So, some big news in my small world… I’VE (FINALLY) FINISHED TREATMENT! On the 20th of January at around 2pm, I was told that I could leave Ward F6 for what we all hoped (still hope) to be the last time. I cried, pretty much squeezed my nurse to death, and turned around to see my mum also crying – it was an emotional moment for the pair of us, the end of a pretty terrible chapter. I was nervous for the final push, brain riddled with anxiety, body feeling more like a punching bag rather than the precious guardian of my innards. Five months braving the storms that this involuntary experience had thrown at me, and suddenly I had just a few days until I was free. If anyone had witnessed my preparations then they’d be forgiven for thinking I was assembling some form of post-apocalyptic entertainment kit. I had packed enough to occupy anyone for about five years; books, 1,000 Sudoku puzzles, a jigsaw, crosswords, colouring books, cross-stitch, playlists for every conceivable mood, a collection of notebooks along with an array of multicoloured writing utensils, and my laptop. Yes, I was ready to overcome cabin fever with every boredom buster in the book – and the reason? The fear of overthinking. There was not one side effect of chemo that I enjoyed (obviously), but what I found to be the biggest struggles of all were not the physical burdens, but the ones that tampered with my mental state. Although it doesn’t sound like a particularly long time, spending five days confined to a small room whilst hooked up to a poisonous substance is pretty torturous. I found that anytime I was left alone during treatment, I would panic. I would get myself into such a state that my entire body itched from the inside out. It was scary and uncomfortable, and it wasn’t until someone came back into the room that I felt like I could breathe again, as though I’d been holding my breath for the entirety of their absence. This is why mums are so incredible, and why I’m so unbelievably lucky to have mine.
“And you’re going to come and stay with me for the duration, aren’t you?”
“Yes, darling. I’m taking the time off work to be with you, we’ll get through it”
Ever since the hell of chemo number 4, I’d pretty much insisted on round the clock support whenever I was an inpatient. It didn’t feel at all possible to do any of it alone anymore. In fact, I remember a moment that I’d had with my parents over dinner just before Christmas;
“It might have to be a family effort for this next one because…” – cue inaudible speech due to hysterical crying at the dinner table.
It was safe to say that by the end of round 5 I had a genuine fear of the hospital. I’d realised, after attempting to be as brave as I possibly could, for as long as I could possibly manage, that having someone there was best for the upkeep of my mental well-being. Without my mum I’m unsure where I’d currently be. Perhaps rocking back and forth whilst chewing on my own hair? I know it sounds rather theatrical but I was losing the plot somewhat before I finally asked for her help, and since asking I never once reverted back to being big and strong alone. No, it turns out you can still be big and strong, even if you have had to enlist the help of your mother to ensure you get to the loo without wetting yourself. But in all seriousness, my mum became a lifeline, so much so that whenever I could see her getting ready to leave the room in order to get some lunch from the restaurant, or grab a mid-morning coffee from downstairs, I’d say something like ‘don’t leave me’ and then grin as though I was being silly. In reality? Most of the time I would cry as soon as she left because I couldn’t bear to be alone for the ten minutes I knew it would take for her to return. And what’s worse, is that every time this happened, I felt as though I was waving goodbye to little chunks of independence, and so I cried some more. But even in these moments of utter vulnerability, I was still being big and strong, and I think it helps to remind myself of that every now and then.
So if you’re reading this at a time when you feel it could be beneficial for you to have a bit (or a lot) of support from someone around you, just know that you’re 100% allowed to ask for that. They don’t have to reassure you every two seconds, they don’t even have to talk – the amount of times my mum and I just sat together in silence reading our books or doing our own crossword puzzles, it didn’t matter, what mattered was that there was a presence, that I knew I had a safety blanket should I require it. So even though I want to babble on about how incredible it is to be done (hopefully) with treatment, this entry was mainly just to remind you all that the people around you are there to help, and that you shouldn’t have to face anything alone, ever.