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Notes from a Cancer Patient (Part 2)


29 Mar 2020

The Unknown is Hard


It’s crazy to think that two or three months ago the word coronavirus meant nothing to most of us. Now it’s creating fear in us, whether the fear is of the actual virus or of the unknown, it’s a still a very real fear.

Right now we’re in the middle of huge amount of unknown. How long until we can start to go out and socialise? How long until they find a vaccine? Will I be able to hold my wedding as I’d planned? Will my friends and family be ok? Will my business survive? When will our kids get back to school? Is it really going to be as bad as the experts think? Will life ever be the same again?

Waiting Feels Empty

Going through cancer treatment I can honestly say that the hardest times have been in the unknown: the what ifs and the what nexts and the waiting. No one quite prepares you for that, because there is a lot of waiting.

The facts, hard as they are, are digestible. Waiting feels empty and the danger is you fill that emptiness with worst-case-scenario.

Once I’d been told the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, the next stage was having full body scans to check it hadn’t spread anywhere else (lungs, liver, bones). Going for the scans was a process: turning up at the hospital, being examined, chatting to the medical team – that was all ok. That was bearable.

But waiting for the results? That was heart-sickeningly, terrifying.

It required every effort I had to hold it together. Undoubtedly the hardest bit is waiting. Once you know what the plan is it definitely gets easier.

But the challenge is there’s not always a clear plan and I’ve had to learn to live with that over the last few months and it’s definitely changed me.

 

 

Tips for Dealing with the Unknown

What got me through the waiting and the non-plan was diverting my attention to what I did know and could hold onto.

I thought it might be helpful if I shared my go-tos for dealing with the unknown:

 

Keep Laughing

This may sound glib and I really don’t mean it to. You need to put people round you (physically, or virtually) with a good sense of humour; people who get you. I’m thankful that I took the advice of my English teacher (the inimitable Mrs McLennan) who said “marry someone who makes you laugh” And 20 years (ish) on Niels still makes me laugh every day. I also have so many friends who keep me laughing regularly… you know who you are and I love you all. In fact some of you are so funny you should really should have your own YouTube channel.

 

Dream

We might not know the outcome or the answers and it is easy to dread the worst. For me every time I found myself in that cycle I broke it by dreaming of something other. Reading is my solace. I’ll read anything – books, newspapers, even the random junk mail that comes through our door (is that just me?)

One of the best books Niels bought me this year was Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist and it has become a favourite. It’s our go-to book for dreaming of where we’ll travel to once all this cancer stuff has passed. It is so inspiring and of course the photography is stunning.

Other top-reads I’ve loved recently are The Child in Time by Ian McEwan, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and  What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt.  I’ll admit that none of them are the happiest books, but boy are they beautifully written and they will 100% transport you to another world, which is sometimes just what we need.

 

Exercise

It might feel like the world has got a bit Joe Wicks crazy, but there’s so much good in the idea of daily exercise, and encouraging others to do the same. Yes I’m missing the gym lots, but I’m so grateful I can still get out for daily exercise; whether it’s running or walking it feels so good to get the air in your lungs and the ground beneath your feet.

While we’re on the subject of feet, I’d encourage you to dance (even if it’s on your own in the kitchen) The tunes? Whatever you like, but I’d highly recommend anything by Pink, Kylie or Whitney as they are guaranteed to make you dance. A little-known fact about me is I also absolutely adore country music so that’s always a win (don’t judge me people!)

 

 

Pray

Because when you come to the end of yourself what else is there? I know praying isn’t something that comes naturally to all and maybe sounds a bit weird. But all I’ll say is it’s always an option – no-one’s judging and no-one even will know. You might even feel better. Top books, if you’re interested, that will inspire are God on Mute by Pete Greig and Love Does by Bob Goff (both incredibly challenging and honest books in their own way)

Let Love be Enough

“There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved” George Sand

And at the end of the day when we’re in the middle of so much unknown it’s a good idea to focus on what we do know and love our favourites that little bit harder.

Ultimately love needs to be enough; let it be enough and we will get through this.
Ax