Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Wednesday 3rd June

Today Dani asked me how I will know when I am back to normal. It made me think. It’s like another question that has kind of bugged me: when do I know this journey is over?

The ‘back to normal’ question does have some form of answer. I told Dani that I will feel that I am back to normal when I can run 4 / 5 kms quite happily and at a decent pace. At least, that’s when I will know that I am fit again. I also hope that ‘normal’ means that this chemo taste will be gone once and for all. I also suppose that part of being completely over this will mean that I have all the feeling back on the right side of my chest and under my arm and don’t feel the muscles pulling ‘funny’ at all.

I’m not so sure that ‘normal’ is a single, describable state, but it would be good to be fitter and not get so tired and not have this taste – ever.

Maybe I won’t get all the feeling back ever, I’m not sure. I definitely have way more feeling than I did in the beginning and, actually, a little while ago.

I also hope that, at some stage, the puffiness under and around my armpit will go away, but I really don’t know, as I know that is related to the removal of the lymph nodes. The one doc told me that this will settle down once the lymph has worked its new way out of the arm, which I suppose it must have done. I don’t know if the puffiness is scar tissue, swelling, or just the permanent state of the tissue due to the trauma.

Maybe it’ll be like this forever. The only thing that will tell, is time. (And me being so bad at this patience thing 😉 )

Again, though, everything is relative. I am definitely so much less exhausted than I was during, and almost immediately after, the chemo. I still think that, as Sarah said, none of us, including me, actually have the vaguest idea of just how traumatic this whole experience and treatment has been for my body. Some of it I do know – I’m the only one who can. Other parts, I kind of realise and find out as the time goes and I get better and stronger, slowly.

The thing is, for me, to have to say things like ‘getting better and stronger’ is so alien and feels so reductive. I am not a sickly person, but this cancer thing has made me feel like that. It’s made me think that others see me as ‘sick’, whereas there has really been nothing wrong with me, other than the devastating effects of the treatment. And a few operations.

That’s the thing about cancer. It is an odd disease/condition because there are no symptoms. You almost feel as though you need, at least, some specific signs that will show that you do, actually, have something wrong with you. Oh, I have been exhausted and my hair fell out and I still cannot use my right arm completely properly (pushups are still out of the question and I haven’t played tennis in nearly a year), but those have been fallout (no pun) from the treatment, not symptoms of the actual disease/condition.

I am not sick. I have not been sick. I have had an intruder that has been dealt a resounding blow.  My body has been the battleground and, as that, has suffered some setbacks.

Because of those, even after nearly 9 months, if I am not completely fit and strong in every part of my body and therefore, in my eyes, not back to ‘normal’, I am definitely not ‘abnormal’ and will just continue along this path, seeing where the journey still has to lead.

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