i’m not sure why, but the last few days have hit me really hard. maybe just the reality of what i am facing feels more real, or that i feel isolated, or that i am just really really frightened. it’s mixed with the idea i need to be Fearless and Brave, when i am feeling like i want to be neither of those things, and the only thing i want is to … you know… not have cancer.
i pretty much just cried all day yesterday. there were small bits where i was not crying, but the majority was crying. STRONG! BRAVE! neither. i am fatigued at this point – not at all from the treatment, which i am extremely lucky to be tolerating pretty much fine with the exception of mild nausea and the to be expected exhaustion, but from the mental aspect of knowing i have cancer. the knowledge of what has been in my body for all this time. it’s overwhelming, and underwhelming. how could i be so stupid as to not know? how could i have been so lazy as to not insist on a colonoscopy, despite there being really not much need or indication? surely i should have known that my body was doing this? and don’t give me ‘these things happen for a reason’ about the chance discovery of the liver tumours. i would have liked if that had happened for whatever reason it happened when it was still easily operable. that would have been good.
i don’t believe in much. i don’t believe that this is an operation in teaching me lessons about life. that is, of course, not to say that i haven’t learned things – that there aren’t extremely interesting and challenging experiences that accompany cancer that give me an experience i never otherwise would have had. the outpouring of love from my friends – the incredible kindness of nurses – the support of my family (by which i mean my and my partner’s families) – the realisation of mortality in a really intense way, but in a way that everyone needs to face at some time. this doesn’t make it any less rotten. this doesn’t make me grateful for the lessons cancer is teaching me. i could have done without these lessons.
so, i made contact with a young-person cancer group today. by young, it’s for people under 40, as younger adults have far less support from what i can tell – we aren’t children, with the amazing (and needed) support networks, or teenagers – nor are we the more typical age for a cancer patient, so those support networks for cancer patients are different. there’s also no ACT based colorectal/bowel cancer support groups that i can see, anyhow. i’ve mentioned before the fact that there are rarely other people in the day treatment room who are my age – i’ve seen a few of them now who are on the same days as i am and they stick out to me, as comrades i never speak to. i am one of those people who smile at the other patients as i walk around on the endless bathroom runs. but i feel shy of going near the other People Under 40. i don’t know how to talk about my cancer with other people who have currently are having treatment for cancer, as strange as that sounds. i feel like i talk about it too much, or i dwell on it – while i mostly am just in awe of people who can talk about and dwell on anything other than cancer in the middle of treatment. i am scared of connecting with people for a range of reasons – for the people who i will get to know and who will pass away – for the fact that statistically, i am likely to be one of the people who don’t see it to the other side of this – for the difficult conversations about the reality of what i, and they, are going through. i think i worry that they will actually be Brave and Strong, and the lie that i am either of those things will be clear – i will be faced with their amazing strength and rationality and positivity at facing cancer, while i have to admit that i cried all day and forgot to eat and then was sick because i forgot to eat and then took sedatives early because i couldn’t cope with being awake anymore.
the medical side is becoming routine – i can look at my scans with only a slight flinch, and i can talk more openly with my oncologist without being terrified of what he says. i am more bored by chemo rather than scared, and i can read what my blood test results say, and understand the different terminology – notice when they are good, notice when they are not. the reality of surgery is still frightening, but i am grappling with it in a way i think is healthy. one thing that would probably help would be to talk to my liver surgeon again – i know he, and my bowel surgeon are confident that the liver surgery can be performed, and that difference of opinion between them and my oncologist is hard for me to wrap my head around.
one of the biggest things i think i struggle with is the fact that i feel fine. i have CANCER. i am supposed to be languishing about, in pain, or sick, or sore, or feeling some sort of real, actual side effects of this. i have virtually nothing outside the haze of the week i am on chemo. the following week, i might be a bit weak and my appetite is poor, but i don’t understand how this translates to suffering from a condition that is going to be with me for the rest of my life, and may very well take it. i still am stuck with cancer as an intellectual reality rather than a physical one. despite the advancement of the cancer, my rectal tumour doesn’t cause me any discomfort other than a mild back ache from time to time that i barely notice. the liver tumours are completely painless, and the now-gone lung spots never interfered with my oxygenation. when i was depressed, i knew i was unwell. i couldn’t escape it. the repercussions for not taking medication were fast and furious. now? it’s so completely abstract. how do i get my head around doctors telling me my liver is possibly inoperably screwed up, while i feel completely normal?
who the hell knows. i’ll see how being involved in some sort of cancer support network goes – i don’t need to stick with it if i find it too hard or not helpful, and i might find it really valuable and helpful to get me through the darker days that inevitably come. my community nurse told me to stop bashing myself up about bad days – that they are normal, and natural, and that if you need to stay under the blankets, that’s actually ok. i feel guilt-ridden about it though. my community nurse is amazing. she calls me ‘baby girl’ and gave me a hug after i cried all through her visit. for context, the community nurse visits the day after i cease chemotherapy to make sure all the small things are going ok – mouth ulcers, circulation, bowel movements, pain, fatigue, and to just be someone who is there. it’s an extremely important service, and it feels good to have someone check up on me when i’m in a bad point.
i’m planning more outings/time with people in the next week too – just to get me out of the house, and possibly win me a bit more sanity and less stir-craziness. thank you for people offering to spend time with me; it’s deeply appreciated.