Breast cancer survivor’s thoughts on ticking off the bucket list

I’m a big fan of lists – I love a list! Feeling organised, setting goals, not making the mistake of forgetting something and being in control. Whilst some might call it being slightly anal, you can’t beat the feeling of the positive emotions released when ticking off a completed task, reminder or goal.

Some years ago I watched the 2007 film, The Bucket List. The story of two men – strangers, meeting in a cancer ward, both having been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. They went on to develop a close bond and friendship on their round the world adventures, fulfilling all the dreams on their list.

I suppose I thought a bucket list was one of those things I’d contemplate making later on in life, although I’ve really no idea why. I guess getting older, realising the opportunities to do things are diminishing and wishing to squeeze things into life. This clearly doesn’t make sense! Life is one great big bucket list – goals, ambitions, dreams and desires to be fulfilled. Admittedly, it’s a life ruled mostly by inescapable responsibilities (often the things that give us purpose in life) and undoubtedly sprinkled with tough times – pain, anxiety, fear, worry and grief. Memories we wish we could erase from our lives. But if we aren’t the master of our own lives…who is?

It will be two years ago next month that I finished chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer.  As we’ve now entered October, Breast Cancer Awareness month, I think we’d all agree that we’re all very much ‘aware’ of breast cancer. It’s a cure that we need. Jenefer Phoenix  recently tweeted using the #BreastCancerRealityCheck hashtag (cancer patients and survivors telling their truth about what it means to have primary or secondary/metastatic breast cancer):

#BreastCancerRealityCheck is friends expecting you to have a renewed zest for life but instead you have an overwhelming awareness of death.

This is so true. After having had such a close-up encounter with one’s mortality, it’s very difficult not to live in fear. Unbelievably hard not to think the worst – that any ache or pain you have means it’s come back. And for those living with metastatic cancer, it must be hard trying to escape the dark ubiquitous thoughts occupying the mind on a daily basis – very overwhelming indeed.

I’ve had huge lows dealing with and surviving this indiscriminate and cruel disease.  Thankfully these have been uplifted by the many highs I’ve also experienced along the way too. Always cherishing fond memories of spending happy times with family and friends and enjoying all manner of experiences that bring joy and happiness to life.

Now more than ever, I am more thankful for this precious life, knowing how quickly and easily it can be stolen from us.  So, I have started to create my own bucket list! My hubby absolutely detests this phrase. He believes it should be given a much more positive term such as a ‘living list’. He’s probably right.

After finishing active treatment last year, I only realised how little energy I had until I found myself bounding out of bed, pottering in the garden for hours, cleaning and even painting our bedroom and lounge…all things that previously would have tired me out just at the thought.

I knew my husband had been taking on much more of his fair share in keeping up our home and household chores. I’d felt guilty, feeling like I was being lazy, but in hindsight, I can see I just didn’t have the energy. Going back to work full time took everything I had at the time, the thought of going out socialising and doing other things on top was just too much.

bad days will pass

As hard as it is at the time to see into the future without the dreaded C word impacting your life – taking over your thoughts, your worries, your time, your body, your freedom. The saying ‘it soon shall pass’ is very true.

I met a very upbeat and positive lady just before I was about to start chemotherapy treatment. Being able to talk through worries and concerns with someone who had been in my own shoes helped so much. She lent me scarves to wear and showed me different tricks and ways to make them look better. She said ‘In a year’s time, you’ll look back on this part of your life as a blip. Your fears will lessen and it won’t consume you.  Some positive things can come out of this.’ After finishing her treatment she’d gone on to achieve the life-long ambition of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, as well as all sorts of travels to amazing places. She inspired me and I took great courage from her words.

Sadly this is not true for many, many people. The tragic passing of an old friend earlier this year from pancreatic cancer, just a few years older than me, brings home once again the devastation and loss this evil disease rips through lives.  Comprehending the horror of hearing you only have months to live – I cannot begin to imagine how one copes with being dealt that card. A once in a lifetime honeymoon trip followed by a fun, but bittersweet, wedding party. Only for his life to then have been cruelly cut much shorter than anticipated. How incomprehensible for a wedding and funeral to happen in the space of less than a month.

I have such tremendous feelings of deep sadness for his wife, family and dear friends. Also a massive guilt about why I was lucky to survive and he didn’t. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought of how my funeral would be – which songs I’d want and where I’d like my ashes sprinkled. All these fears were played out in reality for such a fun-loving man, taken in the prime of his life.

I’m pleased that life is now allowing me the time and energy to spread my wings again and be much more of a social butterfly. I have ticked off so many fab things already on my ‘living list’. A trip in a beautiful 1960s split screen VW campervan, a family holiday abroad, a night at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz club, a trip to Edinburgh and staying with dear friends in Scotland, watching Jools Holland, a weekend in a cosy cottage with a fire and hot tub, being being pampered on girly spa weekends, learning how to make pottery, a trip to beautiful Bath, eating in a Michelin starred restaurant, a trip to Glastonbury, a day out at Wimbledon, watching Gregory Porter live at the stunning Blenheim Palace, dancing the night away to Craig Charles’ Funk & Soul show and laughing my socks off at Micky Flanagan! So, so many wonderful memories.  And as I sit and type now looking out over the crystal clear, sparkling azure of the Balearic Sea in Ibiza, another wish ticked off my list.

Still so, so many things and places to go on my list.  Cuba, the Maldives, Santorini, The Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Hawaii, Croatia, staying in a beach bungalow over the Indian Ocean, The 606 Club, writing a book, learning and studying… I can’t wait to tick even more off my list!

What’s on your bucket list? I’d love to hear what experiences and goals you want to achieve.

You might also be interested to read my posts on New beginnings and Inspiring and motivational poetry.

Image by berry.com.

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3 thoughts on “Breast cancer survivor’s thoughts on ticking off the bucket list

  1. Love reading these blogs they are so inspirational and uplifting! Such a fabulous lady and always makes me feel so fortunate to be well in myself when so many others are suffering!

    Keep on writing hun you are filling so many lives with positivity xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

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