13 APRIL 2010
I am having my first of six chemotherapy sessions tomorrow morning.
Until I got the appointment last week, I was impatient for it to begin so that I could get it over with. But from the day a nurse rang with my appointment, I have had bouts of depression and anxiety.
Since I first discovered the lump, I have always been waiting for something or other. For the screenings, for their results, for surgery, for its results. And now for chemo. Tomorrow the weeks of waiting will transform into months of enduring.
I realised that waiting had become a full-time activity; one can seemingly get on with one’s life but really, it’s just treading water – lost in a limbo – waiting for the next appointment which might change, yet again, my life’s path.
On the next big thing
If you’ve ever moved house, you’ll know that, although there are many phases – such as house-hunting, packing, moving, cleaning and unpacking – each phase demands most of your attention and everything else becomes insignificant. It is not until one phase is behind you that the next looms in front of you, insisting that it becomes the new focus of your attention.
My cancer journey is like that. At the beginning, I had a vague idea of what lay before me – surgery and therapies – but only the screenings and biopsy commanded my attention initially, then waiting for the results, having surgery, getting the results.
Now my thoughts are occupied on a) what book to take to pass the two hours for each chemotherapy session and b) how my body will react to it.
Of all the things I’ve been though this year, the last three weeks of awaiting chemotherapy have been the most anxious. I suspect it’s because how it will affect me – how severe the side-effects will be – is an unknown. Until my first session, I won’t know, for example, if I will be sick all the time.
On telling people
I am so very glad that Frank persuaded me to tell my friends about my diagnosis. Everyone – you – have been so wonderful. I honestly can’t imagine what it would have been like if I’d tried to hide it and having to lie and say “fine” when asked “how are you?”.
In the last few months, I’ve never once felt defined by my cancer; I don’t feel that anyone expects me to be or say or do anything different to what I am doing. If anything, my relationships have been enriched – it’s good to be able to talk about real things, close-to-the-bone stuff with friends and not feel awkward. More than once I’ve realised – and appreciate – what great friends I have.
I’ve only told one person in person – two days ago – someone who wasn’t included in my announcement mail-out. I don’t want to do that again. Lots of information jumbled out in a mess; Frank and I kept interrupting each other. A letter is so much easier, controlled and one can state the key facts without having them being swamped in detail.
I wish that more people talked about their own cancer experiences. If they did, people would realise how common cancer is and how high the survival rate is. Cancer doesn’t have to be scary.
You know, I still don’t really believe or think of myself as having cancer. I always hesitate and feel weird if I ever have to say it. Instead I refer to it in terms of “my diagnosis”.
Maybe I avoid saying it because, despite rationally knowing that my prognosis is excellent, there is still the little girl inside with the heebie jeebies, scared of what cancer used to mean.
Even before it happened, I knew I’d feel uncomfortable when cancer was mentioned on TV. So far I haven’t seen the ad from the cancer charity where people’s loved ones disappear in mirrors and windows. I am benefiting from donations from charities and want them to exist, but it’s horrid to have gone from an impassive viewer to identifying with the person who is no longer around. :-(
On being obsessive
So far, surprisingly for me, I haven’t been obsessive about anything that’s been happening to me, such as looking for additional information online or documenting every single change.
I am, however, going to track my side-effects during chemotherapy; I even have some charts planned in my head so that I can post a daily summary here! Maybe I’ll get bored and give up part-way but tracking odd sensations will help spotting early signs of infection; with an impaired immune system from chemo, I’ve been told to go to hospital immediately at the first sign of infection because my body won’t be able to fight off an infection alone.
I’ll keep ya posted.