Being able to go back to work means I’m not nearly ready to leave this planet yet
I stopped working two years ago because I wanted to be there for my children, do the school run and do fun stuff in the school holidays.
I wanted to make memories with my family, memories for them to treasure. I wanted to make the most of every minute I had left and not waste a second.
The other reason for giving up work was that I actually was not well.
You might be surprised to learn that the cancer itself has never actually made me feel ill; I honestly would not have known I had it if the doctors hadn’t done scans and biopsies. No, it’s the treatment that made me ill.
The operations caused me pain and took time to recover from – but they’re not the worst bit. The worst bit is the chemotherapy. That really made me ill – so ill that I could hardly get out of bed. Yep, if it’s a choice between surgery and chemotherapy, just cut me open.
I have been asked many times what chemotherapy feels like. It’s impossible to describe accurately what it is like, but the best description I can give is that it’s like the worst hangover you have ever had multiplied by a hundred.
Your body aches, every fibre of it, your bones hurt and you don’t want to move. You feel sick pretty much all the time, and tired, so tired. So yeah, the hangover of all hangovers – only a fry-up and a can of Coke don’t help. Of course, everyone is different and this is just what it was like for me.
So I gave up work thinking I was never going back, thinking I was going to be in treatment for the rest of my life and that I needed to spend as much time as I could with my family.
At first I just needed to recover from my latest operation, I needed to be in bed healing, then I needed to be in bed just trying to survive chemotherapy. In fact, the first few months led us to purchase an extortionately expensive bed – well, I had to be comfortable!
In the end I gave up chemotherapy because I needed to be able actually to enjoy my life, OK, that meant my life might be a little shorter. I mean, what was the point of extending my life if all I was going to do was lie in a very comfortable bed?
Over the last two years we have done so much: family trips to Disney, Thailand, Vietnam, the Scottish Highlands – in fact, last summer we were barely at home. I have home-schooled my children one day a week (I say home-schooled... does a trip to Legoland count?). No, seriously, we did do some actual educational stuff too, but we also had a lot of fun.
Cancer being unpredictable, I have gone from being told I had six to 18 months to live, to having operations I was told I couldn’t have and being told I probably have at least six years. I am currently cancer-free. The cancer is expected to come back, but who knows when, and right now I feel really well. I probably feel so well because I am not in treatment.
Feeling so good, I can’t really claim to be unfit for work any more. So, last week I did something I thought I would never do: I went back to work.
You might think I would be gutted to have to go back to sitting in an office all day and putting the kids in after-school club. You might think I would be sad to be missing out on time with my family and, of course, my ponies. Well, you would be right, I do feel all these things, and yes I'm missing my ponies.
The thing is, though, while I have really enjoyed the past two years, I missed using my brain, and I missed the routine of work.
Being able to go back to work means I’m not nearly ready to leave this planet yet. So I'm actually quite excited to be back at work, to have a little normality back in my life and even the possibility of a future.
I feel really lucky to have had an amazing two years creating incredible memories with my family. I also feel really lucky to be defying the odds by still being here and being well enough to be fit for work.
Of course, everything can change in the blink of an eye, but for now I am happy to be working.
More by this authorBeth Purvis