Today is the 9th anniversary of my second cancer diagnosis. This week is also the 23rd anniversary of my first cancer diagnosis.

I bloody love being alive. I’m very grateful to the NHS, to my wife who had to live through and alongside my illnesses, for the support of those who loved me through surgeries and treatments and recovery, and to the younger versions of me who found ways to keep on. 

These things are not nothing. Too many loved ones, including my father in his mid-60s, along with many dear friends, have died of their cancers. I know that being alive – for any of us, for all of us, life-threatening illness or not – is not nothing.

But survival comes with costs. For me the costs include medical menopause in my mid-30s, infertility, childlessness, a great deal of emotional turmoil, and now living with chronic pain. 

In these costs I have also found gains. I have mined the losses for value – I often worked too hard at this and could have done with pushing less, letting be more. I am grateful to the therapists I’ve worked with and my own therapeutic practice with people with cancer and those who love them, for valuable learning and loving around those costs.

Too often our culture talks about cancer as if survival is all. We do not acknowledge the cost of survival. 

Too often we ignore those struggling with the ongoing fear of recurrence, the exhaustion of keeping going, the physical costs of treatment, the financial costs of treatment – especially for freelancers for whom there is no sick pay.

Too often we try to ignore the grief we feel at the loss of our mortality-virginity. Of course we all know we will die, as a concept. Living through a life-threatening illness means we know we will die – we know it is real. It can be a wonderful and often brutal knowing, simultaneously. 

If that is you today, I see you. 

I see how difficult it can be to survive, to keep on, to be here. 

I wish you easier days and quiet nights. 

I wish for you that the cost becomes worth it.