A couple of weeks ago I had a week living entirely on my own. Having time alone allows one to think… I thought and I felt a LOT! Here are some of my cogitations…
One thing I’ve noticed in my altered situation is that I often feel angry – an underlying, brooding kind of discord that suffuses through everything like a mean snake that occasionally sticks its tongue out at the world or snaps at people close to me. Mostly though it’s just a vague dissonance or separation from the rest of the world, maybe not even enough to call it anger actually… more a need to be a bit provocative, to push against the drug- and fatigue-induced lull that is my life at present. I’m finding it so hard to describe many of the feelings I experience, partly because my head’s a bit fuzzy so it’s hard to find the words, but also that everything feels so different from before. A new emotional life…?
Some would say that feeling angry/provocative is totally understandable in my situation. I think so too. Nonetheless, I need to say it, so it’s out there, acknowledged. Sometimes, I may not meet all that’s going on for me with as much grace, benevolence, compassion or fortitude as I would like. But when did I ever? Those of you who know me, will agree that Grace is really NOT my middle name. Even my mum says I can be ‘prickly’.
I find now that the initial flurry of excitement (I know it sounds strange to use that word) is over and fear bubbles up from time to time, that unsurprisingly, I’m not always in the mood to be witty, write amusing light-hearted blog entries, or even speak to anyone however close or supportive, so if I don’t pick up the phone or respond to emails immediately, that may be why. Sometimes it’s just low energy, low mood, or just not having much to share other than my illness and drug effects, which even for me gets tedious to talk about.
I didn’t go through the apparently very common response of “Why me?” I guess I’m just not wired that way. I really haven’t questioned much about this whole experience… It just is! And I have just surrendered to it and am experiencing it…
That word “surrender” keeps cropping up in my head. A curious word… I initially surrendered to the hospital stay and medical interventions, the diagnosis and inherent relief of finding out there was something seriously wrong with me which accounted for how awful I felt throughout January, taking the numerous drugs and experiencing their effects – for better or worse, the regular check-ups and blood tests at the hospital – I’m very brave with needles now – had no choice!
Surrendering to depending on the support of my generous friends – not so easy for a fairly independent soul, but actually I just let go and let it all happen. It has been an almost spiritual experience – very light, calm, floating even. I had a similar feeling letting go to the druggy drowsiness that in the earlier weeks made me nod off regularly on the couch in the middle of the day or early evening. It was delightful and serene, like melting – I almost miss it actually.
I have even surrendered to the word ‘Cancer’ and am getting used to it. I know it makes some people uncomfortable, but I need to say it. It is my reality and I don’t want to shy away from it. I did go through a brief period of wanting to use the word ‘condition’, which I may go back to using once I’m in remission. I expect I will be much more managing an ongoing condition at that point. But actually for me, the best way to make cancer seem less scary is to just keep saying it till it loses its terror and weight. I guess I need other people around me who can also use the word to ward it off. I still want to explore that whole subject a bit more – the power of the ‘C’ word. What is it with cancer that creates such horror, more than other terrible long-term, debilitating or terminal diseases?
For a number of reasons, including a reduced sense of physical and personal self-confidence, lower energy especially in the evenings and perhaps because I’m not out there, working and taking part in general society, I think I have also surrendered to being much less socially outgoing, which occasionally feels hard and a little sad.
At times though I’ve just realised it feels quite draining to give attention to “normal” people and their “normal” concerns, so I end up feeling selfish/self-centred or tired, drained and emotional from the strain of behaving “normally”. That sounds terrible and I’m quite embarrassed to admit it.
I am starting to push myself a little more to get out… I went to an evening of live music and arty-crafting with a friend at a trendy little cafe… we won the craft competition with this little number…
I am hoping that once I experience the benefits of the promised post-stem cell transplant remission, I will feel more sociable.
And then of course, there’s the really huge surrender, which still has me reeling from time to time and is the most upsetting for my loved ones – the blatant fact of my own limited mortality… I will have a shortened life – I will only likely have a further 10-15 years, when I was probably expecting to live till about 80-90 years old. This is the hardest to speak about with the people who care about me. I don’t want to push it in anyone’s face, but it’s part of my reality and as I am facing it, I need to share it, so I ask you to bear with me, her me and accompany me on this journey with love and compassion.
I have had a whole host of different internal responses to my expected shorter life and it changes constantly. I get scared, I get weepy and sad, I feel genuinely, calmly surrendered to it and I can also feel very happy about it. I mean I won’t have to worry too much about pensions and finances – so spend, spend, spend!!!!!
Without children, I don’t have to concern myself about disappearing from their lives before time or keeping any money back for their inheritance. I only need enough to bury me! And no, I don’t want a coffin – I want a shroud and to be buried on a hilltop with a tree (still deciding which type of tree – a flowering fruit tree was suggested by a friend today). I want it to be more of a celebration of my life than a sad depressive farewell. Music and other details later – hopefully quite a number of years later!
One song I really want to be played is Peggy Lee’s ‘Is That All There Is’: I find it simultaneously the most celebratory and sad song ever and just perfect for a sendoff – for my send off anyway.
Finally, I have mentioned feeling emotional in previous posts, but just now it’s very frequent and although not overwhelming, quite disconcerting for those around me when I suddenly start blubbing… nothing dramatic – no great outbursts, just tears pouring out for no obvious reason, very regularly – most days in fact. Another surrender. I’m ok with it and see it as very healing and therapeutic – better out than in! Seriously!!!!
Something that has just occurred to me while I’m writing is that maybe some of the feeling of surrender is part of a shock response. One imagines that shock happens at the initial stage of something huge and life-changing like a cancer diagnosis, but maybe it continues for some time, or keeps popping up to confound me…?