I woke up this morning and my first thought was cancer. That was shocking as it sunk in there have been many days this last month when I haven’t given it a thought. And if you told me I would feel like this a year ago, I simply wouldn’t have believed you!
Yes, it’s been a whole year to the day since I was diagnosed with advanced cancer. I had planned to ignore the date as it is hardly an experience I want to relive like a treasured old cine film, but I couldn’t help but say “What a difference a year makes!”
Anyway whilst we are talking again, please forgive me for my shameless blog neglect this last month or so. There is a bit of me that felt the story had come to a natural full stop and I had run out of things to say. But to be honest the truth is real life just got in the way. I wouldn’t call it hum drum yet and perhaps I never will again, but I am certainly rediscovering normality.
So what does this new stage of post remission normality feel like?
Bonkers! I have ricocheted between numbness and the sort of emotional intensity that involves side-ways tears and snot (sorry mother). Some of you are probably nodding enthusiastically now.
I threw myself with Usain Bolt speed into a post chemo party, probably in an effort to convince myself it was true and most importantly to thank the small army of wonderful people who had helped so selflessly. But I was lousy company and despite having over 80 of my dearest friends and relatives over for the day and night, I wandered around almost mute with shock, strangely detached from the love and support all around me. This phase lasted 12 hours and then the floodgates opened and I spent the next 2 days weeping at the hidden intensity of everything from utility bills to overgrown hedges!
A similar thing happened a couple weeks afterwards when I spent time at a residential ‘wellness’ course at the Penny Brohn Cancer Centre in Bristol with my cousin Rebecca for morale support. The first day was fine and dandy, but I had no warning I was to spend the entire 2nd day with a box of soggy tissues screwed up in my hand and dissolving at the sight of a rain drop resting on a leaf, or the smell of lavender on my hand. The emotional intensity was draining but necessary in coming to terms and moving on and I heartily recommend it to anyone. These are wonderful people doing incredibly worthwhile jobs. It was also eye opening (or should I say eye shuttening) how easy it was to get to sleep at night without the twin evils of caffeine and sugar (banned) propping me up like an old drunk in a whiskey bar past closing time (although I am not sure another resident who confessed to smuggling in 2 litres of coke and 30 years supply of nicotine patches had quite the same experience!)
But this reaction can’t just be me surely? It must be a medical thing that your brain does to protect you from ever feeling that same sense of shock and disappointment again by a sort of elongated delayed response. I am going to call it “dog looking for ball after you pretend to throw it” syndrome.
So if I look at you blankly when you give me a hug and then weep hours later when you tell me I have spinach in my teeth, do not be afraid.
Today, fittingly is the first day when I don’t have a calendar appointment of future jollies to look forward to, so the next few weeks before my return to work really will be a test of my new hum drum. And after a week of partying and sleeping in Ibiza with the kids, Livvy, Jenny and Jade Jagger.. contrasted and followed by a couple of nights of torrential rain, mud and glimpses of sun together with the unintentional setting fire to the tent(do keep up!) whilst camping at an eco site in Dorset with my long suffering resilient family, I am probably ready for it.
I have been reminded of my reason for living and I don’t ever intend to forget it. But for those of you still going through the worst of it, Nietzsche puts it much better than me “He who has a why to live can endure any how”. I certainly have that. x