In true Tamlin Hall style this is a frank telling of what cancer took from her, seeped in a deep gratitude for the gifts of connection, self awareness and love that cancer so often brings with him.
4.4.2019 After the mandatory 3 months in isolation I had to wait after my BMT, I decided to go back to school.
Going back has been one of the most challenging things I have done to date. I thought it was going to be easy. Like I had just taken 1 day off sick instead 1 year. In my opinion I feel like going back to school was harder than cancer. When I was battling cancer, I had this nearly always constant feeling that I was going to live. I knew I had to survive because I couldn’t abandon my family, (“Great Friend” included). When I had cancer there was always someone who knew exactly what I was going through but when I came to school, I felt more alone than I ever had in isolation.
Before I started cancer treatment, I had just started to feel like my school was where I belonged, but when I came back it felt like another planet. At school, I didn’t have the constant flurry of nurses and doctors that could help or my mother’s security, I was by myself.
Yes, at school there were my friends, but friends I hadn’t spoken to in a year.
I was told to write a letter to cancer to get all my frustration out and as I was writing that letter, I realised I should be grateful to my cancer. Cancer brought me closer to my brothers, (one more so than the others), it made me more honest with myself and my best friend.
While cancer took year 8 away from me, it gave me something to make up for it. Instead of learning about Ancient Rome, I learnt lessons that school could never give me.
I learnt to be positive, to look for the sun in a mist of grey clouds or the brightest shining star in the night sky and wish upon it, I learnt to forgive myself, but most importantly I learnt to love and accept myself for who I was and what I am. Something I consider harder than life itself. I learnt that while everything might be against you, you will always have someone next you, to keep you moving forward, someone behind you to catch you when you fall, and someone on the other side in front of you to grab your hand to pull you through. While cancer took so many things from me like freedom, my concentration and my normality, it gave me strength and compassion, but most importantly, it gave me a will to live, it showed me everything that I had, everything that I had to fight for.
Recently I finished cancer treatment and the truth is I don’t feel any different. While I’m relieved that I’m done with cancer treatment directly, I’m still on treatment, just not cancer treatment. I’m on treatment for all the things cancer did to me. While I’m done with cancer for now, it will always affect me, it will always be with me, a part of me. I will always hear screaming children sobbing and be reminded about how some kids had to be held down to be saved. I will always see a bruise on myself and think I have cancer again. I will always get headaches and think my cancer is back. I will always look at my scars and think about the times when I thought I was really going to die. I will always go to funerals and think about the people we lost who were too innocent to die.
Currently I am now in yr 10 and it has been 2 years, 1 month and 18 days but it still feels like yesterday that I was told I had this extremely rare, weird cancer that sounded like a spaceship to me. Not long ago, I finished a book within a day and while it wasn’t as big as the books I used to read, that achievement gave me back something. It still feels like yesterday though that I cried to myself because I felt so sad and frustrated that I couldn’t sleep through the night or couldn’t take a deep breath without incredible pain.
Since coming back I have found that sense of belonging again, found the reconnection of friends and but most importantly I found myself, a new self but myself all the same.