…the emotional kind
On the day of my diagnosis I felt the same that I had the day before. I wasn’t sick nor had I been in the lead up, so I was adamant my life wouldn’t need to change and everything should just continue as it was. I was even told by my medical team to carry on working and continue life as normal, but six months on, life couldn’t be more different.
I have written in a previous post about how my perspective on life changed following my diagnosis. My priorities shifted and I was 100% motivated to living a better life and changing my future. My health, both mentally and physically is better than it ever has been, and I thought I had it sussed and I was on my healing journey, but there is still something that still seems to be holding me back from truly healing and moving forward.
I had prepared myself for how hard this was going to be and how many hurdles I would face but honestly in the back of my mind I thought that how great I was feeling was a testament to how well my body was healing. Finding out this wasn’t quite true was a big shock and the harsh realization that no matter how much positivity and zen you exude or how much kale you can eat, you can never truly heal until you face the emotional baggage you have been dragging around with you for years. The last couple of weeks have been a rollercoaster and in tandem with the harvest moon, and the autumn equinox and all other kinds of coincidental astrological marvels, its been a time for some serious deep diving and life cleansing.
It is easy for us to ignore facing up to these issues as we wander through life, constantly putting obstacles and distractions in place so we don’t have to deal with it, but here I am with no 9-5 distraction, and a disease that gives you no option but to ask questions, and I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t over analyze and pick apart all of this!
The growth of cancer or any disease isn’t a fluke, these things develop and grow in our bodies due to our immune system failing, however small and temporary it may be. These momentary lapses happen all the time, it is the reason we get a cold for example and is always a sign that we need to look after ourselves better. Whilst cancer is the most unlucky of diseases that creep through when this happens, it is the same principal.
Our immune systems struggle when we put our bodies under stress, and that can be through the food we eat, or the cigarettes we smoke, but it can also be the mental and emotional stress we carry with us, and that is the hardest to face and let go of. I have suffered with anxiety and stress for years and have watched myself build these issues and feelings up as I have gone through life, from relationships, friendships, jobs, life. I have self medicated with exercise and diet over the years to try and release tension and whilst mentally this helps deal with these emotions the root cause is still there.
When you are diagnosed with something like this there is a an influx of support, a sometimes overwhelming amount. Shock, sympathy and love comes from all angles. It comes from people that you know, people that you don’t, old friends and new friends. That support and love is the thing that gets you through the first few months of darkness. The messages of comfort gives you something to live for, and be grateful for. It becomes all consuming and wonderfully distracting, like your being carried through life on a parade float with spectators cheering you on. But then it slowly starts to fall away and one by one people leave. The messages become few and far between and the dust settles, and that’s when you realise that as much as you where adamant nothing was to change, everything has changed, I have changed.
But it is not the way everyone expects. I don’t look sick, and mentally I’m strong and positive, but now I am alone looking down the barrel of a gun forced to face my biggest fear, and those distractions that I welcomed at the beginning have now gone. I am not moping around, I am being proactive in keeping myself healthy, I still want to look good, and I still have things I want to achieve…but this can confuse people, and can be the reason people think they don’t need to worry about you, because “you’ve got this”.
Yes to an extent, I have, but I am still facing something absolutely heinous and whilst I’ve found a way to mentally cope with this, and from a medical point of view I’m ticking along OK, there is bigger shit that comes with a diagnosis like this at this age.
It is the quietness at 2am in the morning when you cant sleep and your imagining your own funeral. It is thinking about the holiday you want to book, but you don’t know 100% if you will be well enough to travel or if you’ll even be alive. It is knowing you will probably never have a 50th birthday party, maybe not even a 40th. It is looking into your boyfriends eyes and knowing that one day he will be with someone else. That is a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. Not the medication, or the scans, or the appointments, it is the fear of the unknown and a fear of the future, or lack of. This is what we need people for, and this is what is always there for us even when the fan fair dies down.
People taking a step back from this is not a problem, know one in your life asked for this, or knows how to deal with it. Everybody has their own lives to lead and there is no expectation for people to change. But it is at this point when shit has well and truly hit the fan that people will either step up or step out, and the ones you need will be there even when everything settles down. This is not to say that people that don’t step up don’t care, they do in their own way, but when you are facing the biggest hurdle of your life you need your best team around you, the people that will put you first sometimes, the people that hold you in their thoughts always, and are truly on your journey with you supporting and celebrating every weird and wonderful thing about you.
Really the bigger point is that we should all have this all the time, whether we are dealing with an incurable disease or not, we need it! We should all have a team around us for when shit hits the fan, our ride or dies, people that we know will drop anything to help us, and be there no matter what. We need that social support to succeed, to stay motivated, to help make sure our emotional baggage doesn’t get too heavy.
So if you have a friend that is going through something similar make a decision what kind of friend you want to be, no answer is right or wrong, and they will surely still love you no matter what, but if you want to be there for the journey, be there. Checking up every few months for a full medical report is not what we need, we need regular pick me ups to tell us you thinking of us and supporting us, not matter how small.
We need you to remember us, send a message to tell us you love us, take us for lunch, send flowers to our house that we can look at in the 2am cancer downer to remind us you are always there. We don’t want to talk cancer all the time, but we also need you to remember that we still have it and live it, EVERY moment of EVERY day.
Make a commitment to be there, but I warn you it is a life long commitment that you cant just dip in and out of, we need you to be consistent. If that’s not for you, cool, we will see you in the pub for a drink and love you just the same, but we probably won’t want to talk too much about cancer if that’s OK.