More than my illness

An occurrence happened a couple of weeks ago that sparked some kind of inner anger that I didn’t know I held within myself. It woke me up as to how people must perceive me, and any other person with a chronic illness.

My mother, myself and a few sisters were walking along a street and bumped into someone my Mam knew. After the usual greeting, quick chat about the weather, two things about the rest of the conversation shocked me. The flow of conversation turned to ‘Who’s the sick daughter?’, of course exactly what my Ma and sisters would love to be subjected to when out on a casual day, but what annoyed me the most was my near enthusiastic response to tell her that yes in fact it was me. I reminded myself of a school child with the answer of a riddle, eagerly raising my hand. What followed next was I believe embarrassment on their part that I was among the ‘healthy’ others, blending into the crowd, appearing just as vibrant as the rest. We parted ways and as lunch was eaten and my family quickly forgetting about the seemingly meaningless incident, I just couldn’t let it go. It had dawned on me; to others I am my illness. I am cancer. It saddened and angered me.

Why couldn’t they ask where is your youngest daughter, who is the daughter that is the Medical Scientist, that loves to play camogie? I was labelled as the sick Carty, the poor sick Carty. It inspired me to write this perhaps strongly fuelled blog to describe that although yes compromises has to be made when diagnosed with cancer but  what you must realise is that life is full of compromises, it’s how you get through life, ill or healthy. It hasn’t taken away who I am, what I stand for. In fact it has probably changed my whole outlook on life for the better; how I think, how I love, how I accept.

As I sat eating lunch, my appetite diminished as I thought of how many amazing things I have in my life; my family, my friends, my boyfriend, how truly blessed I am but nobody could see that. They can only look through lenses tainted in pity. This year I have been to Budapest, Germany, Sweden and Prague in December, but awh she isn’t well. I was well enough to dance on chairs last weekend at my sister’s hen, go for a swim last night; be completely myself. It inspired me to think of all the things that encompass my being, which makes me, well me.

  • Everyday after school, my childhood best friend James and myself would be in the field on the quad, building tree houses, all sorts of craziness that makes me smile so much when I think about it. If I survived being on the back of that quad, I can survive anything. Divine Lord Jaysus, if my mother knew.
  • I got a BSc in Biomedical Science and work as a Medical Scientist. I worked in the Haematology Lab, had just about been trained in reading blood films before I went out sick. Was a blasting good time (inside joke. Auer little joke, there I go again).
  • I had also been trained in the Blood Transfusion Lab to work on call. It was exciting and scary all at once. It got the blood pressure up at times, that’s for sure. I really enjoyed it.

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  • I completed my thesis project in Lund, Sweden and stayed for six months. It was the best time in my life and hopefully made lifelong friends from all over the world; Sweden, Germany, America, Belgium, France, Finland. What amazing people.

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  • Every year I pop away to my festival family for a week long festival in the middle of a forest in Sweden. It is a place where you leave your woes at the entrance, meet amazing people, drink a few cans and dance your heart out. Out of the four years I have went, two of them I have been ‘sick’. No need for pity there.

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  • I have had the pleasure of falling deeply in love.
  • I am currently trying to write a book, and would you believe nothing to do with cancer.
  • I fought a lot of self doubt and insecurities when I set this blog up. It put me in control, that’s very important to not feel it is controlling you. I know I find it hard at times to keep writing frequently but nothing gives me more joy and drive than when I get messages from people living in all corners saying they enjoy the blog and it gives them hope. At the end of the day it is why I set this up.
  • I love Camogie, playing through all my childhood with my home team Annacurra and then with Kevin’s camogie when I moved to Dublin. Once again, all my troubles are left in the car park as I try my hardest to be the best version of myself on that pitch. Twice a week, these girls become my family, soldiers standing right beside me. I had to stop my training a couple of weeks into my new regime, there always seemed to be something getting in the way. With my schedule at the moment I hope to get back to a light train in the new year for two nights every second week. Out of the few things I had to sacrifice, having to stand on the sideline breaks my heart. The passion, drive and love I have for the sport and the community is something to be reckoned with. Walking into the grounds a couple of weeks ago to our county final, the same grounds that two years I had walked into with a fire in my heart as I prepared to play full back, I had a tear in my eye. I wished I could be on the full back line, contributing what I could to the team. The sideline had to suffice this year but next year is both my year, and the team as a whole.

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  • When I get the all clear again I am travelling the world. I love to travel and get immersed in other cultures. The things you learn, things you see really open your eyes.
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Baths in Budapest

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Cycling in Greifswald, East Germany

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Copenhagan

  • I have nine sisters and one brother. Without them I would be nowhere, they are the concrete that keeps me in place. They organise, plan, and just be there. My Mam also, I nearly forgot to mention her I thought it was so obvious.

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  • I am never too far away from a crochet hook. I am not an artistic person so the feeling to make something yourself is really rewarding.

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There is a couple of things, straight from the top of my head that I am pretty proud of, and hopefully I am not being too boastful but I have probably done things that has made me happier than the people that look on with those wide eyes and tilted head glances. Not the materialistic, money orientated things but the life experiences, this whole ‘working on myself’ thing, learning to be courageous, caring, but most of all this thing that everyone searches for; happiness. Don’t pity me because I am honestly happier than I was three years ago because I have a better sense of who I am. I am not cancer, I am Sarah.

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6 Comments

  1. I think this is one of your best blogs!!! Tears in my eye, love you ducky xx I love the end!! I am Sarah

  2. Amazing blog as usual. I’m sure this resonates with many, with cancer, CF, and many many chronic illness we don’t even know. This is stuff everyone needs to read, so again, I am, thankful and glad you write.

  3. Add the following please; beautiful, funny, engaging, these are qualities I know though meeting you and you have another endless list of lovely qualities you’ve shown through your blog. Good on you Sarah, keep calling it like it is. I love this blog xxx

  4. All I will say is you are one amazing young women sarah let the peoples ignorance go over your head stupidity in the making you have shone through all of this and as you say you are more in tune with yourself mind and body than you were before all this came about your mother and family must be so proud of you as you are such a lovely person keep those blogs coming I love them xx

  5. Beautiful Sarah….. tears in my eyes… and yes we do sometimes forget all we should be grateful for… thanks for the reminder…

  6. Brilliant read Sarah ! Hit the nail on the head!! keep it up, and so many more trips to do! you go girl xXxX

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