It seems a lot of people struggle with life after cancer. For me, I’m just thrilled that it’s all over and done with, but I think the reason why a lot of people struggle is because of all the attention that having cancer brings. It’s unreal. One thing I noticed was all the new ‘friends’. Everyone wants a friend with cancer – cruel but true. Watch out for them, they are like piranhas, they want all the juicy details so they can go and share with their friends AND most importantly, congratulate themselves that it’s not them! Don’t be sucked in by them.
Some people will make YOUR illness all about THEM.
My view was very much that if I usually see you weekly, daily or monthly, great, let’s keep it that way. I don’t need the extra attention. Also, as lovely as it is that people contact you, it’s SO hard to find the time to reply to everyone. People mean well and it’s great getting 40 emails/texts each day asking after you, but when you’re nearly dying from the chemo the last thing you want to do is reply to emails. I did, however, mainly because I knew that some people’s interest would wane over the lengthy time the treatment takes and it’s really very kind of people to make the time to contact. So replying to them seems like it’s the right thing to do.
Just be mindful that so many people say all the right things and yet deliver nothing. Their actions will be lacking, whether it be never turning up for a promised visit, or a lack of text communication. Not because they are unkind, but because they simply don’t know what to do. Some people will make YOUR illness all about THEM – I know, it’s baffling BUT that’s life, and hey, we all need a cabinet reshuffle from time to time and this is just an opportunity to get yours sorted.
They did not make the cabinet reshuffle and, oddly, I don’t miss them.
I lost two people whom I had considered to be my closest friends (and not just geographically) through this journey, who didn’t text, ring or visit… or frankly do anything. Although I asked them both why, once my chemo brain fog had lifted, I still don’t really understand their reasons. I got a lot of “sorry’s” but no real answers. Needless to say, they did not make the cabinet reshuffle and, oddly, I don’t miss them – it’s very strange. This journey has enabled me to reflect on each ‘friendship’ and crystallise what friendship is to me and what I need and deserve. I have no regrets about the time we spent together and the fun we had but for me, friendship isn’t just about the good stuff.
Time and other matters
I think your time is the most precious gift you can give anyone and I’ve truly been overwhelmed with the consideration and kindness of others, so just remember to focus on the ones that do, not the ones that don’t. You’ll be amazed at how people you didn’t expect appear suddenly arrive with food and thoughtful actions that make you feel so humble and so grateful.
One thing I could not have lived without is choc ices.
Having cancer is a real emotional rollercoaster. I think the key thing is to remember that it’s the words that are scary CANCER and CHEMOTHERAPY conjure up negative thoughts and makes you face your own mortality, but when you take those words out and see that you’re having treatment for cells that have gone wrong it makes it so much easier to cope with.
A few additional things I experienced along the way that might be useful to you.
Eat well and for pleasure
One thing I could not have lived without is choc ices. Oh my God! When your mouth feels like something has died in it and your gums are sore (it’s hard to explain this side effect), choc ices are the only cure, and the fab toothpaste I told you about earlier. It’s also so important to keep your strength up, so I made sure that every day I would eat as much as I could. Usually starting with porridge with fruit and tinned milk (my favourite). I’ve eaten loads of cake and had a real thing for Victoria sponge – which for someone who before this has never had a sweet tooth, I thought a bit strange. Just eat what you fancy. Trust me, it’s hard enough to muster up the enthusiasm most chemo days to fancy anything, but eating helps to make you feel OK.
Before my first spa treatment, I made up some batches of food ‘ready cooked’ that I left in the freezer until I needed them. Not only did it save me time, but it was easy to just get one out, defrost it and know that I’d be having something nutritious and something I like.
Keep drinking (water)
Also water. I drank it by the gallon load – I kind of figured that the more I drank the quicker it would flush it through my body. I might be right – who knows, who cares. It worked for me.
If you can, get private healthcare
The hospital staff and the nurses at home have been incredible. Their attitude towards me was fabulous. I’ve always been a very upbeat and happy person and I’ve been so lucky because they have all mirrored me beautifully which I just love.
Your health is your wealth, so if you take nothing else from this, encourage everyone you know to take out private healthcare. Rightly or wrongly, you get seen quicker, they’re very much on top of your follow up appointments, monitor you to within an inch of your life, they call YOU to make sure you’re OK (the first call was a bit weird… I wasn’t expecting it!) and they fit in with you, not the other way round. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so cared for. WPA, who I use, are a not-for-profit organisation and their ethos is great. Although my premium has gone up a little (don’t forget I have enjoyed £55,000 worth of treatment), it has been nominal and if I ever get the dreaded lurgy again, I’m covered. Oh, and for everyone who clicks this link and buys their private health care, the WPA will donate £50 to charity. Everyone’s a winner!
LINK HERE FROM RACHEL
There are courses available for survivors to attend to assist with ‘life after cancer’ so if it’s something you need, then go for it – apparently, they are great. I’m not someone that likes those kind of events. I’m convinced my positivity and humour were the things that have got me through this horror story, so please stay strong, stay positive. You have to BELIEVE you will win this.
It’s funny reading this back – oh, how I’ve changed from the impatient rude sweary and dismissive individual from Christmas past to where I am now. This really has been a blessing for me, the changes have enhanced my life and made me a better person. Now, I absolutely know this is a bizarre thing to say and arguably completely the wrong thing, but my scary main Christmas present of 2015 was probably the best thing that could have happened to me.
I’ve mellowed, calmed down and realised so much about my behaviour and I have been able to make changes that I believe this cancer came to teach me.
Whilst not on my list, the journey has delivered changes to me as a person that I think I very much needed and other than being bald and feeling poorly, the positives I got out of this journey have been utterly huge. I haven’t really changed personality-wise but my behaviour and perspective on life have, which I think is a good thing. I’ve mellowed, calmed down and realised so much about my behaviour and I have been able to make changes that I believe this cancer came to teach me. I feel like I’ve become a better person and a kinder person to be around. I’m not as angry or as sweary and it’s funny when I read this back just how much calmer I’ve become. I take each day as an absolute blessing. I don’t get cross when things don’t go my way, I embrace the hiccups and make sure I find the positive. I love doing nothing – not something I’ve ever done before but it has literally changed my life and made me feel at peace with my world.
This experience enabled me to cry and to allow myself to cry for no reason whatsoever and I think it enabled me to empty the ‘well’ in a way I never would have. I’ve learnt that being wrong actually isn’t so bad. I’ve peeled back so many layers and although this journey made me feel so exposed in so many ways, I feel like I’ve rebuilt myself but in a better way, almost like I’ve changed my foundations and rebuilt myself. It’s made me realise that I NEED people – not something I would have ever said or realised probably before this. I don’t feel so cross with the world anymore. I’ve realised I don’t need to be in control of everything and that not everything happens to my timescales. I’ve learnt to rely on others and literally put my life in their hands.
Oh, and I’ve got a new pair of tits – RESULT!!!
• Stay Positive
• Eat healthy although the odd takeaway won’t kill you
• Make yourself eat no matter how sick you feel it WILL make you feel better
• Get a good night’s sleep – sleeping tablets help to give your body the rest it needs, a 7-day dose should be plenty
• Go with it – this isn’t a quick win, take each moment and day as it comes
• Enjoy sitting in bed watching shit TV – it’s cathartic
• Encourage visitors….they make the day pass quicker and distract you from the longest dullest days – it doesn’t matter if you can’t recall what they said to you
• Take time to reflect and work out what this really about for you
• Take time to enjoy doing nothing
• Water. Drink lots of water