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  • Debbie Murphy

My Cancer Shadow

I’ve been putting a distance between me and my cancer lately. By this I mean that I have attempted to restore the person I was before cancer and dismiss the tag that accompanies me wherever I go, like a shadow. This has been harder to do than I anticipated as people naturally ask ‘how are you’. I will say ‘fine thank you’ after which there is often a pause before the next question comes which is usually something like ‘so you’re…all ok now?’ or ‘are you feeling better you know after…?’

I am not good at elaborating about my illness in person which is probably why I wrote this blog. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that I don’t agree with talking about cancer or promoting well being associated with the disease, I just can’t do it well myself. I’ve almost started to dismiss it and will often answer those awkward ‘follow up questions’ with, ‘they took it out so it’s hopefully all gone, job done’, or something like that.

Recently I won a competition to see Prince – my idol of many years, by entering a competition on twitter by a local paper. I was shocked to get a call saying I’d won and could I answer a few questions for an interview which I was glad to. We spoke about my first single, concerts I’d been to, etc and then the question came, ‘You’ve had some health problems recently, I’ve seen your blog…?’ The conversation went on and I did say I think awareness should be raised but hadn’t anticipated the header my ‘win’ would get

En route to Prince with my friend I noticed a link on twitter so clicked to read…’Cancer Survivor Wins Tickets to See Pop Idol Prince’, I couldn’t catch my breath. My friend who was driving was also shocked…Cancer Survivor!!! Now some people may shrug and say, ‘well you are’, it was written on my twitter header BUT this was supposed to be about me being a Prince fan. I was really cross. I had been a Prince fan since 1982, a lot longer than I’d had cancer, I really can’t explain how this made me feel other than I was literally cringing with a kind of shame.

Now to the newspaper in question and the journalist who wrote the article I appoint no blame, I fully understand why this header was given. I did speak about my cancer and didn’t say don’t tell anyone – I have, in a public blog. It’s just that when I saw it there in black and white whilst I was dressed up and ready to party I suddenly felt like a cancer victim again, the shadow was back.

What I am going to say next may be controversial but it’s how I feel. Cancer Sells. It sells newspapers, clothes, tickets to events, art, music, etc, etc. You stick the cancer or charity tag on what you need to sell and bingo, publicity and depending on what you’re giving, you sell your goods that may not have got the marketing boost that cancer can attract. It grabs attention because we’ve all been affected by it in some way. At the end of the day I suppose if charities receive much needed funds it doesn’t matter how the money comes in or how the publicity is raised.

It’s just that maybe, just maybe it should be more about the charity than the individual, business or product. In the same way that heart disease is displayed on cigarette packets, cancer is not nice. It’s drips and drains, canulars and catheters and some of us can’t shake this association and therefore put the disease and the charity before the associated ‘product’ whatever that be. Dedicated charities both local and national need our help and the best way to do this is by giving, whether time, money, care, publicity or goods but most importantly not for profit, or maybe I’m too idealistic?

I suppose I don’t like being reminded of cancer when I’m paying for cards in a shop or by invitations to celebrity events that I surely must support as I’ve had cancer. Not really, I’d sooner support the charities that need the help most, in my own way and my own time thank you.

This is my opinion and I know it’s not shared by many others. It’s just that I am more than a cancer survivor and I have been through other tough times apart from kidney cancer. However I have learnt a difficult lesson, this disease is going to stay with me for good. No matter how hard I try to ignore it, dismiss it, shake off the shadow it’s there sticking like glue. They may have removed the tumor but the cancer remains, it’s stamped me and marked me out. That is how I feel right now. This may change.

I will continue to write my blog and update my progress. I see my dismissal of cancer as positivity in my own way, it’s gone and it won’t come back, as I keep telling myself, job done. 

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