I gritted my teeth as the thin sharp burn of my insides pressing against the freshly sewn opening made my eyes water. I couldn't pay attention to the physiotherapist sitting with me, trying gently to tell me about the benefits of small situps.
I didn't know then what I was going to do, what shape my future would take; confused and frightened, I only coped with what was immediately happening - the threat of cancer, a newly sutured line across my belly, a great deal of pain and the urgent need to find a place to live once I left hospital.
Here I am six years later, still attending hospital, with a tiny risk of the return of my ovarian cancer but not scared of it any more.
From uncertainty to calmness.
From fear to satisfaction.
I've let cancer go, basically. It no longer causes me fear. It no longer lives with me. I have teased its sucking tendrils from my being. It has no place in my life.
It helped when the one year anniversary passed and I was able to look back and see how much better I felt.
It helped when the two year anniversary passed and my projected chance of reoccurrence dropped by 75%.
It helped when I found new strength and vigour in my own body through the walking of, first hundreds, and then thousands of miles.
It helped when I came out of the prism of fear, spent time outside and looked around me, released the tightly held breath of emergency paralysis and realised that maybe my illness wasn't that bad after all. I had survived, relatively unscathed and could begin to see my situation as a positive.
In the last six years I have had ovarian cancer, then I walked 3700 miles, then I wrote a book. If I try to think now of why I did all this, nothing comes to mind. I have spent so long retelling my story, first in spontaneous blog and then in considered book that it is as if I have poured it all out of my mind and left a hollow behind, holding only the faint warmth of a newly fledged nest. My story is set down, made tangible, and when I try to trace the memory back to its tingling origins there is nothing there.
I just did it, that's all I can say. I just had the idea that I would walk thousands of miles, inspired by my travelling experiences, inspired by my knowledge of the camino, inspired by my knowledge that it is often our fearful mind that shapes the boundaries of possibility, not the conditions themselves.
And when I'd finished the walk, exhausted and sore and travel hardened, I had to start it all over again. A vague dream of being a writer, based on the romantic ideal of a thousand books eagerly scoured, long hours spent living inside others creations. I travelled the path of learning to write, taking on a seemingly impossible target and pushing stubbornly ahead, treading words down bit by bit, keeping on returning to the page, day after day until the book came glimmering into being.
I have had cancer, I have walked 3700 miles, I have written a book and it is only now I have done these things that I know I am capable of them...but now I have that knowledge it has changed me forever.