I’ve been in a really reflective mood of late. I don’t quite know why, but I do know that I am still in a phase of poor mental health and this throws me off course sometimes weekly, but increasingly daily.
I stopped my online posting early December when I caught up my real life story of a cancer journey and completed it with writing of ringing the bell at the end of radiotherapy. At the time, I was a little bit tired and exhausted of reliving the cancer life and timeline (I had written out of synch to my real life timeline so I could be resilient and take some of the painful raw emotion out of my writing). I wanted to be done with it though in December.
However, in reality, that isn’t the case. Cancer isn’t done with me. Nor do I think it ever will be. Because now I think it is part of my DNA. It is who I am, and I have to live with the fact that I have been a statistic. I have lived a journey that too many have to travel. I am now that person that someone else knows had cancer.
I was naïve to think that I would move on quickly. This year was always going to be a year of remembering ‘this time last year’. I’ve done the year since I lost hair, but I have remembered every date of chemo, every appointment, remembered the loss of taste and pure despair that I felt then. I haven’t got to the end of a year on yet, and I hope that next year will be easier with more distance.
What has prompted me to write again now is that I am not 100% well at the moment. I have been suffering from crippling sciatica since the end of October. Now initially, this was a bit annoying and frustrating. High heels were out, flat shoes were in. I yelped every time I got out of my seat at work and cemented the fact in my young colleagues heads that I was in fact an old bugger! Sciatica is not a new experience for me and I fully expected it to ‘right itself’ in a few weeks. Five days before Christmas, when I booked an emergency chiropractor appointment thinking they would miracle cure me was when I realised I was in trouble. To be honest, I was probably in trouble the week before when I raided the old stash of chemo drugs to help pain relief and started a self prescribed regime (not to be recommended at all). I also (having exhausted chemo drugs) started taking the strongest painkillers (over the counter) from the chemist way past the three days recommended before you could become addicted. I was out of control trying to manage pain.
Two chiropractor later and not a lot of improvement, Christmas occurred, Santa arrived, a break from walking anywhere happened, New Year and lots of celebratory drinks may have eased some pain. But still the pain existed.
And throughout, I have spent a lot of time and energy supressing dark thoughts:
This can’t be cancer, it is just sciatica.
What if it is cancer of the spine now and it has spread? It isn’t.
Why would this sciatica last this long? Is it cancer? Absolutely not – you’re just old!
What if it is a lump on my spine that is cancer that is causing sciatica? Don’t be ridiculous.
Why am I not getting better? I always did. Because you are older.
I haven’t worn heels anywhere near as much and I still have sciatica so surely that is a sign something else is afoot? Don’t be a fool, heels were uncomfortable and you have finally recognised that (daft bugger) and you don’t have cancer of the spine.
Ooooh, but this new crazy pain in my arm – what is that? Is it cancer? Probably not.
Should I ring the doctors, the oncologist, anyone; about the crazy pain? Probably not.
Should I just wait until I see the oncologist for quarterly check up in April to mention crazy pain? Yeah seems like something you should wait for.
Hang on – what if you wait and the pain is actually now blood cancer?
Secondary cancer is a thing, what if I have it? STOP DRAMATISING YOU FOOL.
Out of control thoughts now and can’t even control where they end up. I end up in a world of irrational BS and pure utter bollacks. As a stream of consciousness, I appreciate how ridiculous the above sounds. But crazily it has become my daily reality. I have to check it at the door of work and home and I have to battle it back and forth with myself in the car on the way between those two places. If the car could talk it would be checking me into a mental health facility!
And that is what cancer does to you. It stays with you. It haunts you when you least expect. You doubt every sane moment and every insane moment. You doubt yourself, second guess yourself, start diagnosing yourself, and prepare your own eulogy. And as I have discovered you do that a long time after the actual cancer is gone. I see it every day on the secret FB group I am part of, and while sometimes I think I should remove myself from seeing the worry, pain and angst of others, I also know that I have helped some people, comforting others in confirmation or passing on optimism. So I’ll keep going for as long as I can to help those others while not affecting my own state of mind too much.
Because as always, I have this. I have too much going on not to have this. So I will have it.