Seize the day. Live in the moment. Things will only get better. It could be worse. You are strong, you can handle it.
I bet everyone has been on the receiving end of at least one of these statements. Each one I have heard on more than one occasion over the last three years. Well intended I am sure they were. Well received, perhaps not all the time. Only now, as I start to feel physically better, can I look at these words and feel that I can now apply their positivity to myself.
I feel, and hope, that my health issues are almost behind me once and for all. The past seven days I have felt so much better. I have energy, motivation and an extra spring in my step. I am singing out loud again (awful for some I am sure.) I am feeling like I am emerging from a deep, black hole and that the smile on my face is now real. I have been faking being happy, ok, interested, for a long time. I am really good at it too. But it has been exhausting.
For those of you who don’t know the past three years have been challenging to say the least. Having said that nothing that I have had to deal with is unique to me. There are plenty of people who have suffered way more than I and, unlike myself, continue to suffer with no end in sight. I’m just sharing my story.
Working through my health issues my GP asked me 3 months ago to go back to the beginning, to write down, in list form, all the events that had caused me stress or upset. I was at an all-time low. I had finished my injections in February and expected, unrealistically I now know, to return to good health pretty quickly. I was so tired and miserable and when my side effects continued I hit a brick wall. My mental health was being tested to its limits.
My list was:
- Dad diagnosed with blood cancer November 2013.
- My breast cancer diagnosis August 2014.
- A dear cousin died September 2014.
- Very ill October – December 2014 as a result of hormone treatment for breast cancer.
- Start alternative hormone treatment in the form of monthly injections for a period of two years in February 2015 which resulted in severe nausea (amongst other things) every single day.
- My Dad died unexpectedly June 2015 four days before my 50th birthday.
- A close friend died unexpectedly July 2015.
- Left my long term job February 2016.
- Got a new job April 2016, left that job July 2016, took Dad’s ashes back to Isle of Wight, England August 2016 and then started another new job on my return.
- Mum had a fall and ended up in hospital October – November 2016 and already had required a lot of support from my brother and I since Dad died.
- A dear friend became critically ill October 2016 and was in RAH for 4 months.
- Izzy, our beautiful dog died April 2017.
All the while, from October 2014 up until July 2017 I was still struggling with severe all day nausea and bone pain.
My GP knew my history or thought they did, but seeing it written down like that was a bit of an “aha” moment. Cleary, a lot had happened in a very short space of time. They asked me what from that list was affecting me most. I just burst into tears. “Everything on this list still affects me. How can I separate any of those things? I think about them all. I lay awake at night thinking why?”
Why indeed did any of those things have to happen and hurt so many people? I am a peripheral person on two of these tragedies but I care deeply for those I love and looking at that list, well it was just too awful. Too much.
We talked about the analogy of waves which I found relatable and appropriate. In a nutshell, I had been swimming in very calm waters for most of my life when suddenly I was caught in a rip and dragged far out to sea. As I desperately tried to swim to shore a huge wave came and dragged me under. As I tried to surface another wave came and I was fighting for air, not having caught my breath from the previous wave. OMG! That was exactly how I felt. I could see that I had been only half dealing with things because too much happened at once. And all these things were life changing, significant and terrible.
As I have said before having feelings validated is just so important and I left that appointment exhausted but feeling better about myself and my coping mechanisms which I now realised were under enormous duress.
So how did I cope these last few months? Well, I hibernated. I am a happy homebody anyway but feeling flat and having episodes of vomiting that came on with little or no warning well I felt happiest and safest at home with my 3 men. I managed to work, see Mum and enjoy the odd lunch but pretty much I did not much at all! And as I withdrew I was able to unravel my thoughts. And then those thoughts stopped keeping me awake at night. I went back to writing a to-do list something I have always done but had stopped doing for some reason. Unfortunately, I am still unable to read a book, and I am an avid reader, but I have been listening to my Buddha music, lighting my candles and truly relaxing. Hopefully my ability to concentrate and read my much-loved biographies, I have a few waiting for me, will return very soon. Writing this blog has been fabulously cathartic too.
This past week has seen an amazing turn around for me. To wake up without nausea………………I cannot begin to tell you what that feels like. The first few days I was cautiously optimistic but guarded, waiting for that familiar wave of seediness to hit. But it didn’t and it hasn’t. I have been more productive and have more energy. I used to sit down after having a shower. I used to sit down after drying my hair. I used to sit down after hanging out the washing. I used to sit down a lot because I was spent doing the simplest of tasks.
In the last 24 hours, everything tastes better. Food has not been pleasurable for me for a while – just a bland means to an end to having something in my stomach. I do hope though that this will not become a problem having just bought nice new clothes lol. I am thinking about food quite a bit.
Physical health and mental health go hand in hand and I feel much happier. For the most part, I have felt that everyone has been living fabulous, fun-filled lives and I have been stuck trying to get through each day, life passing me by so to speak. But I think I am back. My new friends at work have not known me well. This could be eye opening for them lol.
I still have a shoulder that is on its way to being frozen if I don’t get it sorted so that is now a priority. My repeat mammogram and blood tests are due mid-August. There is always a certain amount of apprehension with that coming up but I am feeling a little less anxious about that too. On the whole, I am looking forward with renewed positivity.
If you know or are supporting someone who has been diagnosed with cancer it’s really important to try and understand that the immediate surgery, chemotherapy (I was very lucky not to need and endure that), and radiotherapy are only a part of that person’s fight. Ongoing cancer treatments, in my case hormonal treatments as my cancer, was oestrogen positive, come with so many debilitating, long-lasting side effects that many people are left unsupported because people just don’t realise that the battle continues. Many specialists (not mine) are only interested in doing whatever it takes to reduce the odds of the cancer coming back – regardless of the toll that may take on other parts of your body, not to mention one’s mental health.
To that end I have already decided that should I be unlucky enough to have my cancer return I will NEVER go on hormone treatment again. It is just too debilitating for a “no guarantee” outcome. I feel I have not participated enough in my boy’s lives these past 3 years, even though they were my top priority. I do not want to be the sick Mum anymore or ever again. For three years every birthday card, Xmas card and Mother’s Day card from Matthew has made reference to my health, “Hope you get better soon Mum” or, “Wish this nightmare was over.” No more.
I have said before to always be kind as you do not know what people are really going through behind their smiles. I have experienced a lot of kindness, understanding and support from so many of you and I have appreciated it all. Many of you have not believed my smile and have made allowances accordingly. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Some days I used to think that the “old” Lory was gone forever. But I think she might just be on her way back. Going where who knows but here’s to happy days ahead.