On Wednesday this week I attended a spa day at the gorgeous Fletcher’s Cottage Spa at Archerfield in North Berwick. The day was specifically tailored for people with cancer and included a session which focused on mental wellbeing. I never thought I would find myself walking bare foot, lying on the grass and staring at a blue sky in 20 degree sunshine in Scotland, in October! It was complete bliss and fully funded by the Made For Life Foundation – if you or someone you know is affected by cancer I would recommend looking them up!
Wednesday also happened to be Mental Health Awareness Day. I have always vowed to maintain an open and honest blog. Admittedly I have been somewhat silent over the past few weeks and a large part of that is because of how I am feeling. It has been over two weeks since we got the third dose of bad news. I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that this diagnosis is likely to be something I will have to live with for the rest of my life and that prospect is not a welcome one.
On paper nothing has changed for the foreseeable. We know I have more scans ahead, another operation and inevitably a discussion about chemotherapy and or radiotherapy. But it is the ‘not knowing’ which I find challenging.
Whilst at the spa day, I had the pleasure of meeting other women who are all cancer survivors. Naturally we got chatting and I found myself saying something I hadn’t realised until the words came out my mouth:
’…before I was diagnosed I had this blissful ignorance that I would live forever – you always assume you can ‘do it in the future’ but right now even planning next year’s holiday seems like a fantasy…’
Despite being in remission for four years that blissful ignorance never returned and thanks to these (excuse the language) b*stard gliomas , I doubt it ever will. I miss that feeling so much: the luxury of limitless plans of what I can do and the dreams of what I will achieve. Don’t get me wrong: I have plans, big plans, but right now I can’t help but feel a little envy towards my peers who have the ability to make them happen now.
For me, life feels like it is on hold and as I do my best to make peace with the ‘not knowing’ I do have days where it is a struggle. At times, it is simply overwhelming. My mind frequently races forward to the day where I’ll receive my next round of results and as it does I imagine every possible outcome. Today I spent 2 hours picturing those thoughts whilst simultaneously trying to rationalise the tingling in my left arm and a racing heartbeat. I genuinely thought I was having a heart attack! In hindsight, I think it was a mixture of the sensation gradually returning in my left side and stress. I suppose given the circumstances is to be expected.
I am an advocate for the phrase without mental health there is no health and with more surgery on the horizon I know how crucial it is to nurture my mind and body over the coming weeks. Nurturing my body is the easy part but my mind will require more effort! I have already identified a few techniques which definitely work for me such as taking time away from my phone and practising sleep hygiene. But I do accept this area of mental wellbeing is something I need to work on. As always, the team at Maggie’s have been on hand to provide some practical advice and I have a few new techniques I intend to try. They say practice makes perfect so wish me luck and watch this space!
On a separate note I just wanted to apologise for the radio silence – particularly to everyone who has reached out via messenger, text or post! Please do not think I am ignoring you. Your thoughtful gestures and very kind words are not only hugely appreciated but act as a source of great comfort. The Funny Boy, Parsnip and I have been shown so much love and support over the last 6 months and I can’t tell you how grateful we all are. Now I am beginning to feel stronger I hope to see you soon. THANK YOU x
As always, #FUCANCER
*Sleep Hygiene is another valuable lesson introduced to me by the team at Maggie’s. Unlike the name suggests it is nothing to do with the cleanliness of your bed sheets but techniques to improve sleeping. If you are a bad sleeper or like me go through phases of insomnia I’d highly recommend reading about It at the link below: