’t ever going back to that life. There was no way I would give my work life so much of my time again. I needed to look after number one better.  And I knew it wouldn’t happen if I were too exhausted to exercise or cook properly after work.

Cancer woke me up to be grateful.

Before, during and after

I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to work part-time. I can dedicate time to what I really want to do, which is writing and cycling. Although the cycling is a more recent discovery :).

I am grateful that I know now to look after myself better, both physically and mentally, and to listen to my body and soul. Cancer made me change my lifestyle for the better. My diet is now healthier, I exercise more, sleep longer and stress less.

I am so grateful that I have another chance. I am grateful that cancer opened my eyes and gave me the thrive to do something different with my life.

Without it, I know beyond any doubt I would still work full time and complain about my life every day. I’d complain, yet not take the steps to change anything.

Thanks to cancer scaring the shit out of me, I now focus my energies on what I enjoy doing. I focus on what gives me a great buzz. And it is so true, when you do what you love, it doesn’t feel like work.

I never feel like, “Damn, I’ve got to write a new blog post today.” Or think, “Bollocks, I have to continue editing my book today.” Writing and cycling both give me joy and I am so grateful I can do both.

I would love to hear from you in the comments.

How has your life changed in the recent years? What was the catalyst for the change?


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8 thoughts on “Flashback to Time Before Cancer – A Friendly Friday Post

  1. I know what you mean about working up to the last minute. I used to do it too. I think it was a bit of a coping mechanism – by doing work it meant not thinking about the ‘other’ thing. I used to routinely log 60 hour weeks but I’d say that I enjoyed it because it was work that I wanted to do. I could have easily shut it down. The factor of choice and control is what makes the difference.
    My catalyst for change was a series for job ‘promotions’ that took me to a place I didn’t want to be.
    I can imagine that the cancer diagnosis was a harrowing clarion call for change. I’m glad that you’ve had a chance to do that Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Many of us have relatively ‘tame’ flashback stories to tell but yours is inspirational – a reminder to us all to seize the day and not put off making changes in our lives if change is what it required. I gather you have come through the cancer OK? I do hope so!

  3. Congratulations on doing what you love. In all photos you exude the same lust for life that is great to see. All well to you.

  4. Your fight against cancer it has been the most courageous thing I’ve seen. The strength you have is incredible. I am so proud for being your friend and assisting all the changes in your life for the better. So inspiring that you decided to change your life and follow your dreams no matter what. For me, my recent missed miscarried changed me totally. I reduced the stress that I used to put on me just to prove I am still an independent woman. I had to slow down a lot and if I want to really get pregnant, I’m accepting that a few personal goals at the moment will be put on hold until I achieve this dream of becoming a Mother. I learned sacrifices are part of life and they should be seen with a smile on our faces.
    Thank you for being an example Reija!

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