Nearly everybody says to me ‘you are so relaxed about everything. I don’t know what I would do if it happened to me’. In truth 95% of the time I take things in my stride. ‘Oh doc you need to put that tube into my vein and push it towards my heart. Go on ahead’, ‘Oh hello nurse, you have to give me an injection with a needle the size of a straw. Of course, if I lie this way will it help?’. It’s been over a year now that chemo has been part of my life. 20/8/2015 I started my first regime. Looking back it was utter hell. You would think getting through all the pure hardship, this time round I could do it with my eyes closed. Getting a cup of tea would have been a daily victory. Just imagine, going from an independent energetic female living in Dublin to a dependent sack of human organs that had to be monitored at all times. That was the first round, I got the all clear, I have suffered through that for a reason, yes life can finally return to normal. Only it wasn’t as easy as that.
Find me someone who could ‘forget’ about what they went through with a cancer diagnosis. Someone who could forget how their world was ripped apart in one moment, forget how hard it was to sleep because you read the contents of your big fat pink file and didn’t like what it said, forget the times you couldn’t eat because the lining of your throat was ripped away. Find me someone who could actually faze all of that away and I will bow to their feet and become an obedient follower. My road to recovery was disrupted two months ago when a branch fell in my way; I needed more chemo. At the moment I am on a small detour. I am still going forward except it’s a scenic route. I talk a lot about how I am still physically well. Something I am so thankful for. Not a lot has changed; obviously fitness is on a decline but I am still getting out there and trying and the hair is surviving so far. Nobody would think I was getting treatment, something that I love; no labels of sickness or gloomy glares. It should be all good then right? Absolutely not. There is a whole different side to a diagnosis that the doctors don’t focus on; the emotional side effects.
You lose a little dignity on the road to survival. You are subjected to things that you should never have to. Your life is thrown up in the air in a way it should never have. I perhaps feel a little sorrier for myself at times being so young. Once a week I go to St. James, sit among people usually about twenty/thirty years older than me at least and I wonder what the hell I am doing there. I should be worrying about who I’m going to get the shift off in Coppers rather than worrying if I’ll still have my hair for my sister’s wedding. *Was at Coppers last week. I have missed nothing.
What generally gets me through this is having the attitude that this needs to happen to get better. I need to take this medication or I need to get this surgery to recover from all of this. I usually HATE HATE HATE the ‘why me?’. A lot of people in conversation mostly say ‘I say you must ask yourself the whole time why did it happen to you?’. My reply; ‘Why not me? Children die of starvation, people get murdered. There is heartache all over the world and nothing makes me above anything life throws at you. It is how you deal with it that counts’. That is my usual attitude, pull your socks up and let’s do this. But there is always that one moment you are walking through a shopping centre or just on the verge of falling asleep when BOOM, the fear and the pain of the last year jostles you and any comfort you have found is ripped away. This is the 5% of the time I am talking about. Those small moments that you just feel so angry, frustrated, heartbroken about the cards you have been dealt. You just want to cut up the cards, stamp on them, throw them in acid and then set the acid on fire. A friend told me recently that it is so easy to presume I am always okay because I seem so cheery and blaze about everything. That is because I find it better to put a smile on my face because it calms everyone else around me and relaxes them. A part of me once believed that if I appeared strong around doctors, nurses, family, friends, other special people that I would be perceived as healthy, then someone would jump from behind the door and shout ‘GOTCHA. Wrong person, nevermind!’. I remember once my Ma told me of a dream she had. That we went for a doctor’s appointment the doctor told us it was all a mistake. I was completely healthy. I couldn’t even humour the conversation because I didn’t want to think of something so bittersweet. It wasn’t reality so therefore I did not entertain it.
So the question is how do I deal with those moments and prevent further thoughts from plaguing my good day. First I keep busy. Idle bored minds are the worst. I either plan to bake, blog, write, walk, crawl, anything to occupy and give purpose to my day. That can get hard when you feel so fatigued and crappy and you have little energy to do much. That is where the laptop comes in handy, keeping the brain active until I am fit enough to get back into the real world.
I keep friends and family close by. Sometimes when I am sad I don’t want to talk to anyone and will hide away until the cloud passes. When I actually do talk to someone it’s just so much better. I am all about communication so once I take my own advice and talk to anyone who will lend an ear, I feel better really quickly and am back to my loud singing and dancing around the kitchen self.
I go regularly to talk to a professional and it’s the best thing I ever did. It’s actually quite amusing the stupid thoughts that can accumulate in my brain so it is great to have someone who knows what they are doing to show me how to knock those thoughts out of my head and kick them into next week. I believe everyone should go to counselling because everyone needs an ear to listen to them more than they realise. The best thing I ever did.
Above all I take one day at a time. I don’t pressure myself to be a certain way. I just try to focus on the positives rather than dwell on the negative aspects of all of it. A working progress but above all I appreciate every day. Just so you know it’s okay not to be okay and penning it deep within you solves nothing. Talk and be honest.