Sunday, 2 January 2011

Through a Mirror Darkly

The last couple of days have been dark ones as I try to come to terms with the side effects, both physically and emotionally, of the chemotherapy. In some ways the emotional ones have give me far more problems than the physical ones.

Whilst I was prepared for the nausea and the tiredness, I wasn’t prepared for the more subtle effects like the drastic change in my taste buds, the development of a highly sensitive gag reflex and the large numbers of mouth ulcers that make it difficult to talk, eat and sleep. I was told that not everyone gets the same set of side effects, not everyone gets all of them and that it can affect people in a very individual manner – they weren’t kidding!

But to be honest the worse thing has been the emotional side of it all; the sudden bouts of deep depression, the feeling that this is all too horrible to bear and the episodes where all I want to do is cry. Not gentle crying either but deep racking sobs that seem to tear themselves out of my body no matter how hard I try to hold them in. They are born out of a despair at facing several months of all the crappy side effects but they are also a sudden deep-seated anguish at the possibility of a life cut short before I’ve done all the things I wish to do. It’s a kind of grief I have never experienced before, not even on the deaths of a deeply beloved father and grandmother twenty months ago. It’s the recognition that I have cancer, a serious kind of cancer, which will hover in the background of my life and thoughts permanently from now on.

No one is ever cured of this type of cancer, you simply do what must be done and count each year at time, in the hope that every time you go for a check up the doctor will tell you that there is ‘no evidence of disease.’ Invasive breast cancer in one breast leaves you much more vulnerable to a new primary diagnosis in the other breast. Its cells are also more pernicious and sneaky; they will often pop up in other parts of your body, so life becomes an almost continual round of checks and examinations to catch the little bastards as soon as they start causing trouble.

I think the enormity of a life coloured by this knowledge has finally started to sink in and of course it is all deeply frightening. I find myself wondering how exactly I am going to cope with all of that and I also worry about how it is going to affect those around me. Particularly my husband who is of course deeply distressed by the whole thing; it’s awful for him to lie in bed at night listening to me sob my heart out and feeling powerless to do anything about it. A nightmare for both us and I thank my lucky stars that we have a strong, enduring love for each other that will hopefully see us through those really dark and difficult moments.

I want to smash this dark mirror or shine a bright light upon it in a bid to dispel the black thoughts but at the moment I just can’t quite bring myself to do so. I hope that I can find the courage to do one or the other soon. . .

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