I have wanted to write a blog about this for sometime due to my own battle with coping mentally after my diagnosis. Many emotions are involved when you get the cancer diagnosis or even any serious illness. Life has thrown you a shit hand and 9 times out of 10 it comes as a huge surprise and mentally you are not prepared to adjust to any change.
In everyday life we experience an emotion or two, we may feel stressed from our jobs, sad or even happiness but when you are hit with a diagnosis, all emotions apply. The only way I can explain it is, a large cloud of fog surrounding you and no way to see through, even when it lifts, it still impacts on the way you think and how you see things.
An emotion I constantly felt during my treatment and even a little after was jealousy! Not a good trait for anyone to have and in society today people want to see you fail if you are successful or have something they want. I wanted exactly that, I wanted my health, my hair and my life to be back to the way it was. If someone was moving up in the world, I envied them because I was stuck in a rut trying to keep my head above water and focusing on kicking cancers ass! I would look at girls with long hair and wish I still had my long barnet, I felt ugly and sometimes I didn’t want to look in the mirror. This eventually faded when my hair did start to grow back. Let’s be honest, we are all envious at some point in our lives and even now I envy women with long beautiful hair and anyone who doesn’t have to deal with the day to day struggles with life after cancer!
Along with jealousy, anger is another emotion that is frowned upon but let me tell you, I felt angry everyday. I would wake up angry that this happened to me and my family, I was angry with myself because I felt my body had failed me. I was distraught that my daughter, 4 at the time, had to see me sick and not be the mummy she deserved. I learnt to channel my anger through positivity and prove that you can still live your life though treatment.
Without hope we would never see the good in all that’s bad. Even when you are hit with a diagnosis that could potentially kill you, you have nothing but hope. I was constantly hoping my chemotherapy would work, hoping I wouldn’t look too much like a boiled egg when I would eventually lose my hair, hoping my family and friends wouldn’t be too affected. It keeps us going knowing that one day we could be better and have somewhat of a normal life. Hope keeps us from sinking deeper, it gives us that lift to ensure we keep fighting for what we believe in.
I will never forget the day when I had not long finished my first 3 months of chemotherapy and I was lying on the sofa, balling my eyes out thinking what it this doesn’t work, what if it’s my time. This was the most low I had ever been and I recall just looking at my daughter whilst she was putting together a puzzle, whilst stuffing her face with Milk Tray and thinking, I may not see her doing this in a years time. I was very sad, I wouldn’t say I had hit rock bottom but I wasn’t far off. Sadness can make you feel isolated and especially when you have cancer you feel the whole world on your shoulders just to fight the disease and show it who’s boss! I was sad because I couldn’t take my daughter many places, we couldn’t do much as a family and I no longer had much of a social life because of the risk of infection.
You need to surround yourself with people who want to be there, even when you look like death warmed up and when you constantly want to cry. They will give you a pick me up, laugh when your baldy looks like a fluffy microphone, play the guitar over face time, tell you that you look beautiful and just accept you for the brilliant mess you are. They will turn the sadness into happiness, even if it’s for just 10 minutes.
An emotion I would say summed my time going through treatment was feeling overwhelmed. Many emotions effect your mood and the way you are towards others. It’s not just an hour in the chemo chair, it’s also the preparation the week before with blood tests, appointments with your oncologists and scans etc. I very rarely had a break from appointments and treatment but it saved my life!
I was 2 days into a chemo treatment and my taste buds were non existent. I couldn’t taste any food and my husband had made my favourite meal, bolognaise and I couldn’t taste it. I sat at the table crying all because I couldn’t taste it. I wasn’t even hungry but he had gone to the effort to make it for me. I was tired, I felt sick and I couldn’t eat which was one of my favourite hobbies, especially devouring a large Cadbury’s chocolate bar.
I often feel overwhelmed when I’m at work, it’s not work related but thoughts enter my strange mind and I wonder off to the not so fond memories. We just need to be honest with ourselves and the people who care for us because it’s ok to have a wobble, we just need to stay positive with the endless possibilities ahead of us.
Our fears reveal what we care about the most. My ultimate fear is that I won’t see my daughter grow up. This played on my mind throughout my treatment and still does to this day because I am not yet in remission, I am 2 years clear but until I am 5 years I am not classed as in remission. A worry of mine is what if it comes back, what if I get another cancer? I guess this will never be something I won’t think about, it shows I care because it’s a constant worry but i am here now, we have battled through and we just need to treat each day as it comes and enjoy every moment, even when it’s a shit day, be grateful you are here to experience a shit day.
We should never let fear define our own fate!
I would sit in with my surgeon or oncologist and fear the worst, waiting for the news whether my lumps had shrunk and whether I was cancer free. I was very fortunate that my treatment worked and I am so grateful to the professionals for saving my life. This is bitter sweet because for the first few months after my first surgery and my treatment was over, I grieved the routine I had for 9 months. It was my life for what felt like a lifetime and then all of sudden it stopped. It might sound strange but I grieved for my hair, my lashes and eyebrows. I grieved for my life prior to my diagnosis but I found leaving the support of my oncologist and doctors the hardest. It took a long time to come to terms with the fact my life was beginning to look normal, I had wished for this for so long, I just couldn’t get to grips with the sudden change. Grief can take time to overcome but knowing I am healed because of them and that being the reason I no longer visit them so often gives me encouragement. We all need a help along the way but ultimately, we are the ones in the driving seat, we decide how we deal with certain situations and how we perceive the world.
Life after any diagnosis can be challenging, I have found this a lot harder than actually going through treatment because I knew I was fighting to save my life, I had stability with appointments etc, now I still fight for my life but the unknown is scary.
I will admit, I am no longer the same person I was before my diagnosis. I see things from a different perspective and have a whole new mind set. It might be a little hazy at the moment but I know I will get there with my family and friends by my side, pushing me to remain positive and be the crazy ditzy muppet I was before.