Facebook and the persistence of memory.

I am a little bit obsessed with Facebook’s ‘On this day’ feature. I get excited when the clock ticks past midnight and I can see what memories I’ll be reminded of! Most of the time I am disappointed at just how uninteresting some of my posts were, but there are always the ones that make you laugh or that are accompanied by photo’s you forgot had been taken. Then there are the ones that knock the wind out of your sails – memories with friends you no longer see, pictures of people whose lives have been lost, and for me, memories BC/DC – before and during cancer.

May, June and November are difficult months for me because they all have anniversaries surrounding cancer diagnosis and treatment. Today’s memory wasn’t cancer related at all.

FB screenshot


But it reminded me of just how normal life was right up until it wasn’t.

On May 11th 2016, Naomi posted that it was 6 months until we were due to board a plane for Paris for a month long family adventure through Europe. I complained about shift work and made statuses about how busy we were. Then, in the space of 24 hours we went from future-focused women booking family holidays and making plans, to women questioning why we hadn’t done a will before and how to tell a 4 year old about cancer.

Everything in our world stopped, magnified by the fact that the rest of the world kept on spinning. Two years later and it still feels much the same – like the rest of the world is spinning and I can’t quite figure out how to get back on board. I’ve felt so left behind at times. Like I was winded by the shock of it all and haven’t been able to catch my breath.

There is never good timing, but the timing was so bad. We had booked our first overseas family holiday (with cash, not credit!) and I was about to graduate from uni. I’d put positive vibes out into the universe and it hadn’t quite gone to plan. Two years later I’m still held back by that fear – what if that happens again? What happens if I back myself and take hold of life and it’s all pulled out from underneath me?

I know the answers to these questions by the way. You shouldn’t let one (or a few) shitty little (major) things keep you from #livingyourbestlife (ugh – hashtags!). I didn’t even consciously feel like this until I saw my Facebook memories and realised what date we were up to. But this is part of cancer. Part of any loss really. Mundane and harmless memories that wouldn’t raise eyebrows in another life can send you spiralling.

Last year when I figured out how to view my timeline, I went through to check if there were any particular posts I’d made throughout my diagnosis that might pop up and upset me just to be prepared, but life was surprisingly normal. Despite the reality that I might have been dying, I carried on living. Now that I’ve survived, there’s no point holding back from life worrying that I might die.

For a while, I resolved not to check the memories. Chemo took a lot of them so why put myself through it? But our experiences make us who we are, for better or worse. As much as I complain about social media at times it holds the proof of some of the most significant events in my life – cancer, failed IVF, becoming parents, successes, failures, drunken nights out, firsts, lasts. An external memory. It might be overwhelming to be reminded of them but it’s a miracle I’m here to be reminded of them at all.

May 19th will mark 2 years since a doctor who had only met me the previous day had to hand me a report that told me I had a ‘gynaecological malignancy, ovarian in nature’. The subtle Facebook reminder may take the wind out of my sails every year but it also reminds me just how lucky I am to have been given more time. A reminder that there is no fixed order to life; no guarantees, no cosmic ‘if this, then that’ scenarios. Life will keep happening and you just have to keep happening with it.


(On an entirely unrelated note, my upcoming scans/blood tests don’t seem to have caused an existential crisis whatsoever…!)


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