Well, I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year since my life saving miracle cyst appeared so suddenly and started me along, probably, the worst, but in some ways the best, year of my life – 2015 – certainly a memorable one. Totally 50/50 here! I would say it’s been an awful year, and don’t get me wrong, it has and I wouldn’t wish this on my worse enemy! But it’s also been amazing in so many ways – I feel like I’ve been given a second chance to really appreciate life – sounds so corny but it’s so true – the love and friendship shown to me and my family – lessons learned etc outweighs all the bad. Bitter sweet really!
Being diagnosed with cancer is life changing in so many ways. It’s like a roller coaster that you don’t want to get on to. Sort of anyway. I suppose you have a choice to get on or not but with cancer you don’t – you only have the choice whether to have conventional treatment or not. Once you’re on the ride, you want to get off, but you know you have to stay on until the end. And on the way – up and down and round etc, you just pray that it doesn’t de-rail or crash! You hope you get to the end and survive – and if you do, you look back and it was really scary, but also quite amazing!
It must be a bit like religion in a way too. I remember a story our vicar, Viv, told me one day (we used to live next door). I had asked her what made her become a vicar? She replied that at the time (a very bad time) she felt she was hanging off a cliff edge, gripping on by her finger tips and about to fall. But something held her there and stopped her from falling – and this something, was God holding her up. She knew then what she must do! It’s important to believe in something and have that hope to keep going – you need faith in something – whatever your religion/or not. I believe there is some sort of higher force out there – something has helped me along the way I am absolutely positive.
People often ask me how I continue to smile and stay focused when I feel so bad. I’ve been finding it really really tough lately and some days it takes every bit of strength I have. But even I’m bored with being sick now! Imagine how all of you feel? I try not to moan too much, honest! So the least I can do is smile and make it seem better than it really is!
I’m being pumped with hormones as well as trying to cope with the side effects of the drugs. I can really relate to my teenage students – my emotions are all over the place – had some bad news last week and I really don’t know how I held it together and didn’t burst into tears – on top of everything else my body is going through my up and down emotions make it even more difficult and I don’t like it! You feel out of control so much – it’s like pregnancy again! Some days I really could just stay in bed, curl up, feel sorry for myself, think ‘why me’ and cry (the cold gloomy weather really isn’t helping either!). But there’s no point in doing this is there – so I don’t and I haven’t yet! I refuse to waste my precious life like that and who’s that going to help anyway? It wouldn’t do me or my family any good. So I keep focused and find my inner strength and carry on. Must be a bit like people had to do in war time. I know a truly inspirational lady whom I am so lucky to call my friend – Kath London – she’s in her 90s and totally amazing. She has been through so much – knowing her keeps me going and she has no idea how much she helps – I hope I can be like her – not sure I’ll get as many years in as she has, but who knows? We always said that she’s an angel needed on earth more than in heaven for the moment – although she keeps telling us she’s ready for heaven whenever she’s needed! Bless her x
Going back to work has helped mentally – it gives me purpose to get up, get ready and have some routine – plus I have a job that I love, where I feel valued and I’m helping others. It helps me to know that I am helping to contribute a little financially to our home and take a little pressure off Phil. I didn’t realise how important this was – I suppose we’re a team and I didn’t like being the fallen soldier!
I am lucky that I have a busy family life too – I have no choice but to carry on – there’s breakfasts, packed lunches, hair, to plait, dogs and animals to sort, house cleaning, washing to do – always something – like every family. Yes, of course my family is amazing and now I know they can do all this without me, which is reassuring, but it’s a lot easier with me there to help! It can be difficult when I’m really poorly and just need to rest – I remember my mum saying that it was easier for her going through cancer as she just had herself to look after. Pros and cons I suppose. But it’s good to have company, support and purpose.
One of the most important things I have learnt is to put myself and my family first. I know this sounds selfish and it really goes against everything about me. But I’ve actually learnt to say NO! It’s still hard and I want to do everything and want to help everyone but I can’t as my body won’t physically let me and I’ve needed this year and it’s stark reality to shake me up! Not that I’d recommend anyone does it this way. But I think it has helped me put things into perspective. And as I’ve said before it’s TIME and EXPERIENCES that are important – I want to spend time with people that mean the most. I needed to slow down – I had started to but it was obviously too late as the cancer had already begun to grow. My body was working super sonic and couldn’t cope. It made me STOP! I just need to listen and learn now. I can hear all my friends at work saying “but I can’t afford to slow down” – I totally get this as this is why I worked so much – to make family life better – like a vicious circle. So it’s how you manage this stress – take time out!
It’s important to have ME time! This is so much easier as my children are older now – honestly, it does get easier! So to relax, as you all know I swim as much as I can – this is the only time that I don’t hurt. It calms me down, slows my breathing and I find I can zone out and forget about everything except my breathing rhythm. Plus I hope it’s keeping me a little fitter. I have a target this year to get back to the gym and classes to strengthen my core and my body – this will ultimately help to keep me fit to cope with the rest of the Herceptin and hence able to cope with surgery as soon as possible after that finishes. That’s my focus anyway!
I also go to a sewing club run by my lovely friend Ulrike – she is amazing and good for me. She keeps us focused and busy – sewing makes me smile – I’m just about to start on quilts for my boys as keepsakes – should keep me busy. Quilting can be quite mathematical so it takes some concentration which is good. I just love it.
Hobbies are important – unfortunately gardening isn’t happening much due to the bad arm. I am trying to re-train myself to do heavier things with my left hand, but this is so difficult. I like to read too and I have some great colouring books. – but I still find it hard at home to just sit and chill – I either have to be in bed or on holiday – otherwise you see everything that needs to be done around the house! Like, I can’t sit and relax in my lounge until I’ve vacuumed the rug from dog hair – I must be a bit OCD! So everyone find something you’re interested in – and make time to do it – honestly it helps!
There’s lots of things I want to do – it’s good to dream but I try not to plan or put time limits on things now. I want to try pottery again – I did this when I was 18 with my friend, Jo, we had great fun. Such a long time ago, will be interesting to see if I remember anything.
I did want to do a skydive for charity too but my consultant said NO! So my darling friend Zoe is going to jump and we can sponsor her instead! Zoe has super curly hair too – hers is long a beautiful, but she really understand how difficult it is so she gave me a tip – don’t let a hairdryer anywhere near your hair! Otherwise………
Although we went to visit Grandma this weekend as my nausea had subsided so I could travel (still difficult!) – but she loved my hair! she thought I’d had a perm! bless her!
Freya thinks we also need to put swimming with dolphins on the list of ‘to do’s’ – I like that idea too! Need to save up and get to Florida for that one though! And if we manage to get to Florida me and Phil hope to renew our wedding vows on a beautiful beach!
There’s so many experiences I want to try and fit in – it’s as if I’m on a timer now and I need to cram lots of stuff in before the sand runs through. Not sure how to deal with this feeling yet! But I’ve already done so much too – more than a lot of people. So we’ll see. I’d be more worried if there wasn’t anything left that I wanted to do! It’s good to dream! Keep dreaming!
So I’m concentrating on doing things that make me happy and smile and surrounding myself with people that make me happy and smile too. I only watch films that have happy endings! Freya and I are addicted to “Say Yes to the Dress” – we love a wedding! Lots of happy stuff!
Freya has decided that she’d like a wedding dress like Cinderella when she meets her prince! Cinderella is my favourite too – I love the saying “have courage, and be kind“.
We bake a lot too – food makes me happy, and makes my family happy….. especially these chocolate brownies – lots of sugar – but every so often is fine. All about balance!
I do have some really bad days – I’m human! Mind over matter works to an extent. When I’m feeling really down I look at other people, younger or going through worse – remember there’s always someone having a worse time. We seem surrounded in this world with horrible stuff – just this week we’ve had such sad news of David Bowie and Alan Rickman both dying of cancer, a beautiful family from our village has lost their husband/dad, another friend is suffering great loss of her family members so close together. Then to top it off I’ve just read a FB friends blog who has just had the terrible news that cancer has returned to her world – this has shaken me so much as she has battled the same cancer I have – please feel free to read: www.teamrj.co.uk – the list continues to go on. So times like this I get a sharp reality check – like a slap round the face – remind myself how lucky I am, think of how much worse it could be – look at my beautiful family, friends, pets, house, job etc. And then I smile and carry on. Try it people – you can do this! You can adapt this to any bad situation you are going through. Make the most of every single day you have in this beautiful world.
My purchase of the week to help me remember my meds! I am so forgetful, so this is helping so much – it’s the little things that help!
So I’m hoping I’m over halfway now where my treatment is concerned. All seems as good as can be. Unfortunately I will never get told I have the “all clear” from the big C. All they say is that “the treatment has been successful and they’ve done as much as they can to help stop the cancer returning”. So I am doing all I can to help myself too. It’s still pretty grim as I seem to be suffering from lots of the side effects. Herceptin is much kinder to the body as it’s a targeted chemo, but I seem to be a bit of an exception to the rule (again!), and as I go on – next week will be number 11 out of 18 – the effects seem to be getting worse as they accumulate. It takes me longer to recover afterwards and it’s a real struggle. Just got to keep going and hope I can complete the treatment. Keep counting them off!
So in the meantime, keep smiling! There’s lots to smile about and thank you everyone for helping to keep me smiling!