Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Wednesday 11th March

When the cancer was first found in my boob, I think I didn’t really have a concept of the disease/condition as an entity that existed in and of itself. It was more an idea, a general threat. The lump had some kind of identity, because it had a specific location and I could actually feel it. The potential threat that it held was also part of the reason that I could understand it as something separate.

I did not seem to fall into the ‘Why me?’ trap when I found out that I had cancer. I don’t think that I ever felt really victimized.

It wasn’t that I was so philosophic that I could just accept the truth, it was more that I tend to be very practical by nature and knew that bewailing my fate was not going to actually do me any good. I really understood that what I had to do was get on with getting rid of the disease/condition and that meant following the doc’s advice and doing what had to be done.

Part of the reason I could do just that was because everything was specifically guided and there were procedures to follow that just followed one-another as directed by the docs.

Now that the cancer has gone, though, the treatment is less rigorous – in fact, the pace has slowed down hugely and it is more about routine and taking my medication regularly, then going for a check-up in about 6 weeks. I will have a bone density scan next week, because the chemo may affect my bones and they need a baseline assessment (being me, I have never had a scan).

Generally, though, the urgency of the treatment has gone and it is about maintenance.

And this is when I am finding myself starting to resent the cancer.

It’s not that I have suddenly developed a ‘Why did this happen to me?’ attitude. I still maintain that it may have happened to anyone – in fact, it does happen to anyone. On that level, I am still completely philosophic and accepting: it was what happened and it has been dealt with.

What I resent is the effects it has had on me – or that I am still experiencing as a result of having had cancer.

I am definitely having troubles with my knees, which I am sure are far worse because of the hormone medication. Being like this for five or more years will not be great, but it can be done. It’s just a constant reminder of why I have to take the medication, which, in its turn, is a strange reminder of the cancer in the first place.

I read on the internet – yes, I did Google something 😉 that women generally live with the side effects of the hormone medication because  the good effects far outweigh the discomfort they may feel. That’s what cancer does: it makes you understand that you’re in this for the long haul, no matter what little bouts of pain you may have to go through.

Having had cancer also sensitizes you to the reality of the disease/condition. Anyone may get it. I did.

It also just sits in the back of your brain as a potential presence that leaps up every so often and says, ‘Remember me?’

In those moments, I feel both a shimmer of fear and a sense of resentment. Yes, I do remember the cancer. And, yes, I have also felt a sense of its threat.

Simultaneously, though, I have also felt the love and support that it brings with it. That, in itself, is a large part of the reason that cancer can be beaten and that mine has so effectively. Everybody seems to agree that the attitude and mental wellbeing of the patient is paramount in fighting the battle. We can only be strengthened by knowing we have the love and support of those around us. And of so many more.

And that is exactly what I have had.  And I have still.

At times it feels as though I am alone in all this now that the immediate sense of threat and the urgency has gone. I am the one living with the mutilation to my body, the ongoing discomfort and even pain caused by the trauma to my muscles and the side-effects of the long-term medication. It has happened to me and I am constantly reminded of that every day.

Then there will be something that someone says, or a gesture that is made and I am reminded, again, that I never was alone in this and I continue to be surrounded by huge support.

It’s always much easier to take a journey that has hard moments with others to pull or push you along as necessary, or just, simply, to travel the road with you – even if it is at a slight distance at times.

So, I resent the cancer slightly. I never asked for it and the effects have been huge – they continue to do so.

At the same time, though, they have been, and continue to be, hugely life-affirming.


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