Wow doesn’t time really fly by. So much has happened in a year. I had cancer, I didn’t have cancer, I had cancer again. Now I am well on the road to not having cancer again (fingers and toes crossed). Christmas is always a really odd time I think, even if you are the bubbliest of Mollys. You are expected to be happy, to be so grateful for everything and you are deemed a scrouge if you are just having an off day. It’s something I really reflected on this year. The previous year I was new to all of this, I was a rookie at the whole cancer thing. I didn’t give myself a second to feel down. This Christmas is a little different. I know the ropes a little more, shall we say the ‘novelty’ has worn off (AKA not as many presents JK JK). There were times I just didn’t want to be all jolly and smiley.
I have definitely taken note this year of the people who might be going through some real s**t and don’t really feel like hopping around the tree singing a bit of Mariah. Christmas trees and the box of roses aren’t as flattering in an oncology waiting room. There isn’t much that can cheer up the reason as to why the throngs of people are all there, and I mean throngs of people it’s actually scary.
I definitely had a few moments leading up to the holidays I can only describe as pure anger. A moment that will always stick in my head is a routine check I had the week before Christmas. I wasn’t feeling too well and the doctor decided I needed to have a scan, an all-important scan to see how well the chemotherapy was working. Dread. Pure Dread.
So picture this, most people are at home getting their outfits ready for the twelve pubs, wrapping presents, embracing the merriness. I am in an oncology waiting area for close to seven hours, first waiting for the scan, eyeing every nurse that walks by to see if they have any news, my ears cocked to hear the walk of my doctor (yes I know the sound of her footsteps now just like I would a family member). Thump- thump, heart skipping a beat or two. Don’t think about it Sarah. Then the walk down to the radiology department, empty halls, a chill in the air, why the fuck am I here? Why is the radiologist so serious looking? What’s wrong? Why is she telling me she is going to leave the canula in? Does she think the doctors will have to give me something else through it aka the scan isn’t good aka I’m toast? What does she know anyway? (A lot). She can’t give any indication Sarah, it’s okay. Breath ya muppet. The walk back up. Holding in the tears. Shouldn’t I be anywhere else right now? Popping my head into the ward so I can tell the doctor I am back so she can look at the results. Waiting in the now deserted waiting room that five hours ago was clustered with people. We owned the clinic now, it was ours. Merry Christmas. Tick tock. Why is she taking so long? She has to consult with someone else. There has to be something wrong. ‘Sarah do you want to come in?’ Here we go.
My results were really great, I had every reason to have a better Christmas than everyone put together, but that ordeal had exhausted me. That event is just one of many myself and other patients are subjected to frequently. Constantly holding our breaths. It’s tough going, I won’t lie. I felt shaky after, holding in the tears from the pure mental debilitation. And that was after a good result.
What infuriated me is I failed myself, I failed my bullet proof system of emotional survival. Never asking that dreaded nonsensical question; Why me? I couldn’t believe it. I gave into the self pity and while I was on that lonely walk down the hospital corridor I asked myself, no demanded, as if one of the odd characters in a painting strategically hung on the wall was going to tell me. I hate that question. Once I allowed that small crack in my shield, I felt it was becoming all too easy to let it completely shatter and let my determination fall into a million pieces.
Anyone who knows me will know I am too stubborn. I got to win, I ain’t letting a couple of unwanted cells ruin my vibe. So cliché, but I promised myself New Years, this is it; back to me. I don’t want to become someone else, this mountain running, clean eats brah, Instahun, I just want to get back to being the puckishly positive me. The Get on with it and stop moaning kinda girl. How do I even try to go about this when I had opened Sally’s chamber of secrets?
I had set a large task for myself. First of all I allowed myself to not hold back. If I wanted to laugh one minute and cry to a song the next, well then that’s what was going to happen. I acknowledged my feelings; scared, angry, jealous, all new emotions I had let seep in without actually realising they were there until there was a common daily thread of bitterness. It wasn’t me, I knew it wasn’t. Acknowledging how I felt, helped/ helps me deal with unwanted thoughts. It’s like this- you know what the problem is, you can finally be proactive in finding a solution. It’s a better method than pretending it’s all okay but really feeling like you are grasping on with only your pinkie and a small withered thread.
So what now? I know I’m a bitter sow, how do I stop it? I sat back, and thought of all the things that are good in my life, that bring happiness, that are not tainted by cancer. There was a lot, heck of a lot once I let my mind turn from the negative, which we all love to do, let’s be honest we all love feeling sorry for ourselves. Once I said to myself, Hey you big dope, you are probably still happier than you were three years ago, look at all you have conquered, achieved, realized in the past year and a half. It is probably more than most do in their entire lives. It shook me out of my self induced coma of pity. Dealing with the emotions during a time like this, its up, down, up down, left, right, backflip. Sometimes you don’t know whether you are coming or going. It’s just about realising you are a lot more than your diagnosis and you will go back to being your full self in no time.
I also vowed to keep the mind and body busy. Trust me it can be really hard when you are tired, now I mean tired, not the waking up for work after a late night tired, I’m talking about feeling like ‘the spark that keeps you running has had a fire extinguisher put to it’ tired. A whole different ball game. (Pet hate; people who are just tired from work/ children comparing it the tiredness after chemo. I have experienced the tiredness after an unholy amount of work hours. I know. It’s not the same. Come back to the real world). I joined an online creative writing course, it’s keeping me so busy. I’m learning loads and missing deadlines like no one’s business but its fun. It’s an objective, a mission that I am focusing my attention to. You need that. If you are not working during your treatment it can feel long and drab at times. That’s why you need to find ways to keep yourself busy. It’s all the little things you got to do to keep sane. They seem miniscule, people take them for granted but they are the things that keep you grounded when everything else has turned upside down.
Over Christmas I got used to not exercising, which for someone who exercised so much beforehand, is like voluntarily giving happiness away. Unfortunately exercise for me is not the 10km I used to do, but a walk on a slow day and a swim on a good day. I have vowed to get back into exercise big time in the new year because it gives you so much energy. I have just got into the habit of being a lazy bitch so the last while I have let excuses get in the way of getting out. I once said to myself ‘ah ya might catch a cold with a wet head out there’, eh has Mary Carty taken over my body, hello. Today I went for a short walk. I was beyond fatigued. I had been in the hospital the day before and had been given ‘the good stuff’ as the team described to knock me out during a procedure, but it seemed to only take affect the bleedin next day. I was shattered, but I knew I had to just get out. I asked my Ma because then I HAD to go. Off we went, quick walk and it was beautiful. That clean, fresh countryside air, burnt orange leaves under foot, the puppy not understanding the concept of walking in a straight line, instead opting for running in circles around us. It was great. AND I really didn’t want to go. So it shows, just getting up and going was all I needed. I proved to myself today I can always do it, just stop being a lazy Ninny.
So far it all seems to be working. AKA not dwelling on the negatives, acknowledging my feelings and keeping the mind and body active. It’s an ongoing battle in itself to keep sane but I haven’t lost yet and I don’t intend on it. Wow, I have rattled now a little today. Maybe I’m still high from the meds. Now that’d be a funny blog.