Every few months, I sit down with my social worker and fill out a questionnaire that highlights any areas of concern in my life since my diagnosis.
In September last year, after just finishing radiotherapy, the process went a little like this:
‘Tick the box for any of the below topics that have been an area of concern for you in the past two weeks’.
I don’t particularly like being bald so Appearance/Body Image: [X].
I wouldn’t complain if someone gave me back the savings I spent during chemo so Money Issues [X].
The only running I do is to the fridge so Exercise/Fitness [X].
And I’m still a little bit pissed off that I got cancer so Anger [X].
So I went back to my social worker last week, six months later, and realised my concerns are very different now. Right after treatment, the immediate focus in my life was getting back to ‘normal’. At the time, that meant little things like having some of my hair back, getting back to work, hitting the gym again and going to uni. My life for the past eight months had been a series of really big questions intermitted with periods of feeling really, really shitty.
Eat, sleep, chemo, repeat.
Eat, sleep, doctor, repeat.
Eat, sleep, how badly do you want kids? Repeat.
Eat, sleep, you have epilepsy, repeat.
Eat, sleep, pills, repeat.
Eat, sleep, you actually have neurocardiogenic syncope, repeat.
Eat, sleep, PICC clean, repeat.
Eat, sleep, needle, repeat.
Eat, sleep, you might get breast cancer, repeat.
Eat, sleep, egg retrieval, repeat.
And then nothing.
I went through eight months like a robot with my schedule very clearly set out before me. I didn’t worry about much else other than making it to 2016.
Now, after six months of getting back to normal, my concerns are a little different. My fitness is back along with my hair. I’m working again, back at uni and my savings account is also getting there. Yet this time has probably been the hardest for me in a while. It’s what psychologists call ‘the adjustment period’. The time after a traumatic event where you readjust to your life since then.
Anger, fear, sadness, isolation [X]
I’m angry because of the fear cancer has brought to my life. Now, when someone says that I look like I’ve lost weight, I can’t help but think that it might be the cancer coming back, not all the running I’m doing. A pain in the stomach could be the cancer regrowing in my stomach, not some bad thai food.
I get sad sometimes and I have a cry because I think about how shit it all was and it’s incredibly overwhelming to feel great 99% of the time and really lost the other 1%. That in itself makes me feel isolate, even though I’m not alone in feeling this way.
Yet with all these overwhelming feelings comes a lot of good ones too, the main one being
I am so bloody happy to be here and I appreciate my life so much more than I ever did before.
Every day, I am in awe of life.
The buildings in the city, the crowds of people, art, science, love, family, all of it.
When you stop for a second and think about the profound nature of our existence, it’s hard not to feel lucky to be alive.