This week starting 18th May 2020 is Mental Health Awareness week. As such I thought that maybe this would make a good time to start to share some of the issues I have been experiencing in recent months in relation to my mental health after cancer. Something up until now I have definitely not been ready to share.
Why you may ask, when have shared so much to date? In all honestly it is probably a combination of fear around the stigma attached to mental health issues, inparticular potential professional impact sharing may have, and the fact that it has taken me considerable time (and therapy) to actually believe that my diagnosis is the truth and that this has actually happened to me. However, when I started this account and blog I started it with the aim to help others like me, to help others that were going through cancer, in particularly lymphoma and not knowing anyone else with which to share and understand the experience. By sharing my story I hoped to help others not feel so alone in what they were experiencing and also to see that recovery isn’t a linear line. There are many bumps in the road.
I have been a physiotherapist working in the NHS since graduating in 2003. The only break I have had is recently as a result of my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. As a physiotherapist, I was good. I worked hard, empathetic, always strived to get answers and help my patients as best I could, put patients at the centre of my care, planning what they needed around what they told me. I cared…..I really cared and I was good at my job.
However, having cancer and experiencing healthcare from the patients side has opened my eyes to a whole new world and perspective. A world that I do believe is difficult to understand and truly empathise with until you have experienced a taste of it yourself. A world that isn’t exclusive to cancer by any means. I find myself thinking back to patients of years gone by with a whole new level of understanding behind their behaviours, reactions and responses.
Being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been a difficult process to accept. I felt like a fraud, like my trauma wasn’t as significant as others with the disorder and as such not worthy of the diagnosis, and afraid of what that diagnosis meant for me. Thankfully after referring myself to psychology services, I was treated quickly using a therapy called Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and over the last few months have made significant process. I am now in the stage where I provide myself with graded exposure to things that trigger me and a process called reclaiming your life where I build my inner belief and confidence in my abilities. Part of this stage is learning to accept the diagnosis and sharing aspects through my blog is part of that. However, leading up to this point has been extremely challenging to deal with myself but also for those closest to me. So today, I thought I would share some information about what it feels like to have PTSD for me and some resources that I found useful to help me or those near me to cope.
Today is 20th March 2019 and international day of happiness and as such I thought I would share with you all a happier poem for me relating to my recovery from cancer. I will let the poem speak for itself, hopefully for any of you who have been through cancer you can relate to what it is talking about, and to those of you who haven’t, its one to help you stop and think about the world around you.
This blog has been a great therapeutic tool for me during my treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma and in my subsequent rehab journey. In particular through my poetry, I like to share an insight into all aspects of cancer, but in particularly my poetry expresses some of the psychological and emotional components which often go unspoken.
This poem talks about one particular psychological aspect that I am still trying to get to grips and understand and seeking support to do this. It is essentially associated with a traumatic experience for me during my cancer recovery. I share this and its impact in a bid to support anyone else who is also experiencing similar episodes to know that they are not alone.
Today is your third birthday, a birthday that when your my age you probably won’t recall. In fact there is so many things over the last three years of your life that you are unlikely to remember. But equally these years are also the ones that will have significant impact in shaping you into the person you will be in the future. This has been one of my greatest fears, that somehow my illness at such a young informative age will have a negative impact on you. As I recover now, this is something that has plagued on my mind, however as time passes I don’t believe it will, because one thing that never faulted during the whole time was how much your daddy and I loved and cared for you.
When you receive a cancer diagnosis, like with many illness, it affects not only the individual but those nearest to them too. For me, partners; be them boyfriends, girlfriends, civil partner, wife, husband, common law, or those that are living with you through it day in and day out are the unsung sufferers when it comes to cancer. The impact frequently is significant for them too but they often feel like they have to hold it together for the sake of the person going through it. Today, marks valentines day and in honour of valentines day (and because I haven’t brought him a present) I have written a letter to my finance.
To every significant other half of a cancer patient out there who has supported their loved one through the trauma, Thank you. We couldn’t do it without you helping us face the good, the bad and the ugly.
I would like to start this post with a disclaimer, in that as someone who experienced a number of different complications with their PICC line I intend to give my honest account for anyone reading and wanting to know what it was like to have a PICC line. But the big disclaimer is this…….I WOULD NOT HAVE CHANGED IT FOR ANYTHING.
Despite every single complication I experienced (and I had more then one), and the issues they caused, the benefit, which will be hard to describe, was so much greater then the cost of all of the complications combined. If I had to do the whole situation again, I would still have a PICC line inserted.
I think this is important to start with, because if I am going on to talk about the complication sides of it, it would be easy to immediately be put off the idea but for me, the benefit will always outweigh the complication risk and impact. Also if you are squeamish I suggest you stop reading!!
Soon after getting diagnosed with Hodgkin’ Lymphoma, I would often justify its existence to others as “at least it the best of a bad bunch”. This was partly I believe to kid myself, and to make it easier for other people to cope with. But the truth is there are NO GOOD cancers.