I frequently nag the Funny Boy for over-indulging in Sky Movies and Box Sets. He is a big fan of America’s Next Top Model whereas I couldn’t care less. I believe I could easily live without TV but, as he regularly reminds me, I am guilty of nurturing an addiction to social media. Anyone who follows my instagram will be all too familiar with pictures of Parsnip and I dare say anyone who is a friend on Facebook and Twitter will know what SITC stands for.
For me social media is a necessary evil. It allows me to keep in touch with friends far and wide, it permits me to promote my fundraising plans and I am pretty sure it is how you (the person reading this now) has come to view my blog. It’s all promotion of some sort, and like many others I am very guilty of only portraying the bits I like. Take the most recent Festive Season for example. You’ll easily find the photo I shared of me on New Year’s Eve when I’m dressed to the nines with a full face of make up but you will struggle to find the pic of me on Christmas Day when I was fighting the flu.
When I started this blog four years ago I described it as being a ‘brutally honest insight’ to what life is like living with and beyond cancer. Granted, I didn’t think I would be dealing with a second diagnosis but the sentiment remains: I want to be honest.
It has been six weeks since I was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Although I continue to be very open with my words – I have carefully selected when to ‘vlog’. This has largely been dependant on when I have thought tentatively about what I want to share and timed to ensure I have mascara on and at least some decent lighting.
It is all too easy to share the pictures when I am on top of the mountain or kayaking with a postcard-perfect view in the background but revealing the down days that #FUCANCER brings is a challenge. I don’t need pity or sympathy, nor do I seek it. But I do want to provide insight so hopefully people can understand the emotional roller coaster cancer takes you on. More importantly, I want it to provide hope to others who are facing a challenge. Be it cancer, mental health or whatever. You are not alone.
So the vlog below is exactly what I hoped my blog would be: ‘brutally honest’! No make up, no notes, no agenda. Just exactly how I am feeling. A little scared, very vulnerable and unsure of what the future holds.
It’s been a month now since I got the news I had been dreaming of since April and I am still working my way through a range of emotions.
Having had time to reflect I realise now that my initial reaction of anger and feeling vulnerable is perfectly normal. Upon being diagnosed my life became a series of appointments where I continually had a focus. First it was to see my gynecologist who referred me to get several scans which led me to my oncologist who led me to a series of planning meetings. Then weekly treatment began where I was constantly meeting with a whole host of specialists. It was as if I had evacuated my old life and someone had placed me on a treadmill. I was constantly looking ahead and pacing myself towards my next appointment. On the day of my results I reached my final goal and it felt as if someone had hit the emergency button. Everything stopped. No more meetings. No more appointments. Yet, the treadmill I had been running on had taken me miles away from life as I once knew it.
Being an optimist and receiving the news of remission brought expectations of celebrations and rejoicing. It is then difficult to accept the range of feelings I do have. Yes, I am delighted, relieved and I feel so lucky. I am truly thankful but these emotions come hand in hand with ones of frustration. The staff at Maggie’s (https://www.maggiescentres.org) have been an incredible source of support. They explained that a cancer diagnosis causes people to go on auto pilot which is why at the end of treatment it is common to feel the way I do. More importantly they advised me to simply allow myself to feel those things. Initially I felt guilty being angry: there are so many people who are still fighting for their lives, people who won’t be as lucky as me, how dare I be angry or upset. But the reality is not that I am ungrateful. The reality is something traumatic happened to me and for the past 5 months I hadn’t allowed myself to feel scared or angry. It is only now these emotions have caught up with me. Unlike my usual mantra of ‘focusing on the positives’ I need to just accept that sometimes I am sad. It’s not a weakness.
As someone who has always relied on exercise as a stress reliever it is incredibly difficult to feel this way without an outlet. I am envious of my team mates as they start the hockey season. I am desperate to set myself a new goal but I am cautious as I know my body has limitations.
On Sunday I ran for the first time in 5 months. I ran a distance of 4k. This achievement brought a feeling of elation and determination. I am at a point now where I am doing two things: Getting to know my body and rebuilding my life.
My body was my own temple which allowed me to run before work, achieve my day to day tasks and easily incorporate some socialising in the evening. It maintained a comfortable body temperature and dare I say it – I was toned. Now I have to ease myself into any task I set myself for the day. The menopausal side affects make me a hot, sweaty mess and my sleeping pattern is disturbed regularly. My once toned temple has been replaced with a lumpy, bumpy shed. I don’t have the body confidence I once did. However this body got me through cancer which is amazing and if it can do that then I will restore it so its exterior can have one worthy of such achievement!
Prior to the 8th April I lived a hectic schedule of work and play. On a weekday I would leave the house at 7am rarely to return within 12 hours. Prior to the 8th April I had ambitions of running two more marathons before I turn 30 and dreams of starting a family. I will return to my schedule of work and play. The dreams I had before are still achievable but for the time being I need to focus on setting small, smart goals. Goals which will help rebuild my life slowly. Brick by brick.
My first run in 5 months followed by a cwtch with Parsnip!
Yesterday was the first time in four and a half months that I have seen my mother cry. I finally heard the news we had all been dreaming of: I am in remission.
On the 8th April at approximately 3.30pm I was told I had a tumour. The following week I was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive type of cervical cancer. I am the 19th recorded case of it’s kind. I was told I had to ‘buck the trend’. The journey that has since followed has been an emotional roller coaster where I have celebrated the highest highs and endured the lowest lows.
Upon hearing my results this week I have received literally hundreds of messages from friends and family to say how happy they are for me. As you can imagine I am relieved. Upon arriving at the hospital on Wednesday I had tried to prepare myself for every possible scenario: more treatment, losing my hair, I had even began to contemplate my funeral. So here I am with the best possible outcome and how do I feel? Physically exhausted, emotionally drained and more vulnerable than ever before. It possibly sounds ungrateful but in all honesty I wouldn’t say the feeling I have right now is happiness. I simply feel angry. I feel so excluded from what I used to call my life I don’t know where to start.
Breaking the news of my diagnosis to my family and friends was one of the worst things I had to do. Trying to cushion the blow and await their reaction led me tears. It quickly highlights the ones who were there for me. Some people would say the wrong thing but the worst were those who said nothing. I heard someone excuse this with ‘I just find the whole cancer thing a bit awkward!’ —–> really?!
Two months on from completing treatment and I am still recovering. The fatigue is an ongoing fixture in everyday life which is a massive source of frustration. A large part of my social life revolved around being physically active and as the new hockey season starts I am beyond jealous to be missing out. For the first time in years I am without a team.
I am adapting to life with menopause and learning to accept what that means for the Funny Boy and I. The picture I had painted for myself has changed. When the time comes for the Funny Boy and I to start a family we will be looking into adoption. I had always imagined myself being pregnant and fantasised about everything that comes with it. Sharing the news with my friends and family, feeling a life grow inside me, watching my belly take shape and that amazing day when we get to meet mini Huffer for the first time. Pregnancy has always been a miracle to me. However the Funny Boy and I will have our own miracle one day which will be equally special – it’ll just have a different route. Losing the opportunity to be a mother is a price I have had to pay in order to save my life.
I imagine as a reader you must think I am very ungrateful and there are 10000s of people wishing they received the news I did this week. Perhaps if you had been in my shoes then you would understand. I have always said I want this blog to be an honest journal of my journey with cancer so here it is. Unfortunately the news of remission does not automatically bring back my old life. Life is different now and my perception of the world has changed. What I am grateful for are the key people who have helped me on my journey so far. You know who you are. The chapter of treatment is complete but the one ahead is focusing on how I recover and rebuild my life. For now I will just celebrate the relief:
Hev 1 – Cancer 0