The Cancer Chronicles - The emotional rollercoaster
Being diagnosed with Cancer can sometimes feel like the end of the world, everything goes quiet and that slow mo droned voice is all you can hear and its almost as if the room spins a little. I can see this scene in my head, but articulating it; well, I don’t think I am acing it.
I was told that my cancer was found early enough and it was curable. When it was confirmed that I had Stage 2b Cervical Cancer, the doctor said again, that the plan was to cure me. It would be tough, but that was the ultimate goal. So, with that in mind, I didn’t grapple too much with my mortality and see my life flash before my eyes. I didn’t feel like I needed to sky dive and become an adrenaline junkie to live life to the fullest before the Ugly C word took me. Because it wasn’t and isn’t taking me anywhere, not just yet anyway; no one knows what tomorrow really looks like.
I have always felt like I won’t live until I am very old and all this felt like confirmation. But that could just be the pessimist in me. A few months on and I am still not grappling with my mortality because now just isn’t the time for me; not today anyway.
I wrote a post in a book in June and I referred to a range of emotions that I felt. I wrote all that while sitting at Makara, sobbing. I took stock of the month that had preceded that day. I noted that my emotions ranged from disbelief to anger to sadness to even having a sense of gratitude. I am not grateful for cancer, but I am grateful for all things that have made what is a difficult journey, less stressful. I am also grateful that although there were times I was a little offbeat, Ok.. a lot offbeat… I know myself, I know my triggers. I said to my partner one day that all my triggers have been pulled. All my insecurities exposed. Crazy times indeed.
Being diagnosed with cancer is a bitter pill to swallow, especially when you believed you were healthy. I left the hospital after being told I had cancer with a lump in my throat. You wonder if you heard right, you wonder if they had pulled up the right files and you even wonder if the doctor looked properly; “was it really my vagina that he was looking into?”. You want to go on about your day as if nothing is wrong, you want to make it go away, you want to do so many things and facing the facts just isn’t that thing that you want to do.
I have been told so many times to “fight it”. Fight what exactly? Cancer isn’t a battle you win or lose! To be honest, what I needed to fight was my own inner demons that came to the fore. I wasn’t even sad initially, I felt a rage inside of me that had almost been brewing for years waiting to blow. Anger doesn’t describe it. I was Pissed off. You look back through the pages of your past and wonder who, wonder when, wonder how.
I went back to “Your Body Speaks Your Mind” by Deb Shapiro. Because you know, there must be some mind-body connection here and those were the demons I needed to face. My mind didn’t create cervical cancer, my emotional state didn’t create that “dis-ease” in me. But what it did make me look at was the connection; the shit I needed to deal with. I was reminded of previous judgements, experiences, being afraid to be truly authentic and be myself in all my crazy glory. Fear is bullshit really, but we all live with it. I admire those who can just live loud in a way that makes them shine their authentic light on the world. I was angry that I didn’t, angry that I felt I couldn’t. I was angry that so many facets of myself are hidden to the world; fear of judgement makes you do that. And not even having cancer can conquer that fear. I write a good blog on loving yourself and living your dreams and this process of reflection made me realise I have some work to do. But at the same time, there are things that don’t define me; my sexuality doesn’t define me, past trauma doesn’t define me, what others think of me doesn’t define me and honestly, cancer doesn’t define me either.
I found an image that seems so appropriate, I used it with piece I wrote; the piece itself talks about forgiving yourself, forgiving others, not blaming the past. It delves into the stages of grief and allowing yourself to feel each emotion. I needed to read that again right now. I should have read it months ago!!
It was an image I had made and it said; "The Past does not come back to haunt you... it is just knocking on the door so that you can let it out."
Right, where was I….
Sadness came after that. Sadness came when I realised that my life would never be the same. I wanted to just go about my day like normal. I wanted to think 20 years in the future, but also not knowing if I still have 20 years; according to the American Cancer Society, the 5 year survival rate for stage 2b cervical cancer is 58%. I don’t really hold on to statistics because everyone is different, but it did hit home a little. As a mother, I worried about how my son would react; I worried about his future. It almost seems ridiculous that you think about your child’s life without his mother, but those are real thoughts that go through your mind. No matter how many people say that I will be fine, it isn’t them who has to face all this head on and it made me (and still makes me) sad that my son has a mother with cancer.
It is now January, around 7 months have passed since diagnosis and treatment is finished. I have reached a point of acceptance. I am still sad sometimes. I am sad that at 37 my body has aged about 14 years. My ovaries no longer work and the fact that I have hit early menopause has been hard to accept. I didn’t want more children, but menopause is for old women, not for women in their 30’s. As much as I loathed having periods, the fact that my body was working as it should was comforting. I have the information sheet below as bedtime reading. I had radiation treatment and Chemotherapy; this is it for me. Sleepless nights, being hot and cold at the same time; among other things like decreasing bone density and mood swings. Lucky me. This is when I want to say F***K YOU cancer.