29th April 2020
I feel like I am currently standing at a cliff edge on a misty day. Visibility is pretty poor, but … as I stand here, the mist is definitely beginning to clear. I’m starting to look forward, and see a bit further than the here and now.
These last two to three weeks I have experienced emotional numbness. I imagine it must be similar to when people are started on antidepressants. Patients commonly describe this emotional numbing or blunting, but I’ve never really known what not “feeling” might be like. It is as if the previous six weeks or so of high level emotional intensity has finally caught up and my brain has revolted, gone on strike, and simply said, “enough”.
It has been a little disconcerting not feeling but the process seems to have served a purpose. My head has, until now, felt like a huge tense, tangled ball of wool, and in the last week or so, the tension has reduced and I can start teasing out the knots. Calm has descended.
I still struggle to get my head around what has happened. I find it far easier to write about than talk about. Talking about it, the cancer, is a little too much of a reminder of the reality of it all. But I can start contemplating a “new normal” now, and what that might look like.
This week involved conversations with my oncologist about hypotheticals, the what ifs. I realised I had no idea who to contact or what to do if I have concerns once discharged from oncology. No one had explained this. As a GP I probably should know, but I didn’t. I do now.
Don’t get me wrong…this isn’t about catastrophising. I am, by nature, a planner. I cope best when I can plan. Of course I don’t know what the future holds but if I know what the worst case scenario is, anything else is a bonus. Knowledge is power. Again, I suspect, this comes back to my old friend, control, and my need to exert it in my life.
In my head I have figured out a whole spectrum of different eventualities. I can’t embrace 100% optimism but I am happy with where I am sitting right now. 100% optimism, I fear, will leave me emotionally vulnerable if the cancer does come back. The odds are definitely in my favour, although I still, in my very simplistic way of thinking, struggle to reconcile the duration of disease without there being some future consequence. I don’t think anyone will be able to reassure me otherwise.
Something has definitely shifted in the mindset though. I can start contemplating not just a future of “what if it does come back?”, but the “what if it doesn’t?” scenarios too.
Cancer does change your outlook. It doesn’t make me live every day as if it is my last. I’m perhaps a little less inclined to procrastinate than previously and I definitely feel more present. We, as a family, live every day, as normally as possible – an interesting concept given corona – and I am loving every moment of it, (even if they do drive me to distraction at times). I can appreciate this time given, thanks to the cancer, and now corona, and am relishing just being with them all.
I am also enjoying my recovered fitness and realizing just how much I missed it. What was such a struggle for months and months is fun once more. Physically I feel good, and while there is always going to be the inevitable worry regarding bloods and scans, I suspect this will be the best marker that things are ok.
I celebrate the progress made, and there has been real progress, especially in the last week. I’m definitely moving forward and focusing more on the future but it’s not behind me. Not yet. I don’t think I have fully dealt with what I need to and I worry about it festering unless I get this sorted. The anger is still there but the fire isn’t raging like it was a few weeks ago. It’s more the smoldering remains with one fire engine still in attendance, continually damping down due to the ongoing risk of reignition if left completely unattended. But I’m getting there. Day by day, I’m getting there.