Every one of us will feel stressed at times. Looming deadlines, financial pressures and the day-to-day demands of a busy modern life thrust various doses of stress upon us daily, but, built to withstand small amounts of pressure, we can generally make a few adjustments to compensate for the added strain and get on with it.
I have always been aware that chronic anxiety and depression are debilitating disorders affecting many, many people at various stages of life, yet until diagnosed with Breast Cancer late last year, I had never personally experienced the kind of deep-seated stress, anxiety or gut-wrenching fear that usually accompanies major trauma or a threat to one’s life. It leaves you gasping for air.
The shock of hearing I had cancer, having to quickly prepare for surgery and then line up for each chemotherapy treatment evoked feelings in me so intense I felt as though my brain had short-circuited somehow, that my responses to this new stress in my life were purely instinctive and I was powerless to control them. It has been the most mentally and physically exhausting experience of my life. At times I haven’t been able to eat, sleep or switch off the pain.
I can’t wipe the smile off my dial.
There is extraordinary beauty in this world, and I have been reminded of it more than ever over the past six months. The kindness and generosity that has been thrust in my family’s direction as we navigate the challenges of my Breast Cancer diagnosis has left me feeling more loved than ever before and so, so grateful.
But let me just say that things cranked up a notch last week!
My last blog post, ‘Breaking Up Is Hard To Do’, was pretty raw. It was difficult to write and took me a long time to post online. But I promised myself at the start of this journey that I was going to be honest about my struggles and share them openly without embarrassment. That’s easier said than done sometimes, but the response from everyone who reads my blog always amazes me.
Honesty breaks down barriers. When one person speaks from the heart, it gives others the opportunity and freedom to do so too, and what a better world it would be if we all dropped our guards once in a while and let our real selves out, insecurities and all. Everyday, there are people amongst us fighting unsaid battles, finding aspects of their lives troubling and feeling like they alone in their suffering.
I have been so touched to receive private messages from some of you who have openly shared your inner struggles. It is such a privilege to be able to support you, and I’m so glad my blog has helped in some little way.
Dear 37 year-old body,
There’s no easy way to say this, so I’m just going to blurt it out and hope you understand.
We’ve been through a lot over the years, you and I. We’ve spent an incredible amount of time in each other’s company and we know each other more intimately than anyone on this planet. You and I have forged secrets I’d never tell another soul, and at this point we should really be planning to grow old and grey together, but…well…lately I’ve had a change of heart.
I want a fresh start.
Let me try to explain.
I miss my eyebrows a lot. Even more than I miss the hair on my head! They managed to hold on throughout my first lot of chemo, but disappeared pretty quickly with the weekly infusions of Taxol I’m having at the moment. From what I can gather talking to other cancer patients, eyebrows take a while to come back after treatment finishes too, so I guess they’ll be MIA for a long while yet. My eyelashes are abandoning ship too, which has left my eyes feeling pretty dry and looking rather raw! It’s certainly a challenge to look at my reflection in the mirror now and feel comfortable in my skin; a true test of my humility, I guess!
A few years ago, probably on the back of a particularly gluttonous festive season and far too much wine, some friends of mine and I started a little running group.
It was pretty laughable at first. (Sorry girls…perhaps I’m speaking for myself here!) We’d meet down at the local park at 7am on a Sunday morning (hello commitment!), lycra’d to the hilt, and pound the pavement huffing and puffing our guts out.
I can’t speak for my friends, but for me, wearing Lycra to actually exercise was quite a new phenomenon! I had been pretty good at wearing it in the guise of exercising (which really just meant I’d found a good way to validate not having a shower before school drop-off). Yep, until running group started, my collection of lycra had only ever served as a lazy alternative to clothes, that had the added effect of making me appear like I was prioritising fitness! Win-win!
You have: Breast Cancer*
Oh, sheez. Tough break…
It’s OK, though lovey! I’ve read all about Breast Cancer*!
Ohmagosh there’s so much stuff on curing Breast Cancer* out there!