How Game of Thrones made me realise I’m alive

Natasha Whelehan writes for us today on an unexpected feeling of gratitude.

Game of Thrones returns this month for it’s final season. Like millions of Thrones fans worldwide, I can’t wait!

For anyone who hasn’t yet seen this show, I highly recommend you get binge-watching before it’s return. Seven seasons of political intrigue, drama, romance, murder, adventure… this show has everything!

My husband and I have watched Game of Thrones season by season, year by year since its release in 2011. This show has been part our our lives since before our kids!

The other day I was chatting to a friend who is also a fan about how we were both looking forward to seeing how the drama finally resolves.

A pretty normal conversation really. And then I heard it, the voice in my head that I think of as the “cancer voice”. Usually it’s the voice that whispers “what if?”. What if that headache isn’t JUST a headache? What if that isn’t JUST scar tissue? What if, what if, what if.

But this time it just said, “You made it”.

You see, season 7 of Game of Thrones was showing during the summer of 2017. Each weekly episode was an escape in those terrifying weeks just after my cancer diagnosis. A time to just forget about what was happening and lose myself in the drama. Each episode marked the passing of another week as we traversed those early days in Cancer Land, a time of scans, surgeries, test results. A time when the voice in my head was rarely quiet and the what if’s came thick and fast.

What if the cancer had spread? What if I didn’t see my kids grow up? What if I didn’t suit hats? What if I puked during chemo?

Big questions, small questions… a constant stream of worries, fears and what if’s.

When season 7 ended, we quickly consulted Google to see when season 8 would return.

2019, the internet informed us.

My first thought was, “Well for f**k’s sake, what if I don’t even get to see how Game of Thrones ends?” Crazy thought right? But cancer can make you crazy. You see, in that summer of 2017, April 2019 seemed SO FAR AWAY. I could barely see beyond the next hospital appointment, let alone a date almost 2 years away. It seemed a lifetime. And in those days when I was angry and scared and resentful of all this disease was taking from me, the irrational thought I wouldn’t get to see how this show played out really upset me.

So the other day when the voice in my head whispered “you made it”, I realised how far I have come since that awful summer. And how grateful I am to have made it this far.

Surgery, chemo, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, cellulitis, lymphoedema. Good days, bad days, highs and lows. All have come and gone since that angry “what if I don’t even see how Game of Thrones ends” thought floated through my mind 20 months ago.

The march of time is relentless, moving us forward, one step at a time, one day at a time. Bringing us ever closer to points we are perhaps struggling to visualise. To anyone starting out on this journey, please remember that. Take it one day at a time, one hour at a time if needs be. Time will pass and you WILL reach those milestones, big and small, near and far.

For me, this week I sat in a cafe and chatted about how Game of Thrones will soon return.

I can’t wait!

But more importantly, I am grateful.

Because I made it.

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