I Am Not a Survivor But I Am Thankful: Life after Cancer

It’s been two years since I received the news that I had Cancer. The past two years have been a roller-coaster journey with emotions and life.

The first year was hard, I didn’t know what the outcome of my treatment would be. I lived for the day, scared to make plans for my future. Scared for every appointment I had with my surgeon and oncologist.

It was hard to take it all at first, I had so many thoughts and feelings. Shock, anger, sadness, guilt, fear, anxiety and alone. My emotions caused confusion and mood swings. These emotions were all a part of me coming to terms with my illness and how I was going to cope. In that first week, I experienced every emotion possible that someone can go through.

You hear so many sad stories about Cancer that is it hard to stay positive. But I tried for the sake of my family and my own sanity.

Having Cancer can quickly take over your life and I didn’t want that the happen. There were days where I cried from morning to night, days where I didn’t talk and days where that’s all I wanted to do. I was afraid that I had not control over my body and what i wanted it to do. At first it was hard to talk about, I was ashamed of myself, my mind was trying to process what was happening and I just couldn’t get my head around it. My mind was telling me that I was going to die but my heart was saying something else. As the shock wore off it became easier and I became stronger with my emotions.

Everyday I woke to another day I was grateful and thankful.

For the first 6 months the treatment and illness quickly took over my life. I spent weeks having tests prior to 6 weeks of daily chemo/radiotherapy. The hospital became my second home. I was admitted three times into hospital, totalling 9 weeks in a hospital bed, one being a planned admission for surgery. I remember visiting a friend 2 months after I was discharged and bumping into a member of staff in the corridor. She gave me a friendly smile and said nice to see you back. I smiled back at her and she said ‘you used to work here didn’t you?’ I laughed.

As time has gone on it’s got easier to deal with but that doesn’t mean that I still have my moments. I still cry. I am still anxious about it returning. It is easier to talk about now, but I am still shameful. I still blame myself.

Anxiety is hard to deal with. Those moments are particularly harder when it comes to oncology appointments and scans. I receive 4 scans a year; 1 full body scan and 3 MRI. The week running up to the appointment is worrying and the weeks following the scan can be an anxious time. All you want to hear is that the Cancer has not returned. Sitting there in the patients chair in the oncologists room, looking, scanning over your oncologists face for any sign that you can read before the words come from their mouth. Looking into their eyes for sign of good news. And the emotion of a sudden relief when it comes back as positive news.

It was two years since my diagnosis last week and I received news from a recent scan that I am still in the clear of any return of tumours or any inflamed lymph nodes. RELIEF. I can suddenly breathe normally again and allow all those negative thoughts and feelings out into the air. Until next time…

Again I am grateful and thankful to be here surrounded by loved ones; family and friends.

I don’t see myself as a survivor as Cancer will remain with me for the rest fo my life, I have to live with the anxiety of it possibly returning. I have to live with the change that it has caused to my emotional well-being. I am constantly reminded of my Cancer journey with the disfigurement it has left on my body, with the aches and pains that the treatment has caused and with the scars that surgery has left behind. I have to live with having a permanent colostomy which has caused problems with my confidence. And I have to live with seeing the pain in my loved ones eyes when they remember what we have all been through. Cancer didn’t just affect me but to all those around me.

I am not a survivor but I am thankful.

 

 

 

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These Wrinkles Tell a Story

At some point in our lives we all age; as we get older our skin wrinkles, creases and lines appear. When we are young our skin is springy but as we age our skin loses its flexibility.

Wrinkles are not just a sign of old age but also appear when our skin has been exposed to too much ultra violet light, through sunbathing or spending too much time outdoors.

They say that your skin tells a story.

Your skin is trying to tell you something. It’s telling a story about your health, habits and history.

My face is like a character map that defines my life. Fine lines on my forehead, represent my life: My story.

Up until 2 years ago I always thought that my skin was ageing quite well. That was until I received the biggest blow that I had the big C. Since my treatment I seem to have aged ten-fold. Lines appeared along my forehead, creases around my mouth and my hands have aged.

My youthful skin gone; instead replaced with worn out, saggy skin.

I used to fear getting old, now I embrace it. As the proverb says “Grey hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life”. Grey hair and wrinkles are a sign of a life that has been lived.

These lines across my face tell a story of where I have been and what I have gone through. Just like a scar they are a reminder that life still exists.

Wrinkles around my eyes indicate where laughter and smiles once were. Memories of watching my children, laughing at their antics.

The puffy dry, sunken eyes from all of the tears that have fallen on to the cheeks below.

They show the sheer exhaustion that comes with parenting, the years of sleepless nights and early mornings.

The deep lines show the fear of receiving another diagnosis.

Creases of joy of having a wonderful family and friendship.

Memories of my youth.

They show the loneliness of what Cancer can do to you.

And they show jubilation of bringing up three amazing boys.

But most of all, each and every wrinkle, crease, crow foot and age spot shows thankfulness. Thankful that I live another day, week, month and year to carry on mapping my life.

Every Wrinkle. Every crease. Every flaw. Every age spot. Every detail maps the life that I have lived. A journey that has brought tears, worry, laughter, memories, happiness and sadness.

A journey of life.

A journey that, I hope, I will continue on. Adding on more wrinkles and lines in years to come. Adding on to my story.

These lines on my face are not wrinkles, they are survival lines. Each telling its own story of happiness and sadness.

 

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Holding back the river

Time

I wish It was possible to keep hold of Time

To pause it

To place a moment in a jar, lid on and screw it up as tight as possible

I wish life would just give me a chance to live

To hold back the river and calm down

I don’t want to be dragged along in the current

Whizzing down stream, life passing by

As peaceful as it may sound, resting in the water and allowing the current to carry me

Means I’m missing out on what is passing by

I don’t want to swim up stream either

I don’t have the energy to fight the currents

Yes, it means I am alive

That I am strong

But, just for now I would like the river to raise either side and allow me to be me

Just hold back the river

Allow me to rest

To keep my boys by my side

Without the struggle of life

Time is too short to just go with the flow

Time is too short to live a hectic lifestyle

I wish It would slow down

Let us really take in what is happening around us

I don’t want to go with the flow anymore

I want it to slow down and part

The same water cannot be touched again, just like life

Once a time has passed it will never happen again

Holding back the river for just one moment

Allow me to hold the precious ones around me

To take in

To breathe

To rest

And then, after that moment I will be ready for the next journey

The adventure of life

 

 

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Struggling Through

Well I’ve been home from hospital for 12 days now and each day is a day closer to being stronger to fight this horrible disease. It’s a struggle, I have to cope with the post pain from having two surgeries and learning to get around the house again.

Walking up the stairs is like trek up Mount Snowdon. Each step pulls on the muscles at the back of my leg. My legs feel heavy and ache all the time. I am lucky that we have stair railing and a bannister to hold onto as I walk up and down the stairs. I take a rest half way up and just carry on. I need to push myself to do this as laying in a hospital bed for so long has weakened my muscles. Each step I fight against the pain, each step takes up so much of my energy.

Not only do I have to deal with the pain and recovery from having 2 bowel surgeries but I am also coping with a massive weight loss. I have always been small framed and have never been a girl to count my calories or go out of my way to keep fit, but I am now dangerously underweight. Whilst in hospital I was put onto a TPN where nutrients were pumped into my main artery. I was put onto this drip too late as my weight had already plummeted due to having no appetite and being Nil By Mouth for days on end. My appetite has now come back, it took a while, but I am now eating as much as my body can take to

try to restore my energy levels and gain some fat. My weight gain is slow, but I am being told that you can see a difference in my face since I’ve been home.

Each day I manage to do more about the home and have even managed to get out to the shops, with the help of my Mummy. For the first week at home, the sofa became my best friend. It’s where I slept at night and rested through the day. I needed help up the stairs, at one point I had to be carried up them as I collapsed at the bottom. Now, nearly 2 weeks being at home, I go up and down by myself and I am back to sleeping in my bed.

Sleeping is a big struggle. It has been for a while. It started in hospital, with all the noise and bright lights it made it highly impossible to have a good nights sleep. I used an eye mask but it didn’t really help that much. Where I have lost weight I have bones sticking out on my back, making it uncomfortable to get in a good position to sleep. We have bought a tempur mattress topper, which was a small fortune, but it has made a huge difference on the comfort of the bed.

Me on my first day out of the house
Me on my first day out of the house

Life is a constant battle, no matter how hard I try I seem to come against a brick wall or a dead-end. I feel alone at times and like is everything is falling apart. Some days are harder than others.

I do not dwell on the pain, instead I think about how much stronger I am as a person for getting through it.

Strength only comes from continuous struggle.

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Who Is this I see in the mirror?

I look in to the mirror and I don’t like what I see…

I see a mind that is confused and muddled up. It’s being dangled over the hedge by thin thread. Waiting. Waiting to be saved or to be dropped to the unknown below. The mind is lost, It needs to find itself again but there are so many obstacles, brick walls, oceans and elements in its way it has no idea where to turn. It’s in a maze not knowing what is round the corner or up ahead.

I see loneliness. I see a scared little girl needing some company. A little girl who needs comforting. A little girl who just wants to play and be carefree. Emptiness. Stillness

I look in to the mirror and I don’t like what I see…

I see someone who I no longer recognise. I know that the real me is beyond the image but it’s hard to see. I see pain in the eyes. I see sadness.

The body has changed. I see bones. I see weakness. I see age.

I don’t like what is looking back at me

I do not recognise this person looking back me, she has changed so much in the past few months. The person looking back at me looks withdrawn and beaten.

I stand and stare and look beyond the unrecognisable image. It’s hard. It takes a while.

If I look deep enough, far enough I can see a light. I can see the person who I was before. Fighting. A strong person. A person who wants to be victorious.

Even though I am weak I know that I am becoming stronger each day. We need bad days in order to realise what a good day is.

I may have tears but I am also able to smile.

Being strong is the only choice I have.

 

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