Kicking cancers arse and the aftermath!  

I have read a lot about scanxiety and now know through experience that it is so real.  The wait between my latest CT scan and the results day was filled with so much emotion and anxiety.  A part of me didn’t want to let myself think or hope that everything was going to be ok.  I didn’t want to be let down.

The day finally came so Ash and I went to meet our friend Sophie at The Christie.  As we sat in the waiting room there was nothing except laughter and happy chatter from the three of us – a feeling I definitely didn’t expect to have based on how I felt last time I was sat in that same waiting room.

The consultant I saw seemed so indifferent to me and the whole appointment with him was bizarre!  He rushed the news of my clear CT scan and seemed more interested in any questions I had for him.  I didn’t feel like I had much faith in him after he told me that he was certain I hadn’t had an ovary removed (I have since double checked and I am definitely one ovary down!).  All of that aside, all I really cared about was hearing my fate and I sat there trying to read my notes as they sat on his lap. On hearing the news I was CANCER FREE I felt a sudden rush of relief and I could taste the celebratory champagne!

I immediately felt like I had my life back and I forgot for a while about all the struggles I am still facing because the joy I felt wiped all of them away – for a few moments I was just me again.

The feeling I had as we walked out of the doctors’ room is indescribable.  I was so happy and I kept saying those words out loud – ‘I’m so happy!!’  I was almost too shocked to say much else.  I had no idea cancer could turn out the way it did for me, the only stories we tend to see and read are those of despair, sadness and death.  My journey has been difficult, but I have done the worst bit now, I have kicked cancers arse (!!!!) and I hope that people seek comfort in knowing that just because you are diagnosed with cancer it doesn’t always mean that the end of your life is just around the corner.

I celebrated over coffee with Ash and Sophie in the hospital restaurant, again with Ash when we got home and again with some of my family that night. If someone had said that less than four months after finding out I had a cancerous growth that I’d be sat drinking champagne (with a full head of hair) after receiving the all clear – well I would never have believed them!!

It still doesn’t seem real to me that I’m cancer free and that I don’t need any further treatment.  I know that I have overcome ‘the beast’ as I now call it and I am so happy and relieved that it’s gone but I still struggle daily with different things that crop up and reality hits – popping my happy bubble once again.

I cry at least once a day to the point I can’t breathe and more often than not it is over something small and insignificant.  For example: I cry at Desperate Housewives, yesterday I cried because I had to rip a pair of my leggings down the front because they hurt my tummy and my scar and – this is my favourite reason to date – last week I cried because I took a bite out of a doughnut I had just given to Ash and all he said to me was ‘you could have waited until I was ready to eat it because all the sauce has run out of it now’.  These silly things then result in me having lengthy meltdowns because actually I’m not sad about a pair of leggings or a doughnut or a TV programme, I’m sad about the fact I’m fed up because I’m still in pain, my brain is tired and I am still so full of terror and shock.

I want to be completely fine again and back to my normal self but there is so much I still need to get over emotionally, mentally and physically and there are no rules about how long it will take.

As well as all the tears and the good news I have recently experienced, I find myself feeling a bit guilty.  A part of me feels guilty that I have come out of the other side of cancer seemingly unscathed and I find myself worrying that people think I am milking it for all it’s worth – which of cause is a load of crap, but I do, I feel almost ashamed that I have been so lucky compared with some people.

I have to remind myself that although cancer didn’t take my hair or any of my external body parts, cancer has changed my life, it has changed me as a person, changed my body on the inside and changed my ‘normal’ mind!

Cancer doesn’t just disappear on hearing good news, you have to pick up all the shattered pieces of your life and try and piece them back together again – which is made a lot more difficult when a lot of the pieces just don’t fit anymore.

I can’t think about my future past the next scan which is now less than three months away.  Whether or not this changes in time I don’t know, but for now this is how I cope. I didn’t know cancer was in my future and even if I had done I wouldn’t have been able to stop it from trampling all over my life– as hard as I would have tried!  So sometimes I think it’s ok to not look too far ahead because really what difference does it make anyway?!  Enjoy what you have at the exact moment you have it because you never know what’s around the corner.

‘Even when you think you have your life all mapped out, things happen that shape your destiny in ways you might never have imagined.’ – Deepak Chopra

A few things I didn’t realise before about…

My mind:

Sitting here eight weeks post-surgery I find myself thinking about how far I have come.  My scar is 90% healed from what I can see, I’m back to eating more or less normally again and I’m able to do a lot more for myself.  Although all of this is good progress I find myself struggling mentally – stupidly I thought that surgery was the end of all of this for me.   Most days I count down the hours until bed time because when I’m asleep I’m shut off to the world and none of this exists anymore.

I think because everything happened so fast, from the first ultrasound scan through to surgery, I didn’t really process what was actually happening.

Although I have written on several occasions about staying positive and being strong I realise that it’s not actually possible or realistic to do this every hour of every day. I do think that it’s more helpful to me than sitting in tears all day feeling sorry for myself but I realise now that it’s ok not to be ok.  Sometimes we need a good cry and a moan to keep us sane!

Having a cuppa in my kitchen last week with my good friend Amanda, she told me that not only has my body been through a massive trauma but that my mind has too and that I need to give myself time to let that heal just as I have done with my body.

Having faced cancer herself she understood the feelings and emotions I was experiencing and it was so comforting to know that what I was feeling was ‘normal’.

I would say to anyone else going through something major in life – if you’re in doubt as to whether or not you are experiencing ‘normal’ feelings, speak to someone who has gone through similar to you, cancer or not, it’s good to know you’re not alone!

The Christie

I didn’t realise the enormity of going to Christie’s and what having to go there really meant.  It wasn’t until I arrived there for the first time last week that I realised and, to be honest, it shocked me.

When I’ve been sat in other hospitals it has been around people who are there for all sorts of reasons, however sitting in a big waiting room in Christie’s with around 50 or so other people, it suddenly dawned on me that we were all there for the same reason.  I saw so many people, patients and loved ones who have been affected by cancer – I just never realised how big this whole cancer world really is!

It felt a bit like I was now a part of a pretty crap members only club that no one really wants to be in.  I sat there for the first time looking at one young girl who was waiting in the queue for the main Outpatients desk, I felt so sad for her, then I realised that I was there for the same reason. I wasn’t there for a random appointment, I was there because I am one of the people who have been hit by cancer.  It’s surreal.

On the upside, it’s no dingy hospital, it is modern, clean and bright and everyone there is so lovely.  The staff and other patients are so warm and kind.  It’s a strange but comforting feeling knowing you are not alone and there are people out there going through what you’re going through.  Plus the car park is cheap and John Lewis is on my way home so double bonus!

People who just don’t get it:

Recently I have noticed that frustration creeps in when I am discussing cancer with someone who doesn’t understand what it’s actually like.  Although most people are great, some can be dismissive and that’s hard to deal with. I’m aware not everyone knows exactly what to say but some things – and I may have said them myself in time gone by, so I apologise! – but some things are just unhelpful even though they are more than likely said out of kindness. I’m scared of cancer everyday and there are times when all I want is for someone to agree with me about how horrid, unfair and life changing it is, not to tell me to be joyful, or that I have a ‘good’ cancer or to be positive because I have gone on about being so in my blog.  Being positive is important for your mental health but it doesn’t turn back time or make cancer disappear!

Kindness:

I knew kindness before but nothing like what I have experienced since all of this began!

Since I became public with this journey there hasn’t been a single day gone by where I haven’t received a message, phone call, parcel or a card from somebody simply letting me know that they are thinking of me, praying or sending me a load of love.  It is the most amazing support for me and I wish I could do more than just say thank you to each and every person who has shown me kindness in these ways.

I have recently found out through calling Macmillan that because me and Ash live together and we don’t have children that I’m not eligible for financial support.  Going in to my third week of statutory sick pay this isn’t ideal but I am so lucky to have such generous and kind people around me who are offering their support.  As hard as it can be to take it, I am making sure I do and I would tell anyone in a similar position to take help if you’re offered it.  Whether it’s someone offering to go and buy you a loaf of bread and a pint of milk or an offer to pop a few quid in your bank, brush off your pride and accept it!

Love:

Over the past few weeks I have really struggled with my confidence, not with my family or my friends but with Ash.

Before all of this started I was used to going out to work everyday, hair and make-up done and a nice outfit on.  For the past eight weeks I have been sat around in pyjamas with no make up on, a frizzy mullet style hair do and constantly reminding myself that Ash has seen me in some really embarrassing states since my operation. To be completely honest I have been a real bitch at times too. I feel like I have lost a lot of myself over the past few months and it has been hard for me to understand how he can still like me let alone love me.

I didn’t expect for us to be faced with cancer ever in our lifetimes – especially with me at 30 and him at 28.  There is a pressure that has been put on both of us and it has been and still is so difficult but Ash has exceeded my expectations through it all. He has been to all of the appointments with me, stayed strong when having to hear the same things I have heard and seen me at my absolute worst.  He has been there for all of the highs and the lowest of the lows yet his love for me never gets any less.

I thought I knew what love was before but I didn’t.  Having someone love you through all of the bad stuff, not retaliating when you are an absolute cow and standing with you through something so scary, all the while thinking you’re the most amazing person in the world is what love is to me.  I really couldn’t have asked for a better person to have had by my side throughout all of this and I am so thankful for him.

‘Faith is seeing light with your heart when all your eyes see is darkness.’ – Barbara Johnson