The Swallow

When I was 8 years old I told my dad that I wished I was a swallow.

When he asked me why, I couldn't understand how he could not see their beauty. The way their feathers gleamed with the beautiful blue and their tails forked showing strength and an almost royal demeanour of pride and honour.

'Every winter they go away to South Africa to keep warm,' I told him. I wanted to go away to South Africa every year too, see my family there. 'They can fly 600 miles a day,' I remember squeaking at him.

My bedroom window looked out on farmland, fields and trees to the horizon. And I would stand at my window, a young girl, watching the swallows fly and dive above the woodlands below. I would always know when winter came because the trees would turn golden and the birds would leave, flying to warmer climates to wait out the British chill. Then, when spring returned, so would my birds. And then again I could stand and watch them hunt and hear them sing.

Swallows have always been special to me. For as long as I can remember I have worn a delicate swallow on a chain around my neck. They became a mantra of summer for me, of the cold hard times ending and the sun coming out again. My fight with cancer has been the lowest point I've ever been at, the coldest nights, the darkest days, but now that it's passing, summer returns. The swallows will come back. The sun's rays will fall again upon my happiness. So when I am sure I am in remission, when the doctors can turn around and say I am free again, I want to get a small tattoo of a swallow. Just something I can look at that will remind me of the battle I have faced, the darkest time in my life, and how the summer has returned, bringing the swallows with it.

True hope is swift and flies with swallow's wings. - Shakespeare


The General

With Remembrance Day so heavy in everyone's hearts at the minute, a song has been echoing around and around in mine. 'The General' by Dispatch. I fell in love with this song for the music, the rhythms, the beats, but then I heard the words and I just fell deeper. The last few months it has just been on almost constant repeat inside my head.

The song tells of a seasoned general in the army who wakes up on the morning of a great battle and tells his men to leave him, there is no life in following someone's orders, dying for someone else. They are young men, they should be living.

As the general talks to his men;
"He said: I have seen the others, And I have discovered, That this fight is not worth fighting. And I have seen their mothers, And I will no other, To follow me where I'm going. So take a shower, Shine your shoes. You got no time to lose, You are young men, You must be living."

Music is a soundtrack to my life. In a deeper way than normal. When something happens to me, I have a song that makes that situation make sense; love, heartbreak, moments of happiness and pain, joy and sadness, everything I go through I remember through the song I linked it to. And if I can't find one that's right, then I get out my guitar and I write one myself. Music gives me other people's experiences, other people's insights and I find my way through with their help, or I share in the happiness that we have both created individually.

This song captured my view on life - Don't waste your time following in someone else's footsteps, and I love it for that. I love it for it's strong sense of decency and the strength behind the words; for the way this is a story, not just a song; and lately the line "You are young men, you must be living" has struck a chord.

I am young. And I'm going to enjoy living.


I Want, I Want, I Want

I want to moan and cry and grump and bitch to somebody. But I think they're so used to me being the one who puts up with everything that their own worlds would come tumbling down if I let mine slip. So I guess I missed my chance there. And who would I moan to anyway? The mom that I constantly have to reassure that I'm still around; the dad who's too laid back to notice; the brother who's not around; the friends who are 300 miles away; the best friend who's having a rough enough time herself; the beautiful boy who doesn't need my insecurities. So I suppose that's why my thoughts are here. Stupid as it sounds, these little paragraphs every once in a while are what I need to clear my head.
So I'm here, I've got a place to moan and cry and grump and bitch, what next, what do I say? Well I could start with,,,

I'm fed up.

I'm bored.

I'm tired.

I want my life back.

I've realised recently that I don't need the incredible things in life, I don't need beaches and sunshine and seagulls, I just need space. I want time to myself, time to do stupid and pointless things.
I want to wander around expensive shops and look at all the things I could never afford, then go to the shops within my budget and buy something pretty, something that isn't on sale!
I want to go for a run. I want to feel alive again, running into the wind.
I want to spend a whole day doing what I want to do, sleeping all morning, watching crap tv, eating junk food, not going to hospital.
I want to sit in the window of a quirky little coffee house with my hands wrapped around a steaming mug of hot chocolate as I watch people pass by and make up stupid stories for them;

- That young couple have to get home Right Now because if they don't they're going to fall upon each other and undress in public.
- That pale girl with the long dark hair covering her face and the bambi eyes wonders when he will notice her and pull her out of her daydreams, and why can't that moment be Right Now.
- That little boy has to drag his mom to the toyshop so badly he's almost pulling her arm out of the socket because if they don't get there Right Now then the new video game will be sold out.
- That lonely woman with her pink umbrella and her grey hair and her dark clothes mourns a world that never gave her the true love she always saw in the movies and doesn't want to do anything Right Now or ever again.

I want Right Now back. I want to have a Right Now, a Right Now that doesn't involve hospitals and sickness and family and other people. Is that ungrateful? I seriously appreciate everything that everyone has done for me,, but just for a little while, I want to be free of all that, independent, my own person.

I know, it's been I Want, I Want, I Want... What can I say? I'm just that kinda girl!



Radiotherapy is hard. It's an endless cycle of treatment after treatment and journey after journey.
It's hard to accept that that is my life now. Or at least for the time being. An hour and a half to the hospital, half an hour's treatment, an hour and a half home again, then sleep. I sleep so much it's hard to believe. I have no energy to do anything else. Even moving from one room to another is an effort.
But the hospital itself… that's strange. It's corridors, and happy music, and lights off then on again, positioning on the table, treatment that makes blue lights dance behind my eyes, and clacking heels down the corridor, and laughter with the radiographers, frowns and groans in the changing room. Smiles in the waiting room as everyone has a kind of camaraderie, we're all in this together, all us sick people being cured. Grimaces as we are alone, each of us unwilling to wish this on any one else. Cause yeah, it's a painless treatment, and it doesn't take long, but it's later, it's life outside the hospital that stops. You can deal with the treatment, spending time at the hospital, because you have to. When you are home, when life is your own again, your energy is gone, your eyes are tired, your stomach, your throat hurt, but that is nothing compared to the nausea and the perplexing sleep depravation - eight hours a night is not enough, I need at least 12.
We can deal with the hospital. But on the outside, there is nothing, we are empty shells.
And I'll be honest; if I have to be a shell, I'd rather be one on the beach!



I love him. I love him with the whole of my heart. I love him to the point where it hurts.
I feel like I will never be alone. Like I will always have him who understands me to the point where I don't even have to speak and he knows what is in my head. My heart soars when I think of him and dream of him and when I look at him I forget how to breathe.
But we are apart. Separated. Split by hospitals and 300 miles. And when it isn't distance that keeps us apart, it's life itself. He runs and swims and surfs and does things as ridiculous as the Ironman challenge. I'm stuck doing nothing but waiting for the next day of treatment, getting tireder by the day, staying with the family, slowly having my life sucked away.
I want to give him the world. I want to run barefoot in the sand with him, chasing tales in the rain. But I don't know how. I just hope he can forgive me, and remember that if I'm well again... well then the world is his!

* Footnote: Ironman = a crazy triathlon of 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle and 26 mile run - one after the other, no break, no rest, just pure relentless fitness.


Don't Leave

You woke up and said, "Baby I had one of those dreams again.
The rain came down and I lost you in the wind."
You said something about, "Don't Leave," before you fell back to sleep,
Before I could sing my song back to you.


Deep Reflection

Today seems to be a day of deep reflection. A day of hiding under the covers and pulling the curtains closed, hiding the sunshine behind them. A day of researching new people and new books to read. A day where I'm shutting out the world and hiding. Because today everything seems too hard to face.
Pain is back today. Pain that makes it too difficult to contemplate moving, but which is fine so long as you stay lying down and motionless.
It's days like this that make me miss the old days so much more. The days when I would get up every morning and run 5 miles like it was a click of the fingers. Those are the days I lived to be a contradiction. I'd skate and surf and run, swimming in the sea, living outside, laughing with the boys. And then I'd become a structured and strict ballerina with perfect lines and pointed toes, a trampoliner, pulling shapes and somersaults in the air as though I was weightless, and a teenage daydreamer, staring out of the window at the clouds as though they hold the secrets of the world.
See everyone thinks I'm so strong. I'm the tough girl who can throw back a quip and laugh at the pain. I'm the one who takes the biggest falls off the board, comes to the biggest scrapes but gets up and laughs it off.
But I'm not really who they see. I'm the geeky kid in the corner who loves to write, the one who hides out in the library looking for the books that will change her life. I'm the quiet one who thinks too much about everything. I'm afraid of what people think of me. I'm afraid of falling. I'm afraid of everything. The trick is just not to let people see.



I've been quiet on the writing front lately. But things have been hectic, and life calls.
Here is my big news… I made it to 19. I never thought I would, but I guess this birthday just snuck up on me and took me by surprise. But then so did operation 3. I had to go in for that on my birthday itself. And the day after, they whacked out as much of the tumor as they could. Guess it wasn't worth keeping it in there anymore. So suddenly, things have become very positive in a way I never expected. Cause now, although I still have cancer, it seems like there's actually something they can do about it.
It's a weird situation. To spend months of your life with no hope, no chance, and then suddenly to get that back. It's only a sliver of a chance, but it's something. And I'm gonna hold on to it and fight for it as much as I can. I told everyone I would beat this, and now for the first time, I'm actually starting to believe it myself.

Hospitals are strange though. Strange soul destroying places that are supposed to save you but make you feel like the last thing on Earth you want is saving. And the more time you spend in them, the more you think about time. What is it? And what right do we have to it? We are born, we live our life, and we die. But what is life? And what is death? I always assumed that life is something everyone should be entitled to. But now I think, what should we do with that life? What can you possibly do with this time we are given that makes it worth it? I used to think stupid things; the smell of cookies hot in the oven, that first glimpse of the sea as you come over the hill, lightening brightening the rain, other pointless little things that made me smile. But now I am confused.
I can see nothing.
You live your life and then you die one day and once you are gone, what then? Your friends and your family will remember you, but then they will die, and in a few years, no one will even remember your name. Someone else will be living in your house, doing what you used to do, other lives go on. And what are we then? Not even a memory.
So it makes sense that we should just do what we can with what we have and enjoy what time we are given. But what can we possibly do to make it mean something? Sitting, watching tv, cruising on the computer, what is the point? But then incredible things, holidays, fantastic places, people, creatures,,, who decides what makes your life a good one? Is it in the happiness you get from it? In the happiness we give to other people?

I can't make sense of anything at the moment. And that's scary.


Nightime Smoke

Sometimes, at night, I stick my head out of the window and I smoke a cigarette, and I think; that's it, that's my time limit, until that cigarette burns out. And I watch the people walking past and I wonder about them; where they're coming from, where they're going to, what they're going to do in their life, what greatness will come from them?
And I think, if one person notices me I'll be ok. If one person sees me there then it will be alright. But if they don't, if no one looks… Well then I'm invisible already… I'm already gone.


My Week In Pictures

There's been too much happening lately to write about all of it. So I thought I'd show you… This is my life in 7 days…

Swinging around, feeling like King Louie.

Surfing inside a van,,, while it's moving. Bit of a challenge….

Surfing outside the van!

Taping fireworks to a skateboard. Not as risky as it sounds, and a hell of a lot more fun! It doesn't do much, you don't go faster, it just looks pretty!

More road trip to the beach with beautiful people.

Yet another day at yet another beach.

An incredible night out with the girls, and then the boys, but they didn't last long. Our last one in town!!

An unexpected over-nighter at a beach. We arrived a bit too late for the evening swell, so we decided to make use of the random tents we keep in the car and stayed in a little car park on top of the hill,, where we possibly shouldn't have been,, spending the night talking and laughing and pulling silly faces and eating croissants and making each other groan with embarrassment.

Sharing breathtaking sunsets with a breathtaking boy.

More surfing in the morning!

Then jumping from rocks and swimming in the sea. Before stretching out on the stones and letting our bodies dry under the sun.

And then yesterday, he took me sailing. It was the first time I'd ever been, and I never wanted to come back in! There's something so free about being out in the ocean, with nothing modern wordly, just you, the boat and the breeze. And the boy of course. When the sun went down, we were seriously close to just sailing off into the sunset. It felt like we could sail there and reach this place where everything was good, where there was no sickness, no modern world, just us and our boat and our smiles.


'Captured My Mood In A Second'

Just been listening to a bit of music, the way I always do when I'm feeling low, and then these words appeared…

'She got the call today, one out of the grey
And when the smoke cleared, it took her breath away
She said she didn’t believe "it could happen to me"
I guess we're all one phone call from our knees'

Wow. Captured my mood in a second. It's incredible how a tune, or just the right words can do that. They somehow grab your attention and scramble your thoughts and refuse to get out of your head. So that's what's on my mind right now.
I had the phone call. I guess everyone's had one like that. But everyone seems to think that their phone call is the end of the world. For me, yeah I guess it was warning me of the end, and I was on my knees for quite a while. But then I stood up and decided that life isn't going to wait for me. To go crazy with the quotes today…

'Too many people die with their music still in them, too often because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it… time runs out.'

So that's what I've been doing. I've stopped getting ready and now I'm really living. If I have to put the rest of my life into a few short years, or maybe even less, then hell, I'm gonna do it with style!!
So in the last few weeks, I have been…. Skating like a fury monster, no more fears about big hills or going too fast, now nothing is too fast! Swimming in the freezing sea and then letting my body heat up under the hot summer sun. Dancing all night in pretty dresses and shoes that make me tall. Living for the nights I forget and the friends I never will. Munching at bbq after bbq after endless bbq while snuggling up in a sleeping bag against the wind. Running, trying to catch the lightening. And then pushing my bed to the window and curling up under the duvet, warming up and watching the thunderstorm.
And, here's the shocker… Falling in love. Snuggling with a boy who understands me completely. Kissing till it makes my toes curl. Dying a little bit inside every time he walks away. Smiling when I think of him. Smiling when I look at him. Smiling when he rolls his eyes at me, and when he laughs at the silly things I say, and when he looks at me like I am the most important thing in his world.

Smiling. Just smiling.



I like to watch the smoke.

Soon I'll be in it.


Crowded Train

I've been away for the most perfect few days. I've been holed up in a little caravan on the coast with my best friend and her parents, who have pretty much brought me up as their own. It's the same van where I've lived almost every holiday since I was 12. We spend the days surfing and swimming and snorkelling in this huge rockpool, and at nights we wander the cliffs and sit on this beautiful stone bench where you can see the waves crashing against the rocks and we talk and talk and talk. It's incredible.

I came back on the train today. The earlier train had been cancelled so it was ridiculously overcrowded. I was wedged into the back of a carriage, tucked into the luggage rack and almost pushed out of sight. Three guesses who was there with me. Aden.

I saw him on the platform first and tried to avoid his eye, but he came straight over, of course. He had a surfboard tucked under his arms and wet hair that gave him away. His face played host to a big smile as he came over.
'Hi,' he said, a little breathlessly.
'Hi,' I replied feeling sheepish. 'About the other day-'
'Don't worry about it.' He interrupted before I could apologise. 'You were right, I was sticking my nose into your business. I just wanted to help. I didn't mean to offend you, honestly.'
'It's fine.' I shrugged. 'I'm sorry too'. And then, because I didn't know what to say and because he was looking at me like I was somehow interesting, I asked him how his surf was.
'Incredible!' He exclaimed, almost stumbling over his words in his excitement. 'God, it was mind blowing. One of the best days I've had in a long time. At least overhead, with a really long period so a really easy paddle out.'
I found myself getting captured by his enthusiasm, so when the train pulled in, instead of ducking and covering and running for the furthest carriage, I found myself walking alongside him and following him to the luggage rack. Our boards propped up together behind us, and more people squished in front of us, and suddenly we were closer than I expected.

It was one of those moments where you have complete clarity. I heard somewhere that 'most of our life is a series of images, they pass us by like towns on the highway. But sometimes a moment stuns us as it happens. And we know that this instant is more than a fleeting image. We know that this moment, every part of it, will live on forever.' I took in everything about him in that moment. The way his blonde hair curled at the nape of his neck. The three freckles on his forehead, the slight chip in his front tooth, the way his eyes were green towards the edges but a piercing blue in the middle. God, he was beautiful! The way his hands suggested he was uncomfortable being so close to me, to anyone, but the way he looked at me….
And then the moment was gone. It was almost as though I had been looking from the outside of myself and a sudden wrench as the train left the station and I was back and not a second had passed.
I smiled at him as a cover, and threw myself straight back into a conversation about surfing.

I didn't understand that moment, I didn't know if he had experienced it too. All I knew is that I had to talk to him and try and work it out. But we had a two hour train journey ahead of us to do that….

And somehow, I found myself getting as excited as he was about things, laughing about things that didn't matter, things that weren't funny. I found myself getting wrapped up in him and his tales and his bluntness and his openness. He never once mentioned me being sick, and for the first time in months, I didn't think about it once for 2 whole hours.


Him Again

He's here again today. The same guy from before, the blunt one. I'm sat here looking out over the sea and he sits beside me once more.
'Come here often?' He asks and I laugh. 'Aden' he tells me, offering his hand.
'Kalewi,' I tell him.
'So how are we feeling today?' He says, looking at me as though he is looking through me.
'Fine,' I try to say, but he is already carrying on; 'Tired? Sad? Thoughtful? Contemplative?'
I look back at him, my eyes wide, trying to see through him instead. He is tall, and tanned, with sun bleached blonde hair and strong blue eyes that are almost green that light up his face. His body is fit and firm, muscular, from I imagine years of being active.
'Scared?' He adds after a pause.
'What are you talking about?' I try to laugh it off, trying not to show that he's breaking down my defences.
'Sitting up here all by yourself as the sun goes down. None of your noisy friends here today, just you, silence and the sea.'
'Fresh air.' I tell him. 'Sometimes it's nice.'
'Sure.' He says with that unbelieving voice.
'You know what?' I answer back, louder than I expected, 'you don't know anything. Come here and try and tell me I'm sad or scared or whatever. You don't know me.'
'Maybe that's what you need.' He replies calmly, not rising to my bait. 'Someone who doesn't know anything about you. Someone who will just listen.'
'Right.' I say, getting to my feet. 'That's just what I need.'

And I'm gone, feeling his eyes boring into my back as I walk away.


What do you do when you love someone and want to share this with them, but you know sharing will hurt them?

The problem I have is opening up. Sharing with people what I need them to know. I hate asking for help. I want people to see me as strong, confident and empowering. I don't want to be seen as The Poor Little Sick Girl. But I need to talk about this, and the killer point is that I expect people to know without being told.
I'm just me, just a friend, I have no right to pull people down by giving them bad news, or telling them that I need help. I've been trying so hard to do this by myself but its difficult sometimes.
So I wish there was someone I could talk to. Someone who would understand, and tell me not to worry. Not to be scared. That everything will be alright.
But who? Who's strong enough? Who could handle that? Who is not going to run away and distance themselves. Because anyone who could open their heart and care for me is gonna get hurt in the long run. Because I've gotta leave this place.

I don't want to hurt anyone. If I get close to anyone then when I go it's gonna be hard on them. But does that mean I have to distance my friends? I'm so confused.


The Cloud

So I have these perfect friends, in a perfect town, in a life that's pretty close to being perfect, but there's that one little cloud that's always there.
It'a called Cancer. Brain Tumour.
It's called Time Is Slipping Away.
It's called Live As Much As You Can Now, Because There's Not Long Left.

They found it at Christmas. I had a stupid accident involving a skateboard, gravity and a very solid road. And when they were x-raying my broken skull they found it. It took a long time to work out what it was though, it's not a normal tumor apparently. Not that I could tell you, I tend to stop listening when the medical mumbo jumbo begins. I don't want to listen to Timescales and Medicines and Operations. I want to listen to music and laughter and the seagulls crying and the waves lapping at the shore.

The tumor is in the middle of my head and it's stopping the cerebrospinal fluid - which I like to call Brain Juice - from moving around. So I have what is called Hydrocephalus - or in commoner speak; Water On The Brain. Which, truthfully, sounds pretty scary. So in a couple of weeks they want to drill holes in my head and see if they can get it to drain.

And then there's the fact that even if they can drain this fluid, I still have a f**k-off big thing in my head that shouldn't be there. And what's to stop it growing, spreading? What's to say it hasn't already? Cause it has. And that's where the problem is.

If I think about it I get scared. So I don't think. I live for now. I dance, I lie on my back and look at clouds, I run as fast as I can, I read stories that take you away and poetry that makes everything seem clearer, I dream.
I smile and I laugh and I live in the moment.


This Is Me

Maybe I should tell you more about me...
My name is Kalewi and I'm 18years old. I'm a student. I play volleyball, surf, snowboard and trampoline for my uni. I also dance, swim, skate-longboard and I want to start kickboxing.
I love sunshine and I love the rain. I love smiles and laughter, and vanilla ice cream, and the smell of freshly baked cookies as they come out of the oven. I love the lines that planes make in the sky and the silly things that children say. I love family who make you happy and family who make you cry, and I love that feeling when you can look around all the way and see nobody, when you're so far alone that you can see nobody. To me, that's real bliss. I love the noise and the happiness that comes from living in a big city, but to me, to be standing on the beach, looking out at the water, or hidden up in a tree where no one can see you, that's where the special moments are.

So I have three parents; momma, dad and stepmom. There was a sort-of-stepdad at one point too and his two kids who were my sort-of-stepsiblings. But they're out of the picture now. My parents split when I was 12, and as nasty as it might sound, I'm glad they did. They were unhappy so long, and now they are getting that happiness back. Although at the time, I wasn't so understanding. My parents are fantastic, and even though I'm 300 miles away from them, I only left to escape the town, not them.

I have one older brother who lives a little closer - only 250 miles away. He is called Simba, because he has a big mane of hair and he's big and strong and my own personal lion. We were best friends when we were younger, but we drifted apart through school and now eventually we're good friends again. And by 'drifted apart' I mean 'We Wanted To Kill Each Other'.

My best friend lives back in my old home too, and I miss her everyday. She's so special because she has this crazy insight to the world that makes her so thoughtful and so so so clever. She's fast too, got a tongue that could rival the best. Her wit is brilliant! So quick, so sharp and so funny!

So now it's just me, all alone in my little uni room, away from my family and all the friends I've had my whole life. And although I miss them all a lot, I've never been happier. My new home is beautiful. The friends I've made here just blow my mind again and again with their kindness and their soul and their altogether beauty. Every now and again it still strikes me that people have the capacity to be so beautiful, and not just physically. To see something that can make you smile for the rest of the day is special. And to me, that happens pretty much every day.


The Rain

It's raining today. Heavy and hard. Chasing people to hide away. The streets are empty. Quiet.
Apart from me.
I'm here in the rain, running as fast as I can. Away from me, away from this, away from sickness and sadness. Towards the sunshine on the other side of the hill. I can see it there, that faint spot on the horizon where the sun is trying to poke through the clouds and lighting the tiniest part which bends and mists and looks too unreal to be believable.
I run faster, harder, I run until it hurts and I can't run anymore. But I still can't reach the sun.
So I sit on the wet grass, and wrap my arms around my knees, rain pounding down on my neck. Home is on my left side, the sea and the world on my right. I want to jump in the water and swim, and swim, and swim, and keep swimming until I reach the sun on the other side.
Mat Kearney sings quietly in my ear;

'Like a breath of fresh air and the wind at my back
Toe to heel with strong strides taking miles off the map
In this journey called life where I've walked so far
Under the heat of your sun and the shine of your stars'

But I've not walked that far. Not far enough yet. I just need more time.


I Will Fight

I'm 18 years old. This shouldn't be happening.
But it is.

They say there's nothing I can do about it.
But there is.

I can fight. I will fight.
And then I'll show them who's the sick one.


The First

She sat there on her skateboard, pushed up to the grass looking out over the water. Her long hair curled behind her, playing in the wind.
I sat beside her.
'Got a lighter?'
She pulled one from her pocket.
'You shouldn't be smoking,' I tell her.
'Neither should you,' she answers with a sly smile playing on her lips.
'I'm old,' I reply. 'Decrepit. You're young and fit. What's your excuse?'
'I've got lots of excuses.' She says.
I laugh. Because no one has an excuse. 'Ok, what is it? Your biggest excuse.'
She laughs this time, and shakes her head at me. 'No'. I wait as she breathes in and then slowly breathes out a line of smoke, watching it, seeing it dance before her. Then she looks at me, squarely, no fear in her eyes. 'I'm going to die', she says.
'Aren't we all?' I ask. Then I sigh. 'That's a good one though. What's wrong with you?'
She looks at me with a smile. 'Are you always this blunt?'
'Where's the time for small talk? You get that, right.'
'Right.' She turns away again, casting her eyes back to the ocean stretching before us.
'So what is it?'
'Brain tumour.' She says.
'Cancer.' She breathes.