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 have cancer,” I say incredulously at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. “How did that happen?”
Cancer evokes an innate fear in everyone, doesn’t it? I must admit, that even before my own diagnosis, the very idea of cancer practically repulsed me: abnormal cells multiplying inside someone of their own accord. It was enough to make my skin crawl.
I awoke in a sweaty haze again this morning, with pre-dawn darkness still cloaking our room; the world outside silent and still. Since my diagnosis, I have come to know the loneliness of these early hours more closely than ever before. It’s hard. Time inches forward while my mind does pinwheels.
It is in those lonely hours that I allow myself to confront my gravest fears. Perhaps it’s not such a conscious decision to do so, but rather a surrender of sorts. In the daylight, distracted by the relative normality of life, I push them away. But at night they are overwhelming.
I probably don’t need to spell them out to you. For those of us confronted with our mortality, it’s a pretty sobering time. And yet we all know we are going to die some time. We’re just never ready to be reminded of it, especially at the tender age of 37. Read more