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Covid, Cancer and Coping: Lockdown Life Lessons


I did not know what to call this blog – but these three words seem to sum it up; by coincidence, they all began with a C. The word that stands out the most has got to be “Cancer”. Hearing that your sister has cancer was a hard pill to swallow. In fact, it was one of those pills that are easier to leave in the packet than choke on with a gallon of water.  I, for one wish I could change our reality. Never did I think that at twenty years of age I would have to go through seeing my sister have cancer. It is the thing you see on a Netflix drama or in the news of all the inspiring people that have had siblings with cancer at a young age. You never stop and think that could be you. I have said it more times than I can count over the past few months but I would do anything to take her place. The statistic is out there. It is blatant and thrown around: 1 in 2 of us will get cancer but you somehow block out the prospect that it could be you. Or even worse, it could be your sister who fulfils that statistic. 


We cannot control what we cannot control. Life takes us down unexpected paths; ones that not even a fortune teller can predict. What we can control, however, is how we cope with the path life takes us down. With my Mum working as a psychotherapist, I am well aware that there are certain ways we are likely to respond to situations due to the nature of who we are. As much as I wanted to block out the reality of my sister’s illness, I knew that at some point I would have to come to terms with it. As someone who takes a very practical approach to life, I wanted to know the best way I could help her. But that is not to say you can ignore the emotions attached to caring for someone with cancer. I felt guilty for showing emotion seeming as “I wasn’t the one with cancer”. I had absorbed the belief that I should be strong and have my sh$t together seeming as I was not the one suffering from a deadly illness. It was easier carrying on as if my life was still together seeming as I had not been diagnosed. Eventually, something has to give. I learnt that you can’t keep things bottled up forever.

 

 

Learning to cope with a sibling that has cancer is far from easy. 

 

Learning to cope with a sibling that has cancer whilst being in a pandemic is far from easy.

 

Thrown in with losing our cat, Violet, to cancer it has felt as if the world was punishing us. 

 

Mentally it has been a difficult time. But throughout these past six months, I am still grateful for the things I have. It has taught me how resilient I am and that I can get on regardless of what life throws at me. I thought I may share a few of the life lessons that this period has taught me.

 

Never Take Your Health For Granted 

 

If seeing my sister in a hospital bed via Facetime was not enough to make me appreciate my health – nothing would. Through witnessing my sister have to have multiple tests, procedures, and surgery I have become increasingly aware of how lucky I am to have good health. It has made me learn that our bodies are not bulletproof. There is only so much it can take and sometimes we need to be a bit kinder to ourselves. If something feels wrong, check-in with yourself. If you feel a lump: get it checked. If you feel too tired to workout: don’t. It is ok. I am not always the best advocate of being “kinder to myself” but it is an ethos I do my best to endorse.

 

 

Podcasts are a Gamechanger

 

Recently I have really got into listening to podcasts. I used to question people who swore by listening to podcasts when running but seriously, you do not know until you try. And when I did, I understood why people had been raving about it. Listening to podcasts on my runs (especially the longer ones) is a great way to keep my mind busy whilst simultaneously exercising; it goes with the saying "killing two birds with one stone" although, not very vegan of me. My favourites at the moment are Venetia La Manna’s ‘Talking Tastebuds’ and Rhiannon Lambert’s ‘Food for Thought’. I am always open to recommendations! 

Talk ! About ! It !

 

Easier said than done. But taking does help. Find someone you trust and immerse yourself in a DMC (Deep Meaningful Chat – I will save you the hassle of typing it into the urban dictionary).

 

Find a Side Hustle

For me, blogging has been a great way for me to dedicate my energy to something not work-related. Equally, I like to read. A good paperback, a cup of coffee and a cold afternoon sounds dreamy to me. Find your side hustle – let it be something you enjoy. It may take some experimenting before you get there but it will be worth it. 

Less Screen Time


It can be easy to fool yourself into thinking you are having a good conversation with someone without realising that you are not fully present, so often there is a third member in our relationship with another: our phones. When was the last time you went for a coffee with someone and switched your phone off and put it in your bag? Or when did you last go on Zoom and put your phone in another room? 

 

The same applies with watching a film or television. We watch a bit until our phone suddenly lights up. A notification. You then enter the social media vortex. 2 hours later, the film is over. “That was good wasn’t it” someone chimes. You agree in unison without realising that you most likely only absorbed 20% of the film with the other 80% being lost in likes, followers and TikTok. I believe it is important to sometimes switch our phones off or leave it in another room so we can fully engage in what is in front of us. Of course, no one is perfect and we are all guilty of using technology as a distraction, but we need to be aware that it can also become an addiction.

 


 

I hope my raw honesty could perhaps help in some way. As ever, I am so grateful for the support.

 

Lots of Love,

 

Is 


                                                                        Isabella Clark ©

The Entertainment Industry in Lockdown

Lockdown has taught us many things, but for the most part, I think it has also emphasized what is important and what is not. An industry that took a severe battering over the past 5 months is the arts. Many things we used to rely on for entertainment were taken away when it was announced that the air we were breathing was poisonous. Going to the theatre or cinema would be no more.


I would like to say lockdown has been relatively ok for a 20-year-old student, but I don’t think I can. It sounds melodramatic, however, lockdown has certainly tested me. After losing our beloved family cat, Violet, to cancer, I did not think much else could go wrong. Two months later, my sister was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. We were informed by the professionals that she would need surgery and further treatment. Though we were lucky to catch it as quickly as we did, and for Odette to have treatment very quickly, it was not an easy situation to have to cope with. Never did I think I would say that my sister has cancer at 20. Amongst the two hits of cancer our family has received, I've been trying to balance doing a degree online and managing my own mental health. I’d like to think lockdown has taught me to be resilient. 

 

                                Isabella Clark ©

Equally, I have many things to be grateful for; the continuous support from loved ones is something that I will forever hold close to me. And here are some of the things that have got me through the past few months. I have put my most highly rated in bold (aware I now sound like a Netflix category).

 

What I’ve Been Reading:

 

Once I had submitted all my work for my second year at Warwick it initially felt amazing. However, I soon became itching for something to fill my days with. I never thought I would miss sitting at my laptop, but, after spending months of Designated-Desk-Days it felt strange not having anything to dedicate my hours to. So, in preparation for my third year and general pleasure I have been taking to reading as much as possible.

 

Here are some of the reads I have got through (so far):

 

Fiction:

-       North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

-       Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes

-       Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

-       The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

-       Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

-       The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht

-       Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth

-       The Accidental by Ali Smith

 

Non-Fiction:

-       Coal Black Mornings by Brett Anderson

-       Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

-       The Iceberg by Marian Coutts

 

Poetry:

-       Prufrock and Other Observations by T.S Eliot

-       Selected poems of Denise Riley 

-       Plath 

-       She Must Be Mad by Charly Cox

-       I Must Be Living Twice by Eileen Myles

 

Short Stories

-       Good People by David Foster Wallace

-       Corrie by Alice Munro

 

What I’ve Been Listening to:

 

I have also been listening to music every.single.day. Some new albums I have enjoyed are:

 

-       The End of Everything - Noah Cyrus

-       folklore- Taylor Swift

-       crybaby – Lil Peep

-       Chromatica – Lady Gaga

-       After Hours – The Weeknd

-       Notes On A Conditional Form – The 1975

 

 I make a Spotify playlist every month so I will leave a link to my profile if you are interested.


What I’ve Been Watching:

Another great way that the ats has kept us all occupied is through television; whether it be on Netflix, ITV, Iplayer, Amazon Prime and all of the above – we are so lucky to have the number of series, movies and shows that we do. Below I have listed all the programs and series I have watched during lockdown. 

 

Series:

-       Belgravia

-       The Fall Series 1, 2 & 3 

-       The Nest

-       The Split

-       The Crown Series 2

-       When They See Us

-       Luther

-       Doctor Foster

-       You Series 2

-       Unorthodox

-       Tiger King

-       Little Fires Everywhere

-       Salisbury Poisonings

-       Hollywood

-       Friday Night Dinner

-    The Marvellous Mrs Maisel

-       Normal People

-       Mrs America 

-       Desperate Housewives

-       Hillary

-       Jeffrey Epstein

-       Lil Peep: Everybody’s Everything

-       Celebrities In Therapy

-       Gwyneth Paltrow Goop Lab

 

Perhaps my lists can provide you with some inspiration over what you might next listen to, read or watch. Equally, if you have any recommendations for me, do let me know - some of the best things I have read and watched have been suggested by a friend.


Nevertheless, I hope this blog can reiterate how important the arts are in our daily lives. Could you imagine a world without music? TV? Books? I don’t think I would last long. 

 

Lots of Love,

 

Is 


                                Isabella Clark ©

Vita has also been a great source of entertainment during lockdown.