Waiting for a cancer diagnosis is a painful waiting game. From the early days when there are hints towards something being wrong to the final news that weighs heavy on your heart. It took a while to conclude that I had lymphoma, but an uncomfortable set of communications suggested it was there before they could tell me for sure. Feelings of despair, confusion and heartbreak muddled together, making it one of the most emotional times of my life.
Once I was finally diagnosed and given a treatment plan, I found things much easier. The drugs made me feel terrible at times, and some of the side-effects meant that I had to change the way I was living, but the anxiety of the unknown lessened. When I had an interim PET scan that told me there were no longer signs of cancer, my optimism grew. Although I did find it difficult to understand why I needed more rounds of treatment. The last few treatments seemed a few too many in terms of how they made my body feel. But I'm not the specialist.
Ringing the bell at the end of my chemotherapy treatment seemed an exciting prospect to start with, but the reality was quite anticlimactic. I went for dinner to celebrate with some friends afterwards, but I was still under the fog of that last chemotherapy infusion. It didn’t feel like the celebration I’d hoped for.
Six weeks after that last chemo treatment I’ve had my final PET scan to confirm whether or not my treatment has worked. I’ll receive the results over the phone in two weeks. It'll be almost a year to the date that I first went down with a virus that made my lymph nodes react.
A phone call seems so impersonal after such a serious experience. Everyone is on tender hooks to start with, then time passes and it becomes the norm. My norm feels a little odd on the other side of chemo. My body energy fluctuates as you’d expect. But my brain has come to life wanting me to jump right back in with all the things I did before. My body is a little bit behind and I have to respect, nurture, and look after it with rest.
What my heart struggles with, is that my zest for life is far greater than my body is capable of right now. And although I have to look after that, my hopes to bounce back quickly feel a little let down. It’s to be expected of course. It’s been a life shattering experience. I’m still here though. I have lots of things to look forward to, and I’m grateful for the health I have. I also know that my experience could have been so much worse. But when I’m tired at the end of each week, my heart just wants to cry.
Under the fog of chemotherapy, although your emotions can be heightened at times, those emotions are difficult to process. Now that I’m free from the drugs, my body is left to fend for itself. Sitting under the looming news of my PET scan result, it is only now that I am processing everything that has happened. The road feels much heavier than my chemo infused brain was able to understand at the time. And only now do I have clarity. I now understand exactly what I’ve been through because I can feel it in my body.
After the initial high of my energy returning, life returned to some level of normality, but it's littered with trying to understand what happened, and what my future might look like. Will I ever be the same? Will I ever get my energy back? Will my hair grow back? Will my body be strong? Will my health return to support me? Will the cancer return?
I don’t know the answers to any of those questions right now. I can only have hope. And perhaps I don’t want things to return exactly as they were. Perhaps some changes were necessary. But as I navigate all of this, process what has happened, allow my heart mind and body to come back together to guide me, it can be difficult to accept the unknown. The unknown being something that I have had to accept during this difficult period. Something that I normally enjoy not knowing too much about.
I am someone that likes to leap into life, say yes to every invitation, run after my dreams, and see the world with open eyes, heart and a pair of feet that like to wander. I hope the things that light me up will be just as accessible to me, and I hope to find a new way forward, one that lights me up even more. For now, I have been resting in ways that seem foreign and I’m accepting what my body needs, as I gently step back into life.
With my mind alive, I can sometimes find it difficult to sleep as ideas want to flood my brain. Whilst some of those ideas are great, I notice how much my confidence has been knocked. I doubt myself more than I used to. Even when I head down to the water, I pack so many things in my bag to safeguard myself in the sea. I am confident in water, always have been, but I doubt myself at the moment. Some of that is wise after chemotherapy treatment, as I feel weaker and my body was initially more susceptible to infection. But I’m also aware that I’m holding myself back, albeit I feel a rumble of wanting to take a leap again.
Some days I'm not sure where my place in life is right now. I’m sure it will come to me, or perhaps I'll just be happy feeling the breeze (I suspect it'll be both). I do know I need to allow space for it all to come to me rather than trying to think things into place. Writing always helps me. If you don't already know, I've been writing for years, most of my books were written during tricky times. You can see for yourself with my list of published books: Books by Marie Skilling
I hope I haven't sounded too down about life and that I lack gratitude. That couldn't be farther from the truth. But I can't fake positivity. I hate toxic positivity and I bang on about it in my book The Bitch Pad, as I don't believe in masking over feelings. I'm a realist and I believe in working through emotions in whichever way feels right. My emotions are heightened as I wait for the PET scan results that will determine if I'm clear of cancer now that treatment has stopped... or not.
I'm processing a lot. And I'm pleased to say my hair is growing back quickly.
It's the most surreal experience of my life!
I have no doubt that when my body replenishes, and grows new cells (which must be taking up so much of my energy right now) that I will feel bright and buoyant again. But until that day, I’m learning to allow myself the time to heal and be okay with that. It doesn’t come easy to me, but I would encourage others to look after themselves, take time out, and accept a sense of just being, so I best take my own advice.
I’m sharing all of this as it’s an honest account of how I feel right now. I hope sharing helps others, no matter their difficult experience. We’re all human, all feelings are valid, and sometimes we just need to gently navigate ourselves in new ways.
Wishing you well,
If you'd like to read more, you might like one of my earlier posts