15th December

Cancer is a strange old disease, that’s for sure. Its power to evoke the strongest of emotions, at the most inopportune times, even when it is technically no longer even within one’s body, is quite extraordinary.

Over the last few days I have felt an ever-increasing weight on my shoulders a tension in my chest and a heaviness in my heart; these were physical sensations but also abstract, metaphorical ones. I felt like a bottle of soda that had been not vigorously shaken, but gently tipped back and forth so the pressure slowly built up under the lid.

Today the lid popped. Tears flowed. I couldn’t stop them and I wouldn’t want to. I knew this had been brewing for days. As each wave of tears subsided, I thought ‘OK, that’s done. Now I can get on with my day’ but I couldn’t and, a few moment later, more tears came.

So I consciously decided not to attempt to do or achieve anything today. The food shopping could wait; the dog walk could wait (ah, thank goodness for our patient little hound); picking up my repeat prescription of letrozole from the doctors could wait; everything except this all-important emotional response could wait. I accepted the power of my feelings and went with them on the tide.

You could choose to describe this as a ‘bad day’. After all a day spent crying might not seem the most productive, but it wasn’t bad at all. It was just a day. A day in the life of a recovering cancer patient. Actually I think it was a ‘good day’ because tears are healing; they are our safety valve; our pressure release; they cleanse our minds and leave us ready for something fresh, something new or something that will make us feel cheerful or content, which is almost invariably around the corner.

Since my active treatment ended last week, many people have said ‘I expect you’re glad it’s over’. Of course I am quietly pleased that the treatments, the appointments, the sheer drudge of the cancer experience have finished for the time being. But ‘over’? No. In truth, it will never be over.

From now on, my life will forever be defined by cancer in some way. Not dominated by it, not ruled by it, not dictated to by it, but it will be a presence. Sometimes it will be centre stage, other times it will recede into the darkness, into the shadows, into the wings. It may always have the power to overwhelm me with emotion, perhaps when I least expect it, but I can learn to accept that.

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11 thoughts on “15th December

  1. Sally, you’re so right; for 16 years we have lived on the shadow of Phil’s cancer and whilst it no longer dominates our lives, it never leaves us either. All we can do is be thankful for every day it remains a non-dominant presence and pray it remains that way.

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  2. Whenever something completely devastating happens to a person, it never truly goes away. Time and mental tools help. We try looking at the situation in different ways to become less angry and upset and try and avoid the – why me. It does help and you would be amazed at what can be achieved in this way, but that shadow is with you always and no matter how you try, an unexpected thing can just through you off balance and you can feel back at emotional square 1 – but remember you are not and try to see how far you have come and the wonderful strong person you have become. I have always been struck by how fabulous you are. Wishes of the season to you Jsnet x

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  3. Hi Sally, so glad to hear that your treatment is finally over …. a lovely feeling, maybe. I remember feeling quite lonely and almost scared. I had so much constant care from lovely kind doctors and nurses and now it was just me and hubby! There were lots of ‘what if’s’.
    Well here we are ….. we can say ‘what a year’ or we can pat ourselves on the back and say ‘WOW, look what I’ve just done!
    Horrible as it all is its only a very small few months out of our lives.
    My ct results were good – no new growth and the main tumour had skrunk. So three months breather and then more tests.
    I found Penny Brohns a very healing and emotional place. I cried most of the way home in the car- much to my husband and my surprise. Sometimes it just catches up with you at the strangest times.
    So don’t worry if you have a wobble now and then. It really is ok!
    I hope you both have a good christmas and a much better new year.
    Love to you both
    Esther and Brian.x

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    1. Esther, how lovely to hear from you. I think about our Penny Brohn gang often. I found my stay there was life-changing and I plan to go back for further courses next year.
      I’m so pleased you had good CT results. Wishing you the very best of health and happiness in 2016.
      Love to you, Brian and all your family. Sally xxx

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  4. First of all, congratulations on ending treatment! What an accomplishment. But survivorship…all that happens once the treatment has ended, is difficult for many of us. I’ve certainly been emotional and depressed in the months following the end of treatment. I’ve been angry because of the lingering side effect, both the physical and emotional ones. Survivorship is not easy. We’ve suffered a trauma. So cry. Cry as often as you want. Or don’t. Whatever you need to do for yourself.

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    1. Thank you, Carrie. It’s so hard for anyone to understand if they haven’t been through it. Before I was ill, I was someone who just cracked on and got on with life. I don’t really recognise myself at the moment, I’m so battered by all this. I hope at least some of my old self comes back. x

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  5. Thanks for sharing, this is exactly how I feel right now. The physical sensations are very real and the tears so debilitating not to mention embarassing as you say at the most inopportune moments. I hope we’re able to pick ourselves up from this trauma in the coming weeks and months. It’s tough. Hang in there xx

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