Ask anyone who’s had cancer about what they’ve learnt along the way, and I bet somewhere amongst their list the word ‘patience’ will crop up. If cancer is good for something, it’s ensuring you have the patience of a Saint by the time you come out the other end. The whole process of cancer is a waiting game from start to finish. Taking into consideration how long it took me to get an eventual diagnosis in the first place, I should have known that the rest of my cancer chapter would follow suit. Whether you’re waiting on results or hanging around for an appointment. Whether you’re waiting for chemo to start, closely followed by WILLING for it to finish. Whether you’re waiting for your pain meds to kick in, or simply waiting for the clock to strike a more appropriate time so you can finally go to bed without feeling guilty – the entirety of the last three months seem to have been spent waiting. Before cancer I was a fairly impatient person, I always wanted everything done right there and then. But now? Now I am most calm when it comes to situations that involve an investment of time, and I’m really grateful for having learnt that. However, recently there have been occasions where my patience has run pretty thin. The more I think about what I’ve lost out on due to cancer already, the more wound up and angry my little brain gets, and instead of taking it out on anyone or anything, I just cry. I cry and I cry and I cry. And then I cry a bit more. As mentioned in my last post, things had gotten pretty rough. Being admitted into hospital is never a nice feeling, but it’s even worse when it comes as a surprise. I was not a happy bunny when I was told I needed to stay in last Monday, and despite having all the best nurses, and the best consultant I could ever wish for, for the first time I felt like I’d been beaten. This is going to sound bizarre, but I hate losing, I truly hate it, and I absolutely loathe being bad at things, and for the past couple of weeks I feel like I’ve been really bad at having cancer. I feel like I’ve given up a bit. The last few times I’ve seen my friends, for example, I’ve made no effort at all to look like Jasmine. I’ve allowed myself to look like ‘the cancer patient’, and I hate that. Of course they don’t care, and they don’t bat an eyelid at the fact that they have to spend the next few hours in the company of an egg with sunken grey eyes. But I care. I’m not doing it because it’s liberating, I’m doing it because I can’t be bothered – I simply don’t have the energy. Without sounding too dramatic, it’s actually really hard admitting to yourself that you genuinely don’t have the energy to ‘do life’. I’m 25, I should be working a lovely job, earning my own money, saving for that little country cottage, filling up my phone gallery with interior design ideas, driving unchaperoned to my friends’ houses and getting up to mischief on the weekend. Instead I’m constantly counting down the days to my next hospital stay, trying to work out whether or not I’ll be available for festive events, crying every five minutes because I’m in so. much. pain. It is relentless.
In my last post I ended it by giving a quick low-down of my proposed treatment for the next couple of weeks, and, if I recall correctly, I said that I was dreading it. I’m still not in total favour of having to go through more chemo, obviously, but I am dreading it a little less than I was. Last Wednesday my consultant came to see me on the ward. I can’t help but smile when I see Ann and Joni, I may look and feel like shit, and I may wish I was anywhere but Ward F6 (and any other ward on the planet for that matter), but the pair of them are so smiley and bubbly that it would be near impossible for me to have a down moment in their presence. We were talking about my next round of Methotrexate, which was meant to start pretty much imminently. Ann was discussing how she’d been weighing up the pros and cons of skipping out on the proposed dose of Methotrexate, and possibly doing a Lumbar Puncture instead, but ultimately decided that we should still go ahead with the initial course as planned. A small part of my brain winced when she confirmed her decision. I didn’t want to be in hospital anymore, and although I was all primed and ready for this, I wasn’t actually ready for it at all. In fact, I could feel myself truly shutting down. I hadn’t slept well for over two weeks and I hadn’t eaten a proper meal in days due to the severe swelling and pain in my mouth and jaw. Even my teeth felt like they were about to drop out any second. I was physically and mentally exhausted, inundated with symptoms that would only get worse when given another dose of chemo. Who willingly wants to attack their immune system even further when they already feel like giving up as it is? Not me, that was for sure. But still, as a patient who could quite frankly die in refusing treatment, I just agreed and then cried to Sam, my specialist nurse, about it ten minutes later.
WELL, the universe must have heard me. The next day, Ann came to see me again. She explained how she’d had a think (and then another hundred thinks), and given how unwell I’d been, how exhausted I had felt, and how much pressure my body had been under over the past couple of weeks, she’d decided to abandon ship on the Methotrexate and allow me a week at home to recuperate. The relief in hearing those words was utterly magical. I wanted to weep with joy – thank God for that! It was one of those moments that I believe we all have. Sometimes we, as humans, have to endure really shitty things, and even though we don’t want to do them, we prepare ourselves for them regardless. But sometimes, miraculously, we get the news that we no longer need to do that shitty thing, and instantly we start to doubt how we would ever have gotten through it if it had gone ahead. And that’s how resilient we really are. The thought of still being in hospital today undergoing the treatment I should have had honestly makes me feel queasy. I just don’t think I’d have been able to do it. Yet, in the same instance, I know I would have survived it, does that make sense? It all sounds a bit stupid now that I’m writing it down, but I know what I’m trying to say. Basically, I have never been more grateful for some time off of something in my life. My body was exhausted. My body still is exhausted. My brain won’t shut up, I feel like I’m becoming my own worst enemy and I’m developing a genuine fear of going to the loo (the pain!). Having this time was needed for so many reasons, and I am so, so thankful to Ann for recognising that. But by this Friday I’ll be back at it again. I’ll be waddling (literally) my way through my fifth round of chemo, in addition to experiencing all of these added side effects that are partly ruining my life a little bit. But I’ll survive it. I won’t like it. I won’t enjoy it. But I’ll do it. And even though I feel like I’m doing a shoddy job at cancer, at least I know, in the end, it won’t beat me. And if I just keep clinging onto that thought, hopefully the side effects will subside on their own, and my mind can press the reset button and I can eventually put this God awful year behind me.