People often tell me that I am 'so brave', 'inspiring', such a 'strong woman' and yet that's not me at all.
Truth to tell, I have spent most of my life feeling the fear and for the last eight years I've been engaged in a cycle of almost-paralysing anxiety.
But there comes a time when a person is done with fear and with running and decides, instead, to turn round and face their demons.
Checking the bank account towards the end of the month
Making an appointment for another health check
Saying 'No, I do not accept that' to someone in authority
Asking Those Questions of the oncologist
Petit à petit ...
We all have our demons and sometimes, in our imaginations, they become monstrous.
Unless we turn and face them and shout them down to a more manageable size
And then we often find they're not so bad after all.
Anyway, I have always suffered from claustrophobia, not just a fear of enclosed spaces and caves and the like, mine was so extreme that I was unable to have someone cover my head for more than a few seconds without panicking. Imagine the fun I've had with the MRI scans recently.
The year following my diagnosis, and nearing the end of treatment, it was time to tackle a few demons and this seemed like a good one.
Led by a guide and in the company of a dozen or so strangers, I went into Wookey Hole in Somerset.
I went underground.
You know what?
After an initial, "Oh my goodness, what was I thinking? I cannot do this! Let me out!"
And a few scared glances backwards towards the entrance
And a little deep breathing and heart-racing and clammy hands
It occurred to me that the voice screaming, "It's going to cave-in and you are going TO DIE!" was coming from inside of me and that I could say to that voice, "Oh shut up! I am going to die one day anyway, what the heck!"
For a few minutes I walked slowly behind the group muttering "Shut up" under my breath and then the screaming quietened to a whisper and though it never went away it didn't stop me.
And then I started to enjoy myself.
And to revel in the adventure, me, scaredy-pants me, in a cave, underground
And then I got to imagining exploring and discovering cave paintings and I thought how wonderful the world below our feet really is ...
And how I'd spent almost sixty years being too scared to venture down there to see it
And that could have been sad, except that it made going underground on that day all the more special because I had faced the fear and conquered it. And learned a hugely important lesson.
We're born, we live, we die.
It's not the length of the life that matters, it's the depth.
And the demons , they're just there to give us something to overcome so that we can really feel alive!