This picture was taken 1 year a go today, when I got the biopsy results that officially gave me my grade and stage of cancer. It is also Mental Health Awareness week so I’m reflecting on the impacts cancer have had on me. I had been told from the start it was very likely to be Bowel cancer so I wasn’t shocked when they confirmed it was but I was shit scared to find out how far it had spread. I can picture the phone call so vividly my heart beating out of my chest, ears pounding and sweaty palms. The tumour was contained in the Bowel and hadn’t spread to any of the 22 lymph nodes they removed. I was officially diagnosed with stage 2 Bowel cancer (T3 M0 N0). For the first time since the journey began I’d heard the words you have cancer and it hit me like a speeding train the sudden realisation that holly shit this is real! I sobbed properly for the first time since it all began!
Fast forward a year and I’ve been through 6 months of gruelling chemo which battered my body and mind but I actually felt my strongest mentally during treatment because I had a focus and a reason why I was going through this treatment to extend my life and be there for my children. Don’t get me wrong there were dark days but I can look back now and say the toughest part has come after you get told your done go and go crack on with life.
I’ve spoken before about the pressure to get back life to ‘normal’ once treatment has finished but nothing feels normal. I make myself feel guilty that 6 months post treatment I’m still really struggling with the mental side effects of let’s face what is a really traumatic event (I know 6 months is nothing). I want nothing more than to embrace life but the mental scars are getting in the way. There’s not a day that passes that I don’t think about cancer in some form and through work, 3 kids and being a single parent into the mix it’s all a bit overwhelming! It’s very hard to explain it and unless you’ve been through it I appreciate it’s hard to understand.
I’m emotionally unstable the mood swings are awful I’m tearful one minute, angry or happy the next. People disappear and get on with their lives but I still feel stuck in a hole, isolating myself and lacking motivation. Every appointment I attend reminds me of this awful disease and what it’s done to my body and mind. This week is mental health awareness week I accept I’m going through a period of recovery and I need to give myself time and I hope sharing this makes other people see they aren’t on their own. The hardest thing about having a cancer that’s been treated hopefully successfully is the expectation to be ‘grateful’ it wasn’t more advanced and ‘I’m lucky’ nothing is lucky about having any form of cancer and the impacts are very real no matter what the prognosis.
I’ve struggled to get my emotions under control recently and I’ve no shame in admitting I’ve seen my GP for some help and I have some antidepressants to get the ball rolling & hopefully get better control over my feelings. It’s still early days in the recovery process but I hope it helps others to realise it’s ok to struggle and it’s ok to ask for help. It’s not all doom and gloom it’s recognising it takes time to heal and there’s no time limit,
have the down days let the feelings come and then release them. Next week I go away for the first time since the diagnosis to get some much needed r&r putting my mental and physical health at the top of my priority list. Having things to look forward to really helps me get through the tough days.