It’s been nearly a year since I stopped writing my blog. I have to admit, I have missed it. The process of writing while on treatment was very cathartic, and I signed off full of hope and excitement about the future with treatment ending. I did not foresee the mental strain of the Remission Waiting Room.
I am not good in waiting rooms. Even when I am just going for a routine check up at the dentist, I get restless sitting there, I may even get butterflies in my stomach. I am that person, who always thinks she needs a wee when she gets stuck in traffic. I am a control freak, although I try not to be. I say the below quote in my head to remind myself that I am creating stress when there is no need.
The Remission Waiting Room is a strange place. You are well. You are where you dreamed of being when first diagnosed. You are moving on with your life. You are Alive! However you are also stuck in this waiting room. Your wonderful medical team have given you the all clear, but they haven’t signed you off. They are hopeful and confident, but they can’t tell you it’s gone and wave you goodbye.
I don’t do well in this waiting room. The mental health side of cancer is something I didn’t consider at first. It isn’t something that is covered in the many leaflets and meetings during the traumatic time of diagnosis. However looking back, it’s my mental health that has been hardest for me to manage.
After my operation, I was both physically and mentally a mess. I was in pain on both fronts. My recovery from this point both mentally and physically worked together. Then gradually, the mental high of treatment ending and clear results, came crashing down. Not in one massive blow, but bit by bit over time. This meant that it took time for me to realise how low it had got. How anxious I had become.
Admitting to myself and others that there was an issue, when all results where going my way was really hard. I was embarrassed to be feeling how I did. Then last October I knew I had to do something about it. My surgeon had given me my all clear results and asked me about my mental health and if I had considered going to see a counsellor. I said I was fine, great, grateful and never better, and didn’t need to speak to anyone. As the words came out of my mouth I new it wasn’t true.
On the way home from the appointment, I said to Damian, I think I need to go see someone, I think I am suffering from anxiety, and he simply said, yes.
I had to have a phone call with a mental health professional so they could understand what help I needed. The questions made me admit things out loud that made me feel vulnerable and sad. However it matched me with the right type of counselling. It has been amazing.
While it was really tough at times to talk about my mortality in detail at the age of 40, and my huge panic of leaving my children without a mummy. Talking about it, putting my fears out there and not just acknowledging them, but discussing and working through them, has helped enormously.
- Understand how traumatic it has all been, how low and vulnerable and scared having cancer makes you, that it is not unusual to feel how I feel, that it’s not wrong to feel the way I do, and that I am not alone.
- Acknowledge that while I am in the remission waiting room, the anxiety of getting sick again, will not go. That the endless worry about leaving my children without a mother, will not diminish, but I can control the feelings, they do not have to control me.
As it is Bowel Cancer Awareness month I wanted to open up about life after cancer. To let others know that it is ok to find it tough and that there is help out there. When I saw my surgeon a few weeks ago, I told him I was now in counselling after he bought it up. That it had helped a lot. He let me know that they where trying to get better at helping with the mental side, and not just focusing on the physical. So if you think you need extra mental health support, it is out there, ask your practitioners when you see them next.
Please know the symptoms of this disease, as caught early enough it is curable. It is sadly on the increase for the under 50s. You are #nevertooyoung to get bowel cancer. It can happen to anyone. Get yourself checked. Pay attention to your bowel habits.
thanks for reading x