So, I wanted to type this post to get stuff out of my head and onto the page because if I don't, I won't get to sleep tonight for a loooong time and that's been a problem of late, go figure. It's going to start off a bit heavy I think but keep reading as I'll talk my way into the positives!
The thoughts right at the forefont are various things under the umbrella of how everyone's cancer journey is different. I have spoken to various different people; friends, acquaintances, relatives and some women I met at the fantastic Macmillan centre at Belfast City Hospital, about what they are going and have gone through. I knew that cancer could affect different parts of the body (wouldn't I be an awful Nurse if I hadn't worked that one out?) but I didn't realise that there could be so many different types within one body part.
Along with the different types and stages come different treatment plans, drugs, surgeries, and not only that but each case differs as to what order these frightening things are arranged. Some, like me, may need surgery first followed by hormone treatment (for 5 or more years), followed by an intense bout of radiotherapy and then you can only hope that's the end of it apart from annual checks. Other people may need chemotherapy followed by surgery or the other way around, plus radiotherapy just to put bolts and braces on it. Some people may not need surgery but some form of treatment plan, or vice versa.
You see where I'm going with this, there are numerous types of treatment with lots of variations and this is what you come to learn once thrown into the pit of it all. What I will say is that regardless of which variation you need, you're all in the same shitty cancer boat. Your head is firmly up your ass and some days it doesn't feel so bad because you have to make damn sure that it doesn't, but other days, yeah you feel as shit as everyone else going through it and the physical, whether from treatment or surgery doesn't help matters.
I mean, I'm as shit scared as the next person that they haven't actually got it all, that it might come back, that the pain I keep getting in my back or arm or foot or head or little finger or nose or breast, is cancer. I just try to take it day by day and not let my head run away with itself, as difficult a task as that can sometimes be. AND I don't Google it!
I've been chatting to an Australian girl on Instagram, well I say chatting, we've left a few comments of support on each other's posts and it's been lovely. She's going through her 12th round of chemo at the moment and is so inspiring. She has no hair, as you would expect, and obviously is having times where she feels like total shit. She is, however, hugely positive and giving. To be honest, I feel sometimes that because I don't have to go through the absolute nightmare that is chemo - because the side effects outweigh the benefit it would give me as my lymph nodes were clear - and because I get to keep my hair, that I should always be stoical about what I'm going through and almost feel like I shouldn't complain.
But that's actually not the case and the girl I mentioned made me realise this; actually her and a number of other women who have so kindly been in touch with me, along with those I have met and spoken to at the Macmillan Centre who are all at different stages and going through different treatments. And I don't actually think I complain that much anyway but when I need to, I think I'm allowed! Just because you are not going through the same journey as someone else, does not mean that you are not going through the same pain. No one should ever think that about themselves or if anyone else and should afford the same kindness to all :-)
This is something I have struggled with a tad, feeling a bit guilty almost for not needing chemo when others do, barmy as it sounds. I've realised that on top of all the other shit going on in my head regarding my diagnosis, scary ass scans, waiting on results, treatments, fertility issues (which I'll post about separately), work, money, family, friends, sexuality, love, happiness, recurrence and confidence; guilt was something I didn't need to be adding to that fucking (sorry Mum) list. And the fact that I'm (without feeling sorry for myself - there I go being stoical again dammit!) going through a journey too.
Being strong and positive is one thing, but suppressing your feelings and emotions is another. This should NEVER be attempted, not only when faced with cancer or any other illness, but ANYTIME. A friend told me years ago after I had a particularly shitty break up (aren't they all really?!) that whatever negative, sad and/or distressing feelings I had were real and that I should accept them, understand why they were there and then do my best to let them go. This was seriously good advice and I've tried my best to live by that rule ever since. Don't get me wrong, sometimes it's not just that simple and you just want to slap someone (!!!), but at others it's possible and makes you feel loads better. She also burned a bouquet of sage around the place to get rid of the negativity...not sure if it helped and I felt like a bit of a witch but we did it, why not! At least I think it was sage.
So! When going through something that blocks the light from the end of the tunnel, allow yourself some wallowing time, not too much now, but just enough to allow yourself to feel the pain, accept it rather than panic and 'brush it off', and if you're anything like me, have a good bloody cry! Crying or feeling crappy doesn't make you weak, it means you're human and that you can feel real emotion which is a positive thing. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise or make you feel as such because that's bullshit and that's that.
In saying all of the scary stuff regards worrying about recurrence etc and all the other stresses that come with a diagnosis, there are positives (wahey I hear you say!). I think I've said on another post somewhere that you really don't know what you're made of until you need to find out and make a grab for it; well this is one of those times. I thought that if this ever happened to me that I wouldn't be able to handle it, and yes, it had crossed my mind as people around and close to me were going through it. I thought I was going to lose my mind when our amazing Stephen passed away but I didn't; nearly, but didn't. This isn't the same as going through that I know, but my point is, you find strength when you need it somewhere down there in the depths. A lot of it comes from the people in your life and it seems, as I've heartwarmingly discovered, people you don't even know.
I've always come across as someone who is extremely self confident, probably largely due to the fact that I get up and sing in front of lots of people all the time and have done since I was a tot. My lovely Dad has, at times, told me that he knows I'm really just, 'a very sensitive little thing'. Now don't get me wrong, I am confident in lots of ways but probably appear moreso than I actually am. The reason I'm telling you all this is because I wouldn't feel as confident or equipped to deal with this journey if I didn't have your support. So, when you're commenting on my strength, please remember that some of that comes through you :-)
I'm referring primarily to my amazing family and close friends who check up on me, distract me, fill me in on the gossip, apply objectivity and sense when needed, visit or just have a chat - but also to the people I don't know very well, or at all, who have sent me messages of love, positivity (yes, it's getting gooey!), gifts and warm wishes. I simply wouldn't be capable of facing this with the measure of strength I'm managing (most of the time!) if I didn't have you all in my life and I thank you for that from the deepest part of my heart.
Yes, cancer bloody well sucks ass and yes, there is a bit of a way still to go through the tunnel, but there is, as shielded as it may seem sometimes, light at the end of it.