19th March 2020
I have never really experienced anxiety before and I find it an uncomfortable place to be. I don’t even think that the anxiety itself was particularly overwhelming (it wasn’t until these last few days…), it is the very fact I am experiencing this new emotion that really bothers me. I guess it is another facet to the loss of control thing. I have always been pretty good at keeping it all together – one of life’s copers, but I admit these last couple of weeks have pushed me to the limit.
And I need to make it absolutely clear. I know that despite the cancer, I am in a far more fortunate position than many. I have job and financial security, which is a lot more than can be said for many right now. If I’m struggling to cope, I can’t begin to imagine how it must be for some.
Cancer changes you. You do cope with cancer. You have to. When I go to Weston Park, I don’t see a waiting area full of broken people, we are all just cracking on with what needs to be done but there is certainly something intrinsically different in me now. Cancer has brought anxiety into my life, and I suspect to some – hopefully manageable – degree, it is here to stay.
The anxiety is tightly bound up with uncertainty, and as mentioned previously, I can deal with everyone else’s uncertainty, just not my own. We all face uncertainty, now more than ever. Cancer just adds an extra layer of complexity to it. Any one of us could get run over by a bus tomorrow (less likely during the current Corona situation) but admittedly my odds of having recurrence or metastases down the line are significantly higher than that eventuality.
In the last couple of weeks, my chemo has been suspended due to an abnormal blood test. It’s still abnormal, which means another 2 week delay before retesting and hopefully restarting at a slightly lower dose. And that is even before we get onto Coronavirus.
As a society, there is currently an entirely justified, collective, huge sense of anxiety – who knows how Coronavirus is going to affect us? It will undoubtedly affect us all hugely, one way or another. Will we all just get by with school closures, self-isolation and social distancing measures or will we go the full hog like Italy and end up with total lockdown? If so, how long for? Nobody knows. This is all uncharted territory for everyone.
This is anxiety-inducing enough. Throw the cancer into the mix and it just starts to become a bit much. From a really selfish point of view I am very worried about how Coronavirus will affect treatment. There’s guidance now on cancer treatment prioritisation. Will I be high enough priority to continue? Hopefully. If lucky enough to continue, my biggest worry is that I will end up in a seemingly perpetual state of self-isolation given my three beautiful, potential vectors of infection. If self-isolating, how will chemo be re authorised?
So much uncertainty.
I’ve come to realise that ability to cope can be looked at in terms of bottles. We are, if you like, all in bottles – of varying sizes. Some are in bigger bottles than others – maybe they are just lucky and born into a big bottle. I think I was. As long as you have space above, you can cope just fine (pretty much).
The problem is you don’t know how big your bottle is, how much you can actually cope with, until you start reaching the top of the bottle and the walls start narrowing. I think I’ve managed to cope with things relatively alright up until now, and I’ve been blessed with a pretty big bottle, but I feel like I’m reaching the top and there is a little bit of spillage.
But is spillage necessarily a bad thing? It’s certainly uncomfortable and unfamiliar, but maybe we all just have to deal with a bit of spillage now and then. It can be beneficial if it makes us refocus on what our priorities really are.
I don’t think your bottle is a fixed size, however. I reckon the people around you can actually make your bottle bigger. And people are amazing. We have been overwhelmed by the support of friends and family during the last few months.
I just need to start coping with the uncertainty…and separating out the things I can, from the things I can’t control and try and just focus on those… works very much in progress…I’m certainly not there yet (not even close!)… but I’m certainly not alone and that makes this whole mess a lot easier to deal with.
And with Corona, well, we’re all in this together.
We’ll just have to take it one day at a time.