When I started writing this blog, I promised myself I’d be honest about what I was going through. Hence the tag line ‘the highs, lows and slows of yet another cancer fighter’ – I really do want to embrace vulnerability, which I see as vital to getting through all of this utter shit.
Today I broke down. I continue to sob as I write this.
A series of unfortunate events this morning, including my dog getting attacked, my dad getting hurt, my partner getting irritated at me and my G-CSF injection being delayed all came together and, with the realisation that I haven’t been alone in weeks, everything felt too much to deal with.
Yes, I am sick, and I have cancer. Yes, my life for the foreseeable future has to change and I must be flexible about it lest I snap. But I’m still a fiercely independent, introverted, 30 year old only child who is used to having their own space, and who requires time to themselves. I’m still me, even though some days I struggle to remember who that is.
I am lucky. I am surrounded by love and support – my parents, my partner, his family, and my friends have rallied in ways I couldn’t even have imagined.
Mum and Dad have uprooted their lives to come and be with me, to look after me. Barney has taken it all, including having the potential in-laws move in, in his gentle and understanding stride. His brother Finn, who also lives with us, has been there to make me laugh and hasn’t once grumbled about how our household has suddenly changed and become somewhere overtaken by antibacterial gel and rules about what is allowed in the fridge. Tracie (mum to Barney and Finn) and her partner Nick have bent over backwards to make the medical side of things less intimidating, to wrangle appointments and to do everything in their power to just be there. In particular, Tracie has been there to help try and keep me sane – messaging me with a level of humour and comprehension that has amazed and touched me.
I say this so anyone reading, including those mentioned above, know how eternally grateful I am to have these people in my life, and to have them here now beside me. I’m scared to come off as an ungrateful, miserable cow. I promise you I’m not. I’m just human and struggling right now.
As I type this on my phone, I am sat huddled in the shower. This has become my refuge, because it’s the only place I can actually feel a semblance of solitude at the moment. The only place I can collect my thoughts without well meaning interruptions, reminders about medication, questions about symptoms or just the silent but ever-there presence of someone.
Due to the concern around my compromised immune system, I’m not allowed into town or to the pub. I can’t pop to the cafe down the road, nor do a supermarket run.
Thanks to the cancer in my spine, hip, and pelvis, I can’t even go for a walk by myself; not because I’d be unable (I’m sure I’d be absolutely fine) but because of how much worry it causes for those at home. I’m not even allowed to take a shower without someone close by in case I fall.
With the best will in the world, on days like today I can’t help but feel like I’m in a loving, guilded cage.
It’s something that will need to be addressed, and soon – for the sake of everyone’s wellbeing, but particularly for my own mental health.
I understand completely the urge to protect and wrap in cotton wool someone you love who is facing something so unpredictable and unknown. I understand the urge to want to control the situation as much as possible, and to feel as though you must do something, anything, all of the things to help and to be useful and to lighten the load. I do understand that.
But from my point of view, I have already lost so much, too much, agency.
I have lost so much control thanks to this diagnosis. I no longer feel as though I am in charge of my body; the cancer is, which reminds me with every passing twinge of pain that it has invaded me. The medical teams are, who tell me where and when to be somewhere. Or the medication is, which I must take at certain times and in certain dosages, and makes me crave food and put on weight in a way I’d never have tolerated before. Or my diagnosis in general is, because it influences what I should or shouldn’t eat, how much water I must drink, what limitations I must adhere to with exercise, how I can use my body and how it can be used.
Sometimes I feel like my mind is renting a small square footage of my body. It has become communal property. Some of the tenants are part of a cooperative to keep it in good condition. Some are saboteurs. But everyone has a say.
I want my body back.