I woke up yesterday morning and wanted to get up. That’s not happened for a long time. I spent most of December and up until this week staying in bed. I’d wake up, I’d get some breakfast and then eventually go back to bed, my very own island. As long as I was in bed I was OK. Even the evenings were bed based. I’d have my evening meal with my family but then I’d disappear back upstairs. It reminded me of how I was as a teenager. Scurrying away, promising I’d be downstairs in a bit, but we all knew I was gone, and not to be seen again until the morning.
It crept up on me though and it wasn’t until I noticed looking through my diary that the only time I was leaving the house was for scans, bloods and appointments with my Oncologist, Surgeon and Counsellor. I’d stopped taking the dog for his daily walk and the thought of going into town for a look around filled me with dread. Then one night I went to Asda to pick up some vegetables for dinner – we were running low so it was emergency buying, which meant I didn’t really have time to think about what I was doing. My mum has a broken back, which hurts constantly and is now dealing with her other hip not doing too well, after getting the other hip replaced. So, her walking anywhere isn’t really an option. It wasn’t until I was stood looking at the vegetable section in Asda that I realised I was crying. I was stood frozen, unable to move. I hid my face and tried to get it under control. I opened the list I had written and I focused on that list the whole way round the shop. I remember it like yesterday how much I struggled walking around the supermarket shortly after surgery. I needed to be out amongst people back in the normal world though. My brain pushed me to keep walking and put up with the pain. I walked slowly and stopped along the way to catch my breath and steady myself. This time though, my brain wasn’t forcing me to walk. Instead it was looking at the length of the aisles, the amount of people in the aisles, the easiest way out without having to go near people, how long the queues were and at one point I found myself in the corner of the shop studying cleaning products just because it was far away and there was no one else there. But panic did set in when a man appeared. He was just shopping, innocently minding his own business, and doing his shop. But I didn’t see it like that. I had to get away from him and away from everyone else. I considered dumping the basket and going home without the items we needed. The thought of returning empty handed wasn’t an option though. What would I say?
I mentioned it when I got home that I wasn’t keen on going out. My mum didn’t say much about it, but acknowledged it. Maybe she’d noticed. As a family we don’t talk about what’s going on, especially our feelings. We’re an odd bunch.
My next reason for leaving the house was to see my Counsellor. Usually I’d walk there, but I wasn’t up to it so I got a taxi. Usually upon arrival I’d have a drink and talk about how I was pleased with the walk and that I was getting faster or walking without too much hobbling. This time though there wasn’t any excitement.
Usually I have a good old cry when I talk to my Counsellor, but I didn’t cry once that day. Instead I said “I’m just really sad” – I’d not admitted that or said it out loud until then. It felt like someone else had said it when I heard myself admit it. The date I saw her was 10 January, which is the one-year anniversary of my diagnosis. People had asked me how I’d mark the date. Weird, how a date, which significantly changes you, your life and your outlook, can pass by without celebration.
The beginning of January was pretty tough. I got my 6 month check up results, had a colonoscopy and then had to wait for those results. This was due to my body taking a step backwards for the last month. Symptoms had reappeared which were freaking me out. As well as all this I’d planned to return to work. Unfortunately I didn’t go back to work as planned. My confidence had been knocked with my body going backwards and there was the issue of not wanting to leave the house. All my results were clear though, thankfully. Whilst waiting for the results, it was like I’d been transported back to a year ago. The not knowing was driving me mad. I was thinking the worst, then the best. I’d tell myself off for thinking negatively, but punish myself for daring to be positive. I’m amazed I slept at all that week.
I’m so relieved I’m clear. It makes me cry just thinking about it. I don’t really think I can put into words how it makes me feel. There’s so much happiness but at the same time so much sadness. I’ve been asked time and time again how I’m going to celebrate. Can I be honest? I don’t want to celebrate it. I can’t have that party or drink session. I don’t want to tempt fate. I certainly don’t want to speak too soon. Some people might disagree with my thinking and call it negative but it’s just how I’m dealing with it.
Dealing with it. I thought I’d dealt with it. The diagnosis, treatment, surgery, hair loss, body changes, a new way of eating; and everything else that gets thrown into the cancer package. But it’s only now I realise there’s a lot more to it. I was drained physically and mentally. My mind has travelled to the happiest of places to the darkest of places in the space of a year. It’s only now I can see that recovery isn’t just about scars fading and my stomach settling. I need to let myself recover mentally, and if I’m honest, it’s actually really difficult. I don’t really know where to start.
I’m just glad I’ve realised it, and know it’s not me cracking up. It’s the next phase. A phase I must treat as seriously as treatment and surgery. So the anniversary of diagnosis came and went and it’s tonight I accept there isn’t a time frame for cancer, in all areas of it. Treatment or recovery. No book or website can tell me when I’ll feel OK again – every single person is different. I’m just going to take it step by step and maybe one day I’ll notice the old me is sneaking back in.