New year, new me
I know, I know. A bit of a clichéd headline there. But I really do feel like I've turned a corner since Christmas. I'm not sure how that has happened but maybe it's been down to talking to people who understand how I feel.
Occupational health chat
I've had a medical assessment with an Occupational Health adviser arranged via my employer. I was quite apprehensive about it but actually I really needn't have worried at all.
The assessment was carried out by a nurse who really understood what I had gone through and knew about the sorts of things that would help me cope post-treatment, both personally and at work. She reassured me that the way I had been feeling leading up to Christmas and the fear of the cancer returning was perfectly normal. We talked about the support I felt I needed to help me get back to work. It was incredibly helpful to talk to her and to find out about all the practical things that she could recommend.
I've also been in touch with Action Cancer and went to see a counsellor. I wasn't entirely convinced that I would find it helpful but I felt I needed to reach out to someone who was trained and who would understand the terrible things that cancer can do to both your body and mind.
I was lucky that there was a free slot to see someone almost straight away. The counsellor was warm, friendly and encouraging. She didn't give me advice but allowed me to talk openly and express my concerns. She really helped me think things through in just one session. I know that I can go back at any time if I need to.
After the treatment finishes...
The counsellor also gave me a really good article called 'After the treatment finishes - then what?' by Dr Peter Harvey. The article talks, for example, about:
- regaining trust in your body
- regaining trust in yourself
- living with uncertainty
- dealing with the world
- regaining mastery and control
As I read it, I reckoned it could have been written about me (apart from the bit where it refers to a woman after breast cancer treatment who decided she needed to change her husband!).
One particular extract from the article struck me: it described the end of treatment being the beginning of something else - a rebuilding process that needed to be managed and directed and, in psychological terms, this could be the most challenging and difficult time of all. This really resonated with me.
Once I'd read the article, I knew that I wasn't losing my mind after all. It talked to me in a language I understood and was written by someone who really appreciated what I (and others) had been going through and still continue to go through. I found it incredibly helpful and reassuring.
Review with the breast care nurse
I also had an holistic review with one of Belfast City Hospital's breast care nurses. We talked about my feelings, particularly my fear of cancer returning, and how to self-examine. Again I got some really helpful advice.
The nurse also reiterated that I'd had all the necessary surgery and treatment to help prevent the cancer returning (there are no guarantees, but she did reassure me somewhat). However there were three things, she said, that were really important to help tackle recurrence:
- maintaining a healthy weight [oops!]
- exercise [yep, I'm doing lots more of this now]
- reducing alcohol [I can't stand the thought of booze as it makes me feel like I'd be drinking poison and the smell reminds me of alcohol wipes. Thanks chemo 😒.]
So, whilst I can't control the beast that is cancer I can do my best to keep it at bay.
It's a dog's life
I'm saving the best bit 'til last. I've now got a dog. It's an eight month old Jack Russell puppy and she is ADORABLE. I had been dithering about getting a dog because my son has a slight fear of dogs. I'd even joined a website to 'borrow' a couple of dogs, which I had taken for a few walks. But as soon as I laid eyes on the puppy, I couldn't resist her.
I've called the puppy 'Cara', which is Irish for friend. I've been taking her out for daily walks. She's very affectionate and is a quick learner. In return, Cara is teaching me patience, calmness and is getting me fit. What a diamond.
|Cara, my new friend|
Time to heal
So there you go. One minute I'm down, the next I'm up. But according to Dr Peter Harvey, now is the time to heal, both body and mind.
It's a long road ahead but hopefully one I'll be able to navigate through even if things get a little bumpy from time to time.
Much love...until next time.