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Cancer sufferer’s open letter to person who abused her over disabled parking bay

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Emily Findlay was on her way to a hospital scan at ARI when she was verbally abused for parking in a disabled space.

Here she writes an open letter to the stranger in hope of change.

It has been seven years since I was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, an aggressive childhood cancer.

You don’t know the first thing about my life – let alone something so deeply personal as my health.

You won’t know that I am 21 years old or that I simply want to lead as normal a life as possible, free from the confrontation which you decided was necessary.

I don’t want to be referred to as brave, as a fighter, or as any of the tired cliches that are trotted out to describe someone who has cancer – I am just dealing with the cards that I have been given.

Nor do I want to be questioned over my Blue Badge, for last Monday night, you made me feel so small in a matter of seconds.

I want to walk from the other side of the car park, joining the masses in their grumbles about lack of spaces.

I want to be normal.

Instead I joke about my funeral with my friends; about the songs I want played and the book I want written when I do pass which will finish my full life story.

Jewellery designer Sheila Fleet created her new collection for Emily Findlay, 18

The final chapter will see me right until I’m 80 with lots of laughter and fun so that my family can have some sort of happiness from fiction.

Underneath the dark humour and openness there is an unspoken agreement between us, of what should be done if that day ever comes.

For all my defiance in the face of cancer I refuse to let it dictate my life.

When you decided to viciously interrogate me, about simply parking in a space that I am entitled to, I wanted to look you in the eyes and explain how a teenager feels when doctors tell you that this disease is not going away and it will get me eventually.

Maybe you wouldn’t care so much about parking arrangements if you knew what myself and my family have been through.

My little brother, Max, knowing no different than me having cancer, my family being split up as I moved to Aberdeen from Orkney to undergo five years of cancer treatment.

And yet we keep going, with seven-year-old Max insisting he’s glad I haven’t kicked the bucket, because who else would give him a lift to the cinema?

But as I stood there trying to find the words, all I felt was fury.

Fury that you can judge me on the basis of my outward appearance alone.

I wonder how you’d have felt if I had made assumptions about you.

If you were to look closely you’d see the silver smudges that are my scars from major surgeries, ports and drips that were forced beneath my skin.


You’d see my hands running through my hair occasionally, fingers working through the strands that are still growing back because chemo shows no regard for swinging ponytails.

If you were to listen for long enough I might tell you about the pain which comes with cancer, and leaves me relying on morphine every day.

There are days when I am quite simply exhausted and all I crave is sleep, but I carry on because I am so thankful to even still be here.

This isn’t a request for pity, this is brutal honesty.

Throughout all of this there has only ever been one moment when I haven’t wanted to live.

So would you still be full of indignation if you had overheard the conversation with my mum when I told her I wanted everything to stop, and just live however long I had left, free from treatment?

Would you still question my right to use a Blue Badge if you saw me in intensive care on numerous occasions battling for my life against the cocktail of drugs that were pumped into my deteriorating body?

I understand, really I do, when it comes to the anger surrounding disabled parking spaces and those who flout the rules. But there are nicer ways to go about it than to verbally attack a young woman in a dark, hospital car park in Aberdeen.

Emily Findlay

When you demanded to see my disabled badge, I was actually on my way to a scan.

Your timing could not have been worse, I was still crying and shaking from rage and upset hours after you stopped me.

I would ask for you and anyone reading this to really stop and think before you accost someone who has parked in a disabled space.

Thousands of people fight an invisible illness every single day, an illness which you as a stranger will know nothing about.

Yes, I look able bodied, but I can assure you I have every right to use my Blue Badge.

I am not too lazy to walk, with apparent disregard for people who may desperately need that space.

Yes, I am a young, vibrant, confident 21-year-old woman but I also just happen to have cancer.