Tuesday 25 October 2016

'They kept it secret from me... I was so angry' - Irish blogger recalls her experiences #LivingWithCancer

Published 19/09/2015 | 19:07

Irish vloggers and social media influencers are sharing their experiences of #LivingWithCancer as part of the Independent.ie series.

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Lesley Cosgrave is the woman behind popular Irish beauty blog 'Bellinis and blush'. As part of the 'Living with Cancer' campaign, she has written a blog post for Independent.ie about her experiences with cancer.

For the past 14 years, I have been 'Living With Cancer'.

In the summer of 2000, I had just finished my junior cert and was off on a summer holiday with my parents to Lanzarote. I remember throughout that holiday, mam mentioning a pain in her hip. I naively thought of it as nothing serious. Not in my right mind was I prepared for how life was about to change.

It was the following September when my mother was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer in her hip. I was 16 at the time my dad and my older sisters kept it secret from me for a while. I was so angry at them at the time, but I know they were just trying to protect me. We were submerged into a whirlwind of hospitals, medication, medical terminology and fending for ourselves at home. 

In October, my mother travelled to a hospital in London to have surgery to remove the tumor growing in her hip. Between the surgery and recovery, both my mam and dad were there for over a month.

That year, she came home for Christmas. It wasn't the Christmas that I knew. A couple of days later, she was back in Beaumont hospital. Mam never truly returned to our beautiful home in Malahide. While the surgeons in London operated, that hadn't notice another tumour growing. My mother passed away on the 2nd of March 2001 in St. Francis Hospice in Raheny, aged 47.

I remember the moment when it happened. I walked into the room and cried wailing tears. My legs went from under me and I collapsed into my dad's arms. This woman, my mother, my friend, my life, my soul, my backbone, was gone.

While I was surrounded by friends and family, I have never felt more empty and alone. I felt myself break in half. Half of my being, my spirit and my soul went into the ground with her, and the other half of me just lingered and hovered for many years, desperately looking for its missing piece. I am 31 now and it was perhaps only in my late 20's that I feel like I put myself back together again. But there is always that void, that one very large missing jigsaw piece.

I was not ready or prepared for the responsibilities I had to take on. All of a sudden, I was coming home from school to an empty house. I was cooking for myself, doing laundry, doing food shopping. I was on autopilot, just doing what I had to do to keep myself afloat. I was the silent grieving type. I kept everything bottled up and hated to bother anyone when all they were doing was offering help.

A common misconception is that cancer means death. Even in my own situation, I feel like there was never a more untrue statement. It is not the same for everyone. What I am most proud of are the steps Ireland has taken to create awareness of this disease. Breast checks, cervical smears, prostate checks; there has been so much campaigning and awareness raised for cancer and because of this, thousands of people have overcome this horrible disease.

 When something happens that shatters your life, like losing a loved one, it feels like your entire world is crumbling down around you. I promise you, it does get better and it does get easier, but it never truly goes away. I didn't know my own strength. You are stronger than you think and you are not built to break.

My experience with cancer has shaped my entire life, but it's a life that I'm pretty damn proud of. I am my own hero, because I am living proof that there is a life before, during and after cancer.

Text PINK to 50300 to donate €4 to the Irish Cancer Society.

Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #LivingWithCancer.

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