Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Saturday 4th July

It’s funny how, even in South Africa, we think of July 4th as the American Day of Independence – such is the exposure on, and influence of, television.

Today may be about independence for America, but I’m not so sure about mine. Independence, I mean.

We all trekked off to Knysna at what could very well have been the crack of dawn today to go and do the Parkrun. In the mist, walking/running along the edge of the lagoon, it really felt as though we were in another world. Great fun. But not about being fit and strong and achieving how I would like to.

I actually hate doing organised runs and what I see as competition. Although the basic point of a Parkrun is to be in competition with yourself, I really don’t like any form of running that has a ‘race’ element to it. I run for fun, for myself and at my own pace. Especially now, when I run alone, I feel unfit and unhappy about a whole lot of things to do with having been sick when I wasn’t, having taken a battering that seems to take forever to recover from and feeling like less than what I think I should be able to be. Put me into a group pounding down the drag and I feel even less capable and less happy about the whole process.

Sometimes I think that I wonder why I don’t just say ‘bugger it’ and go off and run as fast as I can, or paddle a helluva distance, or just push myself. The only trouble is that I know I can’t. My body literally won’t let me run further than about 2kms before I just get so tired that I have to walk for a bit at least. If I paddle, I get tired, but also my  op site still takes strain.

I try to not feel like a wus or like a victim, but it is not so very easy. This cancer thing has huge fallout that is not even seen and definitely not really understood from the outside.

I am reminded on one hand of being told that it is time to move on and build from the operation. I also think about a whole lot of people who have operations who may take weeks, even months, to recover – but not nearly a year. On the other hand I am reminded of Sarah pointing out to me that I seem to see the mastectomy as the biggest thing in the whole process, but that, by doing that, I am practically negating the horrible effects of the chemo. Then I am also reminded that, it may be getting on for 10 months since the whole cancer thing started and the operations began, but it is only nearly 6 months since the end of the chemo. Then, again, I think six months, that’s such a long time. Surely I should be better!

Then, I remember reading two things that another breast cancer survivor wrote: that the tiredness after the Red Devil can last for up to a year to 18 months; and that her sister, who is going through the chemo 3 years after her, commented that she realises now that she only understood 5% at the time of what her sister when through with the chemo.

It all makes me realise that this cancer thing is SO different from within than for those without. Even with all the love and support in the world, there is no doubt that having bearded the lion in its den and having won is a process that has an everlasting effect. My family faced cancer. They had to watch me be affected by the whole process, lose my hair, suffer the side effects etc etc, but, as with many things, I suppose, they can never truly understand because they haven’t been there.

I am finding that I feel quite alone with the whole thing in many ways, now that the time is wearing on. It is not over, though – the cancer has affected me in ways I really don’t quite understand, both physically and psychologically, and has affected and changed quite a lot of things – some for the better and many that just cause me frustration.

Again, I wonder whether I am indulging in the moment, so to speak, and dwelling too much on the whole thing. Then something will happen in everyday life that is altered because of the damn thing, or I literally won’t be fit enough yet, or capable of doing without just getting too tired, and I realise that it’s not about dwelling and indulging, it’s simply about facing the reality, having to live and deal with the outfall even now.

It may be nearly 10 months since the cancer thing began, but it still affects me, it is not over.

Hopefully, it won’t be too very much longer before the ‘fat lady sings’ (so to speak)!

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