I am an optimist. Always have been.
By nature I’m shy but after a glass of bubbly I can turn into the life and soul. Crowds energize me and there’s nothing I love more than a social gathering. A few weeks before my birthday every year, friends phone me up to check whether or not there’ll be a party.
Funnily enough, I didn’t organise anything last year. I had every intention of doing so. It was after all my 64th and The Beatles“…when I’m sixty-four,” played in my head for weeks. Something made me drag my heels. My usual mojo was just not there. A quiet dinner out with family seemed like a better idea. And then it happened…the unexpected gift arrived.
I had felt the lump in my breast. But I shrugged it off.
Probably nothing to worry about. And yet I found myself scheduling an appointment, just in case. After a thorough examination, the gentle doctor asked me to step into her office. Her initial diagnosis came through a dense fog and she held eye contact so that I would absorb what she was saying. Words swam across my brain: Mammogram, scan, biopsy, the way forward. She’d made a mistake. It couldn’t possibly be me. I was the healthiest person on the planet. “Do you have any questions?” My mind was blank. I shook my head and picked up my bag.
A flurry of examinations followed in the ensuing days and just before my birthday the news came. Definitely cancer. I was about to dance with the big C. I pleaded with God, promised to change my life and strengthen my spiritual bond. Perhaps I really did have a Guardian Angel somewhere? I apologised for ignoring him and swore never to do it again…but my pleas were in vain. The path stretched ahead.
My daughter whisked me off on a shopping spree.
Pink walking shoes, cuddly PJs and Robert Galbraith’s, The Cuckoo’s Calling, were my gifts of choice. I wasn’t sure how long this journey was to be but by my birthday, I’d made peace with it.
I cannot say it’s been easy thus far. I landed up in hospital within the first two weeks of treatment and then again to have a port inserted. Two rounds of chemo therapy, the last one on New Year’s Day, were followed by a lumpectomy and the removal of a few lymph glands. I was recovering really well and preparing myself for radiation, when a seroma the size of a watermelon manifested itself in my breast. Three lots of draining sessions and a fainting spell, had me doubting myself for a few days.
Could I really survive all this? Was I being delusional to think that earth still needed my dubious talents? Should I just give up?
The answer came swiftly. I am surviving cancer. I can do this.
Every time I think otherwise, my body comes to the party. It does know how to heal itself…with a little help of course. I have a new respect for this vehicle of mine and have promised to honour it a lot more. Clean foods and freshly squeezed juices, daily exercise, research and relaxation, along with homeopathy, hypnosis and blogging about my journey – go side by side with chemo, surgery and radiation to come.
I have a whole lot of living to do.
I have every intention of surviving cancer. This is a one step at a time journey and over-thinking it is counter-productive.
Life doesn’t come with guarantees, but in the depths of my soul I feel that my body will heal, in divine timing.
Gail Gilbride is a writer, reader and reviewer and lives in Hout Bay, a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rhodes University and a Post-Grad teaching Diploma from UCT. (In a previous life, she was also a former Communication skills lecturer and merited English teacher.)
Gail’s interests include being part of a fortnightly writers’ group, reading and reviewing novels particularly by fellow South African writers, following the South African political scene, mentoring teenagers, supporting Cape Town City Ballet, enjoying music, theatre and swimming in the sea no matter what the temperature.
She has completed a number of creative writing courses with allaboutwriting and was mentored by Jo-Anne Richards and Richard Beynon. She is also a member of The Hout Bay Book Owls and a regular at Woman Zone Book Club.
In 2019 and early 2020, Gail was a weekly regular on Cape Talk’s Afternoon Drive with John Maytham, where she chatted about her blog Cat Therapy – a journey with cancer and corona. She has also been interviewed by Nancy Richards, on the SABC’s Book talk and by Varshan Sookhun on Midday Spice, Lotus Radio. Authors Jo-Anne Richards and Consuelo Roland, as well as journalists Penny Haw and Michelle Alexander, have interviewed her at book launches and on podcasts.
On occasion, Gail has swopped hats and interviewed authors Lesley Pearse, Consuelo Roland, Peter Kuhnert and Jewel Harris.
Her publications include: Under the African Sun (Cactus Rain publishers,) a top ten finalist in the Author Academy awards and included in the FLF schools outreach programme, Behind the Blue Door as a co-writer (Balboa,) a short story in The Eleventh Month and a poem in Writing the Self.
Gail lives in the valley of Hout Bay, with her human and furry family.
In 1976, Gail was completing her Politics Major at Rhodes University. Soweto – June 1976, was one of the many traumatic events which inspired her to write Under the African Sun.