After last week’s blog I’ve been thinking a lot about the extent to which cancer has become a central focus of my life. This has been necessary.
During the first few months of diagnosis there’s a lot of learning to do, sorting out the facts from the fable, making decisions about treatment and then figuring out the best way to support that treatment.
I’m five months in now and it’s time to start shifting the balance.
My new habits are well established. I’m eating really well and we’re all benefiting from a mostly organic, made from scratch diet of healthy food. My skin has never looked better and my fitness is great thanks to my regular yoga and gardening. Meditation hasn’t figured as much as I thought it would but my yoga is a kind of ‘moving meditation’ and my gardening is also meditative. I still need to drink more water.
I’m continuing to cope really well with treatment and most of the time I feel healthy. I’m taking extra precautions not to catch anything, including using hand wipes on shopping trolleys and washing my hands compulsively.
The mental shift that came with my diagnosis has now become my default setting. I worry less about the small stuff. I’m kinder. I’m a lot more relaxed about a whole lot of things, including my ‘to do’ list. I’m more interested these days in my ‘want to do’ list.
I decided this week that it was time to diminish the importance of this disease. I am sending cancer to its room! No more constant vampiring of every conversation. No more chewing up my Facebook page with endless details of my chemotherapy, side effects and progress. It’s time to start shifting the balance. I want to tip over into being me again, rather than everything being about this disease. It just feels like the right thing to do.
Certainly it’s getting boring. I think having such good results so early has allowed everyone to relax. Friends and family are now certain of my recovery. “We always knew you’d be like this. We knew you’d beat it!”
Of course I haven’t beaten it. Far from it. I still have a primary tumour to deal with, surgery in January, radiation therapy for six weeks after than and then three to five years (depending on who you ask) with a very high rate of recurrence and the risk of metastasising tumours in my major organs. But I don’t need to walk around with that pinned to my forehead! I can certainly understand everyone else’s desire to think of me as ‘cured’ or ‘clearly going to be cured’ so they can stop worrying and get back to their lives.
I think it’s much better for everyone, including me, if I start to diminish the significance of cancer in my life, in the same way that I’m managing to shrink away the tumours in my body. I don’t want to be defined by cancer. I want to be able to laugh and love and enjoy the company of my wonderful friends without cancer being perched on my shoulder like a vulture. I don’t want a pink ribbon tattoo, or hat, or T-shirt. I just want to be myself again.
I’m putting cancer over there, in its own little room, where I will visit it when I need to. I’ll pay attention to it on Mondays when I have chemotherapy and when I have appointments with my doctors. I’ll look in on it from time to time to make sure it’s getting smaller and smaller and I look forward to the day when I can disinfect that room and use it for something beautiful and useful.
As part of fighting my remaining tumour I’ve invented an imaginary creature for my visualisations. He looks exactly like the best cat I ever owned, a huge mackerel tabby called Toby, but he’s called ‘The Paclitaxel’. Toby used to be my constant gardening companion, inspecting everything I did and chatting to me while I worked. We’re pretty sure he was part Siamese, due to his language skills. He used to come into bed every morning for a cuddle and could be relied upon to perform purr therapy any time I was unwell. He lived for 15 years before dying suddenly of what the vet thinks could have been a stroke or a tumour. I couldn’t bare to have him autopsied so we don’t really know. We cried for days.
It’s been wonderful to reinvent him as one of my anti-cancer campaigners. He’s now assisting the cancer fairies in the end battle. He has the ability to self replicate and he shreds cancer with his claws and rips it apart with his teeth. Chemotherapy is now an adventure called ‘The Attack of the Paclitaxels!” So the room I’ve put my cancer in has a cat door. Let’s see how that tumour deals with confinement and a vicious pack of cats!
At night, all the Paclitaxels curl up together and purr. Cancer hates purring.
I’ll keep cancer here, in this blog, because the blog has been extremely therapeutic and an excellent tool for keeping my head in the game. I’ll also keep all of my facebook information about my medical progress on my positive3negative page, but my own facebook page will now be cancer free. I’ve put up a new profile picture of me with my beautiful daughter on a trip we took together last year. We are both so happy. I have hair. I’ve told all my friends that from now on I’ll be keeping cancer away from the page. I got a lot of ‘likes’ for that. I’m sure everyone is as bored with cancer as I am.
It seems to me that there is something very healthy in reducing the prominence of this disease. When I wrote last week about ‘sympathy addiction’ it struck a chord with a lot of people. Everyone seemed to know someone that leads with what bleeds; people that can’t wait to tell you about their latest health issue or personal drama, even when, in the overall scheme of things, what they’re suffering from is not really all that serious. Everyone is different and some people must need that sympathy and ongoing attention. I prefer to be happy, positive and a lot more fun to be around.
It’s time to start giving back. Making things easier for the people that have been taking care of me, extending my heart felt gratitude to those that have hung in there and making sure I thank all of the medical staff in a way that lets them know I really mean it. Not everything is about me…….and that’s a really healthy thing.
So I’m sending cancer to its room for the final stages of its death.
Release the Paclitaxels!