Cancer anxiety. It doesn’t matter how positive we stay, how hard you focus, it creeps up. It brings sadness, jealousy, irrationality and a fear that sort of lingers at the bottom of your tummy.
This weekend has been one fuelled by anxiety. I can’t walk the dog without stressing about where he’s gone (he helpfully ran off after a bloody squirrel yesterday), or sit without wondering if that new ache is more cancer, or travel in the car without wondering if we’ll hit something. And then, my anxiety morphs into just feeling really low.
I have gnawing trepidation over chemo 2. I am not keen for a repeat of the week of shittiness and symptoms. My longer term side effects are kicking in now too, I’ve got mouth ulcers that won’t go away despite the mouthwashes prescribed. Hair has started disappearing. Although, on the swing side I don’t have to worry about shaving the ‘pits or legs for months! But it’s disconcerting, and whilst so far the hair on my head seems to have remained, I am now on watch.
I finally plugged all of my dates into our diary and know I finish up treatment on 12th December, 2020. We joked with Keith’s doctor that I should leap this year!
I’d love to leap this year.
The realisation, that we’re in this state of cancer-treatment-limbo for another year, has fully sunk in. It’s a copy paste of the worst year of our lives. And even if it’s not as bad - which doctors keep asserting and which I have such high hopes for - it’s no fewer hospital appointments.
Even if it’s better, being unwell is really fucking rubbish.
Don’t go there
I don’t believe in wallowing or approaching anything with a ‘woe is me’ mindset. You play the hell out of the hand you’re dealt. Let the world watch as we ascend past this!
That is our core focus, my mojo, my belief.
But, when you’re a bit miserable not only do you have to work to pull yourself out, it’s also easy to segue and spiral. To disappear down the catastrophizing rabbit hole: temperature, symptoms missed, sepsis, complications, death. To disappear down the more dangerous jealousy rabbit hole: jealous of the friends around you getting to live life, moving house, planning holidays, starting families, growing their business, making trips, or simply spending money without double checking it wasn’t earmarked for November’s gas bill.
Cancer + Money is a whole separate blog post.
The treatment protocol needs updated
The day I was diagnosed, Dr Olly said the toughest part of cancer treatment is psychological.
We know this, we’ve navigated its impact. However, whilst mentioning it, he offered no NHS-based solution or support.
In treatment you have access to your consultants - surgeon and oncologist - your specialist breast cancer nurse, priority access to your GP for prescriptions and help, a phlebotomist, a dietician, and in Keith’s case a speech and language team too. This team check in with you throughout. But mental health support, in any form, is MIA.
I don’t need a dietician. I could take advice from a leaflet when it comes to food and drink. But I really do need to stay sane!
As far as we’re aware - and in truth, I’ve not asked to confirm - the only mental health support available comes from Macmillan and Maggie’s, two exceptional charities. But it requires cancer patients to reach out and ask for help. To be proactive when you’re already spinning a lot of plates on top of feeling awful.
That ask is on my to-do list, and it’s not that I’m refusing to ask, or putting it off, it’s just that I’ve been busy and haven’t gotten around to the call. I also need to fit yet another appointment into work-life.
(It's all getting a bit woe-is me, eh?! & all whilst others are facing much worse, I know.)
Skipping out helps, self-care and all that
We had plans to dog walk with friends on Sunday, and I cancelled. I blamed a temperature, which wasn’t untrue, but it came down again 30 minutes later. And it wasn’t the reason I didn’t want to walk, I just didn’t want to socialise. We had plans to meet friends on Monday night too, but I let Keith go alone. See the above. My temperature was up at 37.5 again but not tipping over into ‘problem’ warm. I also hid from all of my colleagues by working from home - sometimes it helps to own the company : )
Everything bad will eventually come good, but some days it feels like that’s going to be an epic slog and hiding, helps. Taking time away from people to play that sad playlist and be a bit miserable, helps.
Keith maintains I ‘brave face’ it a lot … so here’s the proof I don’t. Honestly, sometimes this mad life is the worst!
At least the dog is always keen to keep misery company ❤