Nearly ten years ago, my mother was offered a posting in the Falkland Islands. We came very close to uprooting the whole family and spending a year there. I would have finished my last year of primary school at the island school, which had a grand total of twenty pupils. We could have seen the penguins.
In the end, it all fell through because there simply wasn’t a house available near the RAF base.
In the end, it turned out for the best because six months later my mother was diagnosed with cancer.
One failed lumpectomy, six months of chemotherapy, a combined mastectomy and reconstruction, and a year of herceptin later, she was cancer-free and we could move on with our lives.
She retired from the RAF, we bought a house, I went to secondary school, I grew up.
But cancer left its scars on all of us. In my case, the sight of my mother enduring chemotherapy triggered extreme anxiety and panic attacks that kept me prisoner in my bedroom for years afterwards.
I sought help for the anxiety, I made it through my exams, despite the panic attacks that still occur every time I get into an exam room. I went to university and I’m living away from home and the safe space that is my bedroom and I’m surviving.
I’ve grown up.
Earlier this week, I felt so grown up that I started to research the possibility of spending a year out from my studies somewhere I can push my limits and see just how much I can do. I was thinking Tasmania, or New Zealand.
And last night my parents came to see me so my dad could see my new, grown up house that I live in like the adult that I am.
And last night my mother stood in my kitchen and told me that the cancer is back.
And now I feel ten years old all over again.