Looking to the future has been a problem since my original diagnosis of breast cancer in 2009, but my anxiety definitely increased after the secondary bone bollocks of 2013. If I chose to study the statistics (which I don’t) on survival rates for secondary breast cancer, or metastatic disease, I should’ve been outta here already, and although I try not to dwell on the facts and figures (I am not a number), sometimes I feel ridiculous for making plans… not coffee dates or dog walks, not that they can’t be fucked over by cancer, but big stuff, career stuff, house stuff and long term travel plan stuff.
I know, I know, living in the moment is supposed to be the way forward, the holy grail of mental wellness, and in many ways it is, but how does that help when setting up a business with a friend or talking “Location, Location, Location” with the hubby whilst fantasizing over beach front properties in need of restoration? Living in the moment is not always a practical solution when trying to make plans.
The anxiety has eased a little (just a smidge) in the last couple of years. I will now agree to book a holiday more than a couple of weeks in advance, and there was a long while that wouldn’t happen, much to the Hubby’s despair I’d even hesitate to book a restaurant for the following weekend. I now try to be more positive, more of the opinion that if plans don’t materialize due to my heath bollocks then ”Shit Happens”…if it does, then fabulous, but everyday I’m still trying to fight off the “Don’t temp fate” black cloud hovering maliciously over my head.
I have often heard and read about my fellow cancer people mentioning their concerns about seeing their children grow up, go off to Uni, get married, or have sprogs of their own, this makes me sad. Although being rendered child free by a combination of hormone treatments and a general dislike of kids, I do get similar feelings about my pets, will they outlive me, will I ever get to see their little muzzles turn grey and who will care for them when they are old? … My home, is it worth doing that extension that I’m pretty sure my husband couldn’t give a toss about if I’m not going to be here to sip peppermint tea whilst smugly sitting at my new kitchen island? … My business, will I pour all my energy and creative flow into something that I may not be able to see come to fruition? … My marriage, am I holding my hubby back from a different and maybe (just maybe) a better life with someone who has some female hormones left and a full head of hair?… Even the plants in my garden get me at it, I find myself checking their progress daily, desperate to see them grow and thrive, all the time wondering if I’ll be around when my magnolia needs to be repotted, when the honeysuckle takes hold on the shed roof as I’m desperately encouraging it too, or if we ever get another strawberry (we’ve had 4), will I even be here to eat it?
Some days I wonder if buggering off in a camper van to see the world would be a more productive way to spend the time I have left on this planet. Just me and my dog roaming wild and free… Oh and a library of books, a TV with a Sky connection, a mac book pro, an iPhone, a dishwasher, a washing machine, can you take cats on trips to find/lose oneself?, my family, the husband, my assortment of vintage porcelain cats, my dungaree collection, a pocket sprung mattress, Doris the spider plant, 2 breast care nurses and last but by no means least, Dr. A, my oncologist. I think we can all see that the incredible journey may not be for me, I’m a home-girl, not in the “street” sense, but in the, I really like my home, my family, my husband, my friends, my life sense.
Not only do my monthly medication providing hospital visits scupper the great campervan adventure but the fact that although willing to pack a bag and go feral (ish) for a few weeks at a time, without my bolt-hole and support network I would probably lose whatever there is left of my plot.
So what do I do with myself now, to feel worthy and part of society? I thought maybe I’d try to offer support to others facing cancer, turns out I can only do that at my own pace and in my own way, too much cancer, cancer, cancer turns me into a nervous wreck, not sure the person offering the support bursting into tears and sobbing…
“What’s the point, it’s so unfair, we are all going to die”
…is going to be who you’d want to pick up your call on the Macmillan helpline.
As my past surgeries and ongoing treatment have rendered me a wee bit fragile and quite frankly weak as a kitten, I’m not looking to return to what I was doing pre round 2, 5am starts come rain or shine on a station platform serving damn fine coffee to grumpy commuters. Fortunately for me I’m in the position to be able try something new and that is just what I’m doing, but it’s thrown up some unexpected feelings.
A friend and I have decided to start a little business and I’m soooooo excited about it. I wake up thinking about it like a kid at Christmas, I daydream about ideas when I’m supposed to be doing other things, I’m always jotting stuff down and doodling, saving images for inspiration, studying similar business models, researching web design software and social media marketing techniques, product design and learning about the legalities of running a small business. As you can imagine all this is keeping me out of trouble, but that flaming black cloud is still following me around.
“What if I get sick again, what if I can’t work, what I throw myself into this and it’s all taken away from me?”… Am I tempting fate to start something new, to enjoy something?… Somebody fucking stop me!!!!… I know how this sounds, I know what I’d advise me to do if I weren’t me, and I was talking to me, but do you take your own sodding advice?, not if you’re me.
So I am now working on feeling grateful for this opportunity, happy someone wants to work with me (she has no idea)… proud of the work we are putting in and enjoying the whole process. Trying not to live in fear of disappointment so crippling that I’d almost rather do nothing so’s not to feel the pain of losing it, whether it be the business, the marriage, moving house, the pets or the fucking extension…. and breathe…..!!!
I read a book recently called Staring at the Sun by Irvin D Yalom and with a little help from one of the worlds most respected psychotherapists, have come to the conclusion that I’m a simple creature, not overly complex or deep, without major psychological issues or hang-ups, I simply have an overwhelming fear of missing out. I’m not scared of not being here, I’ll not know much about that, I’m trusting that however I face my demise it’ll be as pain free as possible, I know the world will keep turning without me and life goes on, my loved ones will cope, my pets will get fed and cared for and my husband will save a packet on the extension.
Today I realized that making the plans can be as much fun as seeing them through, as some wise old goat said…
“Happiness is a journey, not a destination”
Yes that is an inspirational quote, and yes, people who have visited my home, it has been on my wall for about 20 years, and yes I have obviously been ignoring my own advice, and yes, I am a knob!
The black cloud is a work in progress but I think I can see the sun trying to peep out.