Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Friday 27th February

A talk show host asked the listeners to call in and say something about how different they feel today as opposed earlier in the week. He was specifically referring to how South Africa feels after a spectacular win over the Windies in the Cricket World Cup, as opposed to earlier in the week after a spectacular loss against India.

It made me think about me: how do I feel today as opposed to earlier this week? In fact, as opposed to yesterday.

For me, of course, it’s about how do I feel in relation to cancer and the mastectomy and the recovery and chemo and the after effects, rather than about the cricket. Although, who can fail to feel elated at all the records that were broken and the way the wickets fell? J

For a while now, I have been feeling a little bogged down in the whole sense of ‘I will be like this forever’ and ‘Will I ever feel completely better’. I think I’ve been feeling a little at sea. Who do I ask about the op site and if my muscles are recovering normally, or if I am doing something wrong? What, exactly, is to be expected this far down the line after a mastectomy? What is the actual recovery period?

I have to confess that I googled some of the questions. I have been very, very good and not googled things about the cancer. Well, not really. There have been the odd moments, but it’s been more about curiosity and seeing what’s out there than about actually looking for advice. It was much the same thing this time, but I did find one or two sites where women who have had mastectomies ask questions and share stories. I can’t even remember many of the details, except that they definitely reinforced the whole ‘everyone is individual’ approach. There was, however, a sense that these things definitely take time.

I don’t know whether it was reading things from some women who’ve gone through something similar to what I have and having a greater sense of ‘I am definitely not alone’, or if I have just been feeling a little more philosophical in the last few days; or if it was the effect of the woman at the club telling me I’m a ‘half-patient’ (half-jokingly), but I have come to a slightly different conclusion and attitude.

There is absolutely no doubt that having cancer is kak and is a lot to deal with. There is also absolutely no doubt that CANCER is CANCER, no matter how early it is found and how efficiently it is treated. There is also no doubt that the underlying threat and the thoughts will never go away, not completely. There is also absolutely no doubt that a mastectomy is a hell of an operation, which takes a long time to recover from.

Given all that, though, there is only one place to go and that is forwards. I may have gone through a bit of a slump in recent weeks, but that is natural, I’m sure. We can never predict or control the psychological and emotional effect things have on us. And we have to take those journeys too.

I’m fine now: the cancer has been handled and I am working through the ongoing treatment with the hormone therapy. I am not fine, though, because the chemo is still undoubtedly affecting me. I am also not fine, because I am still numb and sore and in discomfort; I cannot exercise as I would like to and am extremely unfit.

All of that is just part of the journey, though. These are just moments on the way that have to be worked through. And they will get better.

Time, the great healer, will allow my body to eradicate the chemo completely and will allow my arm and side to heal. That’s how it goes and that’s how it needs to be allowed to happen.

So, Go me! There is a personal journey to be travelled.

Victory is a matter of taking the time to allow things to happen and to tread the path as best I can while it does so.

In the meantime, Go, Proteas! There is a World Cup to be won!

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