Ever so gradually, as each week passes, I have felt the wheels falling off my resolve a little.
This past week has been particularly tough. After finishing my final dose of AC chemotherapy three weeks ago and starting to feel better, I hit a snag last Wednesday with the sudden onset of vomiting, nausea and fatigue. It completely caught me off-guard and left me with a mouth full of ulcers over Easter. How mean is that, taking away my chance of unfettered chocolate indulgence? Instead I spent the long weekend gargling salt water, unable to eat and feeling really flat.
It takes a lot of energy to stay upbeat and positive in the face of cancer. Even on the days when the sun is shining, my diagnosis hovers like an ever-present black shadow. I can push to look beyond the shade, but the sun on my face is never as bright.
I have felt this darkness more keenly of late. There have been a few particular things happen in my world that have perhaps made the contrast between my current life and that of others’ around me more stark. It’s a bitter pill to swallow sometimes, the happiness and wonder of life when it’s not happening to you.
I hate wallowing. I hate comparing my lot in life to that of everyone around me. I hate the simmering feelings of jealousy that surface when others share good news. It’s not the real me, nor is it the ‘me’ I want to be.
I guess this is the part where I yell ‘NOT FAIR’, say a big ‘FUCK YOU’ to cancer, have a decent cry, and try and get on with things. I’ve also decided to enlist the help of a psychologist and psychiatrist to help push away the shadows. Here’s hoping their expertise will help alleviate my pain and anxiety a little.
It certainly is a roller-coaster of emotions, let me tell you. Mostly I think I cope quite well – and by ‘coping well’ I mean getting on with it, pushing cancer to the side and trying to live as normal a life as possible. What I have come to realise is that ‘coping’ comes in many different forms. How one person copes in the face of particular trauma will be different to another. But there are no right or wrong ways to cope.
It’s very easy to judge one another in times of hardship, but it’s never ok to judge someone on their ability to cope. Human beings might be resilient, but we are also fragile. It is ok to stick your hand up and say, ‘Actually…I am finding this really tough’ without judgement or criticism.
So here I am, sticking my little hand up to say, ‘actually I am finding this really tough.’ My family is finding this really tough. While we strive to stay positive and maintain a sense of normalcy, we are struggling with the grief of losing our old life, the hardship of living through a lengthy period of cancer treatment, and most of all, the scary unknowns that lie ahead of us.
A mere glimpse of a Facebook feed, or the shiny images on other forms of social media can seem to paint pictures of perfect lives everywhere, yet I know there are others out there battling to push away their own shadows. While it may not be as obvious as my bald head is these days, if that is you at the moment, let me just say, ‘I am sorry you are going through a hard time. I hope you can find things that bring you pleasure despite it, and be embraced in the supportive folds of people who love you.’
A friend of mine created an app called ‘Help Me, Help You’, a way of connecting with friends and enabling you to give and get help when needed. It’s been a great way for my beautiful friends to help my family over the past few months, and I love its mantra of ‘showing people you love them through your actions’.
One spontaneous, kind deed for someone who is going through a rough patch can do wonders. We have been the recipients of a lot of love in recent months and most appreciative of the times that friends and family have just stepped in to cover us when things were dire. Asking for help is difficult and can feel really demeaning, so the unsolicited acts of kindness have been by far the loveliest.
Thank you, dear friends, for sticking by us on this difficult road. I hope more than anything that one day, this awful period in our lives will be but a distant memory and Jay and I can repay each and every kindness tenfold.