This week, I’ve been mostly worrying unhealthily (and unnecessarily) about cancer. What I did, and what I should not have done perhaps, is go reading blogs of other breast cancer fighters and get immersed in finding out their stories. And look at websites about what happens when cancer recurs. It’s all very scary and upsetting.
It started because I follow “a little c” and was looking at her wedding post and photos last week. But then I saw her blogroll and thought I’d go off on a little trip around some of the other blogs about this. They’re all amusing, interesting, informative or emotional and I did enjoy reading them, but of course they do tell the whole story. All the scary stuff that did happen to them, is something that could happen to me, and there are some pretty hair-raising things in them.
Today’s emotional trip-hazard was the result of following a link on Facebook to the blog of a lady called Lisa Lynch, whose writings are very witty and she’s someone who sounds just as anal and mad and slightly OCD and fret-some as I am…
Lisa is a journalist who is now living with stage 4 (terminal) cancer and has written a book that Stephen Fry says is very funny. I may buy her book… but with the knowledge that it is extremely likely to make me cry, I will only be reading it when I fancy a good wallow. From what I’ve seen so far in her blog, Lisa is very good at making one laugh, cry, exclaim and recognise the familiar within her work. Anyway – It’s her birthday this month… and she’s asked everyone to support a hospice instead of buy presents. After all, you can’t take it with you. Sorry if that’s a bit morbid – and do go and support another good cause if you can!
The thing that I found reassuring is the way Lisa explains what it’s like to be me at the moment, in a way that I may not be able to without a lot more practice at this writing lark.
She talks about what it’s like to feel your confidence wane and to lose the inclination to socialise with people when you don’t feel so well. It’s even harder when you’re in a job (journalist, technical architect / project manager, whatever) which requires a great deal of social interaction. Whilst you want to be sociable and know it’s the way you should and can be, everything takes ten times more effort and a lot of psychological-self-encouragement before you feel able to do it.
I’m having arguments in my head before I phone people, because I over-think everything. I’ve probably always been like that of course, but it only took me 3 seconds to shout myself down and get on with it in the past – and now it takes anything from 3 minutes to 3 months.
“I mustn’t think about it, I must just do it,” thought Lucy.
– C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian.
My emotional contribution to cancer-fighting this far has been to try not to cry too much and to be as up-beat and positive as I can when talking about it. I think the psychological damage of a cancer diagnosis and the chemotherapy I’m having has been limited merely by my refusal to think about what I’m going through in negative terms – well, most of the time, anyway. Having treatment at home and being able to lock the associated crap away out of sight for the most part has allowed me to try and relegate the chemo to the least possible significance in my life.
After all, having chemo is just a short 1.5 – 2 hour session of a bit of a natter and “A Nice Sit Down” (let’s ignore the pain and trauma of the treatment, remember it as only a quick injection, don’t think about the rest). The rest of chemo day should be spent eating cake or having grazing boards at the pub… (not remembering the dizzyness and the same weird nausea that usually accompanies a migraine, nor thinking about how I flopped about on the sofa last week, complaining about how bright it was and covering my eyes). Then the following weeks are surely just a bit of tablet-taking (again, they could be vitamins, yes, that’s all they are – it’s fine, nothing to see here) and a bit of avoiding people with germs (Ooh, nice, you sneezed on me – oh crap. Right, I’ll be off to scrub my hands and face!).
My mental contribution to cancer-fighting is to “plan the fuck out of it”, as a friend of mine calls it. I have a spreadsheet that I can record how much fluid I’m drinking each day and how I feel, whether I have any weird side-effects or am drinking/eating more or less than I should. It goes pretty colours the more I drink. The whole set of chemo dates is already booked into a Google calendar and my treatment and drugs regimen is already pre-populated in a spreadsheet with a day per row, split into morning, afternoon and evening, and it goes green when I say I’ve taken my tablets like a good girl. That sheet, besides telling me what tablets I should be taking on 10th October, is the same sheet that shows me when all this crap can stop again. I also have a “fuck off, cancer” spreadsheet with all the facts about things I need to do, or check, or think about to look after myself whilst I have chemo and kick cancer’s arse. I LOVE SPREADSHEETS. 🙂
My physical contribution to cancer-fighting is probably the bit that’s letting me down at the moment. Fatigue has kicked in. Unlike our great Team GB Olympic athletes, with their 38 medals and counting, I am getting tired just from putting the shopping away. Climbing the stairs at a normal pace makes me want to have A Nice Sit Down. I’m supposed to be walking a circuit of the rather lovely park that sits between me and my office, and there’s really no excuse for not doing some exercise, other than I’m a lazy bugger and I feel tired… all too frequently for my liking.
…So, I think, “well then, I’m having A Nice Sit Down so often, I should just pick up a book!” I love reading books – or at least, I did do. Have you heard of “chemo brain”? No? Until you have chemo, or children, it’s very hard to comprehend what disturbed sleep and difficulty concentrating is like. (Sorry, to the parents amongst you there, I do know that the second of these is only horrible for a % of the time, but sometimes I feel the suffering is similar!).
Anyway. Chemo brain strikes, and so I move the wonderful-sounding book from the sofa to the table, and the table to the bedroom, and the bedroom to the sofa. But I don’t open it, because I can’t concentrate. I then get the mickey taken out of me for the rather special technique of moving the book around the house despite never actually reading the book. I am hoping that cancer isn’t taking my love of books away from me as that would be its meanest trick yet.
My lovely friend NatBat is another book lover. She recently bought me a present: A “It’s crap that you’re not having a fun time, but this might help cheer you up” kind of present. It’s an audio book version of “Room” by Emma Donoghue and she bought it because we both think it sounds really fascinating! I keep looking at it thinking “I should listen to that” but I fear I will start it, then lose concentration and pick something else up and never go back to it. I hate not finishing things. One of my many weaknesses – I can’t stop until something is up to a standard, so it sometimes makes it harder to start.
I wouldn’t have started this blog, were it not for the “save as draft” button, and the fact that I know there are only about 3 followers – so I can witter on in this cavernous space, publish content “live” with little real impact, and go back and tinker with things later if I want. 😉
Anyway, I think the “think it, do it” theme (a.k.a. the Jonny Ball approach to life) is what I need a bit more of.
Your life’s a mystery, mine is an open book
If I could read your mind, I think I’d take a look
I’m not scared, Baby, I don’t care.
What have you got to hide? What do you need to prove?
You’re always telling lies, and that’s the only truth
I don’t care, Baby, I’m not scared.
Lyrics by Neil Tennant