I’ve been counting my blessings, which might seem an odd thing to do, considering I have cancer that can’t be cured. But I wouldn’t be Bernie if I couldn’t find that glimmer of light in the dark.
There’s no question that writing this book has made me confront the cold reality of my current situation, but it’s also made me realise what a full and wonderful life I’ve had, and how much I still have to be grateful for. My glass has always been half full and I’m passionate about life. So I made the decision right from the start that I’d rather live with hope. My positivity has been crucial in helping me to live with cancer and win many little battles along the way. I would be lying if I said I never had dark moments when I felt scared and desperate and sad, but I never once thought of myself as ‘dying of cancer’ – my attitude has always been that I’m living with it.
I also believe that my childhood and teenage years armed me with many of the qualities I needed to take on this disease: a fighting spirit and a bloody good sense of humour. Being born into a family of eight kids – with five competitive sisters – meant I always had to shout louder than the rest to get myself heard. And being part of a sweet and innocent girl band also gave me plenty to rebel against! Not bad preparation for summoning up the sheer determination you need when you’re trying to beat the odds of a pretty grim cancer diagnosis and get your doctors to listen to you.
It never entered my head that I was writing a memoir because I was going to die – quite the opposite. I want my book to be a celebration of my life, which has been full, happy, exciting and filled with wonderful people and experiences. Cancer is a relatively new thing for me and, yes, it has changed me – how could it not? But I don’t want the disease to define me. Cancer has become part of my journey, but it’s not the whole story. There’s so much more to me than that. I’m a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and auntie – those are the roles I want to define me.
My life has always been blessed by music. I’ve been singing professionally for fifty years and now my voice has been taken away, I feel so glad I got the chance to make my solo album. If anyone wants to play something of mine when I’m gone, that’s what to play. I’m grateful my daughter Erin will have it to keep her company, too. And it has the beautiful song Steve wrote for Kate, the daughter we were blessed with first, who sadly didn’t get to see any of this life. In the album sleeve I wrote: ‘Whenever I’ve been happy, music has helped me celebrate. When I’ve been sad, it’s been a friend. Music has never let me down.’ And, over past three years, those words have never had more poignancy.
Anyway, thank you so much for reading this and I really hope you enjoy my book.
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