Eighteen years ago, a doctor told me, well, didn’t actually say it so many words, but implied, that my life was pretty much over. I went home with my carrier bag of medication, wrote my will, cancelled my pension scheme and grieved for a year.
Before then, I was doing ok. Things had got quite tricky at times. I hadn’t set out to have a breakdown, or to lose my partner and home, or to be a single mum, or to be sick with both physical and mental illnesses for years, but somehow those things happened. But there were some great things too. I’d survived all those horrible things, and come out of it with great friends, supportive family, a job I loved, a purpose in life. Oh, and a really fabulous son. I had worked as an artist, a playworker, a writer, a public relations officer, a pizza chef, a secretary, not necessarily in that order. I’d travelled and partied and got myself a degree. Sometimes all at once. So, really when I thought my life was over I wasn’t thinking, Oh it’s only just begun. I’d had a fair wack at life already. Nevertheless, I wasn’t quite ready for the foreshortening I’d been handed. But hang on a minute …
Since that fateful hospital appointment, I’ve had four jobs and three redundancies. All of which taught me lots. I’ve had both an awful relationship, and (still have) an amazing one. I’ve taught myself how to run a creative business, I’ve organised amazing events, created a unique brand and product. I’ve taught and trained hundreds of people in a massive variety of subjects, and contributed to life changing, world changing projects. I’ve seen (sometimes dragged) a son through GCSEs, A Levels and the first years of adulthood, I’ve nursed and cared for a dying relative, executed a Will, sold a flat, reconciled feuding family members. I’ve re-learnt how to play guitar, taught myself photography, learnt how to use Photoshop, and rediscovered my love of writing. I’ve been to gigs, galleries, shows, I’ve stayed in hostels, on campsites, b&bs, caravans and houses all around Britain. I’ve seen dolphins and eagles and ospreys and otters. I’ve learnt the names of garden flowers, and how to grow them. I’ve learnt how to make chapattis goddamit! And I’ve also discovered that my superpower is not being afraid of fear, or love. At last. And jeez I got married. So go suck on that doctor!
Plans for the next eighteen years are sketchy. Sometimes I think just surviving in one piece will be enough, but actually I have plans. I’d like to get back to my slightly dusty guitar, become a great photographer, continue gardening as long as I can, go to interesting places, cook great food, build my business, create stuff, get angry, be content. I plan to continue having an amazing relationship. And to be proud of my son. I will go to gigs, and more gigs, as many as I can afford and can stand up at. I will read. Write. It’ll mostly be by the skin of my teeth, and I’m not keen on plans, but I’ll do it.
For now though there’s something I need to do. I’ve not written publicly about it because it is too personal and private for my family and for me. We are currently living with the reality of incurable cancer, with imminent loss and grief and bereavement. It is surprising me and also not surprising me how many corners of my life and my being this touches, rides roughshod over, treads gently, floods with love.
Becky was diagnosed in 2002 with Alpha1 Anti Trypsin Deficiency. It’s a relatively rare genetic disease that causes irreversible damage to the liver and the lungs. It’s progressive and incurable. As of 2018, Becky’s liver is in surprisingly fine fettle, but her lungs are fooked (which is the technical term for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD). Since her first diagnosis, she’s had much better prognoses, and much better doctors, and receives exemplary care and support from the NHS. Becky also suffers from Bloody-Mindedness and generally puts herself through unnecessary pain and exhaustion because she really wants to do something or can’t be bothered with waiting for someone else to do something for her. This doesn’t make her heroic, just lustful for life and more than a bit impatient. Nor does caring for someone with a life limiting illness make her selfless or a superhero, just filled with love and doing what needs to be done.
When Becky isn’t getting distracted by ranting and writing, she is a designer working mainly in illustration and surface pattern, and combining that with her passion for music. www.guitargeekery.co.uk