Emma B
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All the emotions...

Emma B
Posted by
11 May 2017

Some of the feelings that I've experienced in the first year and a half of treatment for ALL

I often describe my first year of treatment for ALL as ‘surviving’ rather than living.  Waking up in the morning with nowhere to be and no motivation to take your head off the pillow – sometimes not even knowing why.  The poison that’s being pumped into your veins is saving you and making you poorly at the same time.  You are grateful for it, but also hate it.  You wish it would stop but you can’t live without it.  It’s like a vicious cycle that goes round and round in your head.

Within a few months, I had gone from being a healthy 30-something with a full life and ready to start a family, to the weak, hairless girl, who couldn’t even stand on one leg.  I knew the hair would come back, my balance would improve but something had changed in me and for a while I didn’t even know who I was anymore. 

As unsettling as this was, I’m an optimistic and pragmatic being and wouldn’t allow much time for self-pity. What would be the point?  I had more important things to focus on and whilst the thought of what lay ahead was terrifying and uncertain, I knew that moping about would do me more harm than good. 

Some days were harder than others and it was during the most testing times that I concentrated on everything I was grateful for, appreciating the good and giving myself the time and space I needed to process what was going on with my mind and body.  I don’t think there’s a right way or a wrong way to do this and I just did my best – hopeful that it would all work out.

It surprised me that when the most physically enduring days of my treatment had passed that my inner voice started to falter.  I started putting too much pressure on myself to get ‘better’ and was frustrated that I couldn’t meet my unreal expectations.  The control that I’d let go of during the hardest times of my treatment was trying to edge back and I’d forgotten how to be kind to myself.

For the first time since my diagnosis, I didn’t know how to shut off the negative thoughts and the more that I tried to rationalise the emotions, the more overthinking I did and I couldn’t work it out on my own.  Luckily, the team at the Freeman hospital are fantastic and it only took a conversation with my Specialist nurse to get a referral to the psychologist. 

I was anxious before the appointment, possibly because I was going to have to revisit some difficult times, or maybe it was because I felt like a fraud.  Overall, I was ok, I wasn’t a quivering wreck.   Maybe I just needed to snap out of it.

I didn’t have anything to worry about when I met the psychologist, she didn’t judge me, she listened and asked questions – not scary questions, just questions about how I felt during key points since diagnosis.  I didn’t expect to cry as much as I did but even though talking about my feelings wasn’t easy, I felt safe and I left the session feeling calmer.  My situation hadn’t changed, I still didn’t have a plan, but I felt like I didn’t actually need one and I had accepted just how traumatic the experience had been.  We agreed how to focus the sessions going forward and even though this was only the first session, I already had renewed hope. 

Just like our bodies respond differently to physical treatment, our minds are unique to the psychological challenges of cancer.  I don’t feel mentally ill and appreciate some people are suffering terribly, my life has changed beyond recognition and I’ve had to work hard to keep myself mentally healthy and will most likely have to continue as time goes on.

So far I’ve learned that there is no right or wrong way to feel about cancer.  The only thing we can do is our best at the time and take each day as it comes.

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