Thursday, 19 February 2015

Time out

I could also call this post  "Trying to take back control" or "I need a better routine for my mental health" or, maybe most appropriately, "Returning to (a new) normal? Part 2".

I was looking for a suitable image to accompany this post and did a Google image search of "hoarding". Wow. I'm never doing that again, it's the stuff of very scary nightmares. Very scary. But I found this one of book hoarding which does the job.

This photo represents the inside of my head right now. Far too much stuff in a big, disorganised, precarious mess. I need to transform the inside of my head from that, to this:

It's no small task, but it needs to be done.

Cancer doesn't just invade your body. Once you're aware of it and embark on the full-time (but hopefully fixed-term) job of Cancer Patient, it also ends up infiltrating every corner of your mind. Sometimes this is useful, sometimes it is helpful. There's a lot to learn, a lot of information to take in, and I've made it my mission to know and understand it all - knowledge is power, remember.

As I said in my last post, I'm now preparing to return to some sort of normality.

(Hopefully) the worst of cancer treatment (fingers crossed) is over now that I'm done with chemo and the Big Cancer Surgery (touch wood).*

(*I'm definitely not wanting to tempt fate because based on the past few years fate is not my friend. Laughing at superstition has done me no favours at all. Lesson learned. Never again will I walk under a ladder/step on a crack in the pavement/place my shoes on the table/lean my broom against the bed. Instead I will at all times be wearing a spider around my neck in a walnut shell and carrying a rabbit's foot in one pocket and an acorn in the other.)

In terms of what's called "active treatment" for cancer, all I have left is radiotherapy and I feel like at this point in my job as Cancer Patient, I'm at a bit of a crossroads. The initial fixed-term contract is almost up. What do I do next?

I'm worried about cancer coming back and spreading to other parts of my body. That's a genuine and legitimate fear. My friend Claire died less than a week ago after her breast cancer spread to her spinal fluid and brain. However, I don't want to spend all of my time feeling scared about recurrence and spread. But on the other hand I don't want to block it out to the extent I don't take proper care of my health, or maintain the right level of awareness about what's going on with my body.

I want to forget I ever had cancer. It's been stressful, and frightening and exhausting. But on the other hand, I don't want to forget I had cancer. It's an important part of me. It's changed my perspective in positive ways. It's made me appreciate things I didn't appreciate before. I want to keep hold of that perspective and appreciation.

I want to remove myself from Breast Cancer World and return to the world everyone else is living in. Yes, it can be mundane and frustrating at times, but I realise now how familiarity and routine can feel incredibly comforting and safe. On the other hand I want to help other young women with breast cancer. I want to share my experiences and insight in the same way others so kindly shared theirs with me when I really needed it. I want to offer support, and reassurance, and hope. I want to make a difference.

I was discussing this at counselling last night. I want it to be part of my life, but I don't want it to be part of my life. What do I do? My counsellor reminded me that once you know something, you can't un-know it. So basically all of this is about transition and balance. And for that I need some time and space to work through what's in my head. Tackle the dark corners. Clear out the crap. Bring the good stuff to the front.

Basically, I'm about to be really selfish.

Some changes will happen naturally. Once I'm back to working full time (along with other daily routines - running, walking the dog, making the dinner, doing the housework, watching Sex and the City and drinking cosmopolitans with Emily etc), there'll be limited time in my days for breast cancer. But I also need to make some intentional changes.

I'm taking a break from the online community of younger women with breast cancer that I'm a member of. It's a wonderful, wonderful group, and I will be back after some space. But for now I'm making a conscious decision to not be logging on throughout the day and evening, every single day. I'll also be muting various accounts I follow on Twitter, just for a little while. Less cancer and genetics and more @africam and @badass_w.

I'm also going to limit myself to when and how I think and talk about cancer. I'm going to work on retraining my monkey-mind in order to not let thoughts about cancer run through my consciousness on a continuous loop all day long. I'll have set times to talk about cancer, and to think and write about cancer, and I'll do this with purpose. The rest of my time will be for other things.

Hopefully it helps.

A couple of post scripts...

Dammit! I just looked and someone has already written "Breast Cancer for Dummies".

On Google images I also added "dog" to my search. It's always a nice thing to do. Here's a few just for you. (The best book shop dog in the world is, of course, the one at Tin Drum Books in Leicester, but these are some very wonderful dogs too.)


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