Sunday, 7 September 2014

Being open and honest

Something else people keep telling me I am brave for is being open and honest in this blog. As openness and honesty is coming up in conversation so much I thought I'd explain, openly and honestly, here.

Aside from the original plan to log useful information about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, there are now two main reasons I am writing this blog.

1. Writing is cathartic for me

There you are, bumbling along in life, doing whatever it is you're doing. Bit of work, bit of play, make the dinner, wash up, read a book, walk the dog, go to the pub, da de da de da. Then you're told you've got cancer. Your life as you know it just ended. Just like that, in an instant. And suddenly, urgently, you need to become an Expert in Cancer.

You need to understand the difference between a Grade 1 and a Grade 3 tumour. The difference between Stage 2b and Stage 3a cancer. You need to learn about what your lymphatic system actually does and how. You need to understand what things like ER, PR, HER2, TN, DCIS, FEC-T, DIEP, FNA, WLE, and SNB mean. You need to understand the reasons why your chemo might be adjuvant or neo-adjuvant. You need to know the signs of neutropenic sepsis.

And you're trying to learn about and understand all of this shit while attempting to come to terms with the fact that you have a life threatening illness (am I going to die?), you won't be able to have your own children (what are the rules on adoption?), and your hair is all going to fall out (how can I avoid every potential situation where I might get laughed at for being an egg head over the next 6-9 months?).

It's too much! It is for me anyway. Writing helps. The more I write, the less I have polluting the inside of my head. As an example, one of my earlier posts was about Fear. The stuff in that post was weighing me down - until I wrote about it. I've barely thought about the day of diagnosis since. It happened, I thought about it, I wrote about it, I moved on.

Also, I want to keep clearing the cancer stuff out of my head so that there's more room for the non-cancer stuff in my life. The 7 weeks and 2 days since the ultrasound of doom have been intense and filled with limbo-induced anxiety. Waiting for test results (am I going to die?), waiting for the treatment plan to be agreed (which kind of incapacitated freak am I going to be next week? A one-boobed woman who can't make herself a cup of tea or a bald woman who needs help to lift her head out of the toilet after some extreme vomiting?), waiting for all sorts of terrible chemo side effects to kick in (not really the case in the end though), waiting for my hair to fall out (I know am going on about this non-stop but it's so stressful and I'm almost at the point where I'm ready to shave my head just to put an end to it). So I've been talking about cancer and chemo all the fucking time. But once the hair is gone, there's going to be a lot less limbo and anxiety, and a lot more just getting on with the routine of it all. 

I can't wait. Because I'm still me you know. And I don't want to be the cancer bore. I want to be the friend who does the 30 days abs challenge with you. I want to be the friend who takes the time to talk to your daughter about art and music when other people are just complimenting her on her pretty dress and shoes. I want to be the friend who is there when you need someone at 1am to rant about your prick of an ex boyfriend. I want to be the friend you eat too many crepes with at the Christmas markets. I want to be the friend who sits in the pub with you all evening putting the world to rights.

So anyway, this blog is how I plan on getting through the coming months. Shit will happen, I'll write about it, I'll move on.

2. I want to be open and honest with you

Ultimately this is just who I am. I'm not good at keeping things to myself. I've got a big mouth and I talk too much. I've been like that my whole life (I can still think of plenty of examples even from primary school) and I know I'm not about to change now, even though at times it can get me into trouble or leave me feeling like a bit of a twat.

The thing is though, I've discovered there's something very liberating about being completely open and honest. What I am doing in this blog is being upfront about the following:
  • I am a human being with a human body
  • I have feelings and emotions
  • I am flawed and can behave like an idiot
Being honest about these things means I don't need to go through the stress of trying to pretend to be someone I'm not. Anyway, I have just been working on the assumption that everything on the above list applies to every single person who reads what I write. And that's probably why people have been so nice to me, rather than laugh or be mean, even though I've admitted to:
  • having a defective human body,
  • having to go to counselling,
  • being wrong,
  • getting angry,
  • being scared and anxious,
  • being over sensitive and overreacting to things
  • hair loss and obsessively pulling hair out of my head,
  • having a receding gum, 
  • feeling ugly,
  • being a control freak,
  • being such a wimp that I passed out at the sight of a cannula....
The list just goes on and on! But yeah, in my opinion, no-one's perfect so no-one should expect anyone else to be perfect, and no-one should feel like they need to try and pretend to be perfect. I've discovered that you can be open and honest about all the ways you are a flawed, idiotic human being and still be surrounded and supported by the lushest friends in the world. That feels very nice. I recommend trying it.

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