Thursday, 13 July 2017

A year on, and it's not getting any easier

This was originally supposed to be a cheery blog post about my birthday. However, I found my birthday really difficult this year and I’ve been in a bit of a downward spiral ever since, so I thought I’d write an honest account of how I’m coping instead.

All the anniversaries are coming up for the horrors I went through last year. It’s been just over a year since my smear test, and on Saturday it’ll be a year since I received that terrifying letter. All those dates are etched in my mind and I can’t erase them. My mind keeps lurching back to this time twelve months ago and I can’t do a single thing to stop it.

My birthday was particularly difficult because I kept thinking back to my 30th birthday last year. I had no idea that there were cancerous cells multiplying inside me and I enjoyed a lovely few weeks of celebrating with family and friends. I was doing well in my job, I was looking forward to our holiday in September, we were making lots of exciting plans for the future, and it felt as if things were looking up. Then, out of nowhere, my whole life got turned upside down and everything fell apart.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that everything still feels just as bad (if not worse) and as raw as it did right at the beginning of this cruel journey. I’ve suffered a huge loss, and I’m grieving. Grieving that I’ll never carry my own child or experience any of the milestones that go along with that, grieving that cancer has taken something so precious and irreplaceable away from me, grieving about the impact this has had on my husband and other family members, and grieving that this had to happen to me.

I always feel as if I need to try to be positive, or try to be grateful that the cancer was caught early. But actually, right now, I don’t feel positive and I most certainly don’t feel grateful. I feel angry, sad, anxious and isolated. And, to top it all off, I feel guilty about not feeling positive or grateful.

Most people probably aren’t aware that I’m still going back to the hospital every three months for check-up appointments. Although it’s reassuring that I’m seen regularly, these appointments are hideous. The stress and anxiety beforehand, the drive to the same hospital where it all took place, sitting in the same waiting room where I sat for 45 minutes before hearing the worst news of my life, the discomfort of the appointment itself, that hollow feeling when the doctor tells you ‘it’s all fine, nothing to worry about’ but deep down you feel as if nothing will ever feel fine again… it’s all hideous. I’ve got one of these appointments tomorrow and my stomach is currently tied in knots and has been for weeks.

I live in constant fear of big gatherings where I don’t know many people just in case someone obliviously asks me ‘so, when are you having kids?’ I want to yell ‘are you crazy?!’ at people who ask me if I want to hold their newborn babies, but I just smile and politely decline. I feel sick when I’m within earshot of a conversation I feel uncomfortable with, and I still feel as if I’ve been punched in the gut whenever the tiniest of triggers pops up as I scroll through my social media feeds or turn on the TV. I sometimes lie awake for hours with thoughts tumbling around in my head, and it takes every fiber of strength I possess to get out of bed in the morning on a really bad day. And those niggling physical symptoms I mentioned in a previous post? They're all still there. My inner critical voice is constantly screaming that this was supposed to get easier with time, so why is it getting harder?

Possibly the biggest struggle of all is feeling as if I can’t talk to anyone about what’s going on in my own head. I’ve become steadily more skilful at hiding my feelings and pretending everything is fine, and it's become pretty commonplace for me to go a whole day on the brink of tears without letting them spill over. If they do threaten to spill over of their own accord when everything gets too much, I escape to the toilet for ten minutes then emerge with puffy eyes and carry on with whatever I was doing. I often wonder why people aren’t asking me if I’m okay and why they just don’t ‘get’ the enormity of it all, but in reality I’ve probably become so good at pretending that other people wholeheartedly believe the lie. I’m caught up in an endless cycle of feeling low, then feeling lower because I feel so isolated. I rage internally because I’d prefer it if people just said ‘I don’t know what to say’ rather than not saying anything, but perhaps people don’t even realise that I need them to say anything at all.

Even now, I still feel as if I should try to finish this post on some kind of positive note or with a 'things will get better and I need to stay strong' platitude. However, for today, I’m going to leave it on this more honest note instead.

Cancer may have left my body ten months ago, but it will never ever leave my life.

4 comments:

  1. I don't have anything new to say that I haven't already said (and you're probably sick of hearing) but I didn't want to read and run, so... Love you and I really do think it's so brave to post this xxx

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  2. Hi,
    I have cystic fibrosis and I asked about kids when I was about 26, and was told I shouldn't have them as too damaging for my health. It was like a punch to the stomach, as I had always wanted kids. I also hated the control being taken away from me.
    I'm now 31, and although sometimes it's difficult, I've done more in my life in those few years than I Could have with a child.
    I still hate the fact, that it isn't my choice out of everything. And a a girl, it's a big thing for us.

    I too have awful hospital appointments and get really wound up before them which makes it worse.

    Really hope you feel a bit more positive soon and things do work out best for you and your partner xx

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  3. I suffer from depression too and know just how you feel about 'being positive'! It's lovely if you're one of those people who's glass is always half full, but you shouldn't feel guilty if your glass is half empty. Have you spoken to your GP about how you're feeling? I know some people don't like the thought of having to take antidepressants, but I have found them helpful and you also may find speaking to a mental health professional useful too. What happened to you was much more than just an illness, you suffered a loss and both your physical body and your mental health need to heal. 💜💜💜

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  4. You struggle daily, you keep it internal.... Don't, simply don't. If you want to rage at the shitty unfairness of it all do it. Scream it out loud. Please don't consider how that will be taken by anyone else, if they don't immediately stand by you and support you or join in with your screaming they just don't understand and may never. However I understand not because I've been through what you've been through (not to your extent anyway) but because I have empathy and an imagination. Big cwtches to you sweetheart, if you need me or a shoulder or a ranting partner I'll stand with you. Xxx

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Thanks for your comment! :)