Staying silent & hiding from social

I’m back! It’s been a really long while since I posted a blog or anything on Instagram, but I’m finally getting back into the swing. I had to dip out because the cancer community - whilst incredibly supportive - is also horrifying, and it just all got too much.

Since being diagnosed I’ve found such support on Instagram; following amazing women in-treatment and post-treatment; fantastic charities offering all types of help; and hilarious cancer meme accounts. I’ve also enjoyed interacting with my wide group of Instagram followers, many of whom I know locally, some of whom I’ve never met in person.

I’ve enjoyed sharing the process and found it pretty cathartic. All the highs and lows, the treatment, shining a light on a process Keith and I have been through before and didn’t really share previously.

However, whilst there is a wealth of positivity and support, the stark reality of cancer weaves itself throughout social media once you’re in the community.

The death notices on accounts.

The recurrence posts.

Scan anxiety.

Secondary breast cancer.

Different cancers.

Chemotherapy rounds on repeat.

Anxiety, anxiety and more anxiety

Around November time, it was beginning to impact my thoughts and really drive my anxiety. I increasingly found myself bypassing the curative nature of my treatment and focussing on what would happen later. When it might come back. The awful thought of having to repeat chemotherapy again. The incurable nature of secondary breast cancer. Dying.

I eventually hit a point where I couldn’t open the Instagram app. Where the little red notifications made me feel ill instead of intrigued. I needed a time out, shifted the app and ducked out.

I took a proper break away.

Trying to focus on the positive

I had a lot of blog posts sitting half written and simply in need of a quick edit, I really enjoy writing but I found I couldn’t focus on them either. I was creeping towards a point where I found it hard to focus on anything positive.

Keith and I have never hit what we nickname the ‘woe-is-me’ point. That point when, no matter what you’re going through, you start to question why and do a negative spiral. When you ponder why you deserved it, why no one else deals with half of this shit, why you can’t just be making plans like everyone else, why bad things only seem to happen to you.

I didn’t end up there but I got pretty bloody close. I repeatedly said I’d like to quit chemo and whilst I would say it out loud in a tone of jest, internally I was wishing I could, and seriously wondering what would happen if I did.

There were frequent tears and an almost permanent feeling of trepidation. My third chemo was a bad one, I was sick for almost a week and spent 4 days bed bound. But this, in combination with my anxiety, saw me build my fourth chemo up into such a horror show in my head that I felt physically sick and panicked at the thought of it.

I cried to my lovely phlebotomist Anne the day before chemo, and had to have a pep talk with her before I walked home. I cried down the phone to Suzie my chemo nurse and begged to have Keith join me* which she thankfully managed to arrange. I then had a meltdown on the day of chemo and sat crying both before, during and after it.

It’s ridiculous to sit crying about chemo on a chemo ward. Where your every neighbour is going through the same thing! But cry I did.

The gloom is lifting

Your brain is so marvellously but malevolently powerful if you allow it to be. Unsurprisingly, my latest chemo was not as bad as I’d allowed my thoughts to believe. It was shit, but not deathly!

For whatever reason - and we’ve discussed it a lot! - Keith and I have never believed the outcome of our treatment will be anything but positive. We’ve focussed on the phrase ‘curative treatment’, that the crap parts of treatment are short term, that life will eventually right itself and be some sort of normal again! We know that positive energy greatly impacts your wellbeing and treatment results, and I’m back focussing on that.

So here come a wave of blog posts! And a tonne of photos on the old insta’ because I’m now completely bald, rocking wigs, have more body positivity than I’ve had in 15+ years, and still marvel at my beautiful tattooed eyebrows.

Happy New Year!

* Ward 1 is a very busy place. They manage over 150 patients a day and there isn’t space for people to bring visitors with them, so you’re only allowed a chaperone on day 1 unless there are special circumstances.

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