Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Wednesday 25th March

Sometimes I wonder how thin the line is between self-aware and self-indulgent, between being interested in yourself and selfishness.

I think there is a line – and a very important one. Sometime, though, I think it becomes blurred and, at other times, even vanishes.

This whole cancer thing has been about me – makes sense, seeing as I was the one with the cancer. At the same time, though, it has been about everyone around me, too. Also makes sense, as they have been directly affected by the whole thing happening to me: mother, wife, sister, aunt, daughter-in-law etc.

Throughout the whole process, I have been aware often of the sense of threat to my health, the implications of the whole disease/condition and the impact of the different aspects of the treatment. I have also been so aware and upset by the fallout all of this has had in terms of the effect on those close to me.

Life moves on, though, and, more recently, I have felt increasingly alone in this. As the cancer has been taken from my body and the harsh treatments have ensured that it has been chased away, so the urgency of the experience has receded, as it should. There is less for everyone else to be worried about less frequently. The whole thing is no longer so real, as it has been treated.

For me, though, the reality is ever-present. I live every single day with the reminder of everything – because I still feel the after-effects of the chemo; one side of my chest has been mutilated; and the area under my arm constantly pulls, feels swollen and is still numb.

Not enormous things, I suppose – not each in and of itself. Together, though, they do have an impact. They are also a constant reminder of everything that has happened.

They are also a constant reminder of the idea of cancer.

That is something from which, I am beginning to suspect, I will never escape.

When, however, does all this awareness of the reality of what has happened to me become self-indulgent? When is it pure selfishness?

I hope never. I hope that my sense of being alone is just part of the reaction to having been the actual cancer patient, a kind of heightened awareness of the life-changing cancer experience – and not just me indulging in a sense of ‘this is about me’

In some ways, I desperately want to be recognised as not only having had cancer, but for still going through so much. In others, I strive all the time to not allow my reactions to be too big when the upsetting reality hits me, because I have seen way too much evidence of the upset this has caused those close to me.

Somehow, if I have to make sense of everything, including the dawning awareness that I will never, ever be free of the spectre of cancer, even in a deeply-recessed subconscious, it’s okay. I know I can to this. What’s not okay is to keep drawing attention to something that I know causes upset and stress to those around me.

Maybe the self-indulgence is mine and about me understanding myself in relation to the cancer thing; the selfishness is about acknowledging that this is primarily about me. Maybe it’s all the other side of the line and it’s about me being aware of myself and, simply, interested in how I deal with all of this.

I don’t know where the line is, or even if there has to be one.


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